This epic private journey astonishes with all of the vibrant, intoxicating experiences that make India so superlative. Among the many wonders you will explore are the astounding cave complexes and elaborate stone carvings of Ellora and Ajanta, the “Pink City” of Jaipur with its pastel sandstone buildings, sunrise over the ivory-white marble Taj Mahal, the colossal and intricately ornamented Agra Fort, beautiful Hindu temples, and the exotic bazaars of “Old Delhi.” Delving into the rustic beauty of rural India, a stay at the cottages of the Dera Village eco-lodge introduces you to Indian village life and the warmth of true Indian hospitality. A land of the earliest antiquity, alive with a plethora of languages, religions, ethnicities and cultures—discover the riches that makes this broad subcontinent of charming people absolutely essential to visit.
Year Round 2023 (17 Days)
From $9,345 Per Person
From $510 Per Person
From $3,225 Per Person
INCLUSIONS & EXCLUSIONS +
Inclusions & Exclusions
LAND PRICE INCLUDES:
• Accommodations as listed in the above itinerary, based on double
occupancy and inclusive of all taxes and service charges;
• Meals as listed in the itinerary;
• All ground transportation in India using private air-conditioned
• All entry fees at all temples, museums and monuments on
• All arrival/departure airport/hotel transfers;
• All sight seeing with professional English speaking local guides;
• Bottled drinking water during meals and also during the day as
needed by clients;
• Govt. Service Taxes as applicable.
LAND PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:
• International airfare, departure taxes and en route stopovers to
and from India;
• Internal India airfare (cost listed separately);
• Tips/gratuity to local guides, drivers, bell boys, etc.;
• Items of a personal nature, such as alcoholic beverages, laundry,
phone calls, etc.;
• Movie, video and still camera fees;
• Trip cancellation, travel delay or baggage insurance. (Note: This
optional coverage is highly recommended and can be purchased
through Nomadic Expeditions);
• Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond Nomadic
"Overall we had a terrific adventure and we came home with many fond memories and no significant issues. It always felt like there were layers of people taking care of us which made us able to relax and just enjoy the trip without worrying about safety or logistics--what a pleasure! If we travel to any of the above locations (and I hope we will!), we will absolutely be in touch with you again. Thank you for everything you did to make our trip so memorable."
"Thank you for arranging a wonderful trip to India. The accommodations and the guides were excellent. It was a great way to relax and rejuvenate after the trip on the Orient Express and before our visit to the village in Nepal. There were many highlights, notably the hotels, the visit to the Taj Mahal, the days at the Clement Village retreat, the Jantar Mantar and the wonderful palaces where we stayed!"
Barb & Jeff L.
"What a wonderful experience from the moment we arrived. Experiencing the culture here , going to the villages and the local school were moments we will never forget. The staff looked after our every need and wend beyond. We tried every food and were amazed by all the taste sensations. The poolside meals and fireworks were a wonderful surprise as was the camel ride in the desert followed by the platform with snacks and musical entertainers as we watched the sunset. A magnificent and unforgettable experience of a lifetime! Cannot thank you enough!"
Arrive at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Proceed through Immigration and Customs to the Arrivals area, where you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel.
(Taj Mahal Palace - Deluxe Room, Tower Wing)
Day 2 - EXPLORING MUMBAI
Mumbai is the financial and entertainment center of India, a massive metropolis and the country’s most populous city. Beginning life as a sleepy fishing community on a series of seven islands, it was under British supervision that the current peninsula of Mumbai was established through extensive land reclamation. The city has superb specimens of 19th-century British architecture that outdo many a city in England itself.
Today you will visit several of Mumbai’s most famous sites, including the impressive Town Hall, with its Doric façade, and the nearby Anglican Cathedral, the oldest in Bombay. The cathedral has some of the best marble statues sculpted by leading 19th century European artists.
Another wonderful Gothic building is the Victoria Terminus, constructed on the site from which, in 1854, ran the first train in India. Designed by William Stevens and completed in 1887, the building looks more like a lavishly decorated palace than something as mundane as a train station. Carvings of peacocks, gargoyles, monkeys, elephants and the British lion vie for attention with wonderful stained-glass windows, buttresses, domes, turrets and spires.
