“The classic introduction to India, from Delhi to Agra to the palaces of Rajasthan.”
This itinerary covers India's Golden Triangle, along with a stay in the wildlife reserve of Ranthampore, and an optional trip up to Udaipur. The way to do this properly is with a driver and your own vehicle(s), with guides arranged for the major cities and monuments. It's a busy route, so care needs to be taken to get the best out oif this experience.
The three main axes of this triangle are Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, 200-250km from point to point with Delhi in the north. Within it's unrivalled wealth of cultural and historical riches , this is one itinerary everybody should experience once. There's also a great selection of wonderful properties - camps, palaces and luxury hotels - to stay in, though for modest budgets the mid-range hotels are perfectly acceptable. However, in our opinion it's worth spending the extra to stay in these magnificent properties, as they are at least half the experience.
Jaipur, capital of the desert state of Rajasthan, has some of Asia's best bazaars. Agra, formerly the capital of the Moghul empire, is home of that world wonder, the Taj Mahal, on the banks of the Yamuna river. Its crowds, hawkers and bus tours are often shrouded in smog, and it can be a trial - but for all that, the Taj is still mesmerising.
Delhi, the city of the Moghuls, is still largely Muslim. It's a huge vibrant city, and highlights include the Jama Masjid (Great Mosque), the Red Fort, and British-built New Delhi - a fascinating contrast, it's broad boulevards and Lutyens architecture contrasting with the narrow alleys and chaotic streetlife of old Delhi. Any stay here must include a trip to see Lutyens' 1920s India Gate, a worthy monument of British India.
The Red Fort, Delhi - Delhi street life - The India Gate - Jama Masjid - Taj Mahal at Dawn - Amber Fort, Jaipur - Jaipur Bazaars - Ranthambore Woldlife Reserve - Fatehpur Sikri - Agra Fort - Holy City of Mathura - Balloon ride over Jaipur - Taj River Cruise
Fly from London to Delhi on an overnight flight. To give you an idea of timetable the BA flight departs London Heathrow terminal 5 at 17.35.
Transfer to Jaipur
Arrive in Delhi at 06.20 am. On arrival you will be met and driven to Samode Palace hotel (http://samode.com/palace/intro.html) just outside Jaipur. The drive should take about four hours although there can be road works which have a tendency to slow progress. This is less of the problem in the winter months. In any event you should stop at the Neemrana Fort (http://fort-palace.neemranahotels.com/) for breakfast and then continue to Samode.
We recommend a suite here - they're spectacularly comfortable. For thos on more of a budget, we can suggest other hotels.
The minimum amount of time here is two nights, though we would recommend three if you have time. We recommend a lazy morning at the Samode and driving in to the city at about 11am - an hour's drive. One day, have lunch at the city palace. Visit the city palace museum and do some shopping in the bazaar - our guide will advise. En route to Samode stop at the Amber Fort for sightseeing. One evening we can arrange dinner at the 1135 restaurant in the Fort which is very special and super romantic. For something different, we can book a hot air ballon ride over Jaipur.
For those on a longer itinerary, we will arrange to fly you to Udaipur (one hour) to stay at the Lake Palace hotel. You will spend two nights here, with a full day's sightseeing of Udaipur and a visit to the City Palace. On the finall morning, you'll check out and be driven to Deogarh for a one night stay at the marvellous Deogarh Mahal (http://www.deogarhmahal.com/) or its sister property, the smaller Fort Seengh Sagar.
The next stage takes you to the game park at Ranthambore. It's a three hour drive from Samode, or two hours from Deogarh, and the place to stay currently is Sherbagh (http://www.sherbagh.com/index.aspx). Ideally you should spend three nights here, even four, though we have sent clients for two who are on a flying one week itinerary.
Game drives are organised for the mornings and early evenings. If you are lucky, you may see Tiger - the best chance is in the early summer, when the land is dry and cover is scarce, though it will be hot hot hot. There's a pool here, wonderful food, and massages. It's a magical place. We can also organise a private dinner next to the jungle, listening to the night noises - perfectly romantic.
3 Agra and the Taj Mahal
After breakfast on your last day we will transfer you to the Sawai Madhopur railway station to catch train departing 12.25 arriving 14.55. On arrival you will be met and driven to visit Fatehpur Sikri, a deserted and very atmospheric Moghul palace, before driving the one hour to Agra. Stay overnight at the Amarvilas hotel. (http://www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_amarvilas/index.asp)
The next day, get up early for a dawn visit to the Taj Mahal. It's the best time to see it - both for the light, as well as the lack of crowds. If you are lucky you will have the place practically to yoursewlves. Many people also visit the Taj in the afternoon and although the monument is spectacular at sunset, it is very crowded. For a sunset view, it's best from the river.
Return for breakfast, and spend the rest of the morning sightseeing Agra Fort and the tomb of Itimad Ud Daulah. Dpending on the time of your departure and the length of your itinerary, you can spend an extra night here, and take a sunset boat cruise on the river Yamuna by the Taj Mahal to see the monument from another angle. This depends on season, and the river being full.
On your return to Delhi, we recommend driving via Mathura, the holy city of Krishna, between Agra and Delhi for lunch stop and sightseeing. However, if you are on a short itinerary, you will need a late checkout to drive direct to Delhi to catch the evening flight back to London.
An alternative is to spend a night or two in Delhi.