Day 1: Delhi.
Meet in the morning at a hotel. Proceed for a tour of Delhi. Scholars have traced Delhi’s roots as a city to as far back as 1000 BC. Today the city is divided into two sections, simply called Old Delhi and New Delhi. Currently the metropolis has an approximate population of 16 million inhabitants. New Delhi is the capital of India and the home of the largest bureaucracy in the democratic world. Arrive in Delhi and take a sightseeing tour of the city that includes stops at Raj Ghat, the Jama Masjid, the Red Fort, the Qutab Minar, the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the India Gate. Raj Ghat is the cremation site of
Mahatma Gandhi and is a simple yet stirring memorial to the father of the nation. Lush lawns extend beyond the enclosure that surrounds the black marble platform occupying the spot where the Mahatma was cremated on January 31, 1948. An eternal flame burns next to the platform. The Jama Masjid was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, and completed in the year 1628. The Jama Masjid is the largest and best known mosque in all of India. Jama Masjid is a reference to the weekly Friday noon congregation prayers of Muslims, called Jummah, which are usually done at the congregational mosque (jami Masjid). The courtyard of the mosque can hold up to 25,000 worshippers. Jama Masjid also houses several relics in a room in the north gate, including an antique copy of the Qur’an written on deer skin. The mosque was a result of the efforts of over 5000 workers over a period of seven years. The courtyard of the Jama Masjid can be reached from the east, north and south by three flights of steps, all built of red sandstone. Under the domes of the mosque is a hall with seven arched entrances facing the west. The walls of the Jama Masjid, up to the height of the waist, are covered with marble. Beyond this is a prayer hall with eleven arched entrances. Over these arched entrances there are tablets of white marble, four feet long and 2.5 feet wide, inlaid with inscriptions in black marble. These inscriptions give the history of the building of the mosque, and glorify the reign and virtues of the Shah Jahan. The slab over the center arch contains only the words “The Guide”. The floor of the mosque is covered with white and black marble ornamented to imitate the Muslim prayer mat. There are 899 spaces marked into the floor of the Jama Masjid. The Red Fort in Delhi was the seat of the Mughal Empire for more than 250 years and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an amazing example of a blend of Persian, Indian and European architecture and was completed in 1640 by Shah Jahan, the emperor that created the Taj Mahal. The great city inside the massive sandstone walls of the Red Fort offers visitors a large number of architectural and historical attractions and was once known as the 8th wonder of the world. The Qutab Minar (1193 AD) is a 239 foot tall medieval tower that is a symbol of victory. It is an amazing example of architectural and building skills during the 12th century. There is a winding stairway inside the tower that goes up all the way to the balcony at the very top of the tower – unfortunately they are no longer accessible for visitors. The Qutab Minar and its Monuments are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the Qutab complex, amidst the ruins of the Quwat-ul-Islam Mosque, stands one of the legendary Ashoka Pillars. This large iron pillar has withstood the ravages of Delhi’s weather (and recent pollution) and has not rusted in over 1500 years. The Rashtrapati Bhavan is the official residence of the President of India. Until 1950 it was the viceroy’s house. It is the largest residence of any chief of state in the world, with four floors and 360 rooms. The India Gate is the national monument of India. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it was originally known as the All India War Memorial. It commemorates the 90,000 soldiers of the British Indian Army who lost their lives while fighting for the British Indian Empire in World War I. Following India’s Independence, India Gate became the site of the Indian Army’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with an eternal flame burning inside. Today you will enjoy all meals aboard the Deccan Odyssey. Arrive at Safdarjung Railway Station at 4 pm. Enjoy dinner aboard the Deccan Odyssey. At 6 pm, enjoy a welcome drink, followed by dinner aboard the Deccan Odyssey at 7:30 pm.
Day 2: Agra - Fatephur Sikri - Jaipur.
