Trip Code: AITBOR
AUD$5,750 per person in twin share or double room
AUD$6,800 per person in a single room
Prices are valid until 30 September 2016, excluding the Christmas / New Year period.
- Double/twin or single room with breakfast
- Transport by air conditioned vehicle for all transfers, sightseeing and touring as per the itinerary
- English speaking local guides in Delhi, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra
- Cycle rickshaw ride in Old Delhi
- Sunset camel ride at Sam sand dunes, Jaisalmer
- Jeep safari at Castle Bera
- Boat cruise on Lake Pichola, Udaipur
- Elephant / Jeep ride at Amber Fort and guided walking tour, Jaipur
- Entrance fees at all sightseeing places
- 2AC class train tickets: Delhi to Churu (including porterage at both railway stations)
- 24 hour support through our local representative offices
- Assistance on arrival and departure at airports and train stations
- Complimentary mineral water in the vehicle
- All land and vehicle taxes
- Lunches and dinners
- Visa fee
- Porter charges at hotels if required
- Camera fees at monuments
- Any expenses of a personal nature eg tips to guides, in restaurants or hotels, laundry, drinks, telephone calls, etc
- Any other expense which is not mentioned as included
- Delhi: The Visaya
- Ramgarh: Ramgarh Fresco
- Bikaner: Bhanwar Niwas
- Jaisalmer: Narayan Niwas Palace
- Jodhpur: Pal Haveli
- Bera: Castle Bera
- Udaipur: Jagat Niwas Palace
- Bundi: Bundi Vilas
- Jaipur: Alsisar Haveli
- Agra: Radisson Blu Hotel
Despite belonging to the country’s most arid region, Rajasthan is one of the most vibrant and exciting states of India. This tour is an ideal introduction to the many charms and charming people of Rajasthan.
Along with the ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur, Rajasthan’s people are the most colourfully dressed and heavily jewelled in India. Its palaces are surely the most sumptuous – their craftsmanship, detail and sheer extravagance are something to behold. The region’s massive, majestic forts are testament to a turbulent and at times bloody history, one marked by internal conflict and frequent invasions from east and west. Despite their history, or perhaps because of the chivalrous nature of their warrior forebears, many Rajasthanis possess a regal, honourable and charismatic demeanour.
On this tour visit several of the most impressive forts and palaces while also taking in some less famous – but no less intriguing – sights and experiences in rural Rajasthan. Along the way you’ll meet any number of characters – from shopkeepers to local guides to hosts at the lovely accommodation we have selected – who’ll charm you into agreeing that Rajasthan is indeed India’s most captivating state.
Day 1 Delhi
You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel.
Delhi is best understood as a collection of cities rather a single city; over the last 1000 years, it has been the site of at least eight distinct incarnations, and even today what we broadly refer to as Delhi is actually two cities – Old and New – which have their own history and identity.
The eight incarnations of Delhi began with Lal Kot, founded by the Tomars in 1060, and stretches through to the seventh, Shahjahanabad – what we now call Old Delhi – founded by Shah Jahan in 1638 to be the capital of Mughal India. The eighth city, New Delhi, was inaugurated by the British in 1931 as the capital of their empire. Monuments and buildings of all these cities are still to be seen today, making Delhi an architecturally and historically rich and most interesting city to explore.
Day 2 Delhi
This morning visit the medieval Jama Mosque followed by a walking tour of traditional businesses of Old Delhi – meeting artisans and exploring centuries old arts and crafts.
The Jama Masjid (World Reflecting Mosque) is the principal mosque of Old Delhi and the largest in India, with a courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. Construction began in 1650 and it was completed in 1656. This was the final architectural extravagance of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who built the city’s Red Fort and Agra’s Taj Mahal.
Later in the afternoon explore New Delhi – including Humayun’s Tomb, Qutab Minar and drive past Lutyens’ Delhi.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Humayun’s Tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance. It represented a leap in Mughal architecture, and together with its accomplished Charbagh garden (typical of Persian gardens, but never before seen in India) it set a precedent for subsequent Mughal architecture of royal mausoleums. This reached its zenith a century later with the construction of the Taj Mahal at Agra.
Located in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, the Qutab Complex has a number of historic sites, the most notable being: the Quwwatu’l-Islam (Might of Islam) mosque; a 7 metre-high iron pillar that stands in the courtyard of the mosque; and the Qutab Minar, a column built from red and buff sandstone blocks rising to a height of 72.5 metres, tapering from 14.32 metres in diameter at the base to 2.75 metres at the top, making it the highest stone tower in India.
