14 days round-trip in India
I joined a tour arranged by Travel Service Scandinavia (TSS) together with my daughter. Flying with Turkish Airlines we had transfer stops in Istanbul.
The highlights of the tour were the World Heritage sites in the old Rajasthan cities, and in Agra and Delhi. We travelled west from Delhi, and my video clips below are listed according to our route and places visited.
We were a group of 34 with a very knowledgeable Indian guide who spoke good English. Our bus driver drove us comfortably more than 2000 km without any accidents, and his helper made sure that we did not get lost and had enough to drink.
Day-to-day program with highlights:
Day 1: Delhi – Qutub Minar – world’s tallest minaret
Day 2: Delhi to Mandawa: ‘Haveli’ family homes. Staying overnight in a Haveli hotel
Day 3: Mandawa to Bikaner: Junagarh Fort + camel ride to dinner in the bush
Day 4: Binaker to Jodhpur: Jeep excursion to villages
Day 5: Jodhpur: Carpets & antiques ‘factory’, Jodhpur streets/market, horse cart back to bus, Mehrangarh Fort + Jaswant Thada mausoleum
Day 6: Jodhpur to Udaipur: Jain temple in Raknapur, across mountains to Udaipur
Day 7: Udaipur: Boat ride on Udaipur lake, Fateh Frakash (city palace), local temple, Sahelion-ki Bari garden
Day 8: Udaipur to Jaipur: Long drive. City tour in Jaipur by rickshaw
Day 9: Jaipur: Elephant ride up to Amer Fort. Fabrics & saris ‘factory’. City Palace. Jantar Mantar observatory. Walk in the city to see the famous Hawa Mahal (wind palace)
Day 10: Jaipur to Agra: Gemstones & jewlery ‘factory’. Fatehpur Sikri (Moghul Fort) + mosque
Day 11: Agra to Delhi: Taj Mahal. Holi (color) festival. Agra’s Red Fort.
Day 12: Delhi: Ghandi’s memorial. Mosque in old city. Ghandi’s last house. Delhi traffic. Parliament building.
11 March 2019 – Delhi: Qutub Minaret
We landed in India early in the morning and were taken directly to our hotel for breakfast. It was too early for check-in, so we started our sightseeing immediately.
Driving in Delhi was a cultural chock for guests that had not been to such countries before. There were people everywhere, cows in the streets, cars blowing their horns constantly, garbage and dirt, colorful women, and cars driving wherever there was space.
We started with the Qutub Minar, which is a 73-meters high minaret that forms part of the Qutub complex a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Mehrauli area of Delhi. The tower has five stores, with a 14.3 meters base diameter, reducing to 2.7 meters at the top. It contains a spiral staircase of 379 steps.
Second day we drove from Delhi to Mandawa, stopping only for a few toilet breaks and for lunch. Mandawa is a small town of about 23,000 inhabitants. It is famous for its Haveli buildings. When we arrived we walked into the old Haveli area and visited one that were open for tourists, and another that had been renovated as a hotel.
We arrived at our own hotel “The Grand Haveli and Resort” in early evening, and this turned out to be a beautifully restored Haveli. Nice spacious rooms with different layouts and furnishings. 4-5 meters to the ceiling in our room, but I had to bend my head in the bathroom to avoid hitting my head. We spent some time at the roof terrace to watch the sunset and listen to the sounds of the city.
13 March 2019 – Driving from Mandawa to Bikaner
A long drive through less populated arid/semi-desert areas. It was an overcast day, and we even got a few raindrops. During the day it cleared and got quite warm. Camels are common in this area, and we saw several trucks transporting huge bales of hay. We had a few stops on our way for coffee breaks.
In Bikaner we had lunch before exploring the Junagarh Fort (separate video).
Our Maharaja Ganga Mahal hotel was an old palace. We had to climb steep staircases to reach our specious room on the top floor. In the evening we drove out in the countryside and continued by camel carts to an outdoor dinner with entertainment (separate video).
