Jehangir Mahal (Orchha Fort) in Orchha, India
Jehangir Mahal (Orchha Fort) in Orchha, India

Northern India: Maharajahs & Mughals

18 days From $6,745

December 6 2019

How to encompass in one journey the complexities of the turbulent history and spectacular cultural heritage of a sub-continent’s whose exotic traditions, architecture and art all have an immensity of appeal that could justify a lifetime’s exploration?

Impossible, of course – but by its structured focus on the ancient cultures and divisions of northern India’s tumultuous past our tour will build for you a clear picture of the infinitely diverse strands that have shaped the exotic fabric of this vast country. Carefully planned visits to many world-famous sites, monuments and leading museums bring a comprehensive understanding of the intricate cultural synthesis that has evolved between the country’s primary religious civilizations – Jain, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim.

Highlights as we travel from Delhi through Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Agra and Rajasthan’s ‘Land of Kings’ include Sanchi’s fabulous stupa, the monastic excavations at Sarnath and the elaborately carved temples at Ranakpur – all illustrating the vigor of Buddhist and Jain offshoots from early Hinduism. Fascinating facets of later Hindu civilization are on display amid Khajuraho’s elaborate temples, the teeming pilgrimage center at Varanasi and, most beautiful of all, the Rajput’s fortified palaces of Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur, in striking counterpoint to Agra’s legendary Mughal masterpiece, the Taj Mahal.

What's included?

  •  Expert Scholar & Tour Manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

Led by...

Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi

Dr Mehreen Chida-Razvi is a Research Associate in the Department of the History of Art at SOAS, and Assistant Editor for the International Journal of Islamic Architecture.

Book Now $6,745
Includes deposit: $500 Single supplement: $1,600

Tour highlights:

  • Discover no fewer than 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the majestic Taj Mahal and Jaipur’s Amber Palace
  • Enjoy an early morning boat trip along the sacred ‘ghats’ of the Ganges at Varanasi
  • Explore the great palaces and fortresses of the ancient Rajasthani cities of Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur
  • View Khajuraho’s amazing sculptures and some of the world’s finest temple carvings, known for portraying women
  • Stay at the magical Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, originally built as the pleasure palace of Maharajah Jagat Singh II

Tour details

Dates December 06 2019 - December 23 2019
Duration 18 days
Cost $6,745
Single supplement: $1,600
Deposit: $500 , balance due by 13 September 2019
Activity Level Moderate
Tour code A19INN

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

December 6 2019: Itinerary

We arrive in Delhi and transfer to our hotel. We take the rest of the day to relax after our flight, before enjoying our first dinner as a group.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Le Méridien, New Delhi

After a relaxing morning to recover from our flight, we will begin our touring with Delhi’s major Mughal sites including the exquisitely carved minaret of Qutb Minar, built by Aibak in 1199 and Humayun’s Tomb, the first tomb of the great Mughals.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Le Méridien, New Delhi

Today’s touring continues at the lovely Jama-i Masjid, decorated with polychrome stonework, and the recently restored water system, as well as the grand Lal Qila, known as the Red Fort, and Birla House, a museum dedicated to Gandi. We will spend the afternoon at the National Museum. Rich with archaeological artifacts and art from the last 5,000 years, the museum also houses Sir Aurel Stein’s collection from his travels along the Silk Road.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Le Méridien, New Delhi

We fly to Varanasi and begin our touring at the remains of the monastic center at Sarnath. It was here, around 528 BC, that Buddha preached his first sermon after he had received enlightenment. We will also explore the site and its small museum, which houses India’s official symbol, the Ashoka pillar, carved with back-to-back lions.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: The Gateway Hotel Ganges, Varanasi

Our day begins with a morning boat trip on the Ganges as Hindu pilgrims flock to the ghats to perform their ablutions. Next we fly to Khajuraho, where the temples of this region celebrate the joy of life and love, portraying women in all their sensuality and are considered to be the epitome of Hindu sculpture. We will also spend time at the Southern Temple Group and the Archaeological Museum.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Radisson Jass Hotel, Khajuraho

