Transfer from Delhi International Airport to The Imperial Hotel
Stay at The Imperial Hotel in a Heritage Room for 3 nights
Perhaps there is no other capital city in the world so steeped in history and legend as the Indian capital Delhi, a major gateway to the country. It was the magnet, which drew the Mongols, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Mughals and the British, all of whom contributed to its glorious but turbulent past. The fascination with Delhi was such that even though it was abandoned many times, its rulers returned to it again and again rebuilding it at least seven times. Today, the twin cities of Old and New Delhi still intrigue Indians and tourists alike as the cultural and political capital of the largest democracy in the world. The Imperial, a landmark Delhi hotel, is located on Janpath, the erstwhile Queensway. The restored 1930s Victorian style building is a perfect confluence of old-world charm and modern day conveniences. A unique four story, low rise, The Imperial is located within walking distance from the renowned shopping and commercial district - Connaught Place.
This morning you explore the main sites in New Delhi. New Delhi was designed and built by the British in the 1920s. It is a city of wide boulevards, impressive government buildings, green parks and gardens. In 1911 King George V announced the transfer of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi. The architects of the King, Lutyens and Baker, set in motion the design and construction of the eighth city of New Delhi. You will visit two monuments from the past - Humayun Tomb and Qutub Minar. Your drive takes you along the ceremonial avenue, Rajpath, past the imposing India Gate, Parliament House and the Presidential residence. Continue to one of the prominent satellite cities adjoining Delhi. Not long ago a sleepy suburb of Delhi, Gurgaon now boasts over a million inhabitants, slick office complexes housing multinational companies, BPO & KPO services and more shopping malls per square mile than anywhere else in India. While the infrastructure is still struggling to catch up with the boom and there is plenty of dust and traffic jams, but it is still an exhilarating glimpse into the India of the future. Then return to your hotel for afternoon tea at the Atrium. A remnant ritual of colonial British rule in India from 1858- 1947, a proper afternoon tea can still be a divine interlude, complete with dainty cucumber sandwiches, delicate desserts, and strong India-grown tea.
Begin your day with a visit to unique yet fascinating experience of Old Delhi on Cycle Rickshaw. You will be transported 400 years back and glide through the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk known as The Moonlit Square of India. Witness the architectural marvels, the multicolored facades, beautifully decorated shops, ethnically dressed men and women and get bombarded by the cries of hawkers and fragrances emanating from the potpourri of eateries that line these historical alleys. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) built the walled city of Delhi on the banks of holy River Yamuna. It had a magnificent palace known as Red Fort, impressive mansions, enchanting bazaars, elegant shrines, royal gardens and fountains at every corner to romance the senses. The beloved daughter of the Emperor, Jahanara, designed a major street called Chandni Chowk in front of Red Fort, with a canal running down the center and pools at major intersections reflecting the moonlight. During the British regime, the street underwent major changes and since then this area has witnessed some of the most important events in Indian history. Today these splendid ruins and tales of valor are a testimony of the evolution of the times. Chandni Chowk truly reflects the national unity, secularism and diversity of India. This extensive tour covers 20 main sites including palaces, mansions, elegant shrines and colorful bazaars. The tour ends at an Old Haveli (mansion) built in1860, which has a photo gallery depicting the lifestyle of Mughals and a small lounge to relax and relish some famous snacks.
Transfer from The Imperial Hotel to Delhi?s Domestic Airport
Transfer from Jaipur Airport to the Samode Haveli hotel
Stay at Samode Haveli in a Deluxe Room for 2 nights
Jaipur, the City of Victory, was founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1727. It is the only city in the world symbolizing the nine divisions of the Universe through nine rectangular sectors sub-dividing it. The architect who formalized the city plans on the Shilpa Shastra, the epic Hindu treatise on architecture, mixed it with the sublimity of the Mughal and Jain influences of those times. The city was painted pink in 1853 in honor of the visit by Prince Albert. Except for the busy traffic of bicycles, cars and buses, little has changed.
Explore the city this afternoon, beginning at the Jantar Mantar, an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh ll in the 18th century. The Maharajah, a scientist as well as an astronomer, had the principles of Euclid translated into Sanskrit. One of the most remarkable sites in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar has fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses and tracking stars and planets. Go on to the City Palace built within the fortified area of the original city, with one of the finest monumental entrances in India. The Palace is now principally a museum housing a collection of great treasures, including miniature paintings, carpets, royal garments and other interesting objects from its intriguing past. The former royal family retains a part of the palace for their personal use. Hawa Mahal, or the The Palace of the Winds, is a beautifully designed facade built in 1799 by Maharajah Sawai Pratap Singh, to extend the zenana, or womens chambers of the City Palace. Five stories in height, and built of red and pink sandstone highlighted with white quicklime, it is thought that the women of the royal harem used the many casements to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen. Your evening is reserved for special cooking lesson and dinner with Thakur Durga Singh, the current custodian of Dera Mandawa who is a keen observer of history, culture, religion, current affairs, and is a bank of knowledge so vast that he has a point of view on anything under the sun. He is what one could call a modern traditionalist, actively seeking the use of modern technology and methods to support the principles of traditional living. The inquisitive can have endless conversations with him on a number of his projects like rain - water harvesting, biogas plant, solar heating and, even, healthy cooking. He would be more than delighted to share his experiences with you. Samode Haveli can be aptly described as a royal old mansion tucked away in the heart of the pink city. This two century old gem, the townhouse of the royal family of Samode, is home to some marvelous frescoes and murals, and blessed with a leafy garden.