Enjoy breakfast aboard the Deccan Odyssey. Drive to Agra, stopping in Fatehpur Sikri. Fatephur Sikri is an abandoned capital of the Mughal Empire. Built by Emperor Akbar to be a co-capital with Agra, Fatehpur Sikri is an amazing display of architectural splendor. It was the first planned city of the Mughals and also the first one designed in Mughal architecture, an amalgamation of Indian, Persian and Islamic architecture. It served as the Mughal Empire’scapital from 1571 until 1585. Though the court took 15 years to build, it was abandoned after only 14 years because the water supply was unable to sustain the growing population. Today, the complex of buildings, including the extant royal palaces, courts and the Jama Masjid is a popular tourist
attraction, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India conducted in 1999-2000 have led to the discovery of a large number of Jain sculptures with inscriptions including a unique Jain Shruti Sarasvati sculpture showing an ancient history of the city predating the Mughals by half a millennium. The buildings of Fatehpur Sikri show a synthesis of various regional schools of architectural craftsmanship such as Gujarat and Bengal. This was because indigenous craftsmen from various regions were used for the construction of the buildings. Influences from Hindu and Jain architecture are seen hand in hand with Islamic elements. The building material used in all the buildings at Fatehpur Sikri is the locally quarried red sandstone. Some of the most important buildings in this complex include Bulund Darwaza, Jama Masjid, Tomb of Salim Chishti, Diwan-i-Am, Diwan-i-Khas, Ibadat Khana and Mariam-uz-Zamani’s Palace. The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the World’s best known monument. The Taj Mahal was built in memory of Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife. This marble mausoleum is the greatest gesture of love known to mankind and is breathtakingly beautiful. The land for the building of the Taj Mahal came from the Maharaja of Jaipur. The marble used in its construction was from the mines of Makrana, also in Rajasthan. The precious stones used in its inlay and the craftsmen employed for the twenty two years its construction took, came from all over the world. The Agra Fort is the first red sandstone fort of North India. It was built in 1565 by India’s greatest Mughal ruler, Emperor Akbar. Its royal audience halls, immense stone courtyards, marble mosque and private royal chambers give us a glimpse of the grandeur of the Mughal Empire. The site is very important in terms of architectural history. Abul Fazal recorded that 500 buildings in the beautiful designs of Bengal and Gujarat were built in the fort. Some of them were demolished by Shah Jahan to make way for his white marble palaces. Most of the others were destroyed by the British between 1803 and 1862. Today you will enjoy all meals aboard the Deccan Odyssey.
Day 3: Jaipur.
Enjoy breakfast aboard the Deccan Odyssey. Constructed in the early 18th century, Rajasthan’s capital has broad and open streets and is very well laid out. Maharaja Jai Singh II and his architect built Jaipur using ancient Hindu principles of civic planning and design, and created a city full of magical color and beauty. A visit to Jaipur should be a must for every visitor to India; the multi-hued garments and jewelry of the locals, the profusion of camels in everyday traffic, and the play of the sun’s rays on the brightly colored walls of the inner city all combine to create an atmosphere unique to this city. Amber Fort is known for its artistic style, blending both Hindu and Mughal elements. The fort is made up of large ramparts and a series of gates and cobbled paths.
