- This is a custom departure, meaning this trip is offered on dates that you arrange privately with the provider. Additionally, you need to form your own private group for this trip. The itinerary and price here is just a sample. Contact the provider for detailed pricing, minimum group size, and scheduling information. For most providers, the larger the group you are traveling with, the lower the per-person cost will be.
DAY 1 : ARRIVE DELHI
Arrival at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi where you'll be met and transferred to our hotel. Once the capital of the Moghul Empire, today Delhi is a sprawling metropolis - a fascinating blend of past and the present- which is an apt introduction to the composite culture of the entire sub-continent. Overnight at The Indravan, a new 24-room boutique hotel in central Delhi.
DAY 2 : TOUR OLD & NEW DELHI
Our expert guide weaves us in and out of Old and New Delhi. We catch a rickshaw into the old walled city and walk through the bustling and crowded market of Chadni Chowk.
Nearby we walk to the Friday Mosque, Jama Masjid - the largest mosque in India, and then on to the Red Fort - once the most opulent fortified palace of the Moghul Empire. We drive along Rajpath, the ceremonial avenue, past the imposing India Gate, Parliament House, the President's Residence, and to see the famous Tomb of Humayun, the second Moghul Emperor. The evening is free to walk around the bustling shops and restaurants of Connaught Place near our hotel. Overnight at The Indravan boutique hotel. [BL]
DAY 3 : FLY JABALPUR, DRIVE KANHA NATIONAL PARK
Fly to Jabalpur, arriving around lunchtime. We drive to Kanha National Park (200 kms / 4-5 hrs drive) one of the largest and most scenic national parks in India, and an ideal habitat for both tigers and their prey. Our lodge was one of the first lodges in the area established by the founder of Project Tiger, a leading tiger conservation organization. Today the lodge remains in the family and our hosts share their dedication to conservation. Together in association with TOFT (Tour Operators for Tigers) and as part of the our 10,000 Tigers Campaign, Wildland Adventures has sponsored the training of a local guide from the community - Mr. Vindo Ayam. He will be assigned to our trip as a guide and spotter whenever possible. After check-in we stretch our legs on a nature walk with the resident naturalist looking for alluring birds and butterflies. Overnight Kanha Jungle Lodge. [BLD]
DAY 4 : KANHA TIGER SAFARIS
We depart the lodge early in 4x4 open jeeps accompanied by a resident naturalist and a community scout. Early morning is the best time for tracking the tiger as we look for tracks and follow the distress calls of chital (spotted deer) and langur monkeys who alert prey that tiger are in the area. The lush sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows and ravines of Kanha shelter a significant population of rare species including tiger, leopard, sloth bear, and wild dog or Dhole. We have a picnic breakfast in the jungle and then return mid-morning to the lodge, with the rest of the day free until our second jungle safari in the late afternoon. This evening enjoy a stargazing program or Indian cooking lesson with our hosts, Tarun and Dimple. Overnight Kanha Jungle Lodge [BLD]
DAY 5 : KANHA TIGER AND ELEPHANT SAFARI
Another early morning safari and possibly an elephant back safari, giving us the opportunity to get an up close view of a Royal Bengal Tiger. (subject to availability).
In the afternoon we head out again on safari or you can stay in the lodge to relax or participate in any number of activities; our hosts at the Kanha Jungle Lodge can arrange visits to the village with a local resident who introduces us to daily life in the community including markets, artisans and local families. Dinner and overnight Kanha Jungle Lodge [BLD]
Note on elephant safari: Every day a limited number of elephant safari permits are issued. Park authorities send elephants with their mahouts into the jungle in search of tiger. When a tiger is spotted a message is passed on to park rangers who then release visitors one vehicle at a time to the location where you mount an elephant to see the tiger from close range. Availability of elephant rides is subject to the park authority and tiger sighting, usually one permit per visitor at each park.
DAY 6 : DRIVE BANDHAVGARH, RURAL VILLAGE VISITS
Depart this morning for Bandhavgarh National Park (300 kms/6 hrs). En route we may visit villages, schools, a roost of large fruit bats or reservoirs that attract abundant bird life.
Set in the Vindhya Hills of Madhya Pradesh, the mixed habitat of bamboo, grassland, and a complex of deciduous forests make Bandhavgarh National Park one of the best places to see tiger in India. In addition there are at least 150 species of birds in the park, along with other mammals such as sloth bear, langur monkeys, wild boar, wild dogs, mongoose and 3 kinds of deer - chital, sambar and barking. Once a hunting reserve of the royal family of Rewa, Bandhavgarh was declared a park in 1968, and it was in Badhavgarh that the famous White Tigers of Rewa were discovered. Dinner and overnight at Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge [BLD]
DAYS 7-8 : BANDHAVGARH JEEP AND ELEPHANT SAFARIS
We depart the lodge as dawn breaks in 4x4 open jeeps accompanied by a resident naturalist and community scout. In the winter months morning safaris require warm clothes, hats and gloves to protect us from the cold. Each morning and afternoon we search for area wildlife and as in Kanha we have the opportunity for an elephant safari.
