Mughal India and the Taj Mahal. Palaces of Rajasthan. The oldest living city in the world. The medieval Himalayan valleys of Nepal. The ultimate luxury holiday in the Indian subcontinent.
Mughal India and the Taj Mahal. Palaces of Rajasthan. The oldest living city in the world. The medieval Himalayan valleys of Nepal. The ultimate luxury holiday in the Indian subcontinent.
Day by Day plan
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Day 1: Arrival in Delhi
A Wild Voyager, India Holiday representative will meet you on arrival and assist you with your hotel transfer.
Delhi, India’s capital has seen great empires rise and fall around it for millennia, with each new batch of rulers building over the works of their predecessors. As a result, the city abounds in monuments and ruins of stunning diversity. The seat of the world’s largest democracy, it also boasts of magnificent symbols of government that pay architectural tribute to the ideals of self-rule and democracy. These co-exist side by side with wide multi-lane motorways, shopping malls, fast cars and ultramodern steel-glass office complexes that characterize any large 21st-century metropolis.
Overnight at Delhi.
Day 2: Sightseeing in Delhi
After breakfast, proceed for a sightseeing tour of the city. Your luxury tour of the North Indian Subcontinent commences at Old Delhi.
Raj Ghat is the famous memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. The shrine bears testimony to the simplicity of the man who changed the world with the power of ideas. A simple black stone structure with an eternal flame burning at one end.
The majestic Red Fort was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639 and remained the seat of the empire for the next two centuries. Today, the Prime Minister of India delivers his Independence Day speech to the nation from the ramparts of this red sandstone structure.
To truly experience the buzz of the old markets and narrow, winding medieval alleys of old Delhi, we recommend a rickshaw ride through the city. Your guide will be happy to arrange one for you.
Jama Masjid is one of Asia’s largest mosques. We shall view this magnificent structure from outside, its lofty and highly ornate domes and minarets reminiscent of a scene from the Arabian Nights.
A short distance away lie the bustling markets of Chandni Chowk, “Moonlit Square,” the celebrated 17th-century market complex, where sweet-shops from the 1790s still do roaring business.
Proceed to New Delhi for sightseeing.
New Delhi was built by the British in the 1930s as their imperial capital. Majestic government and administrative buildings line the wide, tree-lined avenues of what is also known as Lutyen’s Delhi after Sir Edwin Lutyens who was commissioned to design the city in 1911.
Start at India Gate, the red sandstone arch erected in memory of Indian and British soldiers who laid down their lives in World War I. Close by are the majestic Parliament House, the seat of the world’s largest democracy and the Rastrapathi Bhawan, the Indian President’s official residence. Inside are the famed Mughal Gardens with its ornate fountains and manicured lawns. Mughal Gardens are open to the public during spring.
Further south lies the Qutub Minar. Built by Qutubuddin Aibak, a slave general in 1193, it is India’s tallest stone tower and marks the site of the country’s first Muslim kingdom. The iron tower in a square opposite is unique in that it never rusts, although it has been exposed to the elements for centuries.
The lotus-shaped Bahai temple south of Delhi is also of interest. An ideal place for meditation, this Bahai House of worship is open to people of all faiths.
Overnight will be at Delhi.
Day 3: Delhi to Jaipur, by road
Breakfast will be served at the hotel. Afterward, drive to Jaipur in a spacious, comfortable, Wild Voyager approved vehicle.
Jaipur, also known as the ‘Pink City’ from the facelift it received in 1853 to celebrate a visit by Prince Albert, is dotted with havelis (traditional mansions), bazaars, opulent palaces and rugged majestic forts that showcase the glorious past of its rulers, the Rajputs.
The Rajput princes were fierce warriors some of whom declared loyalty to the invading Mughals and proved to be formidable allies of the empire. Among them was King Jai Singh II, whom the Mughals gave the title Sawai Maharaja, or “King and a quarter”. Jaipur gets its name from this valiant king.
