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Journey beyond the Golden Triangle on this in-depth tour of Northern India. Search for Bengal tigers in Ranthambore, take a trip down the Chambal River to spot Gharial crocodile and witness the spiritual ceremonies of Varanasi. From the bustle of Delhi to the majesty of the Taj Mahal and the palaces of Jaipur, this trip ticks off all the must-sees and more.
Explore Tour Leader
5 nights comfortable hotel
2 nights premium hotel
3 nights simple hotel
2 nights comfortable lodge
2 nights simple overnight train
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in New Delhi, India's bustling capital which successfully combines the ancient with the modern. Amidst the tall and modern skyscrapers, there are still the remnants of a bygone time with numerous monuments and temples.
For those arriving on time today our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 1.30pm for the welcome meeting and to take us on our afternoon city tour which will visit Qutab Minar, the tallest stone tower in India and Humayun's Tomb dating from the Mughal Dynasty. We also drive past the imposing India Gate (war memorial arch), the Parliament buildings and the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President's residence.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport (airport code DEL), which is 18km, around 40 minutes from our hotel.
Please note that if you wish to join the city tour today, you must arrive at the hotel by 1.30pm. If you are booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least one hour to clear the airport. From the airport to the hotel is around 45 minutes drive, so therefore the latest your flight can arrive is 12.00pm. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
Hotel Sunstar Grand (or similar)
Compared to New Delhi, the Old City is much closer to the image conjured up by Rudyard Kipling. This morning, we will travel to Old Delhi by metro and walk around the narrow, packed lanes of this fascinating part of the city, culminating with a jamboree of sounds at Chandni Chowk Bazaar. A short cycle rickshaw ride then takes us to the Jama Masjid mosque, a sublime example of Mughal architecture built by emperor Shah Jahan and a bit of an oasis in the midst of the city. Whilst in Old Delhi we will get to try some of the capital's street food treats straight from the stall sellers including aloo chaat (fried potato and spice mix) or paneer tikka (cottage cheese marinated in spices) along with freshly cooked breads such as parathas and rotis.
In the early afternoon we will drive to Jaipur by road, a journey which will take approximately five to six hours including comfort stops.
Mandawa Haveli (or similar)
The capital of the state of Rajasthan, Jaipur was India's first planned city and is considered by many to be one of the finest planned cities anywhere, the usual Indian urban chaos being replaced by wide streets and formal gardens. This morning we will visit the once mighty Rajput capital of Amber (traditionally known as Amer) and its magnificent fortress. Lying at the mouth of a rocky mountain gorge, overlooking Maotha Lake, the fort is a stunning creation of white marble and red sandstone that contains a dazzling mix of Hindu and Muslim ornamentation, including the breathtaking mirrored halls of the Sheesh Mahal. It was from these towering walls that the Kachchawahas ruled over their kingdom for some 7 centuries, until its importance was eclipsed by nearby Jaipur.
We will also take in the unique Hawa Mahal, the famous Palace of the Winds, whose extraordinary façade of red and pink sandstone towers some five storeys above the city streets. Built at the end of the 18th century its 935 windows were designed to allow the women of the harem to gaze out on the city scene below without themselves being seen, the openings also creating a refreshing breeze (hawa), which kept the palace cool even in the hot summer months.
We will spend some time exploring the lavish and well-preserved City Palace. Here, we will find a fine collection of textiles, costumes and armoury. Later this afternoon, we will visit the extraordinary Jantar Mantar - a star-gazing observatory built by Jai Singh, the great Maharajah-astronomer.
This morning has been left free to explore Jaipur in your own time. You may choose to visit one of the many bazaars which are bursting with delights, from marble statues to antique textiles; traditional print blocks to local musical instruments.
In the early afternoon we drive to Pushkar, known for its camel trading fair which happens each year in November. The town is also an attraction for many Hindus as its lake is believed to be the site where a lotus thrown by the creator god of Hinduism Brahma landed. On arrival we will take a short orientation tour around Pushkar lake and its waterside ghats (steps leading to a river or lake).
