Northern India... Timeless cities... thousands of years of compelling history. Breathtaking architecture, like the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. Dramatic, sun-drenched landscapes... a rich mix of local cultures and cuisines... and age-old spiritual traditions on the ghats along the River Ganges.
Along the Golden Triangle – from bustling Delhi to mystical Varanasi and the “Pink City” of Jaipur, to Udaipur, the “City of Lakes,” – and finally to glorious Mumbai, city of wealth, slums, and Bollywood, Tauck has crafted a 13-day grand tour of India perfect for travelers with less time to spend. Experience contrasting images of the capital, Delhi, old and new. Sail on the Ganges in Varanasi to witness holy men “putting the river to sleep.” Travel to Agra to visit the famous Taj Mahal... which you can see from your hotel room! Celebrate India’s culture and cuisine among Jaipur’s pavilions and palaces at a special Maharajah evening in Jaipur. Spend three nights at The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur, voted Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best Hotel," and two nights at the Oberoi Mumbai, on a scenic bay in the commercial heart of the city. Throughout, you’ll enjoy accommodations in some of the world’s top-rated hotels... dine on local specialties... and discover the heart and soul of India!
India welcomes you... explore New Delhi
Tour begins: 2:00 PM, The Leela Palace 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
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 Humayun 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
Fly to the ancient city of Varanasi, built on the banks of the sacred River Ganges. Since the 6th century BC, this city has been a key destination for pilgrims who seek blessing and purification in the river’s holy waters. A sightseeing tour visits Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon; you'll also visit the Sarnath Museum, famous for its Buddhist sculptures and artifacts ranging from the 3rd Century BC to the 12th Century AD. Tonight, take a journey by boat along the River Ganges to witness ceremonies "putting the river to sleep." Amidst hundreds of lighted candles and flower offerings, tonight will be a special highlight of your journey.
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 at your choice of your hotel's fine restaurants.
Enjoy the royal treatment in Jaipur
Travel to Jaipur for a two-night stay at The Oberoi Rajvilas, reflecting the gracious lifestyles of India's legendary Rajput princes. A sightseeing tour of Jaipur includes the City Palace Museum and the Jantar Mantar Observatory – a collection of architectural astronomical instruments for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars in their orbits, figuring out the declinations of planets and determining the celestial altitudes – all built by Maharajah Jai Singh II in the 18th century. Attend a special evening fit for Maharajah royalty tonight, celebrating India's cultural traditions, music, dance and cuisine.
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.
Jaipur & on to Udaipur
Fly from Jaipur to Udaipur today and visit the Sasbahu temples in Nagda, built in the 10th-century; adorned with richly detailed stone carvings, the Hindu pavilions preside in a tranquil setting beside a lotus pond. Drive a short distance to the village of Delwara for lunch at Davigarh, an 18th-century royal palace with commanding views of the Aravalli Hills. Take a walk in the village after lunch, then drive to a three-night stay at your luxury Oberoi hotel – nestled along the banks of Lake Pichola and spread over fifty acres, which include 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.” Enjoy a sunset boat cruise on Lake Pichola followed by dinner at 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
A sightseeing tour with a local guide includes a stop at the 18th-century fountain gardens of Saheliyon Ki Bari (Garden of the Maidens), and a visit to the sumptuous 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. Lunch on a terrace with a view of the lakeside palace, then return to your hotel for time at leisure. Enjoy a demonstration in the art of donning a sari or turban, then 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. Dine at your hotel tonight.
Udaipur and on to Mumbai
Fly to Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, India's wealthiest state, and the nation's financial hub. En route from the airport to the city center you'll pass through Dharavi, where street vendors and farmers' markets line the main road. A backdrop for the film Slumdog Millionaire, Dharavi is one of the world's largest, most densely populated slums, but its industries export as much as $1 billion in goods around the world every year. Gain insights into Dharavi's complex, multi-ethnic life and history on a guided tour (or opt out, if you prefer). After lunch, get an orientation tour of Mumbai before arriving at your luxury hotel on Nariman Point in South Mumbai, overlooking Back Bay and the Arabian Sea. Dinner is on your own tonight; the hotel has three on-site restaurants, and the surrounding business district offers many dining options, as well as shopping and entertainment.
The Cultural Treasures of Mumbai
This morning, a walking tour of landmarks includes the Gateway of India, a massive triumphal arch 87 feet high, built to welcome King George V and Queen Mary, who visited in 1911; actually, they were welcomed with a cardboard facsimile because the arch wasn't finished until 1924, but since then the Gateway has been an iconic symbol of the city, and its plaza an important site for public gatherings and ceremonies. You'll also visit the city's grand railroad terminal, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (formerly called Victoria Terminus), a jaw-dropping fusion of Indian and High Victorian Gothic architecture, elaborately decorated with arches, domes, turrets, statuary, and bas-reliefs, built in 1887. Amid the colorful bustle of the city, you're bound to see hordes of dabbawalas (men in white uniforms on bicycles delivering hot mid-day meals in "tiffin" cans), a traditional sight here since the 19th century. Enjoy your lunch at Souk, a restaurant at the elegant Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, then return to your hotel for an afternoon at leisure. Join us tonight for a farewell reception and dinner.
Fly to Dehli for your journey home
Tour ends: Mumbai. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the Oberoi Mumbai to Mumbai International Airport. Allow a minimum of three hours for flight check-in.