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Ancient India: The Odyssey of Kumbh Mela

Example 11 Day Tour
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Experience the vibrant streets of Delhi, the historical wonders of Agra, and the enchanting Pink City of Jaipur on this captivating 11-day cultural kaleidoscope of India. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of the country as you explore the spiritual aura of Varanasi, visit the unique Sheroes Cafe, and witness the profound rituals of the Kumbh Mela, India's largest religious gathering that only takes place every 12 years. Our expert guides will navigate you through the chaos and crowds, ensuring you don't miss a single captivating moment, from group chants and processions to sacred river plunges. With a blend of historical exploration, cultural encounters, and spiritual experiences, this transformative journey promises an unforgettable adventure in the heart of India.
Taj Mahal at sunrise in Agra, India.
Highlights
  • Witness the biggest religious ceremony in the world, known as "Kumbh Mela"
  • Join the Historical Walk – Southern Temples & Sacred Ponds Walk
  • Get glimpse of both ancient and modern-day India in the city of Delhi
  • View Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh
  • Visit the Sheroes Hangout Cafe
Places Visited
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive in Delhi

Upon arrival at the International Airport in Delhi and clearing customs & immigration, you'll be escorted by a representative to your hotel.

Delhi, the capital of India, offers a glimpse of ancient and modern-day India. It stands as the third largest city in the country and one of the fastest growing in Asia. Rich in culture, it constantly evolves with time while preserving its splendid past. The ancient ruins scattered across the city serve as silent witnesses to its magnificent history.

Day 2: Delhi

After breakfast today, explore the grandeur and subsequent ruin of the Mughal Empire. A tour of Old Delhi includes a visit to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, and a drive past Red Fort, which remains closed every Monday. Walking through the streets and markets of this 17th-century imperial capital city of the Mughal Empire, where royalty once descended, allows you to savor the fragrances of the boisterous Spice Markets— one of Asia's largest, and be dazzled by the glitter of India's largest Jewellery markets. With a mix of walking and rickshaw rides, you can discover hidden gems while exploring the narrow alleys and 350-year-old markets of a city built at the acme of the Mughal Empire, India's most glorious monarchy. Later, enjoy a rickshaw ride in one of the busiest markets.

Rickshaw Ride: Experience a ride in the old city market laid by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Pass through the colorful shops of bustling Chandani Chowk, one of the largest wholesale markets in Asia and a landmark in the history of India. If you're up for it, take a short walk in the market and explore another facet of Indian life.

Then, proceed to New Delhi for sightseeing afterward.

New Delhi offers more historical sites than Old Delhi. The city, established by the imperial British government in 1911 to relocate their capital from Kolkata (formerly called Calcutta), features a sightseeing tour that includes a visit to the Humayun’s Tomb, a drive along the ceremonial avenue - Rajpath, passing the impressive India Gate, Parliament House, and the President's Residence, and end with a drive through the Diplomatic Enclave.

Day 3: Delhi | Agra

After your breakfast, take a drive to Agra (Approx. 4 hrs).

Agra-Badal Singh established the city of Taj in 1475 AD. Agra is mentioned in the Mahabharat as Agraban. Sikandar Lodi made Agra his capital, but Babur defeated the Lodis, capturing Agra and laying the foundation of the Mughal Empire. In the mid-16th and early 17th centuries AD, Agra experienced intense building activity, culminating in the construction of the symbol of love, the Taj Mahal.

Sheroes Hangout Café: The Sheroes are women who fought to survive after enduring a debilitating blow to their appearance and self-esteem from some members of society. These women are turning into fighters, demonstrating the courage to live, work, and navigate society, and force society to reevaluate its norms about beauty and appearance. The café is managed by acid attack survivors with diverse backgrounds. To start this project, it requires the development of a model that enhances productivity and facilitates learning for the survivors. The model should be designed to benefit the acid attack survivor involved. Transforming these survivors into empowered, successful women serves as a source of inspiration for other survivors, portraying them as "Sheroes" with empowering and positive connotations.

This place includes a cafe offering delicious snacks, a library established through contributions, an area dedicated to handicrafts, and a boutique where one of the survivors brings her dreams to life through stitching. The cafe serves as a hub for activism, hosting various campaigns.

Sunset visit to the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh (Garden): The Taj Mahal appears stunning from its grand entry. But the best view was reserved by Emperor Shahjahan from a grassy, crescent-shaped flood plain across the Yamuna River known as Mehtab Bagh. It is believed that Babur initially built this garden, and later Shahjahan transformed it into a moonlit pleasure garden adorned with white pathways, breezy pavilions, and fountains. However, the plaster pathways, pools, and fountains are not visible.

