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Mystical  India

Aswirl with colorful saris, awash in waves of song and prayer, India carries you on a sea of artistic and architectural wonder. From the majesty of the Taj Mahal to the minarets, mosques and palaces of its ancient cities, India offers an unforgettable blend of history and culture. Witness sunrise rituals of Hindu pilgrims on the Ganges in Varanasi, explore bustling markets, and enjoy superb cuisine and accommodations that enhance each destination on a journey that celebrates India's enduring splendor.

Delhi - Varanasi - Khajuraho - Agra - Ranthambhore - Jaipur - Jodhpur - Udaipur - Aurangabad - Mumbai


DAY 1 - 2

NEW DELHI ,Arriving late on Monday night/early Tuesday morning.Upon arrival and after passing through customs and immigration, you are greeted warmly and transferred to your luxurious hotel in the heart of India's capital. Of all India's cities, Delhi is the most accessible and its multifaceted heritage reflects the seven different cultures that have come together here. Parks and gardens are plentiful, the street life is colorful, and the sweep of the city's turbulent history has left innumerable magnificent monuments in its wake. The Oberoi

NEW DELHI This morning you are free to relax or explore independently in Delhi. During the afternoon tour of the city discover the wonders of the impressive Qutab Minar, a34foot sandstone tower that is Delhi's oldest monument dating from 1190. A memorial to Islam's arrival in India, the main tower dominates an area surrounded by gardens. Beautiful courtyards adjoin the tower of a mosque, and at the center stands a mysterious fourth-century relic of the Gupta period, a black iron pillar that was originally part of a Vishnu temple. Explore Humayun's Tomb, a Mughal masterpiece, the first example of a garden-tomb in India, and one of Delhi's best-preserved Mughal structures. Traveling on Delhi's busy streets, admire the architecturally imposing government buildings, presidential palace and diplomatic enclave, and visit the Bahai Temple, also known as the Lotus Temple, which was built in 1986 and set among serene pools and gardens. This temple celebrates all faiths and many visit regularly to pray and meditate. The Oberoi

In Old Delhi, drive past the timeless Red Fort, a symbol of Mughal power. Ride by rickshaw through Chandni Chowkand see a colorful array of merchants and shoppers. Also visit Mahatma Gandhi's memorial, and Raj Ghat, a park on the banks of the Yamuna River, which commemorates the life of Ghandi and his contribution to India's independence; the Crafts Museum with its priceless collection of traditional Indian textiles and works in metal, wood and ceramics; and the Temple of Sikh Gurudwara, a pilgrimage site for Sikhs and Hindus. The Oberoi

Today, continue to Varanasi, one of India's most sacred cities and the Center of Hindu faith. Many believe that Varanasi was created when the universe itself was created, and according to historical records, it was inhabited at the same time as the cities of Thebes and Niniveh, making it the oldest living city in the world. Located on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, Varanasi has drawn Hindu pilgrims from all over India for centuries. In the afternoon, travel outside Varanasi to explore historic Sarnath, where Buddha delivered his first sermon, preaching the middle path for attaining ‘Nirvana.” Emperor Ashoka in the third century B.C., recognized the sanctity of the site, building many monuments, the remains of which are set in beautiful gardens. See Ashoka's pillar, the Mulagandhakuti Vihara Temple and the magnificent Dharmekh Stupa. View some of the world's greatest Indian Buddhist art at the Archaeological Museum. North of the main temple, survey the ruins of what were once monasteries, all flanked by beautiful Deer Park. Taj Ganges Hotel

An early-morning excursion by boat on the sacred River Ganges opens your eyes to the deep faith of countless pilgrims who flock to Varansi to perform sunrise rituals and make offerings of flowers, milk, sandalwood and sweetmeats. See the Manikarnika Ghat, one of the most sacred of the more than 100 bathing ghats (steps) along the Ganges.Later, visit the Bharat Mata Temple, where a massive relief map of the subcontinent is homage to Mother India. Drive through the Benares Hindu University, one of the oldest universities in India, built in the early twentieth century as a center of education in Indian art, culture, music and the study of Sanskrit. Transfer to the airport for the flight to Khajuraho, a magnificent legacy, forgotten for centuries and once engulfed by vegetation. Known for its magnificent temples, Khajuraho offers one of the most creative examples of Indian architecture. Visit the surviving Eastern and Western group of temples, built between 950 and 1050 A.D., examining their sublime and sensuous sculpture and carvings depicting griffins, nymphs, beasts, demons, gods, and women, expressing a range of human emotion, from fear and pain to love an passion. Taj Chandela Hotel

There is another opportunity in the morning to visit the temples of Khajuraho before boarding a train for Agra, where you fall under the spell of the spectacular Taj Mahal. Oberoi Amarvilas

