Taj to Varanasi

Taj to Varanasi

Tour Experience

Adventure tour of Delhi, Jaipur, Tordi, Keoloadeo National Park, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Varanasi and Sarnath

Available

All year round

Location

Delhi, Jaipur, Tordi, Keoladeo National Park, Agra

This 12-day tour of Northern India takes you to the holy city of Varanasi located on the banks of the Ganges River, the pink city of Jaipur, rural Rajasthan and Agra - the home of the Taj Mahal mausoleum.

We’ll kick things off in Delhi, exploring both the old and new sides of this busy city before we make our way south to Rajasthan, famous for its towering forts and palaces and rich cultural history.

When in Jaipur, we’ll make our way to the Amber Fort, the City Palace and explore the strange Jantar Mantar Observatory, before visiting some of its renown craft and produce markets. Our next stop is a visit to the ancient village of Tordi, where we’ll reside in a redesigned palace and explore the remote village and its surroundings, giving you an authentic feel of rural Indian life.

We’ll also head to the massive Chand Baori stepwell at Abanheri - the largest of its kind in the world before exploring the variety of birdlife on show in the Keoladeo National Park via a guided cycle rickshaw ride.

As we make our way to Agra, we’ll visit the well-preserved, deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri. Once we reach Agra - we’ll get our first glimpse of the Taj Mahal - one of the world’s most iconic monuments. We’ll then head off the beaten track a bit, exploring the Mughal Heritage Walk led by a local villager, as you gain unique insight into the life of the villagers on the banks of the Yamuna River and spectacular views of the Taj.

We’ll view the spectacular Taj Mahal once more at sunrise - watching how its colour changes with the morning light before visiting the Agra Fort and some of the less visited regions of the city. We then board an overnight sleeper train to Varanasi - one of the world’s oldest and holiest cities. We’ll enjoy an early morning boat ride on the serene waters of the Ganges before joining in on an evening Aarti ceremony giving candlelit offerings to the river, enjoy a home-cooked meal with a muslim family, explore a weavers village famous for making some of the best saris in the whole of India, and visit Sarnath, where the Lord Buddha preached his first sermon.

We’ll board one more sleeper train back to Delhi (flight upgrades are available if preferred). On this India Tour, we’ll stay in a mix of comfortable mid-range modern-style hotels and heritage hotels converted from Havelis and Palaces. An extended version of this tour is also available which heads north from Varanasi into Nepal (check our Delhi to Kathmandu tour for details).

VIEW THE PHOTOS

INCLUDED

  • All accommodation in mid-range hotels and heritage properties
  • All transport and transfers in AC vehicles
  • 2nd class AC sleeper train journeys from Agra-Varanasi and Varanasi-Delhi
  • 24-hour airport arrival & departure transfer service
  • Sightseeing tours and activities as per the itinerary
  • Services of a local tour leader and specialist local guides
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary (11 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner)

EXCLUDED

  • International flights (available on request)
  • Visa fees
  • Travel insurance (compulsory, available on request)
  • Meals not indicated in the itinerary
  • Drinks, snacks and other personal expenses (e.g. laundry)
  • Tips for drivers and guides
  • Entrance fees (allow approx. US$139)
  • Any other items not mentioned above

PACKAGE DETAILS

Itinerary

DAY 1 Welcome to Delhi

After arriving in India’s capital city, a staff member will be present to meet and greet you, before escorting you to your hotel. After settling in, we’ll run through what you can expect over the next few days, before arranging a time to collect you tomorrow.
OVERNIGHT
Delhi hotel
EXTRAS
Single room supplement (INSGTP), Extra day in Delhi – pre-tour

DAY 2 Exploring Delhi and a street food experience

Our morning starts with a city tour of New Delhi, India’s capital, located on the banks of the Yamuna River.
From the back of a vehicle, we’ll visit India Gate, a towering 42-metre Archway which shares a resemblance to France’s Arc de Triomphe. New Delhi is also the seat of India’s government and we’ll drive past the President’s Palace and the Parliament of India, before passing Humayun’s Tomb and the Bangla Sahab Gurudwara Sikh Temple.
We’ll then head to Connaught Place Station to board a train to Old Delhi, where we’ll explore is bustling markets and bazars, such as the Chandni Chowk and the Chawri Bazar, well known for its unique copper, paper and brass products.
This afternoon, we’ll be treated to some of India’s finest street food cuisine, trying all the unique snacks and delicacies on offer, before we hop into a rickshaw to explore the old city a little more. A visit to one of the largest mosques in India – the Jama Masjid – is also on the cards.
OVERNIGHT
Delhi hotel
MEALS
Breakfast

