Agra: Agra is recognized for its many Mughal-era buildings, most notably the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Agra falls within the Braj cultural region. Begun in 1633, it took some 20,000 workers laboring 17 years to complete the fabled Taj Mahal, a monument of glistening marble and semiprecious stones. This is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Agra. Sunrise or sunset at the monument remains one of the iconic experiences of India. Another of India’s great architectural sights is the 16th-century Agra Fort, an elegant synthesis of Hindu and Central Asian styles. Agra was mentioned for the first time in 1080 when a Ghaznavide force captured it. Sultan Sikandar Lod , 1488–1517, was the first to move his capital from Delhi to Agra in 1506. He governed from there and Agra assumed the importance of the second capital. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the city eventually came under control of the British Raj in 1803.
Assam: Assam is second in commercial tea production only to Southern China; and, in fact, they are the only two regions in the world with native tea plants. Mostly grown in the Brahmaputra Valley, malty Assamese tea is brightly colored. Jorhat, in the central the valley, is often referred to as the “Tea Capital of the World,” and holds an annual tea festival in November. Several tea plantations such as the 116-year-old Haroocharai Tea Estate are open to enjoy delicious blends and refined Assamese cuisine. In northeast India, south of the eastern Himalayas, Assam comprises the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley along with the Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts. It shares international borders with Bhutan and Bangladesh, and the culture, people and climate are like that of Southeast Asia. Assam is also known for its silk and as the site of the first oil well drilled in Asia. The state is working to save the one-horned Indian rhinoceros from near extinction. In fact, Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve is home to more than 2,200 Indian one-horned rhinoceros, approximately two-thirds of the world population in addition to pygmy hog, tiger and species of Asiatic birds, Hoolock gibbon, leopard, sloth bear, wild water buffalo and swamp deer. It provides one of the last wild habitats for the Asian elephant. Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Nagaland is a state in Northeast India that borders Assam to the west and north. It is home to several tribes, which have their own distinct festivals, including the well-known Hornbill Festival, held the first part of December annually. Please note: Tea factory visits are subject to permitting weather conditions. Tea factories are closed on Mondays and no tea leaves are plucked on Sundays. The factories are also closed from mid-December to the end March.
Aurangabad: The city is surrounded by historical monuments, including the famed Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Ellora is one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world, featuring Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments and artwork that go back to 600-1000. “Cave 16” features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, the Kailasha temple, a chariot shaped monument dedicated to Shiva. More than 100 caves have been excavated, 34 of which are open to public. The Ajanta Caves are some 29 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments. While the precise time is still being investigated, some authorities believe they were carved between the second century BCE and late fifth century. These caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art. The Bibi Ka Maqbara, Tomb of the Lady, was commissioned by Aurangzeb’s Son Azam in the memory of his Mother Dilras Banu Begum. It bears a striking resemblance to the famous Taj Mahal. The historic triangular fort and city of Daulatabad was built in the 14th-century just 16 km/9.9 mi northwest of Aurangabad.
Delhi: India’s national capital is one of the most populous metropolises in the world.It has been continuously inhabited since the 6th century BCE. Delhi is a vibrant city of teeming bazaars, British-designed boulevards and powerful Mughal palaces and forts. The many faces of India’s capital are mirrored in its modern business centers, colonial architecture, and in Old Delhi’s winding lanes. Rickshaws weave through throngs of shoppers and vendors clustered around Chandni Chowk. Mughal history comes alive at Red Fort, the ancient Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb, the earliest of the great Mughal garden tombs. India’s largest mosque, Jama Masjid, is the principal mosque of Old Delhi. Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, in the year 1650, it is the largest and best-known mosque in India. Embassy District’s parliament houses, the presidential palace and Connaught Place date from the British colonial era. Raj Ghat is a poignant memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. A different approach to exploring Delhi begins with the Salaam Balak Trust Walk, an NGO that helps children escape the streets. Some of those kids are adolescents who are fully trained as local guides and who want to improve their communication and speaking skills. The kids tell their stories to visitors as they explore the streets of inner city of Paharganj and the area around New Delhi railway station. Far from the tourist attractions, City Walk’s kids have taken thousands of travelers for a first-hand look at what their lives were like, while empowering those same children to join mainstream life.