In the morning, visit the unforgettable Taj Mahal, which many people define simply, as beauty itself — not just in design and engineering, but in desire and intent. It was built as a monument to love by Emperor Shah Jahan to honor his wife when she died unexpectedly. He commissioned the best craftsmen and 20,000 workers to construct this study in perfection, a delicately carved, white-marble jewel, which seems to float on a sea of red limestone.
Also explore the 16th century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses the imperial city of the Mughal rulers and is composed of many fairy-tale palaces, including the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, audience rooms, and two beautiful mosques.
The rest of the day is free for independent exploration or enjoyment of the superb amenities at the hotel. Oberoi Amarvilas

From Agra, visit the nearby deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri, once a magnificent, fortified city and the capital of the Mughal Empire. Though less well known than the Taj Mahal, this complex of walls, palaces, baths, royal mint, courts and gardens are a brilliant example of Mughal architecture, and an impressive example of the Empire's splendor at its apex. Explore the Halls of Public and Private Audiences, the Tower of Victory and the tomb of Salim Christi, which is laced with mother-of-pearl. After exploring Fatehpur Sikri, continue by motorcoach to Bharatpur, where you transfer to a train bound for Ranthambhore National Park. Famous for its elusive tigers and a magnet for photographers from around the world, the park's animals — including tigers — are well protected and undisturbed by human visitors. Oberoi Vanyavilas Luxury Tents

Morning and afternoon game drives take you deep into the park to experience the rich diversity of flora and fauna. Search the bush for tigers, as well as panthers, jackals, leopards, striped hyenas and caracals, as well as sambar deer, sloth bears, antelope, langurs, crocodiles and small Indian gazelles know as chinkara. Many bird species, including the crested serpent eagle and paradise fly-catcher also populate the park. Back at the hotel, allow yourself to be lulled to sleep by local musicians playing traditional Rajasthani music. Oberoi Vanyavilas Luxury Tents

In the morning, travel to Jaipur, the rose-hued capital of Rajasthan surrounded on all sides by rugged hills. Most of the palaces and buildings in the city were made from pink sandstone. Jaipur was founded in 1727 by the astronomer-king, Sawai Jai Singh II and constructed according to the Shilpa Shastra, the ancient Hindu treatise on architecture and sculpture. Centered on the Maharajah's palace, this walled city consists of seven rectangular blocks. Take time for independent exploration of the city or relax in the luxury of your regal, hotel with its superb amenities. Rambagh Palace

This morning your journey takes you outside Jaipur to the ancient Amber Fort where massive ramparts, towers and domes surround a glittering chamber of mirrors. Within the fort, find lavish courtyards, decorated halls and the famous Jai Mandir Temples with its world-renowned hall of mirrors. The mirror-covered walls and ceiling reflect any streak of light and illuminate the entire room. The pierced screen windows of the enclosed pavilion offer views of the surrounding countryside and water below.
Also visit Jantar Mantar, a medieval observatory equipped with instruments of astonishing size and precision, including a 90-foot-high sundial. Explore the Hawa Mahal — Palace of Winds — a major Rajput landmark built in 1799. This five-story building in the old city is a pink-stone masterpiece with semi-octagonal and delicately honeycombed windows. The monumentwas conceived to enable ladies of the royal household to watch the city's everyday life and royal processions in privacy. At the City Palace, royal residence of the King of Jaipur, examine a superb collection of Rajasthani costumes and an armory of Rajput and Mughal weaponry, much of it inlaid with enamel and embellished with jewels.
Drive past Moti-Doongri Palace, a privately owned hilltop fort built like a Scottish castle, to Ram Niwas Gardens and the architecturally impressive Albert Hall. The Central Museum in Albert Hall includes portraits, tribal costumes, miniature paintings, musical instruments and decorative artifacts. A rickshaw ride takes you into the heart of the old walled-city bazaars with a stop at the landmark Tripolia Gate.Rambagh Palace

At the edge of the Thar Desert, the 15th century city of Jodhpur is a glittering jewel whose immense walls enclose the old city's exotic jumble of narrow streets and lively bazaars. The Rajputs poured their wealth into elaborate fortresses and palaces, and many of these structures remain. Upon arrival, make yourself at home at your luxury hotel, the Umaid Bhawan. Known as the 'Blue City,' Jodphur is filled with beautiful, indigo colored houses, mostly belonging to the Brahmin caste. It is encircled by a high, six-mile-long wall, and its historic forts, temples, gardens and lakes are both beautiful and illuminating. Explore the impregnable Meherangarh Fort, which was constructed in 1459. It dominates the city and within its walls are royal palaces, priceless jewels and a striking collection of arms. Umaid Bhawan

