See the highlights of north India, including Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Varanasi

Visit India and explore the highlights of the north on this adventure tour from Delhi to Varanasi. Discover the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, witness the Mughal splendours of Delhi and Agra, and soak up the ambience of holy Varanasi. This wonderful introduction to the magic of India includes lavish palaces, vibrant bazaars, Kama Sutra temple carvings, Bollywood blockbusters and the incomparable Taj Mahal. Packed with highlights and hidden gems, take time to discover the beating heart of India.


Start
Delhi, India
Finish
Delhi, India
Country
India
Style
Comfort
Theme
Explorer
Code
HHKH
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Discover the man-made beauty that lies across the north of India – from Jaipur’s ‘Palace of the Winds’ and Royal City Palace, Agra’s Red Fort and iconic Taj Mahal, to the palaces of Orchha and the carved steps leading down to the river in Varanasi

  • Be immersed in the spirituality of India – the Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, the ghats of Varanasi, Kama Sutra carved temples and Buddhist pilgrimage sites; evening prayer ceremonies, ancient bathing rituals and candle flower ceremonies on the Ganges

  • Feel the magic of India that runs through everything, from a throbbing bazaar to a packed cinema showing a Bollywood blockbuster

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip includes an overnight train on day 8. This train takes approx. 12 hours. Train travel is a classic Indian experience. 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.

  • Between December and February trains can be delayed due to fog, (but this just adds to the country’s atmospheric vistas).

  • In the summer months Rajasthan can get very hot. Be sure to drink lots of water, pack light cotton clothing and use adequate skin protection.

