Home | About Us | Ethics and values | Testimonials | Why Travel with Topcamp | Booking | Contact Us

Home à India Tour Packages à Culture Tour Packages à Best of India I

» Camps

» Offbeat Properties

» Wildlife

» Ladakh

» Resorts

» Adventure

» Treks

» Packages

» Weekend getaways

» Hotels we recommend

» Corporate

» Schools & Colleges


Indulge / Rejuvenate

» Luxury Properties

» Health & Wellness

» Tree Houses



Best of India I

Duration: 15 nights & 16 days

Best season: throughout the year
Destination: Bombay Aurangabad Udaipur Jodhpur Jaipur Agra Khajuraho Varanasi Delhi


Day 01: Arrival in Mumbai
Arrive at the International airport where you will be met & transferred to your hotel.

Mumbai till recently known as 'Bombay' is the capital of Maharashtra. It is the fastest moving, most affluent and industrialised city in India. The city has a natural harbour, which was developed by the British. It is one of the busiest ports of India, handling approximately 40 percent of India's maritime trade. Mumbai derives its name from the local deity Mumba Devi, whose temple is still there. The Portuguese, predecessors of the British preferred to think of the name as Bom Baim, the Good Bay. Mumbai is a group of seven islands, which are today known as Colaba, Mahim, Mazgaon, Parel, Worli, Girgaun and Dongri. Large expanses of open sea have been filled in and tidal swamps have been reclaimed for furthering the land area. Mumbai is now one big island connected to the mainland by long, sweeping bridges.

The islands that now form Mumbai were first home to the Koli fisherfolk whose shanties occupy parts of the city shoreline today. The islands were ruled by a succession of Hindu dynasties, invaded by Muslims in the 14th century and then ceded to Portugal by the Sultan of Gujarat in 1534. The Portuguese did little to develop them before the major island of the group was included in Catherine of Braganza's dowry when she married England's Charles II in 1661. Under the British government, Bombay soon developed as a major trading port, adornment with neogothic architecture and became the British Empire's entrance to its proudest "Crown Jewel". Mumbai today is more than just a metropolis. It is in fact an enigma of mud huts and skyscrapers, ageold traditions and high fashions, the industrialists' haven and moviemakers' Hollywood, producing more films each year than any other county in the world. It is indeed the country's most cosmopolitan city. It is renowned as the country's financial nerve center, and also an important center of theater, art, music, and classical dance. Mumbai is home to people of all Indian creeds and cultures. It is a fascinating city, throbbing with life, and, for many people, the gateway to India.

Day 02: Mumbai/Aurangabad
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel.

Visit Elephanta Caves located across the sea from the Gateway of India and accessible by ferry is the island of Elephant that has rockcut cave temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Little is known about their origins but they are thought to have been created between 450 and 750 AD, when the Island was known as Gharapauri (Place of Caves). The Portuguese renamed it Elephant because of a large stone elephant that once stood near the shore. Unfortunately the Portuguese did considerable damage to the sculptures but their size, beauty and power remain impressive. There is one main cave with a number of sculpted panels all relating to Shiva. The most famous sculpture here is the Trimurti, representing the threeheaded Shiva where the god is depicted as the trinity of the creator, the preserver and the destroyer. There are also figures of Shiva dancing the 'tandava' the marriage of Shiva and Parvati and one in which Shiva appears as Ardhanareshwar, uniting both sexes in one body.
Afternoon: Visit Mumbai city.

Gateway of India the landmark of Mumbai, was the principal port when the visitors came to India by ship. The gateway was conceived following the visit of King George V to India in 1911 and was officially opened in 1924. The yellow basalt Arch of Triumph, derived from the Muslim styles of 16th century Gujarat, is located on the shore of Mumbai Harbour at the tip of the Apollo Bunder. Today the area around the Gateway is a prominent promenade, people gather here for a stroll in the early morning and evenings. Here also, boats depart from the Gateway's wharfs for Elephanta Island.

Colaba Causeway occupying the City's southernmost peninsula is the travellers centre. It is a vibrant fashionable suburb and a busy commercial thoroughfare, which extends to the end of the promontory.

The Sassoon dock here is always interesting to visit at dawn, when the fishing boats come in and unload their catch. At the southern end of the causeway is the steepled Church of St. John the Evangelist, also known as the Afghan Church. It was built in 1847 and is dedicated to the soldiers who died in the Sindh campaign of 1838 and the First Afghan war of 1843.
Mumbai Fort is the area north of Colaba, since the old fort was once located here. There are a lot of impressive buildings from Mumbai's golden period here. St. John's church, dedicated to the soldiers, who laid down their lives in the Sindh campaign of 1838, and the first Afghan war of 1843, is also worth a visit.

Prince of Wales Museum located between Colaba and the Fort, this museum was designed by George Wittet to commemorate the visit of King George V, who as Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone in 1905. Built in a grand IndoSaracenic style, the museum is set in an ornamental garden and boasts a galleried central hall topped by a huge dome. Its collection includes impressive sculptures from Elephanta Island, Gujarat and Karnataka, terra cotta figurines, miniature paintings, porcelain and weaponry. There is also a Natural history section and a collection of European paintings.

Flora Fountain is a cherished though undistinguished fountain that was erected in 1869 in honour of Sir Bartle Frere, the governor of Mumbai who was responsible for dismantling the fort and shaping much of modern Mumbai.

Marine Drive Netaji Subash Road, better known as Marine Drive, is one of the most popular promenades of Mumbai. Built on land reclaimed from Back Bay during 1920, it runs along the shoreline of Back Bay, starting at Nariman point and sweeping around the Chowpatty beach up to Malabar hills.

This is one of Mumbai's most popular promenades and sunset watching spots. At night, lined with lights, it is a very attractive sight from Malabar Hill, a view that gave it the description of being 'Queen Victoria's Necklace'.

Victoria Terminus (VT) or Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, as it is now called, is the most remarkable example of Gothic architecture in India. It looks more like a lavishly decorated palace or cathedral than anything as mundane as a transport depot. It was opened during Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee year. It was designed by Frederick Stevens and was completed in 1887, 34 years after the first train in India steamed out of this site to Thane.

Malabar Hill located on the northern promontory of Back Bay, though an expensive residential area is favoured for its cool breezes and fine views. There is a Jain temple here built of marble in 1904 and dedicated to the first Jain tirthankar Adinath. On top of the hill are the Hanging Gardens, laid over a network of water reservoirs in 1881 and the Kamla Nehru Park. Both offer fine views of the city, the harbour and the hills beyond.

