Rajasthan - Royal Castles, Forts and Palaces: 21-Day Independent Tour

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Detailed Itinerary, Trip Costs & Inclusions
Departs every Sunday, Tuesday and Friday
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Departure Date from USAHotel
9/1 - 12/6/2017$4999$5879
12/7/17 - 1/10/18$5239$6189
1/11 - 3/31/2018$5239$6189
Single Supplement$1999$2699

One child under 12, sharing parents' room, pays 75%, others pay adult rates.

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Normal traffic on a Jaipur street!

What’s Included:
The above price includes Round-trip air, including applicable fuel surcharges and airport taxes/fees,
from New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles to Delhi, twin-share accommodation in castles, palaces & forts in the state of Rajasthan and first-class hotels in Delhi & Agra, breakfast and dinner daily, all tours and transfers by air-conditioned vehicle, entrance fees to all sights mentioned in the itinerary, assistance from local English speaking guides at each city and our trip planning services.

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The Amber Fort, near Jaipur

What’s Not:
Prices do not include meals other than those indicated, expenses of a personal nature like drinks, telephone calls, laundry, photography fees and any items not specifically mentioned above. Travel Insurance is not included and is strongly recommended.
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The Hawa Mahal Palace, Jaipur
Days 1 & 2
Leave the United States this evening for your flight to India. East Coast departures involve a transit stop in Europe and West Coast departures involve a transit stop in Asia.

Day 3
Early this morning after your arrival in New Delhi, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your downtown hotel. Later in the day, a half-day tour through the old city of Delhi has been arranged for you. Visit the Red Fort, an imposing red sandstone monument enclosed within walls reaching up to 100 feet. Inside, there are impressive halls used by Mughal emperors of the past for public and private audiences, a small mosque built of dazzling white marble, royal baths and other imperial buildings. Leaving the fort your next stop is at the Jumma Masjid – a great mosque built by the emperor Shah Jehan, who also built the Taj Mahal. This is the largest mosque in the Indian subcontinent and an impressive piece of architecture by any standards. Around the mosque are narrow lanes crammed with shops selling every conceivable item – undoubtedly a photographer’s delight! Later, visit Raj Ghat - a memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, where he was cremated on the banks of the river Jamuna. You will be brought back to your hotel after the tour and the rest of the evening is free.

Day 4
A sightseeing tour of New Delhi has been arranged for you this morning: Visit the Laxmi Narayan temple – a large modern temple in the heart of the city. Drive past the impressive President’s Office as well as India Gate – a 125’ stone "arch of triumph" erected in memory of the Indian soldiers who fell in WW1. Visit the tomb of Humayun, the second Mughal emperor. This is an early example of Mughal architecture was refined over the years to the magnificence of the Taj Mahal in Agra.

Later in the day, leave Delhi by chauffeur driven car for Neemrana Fort, about 80 miles away. This was a castle of the former ruler of the area and has now operates as a boutique hotel after a careful restoration. Watch the setting sun from the ramparts of the Fort, before retiring for the night.

Day 5
After breakfast proceed to Nawalgarh, an important town in the Shekhawati region – about 150 miles away. This area was part of an important 19th century trading route, and as business prospered, this new found money was spent on construction. The merchants’ houses (known as ‘havelis’) were decorated with beautiful painted murals. One-upmanship ensured a race to build bigger and better (i.e. more decorated) houses, as a result of which the whole region today has the appearance of a living museum.

Day 6
Drive northwest this morning, your destination being Bikaner – about 145 miles away, and an important town on the edge of the Thar Desert. The drive, though long and dusty, will undoubtedly be fascinating: Pass by villages with smiling children waving you on, camel trains loaded with merchandise for sale in country markets, shepherds tending their flock and so on. The amazing part of all this is the abundance of color in this otherwise bleak desert landscape – the Rajput men with their turbans and the women with their colorful ankle-length skirts and blouses with silver jewelry. Just before entering Bikaner, stop at the royal cenotaphs, known as Devi Kund – where hundreds of cenotaphs with beautiful stonework dot the otherwise barren landscape.

This afternoon, visit Junagarh Fort, an important local landmark. This fort (which is also a royal residence) has a large collection of antique armaments and paintings; perhaps more fascinating are the painted interior walls and frescoes on the ceiling. The fort houses a number of royal buildings, courtyards and temples, all of which are well worth exploring. Your overnight accommodation has been booked in Bikaner tonight.

