AIA Tours: land

Temples & Palaces of Northern India

Tour Dates: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 to Saturday, November 23, 2019 (18 days)

Tour Leader(s): Kirtana Thangavelu ,

Join art historian Kirtana Thangavelu on this in-depth tour that maximizes your sightseeing time with a carefully-planned itinerary, expert local guides, and three flights within India. Enjoy the luxury and convenience of traveling for five nights aboard the new, luxurious Palace on Wheels train; spend two nights each at five 5-star hotels; and spend one memorable night at a deluxe tented camp. Experience the famous and colorful Pushkar Fair, one of India’s largest camel, horses, and cattle fairs; plus two camel safaris in the desert. Discover masterpieces of Indian architecture and art, visiting eleven UNESCO World Heritage sites, including many of the world’s most magnificent royal tombs, extraordinary rock-cut cave temples and art, and spectacular fortress palaces. Explore India’s diverse and splendid cultural heritage through visits to important Jain, Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic monuments in and around Agra, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and the metropolises of Delhi and Mumbai. Marvel at rock-cut temples in Elephanta, Ajanta, and Ellora; the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri; the astronomical observatory of Jantar Mantar; Mughal monuments such as Humayun’s Tomb, the Qutub Minar, and the Taj Mahal; and much more. Limited to just twelve guests!


Tour Prices per person (16 nights)
Double Occupancy (10-12 participants) $12,945
Double Occupancy (7-9 participants) $13,745
Single Supplement $5,895
Single room supplement will be charged when requested or required (limited availability). With fewer than 12 participants, a small group surcharge may be added.

Red Fort, Agra © R. Todd Nielsen

Ajanta Cave © R. Todd Nielsen

Kailash Temple (Cave 16) at the Ellora Cave © R. Todd Nielsen

City Palace at Jaipur © R. Todd Nielsen

City Palace at Udaipur © R. Todd Nielsen

Fatehpur Sikri © Uddalak Das

Tiger in Ranthambore National Park © Dr. Souvikpaul

Itinerary


Wednesday, November 6, 2019: Depart U.S. on flights to Mumbai, India
Thursday, November 7: Arrive Mumbai | Private transfer to hotel
Friday, November 8: Mumbai | Elephanta Caves | Prince of Wales Museum | Welcome dinner
Saturday, November 9: Fly to Aurangabad | Ajanta Caves | Aurangabad
Sunday, November 10: Ellora Caves
Monday, November 11: Fly to Jaipur via Mumbai | Drive to Pushkar | Pushkar Fair
Tuesday, November 12: Pushkar Fair | Camel safari | Drive to Jaipur
Wednesday, November 13: Jaipur: Palace of Winds, Amber Fort, Old Bazaar
Thursday, November 14: Jaipur: City Palace, Jantar Mantar | Board Palace on Wheels
Friday, November 15: Ranthambore National Park | Chittorgarh
Saturday, November 16: Udaipur: City Palace, Boat ride on Lake Pichola
Sunday, November 17: Jaisalmer: Jaisalmer Fort, Patwa-ki-Haveli | Camel safari
Monday, November 18: Jodhpur: Mehrangarh Fort
Tuesday, November 19: Bharatpur: Disembark Palace on Wheels | Keoladeo National Park | Fatehpur Sikri | Agra
Wednesday, November 20: Taj Mahal sunrise visit | Agra Fort | Taj Mahal sunset visit
Thursday, November 21: Mathura | Delhi | Farewell dinner
Friday, November 22: Delhi: Jama Masjid, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutb Complex
Saturday, November 23: Depart Delhi | Fly home

View Detailed Itinerary

B= Breakfast • L= Lunch • R=Reception • D= Dinner

Wednesday, November 6, 2019: Depart U.S. on flights to Mumbai, India

Thursday, November 7: Arrive Mumbai | Private transfer to hotel
Arrive at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM), where you will be met and transferred to our hotel. Check in is available after 2pm. If your flight arrives early in the morning of November 7th, you may consider reserving a room for the night of November 6th so that you may check-in upon arrival. Overnight at the 5-star Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai for two nights.

Friday, November 8: Mumbai | Elephanta Caves | Prince of Wales Museum | Welcome dinner
Our morning excursion takes us through the famous Gateway of India for a short boat ride across Mumbai Harbor to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Elephanta. Here we admire a fine cluster of six rock-cut caves with masterpieces capturing movement in stone that date from between the 6th and 8th centuries. Carved out of the living rock, the sculptures in the most majestic cave depict aspects of God Shiva portrayed as the cosmic dancer, the androgyne, and the amorous groom. On the south wall is a huge triple-headed statue representing Shiva’s three manifestations as the serene Preserver, gentle Creator, and fierce Destroyer. Return to Mumbai and, after lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Prince of Wales Museum that is designed in the Indo-Saracenic style and has sections for natural history, archaeology, art, and paintings, including a fine collection of miniature paintings, images, and bas-reliefs from the Elephanta Caves. Return to our hotel and gather tonight for a welcome cocktail reception and dinner at our hotel. (B,L,R,D)

