Tour the unique deserts, forts, palaces and temples of Rajasthan, arguably India’s most colourful state, plus two of India’s greatest monuments, the Taj Mahal and Amritsar’s Golden Temple.
Selected departures January to October 2017
You check-in for your overnight flight direct to Delhi.
On arrival we connect with the domestic flight to the Sikh holy city of Amritsar. Our hotel for the next two nights is the five-star Hyatt Amritsar. During the early evening we enter Amritsar for our first glimpse of the remarkable and beautifully floodlit Golden Temple, silhouetted against the dark sky with its rich golden glow shimmering in the surrounding waters.
Gloriously romantic by night, the Golden Temple is also extraordinary and fascinating by day, with this magical building alluringly reflected in its huge sacred pool, surrounded by marble colonnaded arcades. Once inside, the richly gilded inlay work is a revelation - wood panels decorated with gold and silver plus ivory carvings, all under a brilliant dome containing 100kg of pure gold. In accordance with Sikh custom anyone is offered sustenance free of charge, with the resultant kitchens capable of feeding 6,000 people per hour – we see their huge vats of dhal (lentils) and an ancient machine producing a constant stream of hot chapattis! We also see the site of the Amritsar Massacre, where in 1919 a nationalist demonstration of unarmed locals was fired upon by the British authorities, without warning. This pivotal event had a profound effect on Gandhi, who then initiated his ultimately successful ‘civil disobedience’ campaign. In the afternoon we take the short drive to the nearby Bagh Border post with Pakistan. Over the years this has developed into a light-hearted, rather bizarre competition as to who has the most flamboyant marching style and vociferous supporters, with thousands coming to see this daily. It’s a typically Indian concoction, a blend of open-air theatre, party and military parade. Finally, both border gates are ceremoniously closed and the respective flags lowered for the night! A buffet dinner at your hotel is included tonight.
We fly to Delhi, and after lunch we continue by road to Agra and the Taj Mahal, arriving late afternoon, staying one night at the centrally-located, four-star Taj Gateway.
In the soft morning light, as the mist rises from the Yamuna River, the Taj Mahal seems to float, mirage-like, above the surrounding landscape. A combination of extraordinary beauty, symmetry and history makes this wonder of the world one of the planet’s most amazing monuments and you have plenty of time to admire it from all angles.
Then, in stunning contrast, you visit the vast red sandstone 16th century Agra Fort, once the headquarters of the vast Moghul Empire.
This afternoon we continue to Jaipur, staying two nights at the new five-star Radisson Blu, with its large pool and excellent dining options.
Jaipur is a fascinating place, its pink-coloured buildings contrasting beautifully with the kaleidoscope of striking reds, saffrons and deep violets of hundreds of traditional saris whose countless sequins reflect the midday sun. Welcome to Rajasthan, India’s most colourful state!
Our first stop the Amber Fort, located in an amazingly scenic location in the nearby hills. Our tour includes sections reserved for the Maharaja’s wives and concubines and the amazing hall of mirrors. We have a photo stop outside the pink sandstone Palace of the Winds, an incredible honeycomb of windows from which the royal household’s ladies watched the street life and processions below. Next, we visit the City Palace, home to the present Maharaja of Jaipur, viewing the superb collection of formal robes, intricate carpets, fine paintings and an impressive armoury. Finally we see the outstanding 18th century Jantar Mantar open-air Observatory, an extremely accurate collection of early astronomical instruments.
This morning we leave Jaipur and we experience one of India’s greatest institutions – the iconic railway system, we board the comfortable ‘chair class’ carriages of the Shatabdi Express, travelling to Ajmer. From here we drive to Pushkar, the sacred Hindu town, home to the world’s largest camel fair. A gathering of as many as 160,000 dealers and coinciding with the full-moon in November, business often takes a back seat to musicians, snake-charmers and dancers on hot coals. After checking into the three-star superior, family-run, Pushkar Resort, it’s time to explore the town. We visit its rare Brahma temple, the only place in the world where it is permitted to worship the creator-God of the Hindu religion, continuing through the small market to visit the sacred lake and bathing ghats at the town’s heart. A buffet dinner at your hotel is included tonight.
