March 29th-April 13th 2012

DAY 0: Depart from home.  If you are flying from the US, we can arrange flights from either LAX or JFK for you, on Turkish Airlines or Cathay Pacific.  Air is not included, but we are happy to help!

DAY 1, March 29/March 30:  Arrive in Delhi from your international flight (if you are coming with us, you will arrive after midnight on the morning of the 30th, so we have a room all ready for you), and check into the gorgeous Shangri-La hotel.  Relax and unwind… you have a whole day to rest… (B)

DAY 2, March 30: Evening Orientation Meeting and dinner with your fellow travelers, as we shake off our travel and get ready for an incredible trip! (B)

Day 3, March 31: DELHI-VARANASI (FLIGHT IT331 AT 09:20)  This morning, a short flight will take us to Varanasi. On arrival transfer to our hotel. In the afternoon, take an excursion to  Sarnath, where Buddha set the ‘wheel of dharma’ rolling.  Drive back to Varanasi, then in the evening, visit Ghat and see the Aarti ceremonies (evening prayer) performed by 5 pandits. (B)

DAY 04, April 1: VARANASI  Before sunrise, we will drive to Ghats on the River Ganges, then enjoy a boat ride on the river itself. Witness the fascinating early morning rituals being performed by Hindu devotees along the river bank, including the cremation Ghats. Then walk through the narrow lanes on the riverside to visit the Golden Temple: Durga Temple, known also as the Monkey Temple due to the large number of monkeys who live there. After a leisurely breakfast, enjoy sightseeing at Benares Hindu University and the Bharat Mata Temple. (B)

DAY 05, April 2: VARANASI – KHAJURAHO   (FLIGHT 9W 723 AT 12:20) After breakfast, we will board our flight for Khajuraho. This evening, enjoy a Light & Sound Show. (B)

DAY 06, April 3:  KHAJURAHO  Today, we take a city tour of some of the most important temples in India. The Western Group of Temples includes: The Kandariya Mahadev (dedicated to Lord Shiva), Matangeshwara temple (the plainest, but the only one still used daily), The Lakshman (dedicated to Lord Vishnu), The Devi Jagdamba (dedicated to the Godesses Parvati and Kali), and The Chaunsath Yogini, the oldest surviving temple (and the only one dedicated solely to the Goddess Kali). The Eastern Group of Temples, also known as the Jain group, features the Jain temples of Parasnath, Adinath, and Shantinagh, which also have wonderful carvings of the Brahman pantheon of gods, as well as images of women engaged in daily activities, such as applying kohl, fastening ankle bells, etc.  These famous temples comprise the Kama Sutra temples, with some of the most magnificent erotic carvings and sculptures in all the world. (B)

DAY 07, April 4:  KHAJURAHO – ORCHA – AGRA (Shatabdi express 18:05) Morning drive to Orcha. Visit the temples and Orcha Palace. In the evening, we have an hour’s drive to Jhansi station take the Shatabdi Express train to Agra. Upon arrival in Agra we’ll transfer to the beautiful ITC Mughal, our home for the next 3 nights.  (B)

DAY 08, April 5: AGRA Today we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of the Agra Fort. The elegant building, built by Emperor Akbar, reflects an interesting synthesis of Hindu and Central Asian architectural style.  Then we will visit the Tomb of Itamad-ud-Daula, built by Empress Noorjehan in loving memory of her father. Then it’s on to a visit through the Market of Agra. We wlll also enjoy a demonstration of marble craftsmanship featuring inlay work of precious and semi-precious stones. (B)

DAY 09, April 6: AGRA Early morning, we will enjoy our first visit to the Taj Mahal — by sunrise, so that we can take pictures of this UNESCO Heritage site during the day.  Regarded as one of the Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal was built by Emperor Shahjahan in pure white marble, in memory of his beloved Mumtaz Mahal.

We return to our hotel for breakfast, then it’s on to Fatehpur Sikri, about 20 miles west of Agra. During the days of Akbar, the most prominent of the Mughal emperors, Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of Mughal India. After his death, the city was abandoned, supposedly due to a water shortage or drought in the capital region. Fatehpur Sikri is now a ghost city, popular among both tourists and archeologists. Here we will visit magnificent ruins of a bygone era — some in an excellent state of preservation, some literally covered by shrubs and bushes.

