Indian Small Group Short Tour
This fully escorted Indian small group tour takes us on an amazing journey through the beautiful cities of Jaipur, Agra, Varanasi, Cochin, and Mumbai. India is a feast for the eyes with pink palaces, and saris of every colour of the rainbow. We take in fragrant spices in the markets and experience the mouth-watering tang of a hot curry infused with saffron and chilli.
One of the highlights of our Indian small group tour is a journey to the Amber Fort, in the heart of Jaipur. While here, we ascend by elephant to the top of the hill, and look down on spectacular views.
The Taj Mahal is another tourist highlight, but we also explore other archaeological and historical wonders off the tourist trail. One of these is Varanasi, on the west bank of the Ganges. This is India’s holiest Hindu city. The 90 or so Ghats – steep steps leading to the banks of the river – define the region’s identity. While here, we take a ferry pilgrimage along the river early in the morning to watch the sun rise over the Ganges.
We also experience the spectacular Elephanta Cave Temples off Mumbai’s eastern shore. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the cave temples are chiselled into the rocky cliff and dedicated to the god Shiva.
Indian History & Geography
Other highlights of the Indian small group short tour include learning about the 3,000-year history of Delhi. While in this city, we visit its main icons, including the Red Fort, Raj Ghat, and the colourful shopping bazaars.
Bounded by the majestic Himalayan ranges in the north and edged by an endless stretch of golden beaches, India is a vivid kaleidoscope of landscapes, magnificent historical sites, royal cities, colourful people and rich culture. Its ancient monuments are the backdrop for the world’s largest democracy.
For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.Tour Notes
- Group size is limited to a maximum of 18 participants.
- Itineraries may change if flight schedules, site availability, and other inclusions have to be amended prior to departure.
Overview: Upon arrival in Delhi, we transfer to our hotel individually. Our tour begins with welcome dinner this evening at a specialty restaurant.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Royal Plaza or similar.
Overview: Delhi, the capital city of India, is a metropolis of great importance to the nation, both the gateway to the country and the seat of its political power. It provides an intoxicating mix of the ancient and the modern. In its 3,000-year history, Delhi has been the site of 7 different cities. Its strategic location has long defined it as the seat of power. Delhi is a city waiting to be explored.
Accommodation: Royal Plaza or similar.
Overview: After breakfast we drive to Jaipur (265 km / 5 hours drive) and on arrival we will check in to our hotel and enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure before heading out for dinner at a local restaurant.
The capital of Rajasthan was built in pink by the notable astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh a century ago in honour of a visiting prince and ever since, it has retained this colour. This city is 260 years old. We visit Maharaja’s City Palace, the pink rose of the residential and business areas.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Diggi Palace or similar.
Overview: After breakfast we explore the Pink City with an excursion to Amber Fort, situated just outside the city, where we ride on elephant to the top of the hill on which the fort is situated. The Fort Palace of Amber was the Kachhawahas citadel until 1727, when their capital moved to Jaipur. Successive rulers continued to come here on important occasions to seek the blessings of the family deity, Shila Devi. The citadel was established in 1592 by Man Singh I on the remains of an old 11th-century fort, but the various buildings added by Jai Singh I (r. 1621-67) is what constitutes its magnificent centrepiece.
We have an afternoon sightseeing tour of the City Palace in the heart of Jaipur, known for its blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. Not far away is the Central Museum. Occupying the Heart of Jai Singh II’s city, the City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the first half of the 18th century. The sprawling complex is a superb blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture, with open, airy Mughal-style public buildings leading to private apartments. Today, part of the complex is open to the public as the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, popularly known as the City Palace Museum. Its treasures, which include miniature paintings, manuscripts, Mughal carpets, musical instruments, royal costumes, and weaponry, provide a splendid introduction to Jaipur’s princely past, and its fascinating arts and crafts.