Leaving Pushkar, we continue towards Nagaur Fort, a little-known fort-cum-palace complex displaying a unique merging of Rajput and Moghul architecture. With its 800-year history and careful restoration, it well deserves its UNESCO recognition. Driving through pleasant country roads, through an arid landscape of sand dunes, we are off the beaten track, surrounded by the rural India of ox carts and small villages before seeing the astonishing Khimsar Fort. Nothing prepares you for the sight of this grand, 16th century edifice of towers, domes and ramparts, in the same family for 21 generations, now a charming heritage hotel. The rooms are all different and spread out within the walls. There’s a bar, restaurant, tea room and spa, plus a lovely pool. Dinner is included tonight, either set out within the picturesque ruins of one of the buildings or along the battlements.
Today we have a free day enjoying our peaceful surroundings, with the option of a jeep drive into the local ‘bush’ hopefully spotting blackbuck and bluebuck, two of the local antelope species, then a walk experiencing colourful village life. There’s plenty of time to relax or explore and enjoy this delightful hotel. Marvel at its extensive ramparts, stroll through the lush green gardens watching peacocks, before taking tea on the veranda. This afternoon perhaps enjoy a drive to the dunes and a short camel cart ride before halting at the desert’s edge to experience that magical moment when the sun sinks slowly in a fiery glow. This evening, there’s a delightful Kalbelia dance troupe, a typical Rajasthani puppet show and traditional musicians.
This morning we take the short drive to Jodhpur, the ‘Blue City’, so named after the colourwash of its ‘old city’ which is totally dominated by the imposing Mehrangarh Fort towering above. Few sights can match this for pure grandeur, a gigantic mass of stonework seemingly growing from the huge hill on which it stands. Its museum houses Emperor Akbar’s sword, plus numerous howdahs and antique belongings of the Maharajas. This afternoon we walk through Jodhpur’s fascinating open-air Clocktower Market, crammed with orange and red turbaned vendors selling absolutely everything and a real photo opportunity. Tonight we stay at the four-star WelcomHotel Jodhpur.
Today we leave Jodhpur and the plains of Rajasthan behind us, driving east to the Aravali Hills. Here the landscape changes to smooth bare hilltops interspersed with lush green narrow valleys, in one of which lies Ranakpur and arguably India’s finest Jain temple. Beautifully constructed entirely from white marble and completely covered by some of the world’s finest intricate carvings, no two of its 1,444 columns are identical. After lunch we continue to Udaipur, where we stay two nights at the four-star Oberoi Trident Hotel. You may also upgrade your stay to the utterly sumptuous five-star Taj Lake Palace, one of the world’s finest hotels and an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Udaipur, the City of Lakes with its backdrop of green-covered hills, has a stunningly romantic setting which never fails to impress! The stage for countless ‘Bollywood’ films and James Bond’s ‘Octopussy’, Udaipur’s most famous sight is the astonishing white marble Lake Palace, seemingly floating on the calm waters of Lake Pichola. Overlooking this is the vast complex of the City Palace, where we’ll see the Maharani’s amazingly decorated private apartments, courtyards, pleasure gardens and a host of miniature paintings, palanquins and armaments. We’ll also see the great Durbar Hall and the Crystal Gallery, lined with thousands of unique items of crystal, all produced in Birmingham in 1877. This afternoon you are free to explore as you wish. Dinner is included tonight.
We fly back to Delhi this morning for one night at the five-star Hyatt Regency Hotel. We drive through the city’s wide, tree-lined avenues designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and tour the best sights of both Old and New Delhi, including Humayun’s Tomb, the Qutub Minaret and the poignant reminders of the British Raj, before an afternoon at leisure at your hotel.
You transfer to the airport for the return flight to London, arriving later the same day.
India is steeped in history, mystery and magnificence. It’s a heady cocktail of extraordinary contrasts, sumptuous palaces, splendid forts, lush countryside, haunting deserts and vibrant cities. Our extraordinary tour takes you to some of the most colourful and amazing places on the entire planet – from Amritsar’s Golden Temple to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, the gleaming white of the Taj Mahal, and the 'Blue City' of Jodhpur. Then there are the parched ochre dunes of the desert sands and the array of reds and yellows exploding from a classic Indian sunset across a city’s jumbled rooftops. India is all this and much more. It’s not just a country; it’s an entire continent crying out to be discovered and explored.
