North India in Depth
Trip Code: AITNID
Price: from AU$8,645 per person twin share
Prices are valid until 30 September 2019, except for the Christmas / New Year period.
Please contact us for a detailed itinerary and current prices.
- Accommodation in a double or twin room with breakfast
- All meals at Ramathra and Bandhavgarh
- Air-conditioned Toyota Innova vehicle with English speaking driver for all transfers, touring and sightseeing as per the itinerary
- All expenses related to the vehicle and driver such as fuel, tolls, parking charges, inter-state tax, driver accommodation and meals, etc
- English speaking local guides in Mumbai, Udaipur, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Kolkata
- Delhi: rickshaw ride
- Jaipur: elephant ride
- Entry fees to monuments for sightseeing in each city
- Assistance on arrival and departure at airports
- 24 hour support through our local representative offices
- Complimentary mineral water in the vehicles
- Camera fees at sightseeing places
- Activities other than those specifically mentioned as included
- Meals other than those mentioned as included
- Tips, porterage and personal expenses
- Visa Fees
- Flights (subject to availability): Mumbai to Udaipur; Delhi to Jabalpur; Khajuraho to Varanasi; and Varanasi to Kolkata: approximately AUD$485 per person
This lively and extensive north India tour covers some of the best known cities and sights of the north, while incorporating several slower-paced stops in the countryside.
A first time visit to North India should, by default, include its most significant cities and sights – Udaipur, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi and Varanasi. This itinerary not only covers these places but extends your experience to several remote but most worthwhile locations: Ramathra, a typically sleepy Rajasthani village, where you’ll observe rural life (while staying in a restored fort); and Bandhavgarh National Park, one of India’s wildlife hotspots.
Added to this collection is an entry into India through Mumbai, with its cosmopolitan outlook and mixed north/south heritage, and an exit from Kolkata, a fascinating and culturally-rich city often overlooked yet always a welcome surprise for visitors.
With a wide range of accommodation styles for you to choose from, and a mix of sightseeing and insightful activities on offer, this is an ideal introduction to North India.
Day 1 Mumbai
You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. India’s ‘Maximum City’, Mumbai, is a city of extremes; the contrast between modern, cosmopolitan and traditional India is everywhere to be seen. Mumbai is a major hub of industrial and commercial activities, a financial powerhouse contributing to nearly 70% of India’s capital trading and investments – and also home to what is called the ‘world’s largest dream factory’, Bollywood.
In Mumbai one finds skyscrapers exceeding 60 storeys – and stately Victorian buildings and Gothic masterpieces; multiplexes – and Hindu and Jain Temples, Parsi Agiaries, synagogues and churches; air-conditioned, glittering shopping malls – and traditional bazaars and markets; opulent neighbourhoods – and sprawling slums. This diverse, vibrant and dynamic city is sure to leave a lasting impression on you.
Day 2 Mumbai
Begin your exploration of Mumbai this morning at the 140-year-old Mahalaxmi dhobi ghat (laundry area), the world’s biggest open-air laundry with 1,026 open-air troughs, and one of the city’s most fascinating scenes. Afterwards visit some of Mumbai’s Raj era landmarks such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus) and the High Court.
Some of the many places that you may like to visit include: St. Thomas’s Cathedral, thought to be the oldest colonial structure in Mumbai; the Kenneth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai’s oldest and loveliest Sephardic synagogue; the Art Deco-style Parsi fire temple, Watcha Agiary that features carvings in a distinctly Assyrian style; and the dazzling white Haji Ali mosque built on a tiny islet 500 meters from the coast, in the middle of Worli Bay.
Mumbai has excellent local guides and a general sightseeing tour of the city with one of the better guides with whom we work is most rewarding; however if you have particular interests or would like to see the city from a different perspective – a bicycle tour or a walking tour for example – then you might consider our Insight Activities.
Day 3 Udaipur
This morning you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Udaipur, Rajasthan’s “White City”. You will be met on arrival and taken to your hotel. Built by Maharana Udai Singh in 1559, Udaipur is an enchanting city of ethereal white marble palaces, radiant whitewashed havelis, temples, gardens and lakes. It nestles like a gem on the shores of Lake Pichola in a green valley surrounded by the ochre coloured Aravalli hills. The city’s famous milky white marble Lake Palace – a maharana’s pleasure palace – positioned in the middle of the placid lake is the icing on this wedding cake.
