India: Wild and Classic

Trip Overview

In March 2017, journey to exotic India on an adventure tour to meet Bengal tigers, visit ancient Indian temples and cities, and explore the vibrant color and diversity of Indian culture, religions, and wildlife. Discover what makes India an adventure travel destination which should be on everyone's "bucket list".

The pages of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book come alive as you travel through central India's ancient civilizations, architectural wonders and lush nature and wildlife reserves. Feel your heart pound while watching a magnificent royal Bengal tiger stroll through its native habitat in Kanha Tiger Reserve (Kanha National Park), the largest wildlife sanctuary in Asia with populations of wild tigers, Indian leopards, the sloth bear, barasingha, and the Indian wild dog. You will also visit Bandhavgarth National Park, which has the highest density of tigers in all of India as well as being a large breeding ground for leopards. Explore bamboo thickets and sal forests, and watch the mahouts guide and communicate with their elephants as they search the jungle for tigers.

Travel to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the amazing temples of Khajuraho, considered the high point of medieval Indian architecture, and stand in reverence at the holy city of Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world and home to one of India's most sacred sites, the holy River Ganges. Not to be missed, you'll also explore Delhi, both Old and New, one of the most fascinating cities in the world.

OPTIONAL: You can choose to extend your vacation in India with a visit to the Taj Mahal to discover what makes the Taj Mahal so famous around the world, then continue on to the "Pink City" of Jaipur, with its aristocratic atmosphere, unique architecture, and the Amber Fort.

This adventure travel trip to the jungles and cities of India incorporates an exotic mix of India's unique wildlife and landscapes, its rich colors, textures and cultural wonders. You'll be inspired to pen your own Jungle Book!

Main Attractions

  • Explore both New and Old Delhi, India’s showcase for architecture, religion, shopping, and culture.
  • Safari in Kanha National Park, the largest wildlife sanctuary in Asia, one of the first Project Tiger reserves in India, and in Bandhavgarth National Park, home to the famous white tigers of Rewa.
  • Discover the enchanting temples of Khajuraho, considered the "high point" of Indian architectural genius.
  • Experience Varanasi (ancient Benares), India's holiest city, and an important religious center for Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, where Hindus aspire to cleanse themselves in the holy waters of the Ganges at bathing ghats.
  • Visit Bodh Gaya, the most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in the world, where in 500 B.C. Prince Gautama Siddhartha achieved Enlightenment to become Buddha.
  • Enjoy the hospitality of one of the world’s friendliest peoples in the country considered to be the oldest living culture in the world.

What You'll See and Do

  • 4x4
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Birding
  • Boat Cruising
  • Buddhism
  • Cultural Exploration
  • Elephant Interaction
  • Historical Sites
  • National Parks
  • Natural History
  • Photography
  • Sightseeing
  • Walking
  • Wildlife Safari
  • Wildlife Viewing

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

India: Wild and Classic

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 - Depart the United States for Delhi, India
Depart this morning for an overnight flight to Delhi.
Meals Aloft

Day 2

Wednesday, March 15 - Arrive Delhi, India
Arrive in Delhi, where you are met and escorted to the hotel.
Meals aloft

Overnight at The Claridges, Delhi
www.claridges.com

For two nights we will stay at The Claridges. This hotel offers guests a relaxing stay in its beautiful beige accommodations, and has been a landmark in Lutyens’ Delhi since the 1950s. Located amidst lush and tranquil surroundings in the heart of the city, the hotel is within close proximity of the shopping and cultural centers and historical landmark.

Day 3

Thursday, March 16 - Explore Delhi, Capital and Political Hub of India
Today is spent acclimating to a new time zone and exploring one of the most fascinating cities in the world. An ancient city that has something for everyone, Delhi has been settled seven times over the centuries, and the city has grown in a way that reflects its past, while retaining its cosmopolitan flavor. It is India’s showcase for architecture, religion, shopping, and culture.

The Colonial Delhi trail takes us past the India Gate, a monument commemorating the deaths of over 70,000 Indian soldiers in the British Forces during the World War I and older British buildings that house today’s Parliament and Secretariat. We continue to the majestic Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, with its eye-catching golden dome glistening in the sun. A holy place for Sikhs across the world, the Gurudwara grounds include a community temple, a community kitchen, a school, a library and an art gallery.

Our tour through New Delhi follows with a visit to Humayun’s Tomb, built in the mid-16th century by the senior wife of the second Mughal emperor. This is the first significant example of Mughal architecture in India, and one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The elements of its design are echoed in the Taj Mahal. The building is squat with high arched entrances topped by a bulbous dome and surrounded by formal gardens. Found at the gardens are the red-and-white sandstone and black-and-yellow marble tomb of Humayun's wife and, somewhat surprisingly, the tomb of Humayun's barber!

After lunch we explore Old Delhi. There is a lot to be said about a country, as diverse in its faiths as India, and as tolerant in its attitudes towards each. Today’s political factions and media warmongering may create tensions between India’s many religions; sow the seeds of dissension in the populace, yet the architecture of our cities tells a very different narrative. Head down to Old Delhi, partly by rickshaw, partly on foot, to palpably experience the sacred yet secular way of life that is so typical of India.

Tonight’s Welcome Dinner offers an introduction to the astounding richness of Indian cuisine.
Breakfast, Lunch and Welcome Dinner

Overnight at The Claridges, Delhi

Day 4 - 5

Friday - Saturday, March 17-18 - Fly from Delhi to Kanha National Park
After breakfast we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Jabalpur.

Spice Jet flight SG2641
Departure at 10:15 am / Arrival at 12:00 pm.

