- See Varanasi’s famous ghats
Cruise the Holy Ganges and witness life on the Ghats
- Extraordinary archaeology
Visit the Buddhist site of Sanchi and the rock shelters of Bhimbetka
- See the Taj
Visit this iconic building at sunrise
- The Amber Fort
Tour this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site
- VIP door to door
- Half board
Explore northern India – from the mysteries of Bhimbetka to the beauty of the Taj Mahal…
Discover some of the mysteries, architectural and archaeological marvels, and unique cities of northern India on this exciting new tour. Sail past Varanasi’s famous ‘ghats’ fronting the Holy River Ganges, walk the streets of Old Delhi, and see the iconic Taj Mahal at sunrise. Delve into the religious and secular history of the region as you visit the mighty Amber Fort in colourful Jaipur, see the oldest surviving Buddhist sanctuary at Sanchi and try to unlock the mysteries of Mesolithic wall paintings at Bhimbetka’s 243 rock shelters, only discovered in the last 60 odd years. You’ll also head off the beaten track with a visit to the extraordinary stepwell of Chand Baori with its awe-inspiring symmetry, and cruise the waters of the Chambai River at Dholpur watching for rare species in the National Chambal Sanctuary.
As well as travelling by coach and car, you’ll take to the rails on four occasions as you transfer between cities by train. You’ll also gain a true taste of the country as you dine at a private Haveli in Varanasi and sample the cuisine of Bhopal. As the American author John Steinbeck observed … ‘people don’t take trips – trips take people’ ; on this new tour look forward to an opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant, diverse and mystical region of Northern India as we take you to some of its most intriguing and fascinating destinations.
14 nights in hotels and 1 in flight
28 meals: 14 breakfasts and 14 dinners
- Optional travel insurance underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance SE, UK
- Return flights and transfers
- Saga tour manager
- Porterage at all hotels
- Tourist visa for full British Citizens resident in the UK
Excursions and visits
- Walking tour of Old Delhi
- Coach tour of New Delhi
- Attend an Aarti Ceremony
- Dine at a private Haveli
- Morning cruise past Varanasi’s ghats
- Visit the Amber Fort
- Visit to the stepwell of Chand Baori
- See the Taj Mahal at sunrise
- Visit to Agra Fort
- Four train journeys
- City tour of Bhopal
- Visit to the Buddhist monuments of Sanchi
- Visit to the archaeological site of Bhimbetka
- See the Western Group of temples at Khajuraho
- Visit the medieval town of Orchha
- An hour-long boat safari in the National Chambal Sanctuary
- Visit Gwalior Fort
- Visit seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Day 1 UK-Delhi
After taking Saga’s included UK door-to-door travel service to the airport, fly overnight to Delhi.
Day 2 Delhi
Transfer to the locally rated 5-star Suryaa Hotel (4Q) in Delhi for a two-night stay. After settling in, look forward a welcome dinner and briefing at your hotel. Facilities at your hotel include a choice of restaurant, lounge bar and French-style cafe, swimming pool, fitness centre, spa and beauty Salon (charges apply at both). Each of the 244 rooms have a television, tea and coffee-making facilities, safe and Wi-Fi. D
Day 3 Delhi
This morning look forward to a walking tour of Delhi. Captured by the British in 1803, Delhi did not become the capital of India until the early 20th century and by the 1930s underwent further change when the area of New Delhi was inaugurated. Now it is a city of two parts – Old Delhi, which you’ll explore on your guided walking tour this morning, and New Delhi – designed by the British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens with its broad avenues and distinctive architecture. As you set off into Old Delhi on your walking tour, take in the sights and sounds of the capital. You’ll walk through Dariba Kalan – the ‘silver street’, the Kinari bazaar known for its wedding clothes and gold embroidery, and onto the market of Chandni Chowk. This market has been in existence since the 17th century and at that time was said to contain 1,560 shops! Today it is a bustling, colourful, crowded, gritty heartbeat of the city where vendors offer everything from jewellery and perfume to spices and street food. Look up and power lines fill the air, look to each side and the bustling, frenetic activity of Old Delhi will pervade your senses, providing enduring memories of this unique place where commerce, poverty and everyday life sit side by side. You’ll also pass the 17th century Jama Masjid – India’s largest mosque with its elegant exterior and towering minarets, and Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib – one of the city’s nine Sikh places of worship.
