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Rajasthan – A living Museum

Rajasthan – A living Museum

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Delhi – Ahmedabad – Dungarpur – Udaipur – Kumbhalgarh – Ghanerao – Narlai -Sodawas – Rohet – Jodhpur – Jaipur – Agra – Delhi

An exclusive journey rich in culture & palaces – A treasure trove for photography enthusiasts

Rajasthan, ‘The Land Of Kings” is India at its exotic and colourful best. The destinations suggested below take us through a era of a few hundreds of years back. We find ourselves in extremely remote tribal areas of Rajasthan where life is as primitive as can be. This enables us to capture images of tribal life at its best – in all its traditional colours and innocent hospitality. The highlight of the tour is stays in royal palaces, forts & castles – imposing buildings replete with luxury, character and Old World charm. Life outside these amazing buildings is a contrast. Life is very primitive and traditional; typical homes with mud plastered or cow dung plastered walls and hay thatched roofs; narrow lanes or trails broad enough only for camel carts or donkey carts; traditional costumes of men & women; primitive agricultural techniques of plough being drawn by men or bulls; traditional occupations of wood carving, block printing, pottery etc. For most people here, their world ends where the village ends. The village itself is self-sufficient; they have their local bazaar and a village temple with a village deity in it. The deity is supreme and responsible for anything and everything that effect the day to day life of the natives.
The only other God that comes a close second to their village deity are members of the royal family who inhabit
the palaces, forts and castles that dominate their village. The feudal respect for the rulers has been retained over several generations. Time seems to have come to a standstill here. The experience is like travelling through a living museum.

The Tour is a photographer’s paradise offering innumerable opportunities to capture virgin lifestyle images unchanged for centuries. Finally, the distances between destination are very small. This not only cuts out the travel time, but encourages people to have time in hand to explore the country side on the way at their own pace. You would have an opportunity to interact with the locals, visit villages and tribal homes etc. You could do all this and more without worrying about losing time on journeys. Also, we believe that the sights and experiences that come up on way to a destination are more fascinating and natural compared to the destination itself.

Of Course the crowning Glory of the tour is the Taj Mahal – the most photographed monument in the world…… A fitting climax to our back street adventures in Rajasthan.

Delhi Arrival , Day 01

Today our representative will receive you at the airport with traditional welcome garlands. Later, transfer to the hotel.

Overnight At Hotel

Delhi , Day 02

After breakfast, we go on a guided tour of New Delhi, visiting Baha’i Temple and Humayun’s Tomb (1586). Continue with a drive through the Embassy area, Government buildings (1921-1930) and Connaught Place, the heart and main shopping district of the capital.

We then cross the city and into the walled gates of Old Delhi. The capital of Muslim India between the 17th and 19th centuries, Old Delhi seems somewhat anachronistic as compared to New Delhi. It draws you through congested roads and lanes, interesting mosques, monuments and forts relating to its chequered history. Our tour includes a visit to the Jamma Mosque (1650) and a drive through the fabled area of Chandni Chowk (aptly translates to Moonlight Square) where throngs of shoppers and vendors meet in the oldest area of Delhi, on to the Red Fort (1639-1648 built by Shah Jahan the builder of the Taj Mahal in Agra) to view the inlaid and carved Royal Chambers and finally on to Raj Ghat and other nearby ghats where the founder of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi and thereafter Indira
Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, were cremated.

A highlight of this tour is a ride on a cycle rickshaw, a 3-wheel cycle with a sofa seat at the back. The Rickshawalla (Rickshaw driver) sits on a small cushion in the front and two passengers on the sofa seat behind. This is a fun way to explore and photograph the vitality and colour of the narrow winding streets bursting with people, and the pavement shops selling wares of every description.

This evening we visit a local family for an Indian home experience. The evening is designed to give you a ‘feel’ and insight into Indian family life as well as experience typical Indian hospitality and homemade food.

Overnight At Hotel (Breakfast & Dinner)

Delhi – Ahmedabad by air(204 kms 4-5 Hours) , Day 03

Vistara UK965, departure Delhi @ 14.30hrs, arrival Ahmedabad @ 15.55hrs Following breakfast, We visit the “Delhi Haat”, a bustling crafts village where artisans and craftsmen from various parts of India display and sell their wares. You will have an opportunity to shop for fabrics, paper mache, woodcraft, etc. This place is very popular with middle class Indian’s as the quality and prices here are both very good.

