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Tours ~ Tour Details

India - Palaces and gardens of India

13 Nightsfrom £3145.00 pp

A feast for the senses in colour, scent and sound

Tour Overview

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Immerse yourself in a feast for the senses – in colour, scent and sound. Our new holiday to India combines familiar sights such as the Taj Mahal in Agra, with the lesser-knwon Rock Gardens of Chandigarh, a televisual highlight in Shimla, and more.

Mehtab Bagh is one of the most beautiful gardens of the Mughals – and one of our first stops upon arrival in Agra. Known as the ‘Moonlight gardens’, they were constructed as an extension of the Taj Mahal garden – and planted with fragrant flowers to be used in the cool of the night as a place to view the Taj Mahal, reflected in its octagonal pool. We also visit the Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh, a beautiful garden built in 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh as a gift to his Sisodia Queen from Udaipur.

Our sightseeing tour of Chandigarh includes a special visit to the Rock Gardens, with its unique sculpture garden created by the late Indian artist Nek Chand. Our tour takes a different turn, that fans of Channel 4’s recent drama ‘Indian Summers’, are sure to enjoy. We tour the setting: Shimla, including a visit to Vice Regal Lodge. Built in an English country house style, it once served as the Viceroy’s residence during the summer months.

We visit a number of stunning tombs on tour: from Humayun’s Tomb, to the Tomb Complex of Isa Khan Niyazi; and the iconic Taj Mahal – undoubtedly, the most famous example of a tomb in India.  The immense memorial, rendered in glorious white marble is still striking up close – regardless of how many times you’ve seen its image.
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Tour Itinerary Back to top of page

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Day 1
We depart this evening on an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Delhi. Regional flight connections and flight upgrades are available on request.

Day 2
We are due to arrive this morning in the capital city of Delhi. Following Immigration and Customs clearance, we will be met by our local representative and transferred to our comfortable hotel, located in the heart of city. The rest of the day is at leisure to relax and acclimatize to the time difference. This evening, we will enjoy a welcome dinner.

Day 3
A morning tour of Old Delhi starts with a visit to the 400-years-old Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India and the final architectural extravagance of Shah Jahan. Begun in 1644, the mosque was not completed until 1658. It has three great gateways, four angle towers and two minarets standing 40m high, constructed of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble.

We continue to the Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Red Fort and its Palace Garden were planned under the supervision of Emperor Shah Jahan as an integrated fortress and palace. The fortified outer wall is made of red sandstone while many of the palace buildings within the wall are of white marble. The chief designer, Amad Lahwri, also designed the Taj Mahal building and garden. Within the fort are a series of great courts with colonnades, arcades, gateways and numerous buildings. The Bagh-e Hayar Bakhsh (Life Bestowing Garden) was the largest of these gardens and much of it survives. The Red Fort was a symbol of Shah Jahan’s lush, floral and fruitful reign: he lived in a paradise garden and created a paradise on earth.

After lunch (included), we visit the Lodhi Gardens, an oasis of shaded calm with a fine collection of tropical shrubs and trees as well as a number of monuments of the Lodhi Sultanate. The area was used as a burial for Delhi's (pre-Mughal) Sayyid and Lodhi rulers. Mohammad Shar's tomb (1450) can be seen as a precursor for the architecture of Humayun's tomb while Sikander Lodhi's tomb (1571) is set within a walled enclosure and clearly related to Humayun's tomb garden. The domed mausoleums appear to have been sited in an open landscape, rather as the Ancient Greeks placed temples. The building of monumental tombs runs against the principles of Islam and it is probable that Delhi's Turkish Sultans brought the idea from Persia to India. Lodhi Gardens are therefore a good place to reflect on the origins of Mughal garden design. They were later developed beautifully into a floral garden by Lady Willingdon, the wife of a former Governor-General of India.

Evening at leisure.

Day 4
This morning after breakfast we enjoy an early morning walk through Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Popularly known as Jamali Kamali, this Park is unique in being dotted with ruins from early medieval times to the 19th century. Its main attractions include the mosque and tomb of Jamali, a stepwell and the former residence of a British official. The tour culminates at Qutab Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous Muslim buildings in India. The building of the Qutab Minar was commenced by Qutab ud Din Aybak, as a tower of victory, asserting the Might of Islam and first victory of the Muslims over the Hindu Kings. It is the tallest brick minaret in the world, at 238 feet (72m).

In the afternoon, we visit Humayun’s Tomb. Built in 1560, the tomb was commissioned by Humayun’s senior widow thus inaugurating a series of grand Mughal Tombs, introducing the concept of the char bagh (four garden) system, with the main mausoleum in the centre of the garden, with paved walkways dividing the garden into four parts. This makes the garden into a setting for a building, rather than a place to be enjoyed from a pavilion. The garden symbolizes the emperor's place in paradise. 

