Trail to India - Maharaja and Palace Tour

Maharaja and Palace Tour

Maharaja and Palace Tour

Rajasthan is the most colorful region in India, if not in the world. Literally the 'land of Kings', much of India's history comes from this awe-inspiring land. Many great battles were fought between the armies of the ruling Maharajahs, who each controlled their own kingdoms. Rajasthan still retains an elusive fairy-tale character. A land where the tales of velour of its medieval Rajput warriors are still sung by its traveling bards. Where opulent palaces dot the desert landscape and battle-scarred fortresses appear on every hill like sentinels of the past. Mighty forts and lavish palaces are plentiful. This aristocratic society existed until just recently, ending only with India's independence in 1947. The royal families survive today, along with their palaces, some of which have been partially or totally converted into hotels or museums worthy of their glorious past.

Here folk culture still retains all its color and vivacity. The exuberant celebrations of fairs and festivals, a music that echoes across the desert emptiness, and a tradition of craftsmanship with a highly developed aesthetic sense. This tour is the best of Rajasthan, featuring a sampling of cultural treasure, architectural accomplishments and the living arts – Indian music and dance, one garners a real sense of the astonishing diversity of this amazing nation.

Day 01:Arrival Delhi

Flight to Delhi. Arrival in Delhi and transfer to the hotel. Check in time is 1200 hrs.

Day 02: Delhi

In Delhi's 3000 years of existence, seven cities stood where the present capital of India stands. Here you'll encounter a fascinating blend of the ancient and the contemporary - where government buildings, medieval palaces and bazaars exist besides a modern metropolis. Delhi is a city waiting to be explored.

After breakfast sightseeing of Old and New Delhi.

Visit the 7th city of Delhi, Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) which was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1639-48 AD) afterRed Fort he shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi. Red Fort – the 17th century imposing fortress built in red sandstone is surrounded by a huge boundary wall 33m high. Inside are exquisite palaces and beautiful gardens. Opposite the Red Fort lies Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) made of red sandstone and white marble, completed in 1656. It is India's largest mosque where more than 20.000 people can kneel in prayer. Visit Raj Ghat on the banks of the river Yamuna, Mahatma Gandhi's Memorial, where he was cremated following his assassination in January 1948. The memorial lies in the midst of landscaped gardens and made of a simple square platform of black marble inscribed with his last words "Hey Ram". An eternal flame burns 24 hours.

Afternoon visit New Delhi.

Visit the Humayun's Tomb, built by his wife Haji Begum in the 16th. Century. An early example of Mughal architecture considered Humayun Tombthe predecessor of the Taj Mahal. The Qutub Minar – the landmark of Delhi, a huge tower of victory started in 1199 and completed in 1368. The minar is 72.5m high with a diameter at the base 14.4m and 2.7m at the top. Proceed to the Rashtrapati Bhawan once the Viceroy's residence is now the official residence of the President of India. Designed by Lutyens, it combines western and eastern styles – the dome reflects the Buddhist stupa, the chattris Hindu and the graceful colonnades very British. It has 340 rooms. The Government Buildings designed by Baker, are topped by baroque domes and decorated with lotus motifs and elephants, while the north and south gateways are Mughal in design. The northern building has an inscription with "Liberty will not descend to a people; a people must raise themselves to liberty. It is a blessing which must be earned before it can be enjoyed". The Parliament House, designed by Baker is 173m in diameter. Inside is the library and chambers for the council of state, chamber of princes and legislative assembly. The India Gate (42m), commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who died in the 1st world war. 13516 names of British and Indian soldiers killed in the Afghan War of 1919 are engraved on the arch and foundations. Under the arch, the Amar Jawan Jyoti commemorating Indian armed forces' losses in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.

Overnight stay at the hotel in Delhi.

Day 3: Delhi – Agra The City on the Lake

(204 km)

After breakfast drive to Agra. En-route visit Sikandra, 9 kilometer before Agra, the mausoleum of the great Mughal King Akbar (1556-1605).

Proceed to the hotel on arrival in Agra. Check in at the hotel.

Agra stands on the right bank of the river Yamuna, was once the seat of the Mughal rulers, the zenith of art and an enshrined romance. A town famous for its beautiful medieval monuments. The passion of the Mughals for building endowed it with some of the loveliest buildings in the world.

Today, afternoon visit the world famous monument of India, the Taj Mahal (1631-1653), a poem in white marble, built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaj Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. It employed 20,000 workers from the Central Asia and Europe for 22 years to construct this extravagant monument of love, inlaying the white marble edifice with precious and semi precious stones. Overnight stay at the hotel in Agra.