Delhi’s “Eighth City”, New Delhi, was conceived and constructed between 1912 and 1931, by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker. The new city’s urban plan emphasized wide, straight roadways radiating like the spokes of a wheel from major imperial landmarks. At the heart of the city was the impressive Rashtrapati Bhawan, formerly known as the Viceroy’s House, located on the top of Raisina Hill. This gigantic palace is now used as the official residence of the President.
Day 3 Ramgarh
Early morning transfer to Delhi station to board a train to Churu, located in the Shekhawati region (an approximately 5 hour journey). This region is described as an ‘open air art gallery’ because of its large number of painted buildings – havelis, temples, and chhatris (cenotaphs).
Churu is known for its grand havelis with marvellous fresco paintings; two of note are Kanhaiya lal Bagla ki Haveli and Surana Haveli, with their hundreds of small windows. Churu also has some fine chhatris (cenotaphs).
After disembarking from the train take a tour of the town before making the short drive to Ramgarh and your hotel. Surrounded by sand dunes, Ramgarh is said to have once been amongst the richest towns in India.
Day 4 Bikaner
Spend this morning exploring the fascinating town of Ramgarh. Stroll through bazaars that will transport you back in time and visit a treasure trove of painted havelis, temples, chhatris (cenotaphs) and johras (water tanks).
Afterwards you will be driven (4 hours) to the desert town of Bikaner, founded in the 15th century by Rao Bikaji – a descendant of the founder of Jodhpur. Like many other Rajasthan cities, Bikaner is surrounded by a high crenellated wall and like its smaller sister to the south, Jaisalmer, it was once an important staging post on the great caravan trade routes. The city has retained its medieval feel as, unlike most other cities of Rajasthan, outside influences have been minimal here and the traditional lifestyle prevails. The city is mainly of interest for its superb large fort.
Day 5 Jaisalmer
This morning you will be driven to Jaisalmer, located in the heart of the Thar Desert (5 hours). Said to have been founded in the 12th century, Jaisalmer was quite prosperous during medieval times due to its location on the main trade route linking India to Egypt, Arabia, Persia, Africa and Europe. In this arid wilderness, former rulers and wealthy merchants built some of the most splendid residences out of sandstone, which have withstood the buffeting winds of the desert through the ages.
Day 6 Jaisalmer
Spend today exploring Jaisalmer, including its famous fort, havelis and temples.
Standing proud at a height of 100 metres over the city with its 99 bastions, the Jaisalmer Fort is sheer magic and an especially splendid sight in the late afternoon sun. Within the Fort is the Rawal’s seven-storey palace with exquisitely carved balconies, temples and havelis built by the Jain community. The Fort also has a large living complex of houses completely covered with carved filigreed work dating back to the 12th to 15th centuries, and where people still reside. Known as the “Museum City”, Jaisalmer has some of the most magnificent intricately carved havelis in Rajasthan. Those especially worth visiting include the Salim Singh-ki-Haveli, Patwon-ki- Haveli and Nathmalji-ki-Haveli.
No visit to Jaisalmer is complete without a visit to the picturesque sand dunes located just outside the city. You will be driven there in a jeep and have an opportunity to enjoy a short camel ride.
En route to the dunes, you will be taken to see the mysterious abandoned village of Kuldhara. For seven centuries, the Paliwal Brahmins made Kuldhara their home – one of 84 villages where they flourished in their heyday. The story goes that in the early 19th century the beautiful daughter of the village chief fell prey to the all-powerful prime minister of the king of Jaisalmer. The village people had two options – either surrender the girl to the minister or face his threats of harassment. The villagers packed up all their belongings and abandoned their homes, leaving behind a curse that anyone who tried to live in the village would perish; it has remained uninhabited ever since.
Day 7 Jodhpur
This morning you will be driven (5 hours) to Jodhpur, known as Rajasthan’s ‘blue city’ because of its blue-washed houses. Founded in 1459, Jodhpur was once the capital of the Marwar State and a major trading centre in the 16th century due to its location on the ancient silk route. Today, it has grown to become the second largest city of Rajasthan without shedding its medieval splendour.
Day 8 Jodhpur
Spend this morning with a local guide exploring Jodhpur, known – in addition to its striking fort – for its stately palaces and gracious buildings.
There are many great fortresses throughout Rajasthan, but none compare with the majestic Mehrangarh Fort. Within it a typical Rajput palace houses a museum that displays the accumulated accoutrements of the royal house of Rathore in its beautifully preserved royal apartments. Its crenelated ramparts afford postcard views of the ancient city below – great for photographs.
