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Essence of India

In a country as diverse and complex as India, it is not surprising to find that people here reflect the rich glories of the past, the 􀀀always remain truly Indian. Ethnically Indians speak different languages, follow different religions, and eat the most diverse varieties of food all of which add to the rich Indian culture. The beauty of the Indian people lies in the spirit of tolerance, give-and-take and a composition of cultures that can be compared to a garden of flowers of various colours and shades of which, while maintaining their own entity, lend harmony and beauty to the garden - India! This introductory trip provides you with a comprehensive overview and impression of culture and history of present day India. The meetings with the people will help you to understand India better and also to love. We are sure that your first meeting with INDIA will not be your last.   

Day 1: Depart for Delhi

Day 2: Delhi
Arrive Delhi in the evening.

Day 3: Delhi (B, L, D)
This morning, you will begin your visit with a rickshaw ride down Chandni Chowk, the old market street of Delhi. As you drive, you should think of the street as a supermarket with different departments hair ornaments, pots and pants, blankets and the like. You will also visit Red Fort, built by Shah Jehan. Following a late lunch, you can head over to the Bahai Temple, and then drive to a very important site along the Yamuna River - the Gandhi Memorial. Simple in design, the site is visited by constant streams of Indians.

Day 4: Delhi - Varanasi (B, L, D)
Fly to Varanasi. Varanasi, “eternal city,” has been a center of learning for over 2,000 years, and is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in all of India. A city of lingams dedicated to the Lord God Shiva, Varanasi is known as an “auspicious” place to die and a super-highway to heaven. Lining the river are numerous burning and bathing ghats. In addition to the ghats, numerous temples to numerous gods dot the city streets. During the day, you can begin to explore the area around your hotel and visit a sari factory.

Day 5: Varanasi (B, L, D)
Before dawn, you will take a morning boat ride on the Ganges to see the early morning prayers along the ghats. When you disembark, you can do some sightseeing - visiting some of the temples on the shore, wandering the narrow streets of Vishwanatha Khanda, the Old City at the heart of Varanasi. The area will be buzzing with the activity of pilgrims, and stalls selling offerings to the faithful. In the afternoon, you will pay a visit to the holy ruined city of Sarnath. Here in Sarnath, Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Few major Buddhist cities escaped the building frenzy of Ashoka, and Sarnath is no exception. Right near the Dhamekh Stupa are the remains of Ashoka’s pillar, with his name engraved in the stone. The stupa is believed to mark the spot where Buddha preached his sermon at Deer Park. Sarnath also has a small but very interesting museum, with some prized sculptures dating back to the Gupta period.

Day 6: Varanasi - Khajuraho (B, L, D)
Fly to Khajuraho. Khajuraho, a simple village in the middle of nowhere, was once a great capital of the pre-Moghul Chandelas. Khajuraho’s isolation saved it from the destruction of the Moghuls and the fanatic Emperor Aurangzeb, leaving a great treasure for posterity. The city boasts series of spectacularly preserved temples that date from 950-1050 AD. At one time, there were at least 85 temples, and the 22 well preserved survivors were built mostly of sandstone. Perhaps the most salient aspect of these temples is the beautiful stonework with marvelously erotic carvings and graceful gods and goddesses. When most people think of Khajuraho, they think of these erotic sculptures, yet the temples are far more. The magnificent carvings represent on the lower levels all aspects of Indian courtly life - soldiers, musicians, families, royalty, lovers and animals.

Day 7: Khajuraho - Agra (B, L, D)
In the morning drive about 4 hours thru the countryside to Orchha. Founded in 1531 by the Bundela dynasty, Orchha was the capital of a powerful Rajput kingdom until 1783. Now it is a small village, housing a complex of well-preserved palaces and temples. From Orcha you have a short drive to Jhansi, where you will catch the Shatabdi Express train to Agra in the evening.

Day 8:  Agra (B, L, D)
Agra, situated on the banks of the Yamuna River, was the capital of India more than 400 years ago. Today it is known not for its political glory but for its monuments. You will begin your day with a visit to the Agra Fort, begun by Emperor Akbar in 1565 as a military structure, and finished by his grandson, Shah Jehan, as a luxurious palace. On the opposite side of the Yamuna River is the Itimad-ud-daulah, The first Moghul monument constructed entirely of marble and using pietra dura or marble inlay work, the tomb foreshadows the Taj. In the afternoon you will head over to the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum was built on the southern side of the Yamuna River by the Mughal emperor, Shah Agra. Distraught by the death in childbirth of his inseparable companion and wife of twenty years, Mumtaz Mahal, or “Chosen One of the Palace,” Shah Jehan began the building in 1632; and, with the help of 20,000 workmen, finished the mausoleum section by 1643.