We continue our touring to the Eastern Temple group, including the architectural masterpiece Parsvanatha Jain temple. Its charming sculptures include a scene of a woman applying eye makeup and another removing a thorn from her foot, giving us the sense of being present at an intimate moment in their lives. After visiting the Western Temple Group, we will have an afternoon at leisure to revisit our favorite sites or relax at the swimming pool.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Radisson Jass Hotel, Khajuraho

This morning we make our way to Orchha, which was founded in the 16th century by the Bundela king, Rudhra Pratap. This medieval city is frozen in time and space, existing even today as it must have done in the 16th and 17th centuries when it was built. In the afternoon, we visit the Jahangir Mahal, the most grandiose structure in Orchha; the Raja Mahal, another monument of historical importance and the Rai Praveen Mahal.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Orchha Palace and Convention Center, Orchha

After breakfast, we head to Gwalior, visiting Bir Singh Palace in Datia en route. This palace is one of the finest examples of domestic architecture in India. The summit is ornamented by numerous chhatris crowned with ribbed domes, while many of the ceilings are finely carved. We continue to Gwalior, established in the 8th century and named after Saint Gwalipa. Formally the capital of Madhya Bharat it was ruled by Tomar kings, the Mughals and the Marathas.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Taj Usha Kiran Palace, Gwalior

We proceed with a city tour of Gwalior. The city is dominated by its hill-top fort, one of the most redoubtable in the world. After lunch we board a train to Agra, the quintessence of the grand Mughal era. Agra is globally renowned as the city of the Taj Mahal, but this royal Mughal city has many monuments that epitomize the high point of Mughal architecture.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Gateway Hotel, Agra

Referred to as one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is the epitome of tourism in India and is celebrated for its architectural magnificence and aesthetic beauty. A symphony in white marble, a tribute to eternal love, it was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. There are tombs of Mumtaz and Shahjahan within the mausoleum. Today’s visits also includes a visit to the Red Fort, the elegant garden mausoleum of Itimad-ud-Daulah as well as other buildings of interest for their Mughal architecture.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: The Gateway Hotel, Agra

This morning we journey to Jaipur, the capital of India’s Rajasthan state and home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. En route, we stop to visit Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted red sandstone city built by Emperor Akbar as his capital in the late 16th century to commemorate the birth of his son. After using 10,000 artisans to create this Hindu-Persian masterpiece, Akbar utilized the city as his principal capital for only 15 years and eventually moved to Lahore.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Marriott Hotel, Jaipur

A short drive brings us to Amber and the magnificent fort-palace that nestles on the rocky hill rising above Maota Lake. We then return to Jaipur. Our touring begins with the intricately carved marble Old City Palace built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh in 1728, now home to the Textiles and Costumes Museum We will also visit the Jantar Mantar, and the Palace of the Winds, renowned for its delicate lattice screens.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Marriott Hotel, Jaipur

We drive to Jodhpur, a sandy, colorful town lying at the edge of the Thar Desert. Jodhpur is known as the “Blue City” due to the vivid blue-painted houses around the Mehrangarh Fort. The old city circles the fort and is bounded by a wall with several gates, however, the city has expanded greatly over the past several decades. This evening we enjoy a walking tour of the bustling market of Old Jodhpur.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Vivanta by Taj Hari Mahal, Jodhpur

Today we will explore some of the very colorful villages inhabited by the Bishnoi people. These interesting people are potters and weavers and are followers of a 15th-century sage whose creed focused on protecting every living thing. After lunch, we proceed with a city tour visiting Mehrangarh Fort and Jaswant Thada. Mehrangarh Fort, is set on a sandstone hill built by Rao Jodha in 1459. From the top of the fort, one can get a bird’s eye view of the old city to the Jaswant Thada.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Vivanta by Taj Hari Mahal, Jodhpur

