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Uncover India’s centuries-old culture and diverse native wildlife on this 19 day trip. Starting in Delhi, discover a city scattered with atmospheric tombs, resplendent temples and chaotic medieval marketplaces. Travel to Varanasi to watch the unforgettable nightly Aarti ceremony, marvel at the irresistible beauty of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Spot Tigers in Ranthambhore National Park, tour Jaipur’s Amber Fort by Elephant-back and experience the frenetic pace of life in Mumbai before unwinding on a houseboat in the tranquil backwaters of Kerala.
On arrival into Delhi Airport, meet with your guide and transfer to your hotel for check-in.
A sprawling, vibrant and sometimes overwhelming city, Delhi is home to over 15 million people and is continuously growing. From an outsider's perspective, the city is divided into two distinct parts. To the north lies the winding narrow streets and medieval bazaars of the 17th century Mughal capital, Old Delhi. Encompassing the heart of the modern city to the south, New Delhi is by contrast a cosmopolitan and creative metropolis of broad, tree-lined boulevards, parks, museums and international restaurants. Both halves of the city are dotted with astonishing Mughal and British Imperial architecture, Muslim tombs and temples, and an array of magnificent monuments that commemorate the glory of bygone ages.
In the afternoon, embark on a half-day tour of New Delhi. Your drive takes you along the Raj Path or "King's Way" ceremonial avenue, past verdant lawns, canals and trees and the imposing Parliament House and India Gate monument. Explore the elegant Humayun Tomb and its surrounding 30 acre, Persian-style garden and inspect the intricate Arabic inscriptions and carvings that cover the soaring tower of Qutub Minar.
Enjoy free time for the remainder of the evening.
Embark on a tour of Old Delhi with your guide. Explore the city by cycle rickshaw, stopping to take in the most opulent fort and palace of the Mughal Empire - Lal Qila, or the "Red Fort". Encased by towering red sandstone walls, this dramatic UNESCO World Heritage Site was built at the very height of Mughal reign by Emperor Shan Jehan as a grandiose symbol of pomp and power. Pay a visit to the nearby Raj Ghat to see the Mahatma Gandhi memorial before venturing to Jama Masjid to admire the magnificent marble domes and gold spires of the largest mosque in India. After climbing the mosque's southern tower to soak up sweeping views over Delhi, witness the ancient marketplace of Chandni Chowk come alive as locals prepare for the trading day.
Fly to Varanasi from Delhi, meet your guide at the airport and transfer to hotel for check-in.
Stretched along the River Ganges, Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in India. It sprawls back from the riverbank to a winding labyrinth of narrow alleyways and courtyards dotted with bazaars selling trinkets crafted from silver, brass and copper, perfume and clothes.
Each day, thousands of pilgrims make their way to the riverfront to wash away their sins, cremate their loved ones and find salvation in the sacred waters of the Ganges. Known to the devout as the City of Light, the city is a symbol of hope to generations of Hindus and a captivating glimpse into ancient but still thriving religious traditions for visitors.
As dusk descends, visit the local ghats to witness the Aarti ceremony. Taking its name from the Sanskrit word for homage and devotion, Aarti takes place every night on the banks of the River Ganges in the holy cities of Varanasi, Haridwar and Rishikesh. During the ceremony, small diya (candle-lit lamps decorated with flowers) are floated down the river as an offering to the Goddess Ganga, accompanied by a chorus of chanting hymns, drums and temple bells. Join the local crowds gathered on the ghat steps, on the rooftops of local shops and even huddled in boats on the river itself to watch this mesmerising and uplifting ritual take place.
Rise early to embark on a dawn boat ride on the Ganges. Watch the city waking up along the banks of the river, where local men stand lathering themselves with soap, women scrub their brightly coloured saris and hundreds of pilgrims immerse themselves in the water in ancient ritual.
There's then time for a short tour of the city with visits to the Durga Mandir Temple - a striking 18th century structure stained red with ochre and overrun with monkeys - and the elaborately decorated Temple of Vishwanath. If time permits you'll also have a chance to learn more about Varanasi's thriving silk and brocade weaving industry with a visit to some local factories.