Walkeshwar Temple or the Lord or the Sand temple is one of the oldest and most important temples in the area. It is said that Lord Rama constructed a lingam of sand at this site while on his way to Lanka to rescue Sita. The original temple was probably built a 1000 years ago. Haji Ali's Mosque situated at the end of a long causeway poking into the Arabian Sea, this whitewashed fairytale mosque contains the tomb of the Muslim saint Haji Ali. It is said the saint had died while on pilgrimage to Mecca and the casket containing his mortal remains floated and came to rest on a rocky bed in the sea, where devotees constructed the tomb and mosque in the early 19th century. It is connected to the mainland by a long causeway, which can only be crossed at low tide.

Mani Bhawan (Gandhi Memorial) is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi who stayed here from time to time between 1917 to 1934, it contains two picture galleries and a library of books by and on Mahatma Gandhi.

Victoria Gardens these gardens contain the Victoria & Albert Hall Museum and the city zoo. Inspired by the V & A in London, the museum was built in 1872 and its collection covers the history of Mumbai and contains prints, maps and models.

Afternoon : Transfer to the domestic airport for the flight to Aurangabad.
On arrival you be met and escorted to your hotel.

Aurangabad Malik Ambar, the Prime Minister of Murtaza Nizam SHAH II, founded Aurangabad in 1610, on the site of village Khirki. Later in 1653, when the Mughal Prince Aurangzeb became the viceroy of the Deccan, he made the city his Capital and renamed it Aurangabad. Aurangabad has always been a prominent region on the Deccan plateau and has a long artistic and cultural history to which several dynasties have made major contributions over the years. Even today, Aurangabad is the hub of culture and history in the Marathawada region. It has some of the best colleges and universities in the state and is one of the fastest growing industrial towns in India.

The town is the best base to visit the Ajanta and Ellora Caves.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 03: In Aurangabad
Morning: Breakfast at the hotel. Later full day excursion to Ajanta caves It was only in the 19th century, that the Ajanta groups of caves, lying deep within the Sahayadri hills, cut into the curved mountainside, above the Waghore River, were discovered. A group of British officers on a hunting expedition stumbled on these ancient works of art in 1819. Their isolation contributed to the fine state of preservation in which some of their remarkable paintings remain to this day. Ajanta is listed as a World Heritage Site. They depict the story of Buddhism, spanning the period from 200 BC to 650 AD. The Caves are cut into the steep face of a horseshoeshaped rock gorge on the Waghore River. They are sequentially numbered from one end of the gorge to the other but do not follow a chronological order. The oldest are mainly in the middle and the newer ones are close to the each end. They were built as secluded retreats of the Buddhist monks, who taught and performed rituals in the chaityas (place of worship) and viharas (monasteries), the ancient seats of learning and nerve centres of the Buddhist cultural movement. Five of the caves are chaityas while the other 25 are viharas. Caves 8, 9, 10, 12 and 13 are older Hinayana caves, while the others are Mahayana (dated from around the 5th century AD). In the Hinayana school, Buddha was never represented directly. His presence was always alluded to by a symbol such as the footprint, the lotus or wheel of law as opposed to the Mahayana school, which idolized Buddha. Using simple tools like hammer and chisel, the monks carved out the impressive figures adorning the walls of these structures. Exquisite wall paintings and sculptures speak volumes of the India of yore. The Buddha, his lives and incarnations are the subject matter to which the artist lent his creativity, infusing each work of art with an overwhelming sense of vitality. Also featured in Ajanta are the paintings of Bodhisattvas, celestial beings personifying the virtues of the Buddha. Many of the caves house panels depicting stories from the Jatakas, a rich mine of tales of the several incarnations of the Buddha. Images of nymphs and princesses amongst others, are also elaborately portrayed.

A heavenly light seems to bathe the paintings, without the obstruction of shadows. This is a feature common to all Ajanta paintings and partly stems it's technique. The paintings cover the surface of the wall completely, the continuing narrative concept being interrupted occasionally by an architectural structure or a series of unusual artistic forms, which provided a break between actions and functioned as props for random figures. The artist's skill and creativity are complemented by his keen sense of observation. This is borne out by a number of paintings that provide a glimpse into royal settings.

Under the royal patronage of the ruling dynasties, the monks and professional artists left a record of contemporary life with palaces, halls and processions and tales of piety and faith on the cave walls. Cave 1 houses some of the most well preserved wall paintings, which include two great Bodhisattvas, Padmapani and Avalokiteshvara. Caves 2, 16 and 17 also contain amazing paintings, while Caves 1, 4, 17, 19, 24 and 26 boast of some of the most divine sculptures. The flying apsara (a celestial being) and the image of Buddha preaching in Cave 17 are a couple of unforgettable works of art.

Overnight at the hotel

Day 04: Aurangabad/Mumbai
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel. Later do a tour of Ellora Caves.

ELLORA CAVES Situated about 30km from Aurangabad, the World Heritage listed cave temples of Ellora are the pinnacles of Deccan rockcut architecture. Over five centuries, generations of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks carved monasteries, chapels and temples from a 2 Kms long escarpment and decorated them with a profusion of sculptures of remarkable imagination and detail. These cave shrines are memorable for their invaluable contribution to the enormous wealth of Indian heritage.

The caves run northsouth. Because of the escarpment's gentle slope, as opposed to the sheer drop at Ajanta, many of the caves have elaborate courtyards in front of the main shrines. In all there are 34 caves 12 Buddhist (600800 AD), 17 Hindu (600900 AD) and 5 Jain (8001000 AD). Ellora represents the renaissance of Hinduism under the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties, the subsequent decline of Indian Buddhism and a brief resurgence of Jainism under official patronage. The sculptural work at Ellora shows the increasing influence of tantric elements in these three religions and their coexistence at one site indicates a prolonged period of religious tolerance.

Buddhist Caves the southernmost 12 caves are all Buddhist viharas, except cave 10, which is a chaitya. While the earliest caves are quite simple, caves 11 and 12 are much more ambitious, probably in an attempt to compete with the more impressive Hindu temples. The sculptures here accurately convey the nobility, grace and serenity inherent in the Buddha. Caves 6 and 10 house images from the Buddhist and Hindu faith, under the same roof, the latter dedicated to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of Indian craftsmen.

The Hindu Caves while calm and contemplation infuses the Buddhist caves, drama and dynamic energy characterize those of the Hindu group (caves 13 to 29) in the middle of the escarpment. In terms of scale, creative vision and skill of execution, these are in a totally different league to the neighbouring Buddhist and Jain caves. Cave 14 was a Buddhist vihara converted to a temple dedicated Shiva in the 17th century. Scenes here include Shiva dancing the tandava; Shiva playing chess with his consort Parvati. Cave 15 is one of the finest in Ellora, though it is named the Das Avatar (10 incarnations of Vishnu) cave, it has more of Shaivite scenes. The other Hindu caves pall beside the majesty of the Kailasa temple, but nevertheless a worth a look. The Kailasa Temple in cave 16 is the masterpiece of Ellora. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it took almost a century to complete. This mountain abode of Lord Shiva, is in all probability, the world's largest monolith, the gateway, pavilion, assembly hall, sanctum and tower, all hewn out of a single rock. What is amazing about it is the fact, that unlike other temple structures which are built base onwards, the sculptor or architect involved here, started carving from the very top and the sides. Gigantic, though it is, it remains one of the most delicate and intricate ancient works of art. For three days in December this temple is the venue of the annual Ellora Dance & Music Festival. The Jain Caves mark the final phase of Ellora. They do not have the drama and high voltage energy of the Hindu temples nor are they as ambitious in size, but they balance this with their exceptionally detailed work.