It overlooks Maota Lake. The numerous chambers and hallways of the palace are famous for their exquisite designs and handcrafted embellishments. Just like the emperors of a few centuries ago, visitors can enjoy the ascent up to the ramparts of the fort on a colorfully caparisoned elephant. The massive fort complex was originally built by Raja Mansingh in 1952 and is one of India’s finest examples of Rajput architecture. The hall of victory, Jai Mandir, has a stunning ceiling adorned with mirror work and inlaid paneling. Continue on your sightseeing tour of Jaipur with a visit to the Hawa Mahal. The Hawa Mahal, meaning Palace of the Breeze, was built in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, and designed by Lal Chand Usta in the form of the crown of Krishna, the Hindu god. Its unique five story exterior is also akin to the honeycomb of a beehive, with its 953 small windows called jharokhas that are decorated with intricate latticework. The original intention of the lattice was to allow royal ladies to observe strict purdah (face cover). Built of red and pink sandstone, the palace is situated on the main thoroughfare in the heart of Jaipur’s business center. It forms part of the City Palace and extends to the Zenana or women’s chambers, the chambers of the harem. It is particularly striking when viewed early in the morning, lit with the golden light of sunrise. Its cultural and architectural heritage is a true reflection of a fusion of Hindu Rajput architecture and the Islamic Mughal architecture. The Rajput style is seen in the form of domed canopies, fluted pillars, and lotus and floral patterns. The Islamic style is evident in its stone inlay filigree work and arches. The Hawa Mahal was Maharaja Jai Singh’s favorite resort because of the elegance and built-in interior of the Mahal. Proceed on a visit to the City Palace in Jaipur. Wander through its gardens, courtyards and ornate doorways. City Palace’s numerous chambers and hallways are famous for their exquisite designs and handcrafted embellishments. Just like the emperors of a few centuries ago, visitors can enjoy the ascent up to the ramparts of the fort on a colorfully caparisoned elephant. The massive fort complex was originally built by Raja Mansingh in 1952 and is one of India’s finest examples of Rajput architecture. The Hall of Victory, Jai Mandir, has a stunning ceiling adorned with mirror work and inlaid paneling. Enjoy lunch at the Jai Mahal Palace hotel. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Jantar Mantar. The Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments built by Maharaja Jai Singh II at his then new capital of Jaipur between 1727 and 1734. The observatory consists of 14 major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars’ location as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and determining the celestial attitudes. An excursion through Jai Singh’s Jantar is a unique experience of walking through solid geometry and encountering a collective astronomical system designed to probe the heavens. The giant sundial, known as the samrat yantra (supreme instrument) is the world’s largest sundial, standing 27 meters tall. Then visit some local markets. Enjoy all meals aboard the Deccan Odyssey.
Day 4: Sawai Madhopur.
Enjoy breakfast on the Deccan Odyssey. You will arrive in Sawai Madhopur, the home of Ranthambore National Park. Sawai Madhopur is the base for exploring Ranthambore National Park. Ranthambore was named after the once imposing 10th century fort whose ruins preside over the park from a nearby hilltop. In the 18th and 19th centuries the jungles here were the royal hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Jaipur. In the mid-nineteenth century, the British officer in charge of the area started a program of conservation for the fast dwindling wildlife. It became a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and a National Park (as part of Project Tiger) in 1973. The park is surrounded by the Vindhya and Aravali mountain ranges and is one of the greener parts of the mostly desert state of Rajasthan. It is bordered by rivers on its north and south and there are many streams inside the park. Dry deciduous forests cover much of the park, and the rest of the terrain can vary from flat grasslands to massive boulders to steep ravines. There are six manmade lakes in the park that serve as watering holes for the wildlife. Over 30 different animals are found here, including tigers and leopards. There are three different types of antelopes, over 250 kinds of birds, and a decent number of snub nosed marsh crocodiles. You can also find sloth bears, wild boars, monitor lizards, jackals and jungle cats, just to name a few. Tiger sightings are very common for the average visitor who takes 3 or 4 safaris into the park, but chances are only fair when you enjoy only two safaris as per the itinerary of the Deccan Odyssey. Enjoy all meals aboard the Deccan Odyssey.
Day 5: Udaipur.
Arrive in Udaipur and enjoy a late breakfast on the Deccan Odyssey. Udaipur was founded in the middle of the 16th century by Maharana Udai Singh II of the Sisodia dynasty that ruled the area (called Mewar) for twelve centuries. Known as the “City of Lakes” and also as “The Venice of the East,” Udaipur lies amidst picturesque surroundings with beautiful lakes and the Aravali mountain range surrounding it. It is home to more grand palaces and other architecture than any other city in Rajasthan. Drive through Udaipur on a sightseeing tour. Enter the City Palace through the Tripolia Gate, one of the two entrance gates. The City Palace in Udaipur is a blend of stern Rajput military architecture on the outside and lavish Mughal-inspired decorative art on the inside.