Our next stop is Hawa Mahal. A whimsical addition to Rajasthan’s rich architectural vocabulary, the fanciful Hawa Mahal or “Palace of Winds” was erected in 1799 by the aesthete Sawai Pratap Singh (r.1778-1803). Its ornate pink facade has become an icon for the city. The tiered Baroque-like composition of projecting windows and balconies with perforated screens is 5 stories high but just 1 room deep, its walls not more than 20 centimetres (8 inches) thick, built of lime and mortar. The structure was designed in this way to enable the veiled ladies of the harem to observe unnoticed the lively street scenes below. Dedicated to Lord Krishna, the Hawa Mahal, seen from afar, looks like the mukut (crown) that often adorns the god’s head. Visitors can climb up the winding ramp to the top, and a gateway towards the west leads into the complex. Within are administrative offices and the Archaeological Musuem, which houses a small collection of sculptures and local handicrafts, including some utensils dating back to the 2nd century BC.
We continue to Jantar Mantar. Of the 5 observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh II, the one in Jaipur is the largest and best preserved: the others are in Delhi, Ujjain, Mathura, and Varanasi. A keen astronomer himself, Jai Singh kept abreast of the latest astronomical studies in the world, and was most inspired by the work of Mirza Ulugh Beg, the astronomer-king of Samarkand. Built between 1728 and 1734, the observatory has been described as “the most realistic and logical landscape in stone,” its 16 instruments resembling a giant sculptural composition. Some of the instruments are still used to forecast how hot the summer months will be, the expected date of arrival, duration, and intensity of the monsoon, and the possibility of floods and famine.
Accommodation: Diggi Palace or similar.
Overview: After breakfast we depart for Agra (233 km / 5 hours drive). En route we stop for lunch at Bharatpur, and time permitting we will stop at Keoladeo Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary before continuing to visit Fatehpur Sikri. An old deserted town from the Mughal Dynasty, Fatehpur Sikri, built in red sandstone in honour of Saint Salim Chisti who foretold the birth of 3 sons to Emperor Akbar, is an example of robust stability combined with much originality. Each important edifice here represents a style in itself. Notable among them is the Diwan-e-Khas, entirely unique in its concept, having a tall vaulted room with an intricately-carved central pillar supporting a platform that once held the emperor’s throne. The airy Panch Mahal, a 5-storied structure rising in pyramidal fashion, was probably used by the ladies of the court. Set like a jewel in a courtyard of pink sandstone, it is the finest building here, with the marble Tomb of Salim Chisti enclosed by finely carved, lacy marble screens. The Buland Darwaza, an imposing gateway 54 metres high, was built to commemorate Akbar’s Aligarh. The tomb is a combination of Muslim and Hindu architectural styles. We arrive in Agra in time for dinner and check in at our hotel.
Agra is famous as being home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal. The city is also famous for its craftsmen and their superb inlay work on marble and soapstone, carpets, gold thread embroidery, and leather shoes. Also of interest are the Agra Fort, Sikandra, Ram Bagh, and Itmad-Ud-Daulah. Thirty five kilometres away are the imperial ruins of the Mughal city, Fatehpur Sikri. Agra is an old city and it is said that its name was derived from Agrabanad, a forest that finds mention in the epic Mahabharata.
Accommodation: 1 night at The Wyndham Agra or similar.
Overview: Today we visit the wondrous Taj Mahal with its superb view. Taj Mahal, the architectural modern day wonder of the world, is a fine example of the fusion of many architectural styles. We continue with a visit to Agra Fort, designed and built by Akbar in 1565 A.D. It is constructed with barricaded walls of red sandstone and it houses the beautiful Pearl Mosque and numerous palaces including the Jahangir Mahal, Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Am, Macchhi Bhawan, Nagina Masjid, Meena Bazar, Moti Masjid, Sheesh Mahal, and Musamman Burj, from where Taj Mahal is visible in all its beauty. In a fit of extreme irony, Emperor Sahahjahan, a prisoner of his son Aurangzeb in his old age, was put in a cell in the fort from where he could gaze at the Taj Mahal in the distance. Later in the evening we will have an early dinner followed by a transfer to the train station where we will board our overnight train to Varanasi.