They are about 1km north of the last Hindu cave. Cave 32 is the finest of the Jain caves. It has images of the Jain tirthankars including a seated image of Mahavira, Buddha's contemporary and the founder of the Jain religion. Each of the caves shows the beliefs of the Jains and their strict scientism that imbued in them a spirit of nonviolence towards all. Evening transfer to airport for your flight to Mumbai. In Mumbai you be met and transferred to your hotel.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 05: Mumbai/Udaipur
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel Later transfer to airport for flight to Udaipur. On arrival you are met and escorted to your hotel. Later visit of the city. Udaipur: Often called the Venice of the East, Udaipur is no doubt the most enchanting and romantic city of Rajasthan. Founded in 1568 by Maharana Udai Singh II following the final sacking of Chittorgarh by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. This extraordinarily beautiful city has come to be celebrated for its nassociation with Queen Padmini, and Meera Bai, royal princesses who are linked with the fortunes of the Sissodia family. The old city was once surrounded by a wall with entry through eleven gates, of which only five remain. The Suraj Pol or Sun Gate on the eastern side is the main entrance to the city. Udaipur is a lovely land around the azure Pichola Lake, hemmed in by the lush hills of the Aravallis. It is a fascinating blend of sights, sound and experiences and inspiration for the imagination of poets, painters and writers. Its kaleidoscope of fairytale palaces, lakes, temples, gardens and narrow lanes strewn with stalls, carry the flavor of a heroic past, epitomizing valour and chivalry. It is full of palaces, temples and havelis ranging from the modest to the extravagant.

City Palace is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan, with its scalloped arches, fretted balconies and cupolas. It is an imposing and majestic architectural marvel towering over the lake on a hill surrounded by crenellated walls. The building was started by Maharana Udai Singh II and there were subsequent additions by various maharanas down the years. It is a conglomeration of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms and hanging gardens. Although added by various maharanas at various times, the complex still retains a surprising uniformity of design. The main entrance is through the triple arched gate, the 'Tripolia'. The main part of the palace is now preserved as a museum. It includes the Mor Chowk with its beautiful mosaics of peacocks. The Manak Mahal or Ruby Palace has glass and mirror work while Krishna Vilas has a remarkable collection of miniatures. The Chini Mahal is noted for its blue and white ceramics and ornamental tiles. More paintings can be seen in the Zenana Mahal (Women's Palace) and in the Bari Mahal there is a pleasant central garden. There is also a Government Museum within the palace complex. The exhibits on display include apart from sculptures and paintings, a stuffed kangaroo and a Siamese twin deer.

The other part of the palace against the lake shore has been partly converted into two heritage hotels, the Shiv Niwas Palace and the Fateh Prakash Palace. There is a stunning Crystal Gallery in the Fateh Prakash Palace. The items on display include a rare collection of Osler's crystal ordered from England by Maharana Sajjan Singh in 1877, crystal chairs, tables and even beds. The Crystal Gallery overlooks the grandiose Durbar (Assembly) Hall with its massive chandeliers, some of the largest in the country. This is one of India's most impressive Durbar Hall with a lavish interior. The walls display royal weapons and striking portraits of former maharanas of Mewar. Th top floor of this high ceiling hall is surrounded by viewing galleries, where ladies of the palace could watch in veiled seclusion what was happening below.

Lord Minto, the viceroy of India, laid the foundation stone of the Durbar Hall in 1909 during the reign of Maharana Fateh Singh and as a mark of honour to the viceroy, it was originally named Minto Hall.

Lake Pichola this placid lake was enlarged by Maharana Udai Singh II after he founded the city. He built a masonry dam, known as the Badipol and the lake is now 4km in length and 3km wide. In the lake are two islands Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir. Boat rides on the lake especially in the evenings are very popular.

Jag Niwas is the island on which stands the famous Lake Palace. The palace was built by Maharana Jagat Singh II in 1754 and covers the whole island. Formerly the royal summer palace, it is today a luxury hotel, with shady courtyards, lotus ponds and even a small mango tree shading the swimming pool.

Jag Mandir is the other island palace on Lake Pichola. Maharana Karan Singh, but takes its name after Maharana Jagat Singh who made a number of additions to it commenced it. It is said that the Mughal emperor Shahjahan derived some of his inspiration for the Taj Mahal from this palace after staying here in 162324 while lading a revolt against his father Jahangir. Flanked by a row of enormous stone elephants, the island has an impressive chhatri (cenotaph) carved from grey blue stone. The view across the lake to the city is a scene of rare beauty.

Jagdish Temple located near the entrance of the City Palace, this temple was built in 1651by Maharana Jagat Singh. This fine IndoAryan temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, enshrines a black stone image of the Lord as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe.

Saheliyonki Bari or the Garden of the Maids of Honour, located in the north of the city, is a small ornamental garden with fountains, kiosks, marble elephants and delightful lotus pool. It was a popular relaxing spot where the royal ladies came for a stroll and hence the name. Bharatiya Lok Kala Mandir has an interesting exhibition of folk arts including dresses, dolls, masks, musical instruments, paintings and puppets. It is also a foundation for the preservation of local folk arts.

Evening enjoy a boat ride on Lake Pichola.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 06: Udaipur/Jodhpur
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel. Later drive to Jodhpur visiting Ranakpur en route.

Ranakpur is one of the largest and most important Jain temple complex lying in a remote valley of the Aravalli ranges in Southern Rajasthan. These temples were created in the 15th century AD during the reign of Rana Kumbha and are enclosed within a wall. They are well preserved and in near perfect condition. The main 'Chaumukh Temple' or Four Faced Temple is dedicated to the first tirthankar (apostle) Adinath. Built in 1439, this huge superbly carved temple has 29 halls supported by 1444 pillars, all distinctly carved and no two alike and enshrines the fourfaced image of Adinath. Rising in three storeys, the temple has four small shrines with 80 spires supported by 420 columns. Within the complex are two other temples dedicated to Neminath and Parsvanath. The temples have beautiful carvings similar to that of Khajuraho. There is also a Sun Temple, located a little distance away. The temple has polygonal walls richly embellished with carvings of warriors, horses and solar deities riding splendid chariots. A kilometer away from the main complex is located the Amba Mata Temple, dedicated to a form of goddess Durga. Please note shoes and all leather articles must be left at the entrance before entering the temple.

