Explore India’s Holiest City with an Ancient Spiritual Legacy
This 9-day tour of India's Golden Triangle and Varanasi is ideal for first-time visitors who want to explore the country's most iconic monuments and experience its holiest city with a spiritual and religious legacy of nearly 3,000 years.
On this journey, you will see the jewel-encrusted white marble Taj Mahal along with other incredible sights including teeming bazaars, immense forts, and colorful streets. You will also learn how to prepare some favorite Indian dishes and go on a jungle excursion to see unique wildlife. You will also gain a deeper understanding of India's spirituality by observing daily life along the Ganges River, a holy river where many Hindu rituals are performed to cleanse all earthly sins and prepare for the soul's final journey to liberation.
- Explore the legendary Old Delhi with its Mughal-built monuments and congested bazaars.
- Attend a cooking class to learn more about Indian spices and how to prepare some favorite local dishes.
- Observe the evening aarti ritual when worshipers pray and give offerings to the Ganges at dusk.
- Immerse yourself in the grandeur of Rajput royalty during your feature stay in Jaipur’s heritage hotel.
- Discover the vibrant pink city of Jaipur, whose historic architecture is as magnificent as the city’s colorful streets.
- Take a guided rickshaw ride through the forest trails of Keoladeo Ghana National Park to see a variety of Indian wildlife.
- Bask in the fascinating colors of the Taj Mahal and admire the art of its pietra dura mosaics.
Itinerary in detail
This sample itinerary provides inspiration, yet your preferences design the real journey. Following our Tailor-made Guidelines to create a wonderful India holiday in your own way.
Day 1 Arrive in Delhi
Welcome to Delhi, India’s capital, where the sounds are lively and the colors vibrant. When you arrive at the India Gandhi International Airport, you will be met by our representative and take a private car to your hotel.
Day 2 Explore Old Delhi and Have an Authentic Culinary Experience
Your trip will begin by exploring the whirling streets of Old Delhi. Your day will start at the magnificent Red Fort where you will pass by this striking crimson rampart. Afterward, pay your respects at Jama Masjid, India’s largest and grandest mosque built from sandstone and marble. The huge courtyard of the mosque can accommodate up to 20, 000 people during Friday prayers when it looks like a sea of worshipers.
Walk north to Chandni Chowk with its narrow alleys that contain a kaleidoscope of shops selling anything from jewelry to street food. You will take a rickshaw ride through the bustling lanes to absorb all the sights and sounds.
Attend a cooking class to learn more about Indian cuisine. After being welcomed by the host, you will learn to prepare some favorite dishes including three varieties of Indian bread and three main dishes such as butter chicken, bean curry, and a potato dish.
During the class, you will learn more about Indian spices and how they are used. After cooking, share the meal with the host who you can engage in conversation with to exchange cultural knowledge and understanding. You will receive a copy of the recipe at the end of the class.
Finish off the day with a visit to Humayun’s tomb, the first great example of a Mughal garden tomb.
Day 3 Delhi to Varanasi and Attend the Ganga Aarti
breakfast and lunch
In the morning, fly from Delhi to Varanasi. Varanasi is situated on the west bank of the Ganges and is India’s holiest city. This ancient city, where religion is an integral part of daily life, has drawn saints, poets, and pilgrims through the ages.
On arrival, take a private car to your hotel to relax for a few hours. In the late afternoon, take a boat ride on the Ganges River to witness pilgrims performing ancient rituals.
When the sun sets, you will head to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple to experience the highly choreographed Ganga Aarti ceremony.
The ceremony starts with the blowing of a conch shell to remove all the negative energy in the area. You will then see people start waving incense in the air and walk in circles around large lamps, all while chanting and playing music.
Day 4 A Boat Ride at Sunrise and Varanasi to Jaipur
breakfast and lunch
The highlight of a trip to Varanasi is taking a boat ride at sunrise when the temples along the river are bathed in soft morning light.
During the boat ride, you will see the relationship between the local people and the river and watch them go about their daily activities. Here, people wash clothes, perform yoga, and give offerings of flowers.
Then you will spend the rest of the morning admiring Sarnath. To Buddhists, Sarnath is as sacred as Varanasi is to Hindus. The Buddha came here to preach the Dharmachakra after gaining enlightenment in 528 BC.
