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Rose-hued cities, time-worn desert forts and holy rivers - discover North India on this 22-day tour. From ancient ruins that punctuate peaceful countryside and everyday city life that swirls with colour and noise, India's energy will leave you giddy with excitement and sporting a smile that's wider than the Ganges. Deeply spiritual yet never dull or sombre - the sites of North India are as alive as a crowded laneway, as vast as the Thar Desert sands, as humbling as a Varanasi dawn and as intricate as the Amber Fort. Give your senses a well-earned kick and delve into a North Indian adventure that ticks all the boxes.
Day 1: Delhi
Namaste! Welcome to Delhi. India's capital is an exciting city with abundant historical sites, museums and bazaars. 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, and make sure you’ve got your insurance info and next of kin details to pass on to your leader. If you arrive with time to spare, rejoice! There’s so much to do in Delhi and we won’t have time to cover it all in this trip. Perhaps visit the palatial Humayun's Tomb, the towering and intricately carved 12th-century Qutub Minar or the historic Red Fort.
Day 2: Delhi/Overnight Train
Ah, Delhi in the morning. It’s chaotic, sure, but the energy is invigorating. Set off on the city’s modern metro system to explore the sights and sounds of Old Delhi on a guided walking tour. They really don’t make traffic jams like this anywhere else, and you’ll see what it’s like as you inch your way through the streets around Chandni Chowk marketplace in a traditional cycle rickshaw. Visit Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest and India’s largest mosque, and then stop by the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh beliefs and practises. Tonight, transfer to the train station and mentally prepare yourself for the 19-hour, overnight journey ahead. Local vendors will board with various goods along the way, but it’s a good idea to bring some of your own food for the journey too. Riding the rails in India is an experience you’ll never forget.
Day 3: Jaisalmer
You’re scheduled to arrive in Jaisalmer at around midday, depending on any delays. Dump your luggage at the hotel and pack a small overnight bag – it’s safari time. Head into the dunes of the Thar Desert in a jeep. Meet your guides and your ride for the rest of the journey – a camel. Set off on a three-hour ride to your basic campsite, where your guides will get a fire going to cook a traditional Rajasthani dinner while you relax and watch the sunset. You’ll be able to buy bottled water and soft drinks tonight, but there are no facilities like running water. Because of this, we recommend you bring hand sanitiser and other toiletries. Toilets are a simple long-drop style. Stretch out under a star-studded sky and spot constellations as you drift to sleep.
Day 4: Jaisalmer
Mount your camel for the return journey to Jaisalmer this morning. Take a walking tour of the city and learn the history of the ornate sandstone buildings. Later, explore at your own pace. Perhaps wander among the intricately carved statues of the Jain Temples or visit the Folklore Museum to learn more about Rajasthani culture. With its imposing parapets and towers, the Old Town is full of steep stonewalls that lead to your accommodation for the evening – the havelis. These private mansions once homed Jaisalmer’s nobility and resemble small palaces. They make a very comfortable base after a long day of sightseeing.
Day 5: Jodhpur
Answer the call of (arguably) the nation’s best lassi and most striking vistas today and head to Jodhpur. It’s a six-hour train ride away, but it’s worth it once you see the ancient fort towering over thousands of cobalt-blue buildings. Get your bearings on a walking tour around the Old City and visit Sadar Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in India. Stroll through spice and vegetable stalls, past juice sellers and sari peddlers and maybe give your haggling skills a road test. The rest of the day is free, so perhaps grab one of the lassis we mentioned and pound the pavement in search of a dal baati. This dal and bread dish doesn’t sound too exciting, but this delicious meal is a Rajasthani classic for a reason.
Day 6: Nimaj
India be can be an intense place to travel. Seek a little peace and quiet today in rural Rajasthan. Take a two-hour drive to the tiny town of Nimaj. A relaxed and quiet place, Nimaj is the opposite of a tourist trap and the perfect place to spend a day unwinding. Take a walking tour of the town with your leader, then spend the afternoon and evening as you please. Perhaps chat with the locals and learn more about their day to day life, take a stroll or relax with a book under the shade of a tree.
Day 7: Jaipur
Hit the road and make tracks for Jaipur. Arrive and jump on an auto-rickshaw to the hotel, dump your luggage and set out on a short tour of Jaipur. A city bathed in pink, Jaipur is full of elegant buildings and delightful bazaars. The honeycomb-esque Palace of the Winds, constructed from red and pink sandstone, is a highlight of the guided walk today. After the tour, maybe follow the crowds to the markets and shop for artisan goods and semi-precious stones. Tonight, visit yet another opulent pink building, this time in the form of a cinema. The iconic Raj Mandir Cinema plays Bollywood blockbusters and tonight you’ll get to see one of these great tales unfold before your eyes.
Day 8: Jaipur
For many travellers, a hot air balloon ride over the ‘Pink City’ is one of the highlights of their trip. Ballooning can be done on the morning of Day six between September and June. For additional information, please see the important notes section of Essential Trip Information. If you’re afraid of heights, or just don’t fancy a float, maybe check out the Royal City Palace or one of the five quirky astronomical observatories built by Jaipur’s founder. Later this afternoon, visit the Amber Fort. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the fort is a superb example of Rajput architecture. Entering the glittering Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) is also something you won’t soon forget.
Day 9: Agra
Head east to Agra in a public vehicle, stopping en route to see the breathtaking imperial gate of Fatehpur Sikri. Rich in Mughal heritage, Agra is a city of gardens, temples and open rooftops. Even if you’ve never heard of it, you’ll probably recognise its most famous attraction – the Taj Mahal. See this awesome monument upon arrival, taking in the splendour of the white marble mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz. The rest of the day is free to explore the city. There will be a meeting at 6 pm to welcome any new travellers joining you on the next stage of your adventure.