Day 4 Udaipur
This morning take a tour of Udaipur, including visits to the City Palace, Sahelion-ki-bari and Jagdish Temple.
Udaipur’s City Palace – actually a complex of several palaces built by 22 different maharanas between the 16th and 20th centuries – is the largest in Rajasthan. Spread over 2 hectares, some of its highlights include: the Mor Chowk or Peacock Square, with three brilliantly coloured intricately carved peacocks in fine mosaic relief; and Amar Vilas, a pleasure pavilion built in Mughal style with hanging gardens, fountains, towers and terraces. Its palaces include the Zenana Mahal or Women’s Palace (now converted into a museum) that comprises exquisitely designed alcoves, balconies, coloured windows, tiled walls and floors; the Manak Mahal with a raised alcove inlaid completely in mirror glass; the Sheesh Mahal, the palace of mirrors and glass built in 1716; and Badi Mahal, the exotic central garden palace that is situated on a 27 metres high natural rock formation.
Following your exploration of the City Palace complex, visit Jagadish Temple. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple walls and the shikara or tower are decorated with carvings of Vishnu, scenes from Lord Krishna’s life and figurines of nymphs or apsaras. End your tour at the Saheliyon ki Badi ‘Garden of the Maids’ created by Sangram Singh in the 18th century for the ladies of his household (some say to re-create the monsoon climate for his sickly daughter). The gardens set below the embankment of the Fatah Sagar Lake have lotus pools, marble pavilions and elephant-shaped fountains (fed by the water of the lake gushing through ducts made for the purpose).
Day 5 Deogarh
This morning you will be driven (3 hours) to Deogarh, stopping en route to visit the stunning Ranakpur Temples. Located in a valley deep in the Aravallis, these are some of the most magnificent Jain temples in India. Built in the 15th century, they feature exquisitely detailed relief carvings covering every inch of pillar, wall, and ceiling. The main temple, Chaumukha Temple, built from 1446 and dedicated to Adinatha Rishabdeva, the first Jain tirthankara, or “Enlightened One,” is surrounded by 66 subsidiary shrines; inside are 1,444 intricately carved supporting pillars – not one of them the same.
On arrival in Deogarh, check into your accommodation, the wonderful Deogarh Mahal; built in 1670, it is a beautifully restored ‘fort guest house’ where the family owners live and provide a very personalised experience of regal Rajasthan. Standing at 640 metres above sea level, this enormous, rambling, yellow and white coloured fort of bold battlements, domed turrets and balconies towers over the town below. Its numerous terraces offer commanding views of the surrounding Aravalli hills and rugged countryside, dotted by lakes.
Day 6 Jaipur
This morning you will be collected from your hotel and driven (5 hours) to Jaipur, named after its founder, the warrior and astronomer sovereign, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh who ruled from 1688 to 1744. Begun in 1727 and completed in just eight years, Jaipur was planned according to the principles laid down in the “Shilpa Shastra”, an ancient Indian treatise on architecture. Originally built within high crenelated walls (though it has expanded outside of the original walls over time) the city was divided into nine sectors, or chokris, each named after the caste who lived and practiced their specific skills there. Architecturally interesting, and steeped in history and culture, Jaipur has much to offer its visitors.
Day 7 Jaipur
Spend today sightseeing with a local guide; begin with a visit to Amber Fort, followed by visits to the City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal.
With a history as old as seven centuries, Amber Fort pulses with its legendary past. Although many of its early structures are in ruins, those dating from the 16th century onwards are remarkably well preserved. One of the most outstanding of these is the Ganesh Pol (Elephant Gate) – a tree-storied gateway in shimmering mosaic, fresco and sculpture, with latticework above to enable women in purdah to watch processions in the courtyard below.
The magnificent City Palace was established in 1727 and has been home to the city’s rulers ever since. However, in addition to being the residence of maharanas, it was also a centre of politics and court administration and ceremony, a site of religious ritual, and a source of patronage for music, literature, dance and painting. A sprawling complex, today it is known for its museum, which houses collections of miniature paintings, manuscripts, musical instruments, royal costumes and weaponry.
There are plenty of observatories all over the world, but the Jantar Mantar constructed by Maharajah Jai Singh II in 1728, is considered to be one of the largest ever built. It incorporates multiple buildings of unique form, each with a specialized function for astronomical measurement. Popular structures within the Jantar Mantar are the ‘Samrat Yantra’ (the world’s largest sundial standing 27 metres tall) and the ‘Hindu Chhatri’, (small cupola) on top, which is used as a platform for announcing eclipses and the arrival of monsoons.