Day 9: Agra - Fatehpur Sikri - Jaipur (B, L, D)
In the morning head out for Jaipur via the perfectly preserved “ghost town” of Fatehpur Sikri, capital of Akbar’s Moghul Empire between 1570 and 1596. After visiting the marvellous architectural structures here, you will continue your drive to Jaipur, arriving late in the afternoon.

Day 10: Jaipur (B, L, D)
This morning, you begin at the ancient capital of Jaipur State, Amber Fort. The fort is perched high on a hillside overlooking a lake, whose waters reflect the terraces, and ramparts of the fort Amber was begun in 1592 by the commander of Akbar’s army, Raja Man Singh. In the afternoon, you will visit the City Palace, housing an excellent collection of textiles, carpets, weaponry, and manuscripts. You will also visit the Jantar Mantar, the largest and best observatory built by Jai Singh in 1728. Even today, one can read time in the giant monoliths designed by the astronomers of almost 300 years ago.

Day 11: Jaipur - Pushkar - Ajmer (B, L, D)
Your first stop today will be at Pushkar, a sacred town for the Hindus and is one of the five most sacred pilgrimage places. Lying on the shore of a lake of the same name, Pushkar is one of the oldest cities of India. The date of its actual origin is not known, but legend associates Lord Brahma, one of the main Gods of Hindus, with its creation. Continue to Ajmer, the city where the Dargah of the Great Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti stands, is a sacred centre of pilgrimage. Hallowed by the memories of the great seer, Ajmer has earned the epithet of “Madinatul Hind or the Madina of India”. Devotees of all sects and faiths come here.

Day 12: Ajmer - Chittorgarh - Udaipur (B, L, D)
Drive to Chittorgarh. Chittorgarh was the capital of former Rajput state "Mewar", which is remembered for bravery and valor of their rulers. Chittorgarh remains replete with historic associations and holds a very special place in the hearts of Rajputs, as it was a bastion of the clan at a time when every other stronghold had succumbed to invasion. From Chittorgarh you have a two-hour drive to one of the stars of Rajasthan, the wonderful city of Udaipur. In contrast to Jaipur and Delhi, Udaipur is a city of shimmering lakes, marble palaces and verdant hills. Justifiably, it has been called the “Venice of the East”. Myth has it that the spirit of Udaipur gazes toward the fort of Chittorgarh and owes its birth as a city of pleasure to the misfortunes of that battle-scarred fort.

Day 13: Udaipur (B, L, D)
You will visit one of the marvels of Udaipur - the City Palace begun by Maharana Udai Singh. Of the many palaces of Rajasthan, the City Palace is one of the most beautiful in terms of artwork. The stained glass, inlay work, tiles, and miniatures - everything is exquisite. Leaving the palace, you walk along past fabric stores, jewelers, painters, and shop a bit. On the path is the Jagdish Temple, built in 1651 by Maharana Jagat Singh and dedicated to Vishnu.

Day 14: Udaipur - Mumbai (B, L, D)
In the afternoon, you will catch a flight to Mumbai. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel, where day rooms have been reserved for you until time to transfer to the airport for your evening departure.

Day 15: Depart for homeward journey (B)

Tour date:
October 8 - 22, 2016

Tour Price:
including flights $ 6,970 per person
excluding flights $ 5,520 per person

Included in tour price:
Flights, tour coordinator/guide, accommodation on full meal basis, Monument admission fee, ground transportation, internal flights

Excluded in tour price:
Insurance, visa fee for India, additional programs, gratuities

Flights:
Los Angeles/Delhi

Our Hotels (or similar):
Delhi: Vasant Continental *****
Varanasi: Taj Gateway****
Khajuraho: Taj Chandela *****
Agra: Taj Gateway *****
Jaipur: Jaimahal Palace *****
Ajmer: Mansingh Palace ****
Udaipur: LaxmiVilas Palace (Heritage)
Mumbai: Taj Mahal *****