In the evening, visit the Birla Temple. A stunning white marble structure, the three towers of the Birla Temple stand for three different approaches to religion. Carvings on the ornate pillars celebrate Hindu gods and goddesses along with Christ, Virgin Mary, and St. Francis of Assisi. Don’t miss the hypnotic evening Aarti, the ritual lighting of oil lamps.
Overnight at Jaipur.
Day 4: Sightseeing in Jaipur
Proceed for morning excursion and an elephant ride to Amber Fort.
Situated on the top of a hill, the magnificent Amber Fort Palace offers a panoramic view of the old city. Established in 1592, its rugged exteriors belie the delicate architecture inside, a rare fusion of traditional Rajasthani and Islamic styles. Reach the fort the old fashioned way, atop a ceremonial elephant along a cobbled path up that opens into several havelis, step wells, courtyards and temples. Visit Sheesh Mahal or chamber of mirrors, Jas Mandir with its ornate ceilings and latticework and the stunning Shila Devi temple with its intricately carved silver door.
In the afternoon, embark on a sightseeing tour of Jaipur.
The sprawling City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the 18th century. The architecture of the palace is a blend of traditional Rajasthani and Mughal styles. The City Palace Museum is located here and houses various items from Jaipur’s princely and warrior past.
The scientific-minded King Jai Singh II, an astronomy enthusiast, commissioned five observatories named Jantar Mantar around West Central India in the early 1700s. The one in Jaipur is the largest and the best preserved. The massive architectural instruments are constructed out of local stone and marble some of which are still in use. We shall walk through and explore this surreal maze of giant geometric objects.
The exquisite outer facade of Hawa Mahal, the "Palace of Winds," resembles a manmade honeycomb and is one of Jaipur’s most iconic and oft-photographed sights. Designed to facilitate maximum air circulation and cross ventilation, the five-storied Hawa Mahal is made of lime and mortar and decorated with impossible intricate trelliswork. From the privacy of its ornate jharokhas (traditional Rajasthani windows), the ladies of the court could gaze out at life in the streets below.
Jaipur is famous for its shopping, particularly gold and silver jewellery, blue pottery, tie-dye materials, silk, saris, wooden handicrafts and carpets.
Day 5: Jaipur to Agra by road, en route visit Fatehpur Sikri
Drive to Fatehpur Sikri after breakfast.
Fatehpur Sikri or the “City of Victory”, built by Emperor Akbar in 1569 in honour of Sufi saint Salim Chishti was the capital of the Mughals for 14 years. The white marble Tomb of the Salim Chisti with its intricately carved marble screens occupies pride of place in the central courtyard of the structure.
Attractions include the colossal Buland Darwaza, a victory gate built to mark the conquest of Gujarat by Emperor Akbar, the Diwan-i-Aam where the emperor held his legendary hearings with the general public and the Diwan-i-Khas where he held private consultation with his nine ministers, or as he called them, his navaratna or nine gems.
Fatehpur Sikri also houses the palace of Jodhabai, Akbar’s Hindu wife, and the house of the legendary Birbal - Akbar’s Hindu minister and one of the navaratnas - the tales of whose extraordinary wit and wisdom are the stuff of popular culture in India, inspiring countless comic books and children’s animation TV shows.
Continue to Agra.
The Mughal capital of Agra on the banks of the Yamuna River is a bustling town teeming with narrow, winding alleyways that hark back to an era gone by. Dotted by magnificent monuments including UNESCO World Heritage Site Taj Mahal, the city is a dazzling contrast of red sandstone and white marble structures.
Overnight at Agra.
Day 6: Sightseeing in Agra, visit Taj Mahal
Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his queen Mumtaz Mahal and designed by Persian architect Ustad, the magnificent Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world. A massive white marble structure so delicate that it appears to float in the air, the Taj is otherworldly in its beauty and is best viewed in moonlight or at dawn and dusk. The close-up view reveals breathtakingly intricate inlay work carved into the marble and bears eloquent testimony to the triumph of Mughal art, culture and architecture at its peak. No holiday in India is complete without the Taj.
A beautifully maintained tree-lined monument at Sikandra marks the grave of the illustrious Akbar the Great. A great believer in harmony and equality of all religions, this visionary Mughal Emperor created Din-i Ilahi, a unique religion that combines the fundamentals of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. His memorial imbibes architectural motifs of all the faiths that inspired him.
