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Colourful India with Dave Pepler

  • Discover Delhi, both old and new
  • Taj Mahal and the Mughal Heritage Walk
  • Inter-active cooking experience
  • Celebrate the Festival of Colours with a local family
  • The Pink City of Jaipur
  • The carved temples of Khajuraho
  • Varanasi and the Ganges River

Overview

Immerse yourself in the colourful chaos that is Delhi. View the legendary Taj Mahal in Agra from a different perspective and join a local family as you celebrate the Festival of Colours. Visit the Pink City of Jaipur and Khajuraho with its incredible carved temples. Spot the elusive tiger in the Panna National Park and witness the sunrise over the holy River Ganges in Varanasi.

Join Dave Pepler and Live the Journey from 16 to 30 March 2019 and discover Colourful India!

Itinerary

DAY 1: DELHI

Namaste! Welcome to New Delhi, the capital city of India and the start of your eye-opening adventure! Our friendly team will be waiting in the arrivals hall to transfer you to your hotel where you can relax for the rest of the day.

Delhi is a huge city and one of the oldest on the planet. It is estimated to be over 5000 years old and rebuilt a staggering 11 times. Officially two separate cities, the old city of Delhi and New Delhi are really two parts of one sprawling metropolis with a number of attractions. Old Delhi with its predominantly Muslim population and Mughal architecture is comprised mostly of a labyrinth of tiny lanes crowded with rickshaws, and lined with run-down 17th-century havelis. Offering a real contrast to the congestion of the old city, New Delhi has been the capital of the Republic of India since Independence and is home to many historic monuments as well as impressive Raj-era architecture. Largely planned and built by the British, the central administrative area of the city was laid out as a testament to Britain's imperial pretensions. At its very heart is the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhawan (then known as Viceroy's House).

Overnight at The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa or similar including dinner

DAY 2: DELHI

Our full day guided sightseeing tour of Delhi covers the colourful chaos of Old Delhi and the modern simplicity of New Delhi.

This vibrant city is full of forts, monuments, temples, mosques and more. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Delhi was an important centre of the Mughal dynasty and the British made it the capital city in 1911.

We take in the Red Fort, Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk, the bustling bazaar, as well as the Raj Ghat and Shanti Vana – the cremation sites of Mahatama Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru. In New Delhi we visit India Gate, Rasthrapati Bhawan, Parliament House and Humayun’s Tomb.

Overnight at The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 3: DELHI

Located in the heart of the old city is Asia’s largest spice market, called Khari Baoli and some fascinating perfume shops called itra shops. In the narrow alley of the spice market you will find thousands of shops dealing in local and exotic herbs and spices. Learn about the various spices, therapeutic values and their culinary use. This is one of the most vibrant and colourful markets in Delhi and is a photographer’s paradise. You will also have an opportunity to climb up 4 flight of stairs for a spectacular panorama of the old city. Inside the old itra or perfume shops in Delhi you will find fragrance of rose and jasmine as well some exotic varieties.

Overnight at The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 4: DELHI – JAIPUR

This morning we drive to Jaipur, affectionately known as the Pink City as Maharaja Ram Singh had all of the Old City painted a welcoming pink in 1876 to herald a visit by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), it is also the bustling capital of the state of Rajasthan. We enjoy a tour of the City Palace and Jantar Mantar – an old yet cleverly designed space observatory.

Jaipur
The vibrant capital of Rajasthan is a flamboyant showcase of Rajasthani architecture and a firm favourite on tourist itineraries as the third corner of India’s Golden Triangle alongside Delhi and Agra.

Popularly known as the ‘Pink City’, in 1876 Maharaja Ram Singh had the whole city painted pink, traditionally a colour associated with hospitality, to welcome the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII). Jaipur was chosen by Maharaja Jai Singh II (1693-1743) for his capital. A skilled astronomer and visionary, he worked with superb Bengali architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya to complete design and construction of Jaipur in less than eight years and the 18th century UNESCO-listed Jantar Mantar is the largest and best preserved of five observatories built by the astronomer prince. The observatory complex is fascinating with giant stone structures that Jai Singh II had built to measure time, chart the declination of celestial bodies and predict eclipses. Other must-sees within the city include the City Palace Complex. The palace is a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The son of the last Maharaja and his family still reside in a wing of the palace. Also of interest is the Palace of the Winds (known as Hawa Mahal), whose facade is adorned with elaborate, perforated screens. The Old City, the actual Pink City, is a great place to wander around with ancient walls encircling bustling bazaars selling beautiful textiles and jewellery. For many visitors a highlight is the magnificent Amber Fort, a striking vision in yellow and pink sandstone with a royal palace and numerous courtyards.