Our morning flight takes us to Jabalpur, where our vehicles await to transport us to Kanha National Park (131 miles-4 hours). Over 740 square miles of bamboo thickets, extensive grasslands and dense sal forests make up Kanha, a series of plateaus which stretch across the eastern segment of the Satpura Ranges in Madhya Pradesh, which all provided inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel The Jungle Book.

The largest wildlife sanctuary in Asia, Kanha National Park was one of the first Project Tiger reserves in India. It is, in many ways, Project Tiger’s biggest success story, with the tiger population having doubled since 1976. This is the land of the tiger, the leopard, and wolf. Porcupine, jackal, sloth bear, jungle cat, macaque, dhole (wild dog), bison and a stunning spectrum of birds also inhabit Kanha, and make a trip to the sanctuary a must for any wildlife enthusiast. It is a truly thrilling experience, made more so by sightings of tigers, gaur, or even the tiny mouse deer (muntjac) or the rare hardground barasingha, found only in Kanha. Bird watching on a misty morning, we're likely to see such beauties as the Racquet-tailed Drongo, Crimson-Breasted Barbet, Crested Hawk Eagle and Golden Oriole.

For the next two days we'll discover the jungle on safaris in open-on-all-sides 4 x 4 vehicles, to give a panoramic unobstructed view of the landscape and every bird or animal that may just sneak into the grasses! The open vehicles allow us to listen to the sounds of nature, whether it be mating calls, alarm calls, distress calls or just a casual roar. In addition to drives, nature walks can also be arranged, as well as local village visits.

Each day we wake early for our game drives, then return back to camp for a hearty breakfast. The rest of the morning is at leisure. Post lunch we return to the park for an afternoon game drive. Returning to camp, the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy a documentary film session/lectures, followed by dinner.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Two Overnights at Kanha Earth Lodge
http://www.kanhaearthlodge.com/

Kahna Earth Lodge is just that – a place where you can be at one with the earth. The lodge's architecture was inspired by the stunning Gond tribal villages that are located on the fringes of Kanha, making it blend effortlessly with the forest and rural architecture. Set in deep jungles in an area untouched by any kind of tourism or development, the lodge respects the environment, and the simplistic buildings merge well into the landscape.

Rustic yet elegant, it is built with local stone, logs, baked tiles, tribal artifacts and furnished simply and beautifully. With only 12 beautiful open-fronted bungalows, each has an en suite bathroom and  a large open verandah. Delightful cuisine, a sparkling infinity pool, a nature library presentation room and office, eco shop, rounds out the amenities. With easy access to the Khatia/Kisli park gate, there is good opportunity to view a variety of mammals and birds around the lodge itself.

Day 6 - 8

Sunday - Tuesday, March 19 - 21 - Bandhavgarh National Park
This morning we have one last game drive to explore Kanha, then return to the lodge for breakfast.

Today's 6 hour drive takes us to the spectacular wildlife retreat of Bandhavgarh, where history and nature come alive. Set in the Vindhyan Mountain Range in Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh National Park is home to the famous white tigers of Rewa, which includes the legendary white tiger called Mohan, who supposedly fathered several offspring found in zoos the world over.

Bandhavgarh's history dates back over 2,000 years, and the earliest signs of habitation can be seen in the caves excavated from the cliffs to the north of the fort, where Brahmi inscription is from the 1st century BC. In more recent times, however, it has been a hunting reserve of the royal family of Rewa, where an alarming number of tigers were hunted down in pre-independence India. Mercifully, Bandhavgarh was declared a National Park in 1968 and the tigers are now protected.

The park's landscape is a unique mix of steep and rocky hills, with flat tops and level grasslands in the valleys below. The vegetation found within the park is moist deciduous forest with fine sal trees and stretches of bamboo. Today, the sanctuary has the highest density of tigers of any wildlife park in India, and it is one of the best places to witness tigers in action. Prominent among other wild animals are nilgai, chital, chinkara, gaur, sloth bear and wild boar, in addition to more than 250 species of birds.

Like in Kanha, our jungle safaris in search of wildlife are in 4 x 4 vehicles. In addition to safaris, Bandhavgarh is famous for the archaeological remains of the Kalchuri period, plus the Baghela Museum houses the private collection of the Maharajah of Rewa and the stuffed body of Mohan, the first tiger found in the park in 1951. There is also a unique collection of military weapons and other hunting materials on display.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Three Overnights at Kings Lodge
http://www.kingslodge.in/

Kings Lodge is set amidst 12 acres of sal forest, with four cottage rooms and eight stilt rooms. Each stilt room has a wooden lofted balcony. All rooms are well appointed and decorated with tribal art, giving the lodge a jungle feel. The hotel also has a library, infinity swimming pool and watchtower as well as a massage deck. The lodge has been built to blend with the surrounding landscape and has eco-sensitive policies. As darkness falls, in the peace and tranquility of the night and under the wonderful canopy of stars, one can hear various animals call – including the alarm call of the deer, the howling of jackals, or the occasional roar of a tiger.

Day 9

Wednesday, March 22 - The Enchanting Temples of Khajuraho
After one last drive to enjoy the Park, we return to the lodge for breakfast.

Today’s drive (5-6 hrs.) takes us you to Khajuraho, situated in the northernmost part of Madhya Pradesh. The name Khajuraho is derived from the Khajur tree (the date palm tree), which is grown abundantly in the region. Upon arrival, we check in to our hotel, then embark on a tour of the eastern group of Temples.