Another of the city’s architectural landmarks is the nearby Jaswant Thada – a beautiful white marble memorial built in 1899 by Jaswant Singh’s Maharani in her husband’s memory. The traditional cremation ground of Jodhpur rulers, it displays portraits of the rulers and Maharajas of Jodhpur and its grounds include exquisitely carved gazebos, a beautiful multi-tiered garden, and a small lake.
This afternoon take a stroll around the busy clock tower area and the nearby colourful market featuring textiles, silver and handicrafts in abundance.
Day 9 Bera
After a leisurely breakfast, you will be collected from your hotel and driven (3 hours) to Bera a small village surrounded by forests where leopards roam free.
Check in to the hotel on arrival and later in the day your host will take you on a wildlife safari to spot leopards. This is forest country – not a reserve – with leopard sightings almost guaranteed!
Day 10 Udaipur
This morning you will be driven (3.5 hours) to Udaipur with a stop en route to visit the stunning Ranakpur Temples.
Built in the 15th century and dedicated to the first Jain tirthankara (“Enlightened One”), Adinath, this is one of the five great holy sites of the Jain faith. The central temple, Chaumukha, has 29 halls containing 1,444 pillars – each said to be different and each covered with intricate, delicate carvings. Within the complex are two more temples dedicated to Jain deities, Neminathji and Paraswakathji, both built in the 14th century. There is also a small temple here for the Hindu Sun God, Surya.
After a short tour of the Ranakpur temples, continue on to Udaipur.
Udaipur was first described as the “most romantic spot on the continent” by the East India Company’s Political Agent in the region, Colonel James Tod, in 1829. Built in 1559, this beautiful city of ornately turreted and balconied palaces, picturesque havelis, temples and bathing ghats reflected in the placid waters of Lake Pichola, it is still regarded by many as the most romantic destination in India.
Day 11 Udaipur
Begin your exploration of Udaipur at the magnificent City Palace. Comprising four major and several minor palaces built by successive Mewar rulers, each addition is flawlessly integrated in style and feeling forming a breathtaking façade overlooking Lake Pichola.
Continue on to the Jagdish Mandir temple complex; located close to the main gate of the City Palace it was constructed in 1651 and dedicated to Jagannath, an aspect of Lord Vishnu (the black stone image enshrined within).
End the morning tour with a wander through the Saheliyon-ki-Bari (Garden of the Maids of Honour) created by Sangram Singh in the 18th century for the ladies of his household. The gardens set below the embankment of the Fatah Sagar Lake feature lotus pools, marble pavilions and elephant-shaped fountains.
In the late afternoon take a boat ride on lovely Lake Pichola. From the boat you will have unmatched views of the two islands in the lake, the Jag Niwas Island and Jag Mandir Island. Jag Niwas is the site of the famous Lake Palace, built by Maharana Jagat Singh II in 1754. Today, it is a luxurious heritage hotel, with courtyards, fountains and gardens. It is said that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan derived some of his ideas for the Taj Mahal from Jag Mandir after staying here. The view across the lake as the sun sets – with the city and its great palace rising up behind the island palaces – is a scene of rare beauty.
Day 12 Bundi
After a leisurely breakfast, you will be collected from your hotel and driven (3.5 hours) to Bundi, a small town that is of particular architectural note for its ornate forts, palaces, and step well reservoirs known as baoris.
This afternoon explore some of this sleepy town’s monuments depicting its past glory. The Taragarh Fort, constructed in 1354 at the top of a steep hillside overlooking the city, is the most impressive. The largest of its battlements is the 16th century bastion known as the Bhim Burj, on which was once mounted a particularly large cannon called Garbh Gunjam or ‘Thunder from the Womb’. The fort contains three tanks, which never dry up. The technique with which they were built has been long lost but these tanks survive as a testament to the advanced methods of construction and engineering in medieval India.
Also visit the Bundi Palace, situated on the hillside adjacent to the Taragarh Fort. It is notable for its lavish traditional murals and frescoes depicting scenes of royal life and coloured predominately in green and blue. These are regarded as amongst the finest examples of Rajput painting. The tour ends with a look at some of Bundi’s step wells. (Although there are over fifty step wells here, only a handful has been maintained).
Day 13 Jaipur
This morning you will be collected from your hotel and driven (4 hours) to Jaipur.
Jaipur was established in the early 17th century as the power of the great Mughals was declining with its aging monarch, Aurangzeb. After several centuries of invasions the north was now quiet and the wealth of the kingdom had considerably increased. This enabled the rulers of Jaipur to patronise a number of arts and crafts; they invited skilled artisans, artists and craftsmen from India and abroad to settle in the city and make it their home. As a result, Jaipur is today a major hub for arts and crafts, famous for its silver jewellery and gems, enamel and brassware, blue pottery, stone carving, miniature paintings, embroidered leather footwear, rugs, hand-blocked prints, fine Kota doria saris, and much more. In addition, this royal city is rich in heritage, culture and architecture.
