Visit North India's exotic destinations from Delhi to Varanasi

Visit northern India and join a far-flung adventure to one of the planet's most exotic destinations. See towering fortresses above a city square, vibrant colours in a busy bazaar, pilgrims praying on river ghats, Maharaja mementos in a ghostly palace and camels silhouetted on a desert landscape - welcome to a land of magic and life. Discover well-known sites and hidden secrets, from the beating heart of Delhi to the holy city of Varanasi - this is chaotic and inspiring India.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
From 1st January 2017 this trip will visit Abhaneri and its phenomenal step well (day15) and replaces the night in Bharatpur and optional bird sanctuary visit. There are no other major itinerary changes. The trip name will change to North India Revealed


Start
New Delhi, India
Finish
New Delhi, India
Country
India
Style
Basix
Theme
Explorer
Code
HHRR
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Experience old and new India in the bustling streets of Delhi, where ancient temples stand against billboards advertising Bollywood films

  • Discover the ancient forts, lake palaces, rural villages and colourful cities of Rajasthan: sandy red Jaisalmer, blue Jodhpur, white Udaipur and pink Jaipur

  • Ride out into the Thar Desert on a camel safari. Feast on Rajasthani cuisine at sunset before bunking down to camp between the sand dunes

  • The world famous Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary is home to hundreds of bird species. Share in the delight and knowledge of local amateur bird-watchers, as you’re pedalled around the park in a cycle rickshaw

  • The Taj Mahal in Agra may be one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, but its poetic history and beauty have the power to surprise even the most jaded travellers

  • Pushkar and Varanasi are among the holiest cities in India. Climb to hilltop temples at sunrise, dodge cows in the street, and observe pilgrims praying and bathing along the ghats of the sacred Ganges River during a boat cruise

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some long bus and train rides, which can be tiresome but offer a quintessential Indian experience. You’ll be taking a few overnight trains, including a 19-hour trip from Delhi to Jaisalmer, a 12-hour tip from Agra to Varanasi and a 15-hour trip from Varanasi to Delhi.

  • Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned and a great way to travel long distances while still getting maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing with locals of the same or opposite gender. For your own security, take a lock for your hand luggage.

  • We visit a number of temples on this trip, which requires a certain level of modesty. Please bring clothes that cover the arms and pants/skirts that go past the knees. A light scarf is also a good idea for covering shoulders and arms when it’s hot.

  • Depending on the time of year, temperatures in northern India can get very hot and very cold. Please bring layers and a range of adequate clothing, including thermals and sun protection.

  • When camping in the Thar Desert, you’re truly in the middle of nature, so conditions are basic and there are no toilet facilities. Please bring water, face wipes, hand sanitizer and any other supplies you may need.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 15 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 16 December 2016 - 31 December 2017

Namaste and welcome to Delhi, India. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. Your leader will be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. If you arrive into Delhi with time to spare, perhaps pay a visit to the World Heritage-listed Humayun's Tomb or the 12th-century Qutub Minar. As the former residence of royal families and British soldiers, the Red Fort plays a vital part in Delhi’s history.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Delhi - Humayun's Tomb - INR500
  • Delhi - Qutub Minar - INR500
  • Delhi - Red Fort - INR500
  • Delhi - City Food Crawl Urban Adventure - INR3500
  • Delhi - Home-Cooked Experience Urban Adventure - INR4000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, set off with the group by metro to Old Delhi and explore on a guided walking tour. Experience the chaos of an Indian traffic jam, as you inch your way through the streets around Chandni Chowk marketplace in a traditional cycle rickshaw. Visit the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest and India’s largest mosque, and then stop by the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion. Tonight transfer to the railway station and board a 19-hour/750 km overnight train to Jaisalmer. Local vendors will board the train at various stops to sell snacks, but it’s advised that you bring some of your own food for the journey.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Delhi - Old Delhi Walking Tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
If there are no train delays, you should arrive into Jaisalmer around midday. Pack a small overnight bag and leave the rest of your luggage at the hotel. Embark on a camel safari into the sand dunes of the Thar Desert. Drive by jeep to the starting point, where you’ll meet your guides and set off through the desert for the three-hour ride to the camping ground. The campsite is very basic with a wind break and up against a sand dune.