The beautiful Hawa Mahal, built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, is thought to be dedicated to the Hindu god Krishna, as when seen from afar it takes the form of the crown that often adorns the god’s head. Considered as an embodiment of Rajputana architecture, the main highlight of the Hawa Mahal is its pyramid shape and its 953 windows or ‘jharokhas’ which are decorated with intricate designs.
Day 8 Ramanthra
This morning you will be driven (4 hours) to Ramathra and your accommodation here, Ramanthra Fort. One of the things that distinguish Ramathra Fort from many other heritage hotels is its remoteness; its massive outer wall affords commanding views of the countryside, looking out over farmland, the rugged scrub of the Daang Plateau, Kalisil Lake and its irrigation canal. Check in on arrival and remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 9 Ramanthra
Spend today at leisure or participate in any of the activities and excursions organized by the hotel. The nearby Kalisil Lake is a rich feeding ground for ducks, storks and cormorants who visit every winter and there are plenty of local waterfowl to see year round. A two to three seater boat equipped with paddles and life-vests is available for rent with or without a guide to bird watch, search for crocodile dens and possible crocodile sightings. Jeep safaris from the fort take you across the Daang Plateau that stretches from the Chambal Valley to Ranthambore, through its badlands with wild animal sightings, to several spectacular places such as Utgir Fort, cave temples and the Chuaki Gorge. You can take a walking tour of the Ramathra village, a small hamlet of farmers and herders, devoid of any commercialisation. Among its numerous shrines, the Ganesh Mandir and Shiva Mandir give you an opportunity to observe local religious rituals.
Day 10 Agra
This morning you will be driven (4 hours) to Agra, with a stop en route to visit Fatehpur Sikri. The great Mughal emperor, Akbar, constructed this imperial city in 1571 in honour of the Sufi saint Salim Chisti, who had predicted the birth of a son. However, it was abandoned shortly after its completion in 1585, due to paucity of water and its proximity with the Rajputana areas in the North-West, which were increasingly in turmoil. Today much of the imperial complex, which spreads across an area of just over 3 kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide, is largely intact and resembles a ghost town. It is still surrounded by an 8 kilometre long wall on three sides, built during its original construction. However apart from the imperial buildings complex few other buildings stand in the area, which is mostly barren. After visiting Fatehpur Sikri you will continue your drive to Agra and check into your hotel.
Agra achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1658. The Mughals were great builders and Agra (known as Akbarabad while it was in Mughal hands) is the site of many splendid Mughal-era buildings. Akbar refurbished the Agra Fort, whilst his grandson, Shah Jehan gave the city its most famous monument, the Taj Mahal, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Later in the afternoon you will be taken to Agra Fort. The 16th-century ‘Red Fort’ is a powerful fortress of red sandstone, which encompasses within its 2.5 kilometre long enclosure walls the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. The massive strength displayed in its exterior hides the beauty of its interior – an interesting mix of Hindu and Islamic architecture comprising several beautiful palaces, wells, courtyards with flower-beds, water channels and fountains and two exquisite white marble mosques – the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), constructed in 1646-53 by Shah Jahan and the Nagina Masjid (Jewel Mosque) built under the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707).
Day 11 Delhi
Described by Kipling as “the ivory gate through which all dreams pass” the Taj Mahal is without a doubt, one of India’s – if not the world’s – most famous and beautiful monuments. You will be taken to visit it early this morning when it is possibly at its most alluring in the relative quiet as it is bathed in the soft mauve and pink glow of sunrise. This promises to be an unforgettable experience.
Return to your hotel for breakfast before you are driven (3.5 hours) to Delhi. On arrival you will check-in at your hotel. India’s “Immortal City”, Delhi, has a remarkably long and continuous history; it witnessed the rise and fall of many civilizations, changed its site, its name and its character and survived the many vicissitudes of time and fortune. Historians speak of the “Eight Cities of Delhi” built between the 10th and 21st centuries. From the oldest near the site of the Qutab Minar to the newest, New Delhi, this is one of India’s most fascinating and intriguing cities.
Delhi has excellent local guides and a general sightseeing tour of the city with one of the better guides with whom we work is most rewarding; however if you have particular interests or would like to see the city from a different perspective – a bicycle tour or a walking tour for example – then you might consider our Insight Activities.