In Sarnath, visit the Dhamekh Stupa which is built at the site where the Buddha is believed to have delivered his sermon to five disciples. Afterward, explore a superb collection of Buddhist artifacts in the Archaeological Museum.
Day 5 The City Washed in Pink
Begin your morning exploring the opulent 16th-century Amber Fort. Mughal-era architecture greatly influenced the style of several buildings in the fort which can be seen in the ornately carved silver door, the elegant alabaster relief work, and glass inlay.
You will then be led through the magnificent Ganesh Pol, which is the gateway to three gorgeous palaces built around Aram Bagh, a Mughal-style garden. Relax in the garden and enjoy the peaceful ambiance.
After spending some time at the Amber Fort, you will visit the central area of the “pink city” of Jaipur. This area is home to the lovely Hawa Mahal which is a great place for photos in front of the building’s beautiful pink façade.
Continue your visit by exploring the nearby Jantar Mantar Observatory, which has been described as “the most realistic and logical landscape in stone”, and then head to the City Palace Museum where you will have a splendid introduction to Jaipur’s princely past and its rich history through local art.
Day 6 Jaipur to Agra with a Stop in Keoladeo Ghana National Park
breakfast and lunch
Rise early and head to Agra, En route, take time to visit Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site regarded as one of the world’s most important bird sanctuaries.
You will take a guided rickshaw ride to explore the forest paths and see a variety of vegetation and wild animals including the famed nilgai, or Indian antelope.
Continue driving to Agra. On arrival, spend the rest of the day relaxing at your hotel.
Day 7 Heritage of the Imperial Mughal Court
Admire the Taj Mahal during sunrise when the majesty of the world’s most famous testament to love is best appreciated. Here, you will witness the shimmering morning light dance across the surface of this marble mausoleum.
While there, look out for the Taj Mahal’s elaborate designs and exquisite craftsmanship. Here you will have the opportunity to see the art of pietra dura, an inlay technique of using highly polished colored stones to create images.
Next, you will visit the imposing complex of courtly buildings inside the Agra Fort. The marble hall of the Khas Mahal allows for splendid views of the Taj Mahal across the Yamuna River.
In the afternoon, you will get a closer look at the pietra dura art style at Itimad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb. Here, you can take your time to appreciate the mosaic patterns of bouquets, trees, fruit, and wine decanters that embellish the interior of the central chamber.
End your day at the Mehtab Bagh for the sunset view of Taj Mahal.
Day 8 Agra to Delhi
breakfast and lunch
Rise early and drive back to Delhi (approximately 5 hours). In the afternoon, you will visit the Qutab Minar, India’s highest single tower that was built in the 12th-century and marks the site of India’s first Muslim kingdom.
Finally, enjoy a stroll along with the wide-open spaces of Lutyens’ Rajpath. Here you will see the iconic India Gate and the grand buildings of the British Raj which now house Indian government ministries.
Day 9 Delhi Departure
A private car will take you to the Indira Gandhi International Airport to catch your flight home.
Asia Highlights handpicked hotels
We have selected hotels with different styles and for different budgets. Let us know your preferences and we will help you find the right one.
We recommend experiencing some hotels with local traditions or features. For example, the palace hotels, heritage hotels, or nice resorts are recommended in India.
- Good location in the city center
- A nice garden view and a very warm service.
- Great architecture combining Indian and Islamic styles.
- About the Meals Many hotels offer buffets with a variety of cuisines from Indian to Italian and Asian. People who are looking to taste authentic local cuisine can try the restaurants specializing in barbecued tandoori kebabs and Indian naan bread. We also recommend trying out one of the many great restaurants that serve modern Indian fusion food. Let us know your food preferences and we’ll take care of the rest. Make sure to inform us of any allergies or dietary requirements in advance
- About the Car Transfers Between Cities We will arrange private car transfers from Delhi to Agra and from Agra to Jaipur. Your guide will not be with you during the transfers. You will have different guides in different cities. Your driver will be able to speak basic English so there will be no problems with basic conversation during the transfers.
From US$1,814 p/p
based on 2 persons and 4-star hotels
Our Service Includes
- One-to-one consultancy with our travel expert
- English speaking local guides and comfortable vehicle
- Activities, hotels and meals listed in the itinerary
- A 24/7 helpline while you are traveling