Later today, join your coach for a drive past some of the highlights of New Delhi. You’ll see the war memorial of India Gate, commemorating the 70,000 Indian soldiers who died during World War One while fighting for the British, as well as both Indian and British soldiers killed at the Northwest Frontier. You will also see the Parliament Buildings, the President’s residence (Rashtrapati Bhawan) and conclude with a visit to the 13th century Qutab Minar minaret, the tallest tower in India which forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Look forward to enjoying dinner at your hotel this evening. B, D
Day 4 Delhi-Varanasi
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your one hour, 20 minute flight to Varanasi, situated in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. This ancient city situated along the River Ganges is considered a holy city and place of pilgrimage for Hindus. With its wealth of temples, 88 riverside ghats where steps lead down to the river for bathing and ceremonies, and more, it is regarded as the cultural capital of India.
Upon arrival transfer to the locally-rated 4-star Radisson Blu hotel (4Q) where you will stay for the next two nights. Situated near the Ganges, facilities include a restaurant, lounge bar, outdoor pool, fitness centre , and spa (charges apply). Each of the 116 air-conditioned bedrooms has a television, tea and coffee-making facilities, safe, hairdryer and free Wi-Fi. Look forward to relaxing for the rest of the day before enjoying an evening Aarti ceremony at the Ghats, and dinner at private Haveli (a traditional building). Here you’ll be treated to typical Varanasi cuisine comprising a traditional Litti-Choka meal of choorma (a dish made with wheat, ghee and sugar), daal and rice. There will also be a short literary session or book reading while you dine. B, D
Day 5 Varanasi
This morning before breakfast cruise past the ghats – stepped areas that lead down into the waters of the River Ganges. Here you’ll see worshippers, and pilgrims immersing themselves in the Ganges’ holy waters, as well as the burning ghats where cremations take place. Afterwards, return to your hotel for breakfast. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure, or perhaps join an optional excursion to Sarnath, where Buddha preached his first sermon. B, D
Day 6 Varanasi-Jaipur
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel and then transfer to the airport for your one hour 35-minute flight to the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur, the capital of the Rajasthan region, where you will spend the next two nights at the locally-rated 4-star Sarovar Premiere, Jaipur (4Q). Facilities at the hotel include a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, gym and free Wi-Fi. Each of the 80 air-conditioned rooms has a telephone, television, safe and complimentary Wi-Fi. B, D
Day 7 Jaipur
The magnificent Amber Fort lies around 11 kilometres from Jaipur and was the home of the ruling Kachhawah until the capital moved to what became Jaipur in 1727. The Amber Fort – together with five other forts – forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Hill Forts of Rajasthan and itself represents a blend of Rajput-Mughal style in both its architecture and gardens. Building of the fort began in 1592 and expanded during the 17th century under subsequent kings. Step into the main courtyard of the fort via the Sun Gate, and you step into another world. Here you will find courtyards, chambers, hallways and palaces. Look for the silver doors of the Siladevi Temple, the columns decorated with elephants in the hall of Public Audience, the hall of Victory with its mirrored ceiling, stunning internal decoration, and elegant and peaceful gardens. After exploring this stately building, return to your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Alternatively, perhaps join an optional tour of Jaipur revealing some of the city’s highlights. Relax at your hotel this evening. B, D
Optional excursion. City Palace and Jantar Mantar. (Half day) Your fascinating tour starts with a photostop at the Hawa Mahal – the Palace of the Winds. This extraordinary building constructed in 1799 was designed to allow royal ladies who were in ‘pardah’ to watch from the windows without being seen themselves. With 953 windows on the exterior walls, the building has no foundations, its curved profile sufficient to enable it to stand. From here your tour continues to the City Palace. This complex of palaces in a variety of architectural styles, coupled with gardens, courtyards and styles, plus a museum and art gallery offers a glimpse into the art and culture of the region. Your tour concludes with a visit to the Jantar Mantar Observatory. Built between 1724 and 1730 this observatory houses a collection of 14 astronomical instruments used to scan the celestial bodies with extraordinary accuracy, ranging from the Jai Prakash based on Greco-Babylonian concepts, to the enormous 27-metre tall sundial of Samrat Yantra whose shadow moves at around 1mm per second.