Day 12 Delhi
This morning you will be taken to visit the medieval Jama Mosque followed by a walking tour of traditional businesses of Old Delhi – exploring centuries old arts and crafts with artisans and businessmen belonging to the 6th or 7th generations of the families who first started them.
The Jama Masjid, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jehan (who built the Taj Mahal) was completed in 1656. It comprises three great gates, four towers and two 40 metre-high minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and white marble. The mosque has a vast paved rectangular courtyard, which is nearly 75 metres by 66 metres and can accommodate up to 25,000 devotees at prayer times.
Later in the afternoon you will be taken to explore New Delhi – including Humayun’s Tomb, Qutab Minar and drive past Lutyens’ Delhi. The tomb of Humayun, second Mughal Emperor of India, was built by his widow, Hija Begum in 1569-70, fourteen years after his death; the architect was Mirak Mirza Ghiyath, a Persian. The complex encompasses – in addition to the main tomb of the Emperor and his wife – those of numerous other subsequent Mughals. Containing some 150 graves, it has been described as the ‘necropolis of the Mughal dynasty’.
Built in the early 13th century, the red sandstone tower of Qutab Minar is 72.5 metres high, tapering from 14.32 metres in diameter at its base to 2.75 metres at its peak, and alternating angular and rounded flutings. The surrounding archaeological area contains various buildings, notably the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art (built in 1311), and two mosques, including the Quwwatu’l-Islam, the oldest in northern India, built of materials reused from some twenty Brahman temples.
New Delhi, designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker during the 1920s and 1930s, was the prestigious capital of Britain’s Indian Empire, accommodating its governmental and other auxiliary functions. Though inspired by neoclassicism, their designs also paid homage to Delhi’s Mughal architecture and produced buildings of grand beauty and dignity.
Day 13 Bandhavgarh
This morning you will be collected from your hotel and taken to the airport for your flight to Jabalpur. You will be met on arrival and driven to Bandhavgarh (3.5 hours).
Prior to becoming a National Park, the forests around Bandhavgarh were maintained as the game preserve of the royal family of Rewa and hunting was carried out by the Maharajas and their guests. In 1968 special conservation measures were taken and Bandhavgarh was declared a National Park. Set amidst the Vindhyanchal Ranges, the park covers an area of 437 sq kms and has a series of ridges running through it. About half the Park is covered with fine stands of Sal, while mixed forests are found in the higher reaches of the hills; stretches of bamboo and grasslands are found throughout. The main viewing area is in the core of the park with its thirty-two picturesque wooded hills.
Day 14 Bandhavgarh
Enjoy an early morning jeep safari into the Bandhavgarh National Park guided by an expert naturalist. Famous for its tiger population, the Park is also home to many wildlife species including Barking Deer, Wild Dog, Bear, Cheetal, Wolf and Nilgai, which can be spotted in the open areas of the park. Birds abound in the vegetation along the streams and marshes. Look out for the Little Grebe, Erget, Lesser Adjutant, Black Ibis, White-eyed Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle and Egyptian Vulture, among others. The reptilian fauna includes the Cobra, Viper, Rat-snake, Python, Turtle and a variety of lizards, including the Varanus.
Remainder of the day free to explore on your own or to enjoy some of the various activities offered by the lodge.
Day 15 Bandhavgarh
Take another morning game drive in to the National Park. Remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 16 Khajuraho
This morning you will be collected from your hotel and driven (5 hours) to Khajuraho. Check in to your hotel on arrival and in the afternoon take a tour of some of India’s most famous temples.
Almost all of Khajuraho’s temples date from one burst of creative genius from 950-1050 AD. Basically all of them follow a three-part layout. The temple is entered through a porch (Ardhamandapa). Behind this is the hall (Mahamandapa), supported by pillars, with a corridor around it. The inner sanctum (Garbhagriha) is where the image of the god, to which the temple is dedicated, is displayed. The temples are mostly made of sandstone and are almost all aligned east to west, with the entrance facing east. They can be divided into three groups: Western, Eastern and Southern; of these, the Western Group is the most impressive.
If you opt for the 16 day itinerary, you will take a final jeep safari in the National Park this morning and afterwards transfer to Jabalpur airport (a 4 hour drive) for your flight to Delhi and flight home or to Kerala for some R&R.
