Flights usually depart London in the evening.
For those who are on the group flights we land in Delhi in the morning. Those not on the group flights will need to be at the start hotel by 9am (or at the airport when the group land). Once everyone has arrived we will then depart for Agra. During the evening we visit the imposing Red Fort of Akbar, whose mighty sandstone walls enclose the beautiful white marble Pearl Mosque and the palaces, halls, courtyards and fountains of his sons and successors, Jehangir and Shah Jahan.
A very early start to see the incredible spectacle of the sunrise over the Taj Mahal. The Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631, built the beautiful white marble Taj Mahal. The Taj is serenely beautiful and never fails to amaze a first time visitor; the white marble exterior changes colour according to the position of the sun during the day and is matched by the rich interior detail. After our visit it's time to leave Agra and drive to Ranthambore. On the way we visit Fatehpur Sikri which is the emperor Akbar's deserted royal city. This impressive and well-preserved citadel became his capital in 1571, after the blessing of a local Moslem holy man correctly predicted the birth of a longed-for son, his successor the Emperor Jehangir. The mosque, designed to hold ten thousand worshippers, the palaces, residences and halls of audience are all made of decorative red sandstone. But this magnificence only lasted 14 years, as in 1584 Akbar left Fatehpur Sikri to secure his outlying territories, leaving this city much as we see it today - in perfect condition. This is another very full but rewarding day.
Today is slightly more relaxed as we take two game drives into Ranthambore National Park, one of India's tiger reserves under Project Tiger. Sadly, after initial success, poaching has drastically reduced the tiger population, but many Exodus groups over the last few years have seen wild tigers. There is other wildlife, such as several species of monkey, deer, crocodiles, birdlife, and together with the scenery, make the visit well worth it.
Today we leave Ranthambore and drive to Bundi. Bundi is a small town with a rustic setting that stands on the foothills of the Aravali Mountains. This town is very famous for its step wells (baolis), havelis, temples and chhatris with carved pillars. The mural adorned palaces, the forts and the monuments tell tales about the glorious past of the city. A picturesque lake where the entire city and the palaces get reflected in the lake adds a stunning quality to the place. In the afternoon we will visit Bundi Fort.
Today we set off on our 145 mile journey to Udaipur. Known as 'The Pearl of Rajasthan', the 'City of Sunrise' and 'Venice of the East', Udaipur is a beautiful place regarded by both Indians and travellers as the most romantic city in India.
Situated on the east side of Lake Pichola, the main palace commands an unsurpassed view across the shimmering lake to the dusty Aravalli Hills with the luxurious Lake Palace hotel adding to the scene. Lake Pichola has two islands, each with a palace to rival that on the mainland; Jag Mandir and Jag Nivas (the latter is now the Lake Palace Hotel) rise out of their own reflections in the waters of the lake. Udaipur is surrounded by a massive bastion with five gates and dominating the town is the City Palace of the Maharana. The sumptuous apartments are decorated with multi-coloured mosaics, elaborate mirror work and inlaid tiles; half of these can be visited as the current Maharaja still occupies the rest of the palace. We spend the morning visiting the City Palace and Jagdish Temple, with a huge black stone image of Jagannath, an aspect of Lord Vishnu. If time allows it may be possible to visit the gardens of Gulab Bag or take a boat trip on the lake. The afternoon is free to enjoy this evocative city.
Following the scenic road out of the beautiful lakeside town of Udaipur we head towards Jodhpur. On the way we stop and visit the stunning 15th Century Jain Temple at Ranakpur. The main temple, beautifully carved from marble, is dedicated to Adinath. It has 29 halls supported by 1444 pillars, each delicately carved with a different design. Jodhpur was founded by the Rajput chief Roa Jodha and was formerly the capital of the State of Marwar. The city is surrounded by an immense wall almost ten kilometres in circumference and is dominated by the massive fort that stands on a rocky hill commanding the surrounding desert.
First thing in the morning we will visit the magnificent Meherangarh Fort from where you will have a great view of the blue houses, painted to distinguish them as those of Brahmins. The fort itself looks massive from the outside but inside there is an impressive collection of finely carved sandstone screens and lattice windows, and the palaces themselves are very finely decorated.We then head to Pushkar, pilgrimage town and home to the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. Steeped in mysticism and surrounded by the desert this little town is a holy site on the fringes of a lake. This is a great place to relax and soak up the atmosphere.
In the morning we do some sightseeing; in the center of town is holy Pushkar lake surrounded by a number of temples including the famous Bramha temple said to be the only temple in the world dedicated to this deity. A dip in the waters of Pushkar lake and worship at Bramha temple ensure salvation. In the afternoon we drive to Jaipur.
A day of sightseeing. The Pink City of Jaipur is one of the most attractive and colourful cities in India. Rajah Jai Singh decided to abandon his nearby fortress and palace at Amber in 1727 and laid out a planned city of broad avenues, built of sandstone and painted pink at a later stage. In the centre of Jaipur is the City Palace, formerly the residence of the Maharaja, it is now a fine museum containing rare manuscripts, paintings, royal garments and weapons. Close to the palace is one of the most intriguing sights of India, the observatory of Jai Singh. This is an assembly of immense astronomical instruments made of marble and brass set in a pleasant garden. We will also see Jaipur's impressive landmark, the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. A few miles from the main city is the splendid Amber Palace, rising above a lake. The imposing hilltop fort contains large courtyards and interiors with fine decorations including inlaid alabaster panels and a Chamber of Mirrors. We can walk or ride an elephant (optional) up the hill and through the massive gateway to the courtyard. Jaipur is a centre of many handicrafts, such as durries (woven rugs), carpets, printed cloth, semi-precious stones, leatherware etc.; it will be difficult to leave a workshop without buying anything!
In the morning we travel back to Delhi and if time allows on arrival we will do some sightseeing in the afternoon. In New Delhi we see the fine colonial buildings. Built by the British Raj in the early years of this century and set in spacious tree-lined boulevards these now house various Indian governmental departments. We also visit Qutub Minar, standing at 72.5 metres, it is the highest stone tower in India with 379 steps leading to its top story. Finally we visit Rajghat, the final resting place of 'Father of the Nation', popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi throughout the world. The cremation ground is now marked by a square platform made of black marble stone. It is a very simple and elementary structure made to commemorate the memories of a man who himself was very simple in his lifestyle and approach. Four stone footpaths approach the consecrated platform each from the four gates. The structure is located amidst acres of beautiful sprawling gardens. In the late afternoon you can do some last minute shopping!
Those on the flight inclusive package will depart for London this morning for the daytime flight back to London; Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.