You will also visit the Prince of Wales Museum, designed by George Witter in grand Indo-Saracenic style, set in an ornamental garden. Amongst its treasures, the museum houses a superb collection of Indian miniature paintings and many artifacts from the Elephanta and Jogeshwari caves.
This evening you will be treated to a sumptuous welcome dinner at one of Mumbai’s “hot” restaurants. After dinner, you can join hundreds of Bombayites to watch the sunset on the Arabian Sea from the famed promenade on Marine Drive.
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the domestic terminal at Mumbai Airport for the short flight to Aurangabad, your base for exploring the ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Jain locales of Ellora and Ajanta, both UNESCO World Heritage sites.
You will be met on arrival in Aurangabad and transferred to your hotel. Located in the heart of Maharashtra, Aurangabad was named after Aurangzeb, the last of the six great Mughal Emperors. After checking in, you will make the 20-mile drive to visit the fabulous rock-cut caves at Ellora. The Ellora complex is comprised of 34 caves, 12 of which are Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain, and is famed for its sculpture work and elaborate carvings.
Ellora is the summation of a long period of excavation architecture in India. Three successive groups of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain temples have been carved out of a two-mile stretch of a basalt escarpment. The Buddhist temples belong to the period of the Early Chalukyas and are dated to the 7th and 8th Centuries. The Hindu excavations, the most magnificent at the site, date from the 6th through the 9th Centuries and were created under the patronage of the Early Chalukyas and their successors, the Rashtrakutas. The Hindu temples are noted for their wide variety of iconographic forms. The Jain group is the latest and dates from the 9th Century. The massive Kailasnatha Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva’s Himalayan dwelling, is arguably the most famous of Ellora’s many extraordinary monuments. This monolithic structure carved out of a single rock with an amazing amount of intricate detail represents the home of Lord Shiva on top of Mt. Kailash. Measuring 100’ high, 110’ wide, and over 160’ long, the Kailasnatha Temple is nearly twice the size of the Parthenon in Athens.
This region is famous in India for its age-old weaving traditions known as Himroo and Mashru. These are fabrics made of cotton and silk, with a luster of satin, woven with motifs derived from the paintings in the Ajanta caves. Bidri work is another of the region’s ancient crafts. Plates, vases and urns are made with an alloy of zinc and copper with fine, intricate inlay work in silver. Also of note is the Paithani sari weaving style that is more than 2,000 years old. The yarn used is pure silk with the zaari (gold thread) drawn from pure gold.
(Vivanta by Taj - Deluxe Delight Room; B)
Day 4 - EXCURSION TO AJANTA
Today is spent exploring the World Heritage Site at Ajanta, northeast of Aurangabad. The Ajanta site lies in a beautiful setting in a rocky gorge on the Waghora River. The site is comprised of 27 caves, which are representative of both the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism. The caves at the site, cut and embellished between the 2nd Century BCE and the 6th Century CE, were used as either prayer halls or monastic dwellings, and are decorated with several absolutely stunning murals, most of which depict the Buddhist Jataka Tales.
The Mahayana Buddhist temple and monastic excavations that were created at Ajanta are without rival in Asia. Their remarkably preserved paintings, sculpture and architectural forms were the stylistic sources for much of later Buddhist art, and it is possible to trace the influence of this “Golden Age” of Indian art from Central Asia to Japan. The distinctive pattern of imperial Vakataka patronage and the poignant end to that support mark all the great caves at Ajanta.
(Vivanta by Taj - Deluxe Delight Room; B)
Day 5 - TO UDAIPUR
Very early this morning, you will be transferred to the airport in Aurangabad for your flight to Udaipur via Mumbai.
On arrival in Udaipur, you will be taken to the shores of Lake Pichola, where you will board a boat and cross the lake to your hotel – the fabled Lake Palace in romantic Udaipur, the “City of Sunrise.” The Lake Palace has a lengthy history as a royal residence and is now one of the world’s most renowned luxury hotels.
