Tour: Rajasthan, Taj & Varanasi

Date: 16 - 30 Nov 2020

Duration: 15 days (full tour)

Option 2: 13 days (excl. Varanasi)

Option 3: 11 days (excl. Varanasi & Udaipur)

Incl: Camel Fair, Light Festival & Tiger Safari

Mon 16 Nov - Day 1 - Udaipur

Day 1 is arrival day in Udaipur, which picturesquely sits on lake Pichola and is thus known as the 'Venice of India'.  With regards to reaching Udaipur, the majority of international flights will fly into Delhi first, where you can catch a connecting flight from Delhi to Udaipur, which will take just over 1 hour. Once you have booked your flights email us your arrival time in Udaipur and we will book your airport to hotel transfer. To give you time to recharge after your journey the first meet is at 19:00 for arrival day dinner and introductions.

Tue 17 Nov - Day 2 - Udaipur

On day 2 following breakfast, we will meander through the narrow streets and classical bridges of Udaipur on foot. During our walk we will stop at a local ghat (temple steps), which is popular with locals for washing clothes early in the morning, as well as the City Palace, which took over 400 years to build across multiple rulers and as such is an intricate mix of Rajasthani and Mogul architecture, consisting of courtyards trimmed with ornate arches. We will also drop into Jagdish Temple, which was built in 1651 and is the largest Hindu temple in Udaipur. Its structure consists of Indo-Aryan style of architecture and is dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu. In the afternoon we will visit the 11th Century Sas Bahu Temples, and if we make it back in time for sunset, select one of the many serene views overlooking lake Pichola. 

 

Udaipur: Sunrise 06:37; Sunset 18:01; Daylight: 11h 25 mins; Temp 20°-36°

Wed 18 Nov - Day 3 - Udaipur to Jodhpur via Ranakpur

On day 3 we will drive to Ranakpur, which will take approximately 2 hours without traffic, where we will visit  a beautiful 15th century white marble Jain Temple, called Chaumukha Mandir, which is dedicated to the first Tirthankara (spiritual teacher) in Jainism (a non-theistic religion founded in India in the 6th century BC). From here we will continue onto Jodhpur which will take 3 h 20 mins.

Jodhpur: Sunrise ​06:43; Sunset 18:00; Daylight: 11:17; Temp 17°-34°

Thu 19 Nov - Day 4 - Jodhpur

On day 4 we will visit to one of the largest forts in India, Mehrangarh Fort, which was built in approximately 1460 by Rao Jodha and sits at a vantage point of 122 metres above the city. It has seven gates within its sandstone walls,  which enclose palace buildings, temples, barracks, stables and a museum. On completion, we will stop off at Jaswant Thada, a marble memorial, which sits beneath the fort. Following lunch we will head out on a street photography walk, including a visit to the charity we will be donating to on this tour, The Sambhali Trust, which supports women and children  from excluded communties, through child sponsorship, English, Hindi, maths and skills training (particularly sewing), the products of which are sold in the boutique we will be visiting. Depending on how we are doing for time there may also be an opportunity to visit Mandore Temple Gardens.

Fri 20 Nov - Day 5 - Jodhpur - Pushkar Lake

On day 5 we will check out of our Jodhpur hotel early and drive to Pushkar, which will take approximately 4 hours. On arrival we will check in to our Pushkar accommodation and head out to Pushkar Lake thought of as a holy by Hindus, where we will soak up the serene atmosphere and have an opportunity to watch Aarti a Hindu ritual performed at dawn and dusk.  

