India, a unique country and civilisation, is a mindboggling potpourri of sights, sounds, colours and experiences as well as a culture-shock of astonishing contrasts. Immerse yourself in this tour and prepare for a revamp of any preconceptions towards one of the world's 'must-see' destinations! The jewel of our tour is surely the Taj Mahal in the early morning, when its colours and ethereal beauty is at its most amazing. Built to house the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, Emperor Jahan's wife, it took 20,000 men 22 years to finish it. The end result transcends the extraordinary world monument it is. The tomb represents the ultimate expression of a pure and enduring love, a tangible expression of the unquantifiable. But there's more. We'll see the real India, a subcontinent that covers the full gamut of evolution, from the natural world, including the nation's unofficial symbol, the tiger, in Ranthambore, through the Rajasthan forts and palaces of the Moghul Empire, to the more recent Raj and British colonial influence. We'll stay for three nights in Rajasthan, regarded as India's most colourful state, a region fringed by deserts, populated by a fiercely proud, warrior race and a plethora of forts and palaces. No area in all of India more clearly illustrates the paradox of ancient and modern which exist side by side. We stay in Rajasthan's capital city of Jaipur, known as the 'Pink City' due to the colour of its walls and so many of its buildings, and we visit the Maharajah's City Palace as well as the great Amber Fort, one of the masterpieces of Rajput architecture, guarding the northern approaches to the city. We delve, ever deeper, into the culture and history of Rajasthan with our stay at the Alsisar Mahal, a restored fort, converted into one of the region's best heritage hotels. A wonderfully romantic setting where Belgian crystal chandeliers hang above exquisite marble floors, cut from the very quarries that supplied the builders of the Taj Mahal. On selected departures our tour continues on to the hill-station of Shimla, effectively the summer capital of India during the Raj. At over 7,300ft, the cooler climate made this the ideal location to escape from the searing summer temperatures on the plains below. Dominated by the baronial splendour of the Viceregal Lodge, Shimla was, in those days, a microcosm of late Victorian English society. Surrounded by vast forests of teak and pine and located across a long ridge with steep mountainous terrain on all sides, Shimla was not the easiest place to get to. But Victorian engineers managed to build one of the marvels of Indian Railways, the 96-kilometre narrow-gauge line to Shimla, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our journey 'clickety-clicks' along those very tracks laid by those intrepid imperial engineers more than a century ago. But India is not all history and architecture - genuine Indian cuisine is far more varied and interesting that what we are used to at home. From a simple hot chapatti fresh from the oven, to the delicate spices of Kheer, a sweet rice pudding, a trip to India will change your view of Indian cookery - and don't worry, many of the curries are quite mild! However, for the brave at heart, there's the gasket-blowing prospect of Phaal curry. Whichever culinary delight you choose, the one guarantee is that the Indian people are supremely hospitable and will go out of their way to ensure their visitors enjoy their stay. From the flawless grandeur of the Taj Mahal, to the mighty fortresses of Rajasthan and from the reminders of past glories of the Raj in Delhi to the teeming markets of Jaipur, our India tour encompasses the very best of northern India, ensuring a lifetime of truly amazing memories.
A wonderful tour of northern India's 'Golden Triangle' See the breathtaking Taj Mahal bathed in soft morning light, gazing in awe at the simple purity of its white marble and the exquisite craftsmanship of its inlay work City tours of both Old and New Delhi seeing all the major sights Enjoy a guided tour of the 400-year-old deserted Moghul city of Fatehpur Sikri Driving safari in Ranthambore National Park, the best place in India to spot the elusive tigers Explore the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, capital of the desert kingdom of Rajasthan with a guided city tour Marvel at the extraordinary location and beauty of Amber Fort, home of one of India's most powerful maharajas Stay in an original Rajasthani fort, converted into a stunning Heritage Hotel Services of our experienced tour manager Hand-picked accommodation rated three to five-stars, including all local taxes, with breakfast and seven meals included Return travel from the UK with premium economy upgrades available at a supplement plus transfers to and from the hotel included Selected departures from April to November 2018 & in January 2019
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement (date dependant) Price includes thirteen nights' accommodation in three, four or five-star hotels, with breakfast and seven meals, scheduled flights to/from Delhi, all transfers, all local accommodation taxes, all flight taxes, all touring as mentioned, all local transport by train or coach as described, hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person and the services of an experienced Riviera Travel tour manager. Included excursions are: guided tours of New and Old Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, two game drives in Ranthambore, Jaipur city tour, visit to Amber Fort, walking tour of Havelis at Mandawa, walking tour of Shimla Not included: Indian visa.
➕ DAY 1
Airport check-in for your overnight flight to Delhi.
➕ DAY 2
On arrival, we transfer to the five-star Taj Diplomatic Enclave (previously named the Taj Palace) for one night. After a short rest we commence our guided tour of New Delhi. The city centre, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1911, is bisected by wide, tree-lined avenues, a hub which clearly reflects the Raj legacy and home to the former Viceroy's Palace, now the Presidential Palace. Heading down the imposing Rajpath, we pass India Gate and the Parliament building. We'll visit some of Delhi's older monuments, including the Qutub Minaret, started in 1199, which is the tallest stone built tower in India. Nearby is Humayun's tomb, an outstanding example of Moghul architecture and the first mausoleum of its type, pre-dating the more widely known Taj Mahal by nearly a century. A buffet dinner is included tonight.