The Palace, located in the middle of Lake Pichola is a dream of white marble and mosaic glistening in the moonlight, very reminiscent of the most beautiful tourist cliché in the world; the Taj Mahal. Conceived in romance, the palace was built in 1746 by Maharana Jagat Singh II, 62nd successor to the royal dynasty of Mewar – believed to be descendants of the Sun God. Set against the backdrop of the majestic Aravalli Mountains on one side of the lake, and lofty palaces on the other, the Taj Lake Palace spreads across a four-acre island – an almost surreal vision in marble. The Royal Butlers, descendants of the original palace retainers, look after all contemporary comforts and ensure that all guests are treated like royalty.
This evening you will take a cruise on Lake Pichola, watching the sunset on the magical Lake Palace, the lovely City Palace complex and scenic Udaipur.
(Taj Lake Palace - Palace Room; B)
Day 6 - EXPLORING UDAIPUR
Udaipur, described as the “City of Sunrise,” sits in a valley amid green hills on the banks of Lake Pichola. Udaipur is truly a royal city, founded as the capital of the Rajput kingdom of Mewar by the Maharana Udai Singh in the 16th century. Udai Singh and the Mewars were fiercely independent upholders of Rajput independence. The city abounds with spectacular palaces and is blessed with a beautiful natural setting.
This morning, you embark on a full-day city tour. You will visit the Jagdish Temple, the largest and most venerated temple in Udaipur. Built in 1651 by Maharaja Jagat Singh, the temple is decorated with friezes and enshrines a black stone image of Vishnu. Walk about the Garden of Maidens (Sahelion Ki Bari), which consists of an ornamental lotus pool with delicately carved cenotaphs of black and white marble and soapstone. You will also explore the rest of the Maharajah’s City Palace, an imposing edifice of granite and marble, standing atop a ridge overlooking the blue waters of Lake Pichola, the exquisite Lake Palace and the Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandal, a museum dedicated to the folk art, culture, songs and festivals of Rajasthan.
(Taj Lake Palace - Palace Room; B)
Day 7 - TO JAIPUR
This morning you fly to Jaipur, the “Pink City” as it is locally known due to the pink-colored sandstone of the buildings in the old walled city. Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan, the home of the Rajputs, a group of warrior clans who ruled this part of India for a thousand years. Built in 1727 by the warrior astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh-II, Jaipur is laid out as described in the ancient Hindu treatise on architecture, the “Shilpa-Shastra.” Battlement walls with seven gates encircle the old city and broad avenues divide it into neat rectangles.
(Jai Mahal Palace - Palace Room; B)
Day 8 - EXPLORING JAIPUR
You have the day to explore Jaipur. You will wander in the colorful bazaars of the “old city” and tour the interior of Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) and the City Palace, where the present Maharaja resides. There is a Mughal art museum which houses a lovely collection of Rajasthani & Mughal miniature paintings. Part of the complex is an outdoor 18th-century astronomical and astrological observatory, Jantar Mantar, with several incredible sundials (accurate to 0.2 seconds) and very modern-looking astrological markers.
Tour the impressive Amber Fort and Palace. This is a beautiful and very well-preserved 16th-century structure, built on four levels and surrounded by ruins. This was the location backdrop for the Mira Nair movie “Kama Sutra - A Tale of Love.” Among the many splendors of the fort is a small room with a ceiling covered in tiny mirrors. When this place was inhabited, lighted candles, created a pattern that looks like an incredible star-filled sky.
You will visit the Temple of Kali, the Hall of Victory, or Jai Mahal and Jagmandir. You will also have the unique experience of traveling on the back of an elephant as you ride to the top of the hill on which the fort is situated. Late afternoon, you will have time to wander in the bazaar and to further explore this historic city.
(Jai Mahal Palace - Palace Room; B)
Day 9 - TO KALAKHO VILLAGE AREA
Departing Jaipur, you now delve deeper into rural India. A two-and-a- half hour drive brings you to the Dera Village Clement Retreat in the Kalakho village area. Set on the banks of a monsoon lake, off the Agra to Jaipur highway, it is ideally located for exploring the traditional village life of rural India. Skillfully blending the exotic ambience of an authentic village with modern facilities, this air conditioned retreat is a unique experience.
