Rajasthan in Style
Trip Code: AITRIS
Prices start from AU$18,000 per person.
Prices are valid until 30 September 2016, excluding the Christmas / New Year period.
Please contact us for a detailed itinerary and current prices.
Featuring India’s grandest accommodation, and a private charter flight to visit the Taj Mahal, this itinerary is most aptly named: Rajasthan in Style.
That Rajasthan possesses India’s grandest historical buildings is almost beyond dispute – the floating Lake Palace, the towering Umaid Bhawan Palace and the art deco elegance of Rambagh Palace are testament to the claim, and to a legacy of opulence matched by few others in the history of the sub-continent. These marvels of architecture and craftsmanship are now some of India’s finest hotels, allowing you to enjoy them as both historical monuments and iconic hotels.
In this classic Rajasthan tour we string together these wonderful properties, and the famed cities of Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur in which they are located. A range of insightful activities such as private guided walks, dinner with an historian, private museum tour with the curator and a private charter flight – which allows you to depart Delhi in the morning, see the Taj Mahal and reach Jaipur by the same afternoon – add to the exclusive nature of the tour.
Day 1 Delhi
Both an ancient city and a booming modern metropolis, Delhi offers its visitors a wealth of historical and contemporary sights and experiences. From the splendid Qutab complex with its centuries old monuments and ruins – to the avant–garde Haus Khauz district with its burgeoning arts and design scene – this city has something for everyone. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel, the landmark Imperial Hotel.
From the twenty-four king palms that lead up to the dazzling white entrance – to the marvellous mélange of Victorian, Colonial and Art Deco styles in its interiors – the Imperial Hotel stands as a reminder of the birth of the capital city of New Delhi. Built in 1931, it was one of the monuments of Edwin Lutyens’ grand vision of the new capital’s master plan. In addition it was witness to the creation of an independent India when in the 1930s, Pandit Nehru, Mahatama Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten met here to discuss the partition of India and creation of Pakistan. Today, its spacious high ceiling rooms, crystal chandeliers, marble floors and mahogany furniture, along with an impressive collection of 18th and 19th century British art on India, afford its guests a taste of colonial India’s history and elegance
Day 2 Delhi
This morning you will be taken to visit the medieval Jama Mosque followed by a walking tour through a colourful tangle of crowded bazaars in Old Delhi (including Kinari Bazaar with its exquisite array of embroidered silk wedding saris and Khari Baoli, the 150 year old spice market).
The Mughul emperor, Shah Jahan, commissioned the construction of the Jama Masjid in 1650. The largest mosque in India, it employed over 6,000 workers – including experts in the fields of construction and engineering, master craftsmen and eminent artisans – over a period of six years.
Later in the afternoon you will be taken to exputf8lore New Delhi – including Humayun’s Tomb and the Qutab Minar and drive past Lutyens’ Delhi.
Exemplifying the formative stage of the Mughal structural style, Humayun’s Tomb stands as a landmark in the development of Mughal architecture, and also represents the earliest extant specimen of the Mughal scheme of the garden tomb. The highly geometrical and enclosed ‘Paradise Garden’ is divided into four squares by paved walkways and two bisecting central water channels, reflecting the four rivers that flow in jannat, the Islamic concept of paradise.
The Qutab Complex was built in the area that comprised the first of Delhi’s ‘Seven Cities’, Lalkot, which was established by the Tomar Rajput ruler, Anang Pal, in 1060. The complex contains a number of sites of historic interest including the Quwwat Ui Islam (Light of Islam) Mosque, built in 1198 using the demolished remains of Hindu temples; an iron pillar in the mosque compound which bears a Sanskrit inscription from the 4th century; and the Qutab Minar, a soaring, 73 metre-high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak immediately after the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu kingdom.
At the Coronation Durbar of 1911, King George V declared Delhi Britain’s new imperial capital of India. From 1912 to 1931 British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker were responsible for the construction of New Delhi. “Lutyens’ Delhi” as it is commonly called is an area of formal order and symmetry, its design an interesting mixture of architectural styles blending Indian and European elements.