➕ DAY 3
This morning we continue our city tour, first visiting Old Delhi, starting with the Raj Ghat, a fittingly simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. We continue past the imposing walls and battlements of the great Red Fort before visiting the Jama Masjid, one of Asia's largest mosques. We leave Delhi in the afternoon for our drive to Agra, arriving at our four-star Oberoi Trident hotel, in the late afternoon.
➕ DAY 4
We rise early to catch the sun rising over the Taj Mahal. In the soft morning light, as the mist rises from the Yamuna River behind it, the Taj Mahal seems to float, mirage-like, above the surrounding landscape. A combination of extraordinary beauty, symmetry and history makes this wonder of the world one of the most amazing monuments on the planet and you will have plenty of time to admire it from all angles. Moving on, we continue our tour with a visit to the vast red sandstone Agra Fort. Completed in 1573, it was the headquarters of the Moghul Empire, boasting vast size and opulence, its buildings make it more of a walled palace than a fort. In the evening you have the option of completing a wonderful day with another visit to the Taj Mahal, to witness the shrine at sunset.
➕ DAY 5
Leaving Agra this morning we continue towards the ancient abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri, built in 1571, as Emperor Akbar's imperial capital. Although it was mysteriously abandoned just 15 years later, it remains in a remarkable state of preservation, with numerus palaces, wide courtyards and beautiful carvings. Just 15 kilometres away is the Bagh Bharatpur, a luxury Heritage Hotel in Bharatpur where we stop for lunch before going on to the railway station to catch the Shatabdi Express for our comfortable two and a half hour journey to Ranthambore National Park. Originally the private hunting preserve of Maharajahs, its 400 square kilometres of forested rolling hills, valleys and lakes form a unique ecosystem. Started in 1973, India's famous Tiger Project was created to protect the country's tiger population. Despite many difficulties, the tigers of Ranthambore have survived and numbers have stabilised. Our hotel for the next two nights is the comfortable family-run three-star Ranthambore Regency on full board basis.
➕ DAY 6
An early start this morning is worth the sacrifice as we head out to the park for our safari using specially built, 20-person, open-top four wheel drive vehicles known as 'canters'. After many years of conservation, Ranthambore is now the best place to spot tigers in India, but the reserve is about more than tigers - over 300 bird species have been counted including impressive crested eagles, painted stork and wild peacocks. The park's residents also include large numbers of sambars, the largest Asian antelope, as well as marsh crocodiles, wild boar and rare sloth bears and leopards. Look out for the playful troop of black-faced langur monkeys near the main entrance gate. We return to our hotel in the late morning, with time to relax before and after lunch. In the afternoon we take our second trip into the park for another chance to spot the elusive tigers. Dinner is included this evening.
➕ DAY 7
Leaving Ranthambore after breakfast we head north to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur. Our afternoon tour will cover all the major highlights of this ancient city. The famous Hawa Mahal, known as the Palace of Winds, is one of our first stops before we continue to the Astronomical Observatory constructed in 1726 and on to the City Palace, still home to the present Maharajah of Jaipur, where we'll view collections of costumes, carpets, paintings and the impressive armoury. Our hotel for the next two nights is the new four-star Hilton Jaipur.
➕ DAY 8
This morning another highlight, on a tour of highlights: you'll visit the immense Amber Fort, located in the hills just a short drive out of Jaipur. Sampling all the most fascinating sights, our guided tour includes the sections reserved for the Maharajah's wives and concubines as well as the remarkable hall of mirrors, with tiny delicate convex mirrors embedded like a mosaic in the walls and ceilings.
➕ DAY 9
After breakfast, we bid goodbye to Jaipur and head north, deeper into the interior of rural Rajasthan. We pass numerous small villages and towns on our way to the Sekhawati region of the state and the village of Alsisar. This was once part of India's Silk Road and over the years the merchants here grew very rich, building a large number of luxurious mansions known as 'havelis', to display their wealth through the magnificence of their frescoed walls. Although most of these have now been abandoned, the imposing and luxurious residence of the local kings has been lovingly restored into an amazing Heritage Hotel, the Alsisar Mahal, where we stay for the night with a buffet dinner. A maze of winding corridors, cool courtyards and arched colonnades, lead to the charming rooms, all different, but most are spacious and some with four-poster double beds. Rooms are air-conditioned, with bath or shower, but no TV. In the afternoon we take a guided walk through the village to explore the best examples of the havelis that lie just outside the walls of the Alsisar Mahal. Dinner is included tonight.
➕ DAY 10
After breakfast we head back to Delhi and the last night of our tour, at the Taj Diplomatic Enclave. Dinner is included this evening.
➕ DAY 11
In the morning we will transfer to the airport for our flight home, arriving back in the UK to reflect on a once-in-a-lifetime tour.