Visit 'Sheroes Cafe’ for a cup of tea or coffee.

Day 4: Agra | Jaipur

Wake up early for a morning coffee and the spectacular sight of the Taj Mahal at daybreak. It is said that the Taj Mahal changes its colors every minute depending upon the angle of sunrays and is best seen either by sunset or sunrise. However, the best time for taking pictures of this monument is during sunrise, under mild sunlight.

Taj Mahal- Built by Shah Jahan, the Taj is a white marble memorial to his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal. It was designed and planned by Persian architect Ustad Isa, and took 22 years to complete. Beyond its breathtaking design, symmetry, and elegant domes, the Taj is renowned for intricately carved screens and exceptional inlay work. (Note: Taj Mahal remains closed on Fridays).

Return to your hotel for breakfast, then drive to Jaipur. (Approx. 5 hrs).

Jaipur: The capital city of Rajasthan, known as "Pink City," owes its name, foundation, and planning to the great warrior astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh II. It is situated on a dry lakebed in a wild and arid landscape, surrounded by barren hills surmounted by fortresses and crenelated walls.

Check in your hotel upon arrival.

Day 5: Jaipur

Gems of Jaipur City Tour: In the morning, explore the iconic monument of Amber Fort. Enjoy a Jeep ride to the hilltop where the fort is situated, revealing many palaces, halls, gardens, and temples. Including the Sheesh Mahal, an intricate mirror palace that enhances the grandeur of this historic site, making a visit to Amber truly worthwhile.

After the visit to the fort, you'll be taken on a royal grandeur tour of the city palace.

Join this memorable private guided tour to explore the City Palace, the residence of the current Royal family who graciously welcomes visitors and converted a part of their palace into a museum. Jaipur's palace, renowned for its brilliant architecture and intricately carved walls and pillars, features the stunning Chandra Mahal or Chandra Niwas within the City Palace complex. This seven-storied structure includes floors with distinct names such as Sukh-Niwas, Ranga-Mandir, Pitam-Niwas, Chabi-Niwas, Shri-Niwas, and Mukut-Mandir or MukutMahal. The Mahal boasts unique paintings, mirror work on walls, and floral decorations. Adorned with a beautiful peacock gate at its entrance, the Mahal also offers screened balconies and a pavilion on the roof, providing a panoramic view of the city. Surrounded by well-maintained gardens and a decorative lake in the foreground.

After lunch proceed to Bazaars, Crafts & Cuisine Walk.

Jaipur provides a captivating dive into the wealth of traditional India. Since its foundation in 1727, the royal family and nobles of Jaipur have supported numerous craftsmen and artisans in the Pink City. Several of these traditions persist, rendering modern-day Jaipur an appealing destination to observe India’s rich Art & Craft. Valuable and highly prized items are still crafted using traditional methods.

During this evening walking tour, interact and converse with locals while savoring a variety of the region's culinary delights, including Samosa Kachori, Kulfi, and Lassi. Taste sweets from some of the city's renowned Mithai Wala's. Witness local artisans, such as silversmiths and bangle makers, at their work. Meet a local family and experience Indian hospitality. It provides an excellent opportunity to explore Jaipur as the locals do and discover the rich art traditions of this captivating city.

Day 6: Jaipur | Varanasi

Transfer to Jaipur airport in the early morning to catch a flight to Varanasi.

Upon arrival in Varanasi, transfer to your hotel to check in. (Check-in time at the hotel is 1400 hrs).

Historical Walk – Southern Temples & Sacred Ponds Walk
A walk through the mystical landscape of poets, sacred temples, and holy ponds near Assighat. The southernmost embankment of the holy Ganga River, retracing the steps of the 16th-century Banaras poet and mystic Pandit Goswami Tulsidas, the translator of the sacred Ramayana text.

You'll hear about the history and culture of Varanasi while visiting the Southern temple established by Tulsidas. The walk ends with a special darshan, it means 'taking sight' of a hidden sun temple behind his home.

During the walk, if you can hear bells jingle and shouts come from behind, step aside. It is likely a body being carried through, with family holding stretchers above their heads down the main street in Varanasi. While customary, it might initially surprise you.

Afterward, check in to your hotel (Check-in time at the hotel is 1400 hrs).

