FORTS AND PALACES of the DESERT
14 nights in Rajasthan and Delhi


India’s recorded history goes back to 4,000 years, with remarkable examples of civilization well ahead of other countries. Throughout this period, reverence was shown to the many Gods her people worshipped, and the land was dominated by independent kingdoms. Reverence to the Gods led to gold and jewels and the finest of architecture bestowed onto them, and the independent kingdoms accumulated wealth not seen elsewhere. Thus she was a prime target for marauders, attracted by her wealth and attributes of her civilization. Forts for defense and palaces for residence were de-rigor for the independent kingdoms, and though many have not survived the ravages of time, those that have, were either too beautiful not to have been maintained or too well built and withstood the elements. Thus, there are some exquisite examples of architecture that we will not only see, but also live in – most perhaps only 200 to 400 years old, though some forts going back to at least 1,000 years.

We will see the finest examples of India’s temples and forts, religions, jewelry and wealth - all that has made India famous.

Day 1. Leave the Americas this evening.

Day 2. DELHI. Leave Europe this morning. Arrive Delhi late at night. Spiritual Journeys representative will welcome you at the airport when you arrive late night at Delhi Airport, and escort you to your hotel. Overnight: TAJ MAHAL HOTEL.

Day 3. DELHI. Morning at leisure. Afternoon, light sightseeing in Delhi. Overnight: TAJ MAHAL HOTEL.

Day 4. UDAIPUR. Depart by air for Udaipur at dawn. One of the most romantic cities in Rajasthan, Udaipur is fondly known as An Oasis in the Desert. The marble palaces, beautifully laid out gardens and the lakes make Udaipur seem almost like a mirage in the desert. Maharana Udai Singh face repeated attacks on his old capital, and so shifted his capital to the banks of Lake Pichola, with the city being named after him. The City Palace with exquisite workmanship in marble and granite is the largest palace in Rajasthan. The marble LAKE PALACE, now a hotel, seems to be floating on the Lake Pichola, is undoubtedly the main attraction of Udaipur. In the evening we will go on the Gangaur Boat Cruise. The Gangaur boat is the actual (antique) royal barge of the House of Mewar, decorated in a regal way and lit up to resemble a fireball from a distance, where we will go around the mystical lake palace. Overnight: SHRINIVAS HOTEL - DELUXE ROOM.

Day 5. JODHPUR. Depart Udaipur by road, a journey if 4 hours and arrive at the temples at Ranakpur. In a deep, secluded valley at Ranakpur are the most magnificent Jain temples in India, an extensive complex covering 3,600 sq. metres and 29 halls with 1,444 pillars, each unlike the other, intricately covered with delicate carvings. The central temple is dedicated to Adinath, the Revealer of Truth. We will then drive to Jodhpur, a journey of 4 hours. Overnight: TAJ HARI MAHAL.

Day 6. JODHPUR. Founded in 1459 AD at the edge of the Thar Desert by the Suryavanshi Rao Jodha, Jodhpur gradually grew around the towering Mehrangarh fort. Jodhpur was the headquarters of the Rathore Rajputs' celebrations for their tales of daring. The town was once known as Marwar (Land of Death), referring to the harsh desert climate. It is an island of marble palaces, cordoned off from the desert by an immense wall, with eight gates facing different directions. Flanked by the Mehrangarh fort, and the stately sandstone Umaid Bhawan Palace. The formidable Mehrangarh Fort is among the best in India with exquisitely latticed windows and the Umaid Bhavan Palace is the only palace built in the 20th century. After lunch leave by 4-wheel drive vehicles for the Camel Camp at Osian, a journey of 2 hours. Overnight: CAMEL CAMP.

Day 7. OSIAN CAMEL CAMP. Osian, in the merciless Thar desert, was a great trading center between the 8th and 12th centuries when it was dominated by the Jains who left behind a wealth of lavish and exquisitely sculptured mesmerizing temples. See sand-dunes and diversity of Rajasthani culture and tradition of proud local tribes - bishnois, bhils, shepherds, potters, weavers and varieties of desert wildlife as we go on camel back safaris. Overnight: CAMEL CAMP.

