Ancient India President’s Pick

India is the main reason I am even in this industry. This program shows you the India I fell in love with.

Ashish Sanghrajka

President's Picks | Big Five Tours

 

 

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President’s Picks

COUNTRIES VISITED

India

STARTING AT..

Price starts at 800- 900 Land per person, per day, double occupancy.

TOUR LENGTH

16

Tour Highlights/Full Description

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  • Pamper yourself in the preserved heritage of the Six Senses Spa at Fort Barwara, dating back to 700 years.
  • Visit the timeless beauty of the Taj Mahal at sunrise
  • Visit Khajuraho’s beautiful UNESCO World Heritage, stone temples and understand its eso-teric architecture
  • Discover the hidden treasures of Jaipur’s old city and feel the vibrancy of the markets on a Heritage walk
  • Discover the ruin-strewn forests of Panna & Ranthambore and glimpse its wildlife on this thrilling jeep safaris adventure

Designed Deerently. Explored Sustainably

Day 01: Arrive in Delhi
On arrival at Delhi airport, a VIP Meet and Greet service is arranged for you.
A Big Five representative will then transfer you to the hotel of choice in a private vehicle, where you will spend two unforgettable nights at your hotel of choice.

The Imperial Hotel or The Leela Palace. This Hotel offers the best in luxury as well as comfort with its regal interiors, as elaborate as the backdrop of The Great Gatsby, and an impeccably trained staff. The hotel offers rooms of varying sizes and costs, yet the promised comfort and amenities are in no way compromised upon. The hotel houses museum-worthy artifacts as well as an art gallery among its many corridors. The in-house restaurants are brimming with elegance and reflect the hotel’s art-deco ambiance. However, it is The Spice Route, which is its major attraction, an intricately designed restaurant that features exquisite carvings.

Or

The Leela Palace. An imposing, inspiring, and right at home among the grand landmarks of New Delhi’s Diplomatic Enclave, this iconic palace-style hotel makes a significant statement in terms of architecture and intent. Its architecture is inspired by Lutyens’ work, art, and embellishment by Mrs. Madhu Nair, and its levels of refinement and generosity of space mirror the great palaces of the world.

Day 02: Delhi
This morning you are awakened and welcomed by India’s mystic sun and the beauty of Delhi. After a leisure breakfast, you will meet your guide, who will spend the day with you exploring the wonders of India. With a history as a capital, Delhi has seen the tides of several kingdoms leaving their cultural influences on the city, from the Tughlaq dynasty to the Mughal empires, from the imperial colonial stronghold to the present-day government. Today, Delhi is a cosmopolitan city, one of the greenest capitals in the world, flourishing as the political & cultural capital of the country.

The day begins with an exciting Chaos of Old Delhi tour – Navigating through the lanes of Old Delhi with your guide partly on foot and partly on a cycle rickshaw. Where we then visit Humayun’s Tomb, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a red sandstone edifice constructed in the 16th century to become the first Garden Tomb in India built by the Mughal rulers. Afterward, make our way to the Sunder Nursery, adjoining Humayun’s Tomb. A Mughal Garden largely following the 16th century Mughal Grand Trunk Road, connecting significant monuments of the time, is a distinct micro-habitat zone today. An organic lifestyle market takes place here every Sunday. As the midday approaches, your final visit will be to Colonial Delhi, Agrasen Ki Baoli (step-well) & Bangla Sahib Gurudwara. The Colonial Delhi trail will take you past the India Gate and older British buildings that house today’s Parliament and Secretariat. Next, visit an ancient stepwell Agrasen Ki Baoli followed by a visit to the majestic Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, a Sikh temple with its eye-catching golden dome. Finally, of course, suppose you are interested in another activity. In that case, there are Qutub Minar Architecture Trails – Next to the World Heritage site of Qutub Minar, there is the only area in Delhi known for 1,000 years of continuous occupation. Spread over 200 acres, the Mehrauli archaeological park consists of many historically significant monuments, ruins, and architectural relics.