Later transfer to the airport to board your flight to Ahmedabad. Upon arrival, we receive you at the airport and transfer to the hotel.

Rest of the day is at leisure / explore on your own.

Overnight at the hotel. (Breakfast)

Ahmedabad – Dungarpur (125 Kms) , Day 04

After breakfast, we drive to Dungarpur. Upon arrival check into the Udai Bilas Palace.The history of Udai Bilas Palace in Dungarpur dates from the mid-19th century when Maharawal Udai Singhji-II, a great patron of art and architecture built a wing of bluish grey local stone (Pareva) overlooking the lake and the “Ek Thambia Mahal” featuring intricate sculptured pillars and panels, ornate balconies, balustrades, bracketed windows, arches and
friezes of marble carvings, a veritable marvel of Rajput architecture. The Udai Bilas Palace was enlarged in 1940 by Maharawal Laxman Singhji, who built three new wings around the “Ek Thambia Mahal” (Literally one-pillared Palace) and thus created the famous courtyard of the palace. The result is an architectural expression of exquisitely detail. Still the royal residence, the Palace offers accommodation in the houseguest tradition with seventeen spacious and lavishly appointed bedrooms. No two rooms are alike; each room enchants with its own personality, spaciousness and modern comforts and offers a unique experience. The Furnishings are mostly from the 20th century art-deco style, marble bathrooms with English fixtures and running hot and cold water. Meals are served either in the banquet hall, which displays crystal chandeliers, or in the more intimate family dining room. Continental or Chinese dishes are also served.

Overnight At Udai Bilas Palace. (Breakfast)

Dungarpur , Day 05

This district is the stronghold of Bheels, a tribe whose history of occupancy in the Aravalli range is said to date back to 4000 BC. They are one of the oldest and most primitive tribes of the world. This morning we will visit some of these unspoiled Bheel hamlets in and around the town. We will witness and photograph age-old tribal lifestyles and customs handed down over the centuries. You will have an opportunity to meet villagers who rarely
interact with people from outside their village. Say hello to people, allow them to get used to you and then, you may go ahead with your pictures. You may end up feeling like the pied piper followed by scores of noisy and happy children.

We return to our hotel by mid morning to enjoy the destination at leisure. Udai Bilas Palace is a round-the-year paradise for bird watchers. The cooler months from mid October to February are the best to see winter migratory birds when they can be observed in attractive plumage. You can see from the Palace itself at remarkably close range egrets, night and pond herons, white necked and painted storks, coots and winter or resident ducks among others, depending on the season of your visit. Birds are also plentiful in the surrounding woodlands where you may be able to see the Grey Hornbill, Gray Partridge, Green Pigeon, Peafowl, Peacocks, Paradise fly-catcher and the Golden backed woodpecker, to name but a few.

You can then proceed on a leisurely walk around the lake or hire a boat for a special boat trip as well as a gentle trek through the forests so that the nature lover in you is able to enjoy the beauty of the place and are able to get a close look at the bird life.

Late afternoon, we visit the ancient fortified ruins of the Old Fort. Besides fine panoramic view of the ancient town of Dungarpur the fort has well preserved examples of natural colour paintings and incredible art and architecture.

Overnight At Udai Bilas Palace (Breakfast)

Dungarpur – Udaipur (100 Kms) , Day 06

Following breakfast, we drive to Udaipur. Royal capital of a divine dynasty. Languid Lake City, strewn with marble palaces, fountain pavilions, and cobbled medieval gardens.Udaipur, the famed “City of sunrise” was founded in 1567 by Maharana Udai Singh, from the lineage of the legendary Sisodias of Mewar, the decedents of the sun God. A city where the sun truly never set, where tradition and a strict code of heroism were happily united with a
love of fine living. A city that has come to be an oasis of romance in the warrior state of Rajasthan.

Upon arrival check into the hotel.