Famous for its enchanting temples, Khajuraho is considered the "high point" of Indian architectural genius of the medieval period. Originally there were 85 temples, of which only 22 still exist.. The amazingly short span of 100 years, from 950 -1050 AD, saw the completion of all the temples in an inspired burst of creativity. With the wane of the Chandela Empire, these magnificent temples lay neglected and vulnerable to the ravages of nature. It was only in this past century that they were rediscovered, restored, and granted the recognition that they justly deserve.

The temples are now a World Heritage Site, belonging not just to India but also to the world, and they are some of the best preserved monuments of this antiquity. Most of the temples are built of sandstone in varying shades of buff, pink or pale yellow, and each belongs to a different sect: the Shiva, Vaishnava or Jaina sects. However, they are often indistinguishable from one another to the untrained eye. The roofs are a series of graded peaks that resemble a mountain range and, in all probability, represent the possibility of higher levels of spiritual attainment. Erotic scenes represent a relatively small part of the carvings but sensuous eroticism prevails throughout all of the sculptures. In general, lower indulgences appear lower on the temple while the deities appear near the top. The goddesses and gods represent the many manifestations of the divine Shakti and Shiva, the female and male principles, the Yin and the Yang. The divine sculptures in these temples are a tribute to life itself, embodying everything that is sublime and spontaneous about it. Popularly known as the 10th century temples, they represent a time frame when Khajuraho art was at its zenith.
Breakfast, Boxed Lunch and Dinner

Overnight at the Lalit Temple View Khajuraho
www.thelalit.com/the-lalit-temple-view-khajuraho/overview

The Lalit Temple View Khajuraho, just 657 feet from the renowned western group of temples, is the closest hotel to the temples. Surrounded by lush gardens, beautiful surroundings, and temples dating back to ninth century, The Lalit Temple View Khajuraho was re-commissioned in 2007. This boutique hotel has 48 rooms and suites offering five star deluxe facilities and services with a modern hi-tech spa, swimming pool, conference facilities, restaurant, and bar.

Day 10

Thursday, March 23 - Khajuraho to The Holy City of Varanasi
This morning we have more time to explore Khajuraho before our flight departs at 2 pm, arriving in Varanasi at 2:55 pm. We are met at the airport and transferred to our hotel.

Jet Airways flight 9W2424
Departure at 2:00 pm / Arrival at 2:55 pm.

We have an afternoon visit to Sarnath, a great center of learning where the Buddha preached his first sermon on the Dharmachakra, his code of conduct. Today, a Bodhi tree commemorates Buddha’s initial moment of enlightenment during which he conceived the Eightfold Path to Nirvana. You may also visit the Archaeological Museum which houses a well preserved and broad range of Buddhist relics and artifacts related to Buddhism.
Breakfast and Dinner

Overnight at The Gateway Hotel Ganges
www.thegatewayhotels.com

We have two overnights at the Gateway Hotel in Varanasi, strategically situated on the Raja Bazar Road at Nadesar Palace Ground. All of the 130 guest rooms are elegantly appointed and have central air conditioning, color TV and more. There is an international restaurant called ‘Chowk’ that serves a variety of cuisine. There is also an Indian specialty restaurant ‘Varuna’. The hotel also has a swimming pool, tennis court as well a colonial themed bar.

Day 11

Friday, March 24 - Varanasi
Also known as Kashi and Benares, Varanasi is nestled on the north bank of the Ganges River in the state of Uttar Pradesh in north India. It is one of the oldest living cities in the world, dating back about 3,500 years. For the pious Hindus, the city has always been the ultimate pilgrimage spot. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: "Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together." Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. The Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals. With Sarnath just a short distance away, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, Varanasi has been a symbol of Hindu renaissance. Knowledge, philosophy, culture, devotion to Gods, Indian arts and crafts have all flourished here for centuries.

This morning at dawn we take an early morning boat cruise on the holy river Ganges to witness the cremation sites, as well as the morning ritual of avowed Hindus washing away their sins in the river.

As we head downriver, it is the perfect vantage point to watch the many ghats (the steps that lead down to the river) come to life; with pilgrims in their bright orange robes, elderly women in colorful saris offering prayers as they pour water from little copper pots into the river, sadhus meditating or lighting lamps.

We return to the hotel for breakfast, and later in the morning visit a weaver’s colony. The source of the famous Benaras Silk and brocade, the weavers’ colony is a collection of Muslim families who have practiced the craft of weaving for decades. The fabric they spin is famous through the country for its compact weave and refined quality, and is mostly used in making saris. Saris from Benares are considered to be among the finest in India and are known for their gold and silver brocade or zari (embroidery with metallic threads), fine silk and opulent embroidery. The definitive Mughal inspired design – with intricate motifs of gold or silver threads – indicates the period of time when the Benaras brocade gained major recognition from the nobility, and later became popular among the masses.

This afternoon we discover Varanasi by walking through twisted market lanes, with a plethora of interesting shops selling everything from flowers to spices, which open up onto the colorful, pilgrim-overrun ghats – the steps that lead down to the river.

A more interesting way to see the hubbub on the ghats is to set off on a boat ride – where you pass people swimming in the river, taking ritual dips, washing clothes and offering prayers. In the evening, be part of a service on the banks of the river, and take a ride through the chaotic roads of Varanasi. This is one sight you will see nowhere else, as we end the day, with the Ganga Aarti, an evening ritual of lighting lamps against the darkness and offering prayers to the river deity, Ganga, a quintessential experience of a sacred, spiritual India.

We celebrate our last night together with a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight at The Gateway Hotel Ganges
www.thegatewayhotels.com

Day 12

Saturday, March 25 - Varanasi to Delhi
After an early breakfast we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Delhi.

Indigo Airlines flight 6E 175
Departure at 10:45 am / Arrival at 12:20 pm.