Later, travel to Sarnath with your guide. This intriguing cluster of temples and monasteries, now in ruins, marks the hallowed spot where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment and set into motion the "Wheel of Law", a new cycle of reincarnations thought to lead to the eventual enlightenment of humanity.
Fly to Khajuraho, meet with your guide upon arrival and transfer to the hotel for check-in.
In the afternoon, explore the UNESCO World Heritage site that is the western group of temples. Most of the exquisitely intricate and beautifully preserved structures here are built from hard sandstone dug from the Ken River. The temples are adorned with ornate sculptures of voluptuous women crafted with painstaking attention to the small details of hairstyles, jewellery and even manicured nails. To enhance the striking beauty of the whole scene, the temples subtly change colour with the movement of the sun, gradually turning from a soft pink at sunrise to gleaming white at noon and back to pink at sunset.
In the evening, enjoy free time to explore the village, perhaps exploring the local markets or unwinding at an open air restaurant and soaking up the laid back, sociable atmosphere.
Travel to Agra with your guide, stopping en route at Orchha.
Perched on the banks of the River Betwa, and surrounded by encroaching jungle, Orchha or "Hidden Palace" is a deserted medieval town of weed-strewn cenotaphs, derelict temples and palaces. The plain exterior of the 17th century Raj Mahal Palace belies a vibrant interior of boldly colourful murals depicting scenes from Ramayana and various incarnations of Lord Vishnu. With its beautiful gateway decorated with turquoise tiles, elegant balconies and delicate trellis work, Jehangir Mahal is perhaps the most striking structure, while the 18th century Sheesh Mahal has retained little of its past splendour, but offers magnificent views of the town from the terraces.
Later, transfer to the Jhansi railway station with your guide and board the train for Agra.
A leading centre of art, science and culture during the 16th and 17th centuries, ancient Agra was a thriving Mughal capital under the reign of Akbar the Great. Today, it's a huge and dynamic city, characterised by its lively and often chaotic marketplace, its incredible fort, sprinkling of intriguing tombs and mausoleums, and the untouchable beauty of the Taj Mahal.
This morning enjoy a Mughal Heritage Walk of Agra City. Experience the rich culture and history of the Mughal era and take in unique views of the Taj Mahal on this guided walk. See Gyraaha Sidi, Humanyu Mosque and more of the city's most intriguing heritage monuments, explore a tea terrace, catch a street play in a community courtyard and venture to the small village of Kachhpura to meet its friendly residents.
In the afternoon, explore two of India's most spectacular architectural marvels, Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal.
Located just a few kilometres north of its sister monument Taj Mahal, Agra Fort occupies a massive 94 acres on the banks of the Yamuna River. Although the fort was originally designed as a military structure, it was later transformed into a magnificent palace by Emperor Shah Jahan, and eventually served as his prison when son Aurangzeb seized power in 1658. Explore the fort's chambers and cloistered courtyards, admiring the intricate white marble carvings of the Nagina Masjid and Moti Masjid and stopping to take in breathtaking views of the Taj Mahal from the numerous lofty balconies and pavilions.
The awe inspiring Taj Mahal, undoubtedly the masterpiece of Mughal architecture, stands at the far northern end of an extensive walled garden overlooking the tranquil Yamuna River. Although its layout follows a strict Islamic theme, this immense mausoleum is above all, a monument to love. Commissioned by Shah Jahan to enshrine the body of his favourite wife, it is believed to have taken 20,000 craftsmen working around the clock, 20 years to complete. This painstaking commitment to perfection is reflected in every aspect of the complex's design; from the precise, geometric planning of the surrounding Paradise Gardens, to the reflective quality of the marble itself which changes hue with the movement of the sun, symbolising the presence of Allah.
Wander the exquisite 17 hectare gardens and take time to soak up the almost overwhelming beauty of this wonder of the world.
In the evening, enjoy free time to explore Agra, perhaps browsing the many lively local bazaars selling marble handicrafts, jewellery and leather ware.