Your guides will get a campfire going and cook a traditional Rajasthani dinner while you relax and watch the sunset. Water and soft drinks are available for purchase. Sleep under the open sky on a camp style cot with a pillow, sheets, mattress and blankets provided. There are no structured bathroom facilities so please bring toiletries with you, including hand sanitiser. Toilets are simple long drop style.

Notes: During the winter months (December and January), temperatures in the desert can drop below zero. Your leader will monitor the weather forecast to decide whether this activity will be able to go ahead. If not, you’ll take a day trip to the Thar Desert instead of the overnight stay. Some travellers also like to bring a sleeping bag and base layers for camping in the colder months.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Camel Safari (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jaisalmer - Camel safari & overnight desert camp
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Rise early to enjoy the sunrise over the sand dunes before having a simple breakfast. The ride back to the drop off point from the desert takes around 90 minutes. Return to the city by jeep, where you can take an optional trip to the Folklore Museum. This small museum displays printing blocks, musical instruments, religious artefacts and camel decorations, offering insights into the cultural heritage of Jaisalmer.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Jaisalmer - Folklore Museum - INR10
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today is a free day to explore Jaisalmer. This old fortress city has long been a centre for nomadic tribespeople who come to trade in the twisting alleys and markets inside the walls. Perhaps visit the Jain temples, do some shopping or admire the ornate havelis (traditional Indian houses) found throughout the city.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take a private bus to the railway station and then a six-hour train ride (approx 300km/3rd Class AC train) across the desert to the blue city of Jodhpur. Enjoy a walk to see the sights, including a visit to one of the oldest markets in India, the Sadar Bazaar. Haggle over Bollywood soundtracks, bangles, leather shoes and colourful saris, or simply soak up the energy of a typical Indian market. Jodhpur is home to the best lassi in India, so make sure you try one.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jodhpur - City walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
You have the option to visit the colossal Mehrangarh Fort today. The fort is one of the largest in India and is still run by the Jodhpur royal family. Explore the palaces, galleries and artillery inside the fortress walls and admire great views over the city. Today’s other option is to take a tour of the nearby Bishnoi villages. Take a glimpse into rural Rajasthani life and learn about the rich cultural traditions of these peaceful, nature-loving tribespeople.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Jodhpur - Village Day Trip - INR700
  • Jodhpur - Meherangarh Fort - INR600
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Take auto rickshaws from our hotel to the bus station this morning board a local bus for the eight-hour/300km journey to Udaipur. Known as the ‘Venice of the East’, this white city is often regarded as the most romantic in India. Set amid the Aravalli Hills, Udaipur curls around a huge lake. On arrival, take an orientation walk to gather your bearings. Explore twisting alleyways filled with shops and bazaars selling things like silver jewellery, shoes, bags, leather goods and miniature paintings.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day to explore the sights of Udaipur. Perhaps take a short boat ride on the famous Lake Pichola and see the palaces of Jag Mandir and Jag Niwas rise out of the water of their own reflections (season depending). Take a guided tour of the lakeside City Palace complex, the largest palace in Rajasthan. While inside, check out vivid murals and royal antiques, and pop into the impressive Jagdish Temple that’s dedicated to the Lord Vishnu. Alternatively, learn the secrets behind making the perfect Indian thali during a half-day cooking class at the Spice Box school.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Udaipur - Lake Pichola Boat Ride - INR300
  • Udaipur - City Palace - INR250
  • Udaipur - Cooking Class - INR500
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today’s options include a visit to Sajjan Garh (Monsoon Palace). Perched atop a hill overlooking Lake Pichola and built it in 1884, the palace was named after Maharana Sajjan Singh of the Mewar Dynasty. You might like to join a trip to the nearby rural arts and crafts village of Shilpgram, where mud huts, artistic performances and traditional rural ways of life can be observed. Back in Udaipur, enjoy a concert combining seven traditional Rajasthani folk dances.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Udaipur - Cultural dance show - INR150
  • Udaipur - Monsoon Palace - INR300
  • Udaipur - Shilpgram craft village - INR25
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Transfer to the station and travel by train for around seven hours/300km to the city of Ajmer (AC seated carriage). From here, it’s a 45-minute/30km drive by private vehicle to our hotel in Pushkar. Pushkar is one of the India's holiest towns and a market centre for the surrounding villages. Head out to explore the town on a walking tour, exploring the main bazaar along the way. Take a walk around Pushkar’s lake and past the bustling ghats and temples, observing the devout as they worship at the holy waters.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pushkar - Walking Tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Early morning risers can hike up the hill to the Savitri Temple for sunrise views over the town. If the chai man is there enjoy a steaming cup of tea at the top. Later in the day pay a visit to the colourful Brahma Temple, which is dedicated to the Hindu god, Brahma. If you’re lucky enough to be in town for the Pushkar Camel Fair, experience one of India’s most famous festivals.

