India is an intoxicating land of immense antiquity, a nation that proudly displays a vast cultural diversity. It is this diversity that truly inspires and continues to breathe life into the Soul of India, and which is displayed in her people to this day. On our expedition we will visit sites both ancient and modern, all of which are reflective of the divergent cultures, religions, and peoples that comprise the Soul of India. India’s glittering history is proudly on exhibit in its vast repository of incredible historical and cultural sites. While many of its treasures are boldly displayed for all to see, others, as if to confirm their intrinsic value, lie hidden from prying eyes, revealing themselves only to those willing to undertake such a special journey.
Accompanied by a Guest Lecturer well versed in the history and iconography of India, we will take in several of UNESCO’s Indian World Heritage Sites, including the magnificent caves of Elephanta, Ajanta, Ellora and Bhimbetka; the Buddhist stupas at Sanchi; the evocatively beautiful hilltop citadel at Mandu; the famous temple complex at Khajuraho; and of course, the incomparable and unforgettable Taj Mahal in Agra. We will revel in the glory of India’s past in Delhi and Mumbai, as well as Varanasi, the holy “City of Light,” which has been a thriving place of pilgrimage for three millennia. As the first rays of the sun cast their golden light on the gently flowing waters of the sacred river Ganges, Indian pilgrims young and old make their way to the bathing ghats on the river’s edge, immersing themselves in the sacred waters as they have since time immemorial. Floating candles, their flames of camphor dancing along ripples in the water, also illuminate the waters of mother Ganga, carrying the prayers and blessings of the devout Indian faithful downstream. It is because of this kind of devotion that the World Heritage Sites that we will visit were constructed; and it is this kind of faith that continues to make the Soul of India so magical.
Day 1: Depart USA.
Day 2: En route to Mumbai.
Day 3: Most international flights arrive in Mumbai very early in the morning. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. We will spend a leisurely day recovering from jet lag, while also paying a visit to our first UNESCO World Heritage site, the inspirational caves at Elephanta. We will gather in the evening for a traditional Indian “Welcome” dinner.
Day 4: In the morning we transfer to Mumbai’s domestic airport for the short flight to Aurangabad, the city servicing the ancient Buddhist, Hindu and Jain sites of Ajanta and Ellora, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. After checking into our hotel in Aurangabad, we will make the 20-mile drive to visit the fabulous rock-cut caves at Ellora.
Day 5: Today is spent exploring the World Heritage Site at Ajanta, northeast of Aurangabad. The Ajanta site lies in a beautiful setting on the gorge of the Waghora River. The site is comprised of 27 caves, which are representative of both the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism.
Day 6: In the morning we fly back to Mumbai, en route to Indore, formerly one of India’s many princely states. While in transit we will have time to take in additional sites of interest in Mumbai, including the impressive Victoria Terminus, the Gothic Revival/Anglo-India masterpiece located in the heart of Mumbai (and also another UNESCO World Heritage site).
Day 7: We spend the next two days exploring the immense and impressive World Heritage Site at Mandu. Located in the Vindhya Mountains, Mandu is an incredibly beautiful walled citadel, built in the 15th Century CE by the sultans of Malwa, who christened it Shadiabad (City of Joy).
Day 8: Today we further explore the exquisite Mandu and its most important sites, including the Hindola Mahal (Swinging Palace) and the stunning Jahaz Mahal (Ship Palace). Along with these incredible historical sites, we can leisurely explore Mandu’s romantic setting.
Day 9: We leave for our next base of operations, the bustling city of Bhopal. We will spend the day traveling and enjoying the scenery of central India en route to the capital of Madhya Pradesh.
Day 10: After breakfast, we will take a short drive to the amazing Buddhist complex at Sanchi, founded by the renowned Emperor Ashoka. An important Buddhist site until the 7th Century CE., Sanchi is home to stupas, monasteries and temples.
Day 11: Today’s excursion will take us to the cave site at Bhimbetka, where we will see rock paintings dating back 9,000 years. This World Heritage site records the earliest human traces in India.
Day 12: Leaving Bhopal, we fly to India’s capital city of Delhi, and then make the drive to Agra, where we will witness the sunset on the immortal Taj Mahal, arguably the most famous of India’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Day 13: For our night in Agra, we will be staying at the luxurious Oberoi Amar Vilas hotel. The treat offered by staying at this hotel is that all rooms have a wonderful view of the Taj. This will give us the chance to enjoy an incredible sunrise on this incomparable monument to the power of love. We then take the train to Jhansi, where we will continue by driving to Khajuraho. After checking into our hotel, we will make our initial visit to the world-renowned temple complex.
Day 14: Our second day at the Khajuraho World Heritage Site will enable us to fully explore the temples of the Western Group, including the extraordinary Kandariya Mahadev Temple. We will then fly to our next stop, the holy city of Varanasi, the famed “City of Lights.”
Day 15: Varanasi, also known as Benares, is the holiest of cities for the Hindu faithful, and is home to over 500 temples. After some time spent exploring this otherworldly city, we will be treated to a special music performance along with some absolutely delicious Indian cuisine, and will take an evening cruise on the Ganges.
Day 16: Today we will witness Hindu devotees performing their morning rites as we take an amazing and unforgettable morning cruise up the Ganga along the city’s shore. Following our morning excursion on the holy river, we fly back to Delhi for some afternoon sightseeing. Special Farewell Dinner tonight.
Day 17: Sightseeing in Delhi will include a visit to the Red Fort, once the most opulent palace of the Mughal Empire, the Jammi Masjid and the bustling bazaars of Chandni Chowk. We will also have the opportunity to visit Humayan’s Tomb, see the Raj-era architecture of New Delhi and visit the shops in Connaught Place. After a late checkout, we will transfer to Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for our return flight to the USA.
Exploring the South
On this Southern sojourn, traversing through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, we explore the unique and breathtaking architecture, sculpture, ancient culture and legacy left by the Pallava, Chola and Pandya dynasties. Also visit Mysore and Pondicherry.
Other itineraries featuring North India:
Explore India's mysterious and exotic Northeast, home to countless tribal communities, who populate the Indian states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.
Call us toll free at 1-800 MY INDIA (1-800-694-6342) or email us to request a detailed day-to-day itinerary.
All meals after arrival in India.
Mumbai, Ellora & Ajanta
Temples of Khajuraho
Varanasi and Sarnath
Agra/Taj Mahal, Delhi
Dec. 7 to 23, 2012
6+ particepants: $4885
Spice Bazaar, Jaipur
Main Street, Delhi