Delwara: Delwara in the Aravali hills is a short distance from Udaipur and close to Eklingji Temple on the way to the temple town of Nathdwara. It was originally known as ‘Devkul Patan Nagri,’ the town of god, and had more than 1,500 temples, which included about 400 Jain temples. Built between 225 and 215 BCE, the Jain temples are in complete ruins. The temples were constructed under the orders of Emperor Samprati, who ruled over the entire western and southern part of India. He was credited with building thousands of Jain temples in India. The principality of Delwara was given to Raja Sajja Singh after the ‘Battle of Haldighati’ in 1576. First a rudimentary palace was built, which was revamped in 1760s for a royal visit by the Maharani of Udaipur. The seven-story hilltop fort palace in Rajasthani architecture was built during that same period. Two centuries later, it was in ruins and stood empty for 20 years. The palace was acquired by an industrial family from Shekhawati region in 1984, who completely restored the palace and created one of India’s renowned heritage hotels. Outdoor adventures here encompass desert treks, safari drives, cycling, cultural village excursions and an exploration of 15th-century Kumbalgarh Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original fort is believed to have been built during the sixth century.
Dudhwa National Park and Lucknow: Dudhwa National Park, near the Indo-Nepal border north of Lucknow, is a major wildlife conservation site. When combined with Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary and Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary, these protected areas form the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger. The three wildlife reserves form contiguous belts of dense forest enabling the free movement of wild animals. The vegetation is mostly deciduous with the best Sal trees found in the region that are favored by the 450 resident and migratory birds. The most common species include hornbill, fishing eagle and serpent eagle. Many migratory birds flock to the lakes in the winter making it the ideal time for bird watching. In addition to tigers, the reserves support panthers, leopards, one-horned rhinoceros and barasinghas (swamp deer) along with endangered species such as Hispid hare and Bengal florican. Lakes and rivers inside the national park provide freshwater for the reserve throughout the year.Tributaries of the Ghagara River flow through the park. Turtles, crocodiles and Gangetic dolphins are found here. Jeep safaris, biking, guided walks, photography lessons are available. Lucknow is the capital and largest city of the state of Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow has always been known as a multicultural city that flourished as a North Indian cultural and artistic hub, and the seat of power of Nawabs in the 18th and 19th centuries. It continues to be an important center of governance, education, commerce, aerospace, technology, culture, music and poetry. The city stands at an elevation of approximately 123 m/404 ft. on the northwestern shore of the Gomti River. Hindi is the main language of the city and Urdu is also widely spoken. Historically, the capital of Awadh was controlled by the Delhi Sultanate, which later came under the Mughal rule. In 1856, the British East India Company abolished local rule and took complete control of the city along with the rest of Awadh. Lucknow became independent from Britain in 1947, as did all India.
Ganges River: The monuments and the sacred Ganges offer glimpses at some of the powerful symbols of man’s faith. Varanasi is the holiest city in India, revered by Hindus,Buddhists and Jains. Each dawn, along the sacred Ganges, hundreds of pilgrims and worshippers gather on the riverbanks to reenact centuries-old rituals and prayers. They congregate along rows of stone steps – the ghats that stretch the length of the city. The city itself is a maze of narrow alleys, shrines and pilgrim shops. Rishikesh is a small town in the northern state of Uttarakhand, where travelers begin treks to the Himalayan pilgrimage centers, including Haridwar, which is where the sacred Ganges River leaves the mountains and flows onto the plains. This is among the holiest sites of pilgrimage in India with some two million people a year coming to bathe in the river. At sunset, priests perform the river ceremony, and chant as pilgrims place burning candles in the river.
