India welcomes you... explore New Delhi
Tour begins: 2:00 PM, Leela Palace Hotel, New Delhi. A transfer is included from Indira Gandhi International Airport to your luxury hotel, The Leela Palace New Delhi, renowned for gracious service in the heart of the city. Because most flights arrive late at night or very early in the morning, you may want to travel a day early to ease the effects of jet lag and relax a bit before Tauck's India tour begins - just mention this at the time of booking; Tauck can arrange an extra night at The Leela Palace New Delhi. Your trip begins this afternoon with a welcome briefing by your Tauck Director, followed by a guided orientation tour of New Delhi including a drive through of Vijay Chowk, with views of the Secretariat buildings, Parliament House, the Presidential Palace and the India Gate, commemorating Indian and British soldiers. Next, stop at the Gandhi Smriti Museum, paying tribute to the inspiring leader, Mahatma Gandhi, who forced change through non-violent protest, leading to an independent India in the late 1940s. You'll have much to discuss this evening at the welcome cocktail reception and dinner.
Past meets present in Old Delhi
You'll tour two UNESCO World Heritage Sites today as you explore the centuries-old history and culture of Old Delhi and environs. The first, which you'll visit this morning, is Humayun's Tomb, constructed for the Mughal Emperor Humayan and other members of his family in the 1570s, and set within beautiful gardens. The first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent and the first large structure of its kind built of red sandstone, this Mughal creation popularized Persian-influenced architecture in India, and was an inspiration for the Taj Mahal in Agra. After an orientation tour of Old Delhi followed by lunch, visit the five-story sandstone Qutb Minar Victory Tower, an imposing minaret built over eight centuries ago, part of one of the earliest surviving mosque complexes in India. Return to your hotel in New Delhi and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening as you please.
Varanasi's rituals on the Ganges
Your flight to Varanasi takes you to the city traversed by the River Ganges; considered the spiritual capital of India, Varanasi is home to numerous religious sites that have been welcoming pilgrims as far back as 6 BC. With a guide, visit the ruins, temple and museum at Sarnath, the site of Buddha's first sermon, and the National Museum. The River Ganges not only supports the highest density of humans in the world but is considered sacred by Hindus; witness the fascinating activity along the river's ghats (stairs that line the banks) - from purification rituals to laundry; it is a moving and memorable experience.
A Ganges cruise & on to Agra
Awaken early for a cruise on the River Ganges to view the Varanasi sunrise ceremonies, then fly to Agra for a two-night stay and tomorrow's visit to one of the world's most famous and recognizable buildings, the Taj Mahal. An incredible domed mausoleum complex of white marble, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to memorialize and house the tomb of his beloved third wife and completed in 1653, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture - and yes, you'll have a view of it from your room in your award-winning luxury hotel, The Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra.
The Taj Mahal & Agra Fort
If you wish, you may visit the Taj Mahal in time for sunup - the gates open at sunrise. Those not going quite so early will join your Tauck Director a little later than sunrise (but still early morning) for a guided visit to the spectacular Taj Mahal, which reveals the love story behind the white marble wonder and UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its unique design and relief work in marble and inlay with precious and semi precious stones; your visit also includes time to explore on your own and take photographs. A guided tour of the massive red sandstone Agra Fort, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, follows. Inside, you'll get a very good look at medieval lifestyles of 16th- and 17th-century Mughal emperors. Following an afternoon spent at leisure, dine as you please this evening from among a selection of your hotel's fine restaurants.
Enjoy the royal treatment in Jaipur
Drive to Jaipur for a two-night stay in a luxury Oberoi hotel, arriving in time for lunch. This afternoon, join us for a guided visit to the magnificent City Palace Museum; inside are exhibits of historic royal costumes that include exquisite Pashmina shawls and silk saris. At the Jantar Mantar Observatory, discover astronomical skills that impress with the accuracy of instruments dating to the early 18th century. A special Maharajah evening includes entertainment, music and dance.
Jaipur's palaces & pavilions
Today's sightseeing includes the many gems of Jaipur, from the massive gateways and pillared pavilions inside Amber Fort to a tour of Amber Palace, with its magnificent domes, massive ramparts and glittering hall of mirrors. After a thali style lunch preceded by a puppet show, enjoy an afternoon at leisure in Jaipur, pursuing what interests you most.
Balloons over Jaipur & on to Udaipur
Rise early and begin the day with a hot air balloon ride over Jaipur before breakfast. Later, a flight from Jaipur to Udaipur is rewarded with a three-night stay at your luxury Oberoi hotel - nestled along the banks of Lake Pichola and spread over fifty acres, which includes a twenty-acre wildlife sanctuary with deer and wild boar. Consistently voted among the top luxury hotels in the world, The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur is a destination experience unrivaled anywhere - while Udaipur itself is a Rajasthan city of palaces and lakes, often called the "Venice of the East" and the "Most Romantic City in India." Dinner is at your leisure in your hotel, named India's best hotel by Condé Nast Traveler and 4th in the world's top 100 hotels
Treasures of Udaipur & a Lake Pichola cruise
An Udaipur sightseeing tour with your local guide includes a stop at the City Palace complex - a labyrinth of richly decorated courtyards, frescoed galleries, and marble temples overlooking a lake that was once the elegant home of the Maharajah of Udaipur - and, a short walk away, the Jagdish Mandir Temple, where music or chanting is heard throughout the day. Following lunch with a view of the lakeside palace, visit the 18th-century fountain gardens of Saheliyon Ki Bari, then enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Pichola. Join us tonight for a memorable Tauck Exclusive private dinner at Royal Repast, a restaurant owned by descendants of the Bedla clan who have played a significant role in the affairs of the Udaipur State - serving as Prime Ministers, valued advisors, commanders in chief of the armed forces and hosting all the dignitaries visiting Udaipur as state guests.
Udaipur's markets & the city at leisure
Today's sightseeing begins in Udaipur with an auto-rickshaw ride around the city's bustling spice and vegetable markets, for an insightful glimpse into everyday life in Udaipur. In the vegetable markets, women in brightly colored saris sit amongst the stalls, surrounded by baskets brimming with their fresh and equally colorful produce, while burlap bags or metal pans entice with a kaleidoscopic array of curries and spices. The rest of the day is free to explore more of this "City of Lakes" as you wish. Due to its many picturesque locations, Udaipur has supplied scenic backdrops to many a film or television show over the years; portions of movies including Darjeeling Limited, Opening Night, Heat and Dust, Octopussy and Gandhi, plus the TV miniseries The Jewel in the Crown, were filmed here. Enjoy a demonstration in the art of donning a sari or a turban, followed by a farewell reception, prior to dinner at your leisure at the hotel this evening.
Fly to Dehli for your journey home
Fly to Delhi; transfer to the Trident, Gurgaon, close to the Indira Gandhi International Airport, where rooms are reserved for your comfort. Tour ends: Delhi. Most international flights depart early the next day.