Afterward, you will be transferred back to your hotel for a relaxing evening and where dinner awaits.
The Imperial Hotel or The Leela Palace – (B)

Day 03: Delhi/ Fly to Khajuraho – Drive to Panna                           (1-hour drive)
Today you will be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Khajuraho. Upon arrival, our representative will meet you, who will drive you to The Sarai at Toria in Panna, located 1 hour away near Khajuraho. Your guide will escort and help you check into your comfortable, eco-friendly accommodations. Afterward, the remainder of the evening is to rest and relax in the natural surroundings of The Sarai. This simple but tastefully done-up property with thatched, mud-caked cottages and the stone-paved dining areas blend into the rustic landscape at the edge of the Panna National Park. Owned and run by the conservation biologist Dr. Raghu Chundawat and his wife, Joanna, Sarai-at-Toria is a stay that has little impact on the environment and is dominated by the diversity of a habitat that is home to an incredible array of wildlife. With an organic garden, riverside boulders for fishing, and two hosts who love to cook and ensure fresh, hearty meals throughout the day.
Sarai at Toria – (B, L, D)

Day 04 & 05: Panna – Panna National Park                                                                          Over the next two days, you will have the option to experience varied activities. Your guide will take you through this city of tribes and sages, rajahs and colonial loyalties, meadows and evergreen forests, tigers and diamonds, and could be your doorway to Central India. The lesser-known Panna National Park has seen the success of the tiger reintroduction program, a lesson that other national parks would do well to emulate. Panna had lost all its native tiger population to poachers; until 2009, when the translocation of two tigers and two tigresses to the reserve was approved. Panna thrives with a tiger population of approximately 50 individuals a decade later, making it a successful conservation story. Panna’s habitats include dry broadleaf to moist deciduous forest, and the catchment of the Ken River irrigates the national park.

The Safaris in Panna has a good mammal population and a rich raptor activity indicating a healthy ecosystem; the park offers an offbeat experience for wildlife’s looking to avoid the hassle and formalities of more popular destinations. The heart of diamond and emerald country can be explored on a jeep safari or a boat safari in the Ken River. With over 200 species of birds, a rich abundance of large and small mammals, the key wildlife to look out for are: Royal Bengal tiger Wild Dog or dhole, Leopard, Chinkara, Gharial, Rusty Spotted Cat, spotted deer, sloth bear, and riverine reptiles like gharials and crocodiles among others – a jeep safari through the park throws up a lot of surprises.

Today, you will have your first Jeep Safari into Panna National Park – This beautiful jungle in Central India is known for a revival of the tigers, be on the lookout for wildlife. Your wild encounters may bring you face to face with predators and prey, reptiles, vultures, and a variety of birds in one of the most beautiful forests of Central India. Later, you have the opportunity to go on other safaris and excursions;

Ken River Safari – Enjoy a paddle boat ride along the Ken River and explore the wilderness and birdlife. (Subject to adequate water levels).

Kalinjar Fort – One of the oldest Fort in India, an architectural marvel – it has many stories to tell. An alfresco lunch will be served on this day.

UNESCO Listed Khajuraho Temples – Learn about the intricacy and detailing of every sculpture and a legacy of stone that is not so easily effaced – an evocative way to experience the history of a bygone era, with a narrative of the Chandela dynasty, the temple construction, and the city’s name.

Ajaygarh Fort – Amidst the teak forests lies the rural town of Ajaygarh, where you can explore the well-carved temples and other ruins with an alfresco lunch setup. The fort requires climbing up several hundred steps.

Raneh Falls – Located inside the Ken Gharial Sanctuary, the waterfalls on the pinks and greys of 100 feet deep granite rocks, some known to be billions of years old.

