A fascinating 21-day journey through central India. Discover Madhya Pradesh, referred to as the nation’s heart because of its geographical position, and the surrounding states. Visit some of India’s great architectural and historical sights, marvel at powerful forts, palaces and World Heritage temples and meet some fascinating hosts. This in-depth tour will reveal parts of India less-visited, though nonetheless amazing. A new tour offered by India Unbound in 2017.
Starting in Delhi, India’s Hidden Heart will reveal to you some of the lesser-explored parts of this incredible country. In Lucknow, a city famous for its food, savour traditional kebabs and tikkas and explore its intriguing old city. In Varanasi, witness the mesmerising Ganga Aarti and explore the city’s ghats, temples and winding narrow lanes. See the World Heritage-listed temples of Khajuraho with their soaring spires and erotic carvings and spend 3 nights at an eco-lodge outside Khajuraho experiencing some of beautiful rural India. In Orchha, explore magnificent ancient temples and palaces, before heading to Fort Rampura for a unique stay at this former fort that’s now converted in parts to a homestay. Discover the powerful Gwalior Fort with its lovely palaces, temples and step wells and visit Jaipur, commonly known as the ‘pink city’ of Rajasthan. A wonderful, in-depth journey through India’s heart land.
Day 1 Delhi
Welcome to Delhi. You will be met upon arrival and transferred to your hotel.
Delhi is a fascinating city with two distinct parts – Old Delhi and New Delhi. Old Delhi still retains its medieval character to a large extent, while the new parts of the city – excluding the areas designed by Edwin Lutyens – are like other modern cities around the world with high rise buildings and modern shopping malls. In the coming few days, you can explore both parts of the city.
Day 2 Delhi
A full day to explore Delhi today, beginning with a visit to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. This Sikh temple is one of our favourite places to visit in Delhi – offering an interesting and powerful experience that’s not on the main tourist trail in the city. See the main temple, hear the powerful singing of the Ragi and afterwards, visit the temple’s kitchen which provides hundreds and hundreds of meals per day for devotees.
Continue on to visit Jama Masjid – the largest and most splendid mosque in India – and see its often photographed two minarets. Later, you will be taken on a guided exploration of Shahjahanabad, or Old Delhi. Here you can discover the bustling, narrow lanes of Chandi Chowk, see the bridal street where women shop for coloured lace and ribbons and visit Khari Baoli (one of Asia’s largest wholesale spice markets) to shop for saffron and nuts. You’ll also discover local street food, beautiful decorated stores, hawkers selling everything from bags to clothes on the streets and crowds of people flocking to these historic alleys.
Day 3 Delhi
Today you will have a vehicle on disposal and a local guide. You may choose what you wish to see in Delhi from a range of options.
Day 4 Lucknow
This morning you will transfer to the railway station in Delhi to board an early morning train to Lucknow, a journey of about 6 hours. Upon arrival you will be met at the station and transferred to your hotel.
This historic city of Lucknow, the `Golden City of the East’, was once North India’s cultural capital. Today it is better known for its food, particularly its mouthwatering kebabs.
Day 5 Lucknow
This morning you will visit some of the key sights of Lucknow with a local guide. See the Bara Imambara, the British Residency and the Clock Tower.
The Bara Imambara is an impressive and large complex which houses a mosque, courtyards, gateways and a step-well. The central hall of the Bara Imambara is said to be the largest arched hall in the world. The British Residency served as a refuge for approximately 3,000 inhabitants during the 1857 uprising; while the Clock Tower, India’s tallest, is one of the finest examples of British architecture in India.
In the evening a local guide will take you on a culinary tour through Lucknow’s streets and laneways. Visit a number of traditional eateries and savour popular dishes like barbecue tikka and kebabs.
Day 6 Lucknow
This morning is yours at leisure. In the afternoon enjoy a Heritage Walking Tour, which will take you into the maze of lanes and alleyways in the fascinating Chowk district, the heart of old Lucknow. Along the way you will have the chance to see a few of the various traditions of the city from indigo block printing to traditional unani medicine to vark making (edible silver foil).
Day 7 Varanasi
Transfer to the railway station to board an early morning train to Varanasi. You will be met upon arrival and transferred to your hotel.
Varanasi, the City of Light, is the spiritual capital of India for Hindus. Situated on the banks of the Ganges River, pilgrims from across the country and the world come here to see and to bathe in this holy river. Ghats, or steps, dotted with temples and shrines line the river. It is here you can witness the daily rituals that depend on the river from washing to laundry, as well as the powerful devotional and sacred rituals that take place on the river’s banks.
In the late afternoon a guide will take you on a boat tour to view the evening `aarti’ – a powerful and uplifting devotional ritual using fire as an offering.