Afternoon is at leisure on your own for nature walks, visits to the bustling bazaars or just to enjoy your charming heritage hotel overlooking the tranquil Lake Pichola.

Overnight At Hotel (Breakfast)

Udaipur , Day 07

This morning we proceed on a tour of this “Lake City”. Udaipur is a cool oasis in the dry heart of Rajasthan. It is probably the most romantic city in a state where every city has some romantic or exotic tale to tell. The huge city palace towering over the Lake Pichola is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan. Though it is a conglomeration of buildings built by successive rulers, it manages to retain a surprising uniformity of design and affords very fine views of the lake and the city from the upper terraces. The Jagadish temple next to the city palace enshrines a black stone image of Lord Vishnu and his vehicle – a mighty bird called Garuda – in a brass image. The temple is a very fine example of Indo-Aryan Art.

Overnight at Hotel (Breakfast)

Udaipur – Kumbhalgarh (90 Kms) , Day 08

Following breakfast, we drive to Kumbhalgarh. We will have several photo stops as we walk through the countryside as well as interact with local tribes people.

Upon arrival we check into the beautifully preserved Aodhi Lodge – a property of the Royal family of Udaipur.

Afternoon, we explore one of the most majestic and beautifully preserved forts in India. 13 mountain peaks surround the impregnable fortress of Kumbalgarh (54 Kms) at a height of 3281 ft.

Seven towering gateways pierce the massive walls of this prominent fortress of Mewar. The young Udai Singh, founder of Udaipur, took shelter here from his treacherous uncles. Emperor Akbar was defeated by these impregnable walls dotted with cannonballs.

Kumbhalgarh – Ghanerao (35 Kms) , Day 09

Following breakfast, we will have an opportunity to explore the feudal village of Kumbhalgarh. The people here are extremely friendly and hospitable. We witness their ethnic tribal lifestyle.

We continue our ride to the interiors of Rajasthan to witness tribal life untouched by modern times. Upon arrival at Ghanerao we check into the Royal Ghanerao Castle, a property of the Royal Family of Mewar. We stay at the Ghanerao Royal Castle to step back into the past and re-live it. Here truly time stands still to let you bask in the sunshine of a bygone era. In spite of all modern comforts the royal family Ghanerao Castle has endeavored to recreate the lifestyle of the Thakurs (feudal lords) in all its past glory. Situated in the picturesque Godwar region of Rajasthan, Ghanerao was founded in 1606. Today, standing sentinel over the villages, The Ghanerao Royal Castle is a truly magnificent edifice of red sandstone havelis (mansions), marble citadels wiyj many traditional miniature paintings on the walls. The village is strewn with old temples, step walls and marble archways. The old fort to the south of the castle rock is marked with cannonballs and although almost destroyed time and again, stubbornly refused to be vanquished.

Afternoon, we walk through the primitive town to witness traditional styles of living.

Overnight At Ghanerao Castle (Breakfast)

Overnight at Aodhi Lodge (Breakfast)

Ghanerao – Narlai (60 Kms) , Day 10

After breakfast, we drive to Narlai, stopping several times for photos and walks through the countryside to interact with and witness the life styles of the local people. Upon arrival check into Rawla Narlai.

Situated in the Narlai village, Rawla Narlai is a 17th century fortress renovated over the years to have 15 exquisite double rooms. Rawla Narlai is full of surprises; it is situated in the heart of a typical Rajasthani village bustling with activity and bursting with colour. But inside the Rawla (fortress) there is only serenity and stupendous views of a gigantic 350 ft single rock of granite dotted with caves and temples and crowned by a statue of a white elephant – proud guardian to the open desert on one side and the crumbling Aravali hills on the other. Maharaja and Rani Swaroop Singh, and their sons oversaw the careful restoration of this hunting lodge, with aesthetics, comfort, and atmosphere that will embrace your senses. Comfortable rooms and modern bathrooms blend with the ancient way of Narlai, while offering a warm and homely atmosphere. The charming rooms are all stylized from references from the past adding more to your experience at Rawla Narlai.

The chef prepares you a delicious meal, garnished with care and made from Secret Recipes handed down for generations to the Royal family.

