About India, Nepal & Sri Lanka Travel
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.
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.
Kathmandu, Dhulikhel & Bhaktapur: Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, is known for its central Durbar Square, which is packed with extraordinary temples and monuments. Outdoor enthusiasts come to Nepal seeking to explore isolated settlements, Buddhist stupas and ageless monasteries, and to encounter established societies still relatively unaffected by outside influences. This is also a paradise for mountain climbers, who come to hike among the highest mountains in the world. Dhulikhel’s magnificent high-altitude landscapes have been called one of the finest panoramic views in the world. It has for centuries been an important trading center on the ancient commercial route linking Nepal to Tibet. Bhaktapur’s fascinating Durbar Square is noted for its Golden Gate and extraordinary Palace of Fifty-Five Windows. Bhaktapur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site noted for its rich culture and temples. It is also known for wood, metal, stone artwork and pottery. Thimi, close to Bhaktapur, is the potter’s town, where a simple medieval lifestyle is still prevalent.
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: The historic desert cities of Rajasthan include Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaisalmer. Jaipur, once the capital of royalty, has fascinating forts, including Amber Fort, a rose-colored walled city of Mughal courtyards, gardens, and royal apartments. Its bejeweled interiors reflect the sumptuous style of Mughal courts. It is known for blending Hindu and Rajput elements. The heart of City Palace is the smaller Chandra Palace with its richly decorated rooms. The elegant Palace of the Winds of pink sandstone once served the royal harem. The city has an international reputation for arts and crafts – especially jewelry, from tribal to enameled gold pieces. Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan and is near the geographic center of the state. This remarkable medieval fortress city encircles Mehrangarh Fort, which is bounded by a wall with several gates. It is one of the largest in India, and is perched on a hill 122 meters/400 feet above the city. Its palaces display intricate carvings and sprawling courtyards. The fort stands as a testament to medieval art, weaponry and sumptuous living. Udaipur is an enchanted landscape of fairytale palaces, green hills, and exotic bazaars. The enormous City Palace houses masterpiece frescoes and Mughal-inspired art, and the 17th-century Jagadish Temple, built in classical Hindu style. A splendid and luxurious heritage property sits on an island in Lake Pichola. Jaisalmer was once an important caravan stop. Founded in 1156, the old city is dotted with preserved mansions and narrow lanes crowded with finely sculptured houses and temples. The town stands on a sandstone ridge crowned by a fort that houses a palace and several ornate Jain temples. These historic areas serve as access points to the less traveled regions in Rajasthan. For example, the city of Nagaur has impressive Nagaur Fort, with its interior palaces and temples. Other sites of note include Tarkeen Dargah, a sacred pilgrimage center for the Muslims, Jain temples, Cenotaph of Amar Singh Rathore, and Bansiwala Temple.
South India & its Interior: The region has a rich medley of cultural, historic, religious and natural attributes. The human history here is among the oldest in the world, and the region is known for unique styles in dance, architecture and painting. Here, too, are some of the finest examples of Hindu temples of Dravidian architecture. It has two biosphere reserves, five national parks and several wildlife sanctuaries. Kerala is known for its tranquil backwaters journeys, sand beaches, pristine rain forests, and lush tea estates. The art forms such as Kathakali and Mohini Attam were perfected here. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary was one of India’s first tiger reserves. The state of Andhra Pradesh has golden beaches as well as Ettipotala waterfalls and the rich bio-diversity of Talakona. The Borra Caves are famous for million-year old stalactite and stalagmite formations while the Belum Caves are the second largest natural caves on the subcontinent. Karnataka is the sixth largest state in India, and has seen some of the most powerful empires of medieval India. Its sculptured temples, modern cities, scenic hill ranges, unexplored forests and beaches make it a popular destination. It encompasses 25 wildlife sanctuaries and five national parks. Shravanabelagola is an important Jain pilgrimage site. It has a monolith of Gomateshwara Bahubali, 17.38 meters/58 feet tall. It is said to be the world’s largest monolithic stone statue, and was carved from a single block of rock in 981. Bangalore is one of Asia’s fastest growing cities, and it is the principal cultural, commercial and industrial center of Karnataka. It is often described as Asia’s Silicon Valley because of its thriving information technology industry. Yet, its past is still seen in Old Bangalore such 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-Sacracenic 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, Chamundi Hill is the Nandi Bull statue carved in 1659 from a single boulder. 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, the “Tiger of Mysore.”
Tiger Circuit: Asia’s extraordinary royal Bengal tigers are increasingly rare in the world they once ruled. India has set aside ‘tiger parks’ to help these superb animals survive. Four national parks – Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Panna are part of the tiger circuit. Although the tiger is the main attraction, these parks have impressive rosters of other animals, including spotted deer, wild boar, wild dogs, sloth bear, Indian fox, wolf and jungle cat. Hundreds of bird species also thrive here such as fish eagle, plum-headed parakeet and Asian paradise flycatcher. Ranthambhore National Park was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973. Ranthambore sanctuary is one of the best places in India to see these majestic predators. In Gujarat, the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the only place in the world where the pure Asiatic lion are found. A recent census recorded 411 lions 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.
Chitwan National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site in Nepal shelters the endangered royal Bengal tiger, rare one-horned rhinoceros and golden monitor lizard. This unique ecosystem is significantly valuable to the world, and to help protect it, only a small portion of the park is used for tourism. Much of the area is made up of subtropical lowlands, forest and hills.
