9 Day Cultural India - Compass India Holidays
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The Taj Mahal and Rajasthan. The world’s oldest living city. The site of The Buddha’s first teachings. Erotic sculptures a millennium old. A luxury holiday that captures the ancient spirit of India.

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9 Day Cultural India Return to list of tours

Day 1 Arrival at Delhi

A Compass representative shall meet you at the airport and arrange for your transfer to the hotel.

 

Delhi, India’s capital has seen great empires rise and fall around it for millennia, with each new batch of rulers building over the works of their predecessors. As a result, the city abounds in monuments and ruins of stunning diversity. The seat of the world’s largest democracy, it also boasts of magnificent symbols of government that pay architectural tribute to the ideals of self-rule and democracy. These co-exist side by side with wide multi-lane motorways, shopping malls, fast cars and ultramodern steel-glass office complexes that characterize any large 21st century metropolis.

 

Overnight at Delhi.

Day 2 Sightseeing around Delhi

Breakfast will be served at the hotel. Your luxury holiday in India commences with a guided tour of Old Delhi.

The day begins with Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. The shrine bears testimony to the simplicity of the man who changed the world with the power of ideas.  A simple black stone structure with an eternal flame burning at one end.

The majestic Red Fort was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1639, and remained seat of the empire for the next two centuries. Today, the Prime Minister of the India delivers his Independence Day speech to the nation from the ramparts of this red sandstone structure.

A raucous, roller coaster rickshaw ride through the winding medieval alleyways of Old Delhi takes us to Jama Masjid, one of Asia’s largest mosques. We shall view this magnificent structure from outside, its lofty and highly ornate domes and minarets reminiscent of a scene from the Arabian Nights.

Continue your rickshaw ride to the bustling markets of Chandni Chowk.

After lunch proceed for a sightseeing tour of New Delhi.

New Delhi was built by the British in the 1930s as their imperial capital. Majestic government and administrative buildings line the wide, tree-lined avenues of what is also known as Lutyen’s Delhi, after Sir Edwin Lutyens who was commissioned to design the city in 1911.

Our journey begins at India Gate, the red sandstone arch erected in memory of Indian and British soldiers who laid down their lives in World War I. Close by are the majestic Parliament House, the seat of the world’s largest democracy and the Rastrapathi Bhawan, the Indian President’s official residence. Inside are the famed Mughal Gardens with its ornate fountains and manicured lawns. Mughal Gardens are open to the public during spring.

Drive to Qutub Minar. Built by Qutubuddin Aibak, a slave general in 1193, it is India’s tallest stone towerand marks the site of the country’s first Muslim kingdom. The iron tower in a square opposite is unique in that it never rusts, although it has been exposed to the elements for centuries.

The lotus-shaped Bahai temple south of Delhi is also of interest. An ideal place for meditation, this Bahai House of worship is open to people of all faiths.

Overnight at Delhi.

Day 3 Delhi to Varanasi by air, sightseeing, visit Sarnath.

Breakfast will be served at the hotel.

Transfer to the airport for your flight to Varanasi. A Compass representative will meet you at outside the Varanasi arrival lounge and assist with your hotel transfer.

The ancient city of Varanasi on the west bank of the holy Ganga has been a spiritual center for Hinduism since the dawn of time.

Varanasi’s high ghats (steps leading to and from the river) are crowded with priests, wrestlers, astrologers, devotees, bathers, morning walkers and saffron clad mendicants or sadhus. The ringing of temple bells and the heady, heavy smell of incense permeate everywhere. In Varanasi, even a short walk or a simple boat-ride is an unforgettable adventure.

The cinematic nature of daily life in Varanasi is not lost on filmmakers and over the years, many have made Varanasi their backdrop, among them maestros like Roberto Rossellini, James Ivory and Satyajit Ray. Fittingly, the first moving picture ever shot on Indian soil was filmed here in 1899.

Varanasi is one of the unforgettable highlights of your luxury holiday in the timeless Indian subcontinent.

After lunch, you’ll be driven to Sarnath where, millennia ago, the Buddha delivered his first ever sermon. Today, thousands of travellers from all over the world pour in every year to pay homage to what is one of the holiest places in Asia. The 1600 year old Dhamekh stupa marks the spot where the Buddha sat as he delivered his first teachings. Interestingly, this ancient stupa is a stand in for an even earlier structure erected by Emperor Asoka in 249 BC. 

The highly recommended Sarnath museum houses antiquities dating back to the 3rd century BC. Don’t miss the gigantic red sandstone standing Bodhisattvas and the magnificent Asokan pillar that is India’s state symbol.

Proceed for a guided day tour of Varanasi which begins with the Bharat Mata Temple where the deity is a marble relief map of undivided India.

Later, visit the 18th century Durga Temple. According to legend, the idol of the goddess simply appeared in the spot where the temple stands today.

The white marble Tulsi Manas Temple has scenes and stanzas from the Hindi epic Ram Charit Manas engraved upon its walls. The temple is in the traditional Shikhara style, its towers representing the great Himalayan summits or shikharas. 

