ARRIVE DELHI, INDIA
Arrive in Delhi, where you are met and transferred to your hotel.
After a morning at leisure, set off on a tour of New Delhi, exploring its most treasured sites. Visit Humayun’s Tomb, a grand dynastic, 16th-century mausoleum topped by a bulbous dome and revered as the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. A remarkable example of Mughal architecture, Humayun’s Tomb would later influence the exceptional Taj Mahal. Stand before the Qutub Minar, a 13th-century Islamic tower that rises 238 feet above the Quwwatul-Islam Masjid, the first mosque in India. You also see the high stone arch of India Gate; the ceremonial boulevard of pond-flanked Rajpath; and the official residence of the President of India, the copper-domed Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Turn your attention to colorful Old Delhi, which you tour this morning. Visit the largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid, considered the final architectural extravagance of Shah Jahan with its three gateways, four towers, and two minarets striped with sandstone and marble. Enter the intoxicating chaos of Chandni Chowk shopping bazaar, which you explore on an exciting rickshaw ride. You also visit the sprawling Red Fort, so-named for its red sandstone walls. Shah Jahan, who also built the Taj Mahal, started construction of the massive fort, which ultimately played a role in his undoing when his own son imprisoned him here. Proceed to Raj Ghat, where a black marble platform marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated following his assassination in 1948. The rest of your day is at leisure.
Journey overland approximately three hours to Agra and check in to your hotel. The first site to greet you on your tour of Agra is the great Agra Fort. Originally occupied in the 14th century by the Lodi Sultans, it was later established by Mughal Emperor Akbar and transformed into a beautiful fort palace, richly embellished with marble and mosaic. This evening, at sunset, visit Agra’s greatest treasure, the incomparable Taj Mahal, to watch the fading light bathe it in a warm orange glow.
RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
Wake early, if you wish, and visit the Taj Mahal again, to see how the rising sun lends a warm tint to its marble face. Return to your hotel for breakfast before continuing overland to Bharatpur, stopping en route to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fatehpur Sikri, India’s royal ghost town. Once the capital of Emperor Akbar, it stands today as an unpopulated 16th-century city with palaces, mosques, tombs and courts, even hidden passageways. After lunch, transfer to Bharatpur Railway station for an express train ride to Ranthambore National Park, and continue to your accommodations.
RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK
After breakfast, set off on an early morning game drive through Ranthambore National Park. Once the royal Maharaja’s hunting grounds, the park is home to abundant wildlife and protected tigers. Enjoy time at leisure before another game drive in the late afternoon light.
Early this morning, enjoy a final game drive in the park. After a leisurely breakfast, travel overland to Jaipur, stopping en route for lunch at a local restaurant, with the opportunity to explore the surrounding village by camel cart. Continue to Rajasthan’s capital of Jaipur and check in to your hotel.
This morning, visit Albert Hall, now the Central Museum, to view displays portraying Rajasthani village life through costumes, pottery, woodwork and brassware. Continue to the Anokhi Museum, located in a fully restored haveli (Mughal-era townhouse) and dedicated to the ancient arts of block and hand printing. Visit the majestic and massive Mughal-style Amber Fort, which overlooks Maota Lake. Built from red sandstone and marble, this ornately detailed UNESCO World Heritage Site was once the capital of the state of Jaipur. It is considered among the best hilltop forts in India, with beautifully decorated temples, ornate halls and powerful exteriors that seem to grow out of the rugged hills. After lunch, you may choose to visit a colorful local market with your guide, or spend time exploring the city on your own.
After breakfast, set off on a morning sightseeing tour of Jaipur’s Old City (Pink City). See the walled City Palace, a massive, sprawling mix of Rajput and Mughal architecture, complete with courtyards and gardens. Next door, explore the Jantar Mantar, an observatory with fascinating 18th-century instruments that include the Dhruva Yantra, which locates the position of the North Star and Zodiac signs. Finish with a stop at the pink-sandstone Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. Jaipur’s most famous building, this five-story palace was built in 1799 by Sawai Pratap Singh for the ladies of his royal harem. In the afternoon, transfer to the airport and fly to Delhi, where you check in to your hotel.
After breakfast, depart for the airport and board your international flight home.