Our most comprehensive itinerary covers north India’s gems. The country’s spiritual heart beats in holy Varanasi, where pilgrims descend daily on the banks of the Ganges – an extraordinary spectacle. The Taj Mahal stands as a testament to romantic, bygone love and continues to inspire eternal passion. At Karauli, walk amidst temples, gardens and villages, and discover the true soul of Rajasthan. Jaipur offers imposing forts and palaces, while in the charming village of Alwar you’ll discover the 'real' Rajasthan. Bikaner offers frescoed ‘havelis’ and a camel ride and a magical night camping in the desert showcase the wild frontier nearby. Golden Jaisalmer evokes the legends of the ancient trade routes, while Mehrangarh Fort stands as an historic sentinel in Jodhpur. Khairwa is sure to be a favourite for photographers; Rajasthani women in full regalia, brilliant sunsets and cobblestone alleyways all combine for a wonderful scene. Udaipur, with the sun setting over Lake Pichola, exudes romance and beauty.
Day 1 - Delhi
Upon arrival we are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel. Our airport representative will be waiting for us in the arrival hall, located after passing out of the customs area and beyond the travel desks and exchange counters. Look out for the Peregrine signboard. The drive from the airport to the hotel is around 45 minutes. Most flights arrive in Delhi in the late evening, so there is nothing arranged for this day. If you have arrived early, you will be briefed with sightseeing options.
Hotel Florence or similar
Day 2 - Varanasi
Around breakfast time we have a briefing to outline our holiday itinerary and also cover many aspects of travelling in India. Please bring your passport and travel insurance documents to this meeting. In the morning, we jump on a short flight and head to Varanasi. As the sacred Ganges River flows from the snow-clad Himalaya into the vast plains, half way between Delhi and Calcutta it curves into a gentle crescent and therein lies Varanasi. Also known as Benares, this spiritual place is the oldest and the holiest of all pilgrim places of India and undoubtedly the venerated city of Hinduism. We arrive in Varanasi in the afternoon, where we check into our hotel and freshen up. We then we visit the ruined monasteries of Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon. This is a holy spot and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists from all around the world. A bodhi tree is present and represents the fact that Buddha did some of his preaching from beneath this particular type of tree. Spotted deer are kept in an enclosure, reflecting the presence of this animal in the story of the original Lord Buddha - Siddhârtha Gautama.
Hotel Meraden Grand or similar
Day 3 - Varanasi and Overnight Train
(Train journey: approx 13 hours) We get up before dawn and make our way down to the river. We then partake in a boat ride at sunrise on the Ganges and watch Hindu rituals being enacted along the banks of the river as people pray, wash and cremate their dead. Our tour leader also takes us through the back lanes of the Old City where we experience the peculiar lifestyle that this ancient city is famous for. We enjoy the rest of the day to explore this spiritual place before catching an overnight train to Agra.
Day 4 - Agra
After our overnight train we arrive in the city of Agra to visit India's most famous sight - the majestic Taj Mahal. This amazing 17th century marble mausoleum was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his second wife, who died giving birth. Started in 1631 the project was completed in 1648 and employed a workforce of over 20,000 people. Construction materials were brought from all over India with the marble from Rajasthan transported by over 1000 elephants. The rest of our time in Agra is free, but we have the option to also visit the nearby Agra Fort - a huge complex built of red sandstone by Akbar in 1565 and partially converted into a palace during the time of Shah Jahan.
Hotel Utkarsh Vilas or similar
Day 5 - Karauli
(Driving time: approx 4 hours) From Agra we make our first stop at the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri. This magnificent ghost town was capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585. Built during the reign of Emperor Akbhar it was abandoned shortly after his death due to a lack of available water. Our final destination today is Karauli, a 600-year-old city founded by Yaduvanshi Rajput kings - descendents of Lord Krishna. The main temple of Karauli is dedicated to Lord Krishna. We stay for two nights at a sprawling palace belonging to the family that once ruled Karauli. Bhanwar Vilas Palace was built as a royal residence in 1938 by Maharaja Ganesh Pal Deo Bahadur when he was the ruler of Karauli. The palace is designed in a colonial style and the interiors are furnished in Art Deco period furniture. Our stay here is sure to be a memorable one.
Bhanwar Vilas Palace or similar
Day 6 - Karauli
Today we explore the City Palace, which dates back 500 years. The fort and the palace was the official residence of the royal family of Karauli till 1938. This amazing structure features impressive archways and interconnecting rooms, many of them colourfully painted with frescoes. Many of the buildings in Karauli feature distinctive pale red sandstone in their construction. We then enjoy a camel cart ride to the step well, the old city and surrounding countryside. Along the way we are sure to be greeted by hordes of local kids, waving at us as we ride by. We also explore an organic dairy, various farms and a campus school being run by the former royal family. It is a memorable experience being in a part of the country that sees very few tourists. Everything seems to have an air of authenticity about it as we join in with the local people as they go by with their everyday life.
