Days 2 - 3
India’s largest city, Delhi, has been one of the country’s commercial and economic hubs for centuries and, as a result, is incredibly rich in culture and history. Made up of the ancient walled city of Old Delhi and the more modern sector, New Delhi, the city encompasses a staggering array of beautiful architecture, notable monuments and age-old temples, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Red Fort, Qutab Minar and Humayun's Tomb. Other key attractions include the 17th century Chandni Chowk marketplace – still one of the city’s most popular retail centres today, particularly for jewellery and traditional Indian saris; the iconic Bahà’i Lotus Temple – an award-winning architectural gem; and the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque.
Days 3 - 5
Fringed by the rugged Aravali Hills, Jaipur is the capital and largest city in India’s northern state of Rajasthan. This city is famed for being India’s first planned city featuring a multitude of pink terracotta buildings within the walled historic centre, earning it the nickname,’The Pink City’. Jaipur falls within the Golden Triangle, a popular tourist circuit, which includes Delhi, Jaipur and Agra, and serves as a gateway to the neighbouring desert cities of Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. This colourful city is a combination of tradition and modernity and offers visitors vibrant bazaars, lavish palaces and ancient temples. The salmon-hued old city is home to the opulent City Palace, encompassing an impressive assortment of palatial structures, sprawling gardens, courtyards and buildings. Don’t miss the fairy-tale splendour of the Amber Fort, set against the backdrop of the arid landscape.
Days 5 - 6
Home of the world-famous Taj Mahal, Agra is one of India’s prime tourist destinations for specifically this reason, though its attractions also extend to an array of other impressive historical sights. These include the red-hued Agra Fort, the sacred Jama Masjid mosque and Itmad-ud-Daulah’s tomb, with its white marble facade embellished with intricate inlaid designs and semi-precious gems. The Taj, however, is in a league of its own and needless to say is a must-see for any visitor to the city. Commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 15th century as a memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, it is an architectural masterpiece of exquisite craftsmanship and perfect proportions.
Days 6 - 7
Situated on the banks of Betwa River, laid back Orchha is often overshadowed by its neighbour, Khajuraho, famous for its erotic sculptures. But Orchha has charms of its own: this sleepy and timeless destination resembles a medieval Indian town, dominated by impressive ochre coloured palaces, forts and temples. Most of these date to between the 15th and 18th century – when the city was the thriving seat of government for the Bundela kings – and make for a sensory day of sightseeing, with main attractions including the intricate palace of Jahangir Mahal, the 14 Cenotaphs and the white-washed Ram Raja Temple.
Days 7 - 8
Located southwest of Kanpur, Khajuraho is considered one of India’s seven wonders and listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The city encompasses the nation’s largest array of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, decorated with intricately detailed erotic sculptures and reliefs. The site incorporates close to 100 sacred structures, some of them exquisitely preserved, and each evening, a light and sound show is staged here, covering the history, philosophy and craftsmanship encapsulated in this archaeological goldmine. Other highlights include: vibrant Annual Dance Festival of Khajuraho; the Panna National Park, home to leopards; the Arhanta Yoga Ashram, where visitors can take classical Hatha yoga classes. The city also boasts a wide variety of wonderful shops, markets and restaurants.
Days 8 - 10
An ancient and deeply sacred city, Varanasi rests along the banks of the holy River Ganges and encompasses a wealth of beautiful riverside temples, stately old forts and vibrant markets. It’s considered the spiritual capital of Hinduism, and it’s widely believed that dying here will bring salvation. As a result, the city is home to a multitude of ghats – stone steps leading to the river –some of which are used for bathing rituals and others as cremation sites. An early morning boat ride along the Ganges offers an excellent way to take in the ghats and the bustling activity centred on them.
Please be aware that no alcohol is available and only vegetarian food is permitted in all restaurants and hotels within close proximity to the Ganges.
Days 10 - 12
Known as the Constantinople of the east, Lucknow was a hub of Nawabi art, music, dance and architecture. Now the busy capital city of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow sits in the centre of the state on the north-western shore of the Gomti River. A major centre of the Indian rebellion of 1857, Lucknow’s population participated actively in India's independence movement, cementing its role as a major city in north India. Dining out in Lucknow is highly recommended, and a local delicacy is the traditional North Indian kebab is king, with many variations to feast on. Spend your days here admiring British era buildings, mausoleums, and the bazaars of the bustling old town.
Days 12 - 15
Allahabad is a city known for its historical and religious significance. Three of India's great rivers; Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati meet in Allahabad at a point known as the Sangam. According to Hindu mythology, taking a dip here in the month of January, wipes away sins and has a great religious significance. Consequently, a huge fair is organised every year to cater for the many devotees who flock to the Sangam from all across the country. Vast numbers of tents are installed on the land adjacent to the river bank and the entire area transforms into a temporary religious city, bursting with colour, life and atmosphere - perfect for photography enthusiasts.
Kumbh Mela is the world’s largest religious gathering that is held every twelfth year at one of four places, by rotation : Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Nasik and Ujjain. The Ardh Kumbh is held every six years at two places only – Haridwar and Allahabad. The Magh Mela is held every January in Allahabad and lasts for 41 days.
Other popular attractions in Allahabad include the All Saints Cathedral, Khusro Bagh, Anand Bhawan and Swaraj Bhavan. The city has also been witness to many important events in India's freedom struggle, such as the emergence of the first Indian National Congress in 1885, the beginning of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violence movement in 1920.