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.

Start
New Delhi, India
Finish
New Delhi, India
Countries
India
Themes
Explorer
Code
HHRR
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 16
Carbon offset
360kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Experience the holy city of Varanasi
  • Visit the legendary Taj Mahal in Agra
  • Experience Rajasthani nomad life in Jaisalmer
  • Bargain for souvenirs in Delhi
  • Sip a tasty lassi in Jodhpur
  • Catch a sunrise from Pushkar's Savitri Temple
  • Fall in love with romantic Udaipur
  • Discover why Jaipur is called the ‘Pink City’

Itinerary

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.

Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
In the morning, set off with the group to explore Old Delhi 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 board a 19-hour overnight train to Jaisalmer. Local vendors will board the train at various stops to sell snacks, but it’s advised that you bring your own food for the journey.
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. Your guides will get a campfire going and cook a traditional Rajasthani dinner while you relax and watch the sunset. Sleep under the open sky with a pillow, sheets, mattress and blankets provided. There are no structured bathroom facilities so please bring toiletries with you, including hand sanitiser.

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.
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.
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.
Today take a six-hour bus across the desert to the blue city of Jodhpur. Enjoy a guided walking tour 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.
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.
This morning board a local bus for the eight-hour 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.
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.
Today’s excursion sees you visit 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.
Travel by train for around seven hours to the city of Ajmer. From here, it’s a 45-minute drive by private vehicle to your 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.
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. However, the fair is based on the lunar calendar so dates can vary and be hard to confirm. 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 will be subject to a surcharge. 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.
Travel by local bus to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur today (approximately four hours). On arrival, explore Rajasthan’s capital on a guided 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. 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. Your evening is then free.
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.
In the morning, head to Bharatpur in a private vehicle (approximately five hours). 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.

Notes: From mid-May until mid-August, the Keoladeo Bird Park will be closed. During this period other options will be provided.
Head east by public bus for the two to three hour journey to Agra. Rich in Mughal heritage, Agra is a city of gardens, temples and open rooftops. 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.
Today 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. In the evening, take a 12-hour overnight train to Varanasi.
On arrival in the morning, wander through narrow alleyways on a walking tour of the Old City. At sunset, 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.
Start 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.
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 a 15-hour overnight train to Delhi.
Arrive into Delhi late in the morning from your overnight train. The rest of the day is free for you to relax in the hotel or explore the city. Your leader will be able to give you some suggestions.
After breakfast today, your North India adventure comes to an end. There are no more activities planned and you’re free to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
1 breakfast1 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 (10 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights)
Included activities
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Old Delhi Walking Tour
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Jaipur - Walking tour
  • Jodhpur - City walk
  • Pushkar - Walking Tour
  • Varanasi - Old City walking tour

Dates

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip. 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.

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide 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.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our North India Unplugged trips score an average of 4.77 out of 5 based on 137 reviews in the last year.

North India Unplugged , January 2016

North India Unplugged , January 2016