For those who have opted for the Agra and Jaipur extension, they will bid goodbye to rest of the group and board their flight to Agra instead of Delhi.

Upon arrival in Delhi, we are transferred to our hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure, until later that night or early the next morning when you will be transferred to Delhi International airport for your flight back home.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Pullman Aerocity Hotel
http://www.pullmanhotels.com/gb/hotel-7559-pullman-new-delhi-aerocity-/index.shtml

OR, IF YOU ARE CONTINUING ON THE EXTENSION:

Saturday, March 25 - Varanasi to Agra
This morning after breakfast we are transferred to the airport to board our flight to Agra. Upon arrival in Agra we are met and transferred to our hotel.

Air India flight AI 406
Departure at 12:20 pm / Arrival at 1:30 pm.

The origins of the city of Agra can be traced back to the days of the Mahabharata, the epic poem of Great India when it was called Agrevana, meaning 'the edge of the forest'. Agra served as capital for the Mughal Empire during the 16th and 17th centuries and flourished as a centre of art, drawing inspiration from Persian, Islamic, Turkish, Byzantine and Indian styles. It has been immortalized ever since by the Taj Mahal – a magnificent marble mausoleum that epitomises love, yet Agra has so many more monuments that tell a rich narrative of the tides and times of Man.

We'll follow the road less traveled with a visit to Itmad-ul-Daulah, a marble tomb built for the grandfather of Mumtaz (the queen interred at the Taj Mahal). Also known as Baby Taj, it is said to have inspired the Taj Mahal.

Then we continue in the afternoon to the Mehtab Bagh garden, which legend claims was to be site of a Black Taj that the emperor Shah Jahan wished to build for himself, facing the Taj Mahal, the monument he’d built for his love. Instead the Mehtab Bagh is a four garden layout, typical of Mughal constructions worldwide, with beautiful flowering plants, pools and fountains.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight at the ITC Mughal Hotel
http://itchotels.in/Hotels/itcmughal.aspx

Our home for the next two nights is the ITC Mughal Hotel. Gloriously stretching over 35 acres of vibrant courtyards and situated in the heart of the city, the Mughal Sheraton offers 285 luxuriously furnished rooms and suites. All guest rooms are decorated with a touch of Old World splendor, and many offer a view of the Taj Mahal, located just over a mile away. You can dine in any of the on-site restaurants, serving authentic flavors of the Northwest Frontier, American or gourmet dishes.

Located in the trendiest destination in New Delhi, the Pullman New Delhi Aerocity is near IGI Airport. With an all-day-dining restaurant, specialty restaurant, delicatessen, spa and fully equipped wellness facility, the hotel caters to every need of the modern traveler.

Day 13

Sunday, March 26 - Arrive in the USA
Today finds you in USA with incredible memories of spectacular wildlife, ancient ruins and incredible people.

OR, IF YOU ARE CONTINUING ON THE EXTENSION:

Sunday, March 26 - Agra, Home of the Taj Mahal
At sunrise we visit the Taj Mahal, one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World, allowing us a glimpse of the monument with the changing backdrop of the morning sky, watching it go from a dull gray to a shimmering white as the sun rises.

Perhaps no other historical monument has evoked as much awareness and admiration from tourists and travelers alike as the magnificent Taj Mahal - fondly considered the ultimate requiem of love, from a great Mughal Emperor to his beloved wife. So overwhelming is the exquisite beauty and presence of this marble mausoleum that centuries later, even the very land where it has been located has been immortalized as the City of the Taj. Yet, it doesn’t take much for the wandering eye to discover that there's more to Agra than just the fabled Taj Mahal. The city is a virtual gateway to a world of discovery, a freeze-frame from a resplendent era that's long since gone by. Spend this morning discovering this imposing city and its fabled past as we explore the monuments, the majesty of the buildings and the exquisite arts and crafts, all cherished as priceless legacies of a nostalgic past.

Agra came into its own when Shahjahan ascended to the throne of the Empire. He marked the zenith of Mughal architecture when he built the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved wife, whom he affectionately named Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel of the Palace). In his later years, Shahjahan shifted his capital to the new city of Shahjahanabad in Delhi and ruled from there. Shahjahan was dethroned in 1658 by his son, Aurangzeb who imprisoned him in the Agra Fort. Aurangzeb shifted the capital back to Agra till his death. After the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire could not touch its peak and many regional kingdoms emerged. The post-Mughal era of Agra saw the rule of the Jats, Marathas, and finally the British taking over the city.

After our early morning visit to the Taj, we return to the hotel for breakfast, and then continue to the Red Fort of Agra, founded by Emperor Akbar in 1565 on the right bank of the Yamuna. The walls of Agra Fort are made of red sandstone and stretch for 1.5 miles. Within its walls Agra Fort encompasses fairy-like palaces such as the Shish Mahal, the Khas Mahal, the octagonal tower of Muhamman Burj, as well as reception rooms and the numerous pillared Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Public Audience). The palace is also notable for its smooth blending of Hindu and central Asian architectural styles.

While the Taj Mahal steals the thunder in Agra, there are several other beautiful monuments that have their own story to tell. An Agra Old City Walk takes us past the Agra Fort Railway station with its distinctly European architecture, and the Jami Masjid district surrounded by Old Agra’s bazaars and fine architecture. Here you can hone your bargaining skills on everything from zardozi embroidery to inlaid marble objects.