A fascinating drive brings us to the exquisite temples of Ranakpur, which lie buried in a shady glen and cover a vast area. The central temple is called Chaumukha (four-faced) and is the most complex and extensive of Jain temples in India. Its 29 halls are supported by 1,444 pillars, none of which are alike. Subsidiary shrines in the shape of side altars throng around in all directions, including a temple dedicated to the Sun God which displays erotic carvings. We continue to the romantic city of Udaipur for a two-night stay.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

We complete our touring this morning with an excursion to Nagda to visit the exquisitely carved 10th-century Hindu temples and Eklingji, a complex of 108 living temples dedicated to Shiva, patron deity of the Udaipur royal house. We then return to Udaipur to visit the palace of the Maharana Udai Singh, Jagdish Temple, heavily carved with figures of Vishnu. The remainder of the day will be at leisure. This evening we will meet for our farewell dinner.

All meals included

Hotel: Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

We enjoy our final morning at leisure, and later we fly to Delhi. After dinner we embark on our late night or early morning flights home or onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

December 6 2019: Additional Info

December 6 2019: Accommodation

Le Méridien New Delhi is situated just 1.2 miles from the Presidential Palace, Parliament House and Connaught Place. Within easy reach of several shopping and entertainment districts, this hotel offers an outdoor pool, a spa and 6 food and beverage options. Complimentary WiFi for 30 minutes on the day of arrival.

Featuring wooden floorings and furnishings, air-conditioned rooms come with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a minibar and electric kettle. The en suite bathroom offers a shower and hairdryer.

For convenience, a car rental service, travel desk and 24-hour front desk are provided. Le Méridien's Three Graces by Amatrra offers a range of spa and massage therapies. It also features private therapy suites for couples and a meditation room. Other facilities include a steam room, hot tub and fitness centre.

Offering all-day dining, The One is a restaurant and bar, which serves international dishes. Eau de Monsoon, the contemporary Indian restaurant is well known for its Avant Garde cuisine. Chinese food with Szechuan and Cantonese influences are offered at Le Belvedere, the rooftop restaurant with a panoramic view of the city. Guests can head to Caffe e Chocol Art for dessert. Cocktails and light refreshments can be enjoyed at Nero and Henri's Bar.

Spread over 40 acres of tropical gardens, The Gateway Hotel Ganges is a peaceful getaway in the ancient temple city of Varanasi. Offering an outdoor pool and a spa, it also has 24-hour room service.

The modern air-conditioned rooms are all equipped with a flat-screen TV, minibar and tea/coffee making facilities. All enjoy views of the garden, pool or city. Bathrooms come with shower facilities.

Guests can exercise at the fitness center, relax with a massage or buy souvenirs at the shopping arcade. There is a doctor on-call and a business center.

Both buffet and à la carte dishes are available at GAD coffee shop, which serves Indian, Pan-Asian and international delights. Varuna offers authentic Indian fine dining, while wines and cocktails can be enjoyed at Prinsep Bar. 

Located just 0.6 miles from the Western Group of Khajuraho Tamples – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Radisson Jass Hotel offers a 24-hour front desk and free WiFi throughout the property.

The modern Radisson Jass Hotel offers car rental, currency exchange and laundry/dry-cleaning facilities. A tour desk can assist guests with travel arrangements. A business center is also present for those looking to organize meetings. Work-out enthusiasts can break a sweat in the fitness center.

Each air-conditioned room features a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, minibar and an electric kettle. The en suite bathroom contains complimentary toiletries.

Temple Café has an a la carte menu as well as breakfast, lunch and a dinner buffet which is accompanied by live Sitar performances. Temple Bar is the place to go for wines and cocktails. Room service options are also available. 

Boasting an outdoor swimming pool and a restaurant, Orchha Palace and Convention Center is located in Orchha. The 5-star hotel has air-conditioned rooms with a private bathroom and free WiFi. The accommodation features a 24-hour front desk and a concierge service for guests.

At the hotel, rooms come with a desk and a flat-screen TV. Orchha Palace and Convention Centre offers some units with garden views, and the rooms come with a kettle. All rooms will provide guests with a fridge.

The accommodation offers a continental or Full English/Irish breakfast.

