Upon arrival at Delhi's international airport, you will be met by a representative and driven to your nearby boutique hotel for the night.
Welcome to India
Lodging: B Nineteen Luxury Hotel (or similar)
Day 2 Delhi/Chambal
Early this morning after breakfast, you will be driven to Agra for a privately-guided tour of the Taj Mahal, followed by additional sightseeing (about two hours total time). Afterward, you will be driven to the safari lodge in Chambal for check-in followed by a wildlife sightseeing boat ride on the pristine Chambal River (about half an hour from the lodge). Total driving time today is about six hours.
Leave after breakfast for the Mathura station to board the train for a three-hour daytime trip (via Agra) to Sawai Madhopur (air-conditioned sleeper car accommodations) near Ranthambore National Park. On arrival, you will be met by a representative and driven to the lodge, where you'll check in and then go out on an afternoon wildlife safari in open top mini trucks. With a bit of luck, you'll see Bengal tigers on this, your first day in the wild. While here, you'll be based at a very comfortable boutique hotel (three nights), especially geared to the needs of serious wildlife and nature enthusiasts, near the park.
Spend time in the park in search of tigers and other wildlife
Spend two full days in search of wildlife on twice-daily safari trips in the park. Nestled in the rugged and hilly landscape of the Aravali hills in northwestern India, Ranthambhore National Park is possibly the best-known tiger destination in the world. Ranthambhore was once the private hunting grounds of the Jaipur and Karauli royal families during the 19th century. Over a long period from the 1950s to 1970s, more and more of the forest in the area was desginated as wildlife grounds or sanctuary, eventually growing to become the spectacular wildlife reserve and, in 1980, national park you see today. It is home to an astounding diversity of life, including over 40 species of mammals, 320 species of birds, over 35 species of reptiles, and over 300 species of plants. Besides tigers, wild cats found in Ranthambhore include Leopard, Caracal, Jungle cat, Rusty Spotted cat, Fishing cat, and Leopard cat. The ungulates include Sambhar, Spotted deer (Chital), Blue bull (Nilgai), Chinkara (Indian gazelle), and Wild boar. Other mammals you may see in Ranthambhore are the Sloth bear, Indian fox, Jackal, Indian wild dogs (Dhole), Small Indian civet, Palm civet, Common Indian and Ruddy mongoose, and Striped hyena. Each day, you'll go on morning and afternoon open top minivan safaris to explore the park. (Note: The park admits a maximum of 14 jeeps and 20 trucks daily, so we will reserve space as soon as we get passport details from all participants. If we are unable to book space, we will travel instead to a nearby sanctuary where there are leopards, Striped hyena, Asiatic jackals, Jungle cats, and rich birdlife.)
Travel in open-top jeeps and get close to wildlife
After breakfast and a morning game drive, you will be driven to Jaipur (about 3.5 hours on good roads) where you'll check in at your lovely boutique hotel (adjacent to Punjab National Park) on arrival and spend the afternoon at leisure. Founded in 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, Jaipur offers a labyrinth of fascinating bazaars, opulent palaces, and rich sightseeing. The focal point of the city is the Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds, a five-story baroque-like structure built to enable the veiled ladies of the harem to observe the street scenes below while remaining unseen themselves. The City Palace, a wonderful combination of Mughal and Rajput architecture, is now partly a museum housing miniature paintings, manuscripts, Mughal carpets, musical instruments, royal costumes, and weapons, giving invaluable insight into Jaipur's royal past. Some of the instruments at the astronomical observatory are still used today for weather forecasting.
Arrive in fascinating Jaipur (photo by Shashvat Sinha)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Lodging: Dera Mandawa (or similar)
Day 7 Jaipur/Overnight Train to Udaipur
After breakfast, you will be driven to the Amber Fort for a privately-guided sightseeing tour, stopping by a local restaurant afterward for lunch, followed by additional sightseeing in Jaipur, including a privately-guided tour of the City Palace and the Palace of Winds. If time permits, you can explore the shops and atmospheric old lanes of Jaipur on your own before heading to the hotel for dinner, than on to the train station for your overnight train to Udaipur (approx 11:30p.m. to 6:00a.m. the following day).