Standing across the river from the Taj, the majestic red sandstone structure of Agra Fort was erected in 1565 by Mughal Emperor Akbar the great. Little did he know that the same fort would later serve as the prison for his grandson Emperor Shah Jahan at the end of his days. From his prison perch of Musamman Burj, an exquisite octagonal marble tower atop the fort, Shah Jahan would spend his last days looking out longingly at the Taj.
Itmad-Ud-Daulah is perhaps the Mughal Empire’s best-kept secret. Empress Nur Jahan, the wife of Jehangir, son of Akbar, commissioned the structure as a memorial to her father. Mistakenly called Baby Taj, Itmad-Ud-Daulah, in fact, is decades older than the Taj and may have served as its design blueprint.
Overnight at Agra.
Day 7: Agra to Khajuraho by road and rail, visit Orchha en route, Sightseeing in Khajuraho
Breakfast will be served at the hotel. Drive to Orchha.
The medieval city of Orchha was founded in 1501 by the Bundela rulers on the bank of the Betwa river. The town is famous for its cenotaphs, locally known as chhattris, built in the memory of long-dead kings.
Of interest, the Orchha Fort, the majestic high domes and spires of Chaturbhuj Temple and the Raj Mandir, both constructed in the later half of the 16th century.
Lunch will be at Orchha. Proceed to Khajuraho.
The Chandela dynasty of Central India is credited with the construction of the magnificent Khajuraho Complex between the 9th and 10 centuries AD. The name Khajuraho may be a corruption of the Sanskrit Kharjura Vahaka, the bearer of the scorpion and could be a reference to one of Khajuraho’s popular sculptures, depicting woman undressing to remove a scorpion from her body.
The sandstone walls of the Khajuraho temples are crowded with countless sculptures of gods, goddesses, dancers and beasts but it’s the sections containing erotic sculptures that the temple is most famous for. Some interpret them as an indicator of the liberal and enlightened outlook of medieval Indian society but according to some scholars, the figures are merely metaphoric and conceal a deeper symbolism.
Khajuraho is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most exotic high points of your luxury tour of the Indian subcontinent.
Proceed for sightseeing.
The Western group of temples
Kandariya Mahadev is the largest temple in the complex and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, with over 800 exquisitely sculpted figures of Gods and celestial maidens adorning its walls.
Chausat Yogini Temple is the oldest in the complex. The only granite temple among the cluster, it’s a shrine to one of the aspects of the fearsome Hindu Mother Goddess Kali, or The Dark One.
The Lakshmana Temple stands at the southwest corner. Look out for a minor shrine where one of the ancient sculptors added his own likeness in a touching act of vanity.
Other temples include the Vishwanath Temple with exquisite stonework on its outer wall, the Matangeswara Temple with its famed eight foot high phallic lingam, the Chitragupta Temple, inside which the radiant Sun God rides his seven-horse chariot, and the Varaha Temple that houses a 1.5 m high Varaha, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as a giant boar, that attempts (and fails) to find the end of the universe.
The Brahma and the Hanuman temples are the most famous and best preserved among the Eastern Group of temples. Don’t miss the Vamana temple that showcases in elaborate stone-work all ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Notable among the Southern Group is the Chaturbhuja Temple (Sanskrit Chatur=four, bhuja=arm) dedicated to a beautiful four-armed Shiva figure. The Chaturbhuja Temple stands out in the complex for being the only one sans any erotic sculpture.
Watch the sound and light show at the Western Temples.
Overnight at Khajuraho.
Day 8: Khajuraho to Varanasi by air, visit Sarnath
Breakfast will be served at the hotel. Afterward, catch the flight to Varanasi. A Wild Voyager representative will meet you upon arrival and assist you with your hotel transfer.