Later continue your drive to Jodhpur.

Later do a halfday tour of the city. Set at the edge of the Thar Desert, Jodhpur is the largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur. This imperial city that echoes with tales of antiquity in the emptiness of the desert, was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha, chief of the Rathore clan of Rajputs who claimed to be descendants of Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana. The Rathores ruled not only Jodhpur but also other Rajput princely states. The Rathore Kingdom was then known as Marwar, the Land of Death. The massive Mehrangarh Fort, topping a sheer rocky ridge right in the middle of the town dominates the city. A 10 Kms long wall built around a century surrounds the old city after the city was founded. From the fort one can clearly see where the old city ends and the new begins. As one of the closest major Indian cities to the border with Pakistan, Jodhpur has a large defence contingent.

Jodhpur is affectionately referred to as the 'Blue City' because of the indigo coloured houses in the old town. These can best be seen from the ramparts of the fort. Traditionally, blue signified the home of a Brahmin, but these days nonBrahmins have also taken on the practice. Apart from looking fresh and lively, it is believed that the colour works as an effective mosquito repellent. It is fascinating to wander around the jumble of winding streets in the old city.

While the graceful palaces, forts and temples strewn throughout the city bring alive the historic grandeur, exquisite handicrafts, folk dances music and the brightlyattired people lend a romantic aura to the city. The lifestyle in Jodhpur is unusually fascinating with folks wearing lovely multihued costumes artistically designed. The colorful turbans worn by the men folk add more colour to the city. Part of the film Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book was shot in Jodhpur and it was from here that those baggytight, horse riding trousers, jodhpurs, took their name.

Countless festivities celebrate the rich past and culture of the princely state. The Marwar Festival held annually is one such spectacular bonanza.

Mehrangarh Fort still run by the Maharaja of Jodhpur, this Majestic Fort is sprawled across a 125m high hill. This is one of the most impressive and formidable fort in fortstudded Rajasthan. The fort is approached by a winding road from the city 5km below. There are seven gates that lead into the fort. The Second gate is still scarred by cannon ball hits; the Jayapol was built by Maharaja Man Singh in 1806 following his victory over the armies of Jaipur and Bikaner; the Fatehpol or Victory Gate was erected by Maharaja Ajit Singh to commemorate his defeat of the Mughals.

The Lohapol (Iron Gate) is the final gate beside which are 15 hand prints, the sati (self immolation) marks of Maharaja Man Singh's widows who threw themselves upon his funeral pyre in 1843. They still attract devotional attention. Inside the fort is a series of courtyards and palaces. The palace apartments with marvelously carved panels, latticed windows have evocative names such as Sukh Mahal (Pleasure Palace), Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), the Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) and the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). These palaces house a fabulous collection of trappings of Indian royalty including a superb collection of palanquins, elephant howdahs (used when the Maharajas rode their elephants in processions), miniature paintings, musical instruments, costumes and furniture. There is even a display of rocking cradles. The Chamunda Devi Temple, dedicated to goddess Durga, stands on the southern end of the fort. There are also old cannons on the ramparts at this end and the views from here are superb.

Jaswant Thada located a short distance from the fort, just off the fort road, is a white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. The cenotaph built in 1899, was followed by the royal crematorium and three other cenotaphs that stand nearby. There are some beautiful marble jali (lattice) work and fine views from the terrace in front of the cenotaphs.

Umaid Bhawan Palace & Museum built of marble and pink sandstone, this immense palace is also known as the Chhittar Palace because of the local Chhittar sandstone used. Begun in 1929, it was designed by the president of the British Royal Institute of Architects for Maharaja Umaid Singh. It is said that the palace was built under the famine relief project to provide employment for thousands of local people during a time of severe drought. This opulent edifice in sandstone is still the residence of the former rulers with a part of it running as luxury hotel and remaining part as a museum. The museum has an amazing array of items belonging to the Maharaja such as weapons, antique clocks, and dainty crockery and hunting trophies.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 07: Jodhpur/Jaipur
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel. Later drive to Jaipur via Ajmer.

Ajmer is a burgeoning town on the shore of the Ana Sagar Lake flanked by barren hills. Ajmer derives its name from 'Ajaya Meru' or the invincible hill.

At the foot of which the present city stands. Ajmer is a major centre for Muslim pilgrims during the month long fast of Ramzan and has some impressive Muslim architecture. Especially famous is the Dargah Sharif, the tomb of a Sufi saint, which is equally revered by the Hindus and Muslims. For most travellers, Ajmer is however, a stepping stone to nearby Pushkar. Historically, the region had considerable strategic importance. The city was founded by Raja Ajay Pal Chauhan in the 7th Century AD and continued to be a major center of the Chauhan power till 1193 AD when it was sacked by Mohammed Ghouri on one of his periodic forays from Afghanistan. Since then Ajmer became home to many dynasties, which came and left leaving behind indelible marks of their culture and traditions on the city's history, converting it to an amalgam of various cultures and blend of Hinduism and Islam. It became the favourite residence of the Mughals.

One of the first contacts between the Mughals and the British occurred in Ajmer, when Sir Thomas Roe met Jahangir here in 1616. The city was subsequently taken over by the Scindias and in 1818 it was handed over to the British, becoming one of the few places in Rajasthan controlled directly by the British rather than being part of a princely state. The British chose Ajmer as the site for Mayo College, a prestigious school for the Indian princes, but today open to all those who can afford the fees.

The Dargah located at the foot of a barren hill in the old part of the town, this is India's most important pilgrimage center for people from all faiths. Popularly known as Dargah Sharif, it is the tomb of the Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti who came to Ajmer from Persia in 1192. Construction of the shrine was completed by Mughal Emperor Humayun and its massive gate was added by the Nizam of Hyderabad. Akbar used to make a pilgrimage to the Dargah from Agra once a year. The two massive iron cauldrons in the courtyard are for offerings, which are customarily shared by the family involved in the shrine's upkeep. There are two mosques in courtyard one built by Akbar and the other by Shahjahan. The saint's tomb with a marble dome is in the centre of the second courtyard and is surrounded by a silver platform. Please note you have to cover your head in certain areas of the Dargah, hence kindly keep a scarf or cap. The shrine is next only to Mecca for the Muslims of south Asia. The Urs Mela commemorating the death anniversary of the saint is held here in the seventh month of the lunar calendar and attracts a large number of Muslims from India and abroad. A colourful fair that springs up during this time is the major attraction.

Arrive Jaipur, check into your hotel. Rest of the day at leisure. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 08: In Jaipur
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel. Later visit the Amber Fort. Amber located 11km north of Jaipur, this was the ancient capital of the Jaipur State. Construction of the fortpalace was begun in 1592 by Maharaja Man Singh, the Rajput commander of Akbar's army. It was later extended and completed by the Jai Singh before the move to the plains.