Gujarat: Gujarat has been one of the main centers of the Indus Valley Civilization. Mount Abu’s Hindu temples include rock-carved Adhar Devi Temple and several Jain temples including Dilwara, a group of temples carved out of white marble between the 11th and 13th centuries. At 1,220 m/4,003 ft., Mount Abu has been a popular hill station retreat for centuries. The largest city in Gujarat is Ahmedabad, founded in 1411 on the banks of the River Sabarmati. Here, the Calico Museum of Textiles has an impressive and popular collection of historic fibers and various materials. The city was at the forefront of the Indian independence movement early in the 20th century as Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the movement, was Gujarati. In Bhavnagar district, Palitana is a major pilgrimage city for Jains and its temples are considered the most sacred by the Jain community. In the hills of Shatrunjaya, more than 3,000 temples were exquisitely carved in marble over a period of 900 years. Some 3,800 steps run from the bottom of the hill to the top. Ambaji is another important temple town with millions of devotees visiting annually. Rann of Kutch salt marshes are found in the Thar Desert area in Gujarat with some parts in Pakistan. The marsh covers a huge area of around 25,900 sq. km/10,000 sq. mi., positioned between the Gulf of Kutch and the mouth of the Indus River in southern Pakistan. This is the only large flooded grasslands zone in the entire Indo-Malayan region. Gir National Park is home to the majestic Asiatic lion, leopards and numerous chital, nilgai, chinkara, four-horned antelope and wild boar. Blackbuck National Park, Velavadar, encompasses flat land, dry grasses and herds of antelope. Successful conservation programs for the blackbuck, wolf and lesser florican (a bustard) are ongoing. Local wolf numbers are increasing, as are striped hyena. Also in Gujarat are the tribes of Bhuj, who produce traditional textiles and jewelry, and their houses are adorned with elaborate mirrorwork.
Himalayas, Darjeeling and Ladakh: The Indian Himalayas spans the northern states of Jammu, Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh,and two eastern states, Assam and West Bengal. These dramatic majestic mountain landscapes are accented by tea plantations, small villages and historical Buddhist monasteries. Ghoom Monastery is the oldest and most famous in Darjeeling. In the Lesser Himalayas at an elevation of 2,042 m/6,700 ft., it is famed primarily for its tea industry. It is also celebrated for its views of the Kangchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site,connects the town with the plains and uses some of the few steam locomotives still in service in India. Kumaon has an abundance of lakes, gardens, temples, and even a national park. Kumaon is a place soaked in the culture of the hills. The Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is unique in that walking tours are available here unlike other sanctuaries that may require a jeep or other transport. It is located in the Himalayas on top of the Jhandi Dhar hills. Binsar was the summer capital of the Chand Kings, who ruled over Kumaon from the 11th to 18th centuries. Binsar was established in 1988 for the conservation and protection of the shrinking broad leaf oak forests of the Central Himalayan region. It supports more than 200 bird species. In Ladakh, visitors can enjoy glamping as well as a game of polo, historical monastery tours, river rafting, biking, hiking and cultural visits.
Jaipur: Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of Rajasthan. It is known as the Pink City for the dominant color scheme of the stucco buildings. Founded in 1727, the city has a lengthy list of outstanding sights to explore including Anokhi Museum of Textiles,Jal Mahal, City Palace, Nhargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Birla Mandir, Galtaji, Govind Dev Ji Temple, Garh Ganesh Temple, Moti Dungri Ganesh Temple and Sanghiji Jain temple. The Jantar Mantar observatory and Amer Fort are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The impressive Amber Fort on a ridge just outside the city took a 100 year to build, and was completed in the early 18th century. Now deserted, it offers a fascinating look at the lifestyle of Moghul ruling families. Hawa Mahal is a five-story pyramidal shaped monument with 953 windows that rises 15 m/50 ft. Jaipur’s open-air bazaars sell everything from spices and local medicine to jewelry and camel-leather slippers. The Chand Baori Stepwell is one of the oldest and most attractive landmarks in the area. It includes 3,500 narrow steps over 13 stories that extends approximately 30 m/100 ft. into the ground, making it one of the deepest and largest stepwells in India. It was built by King Chanda of the Nikumbh dynasty between 800 and 900. One side of the well has a pavilion and resting room for the royals. Optional activities include a cooking experience at a private home and a heritage walk through the old city.
Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – Golden Triangle of the South: In the southwestern region of India, Karnaraka has a number of wildlife areas, ancient cave temples and interesting museums. It has been inhabited since Paleolithic times. It is the sixth largest state in India, and has seen some of the most powerful empires of medieval India. The region and its people have contributed much to Indian classical music. Ancient sculptured temples, modern cities, scenic hill ranges, unexplored forests and beaches make Karnataka a popular destination. It encompasses 25 wildlife sanctuaries and five national parks. An important Jain pilgrimage site is Shravanabelagola and its monolith of Gomateshwara Bahubali. The capital city, Bangalore, is one of Asia’s fastest growing cities, and is often described as Asia’s Silicon Valley for its tech industry. Yet, its past is still seen in Old Bangalore in such sights as Tipu’s Palace, a mud-brick fort built in 1537. Mysore is noted for its palaces, most especially Mysore Maharaja Palace. Completed in 1912, it was built in Indo-Saracenic style, blending Hindu, Muslim, Rajput, and Gothic architectural styles. Now a museum, this is a beautiful treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art. Chamundi Hill is the Nandi Bull statue carved in 1659 from a single boulder. The temple of Chamundeshwari on top of the hill dates from the 11th century. Andhra Pradesh is one of 29 states of India, and the site of Tirumala
Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, one of the world’s most visited religious sites. Other pilgrimage centers in Andhra Pradesh include Srikalahasteeswara Temple at Srikalahasti, Ameen Peer Dargah in Kadapa, and Kanaka Durga Temple in Vijayawada, while the state’s natural attractions include the beaches, hill stations and the island of Konaseema. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hampi sits on the south bank of Tungabhadra River in Karnataka. The ruins of 14th-century Hampi are all that remain of the seat of the fabled city of Vijaynagar kings. Archaeological excavations here have provided information about the power and wealth of the empire. Its legacy includes monuments spread across South India, the best known of the group is at Hampi. It stretches across 26 sq. km/10 sq. mi. on a spectacular barren and boulder-strewn landscape. The splendid remains of palaces and gateways tell a tale of man’s infinite talent and the power of creativity. The superb Hazara Rama Temple, built in the 15th-century, has outer walls adorned with friezes depicting ceremonies and parades.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu: In South India, Kerala is known for its tranquil backwaters, coconuts, spices and art forms such as Kathakali and Mohini Attam. It is also home to many religions, which is seen in its mix of Hindu temples, mosques, churches, and synagogues. Kerala claims a great many physical charms: sand beaches, pristine rain forests, and lush tea estates at elevations between 1,291 m/4,000 ft. to 1,829 m/6,000 ft. Kerala is also known for its houseboat journeys along the serene backwater canals dotted with snake boat docks. Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is noted as both an elephant reserve and a tiger reserve. It is also home to other rare endemic and endangered flora and fauna. Kochi (Cochin) was occupied by the Portuguese in 1503, becoming the first European colony in Indian. It was also occupied by the Dutch and the British. The Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1555, and presented to the Raja of Cochin as a gesture of goodwill. St. Francis Church, said to be India’s oldest European-built church, was constructed in 1503. Kochi is also home to the oldest Jewish community in India. It may have its roots that reach back to the time of King Solomon. Pondicherry is the capital city and the largest city of the Indian union territory of Puducherry. It was the largest French colony in India. A strong French influence is seen in the old quarters, with boulevards lined with bakeries and Mediterranean-style houses, although the city remains very much Indian. It offers a rather pleasant mix of East and West. It is also known as The French Riviera of the East Pondicherry. Chennai (formerly Madras) is the capital city of the state of Tamil Nadu, which lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Puducherry and the South Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. Ancient stone tools suggest that humanlike population existed in the Tamil Nadu region somewhere around 300,000 ago, before homo sapiens arrived from Africa. The state is home to many historic buildings, multi-religious pilgrimage sites, hill stations and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Khajuraho: The powerful expression of man’s relationship to religion is keenly felt in this city. The amazing, medieval Hindu and Jain temples of Khajuraho, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are recognized for the beautiful and erotic rock carvings. Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 and 1050. They are one of the “seven wonders of India.” These temples were built by the Chandela kings following the tradition of Tantric art. Although famed for their erotic sculptures, the temples are a celebration of all aspects of life.
Orchha: On the Betwa River, Orchha in Madhya Pradesh was founded in 1531.The Chaturbhuj Temple was built during the reign of Emperor Akbar and dedicated to Vishnu. The temple has a complex multi-storied structural view that is an interesting architectural blend of temple, fort and palace. The temple was originally built to deify an image of Rama, as the chief deity, which, however, was installed in the Rama Raja Temple inside the Orchha Fort complex. At present an image of Radha Krishna is worshiped in the temple.
