Agra: Begun in 1633, it took some 20,000 workers laboring 17 years to complete the fabled Taj Mahal, a monument of glistening marble and semi precious stones. This is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Agra. Sunrise or sunset at the monument is one of the iconic experiences of India. Another of India’s great architectural sights is the 16th-century Agra Fort, an elegant synthesis of Hindu and Central Asian styles.
Assam: Assam is second in commercial tea production only to Southern China; and, in fact, they are the only two regions in the world with native tea plants. Mostly grown in the Brahmaputra Valley, malty Assamese tea is brightly colored. Jorhat, in the central part of the valley, is often referred to as the “Tea Capital of the World,” and holds an annual tea festival in November. In northeast India, south of the eastern Himalayas, Assam comprises the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley along with the Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts. It shares international borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh, and the culture, people and climate are similar to that of Southeast Asia. Assam is also known for its silk and as the site of the first oil well drilled in Asia. The state is working to save the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction, along with the pygmy hog, tiger and various species of Asiatic birds. It provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. The state’s economy is aided by wildlife tourism while Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Please note: Tea factory visits are subject to permitting weather conditions. Tea factories are closed on Mondays and no tea leaves are plucked on Sundays. The factories are also closed from mid-December to the end March.
Delhi: India’s national capital is the eighth most populous metropolis in the world. It has been continuously inhabited since sixth century BC. Delhi is a vibrant city of teeming bazaars, British-designed boulevards and powerful Mughal palaces and forts. The many faces of India’s capital are mirrored in its modern business centers, colonial architecture, and in Old Delhi’s winding lanes. Rickshaws weave through throngs of shoppers and vendors clustered around Chandni Chowk. Mughal history comes alive at Red Fort, the ancient Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb, the earliest of the great Mughal garden tombs. India’s largest mosque, Jama Masjid, is the principal mosque of Old Delhi. Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, in the year 1650, it is the largest and best-known mosque in India. Embassy District’s parliament houses, the presidential palace and Connaught Place date from the British colonial era. Raj Ghat is a poignant memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.
Eastern India: Kolkata is a city of sharp contradictions and a powerful mix of East and West. Its architecture blends European and Mughal. The Indian Museum, built in 1875, ranks among the finest in Asia, and the botanical gardens, circa 1786, are home to a 200-year-old Banyan tree, said to be the largest in the world. Bhubaneswar’s history traces back to the second century BC. It has been called the Temple City of India. It is also home to about 105 engineering colleges, and a center for commerce. Puri is on the Bay of Bengal south of Bhubaneswar and is a holy city for Hindus. According to Hindu teachings, a pilgrimage to the temples of India is not complete without a journey to Puri. It is also a beach resort with one of the best beaches in India. It is positioned so that both sunset and sunrise can be viewed from the beach.
Gujarat: Gujarat has been one of the main centers of the Indus Valley Civilization. Mount Abu’s Hindu temples include rock-carved Adhar Devi Temple and several Jain temples including Dilwara, a group of temples carved out of white marble between the 11th and 13th centuries. At 1,220 meters/4,003 feet, Mount Abu has been a popular hill station retreat for centuries. The largest city in Gujarat is Ahmedabad, founded in 1411 on the banks of the River Sabarmati. Here, the Calico Museum of Textiles has an impressive and popular collection of historic materials. The city was at the forefront of the Indian independence movement early in the 20th century. Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the movement, was Gujarati. In Bhavnagar district, Palitana is a major pilgrimage city for Jains. Its temples are considered the most sacred by the Jain community. In the hills of Shatrunjaya more than 3,000 temples were exquisitely carved in marble over a period of 900 years. Some 3,800 steps run from the bottom of the hill to the top. Ambaji is another important temple town with millions of devotees visiting annually.
Himalayas: In India, the incomparable landscapes of these towering mountains are complimented with tea plantations, small villages and historic Buddhist monasteries. Ghoom Monastery is the oldest and most famous in Darjeeling. Rishikesh is a small town in the northern state of Uttarakhand, where travelers begin treks to the Himalayan pilgrimage centers, including Haridwar, which is where the sacred Ganges River leaves the mountains and flows onto the plains. This is among the holiest sites of pilgrimage in India with some two million people a year coming to bathe in the river. At sunset, priests perform the river ceremony, and chant as pilgrims place burning candles in the river.