Today leave for Sawai Madhopur, stopping en route to visit the magnificent ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri. Perched on a rocky crest just a short drive southwest of Agra, the well-preserved ruins of this atmospheric site were once the short-lived imperial capital of Mughal emperor Akbar. Shortly after the emperor's death in 1585, the entire city was suddenly abandoned for reasons that still remain uncertain. Venture though Agra Gate and ponder the enigma for yourself as you explore the grandiose red sandstone palaces, monuments and mosques that remain of this mysterious, ill-fated city.
On arrival in Sawai Madhopur, transfer to your hotel in Ranthambore and enjoy free time for the remainder of the day.
Once a maharaja's hunting ground, Ranthambore National Park encompasses 1, 334 sq km of rugged jungle scrub land fringed by the rocky ridges of the Aravalli and Vindhya ranges. A core area of just 392 square kilometres is open to the public, at the heart of which lies an impressive 10th century fort surrounded by a scattering of ancient temples, cenotaphs and mosques. Thanks to the relatively small size of the reserve itself, as well as the ongoing success of local conservation projects, it's considered one of the best places in India to see Tigers in the wild. The park is also home to large populations of Leopards, Jackals, Jungle Cats, Deer and Crocodiles, as well as more than 300 different species of birds.
Rise early to embark on your safari adventure in Ranthambore National Park. Accompanied by an experienced naturalist, cross the park's grassy plains in an open-top jeep, venturing into dry dhok forest, past tranquil lagoons where Crocodiles lurk just beneath the surface. The resident Tigers, famously unperturbed by human company, can often be spotted playing with their cubs or stalking silently through the tall golden grass in pursuit of their prey.
It's a steep climb up to the formidable Ranthambore Fort by foot, but your efforts will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the entire park as well glimpses of Serpent Eagles, Vultures and other majestic birds of prey soaring through the sky at eye-level. Pay a visit to the Jogi Mahal, a striking rest house once used by weary explorers, and unwind by the tranquil, water lily clad Padam Tlao Lake.
Return to the hotel to recuperate, before venturing back into the park in the afternoon for more exploration with your guide.
Early this morning there's time for another wildlife adventure in Ranthambore National Park. Explore patches of forest teeming with Langur Monkeys, see huge herds of wild Indian Boar, Gazelles and Sambar Deer gather at tranquil watering holes and enjoy the intense and unforgettable experience of searching for and observing Tigers in the wild.
In the afternoon, journey to Jaipur and enjoy free time for the rest of the day.
The Rajasthan capital Jaipur is romantically nicknamed the "Pink City" in reference to the distinctly coloured stucco buildings that line the streets of the Old City. Established in 1727 by Jai Singh II of the Kachwaha family, the city is now the state's most prosperous and rapidly developing city, but there are frequent reminders of its intriguing royal past in the flamboyant palaces, medieval bazaars and hilltop forts that stud its streets and outskirts.
In the morning, tour the Amber Fort. Situated high above the Maota Lake, this imposing structure was begun in 1592 by Maharaja Man Singh and later extended by the Jai Singhs. Inside its impressive, impregnable walls, the fortress-palace is a four storey maze of cool, solid marble rooms, twisting staircases, and tiny balconies that peer out on the rugged landscape. As you move between rooms adorned with ornate marble carvings, gilded ceilings and intricately painted doors, it's not difficult to visualize a life of pomp and grandeur at the height of the kingdom's powers.
Tour Jaipur with your guide in the afternoon. Discover the fascinating blend of traditional Rajasthani and Mughal Art and intriguing royal relics at the City Palace Museum before visiting Jantar Mantar observatory to see the huge, complex and still accurate stone astronomical devices stored here. The unique Hawal Mahal or "Palace of Winds" is Jaipur's most distinctive landmark, a quirky five storey facade decked with hundreds of tiny screened windows and balconies. Those that wish to get a closer look can climb up the back of the structure to take in the views from the screened niches that privileged ladies of the court would once have peered down from.