Day 7
Our next stop is Khimsar, another former Rajput kingdom about 112 miles away from Bikaner. The local fort has been converted into a small boutique hotel with modern amenities. The area is rich in wildlife, especially deer, antelopes and black buck; jeep safaris are available from the hotel to scout for wildlife and also visit the endless sand dunes of the Thar Desert – particularly attractive in the golden hues of the setting sun. Return to hotel in the evening and overnight at Khimsar Fort.

Day 8
Roughly 165 miles to the north lies the border town of Jaisalmer, undoubtedly the highlight of any trip to Rajasthan. This remote town has a magic quality about it, not least because of its imposing fort, which sits atop a hill, its yellow sandstone ramparts glowing gold in the light of the afternoon sun. Pass some typical Rajasthani desert scenery on your way to Jaisalmer,

After Breakfast proceed to Jaisalmer en route visiting a few typical villages. After you have checked in to your hotel and relaxed for a while, head out to the gardens of Bara Bagh, which are watered from an old dam. This is a great vantage spot to watch the setting sun. Many of the cenotaphs you see in the foreground commemorate the now outlawed practice of ‘sati’ – where widows voluntarily threw themselves on the burning funeral pyres of their dead husbands, since they considered it unworthy to live without their husbands! Overnight in Jaisalmer.

Day 9
Take a guided walk through the fort of Jaisalmer, which was built in 12th century and still houses a fourth of the city’s population. Hundreds of years ago, Jaisalmer was an important trading post between Central Asia and India and this brought great wealth to the merchants of the city. They in turn built beautiful mansions from the locally quarried golden yellow sandstone, delicately carved by skilled craftsmen. The result is that today there is a virtual living museum little changed from its medieval past!

Day 10
No visitor fails to be awed by the magic charm of Jaisalmer, and you have a free day here to wander around and explore on your own.

Day 11
An early start today sets you off on the drive down to Jodhpur – 180 miles away and one of Rajasthan’s largest and most important cities. The town is dominated by the local fort, which sits atop a rocky hill. The Maharaja of Jodhpur still lives and inside there is a fantastic collection of miniature paintings (of various schools), superb musical instruments, antique furniture, palanquins and elephant saddles (‘howdahs’) and much more. Later, proceed to Luni Fort, which is about only 25 miles away from Jodhpur. Like many other former royals, the owners of the fort have been compelled to take in paying guests, now that they have been deprived of their kingdoms! Enjoy a touch of luxury in the midst of the desert, as you spend the night at Luni Fort.

Day 12
After breakfast today, proceed to Ghanerao, an attractive town on the outskirts of Udaipur. Your accommodations tonight will be at the Ghanerao Royal Castle, and this forms a good base for exploring the sights around Udaipur.

Day 13
This morning we head towards Udaipur, stopping en route at the Ranakpur Temple. This is one of the most important and the biggest Jain Temple complexes in India. The main temple in the complex is "Chaumukah" or four-faced temple dedicated to Adinath. This huge, well-kept temple has 29 halls, supported by 1444 exquisitely carved pillars, no two of which are alike. Check in to your hotel in Udaipur and enjoy a free evening.

Day 14
A comprehensive city tour is planned for this morning. Take in the sights of what is perhaps India’s most romantic city, located by the side of a cool lake with a fantastic palace situated right in the midst of the lake. Udaipur’s City Palace, towering over the lake, is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. The main part of the palace is now preserved as museum with a motley collection of objets d’art. The museum includes Mor Chowk with a collection of antique European and Indian porcelain figurines, Krishna Vilas has a remarkable collection of miniature paintings and the Moti Mahal has beautiful inlaid mirror work.

This afternoon a trip is planned to two historical sites about 10 miles north of the city – first, visit the temple of Eklingji. The temple was originally built in the 15th century, and like most sacred buildings in the region, it is made entirely of white marble. The roof is decorated by hundreds of circular knobs and crowned by a lofty tower. In the inner shrine there is a four-faced black marble ‘lingam’ of the god Shiva. A short distance away is Nagada, the scene of many battles between the Moghuls and the Rajputs. Although mostly in ruins now, there are two temples dating from the 11th century, both decorated with interesting carvings.

