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Throughout this very special small group tour of India you will encounter the extraordinary richness and opulence of the country's past. You'll visit the vast palaces, impregnable forts and dazzling, decorated havelis of Rajasthan, and along the way will stay in spectacular, luxurious heritage hotels - many of which were once the seats of ruling maharajas, and some still home to their present-day descendants. From Delhi's Raj-era glories and Agra's monument to love, to the wooded Aravali Hills, Udaipur's lakes and the desert landscapes - and starlit skies - of Jodhpur and Bikaner, and finally to the jungle retreat of Vanaashyra, this is a holiday crammed with unforgettable highlights and unique experiences.
Head to the airport and board your overnight flight to Delhi.
Day One: Travel to India
Upon arrival in Delhi, meet your Tour Manager and transfer to elegant, historic Maidens Hotel, renowned for it's old-world splendour and a famously deep swimming pool.
Day Two: Discover Delhi's Old City
After settling in, re-join the group and your Tour Manager for a guided tour of colourful Old Delhi, which reveals some of the city's most iconic sights: Red Fort, Jama Masjid Mosque and Raj Ghat - Gandhi's cremation site. After the tour, immerse yourself among the sights, sounds and smells of Indian street life on an exhilarating rickshaw ride through vibrant Chandni Chowk, one of the city's oldest markets, before heading back to the hotel for a delicious first dinner.
Rise early this morning to board the Gatimaan Express, India's fastest train, to Agra, the glorious 'City of Love'. Upon arrival, join your guide for a tour of majestic Agra Fort, exploring its royal pavillions, palaces and pretty courtyards, then continue to the site of the Taj Mahal, where you'll have a few hours to explore this dazzling monument to undying love, which has become India's most potent symbol.
Day Three: Take the Gatimaan Express train to Agra
Enjoy a lazy morning at your opulent hotel, then, after lunch, board one of the Palace's boats for a one-hour cruise along the Chambal River (subject to the water level in the river). On this scenic journey you'll see an abundance of colourful birdlife, and you might also spot crocodiles and rare, endangered species such as long-snouted gharials.
Day Four: Cruise on the Chambal River
Today you'll travel across the Rajasthani plain to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, where a beautiful heritage hotel is your home for the next two nights. Set in a former harveli - an Indian mansion - this beautiful hotel is a peaceful retreat located close to the bustling old city. Enjoy a lazy evening settling into your surroundings, perhaps opting for a dip in the pool or a relaxing treatment at the spa, before dinner is served.
Day Five: Travel to Jaipur
Discover the historic sights of Jaipur, travelling firstly to the 16th-century Amber Fort, which perches on a hilltop and offers stupendous views from its red sandstone ramparts. After some time to explore the ornate Royal Halls, you'll travel to the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, to view its famous red facade featuring a jumble of windows and screened balconies.
Day Six: Visit Amber Fort and the Palace of the Winds
This afternoon, enjoy a lavish lunch in the ornate surroundings of the Samode Haveli, a historic former home of the maharajas that has been converted into a luxurious hotel situated on the desert-fringed outskirts of the city. After lunch, you'll visit the City Palace complex to explore its temple, museums, courtyards and gardens, and then continue to Jantar Mantar to visit the ancient astronomical observatory.
After breakfast, leave Jaipur and travel south west to Deogarh, where you'll spend one night at the sumptuous Deogarh Mahal heritage hotel, a former home to Mewar rulers. After checking in, set off on a thrilling jeep safari through the countryside, then enjoy a walk through a local village before returning to the hotel in time for dinner.
Day Seven: Travel to Deogarh
Today's short journey takes you to Udaipur, where the Lalit Laxmi Vilas Palace welcomes you for a two-night stay. This magnificent hotel overlooks the Fateh Sagar lake and is surrounded by the rolling Aravali Hills. Settle in, and enjoy dinner at the hotel this evening.
