Those who are on the group flights will land in Delhi in the morning. Those not on the group flights will need to be at the start hotel by 9.30am (or at the airport when the group land). A local representative will meet Land Only clients at the start hotel and provide a transfer to the airport where we meet clients arriving on the group flight. Once everyone has arrived we will then depart on the drive to Jaipur, which may take between 5-7 hours depending upon traffic conditions. *Standard Hotel*
Built in the late 18th century, Jaipur is a planned city of broad avenues built of sandstone and painted pink at a later stage. We visit the City Palace in the centre of Jaipur, formerly the residence of the Maharaja, now a fine museum containing rare manuscripts, paintings, royal garments and weapons. Close to the palace is one of the most intriguing sights of India, the observatory of Jai Singh. This is an assembly of immense astronomical instruments made of marble and brass set in a pleasant garden. We will also see Jaipur's impressive landmark, the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. We then visit the impressive and splendid Amber Fort, a few miles from the main city, rising above a lake. Jaipur is a centre of many handicrafts, such as durries (woven rugs), carpets, printed cloth, semi-precious stones, leatherwear etc. It will be difficult to leave a workshop without buying anything! *Standard Hotel*
We wind our way through the villages of rural India to Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (approx. 5 hr drive); we stay in a hotel not far from the park entrance and make 2 game drives into the park, one in the late afternoon and one the following morning. Ranthambore is one of India's tiger reserves under Project Tiger. After initial success, poaching has drastically reduced the tiger population and the chance of spotting a tiger is small, but many Exodus groups have seen tigers over the last few years. There is other wildlife to spot such as several species of deer, crocodiles and bird life including purple heron, kingfishers, cormorants, parakeets, jacanda, waders and partridges. *Standard Hotel*
In the morning we take our second game drive, trying to find that elusive tiger, before we start our journey to Agra via Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur Sikri is the Emperor Akbar's deserted royal city. This impressive and well-preserved citadel became his capital in 1571, after the blessing of a local Moslem holy man correctly predicted the birth of a longed-for son, his successor the Emperor Jehangir. The mosque, designed to hold ten thousand worshippers, the palaces, residences and halls of audience are all made of decorative red sandstone. But this magnificence only lasted 14 years, as in 1584 Akbar left Fatehpur Sikri to secure his outlying territories, leaving this city much as we see it today – in perfect condition. This is another very full but rewarding day. Total driving time approx. 7 hrs. *Comfortable Hotel*
Today we will rise early to visit the beautiful white marble Taj Mahal at sunrise which was built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631. The Taj is serenely beautiful and never fails to amaze a first time visitor; the white marble exterior changes colour according to the position of the sun during the day and is matched by the rich interior detail. Within striking distance is the imposing Red Fort of Akbar, third of the Moghul Emperors, whose mighty sandstone walls enclose the beautiful white marble Pearl Mosque and the palaces, halls, courtyards and fountains of his sons and successors, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. It is here that the latter spent his last years, imprisoned by his own son Aurangzeb. Later in the day we will transfer to Agra train station and join the overnight sleeper train to Varanasi. *Sleeper Train*
We arrive in Varanasi during the morning and transfer to our hotel. Varanasi, located on the river Ganges, is one of the holiest cities in India and stands at the centre of the Hindu Universe. As such, the city lives and breathes Hinduism: there are thousands of pilgrims, wandering holy men (Sadhus), religious elders and casual visitors. It is a city to get immersed in by exploring its maze of narrow lanes and the many temples and watching the Hindu ceremonies that take place around the clock. There is time to explore the emporiums specialising in silks and brocades or maybe take a massage by the banks of the Ganges. Your leader can organise various optional sightseeing trips during your 2 days here. *Comfortable Hotel*
Just before dawn, we take a boat out on the Ganges to witness the extraordinary spectacle on the ghats, the steps leading down to the river. Every day thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to these three miles of riverbank to soak in the holy waters. This afternoon we fly back to Delhi. * * *Standard hotel*
Today you are free to relax or explore the sites of New and Old Delhi (an optional sightseeing trip will be organised if you wish). Recommended sites are the Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb, India Gate, Jama Masjid (India's largest mosque), Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) and Raj Ghat. For last minute shopping, we recommend the market area of Chandni Chowk or Karol Bagh. *Standard Hotel*
Those on the flight inclusive package will depart for the airport this morning for the daytime flight back to London; Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel. **
* 7 nights hotels, all en suite, 1 night air-conditioned sleeper train and 1 domestic flight * Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs * Travel by air-conditioned private bus, train, and domestic flight
All breakfasts and 1 lunch are included in this trip. India is famous for its food and there is ample chance to try various curries such as the familiar tandoori, biriyani and rogan josh. If you are a vegetarian, India is a great destination. There are wonderful desserts and excellent beers, soft drinks and Indian specialities such as lassi, a refreshing yoghurt drink. You should allow at least £15-25 (approx. US$20 - US$35) per day for lunch and dinner. You can eat out very cheaply in India, but if you go to the more expensive restaurants most of the time, you will spend more than the suggested amount. In most of the towns there is a good choice of restaurants and a choice between Indian and Western food. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow. Tea and soft drinks are very cheap. A (large!) bottle of beer is approximately £3 (approx. US$4). Mineral water is widely available, but drinking water is provided in a large container in the bus in order to reduce our use of plastic, so please bring your own water bottle with you to refill.
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