Afternoon, we will stroll through the small lively town, pausing to see the rich handicrafts or perhaps stopping at the silversmith to design your own silver Tabiz, an ancient lucky charm, both for women and men, worn around the neck.

In the evening bathe in the moonlight under the starry sky, listening to hypnotic, chanting rhythms by local musicians who will rekindle your sprit. The peace and calm of the gentle rustling leaves, the moonlight bathed courtyards and the starlit nights add an air of romanticism to this wonderful fortress.

Overnight at Rawla Narlai (Breakfast)

Narlai , Day 11

Wake up to the sounds of this 17-century village, and take in the spiritual energy descending from the Shiva Temple, deep in a primal cave, on the hill overlooking your room. You may hear whispers of the early morning chanting coming from the many temples and mosques. At breakfast you are encouraged to feed the harmless monkeys, if they come down from the hills, as a token of prayer to Lord Hanuman. After breakfast we will stroll through the small bazaar, bustling with activity colour.

Afternoon is at leisure / explore on your own.

Overnight at Rawla Narlai (Breakfast)

Narlai – Sodawas (45 kms) , Day 12

Wake up to the sounds of this 17-century village, and take in the spiritual energy descending from the Shiva Temple, deep in a primal cave, on the hill overlooking your room. You may hear whispers of the early morning chanting coming from the many temples and mosques. At breakfast you are encouraged to feed the harmless monkeys, if they come down from the hills, as a token of prayer to Lord Hanuman. After breakfast we will stroll through the small bazaar, bustling with activity colour.

Afternoon is at leisure / explore on your own.

Overnight at Rawla Narlai (Breakfast)

Sodawas – Rohet (65 kms) , Day 13

After breakfast we ride out to Rohet. Upon arrival check into the Rohetgarh fort. At Rohet, one is transported in to a world of the past, a world of honour and of chivalry, of glory and of pride; a world of vibrant colours and spectacular magnificence. Past centuries come to life at the historic boundary walls of Rohet – the 16th century fortified deserted home of a Rajput clan. Within the precincts of these time weathered walls is our hotel, the
impressive Rohetgarh Fort – a bastion of proud Rajput traditions bathed in the ambience of unmistakable Rajasthani culture where one can, even today experience the famed warm and courteous Rajput hospitality. Frescoes on the tall gateway, brightly painted in the traditional style, using traditional motifs and colour schemes herald your entry to this charmed world of a bygone era. The gateway leads to a compound where a profusion of flowers frame the archways in welcome. The portico is a warm and informal place decorated with the artifacts and trophies of many years. Exquisitely carved furniture, delicate hand block prints, original paintings and photographs decorate your rooms, which though redolent with the romance of a bygone era, provide all the modern amenities. Antique hunting rifles, shields & spearheads, daggers and original paintings form the backdrop of the dining room. The swimming pool is in a beautiful setting and is an oasis in a desert. The food at Rohetgarh is special; each recipe is both traditional and typical, handed down by generations and jealously guarded to retain its pristine flavors. You savour only the very best of Rajasthani cuisine’s, food favored by the Royalty. The 16th century descendants of
the Rathore ruling family still live here and host the guests. The members of the Royal family interact with the guests and interesting stories and anecdotes are narrated.

This afternoon, we explore Rohet, which is a fascinating small feudal town, which could be straight out of the Arabian Nights. There is no proper road here – only one main dust trail. On either side are typical thatched houses and shops of all kinds – colourful bangles, silver jewellery, potters, fruit vendors on carts, dress shops, tailors etc.

Overnight at RohetGarh (Breakfast)

Rohet , Day 14

Morning at leisure to enjoy the amazing palace hotel and the surrounding fairy tale town of Rohet.Late afternoon we enjoy jeep safaris to visit the heart of Rajasthan villages where traditions centuries old still permeate lifestyles today. You can witness the ‘opium ceremony’ – a ritual by which guests are welcomed. Brightly attired men and women carry on their chores and you can catch a glimpse of their everyday lives and customs. The mud floors of the village huts highlight the simple and traditional life here.