Up next, the 4000 acre Benaras Hindu University campus houses an art gallery and the Mosque of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

Later, enjoy a buggy ride through some parts of the old city.

In the evening, witness aarti (or offering of lights) at the ghats of Varanasi. Your guide will be at hand to explain the proceedings and the significance of the Vedic hymns recited by the priests.

Overnight at Varanasi.

Day 4 Boat ride on the Ganges, Varanasi to Khajuraho by air, sightseeing in Khajuraho

Our day will start early at 0500 hours.

Board a boat that will row you to the middle of the river to watch the spiritual life of Hindu India unfold before you along the banks of the holy river. Visit Dashashwamedh and Manikarnika, the holiest of the Varanasi ghats. A section of Manikarnika serves as a cremation ground and it is said the funeral pyre never dies here.

As the day progresses, devotees gather at the ghats and in the water, bathing, praying and taking “holy dips.”

Return for breakfast to the hotel.

Proceed to the airport to take flight for Khajuraho.A Compass representative shall meet you at the arrival lounge and organize your hotel transfer.

The Chandela dynasty of Central India is credited with the construction of the magnificent Khajuraho Complex between the 9th and 10th centuries AD. The name Khajuraho may be a corruption of the Sanskrit Kharjura Vahaka, the bearer of the scorpion and could be a reference to one of Khajuraho’s popular sculptures, depicting woman undressing to remove a scorpion from her body.

The sandstone walls of the Khajuraho temples are crowded with countless sculptures of gods, goddesses, dancers and beasts but it’s the sections containing erotic sculptures that the temple is most famous for. Some interpret them as an indicator of the liberal and enlightened outlook of medieval Indian society but according to some scholars, the figures are merely metaphoric and conceal a deeper symbolism.

Khajuraho is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most exotic high points of your luxury tour of the Indian subcontinent.

Proceed for sightseeing after lunch.

We shall begin with The Western group of temples.

Kandariya Mahadev is the largest temple in the complex and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, with over 800 exquisitely sculpted figures of gods and celestial maidens adorning its walls.

Chausat Yogini Temple is the oldest in the complex. The only granite temple among the cluster, it’s a shrine to one of the aspects of the fearsome Hindu Mother Goddess Kali, or The Dark One.

The Lakshmana Temple stands at the southwest corner. Look out for a minor shrine where one of the ancient sculptors added his own likeness in a touching act of vanity.

Other temples include the Vishwanath Temple with exquisite stonework on its outer wall, the Matangeshwar Temple with its famed eight foot high phallic lingam, the Chitragupta Temple, inside which the radiant Sun God rides his seven-horse chariot, and the Varaha Temple that houses a 1.5 m high Varaha, the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as a giant boar, that attempts (and fails) to find the end of the universe.

Overnight at Khajuraho.

Day 5 Sightseeing, Khajuraho to Orchha by road, Orchha to Agra by rail

Breakfast will be served at the hotel.

Proceed for an excursion to the Eastern and Southern temples of the complex.

The Brahma and the Hanuman temples are the most famous and best preserved among the Eastern Group of temples. Don’t miss the Vamana temple that showcases in elaborate stone work all ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Notable among the Southern Group is the Chaturbhuja Temple (Sanskrit Chatur=four, bhuja=arm) dedicated to a beautiful four armed Shiva figure. The Chaturbhuja Temple stands out in the complex for being the only one sans any erotic sculpture.

Later, board your comfortable, spacious Compass certified vehicle and drive to Orchha. 

Breakfast will be served at the hotel.

Drive to Orchha on a spacious, comfortable Compass rated vehicle.

12 kms from Khajuraho, the medieval city of Orchha on was founded in 1501 by the Bundela rulers on the bank of the Betwa river. The town is famous for its cenotaphs, locally known as chhattris, built in the memory of long-dead kings.

Lunch will be served at Orchha.

Proceed for sightseeing of Orchha.

Of interest, the Orchha Fort, the majestic high domes and spires of Chaturbhuj Temple and the Raj Mandir, both constructed in the later half of the 16th century.

Take the deluxe train to Agra and reach by evening.

The Mughal capital of Agra on the banks of the Yamuna River is a bustling town teeming with narrow, winding alleyways that hark back to an era gone by. Dotted by magnificent monuments including UNESCO World Heritage SItes Fatehpur Sikri and the Taj Mahal, the city is a dazzling contrast of red sandstone and white marble structures.

Overnight at Agra.

Day 6 Sightseeing in Agra (Taj Mahal)

Wake up at very early to reach the Taj Mahal at dawn, one of the best times of day to see it. It’s very close to your hotel, and a hotel golf kart will suffice as transportation.

Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his queen Mumtaz Mahal and designed by Persian architect Ustad, the magnificent Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world. A massive white marble structure so delicate that it appears to float in the air, the Taj is otherworldly in its beauty and is best viewed in moonlight or at dawn and dusk.

Close observation reveals breathtakingly intricate inlay work carved into the marble, and bears eloquent testimony to the triumph of Mughal art, culture and architecture at its peak. Your luxury holiday in India is incomplete without the Taj Mahal.

