This is the ultimate Indophile’s journey of the subcontinent, designed for traveller’s who wish to explore a deeper experience and understanding of the sub-continent’s extraordinary culture, history and belief systems.
This kaleidoscopic sweep through India’s great dynasties traverses six states – Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal focusing on the crown jewels that were created at various times by empires at the zenith of human creation – usually as an expression of the world’s most ancient religions from Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Sufism, to Jainism.
The trip begins with magnificent Hampi, created during the era of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14thC; then onto another UNESCO listed site, the Ajanta caves in Aurangabad, which is where the first Buddhist cave monuments date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. Next is Amritsar in the Punjab, home to the serene and soul-stirring Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine. Srinagar is only a short flight away – the famed Vale of Kashmir known for its exquisite Sufi shrines, placid Dal Lake and hospitality. An understanding of India is not complete without an appreciation of the impact of the British Raj, thus the last two stops – first, the city of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, that was at its height under the Nawabs of Avadh who were great patrons of the culinary and other arts, and once the cradle of Hindu-Muslim-Sikh symbioses; and lastly Kolkata, the first capital of the British Raj that belies its out-dated squalid reputation. To this day, this thriving contadictory city is still regarded as the heartland of Indian culture, intellectualism, and art.
• supremely comfortable 4* + 5 * accommodations
• some of India’s, if not the world’s most significant historical and religious sites
• fully escorted by one of India’s most revered guides
• an appreciation of one of the most complex and ancient cultures on earth
AT A GLANCE
LENGTH: 18 Days
ACTIVITY LEVEL: Moderate
Escorted | Small Groups | Guided | Bespoke
NOTE: The inclusion of beautiful Kashmir will be assessed next year
STYLE: culture | history | arts | architecture | cuisine | textiles
START | FINISH: Bangalore | Kolkata
All meals | entrance fees | accompanying expert guide and tour manager | domestic flights
Luxury + Deluxe
Luxury A/C mini coach
October 2019 TBA
From USD twin | double share
- DAY 1
This afternoon take the afternoon flight to Hampi and check into your 4 star hotel in Vidyanagar Township, one of the fascinating “ideal” towns created by JSW Steel that is almost un-Indian in its serenity and extensive services. This evening visit the Kaladham Cultural Centre that enfolds in its interactive installation, a virtual landscape of panoramic locations enlivened by animated Hindu mythological events that reveal the folkloric imagination of contemporary pilgrims active at Hampi.
Today, move to the spectacular World Heritage site of Hampi for a full day’s tour of the 14C-16C temples, palaces, pleasure pavilions and stables. The austere and grandiose site of Hampi comprises mainly the remnants of the Capital City of Vijayanagara Empire (14th-16th Cent CE), the last great Hindu Kingdom. It encompasses an area of 26 Sq.kilometers (10 sq.miles), located in a startling landscape of hills strewn with massive granite boulders, bordering the meandering river interspersed with paddy fields and palm groves.
You will stay at Hampi’s premier luxury property for two nights.
In its heyday, Hampi was considered one of the most privileged, beautiful and wealthy of cities, representing a highly evolved multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. Building activity continued over a period of 200 years reflecting the evolution in the religious and political scenario as well as the advancements in art and architecture.
The sophistication of the varied urban, royal and sacred systems is evident from the more than 1600 surviving remains that include forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, gateways, defence check posts, stables, water structures, and agoras.
- DAY 5
The Ajanta Caves are one of the oldest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, listed in 1983. The carvings and paintings at Ajanta date back to the beginning of the era of classical Indian art. The Ajanta caves along with the ones at Ellora are some of the most beautiful caves in India. The first Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. During the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D.), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group. The paintings and sculptures of Ajanta, considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, have had a considerable artistic influence.
After this morning’s excursion to Ellora Caves take the flight to Delhi to overnight at an elegant hotel near the airport.
Ellora’s 34 monasteries and temples represent an uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, that brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.
Take the lunchtime flight and check into your luxury hotel.
Later this afternoon visit the Golden Temple that is well deserving of several visits as the mood changes throughout the day. The Golden Temple, located in Amritsar in the state of Punjab, is a place of great beauty and sublime peacefulness. Originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest, the site has been a meditation retreat for wandering mendicants and sages since deep antiquity. Two thousand years after Buddha’s time, the philosopher-saint, Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion came to live and meditate by the here. Over the centuries it became the primary sacred shrine of the Sikhs.
Return to the Temple that attracts devotees from all over India and Sikhs from around the world. The vast kitchens and dining room are surely one of the world’s wonders in terms of feeding the multitudes.
Time permitting; also visit the Mata temple, the Partition Museum and the changing of the guards on the Pakinstani border for those who may be interested.