In the morning, take a short drive through scenic countryside to Rohet Gahr. Located next to a village at the edge of a lake, it is a fortified desert home that has belonged to Raja Manvedra Singh and his ancestors since the 16th century. Today it is a Heritage Hotel where the family still resides, and where you are warmly welcomed to lunch.
A “village safari” affords an opportunity to experience firsthand authentic rural life in India, its local cultures and traditions. Hosted by a family whose special bond with different local communities goes back generations, you are received into homes with warmth and affections—an extraordinary and unforgettable experience.
Become acquainted with many cultures, including the Bishnois, a community of desert dwellers, who are committed to protecting their ancient landscapes; the semi-nomadic Raika sherhers of Marwar with their brilliant crimson and marigold costumes; the Paliwals and the Meghwals, the farmer sand weavers. Enjoy traditional folk ceremonies and watch artisans at work, creating pottery and woven handicrafts. And keep your eyes open for sightings of rare birds — Rohet is a haven for up to 200 domestic and migratory species.
Watch for wild camels as you return to Jodhpur, and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of colorful markets and bazaars in the city. You also may want to seek out a sari maker, as Jodhpur is known for its innovative designs, exquisite colors and exclusive sari boutiques. Umaid Bhawan

Majestically set on the shores of Lake Pichola, Udaipur is known as the Venice of the East and is a city of lakes, palaces, gardens and temples. Combining beauty with picturesque reminders of its glorious past, it overlooks little islands on the lake, which rise like marble palaces of pure white that glisten like fairy castles. Upon arrival in Udaipur transfer to your luxurious hotel.
Observe daily life on the banks of Lake Pichola as you cruise to the Jag Mandir Palace, built on an island and covering four acres. The palace is noted for its marble interior and imposing dome. Oberoi Udaivilas

Crowning the ridge of the city, along the shores of the lake, is the palace of Maharana, protecting within its walls the magnificence of the East — peacocks in mosaic on the walls, floors inlaid with beautiful tiles and roof gardens with stunning, panoramic views. In the morning visit Jagdish Temple, built in the 16th century and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Drive past Fateh Sagar Lake, stopping to visit Sahelion-ki-Bari, an unforgettable garden. When you return to the city, visit the Crystal Gallery in the Durbar Hall at the Fateh Prakash Palace, which was once used to host state banquets and official functions and which offers superb views of lake, palaces and forts. Oberoi Udaivilas

Aurangabad, once a Mughal capital, is now a thriving industrial metropolis, and an important base for visiting the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Northern Maharashtras' largest city, Aurangabad is located northeast of Mumbai, and is situated on the northern part of the elevated Deccan plateau in the region known as Marathwada. This pleasant city stands along the River Kham. Hotel Taj Residency

Buddhist monks spent centuries carving the caves at Ajanta, filling them with exquisite depictions of Buddhist legends and history. Completed around the seventh century A.D., these masterpieces were lost for centuries until a British hunting party stumbled upon them in 1819. These dramatically cut caves contain some of India's most magnificent paintings. Their murals exquisitely depict scenes from Buddhist legend and reveal telling details of the culture at the time they were panted. Five of the caves were temples and 24 were monasteries, thought to have been occupied by some 200 monks and artisans. Hotel Taj Residency

DAY 19 Mumbai
This morning visit the spectacular Ellora Caves. The 34 ancient temples and monasteries were carved in solid rock by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monks from 1,500 to 1,000 years ago. With statues, columns and decorative facades, these temples are a wonder of ancient art. They have been compared to the Pyramids for their amazing construction.
The highlight of the 34 caves is the mighty Kailash Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, and possibly the largest monolith ever created. Hewn from solid rock from the top down, using the most rudimentary tools, the temple now appears freestanding. It incorporates enclosures, galleries, a bridge, two large stone elephants and several finely carved panels.
Late in the afternoon, transfer to the airport for your flight to Mumbai. The Oberoi / Hotel Taj Mahal

A beautiful harbor studded with hilly islands and palm-fringed shore creates a splendid waterfront for Mumbai (formerly Bombay), the “Gateway to India.” The commercial capital of India, Mumbai is an industrial giant and cultural center. Pass beneath the massive, arched “Gateway to India,” a lasting reminder of India's British influence built on the water's edge. Visit the Prince of Wales Museum to see a vast collection of art and artifacts, including Indus valley relics and Assyrian palace reliefs. At the Ghandi Museum, discover Mahatma's spinning wheel and antiquated telephone sitting just as he left them more than half a century ago.
Tonight you will enjoy a cocktail party and farewell dinner with your fellow travelers. For U.S.–bound flights, you will be taken to the airport late tonight. The Oberoi / Hotel Taj Mahal

Early this morning you will be taken to the airport and depart for home or on to your next destination.