Arrive Delhi by an international flight. After clearing immigration and customs formalities you are met by a representative from First Tours India and transferred to Ambassador New Delhi located centrally near the famous Lodi Gardens and the Humayun's Tomb. The capital of India, Delhi is its third largest city with a population of over 16 million. Its strategic location has given it a focal position in Indian history and many great empires have ruled from here. The monuments and ruins of these are scattered throughout the city, often cheek by jowl with modern structures and high-rise towers.
Ambassador New Delhi
Enjoy touring of Old Delhi visiting the Red Fort (1639-1648) which reflects the grand but stultifying court etiquette of Shah Jahan. Enjoy a bicycle rickshaw ride to India's largest mosque Jami Masjid, the spiritual centre of Shahjahanabad. At this red sandstone mosque with bold marble carvings and intricate calligraphic inlay, the faithful stream in and out from the surrounding bazaars. Return to the hotel en route visiting Gandhi Memorial at Raj Ghat. This afternoon visit one of Delhi's most famous landmarks, the fluted red sandstone tower of Qutb Minar. Started in 1199, the tower tapers upwards from the ruins, covered with intricate carvings and deeply inscribed verses. Continue on to the 1564 Humayun's Tomb – the most arresting example of the synthesis of two of the great building styles of Asia – the Persian and the Indian. Humayun's red sandstone and marble tomb follow the octagonal form of the Delhi sultans' tombs with high central arches, fine proportions and incorporates the first "four-garden" that set the pattern for later Mughal memorials. Also explore the most grandiose and elegant Victorian section of New Delhi which contains the majestic government buildings conceived by Sir Edwin Lutyens and assisted by Herbert Baker.
After a leisurely breakfast drive 160 miles in 5 hours through scenic Rajasthani countryside to Jaipur, the flamboyant capital of the state of Rajasthan. On arrival check-in to Jai Mahal Palace, a magnificent palace hotel set amidst 18 acres of beautifully landscaped Mughal gardens. Famous for its colorful culture, forts, palaces and lakes, this historic city basks in the glory of a rich and eventful past. The afternoon is at leisure to explore some of the excellent shopping opportunities in Jaipur. Markets of Jaipur are famous for gold and silver jewelry and gem stones particularly emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds. Jaipur is also specializes in printed cotton handicraft, carpets and durries; embroidered leather footwear and blue pottery.
Jai Mahal Palace
Drive 7 miles north of Jaipur to visit Amber Fort, the ancient capital of the Rajputs from 1037 until 1728. Fortified by natural hills, high ramparts and a succession of gates ascend the Fort on elephant back and visit Amber's magnificent palaces. The building of the fort-palace was started by Raja Man Singh, a noted Rajput general in Akbar's army in 1600, and the architecture shows distinct Mughal influence. The practice of covering walls with mosaics of mirrors was first introduced to India by the Mughals. Enjoy sightseeing this afternoon visiting Jaipur's most famous monuments - the Palace of Winds and Jantar Mantar Observatory - both within the City Palace Complex, at the heart of the Pink City. The city's single most striking feature, its pink color, did not form part of the original design. The buildings were sallow yellow and first given a pink wash - traditionally the color of hospitality - when the city was spruced up for the visit of Prince Albert from England in 1856. The exhibits and interior design of the City Palace have lost none of the pomp and splendor of their glory days. Each door and gateway is heavily decorated, each chandelier intact and each hall guarded by turbaned retainers decked in full royal livery impressing the continuity of a living royal presence.