We continue to the Tomb Complex of Isa Khan Niyazi, which is one of the earlier examples in South Asia of the tomb-in-a-walled-garden type. The octagonal ambulatory type tomb is also an example of the Afghan style tombs built in Delhi since the Tughluq dynasty in the fourteenth century.

Later we will enjoy afternoon tea at a private residence and its gardens. Evening at leisure.

Day 5
Today we transfer to the railway station for an early morning ride on the Gatiman Express train to Agra (journey time is approximately one hour and 40 minutes – a packed breakfast is provided). The highlight of the day for many will be our visit to the enchanting Taj Mahal, an epitome of love built in marble by Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. The beautiful gardens of the Taj boast of some of the finest flora planted by the Mughals. Our visit to Agra is completed with visits to the magnificent Agra Fort, where you will have the opportunity to admire its ancient gardens, and to Mehtab Bagh, one of the beautiful gardens of the Mughals with fine views of the Taj Mahal across the river Yamuna. Lunch is included in a local restaurant today.

We then drive to Bharatpur, our base for the next two nights (journey time is approximately two hours). Evening at leisure.

Day 6
After breakfast we depart on a morning excursion to the Deeg Palace, a strong citadel with towering walls and bastions. The beautiful garden retreat adorning the city of Bharatpur is the most outstanding of the artistic accomplishments of Surajmal and serves to this day as a glorious memorial to the celebrated hero of the Jat tribe. After the death of Surajmal, his son Jawahar Singh (1764 – 68) completed certain palaces including the Suraj Bhawan and gave the finishing touches to the gardens and fountains.

Later we visit Fatehpur Sikri, the first planned city of the Mughals, now UNESCO-listed. The sloping levels of the city were connected into terraces which were utilised for various complexes such as Jami Masjid, Buland-Darwazah and tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti; Khass Mahal, Shahi-Bazar, Mina-Bazar, the Panch-Mahal, Khwabgah, Diwan-i-Khass, Anup-Talao, Chaupar and Diwan-i-Am. The efficient system of drainage and water supply adopted here suggest an extremely intelligent town planning by the Mughal emperor.

Evening at leisure.

Day 7
After breakfast we have a long but rewarding drive of around six hours as we travel west from Bharatpur to Jaipur, breaking our journey with a visit to the small village of Abhaneri. The present name of the village is believed to be a mispronunciation of 'Abha Nagri' or the 'city of brightness'. This ancient village is renowned for its post-Gupta or early medieval monuments, Chand Baori and Harshat Mata temple. Though the village is in ruins now, we will see Chand Baori which is a huge stepwell, a unique idea conceived by the native villagers to work as a water reservoir.

We continue to the Samode Bagh Hotel, where luxurious accommodation is provided in a Mughal styled garden behind a palatial marble façade. The bedrooms are fully air-conditioned with marble en-suite bathrooms yet roofed like tents, to give the impression of a camp set in beautiful grounds. We will stay here for the next three nights. Evening at leisure.

Day 8
Following breakfast we take an excursion this morning to the magnificent Amber Fort. Amber was once known as Dhundar and was ruled by the Kachhwahas from the 11th to the 16th century, until the capital was moved from here to Jaipur. Raja Man Singh built this fort in 1592 AD and Raja Jai Sigh I expanded and renovated it later. While many such old structures have been either destroyed or replaced by other things, this fort has stood against all the tests of time and invasions. A jeep ride to and from the gates of the fort is included.

The afternoon is free to relax at the hotel or explore independently. Evening at leisure.

Day 9
Enjoy your breakfast. Our morning sightseeing tour of the city of Jaipur starts with a visit to the Jantar Mantar Observatory, which was built in the 1700s. We continue to the City Palace that houses the Maharaja’s private collection of textiles and armoury and conclude the tour with a photo stop at Hawa Mahal, otherwise known as the ‘Palace of Winds’.

In the afternoon, we visit the Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh, a beautiful garden built in 1728 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh as a gift to his Sisodia Queen from Udaipur.

Evening at leisure.

Day 10
This morning, following breakfast, we leave our hotel and transfer to the airport at Jaipur for our internal flight via Delhi to Chandigarh, the capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana. On arrival we transfer by coach to our hotel, where the evening is at leisure.

Day 11
After breakfast this morning we depart on a sightseeing tour of Chandigarh, including a visit to the Rock Gardens, a unique sculpture garden which was created by Nek Chand, a government official, who started the garden secretly in his spare time in 1957, using recycled waste material such as bottles, glass, ceramics and industrial waste. The garden came to the authorities’ attention in 1975 and was threatened with closure but Nek Chand had public opinion on his side and the garden is now one of the top attractions in Chandigarh.

