THE GANGETIC PLAINS
14 days

This is a culturally rich tour with amazing archaeological sites, grand temples, superb museums, sacred spaces and ancient travel routes overlaid by the newer ones of the British Raj.

You begin at Kolkata, the one–time capital of the British in India, and follow the route of the Ganges river upstream. After Patna, you travel to see the ruins at Nalanda, one of the most ancient seats of learning. In its heyday, 1600 years ago, it attracted students from as far as Turkey and China. Enjoy a serene moment at Bodhgaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment, before witnessing Varanasi’s robust display of piety. Allahabad is the site of the confluence of India’s two most important rivers and at Lucknow we explore the syncretic Islamic culture – a blend of Shia and Sunni denominations. The Ganga, the goddess who resides in Lord Shiva’s matted hair, returns to tantalise your imagination at Haridwar, one of India’s holy cities, in the manner of Indian traditions with all their historical continuity.

DAY 1 | LUCKNOW

Arrive in Lucknow today, where accommodation is held from 12 noon. Coming into prominence late in the 18th century with the Mughal empire in its twilight, Lucknow emerged as a centre of art, culture and learning accompanied by immense wealth and prosperity until the British annexed it in 1856.

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DAY 2 & 3 | LUCKNOW

The unmistakeably brooding and melancholic signs of a lost era linger in Muslim Lucknow, dotted with palaces, mosques, mausoleums, gardens and the overcrowded and decaying old quarter. Complementing the mood is the hauntingly evocative British Residency, its regal elegance overcome by the tragedies that engulfed it during the great Indian Mutiny of 1857.

DAY 4 | ALLAHABAD

Drive south this morning along the old imperial way to Agra (192 km/ 4 hours plus stops). Afternoon tour of the exquisite Tomb of Itimad-ud-daulah, and Mahtab Bagh, a classic Mughal garden gradually being restored to its original glory.

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DAY 5| ALLAHABAD/ CHUNAR/ VARANASI

Drive to Varanasi (155 km/3.5 hours), pausing at the landmark Chunar Fort along the Ganges, strategically important to the Mughals, Sher Shah Suri and the British. Late in the day, visit the ghats along the Ganges to view the evening prayer ceremonies and stroll through the traditional markets.

DAY 6 | VARANASI

The City of Shiva is Hinduism’s holiest and among the world’s most ancient. The dawn boat trip to view the morning prayer provides an unforgettable spectacle of devotion. At Banaras Hindu University, a deeply venerated centre of learning, visit the Bharat Kala Bhawan (closed Sundays/university holidays), which exhibits a precious collection of ancient sculptures and medieval paintings. Adjacent to Varanasi is quite another world – Sarnath – where the Buddha preached his first sermon in 528 BC after attaining Enlightenment.

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DAY 7 | VARANASI/ JAUNPUR/ VARANASI

Day excursion north to Zaffarabad and Jaunpur (156 km roundtrip/2.5 hours drive each way), two provincial Islamic settlements that bear the distinctive stamp of Delhi Sultanate, Sharqi and Mughal influences in the form of the Old Shahi Fort, Atala Masjid, Jami Masjid and the Akbari Bridge. Somewhat cocooned and time warped, nothing much seems to have changed here.

DAY 8 | VARANASI/ KHAJURAHO

At leisure till the late morning flight to Khajuraho. Afternoon tour of the celebrated 10th century Chandela temples and the Tribal Museum.

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DAY 9 | KHAJURAHO/ ORCHHA/ GWALIOR

Drive on to Orchha (176 km/4 hours), a 17th century Bundela Rajput walled city set along the banks of the Betwa River. Visit the evocative fortresses and palaces, and the forlorn cenotaphs by the riverside. Continue to Jhansi (19 km) to board the evening train to Gwalior.

DAY 10| GWALIOR

Morning tour of the gigantic Gwalior Fort, consistently built from ancient to late medieval times, and view the palaces and temples within. In the afternoon, drive east to Datia (138 km/1.5 hours roundtrip), site of the beautiful seven storied Bundela Rajput palace, greatly admired by Edwin Lutyens. Early evening visit to Gwalior’s old quarter, full of offbeat delights.

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DAY 11| GWALIOR/ AGRA

Morning tour of the grand Jai Vilas Palace (closed Mondays/holidays). Recently restored, its museum displays a vast and varied collection of royal memorabilia. In the afternoon, drive north to Agra (118 km/2.5 hours).

DAY 12 | AGRA/ MATHURA/ BRINDAVAN/ AGRA

Day excursion north to Mathura(125 km roundtrip/1.5 hours drive each way) – birthplace of Lord Krishna – and Brindavan, two ancient towns situated along the Yamuna River. The constant ebb and flow of pilgrims at the ghats, and numerous temples of varying antiquity, are timeless sights and the narrow, twisting lanes are abuzz with neverending activity.

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DAY 13 | AGRA

A day to explore the Mughal dynasty’s architectural wonders – the Taj Mahal (closed Fridays), Agra Fort, Mehtab Bagh and the Tomb of Itimad-ud-daulah.

DAY 14 | DEPART AGRA

Depart Agra for your onward destination.

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We look forward to welcoming you to slow travel in the Indian subcontinent,

imaginatively and meticulously designed just for you.

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