Adventure through the heart of North India and Rajasthan

Rose-hued cities, time-worn desert forts and holy rivers – North India is the subcontintent’s showpiece, a place where ancient ruins punctuate peaceful countryside and everyday life is a riot of colour and noise. From the gleaming walls of the Taj Mahal to Delhi’s chaotic streets, India’s energy will leave you giddy with excitement and sporting a smile that’s wider than the Ganges. Spiritual, yet never afraid to entertain – the sites of North India are as alive as a crowded laneway, as vast as the Thar Desert sands, as humbling as a Varanesi dawn and as intricate as the Amber Fort. So give your senses a well-earned kick and delve into a North Indian adventure that ticks all the boxes.

Start
New Delhi, India
Finish
New Delhi, India
Countries
India
Themes
Explorer
Code
HHSYC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
373kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • - A chance to float among the clouds over Jaipur and watch an Indian sunrise from the basket of a hot air balloon as an optional activity
  • - The Taj Mahal is not only an sumptuous masterpiece of Indian architecture, but also a truly meaningful stop on any traveller’s journey
  • - Old and New Delhi fuse to create a city that pays homage to past empires, while wrestling with its modern identity
  • - Experience the wonder of camping on the banks of the Ganges near Varanasi.
  • - The world famous Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary is home to hundreds of bird species.
  • - The Rat Temple in Bikaner is a place even the squeamish will appreciate.
  • - India is famous for its great sleeper trains and you’ll be tucked up nicely in your own padded bunk
  • - Have the chance to take a guided camel ride into the sunset and sleep under the stars

Itinerary

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

Namaste! Welcome to India.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. 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.
India's capital is an exciting, busy, and often chaotic city but it's also one of the most interesting in the world with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars!
There are plenty of things to see and do in free time. Visit the World Heritage-listed Mughal masterpiece of Humayun's Tomb. This was the first garden tomb in India, built way back in 1570. Wonder at the tall brick minaret of Qutub Minar, which was started back in the 1100s. Explore the mighty Red Fort of Delhi. Part palace and part fort, it plays an integral part in the history of the city with former residents ranging from royal families to British soldiers.
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 option for a 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.
This afternoon is free for further exploration or jump on an Urban Adventure.
Leave Delhi early to catch the Shatabi Express to Agra (departs approx 6am - 3 hrs). This comfortable train is one of India's fastest.

Visit the Taj Mahal - a masterpiece of shimmering white marble set amid beautiful formal gardens. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz, this 'teardrop on the face of eternity' (as it was described by writer Rabindranath Tagore) lives up to all expectations.
Built in 1565 by Emperor Akbar, Agra Fort was originally designed to be a military structure. It was converted to a palace in Emperor Shah Jahan's time with mighty sandstone walls enclosing the beautiful white marble pearl mosque, palaces, halls, courtyards and fountains. The fort eventually became the emperor's prison after he lost power in 1658.
Drive to Chanderi (approx 5 hours/250 km).
Chanderi is a small medieval town - home to Muslims, Hindus and Jains. Still off the beaten track, Chanderi is a place where you can experience the life of a movie star - the moment you stroll into town, you instantly become the centre of attention.
Enjoy dinner in at the home of our local guide, a great chance to meet his large family.
Visit Chanderi Museum which boasts objects dating from the 10th to 12th centuries.
Join our guide for a look around Chanderi's temples and mosques, and walk out to ruins beautifully situated in the fields.
Drive to Orchha (approx 5 hours/173 km).
Situated on the banks of the Betwa River, Orchha has changed little over the centuries. Originally a hunting area, it became the capital of the Bundela rajas and, as a result, Orchha has more temples and palaces than any town of this size deserves.
Experience an evening puja ceremony at the Ram Raja Temple.
See the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler.
Visit Taragram, one of Intrepid's Responsible Tourism projects. This unique papermaking plant was set up to give tribal women from the area a chance to work outside the traditional areas normally afforded to them. All the paper is made from recycled clothing and wood pulp.
Take the chance to experience the local flavours at a cooking demonstration by our local friends.
We depart Orchha around 9am for a 3 hour drive to Alipura
we arrive around midday and after checking in and a freshen up its time for a guided village walk. this evening we enjoy a group dinner at Alipura Palace.
Drive to Khajuraho (approx. 3 hours).

Far from any major population centres, modern or historical, Khajuraho's remote location saved its stunning 1,000-year-old temples - infamous for their explicit carvings depicting the entire Kama Sutra - from destruction by foreign invaders.

