Palaces, forts, temples and trains—a magical journey through India
If you've always wanted to visit India, what better way than combining a fascinating Hindu festival with travel on the luxury Royal Rajasthan Palace on Wheels train. This train offers a welcome alternative to traveling on India's crowded roadways and an opportunity to enjoy the scenery without having to pack and unpack. On this adventure we visit all the highlights of India: Rajasthan with its forts, palaces and a camel safari; Agra with the unaparalleled Taj; Varanasi and the iconic Ganges River and Khajuraho's fascinating temples. These destinations are crowned by the very popular Hindu festival, Dussehra. Dussehra marks the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama and also symbolizes the triumph of warrior Goddess Durga over the buffalo-demon, Mahishasura. Come join us on this unique cultural adventure in India.
11 days of easy activity. The activity consists of walking for sightseeing.
- Immerse yourself in the commanding forts and sumptuous palaces of Rajasthan
- Ride a camel in the land of the Bishnoi—an ancient ethnic group in Rajasthan concerned with environmental and wildlife protection
- Delight in the wonder of the Taj Mahal and Agra’s other treasures
- Spot wildlife at the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary—a haven for 380 resident and migrant species
- Revel in the Hindu Dussehra Festival which marks the defeat of Ravana by Lord Rama
Duration: 11 days Start Location: Delhi End Location: DelhiDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Delhi (This entire trip is below 6,000' elevation)
Arrive in Delhi and transfer to the hotel.
Day 2 : Delhi – Jodhpur – Siana
Today we’ll begin with a one-hour flight from Delhi to Jodhpur. We’ll then drive four hours to Siana, a small village in southwest Rajasthan with a semi-desert countryside bordered by sand dunes and agricultural lands. In the evening, witness the Dussehra Festival,a popular Hindu festival marking the defeat of Ravana, the king of Sri Lanka,by Lord Rama,the hero of the epic Ramayana. The story is retold through folk music and spontaneous dialogues lasting late into the twilight.
Days 3 - 4 : Siana
We embark on a two-day camel safari in the land of Bishnoi, a religious group that dates from the 15th century. The Bishnoi are followers of Guru Jambhoi, a Rajput man, who in the 15th century created a religion based on 29 principles of environmental and wildlife protection, which prohibit such things as the felling of trees and the killing of animals. The many Bishnoi followers throughout Rajasthan are well known for their concern for nature. The rare black buck, a beautiful Indian antelope, still survives in Bishnoi areas, where it is protected from harm. The Bishnoi women are beautiful and fine-featured, known for their gorgeous golden jewelry, including necklaces, nose rings, and ankle bracelets, all set off beautifully against their traditional crimson-colored saris. While on safari, we will come across their “dhanis” or huts.
Day 5 : Siana – Jodhpur – Royal Rajasthan
This morning we’ll drive about four hours to Jodhpur, arriving in time for lunch aboard the Royal Rajasthan Train. Completed in 2008, the Royal Rajasthan Palace on Wheels sets a new standard of luxury in northern India, with spacious compartments (three per car) featuring a private sitting area and en-suite bathrooms. This new deluxe train offers a welcome alternative to traveling on India's crowded roadways and an opportunity to enjoy the scenery as well as the luxury of not having to pack and unpack. Train travel provides a unique cadence by which to discover the landscapes and ancient cities of India, and this carefully designed new train is sure to enthrall train enthusiasts, recreating the golden age of rail travel with excellent service, spacious private compartments, and elegant dining in the two restaurant lounges. Large picture windows provide superb viewing of the passing landscape. The train is air-conditioned and includes a spa car with massage rooms as well as sauna and steam rooms.
Day 6 : Royal Rajasthan – Udaipur
The train arrives early this morning in Udaipur, where visitors’ dreams of India come true, for the city combines real beauty with picturesque associations of a great and glorious past. It stands in a valley, amid green hills on the banks of the wide, steel-blue Lake Pichola. On little islands in the lake from the water's edge rise marble palaces of pure white that glisten like fairy castles. Crowning the ridge along the shores of the lake is the palace of the Maharana. Within the palace is all the magnificence of the East—peacocks in mosaic on the walls, floors inlaid with tiles of rare beauty, and roof gardens affording magnificent views of the panorama.