In the evening back at the lodge chat with your naturalist about the game sightings of the day. During one evening join a lecture about wildlife of India, focusing especially on the tiger and conservation initiatives of the Sankhala family who have dedicated their lives to tiger conservation and ecotourism. Overnights Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge [BLD]
DAY 9 : PANNA NATIONAL PARK AND HOSTED EVENING MEAL
After breakfast drive to Sarai at Toria (4 hrs). Sarai (or Serai) is an ancient Persian term for a roadside inn or caravanserai - Toria is the nearby village. The luxurious Sarai at Toria plays a positive role in the economic and social development of the local area; it also exists as a base for conservation activities and for wildlife and climate change research. Our host, Dr Raghu Chundawat, is a conservation biologist immortalized in the BBC documentary "Tigers of the Emerald Forest", while his wife Joanna Van Gruisen is an accomplished photographer, writer, and conservationist. Both will join us for dinner at Sarai at Toria this evening (when on site). Overnight at Sarai at Toria. [BLD]
DAY 10 : KHAJURAHO TEMPLES - VARANASI
Drive to Khajuraho (1 hr) for a guided walking tour of the magnificent Jain and Hindu temples and intricate stone sculptures. Known as the erotic temples, the craftsmanship exhibits images of gods and goddesses, celestial maidens and dancers, animals and musicians, all frozen in stone, many in the act of courtship. Khajuraho is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and reflects the spirit of creativity and human relationships of the Chandela period (9th & 10th century CE).
Following our visit we fly from Khajuraho to Varanasi. The city of Varanasi is known to devout Hindus as Kashi, said to have been founded by Shiva, Lord of the Universe at the beginning of time. One of the oldest living cities in the world, Varanasi is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations today. Located on the banks of the sacred River Ganges, a goddess herself, Varanasi has been a center of learning and civilization for over 2000 years. In late afternoon we walk amidst the crowded local market of Beniabagh famous for spices, shops, cloths and daily vendors selling fruits, pickles and vegetables. At Dashaswamedh Ghat, we glide on the Ganges and experience the cremation Ghats, a living tradition of one of the world's oldest and most important religions. We watch a glittering Aarti ceremony: huge lamps are set ablaze as the multitude chants hymns. Overnight Gateway Ganges Hotel [B]
DAY 11 : SUNRISE ON THE GANGES - SARNATH - OVERNIGHT TRAIN
Just before dawn we board a boat into the slow current on the sacred Goddess Ganga (Ganges River) passing by cremation Ghats. As the sun rises we capture the holy images of devotees offering prayers and seeking blessings of their beloved deities. We step out onto the streets to the unfurling of bazaars around us as we visit the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. We visit Sarnath where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, today the most sacred pilgrimage site for Buddhists. In the early evening we are invited as guests in a local home for dinner. Evening transfer to the railway station to board the overnight train for Agra. [Magadh Express Mughal Sarai/Tundla departing at 10:20pm, arriving 6:30 am in 4-person sleeper cabin with upper/lower births]. Overnight Train [BD]
DAY 12 : AGRA, RED FORT
On arrival we drive to Agra (25k/40 min). Badal Singh first established Agra in 1475 and we visit the Agra Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site with massive 70-foot high walls 1.5-miles long, encompassing an astounding collection of well preserved buildings. After lunch we are guided through the Taj Mahal, a building that needs little introduction: The Taj is probably the most famous building on earth and unquestionably the most beautiful. It is an architectural wonder inspired by love - a white marble memorial to Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the great Shah Jahan, fifth Moghul Emperor and architect extraordinaire. It took 22 years to complete and features stunning balance and symmetry, elegant domes, intricately carved screens and some of the best inlay work ever produced. Overnight ITC Mughal-Luxury Collection [B]
DAY 13 : DAWN AT THE TAJ -- DRIVE JAIPUR VIA FATIPUR SIKRI
This morning we rise a dawn and make our way to the Taj Mahal for its opening to contemplate and photograph in the early light with few other visitors.