Later in the afternoon, at your leisure, you may want to visit the Red Taj: John Hessing’s tomb. The Red Taj in Agra, a smaller, red sandstone replica sans inlay and mosaic work serves as a tomb for a Dutch soldier and trader John William Hessing, and was built by his wife, Ann Hessing, turning the legend of the Taj Mahal on its head. In 1792, the 13-year-old Hessing landed in Ceylon, later joined the Dutch East India Company’s army, fought many battles in India, and eventually died as a part of the Maratha forces defending the Agra Fort against the British. At its entrance, are two Persian inscriptions— an epitaph and a chronogram: the former expresses Ann Hessing’s grief and the latter marks the year of his death.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Overnight at the ITC Mughal Hotel

 

Day 14

Monday, March 27 - Agra to the Pink City of Jaipur
After a leisurely breakfast we drive to Jaipur (5-6 hrs.) and en route visit the magnificent ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri, the short-lived capitol of the Mughal Empire from 1571-1585, during the reign of Emperor Akbar. Although brilliant and unusual from an architectural point of view, Akbar’s city was erected in an area that suffered from water shortages and it was abandoned shortly after Akbar’s death. The well-preserved palace and still used mosque are the main points of interest, but you can wander around the ruins that are scattered behind the mosque.

Upon arriving in Jaipur, we are escorted to our hotel where the remainder of the day is at leisure. You may want to explore  the old city markets where a smorgasbord of delights and crafts await! The labyrinthine streets have long been the bustling economic arteries of the city, trading in everything from local handicrafts like the blue pottery and silver jewelry to exotic, imported goods more valued today.

Jaipur is known as the Pink City, a rather idealized description of the terra-cotta-colored lime plaster that coats the old part of the city's walls, buildings, and temples. The reasons for painting the town pink are unknown, but various theories have been suggested, from using pink to cut down glare, to the city’s founder, Jai Singh II's, apparent devotion to Lord Shiva (whose favorite color is reputedly terra-cotta). Others believe Singh wanted to imitate the color of the sandstone used in the forts and palaces of his Mughal emperor friends. The most popular reason is that pink is the traditional color of hospitality, and the city was freshly painted and paved with pink gravel to warmly welcome Edward VII for his visit in 1876. The city is painted pink once every 10 years by the Municipal Corporation, and in the year 2000 the painting was timed for a state visit, this time by former U.S. president Bill Clinton.

The history and times of Jaipur are deeply entwined with the stories of royal princes and princesses, with grand Mughals and later with visiting dignitaries from the British Royal family or 20th century royalty like the U.S. Presidential families. Modern Jaipur plays host to all of them and to many thousands who come here, enchanted by all that the city has to offer. Jaipur is undoubtedly a city of kings and queens and its distinctive architecture clearly emphasizes this. Even so it has a timeless appeal, since many of the traditional crafts patronized by 18th century rulers are still thriving. There are streets that are famous for jewelry, tie-and-dye, pottery, “meenakari,” leatherwork, and stone carvings.
Breakfast, Packed Lunch and Dinner

Overnight Jai Mahal Palace
https://taj.tajhotels.com/en-in/jai-mahal-palace-jaipur/#!

Our home for the next two nights is the Jai Mahal Palace Hotel. Contemporary comfort with a regal touch is the focus of the many rooms and suites decorated with colonial style furniture, miniature paintings, gold-hued silks, sheet curtains and stylish modern bathrooms. Eighteen acres of beautifully landscaped Mughal gardens surround the exquisite Indo Saracenic style palace, full of history dating back more than 260 years.

Day 15

Tuesday, March 28 - Dera Mandawa Cooking Class and Dera Amer Elephant Ride
Very early this morning before breakfast we have an early morning optional activity: A Hot Air Balloon Ride!

There’s surely nothing on earth that can match the magic of floating on air over the countryside in a Hot Air Balloon, as a patchwork of green fields and scrub forests, the blue-greens and browns of the water bodies, dry land and rocky outcrops spread out below you. Watch picturesque villages awaken or be mesmerized by the ‘Pink City’ as you float over bazaars, forts and palaces and see excited children waving frantically at you.

After breakfast we visit the City Palace complex, the seat of the Maharajah of Jaipur, which consists of an impressive array of courtyards, gardens and buildings. Afterwards, a visit to the Jantar Mantar observatory, built in the early 1700s by Sawai Jai Singh II, Jaipur’s ruler and a keen astronomer, will showcase Central Asia’s rich legacy of astronomy. Its sixteen massive instruments are works of art in themselves and some can forecast the weather even today!

For lunch we are in for a real treat:: a hands-on Rajasthani cooking experience at Dera Mandawa, including a trip to the nearby market for ingredients, a lesson in regional specialties, followed by a scrumptious, regal lunch spread. The passionate couple, who has converted this property into a heritage hotel, will be our hosts throughout the cooking session and meal.

Our day ends with a visit to Dera Amer – a rustic camp located at the foothills of the Aravalli range surrounded by wilderness. While deserts are mostly associated with camels, Jaipur’s ancient regal families have left behind a legacy of elephants. Elephants used to serve as royal mounts for day-to-day life and during a war. Today they offer an interesting albeit bumpy way to explore the city. Enjoy a glass of bubbly, as we take in the sights on elephant back in the wilderness around Dera Amer, before we celebrate our last evening together with our Indian Farewell Dinner.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Overnight Jai Mahal Palace

Day 16

Wednesday, March 29 - Agra to Delhi
One of the major attractions in Jaipur, the Amber Fort (Amer Fort), is a breathtakingly beautiful complex of palaces, halls, pavilions, gardens, and temples. It is astounding that it took more than two centuries to build, and its elegance is simply awesome. We'll also view the Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of Winds, a five-story building of pink splendor with carved trelliswork. This structure was meant to be a window for royal ladies so they could view the activities on the street, including daily life and processions. Another landmark is the former residence of the royal family, the charming City Palace, which reveals a combination of both Rajasthan and Mughal styles of architecture.