13 March 2019 – Bikaner: Junagarh Fort
Bikaner is a city of about 650,000 inhabitants located in the arid region of the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. Bikaner was considered an oasis on the trade route between Central Asia and the coast.
The Junagarh Fort was built in 1478. The structures built within the fort are the palaces and temples, which are made of red sandstone and marble, are preserved as museums and provide insight into the grandiose living style of the past Maharajas of Rajasthan. The palaces are described as picturesque with their assortment of courtyards, balconies, kiosks and windows.
13 March 2019 – Bikaner: Camel Ride to Dinner in the Desert
Just before sunset our bus drove us on local dust roads to meet with a train of camel carts that took us to our dinner in the desert. This evening tour was arranged by Camelman.
We were greeted by women in colorful dresses, and were seated around a stage were the played local instruments and the women danced traditional dances. We helped ourselves with food from the buffet and enjoyed the evening.
It was completely dark when we walked to our bus.
14 March 2019 – Driving from Bikaner to Jodhpur
From Bikaner we headed south through less populated dry areas.
We passed a place where they had nurseries for street cows. As holy animals they treat them accordingly, and treat them well with food and medicine until they die. According to the Hindu religion they are most likely reborn – perhaps as a person.
We arrived at our 4-star Fairfield Marriot hotel after lunch in Jodhpur.
14 March 2019 – Jodhpur: Village Tour by Jeep
After checking into our hotel we had an afternoon “jeep safari” excursion to some villages outside Jodhpur.
Second stop was in a typical village where we met people and saw how they live.
Our last stop was in a small village or farm where they showed us how they cooked and demonstrated how to extract some kind of opium drink(?).
15 March 2019 – Jodhpur: Handcrafts, Carpets and Fabrics
The first stop this day was in a government store were they sold handcrafts, antics, carpets and fabrics. They showed us different fabrics and carpets, and thereafter we walked around and looked at their enormous selection of everything.
15 March 2019 – Jodhpur City Center by Foot and Horse Cart
Next on our program was a walk in the city center. Lots of traffic, and everyone blow their horns – all the time. Traffic in India is really noisy!
From a market area we had a great view of the castle on a hill above the city.
It was a warm day, so instead of walking back to the bus our guide surprised us by arranging horse carts for us. This was a nice and interesting experience.
15 March 2019 – Jodhpur: Mehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest forts in India. Built in around 1459 and is situated 125 m above the city, and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. Inside its boundaries there are several palaces known for their intricate carvings and expansive courtyards.
We took a lift to the upper level instead of a long warm walk. We were guided around, and then let lose to explore the castle by ourselves. My daughter and I walk all the way to the far end were we had a good view of the “blue city”, as Jodhpur is called, from a small temple.
15 March 2019 – Jodhpur: Jaswant Thada Memorial
Not far from the Mehrangarh Fort lies the Jaswant Thada mausoleum in a beautiful location next to a small lake.
The mausoleum is built out of intricately carved sheets of marble. These sheets are extremely thin and polished so that they emit a warm glow when illuminated by the sun.
16 March 2019 – Driving from Jodhpur to Udaipur, stopping at the Jain Temple near Ranakpur
The Ranakpur temple is one of the largest and most important temples of Jain culture. Local legend has it that Dharma Shah, a local Jain businessperson, started construction of the temple in the 15th century following a divine vision.
Light colored marble was used for the construction of this grand temple which occupies an area of approximately 60 x 62 meters. 1444 marble pillars, carved in exquisite detail, support the temple. The pillars are all differently carved and no two pillars are the same. It is also said that it is impossible to count the pillars.
17 March 2019 – Udaipur: Lake, City Palace, Temple and Garden
Udaipur is known as the “City of Lakes” because of its seven lakes surrounding the city. The five major lakes are Fateh Sagar Lake, Lake Pichola, Swaroop Sagar Lake, Rangsagar and Doodh Talai Lake. Udaipur is also known for its historic forts and palaces, museums, galleries, natural locations and gardens, architectural temples, as well as traditional fairs, festivals and structures.
