India, Splendors of the North
India is a land of epics and legends; its ancient cultures, festivals, palaces and markets delight and astound world travelers. This journey through Northern India is filled with the splendor of great empires like the Mughal. Step back in time to magnificent palaces and fear-striking forts, all filled with the treasures of Dynasties. Also visit Jain and Hindu Temples, as well as the largest Mosque in India. The adventure begins in the city of Delhi, home to the Indian government, the imposing Red Fort, and the Tomb of Humayun. Travel to Agra, the land of majestic palaces like the Taj Mahal. Explore the “Abode of the Rajahs” in Jaipur and discover Indian astronomical sciences. Look out at the Thar Desert from the ramparts of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, one of the largest forts on the subcontinent, boasting a splendid array of royal artifacts. Browse through bazaars full of finely embroidered linens, bronze idols, and jewelry; find treasures to take home to your family. Lastly, see the fairytale land of Udaipur with its many lakes, palaces, and tranquil Jain temples in the mountains. This rich cultural adventure will leave you with memories, knowledge, and revelations to last a lifetime.
Length of trip:
Best time to travel:
Combination culture, urban and nature
Easy to moderate
FIT/SAT. Individuals, families and small groups
Gaze at the Tomb of Humayun
See the ornate carvings of Qutub Minar, the “Leaning Tower of India”
Have a moment of serenity at Jama Masjid Mosque
Explore the Red Fort
Reflect on the life of Gandhi at his cremation site, Raj Ghat
Hear an age-old love story at the Taj Mahal
Experience the life of a rajah at Agra Fort
Appreciate the architectural delicacy of Hawa Mahal, The Palace of Winds
Discover India’s astrological sciences at the Jantar Mantar Observatory
Quake in fear at the mighty Mehrangarh Fort
Purchase treasures at the Sardar Market
Sit by the lotus pools at Saheliyon Ki Bari or “the Garden of the Maids of Honor”
Learn from the monks at two Jain Temples: Neminath and Parsvanath
Take a boat ride on picturesque Lake Pichola
Suggested itinerary at a glance
Day 1 • Delhi Arrival
Welcome to India! Unwind after your long flight in the comfort of your hotel or venture into the city. In Delhi, you will find a labyrinth of historic relics, kitschy bazaars and bustling cityscapes. India's capital city hosts a collection of spiralling skyscrapers, historic museums, heritage monuments and an ethereal legacy. Delhi is home to the world’s most delectable cuisines: a vast palate of Nizami, Punjabi, fusion and international restaurants; it’s a food lover's haven. With an unending line of food vendors orchestrating a symphony of fragrances, allow the city to treat you to its versatile and rich flavours - from the street food of North India to roadside dhabas as well as fine dining.
Day 2 • Delhi
Ease into your adventure with a day seeing the grand monuments of Delhi. Begin your day at the imposing 42-meter tall India Gate (war memorial arch), set amidst the sprawling gardens. It has an eternal flame and inscribed on the stone arch are the names of the 82,000 Indian Army soldiers who died in World War I. Next, pass the Parliament House and the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President's Residence) these edifices are home to India's democratic tradition. Later, proceed to the magnificent Tomb of Humayun. This impressive structure is built on a monumental scale; its splendid design includes square gardens (charbagh) inspired by the description of paradise in the Holy Quran. The mausoleum is a beautiful synthesis of Persian architecture and Indian traditions, exemplified by the red arched alcoves and the high double dome. As you face the tomb, visualise perfect symmetry - the cornerstone of Mughal architecture. Visit Qutub Minar, built throughout the 13th century with its first stone laid in 1199. It is also known as the “leaning tower of India,” because it tilts 2 feet off center, however; it still stands tall despite being hit several times by lightning and earthquakes.
Day 3 • Old Delhi
Your introduction of Delhi’s old city begins with the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. Its impressive red sandstone domes and towers are a majestic addition to the Delhi skyline with a courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. Next, travel to the impressive Red Fort, the palace of the Mughal empire that ruled India for 300 years. This immense red sandstone complex guards 255 acres of gardens, imperial apartments, and prices artworks from around the world. Take a moment of serenity at Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi. Reflect on his message of peace for humankind at the inspiring black marble memorial.
Lastly, see the great Sikh temple of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib with it’s golden dome and large reflecting pool. You can even dine at the community kitchen that feeds free food to a large number of people every day without any discrimination concerning their color, caste, religion or socio-economic status.
Day 4 • Delhi to Agra
After Delhi, explore the ancient capital of the Mughal empire, Agra. Its world famous Taj Mahal, wonderful forts, palaces and mosques speak volumes about the opulence of the legendary dynasty. While traveling from Delhi to Agra, stop at the exquisite Itmad-ud-Daulah or “the baby Taj Mahal.” This mausoleum was built by empress Noor Jahan in memory of her father and serves as a taste of the grandeur you will see tomorrow at the Taj Mahal.
Day 5 • Agra
Begin your day gazing upon India’s “symphony in marble,” the pristine Taj Mahal. The Taj, considered as the epitome of love, was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. The perfect symmetry, the ethereal glow and the exquisite detailing covering every inch of marble, justifies it as one of the most spectacular wonders of the world.
Spend an afternoon at Agra Fort, an impregnable military structure built by emperor Akbar I in 1573. Relive the era as you step into the seat of power and the stronghold of the Mughal Empire. Absorb the majesty of this imposing, red sandstone structure as you explore its palaces, pavilions and courtyards.