After our visit to the Amber Fort, we return to the hotel for check-out and transfer to the airport for our flight to Delhi.

Jet Airways flight 9W 2686
Departure at 1 pm / Arrival at 3 pm

Arriving in Delhi we are met and transferred to our hotel. The balance of the day is at leisure before transferring to the airport late evening for flights home, or depart the next morning.
Breakfast

Pullman Aerocity Hotel
http://www.pullmanhotels.com/gb/hotel-7559-pullman-new-delhi-aerocity-/index.shtml

Located in the trendiest destination in New Delhi, the Pullman New Delhi Aerocity is near IGI Airport. With an all-day-dining restaurant, specialty restaurant, delicatessen, spa and fully equipped wellness facility, the hotel caters to every need of the modern traveler.

Day 17

Thursday, March 30 - Arrive in the USA
This morning you will either be transferred back to the airport, or you will arrive home if you departed the evening of March 29.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

India: Wild and Classic

Traveling to India


Passports and Visas

Citizens of the United States must possess a valid passport and India visa. Citizens of other countries should inquire about requirements for entry. If you do not have a passport, please APPLY NOW! Make sure that your passport is valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond your travel dates, and that you have a minimum of 2 blank facing pages for your visa pages to allow for entry and exit stamps upon arrival and departure from India. Please note that Amendment pages in the back of your passport are not to be used for entry and exit stamps or visa issuance.

When you have your passport photographs taken, you should get extra photos: you will need two passport-size photo when you apply for your India visa, and you should always carry 2-3 EXTRA photos, just in case an emergency arises (i.e. in case your passport/visa is stolen).

India visas can be complicated, and you may want to use a visa service. You can go online to apply for your India visa.

Click here:  https://indiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com/homepage

Or use Travel Document Systems at www.traveldocs.com

The maximum period of stay in India is limited to 6 months (180 days). Please note the visa is valid beginning on the day it is issued. So a 6 Month visa issued on October 1, 2016 would be valid until April 30, 2017. You should use these dates as guidelines for applying for your India visa.

Health Requirements and Health Insurance

You MUST have your own health insurance and be in very good physical condition to participate in this trip. This is an active holiday, and we rate it as Moderate. Trips of this designation offer moderate physical challenges, and for this trip you should be able to walk/hike from 2-5 miles. Visits to temples, museums, and excavations involve a considerable amount of walking, some of which may be in hot weather.

No special vaccinations are required for travel to India. However, please consult your personal physician, local health department, travel clinic, or immunization center about any vaccinations you may need to update, or others that may be personally recommended for you based on your age, health, and past vaccination history. Hepatitis A and B are present in India, as in the rest of the world, so you should talk to your Doctor about this.

How To Register

Call the AdventureWomen office at (800) 804-8686 to determine space availability and register for this trip. We can complete your registration, including taking your credit card deposit over the phone. As a courtesy, we can hold your space for five days while you are making personal and travel arrangements.

If you prefer, you can register online by clicking "Sign Up for this Trip" on the trip page.

Please be sure to read the AdventureWomen policies before registering!

Making Travel Arrangements to Delhi, India

You will need to arrive in Delhi, India by Wednesday, March 15. Whatever time you arrive, you will be met on arrival and escorted to the hotel. You will need to depart the United States on March 14 in order to arrive in Delhi on March 15.

You can plan your departure for March 25 from Delhi to the US on an evening flight. The flight from Varanasi to Delhi on that day currently arrives in Delhi at approximately 12:20pm. You will have a hotel room for the rest of the day and evening, and if you can't fly out that evening, you can stay in the rooms and fly out the next morning. You will be transferred to the airport for your international flight.

For those on the Agra/Jaipur extension, you will return to Delhi by approximately 3:00pm on March 29, and be transferred to your hotel for overnight. You can depart anytime late evening March 29 or in the morning of March 30.

We are happy to help you make your flight and travel arrangements. Please contact us for more information.

NOTE: The recent trend in travel is for travelers to finalize their plans much closer to departure time than was customary in the past. While we try to be as flexible as possible booking last minute registrants, we must often relinquish hotel space and air reservations up to 6 – 12 weeks prior to departure!

Please keep this in mind when making your travel plans.

Final Payment

Final payment is due to AdventureWomen, LLC in a cash form (check, money order or wire transfer) on or before December 15, 2016.

Money

India’s unit of currency is the India Rupee. As of May 9, 2016, 1 USD = 66.59 INR (India Rupees).

Bring US cash and credit cards. Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly used credit cards and are widely accepted in most hotels, restaurants, and department stores. American Express is not as widely accepted. ATMs are available in large cities, and sometimes in smaller ones.

You can find the current rate of exchange at the following website:  http://www.xe.com/ucc/

Gratuities

Following is a recommendation for gratuities throughout the trip, in per person costs, in Rupees and US Dollars:

- $1.50 (INR 100) for hotel Porters
- $1.00 (INR 70) per meal, for lunches and dinners at restaurants
- $5.00 (INR 350) for accompanying Bilingual guide, per day (main trip)
- $3.00 (INR 210) to local guides for a day excursion. Day excursions include 1 day each
Khajuraho and Varanasi on the main trip: plus 2 days in Agra and 1 day in Jaipur on the
extension
- $2.00-$2.50 (INR 140-175) per day to the driver. Approximately 5 days for main trip, and 5 days on the extension
- Tipping for small services such as restroom attendants would be 20 Rupees
- For the two Game Parks, for 5 days: we will tip depending on the number of jeeps, jeep drivers, forest guides, lodge naturalists, and the number of game drives in the parks. It will be an approximate cost of $60-$75 per person.