Today fly to Srinagar where you will check into your luxury eco houseboat on pellucid Dal Lake. Kashmir has been romanticised by everyone from the 16th-century Mogul emperor Jahangir to Salman Rushdie who spoke of “the lush valleys, the lakes, the streams, the saffron meadows – the intense physical beauty and culture of enormous harmony”.
This afternoon enjoy your shikara cruise of the lake.
Kashmir has a rich spiritual heritage of all faiths and has been a land of sanskrit scholars, seers, saints, savants and sages- some belonged to the Buddhist faith, some advocated Shaiva philosophy, some were Sufis and some were saint-poets or nuns.
Today’s full excursion visits local markets, Sufi shrines, mosques, spice markets, architectural marvels and Mughal gardens..
Over Lunch experience Kashmiri food, kahwah and hospitality with an elegant local family.
At dawn your colourful shikaras will row you to the floating flower and produce markets. After breakfast, proceed for an amazing village cum craft tour. You will meet men and women in their homes where they weave pashmina shawls and carpets, do embroidery, and paint papier-mâché objects and have the chance to interact with villagers living traditional lifestyles.
After a morning flight to Lucknow settle into your 5* hotel. This evening enjoy a walk through the night markets sampling some of Lucknow’s great delicacies.
Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, thrives along the banks of Gomti River. The city, Awadh and Uttar Pradesh fell to the British during the imperialistic era. Today Lucknow is dotted with remnants of its rich cultural past. Lucknow is also known for its elaborate cuisine and Chikankaari, or exquisite shadow-work embroidery. Lucknow is an historically important city that was for many centuries at the heart of North Indian culture. In particular, the city was famous for (manners and hospitality, beautiful gardens and dance forms such as Kathak. It was also one of the sites of the 1857 Indian Mutiny (First War of Indian Independence). The Hindi spoken in Lucknow is considered the most beautiful and gentle in the country.
Full day sightseeing includes the colossal Shiite tomb, Bara Imambara, the British Residency built in 1800 and the stage for the most dramatic events of the 1857 First War of Independence, the Chota Imambara, and the prestigious Boarding school, La Martinière.
Also visit some textile studios as the city is renowned for its embroidery.
Fly to Kolkata and check into your luxury Hotel.
This afternoon’s neibhourhood stroll takes you to the grandiose British South Park Street cemetery established in 1767. Discover fascinating obelisks, temples and general gothic splendour, and telling stories on the tombstones.
Dinner this evening is the private home of an art collector.
Kolkata, (Calcutta) India’s second-biggest city, whilst conjuring images of squalid poverty, is surprisingly charming – a melting pot of crumbling British grandeur mixed with a vibrant cultural, intellectual and artistic beat. Originally leased by the British East India Company in the late 17thC who built its riverine strategic trading port, it became in the 19th C, the fist capital of the British Raj that drew large immigrant populations of Jews, Muslims, Armenians, and Chinese who left lasting legacies. It is a city passionate about food, boasting perhaps India’s most sophisticated cuisine and still houses quaint Anglo clubs and cafes, a racetrack, and other vestiges of its former glory.
Today, step back in time on a walking tour that visits Dalhousie Square, St. John’s Church, the High Court, Governor’s House, General Post Office, Victoria Memorial and Writer’s Building. Glipmse the fascinating worlds of Asia’s larget flower market that bustles most of the day under the Howrah Bridge; Kumartuli a Potters colony where artisans fashions idols for ceremonies and festivals and streets lined with second hand books.
Today we take a more oragnic approach and will arrange the day according to our guests’ interests. We can visit – some wonderful textile collaboratives that both support women’s entrepeneurship and the survial of textile traditions such as jamdani; an organic farm; art galleries; a cruise on the Hooghly River; old British clubs.
This evening is a farewell banquet of Bengali delicacies.
Today is for last minute shopping, sightseeing, relaxing. We arrange a late checkout as most international flights leave in the evening and you will be transferred to the airport for your departure.
SUGGESTED TOUR EXTENSIONS:
• 3-day extension to the glorious Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling, one of our favourite Indian hideaways
• repair to the peace and quiet of Rajbari Bawali, two hours from the city
• Bhubaneshwar | Puri temples
Your Tour Leader, Marieke Brugman, other than leading tours on the sub-continent for more than twenty years, has travelled extensively to the furthest corners of this compelling country, coming to grips with its vast history and culture. She is excited about sharing this new tour - a string of pearls that will allow deeply inquisitive travellers to experience some of India's greatest epochs, architectural marvels, and intoxicating variety of cuisines.
Tour Guide, Durga Singh is regarded as one of India's most respected and revered guides. He has been Marieke's collaborator for twenty years. Durga is an exceptional raconteur, a walking encyclopedia on history, religions, architecture, agriculture and almost any conceivable subject you may wish to delve into. He is also excellent company and together with Marieke, he ensures that all AoL tours have an element of fun.
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