  • Please note there are several early mornings on this trip, allowing you to see more of the country in the captivating morning light.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2018 to 31 December 2018. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Welcome to India. You adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting in the hotel at 6pm. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. You can use any free time before the meeting to explore this excitingly chaotic capital city. Filled with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars, there’s much to see and you will be briefed on sightseeing options.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
Optional Activities
  • Delhi - Gandhi's Delhi Urban Adventure - INR2500
  • Delhi - City Food Crawl Urban Adventure - INR3500
  • Delhi - Home-Cooked Experience Urban Adventure - INR4000
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning join your group leader on an excursion into the sights and sounds of Old Delhi. Set off on the city's modern metro system, then get a taste of India's famed public transport with an optional cycle rickshaw ride through chaotic streets, such as the famous Chandni Chowk. Make a visit to the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque and one of its most impressive buildings, then visit the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion. The rest of the day is free for further exploration or maybe to join an Urban Adventure (booked locally). Perhaps visit the World Heritage-listed Mughal masterpiece of Humayun's Tomb, the first garden tomb in India, built in 1570. Wonder at the tall brick minaret of Qutub Minar, which was started all the way back in the 12th century, or explore the mighty Red Fort of Delhi. Part palace and part fort, it played an integral part in the history of the city with former residents ranging from royal families to British soldiers.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Delhi - Old Delhi walking tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
Optional Activities
  • Delhi - Humayun's Tomb - INR500
  • Delhi - Qutub Minar - INR500
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you’ll get your first experience of Indian rail travel with an express train into Rajasthan and on to its capital, Jaipur (approximately 5 hours). Then you'll take a walking tour through the crowded streets packed with cars, camel carts, rickshaws, trucks, and bicycles, past traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches. Walk to the city's crowded bazaars filled with handcrafted textiles, folk art, and the local specialty of semi-precious stones. Make a photo stop at India's most photographed building after the Taj Mahal, the Hawa Mahal or 'Palace of the Winds'. You have the option of also visiting Jantar Mantar; not a series of elaborate sculptures but actually an observatory filled with instruments to track the stars, built by the founder of Jaipur, Maharaja Jai Singh. This evening continue to indulge in the wonders of Indian culture by watching a Bollywood blockbuster at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema - a vivid combination of action romance, drama and music.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jaipur - Walking tour
  • Jaipur - Bollywood Movie at Raj Mandir Cinema
Optional Activities
  • Jaipur - Jantar Mantar Observatory - INR200
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Drifting high over the pink city while it’s bathed in early morning sunlight is a highlight for many visitors to Jaipur, and so there’s the option to take a hot air balloon experience this morning. For additional information please see the important notes section of your trip notes. Later, climb the twisting roads of the Aravalli Hills and round the final bend to see the massive Amber Fort loom into view. The legacy of a fallen empire, the opulent palace is a superb example of Rajput architecture and is packed with elaborate rooms of lavish murals, frescoed arches and delicate jali work. Don’t miss the sparkling Mirror Palace, covered floor-to-ceiling in thousands of reflective tiles, the hall becomes a dazzling fantasy with the light of a single match. The rest of the day is free to explore more of Jaipur that you might have missed yesterday.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
Optional Activities
  • Jaipur - Balloon Safari - USD250
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning you will leave Jaipur and journey across the plains of Rajasthan by private vehicle to reach Agra (approximately 6 hours). Agra is home to one of the world's most recognisable monuments, the Taj Mahal. The best way to uncover Agra is by cycle rickshaw, so after arriving you’ll be taken on a rickshaw tour of the city. You’ll visit the spectacular and iconic Taj Mahal. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century Taj is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture, surrounded by trimmed English gardens. Agra is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India. Enter the dark red sandstone stronghold of Agra Fort - part fortress, part palace and part prison - and search through throne rooms and tiny but incredibly decorated mosques. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. A visit to Sheroes Cafe, which employs women who have been affected by acid attacks, is highly recommended.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Agra - Agra Fort
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Please note that in the case of an unreasonably hot, or cold, foggy day, the cycle rickshaw tour will be replaced with a battery-powered rickshaw tour.
Leaving the majestic Taj behind you, travel south by express train to Jhansi in the state of Madhya Pradesh (approximately 3.5 hours). When you arrive, stretch your legs and climb into your vehicle for the drive to Khajuraho (approximately 3 hours). This is a place famed for its incredible 1000-year-old temples, untouched by foreign invaders for centuries thanks to its remote location, far from any major historical or modern centres. These temples are especially reputed for their explicit carvings that illustrate the entire Kama Sutra. The reason behind their existence and more interestingly, the inspiration for the intricate, erotic carvings is open to wide interpretation. Some argue that the carvings, all located on the exterior of the temples, signified the act of leaving sexual desires behind upon entering the holy temples, while others think them descriptive learning tools for young boys in the area about life beyond religion. You will discover more about these buildings, built during the Chandela Dynasty, on a tour of the western temple complex. Later, watch a traditional performance at the famous classical dance festival that occurs here. Visit the home of a local Hindu family, where you will enjoy a home-cooked meal (either lunch or dinner) and find out more about daily life of middle-class Indians. We stay in a restored Heritage Property in Khajuraho tonight.
Accommodation
  • Heritage Property (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Khajuraho - Kama Sutra temples
  • Khajuraho - Traditional dance performance
  • Khajuraho - Home-cooked lunch & family visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
From Khajuraho, take your private transport northeast to Orchha (approximately 3 hours), a lovely town on the banks of the Betwa River where you’lll have the chance to uncover a very different side of India. Initially a hunting area, Orchha has changed very little over the centuries. Despite its small size, it is filled with many beautiful temples and palaces, build here in the 16th century by the ruling Bundelas clan. Take an orientation walk around the city, then visit the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler. Take note of the grand Iwans (domes) that were built large enough to allow the movement of war elephants. There will also be the chance to make a stop at Taragram, one of our Responsible Tourism projects. Taragram is a paper making factory that enables local tribal women to work outside the realm usually afforded to them. The paper is crafted from wood pulp and recycled clothing. Another heritage property is our home for the night.
Accommodation
  • Heritage Property (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Orchha - Taragram visit
  • Orchha - Orientation walk
  • Orchha - Orchha Palace
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Enjoy the laid back, relaxed, and hassle-free atmosphere of the town. Later today you’ll get a closer experience of the region's flavours at a cooking demonstration by the town’s local people and enjoy a local lunch. Later today, witness the Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony at the shrine in the heart of the city. Tonight, return to Jhansi and climb aboard our overnight sleeper train to Varanasi.
Accommodation
  • Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Orchha - Cooking demonstration
  • Orchha - Ram Raja Temple ceremony
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Arrive in the holy centre of Varanasi in the morning from the overnight train. Varanasi is awash with shrines and temples, and the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual city. Take a walking tour of the old city, through narrow laneways packed with stalls and shops, past the dhobi wallahs, and the endless temples that echo with bells and the pungent aroma of incense. This evening soak up the unique atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Varanasi - Old City tour
  • Varanasi - Sunset candle ceremony
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today starts early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, where you can watch the light gradually illuminate the many ghats and temples along the river as you pass. There is an option to take a trip to nearby Sarnath, one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. The site is where Buddha preached his message of the path to enlightenment and features a number of stupas and museums to explore. Alternatively the day can be spent exploring the laneways and alleys behind the ghats, or picking up some examples of the excellent local silk industry. Perhaps witness pilgrims performing ancient bathing rituals and ceremonies as your time in this sacred city comes to an end.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Varanasi - Sunrise boat trip
Optional Activities
  • Varanasi - Sarnath day trip (entry only) - INR250
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning will be free for you to soak up the atmosphere of Varanasi during your final time here. Maybe do some last minute shopping in the incredible bazaars or merely wander through the ghats. Then you will return to Delhi by plane (approximately 1.5 hours). This evening there will be an (optional) group farewell dinner.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your journey comes to an end after breakfast. There are no other activities planned for the day and you can leave the accommodation at any time. For those who wish to stay on in Delhi to further explore the city, we are happy to help in booking accommodation (subject to availability). If you have time, Hauz Khas village is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Delhi - a chic artistic enclave set right next to the remnants of a historical site. Or maybe pre-book an Urban Adventure and see Delhi with a knowledgeable local.
Optional Activities
  • Delhi - Culture Vulture Urban Adventure - INR2500
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

11 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners

Transport

Auto rickshaw, Boat, Cycle rickshaw, Jeep, Metro, Overnight sleeper train, Plane, Private vehicle, Shuttle Bus, Train

Accommodation

Hotel (8 nights), Heritage Property (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)

Included activities

  • Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
  • Delhi - Old Delhi walking tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Jaipur - Walking tour
  • Jaipur - Bollywood Movie at Raj Mandir Cinema
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Agra - Agra Fort
  • Khajuraho - Kama Sutra temples
  • Khajuraho - Traditional dance performance
  • Khajuraho - Home-cooked lunch & family visit
  • Orchha - Taragram visit
  • Orchha - Orientation walk
  • Orchha - Orchha Palace
  • Orchha - Cooking demonstration
  • Orchha - Ram Raja Temple ceremony
  • Varanasi - Old City tour
  • Varanasi - Sunset candle ceremony
  • Varanasi - Sunrise boat trip

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip and is valid for all nights on tour with the excepton of the overnight train. 
2. An airport arrival transfer is included. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking.
3. 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 Highlights trips score an average of 4.83 out of 5 based on 80 reviews in the last year.

North India Highlights, September 2017

Lynelle House

North India Highlights, October 2017

Nichole Hammer