Total tips for the main trip will be approximately $175 - $200 U.S.
For the extension, add tips for meals and local guides, for an additional $50 - $65.

Climate

The best time to travel in India is during the cooler and drier months between October and March.

Electricity

India uses 230 Volts, 50 Hz alternating current as the power source. Plugs and sockets have either grounded / earthed 3 Pin connections (Type D) or ungrounded 2 pin connections (Type C), which is called a Europlug.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

India: Wild and Classic

What's Included:

  • Superior accommodations throughout as indicated or similar, in twin bedded double rooms.
  • Breakfast daily, lunch and dinner as specified in itinerary.
  • Sightseeing in National Parks, and points of interest as indicated, escorted by naturalist guide in air-conditioned private coaches and 4X4 vehicles.
  • Mineral water, sparkling water, wet wipes and hand sanitizers, and snacks provided complimentary in vehicles.
  • Specialist, bilingual guide throughout the main itinerary.
  • Bilingual station guide for the extension to Agra and Jaipur.
  • AdventureWomen Associate/Escort (on main itinerary)
  • All applicable hotel and lodge taxes and gratuities.
  • All entry fees along with still camera charges at all monuments and National Parks.
  • Complimentary baggage tags and passport wallet.

What's Not Included:

  • Air transportation between your hometown and Delhi, including fuel surcharges & airline taxes (quoted separately).
  • Internal airfare between Delhi and Jabalpur, Khajuraho and Varanasi, Varanasi and Delhi (main itinerary). $350 and subject to change.
  • Internal airfare between Varanasi and Agra as well as Varanasi and Delhi (post extension). $70 and subject to change.
  • Passport and visa fees and service charges for obtaining visas. Currently, visas are required for entry into India.
  • Gratuities to driver/guides, specialist-guide and other conveyance attendants. Please see the "Gratuities" section in the Itinerary.
  • Excess baggage charges levied by airlines.
  • Meals and beverages, other than specified.
  • Laundry and other items of a personal nature.
  • Personal and baggage insurance.
  • Cost for anything not specifically mentioned in the listing above.
  • Optional Balloon Ride on Agra/Jaipur extension (cost is $220 per person).

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

India: Wild and Classic

What To Bring

LUGGAGE WEIGHT ALLOWANCE

The baggage allowance for traveling in Economy Class is 15 Kgs (30 lbs.) for checked-in baggage and 7 Kgs (15 lbs.) for carry-on baggage. Any overweight luggage will be charged an additional cost of $5 USD Per Kg (per 2.2 lbs).

Luggage, Clothing, and Travel Accessories: Three words of packing advice for your adventure in India: LIGHT, LIGHT, LIGHT! It is best to condense your luggage into one manageable suitcase with wheels and one daypack or backpack (carry-on size). Also, a spare, very light, duffel bag or day pack rolled or folded into your wheeled suitcase is useful for transporting souvenir items home. There are wonderful handicrafts and weavings available in India!

We suggest you use your daypack as your carry-on bag during your flights. In it you should have all valuables and essentials: medications, passports and all important documents, cameras and memory cards, a day’s change of clothing, lightweight sleepwear, and toiletries.

Put luggage ID tags outside AND identification inside your baggage. If your bag is lost and the outside ID tag and baggage stickers are dislodged, the airlines may open the bag to search for an ID inside your bag. (We will send you 3 tags for the outside of your bags.)

You should also be aware of any new airline regulations (www.tsa.gov/travel) about what you can and cannot bring in your carry-on bag, and what you must put in your checked luggage.

Luggage, Clothing and Travel Accessories

Dress in India is “casual and comfortable”. It is not appropriate for women to wear shorts, and you should wear long sleeve shirts or tops (not sleeveless) during excursions to temples and mosques, plus carry a stole or a scarf to cover your heads.

  • Clothing should be lightweight, quick drying, and breathable. Pay special attention to sun protection needs. Long sleeves and wide brim hats are recommended.
  • Underwear. Synthetics are easier to wash and dry.
  • Sleepwear.
  • Shirts: Long-sleeve, synthetic or cotton shirts because they are featherweight, durable, wrinkle-resistant, and dry quickly. Those with multiple, closed (velcro or zipper) pockets are excellent.
  • Short-sleeve synthetic or cotton T-Shirts. Those with multiple, closed (velcro or zipper) pockets are excellent.
  • Sweater/Jacket: Medium-weight sweater or jacket made of synthetic fabric (fleece) for cool evenings.
  • Vest: A lightweight, multi-pocket, photo journalist-type vest is excellent for day use (use it to store film, cameras, binoculars, etc.).
  • Pants: Full-length pants, preferably of quick-drying synthetic fabric with many zippered pockets, and capris.
  • Bathing Suit.
  • Sun hat with a wide brim, preferably with a chin strap to keep it from blowing off.
  • Gore-Tex rain/wind parka and/or sturdy poncho to protect day pack and camera gear from rain or water spray. (This can be your jacket, as listed above, as long as it is waterproof).
  • Athletic socks (synthetic for easy washing and drying) that are suitable for your lightweight walking shoes.
  • Sturdy, properly fitting footwear can make your trip much more comfortable and enjoyable. Very comfortable, lightweight walking shoes are a good option. We will be doing a lot of walking on this trip, so bring shoes that you will be comfortable in for all day wear.
  • Sandals (Teva-type sandals or similar: Merrill’s, Keens, etc.).
  • 3-4 cotton bandanas (it’s an AdventureWomen tradition!).
  • One or two sets of nice, lightweight casual clothes for evening dinners or social activities (maybe a lightweight skirt to be included).
  • Lightweight cotton clothes are very available to buy in markets and from street vendors.