Panna National Park: This national park lies in Panna and Chhatarpur districts of Madhya Pradesh. In 1994, it was declared the 22nd tiger reserve in India, however, it had serious problems with poaching. The park twice lost all its tigers to poaching. Four adult tigers were introduced into the park several years ago and they, along with about ten cubs up to age two are settled in Panna Tiger Reserve and doing well. Their progress is regularly monitored by the Forest Department. It was designated as Biosphere Reserve in 2011. Panna National Park and the surrounding territorial forest area of North and South Panna forest division is the only large chunk of wildlife habitat remaining in North Madhya Pradesh in the otherwise fragmented forest landscape of the region. The forests of Panna National Park along with Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary and adjoining territorial divisions form a significant part of the catchment area of the Ken River, which runs northeast through the park. Among the other species here are leopard, chital, chinkara, nilgai, sambhar and sloth bear as well as more than 200 species of birds.
Punjab: The Punjab region was home to the Indus Valley Civilization until 1900 BCE; and was conquered by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. This state in northwest India forms part of the larger Punjab region. Amritsar is a holy city, home to the Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple. This is the most important religious place in the Sikh tradition. It is a beautiful complex, and always busy with pilgrims from across India. Amritsar’s central walled city has narrow streets mostly developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most Gurus were born here. The city lies on the main Grand Trunk Road from Delhi to Amritsar to Lahore, Pakistan. In Amritsar is site of the first Partition Museum. In the August 1947, after nearly a century under British rule, India was partitioned into two nation states – India and Pakistan. This is the first museum to address this difficult subject. Virasat-e-Khalsa is a museum about Sikhism in Anandpur Sahib, near Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. The museum explores 500 years of Sikh history. Also held here is Holla Mohalla, a Sikh three-day festival of mock battles and displays of swordsmanship and horse riding, followed by music and poetry competitions. Palampur is known for its tea and tea plantations, Victorian-style mansions and castles. This little-known town and home to Tashi Jong Monastery. Dharamshala is the second winter capital of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and the Dalai Lama’s residence and headquarters of Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government in exile). Dharamshala is one of 100 Indian cities to be developed as a smart city under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Smart Cities Mission. Wah Tea Estate was established in 1857 by the British and cultivated for decades. The Wah Tea Estate Homestay is an extension of its surroundings. There are opportunities for touring the tea estate, trekking, fishing and jeep safaris. This is also one of the best places for paragliding and was the site for the World Paragliding competition in 2015. Nearby is a well-known pottery village, where Andretta Pottery holds pottery classes for visitors.
Rajasthan Interior: Rajasthan, Land of Kings, is India’s largest state by area, and comprises most of the Great Thar Desert, the world’s 17th largest desert, and the world’s ninth largest subtropical desert. Rajasthan played an important role in the making of India’s history, its civilization and its culture. Rajasthan’s imposing grand forts, the rustic elegance of its small villages and rich folklore customs are reminders of a rich, romantic past. Amid the stark desert and surrounded by the Aravallis Hills – India’s oldest mountain range – one can experience rich, vibrant cultural heritage at Jojawar, where activities offered include vintage car drives, a train safari through the Aravallis hills, horseback riding on Mewari horses. In dramatic desert landscapes, 4×4 drive vehicles take travelers to villages to capture the very pulse of rural Rajasthan. Meet members of the community, visit their mud brick homes; and engage with the turban-clad men and the shy women donned in traditional dress. Outdoor adventures include treks,safari drives, cycling, cultural village excursions, and exploration of Kumbalgarh Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Shahpura: According to the Rajputana enumeration of 1879, Shahpura was a large and developed town governed by the Zagirdaar of Shahpura. Its beginning came in an era in Indian history when graceful principalities across Rajasthan and other regions were regulated by royal families. The Rajput countries interacted with the Mughal powers and the British, to create eccentric inheritances, which preserved much of the original flavor of the land still seen today. The present owners of the land are descendants of the original family of Shahpura, which is some 65 km/40 mi. from the historic city of Jaipur. The landscape of lakes, fields, wetlands and forests is threaded with walking trails. Activities include boating on the lakes, visiting small, rustic villages, hiking the woods and fields, meeting local artists, or jeep safaris through the desert. Excursions can be arranged that trace the history of the region through neighboring forts, or a bird watching safari in the surrounding wetlands. Rare and endemic birds call this region home, along with blue bull, jackal, and plenty of peacocks. Dhikhola Fort is in the small village of the same name where time seems irrelevant.