Karnataka: In the southwestern region of India, Karnataka has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, and traces from Neolithic and Megalithic cultures have also been discovered. It is the sixth largest state in India, and has seen some of the most powerful empires of medieval India. The region and its people have contributed much to Indian classical music. Ancient sculptured temples, modern cities, scenic hill ranges, unexplored forests and beaches make Karnataka a popular destination. It encompasses 25 wildlife sanctuaries and five national parks. An important Jain pilgrimage site is Shravanabelagola and its monolith of Gomateshwara Bahubali. At 17.38 meter/58 feet tall, it is said to be the world’s largest monolithic stone statue. It was carved from a single block of rock in 981. Its capital city, Bangalore, is one of Asia’s fastest growing cities, and is often described as Asia’s Silicon Valley because of its thriving information technology industry. Yet, its past is still seen in Old Bangalore in such sights as Tipu’s Palace, a mud-brick fort built in 1537. Mysore is noted for its palaces, most especially Mysore Maharaja Palace. Completed in 1912, it was built in Indo-Saracenic style, blending Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic styles of architecture. Now a museum, this is a beautiful treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. On the outskirts of the city, on Chamundi Hill is the Nandi Bull statue carved in 1659 from a single boulder. It is 7.6 meters/25 feet long and about 4.9 meters/16 feet high. The temple of Chamundeshwari on top of the hill dates from the 11th century. Also of interest are the colorful Devaraja Fruit and Vegetable Market, Jumma Masjid Mosque and Srirangapatnam – an island fortress in the Kaveri River. This was the site of historic battles between the British and Tipu Sultan, who was known as the “Tiger of Mysore.”
Kerala: In South India, Kerala is known for its tranquil backwaters, coconuts, spices and art forms such as Kathakali and Mohini Attam. It is also home to many religions, which is seen in its mix of Hindu temples, mosques, churches, and synagogues. Kerala claims a great many physical charms: sand beaches, pristine rain forests, and lush tea estates at elevations between 1,291 meters/4,000 to 1,829 meters/6,000 feet. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was one of India’s first tiger reserves. Kerala is also known for its houseboat journeys along the serene backwater canals dotted with snake boat docks.
Khajuraho, Allahabad & Varanasi: The powerful expression of man’s relationship to religion is keenly felt in these cities. The amazing, medieval Hindu and Jain temples of Khajuraho are a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for their beautiful and erotic rock carvings. They are considered to be one of the “seven wonders” of India. These temples were built by the Chandela kings following the tradition of Tantric art. Although famed for their erotic sculptures, the temples are a celebration of all aspects of life. Allahabad in southeastern Uttar Pradesh was originally founded in 1526. Today it is home to well-recognized colleges and research institutions. Allahabad also plays a central role in the Hindu scriptures with a number of temples and palaces. Four times every 12 years, millions of Hindus celebrate Kumbh Mela, a colorful Hindu Pilgrimage that rotates between four locations in India, including Allahabad. It truly is a spectacle, regardless of religion. Varanasi is the holiest city in India, revered by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. Each dawn, along the sacred Ganges, hundreds of pilgrims and worshippers gather on the riverbanks to reenact centuries-old rituals and prayers. They congregate along rows of stone steps, the ghats that stretch the length of the city. The city itself is a maze of narrow alleys, shrines and pilgrim shops. Varanasi is an experience not to be missed.
Nagarhole National Park: This is one of India’s Project Tiger reserves, established in 1999 to help protect the endangered Bengal tiger. It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The park spreads over the foothills of the Western Ghats down the Brahmagiri Hills and south towards Kerala state. It has astonishing wildlife including large mammals such as leopards, Indian wild dogs, elephant, spotted deer, four horned antelope, wild boar, sloth bear and mongoose.
Punjab: This state in northwest India forms part of the larger Punjab region. Amritsar is a holy city, home to the Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple. This is the most important religious place in the Sikh tradition. It is a beautiful complex, and always busy with pilgrims from across India. Amritsar’s central walled city has narrow streets mostly developed in the 17th and 18th century. It is the land where most of the Gurus were born, and is rich with their history and spirit. The city lies on the main Grand Trunk Road from Delhi to Amritsar to Lahore, Pakistan.