DAY 3 Goodbye Delhi, Hello Jaipur. Optional activity available

We’ll say goodbye to Delhi for now as we make our way to the largest city in Rajasthan – the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur.
On our way there, we’ll visit the impressive Amber Fort situated high atop a hill, made out of sandstone in the 16th century for the ruling Kachhawa clan of Amber. We’ll explore its stunning architecture, its towering fortress walls and marble palace.
We’ll then go on a Lassi tasting experience, which is a rich, yoghurt based drink, either made sweet or salty and is often flavoured with ground or roasted cumin as well as fruit. It’s a great pairing with spicy foods.
We’ll check into our hotel for the night, or as an optional extra, you can head out to the Raj Mandir Cinema to watch a Bollywood movie.
OVERNIGHT
Jaipur hotel
MEALS
Breakfast

DAY 4 Exploring Jaipur. Optional activity available

You can either choose to sleep a little later, or you have an option of enjoying a hot air balloon ride over Jaipur, giving you an aerial view of its stunning architecture.
We’ll then head out into the city, visiting Jaipur’s most popular tourist attractions, such as the Jantar Mantar monument – India’s biggest astronomical observatory, before making our way to the manicured gardens of the City Palace, which was once the royal seat of the King of Jaipur and the leader of the Kachwaha Rajput clan.
After lunch, we’ll visit Jaipur’s popular craft markets, where you’ll watch jewellers, silversmiths and bangle-makers craft all sorts of beautiful creations, before visiting its bustling fruit, vegetable and spice markets.
OVERNIGHT
Jaipur hotel
MEALS
Breakfast
EXTRAS
Hot air balloon in Jaipur

DAY 5 :A visit to the Tordi Village. Optional activities available

We’ll start our day with a visit to the rural Rajasthan village of Tordi, founded in the 16th century by Th. Akhey Singh, a descendant of the Khangar Singh, who overthrew the regional chief and built a hilltop fortress here, with its ruins still available today. The family still lives in the palace and in a fort built on the plains below. We’ll stay in a wing of the palace that has been customised for guests.
Our village exploration will also take us to a temple, a school and a potter’s house. As an addition, you can do optional activities such as camel cart riding, a jeep safari to a 300-year-old step well, a visit to a shepherds village, watch the sun go down at the Tordi Sagar Dam or if you’re looking to do something more strenuous, a hike to the 400-year old Tordi Fort for snacks and drinks. Horse riding and henna hand art activities are also available.
OVERNIGHT
Tordi Garh hotel
MEALS
Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 6 Birdwatching in the Keoladeo National Park and a visit to the world’s largest stepwell

We leave Tordi and head towards the Keoladeo Ghana National Park via Bharatpur – one of the best bird watching destinations in India. On our way here, we’ll stop at the Abhaneri step well – the largest of its kind on the planet – boasting approximately 3500 steps and is 13 stories deep.
We’ll have some time to settle in at our accommodation for the day, before enjoying a guide cycle rickshaw ride through the Keoladeo Ghana National Park – formerly a duck hunting reserve but now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the home to over 360 species of birds.
Keoladeo is also a stopover for the birds who partake in the Central Asian migration, especially for wintering water birds and the endangered Siberian Crane and its huge heronry which in good years can host more than 20,000 nesting birds of various species. Its also home to other wildlife such as wild boar, black buck, sambar, chital, mongoose, porcupine, several different wild cats, and some huge pythons.
OVERNIGHT
Hotel next to Keoladeo National Park
MEALS
Breakfast

DAY 7 The magnificent Taj Mahal. Optional activity available

After a wonderful time in Keoladeo, we make our way to the ancient city of Agra – the home of the Taj Mahal. Agra was once the capital of the Mughal between 1572 and 1585 and is the only Indian city to have three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.
You’ll have some time to relax and settle in, before spending the afternoon exploring the Mughal Heritage Walk through the ancient village of Kachhpura and surrounding farmland on the banks of the Yamuna River.
The Mughal Heritage walk was created by a local NGO to provide employment and new infrastructure to the locals. We’ll also tour the village, learning about the local cottage industry for leather shoe making which helps Agra export shoes all over the world. We’ll also visit some of the lesser known, but still important Mughal Era Monuments.
Our day ends with a visit to Mehtab Bagh Park, as we witness the spectacular sight of the Taj Mahal at sunset. Watch how the colours of the Taj changes as the sun goes down, as we find out just why it’s listed as one of the seven wonders of the world.
This evening you have an option to join a Hindu family for a vegetarian Thali cooking lesson and meal tonight before settling in at your hotel for the night.
OVERNIGHT
Agra hotel
MEALS
Breakfast
EXTRAS
Cook with a Hindu family in Agra