The fort is a superb example of Rajput architecture, stunningly situated on a hillside and overlooking a lake, which reflects its terraces and ramparts. The Fort is a beautiful complex of palaces, halls, pavilions, gardens and temples. Centuries of disuse have not withered their pristine beauty. Notable structures include the DiwanIAm (Hall of Public Audience), a pillared hall with latticed galleries. The Jai Mandir or Hall of Victory is noted for its inlaid panels and glittering mirror ceiling. The Sukh Niwas or Hall of Pleasure has an ivory inlaid sandalwood doorway. The Shila Mata temple has the image of the patron deity Kali, a form of goddess Durga. The temple is still in use. The best way of experiencing the majesty of the Bygone era is by taking an elephant ride to the top of the fort.

Afternoon a halfday tour of Jaipur City. The colourful and vibrant capital of the State of Rajasthan is popularly known as the 'Pink City' because of the pinkcoloured buildings in its old city. it sits on a dry lakebed in a somewhat arid landscape, surrounded by barren hills surmounted by forts and crenellated walls. The city owes its name, foundation and careful planning to the great warriorastronomer Maharaja Jai Singh II (16931743). In 1727, with Mughal power on the wane, Jai Singh moved down from his hillside fort at nearby Amber to a new site on the plains. He laid out the city, with its surrounding walls and rectangular blocks, according to principles set down in the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient Hindu treatise on architecture. It is one of India most well planned cities with wide straight avenues, roads, streets and lanes in a grid system.

The walled old city is in the northeast of Jaipur, while the new parts are spread to the south and west. The main tourist attractions are in the old city. the principle shopping centre in the old city is the Johari Bazaar (Jewellers Market). There is a timeless appeal to Jaipur's colourful bazaars where one can shop for Rajasthani handlooms and trinkets. Beautifully laid out gardens and parks, attractive monuments and marvelous heritage hotels are worth admiration. Not to mention the ambling camels and cheerful people in multihued costumes who make a trip to the pink city a memorable one.

Visit Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds, built in 1799 is the major landmark of Jaipur. This 5storey building that overlooks the main street of the old city, is a stunning example of Rajput artistry with its pink semioctagonal and delicately honeycombed sandstone windows. It was originally built to enable the ladies of the royal household to watch the everyday life and processions of the city.

City Palace Complex located in the heart of the old city, the City Palace occupies a large series of courtyards, gardens and buildings. The palace is a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal styles. The sons of the last Maharaja and his family still reside in a part of the palace. Before the palace proper is the Mubarak Mahal or Welcome Palace built in the late 19th century by Maharaja Madho Singh II as a Reception centre for visiting dignitaries. It now forms part of the Maharaja Sawai Mansingh II Museum, containing a collection of royal costumes and superb shawls including Kashmiri pashmina (goat's wool). Other exhibits include armory of Mughals and Rajputs including swords of different shapes and sizes with chased handles, some of them inlaid with enamel and embellished with jewels and encased in magnificent scabbards.

Other interesting features of the complex are the DiwanIAm or the Hall of Audience, with its intricate decorations and manuscripts in Persian and Sanskrit. The DiwanIKhas or Hall of Private Audience, with a marblepaved gallery and the exquisite Peacock Gate in the Chandra Mahal courtyard. Outside the buildings are kept enormous silver vessels in which the former Maharaja used to take the holy water of the Ganges on his trip to England. The complex also has an Art Gallery with an excellent collection of miniature paintings, carpets, royal paraphernalia and rare astronomical works in Arabic, Persian, Latin and Sanskrit, acquired by Maharaja Jai Singh II to study astronomy in detail.

Jantar Mantar located next to the entrance to the City Palace is this Observatory, built by Maharaja Jai Singh in 1728. Jai Singh's passion for astronomy was even more notable than his power as a warrior. This is the largest and best preserved of the five observatories that he built. The others are at Delhi, Varanasi and Ujjain. The fifth, the Muthura observatory is destroyed.

The complex is a collection of curious instruments, each having a specific purpose such as measuring the positions of stars, altitudes and azimuths and calculating eclipses. The most striking instrument is the sundial with its 27m high gnomon.

Museums & Galleries there are a couple of interesting museums and galleries in Jaipur. The Central Museum, housed in the architecturally impressive Albert Hall in the Ram Niwas Public Gardens has sections on natural history, tribal wares, dioramas depicting Rajasthani dances, decorative arts, costumes, and musical instruments. The Museum of Indology is an extraordinary private collection of folk art objects and other bits and pieces of interest. There is everything from a map of India painted in a rice grain to manuscripts (one written by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb), tribal ornaments, fossils, old currency notes, clocks and much more. Near the Ram Niwas Public Gardens, in an old theater is Jaipur's Modern Art Gallery. The Juneja Art Gallery has an excellent collection of contemporary paintings.

Overnight at the hotel

Day 09: Jaipur/Bharatpur/Agra
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel. Later drive to Agra en route visit the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Keoladeo Ghana National Park Bharatpur is now renowned for its World Heritage listed Bird Sanctuary, the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. The sanctuary was formerly a vast semiarid region filling with water during the monsoon only to dry up afterwards. To prevent this, the Maharaja of Bharatpur diverted water from a nearby irrigation canal and within a few years birds began to settle in vast numbers. It is now one of the finest bird sanctuaries in the world inundated with over 400 species of water birds. Exotic migratory birds from Afghanistan, Central Asia, Tibet as well as Siberian cranes, and bareheaded geese from China, come here in July/August to spend the winters in warmer climate and they breed till October/November. Other common bird life to be seen are cormorants, spoonbills, storks, egrets, herons, pelicans, ibis and herons can be spotted all over the park. The raised paths camouflaged by babul trees make their viewing easier.

The best time to visit the park is from October to late February when many migratory birds can be spotted. Continue your drive to Agra via Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur Sikri perched atop a rocky ridge 37 km west of Agra, lies this abandoned capital of the Mughals. It was built by Akbar during 1564 AD and was the first planned city in IndoIslamic style. A sonless Akbar visited the village of Sikri to seek the blessings of the Muslim saint Sheikh Salim Chishti. The saint prophesied the birth of three sons to him and soon thereafter was born Prince Salim, later to become Emperor Jahangir. In gratitude for the blessing Akbar decided to create imperial residences in Sikri, which would function as a joint capital with Agra. As a mark of his faith and his recent victories, he named his new city Fatehpur Sikri. However, the capital was abandoned after 14 years due to shortage of water. Akbar was a keen builder and the plan of Fatehpur Sikri reveals an architectural mastermind at work. The city is built in red sandstone and is a beautiful blend of Hindu and Islamic architectural elements. Each important edifice here represents a type by itself. Notable among them are the Buland Darwaza (Great Gateway), DiwaniKhas (Hall of Private Audience), Panch Mahal (5storeyed Palace) and Birbal's Bhawan (the home of one of Akbar's ministers). The homes of Akbar's wives, the Hindu Jodha Bai's palace, the Christian Mariyam's mansion and the Turkish Sultana's Mahal Ankh Micholi (Hide and Seek) are some of the other fascinating buildings to be seen. The beautiful marble tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti attracts thousands of devotees. Today it's a perfectly preserved Mughal city built at the height of the empire's splendor. Later continue your drive to Agra.

