Namaste and welcome to Delhi, India. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. Your leader will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. If you arrive into Delhi with time to spare, perhaps pay a visit to the World Heritage-listed Humayun's Tomb or the 12th-century Qutub Minar. As the former residence of royal families and British soldiers, the Red Fort plays a vital part in Delhi’s history.
In the morning, set off with the group by metro to Old Delhi and explore on a walking tour. Experience the chaos of an Indian traffic jam, as you inch your way through the streets around Chandni Chowk marketplace in a traditional cycle rickshaw. Visit the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest and India’s largest mosque, and then stop by the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion. Tonight transfer to the railway station and board a 19-hour/750 km overnight train to Jaisalmer. Local vendors will board the train at various stops to sell snacks, but it’s advised that you bring some of your own food for the journey too.
If there are no delays, you should arrive into Jaisalmer around midday. Pack a small overnight bag and leave the rest of your luggage at the hotel. Embark on a camel safari into the sand dunes of the Thar Desert. Drive by jeep to the starting point, where you’ll meet your guides and set off through the desert for the three-hour ride to the camping ground. The campsite is very basic, with a wind break set up against a sand dune. Your guides will get a campfire going and cook a traditional Rajasthani dinner while you relax and watch the sunset. Water and soft drinks are available for purchase. Sleep under the open sky on a camp style cot with a pillow, sheets, mattress and blankets provided. There are no structured bathroom facilities so please bring toiletries with you, including hand sanitiser. Toilets are simple long drop style.
Rise early to enjoy the sunrise over the sand dunes before having a simple breakfast. The ride back to the drop off point from the desert takes around 90 minutes. Return to the city by private vehicle, where you can take an optional trip to the Folklore Museum. This small museum displays printing blocks, musical instruments, religious artefacts and camel decorations, offering insights into the cultural heritage of Jaisalmer. Our accommodation in Jaisalmer is in a simple guesthouse.
Today is a free day to explore Jaisalmer. This old fortress city has long been a centre for nomadic tribespeople who come to trade in the twisting alleys and markets inside the walls. Perhaps visit the Jain temples, do some shopping or admire the ornate havelis (traditional Indian houses) found throughout the city.
Take a private bus to the railway station and then a six-hour train ride (approximately 300km/3rd Class AC train) across the desert to the blue city of Jodhpur. Enjoy a walk to see the sights, including a visit to one of the oldest markets in India, the Sadar Bazaar. Haggle over Bollywood soundtracks, bangles, leather shoes and colourful saris, or simply soak up the energy of a typical Indian market. Jodhpur is said to be home to the best lassis in India, so make sure you try one.
You have the option to visit the colossal Mehrangarh Fort today. The fort is one of the largest in India and is still run by the Jodhpur royal family. Explore the palaces, galleries and artillery inside the fortress walls and admire great views over the city. Today’s other option is to take a tour of the nearby Bishnoi villages. Take a glimpse into rural Rajasthani life and learn about the rich cultural traditions of these peaceful, nature-loving tribespeople.
Take auto rickshaws from our hotel to the bus station this morning board a local bus for the eight-hour/300km journey to Udaipur. Known as the ‘Venice of the East’, this white city is often regarded as the most romantic in India. Set amid the Aravalli Hills, Udaipur curls around a huge lake. On arrival, take a walk to gather your bearings. Explore twisting alleyways filled with shops and bazaars selling things like silver jewellery, shoes, bags, leather goods and miniature paintings.
Enjoy a free day to explore the sights of Udaipur. Perhaps take a short boat ride on the famous Lake Pichola (seasonal) and see the palaces of Jag Mandir and Jag Niwas rise out of the water of their own reflections. Tour of the lakeside City Palace complex, the largest palace in Rajasthan. While inside, check out vivid murals and royal antiques, and pop into the impressive Jagdish Temple that’s dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. Alternatively, learn the secrets behind making the perfect Indian thali during a half-day cooking class.
Today’s options include a visit to Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace). Perched atop a hill overlooking Lake Pichola and built it in 1884, the palace was named after Maharana Sajjan Singh of the Mewar Dynasty. You might like to join a trip to the nearby rural arts and crafts village of Shilpgram, where mud huts, artistic performances and traditional rural ways of life can be observed. Back in Udaipur, enjoy a concert combining seven traditional Rajasthani folk dances.