The ancient city of Varanasi on the west bank of the holy Ganga has been a spiritual center for Hinduism since the dawn of time. Varanasi’s high ghats (steps leading to and from the river) are crowded with priests, wrestlers, astrologers, devotees, bathers, morning walkers and saffron-clad mendicants or sadhus. The ringing of temple bells and the heady, heavy smell of incense permeate everywhere. In Varanasi, even a short walk or a simple boat-ride is an unforgettable adventure.
The cinematic nature of daily life in Varanasi is not lost on filmmakers and over the years, many have made Varanasi their backdrop, among them maestros like Roberto Rossellini, James Ivory and Satyajit Ray. Fittingly, the first moving picture ever shot on Indian soil was filmed here in 1899. Varanasi is one of the unforgettable highlights of your luxury holiday in the timeless Indian subcontinent.
A short drive from Varanasi lies Sarnath where, millennia ago, the Buddha delivered his first ever sermon. Today, thousands of travellers from all over the world pour in every year to pay homage to what is one of the holiest places in Asia. The 1600-year-old Dhamekh stupa marks the spot where the Buddha sat as he delivered his first teachings. Interestingly, this ancient stupa is a stand-in for an even earlier structure erected by Emperor Asoka in 249 BC to commemorate the teaching.
The highly recommended Sarnath museum houses antiquities dating back to the 3rd century BC. Don’t miss the gigantic red sandstone standing Bodhisattvas and the magnificent Asokan pillar that is India’s state symbol.
Overnight at Varanasi.
Day 9: Sightseeing in Varanasi
Go for an early morning boat ride along the middle of the river to watch the spiritual life of Hindu India unfold before you along the banks. Visit Dashashwamedh and Manikarnika, the holiest of the Varanasi ghats. A section of Manikarnika serves as a cremation ground and it is said the funeral pyre never dies here.
Return for breakfast to the hotel.
Later, visit the 18th century Durga Temple. According to legend, the idol of the goddess simply appeared in the spot where the temple stands today.
The white marble Tulsi Manas Temple has scenes and stanzas from the Hindi epic Ram Charit Manas engraved upon its walls. The temple is in the traditional Shikhara style, its towers representing the great Himalayan summits or shikharas.
Up next, the 4000 acre Benaras Hindu University campus houses an art gallery and the Mosque of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
Overnight at Varanasi.
Day 10: Varanasi to Kathmandu by air, Sightseeing in Kathmandu
After breakfast, transfer to airport for flight to Katmandu.
The fertile Kathmandu Valley has always been a coveted prize for the Himalayan dynasties, changing hands from the Lichchhavis to the Mallas and finally to the Shah Kings who ruled initially as absolute and later as constitutional monarchs of Nepal until as late as 2006. Nestled between the southern low lying Mahabharat Range and the dizzying northern snow peaks of the Great Himalaya Range, Kathmandu Valley is a fertile saucer-shaped tract of land of unbelievable richness, both literal as well as figurative, with a dazzling cultural tradition of art, music and architecture. The pagoda design, ubiquitous in Asia, is Nepal’s cultural legacy to the world, its blueprint carried to the Chinese Emperor’s Court in the 13th Century by Newari virtuoso architect Arniko. Each of the three cities of Kathmandu Valley - Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan - are treasure troves of sculptures, woodwork, palaces, temples and stupas and are home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The capital of modern Nepal, Kathmandu City evolved around a single wooden structure used as a rest stop by travelers plying the ancient trade route between India and Tibet. The wooden pavilion or kastha mandap that lends the city its name still stands in Kathmandu’s expansive Durbar Square. A prominent destination on the hippy trail, Kathmandu has been highly popular with tourists for decades and on its busy streets, buzzing cafés, pizzerias, pubs, book shops, sushi bars, music stores and camera sellers jostle for space with exotic centuries-old temples, residential houses and stupas. As a gateway to the great Himalayan peaks of Everest, Annapurna and Kanchenjunga, Kathmandu is one of the world’s most important mountaineering hubs and it’s common to, before climbing season, to run into legends of the mountaineering world across the table from you in a coffee shop.
Later visit the Kathmandu Durbar Square in the center of the city, has been the center of Nepali social, cultural and political life for centuries. The entrance to the Royal Palace is through the ornate Hanuman Dhoka (Hanuman Gate) which gives the palace its colloquial name of Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace.
