Float among the clouds over Jaipur and watch an Indian sunrise from the basket of a hot air balloon. The Taj Mahal is not only an sumptuous masterpiece of Indian architecture, but also a truly meaningful stop on any traveller’s journey. Overlooking the picturesque scene of Moata Lake, the monumental Amber Fort is one sight that will forever be under India’s protection. Experience authentic Rajasthani luxury with a heritage stay at the lavish Bhanwar Vilas in Karauli
From the sacred River Ganges to the summits of the Himalayas, tour India and Nepal on a trip where adventure and discovery await. From the most exciting places to visit in Delhi to the towering peaks surrounding Kathmandu, discover the spirit, culture and nature of this fascinating region. Visit the Taj Mahal of Agra, experience the chaos and colour of India’s villages and marvel at the daily pilgrimage to the ghats of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges. Delve into the history and religion of these two fascinating countries as you enjoy the highlights of India and Nepal.
Breakfast Included: 3 Lunches Included: 3 Lunches Included: 3
Namaste. Welcome to India. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. Perhaps visit the World Heritage-listed Humayun's Tomb, Qutub Minar or Red Fort of Delhi if you have any spare time.
Join your group leader on an excursion through Old Delhi. Ride the city’s metro system, and then hop in a rickshaw to the once water-filled square of Chandni Chowk. Discover the Jama Masjid, Delhi’s oldest mosque, before learning about the history of the Sikh religion at the Sheeshganj Gurudwara.
Travel by express train into Rajasthan and on to its capital, Jaipur (approximately five hours). A friendly, busy town crammed with palaces and bazaars full of jewellery, textiles and folk-based arts, Jaipur is a favourite for many travellers. Visit the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), then head over to Jaipur's Royal City Palace and explore its extravagant rooms and apartments. Later, discover one of the five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur.
Choose to take an early morning hot air balloon experience, often a highlight of visiting Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over Jaipur on the morning of day four between September and June. For additional information, please see the Important Notes section of the Essential Trip Information. In the afternoon around 2.30 pm, visit the Amber Fort. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the fort is an authentic example of Rajput architecture and the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) is one of its more spectacular buildings.
Rural Heritage Stay
Leave the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur behind and drive to Karauli (approximately 5-6 hours). This delightful town was founded in 1348 and is packed with rural ambience and traditional temples. Take a guided walk around the Old Quarter, interacting with friendly locals and learning about rural Indian life off the tourist trail. Be sure to visit the eclectic market stalls along the way and sample some seasonal local sweets made from Indian ingredients, including petha (pumpkin), jiggery (organic sugar), peanut brittle and gazak (sesame seeds).
Agra might not be the prettiest city in the world, but the minute you see its iconic sites that won’t matter one bit. After arriving into the city today by one of India's faster air-conditioned trains (approximately 3 hours) you’ll head straight to the most recognisable sight in India. It doesn’t matter who you are, the Taj Mahal will exceed all your expectations with the morning light shimmering off its white marble surface. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century Taj is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture, surrounded by trimmed English gardens. The highlights keep coming as you take a motorised rickshaw tour, a truly fun and Intrepid way to see the monuments of Agra. Later, you'll also visit Akbar's Mausoleum – a beautiful sandstone and marble tomb built for the greatest of the Mughal emperors.
Agra is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India. This morning you’ll enter the dark red sandstone stronghold of Agra Fort - part fortress, part palace and part prison - and search through throne rooms and tiny but incredibly decorated mosques. Later, travel by air-conditioned train from Agra to Jhansi (approximately 3 hrs). Upon arrival in Jhansi, travel through traditional rural Indian landscapes to reach the beautiful town of Orchha on the banks of the Betwa River (approximately 45 minutes). Here you’ll have the opportunity to uncover a very different side of India. Initially a hunting area, Orchha has changed very little over the centuries. Despite its small size it is filled with many beautiful temples and palaces, build here in the 16th century by the ruling Bundelas clan. When you arrive, take an orientation walk in rural areas untouched by modern life and meet the very friendly locals. This evening witness the Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony at the shrine at the heart of the city.
Today you'll visit the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler. Take note of the grand Iwans (domes) that were built large enough to allow the movement of war elephants. You’ll also make a stop at Taragram, one of our Responsible Tourism projects. Taragram is a paper making factory that enables local tribal women to work outside the realm usually afforded to them. The paper is crafted from wood pulp and recycled clothing.
Today you'll get to soak up the unique atmosphere of Orchha, and excitingly you'll get to soak up the local flavours too. Learn about the local cuisine, it's ingredients and how it's prepared, in a cooking demonstration with our local friends. Taste the unforgettable results. This evening you’ll return to Jhansi and board an overnight train to Allahabad (approximately 9 hours), the starting point for your Ganges boat trip.
Ganges Boat Trip
Arrive in Allahabad and visit Anand Bhavan - the ancestral home of the Nehru family - which witnessed several history-making events during the Indian freedom struggle. You'll then experience the sacred River Ganges, lifeblood of millions of Indian people, with a boat cruise through the heart of rural India. Transfer to the Ganges (approximately 2 hours) by small riverboats for the sailing trip. A support crew will be on hand as you sail down this iconic waterway, passing village communities and viewing river life as it goes on around you. The boats are equipped with life jackets, the deck has mattresses and cushions to relax on, and it’s all covered with a cloth roof for sun protection. Arrive at your campsite and relax riverside, read a book or play some cricket. Watch the sun go down and eat a delicious vegetarian meal prepared by the boatmen.
Notes: Tents are twin share with mattresses and blankets provided. It gets cold in winter, so a sleeping bag is recommended if travelling at this time. There is a squat toilet tent, and no showers available. Lunch, dinner and breakfast are provided during you time camping. Water and soft drinks are available to purchase, but no alcohol is allowed here, as the Ganges is a sacred place. Please note that due to high water levels on the River Ganges and the associated safety concerns, the boat trip won't operate during the monsoon or other times of heavy rainfall. Departures affected by such safety concerns will be communicated during the trip by your leader – it's difficult to know well in advance how much rain there's likely to be at any point in time. In these cases, an extra night will be spent in Varanasi including a visit to the temple complex of Sarnath, the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon.
Leaving your boats at Chunar, transfer by private vehicle to Varanasi (approximately 2 hours). This is one of holiest cities around, the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual city. Overflowing with temples, shrines and devotees, Varanasi might not be one of the world's cleanest cities but there’s no doubt it’s one of the most amazing. Set off on a walking tour of the oldest part of the city, bustling with tourists and priests, and see different rituals being performed. Wander through the Old City with its maze of narrow alleyways packed full of small shops and stalls, and lumbering cows. See pilgrims bathing and performing rituals and ceremonies unchanged for hundreds of years; temples full of bell chimes and the smell of incense; the dhobi wallahs and the burning ghats. This evening soak up the unique magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony as the sun sets.
Today starts early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, where you can watch the light gradually illuminate the many ghats and temples along the river as you pass. The rest of the day is free for you to use as you like. There’s an option to take a trip to nearby Sarnath, one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. The site is where Buddha preached his message of the path to enlightenment and features a number of stupas and museums to explore. Or perhaps visit Ram Nagar Fort, a crumbling 17th century fort and palace on the eastern bank of the Ganges, that’s the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. Alternatively the day can be spent exploring the laneways and alleys behind the ghats, picking up some examples of the excellent local silk industry, or perfecting yoga in this most chakra-balancing of places.