The Golden Triangle and Ranthambore with Joanna
Explore the iconic sights of India’s famed Golden Triangle, from the magnificent forts of Amber and Agra to the marble magnificence of the Taj Mahal, and experience one of India’s most beautiful national parks - Ranthambore. Find your spiritual side and extend your stay to witness an aarti ceremony at Rishikesh.
- All services as detailed in your itinerary
- International flights
- Accommodation on half-board basis (unless otherwise specified in your itinerary)
- All private transfers to hotels (unless otherwise stated)
- Experienced local tour manager
- The services of our local agents
- Hotel and local taxes
- Air Passenger Duty
Day 1: Fly from London - Delhi
Overnight flight from London to Delhi with British Airways from London Heathrow.
Day 2: Delhi
There is perhaps no other capital city in the world so steeped in history and legend as the Indian capital, Delhi. It was the magnet that drew the Mongols, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Mughals and, more recently, the British, all of whom contributed to its glorious but turbulent history. The fascination with Delhi was such that even though it was abandoned many times, its rulers returned to it again and again, rebuilding it at least seven times. Today, the adjoined cities of Old and New Delhi are home to countless wonders. In the densely populated old city there is the mighty Mughal-built Red Fort, the vast Jama Masjid Mosque and, between the two, the bustling lanes of Chandni Chowk where a bewildering array of wares are traded. In New Delhi, designated as the capital by the British in 1911, there are the grand Lutyens-designed government buildings, the majestic India Gate war memorial, the thriving hub of Connaught Circus, and broad leafy streets radiating outwards giving much of the city a park-like feel.
Afternoon tour of New Delhi: When the British chose Delhi as their capital in 1911, they appointed two architects, Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, to plan and build a new city to rival the fabled cities of the Mughals. New Delhi was thus built in true colonial style with tree-lined avenues, colonial bungalows, the Parliament House, the War Memorial Arch and the Viceregal Palace, now the official residence of the President of India. Alongside these British architectural gems are several monuments commemorating other occupants of Delhi including the Emperor Humayun and the Muslim saint, Nizamuddin Auliya. Indigenous Indian monuments include Jantar Mantar, the observatory built by Raja Jai Singh of Jaipur, and the Birla Mandir, a modern marble Hindu temple. During your tour you will drive past India Gate and the President's Palace and visit the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun, and the pre-Mughal monuments including Iltutmish's tomb, Qutb Minar and the tomb of Isa Khan.
Meals:Dinner, Accommodation:Taj Palace for 2 nights
Day 3: Morning Tour of Old Delhi
Shah Jahan founded the city of Shahjahanabad, now referred to as Old Delhi, in 1648. The famous Red Fort in the heart of Old Delhi was once the most opulent fort of the Mughal Empire and it boasts the Diwan-i-Am, Hall of Public Audience; and the Diwan-i-Khas, Hall of Private Audience. A short drive from the fort is the Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in the world, built by Shah Jahan to dominate his city. The Raj Ghat is the location of Gandhi's cremation. Your tour will include visits to the Jama Masjid mosque and Raj Ghat as well as a drive past the Red Fort.
You will also explore one of Old Delhi's largest and oldest shopping markets, Chandi Chowk. The market has been around for over three centuries and was once an important trade hub visited by merchants from Turkey, China and the Netherlands. Today you will find it crammed with stores selling goods for both locals and tourists alike, including Nehru suits, saris, electrical goods and souvenirs.
Rest of the day at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast and dinner
Day 4: Delhi - Agra
Road Journey: Drive from Delhi to Agra, a distance of 202km and journey time of approximately 4 hours.
To the south-east of Delhi lies the relatively young city of Agra. The earliest reference to Agra can be found in the epic Mahabharata where it is referred to as the Agravana. It was from the 16th century onwards, however, that Agra rose to prominence as the capital of the Mughals when the city was beautified with gardens, waterfalls, bathhouses and canals. Today the bustling streets of Agra are home to a thriving carpet industry, leather workers and, of course, marble and sandstone sculptors, some of whom claim to be descendants of the craftsmen who helped build the great Taj Mahal.
