London - Delhi
Delhi is a truly fascinating place – seven different cities have existed here since the 10th century and today it is two cities in one, with major influences from the Murghals and the British colonial era. So your tour will take you through the Old Delhi of the Mughals, with its medieval forts, mosques and bazaars to New Delhi that was largely built by the British in the 1920s. You can see the hand of architect Sir Edwin Luytens in the district’s broad avenues, large bungalows, landscaped gardens and imperial monuments. You’ll drive along Raj Path, past the imposing India Gate, the Parliament building and Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President’s residence. You’ll also visit Humayun’s tomb, and, in the afternoon, take a rickshaw ride around Old Delhi’s bustling Chandni Chowk market on your way to the Jama Masjid Mosque; India’s largest.
Stay: Two nights in a Manor room at The Manor.
Today the Shatabadi Express will whisk you in style from Delhi to Agra and the world famous Taj Mahal. But first you’ll be shown the imposing Agra Fort, built in 1565 by Akbar, before you arrive at the Taj Mahal, possibly the world’s greatest monument to love and devotion. The glittering white Taj is truly breath-taking from afar and even more so in close up – you’ll find semi-precious stones are inlaid into the marble in beautiful patterns. After the Taj Mahal comes the deserted red sandstone city of Fatepur Sikri. Built by Emperor Akbar in the late 16th century it was abandoned soon after completion and is today in much the same condition as it was over 300 years ago. You’ll be staying in an exquisite hotel set in 35 acres of luxurious gardens, close to the Taj Mahal.
Stay: One night in a Mughal room at the ITC Mughal.
A train journey of around one and a half hours brings you to Gwalior where you’ll be staying in the Usha Kiran Palace, originally built as a royal guesthouse about 120 years ago, and a favourite of visiting British royalty. Today it’s the perfect base for visiting the 8th century Gwalior fort and its colossal Jain statues, Man Singh’s palace with its stone peacocks and astonishing lapis tiles depicting ducks, elephants and palms. You’ll also see the Karan, Shah Jahan and Jehangir palaces, as well as two 11th century Sasbahu temples and the marriage temple of Teli-ka-Mandir.
As a complete contrast your tour also shows you Jai Vilas Palace; the present Maharaja’s residence, designed by Michael Filose in the style of an Italian palazzo, using painted sandstone to imitate marble. Inside the Durbar Hall hang two of the world’s largest chandeliers, each weighing 3 ½ tons.
Stay: Two nights in a superior room at the Taj Usha Kiran Palace.
Now you have a chance to see the passing countryside from the comfort of an express train, and a chauffeur-driven car. The train takes you to Jhansi where you’ll be met and driven to the fabulous temples of Khajuraho. Once there were 85 temples here, but today only(!) 22 remain. Built during the Chandela Dynasty they are approaching 1000 years of age and present you with wonderful carvings – exceptional examples of Indo Aryan artistry – dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva and Jain Thirthankar. You’ll be staying in a resort with individual cottages, perched on a high point offering commanding views over the River Ken and the plateau of the Panna Tiger Reserve.
Stay: Two nights in a cottage at the Sarai at Toria.
Today you’ll enter a dream world. A four hour drive takes you to an island in the Betwa River surmounted by a 16th century fortified palace built by Bundela chief Raja Rudra Pratap. Now in graceful, atmospheric decline the turreted walls, profuse gardens, pavilions, temples and frescoed walls are a photographer’s nirvana.
Stay: One night in deluxe room at the Amar Mahal Hotel.
Your next train ride takes you from Jhansi to Bhopal where you’ll arrive shortly after 2pm and be taken to your hotel, originally a 19th century palace. Your tour will show you Sanchi, built in the third century BC. One of India’s most important – and oldest – Buddhist sites, it’s famous for its superb sculpture. Next you’ll visit Bhimbeka; 130 rock shelters containing the largest collection of prehistoric art in India, with images of elephants, rhinos, hunting and warfare scenes dating back to Palaeolithic times. Your sightseeing tour of Bhopal will take in Taj-ul-Masjid, India’s largest mosque, as well as Jama Masjid and the smaller Moti Masjid. Finally you’ll climb the Shamla hills for a fantastic view of the city and lake.
Stay: Three nights in a regal room at the Jehan Numa Palace Hotel.
More temples await at Maheshwar on the banks of the holy Narmada River. Maheshwar was the capital city of King Kartivarjun during ancient times. During the 18th century Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore built the fort and temples and today the city attracts huge numbers of pilgrims who arrive to celebrate its numerous colourful festivals and pay tribute to one of the abodes of Shiva.
A full day’s excursion will reveal Mandu, an abandoned Islamic city. Built in the 6th century as a fortress it became the capital of the Paramara rulers in the 10th century. In the14th century it was populated solely by 14,000 women of outstanding beauty. Today it is a place of exquisite palaces, ornamental canals, baths, pavilions and sacred tombs representing the epitome of rural Islamic style.
You’ll be staying in an 18th century fort standing high above the banks of the sacred Narmada River. Originally the stronghold of one of India’s celebrated women rulers, Ahilya Bai Holkar, today the fortress is a charming, luxurious hotel.
Stay: Three nights in a royal room at Ahilya Fort.
Mumbai - London
You’ll be driven to Indore for your flight to Mysore, where you’ll connect with your international flight back to the UK, arriving in London in the evening.
Ayesha provided superb advice - she is to be commended! We had the most excellent adventure - everything went smoothly, first time in any of our India trips!- JK, India, 2014