Set on a hill overlooking Lake Pichola, the City Palace is a sprawling edifice made up of at least four separate, interconnecting palaces, built over a period of nearly three centuries. The entire palace is oriented to face the east. The earliest parts of the City Palace are reminiscent of the architectural style of Chittorgarh, but subsequent additions show an interesting evolution of style, although this is sometimes disguised by later remodeling. See its Surya Gokhra (Sun Window), from where the maharajas would appear to the people during times of misfortune. Just south of the City Palace is Fateh Prakash. Fateh Prakash Palace is home to a breathtaking collection of crystals. The crystal items include tables, sofa sets, dining tables, dressers, fountains and even beds besides a whole array of washing bowls, decanters and perfume bottles. There is also an exquisite jewel studded carpet. Then visit Sahelion-ki-Bari gardens. These beautiful gardens (Gardens of the Maids of Honor) were laid out in the mid-18th century for a retinue of 48 young ladies-in-waiting who were sent to Udaipur as part of a princess’s dowry. The gardens have beautiful lawns, lotus pools, marble pavilions and marble elephant-shaped fountains. Visit Jagdish Temple. In the evening take a boat ride on Lake Pichola and visit Jag Mandir Palace. This older water palace, built in 1620 by Karan Singh, played an important role in Udaipur’s history. The Mughal prince, Khurram, exiled by his father, Emperor Jahangir, chose to seek refuge here. Jag Mandir owes its name to Jagat Singh, who was announced as the new Emperor Shah Jahan upon his father’s death in 1627. He transformed the palace quite considerably. His close relationship with the Mewar led to an important new era of peace, prosperity and architectural renaissance in Udaipur. The island has some striking carvings including a row of elephants that look like they are guarding the island. The exquisitely carved chatri in grey and blue stone is also interesting. Enjoy dinner at a city hotel.
Day 6: Aurangabad.
Enjoy a leisurely morning aboard the Deccan Odyssey. There will either be an early lunch aboard the Deccan Odyssey or a packed lunch for the drive to the Ellora Caves. The Ellora Caves were sculpted by Buddhist monks starting in the 7th century BC.
The next two centuries saw a resurgence of Hinduism, reflected by the creation of the next 17 caves with Hindu themes, sculpture and art. These caves include Cave 16, the awe-inspiring “Kailash Temple”. This cave temple, like all the others, was created out of one rock. However, the significance of that fact changes when you put it in the perspective of this enormous structure. The remaining four caves were created during Jainism’s heyday in this region and are built to a slightly smaller scale. The Ellora caves did see destruction under the Moghul Emperors; many shrines and other art were either destroyed or damaged. Fortunately, most of the monuments survived. Drive to Jalgaon Railway Station and board the Deccan Odyssey. Enjoy dinner on the Deccan Odyssey.
Day 7: Aurangabad.
Enjoy breakfast aboard the Deccan Odyssey then proceed for a tour of the Ajanta Caves. The Ajanta Caves are amazing achievements more ancient than most of the other destination in India. Carved into the hard basalt of remote hillsides in Maharashtra, these caves have remained miraculously undamaged over two millenniums. You begin by being awed at their sheer size. Buddhist monks and other craftsmen began excavating, sculpting and painting at Ajanta in the 2nd century BC. The incredible variety of paintings and sculpture were created in hard rock by using elaborate and ingenious lighting, tools and materials. These 28 caves are a testament to the devotion of the Buddhists as well as the talents of their skilled craftsmen. Ajanta’s incredible paintings are even more amazing considering that the color and texture you’re admiring was created by artists about 2000 years ago. Ajanta was known only to the hill tribes till the early 19th century, when a group of British army soldiers were led to it by one of these locals. Enjoy lunch at a city hotel. Visit Bibi-ka-Maqbara. It is a Mughal tomb garden modeled on the Taj Mahal and built by Prince Azam Khan in memory of his mother. See the panchakki, or water-mill, that is another major attraction of Aurangabad. Enjoy dinner aboard the Deccan Odyssey.
Day 8: Mumbai.
Arrive at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railway Station. Depart from the Deccan Odyssey after breakfast aboard.