DAY 8 Sunrise at the Taj Mahal

Today we’ll start early to witness one of the wonders of the world at sunrise – the Taj Mahal. Created by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan over the period of 22 years, witnessing the magnificence of the Taj Mahal at sunrise is spectacular. As the light changes gradually, so does the colour of the Taj Mahal.
We’ll have breakfast before visiting the Agra Fort – a huge complex which was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty till 1638 before the capital was moved from Agra to Delhi. The Agra Fort is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As the afternoon comes around, we’ll continue to explore Agra, this time from the back of an electric rickshaw, enjoying the incredible culture and cuisine that the city has to offer. This hour-long journey gives you an authentic view of Agra, taking you to its old bazaars, traditional eateries and its places of worship.
We’ll start at the gurdwara near the Taj Mahal, before visiting Dara Shikoh’s library, Mirza Ghalib’s birthplace, the home of the Radhasoami faith, the ancient Manka Meshwar Temple, the Jama Masjid as well as Asia’s oldest convent, St. Patrick’s Junior College. We’ll also pass the busy Johri Bazar, the paan mandi, the petha mandi and the chaat-pakori street of Seth Gali.
After an action-packed afternoon, we’ll be transferred to Tundle Train Station to board an overnight train to Varanasi, the next stop on our Indian adventure.
OVERNIGHT
Overnight sleeper train to Varanasi
MEALS
Breakfast

DAY 9 Exploring the villages of Varanasi

Once we arrive in Varanasi, we’ll have a tasty breakfast, before making our way to visit the Sarai Mohana Weavers Village. Sarai Mohana is well known for its silk weaving as most of the locals here are indulge in silk weaving. The Banarasi sarees made by these waivers are among the finest saris in India. We’ll also visit Chiraigaon Village famous for its pickles, jams and guavas.
As night falls, we’ll be treated to an Aarti ceremony, a devotional ritual using fire and it’s common to place a small candle inside a cup made from leaves and flowers and float it down the river. We’ll offer candles and flowers to the Ganges River. As we place each one in the water, we’ll make a wish and watch it float away.
OVERNIGHT
Varanasi hotel
MEALS
Breakfast

DAY 10 A boat trip on the Ganges and a Hindu cooking lesson

Our second day in Varanasi starts with an early morning boat ride along the Ganges River, as we explore the city. The Ganges is a constant hive of activity throughout the day, as hordes of people come to pray and immerse themselves in its spiritually cleansing waters.
We’ll then go on a walking tour of the city, exploring its medieval streets, intricate temples and busy markets, abuzz with the general cacophony of Indian life. After exploring the old city, we’ll make our way to a local Hindu Brahaman family, which has 14 members living under one roof. Here, we’ll be given a cooking master class of Indian cuisine, before having lunch with the family.
This afternoon we take the short trip to the ancient Buddhist site at Sarnath where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after becoming enlightened.
OVERNIGHT
Overnight sleeper train to Delhi
MEALS
Breakfast, Lunch
EXTRAS
Varanasi to Delhi flight upgrade

DAY 11 Free day in Delhi. Flights and transfers included

We’ll say our final goodbyes to Varanasi before being transported to the airport to board a morning flight to Delhi.
We’ll transfer you from the airport to your hotel in Delhi and you have the afternoon free to do as you please. Why not add an extension to Ranthambore National Park, or head to the beach at Goa.
OVERNIGHT
Delhi hotel
MEALS
Breakfast
EXTRAS
Salam Balak Trust walk

DAY 12 Free time in Delhi. Airport transfer included

We have some free time in Delhi, which is perfect to pick up any souvenirs and gifts for your loved ones back home, before being transferred to the airport to board your flight home.
OVERNIGHT
N/A
MEALS
Breakfast
EXTRAS
Ranthambore National Park Safari, Extra day in Delhi – post-tour, Spinmonkey cycling tour

DURATION

12 days

Price

A$2135

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