Drive to Udaipur, and enjoy a free evening to explore at your leisure on arrival.
Nestled around the idyllic Lake Pichola against a backdrop of craggy green hills, Udaipur is often described as the "Venice of the East" or simply "City of Lakes." With its plethora of fairy tale turreted palaces, shimmering white havelis and ornate marble temples, all reflected in the glassy waters that surround it, this is one of India's most seductive cities.
Udaipur is home to several excellent restaurants that specialise in Indian and European cuisine, ask your guide for recommendations.
This morning visit the City Palace. Undoubtedly one of the city's most iconic structures, the Palace stands vast and magnificent on the northeast shore of Lake Pichola, carved from soft yellow stone and crowned with ornate arches and cupolas. Most of the building is now dominated by the City Palace Museum with its collection of lavish mosaics, paintings and artifacts, but the chambers, narrow halls and courtyards are also richly rewarding to explore, especially for the intricate glass inlays and mirror work.
Pay a visit to the fantastically carved Jagdish Temple just north of the City Palace before heading to the beautiful Sahelion Ki Bari garden to admire the fountains, marble elephants and lotus pool.
In the afternoon, enjoy a boat ride on the tranquil Lake Pichola. Glide past the island of Jagmandir with its Lake Garden Palace and gaze back across the lake to take in unique and breathtaking views of the city. Once back on dry land, you'll have time to browse for bargains in the bustling market that sprawls behind the City Palace Complex.
Fly to Mumbai, meet your guide on arrival at the airport and transfer to hotel for check-in.
Squeezed into a narrow stretch of land between mangrove marshes and the Arabian Sea, Mumbai is technically an island, connected to the mainland by a series of bridges and causeways. Once an aboriginal fishing settlement, the Maharashtra capital has transformed into a heaving metropolis of more than sixteen million people - one of the most densely populated cities on the planet. This fast moving and rapidly evolving city is the most industrialised place in India, but tucked amidst its gleaming skyscrapers, malls, and stylish restaurants lie warrens of teaming medieval bazaars, a wealth of colonial and Art Deco architecture and clusters of resplendent temples.
An afternoon tour provides an introduction to life in India's most paradoxical city, where crowded streets roamed by cows and street traders give way to broad, palm-lined boulevards lined with designer boutiques. Explore the beautiful Hanging Gardens before paying a visit to the dhobi ghats, a sprawling rabbit warren of concrete washing pens where hundreds of people work tirelessly each day washing the city's hotel and hospital laundry.
Embark on a morning tour of the Elephanta Caves. Situated on a small island in Mumbai Harbour, this ancient cluster of elaborately carved caves bear a unique testimony to an ancient civilisation founded on art, mysticism and religion. The collection of astonishing rock art here was constructed in the 6th century in honour of Shiva. Take time to admire the huge sculptures depicting manifestations of Shiva in the main cave and soak up the surprising tranquillity of this scenic world heritage site that lies just 10km east of the chaos of Mumbai.
Back in Mumbai, perched right at the waters edge overlooking the harbour, stands one of the city's greatest landmarks - the towering Gateway of India. This magnificent, yellow basalt stone archway was built to commemorate the visit of the first ever British Monarch, King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. Standing 26 metres high, it is crowned with four regal looking turrets and adorned with intricate latticework.
Just a short stroll away, the Prince of Wales Museum is a striking and unique structure crowned by clusters of Gothic inspired pinnacles and a sparkling white dome. The building houses a fascinating collection of ancient Indus Valley artefacts dating back to 2000 BC, as well as a selection of Tibetan bronzes and Nepali Art and more than 2000 miniature paintings representing the various art schools of India.
Pay a visit to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one of India's busiest railway stations, to admire its magnificent Italian Gothic arches and turrets, before exploring the lively alleys of Crawford market.
This morning transfer to Mumbai airport for your flight to Cochin. On arrival you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel.
Later proceed for Cochin guided city tour.