We stayed in an apartment hotel on a hillside outside Udaipur by the main road from Raknapur.
18 March 2019 – Driving from Udaipur to Jaipur
We started early in the morning and had a long drive from to Jaipur, stopping only for toilet/coffee breaks, and for lunch.
We arrived Jaipur in the afternoon and had a rickshaw tour of the city (see next video) before continuing to Clarks Hotel – a really nice 4-star hotel. After a late dinner we visited the roof terrace with a nice might-view of the city.
18 March 2019 – Jaipur: City Tour by Rickshaw
Driving through the Jaipur traffic in a rickshaw was something special – a nice way to experience city life. Car horns blowing continuously, people shouting, music, street vendors, colorful pedestrians, cows in the middle of the road, and so on. Our “driver” had to walk sometimes because of the traffic.
We drove though main streets, shopping streets, passed the famous Wind palace, which is the only place the princesses of the palace were allowed to stand and watch the outside world.
19 March 2019 – Jaipur: Amer Fort
Amer Fort is a fort located high on a hill above the town of Amer, 11 kilometers from Jaipur, and overlooks Maota Lake (which was dry when we visited). To get up to the fort you can either drive or ride on an elephant. We chose elephant. Luckily I had my camera on a gimbal (stabilizer). Without this I would not have been able to make steady video.
The palace is laid out on four levels, each with a courtyard. It consists of the “Hall of Public Audience”, the “Hall of Private Audience”, the Mirror Palace), and the Sukh Niwas where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace. This palace was the residence of the Maharajas and their families.
19 March 2019 – Jaipur: Stop at Man Sagar Lake with Magician
Man Sagar Lake is an artificial lake, situated in Jaipur. It is named after Raja Man Singh, the then ruler of Amer, who constructed it in 1610 by damming the Dravyavati River. The Jal Mahal (meaning “Water Palace”) is situated in the middle of the lake.
We stopped there just to stretch our legs and take photos of the palace. There were street vendors along the broad promenade, water buffalos walking along the shoreline, and even a magician.
19 March 2019 – Jaipur: Carpets & Fabrics
Before lunch we stopped at a place where they sold fabrics and carpets. There we could see how they printed fabrics by hand, and how carpets are woven and treated.
Then we were shown a lot of carpets and fabrics, and visited their shop to see if anything was of interest.
We got a demonstration of how “easy” it is to wear a sari, but they could not convince us to buy.
19 March 2019 – Jaipur: Jantar Mantar Observatory
The Jantar Mantar monument is a collection of 19 architectural astronomical instruments built by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II, and completed in 1734. It is located near City Palace and Hawa Mahal. It features the world’s largest stone sundial. The instruments allow the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye.
The monument features instruments operating in each of the three main classical celestial coordinate systems: the horizon-zenith local system, the equatorial system, and the ecliptic system. The Kapala Yantraprakara is one that works in two systems and allows transformation of the coordinates directly from one system to the other.
19 March 2019 – Jaipur City Palace and Hawa Mahal
The City Palace was established at the same time as the city of Jaipur, by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who moved his court to Jaipur from Amber, in 1727. Jaipur is the present-day capital of the state of Rajasthan, and until 1949 the City Palace was the ceremonial and administrative seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. The palace complex has several buildings, various courtyards, galleries, restaurants, and offices of the Museum Trust.
The “Palace of the Breeze” sits on the edge of the City Palace, and extends to the women’s chambers. With its 953 small windows the original intent was to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life and festivals celebrated in the street below without being seen.
20 March 2019 – Gem Stones + Driving from Jaipur to Fatehpur Sikri
Before leaving Jaipur we stopped at a place where they processed gem stones. We were shown how the stones were cut and polished.
