|Day by Day Itinerary
December 28 ARRIVE DELHI
Welcome to India! Arrive by international flight. Meeting on arrival and transfer to the hotel. Delhi - the capital of India, is a fascinating city with complexities and contradictions, beauty and dynamism, where the past co-exists with the present. Many dynasties ruled from here and the city is rich in the architecture of its monuments.
Overnight in Delhi at Hyatt Regency
December 29 DELHI
After a restful night and breakfast at the hotel, we begin our day tour to examine the culture, history, traditions and contrasts of both Old and New Delhi. First, we embark upon an exploration of Old Delhi, an ancient city built by Emperor Shah Jahan. We visit the 17th century Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the elegant citadel in red sandstone. From our coach, see the Rajghat and Jama Masjid. Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) is India’s largest mosque, built by Shah Jahan. Drive past the famous bazaars of Chandni Chowk, which is next to the Mosque. For a closer look, we encourage you to take this opportunity to mix with the locals, riding on a bicycle rickshaw through the narrow lanes to see the mosque and bazaars.
Following lunch, we turn our attention to New Delhi. This afternoon’s tour includes driving past the India Gate, the Presidential Palace, Government Secretariat as well as a visit to Qutab Minar (Tower of Victory), the world’s tallest minaret, which was built in the 12th century by Qutabuddin Aibak (its famous Iron Pillar dates back to the 4th century ADbaffling scientists, as its iron has not rusted through in all these centuries); the Tomb of Humayun, another UNESCO World Heritage Sitea magnificent structure in red sandstone and white marble, and precursor to the Taj Mahal; and the India Gate, a memorial of World War I. We will motor along the Rajpath (King’s Way) towards the residence of the President of the Republic of India, the Rashtrapathi Bhawan, flanked by the Houses of Parliament and the Government Secretariat buildings. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Delhi at Hyatt Regency
December 30 DELHI-KHAJURAHO
After breakfast, we transfer to the airport for the flight to Khajuraho. Depart Delhi at 10:30 AM via Jet Airways 9W723. Upon arrival at 12:55 PM, a quick stop at the hotel, and we’re off to visit the famous temples of Khajuraho, one of India’s major attractions. Beginning in 925 AD, these temples were constructed by the Chandela kings over a span of 150 years. Eighty-five original temples are known for their architectural and sculptural excellence, carved with the roughest of tools, portrayed that civilization’s zest for lifespirituality, love, music, dance, hunting and feasting. Today’s twenty-two surviving temples feature several beautiful and erotic engraved sculptures in a stunning architectural complex. Strangely these form only a very small part of the wealth of these unique temples that depicts the everyday life of the people and royalty of the 10th and 11th centuries.
Our afternoon visit to the eastern and southern temples includes the Parsvanath Temple. The Eastern group is the group’s largest Jain temple. The Parsvanath Temple themes depict in charming detail, the everyday activity of those times. Included in our tour of the southern group of temples is the Chaturbhuj Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu, the preserver of the Universe, according to Hindu mythology. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Khajuraho at Radisson
December 31 KHAJURAHO-JHANSI
Breakfast at the hotel. Visit the Western group of temples. The Laxmana Temple with the four subsidiary shrines in the four corners of the platform with the main shrine in the center is the only temple built by the Chandelas in the 10th century that is completely intact and in good condition. The Kandariya Mahadeo Temple is the largest, and is dedicated to Shiva, Hindu god of destruction. In both these temples, we see the exquisitely carved main shrines, featuring gods, goddesses, celestial maidens and lovers in delicate detail.
Following our visit, we head for Jhansi railway station (approximately 4 hrs) to board the train bound for Agra. Depart Jhansi on the Shatabdi Express at 5:56 PM. We are met on arrival at 8:25 PM and transferred to the hotel. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Agra at The Gateway (formerly Taj View)
January 1 AGRA-FATEHPUR
Agra is famous for one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World the Taj Mahal. The architectural splendor of the mausoleums, the fort and the palaces in Agra are a vivid reminder of the opulence of the legendary Mughal Empire. Agra was their capital for nearly a hundred years, from 1564 AD.