Overnight at Rohetgarh (Breakfast)

Rohet – Jodhpur (40 Kms) , Day 15

After breakfast, we drive to Jodhpur. Upon arrival, check into the legendary Pal Haveli.Afternoon, proceed on a guided tour of Jodhpur. Our tour includes the massive fort which in olden days must have been impregnable since its rocky base is scraped straight down making it nearly impossible to ascend. Once inside, royal palaces abound with fascinating history and priceless jewels. We then proceed to the armory and Jaswant Thada – the Royal Crematorium.

Overnight at Pal Haveli (Breakfast)

Jodhpur , Day 16

Morning at leisure.

Afternoon, we ride horse carriages to the Clock Tower Bazaar. This is one of India’s largest and most colourful wholesale markets selling a vast array of clothing, fabrics, spices, vegetables etc.

Overnight at Pal Haveli (Breakfast)

Jodhpur – Jaipur (335kms), Day 17

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Jaipur , Day 18

This morning we visit Amber Fort, the former capital of royal Jaipur. Few fail to be moved by the dramatic Rajput grandeur of this hilltop fortress-palace 11 km north of Jaipur. Set on the dry wrinkled Aravali Hills, and surrounded by fortified battlements, the palace straddles two sepia-hued tundra hills overlooking Maota Lake, and its sprawling crenellated walls lattice the surrounding hills.

We will ride up to this hilltop palace on a caparisoned, painted elephant, passing through the ancient main gate where Maharajas of Jaipur have entered for four hundred years.

Our guide will elaborate on the history of this architectural masterpiece with its mirror-studded alcoves, dazzling mosaics and water-cooled swings that delight today’s visitors as they did their former royal residents.

We shall visit the Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, a five-storied structure of pink sandstone with semi-octagonal and delicately honeycombed windows overlooking the main street of the old city. It was built in 1799 so that veiled women of the royal court could peer down unseen by the world through its 593 stone screens.

Following lunch, a tour of City Palace & Observatory. The City Palace in the heart of the old city is a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. The centre of the palace is a seven storied building called Chandra Palace, with fine views over the gardens and the city. The palace lies in the heart of the city and occupies the whole central grid. The fortified wall has seven gates and was built for protection from invading armies and animals that lived in jungles which surrounded the wall at that time. Next, we visit the Solar Observatory – an astronomical treasure house. We then visit the Palace Of Winds, a five-storied structure of pink sandstone that features semi-octagonal and delicately honeycombed windows overlooking the main street of the old city.

Overnight at The Raj Palace (Breakfast)

Jaipur – Fatehpur Sikri – Agra , Day 19

After breakfast we drive to Fatehpur Sikri for a guided tour. This abandoned capital of the Mughals is a perfectly preserved city at the height of the empire’s splendour. The city divided into religious and secular parts has interesting well-sculpted buildings.

From here we continue to Agra and upon arrival, check in to the hotel.Agra is the city of the Taj Mahal, perhaps the most photographed monument in the world. However, there is a degree of enigma about the Taj. Once you hear about a building so much and once you see so many pictures of a building your expectations are very high; and
this is the enigma about the Taj Mahal. No matter how many pictures you have seen or no matter how high your expectations are, the Taj never lets you down. The unparalleled glory and beauty of the building surpasses all human imagination. We visit the Taj Mahal at sunset to witness this spectacular monument built for love. Besides perfect symmetry in every aspect of its construction, the inlay work of semi precious stones into marble is
absolutely remarkable.

We will also have an opportunity to visit a marble showroom where you are able to witness the inlay work done on marble just as at the Taj Mahal.

Overnight at Hotel (Breakfast)

Agra / Delhi , Day 20

Following breakfast, we visit to the massive Agra Fort. The elegant buildings inside reflect an interesting synthesis of Hindu and Central Asian architectural styles.

Built by Emperor Akbar, the maze of the courtyards, mosques & private chambers of the fort echo the story of the Mughal Empire. The Moti Masjid & other magnificent buildings reflect the skill of the ancient Indian architects.

Afternoon drive back to Delhi and upon arrival, checks into Hotel.

This evening we will celebrate our time together with a farewell dinner.

Overnight at Hotel (Breakfast and Dinner)

Delhi Departure , Day 21

Today we transfer you to the airport in time to board your onward flight.

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