Notes: The Pushkar Camel Fair is held in November each year. The 28th October 2016 and 4th November 2016 departures will be in Pushkar during the Camel Fair. We will do all we can to ensure that travellers booked with a trip to coincide with the fair will get an opportunity to see the best of the festival, but we cannot take responsibility if the dates of the fair change. Pushkar hotels raise their rates considerably during the festival, so departures across this period may be at a higher price. Although we make bookings months in advance, accommodation in Pushkar tends to overbook at this time. That’s why we ask for a flexible approach from people travelling at this time as accommodation, order of activities and type of transport may need to change.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Pushkar - Brahma Temple - Free
  • Pushkar - Savitri Temple - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Transfer back to Ajmer and then travel by local bus to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur today (approximately four hours/150 km). On arrival take auto rickshaws to our hotel, then explore Rajasthan’s capital on a walking tour. See the beehive-like structure of the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal), built so that women of the royal family could observe street festivities unseen. Your evening is then free.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jaipur - Walking Tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is yours for optional activities.
For many travellers, a hot air balloon experience is one of the highlights of Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over the city early in the morning between September and June. For additional information, please see the ‘Important Notes’ section of the trip notes. In the afternoon, visit the Amber Fort. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the fort is an excellent example of Rajput architecture. Entering the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) is a particularly memorable experience. Explore Jaipur’s Royal City Palace and get among the crowds of the city’s bazaars to shop for artisan goods and semi-precious stones. A true local experience is to immerse yourself in Bollywood culture with a movie at a classic cinema.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort - INR500
  • Jaipur - Hawa Mahal photo stop - INR200
  • Jaipur - City Palace - INR400
  • Jaipur - Bollywood Movie - Raj Mandir Cinema - INR400
  • Jaipur - Balloon Safari - USD250
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, head to Bharatpur on a public bus (approximately five hours/200km).
Bharatpur is home to the famous Keoladeo National Park. Once the domain of royal duck shooters, this World Heritage-listed park is home to over 350 species of bird. Explore the sanctuary in cycle rickshaws that are pedalled by local amateur bird-enthusiasts. The forests and wetlands in the area are a welcome respite from the noise and chaos of Indian cities.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Bharatpur - Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary - INR500
  • Bharatpur - Cycle Rickshaw Hire (3 hours) - INR750
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Head east by private transport for the two to three hour/60km journey to Agra via Fatehpur Sikri. Rich in Mughal heritage, Agra is a city of gardens, temples and open rooftops. No doubt everyone will be keen to visit the Taj Mahal, a white marble mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz. The building is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and attracts over three million visitors each year. The rest of the day is free to explore.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Agra - Taj Mahal - INR1000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today perhaps return to the Taj Mahal at sunrise, then explore the spectacular Red Fort on the banks of the Yamuna River. Built in 1565 by Emperor Akbar, the fort was originally designed to be a military structure. If you have extra time, you may like to continue onto Akbar's Mausoleum to pay your respects to the great emperor.
An amazing local social enterprise, Sheroes Hangout, an initiative by the Stop Acid Attacks campaign and staffed by survivors, is located about 10 mins walk from the Taj Mahal and is an excellent place to stop for a cold drink, coffee or light meal while you are here.
In the evening, take a 12-hour/700km overnight train to Varanasi (3 AC class).
Accommodation
  • Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Agra - Agra Fort - INR550
  • Agra - Akbar's Mausoleum - INR210
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
On arrival in the morning transfer by auto rickshaw to our hotel and check in. Then wander through narrow alleyways on a walking tour of the Old City. At sunset, a great experience is to take a boat cruise down the Ganges, releasing an offering of floating candles and flowers into the river. Every evening at 7 pm, priests perform a ganga aarti (fire ceremony) at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. Each year thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to the holy city of Varanasi to pray along the banks of the sacred Ganges River and to cremate the dead in open-air funeral ceremonies. It may not be the cleanest city, but it’s one of India’s most amazing.
Included Activities
  • Varanasi - Old City Walking Tour
Optional Activities
  • Varanasi - Sunset Candle Flower Ceremony - INR120
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
We highly recommend starting very early with a sunrise boat trip along the Ganges, passing pilgrims bathing and praying along the colourful ghats. See dhobi-wallahs (washerwomen and men) drying clothes along the riverbank. Make sure you keep an eye out for the sinking Vishnu temple near the Manikarnika Ghat. The rest of the day is free for you to do as you please. Perhaps take a trip out to Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first speech after finding enlightenment. The Dhamekh Stupa dominates the landscape of this holy site.
Optional Activities
  • Varanasi - Sarnath day trip (entry only) - INR250
  • Varanasi - Sunrise Boat cruise - INR60
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the morning, you have some free time to explore more of Varanasi. Perhaps visit the Vishwanath Temple, which is laden with 800 kg of gold plating. Slow down your pace with a visit to the Kriti Gallery, which displays the work of local Indian artists. In the afternoon, board our final 15-hour/800km overnight train to Delhi.
Accommodation
  • Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arrive into Delhi late in the morning from your overnight train and taxi to the hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to relax or explore the city. Your leader will be able to give you some suggestions - our Urban Adventures are highly recommended!
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Your North India adventure comes to an end today. There are no more activities planned and you’re free to depart the accommodation at any time.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