We greet the sunrise with a New Year’s Day visit to the incomparable Taj Mahal, the inimitable poem in white marble! The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his Queen Mumtaz Mahal, to enshrine her mortal remains. A workforce of 22,000 people labored for more than 22 years (1631-1653) to complete this masterpiece. Dazzling at first sight, it presents a wondrous vision at any time of day. The Taj Mahal must be seen to be believed!
Next we embark on a visit to the Agra Fort. Built by three Mughal Emperors starting from Akbar the Great in 1565 AD, the Agra Fort is a masterpiece of design and construction. Within the fort are a number of exquisite buildings, including Jahangir’s Palace, Khaas Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, DiwaniAm, DiwaniKhas and Musamman Burj - the Octagonal Tower, where Emperor Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal was imprisoned by his son Aurangazeb for seven long years and died a prisoner.
Later we leave Agra for the famed “pink city” of Jaipur, visiting Fatehpur Sikri en route (7 hours including a stop for lunch and sightseeing). A UNESCO world Heritage Site, Fatehpur Sikri was built by Akbar the Great in 1569, in red sandstone with palaces and mosques, and abruptly abandoned for both political reasons and drought. The Diwan-i-am, a vast courtyard where the emperor gave public audience, daily, whenever he was in town, Diwan-i-khas, a large quadrangle meant for private audience and conferences, the treasury, Pachisi court, the Emperors private living quarters, Jodha Bai’s Palace, Mariam’s Palace, Birbal’s Palace, the Turkish Sultana’s Palace, the School for the royal children, Hawa Mahal and Panch Mahal are some of the important buildings of this residential complex. The Friday Mosque and the exquisite tomb of Sheik Salim Chisti are in the religious grounds set aside in a separate enclosure adjacent to the secular buildings. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Jaipur at The Trident
January 2 JAIPUR
Jaipur, the vibrant capital city of Rajasthan, is a city of contrasts and a feast for the eyes: camel carts, rickshaws, roadside stalls, and residents in traditional dress. This “Pink City” of fairy tale palaces, broad avenues and rugged fortresses perched on barren hills is quite picturesque.
After a morning repast, we encounter the majestic Amber Fort, situated on a hillside overlooking a lake that reflects its towers and terraces. We ascend to the fort on an elephant or jeep, if you prefer. The halls of public and private audience, a Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) and various marble palaces, all marvelous examples of medieval Rajput architecture, await us. We will visit the Temple of Amba (Mother Goddess), where the patron deity of the Royal family greets us at the entrance to the palace.
In the afternoon we visit the City Palace, the former royal residence, displaying a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal styles. It now houses a museum with a superb collection of costumes, an armory of the Mughals and Rajputs with weapons of arms, an art gallery with an excellent collection of miniature paintings, carpets, royal paraphernalia and rare astronomical works in Arabic, Persian, Latin and Sanskrit. Ponder the Astrological Observatory, Jantar Mantar built by Maharaja Jai Singh in the 18th century, remarkable for its accuracy, even against modern standards. Drive past the Palace of Winds, known popularly as Hawa Mahal, built in the 19th century for the ladies of the royal family to observe the happenings on the street from the decorated windows of this façade. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Jaipur at Trident
January 3 JAIPUR-DELHI
This morning we will drive to Delhi (6 hrs). This afternoon is free for personal exploration and relaxation. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Delhi at Radisson Blu
January 4 DELHI-BAGDOGRA
This morning we depart Delhi for Northeast India at 10:40 AM via Jet Airways 9W2293. Enjoy the spectacular monasteries, temples, and landscapes of West Bengal, a land of hill stations with exotic natural beauty, cheerful people and a rich cultural legacy. Upon arrival at 12:50 PM in Bagdogra, we drive to Kalimpong (3 hours). The rest of the day you are free to explore in this interesting Himalayan town and its bazaars on your own. Situated at an altitude of 4,101 feet, Kalimpong is a scenic hillside resort. It was a part a stronghold of Paro Penelope of Bhutan until 1835, when the ruler of Sikkim surrendered it to the British. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Kalimpong at
January 5 KALIMPONG
Kolkata (Calcutta), Darjeeling and Kalimpong draw visitors from around the world. Darjeeling is the most beautiful hill station in India. From Tiger Hill, with its breathtaking views of Kanchenjunga peak at dawn, to picturesque tea plantations, Darjeeling conjures visions of serenity and of vibrant green hills crowned by the majestic Himalayas.
