The Golden Triangle
Delhi * Manadawa* Gajner * Jaisalmer * Jodhpur * Udaipur * Pushkar * Jaipur * Ranthambore * Agra
DAY 01 - ARRIVE DELHI
Upon arrival at New Delhi’s new International Airport you will be met with a traditional Indian floral welcome by a local representative following customs, immigration formalities and baggage collection.
Delhi is a bustling metropolis, which successfully combines the ancient with the modern. Amidst the fast spiralling skyscrapers and flyovers, the remnants of a bygone time in the form of its many monuments stand as reminders to the region’s ancient legacy. The first impressions for any visitor travelling in from the airport is of a town in a hurry. Using your horn is de rigeur to warn of your presence. Cyclists, pedestrians and public transport stream down the main roads in a dance of organised disorder. It is quite simply a unique country so expect a unique experience.
Upon arrival at the hotel, you will be greeted with traditional Indian hospitality. Your forehead will be anointed with the traditional red ‘tikka’ (vermillion) which is considered auspicious. Welcoming guests in India is an age-old tradition where they believe in ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ - treat your guest as if he were God.
DAY 02 - DELHI
After breakfast in your hotel you have the option of a highly recommended sightseeing tour of Delhi.
Starting in Old Delhi, the tour begins at Raj Ghat, a simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi; it continues past the magnificent Red Fort which stands majestically over the river Jamuna. It was built from 1638 - 48 when the Mughal Empire was at its peak. Next is the Jama Masjid, one of Asia’s largest mosques. The presence of a nearby bazaar means that the area is rarely quiet. The tour includes a visit to the Qutub Minar, which is the tallest stone tower in India and one of the finest Islamic structures ever raised in India. Started in 1199 AD by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak it was completed by the sultan's successor and son-in-law, Iltutmish. The building is 72.5 m high and has 379 steps from the bottom to the top. The Minar is a tapered column with the diameter of the base being 14.3 metres while at the top floor it is 2.7 metres.
Then on to visit Humayun’s tomb, built by the widow of the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun. This is an outstanding monument in the Indo-Persian style, and a precursor of the Taj Mahal. The tour also includes a drive past the imposing India Gate, the Parliament building and the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President’s residence.
After visiting Old Delhi and the distant past, the splendours of the Raj architecture and town planning can be seen in New Delhi, which reflects the legacy of the British period.
Or, if you prefer, you can simply relax by the pool, visit the spa and enjoy the benefits of Indian hospitality.
In the afternoon, you can get acquainted with your hire car, GPS, Roadbook, route and do the paperwork.
DAY 03 - DELHI to MANDAWA - 272Kms - 6.5Hrs
Your first day’s drive is to the stunning town of Mandawa, often described as Rajasthan’s open air art gallery. You stay at the magnificent Fort Mandawa, one of the finest conversions of an old fort into a hotel, in Rajasthan. The drive starts out easily enough before you turn off the highway and head through the fascinating countryside. There’s no rush, so take time to acclimatise yourself and get used to the driving style in India.
If you take your time, stop to look at the sights, take some chai by the roadside, possibly a little lunch at a dharba, you should arrive by mid to late afternoon. On arrival order a sweet lime soda and relax before you get into the throng of Mandawa just outside the gates of the fort.
The Rajput ruler of Mandawa built the fort in 1755 to protect this trading outpost on the ancient caravan routes from China and Middle East. The township that grew around the fort attracted a large community of traders and their families. When the caravan traffic ceased in the late 18th century, the traders created business empires in other parts of the country, but returned to Mandawa to build palatial mansions in their home town. Mandawa is known for its colourful frescoes on a wide variety of subjects ranging from religious to the erotic; from copies of popular English prints to witty social satire, rendered in the inimitable style of local artists. Every home here is adorned with finely painted murals that illuminate the desert landscape.
DAY 04 - MANDAWA to – GAJNER via DESHNOK - 286Kms – 6Hrs
Once out of the hustle of Mandawa the route opens up into gentle countryside. South of Bikaner is the famous Rat Temple at Deshnok, so we route you there for an unforgettable experience! Afterwards we unavoidably go through the centre of Bikaner, driving past its famous fort. Its well worth a visit if you have the time. From Bikaner its no more than 45 minutes to Gajner so you can decide once you are there as you should avoid night driving. It is, however, one of the most interesting forts in Rajasthan with its sumptuously decorated interiors. Built in 1588 by Raja Rai Singh it is unusual in that it was one of the few major forts of Rajasthan that was not built on a hilltop. Instead, it was built on the desert plains; its rugged sandstone bastions and graceful pavilions and balconies all add to the great atmosphere of the fort. Your overnight stop is at Gajner Palace, an oasis in the middle of the desert.