Day 14 Jaipur
Begin your exploration of Jaipur today with visits to the City Palace, Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal and Amber Fort.
An imposing blend of traditional Rajput and Mughal architecture, the vast City Palace complex occupies nearly one-seventh of the ‘Pink City’. Built by Maharaja Jai Singh II, it is divided into a series of courtyards, sprawling gardens and buildings. It includes several palatial structures such as Chandra Mahal, (home of the present Maharajah of Jaipur), Mubarak Mahal (housing a textile museum), Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Private Audience, containing two of the largest silver vessels in the world), Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public Audience) and the gateway Ridhi Sidhi Pol (with four small doorways decorated with motifs depicting the four seasons).
The Jantar Mantar is a collection of astronomical instruments, built by Sawai Jai Singh II. He constructed a total of five such facilities at different locations – the Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of these. It has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as “an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period”.
The renowned ‘Palace of Winds’, or Hawa Mahal, is one of Jaipur’s most prominent tourist attractions. Located in the heart of the city, this beautiful red sandstone palace was constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh. Its purpose was to provide the royal women – who never appeared in public – with views of everyday life through the 953 small windows called jharokhas that are decorated with intricate latticework.
Amber is situated about 11 kilometres from Jaipur and was the ancient citadel of the ruling Kachwahas of Amber, before the capital was shifted to the plains, the present day Jaipur. Its massive fort-palace complex was named after the town of Amber, in turn named after the goddess Amba. Its rugged forbidding exterior belies an inner paradise with a beautiful fusion of art and architecture.
End the day with a walking tour of some of the bazaars of Old Jaipur and experience a labyrinth of lanes and alleyways exploding with colour and chaos. Tiny shops are loaded with an array of goods – brocades, gold-embroidered skirts and glittering saris; jewellery and gems; perfumes; traditional camel-leather shoes and bangles of glass and lacquer; miniature paintings and puppets; blue pottery and carvings in marble and sandstone; carpets and rugs; furniture and antiques; as well as shops selling utensils, ironware, brassware and housewares. If you are interested in shopping, this is a good opportunity to do so – and to test your bargaining skills!
Day 15 Agra
This morning you will be collected from your hotel and driven to Agra (5 hours) with a stop en route to visit Fatehpur Sikri.
Fatehpur Sikri was founded in 1569 by the Mughal emperor Akbar, and served as the capital of his vast empire from 1571 to 1585. After his military victories over Chittor and Ranthambore, Akbar decided to shift his capital from Agra to this new location to honour the Sufi saint Salim Chishti. A planned walled city, it comprises a series of royal palaces, harem, courts, a mosque, private quarters and other utility buildings. Fatehpur Sikri was only inhabited for 14 years, after which – probably because of water shortages – it was completely abandoned, making it one of the best preserved collections of Mughal architecture in India.
Continue on to Agra. The earliest reference to this city is in the ancient epic, the Mahabharata and its recorded history begins around the 11th century. However, the golden age of Agra began with the Mughals. It was known then as Akbarabad (named by Akbar, after himself) who made it a centre for learning, arts, commerce and religion. The city was the capital of the Mughal Empire under three of its greatest emperors – Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan – all of whom contributed to its architectural glory.
In the late afternoon you will be taken to visit the Taj Mahal, the white marble tomb built by Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Begun in 1631 and completed 21 years later, some 20,000 labourers, artisans and craftsmen are said to have worked on its construction. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”
Day 16 Delhi
This morning you will be taken on a tour of the Agra Fort. In an era marked by invasions and fortifications, power was symbolized by grand forts and palaces. The UNESCO World Heritage listed Agra Fort is one of these monuments. This bastioned fortress presents a formidable appearance with its vast red sandstone walls standing over 20 metres in height, rising above a moat that encompasses within its enclosure walls of 2.5 kilometres, the imperial city of the Moghul rulers. The 38-hectare fort has four gates; the monumental Delhi Gate is considered the grandest and a masterpiece of Akbar’s time. Built in 1568 both to enhance security and as the king’s formal gate, it is embellished with inlay work in white marble. A wooden drawbridge was used to cross the moat and reach the gate from the mainland; inside, an inner gateway called Hathi Pol (Elephant Gate) – guarded by two life-sized stone elephants with their riders – added another layer of security.
After the tour, transfer 4 hours to Delhi airport for your flight home or to your next destination in India – see our R&R page for ideas. [Image: Acred99].
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