Set off in the morning, traveling outside the city, towards the Amber Fort. An Elephant Ride from the base to the main gate will enhance your experience of reaching up to the Fort (if unavailable, this will be done by jeeps). This beautiful fortified palace was once the capital of the state of Jaipur (until 1728 AD) and the capital of the powerful princes of Jaipur. Among the best hilltop forts in India, with stern exteriors of white marble and red sandstone that seem to grow out of the rugged hills, the Amber Fort has mighty gates leading to beautifully decorated temples, huge ornate halls, palaces, pavilions and gardens. The architecture is a combination of both Mughal and Rajput styles, and the chambers and hallways of the palace are decorated with paintings depicting hunting scenes, intricate carvings, mosaics and detailed mirror work. From its creation in 1727, the royal families and nobles of Jaipur patronized the craftsmen and artisans of the city. These traditions continue to this day and as a result many people consider modern day Jaipur as the craft capital of India. Traditional methods are still used to produce many valuable and highly prized items. Using skills passed down through generations, artisans and master craftsmen can be seen in the areas of Ghat Darwaza and Vishveshwar ji. On this fascinating late afternoon walk mingle and talk with the locals whilst observing some of the regions culinary delight. Observe local artisans in their workshops; jewelers and silversmiths, gold and silver foil makers. The iconic Hawa Mahal also called the Palace of the winds is the meeting - point at which this two and a half hour walk begins. Here you also have the option of seeing and trying the art of Henna painting.
Transfer overland from Jaipur to Fatehpur Sikri and onto Agra
Stay at The Oberoi Amarvilas in a Premier Room for 1 night
After breakfast, drive overland through local villages towards Agra (240 km - 6 hours). Stop en route to explore the deserted hill-top city of Fatehpur Sikri, City of Victory. Built by Emperor Akbar as his capital and palace in the late 16th century as an act of gratitude to a penniless saint, this splendid red sandstone city was inexplicably abandoned just fourteen years later. Wandering among the beautifully preserved palaces and red sandstone courtyards it is not hard to take yourself back in time to the days of imperial splendor when the Mughal emperor rode triumphantly through the Bulund Darwaza or Gate of Magnificence. Towering above the courtyard of the mosque and dominating the city, it is the largest gateway in the world. Continue your journey to Agra, driving across the increasingly dry farmlands of northern India, arriving at your hotel in the afternoon. Agra - Once a small village on the banks of the Yamuna, it was transformed by two great Mughal monarchs, Akbar and his grandson Shah Jehan into the second capital of the Mughal Empire, Dar-ul- Khilafat, or seat of the Emperor in the 16th & 17th century. A world of contrasting edifices of red sandstone and white marble, narrow galleys, bustling streets and small buggies, Agra retains the irresistible charm that made this the favorite city of the Mughals. Later explore the impressive Agra Fort, the seat and stronghold of the Mughal Empire for successive generations. Approachable by two imposing gates and constructed of red sandstone, the citadel was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar between the years 1565 and 1573. Encircled by a moat, this dramatic city within a city was the palace of three emperors, Akbar, Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb, each of whom made significant contributions to the wonderful architecture of the inner buildings, a combination of Persian (Islamic) and local Hindu styles. The luxurious Oberoi Amarvilas is a splendid display of terraced lawns, reflection pools and rich interiors that take you back to an era of Emperors and Princes.