Day 10: Chanderi
Bid farewell to any travellers leaving you at this stage of the tour, the catch a morning train from Agra to Lalitpur (approximately 4 hours). From here take a private jeep from Lalitpur to Chanderi (approximately 2 hours), a small medieval town that’s home to a multicultural mix of Muslims, Hindus and Jains. While it’s off the beaten tourist track, Chanderi is nonetheless full of historic Jain temples and fascinating history. Enjoy dinner in the home of our local guide and get to know him and his family over the meal.
Day 11: Chanderi
Visit Chanderi Museum, which boasts objects dating from between the tenth and 12th century. Join your guide for a look around Chanderi's temples and mosques. Continue to the ruins of the 15th-century Badal Mahal Darwaza. Enjoy a picnic lunch together at the site of the ruins and spend the rest of the day as you wish.
Day 12: Orchha
Drive to Orchha (approximately 5 hours). Situated on the banks of the Betwa River, Orchha has changed little over the centuries. Originally a hunting area, it became the capital of the Bundela rajas and, as a result, Orchha has more temples and palaces than you would expect of such a small town. Experience an evening puja ceremony at the Ram Raja Temple.
Day 13: Orchha
Visit the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend and Mughal ruler Jehangir. Visit Taragram, a unique responsible tourism project. This recycled papermaking plant was set up to give women in the area a chance to work outside traditional roles normally afforded to them. Afterwards, choose whether you would like to relax on your own or participate in an optional cooking demonstration (and meal) at the home of a local family.
Day 14: Alipura
Depart Orchha around 9 am for a 3-hour drive to Alipura. Arrive around midday and head out on a guided village walk. This evening enjoy a group dinner at Alipura Palace.
Day 15: Khajuraho
Drive to Khajuraho (approximately 3 hours), home to the 'Kama Sutra' Temples built during the Chandela Dynasty 1000 years ago. Embark on a tour of the western temple complex. The purpose of the delicate, erotic carvings is open to interpretation. Later, visit a local Hindu family for a home-cooked vegetarian meal in a welcoming setting. Tonight you can choose to chill out or catch a optional classical dance performance.
Day 16: Panna National Park
Rise and shine for an early morning drive to Panna National Park (approximately 90 mins), the site of a wildlife regeneration success story. In 2009 there were no tigers left in the region due to poaching, but currently there are thought to be around 35 tigers roaming the park. Spend the day relaxing and then head out on an evening safari. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready and look out for sloth bears, spotted deer, mongoose, leopards and jungle cats, as well as tigers.
Day 17: Panna National Park – Overnight train
Embrace another early start to seek out more wildlife on a safari. Afterwards, drive to Satna (approximately 2 hours.) This evening, board our overnight train for the 10-hour journey to Varanasi. Your tour leader will help you purchase snacks at the station and ensure you stock up on water for the trip ahead.
Day 18: Varanasi
Arrive around 5 am and make use of a day room to freshen up before heading out for the day to explore at your leisure. The ultimate destination for all Hindu pilgrims, Varanasi is full of temples, shrines and devotees. Perhaps visit the Ram Nagar Fort which lies about 14 kilometres from Varanasi on the opposite bank of Ganges. Built by Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 18th century, it's the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras. This evening, soak up the magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony while you take an included cruise along the Ganges.
Day 19: Varanasi
Start your day with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, passing the many ghats and temples along the river. The rest of the day is free for you to wander the laneways and ghats of this holy city. Maybe find a sunny spot and watch cricket games, haircuts, religious lessons and the comings and goings of life along the Ganges.
Day 20: Varanasi – Overnight train
Enjoy a free day in Varanasi. Make use of a shared day room to store your luggage while you explore. Depart Varanasi this evening around 7 pm on the 12-hour overnight train to Delhi. This is another long journey.
Day 21: Delhi
Today you can choose to join your leader and fellow travellers new to Delhi on another sightseeing tour of the city, though please note you have already participated in the same itinerary. If you’d prefer to try something new, consider taking an Urban Adventure like Gandhi's Delhi to discover philosophy and historic sites at the same time. This afternoon is free for further exploration or jump on an Urban Adventure. In the evening perhaps enjoy an optional dinner with your fellow travellers.
Day 22: Delhi
There are no activities planned for the final day and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. Check out time from the hotel is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel. If you decide to stay an extra couple of days, there are plenty of activities in and around the city to enjoy. Airport transfers and additional accommodation are available to book in advance should you wish to plan your onward travel arrangements in advance.
- Delhi - Old Delhi walking & rickshaw tour
- Delhi - Jama Masjid
- Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
- Jaisalmer - Camel safari & overnight desert camp
- Jaisalmer - City tour
- Jodhpur - City walk
- Jaipur - Walking & market tour
- Jaipur - Amber Fort
- Agra - Agra Fort
- Agra - Taj Mahal
- Chanderi - Home cooked dinner & family visit
- Chanderi - Village Walk
- Chanderi - Museum
- Chanderi - Traditional music performance
- Orchha - Orientation walk
- Orchha - Ram Raja Temple ceremony
- Orchha - Taragram visit
- Orchha - Orchha Palace
- Alipura - Village walk & Palace dinner
- Khajuraho - Kama Sutra temples
- Khajuraho - Home-cooked lunch & family visit
- Panna NP - Evening wildlife safari
- Panna NP - Morning wildlife safari
- Varanasi - Sunset candle ceremony
- Varanasi - Sunrise boat trip
- Delhi - Old Delhi walking & rickshaw tour
- Delhi - Jama Masjid
- Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
3 Breakfast(s) Included
2 Lunch(es) Included
4 Dinner(s) Included