Today we explore the very interesting town of Kalimpong, a bustling bazaar town set among the rolling foothills and valleys of the Himalayas. Visit the Tharpacholing Monastery of the Gyalopa (Dalai Lama followers) sect and the Dzangdhok Palri Nyangmapa Center and Institute in the Durbin Hill. Darjeeling is at an elevation of 7,000 feet above sea level. During our drive, drink in the beautiful Himalayan mountain scenery of majestic pines, brilliant red rhododendrons and charming white magnolias. Notice the mountain slopes gently flowing in waves of green tea bushes. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Darjeeling at Hotel Mayfair
January 6 DARJEELING
Early this morning we arrive at Tiger Hill via 4x4 vehicles. With an altitude of 8,770 feet, on a clear morning one can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire mountain range and witness the fascinating spectacle of sunrise over the Himalayasone will be able to see both Mt. Khanchenjunga (28,166 ft) and Mt. Everest (29,127 ft).
Return to hotel for breakfast, then take a ride on the Himalayan Toy Train (a UNESCO World Heritage monument) to Ghoom (subject to operation). We relish the fascinating journey, as our train winds its way along the mountainside, offering spectacular views. Built by the British more than 100 years ago, this locomotive negotiates the mountains using special traction.
The Ghoom Monastery (5 miles from Darjeeling) was built in 1875 AD in the Tibetan style. We may be fortunate enough to be here when a ceremony or ritual is performed. In the afternoon we are driven back to the hotel for lunch and will visit the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park in Darjeeling which exhibits “high elevation” animals. This Park houses the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute where every summer mountaineers are trained. Drive to the Tibetan Self Help Center, set up in 1951 when the Tibetans fled Tibet. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Darjeeling at Hotel Mayfair
January 7 DARJEELING
After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to Bagdogra airport (3 hours) to board flight to Kolkata. Depart at 2:15 PM via 9W2481. Upon arrival at 3:15 PM, transfer to hotel to enjoy the remaining hours of the day, free to explore Downtown Kolkata, where our excellent hotel is located just 100 yards from the Indian Museum. Kolkata is the largest metropolitan area in India and was the home of Rabindranath Tagore and Mother Teresa. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Kolkata at Oberoi Grand
January 8 KOLKATA
Morning sightseeing walk through British Kolkata, ending at St. John’s Church. Drive to Victoria Memorial, built as a tribute to the late Queen Victoria by Lord Curzona grandiose structure of marble that houses British memorabilia. Visit the Marble Palace that was built by one of Bengal’s richest landlords, Raja Rajendra Mullick Bahadur in 1830. A lot of thought and planning was involved as far as the architectural features of this strange but palatial edifice is concerned. Although, the Gothic style of architecture is predominant, on careful observation, you will find that there is a harmonious blend of Roman, Greek and Oriental style of architecture, which are also prevalent in this palace of outstanding beauty and grandeur. Also visit the Jain Temple and the Missionaries of Charity, established by Mother Teresa.
Afternoon: Free. Those interested can walk to the Indian Museum (100 yards away) and spend some time browsing through sections of interest. (B-L-D)
Overnight in Kolkata at Oberoi Grand
January 9 DEPART KOLKATA
Transfer to airport to board your onward flight. Leave Kolkata by international flight. (B)
B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner
Flight schedules subject to change.
Better yet, continue on to our Splendors of South India tour, January 9 - 22, 2013