Arrive Agra and check into your hotel.


Overnight at hotel.

Day 10: In Agra
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel. Later full day tour of Agra. The city of the world famous "Taj Mahal".

The City of the Taj is an educational and business centre known for its craftsmen and handicrafts. In the great epic Mahabharata the region of Agra is described as 'Agraban' and it was an integral part of 'Braj Bhoomi' or the land of Lord Krishna. Concrete history outlines the origins of Agra to 1475 AD when it was under the reign of Raja Badal Singh. However, Agra came into limelight during the rule of the Afghan King Sikandar Lodhi, who had made it the capital of his empire. Later in 1526 AD the Mughal Emperor Babar took upon himself the task for rendering Agra, a unique character and beauty of its own. The visionary that he was and a great patron of the arts, he brought in a change in the culture and lifestyle among the people of Agra, which then brought forth some of the finest craftsmen, artists, statesmen, warriors and nobility, this part of India had ever witnessed. The golden age of Agra's history thus began to set in. The next few hundred years witnessed the rise of the pomp and pageantry of three great Mughal monarchs, Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan, all of whom lavished on this city, their love and riches to transform the land into one of the great centers of art, culture, learning and commerce. Marble and softstone inlay work, carpet and leather goods are some important traditional crafts of the city.

Taj Mahal situated on the banks of the Yamuna River, this masterpiece in marble built on a sandstone base is a monument to love and beauty. Shahjahan built it in the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Begum. There are tombs of Mumtaz and Shahjahan within the mausoleum. The construction started in 1631 a year after Mumtaz's death, it took 22 years in the making and an estimated 20,000 people worked to complete this enchanting mausoleum.

Agra Fort is situated by the side of Yamuna River. The great Mughal Emperor Akbar commissioned the construction of the Agra Fort in 1565 AD although additions were made till the time of his grandson Shahjahan. The forbidding exteriors of this fort hide an inner paradise. There are a number of exquisite buildings like the Moti Masjid, a white marble mosque akin to a perfect pearl, DiwaniAm (Hall of Public Audience), DiwaniKhas (Hall of Private Audience), Musamman Burj, where Shahjahan died in 1666 AD, and Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). Jahangir's Palace within the fort complex contains evidence of Bengali and Gujarati architecture. Tomb of Itmaduddaullah was built by Empress Noor Jahan, the wife of Shahjahan in memory of her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg during 162228 AD. It is a small tomb but made of splendid marble construction that is considered to be the forerunner of the Taj Mahal. The craftsmanship foreshadows that of the Taj Mahal. It was here that 'pietra dura' the inlay work on marble, so characteristic of the Taj was first used.

Dayal Bagh is the headquarters of the Radhaswami sect of Hinduism that founded in 1861. On the sprawling lawns here, is a beautiful marble temple under construction for almost 100 years now. It is also known as Swami Bagh.
Overnight at hotel.

Day 11: Agra/Gwalior/Orchha
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel. Later drive to Orchha via Gwalior. The history of Gwalior dates back to 8th century AD, when its chieftain Suraj Sen was cured of leprosy by a hermitsaint named Gwalipa. Out of sheer gratitude, Suraj Sen named the city after his saviour. Gwalior's strategic position between north and south India made it an important possession and was captured by several ruling houses. The first historical holders of the city were the Huns. Between 11th to 14th century AD, Gwalior came under the influence of Kachhwaha Rajputs, the Pratiharas, the Sultans Qutubuddin Aibak and Iltutmish and remained under Muslim possession until 1398. Under the Tomars, whose most important king was Man Singh (14861517), Gwalior rose to prominence. Gwalior was finally surrendered to Ibrahim Lodi in 1518. Held in succession by the Mughals, Jats, Marathas and the British, Gwalior was finally handed over to Jiyaji Rao Scindia at a formal durbar in 1885. The Scindias were the last ruling family of Gwalior and are still influential in the political arena of India. The City of Gwalior is dominated by its Qila or Fort, which tops the long hill to the north of the new town Lashkar. The old town clings to the hill northeast of the Fort. Today, the city is famous for its educational institutions that attract students from every nook and corner of the country.

Gwalior Fort the city's most famous landmark has within its wall several interesting temples and ruined palaces. Rising 100m above the town, the walls of the fort encircle almost the entire hilltop. On the way uphill to the fort are located the massive icons of Bahubali, a Jain master which are cut out of huge rocks.

Teli Ka Mandir is a 9th century complex within the fort that has a peculiar plan and design. The roof is Dravidian while the decorations (the whole temple is covered with sculptures) are IndoAryan. A figure of Garuda crowns the 95m high doorway. This is the highest structure in the fort.

Sas Bahu Temples literally meaning Motherinlaw (Sas) Daughterinlaw (Bahu) temples are another architectural marvel and date from the 9th to 11th centuries. Originally known as the "Sahasrabahu" temple, this temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is probably the most ancient of the structures within the fort precinct.

Man Mandir Palace was once a grand music hall built by Raja Man Singh during 1486 for the royal ladies of the palace. It's also known as Chit Mandir or Painted Palace. A delightful and whimsical building, it is the most impressive building in the fort, richly studded with blue, green and yellow tile work creating patterns of animals, birds, tree and flowers on its exteriors. The Archeological Museum located within the Gujari Mahal Palace, built in the 15th century by Raja Man Singh for his favorite queen, Mrignayani, has a large collection of Hindu and Jain sculptures and copies of Bagh Caves frescoes.

Jai Vilas Palace & Scindia Museum located in the new town, the palace belongs to the Scindia family. Although the current Maharaja still lives in a portion of the palace, a large part of it is now a museum.

It's full of bizarre items such as Belgian cutglass furniture, modes of transport ranging from a Rolls Royce on rails to German bubble car, a model railway that carried brandy and cigarettes around the dining table after dinner and so on.  After the visit of Gwalior continue your drive to Orchha.

Overnight at hotel.