Overnight at Hotel Golden Tulip or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 5: JAIPUR

This morning we visit the magnificent pink, fort-palace of Amber - a wonderful example of Rajput architecture just north of Jaipur. Subject to Government regulations*, we will arrive in style on an elephant!

*The government protects these elephants and only allows them to do a certain number of rides per day. The alternative will be a jeep transfer up to the top should this be necessary or should you not wish to ride an elephant.

Later, we visit a noble family for an interactive cooking experience, followed by lunch.

The rest of the day is at leisure - why not do some shopping at the market for colourful papîer mache puppets and traditional jootis - the Rajasthani shoe of choice.

Overnight at Hotel Golden Tulip or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 6: FESTIVAL OF COLOURS, JAIPUR

This morning we travel through the streets of the Pink City to witness the locals celebrating the Holi Festival or the Festival of Colours, as it is also known. Our destination is the Hotel Narain Niwas - a noble’s house in the erstwhile state of Jaipur – where we will join in the celebrations with live music, dance, drinks and mouthwatering delicacies. It is an immersive experience and to celebrate the festival, guest will be provided with a white Kurta pajama (Indian dress), Rajasthani Turban, a Pichkaris (water gun) and herbal colourings which are used to “colour’ the white Indian dress in the company of the host, his friends and family. Enjoy the many interesting traditions and customs of the festival that have its own regional variances followed by lunch.

Holi Festival (Festival of Colours): Holi is a spring festival also known as the Festival of Colours and Love. It is an ancient Hindu religious festival and is primarily observed in India, Nepal, and other regions of the world with significant populations of majority Hindus or people of Indian origin. Holi celebrations start with a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi where people gather, sing and dance. The next morning is a carnival of colours, where everyone splashes each other with dry powder and coloured water. Groups carry drums and musical instruments, go from place to place, sing and dance. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring and the end of winter.

The rest of the day is at leisure.

(Please note that guests that do not wish to participate in any of the festival activities, may choose to spend the time at leisure.)

Overnight at Hotel Golden Tulip or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 7: JAIPUR - BHARATPUR

Our first stop today is the stepwell at Chand Baori, dating back to the 9th century. We enjoy lunch at Hotel Udai Villas Palace at Bharatpur, and after hotel check-in, we visit Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we’ll enjoy a leisurely bicycle rickshaw ride through the park.

The walled town of Bharatpur, in Rajasthan, is just a stone’s throw from the border with the state of Uttar Pradesh. Boasting the massive Lohagarh Fort (built in 1732) plus traditional markets and mosques, it’s a good place to relax, explore and soak up the town's rich cultural heritage. However, the real reason travellers come to Bharatpur is to visit Keoladeo Ghana National Park.

The park can be toured on foot or by bicycle rickshaw and during a visit you may be fortunate enough to spot majestic cranes, spoonbills, pink flamingos, white ibises and grey pelicans as well as the birds of prey including vultures, harriers, peregrine falcons and ospreys. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Keoladeo Ghana is rated as one of the finest bird reserves in the world.

Overnight at Udai Vilas Palace or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 8: BHARATPUR – AGRA

En route to Agra, we visit Fatehpur Sikri, former imperial capital of the great Mughal emperor Akbar. Built between 1569 and 1585, it has been deserted for more than four centuries, abandoned in 1600 due to a meagre supply of water. In Agra, we visit the impressive Agra Fort.