1 breakfast, 1 dinner

Transport

Auto rickshaw, Bus, Camel, Car, Cycle rickshaw, Local bus, Metro, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Taxi, Train

Accommodation

Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night), Guesthouse (5 nights), Hotel (12 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights)

Included Activities

  • Delhi - Old Delhi Walking Tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Jaisalmer - Camel safari & overnight desert camp
  • Jodhpur - City walk
  • Pushkar - Walking Tour
  • Jaipur - Walking Tour
  • Varanasi - Old City Walking Tour

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip. The single supplement is available for all nights with the exception of overnight sleeper trains on nights 2, 17 and 20 as well as night 3 in the Thar desert camp. Please see under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.
2. Mid November see's departures for Pushkar Camel fair in 2016, please see further important notes in trip notes

JAIPUR HOT AIR BALLOON FLIGHTS
Hot air balloon flights are operated by Sky Waltz in Jaipur. Flights operate mornings from September to June and morning and evening from September to March.
Morning flights depart around sunrise and evening flights late afternoon and last 60 mins. Return transfers, tea and coffee plus light refreshments and a certificate of flight are included in the cost.
You can register your interest and pay your tour leader at your joining meeting on day 1 of your trip.
Payment must be made by cash in either INR/AUD/USD/GBP only and is USD$250pp (subject to change)
Flights are subject to weather conditions and tickets are fully refundable in case of poor weather..

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

Reviews

Our North India Unplugged trips score an average of 4.76 out of 5 based on 118 reviews in the last year.

North India Unplugged, November 2016

Angela Proietto

North India Unplugged, November 2016

Sharifah Jamalullil