Afterwards we continued towards Agra with several toilet and coffee stops. We had our lunch in a nice garden with lots of squirrels eating under our tables.
Before reaching Agra we stopped at Fatehpur Sikiri (see next video).
20 March 2019 – Fatehpur Sikiri (near Agra)
We visited some palaces before walking to the 17th-century Jama Masjid mosque. The Mughal emperor Akbar personally directed the building that stretches some 165 meters in length. The mosque also known as the “Friday Mosque” is one of the largest mosques in India and is a most sought after pilgrimage site by the devotees. Some of the designs of the mosque reflect beautiful Iranian architecture. The beautiful tomb of Salem Chrishti is found in the same compound.
The Taj Mahal, meaning “Crown of the Palaces”, is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna River. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favorite wife, a Persian princess who died that year, giving birth to their 14th child. Construction started in 1632, and the mausoleum was completed in 1643, while the surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, the builder. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects.
21 March 2019 – Agra: Holi Party at Clarks Shiraz Hotel
Holi is a popular ancient Hindu festival celebrated in India and Nepal, but has spread to other areas of Asia and parts of the Western world. Holi festival signifies the arrival of spring, the end of winter, the blossoming of love, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships.
Holi celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Dahan where people gather, perform religious rituals. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi – a free-for-all festival of colors, where people smear each other with colors and drench each other. Water guns and water-filled balloons are also used.
We were lucky to visit India and experience the Holi Festival.
21 March 2019 – Agra: Red Fort
The Agra Fort was actually a walled city. It was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638, when the capital was shifted from Agra to Delhi. Agra Fort is the only fort in India where all early Mughal emperors lived. The Fort stands on an ancient site and was traditionally known as Badalgarh. After the first battle of Panipat in 1526, the Mughals captured the fort and ruled from there. The Fort got its present look during the reign of Akbar (A.D. 1556-1605).
It is located about 2.5 km northwest of its more famous sister monument, the Taj Mahal.
21 March 2019 – Driving from Agra to Delhi
After a good lunch we helped ourselves to some Holi colors that were left after the restaurant’s Holi-party.
We had a long drive back to Delhi for our last sightseeing day in India. We stopped a few times on our way for toilet and coffee breaks. At sunset our guide showed us his appreciation for his first Norwegian group by serving us drinks – money out of his own pocket.
It was almost dark when we arrived at the same Lemontree Hotel were we stayed the first night in India.
22 March 2019 – Delhi: Mahatma Gandhi‘s Memorials
Raj Ghat is a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi in Delhi. It is a black marble platform that marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation on 30 January 1948, a day after his assassination. It is left open to the sky while an eternal flame burns at one end.
Within the walls of Gandhi Smriti (the former Birla House), a stone footpath flanked by lawns leads to the place he was assassinated. Gandhi was with his grandnieces in the garden on his way to address a prayer meeting, when Nathuram Godse fired three bullets from a pistol into his chest at point-blank range. According to some accounts, Gandhi died instantly.
22 March 2019 – Traffic in Old Delhi
Delhi has almost 20 million people, and has the highest number of registered cars compared to any other metropolitan city in India. Taxis, auto rickshaws, and cycle rickshaws also ply on Delhi roads in large numbers. In 2017, the number of vehicles in Delhi city alone crossed the ten million mark.
22 March 2019 – Delhi: Jamma Masjid Mosque
The Masjid-i Jahān-Numā (the ‘World-reflecting Mosque’), commonly known as the Jama Masjid of Delhi, is one of the largest mosques in India.
It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656 at a cost of 1 million rupees, and was inaugurated by an Imam from Bukhara, present-day Uzbekistan. The mosque was completed in 1656 AD with three great gates, four towers and two 40 meters high minarets constructed with strips of red sandstone and white marble. The courtyard can accommodate more than 25,000 people. There are three domes on the terrace which are surrounded by the two minarets. On the floor, a total of 899 black borders are marked for worshippers.