Personal Items

  • Passport and Indian Visa.
  • 2-3 spare passport photos to bring on the trip (in case of lost passport/visa).
  • Battery operated travel alarm clock.
  • Extra batteries for cameras, alarm clock, etc.
  • Small flashlight with extra batteries and bulb.
  • Sunglasses, case (90% - 100% ultraviolet and some infrared protection).
  • Contact lenses, cleaner, saline solution, extra eyeglasses with safety band.
  • Money belt.
  • Bring S. cash and credit cards. Visa and MC are the most commonly used credit cards and are widely accepted in most hotels, restaurants, and department stores. ATMs are in larger cities, and infrequent in smaller ones.
  • Address book, writing paper, or journal, pen/pencil.
  • Daypack (also serves as an airline carry-on bag and for daily excursions from the boat).
  • Plastic water bottle. Nalgene plastic is recommended as there is no plastic taste in the heat.
  • TSA approved locks for your suitcase/ carry-on bag.
  • Ziploc-type bags for packing shampoo or other liquids, or wet, dirty clothing.
  • Washcloth (not supplied in many hotels, etc.).
  • Personal toiletries in small leak-proof bottles.
  • We recommend Mack's Pillow Soft White Moldable Silicone Snore Proof Earplugs, which you can buy at most drugstores, or www.earplugstore.com. Good to 22 Decibels!
  • Biodegradable bar soap (can double as laundry soap for washing undies).
  • Tampons or sanitary napkin supply (not always widely available).
  • Thread, needles, safety pins for minor repairs.
  • Your favorite, and effective, insect repellent.
  • Wash & Dries (or other antiseptic wipes) for hand washing and emergency toilet paper.
  • A mini-sized English – India - English phrase book dictionary.
  • Lonely Planet/or Eyewitness Travel Guide/or other book on India.

Personal First Aid Kit

  • Foot powder for moisture absorption; cloth, not plastic Bandaids; about 10 individually wrapped alcohol pads; and a small tube of Neosporin or other antibiotic cream.
  • Aspirin/ibuprofen, etc.
  • Cold-symptom relief tablets, antihistamine, cough drops.
  • Adequate quantity of sweat-resistant sun screen with at least an SPF 15 rating or higher, and lip balm with sunscreen.
  • Tweezers
  • Ace bandage.
  • Antibiotics (Cipro, or another systemic antibiotic).
  • Prescription medicines in their original bottles.
  • Acidophilus enzyme (available in capsules in health-food stores). This often helps your digestive system get in shape for “new” flora.
  • Immodium, Lomotil, or similar anti-diarrhea medicine.
  • Pepto-Bismol tablets and/or liquid (in leak-proof bottle).
  • Emergen-C. Good for higher altitudes, and some people swear they get fewer colds on airplanes if they take this during flights.

Camera Equipment

For many women, photography will be a VERY LARGE part of this trip. The opportunities are endless, and the scenery spectacular! We suggest that you bring many more memory cards and batteries than you think you could ever use!

  • Digital camera, memory cards, battery charger, and adapter. In India, triple round pin sockets are the norm. Most digital cameras have a built in converter so you probably only need to bring an adapter. You can also purchase adapter plugs in stores.

Optional

  • Small, lightweight binoculars.
  • Pictures of your house, pets, and family (local people love to see this!).
  • Reading material.
  • Extra, lightweight duffel bag (empty, and packed inside your suitcase).

Pre Departure Tasks

  • Obtain or renew passport.
  • Obtain necessary visa for India.
  • Evaluate and obtain trip cancellation, baggage, and medical insurance.
  • Consult with physician for physical examination, immunization, and prescription medicine recommendations.

 Last Minute Reminders

  • Make photocopies of your airline tickets and the first two pages of your passport, and put them in different locations (suitcase, carry-on bag, etc.).
  • Bring 2-3 extra passport size photos to use in emergencies.
  • Your valuables should be insured for the duration of the trip, but better yet, leave them at home.
  • Remove extra credit cards, driver’s license, and personal items from wallet or purse.
  • Make sure passport and airline tickets are valid and in the correct name.
  • Check with airline to reconfirm reservations and departure time (most airlines want to hear directly from the client for confirmations).
  • Please leave all valuable jewelry at home!!!

Some Extra Items to Add to your "What to Pack" List 

We think these items help make your long airline flights much more comfortable and even more bearable:

  • Neck pillow - Inflatable neck pillow for blissful support and deep sleep. For packing, it folds into itself. Self-sealing valve means nothing to close. Soft microfleece cover removes for washing.
  • Sleep mask /Comfort eye shade - Ultra lightweight and comfortable, the Comfort Eye Shade screens out light and distractions for a cozier flight. Ultra-soft micro fleece for comfort. Adjustable elastic strap for a perfect fit. Made of Molded Polyester Micro Fleece.
  • Travel compression socks - Reduce ankle and leg swelling and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. These doctor-designed socks stimulate circulation through gradual compression that stops swelling and guards against (DVT). Made of coolmax®-lycra®-nylon. The TravelSox® cushion Walk Socks have extra-padded soles and are made of moisture wicking SoftPrim®.
  • Noise canceling headphones - Block out unwanted sounds of children crying and airplane engine drone, and/or enjoy great audio sound. Reduce distortion and increase perceived loudness so you can enjoy sound at a lower volume. Get the around the ear design, which is very comfortable.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.