Bhanwar Vilas Palace or similar
Day 7-8 - Jaipur
(Driving time: approx 4 hours) After breakfast we travel by road to Jaipur - the colourful capital of the state of Rajasthan as well as being a vibrant and exciting town on its own right. Here, traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches make their way through crowded streets packed with cars, camel carts, rickshaws, trucks and bicycles. The City Palace is an amazing complex with various courtyards and connecting buildings as well as fascinating museums displaying royal costumes and weaponry. Part of the palace is closed to visitors as it is still the residence of the royal family. The most memorable features of our visit are sure to include the impressively colourful gates the courtyard known as Pitan Niwas Chowk and the incredible moustaches worn by the palace guards. Our guide will also take us to the Old Bazaar and Hawa Mahal, better known as the Palace of the Wind. This five-storey façade with its pink, honeycombed sandstone windows is one of Jaipur's best-known landmarks. In the evening we can dine at one of the many fine restaurants in the city (optional).
On our second day in Jaipur we travel 11 kilometres out to the stunning medieval Amber Fort. This fort was built in 1592 by Maharajah Man Singh and is a superb example of Rajput architecture. Several hours are needed to explore this huge fortification.
Mahal Khandela or similar
Day 9 - Sawarda
(Driving time: approx 1 hour) We continue our journey and drive for one hour to Sawarda, a small fort that is still residence to the nobles of Sawarda, who belong to the Khangarot clan - an offshoot of the Jaipur royal family. The fort houses two small temples, gardens and interesting frescoed rooms. In the evening we have the opportunity to participate in an 'aarti' (prayer session) in the family temple. The expression ‘hidden gem’ has become a cliché in the world of travel today but it is very much true of Sawarda. Until we discovered it, it saw no tourists and even now, it’s virtually only Peregrine groups that visit Sawarda. Exploring the village is a great deal of fun, and we have been very careful to ensure that tourism does not have a negative effect on the village. There is an ancient step well, a Sikh temple with an extremely rare scripture and many other highlights. After the aarti, it’s wonderful to wander through the alley ways and soak up the ambience.
Sawarda Palace or similar
Day 10 - Alwar
Driving time: (approx 5 hours) In the morning we take a walk and visit an interesting old Sikh temple where one of the manuscripts of Gurbani, written by the founder of the Sikh religion, is still kept. We visit the families of village workers such as potters and ironsmiths and get a glimpse into traditional Indian village life. Shortly after we start on the journey to Alwar, where we arrive in time for lunch and check into our hotel. In the afternoon, we get a feel for the village and its sights. The elaborate Cenotaph of Maharaja Bakhtawar Singh, near the City Palace complex was built in 1815 by his son Maharaja Vinay Singh. The cenotaph is also known as the Chhatri of Moosi Rani, after one of the mistresses of Bakhtawar Singh who performed sati (self-immolation) on his funeral pyre. Above the City Palace complex, towers the fort of Bala Quila with 5km ramparts, it stands 300m above the city. Not open to the public, however entrance can usually be arranged fairly easily. Alwar presents a great opportunity for great photography and immerging oneself in Rural Rajasthan. While some may choose to catch up on some R&R by the pool side of our quaint resort or continue exploring Alwar on their own, we will offer an optional outing to the nearby Siliserh Lake (approx. 7km). This tranquil lake is a set in the slopes of the Arawali Hills, the picture of rural Rajasthan. The best view can be had from the terraces of Hotel Silserth Lake Palace.
Ummaid Bagh Resorts or similar
Day 11 - 12 - Overnight Train & Bikaner
We drive to Jaipur (occasionally Delhi, depending on the train schedule) and have time to enjoy a bite to eat and a bit of shopping (in case you haven't spent enough!) before we board the overnight train to Bikaner. This town was founded in late 15th century and its imposing palaces,
beautifully carved temples and rich 'havelis' showcase the artistically
splendid heritage of Rajput culture. After a welcome shower we have a
chance to relax before exploring the old town including the 16th century
Junagarh Fort and a camel breeding farm. In your free time you can also
make an optional visit to the Kari Mata Temple in Deshnok (30 km from
Bikaner), which is famous as the temple where rats are venerated and can
be seen in huge numbers!
Day 13 - Camel Safari - Desert Camp
(Driving time: approx 1 hour) We drive to the village of Raisar and get on our camels, at first crossing the village and then heading through the fields and on to the semi-arid desert. After riding for an hour-and-a-half we reach our lunch point in a shady patch, where we enjoy a nice Indian meal cooked by our camping staff. After resting for a couple of hours we get back on our camels and ride to Himmatasar village and then onwards towards our campsite near the sand dunes, where we then settle ourselves in our alpine-style tents. In the evening we take a walk and enjoy experiencing a sunset (weather permitting) over the sand dunes. The camel safari is a great way to see the region and interact with the friendly and colourful people who have made the desert their home. Riding a camel is quite an experience that may not always be comfortable, however the opportunity to hop off and hitch a ride on one of our accompanying carts, or just stretch our legs by walking short sections, will ease the inevitable sore bum! In the evening we enjoy traditional Rajasthani food around a bonfire and listen to the music and the yarns from our cameleers.