Udaipur: Udaipur, the “City of Lakes,” is a major city, municipal corporation and the administrative headquarters of the Udaipur district of Rajasthan. It was the historic kingdom of Mewar, founded in 1553 by Maharana Udai Singh II of the Sisodia clan of Rajput. It remained the capital city until 1818 when it became a British princely state, Thereafter, the Mewar province became a part of Rajasthan when India gained independence in 1947. Udaipur is located in the southern part of Rajasthan state near the Gujarat border. It is surrounded by Aravali Range, which separates it from Thar Desert. Udaipur is well connected with nearby cities and states by means of road, rail and air facilities. It is the sixth largest city in Rajasthan by population. A unique experience is Jal Sanjhi, the art of painting on water. This unusual art form is kept alive by just one family in Udaipur. With a canvas of water rather than paper or cloth, they’ve been practicing the art of Jal Sanjhi for generations. Every painting depicts only one subject: the Hindu god,Krishna. Jal Sanjhi can be experienced in an old temple. Created in 1362, Lake Pichola is an artificial fresh water lake, one of the several contiguous lakes developed over the last few centuries in and around the city. Two islands, Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir, have several palaces. Udaipur is known for its massive forts, palaces, museums, galleries, natural locations and gardens, and architectural temples, as well as traditional fairs and festivals. The Udaipur economy is primarily driver by tourism, although minerals, marble processing, chemical manufacturing and development, electronic manufacturing and the handicraft industry are also contributors. Udaipur is an educational hub with five universities and 14 colleges.
Wildlife of India: India’s extraordinary wildlife include the royal Bengal tiger that is becoming increasingly rare in the world it once ruled. India has set aside tiger reserves and parks to help protect habitat so vital to their survival. Although these tigers are India’s star attraction in the animal world, there is an impressive roster of other fauna, including spotted deer, wild boar, wild dogs, sloth bear, Indian fox, wolf and jungle cat. Hundreds of bird species also thrive such as the fish eagle, the plum-headed parakeet and the Asian paradise flycatcher. In Gujarat, the Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is the only place in the world where the pure Asiatic lion can be found. Madhya Pradesh is one of the least developed states in India and has some of the best regions for wildlife viewing in national parks and sanctuaries. Satpura National Park and Tiger Reserve is the only national park in India that allows walking safaris. The park has herbivores such as sambhar, chital, barking deer, nilgai and occasionally big cat predators. It is also home to sloth bear, with heavy shaggy hair and a long muzzle with a protruding lip and an interesting white V-shaped patch on the chest. The bear is partial to fruits, berries, grasses, flowers, honey, insect larvae and other insects. Pench National Park has highest density of herbivores in India, and is noted for large herds of gaur, cheetal, sambar, nilgai and wild pig. The key predators are tiger, leopard, wild dog and wolf. Tadoba National Park, also known as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, is one of India’s 47 project tiger reserves. This park is less commercialized than other leading parks and is known for its high number of tigers – recent estimates suggest there may be up to 72 tigers.
Best Time to Go
The best time to visit most of the country is during the cool, dry season, between November and March. Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are ideal with temperatures in Goa and central India remain comfortable. The heat of the south is intense but it becomes stifling in May and June. Tamil Nadu and Kerala are good between January and March. From this time onwards, the Himalayas grow more accessible, and the trekking season reaches its peak in August and September while the rest of the subcontinent is being soaked by rain. The most influential feature of the subcontinent’s climate is the wet monsoon season. This breaks on the Keralan coast at the end of May, working its way northeast across the country over the following month and a half. While it lasts, regular and prolonged downpours are interspersed with hot sunshine, and the pervasive humidity can be intense.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT ELEPHANTS: *Elephant-back safaris:
Please note that Big Five does not participate in any elephant-back safaris. The decision was made due to the abusive way some of animals are trained and treated. Based on our founding principles, our approach to animal welfare issues, and our sustainable principles, we agree with many others who are against any abusive methods of training or mistreatment. Please note that this decision does not reflect on those properties and parks who do things the right way.
Day 1: Delhi, India
India’s national capital is one of the most populous metropolises in the world and has been continuously inhabited since the sixth century BCE.
Day 2: Delhi
In addition to the sights of Old Delhi such as Humayun’s Tomb, a new approach to seeing the city has emerged. Salaam Balak Trust Walk features children who once lived on the streets of Delhi to become guides on those very streets.