Day Eight: Travel to Udaipur
See the sights of Udaipur this morning on a guided tour, which reveals the majestic City Palace and the stunning 'gardens of the royal ladies' at Sahelion-ki-Bari. This afternoon, explore under your own steam, then re-join your group for a leisurely evening cruise on Lake Pichola, and a dinner overlooking the stunning facade of City Palace.
Day Nine: Guided tour of Udaipur
Journey north today through the beautiful scenery of the Aravali Hills, and call in Rankpur to visit the magnificent Jain temples - a quartet of intricate, marble edifices that nestle in a wooded valley. You'll then continue to the outskirts of Jodhpur for a two-night stay at Rohet Garh, a beautiful heritage hotel boasting a spa and an outdoor pool.
Day 10: See the Jain temples at Ranakphur en route to Jodhpur
Enjoy a day of sightseeing in Jodhpur, the 'Blue City' - so called because of the blue colour-washed houses that decorate its old city. Explore monumental Mehrangarh Fort, which towers over the city from its sandstone butte and is comprised of lavish palaces and decorative courtyards. Your day then continues with visits to the marbled Jaswant Thanda memorial and the fascinating Umaid Bhawan palace museum, and a thrilling evening jeep safari, on which you'll visit a traditional village inhabited by the Bishnoi tribe, who are thought to be some of the world's first eco-warriors.
Day 11: Discover Jodhpur
On today's adventure you'll journey into the Great Indian Desert to the remote city of Bikaner, where ornate Junagarh Fort dominates the snaking streets of its old city. Step behind the Fort's high walls to explore the pavilions and palaces, then enjoy a fascinating visit to a camel-breeding farm. This evening, you'll travel further into the desert to a camp that sits among the towering sand dunes. Enjoy a roller-coaster tour down the dunes, marvel at the dazzling sunset and enjoy an unforgettable dinner under a starlit desert sky. You'll then return to the hotel at the end of this very special evening.
Day 12: Visit Junagarh Fort and enjoy dinner under the stars
Continue your journey through the desert, as you travel along an ancient trading route past small market towns and resplendent havelis built by wealthy traders. You'll spend a night at the Alsisar Mahal heritage hotel, which boasts decorated arcades, frescoes and tranquil courtyards. Settle in, then enjoy a glass of champagne while listening to a talk from a local historian, who will shed light on the story behind the opulent Shekhawati havelis.
Day 13: Travel to the Shekhawati region
On the last leg of this wonderful journey you'll travel back to the Aravali Hills, where you'll be spending two nights at Vanaashrya tented resort, which sits immersed in beautiful jungle scenery. Upon arrival, rest and relax, and settle into your well-appointed, air-conditioned tent.
Day 14: Stay in a tented resort in the jungle
Spend your final day relaxing at Vanaashrya, perhaps opting for a spa treatment or a dip in the swimming pool. Explore the ruins of Bhangarh Fort, which dates back to the 17th Century and is thought to be haunted, then take a camel cart ride to a nearby village for a glimpse of local life. This evening, you'll be treated to a cookery demonstration, followed by a final dinner with your group, offering the perfect opportunity to share memories of a wonderful trip.
Day 15: Visit Bhangarh Fort and enjoy a camel cart ride
After an early start (a packed breakfast will be provided), you'll travel back to Delhi Airport for your return flight, arriving back in the UK this evening.
Day 16: Travel back to the UK
Goa Extension Itinerary
Day 16: Fly to Goa
Fly to Goa, meet your guide at the airport and transfer south along the coast to your hotel, for a three-night stay. Spend the rest of the day relaxing by the expansive pool or enjoying an ayurvedic massage in the hotel’s tranquil spa.
Day 17: Enjoy your Goan surroundings
Choose to spend today soaking up the southern Indian sun, perhaps by the hotel’s pool, or venture further afield to explore the wide-open beaches situated just a moment’s walk from your hotel. Likewise, choose to dine in your hotel, or to visit one of a number of local eateries.