DAY 05 - GAJNER to JAISALMER via POKHRAN - 305Kms – 7Hrs
After breakfast, head out through the desert to Jaisalmer - a fairy-tale town in the Thar Desert founded about 800 years ago by Rajah Jaisal. En-route we suggest you stop at Pokhran Fort for a bite to eat. You can also get a guide to take you to a village pottery.
Strategically located midway in the triangle between Bikaner and Jaisalmer, Pokhran is a sparsely populated but strategic area. Once used for underground nuclear testing it has since reverted to the more tranquil life of a trading post and holiday destination.
Pokhran is surrounded by five rocky, sandy, salt hills and the name means “the place of five mirages”. Fort Pokhran stands on the ancient trade route that carried salt, silk and spices to Persia and beyond. It is now famous for its terracotta pottery which is sold all over India. If you see terracotta pottery in a market in any large town, the chances are that it came from this area.
After lunch continue to Jaisalmer, the desert city. This desert fortress, which is a few miles from the border with Pakistan, is one of Rajasthan's most exotic and unusual towns. Jaisalmer, was an important ancient trading centre because of its strategic location on the camel trade routes, and is often described as the 'golden city'. The havelis (manor houses), built by merchants of the 19th century, are exquisitely carved from golden-yellow sandstone and some are still in a beautiful condition. A few are open to visitors.
The fort built by the Bhatti ruler, Rawal Jaisal in the 12th century, stands on the 80 metre high Trikuta hill, and features beautifully carved Jain temples. Over the centuries, the golden sand stone fortress witnessed many battles between the Bhattis, the Mughals and the Rathors of Jodhpur. The annual desert festival takes place in January and February each year and is a riot of colour and activity.
DAY 06 - JAISALMER
After breakfast, leave for a city tour of Jaisalmer and visit the famous Havelis, known for their frescoes.
The most elaborate and magnificent of all the Jaisalmer havelis is the Patwaon Ki Haveli. Five Jain brothers built the Haveli between 1800 and 1860. Salim Singh Ki Haveli and Nathmal Ki Haveli are the other two havelis that are open to visitors.
Within the fort complex lie the beautifully carved Jain Temples built between the 12th and 15th centuries. The Maharawals (rulers) of Jaisalmer were devout Hindus but were tolerant of Jainism, and encouraged art and religion. There are seven temples in the complex which are connected by a series of corridors and walkways. Close-by is the Gyan Bhandar, a library founded in 1500 A.D. This houses priceless ancient manuscripts and other exhibits such as astrological charts, as well as the Jain equivalent of the Christian Shroud of Turin.
In the evening, we have laid on a safari in the Sam Sand dunes. Located at a distance of 42 kilometres from Jaisalmer, Sam Sand Dunes is the closest point to experience the total sandy desert. Here you can see the patterns and motifs created by the shifting sands. Here, you will have the an unforgettable experience of a camel ride at sunset topped by dinner under the stars, before you return to your hotel.
DAY 07 - JAISALMER to JODHPUR - 322Kms - 6.5Hrs
A great drive across the desert floor to the ‘Blue’ city of Jodhpur where you will stay in one of the most iconic hotels in all Rajasthan, the Umaid Bhawan. An oasis in the arid Thar Desert, Jodhpur is also the second largest city in the state of Rajasthan. Called the Blue City due to the colour of the houses, Jodhpur has a history that is rich and a present that beckons strongly to the discerning tourist.
Forts and palaces, temples and havelis, culture and tradition, spices and fabrics, colour and texture, Jodhpur has them all, and in abundance. It not only offers tangibles, in terms of what you can see and buy but also fills one with a sense of history and the splendors of an era gone forever. The hospitality of the locals, the colourful women, the striking turbans - all set against the searing desert is something to feel, not just see. Every pore of Jodhpur tells its own tales of heroic tales that made legends out of kings and soldiers.
Upon arrival at the hotel we suggest you relax in this magnificent building and enjoy the facilities. Our local guide will help you plan your stay.
DAY 08 - JODHPUR
After breakfast visit the Mehrangarh Fort, considered one of finest in all India. This invincible stronghold of the Marwars sits on a steep hill lording over a wonderful view of its surroundings. Intricate latticed windows, elaborately carved panels and elegantly curved porches speak of beauty and taste. Here, the second largest cannon in Asia rests; the recoil of which requires an area as large as a football field! Also visit Jaswant Thada - a white marble memorial built in memory of Maharaja Jaswant II in 1899 who, as the story goes succumbed to injuries here while fighting the Mughal king, Jehangir.
