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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, one of the most elegant and eye-catching buildings in the world, 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 through the lush vegetation of a well-known bird sanctuary.
En route, you will 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 and then stroll around the wide avenues of New Delhi to see colonial buildings and monuments.
- 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.
- Take a boat ride at dawn to see life along the Ganges. Here, people wash clothes, perform yoga poses, offer flowers to the river, and take a ritual bath.
- 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.
- An English-speaking guide who will explain the history and importance of each site
- A chauffeured car with air conditioning for all transportation needs during city tours, day excursions, and trips to and from hotels
- 4-star hotels that are hand-picked to match your preferences
- All entrance fees for activities that are listed on the itinerary
- Hotel buffet breakfasts and lunch at our recommended restaurants
- One-on-one consultations with one of our travel experts
- A 24/7 helpline while you are traveling
- Government tax
Itinerary in detail
At Asia Highlights, all of our tours are flexible. This tour is designed to give you a taste of the country’s most important highlights. Use this as inspiration for when you craft your journey with us.
Day 1 Arrival in Delhi
Welcome to Delhi, India’s capital, where the sounds are lively and the colors vibrant. When you arrive at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, you will be met by our representative and take a private car to your hotel.
The rest of the day is at your leisure to relax and explore. We have arranged your stay at a boutique hotel which is a quiet yet centrally located property featuring stylish rooms, a lovely lounge, an on-site restaurant, and a massage parlor where guests can unwind.
The hotel has a great location and is close to some of Delhi’s key attractions such as the India Gate and Humayun’s Tomb.
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.
The cooking class menu can be customized to be all vegetarian. Please inform us if you have any dietary requirements.
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
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
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.
Then board a flight to Jaipur. You will be transferred back to your hotel on arrival.
We have selected a heritage hotel for you to stay in Jaipur. Built in the traditional Rajput style, this hotel is an appealing treat of elegant architecture, hospitality, and a princely atmosphere. Besides staying in a royal-style room, you can also enjoy the full amenities offered by the hotel such as the tree-lined pool, beautiful garden, spa, and a selection of authentic local food.
Day 5 The City Washed in Pink
Jaipur is often called the “Pink City” because its prominent buildings are painted a beautiful dusty 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.
From here, you can also walk to the city’s exotic bazaar which filled with shops selling local handicrafts in tiny workshops and flower vendors selling marigolds and other flowers.
Day 6 Jaipur to Agra with a Stop in Keoladeo Ghana National Park
Rise early and head to Agra, the seat of the Mughal Court in the 16th and 17th centuries and home of the magnificent Taj Mahal.
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
During the reign of the Mughal emperors Akbar, Jahangir, and Shah Jahan many artisans from Persia, Central Asia, and other parts of India came to Agra. While there, they built architectural wonders such as the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort which have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
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.
Inside the Taj, pietra dura has been used to showcase natural shapes in decorative patterns. Flowers like tulips, lilies, irises, and narcissus are all depicted here in arabesque patterns.
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
Rise early and drive back to Delhi (approximately 5-6 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
You will be transferred by a private car to the Indira Gandhi International Airport to catch your return flight home. With the lingering images of grand mausoleums and aroma of delicious spices in your thoughts, you might plan another trip to India soon.
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 staying in palace hotels, heritage hotels, or nice resorts in order to get the high quality service and to your experience.
Located just within 2 km from the historic India Gate and Humayun Tomb, La Sagrita features a massage parlour for guests to unwind. Services like breakfast buffet, luggage storage and currency exchange at the 24-hour front desk.
Built in 1952, The Claridges, New Delhi is an iconic hotel superbly located in at the heart of New Delhi’s eminent address – Lutyen’s Delhi, and is a perfect blend of old world elegance and contemporary luxury.
Located in Varanasi City, Ramada Plaza offers 5 dining options and an outdoor pool. It also boasts a spa, gym and a tennis court. Its spacious rooms feature lawn, pool, or Varuna River views.
Spread over 40 acres of tropical gardens, Taj Ganges, Varanasi is a peaceful getaway in the ancient temple city of Varanasi. Offering an outdoor pool and a spa, it also has 24-hour room service.
Located in the heart of Jaipur, Alsisar Haveli is an appealing treat of regal architecture, plush hospitality and princely ambiances. Guests can enjoy snacks and beverages by the pool side or in the hotel’s various courtyards.
Built over 175 years ago within the city of Jaipur as the royal family manor, Samode Haveli reflects the style and elegance of the royals. It features an outdoor swimming pool and a spa and health club.
Double Tree by Hilton is within 2.8 mi from the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, offering an outdoor swimming pool, a spa and wellness center and a fitness center.
Set amidst 35 acres of lush greeneries, ITC Mughal Agra boasts luxurious accommodation. Guests can lounge by the spacious outdoor pool or choose between 4 dining options.
In India, there is a wide range of choices for accommodation including everything from ancient palaces, decadent mansions, and Colonial-era hotels to mid-range boutique hotels and western-style business hotels.
India is also well-known for its specialized resorts that offer yoga and traditional herbal treatments. Many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries have luxurious resorts located on their periphery.
Staying in one of these hotels is a truly unique opportunity that adds to a traveler’s experience. We have carefully hand-picked our hotels to ensure that our travelers will have access to the very best.
Let us know your preferences for accommodation and our travel experts will help find the perfect hotels that suit your taste and budget.
There are many different types of transport available to travelers in India and each type is suitable for different journeys.
If you are traveling over a long distance such as from Delhi to Varanasi, going by plane is the best way.
If you want to know more about the locals and see the countryside from your window as your travel, then going by train is your best bet.
If you are traveling within the city, especially in the big cities like Delhi, or traveling between the cities in the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur), the best mode of transportation is by private car with a chauffeur. When traveling this way, you will be more comfortable and also save time so that you can spend more of it exploring.
When traveling with us, our experts will help you transfer between all of your destinations easily and efficiently.
Restaurants in India offer a range of food options from pizza to sophisticated multi-course meals.
Many hotels offer buffets with a variety of cuisines from Indian to Italian and Asian. Most hotels also have coffee shops that serve beverages and light snacks. Vegetarian food is widely available in India due to the country’s large vegetarian population.
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.
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