Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan are an intoxicating mix that will inspire the imagination and make for a truly memorable adventure. The famous golden triangle is considered the jewel in India's crown and an extraordinary way to open your senses to an ancient land of many cultures. Enchanting India is the ideal itinerary for first timers to explore the classic attractions of India. Enjoy the colorful and vibrant bustle of India's capital city, experience the regal forts and palaces and Villages of Rajasthan, be immersed in the spirituality of India’s holiest city Varanasi, and discover the world’s most enchanting love story at the world-famous UNESCO World Heritage site, The Taj Mahal.
Welcome to New Delhi - the capital city of India, home to approximately 17 million inhabitants! The city is divided into two parts including Old Delhi, located near the River Yamuna, and New Delhi, home to the national government, the imperial city created by the British Raj. This city is a fusion of the ancient and the modern and paints perfect picture rich with culture, architecture, human diversity, deep in history, monuments, museums, galleries and gardens.
Upon arrival into Delhi, our representative will meet and greet you at the airport and transfer to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure to allow you to settle into your new home away from home experience.
This morning, will take you to Old Delhi. We will start the day traveling by rickshaw past colorful bazaars, sacred temples, and colonial monuments through the winding streets of Old Delhi. Visit India's largest mosque, the white marble Jama Masjid or “Friday Mosque.” Rising from between the crowded medieval streets of Old Delhi, the Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India. Enjoy a photo opportunity of the iconic Red Fort (drive past), built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan before leaving Old Delhi.
Later explore New Delhi. The city was designed and built by the British in the 1920s and is made up of well-composed and spacious streets under the shade of beautiful trees and beautiful colonial government buildings. As you navigate the city, you will drive along the ceremonial avenue, Rajpath, past the imposing India Gate and Parliament House.
Visit the Gandhi Museum showcasing the life and principles of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation who led the nation against British colonial rule. (closed on Mondays
You will also see Humayun's Tomb, which was built by the wife of Mughal Emperor Humayun, Haji Begum, in the mid-16th century. This red sandstone structure is considered to be the predecessor of Taj Mahal and one of the best examples of Mughal architecture.
Drive to the famous Qutab Minar, a tall tower built by conquering Mughal leaders which is now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1199 by Qutbuddin as a tower for his victory against a Rajput King and is considered a great example of Indian-Islamic architecture.
Later you will be taken back to the hotel for you to enjoy the facilities - the evening being at your own leisure.
This morning fly to Varanasi. The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Formerly known as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi will attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth.
This evening join your guide for a walk through the oldest and most famous narrow and winding lanes of the city, past the endless human panorama - pilgrims, worshipers, sadhus, children selling flowers and floating lights to place in the river. Arrive at the ghats at the Ganges to witness the Aarti Ceremony which is part of the evening puja or prayers. During the ceremony deewas (oil lamps) are offered to Mother Ganges with thanks and devotion for the light of the sun and for her divine light. As the Aarti fire ceremonies take place, bells are rung and chanting and singing provide a fascinating, magical and spiritual conclusion to the days end.
Early this morning, enjoy sunrise boat ride in Ganges with musician on board. It is in Varanasi where pilgrims perform ritual ablutions. There are nearly 100 ghats, steps leading to the banks of River Ganges. The ghats are an integral compliment to the concept of divinity represented in physical and supernatural elements. The spirituality of Varanasi is best observed by row boat ride on the Ganges river. Where you glide past all the bathers and funeral pyres on the ghats. Boat ride on the Ganges to the two-kilometre stretch of bathing Ghats, or steps, that lead into the river. The Ghats of the Ganges are perhaps the holiest spots of Varanasi, and are full of pilgrims who flock to the place to take a dip in the holy river. They believe this absolves them from all sins and cleanses them physically, mentally and spiritually. It is at the Ganga Ghats where we see life and death together. In the morning Arti is beautiful to behold as floating candle offerings drift down the river while bells chime.
Later join a Spiritual Varanasi Walk. Dive down deep into the spirituality of Varanasi. Varanasi is not just a tourist place, but a cultural melting pot where you can explore all aspects of spirituality. Get an immersive experience of the city with us as we take you back in time and unwrap all aspects of spirituality one by one. From a visual astronomic illustrations coming to life, to visiting some specific temples dedicated to saints who have gone down in history books.
This afternoon, you’ll visit the holy site of Sarnath, the site of the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma after his enlightenment. Sarnath is one of four holy Buddhist sites sanctioned by the Buddha himself for pilgrimage. Amongst the ruins, the Dharmekh Stupa is impressive at 128 feet high, and 93 in diameter. This dates from around 200 BC and is the spot where the Buddha is said to have preached his first sermon.
This morning, check out and drive to the Varanasi airport to connect your flight to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi, drive straight to Agra. This is a fascinating way to see the country as we wind our way down from the foothills back to the plains and onward to the city of love Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Upon arrival we will assist with the check-in process at your hotel.
In the evening enjoy the grand live performance “Mohabbat-e-Taj”, based on the love story of Taj Mahal. This theatrical show portrays the lavish lifestyle of the Mughal era and the story of the emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved Mumtaz Mahal.