Day 12: Orchha/Khajuraho
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel. Later visit the famous Orchha temples. Orchha is located in the northern part of the State of Madhya Pradesh and lies besides the Malwa plateau along the Betwa River. The word Orchha literally means 'hidden place'. Once the capital of the Bundelas, it is now just a village set among a wonderful complex of well preserved palaces and temples. It was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela Rajput chieftain, Rudra Pratap and it remained the capital till 1783, when nearby Tikamgarh became the new capital. Orchha's golden age was during the first half of the 17th century. Of the succeeding rulers, the most notable was Raja Bir Singh Deo who ruled for almost 22 years.

Complementing the notable proportions of the exteriors are the interiors that represent the finest flowering of the Bundela school of painting. Today Orchha is just a village set amongst a complex of well preserved palaces and temples but nevertheless a wonderful relaxing place. Its impressive temples dating back to the 17th century are still in use today and are visited by thousands of devotees. The area is peppered with fascinating little shrines and memorials, all of which add to the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, the city evokes in the visitor

Fort Complex & its Palaces approached by a multi arched bridge over the Betwa River the complex is set on an island in the River and is surrounded by fortified walls. The complex has three palaces set in an open quadrangle. The most spectacular of these is the Jahangir Mahal, built by Raja Bir Singh Deo to commemorate the visit of Mughal Emperor Jahangir to Orchha in 1606. It is a tiered palace crowned by graceful chhatris. There is also a small Archaeological Museum inside this palace. The Raj Mahal palace nearby is situated to the right of the quadrangle. Its interiors have exquisite murals, boldly colourful and on a variety of religious themes. The third palace is the Rai Praveen Mahal, built for the poetess and musician Rai Praveen, the paramour of Raja Indramani (167276). This palace is a low twostoried brick structure designed to match the height of the trees in the surrounding gardens.

The Temples Orchha's impressive temples date back to the 16th century. They are still in use today and are visited regularly by thousands of devotees.

Ram Raja Temple is the main temple in the centre of the modern village. Originally a palace, it was turned into a temple when an image of Lord Ram temporarily installed proved impossible to move. Today with its soaring spires and palatial architecture, the temple is surely one of the most unusual in India. It is also the only temple where Lord Ram is worshipped as Raja (king).

Chaturbhuj Temple built on a massive stone platform and reached by a steep flight of steps, this temple was specially constructed to enshrine the image of Lord Rama that remained in the Raja Ram temple. Lotus emblems and other symbols of religious significance provide the delicate exterior ornamentation.

Laxmi Narayan Temple linked to the Raja Ram temple by a flagstone path, the style of this temple is an interesting synthesis of fort and temple moulds.

The interior contains the most exquisite of Orchha's wall paintings. These murals are vibrant compositions and cover a variety of spiritual and secular subjects. They are in an excellent state of preservation with the colours retaining their vivid quality.

Later drive to Khajuraho. Half day visit of Khajuraho temples. The erstwhile capital of the Chandela Kings, Khajuraho is famous for its magnificent temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and the Jain tirthankars. These temples were built between 950 and 1050 AD and represent some of the most exquisite specimens in medieval India that has made Khajuraho one of the most beautiful religious centers of that time. Today Khajuraho is a little village in a lonely corner of the state of Madhya Pradesh. None of the palaces or dwellings of the former city remain and there is no sign of the golden date palms that once graced the entrance of the city and gave it the name "Khajurvahika" or bearer of the date palms. With the wane of the Chandela Empire, these magnificent temples lay neglected and vulnerable to the ravages of Nature. It was only in the last century that they were rediscovered, restored and granted the recognition that they justly deserve.

Originally there were 85 temples, of which only 22 still exist. Despite the fact that they were dedicated to different Hindu gods Shiva, Vishnu and Jain saints, they followed the same architectural style. Each structure stands on a high masonry platform with a distinct upward direction to their build, further enhanced by several vertical projections to simulate the effect of an overall lightness. The temples are almost all aligned east to west, with the entrance facing east. Some of the earliest were made of granite, but all the ones from the classic period of Khajuraho's history are made of sandstone. The three main compartments of the temple are the entrance (ardhamandapa), assembly hall (mandapa), and the actual sanctum (garbha griha).

The decorations, the exquisitely carved sculptures, with which the temples are so liberally embellished have made Khajuraho famous. The divine sculptures in these temples are a tribute to Life itself, embodying everything that is sublime and spontaneous about it. There is an astonishing profusion of individual figures of gods, goddesses, and voluptuous women, mythical beasts, couples in erotic poses and elaborate friezes carved in minute detail.

The murals depict the life and times of the Chandelas and celebrate the erotic state of being. They not only testify to the mastery of the craftsman, but also to the extraordinary breadth of vision of the Chandelas. The temples are grouped into three geographical divisions: western, eastern and southern.

The Western Group comprise of the following temples:
Kandariya Mahadeo is not only the largest but also artistically and architecturally the most perfect of Khajuraho's temples. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it soars 31m high. The sanctum enshrines a lingam while the main shrine is ornately carved and depicts various gods, goddesses, apsaras (heavenly maidens) in elaborate detail. The entrance arch, the massive pillars and ceilings are adorned with exquisite carvings that leave the visitor spellbound.

Lakshmana Temple is one of the earliest of this group and also one of the best preserved. It has a full five part floor plan and four subsidiary shrines. The lintel over the entrance of this temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, shows the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva with Goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu's consort.

The sanctum is adorned with a threeheaded idol of Vishnu's incarnations, Narasimha and Varaha. Around the base of the temple is a continuous frieze with scenes of battles, hunting and processions.

Chausath Yogini is the oldest surviving temple in the group dating to 900 AD. It is the sole granite temple dedicated to Goddess Kali and the only one not aligned east to west. Chausath means 64 and the temple once had 64 cells for figures of the 64 yoginis who attended Goddess Kali.

Vishwanath Temple enshrines a threeheaded image of Lord Brahma. Lions guard the northern entrance to the structure, while elephants flank the southern flight of steps that lead upto it. A Nandi bull faces the shrine. The sculptures of women are particularly notable here they write letters, fondle a baby, play music and perhaps more so than at any other temple, languish in provocative poses.

Matangeshwara Temple this temple, which happens to be outside the precincts of the western group, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It boasts of a 2.5m high polished lingam. This temple is visited by devotees even today.

The other lesser important temples in this group are the Parvati temple, which has an image of Ganga riding on the back on a crocodile and the Lalguan Mahadev temple, which is constructed of granite and sandstone and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 13: Khajuraho/Varanasi
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel.

Later visit Archaeological Museum located near the western group, this museum has a fine collection of statues and sculptures rescued from around Khajuraho.

The Eastern Group can be further sub divided into two groups, the first is made up of interesting Jain temples in the walled enclosure and the other scattered through the small village of Khajuraho.