Return to the hotel for breakfast.

Later, leave for sightseeing around Agra.

A beautifully maintained tree-lined monument at Sikandra marks the grave of the illustrious Akbar the Great. A great believer in harmony and equality of all religions,  this visionary Mughal Emperor created Din-i Ilahi, a unique religion that combines the fundamentals of Islam, Hindusim, Buddhism and Christianity. His memorial imbibes architectural motifs of all the faiths that inspired him.

Standing across the river from the Taj, the majestic red sandstone structure of Agra Fort was erected in 1565 by Mughal Emperor Akbar the great. Little did he know that the same fort would later serve as prison for his grandson, the Emperor Shah Jahan, in the end of his days. From his prison perch of Musamman Burj, an exquisite octagonal marble tower atop the fort, Shah Jahan would spend his last days looking out longingly at the Taj.

Return to the hotel in time for the Kalaktriti show that tells the story of the Taj through modern dance.

Overnight at Agra.

Day 7 Agra to Jaipur by road, en route visit Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri, built by Emperor Akbar in 1569 in honour of sufi saint Salim Chishti was the capital of the Mughals for 14 years. The white marble Tomb of the Salim Chisti with its intricately carved marble screens occupies pride of place in the central courtyard of the structure.

Attractions include the colossal Buland Darwaza, a victory gate built to mark the conquest of Gujarat by Emperor Akbar, the Diwan-i-Aam where the emperor held his legendary hearings with the general public and the Diwan-i-Khas where he held private consultation with his nine ministers, or as he called them, his navaratna or nine gems.

Fatehpur Sikri also houses the palace of Jodhabai, Akbar’s Hindu wife, and the house of the legendary Birbal - Akbar’s Hindu minister and one of the navaratnas - the tales of whose extraordinary wit and wisdom are the stuff of popular culture in India, inspiring countless comic books and children’s animation TV shows.

Continue to Jaipur. Check into hotel upon arrival.

Jaipur, also known as the ‘Pink City’ from the facelift it received in 1853 to celebrate a visit by Prince Albert, is dotted with havelis (traditional mansions), bazaars, opulent palaces and rugged majestic  forts that showcase the glorious past of its rulers, the Rajputs.

The Rajput princes were fierce warriors some of whom declared loyalty to the invading Mughals and proved to be formidable allies of the empire.  Among them was King Jai Singh II, whom the Mughals gave the title Sawai Maharaja, or “King and a quarter”. Jaipur gets its name from this valiant king.

Visit the Birla Temple in the evening. A stunning white marble structure, the three towers of the Birla Temple stand for three different approaches to religion. Carvings on the ornate pillars celebrate Hindu gods and goddesses along with Christ, Virgin Mary and St. Francis of Assissi.

View the hypnotic evening Aarti, the ritual lighting of oil lamps.

Overnight stay will be in Jaipur.

 

Day 8 Sightseeing in Jaipur

Situated on the top of a hill, the magnificent Amber Fort Palace offers a panoramic view of the old city. Established in 1592, its rugged exteriors believe the delicate architecture inside, a rare fusion of traditional Rajasthani and Islamic styles. Reach the fort the old fashioned way, atop a ceremonial elephant along a cobbled path up that opens into several havelis, step wells, courtyards and temples. Visit Sheesh Mahal or chamber of mirrors, Jas Mandir with its ornate ceilings and latticework and the stunning Shila Devi temple with its intricately carved silver door.

The sprawling City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the 18th century. The architecture of the palace is a blend of traditional Rajasthani and Mughal styles. The City palace Museum is located here and houses various items from Jaipur’s princely and warrior past.

The scientific-minded King Jai Singh II, an astronomy enthusiast, commissioned five observatories named Jantar Mantar around West Central India in the early 1700s.  The one in Jaipur is the largest and the best preserved. The massive architectural instruments are constructed out of local stone and marble some of which are still in use. We shall walk through and explore this surreal maze of giant geometric objects.

The exquisite outer facade of Hawa Mahal, the "Palace of Winds," resembles a manmade honeycomb and is one of Jaipur’s most iconic and oft photographed sights. Designed to facilitate maximum air circulation and cross ventilation, the five-storied Hawa Mahal is made of lime and mortar, and decorated with impossible intricate trelliswork. From the privacy of its ornate jharokhas (traditional Rajasthani windows), the ladies of the court could gaze out at life in the streets below.

In the evening, relax, shop or explore the city of Jaipur on your own. Jaipur is famous for its shopping, particularly gold and silver jewellery, blue pottery, tie-dye materials, silk, saris, wooden handicrafts and carpets.

Overnight at Jaipur.

Day 9 Jaipur to Delhi by road, tour ends

Breakfast will be served at the hotel. Enjoy a walking tour of the old city.

Later, drive back to Delhi. After dinner, the Compass India Holidays team will see you off at the airport for your flight home.

WHY COMPASS®?

Compass India Holidays prides itself in its ability to custom design unforgettable luxury holidays in the Indian subcontinent.

To learn more about how Compass goes about making your holidays special, please click here.

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