Day 17 Varanasi
This morning you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Varanasi. You will be met on arrival and taken to your hotel. Varanasi, also known as ‘Kashi’ (the City of Light) is the spiritual capital of India; it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism. Situated on the banks of the Ganges, this is the city of Lord Shiva. Ghats (steps) dotted with temples and shrines line the river, covering an area of more than 6 kilometres. Varanasi has attracted pilgrims from time immemorial. They come here to wash away their sins and many return here to die in the hope that they may achieve moksha, the salvation of the soul from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
Later you will be taken to witness the mesmerizing ‘aarati’ by the banks of the Ganges. Every evening at sunset, pundits (priests) at Dasashwamedh Ghat perform aarti (ritual prayer) with complicated fire rituals, and pilgrims light candles to float on the sacred waters.
India Unbound offers a wide range of interesting activities in Varanasi – we call them Insight Activities. Please read more here
Day 18 Varanasi
Named after the confluence of two rivers, Varuna and Asi, the city is centred on the ghats that line the waterfront, each honouring Shiva in the form of a linga – the rounded phallic like shaft of stone found on every ghat. Enjoy a dawn boat ride this morning – and witness devotees bathing, meditating and performing ancient rituals as the sun rises. This is a quintessential and unforgettable Varanasi experience! Following the boat ride, take a short walk through the narrow, crowded and colourful lanes of the old town before returning to your hotel for breakfast.
In the afternoon you will be driven a short distance outside Varanasi to visit Sarnath. This is the place where, after gaining enlightenment, Buddha gave his first sermon some 2,500 years ago. Renowned as a Buddhist centre of learning for many centuries after this, it still attracts Buddhist pilgrims today. The central monument in Sarnath is the mammoth – 31 metres high – Dhamekh Stupa; built in the 5th century, it is said to mark the very spot where Buddha revealed his Eightfold Path leading to nirvana. Also of interest here are the ruins of Dharmarajika Stupa, built by the 3rd century Mauryan emperor, Ashoka, to preserve the Buddha’s relics. You can also visit Mulagandha Kuti (main temple), which houses an image of Buddha; its walls contain frescoes pertaining to his life. In addition, the Sarnath Archaeological Museum exhibits a superb collection of Buddhist artefacts.
Day 19 Kolkata
Today you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Kolkata. A mere village in the 17th century, Calcutta (now Kolkata) thrived during the British Raj and became a leading centre for commerce and a port of call for east bound ships. Patronised by wealthy art connoisseurs, who nourished writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers, philosophers and scientists, it became the social and cultural capital of India. Kolkata today reveals the rich diversity of the Bengali artistic heritage. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel; remainder of the day free.
Day 20 Kolkata
This morning take a half day sightseeing tour including visits to the Victoria Memorial, Botanical Gardens and Mother Teresa’s Missionary of Charity.
The Victoria Memorial is the city’s greatest landmark and one of the most solid reminders of the Raj to be found in India. This huge piece of architecture is a strange combination of classical European architecture with Mughal influence, and a resemblance can be seen between the Taj Mahal at Agra and St. Paul’s Cathedral at London. The portraits, statues, paintings and other artefacts here tell the story of British Empire in India at its peak.
On the west bank of the Hooghly River are the extensive Botanical Gardens. This 110 hectare park was set up in 1787 by Colonel Kyd of the East India Company. It has a variety of botanical specimens. The prime attraction of the park is a 200 year old Banyan tree, said to have the second largest canopy in the world. End your morning tour with a visit to the Missionary of Charity.
Later in the afternoon you will be taken on a walking tour that explores Kolkata’s little known ‘confluence of cultures’. Kolkata has witnessed many more cultures in its past than most other cities, even in this globalised present. The walk traces the origins and remains of the varied communities that called the city home. Discover why Chinese breakfast still rules Tiretta Bazaar, where the Parsis are dwindling in numbers with each passing day and how the Armenians gave the city its oldest surviving Christian church – while you pass by Anglo-Indians, Muslims, Marwaris, Biharis and many more that make this city a great melting pot of diverse cultures.
Day 21 Kolkata
Full day at leisure to relax or explore the city on your own, or enjoy one of the many Insight Activities that India Unbound offers in Kolkata.
Day 22 Kolkata
Today you will be collected from your hotel and transferred to the airport to board your flight home or to another city in India for further travel (see our R&R page for great places and hotels to finish your trip at).
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