This evening, over dinner, enjoy an informal talk on the “Origins of the Rajputs” conducted by an historian.
Day 3 Jaipur
This morning you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport to board a private charter flight to Agra. The capital of all India under the Mughals, Agra’s splendour is on clear display in its two UNESCO World Heritage listed sites – Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal. On arrival in Agra you will be met and taken for a tour of the massive fort and the magnificent Taj Mahal. Both provide unique insights into the cultured lives and opulence of the great Mughal emperors. Afterwards you will be taken back to the airport for a further short flight to Jaipur.
The royal city of Jaipur is rather romantically referred to as Rajasthan’s “Pink City” – a reference to the terra-cotta-coloured lime plaster that coats the old part of the city’s walls, buildings, and temples. Founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II, this is India’s first planned city; its broad avenues, spacious gardens, splendid fortresses, majestic palaces, tranquil temples and beautiful havelis make it a delight to explore.
On arrival in Jaipur you will be met and transferred to your hotel, the magnificent Rambagh Palace. Built in 1835 for the queen’s favourite handmaiden Kesar Badaran, Rambagh Palace was later refurbished as a royal guesthouse and hunting lodge until, in 1925, it became the permanent residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur. It remained the home of Jaipur’s royalty until 1957, when it was converted into an heritage hotel. Drawing inspiration from Mughal and Rajasthani styles of architecture, its elegant rooms – with opulent furnishings and exquisite objects d’art – marbled corridors and expansive, ornamental gardens echo with history. Guests here retire to rooms that were once the sanctuaries of kings, princes and their guests. Thoughtfully renovated, they feature the use of rich textured fabrics and silk drapes that reflect the colourful art and warm hues of the state of Rajasthan. They have unique themes, hand painted motif work on the walls, regal four-poster beds, walk-in wardrobes and luxurious bathrooms.
Day 4 Jaipur
Begin this morning with a visit to Jaipur’s milk market. Here you can observe the fascinating process (unchanged for possibly hundreds of years) of buyers and sellers checking the quality of the product and negotiating quantities and prices. Afterwards take a sightseeing tour that includes visits to the City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal.
Located in the heart of Jaipur, the City Palace was planned and built between 1729 and 1732 by Sawai Jai Singh II. Later rulers added to the complex up to the 20th century. The architecture is a splendid blend of Rajput, Mughal and European styles with open airy public buildings leading to the royal private apartments. Fascinating to explore, these buildings have lost none of the pomp and splendour of their glory days.
The Jantar Mantar is an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century. It includes a set of some twenty main fixed instruments. Designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye, they embody several architectural and instrumental innovations. This is the most significant, most comprehensive and the best preserved of India’s historic observatories.
Built of red and pink sandstone, the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) forms part of the City Palace and extends to the Zenana or women’s chambers. A five storey high red sandstone building, its main feature is its over 950 windows ‘jharokhas’, which enable free circulation of air within the structure and give the palace its name (‘hawa’ is the Hindi word for breeze).
This afternoon take an excursion to Sanganeer, an important centre for crafts and hand-printed textiles. The town’s handmade paper industry was started during the rule of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1728. Today it is famous for its high quality hand-made paper and mostly screen-printed fabric in traditional small floral designs. Some of these designs were produced under the patronage of the royal family. Brightly coloured fabrics drying out in the sun near the river makes for a lovely sight. Explore the Kagazi Mohalla, home to the expert artisans known as ‘Kagazis’ and observe as they create lovely patterns on fabrics with block-prints. Their prints are unique, in that the patterns in bright colours are always printed on white backgrounds. A workshop will be organized for you to try your hand at this fascinating technique. In the process you will meet the textile artists, some of them the last remaining in the line, who will help you to understand and appreciate the subtle nuances of these art forms unique to this part of the country.