Day 8 Jaipur-Agra
Set out for the five to six-hour drive to Agra. En route pause to visit the stepwell of Chand Baori in Abhaneri. Stepwells have been constructed in India for over 1400 years, and provided access to, and storage of, water. Barely visible from ground level, they earnt their name from the symmetrical multitude of small staircases carved into their sides. They are both a remarkable feat of engineering and also of great architectural and archaeological value, with their astonishing design and geometrical precision.
The Stepwell at Chand Baori is one of the largest and finest in the world and yet, as an archaeological treasure, still comparatively overlooked. Built by King Chand in the 9th century the well has over 3,500 steps over 13 floors, leading to the base of the well, 65 feet below ground level. Take time out to marvel at this extraordinary structure before continuing to Agra where you will stay for the next two nights at the locally rated 4-star Taj Gateway Hotel (4Q), a modern hotel set in landscaped grounds. Facilities include a restaurant, coffee shop, swimming pool and fitness centre. Each of the 100 rooms have a telephone, television, tea and coffee-making facilities, safe and hairdryer. Wi-Fi is available (charge applies). Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure with dinner at your hotel this evening. Perhaps treat yourself to an optional trip to a show. B, D
Day 9 Agra
Start your day by visiting what is regarded as one of the seven new wonders of the world and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 17th century Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his late wife. Constructed in white marble, it took around 22 years and over 20,000 workers and craftsmen brought together from Persia, Turkey, France and Italy, to complete it. Set off this morning to visit this beautiful building around sunrise, returning for breakfast at your hotel. Afterwards, it’s off to the Agra Fort – also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although originally planned as a military structure with its towering walls and an interior that resembled a city in itself, the fort has had a chequered history, serving ultimately as a prison for Shah Jahan who was incarcerated here after his son seized power. The only part of the fort that is open to visitors today is the eastern end where you will be able to see the courtyard and Hall of private audiences, a mosque, and more. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure or perhaps join an optional excursion to see the ‘Baby Taj’. B,D
Day 10 Agra-Bhopal
Depart your hotel early for Agra train station where you will board the train for a seven hour journey south to Bhopal. Upon arrival check into the locally-rated 5-star Jehan Numa Palace Hotel (4Q), a 19th century building situated in the Shamla hills where you will stay for the next two nights. Facilities at your hotel include a choice of restaurants, cafe, bar, swimming pool, fitness centre, jacuzzi and sauna, and spa (charges apply). Each of the 100 air-conditioned rooms has a television, tea and coffee-making facilities, and Wi-Fi.