Morning Visit to the Taj Mahal (closed on Fridays)
Transfer from your hotel to Agra Airport
Air India Flight AI 406 Agra - Khajuraho 1:50pm - 2:30pm (Mon, Wed, Sat schedule)
Stay at The Sarai at Toria in a Cottage for 2 nights
You visit the magnificent Taj Mahal at sunrise today. Mughal Emperor Shahjahan built the Taj Mahal in 1630 AD to enshrine the mortal remains of his beloved Queen Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal manifests the wealth and luxury of Mughal art as seen in architecture and garden design, painting, and calligraphy. The 144 foot double dome of the Taj is capped with a finial and the four minarets each 131 ft high and crowned by an open octagonal pavilion highlight the perfect symmetry of the tomb. The filigree screen, meant to veil the area around the royal tomb was carved out of single block of marble. The Mughals believed that flowers were the symbols of the divine realm, thus in the Taj, pietra dura has been extensively used to translate naturalistic forms into decorative patterns that complement the majesty of its architecture. The monument changes with light and presents different times of the day. On arrival in Khajuraho you drive towards Panna (Toria) (approx. 45 minutes). Sarai (or Serai) is an ancient Persian term for an inn and Toria is a nearby village. The Sarai at Toria is a rustic, earth-friendly small retreat is situated on a beautiful riverside site, close to Khajuraho & Panna National Park.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After breakfast visit Khajuraho, the world heritage site of 1000-year-old temples is well known for its magnificent sculptures. Khajuraho was founded in the 9th and 10th century by the rulers of the Chandela Dynasty, and influenced by Tantrism. Eroticism becomes a theme of philosophical interest and the aim is sublimation of sexual relationship in the Sexual act or Maithun, women being regarded as the incarnation of the divine energy or Shakti. It is also possible that the carvings of Khajuraho were influenced by Kama Sutra, the famous treatise on erotic arts written by Vatsyayana in the time of the Guptas. The erotic love making images of celestial nymphs, gods and goddesses sculpted in delicate detail have caught the imagination of people from all over the world. The temples are divided into three groups of which the western is the largest and best known. None of the temples are enclosed; rather they are erected on high masonry platforms, each on an east-west axis. It is the detailed sculpture which gives Khajuraho its appeal and importance. Less than a tenth of it can be called erotic. Numerous interpretations have been given for the erotic sculpture but there is nothing sordid about these inspired carvings showing beauty and voluptuousness of the female form. The Chandela kings built these temples between 950 AD and 1050 AD. It may be tempting at the Sarai at Toria just to laze around enjoying the peaceful surroundings but, within easy driving distance, you can also explore many exciting destinations, nearby. The lodge offers boat rides and fishing on the pristine Ken river, walks through the crop fields of the surrounding countryside and birding on site or at nearby forest and wetland areas. Lunch in the cool shade of a spreading neem tree or dine by candlelight under the stars.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Transfer overland from Khajuraho to Bandhavgarh (approx 5 hours)
Stay at Samode Safari Lodge for 3 nights
Cradled between the Vindhyan ranges and the eastern flanks of Satpura ranges of Central Indian Highlands, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve lies mostly in Umaria and partly in Katni districts of Madhya Pradesh. It is best known as the tiger land of India, because of the highest density of tigers, as compared to the rest of the country. The scenic beauty of the Reserve is unique owing to the presence of vast grasslands, bahs, together with high cliffs, extremely rugged terrain, sharp crested hills and narrow valleys all in one single landscape. Some part of the area is generally plain with a few scattered undulating hillocks. Bandhavgarh, at 811.40 m, is the highest point of the Reserve and is adorned by the 2000-year old ruins of the majestic Bandhavgarh Fort. The Samode Safari Lodge at the Bandhavgarh National Park is an extravagant Indian wilderness experience. This tranquil, luxurious and spacious getaway is designed around a series of independent villas.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10 - Day 11
Bandavgarh National Park has established a reputation as one of the best places in India to observe Tigers. Although a relatively small reserve when first established in 1968, it was enlarged twenty years later to include adjacent tracts of Sal forest and this extension has proved very beneficial for the Tiger population. The 105 square kilometres of park area, open for tourists is estimated to have a population of 22 tigers, a density of one tiger for every 4.77 square kilometres. Like many Tiger reserves in India, the area was formerly the hunting reserve of a Maharaja and contains much evidence of its royal associations, most spectacular being the ruins of a huge hilltop fort, which dominates the centre of the reserve. The Bandhavgarh National Park has a good network of jeep tracks. The park authorities allow two game drives everyday on these tracks. A local tracker and a professional guide from the lodge accompany you on all your game drives. The morning drive starts at dawn and usually lasts for about 4 hours. The evening drive is shorter of about 3 hours. All vehicles have to be out of the park boundaries before dark. The park is closed on Wednesday evenings. The pattern of early morning and afternoon jeep safaris will be interspersed with periods of relaxation back at your lodge during the heat of midday. In between you may also want to take a walk through Tala Village ? which gives one opportunity to view a day in the life of an Indian village, where the pace of life is still measured by the rhythm of the seasons. The humble Dwellings, the mud clustered houses, the elders smoking hookahs sitting on a cot, are some of the common scenes which signify that the time stands still in certain areas of the world even today.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Transfer overland from Bandhavgarh to Khajuraho to (approx 6 hours)
Air India Flight AI 405 Khajuraho - Delhi 3:05 pm - 6:00pm
Transfer to Delhi International Airport for your onward flight