If you are intrigued by cuisine and have a pallet of exotic foods, there is an optional activity you may want to experience. A delightful interactive cooking session with your host. Of all the food that hasn’t yet made it to global or domestic menus from India, Malwa recipes representing the cuisine of Central India are a rare novelty. The property owner and conservation biologist, Dr. Raghu Chundawat, is also an avid chef. Learn the secrets of Malwa cuisine from Raghu, as you cook up and partake in a hearty dinner on a patio overlooking the river.
The Sarai at Toria – (B, L,D)

Day 06: Panna / Drive to Gwalior via Orchha        (3.5 hours Gatiman Express Train)    Today is a travel day that includes a journey by local train. Journey time from Panna to Orchha: 3.5 hours approx. Train from Jhansi to Gwalior

After check-out, your guide and driver will meet you at the lobby, where you will begin your next venture. Driving from Panna, embark upon your journey to reach Orchha, a town of medieval history situated alongside the Betwa river. Orchha is known for its beautiful temples and unusual cenotaphs.

Often a stopover between busier towns, Orchha deserves a place in the list of tourist destinations for its medieval history and architecture, beautiful temples, and unusual cenotaphs.
Continue to drive to Gwalior, where you will check in to the Taj Usha Kiran Palace. With 9 acres of beautifully landscaped lawns, this regal palace, rich in history, is outfitted with artistic stone carvings and delicate filigree work. This 120-year-old palace has played host to the King of England. It is now a heritage hotel that offers a mélange of recreational activities, a rich cultural connection,  and modern facilities in a traditional package.
Taj Usha Kiran Palace – (B)

Day 07: Gwalior                                                                                                                            Today, after breakfast your guide who will meet and accompany you to a complete tour of Gwalior, an ancient city that dates to the 6th century has been a work in progress over time: its foundations were laid by the Naad dynasty and were enhanced by several royal Hindu clans. During the British colonial period, India saw the unrest between Central India’s princely states and emerged as a significant economic hub today. Today, the city nestles in the shadow of the Gwalior Fort – a majestic stone structure set upon a hillside carved with rock carving of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism dating to the 15th century. With one of the oldest learning centers of Indian classical music, it bears a profound musical heritage. Also, it celebrates an annual Tansen Music Festival in honor of Mian Tansen, the musician – poet, one of the jewels in the courts of the Mughal emperor, Akbar.

Gwalior’s remarkable landmarks – Perched high above the city, the Gwalior Fort’s ramparts overlook the settlement, telling tales of the Mughal rulers and the Scindia dynasty. The approach to the fort has beautiful, huge carved statues of Mahavira dating back to the 15th century. The hilltop includes noteworthy sights like the Saas-Bahu temple, the Teli ka Mandir, and the Gurudwara Datta Bandi Choodh – each with its history. Visit the Gwalior Fort Museum, which has a beautiful collection of semi-ruined sculptures of Indian gods and goddesses unearthed in and around the city, which provides a glimpse of the Hindu pantheon.

Jai Vilas Palace, a lavish 19th-century residence of the former rulers of Gwalior, for a glimpse of the regal traditions of the Scindia rulers. The ornate interiors house a collection of artifacts like cut-glass furniture, a Persian carpet with portraits of world leaders, and a model silver train that carted decanters.
Taj Usha Kiran Palace – (B)

Day 08: Gwalior / Agra                                                                (3 hours’ approx. drive)
After leisurely breakfast, you begin your drive to Agra. Upon arrival in Agra, check into your hotel. The origins of the city of Agra can be traced back to the days of the Mahabharata, the epic poem of Great India, when it was called Agrevana, meaning ‘the edge of the forest.’ Agra served as the capital for the Mughal Empire during the 16th and 17th centuries and flourished as a center of art, drawing inspiration from Persian, Islamic, Turkish, Byzantine, and Indian styles. It has been immortalized ever since by the Taj Mahal – a magnificent marble mausoleum that today symbolizes love. Yet, Agra has so many more monuments that tell a rich narrative of the tides and times of Man, including Agra Fort.

Agra Fort is one of the most important and robustly built strongholds of the Mughals, embellished with richly decorated buildings. Your guide tells you the rich, evocative Mughal history of Agra Fort, where emperors like Babar, Humayun, Akbar, and other historical characters take center stage.