As the sun sets, take an evening visit to the Ganges to witness the glittering Aarti (prayer) ceremony. The Ganga aarti of Varanasi is a beacon of devotion and bliss that allows you to feel the divinity within and around you. Throughout the ages, not a day has passed by when the holy Ganga River has not been adored. Witness captivating religious rituals being performed in this truly unique setting. The magical quality of the evening begins with a slow upriver float from Assi Ghat as the sun cascades across the city skyline. The priests in charge of performing the aarti sport dhoti and kurta well-tied with a long gamcha (or towel). They arrange the set-up by assembling five raised planks, a layered brass lamp, an idol of Ganga Devi, flowers, incense sticks, a conch shell, and other ritual paraphernalia. The aarti is conducted exclusively by knowledgeable pandits (Priests) versed in the Vedas and Upanishads. The ceremony begins with the lighting of multi-tiered ceremonial brass lamps, accompanied by a well-coordinated and rhythmic recitation of holy mantras. As some priests blow conch shells to purify the atmosphere, others wave incense sticks to worship Mother Ganga.

Day 7: Varanasi | Prayagraj

The Subah or morning Banaras! Wake up early at the crack of dawn for a boat journey. Spiritually enlightening and photogenic, Varanasi showcases its brilliant best along the ghats, the long stretch of steps leading down to the water on the western bank of the Ganges, observing the living traditions of one of the oldest religions. A boat ride from Assi Ghat to Manikarnika Ghat unfolds a beautiful and colorful view of the River Ganga in mellow light, allowing you to witness pilgrims performing morning prayers to the rising sun. The color palette surrounding you, including the red and golden hues of the Ganges water, temples, 'ashrams,' and pavilions, is truly astonishing.

As the sunrise, venture down the Ghats (banks of the river) and make it back to Assi Ghat to witness the morning Aarti (prayer). There is only a fraction of the people compared to the night before, so getting up close to these priests is possible. There are times you can hear students of music chanting hymns while the priests perform the morning rituals.

Return to the boat and cruise down to Kedar Mandir. As Varanasi wakes up, many priests come to the banks for their rituals, and children take their morning baths. Yoga is a common practice early in the morning, and many priests can be observed practicing the same. Then proceed to Kedar Ghat, where a visit to Kedar Mandir takes place. The temple is identifiable by its red and yellow steps and is more popular among locals than tourists. Despite the numerous temples in Varanasi, this serves as a great introduction to temple structures.

Start walking from here to explore other various activities occurring in Varanasi, such as the Kushti Akharas. In Varanasi, faith and fitness have perpetually found common ground. Wrestlers, in traditional 'gymnasiums' or kushti akharas along the ghats, persist in practicing millennia-old moves with single-minded devotion. The day starts with a prayer at the small Hanuman shrine, followed by a warm-up utilizing various kushti equipment. Young boys wear gar nals or stone rings, serving as weights around their necks.
 
Some complete a lap of cartwheels along the periphery, yet others lift a mace (Hanuman’s gada), their eyebrows furrowed and temples glistening with beads of sweat. Before long, everything dissolves into an impossible tangle of limbs on the soft mud, reducing the impact of throws and maneuvers perfected over the years. Hours later, the wrestlers disband, disappearing into the crowds and returning to the daily grind of life.

Varanasi has amazing treats for you if you are comfortable eating safe street food in India.

Return to the hotel for breakfast after the boat ride, and then proceed to Prayagraj after the meal (Approx. 04 hrs drive).

Prayagraj is situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. The city attracts pilgrims and heritage enthusiasts from around the world. Opening the traveler to a realm of mythological and spiritual wonders. Prayagraj is a fusion of sanctity, religion, traditions, history, and architecture, offering diverse experiences from historical to religious. The city held significant strategic importance for the Mughals in controlling their empire and later served as a prominent administrative hub during the British era. It was a central hub of activities during India's Freedom Movement, with several eminent national leaders born on its soil. Prayagraj has also played a pivotal role in the development of Hindi and Urdu literature. Described in ancient scriptures as 'Teerthraj,' the holiest pilgrimage center, Prayagraj is indeed a perfect place for a soulful escape.

Prayagraj is one of the destinations hosting the Kumbh Mela, the world's largest congregation of devotees. The Kumbh Mela is a significant religious gathering in the world celebrated for forty days. The biggest religious ceremony in the world, known as "Kumbh Mela" (Festival of Urn), The Purna Kumbh Mela, the biggest and the most auspicious fair, occurs four times every twelve years, rotating among four locations where drops of sacred nectar were spilled: Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik.

This mass pilgrimage for the Hindu community of India, the Kumbh Mela or Kumbh Fair, is rumored to be one of the largest congregations of sages, yogis, ascetics, mendicants, men, women, and children on the planet.