Home to one of the most iconic monuments in the world, Agra is India's shining star and a universal favourite with travellers from around the world. Constantly under attack from the fierce Indian heat, this dusty city has obtained international reverence thanks to it being the site of the famous Taj Mahal, a mausoleum constructed in phases between 1632 and 1643, with extra work continuing on until 1653. It was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor in honour of his favourite wife Mumtaz, whose tomb still lies within its walls. There are few things on the planet as breath-taking as getting an up-close view of this historical masterpiece. Although the Taj Mahal has stolen the limelight of Agra and will realistically be at the forefront of Agra's tourism market for the foreseeable feature, this city also houses two other UNESCO World Heritage sites, making it one of the few cities in the world that can boast three of these accolades. The Agra Fort comes under this category and for obvious reason. Built with red stone and covered, inside and out, with intricate carvings and decoration, this structure is truly a sight to behold. The final UNESCO World Heritage site in Agra, which is situated within India's famous Golden Triangle route, is Fatehpur Sikri, a city that was built by the Emperor Akbar to be the capital of the Mughal Empire. It contains stunning palaces as well as the Jama Masjid, which is one of the largest mosques in India.

Overnight at Crystal Sarovar Premier or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 9: AGRA

Early this morning we enjoy a horse cart ride to the legendary Taj Mahal, the most extravagant monument ever built for love. Here you will receive a guided explanation, then plenty of free time to enjoy the romantic sunrise.

Later in the afternoon you will be taken across the Yamuna River for the Mughal Heritage Walk. This walk gives you a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the culture and lifestyle of the people living next to this world-famous tourist attraction in the village of Kachpura.

The walk covers a stretch of 1 km and is a community-based tourism enterprise. The walk will be facilitated by a youth from the local community who has been trained as a tour facilitator to provide both historical facts and anecdotes. You will walk to Gyarah Sidi, which is carved out of a single stone and enabled the early Mughals to study the star constellations, visit the Kachhpura village which overlooks the Taj Mahal, and the Humayun Mosque. The children of Kachhpura will organise a street play for you and the girls are happy to show you how skilled they are in making Henna tattoos, an ancient Indian Body Art. It is used in creating intricate ethnic or contemporary designs and exotic patterns on various parts of the body, though traditionally applied to the hands and feet of women, preparing for special ceremonies. Once thought only for women, men are finding it a nice alternative to permanent tattoos. But now both men and women enjoy the "temporary tattoo".

Overnight at Crystal Sarovar Premier or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 10: AGRA - ORCHHA

This morning after breakfast, we travel by express train (08h02-10:43 hrs) to Jhansi and drive onward to Orchha. Situated on the banks of the River Betwa, Orchha is set amongst a wonderful complex of well-preserved 16th century temples and palaces, that you will have plenty of time to explore at leisure this afternoon.

Orchha
Filled with ancient buildings, casting long and imposing shadows across the land, Orchha is a historical village that has maintained a strong cultural identity and is representative of what the Mughal Empire once was. The town was founded in 1531 by Rudra Pratap Singh and it sits on the banks of the Betwa River, which splits in to 7 channels in this precise location. With its faded grandeur and sleepy atmosphere, Orchha is a beautiful destination for anyone who wants a change of scenery, some time to relax and to travel back in time to when legend and mystery pervaded every corner of life. One of the most prominent structures in Orchha is the eponymous Orchha Fort. It houses numerous temples and palaces including the impressive Raj Mahal and Rai Parveen Mahal. While some of the buildings within show notable signs of wear and tear, the exquisiteness of them is just as overpowering as it must have been when they were first constructed. The Jhansi Fort is slightly smaller yet equally worth visiting, if only for the fascinating museum located in its interior. One of Orchha's most popular destinations is the Orchha Wildlife Sanctuary. Established in 1994, it stretches over a mere 46 sq km and yet it is home to a wonderful selection of animals including tigers, leopards, monkeys, sloths and jackals and it boasts over 200 different species birds.

Overnight at Hotel Raj Mahal or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 11: ORCHHA - KHAJURAHO

Travelling south-east, we arrive in Khajuraho - home of the astounding Hindu temples which were built during the Chandela dynasty over a 100 year burst of creative genius from 950-1050 AD. Famed above all for their delicate sensuality, how and why they were built still remains a mystery. The incredible skill of the artisans is evident throughout.