Hotel Master Paradise (or similar)
This morning we travel by camel through the market place and up to the camel fair grounds. Travelling by camel captures the traditional means of desert travel allowing us to experience something of the remote life of the tribesmen and their families. Riding camels can be quite relaxing and sitting high up enables us to appreciate the surroundings. Many people find that they prefer to combine riding with periods of walking, so ensure that you have appropriate footwear. If you do not wish to take part in the camel safari your local guide can arrange for you to take a walking tour of Pushkar.
As the day starts drawing to an end we hike up into the nearby hills to visit the Savitri temple for sunset. Dedicated to Brahma's first wife, the temple lies at the end of a long series of steps that run behind the Brahma Temple and from its lofty vantage point the views out across the lake and the surrounding dunes offer a breathtaking setting from which to watch the sun setting over the city.
We start early this morning as our drive to Ranthambore will take about five hours. On arrival, we check in to our accommodation before setting off for an afternoon game drive, where we hope to have an opportunity to view tigers in the wild.
Ranthambore National Park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1957, although it was still used as a hunting reserve until the early 1970s. It became part of the Project Tiger scheme in 1974 and, today, is home to over 40 of the remarkable beasts. We hope to see tigers roaming among the woodlands and cooling off in the lakes.
Aside from its more famous residents, the park is also home to sloth bear, langur, striped hyenas, marsh crocodiles, pythons and Ganga soft-shelled turtles. There is also the chance to spot a myriad of bird species, including crested hawk eagle, crested serpent eagle, jacana, parakeet and white-breasted kingfishers. Aside from its rich wildlife, the park's beauty is also noteworthy. Once part of the magnificent jungles of Central India, it comprises of rivers, lakes and forests that nestle among a surrounding girdle of steep cliffs and rocky outcrops.
Raj Palace Resort (or similar)
This morning, an early start affords us more chances to spot tigers on our second game drive in Ranthambore. The tigers are usually most active early in the morning, before the heat of the day forces them to take shelter.
After our safari we drive towards Agra and stop to visit the abandoned city of Fatehpur Sikri. Founded in 1569 and, for a brief time the capital of the Mughals under Akbar the Great, the city was deserted just 16 years later following the political unrest. Today it remains a ghostly testament to the power of 16th century Mughal India and is a perfectly preserved example of an imperial court. Amongst the many treasures left in the city are the five storey Panch Mahal, believed to have been a pleasure pavilion for the ladies of the harem, and the stunning lotus shaped carved central pillar of the Diwan-i- Khas (Hall of Private Audience). The city also features a central courtyard that contains a pachisi board, where the emperor played an Indian equivalent of chess, using real slave girls as pieces.
Later we continue our drive towards Agra.
Hotel Amar (or similar)
An early start this morning as we visit one of the most universally recognised buildings on earth. The Taj Mahal was built by the emperor Shah Jahan to honour the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz, and was once described by Rudyard Kipling as '…the embodiment of all things pure'. Built of marble and decorated with the most exquisite inlay work, it required the labours of 20,000 men and is estimated to have cost something in the region of 3 million rupees (at today's prices around $70 million) We visit at sunrise to watch the colours of the building changing as the sun slowly rises in the sky.
After returning to the hotel for breakfast we make our way to the imposing Agra Fort, whose grandeur and importance has seen it inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Built by Emperor Akbar and then embellished by his grandson, Shah Jahan, this was once a great city, with palaces, mosques and halls all lying behind the protective embrace of 20m high walls. We will also visit is the exquisite Itimad-ud-Daulah on the east bank of the river, a 17th century tomb built for the Emperor Jehangir's chief minister, also known as the Baby Taj.
Leaving Agra this morning we drive for approximately two hours (excluding stops) until we reach Mela Kothi-Chambal Safari Lodge, a beautiful eco-lodge that lies amongst acres of sprawling plantation and farmland in the heart of the Chambal Valley. The lodge accommodation is simple but with everything we need to enjoy the surroundings including an extensive library filled with books detailing the various species of birds and mammals we hope to spot over the next few days. After settling in to our rooms we head out on a nature walk. Starting off in the grounds of the lodge we keep our eyes peeled for hornbills, babblers and barbets and as the sun goes down we can look out for fruit bats and several species of owls.