Afternoon tour of Agra Fort and the 'baby Taj': Akbar began Agra Fort in 1565, with additions to the citadel being made through to the time of Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan. The citadel consists of marble palaces, ornate alcoves and terrace pavilions. Continue to the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah. Often referred to as the 'baby Taj', the tomb was built by the Empress Noor Jahan in memory of her father, Itmad-ud-Daulah. An exquisite building, the 'baby Taj' is thought to be a forerunner of the Taj Mahal.
Accommodation: Taj Hotel & Convention Centre for 1 night
Day 5: Agra & The Taj Mahal
Sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal: Visit the Taj Mahal in the changing light of the rising sun, a truly magical time to gaze in wonder at this ode to eternal love, built by Shah Jahan on the death of his bride Mumtaz Mahal. Emperor Shah Jahan said on its creation that it made 'the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes'. The Taj Mahal is widely recognised as the world's most beautiful monument. It was built over a period of 20 years, starting in 1632, by 20,000 labourers and craftsmen, and displays superb craftsmanship. The close up detail of the Taj Mahal is as exquisite as the overall architectural design, with semi-precious stones and beautiful patterns covering the marble surface. Not long after it was finished Shah Jahan was overthrown and imprisoned in Agra Fort where, for the rest of his days, he could only gaze out at the Taj Mahal through a window. Following his death in 1666, Shah Jahan was buried here alongside his treasured Mumtaz.
Afternoon at leisure or partake in a range of optional activities:
Heritage walk through Agra:
Get to know Agra like a local, by spending an afternoon exploring the city's hidden lanes, bustling spice market, and religious mosques and temples, all with your feet to guide you. Sample treats at a 200-year-old sweet shop; hop on a cycle rickshaw and learn why Hindu families dress their idols; discover Indian history, from the Mughal era to British rule; and gain an insider's perspective on how modern India is changing. Finish with the spectacular sight of the Taj Mahal, the world's greatest ode to love, from a secret spot.
Cycle Tour of Historic Agra:
Cycle past some of Agra's most iconic sites including the Taj Mahal, Agra fort and Itmad-ud-Daula (the baby Taj). Suitable for all abilities, the cycle tour is taken at a gentle pace with plenty of stops for photo opportunities. You can also cycle through Kacchpura, a charming local village where you can observe rural life in the shadows of the Taj.
Evening visit to Mehtab Bagh:
Watch the sun set over the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh, the moonlit garden and an extension of the Taj Mahal which lies on the opposite bank of the Yamuna river. In 1652, Aurangzeb wrote to his father telling of a visit to 'the blessed tomb' and commenting that 'the Mehtab Garden was completely inundated and has lost its charm, but soon it will regain its verdancy. The octagonal pool and the pavilion around it are in splendid condition'. Re-excavated in the 1990s, the site features a huge octagonal tank with fountains, which suggests that the garden complex was used in the cool of the night as a place from which to view the Taj Mahal.
Meals:Breakfast and dinner
Day 6: Agra to Ranthambore
Today you will drive from Agra to Ranthambore, a distance of 265km and a journey time of approximately 8 hours including a stop for lunch and a visit to Fatehpur Sikri.
The magnificent deserted red sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri with its forts, palaces and mosques is located 37km from Agra. The city, designed as a tribute to the Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chisti, who had predicted the birth of Akbar's son and heir, was begun in 1571 and was abandoned just 15 years later due to a shortage of water.
Ranthambore National Park
Located near the town of Sawai Madhopur. Ranthambore National Park is one of the prime examples of Project Tiger's conservation efforts in Rajasthan. The park covers an area of 400 square kilometres and was once the private hunting grounds of the maharajas of Jaipur. Among the most famous of their hunting parties was the one organised for Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1961. Ranthambore is well known for its tiger population, but is also home to a large variety of other wildlife including sambars, panthers, marsh crocodiles, sloth bears and leopards, as well as being a bird watcher's paradise. The type of transport being used for wildlife viewing in Ranthambore National Park is strictly controlled and allocated by the park authorities. Wildlife drives in the park are always in shared vehicles, either in a jeep or a canter (similar to a safari-style bus). We will always try and confirm the best available type of transportation, which will be jeeps for wildlife drives, however occasionally clients will be allocated a seat in a canter. This allocation is only confirmed the day before the wildlife drive.