Saturday, November 9: Fly to Aurangabad | Ajanta Caves | Aurangabad
Transfer early this morning to the airport in time for our flight to Aurangabad. Drive to our hotel and have breakfast before setting out for a visit to the Ajanta Caves, a World Heritage site with approximately 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments carved into a wall of rock, dating from the 2nd century B.C. to the 5th century A.D. These caves are masterpieces of Buddhist religious art that influenced the subsequent development of art throughout Asia because of their exceptionally expressive ancient paintings and rock-cut sculptures that are considered among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art. We return to Aurangabad for dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Vivanta Aurangabad by Taj for two nights. (B,L,D)

Sunday, November 10: Ellora Caves
This morning we drive to the Ellora Caves, a World Heritage site and one of the largest rock-cut cave complexes in the world, which consist of temples and monasteries hewn from living rock by Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain monks and craftsman. Dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, there are over 100 caves at the site, all excavated from the basalt cliffs, 34 of which are open to the public. These consist of 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29), and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves. They have been compared to Egypt’s Abu Simbel and pharaonic tombs for their amazing construction and their sculptures and frescoes. The most marvelous of all is the stupendous rock temple of Kailash (cave 16) that is the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world: a chariot-shaped monument dedicated to Shiva. After lunch we return to Ellora to discover more splendid cave art, and then return to our hotel in Aurangabad for dinner. (B,L,D)

Monday, November 11: Fly to Jaipur via Mumbai | Drive to Pushkar | Pushkar Fair
After breakfast we transfer to the airport in time for our flight to Mumbai and our connecting flight to Jaipur. Upon arrival we drive approximately three hours to Pushkar and check-in to our unique accommodations: Deluxe Tented Camps. This afternoon we visit the Pushkar Fair, one of India’s largest camel, horse, and cattle fairs, which takes place at Pushkar Lake, an important Hindu pilgrimage site. The fair features dances, camel races, tugs-of-war, a “longest moustache” competition, and more. Men trade their livestock and handicraft stalls sell colorful bracelets, clothes, and textiles. Overnight at Deluxe Tented Camps at Pushkar. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, November 12: Pushkar Fair | Camel safari | Drive to Jaipur
We spend this morning enjoying the Pushkar Fair. After lunch we take a camel safari, a great way to explore the vast expanse of the desert landscape and small villages. This afternoon we drive back to Jaipur (approximately three hours), where we check-in to our hotel and settle in. Gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 5-star Jai Mahal Palace for two nights. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, November 13: Jaipur: Palace of Winds, Amber Fort, Old Bazaar
Today we explore Jaipur, beginning with a visit to Hawa Mahal (“Palace of Winds”), a five-story structure of sandstone, plastered pink and encrusted with fine trelliswork and elaborate balconies. Built in 1799 by Pratap Singh, the Mahal was a royal grandstand for the palace women. After lunch we visit the nearby Amber Fort, an old palace overlooking Maota Lake at the entrance to a rocky mountain grove. Built in the 17th century, the palace is a distinguished specimen of Rajput architecture. Its Jai Mandir (Hall of Victory) is so delicately ornamented with fine inlay work that it glows. The fort of Jaigarh, crowning the summit of a peak, possesses amazing beauty and grandeur. We return to Jaipur proper, where you may choose to explore the Old Bazaar or return to our hotel and relax. Gather for dinner this evening. (B,L,D)

Thursday, November 14: Jaipur: City Palace, Jantar Mantar | Board Palace on Wheels
This morning we explore the City Palace, an imposing blend of traditional Rajasthan and Mughal architecture. The complex is divided into a series of courtyards, gardens, and palatial buildings, including the City Palace Museum with Afghan and Persian carpets, miniature paintings, astronomical manuscripts in Persian and Sanskrit, and a medieval weapons collection. Also explore the World Heritage site of Jantar Mantar, an extraordinary and vast astronomical observatory complex built in the early 18th century. After lunch at a local restaurant we board the ultra-luxurious, new, 41-cabin Palace on Wheels train. Enjoy dinner onboard as we travel toward Ranthambore. Overnight aboard the Palace on Wheels train for five nights. (B,L,D)

Friday, November 15: Ranthambore National Park | Chittorgarh
Make a morning visit of Ranthambore National Park, famous for its tigers that usually can be spotted during the day, making it one of the best places to see these majestic predators in the wild, plus several species of bird and perhaps sambar deer, jackal, mongoose, sloth bear, and leopard. Return to the Palace on Wheels and enjoy lunch and grand views as we travel toward Chittorgarh (Chittor Fort), a UNESCO World Heritage site that (spread across 700 acres) is the largest fort complex in India. Back aboard the train, we enjoy dinner as we travel toward Udaipur. (B,L,D)