You will have time for a walking tour of Jodhpur city. The walk starts from Fateh Pole of Mehrangarh Fort and takes you through narrow alleys leading to quaint bazaars. One passes Brahmpuri where the blue houses of the Brahmins are located, Bazaars and finally the spice market.
The Jodhpur bazaars are treasure trove for shoppers. Jodhpur bazaars are teeming with an array of handicrafts.The walk ends at Sadar Bazaar which is a popular landmark with its Clock Tower. Evening dinner is at a local Haveli.
DAY 09 - JODHPUR to UDAIPUR via ROHET & RANAKPUR - 257Kms – 6.5Hrs
After breakfast drive to Rohet Garh an ancestral family home located 40km from Jodhpur. Set in beautiful grounds it has a lake covered with lotus flowers on one side, and a walled enclosure on the other. leading to a bright lawned garden, complete with peacocks, splashes of flowers and a swimming pool. Clearly a retreat from the hullabaloo of modern life, it has attracted a number of icons and artists. Here, Bruce Chatwin wrote The Songlines, William Dalrymple asked to stay in the same room when he wrote the City of Djinns. Madonna brought her family for the New Year and filmmaker Wes Anderson stayed here to write The Darjeeling Limited and later filmed in the area.
After a stop for breakfast our route leads through valleys in the remote and peaceful Aravalli Range to Ranakpur to visit one of the most important Jain temples in India. This marble complex is noted for the 29 halls supported by 1,444 pillars, each adorned with hundreds of carved figures with no two alike.
After a brief lunch nearby and a look round the temples we continue to Udaipur, described as the “City of Sunrise”. Here we stay at probably the most iconic hotel in India, the Lake Palace which shimmers serenely in the middle of Lake Pichola.
DAY 10 - UDAIPUR
Possibly no city in Rajasthan is quite as romantic as Udaipur with its lakes, palaces and bustling life. The city is replete with romantically named hilltop fortresses, such as the Monsoon Palace, exotic palaces with untold treasures and gripping legends of medieval chivalry and heroism. The French Impressionist painters, let alone the Brothers Grimm, would have loved this place and it’s not without justification that Udaipur has been called “the Venice of the East”. Take a tour of the City and visit the local museums and palaces or visit one of the outlying forts and get a birds-eye view of the town. Enjoy drinks or an evening meal on the Sunset Terrace overlooking the lake and your hotel.
DAY 11 - UDAIPUR to PUSHAKR via DEVI GARH & AJMER - 324Kms – 07Hrs
An early start is suggested before stopping at Devi Garh for breakfast. It is located on the boundaries of Mewar, Marwar and Merwara, about 34kms north-east of Udaipur. As it is at a height of about 2100 ft above sea level, it is cooler than other parts of Rajasthan with wonderful views over surrounding countryside.
The principality of Delwara which includes the Devi Garh fort was given to Raja Sajja Singh, one of the lieutenants of Maharana Pratap, after the Battle of Haldighati in 1576. First a rudimentary palace was built by Raghudev Singh II, which was later revamped a few years later in 1760s for a royal visit of the Maharani of Udaipur. The seven-storeyed hilltop fort palace in Rajasthani architecture was constructed in the 1760s. Two centuries later it was in ruins and lay empty for 20 years before it was acquired by Poddars, an industrial family from Shekhawatiregion in 1984. The restoration took over 15 years and a team of 750 people.
Your destination for the day is Pushakar which lies on the edge of the desert. At its heart is one of India’s most sacred lakes. There are 52 ghats around the lake, and numerous temples. The Brahma temple, especially, attracts pilgrims all year round. Apart from its religious significance, Pushkar is known for its Cattle and Camel fair held every year in the month of Kartik (October/November). You can also witness and participate in the evening prayer meetings in the temples. Being a religious town, alcohol and non-vegetarian food are taboo. Here we overnight at the Glasshouse.
DAY 12 - PUSHKAR to JAIPUR - 155Kms – 3Hrs
After breakfast visit the Ghats and temples in the Holly City of Pushkar and later head off to Jaipur.