One of the world’s most famous buildings, the Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631. Its perfect proportions and exquisite craftsmanship have been described as “a vision, a dream, a poem, a wonder.” This sublime garden-tomb, an image of the Islamic garden of paradise, cost nearly 41 million rupees and 500 kilos (1,102 lbs) of gold. About 20,000 workers laboured for 12 years to complete it in 1643.
Situated on the West Bank of the Yamuna, Agra Fort was built by Emperor Akbar between 1565 and 1573. Its imposing red sandstone ramparts form a crescent along the riverfront, and encompass an enormous complex of courtly buildings, ranging in style from the early eclecticism of Akbar to the sublime elegance of Shah Jahan. The barracks to the north are 19th-century British additions. A deep moat, once filled with water from the Yamuna, surrounds the fort.
Accommodation: Overnight train.
Overview: Upon arrival at the Varanasi train station we will be transferred to our hotel to freshen up. After lunch we will have a half-day sightseeing tour of the city including visiting the Ghats and attending the evening Aarti ritual at the Ghats for the river Ganges.
Also known as Kashi (“the City of Light”), or as Benares, Varanasi is situated on the west bank of the Ganges and is India’s holiest Hindu City, with a spiritual and religious legacy that goes back nearly 3,000 years. This is the city of Shiva, the foremost among the 12 places where the god burrowed and then burst into the sky in a fiery pillar of light (Jyotirlinga). Sanctified by Shiva’s all-pervading presence and the sacred Ganges, the 90 or so ghats along the river define the life and identify of Varanasi. Stretching from the southern Asi Ghat to the northern Adi Keshava Ghat, close to the Malviya Bridge, the Ghat covers more than 6 kilometres. Lined with temples and shrines, the ghats reverberate with the endless cycle of Hindu religious practice, from daily rituals to profound rites of passage.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Hotel Hindusthan or similar.
Overview: Today we have an early morning boat ride in the Ganges, a ferry pilgrimage from Ghat to Ghat. People bathe early in the morning to offer prayers to the rising sun. The 2 cremation ghats are Manikarniks and Harishchandra, where funeral pyres burn day and night. Hindus believe that to die in Kashi and to be cremated on banks of the Ganges is to attain release from the cycle of birth and death.
After our boat ride we return to the hotel for breakfast, and then depart for our tour of Sarnath, the buried Buddhist city where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. Sarnath was a renewed school of learning from 6th century BC to 12th century AD. We visit the ruins, the stupa, the Buddhist temple, and the museum.
Accommodation: Hotel Hindusthan or similar.
Overview: Today we fly to Mumbai and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.
The capital of Maharashtra is India’s most dynamic, cosmopolitan, and crowded city. The country’s financial centre and its busiest port, Mumbai is also home to the world’s biggest cinema industry, popularly known as Bollywood. Some 16 million people, from billionaire tycoons to homeless pavement dwellers, live in this teeming megalopolis.
Accommodation: 2 nights at Fariyas Hotel or similar.
Overview: In the morning we go for an Elephanta Excursion and the rest of the day will be spent doing sightseeing of Mumbai visiting the Prince of Wales Museum, The Gateway to India, etc.
The Elephanta cave temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on an island off Mumbai’s eastern shore, the 6th-century AD Elephanta cave temples, chiselled into a rocky cliff and dedicated to Shiva, contain some great masterpieces of Indian sculpture. Originally called Ghaarapuri or “Fort-City,” the island was renamed Elephanta by the Portuguese after a huge stone elephant that once stood here.
Accommodation: Fariyas Hotel or similar.
Overview: Our tour concludes after breakfast.
What’s included in our Tour
- Services of Tour Leader for the duration of tour.
- Transport in comfortable and modern coaches.
- 1 night rail travel with shared facilities.
- All lectures, excursions, entrance fees, and local guides.
- 9 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 9 dinners.
- 1 internal flight and taxes.
- Gratuities and necessary tips.
- 9 nights of hotel accommodation
What’s not included in our Tour
- Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
- Comprehensive travel insurance.
- International airfares and departure taxes.
- Visa Service and Fee