The Chambal Sanctuary is a wonderful natural location in an area rich with wildlife, but has very limited accommodation. For the majority of the year we will be staying in cottages however, there is a particularly busy period for the area around the time of the Bateshwar Festival which usually takes place at the end of October or early November. During this period the lodge supplements its rooms with tented accommodation. They have proper full sized beds, en suite facilities, hot and cold running water and carpeted floors. Please note that at this time of year we may be allocated this type of room.
Mela Kothi-Chambal Safari Lodge (or similar)
Taking to the water this morning we board small motor boats and explore the River Chambal. The boatmen are skilled at spotting soft shell turtles, gharials and sarus cranes from a great distance and knowing when to cut the boats engine so we can enjoy the wildlife without disturbing it. Back on dry land we drive to Bateshwar, a collection of 40 Hindu temples set on the banks of the River Chambal. Originally more than 170 temples lined the river banks but many have crumbled over the years. We spend some time wandering through the temples and the small market as well as sitting to watch people bathing and washing clothes in the river. We transfer back to our lodge for the evening.
Today there is chance to relax in the morning and make the most of the peaceful setting of the lodge, or if there is a chance to take another river safari. In the early afternoon we will drive to Agra where we board an overnight train to Varanasi. Indian sleeper trains are a fantastic experience and a great way to meet people as we travel. We make our bookings in second class air-conditioned sleepers, which have four beds in each compartment and all bedding provided. Whilst we try to ensure the group is all together, due to overwhelming demand and the system for booking train tickets in India, it may not always be possible to have everyone in the same carriage and some reservations may be in 3rd class. In such cases our Tour Leaders will help everyone to find their seats and ensure you get the most out of your journey. For overnight trains, each berth is separated by curtains and has 4/6 bunk beds. Bedding (sheet, blanket and pillow) is provided but you may wish to bring your own sleeping liner for added comfort.
Overnight train from Agra to Varanasi
Simple Overnight Train
Arriving in the early morning we take a short transfer to our hotel. Varanasi (Benares) has been the centre of Hinduism since the dawn of history; its age is contemporary with Babylon and Thebes. Often known as 'Kashi' (City of Light) by Hindus it attracts over a million pilgrims each year - many of whom come to spend their last years here in the holy city. After breakfast and a freshen up we take an orientation walk around the narrow winding streets of the city. In the evening we make our way to the ghats to witness the evening aarti ceremony when the River Ganges is venerated with a display of light and sound.
Hotel New Temple's Town (or similar)
After breakfast we visit nearby Sarnath. Having gained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya the Buddha came to Sarnath to preach his first sermon. The city was at its peak in the 5th century, when it was a respected centre of religious activity, learning and art. Muslim invaders destroyed much of the city and today remains of several monasteries and stupas can be seen. In the afternoon time is free to enable you to explore the labyrinth of streets, bazaars and temples that line the banks of the river. In the early evening we take an overnight sleeper train back to Delhi.
Overnight Train from Varanasi to Delhi
After arriving in Delhi we transfer to our hotel and check in. After breakfast and time to freshen up the day is left free for you to explore the capital city.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Delhi.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Delhi at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International airport (airport code DEL), which is around 45 minutes from the hotel.
There is considerable variation between the different regions of India but, in general, the climate is tropical. Summer temperatures on the plains are very hot, but cooled by the South-West Monsoon, which lasts from June- September. During these months it can be very wet and therefore very humid. At altitude, temperatures can become quite cool at night even in the summer and may drop below freezing between December and February so warm clothing is necessary. In the winter, northern and mid India can be very cool, with cold evenings, so warm clothing, including plenty of layers, are essential. The south of India remains warm and sunny during the winter months.
3 Pin Round
Catholicism, Hindu, Islam and Sikhism
Hindi and English.
On your free morning in Chambal you can choose from the following: Jeep Safari to Sarus Crane Wetlands - 2,900 Rs per person Jeep Safari to spot Blackbuck - 2,900 Rs per person Etawah and Quila Pratap village tour - 2,900 Rs per person
From March through to November the weather will be warm and lightweight clothing is recommended. Conditions in December through to February will be cooler, and will require warm clothing mainly for early morning and evenings although please note that midwinter does see occasionally very cold spells and hotels rarely have heating arrangements compatable with UK standards so a thick fleece is necessary. Local people may be offended by western styles of dress. Brief shorts, tight fitting clothing etc. should be avoided by both men and women.Neutral coloured clothing is best for the game drives in Ranthambore.