The Durbar square itself is dotted with ancient structures, some following the pagoda structure, others in the traditional Hindu Shikhara form. Of note are the giant 16th Century Taleju Temple, the pagoda style Jagannath Temple and the Shikhara style Krishna Temple. Krishna Temples all over the valley can be identified by the stone figure of a praying Garuda (the half-man half-gryphon mount of Krishna) outside the entrance.
Across from the Taleju Temple, stands the fearsome statue of the giant Kal Bhairav. The statue was found abandoned in a paddy field outside the city during the Malla era, and little else is known of its origin. The most fearsome figure in the square, however, is the Svet Bhairav. So fierce is this vengeful god that his face is covered every day of the year but a handful, when he wakes to have his hunger slaked by copious animal sacrifices.
In the evening, attend a traditional Nepali dance performance and enjoy an authentic local meal.
Overnight at Katmandu.
Day 11: Sightseeing in Kathmandu
Breakfast will be served at the hotel. Proceed for a short, early morning “Mountain Flight” that will take you within handshaking distance of the mighty snow-clad peaks of the Nepal Himalayas. Look out for the Annapurna I, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Lhotse, Khangchendzonga and of course, the mighty Everest, or as they call it in Nepal, Sagarmatha.
After the flight, embark on a day’s sightseeing.
Pashupatinath is one of the holiest Hindu shrines in the world and part of the Panchkedar, the five holiest temples to Shiva. The majestic two-tiered pagoda structure of the temple is embellished with gold and silver. Shiva’s bull, a six feet tall black stone Nandi guards the entrance which is restricted to Hindus only, although the goings-on in the temple can be observed quite clearly from the vantage point across the Bagmati River.
The magnificent Swayambhunath Stupa stands on a hill gazing down benignly at the valley below through its benevolent Buddha eyes. The high winds on the hill cause the maze of prayer flags around it to flutter noisily as devotees turn the prayer wheels, light candles and butter lamps while circumambulating the stupa. Erroneously and flippantly called Monkey Temple owing to the large simian population in the wooded hillside, Swayambhunath is among the oldest structures in the Valley, and according to legend, not built by the hands of men.
On the outskirts of Kathmandu, the stupendous Boudhanath is the largest stupa in the world. There is a maelstrom of activity around the stupa at all times of day. Devotees walk around it, children play on it, curio stores blare Buddhist chants set to electronica, ceremonial drums beat in nearby monasteries and the heady smell of incense and butter lamps hand heavy in the air. Above them, all the stupa’s giant Buddha eyes keep watch.
Overnight at Kathmandu.
Day 12: Kathmandu to Pokhara, by air
Breakfast will be served at the hotel.
The beautiful lakeside city of Pokhara lies in a valley under the shadow of the mighty Annapurna Range. The highest of her summits reach an altitude of 8091 meters and is designated one of the world’s most difficult to climb. Covered in eternal snow, the great Himalayan summits reflected in the waters of Phewa Lake is one of the iconic and enduring images of Pokhara, and indeed, all of Nepal. But more than the mighty Annapurna peaks, it’s the relatively modest Mt. Fishtail (Macchapuchhre) that is the most identifiable element on the Pokhara horizon. The twin-peaked side of Machhapuchhre that resembles the tail of a fish is not visible from Pokhara, from where it rather resembles the Matterhorn. Machhapuchhre is considered a holy peak and not open for climbing.
Pokhara is the trailhead for several of the world’s iconic treks including the legendary Annapurna Circuit Trek, and the headquarters of the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), one of the most successful tourism-funded conservation projects in the world. Pokhara falls on one of the trade routes from Tibet, and to this day, mule trains carry supplies to and from the cold desert Trans-Himalayan kingdoms beyond the Annapurna range.
A popular tourist spot, the narrow strip along the lakeside comes alive every evening with buzzing curio stores, bookshops, restaurants, pubs and live music.
Overnight in Pokhara.
Day 13: Sightseeing in Pokhara
The high vantage point of Sarangkot is highly recommended for fabulous views of the Annapurna range during sunset and sunrise.
