Arrive in Delhi, meet your Intrepid representative and transfer to the hotel. Your adventure begins with an important group meeting at 6 pm. You will find more details about this meeting at the hotel reception. Your leader will be collecting insurance and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details. 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. Otherwise don't forget to check out the great range of Urban Adventures if you have extra time in Delhi.
Today you will experience one of India's express air-conditioned trains as you travel to the Mughal city of Agra (approximately 3 hours). After arriving you'll visit the spectacular Taj Mahal. Ponder the beauty of this 17th-century masterpiece of white marble set amid beautiful formal gardens. You'll learn more about its history as you explore the site with your local guide. You will also visit the nearby Agra Fort, a huge complex built originally as a military structure of red sandstone by Emperor Akbar in 1565. In your free time a visit to Sheroes Hangout, a social enterprise that employs women affected by acid attacks, is well worthwhile.
Today you will rise early and leave for Jaipur. Your first stop is the deserted Mughal kingdom of Fatehpur Sikri (approximately 1.5 hours). Built during the reign of Emperor Akbhar, it was abandoned shortly after his death due to a lack of available water. The stunning mosque, Jama Masjid, strikes a lovely pose within the settlement, combining Persian and Hindu aesthetics. See its staggering 54-metre-high main entrance called Buland Darwaza (Gate of Victory) which commemorates Akbar’s great victory in Gujarat. You will stop for a traditional thali lunch (a plate of various selections) en route to Jaipur, the capital of the state of Rajasthan. Here traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches will make their way through crowded streets packed with cars, camel carts, rickshaws, trucks, and bicycles. You will also find bustling, brightly-coloured bazaars filled with hand-crafted textiles, folk art and semi-precious stones (the local specialty).
Today there's an excellent optional activity – a hot air balloon experience over Jaipur. This is a highlight for many travellers. You will then travel 11 kilometres out to the stunning medieval Amber Fort. This 16th-century marvel is a great example of Rajput architecture. Take your time, as you'll need several hours to explore this massive fortification. Next you'll visit the various rooms and apartments of Jaipur's Royal City Palace, one of India's finest. Continue to indulge in the delights of Indian culture by watching a Bollywood film of action, romance, drama or music (sometimes all rolled into one) at the renowned Raj Mandir Cinema. An option for free time today is to see one of five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur.
Today you will drive from Jaipur to the Shekhawati region (approximately 5 hours). Mandawa is a remote town in the centre of the region, an old trading outpost between the Middle East and China. Our lunch stop today will be in Nawalgarh. On arrival in Mandawa, check into our first Heritage Property stay of the trip.
Enjoy a day of exploring this amazing town, which is often referred to as an outdoor museum. Mandawa is famous for its ornate havelis (private residences). You'll notice that some are faithfully restored and others are crumbling. The havelis of this particular part of India are recognised around the country for their lavishly painted walls and art. Perhaps unwind at the day's end with a cold beer and sample some of the spicy local North Indian fare together for our included dinner. Stay again in our Heritage Property tonight.
Travel deeper into the Thar Desert to the fortified town of Bikaner (approximately 5 hours). Bikaner was an important staging post on some of the great caravan routes, and thus houses a multitude of bazaars along with an impressive fort and palace. We continue on to Junagarh Fort. Another beautiful Heritage stay tonight.
Today you will wind along a remote desert road to the yellow sandstone citadel of Jaisalmer (approximately 7 hours). Watch as it rears its head in the arid, flat desert like a scene from 'One Thousand and One Nights'. Explore the snaking alleyways of Jaisalmer which are filled with markets and intricately carved houses. Located on the banks of Garsisar Lake in the Mehar Bagh Garden is the Jaisalmer Folklore Museum, which is well worth a visit. Enjoy another Heritage Property stay tonight.
Enjoy further time exploring the immense Jaisalmer fort today. Within the fort itself is a maze of houses, temples, shops and restaurants, not to mention some 3,000 permanent residents. Track down some dazzling Rajastani fabrics, marvel at the spectacular facades of the Patwa ki Haveli and Salim Singh-ki-Haveli. Or you may wish to simply wander the labyrinthine paths and soak up the atmosphere. As night falls you will visit a local families home and partake in a special evening of traditional Rajasthani food.
No trip to Jaisalmer is complete without a desert safari, so today you'll experience one of the main highlights of your adventure. Your camel safari (approximately 1 hour) out to the pristine sand dunes of the Thar Desert is an adventure you're not likely to forget. Visiting some small villages (dhanis) along your travels, your day culminates with a relaxing dinner by the campfire. Cap it off by camping out under the stars, falling asleep to the desert ambience in your comfortable permanent tent.
Today you drive across the desert to discover Rajasthan's second-largest city, the frenetic Jodhpur (approximately 6 hours). Jodhpur abounds in antique shops and, according to many a traveller, has the best lassi in India. It's also where the famous Jodhpur trousers originated. While you are here you will explore the colossal Mehrangarh Fort. A highlight of the fort is the expansive views from its ramparts. In your free time you can visit India's last great palace, the Umaid Bhawan Palace. The palace was built in the years between 1929 and 1944 and named for Maharaja Umaid Singhji. His successors still reside there.
From Jodhpur you will travel through the beautiful hamlet of Ranakpur (approximately 3 hours). Ranakpur is the home of a host of beautifully carved white marble Jain temples. These staggering complex temples attract Jain pilgrims from all over India, making Ranakpur one of the most important pilgrim destinations for Jains in India. We enjoy lunch at a temple today. From here you will continue on your journey to gorgeous Udaipur (approximately 5 hours).
Enjoy some time exploring the atmospheric laneways of Udaipur. You will also visit the City Palace while you're here, one of the largest royal palaces in India. This structure took 400 years to build and hosts a range of treasures and antiquities, from vivid murals to royal utensils. Spend your free time today exploring the streets as you please, or perhaps venture further afield into the rolling hills. A boat ride across the water is a great way to see this impossibly charming townscape from another angle.
After a free morning, take a flight back to Delhi (approximately 1.5 hours, arriving at around 5.30 pm). You'll be collected and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy an evening of free time. You can can continue to explore Delhi, arrange onward travel or simply relax and unwind. If you are staying longer, there is much to see. Raj Ghat is a monument that marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. It is now incorporated into the National Gandhi Museum. Hauz Khas Village is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown – it's a hip artistic enclave set amid an interesting historic site.
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast this morning.