Saturday, November 16: Udaipur: City Palace, Boat ride on Lake Pichola
After breakfast we explore Udaipur’s majestic white City Palace, built in granite and marble and surrounded by crenellated fort walls. It is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan and stands on a crest overlooking beautiful Lake Pichola. Almost all the rooms of the palace have beautiful paintings, inlay glass work, antique furniture, and colorful enamel. After lunch, enjoy an afternoon boat ride on Lake Pichola. Return to the Palace on Wheels and enjoy dinner onboard as we travel toward the desert city of Jaisalmer. (B,L,D)

Sunday, November 17: Jaisalmer: Jaisalmer Fort, Patwa-ki-Haveli | Camel safari
This morning explore the UNESCO World Heritage site of Jaisalmer, a medieval trading center in the heart of the Thar Desert. Known as the “Golden City” because of its yellow sandstone architecture, the skyline is dominated by Jaisalmer Fort, a sprawling hilltop citadel buttressed by 99 bastions. Behind its massive walls stand the ornate, seven-story, former Maharaja’s Palace and intricately carved Jain temples. About a quarter of the old city’s population resides within the fort walls. Later visit the magnificent Patwa-ki-Haveli, a complex of traditional merchant townhouses with intricate, stone-carved balconies, where we visit Kothari’s Patwa-ki-Haveli Museum, which evokes life in the 19th century. After lunch we join a camel safari and explore sand dunes here in the far western deserts of India, one of the most picturesque landscapes in Rajasthan. Return to the Palace on Wheels and enjoy dinner onboard as we travel toward Jodhpur. (B,L,D)

Monday, November 18: Jodhpur: Mehrangarh Fort
This morning we set out to explore the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort that towers over the city of Jodhpur. Still run by the Maharaja of Jodhpur, this is Rajasthan’s most formidable fort, containing a series of courtyards and palaces, decorated with a deep terracotta lattice. Inside is a museum with a splendid collection of the trappings of Indian royalty, which includes miniature paintings, carriages, and much more. At the southern end of the fort, old cannons look out from the ramparts over the sheer 400-plus-foot drop to the old town beneath. After lunch at a 5-star restaurant, we return to the Palace on Wheels. Enjoy dinner onboard as we travel toward Bharatpur. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, November 19: Bharatpur: Disembark Palace on Wheels | Keoladeo National Park | Fatehpur Sikri | Agra
After an early breakfast we disembark our train at Bharatpur and visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Keoladeo National Park, formerly the private hunting reserve of the Maharajas of Bharatpur. It was developed in the late 19th century by creating small dams and bunds to collect rain water and by feeding it with an irrigation canal. Over the years the lakes have attracted a great number of waterfowl. This famous park is also an excellent place to see mammals like the golden jackal, striped hyena, fishing cat, jungle cat, nilgai, sambar, blackbuck, and wild boar. Bicycle rickshaws will transport us for wildlife viewing in the park. After lunch and a cooking demonstration at The Bagh Bharatpur, we drive to Agra, stopping en route to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Fatehpur Sikri. Built in the 16th century by Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great, Fatehpur Sikri literally means ‘The City of Victory,” and its audience halls, palaces, and mosques are still in a state of perfection. Overnight at the 5-star Trident Agra for two nights. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, November 20: Taj Mahal sunrise visit | Agra Fort | Taj Mahal sunset visit
Set out early this morning for a sunrise visit to the 17th-century Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.” Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved consort Mumtaz Mahal, this beautiful mausoleum is pure white marble and an architectural marvel. This afternoon we visit yet another remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site, the 16th-century Agra (or Red) Fort, built by Emperor Akbar. Its vast maze of courtyards, mosques, and private chambers echo the story of the mighty Mughal Empire. While in Akbar’s time the fort was principally a military structure, by Shah Jahan’s time the fort had become partially a palace. We end the day with a return visit to the Taj Mahal for sunset. (B,L,D)

Thursday, November 21: Mathura | Delhi | Farewell dinner
Depart Agra this morning to drive to Delhi (about 3.5 hours), stopping en route at Mathura, one of India’s most ancient towns, with ghats (steps) lining the banks of the Yamuna River. It is a major pilgrimage site for Buddhists, Jains, and especially Hindus, since the site is strongly connected to the god Krishna. Also visit the Mathura Museum, which houses a fine collection of stone and terracotta sculptures. Continue on to Delhi, and check-in to our hotel. Gather this evening for a farewell dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Taj Diplomatic Enclave New Delhi for two nights. (B,L,D)

Friday, November 22: Delhi: Jama Masjid, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutb Complex
Today is dedicated to sightseeing in Old Delhi, beginning with the 17th-century Jama Masjid, the second largest mosque on the subcontinent, with its tapering minarets and wonderful marble domes; and the 16th-century Humayun’s Tomb, architecturally the forerunner of the Taj Mahal, and an example of Mughal architecture at its graceful best. After lunch at Chor Bizarre in Bikaner House (a former royal mansion), visit the Qutb Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a 236-foot high minaret, a 1,500-year old iron pillar that does not rust, and a large mosque that was constructed from reused temple pillars. Return to our hotel and gather for dinner this evening. (B,L,D)

Saturday, November 23: Depart Delhi | Fly home
Transfer to Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) airport for independent flights home. (Day rooms will available until noon.)


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