Return to the hotel for breakfast, then depart for Jaipur (260k/5 hrs) en-route visiting the ancient site of Fatehpur Sikri. The city was built by Emperor Akbar the Great, the most farseeing and tolerant of all the Mughuls. The entire city was deserted a few years after construction due to a dearth of water - posterity's gain, as the entire city has thus been preserved. We continue our drive to the pink city of Jaipur where we check in to Samode Havelli. Built over 175 years ago as the manor house for the royal family, Samode Havelli has been impressively restored. Enjoy the rest of the day and evening free. Overnight Samode Havelli. [BL]
DAY 14 : AMBER FORT, JAIPUR CITY, PALACE DINNER
Amber Fort is the classic image of the romantic Rajasthani palace. We arrive in the morning light for the best photography of its forbidding exterior that belies a beautiful inner fusion of Mughal and Hindu architectural styles with exquisite filigree and lattice carving. We drive into Jaipur, the famed Pink City, painted pink to honor a British Viceregal visit in the late 19th century CE. The city palace is a delightful blend of Mughal and traditional Rajasthani architecture which sprawls over one-seventh of the walled citys area. We visit the museum, wander the palace to view the famed Peacock Gate, visit the Jantar Mantar - the largest and the best preserved of the five outdoor astronomy observatories built by Jai Singh II still as accurate as a Swiss watch today. We leave the palace to view the Hawa Mahal - the "Palace of Winds", an ornamental five-storey sandstone faade of fine trelliswork, with 953 niches, windows and elaborate balconies. Return to the hotel to rest and freshen up for a grand dinner in the opulence of the maharajas court at 1135 AD, a restaurant serving exquisite traditional Indian cuisine inside the Amber Fort decorated with gilded mirrored ceilings and silver thrones. Overnight Samode Havelli [BD]
DAY 15 : JODHPUR, MEHRANGARH FORT
Drive to the Blue City of Jodhpur (330k /6hrs) founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha Ji, who claimed descent from Lord Rama himself (hero of the epic, The Ramayana). On the way into town we pass by the most opulent palace of all: the Umaid Bhawan Palace. Still one of the largest personal residences in the world, the 347 room palace was constructed as famine relief work over 15 years, and was designed by Lutchens, the same British architect who designed New Delhi. In the light of the afternoon sun we walk into Jodhpur's iconic Mehrangarh Fort, which dominates the city skyline. Mehrangarh Fort hangs over the city perched on an almost vertical volcanic plug. Spread over 3 miles at a height of 300 feet, the fort appears invincible and impenetrable from outside and houses some of the most intricately adorned palace buildings in Rajasthan with exquisitely carved panels and latticed windows. We pass by the Jaswant Thada monument, an architectural landmark of Jodhpur built of carved marble that casts a warm glow in the suns rays. Overnight Ajit Bhawan Hotel. [BL]
DAY 16 : BISHNOI COMMUNITY, PRIVATE LUNCH IN BLUE CITY
This morning we journey into the countryside among the Bishnois, villagers living outside of Jodhpur who dedicate themselves to conservation and living a life in harmony with nature. The teachings of their guru or preceptor, Jambaji, are based on 29 (bish: twenty, noi: nine) principles that include karuna or compassion for all living beings. Bishnois do not cut or lop green trees; instead they use dried cow dung as fuel.
We return into town to walk the narrow, cobblestone streets of the old town, photographing and interacting with merchants and townsfolk. We are welcomed into the Sankhala family home, our host and owner of the jungle lodges where we stayed. We glimpse the contemporary life of a typical Rajasthani home full of family memories while we enjoy conversation and traditional dishes. The late afternoon and evening is free to relax, shop and explore. Overnight Ajit Bhawan Hotel [BL]
DAY 17 : DRIVE UDAIPUR VIA RANAKPUR
Today we drive to Udaipur (260k/6h) stopping en route to visit the 12th century CE Jain Temple of Ranakpur, a cluster of temples made of intricately sculpted white marble. The main temple is supported on 1,444 pillars - none of which are similarly carved. We continue to Udaipur, "The Venice of the East". Udaipur is truly an enchanting city. Founded by Maharana Udai Singh, Udaipur is surrounded by the Aravalli mountain ranges situated on the edge of three lakes. In the lakes or by their edges are palaces straight out of fairy tales, each one rivaling the splendor of the next. Early evening boat ride on the lake reveals the serenity of the place with the lights of the city and our lake shore palace hotel illuminated before us. Overnight Shiv Niwas Palace. [BL]
DAY 18 : UDAIPUR AND LAKE PICHOLA
After breakfast we depart on a full day sightseeing tour of Udaipur and vicinity visiting the city palace complex - the largest palace in Rajasthan - Durbar Hall, Crystal Gallery, and the Palace Museum. Our hotel is actually part of the palace complex, including the residence of the mahraja which is strictly off limits! We can walk out the back door right into the main street of Udaipur to walk among the shops and cafes where you can order tailored clothing to pick up the next day. An afternoon walk among villages through the countryside of this beautiful region of lush agricultural landscape reveals the daily life of local people of the region. Enjoy a farewell dinner this evening. Overnight at Shiv Niwas Palace. [BD]
DAY 19 : UDAIPUR TO DELHI
This morning is at leisure to wander the town. In the afternoon transfer to the airport for the return flight to Delhi. On arrival in Delhi transfer to a day room at the Raddison Blu Hotel conveniently located near the airport to relax before evening transfer for international departure. [B]
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