Day 3: Delhi / Khajuraho / Panna National Park
This national park lies in Panna and Chhatarpur districts of Madhya Pradesh. In 1994, it was declared the 22nd tiger reserve in the country.
Days 4-5: Panna National Park
Among the species represented here are tiger, leopard, chital, chinkara, nilgai, sambhar and sloth bear as well as more than 200 species of birds.
Day 6: Panna National Park / Orchha / Agra
Agra is most famous as the home of the legendary Taj Mahal of the mid-17th century. Savoring a sunrise or sunset at this monument to love remains one of the iconic experiences of India.
Day 7: Agra
Agra’s great architectural sights includes the 16th-century Agra Fort, an elegant synthesis of Hindu and Central Asian styles.
Day 8: Agra / Abhaneri / Jaipur
Founded in 1727, Jaipur is the capital and the largest city of the state of Rajasthan, and is known as the Pink City, due to the dominant color scheme of the stucco buildings.
Days 9-10: Jaipur
The city attractions encompass Amber Fort, City Palace, Jaigarh Fort and several temples such as Garh Ganesh Temple and Sanghiji Jain temple.
Day 11: Jaipur / Shahpura
Shahpura’s countryside features lakes, wetlands and forest that are threaded with walking trails. Activities include boating, rustic village visits, hiking the woods, encountering local artists and jeep safaris into the desert.
Day 12: Shahpura
In dramatic desert landscapes, travelers visit villages to capture the very pulse of rural Rajasthan.
Day 13: Shahpura / Delwara
In the Aravalli hills northeast of Udaipur, Delwara was originally known as ‘Devkul Patan Nagri,’ meaning the town of god, and had more than 1,500 temples, including about 400 Jain temples.
Day 14: Delwara
Outdoor adventures here include desert treks, safari drives, cycling, cultural village excursions and an exploration of 15th-century Kumbalgarh Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day15: Delwara / Udaipur
Founded in 1553, Udaipur, known as the “City of Lakes,” is a major city and administrative headquarters of the Udaipur district. It was the historic capital of the kingdom of Mewar.
Day 16: Udaipur
The city is host to historic forts and palaces, museums, galleries, gardens and architecturally interesting temples.
Day 17: Udaipur / Mumbai / Depart
Assam (4 days)
Assam is second in commercial tea production to Southern China and is also home to the threatened one-horned Indian rhinoceros, pygmy hog and Bengal tiger.
Aurangabad (2 days)
The city is surrounded by historical monuments, including centuries-old Ajanta Caves and Ellora Caves, UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain as well as Bibi Ka Maqbara, Tomb of the Lady and triangular fort of Daulatabad.
Dudhwa National Park and Lucknow (4-5 days)
Dudhwa National Park, near the Indo-Nepal border, is a major wildlife conservation site. Lucknow, a multicultural city, flourished as a North Indian cultural and artistic hub. It also served as the seat of power of Nawabs in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Ganges River (3 days)
The monuments and the sacred Ganges offer glimpses at some of the powerful symbols of man’s faith.
Gujarat (5 days)
Gujarat in western India encompasses sites of the ancient Indus Valley civilization, and is home to sacred temples such as those in the hills of Shatrunjaya with more than 3,000 temples exquisitely carved in marble over 900 years.
Himalayas, Darjeeling and Ladakh (6-9 days)
Summer months only. Spectacular scenery, traditional villages, tea plantations, monasteries and trekking make this area captivating with an intriguing variety of accommodations.
Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – Golden Triangle of the South (7-9 days)
In the southwestern region of India, Karnaraka has several wildlife areas, ancient cave temples and interesting museums. Andhra Pradesh includes many temples and its natural attractions include the beaches and hill stations.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu (7-9 days)
Kerala is known for its tranquil backwaters, coconuts, spices and art forms such as Kathakali and Mohini Attam. Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India. Tamil Nadu offers waterfalls, hill stations and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Punjab (3 days)
Amritsar is a holy city, home to the Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple, a museum devoted to Sikh traditions and the first Partition Museum. Tea estate home stays, trekking, fishing, jeep safaris and paragliding are options.
Wildlife of India (7-8 days)
A collection of national parks is devoted to preserving the remaining populations of the rare royal Bengal tiger and other endangered species including spotted deer, wild boar, wild dogs, sloth bear, Indian fox, wolf and jungle cat.
$700-$900 per person per day. Land only, double occupancy.