Comfortable shoes and sandals.
One main piece of baggage and a daypack. Remember you are expected to carry your own baggage - so don't overload yourself. There are porters available for a small cost at train stations if you wish to use them.
A torch is useful in case of powercuts/ emergencies. Binoculars are needed for game/ bird watching in Ranthambore and Chambal. We advise taking a water bottle for day to day use.
Bus, 4WD, Boat, Rickshaw, Train
Accommodation in India is as varied as the country itself and standards might not always meet those back home. Service can be slow, especially when travelling with a group and a number of hotels in India don't serve alcohol due to complicated licencing laws or for religious reasons. Hot water is not always available at small properties and with a group staying, you might find the water is cooler if you're showering last. Hotels also don't usually have heating, so it can become chilly in the winter months, however, blankets will always be provided. Due to the growth in tourism in India, it's not always possible to stay at our listed accommodation and an alternative will be found. In Delhi, we'll stay in a small hotel, chosen for its location in the Karol Bagh area. It's walking distance from markets and restaurants and within easy reach of Old and New Delhi. All rooms have air conditioning and en-suite facilities. Due to the nature of the low-rise buildings in the area, some rooms are internal. If you have an issue with your room, please speak to your tour leader. 20
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
\red5\green99\blue193;\red177\green45\blue26; India: Holders of passports endorsed British citizen, as well as Australian, New Zealand and US passport holders may be eligible for the e-Tourist Visa to enter India. Unfortunately the Indian government are not currently granting visas for anybody travelling with a Canadian passport. The visa can be applied for through the official Indian government visa website only - \ul \ulnone . Please check all eligibility criteria that can be found on the website but important points are listed below - You must be arriving into one of 29 selected entry points which can be found via the official Indian Government website link above. However, you can exit from any of the authorised immigration check posts in India. Passports must have at least 6 months validity from the date of arrival in India and at least two blank pages for stamping. Visa applications will take approximately 4 days to process. There are different validity visas and the costs are as follows: 30-day validity (travelling between April and June) - $10 30-day validity (travelling between July and March) - $25 1-year validity - $40 5-year validity- $80 Those applying for a 30 day electronic visa can only apply within 30 days of arrival for your visa to be valid. Furthermore double entry is permitted and you can only obtain two 30-day visas in a calendar year. Please note these costs are subject to frequent change so you should check on the official Indian government visa website mentioned above. Biometric data will be collected on arrival in India. If you are not eligible for the e-Tourist Visa, please refer to VFS Global to apply for your Indian visa - \ul \ulnone Whilst the online form offers a relatively quick way to apply for a visa, some applicants have reported difficulty in completing the form. If you do require assistance, then you may consider applying through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. They can complete the online visa on your behalf for a service fee + the visa cost. See \ul www.travcour.com \ulnone If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846 . It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination. 20
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Tiger Safari permit requirements Ranthambore National Park is closely managed by the Indian Authorities. The number of vehicles permitted to enter the park at any one time is restricted and all game drives must now be booked and paid for well in advance. We recommend you book as early as possible in order to have the best chance of securing a space on a game drive. In order to secure a booking we must provide your passport copy and full payment for the safari at the time of booking. Once a game drive has been booked no changes are permitted and the payment is non-refundable. In order to proceed with bookings we require the following: A scanned copy of your passport - you must carry your passport during the game drive and if you renew your passport before travelling then you will need to take both passports with you. We book all of our game drives in shared jeeps, with a maximum of 6 passengers per jeep with a driver and naturalist guide. On occasion we will be sharing jeeps with non-Explore passengers. We will purchase seats for all passengers as soon as permits become available, usually 4 months prior, after this point it is not always possible to secure additional spaces. We cannot guarantee the operation of any game drives until the necessary permits have been purchased. We aim to purchase the permits as soon as they are put on sale, whilst this is usually at 120 days before the date of the game drive on going changes to the booking system means that we cannot guarantee this.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against Tetanus, Infectious Hepatitis, Typhoid and Polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.