Bhairon Niwas or similar
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 14 - Jaisalmer
(Driving time: 6 hours) In the morning after breakfast we ride on comfortable camel carts for
about an hour and a half back to the pick-up point, where we meet our
private cars and drive for an hour towards Jaisalmer. The terrain gets more and more desert-like as we make our way towards the frontier. Along the way it may be possible to spot some local wildlife, including chinkara (Indian gazelle). In the evening we can walk up to a vantage point to witness a beautiful sunset (weather permitting) on the fort of Jaisalmer, giving it a golden glow.
Himmatgarh Palace or similar
Day 15 - Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer is an ancient trading town that resembles a scene from the story, 'One Thousand and One Nights'. The inhabitants still live in the narrow paved streets and alleyways of the town's ancient fort. Jaisalmer is a great place to simply wander round and for watching the passing scene. The merchants and wealthy families of Rajasthan built magnificent homes - or havelis - and some of the finest are to be found here. Founded in 1156 the city's remote location insured fierce independence from outside influence.
Himmatgarh Palace or similar
Day 16 - Jodhpur
(Driving time: approx 6 hours) Established in the 15th century on the edge of the Great Thar Desert, Jodhpur was an important trading centre. Many of the buildings were painted blue, as historically this was an indication that the home belongs to a high caste Brahmin. Today most of the city is painted blue as other castes have followed suit. We visit the imposing Meherangarh Fort, which sits atop a sheer rocky ridge in the middle of town. We also explore the many palaces and courtyards contained within the fort, as well as the clock tower and the bustling Sadar Market, located at the foot of the hill. This market is a great place to stroll around at leisure, with several alleyways leading off to various bazaars selling all sorts of fruits, vegetables, spices, textiles and handicrafts.
Devi Bhawan or similar
Day 17 - Dera Khairwa
(Driving time: approx 3 hours) On our journey between Jodhpur and Udaipur we stop to spend a night in a most unique place. Dera Khairwa is a 15th century fort-palace located in the village of Khairwa in the Pali District. The rulers of Dera Khairwa belong to the noble clan of Jodha-Rathores, who are related to the founders of the city of Jodhpur. During our time here we can imagine what it must have been like to be part of the ruling class in the India of yesteryear, surrounded by elegance and opulence.
Day 18-19 - Udaipur
(Driving time: 4 hours) The drive to Udaipur takes us through the beautiful Rajasthan landscape. En route we stop at the Jain temples at Ranakpur, which are located in the Aravalli Hills. The main Chaumukha Temple was built in 1439 and the workmanship of the carved pillars, of which there are 1444, is exquisite. From here it is only a further 60 kilometres to Udaipur. This beautiful city, built around the shores of Lake Pichola, is full of fascinating temples, ornate palaces and impressive 'havelis'. The charming setting of the Lake Palace on Jagwinas Island is unforgettable. During our stay we visit the Jagdish Temple, an Indo-Aryan temple containing a black stone image of Vishnu as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. We also visit the City Palace, surmounted by balconies, towers and cupolas, where there are excellent views of the city and lakeside from the upper terraces.
Swaroop Vilas or similar
Day 20 - Udaipur - overnight train
(Train journey: approx 12½ hours) We have kept our final day in Udaipur as a free one. Our leader can assist with further sightseeing options or you may wish to relax around the hotel or explore the many shopping opportunities on offer. Rajasthan is famous for miniature paintings, textiles, clothing and handicrafts. In the evening we travel to the railway station and board an overnight sleeper train bound for Delhi.
Day 21 - Delhi
In the late morning we arrive back into Delhi after our overnight train journey. We then enjoy an orientation drive around
the city that takes us to India Gate and past the President's House
(Rashtrapati Bhavan) and Parliament House (Sansad Bhavan), a well as the
bustling Janpath Bazaar. Afterwards, you have the option of visiting Hauz Khas Village - a chic artistic enclave set right next to the remnants of a historical site - a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown - . We then have the chance to enjoy pre-dinner drinks before heading out to one of Delhi's great restaurants for dinner (optional) to commemorate the end of our tour.
Hotel Florence or similar
Day 22 - Delhi
Your trip ends in Delhi this morning after breakfast. Check out time is 12 noon. If your flight leaves in the evening you may wish to book additional accommodation so you have a room until departure. Most flights leave Delhi in the evening and your tour leader can assist you with transfers to the airport. These are not included, but can be booked through us or your travel agent.