Vast, diverse, deeply spiritual and utterly unforgettable, India is unlike anywhere else on earth – a melting pot of ethnicities and religions, a treasure trove of history and culture, and a curious mixture of chaos and serenity. Stretching across more than three million square kilometres, it encompasses a staggering array of landscapes, vistas and environs, and offers unparalleled travel experiences – from the beautiful beaches of Goa, to the compelling craziness of Kolkata, the sacred Ganges river banks of Varanasi, the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas in Kashmir and the ancient, exquisitely crafted temples dotted across the entire country. Not to mention the vibrant, friendly people, and the incredible cuisine.
Days 1 - 3
India’s largest city, Delhi, has been one of the country’s commercial and economic hubs for centuries and, as a result, is incredibly rich in culture and history. Made up of the ancient walled city of Old Delhi and the more modern sector, New Delhi, the city encompasses a staggering array of beautiful architecture, notable monuments and age-old temples, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Red Fort, Qutab Minar and Humayun's Tomb. Other key attractions include the 17th century Chandni Chowk marketplace – still one of the city’s most popular retail centres today, particularly for jewellery and traditional Indian saris; the iconic Bahà’i Lotus Temple – an award-winning architectural gem; and the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque.
Days 3 - 6
Sawai Madhopur, the lively capital city of the greater Sawai Madhopur District, rests within southeast Rajasthan, on the northern extension of the sprawling Vindhyan Plateau. Famously known for its flourishing fauna and flora; and mouth-watering cuisine, travellers can meander through the enchanting public gardens and sample the delicious local dishes. Both a history and nature enthusiasts dream, Sawai Madhopur, opens a world of enjoyable excursions with some of the most notable attractions being the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ranthambore Fort; the religiously significant Chamatkar Temple; and the remarkable Ranthambhore National Park, famously known for its abundance of free-roaming wildlife including the majestic Bengal tiger and Indian leopard.
Days 6 - 8
Home of the world-famous Taj Mahal, Agra is one of India’s prime tourist destinations for specifically this reason, though its attractions also extend to an array of other impressive historical sights. These include the red-hued Agra Fort, the sacred Jama Masjid mosque and Itmad-ud-Daulah’s tomb, with its white marble facade embellished with intricate inlaid designs and semi-precious gems. The Taj, however, is in a league of its own and needless to say is a must-see for any visitor to the city. Commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the 15th century as a memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, it is an architectural masterpiece of exquisite craftsmanship and perfect proportions.
Days 8 - 9
Located southwest of Kanpur, Khajuraho is considered one of India’s seven wonders and listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The city encompasses the nation’s largest array of medieval Hindu and Jain temples, decorated with intricately detailed erotic sculptures and reliefs. The site incorporates close to 100 sacred structures, some of them exquisitely preserved, and each evening, a light and sound show is staged here, covering the history, philosophy and craftsmanship encapsulated in this archaeological goldmine. Other highlights include: vibrant Annual Dance Festival of Khajuraho; the Panna National Park, home to leopards; the Arhanta Yoga Ashram, where visitors can take classical Hatha yoga classes. The city also boasts a wide variety of wonderful shops, markets and restaurants.
Bandhavgarh National Park
Days 9 - 11
One of the most popular parks in India, Bandhavgarh National Park is renowned for the highest density of tigers in the region. The park has a large array of wildlife including sloth bears, deer, leopards and jackals. Birdwatchers will delight in the plethora of bird species inhabiting all terrains from rocky crags to the auburn forest floor and mottled forest canopy. Declared a national park in 1968, Bandhavgarh was named after an ancient fort built on 800-metre-high (2,624 foot) cliffs in the park. From its zenith one can enjoy incredible views of the park, however prior permission is required.
Kanha National Park
Days 11 - 14
Also known as the Kanha Tiger Reserve, the Kanha National Park is widely considered to be the greatest of India’s wildlife reserves and the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s classic, 'The Jungle Book'. This impressive expanse of wilderness is set in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, encompassing about 950 square kilometres of lush rolling hills, peaceful rivers, saal and bamboo forest, and endless stretches of savanna grassland. This spectacularly scenic environment provides a diverse range of habitats for an extraordinary array of wildlife including tigers, leopards, jackals, swamp deer, foxes, porcupines, sloth bears, pythons, hare, chitals, gaur monkeys, mongooses, and hundreds of species of bird.
Pench National Park
Days 14 - 16
Resting in the lower southern reaches of the Satpuda Hills, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Pench National Park is renowned for having the highest concentration of prey of any park in India, increasing the chances of seeing predatory cats such as leopard and tiger. This impressive expanse of wilderness features typical central Indian teak jungle and is bisected by the spectacularly scenic Pench River. Aside from the river, the park also contains a number of bamboo-lined jungle streams providing a valuable water source for the local wildlife which includes, among others: wild dog, sloth bear, wolf, jungle cat, hyena, jackal, gaur, sambar, and chital. Pench is also a bird lover's paradise with over 250 species of bird inhabiting the area, including: parakeets, hornbills, kingfishers, orioles and wagtails, as well as a large selection of birds of prey.