Day 8. JAISELMER. Leave early for a 6 hour drive to Jaisalmer. Deep in the heart of the Thar Desert is the fort city of Jaisalmer, founded by Rawal Jaisal in 1156 AD, a feudal chief who lived on the forced levy on caravans laden with precious cargos of spices and silk that crossed this area en-route to Delhi. While founded on what was the crossroad of lucrative trade routes, Jaisalmer has remained aloof and untouched by foreign influences and was the last to sign the Instrument of Agreement with the British. Jaisalmer Fort standing 100 metres over the city, seems to rise out of the desert haze, its yellow sandstone walls and bastions taking on a golden hue in the afternoon sun, hence its name Sonar Kila (Golden Fort). The narrow streets in the walled city preserve a traditional way of life of craftsmen still occupied in the ancient crafts of weaving, stone carving, silver jewelry and embroidery. And the stately, nonchalant camel is everywhere. Overnight: FORT RAJWADA.

Day 9. JAISALMER. After our sightseeing tour of Jaisalmer, we will return to Jodhpur by train, and spend the night here. Overnight: TAJ HARI MAHAL.

Day 10. JAIPUR. We will take an early morning train to Jaipur. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II abandoned the rugged hills of the fort-city of Amber in 1727 for his perfect palace-city, and laid the foundations of Jaipur. Encircled by a formidable wall built for protection from invading armies and animals, Jaipur was the only planned city of its time with the palace lying in the heart of the city. The city is best explored on foot and only the adventurous visitor willing to go into the inner lanes can feel the spirit of the city. There are many sites to see but the more important ones include The City Palace, the former royal residence, now museum and art gallery; Hawa Mahal, the ornamental facade of this "Palace of Winds"; Amber Fort Complex, a classic romantic Rajasthan city-fort-palace perched high up a hill, which we will reach through snaking pathways on elephant back; Jantar Mantar, a stone observatory including celestial clocks accurate to less than half a minute. Overnight: RAM BAGH PALACE HOTEL.

Day 11. JAIPUR. High up the Aravalli Hills is the honey-colored fortress-palace of Amber Fort. Ride up to the fort on elephant back, the manner in which the Rajput Maharajas made their Royal ascent. It has been described as “the sleeping beauty of Rajasthan”. The somber exterior belies and the richness of the royal apartments which open on to striking views of the gorge. It also possesses a Chamber of Mirrors. The Hall of Victory presents a galaxy of decorative art - panels of alabaster with fine inlay work of the tenderest hues. Rest of the day at leisure, visiting the narrow and winding lanes of this shoppers city. Overnight: RAM BAGH PALACE HOTEL.

Day 12. AGRA. Mid-morning leave for Agra (a journey of 5 1/2 hours) stopping at Fatehpur Sikri, the amazing capital of Emperor Akbar. Described as an epic poem in red sandstone who’s glorious courtyards and palaces conjure up dreams of the mysterious past, built by Akbar in 1569 but deserted 14 years later. Agra is the city of the Taj Mahal. Emperor Shahjahan built the Taj Mahal - the seventh wonder of the world - in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is a sublime experience of the greatest love story ever told - the most extravagant monument ever built for the sake of love. We will see many other monuments while in this great city. Overnight: OBEROI AMAR VILAS - DELUXE ROOM.

Day 13. AGRA. Continue sightseeing in this historic city. Overnight: OBEROI AMAR VILAS - DELUXE ROOM.

Day 14. AGRA. After a visit to the Taj at dawn, we will return to our hotel for breakfast, and then continue to see a variety of Moghul architecture, taking a late train to Delhi. Overnight: TAJ MAHAL HOTEL.

Day 15. DELHI. Old Delhi is a 300-year-old walled city built by Emperor Shah Jehan in 1648 as his capital. The magnificent Red Fort built of red sandstone. Within its walls are marble palaces and a grand audience chamber, the Diwan-i-Khas, where Moghul emperors held court and the Peacock Throne once stood. Opposite the fort are the black and white onion dome and minarets of the Jama Masjid, the most elegant mosque in India. Drive past Kotla Firoze Shah, ruins of an old fort of the 14th century, see the Ashoka Pillar of 3rd BC. Visit Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated in 1948. New Delhi, the New Capital, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens. Drive down the main avenue, the impressive Rajpath to the World War I memorial arch, the India Gate, and pass the Presidential Palace, Rashtrapati Bhavan. Overnight: TAJ MAHAL HOTEL.

Day 16. DELHI. Full day at leisure. Late at night, we will take our return flight to the Americas.

Day 17. Arrive Europe this morning or the Americas this evening.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: E-mail or contact Deepak Singh, Spiritual Journeys, Inc., 262 Upland Road, Cambridge, MA 02140. USA. Ph: 508-358-4267.