Located in the northern state of Madhya Pradesh, Khajuraho is famous for its unique Hindu and Jain temples that rate a close second behind the Taj Mahal as India's top attraction. Khajuraho’s temples were largely built during a major creative burst of genius from 950AD to 1050AD during the Chandela period, a dynasty that survived for five centuries before falling to the mighty Mughal onslaught. Their sheer beauty and immense size has confounded experts as to why they were built in Khajuraho, a small town then and still a relatively small town now. Indeed, the Chandelas appear to have forgotten about the temples soon after they were completed and it took ‘rediscovery’ by the British before these awesome masterpieces were fully appreciated in India. Immortalised in stone, the carved temples display exceedingly artistic aspects of Indian life a millennium ago but are famed above all for their erotic nature. Surprisingly, the erotic sculptures only account for a tenth of the temples' artistic murals with the majority dedicated to mythical stories and scenes of everyday life. The incredible skill of the Chandela artisans is evident throughout, with friezes as little as 10 cm wide crammed to the gunnels with detailed jewellery and hairstyles of the subject matter. Constructed from high quality sandstone, the temples change colour throughout the day with the waxing and waning light, from warm pinks at sunrise to glowing yellows at sunset.

Overnight at Hotel Golden Tulip or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 12: KHAJURAHO - VARANASI

This morning we visit Panna National Park.

Situated in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh at a distance of around 40 km from Khajuraho, Panna National Park is home to some of the best wildlife species in India. Offering a combination of teak and dry mixed forest interspersed with grassland areas, the park is renowned for its diverse wildlife including tigers (32 in total) leopards, deer, antelope, langur monkey and sambar. Enjoy a guided game drive here.

In the afternoon we bid farewell to Khajuraho and fly east to Varanasi. Perhaps the holiest city in India, Varanasi, also known as the city of Shiva, is also one of the oldest cities on earth, situated on the banks of the holy River Ganges.

Located on the banks of the River Ganges and considered to be one of India's most holy of cities, Varanasi is an overwhelming melting pot of colour, chaos and spirituality. Believed to have been founded by Shiva as early as the 11th century, Varanasi - or Kashi and Benares as it has variously been known - is also one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities, serving as an important centre of learning and civilization for over 2,000 years. Today thousands of Hindu pilgrims from all over the country come to Varanasi to bathe in the waters of the sacred River Ganges to wash away their sins. The Hindu rituals of life and death take place very publicly on the city’s famous riverside ‘ghats’, the name given to steps that lead down to holy waters. Here cremations on funeral pyres take place throughout the day with ceremonies held out in the open and the bodies simply wrapped in white cloth. Eventually the ashes will be scattered into the Ganges River. It is this accessibility to the practices of ancient tradition, coupled with Varanasi’s labyrinthine streets and colour that draw people. The best vantage point is from aboard one of the dawn boat rides on the Ganges. Scores of people enter the water from the ghats to purify themselves before the rising sun.

Overnight at Rivatas by Ideal or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 13: VARANASI

This morning, we enjoy a sunrise boat ride on the holy Ganges where we’ll view the ancient religious tradition of ritual cleansing that takes place on the many riverbank ghats (riverside steps).

Later, we embark on a tour of the city. The rest of the day is at leisure. At sunset, perhaps consider re-visiting the ghats for the evening pilgrimage, remarkably different from the dawn ritual.

Overnight at Rivatas by Ideal or similar including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 14: VARANASI

You have the day at leisure to further explore this vibrant city or just relax.

Early evening, we return to Delhi by flight and upon arrival, we transfer to the hotel for our overnight stay.

Overnight at Novotel Aerocity including breakfast, lunch and dinner

DAY 15: DEPARTURE

Today marks the end of our incredible journey through India. After breakfast and hotel check-out we transfer to the airport for your onward departure.

Including breakfast

END OF SERVICE

Dates

16 - 30 March 2019

Rates

Land Package:
Per person sharing: USD 3,495.00
Single Supplement: USD 950.00

Included

  • Meet and greet upon arrival 
  • Services of a qualified English speaking local guide
  • All transport in an air-conditioned vehicle
  • 14 nights’ accommodation as specified
  • 14 breakfasts, 13 lunches, 14 dinners
  • All sightseeing and excursions as specified 
  • Monument entrance fees as per the itinerary
  • Express train tickets for journey between Agra and Jhansi, as specified 
  • All current applicable tourism taxes

Excluded

  • All international flights and airport taxes (quoted and booked separately)
  • Domestic flights as indicated in the itinerary (quoted and booked separately)
  • Visa Fees, if applicable
  • Driver, guide and local escort gratuities 
  • Drinks and dining rooms tips and porterage
  • Telephone bill, laundry and any items of a personal nature 
  • Comprehensive travel insurance