At the Dera Village Retreat, guests are treated to the ultimate in Indian hospitality with attentive personal service in spacious and tastefully furnished tented accommodations offering private facilities and sumptuous dining. The range of activities in Kalakho includes wildlife viewing, camel trekking, horse riding, and village safaris, which include home visits in the neighboring village communities.
(Dera Village Retreat; B, L, D)
Day 10 - TO AGRA VIA FATEPUR SIKRI
After breakfast, you begin your five-hour drive to Agra, stopping on the way to explore Fatepur Sikri. The Mughal Emperor Akbar’s eerily abandoned city is full of elegant small palace structures carved from red sandstone.
Fatepur Sikri (an hour outside Agra) was the capital of the Mughal Empire between 1570 and 1586. Akbar built the city to celebrate the birth of an heir, the future Emperor Jehangir. After 16 years, there was not enough water to support the population, so the capital was moved back to the Red Fort in Agra. The dryness that plagued Akbar and forced him to abandon his dream city has perfectly preserved this moment of Mughal history and exquisite memorial to the genius of Akbar for our admiration today.
Arriving in Agra late afternoon, you check into your hotel, before heading off to view the Taj at sunset from Mitab Bagh, across the river. Legend has it that this garden was the site chosen by the Emperor Shah Jahan to build a mirror image of the Taj in black marble – a mausoleum for himself.
(Taj Gateway Hotel - Superior Taj View Room; B)
Day 11 - EXPLORING AGRA
You will rise early to watch the sunrise over the Taj Mahal—an unforgettable way to start off your day.
Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in 1631 to enshrine the mortal remains of his Queen Mumtaz Mahal. It took seventeen years, 20,000 workers and a King’s treasury to build this wonder. You will wander with your guide into the inner chambers of this monument to love, the planet’s most famous and most entrancing exercise in Muslim architecture. Experience the Taj up close, and watch the light play on its magnificent lines from other parts of the city; sometimes the reflection of the Taj in the Yamuna River seems as spectacular as the monument itself.
Later in the morning, you drive over the Yamuna River to explore the forerunner of the Taj Mahal - the elaborately ornate Itmad ud Daula. In memory of her father, this mausoleum was built by Queen Nur Jahan in 1622, and is a perfect example of the fine inlaid stonework and translucent marble screens that Agra is so famous for. Many historians believe that this monument was the inspiration for Shah Jahan to build the Taj and it is often described as the “petite Taj.”
After lunch, you visit Agra Fort, built by Akbar as his citadel over the years 1565-73 in the finest architectural style. It is an almost perfect fusion between military might and lavish beauty. The fort, approachable through its two lofty main portals on the west and south, was successively occupied by three great Mughals - Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan - each of whom made significant structural contributions to this complex. Shah Jahan died here, imprisoned by his son, gazing at the Taj Mahal he had built in memory of his wife.
The balance of the day is free for shopping or further exploration.
(Taj Gateway Hotel - Superior Taj View Room; B)
Day 12 - TO KHAJURAHO VIA JHANSI AND ORCHHA
Early this morning, you will be transferred to Agra’s railway station for the two-hour train ride to Jhansi aboard the Shatabdi Express. You will be met on arrival by your driver and then you start your drive to Orchha, where you will visit the famous temple complex (lunch en route).
Orchha is situated on an island of rock protected by a loop of the Betwa River. A number of temples and palace structures are monuments to the unique Bundela Rajput style of architecture. The Jahangir Mahal, built by Raja Bir Sing Deo (1605 26) is an intricate vertiginous mandala in stone. Its remarkable and elegant plan resembles a M.C. Escher drawing or a Jorge Luis Borges story more than the familiar styles of earlier Indian palace architecture.
From Orchha, you will have a four-hour drive to reach your hotel, the Sarai at Toria, just outside of Khajuraho.
(Sarai at Toria - Cottage; B, D)
Day 13 - EXPLORING KHAJURAHO
Khajuraho, now a quiet little town, was once the religious capital of the Chandela kings. The Chandelas were devout tantric Hindus and were prolific patrons of religious architecture. They built numerous, elaborate temples to serve as emblems of their piety and strength. Khajuraho is also famous for its beautiful Hindu temples, considered to be some of the finest examples of Nagara style architecture. The temples are well known for their lavish use of erotic carvings, which shocked Victorian Britishers described as “a little warmer than necessary,” but to the ancient devotee they symbolized the joy of life and the joy of spiritual liberation through Tantric ritual.