Sat 21 Nov - Day 6 - Pushkar Camel Fair (Mewari horse ground)

On day 6 we will have a day to explore Pushkar Camel Fair, which is cited in literature as far back as the 4th century and is where livestock traders congregate once a year to buy and sell their most prized animals. Although described as a camel fair, the fair also includes horse traders of the Marwari horse. A unique breed from Rajasthan, recognisable from the inward turning tips of its ears. They can be found in various colours, with white horses deemed auspicious for weddings and pintos popular for everyday use. These horses are coveted throughout India and, much like their camel counterparts, can be seen adorned with tassels and pom poms, whilst prancing and rearing on cue. There are usually two distinct areas for horse and camel traders and we find it best to start with the horse area first, which usually has fewer other photographers and tourists whilst you get into the swing of photographing the site. 

Sun 22 Nov - Day 7 - Pushkar Camel Fair (camel ground)

On day 7 we will have another day exploring the Puskar Fair, this time we will focus on the camel trading area. In terms of setting the scene, you'll find livestock in various sized herds, interspersed with their owners in white traditional dress and colourful turbans, either meandering through the site for potential purchases or huddled in animated groups whilst negotiating a deal. Traders will often have a show camel or horse, which, as mentioned, they have trained to rear, prance and dance for entry into competitions and to ultimately show off their skills to potential buyers. There are usually more men than women at the site and the men tend to be more open to being photographed. At dusk as the light fades and the dust settles, multiple campfires spring to life, creating a wonderful hazy atmosphere. 

Pushkar: Sunrise 05:54; Sunset 19:21; Daylight: 13:26 mins; Temp 17°-32°

Mon 23 Nov - Day 8 - Pushkar to Jaipur

On day 8 there will be a final opportunity to revisit the fair in the morning, before checking out and driving to Jaipur which will take approximately 2 h 40 mins. If we make it back in time we will end with a sunset capture of Jal Mahal, a semi submerged palace in the middle of the Man Sagar Lake. 

Tue 24 Nov - Day 9 - Jaipur

Following breakfast on day 9, we will begin with a visit to Amber Fort, which contains a beautiful courtyard  with intricately embedded mirrors. Following the fort we will visit Jaipur's City Palace, which was completed in 1732 and was the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. As it is still used as a royal residence, only a small part of it is open to the public. We will then visit an unusual open air observatory called Jantar Mantar, which was completed in 1734 and is the largest of five such observatories in India, with 19 geometric life size astronomical instruments, still used during Indian astronomy exams today. Depending on how we are doing on time, we will include a brief stop for an external photograph of the Hawa Mahal (palace of winds) built in 1799 and comprising of a  5 story fascia of lattice work windows, with a shallow depth, just wide enough to  enable women of the royal household to observe daily life, without being seen.

Jaipur:  Sunrise ​06:35; Sunset 17:44; Daylight: 11:09; Temp 17°-32°

Wed 25 Nov - Day 10 - Jaipur to Ranthambore

On day 10 we will catch a train to Sawai Madhopur before transferring to our Ranthambore hotel in time for an afternoon safari. Ranthambore is known for its healthy and expanding tiger population currently thought to be just over 60. Although we cannot guarantee spotting a tiger as they are not tracked. However if we are not lucky enough to see a tiger, other wildlife inhabiting the park are:  sambar and chital spotted deer, nilgai (type of antelope), macaques and hanuman langurs (monkeys), caracals (similar to lynx), sloth bears, wild boar, chinkaras (gazelles), leopards (extremely rare), crocodiles, herons, peacocks and more diminutive wildlife adept at hiding within reserve's brush-land. 

Thu 26 Nov - Day 11 - Ranthambore to Agra

Day 11 will be predominantly a drive day from Ranthambore to Agra (our local operator may opt for a train + drive option if our main driver remains in Jaipur, which would be 3 hours to Bharatpur and 1 h 30 mins to Jaipur. Depending on our arrival time in Agra we will either head to our hotel and reconvene for dinner or if still light and depending on traffic, drive to a garden opposite the Taj Mahal called Mehtab Bagh, which translates as Moonlight Garden, for a sunset capture of the Taj Mahal from across the Yamuna River (we cannot guarantee this as the traffic becomes very congested when we hit Agra, and our primary visit to the Taj is timed for Sunrise the following morning.  