Also recommended, the deafening Patale Chhango (or Hell’s Waterfall) where the waters of the Pardi Khola noisily disappears into a gap in the ground. It is said that decades ago, a foreign tourist, either a woman named Devina or Mrs. Davis, or a man named David or Devin, came too close to the waterfall and was swept into the earth by the force of the water, giving the waterfall it’s colloquial name of Devi’s Fall. There is no evidence to corroborate this legend though, and the story appears suspiciously allegorical, warning city slickers of the devastating power of nature.
Don’t miss the Bindhyabasini Temple to Durga where the deity is a saligram or an ammonite fossil million of years old and found only in the high Himalayas proving that these stupendous summits were once under water.
The Seti Gandaki river which roars through Pokhara unseen or largely underground can be observed from near KI Singh Bridge in the Northern part of the city.
Other suggested spots include the Cave of bats, the Pokhara Museum and the secluded Begnas and Rupa Lakes in the outskirts of town.
Overnight at Pokhara.
Day 14: Pokhara to Katmandu, by air
After breakfast, take a short domestic flight to Kathmandu. Proceed for a day trip to Patan and Bhaktapur.
Across the Bagmati River, lies Patan, the second largest city of Kathmandu Valley and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A spacious, busy Durbar Square - crowded with locals who gather there to relax on the temple steps or catch up on the gossip - yields to numerous narrow winding alleyways snaking out in every possible direction. Some lead to tucked away temples, others to Malla-era houses still in use, while still others might lead to workshops where artisans are engrossed in making fearsome traditional masks or exquisite thangkas. In Patan, there is something surprising and magical around every corner.
The pride of the Patan Durbar Square (royal courtyard) is the Palace of the Malla Kings which today houses the small but highly recommended Patan Museum. The wooden pillars and roof struts of the palace are teeming with bas-relief sculptures of gods, goddesses, celestial beings, humans and animals, some in advanced and highly athletic states of copulation.
Near the Northern edge of the Durbar Square, stands the majestic five-tiered pagoda structure of the Kumbheshwar Mahadev Temple. The oldest temple in Patan, this structure dates back to the 14th century.
A short walk down an alleyway from Kumbheshwar Temple brings us to the Hiranyagarbha Mahavihar or the Golden Temple, a stunning Buddhist monastery known for graceful metal Bodhisattvas, stunning metal statues of mythical beasts and intricate engravings upon its walls and doors.
Also of note are the four Asokan Stupas scattered about Patan, believed to have been built by the Buddhist emperor Asoka more than two thousand years ago.
A little further south lies Jwalakhel with Nepal’s only zoo.
Bhaktapur, the “City of Devotees” stands on a hilltop a few miles east of Kathmandu. One of the four Malla Era capitals of Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur retains much of its medieval charm and way of living and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A treat for the eyes, Bhaktapur is full to the brim with exquisite shrines, palaces, sculptures, temples, columns and lakes, with practically every visible square inch of the city teeming with elaborate and intricate stone- or woodwork. Fittingly, Bhaktapur served as the backdrop for much of filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci’s stunning “Little Buddha.”
The magnificent 100 feet tall five-storied pagoda structure of the Nyatapola Temple towers over the Bhaktapur Town Square. Sheer steps lead up the structure to the area housing the deity. Giant stone guardians guard the staircase at every level. The view of the town square and surrounding hills from atop the staircase is spectacular.
The stunning Bhaktapur Durbar Square is an eye-popping collection of temples both in the pagoda and the traditional Indian Shikhara style, statues, sculptures and engravings centered around a palace with fifty-five stunningly intricate latticework windows.
Along with woodwork, Bhaktapur is known for its pottery. The celebrated Potter’s Square is not to be missed, with exquisite clay pots of all shapes and sizes laid out on the ground as far as the eye can see.
Overnight will be at Kathmandu.
Day 15: Katmandu to Delhi, by air
Breakfast will be served at the hotel. Transfer to airport for flight to Delhi. Later, you will be escorted to New Delhi International airport for your flight home.