Day 18: Relax or explore in Goa
Once again, today you are free to simply let Goa’s relaxed southern feeling wash over you, perhaps with a long, lazy walk on the beach. Alternatively, choose to join us on an optional excursion to Aguada Fort and the Basilica of Bom Jesus.
Day 19: Fly home
Bid a fond farewell to Portuguese influenced Goa, as you transfer from your hotel to the airport and board your flight home.
A Taste of Kerala Extension Itinerary
Day 16: Travel to Kochi
Begin your tour extension with a flight to the southern Indian jewel of Kochi, where you will be met by your tour guide and escorted to your first hotel - the four-star deluxe Trident. Check-in, rest and relax, or take a dip in the courtyard pool, prior to taking dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.
Day 17: Explore ‘God’s Own Country’
Begin your exploration of Kerala, ‘God’s Own Country’, today, with a tour of historic Kochin. Take in the Portuguese-built and peculiarly named Dutch Palace, the spectacular Paradesi Synagogue and the area’s photogenic Chinese fishing nets. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Kathakali dance show.
Day 18: Discover a world of spice
This morning travel to Periyar, inland from Kochi, to spend one night in the Greenwoods Hotel. After checking into your hotel, enjoy an enlightening tour of a local spice plantation. In the evening, relax in your hotel, taking advantage of its spa, swimming pool and treehouse cafe.
Day 19: Visit Lake Periyar
Rise early on the fourth day of your extension to take to the waters of Lake Periyar for a wildlife boat tour, after which we transfer to our third and final stop, coastal Alleppey. Check in to your resort hotel set on the lush banks of the Punnamada Lake, and spend the rest of the day recharging your batteries.
Day 20: Relax on Kerala’s backwaters
Today, get to know Kerala’s famed backwaters, as you take lunch on a traditional 'kettuvallam' houseboat and cruise by as all life plays out on the area’s labyrinthine banks. Later, return to your hotel and enjoy a restful evening looking back on your journey through incredible India.
Day 21: Fly home
On your final day in India, transfer from Alleppey to Kochi, and board your flight back to the UK.
Marari Beach, Kerala Extension Itinerary
Day 16: Travel to Marari Beach
Fly to ocean-side Kochi today, and transfer south along the coast to your hotel, beginning your three-night stay on Marari Beach. Check-in, explore the hotel and unwind.
Day 17: Explore Marari Beach
Enjoy your first full day in Marari Beach. Choose to begin with a swim in the on-site pool or enjoy a relaxing ayurvedic treatment, before exploring farther afield, with a walk along the golden beach. Later, dine in the hotel or explore the local area.
Day 18: Unwind at the hotel
Today, choose to relax pool-side, letting Kerala’s mellow atmosphere sooth, or perhaps take out one of the hotel’s bicycles and explore the local area at a leisurely pace. In the evening, enjoy dinner in the hotel and look back on your time and experiences in this wonderful country.
Day 19: Fly home
This morning you’ll transfer back to Kochi’s airport and begin your flight home.
Varanasi Extension Itinerary
Day 16: Travel to India’s most holy city
Fly to historic Varanasi, and transfer to your hotel. Take some time to relax before venturing out into the old city’s pulsating heart. Rub shoulders with holy men and walk with devotees towards this evening’s Aarti ceremony on the banks of the sacred Ganges. Later, take dinner in your hotel.
Day 17: Discover Varanasi’s history
After breakfast this morning, take a boat ride along the great Ganges, known locally as Mother Ganga - India’s most sacred river. Later, take in over 2000 years of history as you are taken on a guided tour of this most important of Indian conurbations. Afterwards, enjoy lunch and take an excursion to Sarnath to visit is museum and ruins.
Day 18: Varanasi to Delhi
Spend this morning relaxing in your hotel, or choose to venture out into Varanasi’s beguiling streets for one last time. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport and fly to Delhi. Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel, dine and rest.
Day 19: Fly home
This morning take breakfast in your hotel, before transferring to the airport and boarding your flight home.