Khajuraho's 'Kama Sutra' Temples were all built during the Chandela Dynasty 1,000 years ago, most within a 100 to 150-year time frame. These temples have baffled foreigners and Indians alike since their rediscovery by the British in the late 19th century. What they were built for and what the delicate and erotic carvings mean is open to wide interpretation. Some believe that these intricate designs, all located on the exterior of the temple, were meant to symbolise the leaving of sexual desires before entering the holy sanctuary within. Others argue that these carvings were a way of teaching young boys in the hermitage about life outside of religion. We take a tour of the western temple complex.

Visit a local Hindu family for a home-cooked vegetarian meal and gain an insight into the life of middle-class Indians.

View a classical dance performance.
An early start this morning as we head to Bandhavgarh National Park (approx. 5 hours). Make sure your music player is charged and you have your book at hand.
Bandhavgarh National Park is truly one of India's most magnificent wildernesses with a relative abundance of tigers compared to other national parks, so our chances of spotting some are high.
This evening head into the park and enjoy a jeep safari. As well as tigers, this fine park also boasts leopard, jungle cats and sloth bears. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready.
Another early morning, but this time to head back into the National Park on a jeep safari to search out more wildlife. Afterwards drive to Katni (approx 5 hours.) Around 5:30pm we board our overnight train for the 15 hour journey to Varanasi. Your tour leader will help you purchase snacks at the station and ensure you stock up on water. Its never a bad idea to stock up on toilet paper for long train trips.
We arrive around 11am this morning (barring train delays - more common in the winter months of Jan-Feb)

The ultimate destination for all Hindu pilgrims, Varanasi is full of temples, shrines and devotees. It is truly one of the world's most amazing cities.
Visit the Ram Nagar Fort which lies about 14 km from Varanasi on the opposite bank of River Ganga. Built by Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 18th century, it's the ancestral home of the Maharaja of Banaras.
Spend the evening soaking up the magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony, serenaded by traditional musicians on a Ganges river cruise as the sun sets.
Start early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, passing the many ghats and temples along the river. This boat ride is one of the highlights of any trip to Varanasi. Watching the sun rise over the Ghats is a spectacular sight and one not to be missed. the rest of the day is free to wander the laneways and ghats. find a sunny spot and watch lifer and death along with cricket games, haircuts, religious lessons and the comings and goings of life along the Ganges.
Enjoy a free day in Varanasi
We have day use rooms today for a freshen up.
We depart Varanasi this evening around 7pm on the overnight train to Delhi. This is another long journey (approx. 12 hours). We travel in 3 AC class, where each bunk is made up with a sheet, blanket and pillow.
Train arrives early this morning into New Delhi station. (approx 9am) We have day use rooms available to freshen up. (Please note that train delays are more common due to weather conditions in winter (Dec-Feb) but can happen at any time of year.)

We then transfer to the airport for a quick flight to Jaipur. An Intrepid representative will transport you to the airport. This flight will be unaccompanied. You will be met upon arrival and transferred to your hotel. 
As this trip is a combination trip, you will meet your new tour leader and group members this afternoon.

After some time to freshen up, take a quick orientation walk in Jaipur.

Discover the extravagance of a Bollywood blockbuster, with all the Hollywood-style elements of action, romance, drama and music (sometimes all rolled into one), at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema.
For many travellers, a hot air balloon experience is one of the highlights of Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over the city this morning between September and June. For additional information, please see the important notes section of the Essential Trip Information.
Visit Jaipur's Royal City Palace and/or one of the five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur. In the early afternoon, we’ll visit the Amber Fort. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the fort is a superb example of Rajput architecture. Entering the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors) is also a particularly memorable experience.
Tonight is free for further exploration,
In the morning, head to Mandawa by private vehicle (approximately 3.5 hours). A remote town in the centre of the Shekhawati region, this was once a trading outpost on the ancient caravan routes from China and the Middle East. Enjoy a guided tour of Mandawa's ornate havelis (private residences), with some of them crumbling at the foundations and others well preserved. There’s plenty of time to explore this thriving market town and its surrounds before spending the night in a beautifully restored haveli.
Take the four-hour journey to Bikaner via a combination of private jeeps and buses. Once an important staging post on the great caravan routes, the city still contains many bazaars, palaces and a historic fort within its impressive walls. Visit Junagarh Fort, which was built by Raja Rai Singh, the sixth ruler of Bikaner (AD1571 to 1612). In the evening, travel to a nearby farmhouse and enjoy an evening of traditional Rajasthani food, music and dance.
After an early morning walking tour of Bikaner, spend free time exploring bazaars before visiting the city’s famous ‘Rat Temple’. Travel out to the 600-year-old rat kingdom of Karni Mata Temple, which is believed to be home to the reincarnated followers of the Hindu goddess, Durga. Locals believe that it's particularly favourable if one of these rats takes a shine to you and scurries over your bare feet. For the squeamish, just stand still or view from afar.
Catch an early morning local train from Bikaner to Jaisalmer, which may take up to six hours. We travel in general class, where seating is unallocated and carriages are fan-cooled only. Stock up on plenty of food and water beforehand, as temperatures can get fairly warm on this long trip. The standard of the train is pretty basic, but it can be a fantastic way of meeting the locals and like-minded travellers. Once there perhaps explore the markets, ornately carved houses and museum before the sun goes down.
To get a taste of nomadic life, take a three-hour camel ride into the desert to watch the sunset behind sand dunes. Sleep under the open sky on cots with a mattress and blankets. The camel drivers will cook up a typical Rajasthani meal while you relax and maybe share stories around the campfire. If desert camping isn’t your thing, then alternative accommodation can be provided in Jaisalmer. There are no structured bathroom facilities on this desert camping experience, so it’s important to bring toiletries, including hand sanitizer.