Cochin is known as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea' due to its natural harbour being one of the sea's finest ports. The city is made up of islands connected to Ernakulum on the mainland by bridges and it perfectly reflects the eclecticism of Kerala. This quaint town has seen historic visits from sea faring traders from countries such as Portugal and China, all bringing with them their different cultures that make up Cochin's unique fabric.
Take tour of Cochin with your guide. Visit the Jewish Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth. The synagogue is located in an area called "Jew Town", which is also one of the centres of the spice trade in this region. You will also visit the ancient Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1557. This palace was presented to the ruler of Cochin as a gesture of goodwill. The Palace's alternative name "Dutch Palace" resulted from substantial renovations by the Dutch after 1663. The most important feature of the palace is the astonishing murals that adorn some of the palace rooms depicting scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharta and Puranic legends connected with Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Kumara and Durga.
Another stop is made at the St. Francis Church, the oldest European built church in India. The church was constructed in 1503 by the Portuguese Franciscan Friars who accompanied the expedition led by the famed Vasco de Gama, the first European to reach India by sailing around Africa. Vasco de Gama died in Cochin in 1524 and was buried here for 14 years before his remains were transferred to Lisbon. His tombstone can be seen inside the church.
Also pay a visit to the amazing Chinese fishing nets operating on principles of physics that were very advanced at the time of their creation. Cochin's Chinese fishing nets are the only ones of their kind in India. It is believed that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets to the region.
This evening witness the famous South Indian classical dance - Kathakali. The origins of India's most spectacular dance/drama go back 500 years to a time when open-air performances were held in temple courtyards in the villages. Kathalkali isn't simply another form of dancing, it incorporates elements of yoga and ayurveda. All the props are fashioned from natural materials, powdered minerals and the sap of trees for the bright facial make-up, the beaten bark of certain trees dyed with fruits and spices for wigs and coconut oil for the paint around the eyes.
This morning take the drive to Alleppey to board your boat for a cruise of the Kerala backwaters.
The coastal town of Alleppey on the Arabian sea is called "the Venice of the East" for the numerous canals that meander through the town. The town hosts the annual event of snake boat racing during August and it is also well known for its cashew nuts.
The backwaters in Kerala are a network of around 1500kms of canals, both manmade and natural, 38 rivers and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other. Before the advent of modern transportation methods; bridges, ferries and trucks, the most commonly used cargo transportation method through the backwaters was by Kettuvalloms (stitched boats). Kettuvalloms, or houseboats, were used in the early days for the transportation of goods from the isolated interior villages to the towns. Gradually as the Kettuvalloms became replaced they were relegated to neglect and decay. Recently, tourism has seen Kettuvalloms become popular again as a fabulous way to explore the fascinating beauty of the backwaters.
Curiously enough, not a single nail is used in the construction of Kettuvalloms, it takes great skill and meticulousness from the artisans who construct these giant vessels by tying huge planks of jack wood together. Modified to meet today's requirements, the Kettuvalloms are comfortably furnished and are extremely eco friendly. Every boat is manned by a crew with a cook, guide and oarsman.
Once on the boat, you will cruise through the backwaters for the rest of the day. Pass by small villages and see how the locals live. Cruise by tea shops, paddy fields, temples and beaches until sunset when the boat anchors in quiet and beautiful part of the lake where you will spend the night on board.
This morning your backwater cruise will finish in Kumarakom, enjoy free time for the remainder of the day.
Jutting into the placid Lake Vembanad, the state's largest freshwater lake, the sleepy peninsula settlement of Kumarakom is a haven of endless paddy fields, meandering canals and glittering lagoons. The town's renowned bird sanctuary, spread across 14 acres of picturesque woodland and mangroves, offers a safe refuge for a fascinating variety of migratory and native birds, including parrots, kingfishers, herons, Siberian stork, wild ducks and cuckoos.
Today you will transfer back to Cochin for your departure flight
Float gently over the mighty Amber Fort and the surrounding area. Take in the spectacular sunrise as you drift over the Aravali mountain range and get a birds eye view of traditional villages and colourful fields in one of India’s most spectacular locations.