You’ll visit some of this wonderful destination’s finest jewels; many world famous, while others are less well-known but equally enthralling. In this religious melting pot, you’ll experience some of the world’s most spiritual sites - including the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, and the revered Hindu town of Pushkar with its unique Brahma temple, sacred lake and historic bathing ghats. Jaipur’s City Palace and the Palace of the Winds will amaze you with their grandeur, yet none compare with the Taj Mahal, that supremely beautiful and romantic masterpiece, truly one of the few wonders of the world.
Another great and unmissable wonder is Agra’s 16th century awe-inspiring Red Fort. Once at the heart of the Moghul Empire, it’s a fitting overture to the many other magnificent citadels for which Rajasthan is rightly famous – especially the imposing and vast Mehrangarh Fort with its enchanting panoramic view over the 'Blue City’ of Jodhpur. Finally it’s on to Udaipur, nestling serenely in one of the world’s most naturally beautiful settings. Surrounded by a series of scenic hills and lakes, almost silhouetted against the clear blue sky, its multitude of intricately turreted and balconied palaces surround the lakeside - a perfect blend of man and nature in complete harmony and quintessential India at its most mysterious, romantic and thought-provoking.
Spectacular though India’s cities, palaces and monuments are, a country is nothing without its people and you can travel the whole world before you find a welcome as warm and genuine as that in India. Increasingly aware of their unique sophisticated culture, Indians are eager to share their knowledge with you – and to practice their English, which is almost universally spoken. You really sense that this is a country ‘on the move’.
Of course, India also possesses one of the world’s greatest cuisines, which for many will be one of the highlights of your holiday. Universally but incorrectly described as curry, there is a huge variety on offer making use of gorgeously fresh vegetables, pulses, meat and fish all expertly blended with an almost infinite array of herbs and exotic spices. With some dishes cooked quickly and some more slowly, it’s a real gourmet’s delight, so totally different and tastier than the majority of Indian restaurants we are used to at home. All this combined with the legendary Indian passion for service, ensures you will get the very best out of your visit to this fascinating and enchanting part of the world, returning home with some truly enchanting memories.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Twelve nights accommodation in three, four and five-star hotels; daily breakfast and four dinners, scheduled flights to/from Delhi, domestic flights to/ from Amritsar and from Udaipur; all transfers; guided tours of Amritsar, Agra and the Taj Mahal, Jaipur city tour, visit to Amber Fort, city tour of Pushkar, Jodhpur and Mehrangarh Forts, visit to Nagaur Fort, Ranakpur temple, Udaipur city tour Delhi city tour; all local transport as described; hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person; the services of a Riviera tour manager.
Not included: Indian visa
Indian visa: All British passport holders require a visa for India. Please ensure that you have at least two empty pages in your passport and that your passport is valid for a minimum of 190 days from the time of submitting your visa application. At the time of departure you will be able to travel as long as both the passport and the visa are valid.
Personal applications: to apply for an Indian visa please visit http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk where you can apply, pay online and schedule an appointment to submit your application in person at your nearest centre, dependent on your home address.
Online applications: British Passport holders are now eligible to apply for an e-visa online, you must ensure your passport is machine readable and has a biometric chip (without this you may be denied entry into India). The cost of a single entry tourist e-visa is US$60.00 and will be converted into pounds by your bank. The website to apply for the e-visa is: indianvisaonline.gov.in. Here you will find all the information to assist you with the completion of your application.
Postal applications: you must either apply and pay online, print off the completed application form, payment confirmation and submit by post; or alternatively, you must apply online, print off the completed application and submit along with payment by postal order. Personal cheques are NOT accepted. In both cases you must submit your passport along with a self-addressed stamped envelope and two, 2x2” passport photos to:
India Visa Application Centre (West London),
The Vista Centre,
First Floor – Part A
Full details of costs, application form and addresses can be found on http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk, email: [email protected] or tel: 0905 7570045 (calls cost 95p per minute).
Visa fees are subject to change without notice and non-refundable.
Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in requirements after this time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to travel.
Health: Whilst the travelling schedule shall pose no problems for people of any age in normal physical health, we would point out that in visiting a number of historical sites, paths may be uneven and uphill and we often enjoy walking tours of the main sights. Therefore, this holiday may not be suitable for clients of greatly impaired mobility. In the tropics temperatures and humidity levels will also be quite high for most of the year. Please consult your GP regarding the appropriate inoculations required for India at least a month before departure.