This afternoon look forward to a city tour of Bhopal, which is intersected by a pair of lakes. The north of the city is a townscape of mosques and bazaars, while to the south is the modern part of the city with its hotels and modern shopping areas. During your tour visit Taj-ul-Majid, one of Asia’s largest mosques. Building commenced in the 19th century, but the work was not ultimately completed until the 1980s. You’ll also see the smaller mosque of Jama Masjid built by Kudsia Begum, as well as the performing arts centre of Bharat Bhawan with its museum, theatre, libraries and more. This evening look forward to enjoying an authentic dinner of Bhopal cuisine which combines local cuisine with influences from the surrounding region, plus an opportunity to discuss the cuisine of the region with a local host. B, D
Day 11 Bhopal
Continue your exploration of Bhopal today as you head out of the city to visit some of the region’s archaeological treasures, travelling first to the Buddhist monuments at Sanchi. Situated on a hill, this UNESCO World Heritage site comprises a stupa, temples, palaces, monasteries and pillars dating to the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. It is regarded as the oldest surviving Buddhist sanctuary, with the Great Stupa one of the country’s oldest stone buildings. Explore the monuments with their outstanding carving, some depicting scenes from Buddha’s life, and the archaeological museum, before continuing to Bhimbetka. This UNESCO World Heritage Site at the foot of the Vindhyan Mountains is home to rock shelters which are decorated with Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic) and later rock art paintings depicting animals, riders and hunters. Step back in time as you admire some of the 243 rock shelters which lay undiscovered until 1957.
On your return journey to Bhopal stop to visit the unfinished temple of Bhojpur. Building of this extraordinary building with its 33-foot high doorway and monolithic construction, started in the 11th century but the site was subsequently abandoned for no apparent reason. Afterwards, return to your hotel. B, D
Day 12 Bhopal-Khajuraho
Transfer to the railway station early this morning, to board the Mahamana Express train for Khajuraho, where you’ll then transfer to the locally rated 4-star Radisson Blu, Khajuraho, where you stay overnight. Later this afternoon set off for a guided visit to the city’s renowned Western Group of Temples. The temples of Khajuraho were built during the relatively short period of 100 years between 950 and 1050 AD when the region was ruled by the Chandelas rajputs. Of the 85 temples originally built here, around 20 remain today and can be divided into three groups across the religions of Hinduism and Jainism. The temples were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and the multitude of carvings that decorate them are regarded as some of the great masterpieces of Indian Art.
While the temples are famed for their erotic carvings which make up about 10% of the decoration, the remaining 90% of the relief carvings range from dancers, nymphs, and figures carrying out everyday actions, to musicians, processions, animals and deities. The Hindu Western Group of Temples include some of the finest examples of art of the period. Among the temples you will see are the Kandhariya Mahadav temple dedicated to the Hindu God Lord Shiva and decorated with 872 statues, the Chitragupta Temple dedicated to the sun god Surya with some notable carvings of hunting scenes, the Vishvanath Temple regarded as an outstanding example of the architecture of the Chandela period, and more. Return to your hotel where facilities include a restaurant and bar, fitness centre and free Wi-Fi in public areas. Each of the 86 bedrooms has a balcony, television, tea and coffee-making faciltiies, safe and hairdryer. B, D.
Day 13 Khajuraho-Dholpur
Bid Khajuraho goodbye as you begin your journey to Dholpur, starting with a drive of approximately four hours to Jhansi. En route you’ll stop to visit the medieval town of Orchha, situated by the River Betwa. This small medieval town is a place of temples and palaces, a vibrant central square and a stately fort. Apart from the King’s Palace with its interior decoration of murals, the four-storey Palace of Jehangir Mahal with its decorative arches and windows, and Chaturbhuj Temple with its towering pinnacle, it’s a place that still manages to retain a feeling of being relatively untouched . Afterwards, continue to Jhansi railway station where you will catch the Taj Express to Dholpur.