Day 6 • Agra to Jaipur
The Palace of Winds, Amber, is a specter of a bygone era. It was built in the 17th century atop a ridge outside Jaipur, surrounded by fortified battlements and overlooks the serene Maota Lake. Once inside the complex, see the Ganesh Pol, an awe-inspiring gateway painted with beautiful images of the elephant-headed god, Ganesh, bestower of prosperity and fortune.
Dine at the eccentric Peacock Roof Restaurant for authentic Indian cuisine and a view of Hathroi Fort. Its fanciful decorations and attentive service will guarantee a lovely evening.
Day 7 • Jaipur
Relive Jaipur’s grand history with a tour of the “Abode of the Rajahs,” the City Palace. See the traditional weapons in the Mughal and Rajput armoury, finely embroidered Rajasthani sarees, royal paraphernalia such as jewelry, and intricate astronomical instruments. Jaipur is also home to the awe-inspiring Jantar Mantar Observatory, a stone astrological and astronomical Observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh in the 18th century. It contains the world’s largest sundial and instruments for measuring celestial movements, important for science and also for religious ritual.
Late in the afternoon, explore the bustling bazaar of the Old City to shop for the famous Jaipuri textiles such as shirts and rugs as well as jewellery like bangles and beads. In a city known for creativity and craftsmanship, you know you are purchasing authentic treasures.
Day 8 • Travel to Jodhpur
Jodhpur - the "Blue City" is located on the edge of the Thar Desert cradled by the massive Mehrangarh Fort on one side and the stately Palace of Umaid Bhawan on the other. The landscape is dotted with monuments, temples and gardens, it is brimming with heritage and culture. Steeped in history, this city retains its roots in the medieval era. There are countless festivities that celebrate the rich past and culture of this princely state. The annual Marwar Festival, celebrating the romantic lifestyle of Rajasthan's rulers through folk music and dance, is a brilliant example.
Day 9 • Jodhpur
Of the many forts in the Thar Desert, Mehrangarh is by far the most awesome. Perched on top of a 125-meter high hill, the fort is as imposing as it is magnificent. Get ready to be immersed in legends that whisper through the walls of this monument. Visit the ramparts where you will discover the antique artillery that defended the fort during its time. Inside, explore the palaces with delicate murals and museums, displaying treasures of the royal family including gilded palanquins and a royal turban collection. In the complex, you will see the courtyard of Daulat Khana Chowk which Rudyard Kipling described its ornate balconies as “The Work of Angels and Giants.”
Plunge into the old city’s heart with crowded alleys and bazaars selling vegetables, Mathania's red chili, spices, bamboo, wooden handicrafts and sweets. Don’t forget to sample the stimulating teas as well as the popular Makhania lassi (buttermilk), for a true Rajasthani experience. At the center of the Sardar market is the century old clock tower, an ornate stone tower in the midst of the vibrant sights, smells, and sounds of Jodhpur.
Day 10 • Travel to Udaipur
Spend the day driving through picturesque wooded hills of the Aravallis to the “City of Lakes.” Udaipur is known as the “Venice of the East,” for it is a land of sparkling lakes with rolling hills, age-old temples, and fairy-tale palaces.
Day 11 • Udaipur
The city palace in Udaipur is known for its lattice-balconies and intricately carved windows that adorn the exterior of the grand palace, while sparkling mosaic tiles and stained glass embellish its interior. There are also stately courtyards and a silver gallery. From the palace we continue onto the Old City market past the ancient Jagdish Temple. There are treasures to be found in this bustling market, so watch out for colourful and interesting souvenirs that you could take back such as shawls or clay figurines.
Later in the afternoon, visit Saheliyon Ki Bari, “the Garden of the Maids of Honor,” designed as a peaceful retreat outside the old city of Udaipur. It was built by Maharana Sangram Singh II in 1710 for the 48 girls that he received as part of his dowry. This quiet garden presents a perfect fusion of Indian and English architecture. Away from the city humdrum, enjoy the tranquility of lush green lawns, lotus pools, elephant shaped fountains, flowers, trees and marble pavilions.
Day 12 • Udaipur
Journey to the land of Ranakpur hidden deep in the Aravalli hills, boasting of some of the most exquisite Jain temples in the country, famous for their intricate friezes and sculptures. There are 1,444 intricately carved marble pillars spread out over 48,000 square feet, making this one of the most impressive temples you will ever see. What’s most interesting is that no two pillars are alike. Two Jain temples dedicated to Neminath and Parsvanath as well as a Sun Temple a little distance away.
Spend your final afternoon in India on a serene boat ride around Lake Pichola. Watch the sunset over the Aravalli Hills and see the palaces on the four islands in the middle of the lake. Reflect on the memories you will treasure from your wonderful adventure.
Day 13 • Return to Delhi
Take the morning to tick off any last minute activities you’d like to do in Udaipur before returning to Delhi in the afternoon. The Ahar is an archeological museum dedicated to the rules of Merwar. At the site, you will find great cenotaphs (empty tombs) where great leaders were cremated and the museum houses items dating back to the 10th century and older, as well as figures of gods such as Buddha, Vishnu, and Shiva.
Upon your return to Delhi, take the evening to pack and organize your luggage, now somewhat heavier after visits to the bazaars. Take the evening to have one last fantastic meal cooked by a local street vendor.
Day 14 • Return Home
As your flight departs midday, you will have time in the morning to have a sumptuous breakfast before being driven to the airport. On your way to the airport, pass by the same sites you saw when you first arrived. Delhi (once a new and strange city) is now perhaps like an old friend, which would be excited to welcome you back anytime you desire.