The huge City Palace, towering over the lake, is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. Most of the palaces manage to retain a surprising uniformity of design. Building was started by Maharana Udai Singh, the city's founder. The Palace is surrounded by balconies, towers, and cupolas, and there are fine views over the lake and the city from the upper terraces. The main part of the palace is now preserved as a museum with a large and varied collection. In the north of the city, we’ll visit the Garden of the Maids of Honor. This small ornamental garden, with its fountains, kiosks, marble elephants and delightful lotus pool, is well worth exploring.
After lunch, we’ll return to the Royal Rajasthan Train and depart for Chittaur Fort, the best known fort of Rajasthan. Standing on a 180-meter hill, the fort covers an area of 700 acres. From the 7th to the 16th century, it was the capital of Mewar under the Rajputs. Chittaur evokes memories of great heroism and sacrifice by Rajput men and women in the intermittent battles fought against invaders from Northwest or Delhi. Chittaur witnessed both the ravages of war and the triumphs of the spirit. Allaudin Khilji, who coveted Queen Padmini of Chittaur, invaded the city in 1303. Queen Padmini and the women of the court sacrificed themselves in a pyre of fire rather than submit to anybody. This supreme sacrifice has been called ‘Jauhar’ and epitomises the fiery spirit of the Rajputs of the day. The city stands strewn with monuments and battlements as evidence of the blood shed here during medieval times.Inside the fort lies the Meera and Khumba Shyam Temple. It is associated with Meera, a mystic poetess devoted to Lord Krishna, whose life and bhajans have become part of the folklore and literary traditions of the region and several parts of India.
After evening tea, we’ll return to the Royal Rajasthan Train for our evening dinner before departing for Sawai Madhopur.
Day 7 : Royal Rajasthan – Sawai Madhopur – Jaipur
Early this morning we’ll depart for a three-hour visit to Ranthambore National Park. One of the biggest and most renowned national parks in Rajasthan, it is a major wildlife destination that attracts many photographers. We’ll have breakfast back on the Royal Rajasthan Train before departing for Jaipur. About seven miles from Jaipur lies Amber, with an old palace overlooking the lake at the entrance to a rocky mountain grove. Built in the 17th century, the palace is a distinguished specimen of Rajput architecture. The Jai Mandir (Hall of Victory) is so delicately ornamented with fine inlay work that it glows. The fort of Jaigarh, crowning the summit of a peak is of amazing beauty and grandeur.
After lunch we’ll head to the City Palace and Observatory. In the heart of the old city, the City Palace occupies a large area divided into a series of courtyards, gardens and buildings. The outer wall was built by Jai Singh, but other additions are much more recent, some dating from the early 20th century. Today, the palace is a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. It now houses a museum containing rare manuscripts, painting and an armory.Next to the City Palace entrance is the observatory begun by Jai Singh in 1728. Jai Singh’s passion for astronomy was even more notable than his prowess as a warrior. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of the five he built in India, and was restored in 1901.
Day 8 : Royal Rajasthan – Khajuraho
Today we’ll explore three temples, starting with Kandariya Mahadeo, the largest and best example of the surviving temples at the site of Khajuraho. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it soars about 100 feet high and comprises roughly 900 statues. The sanctum enshrines a lingam, while the main shrine is ornately carved and depicts various gods, goddesses and apsaras (heavenly maidens) in elaborate detail. The entrance arch, the massive pillars and the ceilings are all adorned with exquisite carvings that leave visitors spellbound. Beyond the archway of the Kandariya Mahadev lie the six interior compartments; the portico, main hall, transept, vestibule, sanctum and ambulatory. The ceilings are particularly noteworthy and the pillars supporting them have intricately carved capitals. The transept’s outer walls have three horizontal panels showing deities of the Hindu pantheon, and groups of lovers, a pageant of sensuousness, vibrantly alive.
Chitragupta Temple, dedicated to the sun-god, Surya, faces eastwards to the rising sun. The inner sanctum boasts an impressive image of the presiding deity—the majestic sun-god looming five feet high and driving a chariot. The other group scenes depict royal processions, group dances and scenes of sheer luxury, typical of the Chandela court-life.