Day 8 Varanasi
This morning take a walking tour of Varanasi, run by expert local guides. The tour can be tailored to suit your personal interests. You may choose to explore the ancient pathways to the city’s temples, visit the oldest ghats and city bazaars, or meander through winding laneways to Bengali Tola, the street of the Bengalis.
The afternoon is yours at leisure.
Day 9 Varanasi
Today you have a full day to explore Varanasi on your own.
Day 10 Panna
After breakfast transfer to the airport and board a flight for Khajuraho. You will be met upon arrival and taken to visit the famous UNSECO World Heritage-listed site of Khajuraho. These well-preserved sand stone temples are known for their soaring vertical spires. The temples are most famous for their extraordinary temple sculptures depicting many aspects of ancient Indian life, both secular and spiritual. The temples are also known for their erotic carvings seen in specific parts of the temples.
Following your visit to the temples, drive about 30 minutes to your home for the next three nights to Sarai at Toria. This eco-friendly resort, located on the banks of the beautiful River Ken, sits amid agricultural fields in unspoilt countryside. With just eight spacious, independent cottages set amid gorgeous grassland and abundant with local bird and wildlife. Settle in upon arrival and remainder of the day to relax.
Day 11 Panna
Today is at leisure. There are a number of activities on offer at Sarai at Toria. You may choose to start the day with a sunrise boat ride on the river, take a leisurely walk to visit the local village or simply enjoy the beautiful surrounds. There are comfortable day beds on your private verandah or under a tree overlooking the river that invite you to relax. Food is a highlight of your stay here – enjoy a magnificent three course lunch under the shade of the neem tree in the kitchen garden.
Day 12 Panna
After breakfast take an excursion to the hilltop fort of Ajaygarh, an easy drive of about an hour along quiet rural roads. Climb the 500 steps to the top, past the sculptures carved into the side of the cliff and take in the views of the town of Ajaygarh from the fort.
Return to Sarai at Toria and rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Day 13 Orchha
After breakfast commence the 5-hour drive to Orchha, a small town dominated by a series of 16th and 17th century palaces and temples.
Check-in to your hotel upon arrival and remainder of the day is at leisure. You may like to visit the palace complex, temples and 14 cenotaphs commemorating the Orchha rulers.
Day 14 Orchha
Spend the day exploring the nearby sites of Datia and Sonagiri.
Datia, the erstwhile capital of Bundelkhand, is surrounded by small lakes and is known for its scenically located hilltop palaces. The most visited palace is that of Raja Bir Singh Deo – a seven-storeyed palace constructed entirely of stone and brick. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of Bundle architecture. Sonagiri is famous of its Jain temples.
Day 15 Fort Rampura
After breakfast begin the 4 and a half hour journey to Fort Rampura. Located deep in the Chambal Ravines, this 600-year old retreat was initially built as a fighting fort. Successive generations however, made the fort liveable. Today, part of the fort is still lived in by the descendants of the original ruling family who have converted it into an intimate homestay property. A stay here will allow you a unique chance to experience the feudal and country life of Bundelkhand nobility.
Afternoon at leisure.
Day 16 Fort Rampura
Explore Fort Rampura and surrounds today. You may choose to start the day with an early morning walk through the ravines to the family temple on a hill. You may like to simply relax and put your feet up with a book or experience a mustard oil massage. Other local activities on offer include boat rides on the nearby river, a casual cooking class or visits to nearby forts and palaces.
Day 17 Gwalior
After breakfast depart for Gwalior, a drive of about 4 and a half hours. One of the lesser visited stops on the Gangetic plains, stopping at Gwalior allows you to experience India away from her well-know sights and cities.
Day 18 Jaipur
Gwalior’s two main attractions are its magnificent Fort and the opulent Jas Vilas palace. Spend the morning with a local guide exploring them.
Late in the afternoon transfer to the railway station and board a train to Jaipur. You will be met upon arrival in Jaipur and transferred to your hotel.
Day 19 Jaipur
The capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is best known as the`Pink City’. Begin your exploration of this fascinating city with a guided walk by an expert local in the city’s bustling city market. Explore the laneways and unique local businesses that inhabit the market and sample some local food along the way – including the city’s best kulfi ( a type of ice-cream flavoured with pistachio and saffron.)
The afternoon is yours at leisure. You may wish to explore the city market further, visit some of Jaipur’s modern boutiques and local stores for some shopping, or relax at the hotel.
Day 20 Jaipur
Today you have the option of visiting Amber Fort – located about 45 minutes outside Jaipur. Ride a jeep to the top of the fort, with its magnificent Ganesha Pol (elephant gate) and Palace of Mirrors inside. Alternatively you can see some of Jaipur’s other sights such as its City Palace, Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mantar. You can choose which activities you would like to do today.
Afternoon at leisure.
Day 21 Jaipur
Today you will be transferred to the airport for a flight to Mumbai or Delhi and connecting international flight.
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