Accommodation: Sawai Vilas for 2 nights & Meals: Breakfast and dinner
Day 7: Wildlife viewing in Ranthambore wildlife reserve
Today, enjoy early morning and late afternoon wildlife safaris to try to catch a glimpse of the Indian tiger and other wildlife.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 8: Ranthambore to Jaipur
Road Journey: Drive from Ranthambore to Jaipur, a journey of 161 km and approximately 4.5 hours.
Built in 1727, Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, was the dream of the brilliant Rajput ruler, Jai Singh. Known as the 'pink city' due to the pink stucco walls, the city is remarkable for the modern-style width and regularity of its ancient streets. Within the city the main focus is the huge palace complex, still home to the Maharaja, which includes the Hawa Mahal 'Palace of the Winds' façade, formal gardens, a fascinating museum of the Maharajas' lavish possessions and Sawai Jai Singh's Jantar Mantar observatory. Just outside Jaipur, on top of a hill, lies the magnificent fort palace of Amber. Jaipur is also a delight for those seeking traditional Indian crafts, including jewellery, silver and silk.
Accommodation: Jai Mahal Palace for 3 nights, meals: Breakfast and dinner
Day 9: Full-day tour of Jaipur and the Amber Fort
You will take a morning excursion to the ancient Rajput capital of Amber, located on a hill 11km north of Jaipur. Amber was the capital of the Kachhawa Rajputs from 1037 until the Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh founded Jaipur in 1727, but the majestic fort-palace was not begun until about 1600. The building was added to by successive Rajput rulers, however, the architecture displays many Mughal influences in addition to the traditional Rajput designs. Whilst visiting the palace you will be able to explore the intricate chambers and hallways, the maze of passages and courtyards and witness the wonderful views of the Jal Mahal water palace below.
Returning to Jaipur, you will visit the City Palace which is still inhabited by Jai Singh’s descendants and is a superb fusion of Rajput and Mughal architecture. A city within a city, it includes the temple of Govindevji, the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory and the Maharaja’s museum with his personal collection of weaponry, miniature paintings, royal attire and jewellery. On the periphery of the Palace stands the Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds, an elaborate pink sandstone façade behind which the ladies of the court used to watch the daily goings on in the street below.
Meals: Breakfast and dinner
Day 10: Morning Aarti Ceremony at Local Temple
This morning visit a local Hindu temple in time for morning puja or prayers. The prayers are led by priests, accompanied by the lighting of candles.
Rest of the day at leisure to relax by the pool or in the spa, or take an optional activity which is payable locally:
Morning balloon flight over Jaipur (shared excursion)
Take a step back in time and be mesmerised by the sites of the 'Pink City' of Jaipur from the air as you watch the sun rise over the horizon. Highlights of the flight might include sightings of the spectacular Amber Fort, the vast Aravali ranges surrounding it, hidden forts and palaces of the Rajasthan countryside and the local villages where you may see residents going about their daily life.
You will be picked up from your hotel between 5 and 6am, depending on your flight time, and taken to the launch site. Tea and coffee will be served while the crew prepare the balloons. Watching the inflation of the balloon and experiencing lift-off is spectacular. The balloon ride lasts for approximately 1 hour. On landing, you will be transfered back to your hotel. Warm clothing is recommended as it can be quite chilly.
Half day excursion to Sanganer
Today you will be taken to Sanganer. Located 40 kilometers from Jaipur, Sanganer is best known for its textile block printing, paper making and Jaipur blue pottery, as well as several temples and an old palace.
Meals: Breakfast and dinner
Day 11: Jaipur to Delhi
Road Journey: Drive from Jaipur to Delhi via Shahpura, a distance of 280km and a total journey time approximately 7 hours.
In Shahpura, located in the heart of the Shekhawati region, visit a local NGO to try your hand at the traditional art of block printing. Then proceed to the Shahpura Haveli, which showcases an excellent example of Rajput architecture, for lunch. Later enjoy a heritage walk through the local village stopping en route for a cup of masala chai and to marvel at the wares on display including wonderfully decorative bangles.
Accommodation: Pride Plaza Hotel Aerocity for 1 night & meals: breakfast and dinner
Day 12: Delhi to UK
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport in time for your morning flight home.
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