Parsavanatha Temple is the largest in the group of three Jain temples. The Parsavanath image in this temple was installed in 1860. The sculptures on the northern wall depict everyday activity, in awesome detail. A woman sits bent pensively on a letter, a lovely young girl removes a thorn from her foot, the master craftsmen of Khajuraho display here their deep understanding of the trifles that make up a human life. Within the temple, a throne faces the bull emblem of the first tirthankara, Adinath.
Day 9 : Royal Rajasthan - Varanasi
Take a boat ride this morning to the Bharat Mata Temple at Varanasi. Located in the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus, it is the only temple dedicated to Mother India. The Bharat Mata Temple was built by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. The statute of Bharat Mata is built in marble and is a model of undivided India, depicting the mountains, plains and oceans. The most peculiar thing about the Bharat Mata Temple is that instead of the customary gods and goddesses, it houses a relief map of India, carved out of marble.
Breakfast will be served aboard the Royal Rajasthan. We’ll then travel five miles north of Varanasi to Sarnath where, in the Deer Park, Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon after he received enlightenment. The ruins of monasteries built more than 2000 years ago, the Dhamok Stupa, the Dharmaraji Ka Stupa and the main shrine, draw Buddhist pilgrims yearly to Sarnath. The Mahabodhi Society of India has recently built a modern Vihara, the interior frescoes of which have been executed by a Japanese artist. At Sarnath stands the famous Ashoka Pillar of polished sandstone whose lion capital has been adopted by the Republic of India as its state emblem.
After lunch onboard the Royal Rajasthan,in the late afternoon we'll visit the Ghat before traveling overnight to Agra. Dinner on board.
Day 10 : Agra
This morning we’ll visit Agra Fort, built by Emperor Akbar. The maze of courtyards, mosques and private chambers of the fort echo the story of the Mughal Empire. After lunch, we’ll continue to one of the seven wonders of the world, Taj Mahal. This beautiful mausoleum in pure white marble is an architectural marvel.It was built by Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved consort Mumtaz Mahal.
Deboard the train and transfer to your hotel.
Day 11 : Agra – Bharatpur – Delhi - Departure
We’ll begin our final morning by visiting Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted city of Emperor Akbar literally meaning “The City of Victory.” The audience halls, palaces, and mosques are still perfectly preserved as are the tomb of Sheikh Salim Chisti, Panchmahal and the Buland Darwaza.
We’ll continue to the Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary. The marshes of Keoladeo, more popularly known as Bharatpur, were the private hunting reserves of the Maharajas of Bharatpur. The marshes were developed in the late 10th century by creating small dams and bunds in an area of natural depressions to collect rain water and by feeding it with an irrigation canal. Over the years, the lakes attracted great numbers of waterfowl and the Maharajas held grand shoots with family, friends and visiting dignitaries. Two-thirds of the park lies under water, the extent and volume depending on the intensity of the rains. The remaining one-third of the park is covered in dry deciduous forests and extensive grasslands. On the raised ground outlining the wetlands grow a profusion of Acacia trees, where the resident water birds nest, often in large mixed colonies, a spectacular sight during the monsoon. Keoladeo is famous as one of Asia’s finest birding areas, with over 380 resident and migrant species, including the Common and Demoiselle Cranes. It is also an excellent place to watch mammals like golden jackal, striped hyena, fishing cat, jungle cat, nilgai, sambar, blackbuck and wild boar. The Park derives its name from the temple of Keoladeo and “Ghana,” which locally means dense, implying the nature of the vegetation.
After lunch return to Delhi. Rest in day rooms before dinner. After dinner transfer to the airport for homeward flights.
DATES: Best time to go: October Departures: Oct 2 - 12, 2014
$6,795 (10-15 members)
$1400 single supplement
$280 internal airfare - Delhi/Jodhpur - subject to change
Radisson HotelNew Delhi
The closest hotel to the Delhi Airport (3 miles), the five star Radisson Hotel Delhi is located near the business hub of Gurgaon in the New Delhi National Capital Region (NCR). This business hotel in New Delhi has a large inventory of rooms, exceptional services for the corporate traveler and on-site dining at The Great Kabab Factory,
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
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