At the end of the tour, return to Udaipur for your overnight stay.



Day 15
Day 15
After breakfast today, we drive to Dungarpur – another former Rajput kingdom, about 67 miles away from Udaipur. Many of the former palaces and houses of noblemen here have been very well preserved, and your accommodations tonight will be at the Udai Bilas Palace, a part of which is still the residence of the former royal family while the other part has been converted into a hotel. Must see sights include Juna Mahal, a 13th century palace strategically located on a rocky peak some 1500 feet above sea level. Built on seven levels, the building represents a fortress with steep outer walls, turrets and narrow entrances and passages, all designed to slow down attacking enemy forces while the defenders remained on top. Juna Mahal, which is still owned by the former royal family, also houses many works of art (frescoes, miniature paintings, glass & mirror inlaid buildings etc.) and can be visited by invitation only.

Another local attraction is the Gaib Sagar lake, with its clusters of small temples, intricately carved by the craftsmen of Dungarpur.

Day 16
Early this morning we drive some 130 miles to the former capital of the Mewar Kingdom, Chittorgarh. This is a place of enormous historical significance, since this is where the Rajputs were defeated by the Moghuls and having been forced to abandon their capital, moved to Udaipur, where they established a new capital. The fort of Chittorgarh, built in 9th century, is reputedly the largest in India. There are many legends of chivalry and valor, but none so poignant as the (true) story of the Rajput women throwing themselves on burning fires when their men had lost the battle for Chittorgarh – they would rather die than be taken captive by the Moghuls!

After visiting the fort, drive about 25 miles to the village of Bijaipur, where the former castle of the local ruler has now been converted into a small hotel, for your overnight accommodations.

Day 17
A long day’s drive awaits you today – leaving Bijaipur we head east towards Jaipur, about 235 miles away. On the way, we stop at the town of Roopangarh – famous for its 17th century fort.

Upon arrival in Jaipur early this evening, check in to your hotel.

Day 18
Visit the City Palace this morning, which is a blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture. The former Maharaja still lives in a part of this Palace, and the remainder has been converted into a museum. It has an extensive collection of artwork, carpets, enamelware and weaponry. The paintings include miniatures from Rajasthani, Mughal and Persian schools. Just outside the Palace is the ancient "Jantar Manter" (or observatory). At first glance, this medieval observatory appears to be a just curious collection of strangely shaped buildings. In fact they are cleverly designed for specific purposes, such as measuring the position of stars, calculating eclipses etc. all without any of the modern instruments which we take for granted today.

Enjoy a free afternoon today – scout around the shops in the bazaars selling all sorts of things including fabulous textiles, jewelry and gemstones, go out to do some photography – there is certainly no shortage of subjects or simply relax in your hotel. Overnight in Jaipur today.

Day 19
Visit the 16th century Amber Fort this morning. Located on the outskirts of the city, the fortress is a superb example of Rajput architecture, stunningly situated on top of a hill, overlooking a lake, which reflects its terraces and ramparts. You will be spared the normally arduous climb up to the Fort, since arrangements have been made to have you transported on elephant back – just as the Maharajas used to do!

After visiting Amber, carry on east towards Agra. During the winter months (approx. November through March) it is well worthwhile to stop on the way at the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, which is only a short detour away from the main road. More than 150 species of birds can be found here and the sanctuary is famous for the migratory birds, especially Siberian cranes.

Before reaching Agra, we stop at Fatehpur Sikri, which was the capital of Mughal Empire during the reign of Akbar. Seventeen years after the city was built, it was suddenly and dramatically abandoned, since all the water wells had dried up. Today, this perfectly preserved Mughal city offers many a clue to the grandeur of times past.

Reaching Agra shortly after sunset, check in to your hotel for the night.

Day 20
The striking beauty of the Taj Mahal can hardly be described in words. However, you will have ample time this morning for reflecting on the power of a man’s love for his wife as you visit the Taj Mahal. Stop by the Agra Fort, which was initially built as a military bastion but was later used as an imperial palace. Visit Itmad-ud-daulah, another impressive Moghul monument built by Queen Nur Jehan.

Later, proceed by road to Delhi. After dinner at a restaurant you will be transferred to the international airport for your flight out of India.

Day 21
Arrive back in the United States after a transit stop in Europe (if returning to the East Coast) or Asia (if returning to the West Coast).


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