Depart Jaipur and drive 4 hours through scattered villages to the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri, a former capital of the great Mughal emperor Akbar. Built between 1571 and 1585, it has lain silent for almost four centuries. Now deserted, it is almost perfectly preserved - a masterpiece in sandstone with the stunning elegance of its palaces, mosques and courts glowing in subtly changing shades of red. After sightseeing drive a short distance to Agra. On arrival check-in to ITC Mughal- a premier resort and spa, located in close proximity to the Taj Mahal and spread over 35 acres offering a truly royal Mughal experience with its exquisite interiors, impeccable service and extraordinary cuisine. Agra was the seat of Imperial Mughal court during the 16th and 17th centuries before the capital was shifted to Delhi. The city strategically located on the banks of the Yamuna, flourished under the patronage of the great Mughal Emperors attracting artisans from Persia, Central Asia and also from other parts of India who built luxurious forts, palaces, gardens and mausoleums.
Wake up to the glorious sight of the Taj Mahal, bathed by the first rays of dawn. Visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise when the monument appears to change its hue, tinted by the glow of the rising sun. In the memory of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal who died at the age of 39 while giving birth to their 14th child, the great Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built this most extravagant and incomparable monument of love. After breakfast proceed to visit Agra Fort situated on the banks of river Yamuna. This imposing structure of palaces, mosques and audience halls contained within its massive walls was founded by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1565. The high red-sandstone ramparts of Agra Fort dominate a bend in the River Yamuna northwest of the Taj Mahal. This afternoon re-visit the Taj Mahal at sunset when the monument appears to change its hue, tinted by the glow of the setting sun.
Early morning transfer to Agra Cantt railway station in time for air-conditioned express train to Jhansi. Arrive Jhansi and drive a short distance to Orchha, dramatically positioned on a rocky island enclosed by a loop of the Betwa River. Founded in 1531, it was the capital of the Bundela kings until 1738. Visit the medieval fort and palaces built at the height of Bundela power. The many-layered palace has 132 chambers off and above the central courtyard and is extravagantly embellished with lapis lazuli tiles, graceful chhatris and ornate jali screens. After possible lunch at a local restaurant drive 115 miles in 3 hours to Khajuraho and check-in to The Lalit Temple View Khajuraho which overlooks the Western Group of Temples famed for their erotic sculptures. The 25 temples at Khajuraho represent the brilliant burst of artistic flowering that took place under the generous patronage of the powerful Chandela rulers, who made Khajuraho their peacetime capital. The remoteness of the temples' location saved them from the ravages of Islamic raiders, but also led to their being abandoned in the 13th century. Hidden in a dense forest for 700 years, they were "rediscovered" in 1839 by Englishman Captain T. S. Burt of the Bengal Engineers.
The Lalit Temple View Khajuraho
Today visit the magnificent temples of Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built between the 9th and 10th centuries by the Chandela dynasty which dominated Central India at that time. The temples highlight the pinnacle of North Indian temple art and architecture remarkable for their grand dimensions yet perfectly harmonious composition. The exquisite sculptural embellishments cover the temples depicting gods and goddesses, beasts and warriors, sensuous maidens, dancers, musicians and, of course, the erotic scenes for which the Khajuraho temples are famous. The erotic sculptures are believed to serve as a love manual to express an exuberant celebration of life and creation. This evening re-visit the Khajuraho temple complex to witness the son et lumiere show. This is the best evening activity to understand history, facts and myths of Khajuraho temples. Technicolour floodlights sweep across the temples of the Western Group as Indian classical music soundtracks a potted history of Khajuraho narrated by the ‘master sculptor’.
This morning fly to Varanasi, also known as Kashi - the City of Light, India's holiest Hindu city with a spiritual and religious legacy that goes back nearly 3000 years. Arrive Varanasi and transfer to Taj Ganges, located in the Nadesar Palace grounds in 40 acres of greenery. Later in the evening visit the Ghats and watch Ganga Aarti, a much awaited daily ritual, where the river Ganga is propitiated for all the bounty that she bestows on the Indian plains. The Ghats along the banks of the river Ganga look breathtakingly beautiful as earthen lamps and marigold flowers illuminate the holy waters.