Jaipur's past is never too far from view. The city of victory, Jaipur presides over the fascinating desert state and its people. It is surrounded by rugged hills, each crowned by a formidable fort and beautiful palaces, mansions and gardens dotted throughout. The palaces and forts of yesteryear that were witness to royal processions and splendour are now living monuments, accepted quite naturally into the lifestyles of the people of the "pink city". Except for the busy traffic of bicycles, cars and buses, little seems to have changed.
Here we stay at another of the great hotels of India, Ram Bagh, the former home of the Maharajas of Jaipur.
DAY 13 - JAIPUR
With such a lot to explore we have arranged for a visit to the capital of Amber to see the fabulous Amber Fort. Maharaja Mansingh, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s most successful General, started the construction of Amber Fort in the 17th century. Before the City Palace was constructed in Jaipur, Amber was the seat of power.
Ride to the top on an elephant or go by jeep if you prefer. Once on top, stroll through the sprawling complex of courtyards and halls, many of the rooms have delightful wall paintings, with precious stones and mirrors inlaid in the walls. Most fascinating, perhaps, is the Sheesh Mahal (hall of mirrors) where a single lamplight is reflected in the many mirrors, lighting up the room.
En-route to Amber Fort you should visit the Palace of Winds, otherwise known as Hawa Mahal. It is really an elaborate facade behind which the ladies of the court used to watch the daily goings on in the street below. It is extremely intricate in its pink sandstone carvings. The cool wind blows through its facade of windows and latticed screens through which the queens of the court once viewed the street life of the city.
Other attractions to visit include the City Palace, a complex of exquisite palaces, gardens and courtyards, decorative art and carved doorways. The palace museum houses collections of rare manuscripts, armoury, costumes, carpets and miniature paintings.
Jaipur's Jantar Mantar is the most famous of five observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh in India. Jai Singh was a great admirer of progresses and research made in the fields of science and technology, but he was passionate about astronomy. He sent his emissaries to all parts of the world before commencing the construction of this observatory. The emissaries returned with many manuals on astronomy containing cutting-edge technological information. One of these manuals was a copy of La Hire's "Tables". The king ordered the observatory to be built according to the details contained in this manual. When the construction ended, to the astonishment of the king and others, the observatory was 20 seconds more accurate than the one mentioned in the "Table”.
DAY 14 - JAIPUR to RANTHAMBORE - 147kms – 4hrs
No visit to India would be complete without a visit to one of the game parks and the nearest to Jaipur is Ranthambore one of the largest and most famous national parks in northern India.
Ranthambore was established as the Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary in 1955 by the Government of India, and was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973. Ranthambhore became a national park in 1980. In 1984, the adjacent forests were declared the Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary and Keladevi Sanctuary, and in 1991 the tiger reserve was enlarged to include Sawai Man Singh and Keladevi sanctuaries.
DAY 15 - RANTHAMBORE to AGRA - 271kms – 7hrs
Ranthambore wildlife sanctuary is famous for its tigers and is one of the best places in India to see these majestic predators in the wild. The park lies at the edge of a plateau, and is bounded to the north by the Banas River and to the south by the Chambal River. It is named after the historic Ranthambore fortress which lies at the heart of the park. Covering an area of 392 km² it is famous for its tiger population, and is one of India's Project Tiger reserves. Other major wild animals include the leopard, nilgai, dhole, wild boar, sambar, hyena, sloth bear and chital. It is also home to wide variety of trees, plants, birds and reptiles. Ranthambore is also the site for one of the largest banyan trees in India.
DAY 16 - AGRA – DELHI - 211kms – 5hrs
One of the best times to see the Taj Mahal is at dawn, should the weather be favourable. Midway Tonga horse carriages will drop you at the ticket office and gates of the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is everything that has been said about it and more. Taking 22 years and 20,000 men to build, the white marble was quarried 200 miles away and was transported to the site by a fleet of 1000 elephants.
Built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as an expression of his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, in mid 17th century, the Taj Mahal is truly one of the wonders of the world. Though the Taj appears to be amazingly perfect from almost any angle, it is the close-up marble inlay work which is really astounding. You will have ample time to view and be mesmerised by this outstanding piece of architecture.
Return to your hotel for breakfast, then depending on your flight time you can go straight to Delhi or visit Agra Fort, which was the seat and the stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations.
The present structure owes its origins to Akbar who erected the walls and gates and the first buildings on the eastern banks of Yamuna River. Shah Jehan added the impressive living quarters and the mosque, while Aurangzeb added the outer ramparts.
If you stay on for the fort tour drive to Delhi in the afternoon and meet our representative at the Trident hotel. If leaving that evening you will be transferred to the airport or a nearby hotel to pack for the flight.