(Sarai at Toria - Cottage; B, L, D)
Day 14 - TO VARANASI
Wake up pre-dawn for a quick breakfast, before starting your drive back to Khajuraho, reaching there in time to catch your flight to Varanasi. You will be met on arrival in Varanasi and escorted to your hotel.
Varanasi is a holy city, its life is dedicated to Siva. Like Jerusalem, Rome, and Athens, Varanasi is one of the world’s ancient living cities. 19th-century missionary M.A. Sherring was overwhelmed by the antiquity of Benares when he wrote:
Varanasi is the center of Hindu culture; like Jerusalem it is seen as a holy land and has survived the centuries because of its sanctified place in Indian religious life. To die in Kashi (Varanasi) insures release, or moksa, from the endless karmic cycle of rebirth and suffering. Varanasi is India in microcosm, both the beautiful and the repellant.
This afternoon, begin your exploration of Varanasi by taking a walking tour and visiting the ghats for which the city is so justly famous.
At sunset you will have the wonderful experience of a sunset boat ride on the Ganga River and witness the evening arthi.
(Taj Gateway Hotel - Executive Room; B, L)
Day 15 - EXPLORING VARANASI
You will rise early this morning and take a boat ride on the Ganga past the ghats. Here, pilgrims gather on the steps that lead down to the river to bathe in the waters of the sacred river as the city begins to come alive in the magical misty light of dawn. You will walk through the streets and visit some of Varanasi’s many temples before returning to the hotel.
In the afternoon, you will take a short drive to Sarnath. It was here at the Deer Park of Sarnath that Sakyamuni Buddha, having achieved enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, delivered his first message of the middle path to final nirvana. Also of interest are excavated pillars from the time of the Maurya Dynasty (323-185 BCE) and stupas from as late as the 12th Century. These were unearthed during the British archaeological explorations in 1836 and are housed in the museum on site.
(Taj Gateway Hotel - Executive Room; B, L)
Day 16 - TO DELHI
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport in time for your flight to Delhi.
Even when Bombay and Madras were mere trading posts and Calcutta a village of mud huts, Delhi had been the seat of an empire for five hundred years. Through the centuries, eight cities have been built on this site, by Hindus, the Mughals and the British, each adding their own flavor. In a matter of minutes you can be transported from a sprawling, elegant garden city to the ancient twisting alleyways of Old Delhi.
In the afternoon on your tour of “Old Delhi,” you will explore this exotic locale with its narrow dirt roads, its myriad people and inexpensive and colorful bazaars that keep alive the traditional workmanship for which Delhi has always been famous. Driving past the Red Fort, you trade your motor vehicle for a bicycle rickshaw, which will take you into the heart of Chandni Chowke (the silver square - so named because of the silver merchants). Negotiating alleyways, which seemingly get narrower and narrower you end up at the Jama Masjid, the largest Muslim mosque in India.
This evening, enjoy a Farewell Dinner at one of Delhi’s finest restaurants to celebrate the end of your spectacular trip.
(Shangri-La Hotel Delhi; B, D)
Day 17 - DAY IN DELHI – OUTBOUND
Visit the nearby Lakshmi Narayan Temple, also known as the Birla Mandir. Built in 1938, this beautiful temple is dedicated to the goddess of prosperity and good fortune and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. Another wonderful experience is to visit Bangla Sahib Gurudwara (a Sikh Temple). At one time, this was the bungalow of Raja Jai Amber from Jaipur. Both of these temples are very active and hundreds of pilgrims come every day to pray and meditate in the halls and rooms of the temples.
Continue exploring New Delhi, to see the Raj-era architecture in the city center, including the renowned India Gate and Edwin Landseer Lutyens’ and Herbert Baker’s monumental governmental building on the Raisina Hill. From there, visit Humayun’s Tomb, where Humayun, the 2nd Mughal Emperor, is interred. This magnificent building was to serve as an inspiration for the Taj Mahal. The tomb is an exquisite example of early Mughal architecture.
After dinner you are transferred to the airport in time for your return flight.