Afterward, visit the Taj Mahal – The world’s most beautiful Tomb dedicated to the story of the undying love of an Emperor for his most beloved wife. Learn from one of our expert guides about the nuances of its creation and the intricate details of its architecture. (Closed on Fridays)

A Heritage Walk may be a great option if you prefer more of a leisure pace and the thrill of bargaining at a bazaar. An Agra Old City Walk will take you past the Agra Fort Railway station with its distinctly European architecture and the Jama Masjid district surrounded by Old Agra’s bazaars and fine architecture. Here you can hone your bargaining skills on everything from zardozi embroidery to inlaid marble objects. Return to your hotel. The resort sits a mere 600 meters from the world-famous Taj Mahal, offering brilliant views of the monument from the lobby, pool, spa, restaurants, and every room in the hotel. Elaborate gardens, terraced lawns, fountains, and pavilions complement the hotel’s classic architecture.
The Oberoi Amarvilas (B)

Day 09: Agra / Ranthambore                                                           (6 hours approx.)        Early this morning, you and your guide will make your way to the Taj Mahal on a battery-operated cart from the hotel. Morning time is one of the best moments to admire the beauty of the Taj combined with stories of its creation and intricate details of its architecture. After breakfast, commence your journey to Ranthambore.

On arrival in Ranthambore, you will Check-into your hotel. The resorts Set amidst trees on a private estate overlooking a valley, SUJAN Sher Bagh is an eco-friendly, luxury camp with well-appointed tents, each with its own veranda. The spacious, airy main lodge has a sitting area and an excellent library bar on the upper level, ideal for a cocktail after jungle drives. Evenings at the Sujan commence with conversations with fellow guests around a bonfire sharing your wildlife experiences, followed by a dining experience under the stars with meals served course by course by courteous staff.
Sujan Sher Bagh (B, L,D)

Day 10-11: Ranthambore                                                                                                              Today, you will set out on a morning & afternoon / half-day Private Jeep Safaris – Ranthambore’s landscape of watering holes and ruin-strewn forests are best explored by jeep, a perfect vantage point to see wildlife in its natural environs. Apart from the famed royal Bengal tiger, Ranthambore is also home to the common leopard, nilgai or blue bull antelope, wild boar, sambar, hyena, sloth bear, gray langur, rhesus macaque, and chital, among others. The numerous watering holes also support a rich birdlife and reptiles. Keep an eye out for one of the largest banyan trees in the country!

With the decline of the Mughals in the early 18th century, the fortress passed to the Kachwaha Rajputs of Jaipur, and the area’s forest soon became a hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur until game hunting was banned in 1972. But, with several successful conservation efforts, centuries later, it is the Royal Bengal Tigers that rule Ranthambore! A UNESCO World Heritage Site, The National Park is India’s first wildlife sanctuary to come under Project Tiger in 1974, when it was declared a protected forest.

Visit the Ranthambore fort complex, a UNESCO-listed site. It dates to 944A.D and has many stories to tell.
Dhonk –An initiative that empowers women and rehabilitates families of erstwhile poachers, by providing training and sustainable employment opportunities.

The remainder of the day at leisure to enjoy the facilities at your hotel.
Sujan Sher Bagh (B, L,D)

Day 12: Ranthambore / Barwara                                                              (1 hour drive )
This morning explores Barwara with your guide. After breakfast, drive to your accommodations at Six Senses Fort Barwara. This beautiful 14th-century fort was sensitively restored and rebuilt to become a Six Senses sanctuary of well-being. Originally owned by the Noble family of Barwara, it faces the Chauth ka Barwara Mandir temple. The significant conservation effort incorporates two palaces and two temples within the walled fort. The design of Six Senses resort in Rajasthan reinterprets the gracious and regal ambiance of a bygone era dating back 700 years. Upon arrival and check-in, the day is yours to relax and enjoy at leisure.
Six Sens Fort Barwara – (B)