Stretched along the crescent of the holy river Ganga – born in heaven and descended to earth - Varanasi's waterfront is dominated by "landings" where pilgrims come for their daily ritual ablutions. Early morning enjoy a boat cruise on the river Ganges and later visit Vishwanath Temple and walk through the old bazaars. After breakfast drive 6 miles northeast of Varanasi to visit Sarnath, where in the 6th century BC Siddhartha Gautama – who came to be known as the Buddha, the "Awakened One" - gave his first sermon and set in motion the Wheel of Law. Also visit the Archaeological museum that exhibits a superb collection of Buddhist artifacts including the Ashokan lion capital in polished sandstone, India's national emblem. In the afternoon visit the Banaras Hindu University, one of the largest campus universities in India, founded as a centre for the study of Sanskrit, Indian art, music and culture. Proceed to visit Bharat Kala Bhawan that has a fabulous collection of miniature paintings, sculptures, contemporary art and bronzes, new Vishwanath temple and the Bharat Mata temple.
Today fly to Nepal. Officially called the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia and is the world's youngest republic. Nepal has been a monarchy throughout its history. However a decade long People's Revolution culminated in a peace accord and the ensuing election for the constituent assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the abdication of the last Nepali Monarch and establishment of the Federal Democratic Republic in May 2008. Nepal is known for its exquisite natural beauty, with the iconic Himalayas running across the northern and western part of the country. Eight of the ten highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest, reside within its borders. Arrive Kathmandu and after clearing immigration and customs formalities you are met by a representative from First Tours India and transferred to Hotel Yak & Yeti, a premier deluxe hotel in the heart of Kathmandu. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
Hotel Yak & Yeti
Early this morning and weather permitting enjoy an unforgettable pleasure of flying alongside the highest mountain peaks of the Himalayan chain. Among the many stands Mount Everest at 29028 feet is the highest mountain on Earth. The Mount Everest flight is an optional activity. Return to hotel and enjoy the rest of the morning at leisure. In the afternoon explore Kathmandu valley, the cultural and political hub of Nepal. Ancient temples, old palaces and 15th century homes dominate the look of the city. Start your cultural tour of Old Kathmandu, once called Kantipur, "City of Bliss" at Durbar Square. Historians believe Kathmandu acquired its name from the three-story Kasthamandapa, a wooden temple at the south west corner of the square. There are many old temples and palaces including the profusely decorated palace of the Living Goddess Kumari, Hanuman Dhoka and the Royal palace are located here. It is here the kings of Nepal are crowned and the coronations solemnized. Proceed to Swayambhunath located on a hill east of Old Kathmandu. Swayambhunath is affectionately called Monkey Temple by the Nepalese. The Swayambunath complex consists of a Stupa, a variety of shrines and temples including a Tibetan monastery, a museum and a library. The Stupa has the all-knowing eyes of the Buddha painted.
Today enjoy an excursion to Bhadgaon or Bhaktapur, 10 miles east of Kathmandu. It is the home of traditional art and architecture, historical monuments and craft works, magnificent windows, pottery and weaving industries, excellent temples, beautiful ponds, rich local customs, culture, religion, festivals, musical mystic and so on. Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square and Dattatreya Square are the main attractions of the city. The main square called the Durbar Square houses 55-windows palace constructed by the Malla Kings. The palace was home to royalty until 1769 and is now a National Gallery. Other attractions are Golden Gate which leads to the Taleju temple dedicated to goddess Taleju Bhawani. The Durbar square is surrounded by spectacular architecture and vividly showcases the skill of the Newari Artists and craftsmen over several centuries. Return to Kathmandu en route visiting Patan, the oldest of the three ancient kingdoms in Kathmandu valley that were ruled by the Malla kings. Patan is known for its cultural heritage particularly its traditional arts and crafts. The most important monument in the city is Patan Durbar Square which has been listed by UNESCO as one of the seven Monument Zones that make up the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site.
The morning is available to explore the bustling markets of Kathmandu. In the afternoon board your homebound flight with colorful memories that will add untold pleasure to last for a lifetime.