We will also visit the Rose Garden, a botanical garden spread over 30 acres, the largest of its kind in Asia. Started in 1967, the garden has 1600 varieties of roses but also a wide range of plants of medicinal value. These include bei, bahera, harar, camphor and yellow gulmohar.

In the afternoon we travel by coach into the foothills of the Himalayas to Shimla, which lies at an altitude of 2276m above sea level (journey time is approximately two hours). On arrival we check into our hotel, the luxurious Oberoi Cecil Hotel. Built in 1884 as a Himalayan hill station, the Oberoi Cecil is very much a part of Shimla’s colonial history and the hotel was extensively renovated in 1997, when it was restored to its original grandeur with wooden floors, period furniture, crackling fires and an inviting ambience. Built around a beautiful atrium, the rooms, all with private facilities, offer splendid views of the mountains and valleys.

Day 12
Following breakfast, today we will explore the treasures of Shimla, the former colonial summer capital and the setting for the recent TV series Indian Summers. Included is a visit to the splendid Vice Regal Lodge, the grand building in English country house style which in colonial times served as the Viceroy’s residence during the summer months. The Lodge has its own mini Botanical gardens exhibiting some of the beautiful plants specific to the region.

Also included are visits to The Mall, the main promenade that runs along the top of the ridge, a busy shopping area with old colonial buildings, souvenir shops and restaurants; Christ Church, noted for its fine stained glass windows; Himachal State Museum, which has a modest collection of stone statues and local handicrafts from different parts of Himachal Pradesh; Jakhoo Hill, Shimla's highest point dedicated to Lord Hanuman; Summer Hill, a quiet suburb of Shimla and Jakhu Temple, dedicated to the Hindu deity, Hanuman.

Afternoon and evening at leisure.

Day 13
After breakfast we depart for a ride on the famous Toy Train, or the Kalka-Shimla Railway as it is officially known. Built in 1903, the 2ft6in narrow-gauge track is an engineering marvel, with 103 tunnels and 700 bridges in a distance of only 96 kilometres, and more than two-thirds of the entire track on curves, some as sharp as 48 degrees - it is also distinguished as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The locomotives are known as Toy Trains for their diminutive size, although the modern diesel engines are powerful machines. We will ride on the Himalayan Queen, which chugs along the line at a stately of 22 kilometres per hour, whistling through the woods of deodar, pine, ficus, oak and maple.

We will leave the train at Taradevi and return to Shimla, where the afternoon is free to shop and sightsee at leisure.

Day 14
After breakfast we drive down to the airport at Chandigarh for our late afternoon flight to Delhi, where on arrival we will transfer to our original Delhi hotel for an overnight stay. Evening at leisure.

Day 15
Following breakfast we will be transferred to the International airport in time to check in for our return flight to London Heathrow. On arrival the group will disperse or make onward connections.

What's Included Back to top of page

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  • 13 nights’ accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis – four nights at the Metropolitan Hotel, Delhi; two nights at the Laxmi Vilas Palace, Bharatpur; three nights at the Samode Bagh near Jaipur; one night at the Taj Chandigarh, Chandigarh and three nights at the Oberoi Cecil Hotel, Shimla
  • Welcome dinner on the first night, two lunches and one afternoon tea
  • Scheduled return flights London Heathrow to Delhi. Regional flight connections, flight upgrades and overnight accommodation before or after the tour available at a supplement.
  • Visits to Jama Masjid Mosque, the Red Fort and the gardens of Lodhi, Humayun’s Tomb and Isa Khan’s Tomb (Delhi); Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Mehtab garden, Deeg Palace, Fatehpur Sikri (Agra/Bharatpur); Abhaneri village, Amber Fort, City Palace, Jantar Mantar Observatory, Hawa Mahal and Sisodia Rani Ka garden (Jaipur); Nek Chand Rock Garden and Rose Garden (Chandighar); Vice Regal Lodge, The Mall, Christ Church, Himachal State Museum and Jakhu Temple (Shimla); trip on the Toy Train
  • All travel within India, including travel by air-conditioned coach/minivan, chair class train between Delhi and Agra and internal flights between Jaipur, Chandigarh and Delhi 
  • Services of a Brightwater Holidays tour manager and a local tour escort

Supplements Per Person Back to top of page

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  • Single room supplement         £780.00
  • Insurance                Price on request
  • Visas
If you would like to spend more time in India, we can offer extensions to this holiday – please contact our office to discuss your requirements and we can provide you with a quotation.

Departure Points Back to top of page

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