You’ll fly with India’s first fully licensed and approved Hot Air Balloon company, offering a unique & amazing balloon safari experience in Jaipur, with highly experienced international pilots. Enjoy tea, coffee and light refreshments whilst you watch the spectacle of the balloons being inflated and prepared before your hour long flight, touching down to the welcoming smiles and friendly greetings of the local villagers.
All Get About Asia trips have been designed to make sure you have an unforgettable travel experience. We have developed several trip styles to cater for our diverse range of travellers. Read what your ideal Get About Asia experience might look like here.
|Standard:||from AU $3,911|
|Superior:||from AU $4,148|
|Deluxe:||from AU $4,899|
All GetAboutAsia prices are based on twin share and depend on availability and season. All our itineraries can be customised including international flights and extra nights. For questions or further information, Enquire Now!
Hotels/lodges each night of the itinerary (excluding your departure day).
• Domestic airfares
• Accommodation on bed and breakfast basis
• Lunch & Dinner on fixed menu basis at resident hotel in Ranthambore
• All transfers, sightseeing's & excursions by air-conditioned vehicle
• All sites and visits as per the program
• Cycle Rickshaw ride in Delhi during Old Delhi visit
• Jeep ride at Amber fort
• 3 game drives in Ranthambore in open top Jeeps on a shared basis
• Boat ride on Lake Pichola in Udaipur on a shared basis
• Boat ride on River Ganges in Varanasi
• Overnight houseboat stay in Kerala inclusive of all meals
• Train fare for Jhansi – Agra & Bharatpur – Ranthambore in air-conditioned carriage
• Services of English-speaking local guides in each city at the time of city tour
• All currently applicable entrances at the monuments
• The above prices include all current taxes and entrance fees
This trip package includes 4 internal flights (Delhi - Varanasi, Varanasi - Khajuraho, Udaipur - Mumbai and Mumbai - Cochin) which retail at about 200AUD per flight.
Visas for India
All nationalities need to apply for an Indian visa in advance. Give yourself at least 4 weeks.
The Indian Government has advised that from December 2014, all visa applicants will need to be physically present at a visa application centre, by appointment, to submit their applications and biometric data, including fingerprints and facial imagery.
ALL Australian travellers to India will need to personally attend their nearest consulate to complete their visa formalities. There is NO visa on arrival in India for all nationalities. Indian visas CANNOT be obtained in Nepal.
Availability of accommodation and season.
"India was great thanks, we all had a terrific time. Highlights too many to mention although the Abhaneri Stepwell & visit to Delhi Sikh Temple were particularly welcome surprises. Local tour good guides were great, as was our driver & all logistics. All in all a great trip. Will keep you in mind for our future travels. Have a great Christmas & thanks for all your help on our Indian adventure." — Dale Family, Berkshire UK, November 2017
"We would certainly recommend Varanasi to anyone travelling to India and we've found it hard to nominate any great highlight - most of it terrific. Everything went like clockwork and we do not have the slightest complaint. The drivers and guides were superb and we were overwhelmed with kindness. We shall cherish the memories, so thank you." — Elizabeth & Jim Main, Torquay VIC, April 2016
"We enjoyed our trip and GetAboutAsia did a fabulous job of coordinating the various legs of our visits to national parks. As vegetarians we found the food to be brilliant - and always more than we could contemplate. It was so exciting to see tigers in each of the parks we visited. " — Linda and George, Sydney, NSW, March 2016
"This was a well-designed trip, with well-chosen destinations, the right degree of flexibility and the right amount of "free time.". Hotels were of a high standard; away from the cities, accommodation was always a pleasant quirky surprise. The drivers and guides and everybody else we met were helpful and comfortable to be with; we felt safe and never pressured. We had a wonderful time in Sri Lanka & Kerala, India. " — Mr Paul and Frances Dudley, Richmond , September 2015
"All of our experiences were excellent. If I was to name a particular experience that we both found very different to anything else we have experienced before it would be Varanasi. Varanasi is a unique place with amazing contrasts and its own particular beauty." — Rosslyn & Christopher, Noosaville, QLD, April 2014