Day 5 Jaipur
A private walking tour of Old Jaipur this morning will give you a taste of the unique living heritage of this city. From its creation in 1727 the royal families and nobles patronised the local craftsmen and artisans. Today their descendants continue to create valuable and highly prized items by traditional methods. This walk takes you through crowded, colourful bazaars with their enticing variety of goods; some of the most popular items to be found here are precious gemstones, silver jewellery, bangles, blue pottery and textiles. Polish your bargaining skills if you intend to shop!
Following this, visit Amber Fort. Established in 1592 by Man Singh I and added to by Jai Singh I the massive Fort developed into a lavish palace complex – its huge simple exterior walls giving no indication of the beauty of the buildings and artworks inside. The complex contains a fascinating array of pavilions and halls such as Diwan-i-Am (Public Meeting Hall), Diwan-i-Khas (Private Meeting Hall), Jas Mandir (Hall of Glory), Sukh Nivas (Hall of Pleasure) and its jewel, Shish Mahal (Hall of Mirrors).
After visiting Amber Fort, drive a short distance to the wilderness behind the fort area to Dera Amer Camp. The camp is surrounded by the wilderness of a reserved forest with no urban civilization in the vicinity, just a few hamlets housing local villagers. A Rajput family who reside in the area organize friendly elephant polo matches using their beautiful home and camp as a base. Spend the afternoon watching a match. The colossal size of the elephants and their graceful (if not speedy) movements as they follow the ball around the field make for a unique and memorable outing.
Day 6 Chhatra Sagar
This morning you will be collected and driven (a 4-hour drive) to Chhatra Sagar. In the late 19th century, Thakur Chhatra Singh of Nimaj, a powerful noble of the desert kingdom of Marwar (Jodhpur), decided to dam a seasonal stream flowing through his estate. His vision was to create a water reservoir that would harvest the monsoon rains. The dam was completed in 1890 and transformed the dry scrub into prime agricultural land. Farmers struggling for sustenance on parched lands were invited by Thakur Chhatra Singh to settle around the reservoir. Named in his memory, Chhatra Sagar has developed into a lush green oasis with wide-open spaces and enchanting views.
On arrival, check in to your tented accommodation here. Luxury tents have always been an important part of the Rajput lifestyle. Constant campaigns in far-flung lands meant long stays in tents under inhospitable conditions. Tents were the only luxury available and soon these ‘homes away from home’ evolved into mobile, mini-palaces. Chhatra Sagar captures the essence of this romance. All tents face east overlooking the lake and have private sit outs offering panoramic views. Each tent is carefully hand stitched with interiors block printed in traditional floral motifs. They are spacious, comfortably furnished with locally crafted items, and have well appointed private facilities.
The remainder of the day is at leisure. You may like to explore the neighbouring countryside on a guided farm and village tour for a taste of traditional rural Rajasthani life – or enjoy the abundant birdlife here (over 200 species) which can be seen from close quarters almost everywhere in the camp. Dine this evening in the dining tent overlooking the lake or by the campfire under a canopy of stars. Traditional recipes for the meals served have been in use for generations and are prepared in the family kitchen using fresh local produce.
Day 7 Jodhpur
This morning you will be collected from your hotel and driven (3 hours) to Jodhpur. Set on the edge of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur is dominated by its spectacular 16th century Meherangarh (‘majestic’) Fort, whose ramparts rise from a sheer sided sandstone outcrop. Once the centre of Marwar, the largest princely state of Rajputana, Marwari traders amassed fortunes from the passing camel caravans on the ancient silk route. The fascinating old town with its narrow laneways, blue washed houses and colourful bazaars still retains some of its medieval character. On arrival you will check-in to your hotel. Here you have the choice of a stay in a grand heritage hotel, Umaid Bhawan Palace or Raas, a modern ‘design hotel’ (for a contrasting experience to accommodation you have elsewhere on this tour).