Fri 27 Nov - Day 12 - Agra to Delhi

Day 12 will begin with a sunrise capture and visit to the iconic Taj Mahal, which translates as ‘The Crown of the Palace’ and is a marble mausoleum intricately constructed on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra. It was commissioned by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1632 and completed in 1643. The 42 acre site further contains a mosque and a guest house set within geometrically designed gardens and is said to be the jewel of Muslim architecture in India. It does not disappoint in reality, especially early in the morning, before the majority of tourists flood into its grounds, with its marble reflecting pink hues, as the sun ascends above. Following our visit of this beautiful complex, we will drive to Delhi where we will stay overnight.

 

Agra:  Sunrise ​06:28​; Sunset 17:34; Daylight: 11:05; Temp 15°-32°

Sat 28 Nov - Day 13 - Varanasi

On day 13 we will catch an early internal flight to Varanasi from Delhi. Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and perceived as the holiest of seven sacred cities in Hinduism. As such Hindu pilgrims travel from far and wide to bathe in the Ganges, which is said to cleanse away a lifetime of sins. Following arrival and check in, we will head straight out for a street photography stroll along the ghats (steps) on the banks of the Ganges river. As we have timed this trip in line with Dev Diwali (festival of light), where the steps are lit up by thousands of small candles the following evening, the ghats will be alive with people and sadhus preparing for the festival. For sunset we will catch a boat ride and observe the Hindu ritual of Aarti, where temple preists conduct a ceremony before sacred images, using lit candle wicks to invoke love, energy and blessings. During the ceremony the priest will make offerings symbolising the 5 elements, consisting of a white cloth (space), smoke (air), flames (light), water and flowers (earth).  

Varanasi:  Sunrise ​06:06​​; Sunset 17:15; Daylight: 11:09; Temp 19° -34°;

Sun 29 Nov - Day 14 - Varanasi (incl. morning visit to Sarnath)

On day 14 we will start with a sunrise boat ride, which is a serene time to be on the river as Hindu worshippers conduct their morning rituals to welcome the day. Following our boat ride we will drive to Sarnath (30 mins), which is credited as being the location where Buddha gave his first sermon in 528 BC to 5 disciples. Hence it is is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists today and in the past, with 1500 monks reportedly living there in the 7th century, until its destruction by the Turks in the 12th century. The ruins then remained hidden until their discovery by British archaeologists in 1835. While in Sarnath, we will visit key areas, including the tallest statue of Buddha in India (80 ft) and the Tibetan Buddhist Temple, which is the most classically decorated internally. On return to Varanasi we will have lunch and spend the afternoon on a street photography walk through the back streets and along the ghats, as the candles are lit to create a particularly magical environment as the sun descends.

Mon 30 Nov - Day 15 - Varanasi - Departure Day (check out 11am)

Day 15 is departure day (there are no activities on this day as the tour has officially ended) and we advise booking flights to a check out time of 11am. Once booked email us your flight details and we will ensure your hotel to airport transfer is booked with the hotel.

The ethical bit...

For each tour we select a charity that works in the area we visit to donate £25 per person to. For this tour we have selected a charity called The Sambhali Trust, which was set up in 2007 by a local from Jodhpur, Govind Singh Rathore, who after witnessing the discriminatory treatment of women from a young age, including that of his mother following the death of his father at 15, vowed to contribute to the support of women in his community. The trust began after he offered to teach two local children who were not in education and was surprised when 18 showed up the following day. From this class of 18 students the Sambhali Trust was born. Today the trust manages 6 education and skills training centres  (5 urban and 1 rural), a scholarship programme, an emergency helpline, women's shelter, self-defence classes, support groups and start up loans for women wanting to start their own business.  If you are interested in discovering more about this trust, please do not hesitate to visit their site at www.sambhali-trust.org

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