IMP: TAJ MAHAL IS CLOSED ON FRIDAY.

Day 4: Agra – Jaipur

(204 km)

After breakfast visit Agra Fort (Fort and Palace) situated on the west bank of the river Jamuna, made by the Mughal King Agra FortAkbar in the 16th century and completed by his grandson Shah Jahan, who was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb for 8 years in this fort, before his death. The fort is crescent-shaped and the perimeter is 2.4 km long

After sightseeing of Agra Fort drive to Jaipur. 40 km (1 hour) from Agra, lies the beautiful and deserted medieval city built by Akbar the Great in the 16th century to serve as the capital of his vast empire. It was mysteriously abandoned 13 years later. Today, it is perfectly preserved as a ghost city built at the height of the empire's splendor.

Further drive to Jaipur. After arrival check-in to hotel. Jaipur was built in the 18th century by Maharaja Jai Singh II. It is a planned city built with ancient Hindu rules as the colonial capital of a richly colorful state. It was made attractive with the pink wash - a traditional colour of welcome in 1853 in honour of the visit of Prince Albert.

Overnight stay at the hotel in Jaipur.

Day 5: Jaipur

After breakfast, half-day excursion trip takes you to Amber Fort. En route, make a photo stop at the palace of winds theAmer fort Hawa Mahal. A 5 stored building with 25cm thick facade from the 18 century having 953 windows and niches so that ladies of royal family could see the procession and events in the city without being visible to the people. Proceed to the Amber City Fort situated 130m high with the Aravalli hills around and 11 km north of Jaipur. It was the ancient capital of the Kachhawaha Rajputs till 1037. Enjoy an Elephant ride to the top of the Palace fort.

Return to Jaipur.

Afternoon visit the "Pink City" of Jaipur. The City Palace occupies the center of Jaipur. It now houses the Royal residence and museums with collections of textiles and costumes, armoury, manuscripts, paintings etc.

Also visit Jantar Mantar (1728-34) by king astrologer Jai Singh II. The instruments are built of stone with marble facing on the important plains for measuring the harmony of the heavens. Each instrument serves a particular function and each gives an accurate reading.

Overnight stay at the hotel in Jaipur.

Day 06: Jaipur – Bikaner

After an early breakfast a 7 hour drive through the barren and desert landscapes of India's desert country to Bikaner in the middle of Rajasthan's Thar desert. Bikaner was founded by Rao Bika in 1488. It is an oasis town among scrub and sand dunes. The walled city retains a medieval air and sandstone architecture.

Overnight stay at the hotel in Bikaner.

Day 7: Bikaner

After breakfast tour of Bikaner takes you to visit the Junagarh Fort which is unusual, because other major forts of Rajasthan were built on hilltops, but this fort is built on the desert plain, surrounded by a moat. Later proceed to the Camel Breeding Farm 9 km southeast of Bikaner. It claims to be the only one in Asia. A great sight in the afternoon, to see hundreds of camels as they return from grazing. The British army had a camel corps drawn from Bikaner during.Afternoon free.

Day 8: Bikaner – Jaisalmer

A full day's drive to Jaisalmer, in the midst of the Thar desert. The drive passes by dry vegetation, with villages of colorfully dressed people. Plenty of camels, camel-carts, sheep and goats pass you by.

Before you arrive Jaisalmer, which would be late evening, on the way from a distance, you can experience the unique view of the fort and the beautiful city Jaisalmer. Upon arrival check-in to the hotel.

Overnight stay at the hotel in Jaiselmer.

Day 9: Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer across the hot barren desert is magical as the city shimmers like a mirage. The golden sandstone town walls and narrow streets lined with exquisitely carved buildings, through which camel carts trundge leisurely, has an extraordinarily medieval feel and aJaisalmer Fortn incredible atmosphere. The fort inside perched on its hilltop contains some gems of Jain temple building, while beautifully decorated merchants' havelis are scattered through the town.

The Havelis (mansions of the rich merchants) have beautifully carved facades, Jali screens and oriel windows overhanging the streets below. Visit Salim Singh Haveli (17 century) which is especially attractive with peacock brackets. Nathumal Haveli (1885) was built for the prime minister. Patwon Haveli (1805) is a group of five, built for five brothers. Possibly the finest in town. They have fine murals and carved pillars. A profusion of balconies cover the front wall.