Rise early for a special sunrise tour of the Taj Mahal, glowing white through the early morning fog. Our guide will take you to the perfect architectural symmetry, the wonderful proportion and the sheer scale to inspect the exquisite detail covering every inch of marble. Explore the Shah Jehan’s monument to love the Taj Mahal, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, built by the Mughal emperor as the final resting place for his favorite Queen, Mumtaz. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630-1652 A.D) of hard labor and 20,000 workers, masons and jewellers to build. It was designed by the Persian architect, Ustad Isa. The verses of Holy Quran are inscribed on it and at the top of the gate’s 22 small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to built. The elegant dome of the Taj has a diameter of 60 feet, and directly under the dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Fantastic inlay work, using semi-precious stones, decorates the exterior and interior. (closed on Fridays)
This afternoon visit Agra Fort, a great monument of red sandstone that dominates a bend in the Yamuna River and was constructed by the Mughals during 1565-1571. It was Emperor Akbar who laid the foundation of this majestic citadel in 1565. The Fort was ready by 1571 during the period of Shah Jehan, Akbar's grandson. The Fort contains splendid mosques and palaces in red sandstone and white marble built by two generations of creative builders during the time of Akbar and later Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
Optional - Taj Facing Yoga
Before sunset, experience a yoga session at a location with an amazing view of the Taj Mahal. It will take approximately 1 hour. This session will cover basic Asana, Dhyana and Pranayam at a lush green mound about 150 meters away, facing the Taj Mahal. Imbibe yourself into the spiritual way of life, where your body and soul will get rejuvenated.
This morning drive to Jaipur, known as the ‘Pink City’ due to its many pink sandstone monuments. Jaipur’s vibrant culture is on dazzling display in all the streets and bazaars. It is one of the great cities of the Rajput, with historic forts, palaces, and gardens. Jaipur is named after its founder, the warrior and astronomer sovereign Sawai Jai Singh II who planned his new capital to reflect the increasing wealth of the kingdom.
Enroute you will stop to visit the beautiful walled city of Fatehpur Sikri, built to commemorate the birth of Akbar’s son. The complex was completed in 1574 but abandoned only fourteen years later. Of particular interest are the red stone mosques, courtyards and the palace where Akbar reputedly played chess using slave girls as pawns. Following the visit, your drive continues on to Jaipur.
Optional - Local school visit
Enjoy a cultural meeting with local school kids. Explore new levels of service learning at a local school. Immerse in service work with local students and build long lasting relationship through educational and cultural exchange. Optional volunteer opportunities:
- Interact with students and observe their educational experience in rural India
- Assist in a variety of roles from Teaching English to helping with computer education
- Conducting hygiene classes such as washing hands, brushing teeth, personal hygiene
- Try your hand at cricket, learn some rules of the game and play a friendly match against students at the school
- Roll up your sleeves and prepare to help repair and paint classrooms at the school. Your work will be greatly appreciated by the students and teachers at the school!
- Planting of trees
Continue drive towards Jaipur. Upon arrival we will assist with the check-in process at your hotel.
This evening, decorate your hands with Mehendi or Henna. Mehendi (Lawsonia inermis) is a small tropical shrub, whose leaves when dried and ground into a paste, give out a rusty-red pigment, suitable for making intricate designs on the palms and feet. The dye has a cooling property and no side effects on the skin. Mehendi is extremely suitable for creating intricate patterns on various parts of the body, and a painless alternative to permanent tattoos.
This morning, visit the Amber Fort, a spectacular complex of palaces, temples and apartments that offers a stunning view of the city. Amber Fort is a marvellous example of Rajput architecture with its terraces and ramparts reflected in the Maota Lake below. Go up the fort by jeeps. The interiors of the fort have various royal halls decorated with intricate ivory, mirror and glass work complemented by exquisite wall paintings. As you move between the rooms of this magnificent structure, feel the history and visualize the pomp and grandeur of a kingdom never conquered.
You will also visit the City Palace, a former royal residence built in the centre of the old city in a blend of the Rajasthani and Mughal styles. Next highlight is Jantar Mantar, the largest of the five remarkable observatories built by Jaipur’s founder. Its complex instruments, with scientifically designed settings and shapes, represent the high points of medieval Indian astronomy.
This afternoon, walk through the local markets. There are a number of bazaars in Jaipur - Textile, Spices, Vegetable and Fruits Market. Each of these markets possess a unique charm. The presence of a variety of markets in Jaipur makes Jaipur with no dearth of shopping areas. The Pink city is well known for being a top shopping destination: from jewelry to textile or even puppets, you can find everything you need!
Later in the day, get yourself engaged in turban tying for male and saree draping for females at your hotel.
Optional - Jaipur by night
Late this evening, explore Jaipur by night. We will drive pass the key highlights of the city to see the colourful lighting of Jaipur. This is best time to explore the city than day time to enjoy the views of palace and fort with jeep safari. You can first have a view of Albert Hall all lit up at night. On the way you will be amazed by the artistic Hawa Mahal to see the celebration of lights on the palace. Hawa Mahal or Wind Palace, is so named because it was essentially a high screen wall built so the women of the royal household could observe street festivals while remaining unseen from the outside world. Passing through Birla Mandir, next view of amazing Jal Mahal where you will see the beautiful reflection of lights in the crystal-clear lake that surrounds it. Further drive to the Amer Palace is surely going to amuse and excite you to see the breath-taking play of lights on this majestic building. This tour will leave a long-lasting memory of how truly beautiful Jaipur city is at night.