With so much going on in the chaotic capital of Delhi, a local leader is a must. Get to know the city with your leader helping you navigate.. Have your expectations smashed by the spectacular Taj Mahal during a guided tour that illuminates the building’s fascinating back story.. Spend sunrise along the holy Ganges River in Varanasi, watching thousands of Hindu pilgrims bathe in the water as the sun soaks everything in warm light.. Tordi Garh is a place few travellers get to see, but you’ll stay in this rural Rajasthani village in style during a night at a 16th-century palace.
Dive into India on this 11-day Lonely Planet Experience, powered by Intrepid, and discover a wide range of cultural highlights in a relatively short amount of time. From the spiritual centre of Varanasi to the chaotic capital of Delhi, this journey is perfect for travellers who want local guidance and unique included experiences without sacrificing the freedom to explore independently. Witness the beauty of the Taj Mahal, feel enlightened on a boat trip along the River Ganges, and get the royal treatment during a 16th-century heritage stay. Bring an open mind and an open heart and plunge headfirst into this utterly captivating destination.
Breakfast Included: Lunches Included: Dinner Included: 1
Honk-honk! Beep-beep! Welcome to Delhi, a fabulously chaotic capital city that will warm your heart and overwhelm your senses. The air is thick with the smell of spices and the sound of mayhem as vendors whip up masala chai on the sidestreets, locals barter at bazaars for the best bargain, bhangra music blasts from the alleyways and the honking horns of cycle-rickshaws resonate through vast crowds of colourful sari-clad women. With no activities planned until your welcome meeting at 6 pm, why not head out and explore the streets.
It’s very important that you attend the welcome meeting as we will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this time. If you are going to be late please let your travel agent or hotel reception know. Ask reception or look for a note in the lobby for more information on where the meeting will take place. After the meeting, perhaps get to know your new travel buddies over an optional group dinner.
Delhi - Overnight Train
This morning, check out the sights and sounds of Old Delhi on a leader-led tour of this enchanting quarter of the capital. Take a ride on the city's modern metro system, get a taste of India's famed public transport with an optional cycle rickshaw ride through chaotic streets (such as the famous Chandni Chowk), perhaps make a visit to the Jama Masjid – Delhi's oldest mosque and one of its most impressive buildings – then stop by the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion. In the evening, board an overnight sleeper train bound for Varanasi (approximately 13 hours).
On arrival into Varanasi this morning, check in to your hotel and freshen up before heading out on a guided walking tour of the Old City. Set along the banks of the holy Ganges River, Varanasi is the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual city. Overflowing with temples, shrines, and devotees, it might not be one of the world's cleanest cities but there’s no doubt it’s one of the most amazing. It’s a unique experience to navigate through Varanasi's maze of narrow alleyways packed full of small shops, stalls, and lumbering cows. See pilgrims performing rituals unchanged for hundreds of years and pass chiming temples as wafts of incense fill the air.
Today’s an early start, but it’s completely worth it as you take a boat ride down the Ganges to watch the sunrise. Even if you're not the spiritual sort, you can't help but get goosebumps. Pass the many ghats (stairs leading to the water) and temples along the river, and watch thousands of Hindu pilgrims cleanse their sins in the holy water as the sun bathes the surrounds in glorious shades of amber and orange. Witness the rituals of life and death taking place along the riverbank and be prepared for potentially confronting sights and smells, as this is also where families come to cremate deceased loved ones. The rest of the day is free to explore.
Varanasi - Overnight Train
Today there’s lots of free time to explore more of Varanasi before you get a unique slice of Indian life on board an overnight sleeper train bound for Agra (approximately 13 hours). You could take a trip to nearby Sarnath, one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations and the site where Buddha preached his message of the path to enlightenment. There’s also the crumbling 17th-century fort and palace on the eastern bank of the Ganges, Ram Nagar Fort. Varanasi is home to India’s silk-making industry, so maybe investigate the many silk markets dotted around the city, otherwise, take the chance to perfect your yoga in the ultimate chakra-balancing place.
Agra might not be the prettiest city in the world, but the minute you check out its most famous site that won’t matter one bit – of course, we're talking about the glorious Taj Mahal, and you’ll head out for a guided tour of this elaborate monument on arrival. Afterward, enjoy a free day to explore Agra's alternative highlights. An optional trip on a motorised rickshaw takes you to some of the city’s best monuments. If you’ve got the energy, head out to Agra Fort and stroll the palatial gardens of this red sandstone stronghold or check out Akbar's Mausoleum, a beautiful sandstone and marble tomb built for the greatest of the Mughal emperors. In the evening, perhaps try Agra’s delicious signature curry – butter chicken – or a meal at Sheroes Hangout, a cafe that supports acid attack survivors.
Jump into private transport and drive through idyllic countryside to Tordi Garh, a village that few travellers venture to (approximately 8 hours). This remote and rarely visited village offers a fantastic glimpse of the real Rajasthan. Once there, meet the locals, visit the old village temple and wander through the markets, gaining an insight into everyday life in this peaceful community. Tonight you’ll sleep in heritage accommodation, a 16th-century palace with its owner as your host. Settle in, then savour delicious local flavours in tonight’s included dinner.
Journey to Jaipur, India's oh-so-pretty Pink City, by private vehicle (about 3 hours). You'll have plenty of free time here to haggle to your heart's content at the bazaars and backstreets where vendors sell a variety of textiles, precious and semi-precious gems and stunning blue pottery. Enjoy a guided walk on arrival to orientate yourself with the city, then perhaps drop by one of India’s finest palaces, the Royal City Palace. Food lovers will want to hit the streets for raj kachori chaat, a snack served with chutney, yogurt, chili, and potato. Then cool off with a lassi at Jaipur's oldest and most famous lassi shop. Cinema buffs won't want to miss the chance to take in a Bollywood blockbuster at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema this evening. Your accommodation for tonight will be in another family-run heritage hotel.
If you're keen for a different view of the Pink City, an optional early morning hot air balloon ride is a trip highlight for many visitors. For more information please see the Important Notes. Later in the morning, you’ll drop by Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds), the impressive five-storey facade with pink and honeycombed windows is it the most photographed building in the country after the Taj Mahal. Then it’s out to the old capital of Amber and an exploration of the hilltop fort complex known as the Amber Fort. The rest of the day is free for you to spend as you like.
This morning, take a train ride back to India's capital (5 hours). This exciting city is overflowing with incredible historic sites, museums and galleries, shops, and endless bazaars. Watch one of the world's greatest shows unfold as people, cars, rickshaws, and cows all work together in a kind of organised chaos. Perhaps sit back with a chai and let it all soak in as you enjoy a free day to explore. Ask your expert leader for their top recommendations on how to make the most of your time here. This evening, enjoy an optional dinner with your group and toast to your adventures.
The trip comes to an end this morning and there are no further activities planned.