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Desert Explorer

New Delhi – Rajasthan – Gujarat – Agra – New Delhi

October to March

A veritable odyssey through the most interesting parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat with an adventure awaiting at each step. The tour begins in Princely Rajasthan where you start with the wildlife at Ranthambore National Park (famous for its tigers) before pushing ahead to a camel safari in Pushkar and then to explore the narrow laneways, hidden havelis, and royal Palaces of romantic Udaipur. Then it’s on to the colorful tribal villages, fantastic regional handicrafts and intricate temples of Gujarat. This state is still relatively unknown to tourists and we visit famous Jain temples, Sasan Gir reserve, and one of India’s most unique regions – the colorful Kutch. The tour even includes relaxing on the beaches of Diu, which we explore by bicycle. No trip to India is complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra. It’s a fascinating excursion into some of the most magical parts of India.

Highlights

  • Big cats and big spaces, sand dunes and sandy beaches
  • From stark deserts to sumptuous forts and extravagant crafts
  • Travel by camels, bicycles and pretty much everything else
  • Hotels, jungle lodges, tents and desert stars form the roof over your head
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Itinerary

Day 1 Delhi

You are met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. Today we take a sightseeing tour of New Delhi, the garden city built in 1911 by the British. We visit the Birla Mandir (Lakshminarayan Temple), the President’s House, Humayun’s Tomb (the forerunner of the Taj Mahal) and India Gate.

Day 2 Ranthambore

Ranthambore After an early breakfast we take the train to Ranthambore. We arrive in time for a late afternoon jeep safari into the park. Ranthambore is a wonderful game reserve dominated by the ruined battlements of Ranthambore Fort. The park has a core area of 158 square miles and is a part of the Project Tiger conservation project. We also go in the early morning for viewing.

Day 3 - 4 Pushkar

Today we head off to Pushkar. On the way we stop to visit the fantastic Amber Fort of Jaipur, where we take an elephant ride to visit this former capital of the royal family. Pushkar is a small town built around a lake considered sacred to the Hindus. Hindus believe it is necessary to make a pilgrimage to bathe in this lake at least once in a lifetime. The lake is bounded by 52 ghats built over the centuries by kings and nobles. The town is a maze of temples and hermitages, and is filled with ascetics and devotees. On our second night we journey out into the desert on camelback and enjoy a night of camping under the stars.

Days 5 - 6 Udaipur

In the morning we are picked up by our bus at our desert camp and head off to Udaipur. Is Udaipur really the most romantic city in India? Today you get to decide! Udaipur was built by Maharana Udai Singh in 1559 on the banks of Lake Pichola. Udaipur nestles in a valley surrounded by the green Aravalli hills. The old city is filled with narrow medieval roads and lanes, with a small temple at each turn, making it one of the most charming in all Rajasthan. In Udaipur we visit the City Palace, which actually consists of a number of palaces forming a single beautiful facade over the Pichola Lake. We also stop at Jagdish Mandir, a Hindu temple complex built in 1651.

Days 7 - 8 Zainabad

Today we head further south leaving the Princely State behind and venturing into Gujarat. We travel to the edge of the Little Rann of Kutch, one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in India, where we stay at a desert camp. We journey into the stark mudflats of the little Rann both by jeep safari as well as on an overnight camel safari. Pelicans and Flamingos are a few of the 300 bird species that migrate to the Rann, but the region is most famous for the Asiatic Wild Ass that inhabit its windswept expanses. We also get a chance to visit many small herding villages where semi-nomadic tribal people have established their base. They include the Rabaris, Kolis, and Bajanias.

Days 9 - 10 Bhuj

Our journey continues on to Bhuj, a small and enchanting city deep in the Rann of Kutch. We take an orientation walk through the maze of winding streets that make up the old city. Here you will see camels plodding through the streets, vegetable markets and cloth stalls, all filled with the Kutchi people dressed in their heavily embroidered traditional clothes. Bhuj serves as a good base for visiting a number of the outlying villages, so we do just that. We observe the traditional lifestyles of a number of tribes, exploring the villages and seeing the wide variety of crafts being made.

Day 11 Morvi

From Bhuj we continue on to the interesting town of Morvi where we stay in the fantastic Darbargadh palace, recently converted into a heritage hotel. The afternoon is free to explore the bustling bazaar and the palace grounds.

Day 12 Sasan Gir National Park

Our journey continues south to the Sasan Gir reserve. We stay at a Forest Lodge on the park outskirts. The park is home to the Asiatic lion as well as panther, hyena, fox, wild boar, deer and antelope. You’re also likely to see many peacocks and monkeys. We take an evening and early morning jeep safari further into the forest where there is a good chance of seeing wildlife.

Days 13 – 15 Diu

From Gir it is a short journey to Diu where we have time to relax. Diu town is a peaceful place of cobbled streets, palm trees and beaches. The island was a Portuguese colony until 1961 and even today its main industry is fishing. As well as relaxing on the beach, we visit the massive Portuguese fort, and one of the Gothic Portuguese churches that still remains for the small Christian community. Bicycles are provided and we go on various excursions by cycle – really the best way to see this small island!

Day 16 Bhavnagar

Today we travel by private coach to the busy market town of Bhavnagar. Bhavnagar is a coastal port and important trading center whose principal export is cotton. Here we stay in Nilambag Palace, now converted into a heritage hotel. We visit the fascinating bazaar and use Bhavnagar as our base for an excursion to Shatrunjaya. Shatrunjaya is India’s principal Jain pilgrimage site. The site contains almost nine hundred temples, many of them carved in marble. The temples date from the sixteenth century and are approached by climbing up the steps of the holy hill of Shatrunjaya — for those unable or unwilling to make the long climb dholis (seats on poles held by four bearers) are available. The view as we approach is wonderful and the temples need to be seen to be believed.

Day 17 Ahmedabad

From Shatrunjaya we continue on directly to Ahmedabad. Here we visit the Calico Textile Museum, one of the finest in the world. It contains a stunning collection of tribal embroidery, block prints and textiles from all over India. Ahmedabad is also famous for its Mosques. We visit some of the more interesting ones as well as exploring the town Bazaar.

Days 18 - 19 Delhi - Agra

We return to Delhi where there is a full day to relax or shop as well as a day trip to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. We travel in the fast and comfortable Shatabdi train. The Taj Mahal is one of the wonders of the world. It was built in 1652 by Emperor Shah Jahan. It took 22 years and 20,000 skilled artisans to complete. We also visit the Agra Fort which lies across the river Jamuna. It was here that Aurangzeb, the third son of Shah Jahan, kept his father under house arrest.

Day 20 Delhi

The tour ends today with breakfast and transfer to the airport for your international departure.
Rah Villas Hotel Sonmarg
Malabar Resort Kerala