Upon arrival transfer by open jeep to the locally rated 4-star Raj Niwas Palace hotel (3Q) where you will stay for two nights. Facilities at this Heritage hotel that was once home to Indian royalty and set in elegant grounds of 13 acres, include a restaurant, lounge bar and outdoor pool. Each of the 40 air-conditioned rooms has a television, safe, hairdryer and free Wi-Fi. B, D
Day 14 Dholpur
The town of Dholpur lies in the district of the same name east Rajasthan. To the west of the town lies a landscape of low hills, while to the south it is bounded by the Chambal River, part of which was declared a National Sanctuary in 1978. Step aboard this morning for an hour-long boat safari in the National Chambal Sanctuary. This protected area is home to endangered species including the Gharial crocodile, the Red Crowned Roof Turtle and the Ganges River Dolphin and is also an important bird area with some 300 species of resident and migratory birds. Afterwards, enjoy the afternoon at leisure or perhaps join an optional jeep safari. B, D
Day 15 Dholpur-Gwalior-Delhi
Departing Dholpur, drive to Gwalior (travelling in shared cars) where you will visit Gwalior Fort. This magnificent hilltop fort, perched some 300 feet above the city, is said to be one the most impregnable forts in the country. Within lies a citadel of palaces, temples and gateways, including the 15th century Man Singh Palace with its coloured tile friezes and architectural details, as well as the Gujari Mahal which now houses an archaeological museum, and the ancient Hindu temple of Teli ka Mandir. Part of the fort is now occupied by the famous Scindia School.
After your visit transfer to the railway station where you will board the Gatimaan Express to Delhi, from where you’ll transfer to the locally rated 5-star Pride Plaza Delhi hotel (4Q), for an overnight stay. Situated close to the airport, the hotel facilities include a choice of restaurants, cafe, outdoor pool, fitness centre and spa (charges apply). Each of the 385 air-conditioned room has a telephone, television, safe, tea and coffee-making facilities, and hairdryer. B, D
Day 16 Delhi-UK
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight home. B
This busy market area with its flower market, textiles, food and general goods provides an interesting glimpse into local life, with the possibility to shop for souvenirs.
Optional on 15 nights itinerary
City Palace and Jantar Mantar
Your fascinating tour starts with a photostop at the Hawa Mahal – the Palace of the Winds. This extraordinary building constructed in 1799 was designed to allow royal ladies who were in ‘pardah’ to watch from the windows without being seen themselves. With 953 windows on the exterior walls, the building has no foundations, its curved profile sufficient to enable it to stand. From here your tour continues to the City Palace. This complex of palaces in a variety of architectural styles, coupled with gardens, courtyards and styles, plus a museum and art gallery offers a glimpse into the art and culture of the region.
Your tour concludes with a visit to the Jantar Mantar Observatory. Built between 1724 and 1730 this observatory houses a collection of 14 astronomical instruments used to scan the celestial bodies with extraordinary accuracy, ranging from the Jai Prakash based on Greco-Babylonian concepts, to the enormous 27-metre tall sundial of Samrat Yantra whose shadow moves at around 1mm per second.
Optional on 15 nights itinerary
Set off on a jeep safari that will take you through the Chambal ravines and into the surrounding countryside. En route you’ll pass small villages where you can observe life away from the towns and tourist hubs, before exploring impressive Shergarh Fort, as well as seeing the beautiful pavillion palace of Talab e Shahi overlooking a lake, Van Vihar national park and more.
Optional on 15 nights itinerary
Mohabbat the Taj show
This dance show tells the story of Emperor Shajahan, and his wife Mumtaz, whose remains the Taj Mahal was built to house. With lavish and colourful costumes, and sets including a scale replica of the Taj Mahal, learn about one of the world’s great love stories.
Optional on 15 nights itinerary
Sarnath is renowned as the place where Buddha preached for the first time. By the 3rd century AD it had become a holy centre, which was subsequently ransacked by the Turks in the 12th century. Although the site was then left to languish, the Dhamekh Stupa with its 5th-century carvings remains and is said to mark the place from where Buddha gave his first Sermon.
Optional on 15 nights itinerary
The Baby Taj
Itimad-ud-Daula – or the ‘Baby Taj’ – was built in the 1620s as a tomb for Mizra Ghiyas Beg – the grandfather of Mumtaz. While not as imposing as the famous Taj, this charming building inlaid with marble and semi-precious stones is thought to have been a model for the Taj and is sometimes referred to as the ‘jewel box’.
Optional on 15 nights itinerary