Afternoon drive to Sam Sand Dunes to enjoy the camel ride and scintillating sun set on the desert.

Day 10: Jaisalmer – Jodhpur

After breakfast set out for on the drive to Jodhpur. Jodhpur the second largest city of Rajasthan, once the capital of Marwar, sprawls around the massively impressive cliff top Meherangarh Fort. Upon arrival check-in to the hotel.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 11: Jodhpur

After breakfast sightseeing of Jodhpur. Visit the impressive Mehrangarh Fort on a 37 m low sandstone hill built by Rao JodhaJaswant Thada in 1459 . From the top of the fort one can get a bird's eye view of the old city. You will notice the predominance of blue houses referred to as Brahmin houses - the colour being associated with the high caste. Proceed to the Jaswant Thada, an imposing marble cenotaph built in 1899 for Maharajah Jaswant Singh II, and smaller memorials to other Maharajahs of Jodhpur. At the end of the tour enjoy a short walk through the local and vibrant bazaar of Jodhpur.

After sightseeing drive to a small village Rohit with the fort from 16.century in the middle of the Thar desert. You will be the guest of the Thakurs in his fort styled small castle in which during the 16. Century lived Champavat Clan of the Rathore-Rajput. A family member will show you the village so that you could see the century old traditional handicraft work.

Late in the afternoon enjoy Jeep safari to the village to see the typical village life.

Overnight at the hotel.

Day 12: Rohit – Udaipur

After breakfast drive to Udaipur. En-route visit Ranakpur, the wonderful 3 temples of the Jain sect dating back to the 14th/15th century. The unforgettable main Temple dedicated to Adinatha the first Tirthankar (1439) built in marble took 65 years to complete. It is one of the five holy Jain pilgrimage centres, and has one of the best temple complexes. One can enjoy a good lunch (on direct payment) amid the 19th century walled orchard the Maharani Bagh Orchard belonging to the Royal family. The orchard is full of bougainvillea and fruit trees predominantly mangoes.

A beautiful two hours drive will bring you to Udaipur. Upon arrival check-in to the hotel. Rest of the day free.

Day 13: Udaipur

The city of Udaipur lies in the Girwa valley amidst the Aravali hills of south Rajasthan. It is considered a romantic city - City palace Udaipurwith its lakes, gardens, temples and palaces - an Oasis in the Thar desert. The old city is a traditionally planned fortified walled city, a maze of narrow winding lanes flanked by houses with doorways decorated with Mewar folk art, windows with stained glass or jali screens, massive havelis with large inner courtyards and shops. The legendary Ranas who ruled, traced their ancestry to the Sun Dynasty

This morning visit the City Palace built on the bank of the Pichola Lake, by Maharana Udai Singh in 1570. The impressive complex of several palaces is a blend of Rajput and Mughul influences. Half of it is still occupied by the Royal family, and part converted into a museum. The Jagdish Temple – (1651) was built by Maharana Jagat Singh. A fine example of the Nagara style of temple architecture. A brass Garuda stands outside and stone elephants flank the entrance steps. Inside is a black stone image of Vishnu as Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe. Sahelion-ki Bari an ornamental pleasure garden specially made for the ladies of the palace in the 18th century. It has beautiful fountains, trees and flowers.

Afternoon boat ride on the Pichola Lake

Overnight stay at the hotel in Udaipur.

Day 14: Udaipur – Mumbai

Transfer to the airport for the flight to Mumbai. After arrival transfer to hotel. Mumbai is India's most cosmopolitan city, an ancient port and trading centre. This palm- fringed shore of the Arabian Sea Gateway of Indiawas the British Empire's entrance to its `Crown Jewel'. Mumbai is also the centre for Hindi films. It is called Bollywood, with a credit of almost 900 films a year.

This afternoon a short tour Mumbai city, rich blend of East and West. The tour includes the 26 meter high British-built Arch "Gateway of India", Mumbai's landmark built to honour the visit of George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Marine Drive dubbed as the Queen's Necklace is Mumbai's most popular promenades and a favorite sunset watching spot. The Kamla Nehru Park from where you have a picturesque view of the city, Hanging Gardens are so named since they are located on top of a series of tanks that supply water to Mumbai. Pass by the `towers of silence' the crematorium of the Parsis. Also visit Mani Bhawan a private house where Mahatma Gandhi used to stay when he visited Mumbai. It is now a museum and research library with 20,000 volumes.

After sightseeing drive to the hotel.

Day 15:Mumbai – Home

Early morning transfer to the airport to connect flight back home.