Perched high above the desert capital of Jodhpur, Umaid Bhawan Palace is the last of the great palaces of India and one of the largest private residences in the world, set amidst 10.5 hectares of lush, verdant gardens. It was commissioned by Maharaja Umaid Singh ji in 1923 to replace Mehrangarh Fort as the symbol of a new Jodhpur and to give employment to the people of Marwar during the period’s great droughts and famines. Built between 1928 and 1943, this golden hued desert sandstone monument was conceived on the grandest possible scale, in the fashionable Art Deco style of that time. Designed by renowned Edwardian architect Henry Lanchester, the palace is a blend of eastern and western architectural influences. Its majestic 32 metre high cupola is influenced by the Renaissance, while the towers draw inspiration from Rajput tradition. The lavish interiors with gilt furniture and elegant artwork follow the Art Deco style, complemented by the exotic murals of the self-exiled Polish artist Stefan Norblin. A part of the palace is still the residence of the royal family and another section houses a museum displaying a range of antiques from Jodhpur’s royal past.
The new boutique hotel, Raas, is superbly situated in the heart of the walled city of Jodhpur and uniquely located at the base of the Mehrangarh Fort. Almost every room here offers stunning uninterrupted views of the Fort, glowing pink by day and gloriously illuminated by night. Sophisticated and set firmly in the present, this hotel nevertheless maintains its connection to the past. This striking combination of old and new is reflected in every aspect of the property’s design and decoration. Its original four buildings (17th to 18th century) have been painstakingly restored by traditional artisans and craftsmen. Three new buildings have been added; with a focus on simplicity and function, they feature contemporary clean lines and light and spacious guest rooms. Decorated with flair – black terrazzo with dashes of white and splashes of ‘Jodhpur blue’ – they have a contemporary ‘edginess’. However it is the extensive use of Jodhpur’s pink sandstone and the hand carving of surfaces that unites the new with the old and the modern with the traditional. Raas is a perfect place to relax in understated, luxurious privacy away from – and yet in the middle of – the hustle and bustle of this vibrant blue city.
This evening you will be taken to visit Mehrangarh Fort where you will join the curator of its Museum as he takes you on a tour of the collections and shares his expertise and insights. Listen to tales of sacrifice and adventure and discuss paintings or talk about the fort’s architecture. Dinner at Chokhelao Terrace, set in the fort’s historic gardens, follows. Enjoy traditional Rajasthani cuisine as you look down on the city twinkling at night.
Day 8 Jodhpur
Spend this morning exploring Jodhpur, including visits to the imposing Mehrangarh Fort and Jaswant Thada. Mehrangarh Fort, one of the largest forts in India, is unsurpassed in beauty and grandeur. The many palaces within it including Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) and Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) – are interspersed with sprawling courtyards and intricately carved balconies. A collection of old weapons, arms, musical instruments, palanquins, royal costumes and furniture are preserved and displayed in the Sileh Khana. Close to the fort is the 19th century royal cenotaph, Jaswant Thada, a creation in white marble, which displays some rare portraits of Jodhpur’s rulers. Afternoon at leisure.
Day 9 Osiyan
Depart Jodhpur this morning for a 2-hour drive north into the Thar Desert. You’ll need to switch to a jeep as you continue towards your specially set up private tent in the middle of the desert. Spend tonight at your tent and enjoy dinner on top of a sand dune under the open starry sky.
Day 10 Mihir Garh
Depart Osiyan this morning for the 3-hour drive to the majestic fort of Mihir Garh, ‘Fortress of the Sun’. Built in 2009, this elegant boutique hotel appears to emerge from and complement the rugged beauty of the Thar Desert. Although contemporary, Mihir Garh is steeped in tradition. Its inspiration originated in the rural village architecture of Western Rajasthan, as can be seen in its tall mud walls with slightly rounded corners. It was constructed by builders, craftsmen and artisans from the region. Village women of Khandi and Haji created the fireplaces using an age-old technique of cow dung and clay. And the flooring of each room was done using a special plaster technique known only locally. Your two night stay in this unique hotel – of private terraces, alcoves, courtyards and plunge pools – set amidst the vast wilderness of the Thar Desert promises to be an unforgettably indulgent experience.
