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Mystical India with Ranthambore Tiger Preserve

December 5 – 22, 2010

Mystical and spiritual, chaotic and confounding, India overflows with riches. While staying at excellent hotels, we travel the classic Golden Trian gle: bustling Delhi; Agra, home of the sublime Taj Mahal; Jaipur, great city of the Rajput. Plus, we search for elusive Bengals at Ranthambore Tiger Preserve; admire Khajuraho's ancient temples; and absorb the holiness of Varanasi.
From $4,195


Day 1
Depart U.S. for Delhi, India

Day 2
Arrive Delhi

We spend today en route to Delhi, India's capital and third largest city, connecting via Brussels. Arriving late this evening, we transfer directly to our hotel.

Accommodations:  Taj Palace Hotel

Day 3
After a morning briefing with our tour director, this afternoon we tour Delhi, including the 16th-century Tomb of Humayun; Qutab Minar, the 234-step tower dating to 1193; and India Gate, honoring the 90,000 Indian soldiers who died in World War I. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at our hotel. B,D
Day 4

Today we explore Old Delhi, beginning with the Gandhi Memorial, the simple black marble slab honoring Mahatma Gandhi. Next, two renowned 17th-century landmarks: Lal Qila, the Red Fort palaces where we stop for photos; and the red sandstone and marble Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque. Then we ride rickshaws through Chandi Chowk market; visit a Sikh temple; and tour the National Museum. Tonight we dine in the homes of urban Indian families. B,D

Day 5

Today we travel by coach to the "pink city" of Jaipur, one of the great cities of the Rajput, with historic forts, palaces, and gardens. We reach our hotel late afternoon. B,L,D

Day 6
Our first stop is the stunning Hawa Mahal, the elaborately carved pink sandstone "Palace of the Winds." We continue on to Amber Fort, built by the Kkachhawah Rajputs as their capital from 1037 to 1728; Jantar Mantar, the open-air observatory; and City Palace Museum, housing the magnificent art collections of the Maharajahs of Jaipur. B,L
Day 7

This morning we visit the village of Sanganer to see traditional block printing and handmade paper industries. Later we tour a local market then take a traditional rickshaw ride. Tonight we are dinner guests in the home of a multi-generational Rajasthan family. B,D

Day 8
We travel today to Ranthambore National Park, the former hunting ground of the Maharajah of Jaipur and now a 512-square-mile natural preserve that is home to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, mammals, and of course, Bengal tigers. This afternoon we take our first game drive through the park. B,L,D

Day 9

We take both morning and afternoon game drives today to see not only game (though tiger and leopard sightings are not guaranteed), but also picturesque ruins of forts and palaces. B,L,D

Day 10

We depart early for Kalakho and the Dera Lake View Retreat on the banks of Madhosager Lake. Here we enjoy a unique small group encounter: a camel safari to meet the local Meena tribespeople in their homes - mud huts adorned with floral and animal designs. B,L,D

Day 11
Kalakho/Fatehpur Sikri/Agra

Leaving Kalakho this morning, we travel to Fatehpur Sikri, the late 16th-century city of red sandstone that is an outstanding example of Mughal architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Early afternoon we reach Agra, the ancient Mughal stronghold. B,D

Day 12

This morning we visit the Taj Mahal, the magnificent tomb built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz. Some 20,000 laborers spent 17 years on the exquisitely symmetrical white marble mausoleum, which was begun in 1632. After an Indian cooking lesson and lunch, we venture to the imposing Agra Fort complex. B,L

Day 13

We travel by train to Jhansi, then continue by coach to the village of Orchha. After lunch here we travel on to Khajuraho, whose collection of 22 Hindu temples dating to the 10th century is a UNESCO site. B,L,D

Day 14

Today we tour several of Khajuraho's well-preserved temples (many adorned with erotic sculptures), considered the finest examples of temple architecture in northern India. B,D

Day 15

We fly today to Varanasi, Hinduism's holiest city and a sacred place of pilgrimage. This evening we attend a traditional aarti offering ceremony as we cruise along the Ganges. B,D

Day 16
Early this morning we return to the Ganges, where Hindu pilgrims perform their rituals along the ghats (steps) leading to the river. We visit several of the important ghats by boat as we experience for ourselves the spiritual mystique of these hallowed waters. Next we visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the most sacred of the shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. Later we travel to Sarnath, birthplace of Buddhism. Tonight we celebrate our journey at a farewell dinner. B,D
Day 17

We fly this afternoon to Delhi, where the evening is at leisure. B

Day 18
Return to U.S.

Early today we transfer to the airport for our return flight to the U.S.

B=Breakfast Included  L=Lunch Included  D=Dinner Included