Private Tour of India
India : Classical North
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India’s capital, New Delhi, lies on the Indo-Gangetic Plain, within the National Capital Territory of Delhi. 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 buildings, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the grand, sandstone Red Fort, striking Qutab Minar, and fascinating Humayun's Tomb. Architecture enthusiasts will delight in the iconic Lotus Temple. Hear ‘qawwalis’ (devotional music) at the dargah (tomb) of the Sufi saint Nizam-ud-din Auliya; or wander through the 17th century Chandni Chowk marketplace – still one of the city’s most popular retail centres today, famous for its traditional jewellery and saris. Gorgeous Sunder Nursery and Lodi Garden provide calm, flower-filled oases for picnicking.
Fringed by the rugged Aravali Hills, Jaipur, nicknamed the ‘Pink City’ for its salmon-hued terracotta buildings, is the capital and largest city in the Rajasthan State. This metropolis combines tradition and modernity with its vibrant bazaars, lavish palaces, and ancient temples. Don’t miss the fairy-tale splendour of the Amber Fort, set against the backdrop of the arid landscape and hosting enthralling sound and light shows; the UNESCO-listed Jantar Mantar, a collection of 300-year-old astronomical tools which look like contemporary art; and the opulent City Palace, with its palatial structures, sprawling gardens, and atmospheric courtyards. Jaipur falls within the Golden Triangle, a popular tourist circuit, which includes Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra, and it also serves as a gateway to the neighbouring desert cities of Jaisalmer and Jodhpur.
Set on the banks of the Yamuna River in Uttar Pradesh, Agra is a beautiful city famous for its incredible Taj Mahal building, one of the seven wonders of the world. Commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 15th century as a memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, this is an architectural masterpiece of exquisite craftsmanship and perfect proportions. The city boasts numerous other superb attractions, including 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. Other highlights include several wonderful atmospheric markets, the traditional village of Korai, and the Elephant Conservation Centre, where visitors can help with the rehabilitation of these gentle giants.
This historical city in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, was home to Queen Rani Lakshmi Bai, who led a rebellion against the British army in the mid-1800s. Statues of Rani, who is regarded as the Joan of Arc of India, can be found in numerous places in northern India. She is depicted in a heroic pose, riding a horse, the reins between her teeth and a sword in each hand. Jhansi Fort, her stronghold for 17 days, now houses a sculpture museum. Collections of archeological pieces can be viewed at the Rani Mahal and an array of historical weapons, statues, costumes, painting, coins and manuscripts can be seen at the Jhansi Government Museum.
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.
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.
India’s largest state, Rajasthan, is also one of its most captivating. Known for its vibrant cities, the golden splendour of the sprawling Thar Desert, the age-old Aravalli mountain range and countless beautiful palaces, temples and forts – a legacy of its royal Rajput heritage. Highlights include the colourful capital, Jaipur – a veritable shopping mecca; the serene city of Udaipur, with its glittering lakes and mountainous backdrop; the ancient palaces and rosy-hued architecture of Jaipur, dubbed ‘The Pink City’; and forays into the desolate beauty of the Thar Desert’s sun-drenched dunes.
India’s famous northern state is home to some of India’s most well known tourist sites, the Taj Mahal and sacred Varanasi. The mighty Ganges flows diagonally through the state from the Himalayas in the north to the open plains of the east. Agriculture is the most important contributor to Uttar Pradesh’s economy, employing about three quarters of the work force. In the sixth century BC, Uttar Pradesh was associated with two new religions - Jainism and Buddhism. It was at Sarnath, just outside Varanasi that Buddha preached his first sermon and laid the foundations of Buddhism.
India’s second largest state, Madhya Pradesh is located right in the middle of the country and hence also known as ‘the heart of India’. It is the least developed of all the states, it is home to many traditional ethnic tribes, many of which are cut off almost entirely from the modern world, and is dotted with ancient, abandoned cities that offer a striking contrast to the bustle of India’s modern destinations. The region has a rich cultural and historical heritage, encapsulated in an array of antiquated palaces and hill forts, as well as over 20 temples devoted to the Kama Sutra, featuring magnificent architecture and astonishing erotic sculptures. Roughly 30% of Madhya Pradesh is covered by forest – constituting 12% of all India’s forests in total – which makes it an excellent place for wildlife sightings.