Day 13: Barwara
Today is yours to Immerse in the fort’s rich history and learn about horticulture around the resort. Indulge in wellness, yoga sessions & spa therapies. Learn about the local cooking methods in earthenware pots with the chefs, and enjoy a royal Rajasthani culinary dining experience in one of the many private dining locations. Even enjoy a sunset drive through the Rajasthani countryside topped off by sundowners at a secluded lake before turning in for the day.
Six Sens Fort Barwara – (B)

Day 14: Barwara / Jaipur                                                                (3 hours approx. drive)    After breakfast this morning, you set out to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Famously known as the ‘pink city,’ most of the buildings in the old city were once painted in a hue of orangish pink. In this city, the regal traditions of the former Kings and Queens are carried forward through some of the most well-maintained forts and Palaces in the country. Families of royal legacy uphold even today cultures of yesteryears. Jaipur city is a rendezvous of the past and the present, still maintaining the well-planned, gridded streets juxtaposed with a bustling maze of by-lanes and bazaars, the traditional artisanal crafts offset against contemporary arts. On arrival at Jaipur, you check into your hotel. Rajmahal Palace is one of the oldest and most treasured palaces in the ‘Pink City of Jaipur. Only the City Palace and the royal family’s private forts hold this distinction. Home to the Maharaja of Jaipur, this exquisite royal palace is located at the heart of Rajasthan’s bustling capital. Tall bay windows, mirrored doors, and meticulously appointed interiors allow you to imagine yourself as a royal guest. This magical palace, a garden retreat, has stood witness to over 250 years of history.
The remainder of the day will be at your leisure.
Raj Mahal Palace RAAS Jaipur – (B)

Day 15: Jaipur
Today you will explore the many fascinating splendors of India as you and your guide will set out to visit one of the most famous landmarks. The Hawa Mahal – Jaipur’s most ornate and most distinctive landmark, perfect for a photo stop, followed by Amer Fort – one of the most intricate and beautiful Rajput fortresses and the citadel of the Kachhawaha clan, highly influenced by the Mughal style of architecture. Shortly after, we make our way to the Anokhi Museum, located in a magnificently restored haveli (or mansion). The Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing displays a selection of block-printed textiles alongside images, tools, and related objects, all chosen to provide an in-depth look into the complexity of this ancient tradition and followed by visiting the City Palace complex – the seat of the Maharajah of Jaipur, which consists of an impressive array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings.

There will be time for Lunch or Dinner at Dera Amer – On the outskirts of Jaipur, a private retreat providing a natural habitat and a healing touch to rescued animals. Spend time with the three lovely resident elephants. Relish a special organic farm-fresh meal in exclusive venues in the wilderness of Dera Amer before heading to Jaipur’s old quarters on a Wandering Wonder – Exploring on a discovery walk of its Heritage, art, craft, cuisine, and culture.

You can take an optional excursion to a Block Printing Workshop in Sanganer or Bagru – Participate in a block-printing workshop. A little distance away from the town of Jaipur is the Sanganer town, known best for its textile printing, handmade paper industry, and Jain temples, or if you are a serious foody, a Home cooking experience – Learn about the unique elements of Rajasthan’s cuisine, as your host narrates the story of each recipe from their Noble kitchens. If you prefer to take in the sights and love to walk or hike, The Story of Jaipur Walk might pique your interest – Hiking up the ridges of Jaipur’s outskirts, in the hills behind Amber Fort. Stroll through the old settlement of the Meena tribes and walk past ancient ruins.                                                                            Raj Mahal Palace RAAS Jaipur – (B)

Day 16: Jaipur-Delhi-International Departure                                                                     After breakfast, you will be met at the hotel and transferred to the Jaipur airport to board a flight to Delhi for your flight back home. The memories of the trip will keep you company on the long flight back home.

 Land price, per person, double occupancy: Price starts from USD $800-$900 per person per day, double occupancy. (Note: The cost for the internal flights in India are separate)

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