Rajasthan & its Interior: Rajasthan, land of kings, is India’s largest state by area, and comprises most of the Great Thar Desert, the world’s 17th largest desert, and the world’s ninth largest subtropical desert. Rajasthan played an important role in the making of India’s history, its civilization and its culture. Rajasthan’s imposing grand forts, the rustic elegance of its small villages and rich folklore customs are reminders of a rich, romantic past. Amid the stark desert and surrounded by the Aravallis Hills – India’s oldest mountain range – one can experience rich, vibrant cultural heritage at Jojawar, where activities offered include vintage car drives, a train safari through the Aravallis hills, horseback riding on Mewari horses. In dramatic desert landscapes, 4×4 drive vehicles take travelers to villages to capture the very pulse of rural Rajasthan, meet members of the community, visit their mud brick homes, and engage with the turban-clad men and the shy, beautiful women dressed in traditional saris. The market reveals the rich, cultural heritage of Mihir Garh.
Wildlife of India: India’s extraordinary wildlife include the royal Bengal tiger that is becoming increasingly rare in the world it once ruled. India has set aside tiger reserves and parks to help protect habitat so vital to their survival. Although these tigers are India’s star attraction in the animal world, there is an impressive roster of other fauna, including spotted deer, wild boar, wild dog, sloth bear, Indian fox, wolf and jungle cat. Hundreds of bird species also thrive such as the fish eagle, the plum-headed parakeet and the Asian paradise flycatcher. In Gujarat, the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the only place in the world where the pure Asiatic lion can be found. Some 411 lions have been recorded in the park. Also known as the Indian lion, it is a subspecies of lion that once ranged from the Mediterranean to the northeastern parts of the Indian subcontinent. Madhya Pradesh is one of the least developed states in India and has some of the best regions for wildlife viewing in national parks and sanctuaries.
Suggested India Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Delhi, India
India’s vibrant capital city has been continuously inhabited since the sixth century BC.
Day 2: Delhi
Delhi offers a kaleidoscope of images: modern business centers, colonial architecture and ancient winding lanes.
Day 3: Delhi / Agra
This jewel of Mughal India is most known as the home of the Taj Mahal and the 16th-century Agra Fort.
Day 4: Agra / Fatehpur Sikri / Jaipur
The deserted Fatehpur Sikri, the 16th-century “dream city” of Akbar the Great, has been remarkably preserved.
Day 5: Jaipur
Jaipur has a number of forts and monuments including Amber Fort, known for its artistic style.
Day 6: Jaipur / Udaipur
Udaipur is an enchanted landscape of fairytale palaces, green hills and exotic bazaars.
Day 7: Udaipur
The city is famed for its lakes and palaces, including the enormous City Palace with its masterpiece frescoes.
Day 8: Udaipur / Bangalore
Even with Bangalore’s high-tech development, vestiges of the city’s historic past can still be discovered.
Day 9: Bangalore / Mysore
Mysore enchants you with its quaint charm, verdant gardens, tree lined boulevards and sacred temples.
Day 10: Mysore / Nagarhole National Park
The park’s rich forest cover, small streams, hills, valleys and waterfalls conceal tiger, Indian bison and elephants.
Days 11/12: Nagarhole National Park
This was once a hunting reserve of the kings of the Wodeyar dynasty, former rulers of the Kingdom of Mysore.
Day 13: Nagarhole National Park / Bangalore / Mumbai
Mumbai is cosmopolitan with a vibrancy that is, at times, aggressive, reflecting the energy of a bustling city its size.
Day 14: Mumbai/Depart
Custom Tour Options
Assam (2-10 days)
Assam is second in commercial tea production only to Southern China, and is also home to the threatened one-horned Indian rhinoceros, the pygmy hog and Bengal tiger.
Aurangabad (2 days)
The city is home to historical Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves; both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites that date between the fifth and tenth centuries.
Eastern India (5 days)
Kolkata, Bhubaneswar and Puri are distinctly different and together provide a richly varied experience.
Gujarat (5 days)
Gujarat in western India encompasses sites of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, and is home to sacred temples.
Himalayas (3-5 days)
Spectacular scenery, traditional villages, tea plantations, monasteries and trekking make this area intriguing.
Karnataka (7 days)
In the southwestern region of India, Karnataka has a number of wildlife areas, ancient cave temples and interesting museums.
Khajuraho, Allahabad, Varanasi (3-5 days)
The monuments and the sacred Ganges offer glimpses at some of the powerful symbols of man’s faith.
Punjab (3 days)
Amritsar is a holy city, and home to Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple, and important religious place to the Sikhs.
Rajasthan Interior (6 days)
The Indus Valley civilization, one of the world’s oldest civilizations, was located in parts of what is now Rajasthan in the great Thar Desert.
Wildlife of India (7-8 days)
A collection of national parks are devoted to preserving the remaining populations of the rare royal Bengal tiger and other endangered species. Asian lions are found only in a national park in Gujarat.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$400 per person per day