Situated in Gwalior, Taj Usha Kiran Palace offers accommodation with a balcony and WiFi access. It features 3 dining options and a spa. Activities such as yoga and cooking classes are available.

Fitted with tiled or wooden flooring, air-conditioned rooms, suites and villas are equipped with a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom with bath and shower facilities. Tea/coffee making facilities and a minibar are included.

Overlooking the courtyard green, Silver Saloon offers local, Asian and European dishes. Housing a large billiards table, The Bada Bar serves Indian and international favorites. Alternatively, The Court is a café featuring an alfresco dining experience.

Spread over 9 acres of landscaped gardens, The Gateway Hotel Fatehabad Agra enjoys beautiful views of the Taj Mahal. Aside from 24-hour room service, the hotel also provides a freshwater outdoor pool, a fitness center and a pampering spa.

Elegant rooms feature marble flooring and air conditioning. A cable TV, minibar and personal safe are standard features in all rooms. Attached bathrooms feature hot-water showers and toiletries.

Traditional Indian therapies and body massage can be enjoyed at the spa. Guests can also sign up for cooking classes or get their portrait done on-site. A business center and florist are also available.

The stylish 24-hour GAD coffee shop serves Indian and international dishes, either in buffet or à la carte style. Live dance and music performances accompany traditional Indian and Chinese meals at Jhankar. Wine and cigars can be enjoyed at Sagui. Guests can enjoy a variety of delights at the Sky Deck that overlooks the beautiful Taj. 

Jaipur Marriott Hotel is located in the commercial area of Ashram Marg, a 10-minute drive from Jaipur Airport. The luxurious 5-star hotel mixes tradition with modernity and offers a spa, free parking and free WiFi.

Air-conditioned guestrooms are fitted with an iPod dock, tea/coffee making facilities and a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. The en suite bathroom comes with bathroom amenities and a bathtub.

Marriott Jaipur has a fully equipped business centre with fax and photocopying facilities. The tour desk can assist guests with making travel arrangements. Laundry and dry cleaning services are offered.

Dining options include Okra, an all-day dining global restaurant while Saffron serves contemporary Indian delights. The hotel also has a pastry shop on site, Jaipur Baking Company where guests can enjoy from a selection of gourmet sandwiches, soups and salads and a variety of coffees.

Spread over 6 acres of landscaped gardens, the luxurious Vivanta by Taj Hari Mahal is built to resemble a 14th century royal palace. Pampering spa treatments, a large outdoor pool and a 24-hour fitness center are available.

Charming air-conditioned rooms feature original wall paintings, large windows and an ergonomic work space. Overlooking the garden or pool, all rooms have a flat-screen TV and free tea/coffee making facilities. Bathrooms have massage showers and a bathtub.

Modern Rajasthani and Continental dishes can be enjoyed at Latitude, which also features live traditional music performances. Authentic Cantonese and Szechuan cuisines are served at The Good Earth. Cocktails are available at Ola Bar. 

Situated in the middle of Lake Pichola and built in 1746, Taj Lake Palace is built with marble and features majestic architecture. It offers a full service spa at Jiva Spa and customized programs including site-specific yoga sessions. It has breathtaking views of the City Palace, Aravalli and Machla Magra hills, and Jag Mandir. Rooms come with butler service.

Leisure facilities include a 24-hour fitness center and a hot/cold spa pool. There is also a shopping arcade, games room and business center. 

Taj Lake Palace boasts rooms with beautifully carved wooden furniture and luxurious silk fabrics. Offering garden or lake views, each room has a flat-screen TV and DVD player.

Offering views of the lily pond and a traditional ambiance, Neel Kamal is a fine-dining dinner-only restaurant that serves authentic flavors of the royal cuisine of Udaipur, the North West Frontier and other Indian delights. Bhairo is a rooftop restaurant that treats you to European cuisines. Jharokha that overlooks the Lake Pichola is an all-day dining restaurant. Amrit Sagar Bar offers a selection of cigars, sheeshas and wines. The property offers private dining in fairy tale settings with handcrafted menus.

December 6 2019: Enquiries

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