Explore Amber Fort, including Baradhari Pavilion (photo by Vssun)
Upon arrival at Udaipur's train station, you will be met by a local representative and driven to Devra, a boutique inn/private home stay property on a hillside with views of Udaipur's City Palace in the distance. After getting settled, head out on a guided tour of the City Palace and Fort. Udaipur is the historic capital of the former kingdom of Mewar. The city is dominated by the City Palace overlooking the Lake Pichola, with the colorful bazaars of the old city stretching behind the palace. Known for its Rajput-era palaces, the City Palace of Udaipur is a fascinating combination of Rajput military architecture and Mughal style decorative techniques featuring a rich collection of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, corridors, rooms, and hanging gardens. Udaipur is also home to some of the most beautiful lakes in the state, most notably the Lake Palace, once a royal summer retreat, built on an island on Lake Pichola. The walled city is also home to the 18th century Bagore ki Haveli, now a museum, surrounded by the narrow lanes and colorful chaos of this walled city, sitting in clear constrast to the serene beauty of the nearby countryside. Later, take a boat ride on the Lake Pichola to see the Jag Niwas island temple, then head to your hotel, your base for the next two nights at this relaxing property.
Leave early in the morning, arriving at Kumbalgarh sanctuary by 7:30a.m. for a guided four-wheel drive wildlife safari, followed by a picnic breakfast. After visiting the sanctuary, travel back to Udaipur, visiting magnificent Kumbalgarh Fort on the way. Spend the afternoon at leisure, perhaps shopping for some of Udaipur's well-known arts and crafts, or relaxing at the hotel and learning about the food of Udaipur from your hosts.
Visit Kumbalgarh's massive fortress (photo by Aryarakshak)
Drive to Siana (about five hours away) following an early breakfast, where you'll check in at your hotel on arrival. Siana is a tiny, beautiful village hamlet in the Aravalli hills. Later in the afternoon, join your host, Pradeep, and his crew for an evening wildlife safari in search of mammals such as Desert cat, Jungle cat, Asiatic leopard, Striped hyena, Asiatic jackal, and Indian fox. Birds you might see include Desert Wheatear, Isabeline Wheatear, Bushchats. Common Stonechat, Indian Rock Eagle Owl, Lagger Falcon, and more. Return to your boutique hotel, a lovely collection of around a dozen small cottages, your base for the next two nights.
Head out on game drives in search of mammals and bird life
For early risers, there will be a birding walk in the wild areas near your lodge. You will also visit a village home to learn more about inhabitants and their lifestyle and to try a cup of camel's milk tea and local bread, both homemade. Later visit another village and then drive back to the lodge for lunch. In the late afternoon to early evening, head out on another safari in search of wildlife, then back to your lodge for the night.
You'll see bird life and various other creatures during your stay
This morning, you will drive to Manvar (about five hours), where you'll check in at the Manvar Desert Camp (or similar) in a Shergarh village on arrival. Manvar is located halfway between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer at the edge of the desert and the Aravalli hills, which taper down gradually to a barren, flat landscape with scrubs and bushes that have adapted to store water that enables them to survive the harsh, rainless summers. After lunch, enjoy an afternoon jeep safari to explore the area in search of mammals which include the Indian gazelle, Desert Gerd, Desert fox, Desert cat, and birds which include a number of raptors, Cream-Colored Courser, and the rare Great Indian bustard. At the end of the day, retire to your very comfortable tent camp (all tents with ensuite facilities, including flush toilets, hot and cold running water, and electricity), your base for the next two nights.
Meet the people of Shergarh during your stay in the desert
Early this morning, you will be driven about an hour to Khichan to view and study the behaviors of more than 10,000 Demoiselle cranes, migratory bird that winter in northern India and come to this area to feed and roost. Afterward, return to Manvar for brunch, followed by a few hours at leisure or perhaps a siesta. In the afternoon, embark on a camel safari to the dunes, then later head out on an evening game drive in search of wild cats and canids. Enjoy dinner and the evening at the camp, also your last night in India.
Experience huge flocks of Demoiselle cranes (photo by M. Field)
Early this morning, you will be driven to Jodhpur (about a two-hour drive), where you'll go on a guided tour of the magnificent and imposing Mehrangarh fort, towering over the city and perhaps the most majestic of Rajasthan's many forts. The forbidding ramparts are in sharp contrast to the flamboyantly-decorated palaces within. The Jaswant Thada, a white marble memorial built in memory of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II, is an architectural landmark in Jodhpur. After the tour, you will be driven to the airport for your short mid-afternoon flight to Delhi. On arrival at Delhi, you will either connect to your flight home or, depending on the time of your scheduled international departure, you might want a few hours in a day-use room at a nearby transit hotel (at additional cost; please inquire).
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