Tonight is a highlight of our tour! A full moon night viewing of that iconic symbol of India, the Taj Mahal.  While daily the Taj receives thousands of visitors, during the full moon ONLY, the Taj Mahal is open for 30-minute viewings, and limited to groups of 50, so we will practically have the place to ourselves

DAY 10, April 7: AGRA – RAMATHRA After breakfast, we take a 6-hour drive to Ramathra, enjoying all the scenery of India in our air-conditioned coach.  Upon arrival, check in to our charming hotel, home for our next four nights. Relax and explore the surroundings. (B/D)

Ramathra Fort offers several fascinating optional activities and excursions, which you may take in at your leisure.  If an additional cost is associated with an activity, it has been stated below:

• Ramathra Village Trail: A complete walking tour of Ramathra village, a small hamlet of farmers and cattle herders, the tour takes about 3 hours. You’ll see all kinds of locals tending crops and animals, and get a real feel for the bucolic Indian life.

• Boating at Sunset – take a row boat at the Kalisil Dam. It is peaceful & picturesque with breathtaking views of sunset, rich with wildlife.

• Bird Watching: There are a variety of species of birds seen around the Fort and Lake. Bird watching can be done at the lake, at the marshes below the fort or during your walk to the village.

• Wilderness Drive – Tour the countryside, visit ‘Gujar’ hamlets, and explore a cavernous gorge and an old cave temple. Return early evening for possible wildlife sightings enroute. ($35 per person)

• Night Safaris at Ramathra fort: Jeep safaris from Ramathra Fort take you across the Daang plateau stretching Rast to the Chambal River Valley and as far as Ranthambhor to the south, This area is filled with gorges, Until recently, tigers roamed the area, but visitors regularly see several varieties of deer, blue bulls, wolves, jackals, hyenas and perhaps a wild boar, bear or leopard. ($42 per person)

• Cycling at Ramathra Fort –  (10 Kms) with a route map. Cycle through nearby villages and along the unspoiled lake and magnificent countryside; see nature at its best ($21 per person)

• Yoga at Ramathra Fort – With an experienced yoga teacher, these classes are held twice daily on terraces with fabulous views of sunrise & sunset, and include a complimentary health drink ($21 per class)

• A day-trip to Karauli: An hour’s drive from Ramathra, the city palace in Karauli and the Temple of Madanmohanji are very well preserved. The Karauli bazaar is a busy place to explore and shop in. Lacquered bangles are a specialty and you can see bangle makers at work. ($42 per person)

• A Jeep Safari to Ranthambhore: This is a full-day 4-wheel drive trip through picturesque villages across the river Banas, including a lunch visit to the Ranthambhore Fort. ($70 per person)

DAY 11/DAY 12/DAY 13, April 8-10: RAMATHRA Days are free to enjoy Ramathra Fort and all of the above activities. (B/L/D)

DAY 14, April 11: RAMATHRA – GANGAPUR- DELHI (Golden Temple mail: 1325/1830) Breakfast at hotel. Morning transfer to the railway station to take the train for Delhi. Upon arrival, we’ll check back into the fabulous Shangri-La Hotel. Overnight stay at hotel.

DAY 15, April 12: DELHI  After breakfast, we will visit the Red Fort, a massive sandstone fort built by Shah Jahan on the banks of river Yamuna.  There we will see Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, which stands across the road from the Red Fort, built in 1656 by Shahjahan. About 20,000 people can pray here at a time! Jama Masjid was built from 1644 to 1658 in the reign of Shahjahan. The mosque is physically the greatest religious construction of Islam.  We will also visit Rajghat,  the cremation ground of the great father of peace, Mahatama Gandhi. In the afternoon, we will sight-see in New Delhi, visiting Qutub Minar, the tower of victory started by Qutub-Ud-Din-Aibak in 1199 AD when he became the Sultan of Delhi.  Then it’s on to the Lotus Temple: this distinctive lotus-shaped marvel in Marble is a symbol of peace.  Finally, we will visit India Gate (the war memorial) and see the outside of the Presidents House.  This evening, you will be our guests at an intimate Farewell Dinner!

DAY 16, April 13: DELHI Transfer to the airport to return home!