Himalayas: These fabled mountains have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia. The mountain range reaches across 2,736 kilometers/1,700 miles and six countries. 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, chanting as pilgrims place burning candles in the river. The Himalayas cover three quarters of Nepal, which is home to some of the highest, remotest, most rugged mountains in the world, including the highest, Mount Everest. This makes Nepal a natural attraction for mountain trekkers.
Pokhara, Nepal: Today, the modern city of Pokhara is the third largest in Nepal. It sits on an ancient trading route between Tibet and India. The old city center features old shops and warehouses in the indigenous style of architecture used by the Newari people in the Kathmandu valley. It is marked by striking brick work and a unique style of wood carving rarely seen outside Nepal. Mule caravans still come here through the Himalayas. Temples worth visiting in the older part of town are Bindhyabasini and Bhimsen. Elevations in the area can rise from 1,000 meters/3,280 feet to over 7,315 meters/24,000 feet in a fairly short distance. The region is also home to medieval ruins dating from the mid-17th century.
Anuradhapura: An ancient city, this was Sri Lanka’s first capital city founded in the 4th Century B.C. Archaeological evidence dates back to the 10th century BC. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was a model of systematic planning, with some of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world. The Sacred Bo Tree is the oldest historically documented tree on earth, dating back to the year 245 BC. The Folk Museum founded in 1971, is in the sacred city close to the Archaeological Museum. It houses a collection of artifacts, which illustrate the rural life of the North Central Province.
Colombo: This is the largest city and the commercial, industrial and cultural capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo was known to ancient mariners as far back as 2,000 years due to its large harbor and strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes. It served as the capital when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire in 1815, and remained the capital city until 1978, when administrative functions were moved to neighboring Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte. The city is home to several museums including the Colombo Museum, established in 1877, National Museum of Natural History and the Galle National Museum in the oldest Dutch building of the Galle Fort, which was constructed in 1656.
Galle: Galle is an ancient seaport from which King Solomon took ivory, peacocks and other valuables such as spices. Cinnamon was exported from here as early as 1400 BC. Galle had been a prominent seaport long before the island came under the rule of foreign powers. Persians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Malays, Indians and Chinese traders have been doing business through this port city for centuries. In 1411, the Galle Trilingual Inscription was erected in Galle to commemorate the second visit to Sri Lanka by the Chinese admiral Zheng He. The Dutch Fort is among the best-preserved sea forts in Southeast Asia. The Dutch and the English colonial styles of architecture are evident throughout the old neighborhoods. Originally established by the Portuguese in the 16th century, it reached its zenith under Dutch rule in the 18th century. The fort offered spacious housing, wide roads and all necessary facilities within its walls including an intricate sewage system that was way ahead of its time. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was the main port of call for ships sailing between the Orient and Europe. Inside the ramparts and stonewalls, magnificent buildings remain, the most absorbing of which is the 17th-century Dutch Reformed Church. The streets are dotted with colonial villas. The fort also is home to some of the island’s most exclusive boutique-style accommodation in former villas restored to their colonial glory.
Kandy: Kandy is one of Sri Lanka’s prettiest cities as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural richness. Here, the famous Temple of Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa) houses a sacred relic – one of Buddha’s teeth, marking the city as one of the most sacred places for Buddhists. Other holy spots include the Gadaladeniya Temple and the Lankathilake Temple. Kandy’s Royal Palace is a treasure trove of history with the queen’s chambers, the quarters for concubines, the armory and council chambers. Kady is the second largest city in the country after Colombo. It was the last capital of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka. The city lies in an area of lush tropical tea plantations and serves as both an administrative and religious center.
Polonnaruwa: The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the invaders in 1070. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site remains one of the best-planned archaeological sites in the country. The restoration of of an ancient irrigation reservoir to serve the needs of the surrounding agricultural region, in which rice and tobacco are grown. The town contains numerous temples and other Buddhist structures, most of them dating from the 12th century.
Sigiriya: Sigiriya rests within the cultural triangle formed by Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, which includes five of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. The city is famous for its 200-meter/656-foot high, red stone fortress with its palace ruins. The top of the fortress is reached by a series of about 750 steps. It is also known for its ancient fresco paintings, which are reminiscent of the Ajanta Caves in India. The fortress was built by King Kasyapa (477–495 CE), who seized power from the rightful heir. Most of the elaborate constructions on the rock summit and around it, including defensive structures, palaces, and gardens, date back to this period. The king was defeated in 495 CE, and the fortress again became a Buddhist monastery, which lasted until the 13th or 14th century.
Suggested India & Nepal 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
Aurangabad (2 days) The Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, date between the fifth and tenth centuries.
Chitwan National Park (3 days) In Nepal, this is one of the last refuges for the rare royal Bengal tiger and the single-horned Indian rhinoceros.
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.
India’s Tiger Circuit (7-8 days) These parks are devoted to preserving the last populations of the rare royal Bengal tiger. Asian lion are found only in a national park in Gujarat.
Kathmandu, Bhaktapur & Dhulikhel (3 days) In Nepal, the combination of these towns offers both culture and dynamic mountain landscapes.
Khajuraho, Allahabad, Varanasi (3-5 days) The monuments and the sacred Ganges offer glimpses at some of the powerful symbols of man’s faith.
Pokhara (3 days) In the Nepalese region around this mostly modern city are medieval ruins dating from the mid-17th century.
Punjab (3 days) Amritsar is a holy city, and home to Harmandir Sahib, Golden Temple, and important religious place to the Sikhs.
Rajasthan & Its Interior (6 days) This is the largest state in India by area, and encompasses much of the Great Thar Desert.
South India & Its Interior (9-15 days) South India encompasses India’s states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$400 per person per day