The name Kumbh Mela is derived from the immortal "Pot of Nectar" mentioned in ancient Vedic scriptures called the Puranas. It means the festival of the pot, celebrating the appearance of the pot of nectar.

During the festival, Hindus consider Prayagraj as India's religious capital, and over ten million people immerse themselves in the holy Ganga to purify their body, mind, and soul, washing away their sins on bathing days. On the eve of a bathing day, the town pulsates with intense religious fever, with the central stage of the Maha Kumbh Mela occupied by sadhus from dozens of Hindu sects.

Significance of Kumbh Mela
Kumbh Mela is more than just a festivity like Diwali or Holi, it holds significant importance for people in India. The event is revered, and and looked upon with the highest regard. This occasion offers individuals a golden opportunity to free themselves from the miseries and sufferings of life. It allows them to partake in a holy dip in the sacred water, washing away all the sins committed in the past. People from different parts of the country gather to be part of this sacred ceremony, believing that a holy dip in the water leads to the attainment of Moksha.

Day 8-9: Prayagraj

  • Campsite
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Guests can choose between a guided small group walking tour led by an English-speaking local expert or a small group boat ride to the bathing areas and Sangam (confluence of rivers).

Interact with knowledgeable spiritual speakers.

The Morning and Evening "Aarti" ceremony takes place at the camp.

Experience a one-on-one time with Sadhus, and witness holy spiritual leaders with their disciples taking a dip in the Ganges. The festival is efficiently organized under military supervision, guiding participants through all experiences.

Each day at the Kumbh Mela is mesmerizing and leaves you more awe-struck than before. Organized walks conduct you through the chaos and an ocean of pilgrims, offering unparalleled access to captivating moments.

The Kumbh is a bit like the Burning Man of the East, a larger-than-life, joyful, and random celebration, a funky spectacle unlike any other. This is where you'll find yourself with marigold-laden mystics taking a communal dip in icy waters. Where you'll chat with sadhus and philosophers until the wee hours of the morning, as they tell you spell-binding stories about how they have given up their worldly possessions to follow a spiritual path. The Kumbh inspires a spirit of solidarity through community, creativity, and spirituality.

Whether it’s a birds-eye view of the processions or a tranquil boat ride along the ghats, our guides are always by your side to lead you to the perfect spot.

Day 10: Prayagraj | Delhi

In the morning after breakfast, you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Delhi.

Upon arrival, you'll be met and transferred to the hotel.

Day 11: Delhi | Return Home

  • 1 Breakfast
After breakfast, prepare to depart for transfer to the airport to board the flight for your journey home.

Accommodations

The Claridges - New Delhi

The Claridges Hotels and Resorts - New Delhi
Hotel Interior
Ye Old Bakery

Guleria Kothi Hotel

Hotel Interior
Hotel Interior
Hotel Outdoor Facility

ITC Mughal Resort & Spa - Agra

Royal Mughal Suite Reception Area
Dining Experience at Taj Khema
Hotel Garden

JW Marriott Hotel New Delhi Aerocity

Hotel Exterior
Hotel Lobby
Hotel Fitness Center

Samode Haveli Jaipur

The Ultimate Travelling Camp

Bathroom
View outside of the tent
Lounge

Dates & Prices

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Per person starting at
$5,463

Notes

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Included
  • 7 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
  • 10 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Mandatory Government Service Tax.
  • All vegetarian/Satvik meals during the stay at TUTC Sangam Nivas
  • Services of Air-Conditioned Toyota Innova Crysta for all transfers, sightseeing, and drives
  • Services of guides with walking experiences during the city sightseeing tour
  • Rickshaw ride in Old Delhi and Jaipur
  • Battery van ride at Taj Mahal from parking area
  • Tea and snacks at Sheores Café, Agra
  • Private tour of the City Palace, Jaipur
  • Boat ride on the river Ganges in Varanasi
  • Ganga Aarti on the Ganges
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Visa Fees
  • Any meals or drinks not specified
  • Throughout Indian Tour Guide
  • Anything ordered from room service at any hotel including mineral water.
  • Any sudden price increases caused by steep hike in fuel costs, government taxes, natural calamities, law and order situation, and any forced change in itinerary for any unforseeon situation beyond control.

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When to Go

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Jul
Aug
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Nov
Dec
Good to ideal period to travel, and many people choose to visit at this time.
Typically not offered during this period because of weather conditions.

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Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!
Meyer Smolen
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