Notes: During the winter, this experience may be changed due to weather conditions; however, we’ll still ride camels into the desert, but will ride back to Jaisalmer to sleep.
Head back into Jaisalmer by camel in the morning and enjoy a free day. The city is one of the oldest Rajasthan capitals and dates as far back as AD1156, so it’s teeming with history. Perhaps explore the Jain Temple, the Jaisalmer havelis or Folklore Museum. With imposing parapets and towers at every turn, the Old Town is full of intricate stonewalls that lead to the havelis. These private mansions once homed Jaisalmer’s nobility and resemble small palaces. Tonight we sleep in a haveli-converted hotel; a comfortable base after a long day.
In the morning, travel to Jodhpur by private vehicle and local bus (approximately 5.5. hours). The city is known for its antique shops and the best lassi in India. Enjoy an orientation walking tour around the ‘Old City’ and visit Sadar Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in India. It’s built around a clock tower amid spice and vegetable markets, juice sellers and sari materials. This is a great place to test your haggling skills. The evening is then free to do as you wish.
This morning explore the colossal Mehrangarh Fort and take in the views from its ramparts, which dominate the city's skyline. Afterwards, possibly visit the nearby Bishnoi villages where you’ll find a welcoming, nature-loving community. Perhaps take a village safari tour, where you’ll come across wildlife and learn why the Bishnoi are so protective of their land. This evening, board an overnight train to Delhi for a comfortable trip of around 11 hours.


Notes: Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned, and are a great way to travel long distances so maximum time can be spent in each place. Beds are padded berths and sheets, pillow and a blanket are provided, but you may prefer to bring your own sleeping sheet. Please be aware that you may be sharing with locals in a same gender/mixed gender situation.
Arrive at the Delhi train station early in the morning. There are no activities planned for today and you’re free to depart once we’ve arrived. Train delays can occur so please don’t be surprised if we’re late. Due to potential delays, we recommend booking any international flights for after 2 pm today.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
3 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 4 dinners
Transport
Auto rickshaw, Camel, Cycle rickshaw, Metro, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Train
Accommodation
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 night), Deluxe permanent tent (2 nights), Guesthouse (2 nights), Heritage Property (5 nights), Hotel (9 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights), Resort (1 night)
Included activities
  • Delhi - Old Delhi Walking Tour
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Agra - Agra Fort
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Chanderi - Home cooked dinner & family visit
  • Chanderi - Guided village walk
  • Chanderi - Traditional music performance
  • Orchha - Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony
  • Orchha - Taragram visit
  • Orchha - Orchha Palace
  • Alipura - Village Walk & Palace Dinner
  • Khajuraho - Kama Sutra temples
  • Khajuraho - Home-cooked lunch & family visit
  • Bandhavgarh NP - Evening Wildlife Safari
  • Bandhavgarh NP - Morning Wildlife Safari
  • Varanasi - Sunset Candle Flower Ceremony
  • Varanasi - Sunrise Boat cruise
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
  • Mandawa - Haveli tour
  • Bikaner - Junagarh Fort
  • Bikaner - Karni Mata Rat Temple
  • Jaisalmer - City Walk
  • Jaisalmer - Camel safari & overnight desert camp
  • Jodhpur - City walk
  • Jodhpur - Meherangarh Fort

Dates

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Important notes

1. This trip finishes in Delhi on Day 25 by 12pm midday. Please see further details in the trip notes.
2. A single supplement is available on this trip. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.

As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change

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 Adventure trips score an average of 4.43 out of 5 based on 7 reviews in the last year.

North India Adventure , February 2016

North India Adventure , January 2016