Temples and Palaces of Northern India (land tour)

Detailed Itinerary

Friday, December 9, 2016:  Arrive DELHI, INDIA
Upon arrival in Delhi, transfer to our hotel. Since most flights will arrive very early on the morning of December 9th we have also reserved the night of December 8th for the group so that you may check in when you arrive. Overnight at the Hotel Claridges for three nights.

Saturday, December 10: DELHI
We will focus on three major sites today: the National Museum of India, which contains over 200,000 works of art spanning thousands of years; the World Heritage site of Humayun’s tomb, the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent (“the predecessor of the Taj Mahal”); and the Qutub Complex, a World Heritage site, which includes 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. We will also slowly drive by and admire many other famous monuments, such as Jama Mosque, Red Fort, Raj Ghat (where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated), the ruined fortress at Feroze Shah Kotla, the Ashok Pillar, and Safdarjung’s tomb. (B,L,D)

Sunday, December 11: DELHI | AGRA
After an early breakfast we depart for Agra. Visit the Tomb of Itimad ud-Daulah, the first Mughal structure totally constructed of marble and the first to make extensive use of the pietra dura technique, in which marble is inlaid with other stones. Then, experience a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal, a beautiful tomb complex in pure white marble and red sandstone unique in its size and exquisite proportions. Overnight at the Trident Agra for two nights. (B,L,D)

Monday, December 12: AGRA | SIKANDRA | AGRA
Begin the day with a sunrise visit to the World Heritage site of the Taj Mahal. Continue to another World Heritage site, Agra Fort, built by Emperor Akbar and comprising a maze of lovely courtyards, mosques, and private chambers. After lunch, we visit Sikandra, the splendid tomb of Akbar (the greatest of all Mughal emperors), which is built from red sandstone inlaid with marble. (B,L,D)

Early this morning, you may choose to relax or enjoy one last sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal. After breakfast, depart for 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. The Mathura Museum has one of the finest collections of stone and terracotta sculptures. After lunch, continue on to the World Heritage site of Fatehpur Sikri (“The City of Victory”), the abandoned city of Emperor Akbar the Great. The audience halls, palaces, and mosques are perfectly preserved, as are the tomb of Sufi saint Sheikh Salim Chisti, Panchmahal (a five-storey palace), and the Buland Darwaza (a 174-foot-high victory gate). Arrive in Bharatpur this evening and check in to our hotel. Overnight at The Bagh. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, December 14: BHARATPUR | JAIPUR
This morning, you may choose to relax at our garden hotel complex or explore by cycle rickshaw the Keoladeo National Park, a World Heritage wildlife site and one of South Asia’s greatest (and easiest) parks to see myriad species of exotic birds. The Park was once the private hunting reserve of the Maharajas of Bharatpur. Part of the park lies under water, the extent and volume depending on the intensity of the rains, and the rest is covered in dry deciduous forest and extensive grassland. After lunch we depart for Jaipur, where 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; and the colorful Old Bazaar filled with a wide variety of shops. Those not interested in shopping may instead relax at the hotel until dinner. Overnight at the Trident Jaipur for two nights. (B,L,D)

Thursday, December 15: JAIPUR
This morning we visit the splendid Amber Fort, site of a 17th-century palace overlooking a lake at the entrance to a rocky mountain grove. The palace is a distinguished specimen of Rajput architecture. The Jai Mandir (Hall of Victory) is so delicately ornamented with fine inlay work that it glows. We also visit the Anokhi Museum, a small textile museum dedicated to the ancient craft of hand block printing that is housed in a restored, UNESCO-award-winning, 400-year-old building. Most of the afternoon is at leisure to relax, independently explore Jaipur, and/or return to the Old Bazaar. (B,L,D)  

Friday, December 16: JAIPUR | JODHPUR 
After an early breakfast we depart on our longest drive (approximately five hours) to Jodhpur, arriving in time for a late lunch at our lovely hotel. Later this afternoon we enjoy a guided walking tour of the Old Town, which is filled with arts and crafts shops. You have the option of returning to the hotel with your guide or staying in the market and independently returning to the hotel via taxi in time for dinner. Overnight at the Taj Harimahal for two nights. (B,L,D)