Day 11 Mihir Garh
Explore the rich and vibrant culture of rural Rajasthan today on a jeep safari. Travelling through the semi-arid terrain you will witness the simple life of the local Marwari and Bishnoi communities that have lived in harmony with nature for centuries. You will have the opportunity to visit the homes of local villagers and interact with them. This safari also enables you to view the variety of wild life and multihued birds – this is a photographer’s paradise. Stop along the way to enjoy a ‘royal picnic’ lunch served under a specially designed tent by a lake – providing a taste of a bygone era.
Day 12 Udaipur
Today you will be driven to Udaipur (4 hours) with a stop en route to visit the stunning Jain temples of Ranakpur. The main temple, built in 1439, was constructed according to a strict measurement based on the number 72 – the age at which the founder of Jainism, Mahavira – achieved enlightenment. The temple sits on a pedestal measuring 72 yards square and is supported by 1,440 (72 x 20) exquisitely carved pillars. There are 72 intricately carved shrines within the temple, and the main deity – a 72-inch tall image of the four-faced Adinath – is encased in the inner sanctum.
After visiting the temples continue on to Udaipur. A city of palaces, lakes and gardens – all bathed in an ivory glow from the pale sandstone and white marble of its buildings and reflected in the still waters of Lake Pichola – Udaipur is one of India’s most captivating destinations. This is a perfect place to relax – stroll through mazelike bazaars filled with miniature paintings, jewellery, brightly coloured textiles, wood carvings and puppets, take a slow cruise on the lake or simply lie back on a comfortable divan from a hanging jarokha and contemplate the serene views.
Your accommodation here is the resplendent Taj Lake Palace. Occupying the whole of an island on Lake Pichola, this 18th century white marble palace appears to float on the lake’s surface. Once the pleasure palace for the Maharanas of Mewar, it was converted into a heritage hotel in 1963. A regal haven of lily-filled ponds and fountains, scalloped archways, carved screens, pavilions, intricate paintings, silk rugs and cushions, it can still be described today as a ‘pleasure palace’.
Day 13 Udaipur
Spend today sightseeing with a local guide, including visits to the City Palace, Sahelion-ki-bari and Jagdish Temple. The immense City Palace – the largest in Rajasthan – comprises eleven separate palaces constructed by successive rulers during the three hundred years that followed the foundation of Udaipur in 1559. They are interlinked through a number of chowks or quadrangles with zigzag corridors (planned in this fashion to avoid surprise attacks by enemies). Enter through the main Tripolia (triple) Gate and explore the various courtyards, palaces and gardens within the complex including the Mor-chowk (Peacock courtyard), the Dilkhush Mahal (Heart’s Delight), the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Glass and Mirrors), the Moti Mahal (Palace of Pearls), the Bhim Vilas and the Amar Vilas (with a raised garden) that faces the Badi Mahal (the Big Palace). Shambu Niwas is the residence of the royal family whilst the Fateh Prakash Palace and the Shiv Niwas Palace (the latest addition to the complex) have been converted into heritage hotels.
Constructed in 1652, the Jagdish Temple is the largest in Udaipur, and – like most Hindu temples – is a centre of activity with a constant stream of devotees who come to worship Lord Jagannath, an aspect of Vishnu. Saheliyon-ki-Bari (Garden of the Maids of Honour) is an 18th century ornamental pleasure garden that features an elegant round lotus pond with four marble elephants spouting water.
Day 14 Udaipur
Day at leisure to enjoy your hotel. Alternatively, you have the option to visit one of the SADHNA training centres – a women’s handicraft enterprise – that was established to provide alternative incomes for women from low-income families. SADHNA’s artisans create exquisite and exceptional textile products with their signature handwork and appliqué in kurtas, saris, home furnishings and accessories.
Day 15 Udaipur
Today you will be collected from your hotel and taken to the airport to board your flight to onward destination.
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