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Golden Triangle Holidays and Holidays to Rajasthan

Golden Triangle + Tigers + Temples + Varansi


IPD14D
14 NIGHTS
FROM £1,995
International flights quoted separately
Combine the Golden Triangle with the cultural & spiritual centre of India - the fascinating city of Varanasi on the sacred River Ganges, central to the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions. See the Buddhist shrine at Sarnath & the breathtaking ancient hand-carved erotic temples at Khajuraho. English speaking city guides, private driver, tiger jeep safaris & sightseeing included.
Varanasi River Ganges India Sarnath Khajuraho Temples Bharatpur
• 
Delhi
• 
Agra
• 
Taj Mahal
• 
Fatehpur Sikri
• 
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
• 
Orchha
• 
Khajuraho
• 
Varanasi
• 
River Ganges
• 
Sarnath
• 
Delhi
• 
Agra
• 
Taj Mahal
• 
Fatehpur Sikri
• 
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
• 
Orchha
• 
Khajuraho
• 
Varanasi
• 
River Ganges
• 
Sarnath
Day 1
You will be met at Delhi Airport by your driver and transferred to your hotel in this ancient capital of kingdoms and empires that is now a sprawling metropolis.
 
Delhi's strategic location was one of the main reasons why successive dynasties chose it as their seat of power and today it is a conglomerate of seven cities. The division between the old walled city and New Delhi marks a division in lifestyles, with the old city retaining its past traditions whilst New Delhi strives to match the pace of the 21st century.
Day 2
Today enjoy an orientation tour of modern New Delhi and the 17th century walled city of Old Delhi, which came to prominence when Shah Jahan moved his capital from Agra.
 
In Old Delhi enjoy a cycle rickshaw ride through 300-year old Chandni Chowk market, a maze of lanes crowded with noisy shops selling an extraordinary variety of items and foods, and past the Jamia Masjid (or Friday Mosque) the largest in India. We drive past the splendid Red Fort, once the most opulent palace in the Mughal Empire, and continue to the Raj Ghat - the simple memorial site where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.
 
In the afternoon our tour of New Delhi starts with a visit the Qutub Minar, an ancient victory tower built of red sandstone and marble in 1199 and still the tallest minaret in India. With its imposing cylindrical towers and surrounding ruins, it is today a World Heritage site. Our next stop is Humayuns Tomb, the beautiful mausoleum of the Mughul emperor Akbar, that inspired the Taj Mahal.
 
We drive along the Rajpath - the capital's broadest avenue - where you will see the imposing arch of the India Gate war memorial, Parliament House, the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential residence built for the Viceroy of India, and the government buildings on Raisina Hill.
Day 3
A full day on the road today as we travel 6-hours from Delhi to Jaipur, which is the capital of Rajasthan.
 
Check into your hotel in this chaotic and colourful "Pink City" - home to over 3 million people.
 
Note: Please let us know if you would prefer to fly to Jaipur.
Day 4
Today enjoy a tour of the city of Jaipur.
 
Our first stop is to view the magnificent Hawa Mahal (the "Palace of the Winds") designed in the form of the crown of the Hindu god Krishna. This five-storey frontage looks like a bee's honeycomb with 953 small windows, each decorated with intricate latticework so that the court ladies living in secluded purdah could watch royal processions, without being seen themselves. Built of red and pink sandstone, it is particularly striking early in the morning when lit by the sunrise.
 
We continue to the Amber Fort  This magnificent royal palace was built from pale yellow & pink sandstone and white marble and is divided into four main sections, each with its own courtyard. You will enter by riding up the ramparts on the back of a decorated elephant to the main courtyard (Jaleb Chowk). This is where returning armies would display their war booty to the people and women could view them from the veiled windows of the palace. Once inside explore the amazing Palace of Mirrors and Hall of Public Audience.
 
We then visit the Jantar Mantar Observatory, the largest stone and marble crafted observatory in the world and a World Heritage site. It is the best preserved of five observatories built by Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur. It has 17 large instruments, many of them still in working condition.
 
Our day finishes with a visit to the nearby City Palace, the former Royal Residence part of which is now a museum. One of the major attractions here is the armoury with its impressive array of pistols, blunderbusses, flintlocks, swords, rifles and daggers used by the Maharajas of Jaipur. The Textile and Costume museum on the first floor is another fine display, with items from all over India.
 
In the evening enjoy the unique experience of dining with a local family, where you will taste spicy Rajasthan food and gain insight into their Hindu lifestyle, with different generations living under the same roof.
Day 5
This morning we travel 4-hours from Jaipur to Sawai Madhopur in southeast Rajasthan.
 
On arrival in Sawai Madhopur, check into your hotel situated near Ranthambore National Park and enjoy a game drive in this world famous tiger sanctuary. Originally the hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Jaipur, today it is the largest wildlife reserve in northern India and covers an area of over 250 sq miles (400 sq km).
Day 6
This morning enjoy a game drive in Ranthambore National Park.
 
Early morning is the best time to see tigers, but be aware that it is extremely difficult to find them in the jungle and sightings are never guaranteed. Best viewings are generally at the end of the dry season (March to May, although it is extremely hot from April onwards), when the tigers search out the waterholes - but you need to take at least 4 game drives for a good chance of a sighting.
 
Other animals you can hope to see include leopard, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, caracal, civet, desert cat, mongoose, ratel, sloth bear, langur & macaque monkeys, wild boar, palm squirrel, flying fox, porcupine, long-eared hedgehog, marsh crocodile, tortoise and soft shelled turtle. Also antelope such as sambar deer, chital, nilgai, chinkara and black buck.
 