Transfer to the station and travel by train for around seven hours/300km to the city of Ajmer (AC seated carriage). From here, it’s a 45-minute/30km drive by private vehicle to your hotel in Pushkar. Pushkar is one of the India's holiest towns and a market centre for the surrounding villages. Head out to explore the town on a walking tour, exploring the main bazaar along the way. Take a walk around Pushkar’s lake and past the bustling ghats and temples, observing the devout as they worship at the holy waters.
Early morning risers can hike up the hill to the Savitri Temple for sunrise views over the town. If the chai man is there, enjoy a steaming cup of tea at the top. Later in the day, pay a visit to the colourful Brahma Temple, which is dedicated to the Hindu god, Brahma. If you’re lucky enough to be in town for the Pushkar Camel Fair, experience one of India’s most famous festivals.
Transfer back to Ajmer and then travel by local bus to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur today (approximately four hours/150 km). On arrival take auto rickshaws to our hotel, then explore Rajasthan’s capital on a walking tour. See the beehive-like structure of the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal), built so that women of the royal family could observe street festivities unseen. Your evening is then free.
Today is yours for optional activities. For many travellers, a hot air balloon experience is one of the highlights of Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over the city early in the morning between September and June. For additional information, please see the ‘Important Notes’ section of the trip notes. In the afternoon, visit the Amber Fort. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the fort is an excellent example of Rajput architecture. Entering the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) is a particularly memorable experience. Explore Jaipur’s Royal City Palace and get among the crowds of the city’s bazaars to shop for artisan goods and semi-precious stones. A true local experience is to immerse yourself in Bollywood culture with a movie at a classic cinema.
Head to Abhaneri (approximately 2 hours / 95km). This rural town provides a lovely detour from the bigger cities of Rajasthan. It is known for its 'baoris', step-wells which were invented long ago to harvest rain water. You will visit the 10th-century Chand Baori, one of the most awe-inspiring sights in Rajasthan. This step-well is some 20 metres deep, and the cool lower reaches of the well is where locals used to gather to escape the heat. See the pavillion on one side, which was reserved for the royals. Afterwards, visit Abhaneri's other crown jewel, the Harshat Mata Temple, which is right nearby. This architectural delight was dedicated to the goddess of happiness and joy, and dates back to the 7th century.
Head east by private transport for the two to three hour/60km journey to Agra via Fatehpur Sikri. Rich in Mughal heritage, Agra is a city of gardens, temples and open rooftops. No doubt everyone will be keen to visit the Taj Mahal, a white marble mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz. The building is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and attracts over three million visitors each year. The rest of the day is free to explore. An amazing local social enterprise, Sheroes Hangout, an initiative by the Stop Acid Attacks campaign and staffed by survivors, is located about 10 mins walk from the Taj Mahal and is an excellent place to stop for a cold drink, coffee or light meal while you are here.
Today perhaps return to the Taj Mahal at sunrise, then explore the spectacular Red Fort on the banks of the Yamuna River. Built in 1565 by Emperor Akbar, the fort was originally designed to be a military structure. If you have extra time, you may like to continue onto Akbar's Mausoleum to pay your respects to the great emperor. In the evening, take a 12-hour/700km overnight train to Varanasi (3 AC class).
On arrival this morning transfer by auto rickshaw to your hotel and check in. Then wander through narrow alleyways on a walk around the Old City. At sunset, a great experience is to take a boat cruise down the Ganges, releasing an offering of floating candles and flowers into the river. Every evening at 7 pm, priests perform a ganga aarti (fire ceremony) at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. Each year thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to the holy city of Varanasi to pray along the banks of the sacred Ganges River and to cremate the dead in open-air funeral ceremonies.
We highly recommend starting very early with a sunrise boat trip along the Ganges, passing pilgrims bathing and praying along the colourful ghats. See dhobi-wallahs (washerwomen and men) drying clothes along the riverbank. Make sure you keep an eye out for the sinking Vishnu temple near the Manikarnika Ghat. The rest of the day is free for you to do as you please. Perhaps take a trip out to Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first speech after finding enlightenment. The Dhamekh Stupa dominates the landscape of this holy site.
In the morning, you have some free time to explore more of Varanasi. Perhaps visit the Vishwanath Temple, which is laden with 800 kg of gold plating. Slow down your pace with a visit to the Kriti Gallery, which displays the work of local Indian artists. In the afternoon, board your final 15-hour/800km overnight train to Delhi.
Arrive into Delhi late in the morning from your overnight train and taxi to the hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to relax or explore the city. Your leader will be able to give you some suggestions – our Urban Adventures are highly recommended!
Your North India adventure comes to an end today. There are no more activities planned and you’re free to depart the accommodation at any time.