Afternoon transfer to airport for flight to Varanasi. On arrival you be met and escorted to your hotel via Sarnath. Sarnath located about 10km from Varanasi, it is one of the important Buddhist centres. It is the site where Lord Buddha had preached his first sermon or in religious language, set in motion the Wheel of Law (MahaDharmachakraPravartan) enshrining the principles of his teaching into laws. 200 years later, in 3rd century BC, the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka who spread the Buddha's message of love and compassion throughout his vast empire, built massive stupas, viharas and monasteries making it the centre of the Buddhist world. Several Buddhist structures were raised at Sarnath between 3rd century BC and 11th century AD and today it presents the most expansive ruins amongst places on the Buddhist trail. There are two ancient stupas for ceremonial public worship and their present names are Dhamekh and Dharmarajika. Dharmarajika was dismantled in 18th century by Jagat Singh of Varanasi. Ashoka erected several monuments here. Chaukhandi Stupa comes first. Akbar repaired the same in order to commemorate his father's visit to Sarnath. Sarnath Museum has a rich collection of Buddhist sculptures and numerous Buddha and Bodhisattva images that are considered amongst the finest specimens of Buddhist art. It also has the magnificent Lion capital, India's National Emblem. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 14: Varanasi/Delhi
Early morning boatride on River Ganges.

The Ganges at Varanasi The grandeur of the sacred Ganges River here cannot be expressed in words. It is said that bathing here removes all ills and sins. A boat ride early in the morning on the holy river is an unforgettable experience. A chance to see the Burning Ghats were cremations are conducted and the Bathing Ghats were devotees take a dip in the holy water and offer prayers.

Ghats for a distance of nearly 5km the stone steps of 70 ghats and more lead from a steep bank down to the holy Ganga river. Thousands of pilgrims flock here daily to take a dip in the sacred waters and to worship the sun. Near Manikarnika, the chief burning ghat of Varanasi is the Charanpaduka pedestal where Lord Vishnu's footprints are preserved in marble. The other important ghats are Asi Ghat, Lala Misi ghat, Tulsi Ghat, Dandi Ghat, Hanuman Ghat, Ahalya Bai Ghat, Munshi Ghat, Mir Ghat and many more. Later a halfday tour of Varanasi City. Varanasi, the City of Lord Shiva, is situated on the bank of the sacred Ganges River and is one of the holiest cities of India. Hindu pilgrims come to bathe in the waters of the Ganges, a ritual that washes away all sins. The city also known as Banares is a magical city where the most intimate rituals of life and death take place in public on the city's famous ghats (riverbanks). It is this accessibility to the practices of ancient religious tradition that captivates many visitors. In the past the city has been known as Kashi and Banares, but its present name is a restoration of an ancient name meaning the city between two rivers, the Varuna and Assi. It has been a centre of learning and civilization for over 2000 years and claims to be one of the oldest living cities in the world. The old city, situated on the western bank of the Ganges in a labyrinth of alleyways, does have an antique feel but few buildings are more than a couple of hundred years old due to the marauding Muslim invaders and the destructive tendencies of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Lord Buddha further enhanced its eminence by preaching his first sermon after attaining the enlightenment at Sarnath located 10km away from Varanasi. The early history of the city as gleaned from Buddhist literatures speak of a constant struggle between the dynasties of the Kosalas and Mallas for its possession. In later times it suffered defacement as Muslim invaders destroyed many of its temples.

Later visit of the city. Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu who is manifested here as Vishveswara (Lord of the Universe). Rani Ahalya Bai Holkar of Indore erected this temple in 1776. It is located in the heart of the city and surrounded by shops where business seems to go round the clock. This is the most sacred of all shrines in Varanasi. It was built next to the site of the old temple that was destroyed by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb who built the Gyanvapi Mosque on its ruins. Between the temple and the mosque is the famous Gyan Kut or the 'Well of Knowledge'. There are many smaller temples around notable among them are the Ganesh Temple, Annapurna temple and the Shanischar Temple.

Afternoon: Transfer to airport for flight to Delhi. Arrive Delhi where you be and escorted to your hotel. Overnight at the hotel

Day 15: In Delhi
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel. Later full day tour of Old & New Delhi.

Commence your tour with Old Delhi. The tour of Old Delhi starts with the visit of Red Fort. This palace citadel was built Shah Jehan in 1648 and was a veritable city within a city. When Shah Jehan transferred his capital from Agra to Delhi he built the Red Fort as his residential palace as well as his military fortress. The fort is a complex of marble buildings with balconies, filigreed windows, massive red sandstone walls, ramparts and gateways. The most elegant building is the DIWAN I KHAS or the Hall of Private Audience. From the Red Fort you will take a cycle rickshaw to Chandni Chowk or the Moonlit Square. It is a medieval area in which you will recognize not just Cairo or Istanbul, but also Chester and Heidelberg. This is perhaps one of the Delhi's most populated areas and the largest marketplace jewelers, spice merchants, food vendors, money lenders, shopping arcades, workshops as well as residences, are crammed here. Within this area is the British built Town Hall, the St. James Church built by colonel Skinner in the early 19th century, the old St. Stephen's college and the office of the state department of Archeology with a colonnaded facade going back to the 19th century when it was the British Residency.

Afternoon: Visit New Delhi. The tour starts with a drive to Raisina Hill. Visit the Viceroy's House (Now the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the residence of Indian President) and Lutyen's magnum opus. It is larger than Versailles and architecturally is a fusion of Indian and Western design. Within the courtyard is the 145 feet high Jaipur Collumn, a symbol of victory designed by Luyten. He created another masterpiece 250 acre Mughal Garden on the grounds of the Rastrapati Bhavan which at one time required the care of 418 men. The great Vice Regal Palace required a staff of 2000. At the foot of Raisina Hill is the India Gate, a war memorial arch which Luyten built in honor of 60000 soldiers who died in World War I. It is also inscribed with the name s of some 13000 Indian and British soldiers missing presumed dead. Next to it is Luyten's last imperial monument he built, a stone canopy in which he placed the marble statue of the King George V after his death in 1936. Proceed to the Parliament House which Luyten built in a circular colossum design. It was here that the constitution of independent India was drafted. Drive to Humayuns Tomb which is perhaps the finest Mughal building in Delhi. The tomb stands on a raised platform and is built of red sandstone . The construction of the Tomb was completed in 1565. The tomb stands in well laid out Mughal garden. Proceed to the Qutub Minar complex which is Delhi's Eiffel Tower. Visit the mosques, mausoleums and ruins of the forts that lie around it including the Iron Pillar which is Delhi totem pole 24 feet high, made of 99% steel and which has stood for 1600 years without a speck of rust on it.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 16: Delhi / Return destination
Early morning you be transferred to the airport to board your flight for onward journey.

Home | About Us | Contact Us | Payment options | Ethics and values | Customised tours | Why Travel with Topcamp | Booking | Other Links
Copyright © Topcamp Leisure & Events 2011