In the afternoon return to the park for another game drive. In addition to the many mammals and reptiles, there are over 270 bird species - including eagles, falcons, owls, graylag geese, flamingos, parakeets, fly catchers, bee eaters, grebe, terns, woodpeckers, hornbills and kingfishers.
 
Please note we always try to book jeep safaris, but these can only be reserved 90 days in advance and cannot be guaranteed - in which case your game drive will be in a 20-seater canter. In the winter months, morning safaris require warm clothes including woolly hats and gloves to protect you from the wind chill in your open vehicle.
 
Ranthambore National Park is closed during the monsoon season (mid June to September).
Day 7
This morning we leave Ranthambore and travel 6-hours to Bharatpur.
 
After checking into our hotel enjoy a rickshaw ride in Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary, the most famous bird sanctuary in India and a Ramsar World Heritage Park.
 
Note: When available, a horse cart will be used instead of a rickshaw
Day 8
This morning enjoy another rickshaw ride in Keoladeo National Park.
 
Afterwards we visit the magnificent red sandstone royal city of Fatehpur Sikri near Bharatpur, built by the emperor Mohammad Akbar as the capital of the Mughal Empire. The city was abandoned due to water shortage, when the capital was moved north to Delhi and in more recent years it has provided a dramatic backdrop to several famous films.
 
We continue 1-hour to the ancient city of Agra set along the banks of the Yamuna River and originally the capital of the Mughal Empire. Agra is world renowned as the home of the Taj Mahal - that great symbol of love built by emperor Shah Jahan in the 16th century as a memorial to his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. This magnificent white marble mausoleum took 22 years to build and, apart from its stunning design and perfect symmetry, it is noted for its elegant domes, intricately carved screens and some of the best marble inlay work ever done.
 
Sunrise and sunset are particularly good times to visit and see the dome subtly change its colour. We visit this magnificent mausoleum, before checking into our hotel.
 
Note: Taj Mahal is closed every Friday. You cannot take anything in with you except your camera, water and medicine.
Day 9
This morning we visit Agra Fort, a massive structure with walls over 70-ft high and 1.5-miles long that encompasses an astounding collection of well preserved buildings, many of them completed during the reign of Shah Jahan. After he was deposed by his son, he was imprisoned in this fort where he remained until his death - spending the rest of his life looking out along the river to the final resting place of his beloved wife.
 
We also visit the much quieter Itmad-ud-Daulah mausoleum across the river - fondly known as the "Baby Taj", as it was a forerunner of the Taj Mahal that was built to honour the grandfather of Mumtaz. Balance of day is at leisure.
Day 10
This morning transfer to Agra Railway Station to board the air-conditioned express train (first class) to Jhansi, where you will be met by your guide and driven 4-hours to Khajuraho.
 
Along the way stop at the medieval city of Orchha, where grand palaces and temples built in the 16th and 17th centuries showcase some of the finest examples of the Bundela School of painting. The Laxmi Narayan Temple and Raj Mahal have vibrant murals depicting a variety of religious and secular themes that bring the walls and ceilings to life. In this peaceful place you can stroll along the river with its many large birds such as kites and vultures, and explore its ramshackled temples.
 
Continue to Khajuraho, which derives its name from the Khajur tree (date palm) and is world renowned for its magnificent erotic Kama Sutra temples.
 
Note: Because of the very short (2-minute) stops at each station, train travel in India is not recommended for the elderly or those travelling with children, where a road transfer will be substituted. Likewise during December & January when heavy fog can causes long delays on the railways.
Day 11
Today enjoy a tour of the magnificent ancient hand-carved Temples of Khajuraho, built between 950 and 1050 AD and whose murals depict the life and times of the Chandela Rajputs.
 
We start with the Western Group of temples, which contain the largest and loveliest temples of the area. Of this group, the Kandariya Mahadev temple dedicated to Shiva is the most perfect. With its elaborate spire and bands of beautiful carvings, it represents Chandela art at its best. It shares a high terrrace with the older and simpler Devi Jagadamba temple.
 
Next we tour the Eastern Group of Hindu and Jain temples. These divine sculptures are a tribute to life, embodying the sublime and spontaneous whilst also celebrating erotic life.
Day 12
Transfer to Khajuraho Airport for your flight to the ancient city of Varanasi.
 
You will be met at Varanasi Airport and transferred to your hotel. Settle in and relax in this holy city situated on the sacred River Ganges.
Day 13
Varanasi is regarded as the spiritual capital of India and is a holy city for both Jains and Hindus, who believe dying here can bring salvation. The Benares Gharana form of Indian classical music developed here and many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers and musicians have made it their home.
 
Rise early today for a very special experience - a boat ride on the River Ganges as the sun rises. View the remarkable colours on its waters as you pass the bathing ghats, a series of steps leading down to the river where the faithful come to bathe and pay homage to the sun god. Also see the cremation ghats.
 
Afterwards enjoy a short walking tour of the temples of Bharat Mata, Durga and Vishwanath, followed by a visit to the museum and ruins at Sarnath - an important pilgrimage site where the Buddha gave his first sermon. Here you will see many stupas (shrines) including the Mulagandha Kuti Vihar, a Tibetan Buddhist shrine containing a life-sized golden image of Buddha.
 
Afternoon is at leisure, before we return to the ghats in the evening to witness the Pooja ceremony, a religious ritual performed as an offering to the gods. This includes the Ganga Aarti ceremony that involves the lighting of hundreds of candles that are released in baskets onto the river, which will leave you spellbound. The ceremony lasts about 1.5 hours.
 
Note: Sarnath Museum is closed every Friday.
Day 14
Transfer to Varanasi Airport for your flight to Delhi.
 
You will be met at Delhi Airport and transferred to your airport hotel.
Day 15
Transfer to Delhi Airport for your flight home.
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