Saturday, December 17: JODHPUR
Today visit Rajasthan’s most formidable fortress/palace, Meherangarh, which is still run by the Maharaja of Jodhpur. This majestic fort sprawls atop a 410-foot-high hill and consists of a network of courtyards and palaces with a splendid collection of all the trappings of Indian royalty. Old cannons look out from the ramparts, with magical views over the sheer drop to the old town beneath. We will stop briefly at the traditional cremation grounds of the rulers of Jodhpur and admire the fabulous white marble memorial to Jaswant Singh II. After lunch, we visit the unusual Arna Jharna Desert Museum to learn about desert traditions in Rajasthan. Return to our hotel, where we have dinner this evening. (B,L,D)

Sunday, December 18: JODHPUR | RANAKPUR | UDAIPUR
Depart for Udaipur, stopping en route to explore Ranakpur, the largest temple complex in India. Mainly associated with its huge, beautiful 14th/15th-century Jain temples constructed of white marble, Ranakpur temple has 29 halls and 1,444 pillars, each of which is intricately carved. Ranakpur is amongst the five holiest places of the Jain community and exceptional in beauty. After lunch continue driving to Udaipur and check in to our hotel. You may relax or join your leaders in exploring Udaipur’s lively streets and craft shops. Overnight at the Trident Udaipur. (B,L,D)

Monday, December 19: UDAIPUR | MUMBAI
Today visit Udaipur’s exceptional City Palace, the largest palace complex in Rajasthan and once the seat of the Rajput kings of Mewar. Balconies, towers, and cupolas surround the palace, and there are fine views over beautiful Lake Pichola and the city from the upper terraces. The main section of the palace is now a museum with a large and varied collection. We will also visit Jagdish Temple, a large, three-storey temple completed in 1652; and Saheliyon Ki Bari, a large city garden complex with fountains, a lotus pool, and marble sculptures. After lunch, we enjoy a boat ride on lovely Lake Pichola. This evening we transfer to the airport for our flight to Mumbai (Bombay).Overnight at The Orchid Hotel. (B,L,D)

We depart Mumbai early this morning on our flight to Aurangabad. From there we set out to explore the World Heritage site of the Ajanta Caves, rock-cut monuments dating back to the 2nd century B.C., containing paintings and sculpture considered to be among the very earliest masterpieces of Buddhist religious art. Ajanta influenced the development of Buddhist art as the religion spread throughout Asia over the next 1,000 years. The vast monastic complex of Ajanta consists of several vihara (monastic halls of residence) and chaitya-grihas (stupa monument halls), all cut into the mountain. Return to Aurangabad in time for dinner. Overnight at the Taj Vivanta (formerly Taj Residency) for two nights. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, December 21: AURANGABAD | ELLORA | AURANGABAD
This morning we visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ellora, which represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The 35 “caves” – actually structures excavated entirely out of the vertical face of the hills – were built between the 5th and 10th centuries. The 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu, and five Jain caves were all built in close proximity, evidence of the religious tolerance prevalent during this period of Indian history. On our return drive to Aurangabad we make a brief stop to view the outside of Daulatabad Fort, dating from the 14th century and the capital of the Tughlaq dynasty. The balance of the day is at leisure, or you may join an afternoon excursion to Bibi Ka Maqbara, a 17th-century mausoleum resembling the Taj Mahal. (B,L,D)

Thursday, December 22: AURANGABAD | MUMBAI
After an early breakfast, we transfer to the airport for a flight back to Mumbai. Enjoy a city tour en route to our hotel. After lunch, visit the Prince of Wales Museum featuring outstanding Indian art, including miniature paintings, sculpture, and bas-reliefs. The balance of the afternoon is at leisure for relaxation, independent exploration, or shopping in this cosmopolitan city. We gather for a farewell dinner hosted by our study leaders. Overnight at the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers. (B,L,D)

Friday, December 23: MUMBAI | ELEPHANTA | MUMBAI | HOME
This morning we pass through the famous Gateway of India and take a boat ride to the World Heritage site of Elephanta. Here we admire our last rock-cut caves—a fine cluster dating between the 6th and 8th centuries, depicting aspects of the God Shiva as the cosmic dancer, the androgyne, and the amorous groom. After lunch, the afternoon is at leisure for relaxation, exploration, shopping, or perhaps independently revisiting the nearby Prince of Wales Museum. Day rooms have been reserved for us at our Taj Mahal Palace hotel until 10pm. After dinner at the hotel, transfer to the airport for flights home. (B,L,D)

If you have any additional questions, please email us at aia@studytours.org (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884).