Five-Star India’s Golden Triangle, Tigers & Shimla
Marvel at historic temples, spot an elusive tiger and visit beautiful palaces and gardens as we explore kaleidoscopic India, taking in the tranquillity of Shimla, enigmatic Delhi, the 'Pink City' of Jaipur and Agra with its resplendent marble icon, the Taj Mahal.
We depart from London Heathrow on our flight to Delhi, arriving late morning on Day 2. Delhi is one of India's most colourful and exciting metropolises, where the old and new exist harmoniously together. We spend the night at the 5-Star Taj Palace.
We leave Delhi on the Shatabdi Express to Kalka. Here we board the UNESCOlisted narrow-gauge Himalayan Queen, which is also affectionately referred to as the 'Toy Train'. Covering a journey of 60 miles, the train gradually passes through the Shivalik foothills of the Himalayas, passing over 864 bridges and through 102 tunnels on its journey to Shimla. The train moves at a leisurely pace, giving us time to soak in the incredible panorama of the surrounding scenery. Alternatively, you may choose to make the journey by car.
Shimla was 'discovered' by the British in 1817, and was later used as a fashionable retreat from the summer heat thanks to its lovely temperate climate. In 1864, the Government of India declared Shimla as their official headquarters during the hot season. Because of this, many of the town's buildings are very British in style. We spend three nights at the heritage 5-Star Oberoi Cecil Hotel.
We begin our day with an informative talk form our expert guest speaker, Raaja Bhasin, before our exploration of Shimla continues with a sightseeing tour that takes in much of the local colonial heritage. We begin at the Viceregal Lodge, the summer seat of the viceroys until the 1940s. This afternoon, a leisurely stroll takes us past the town's Gaiety Theatre, the Victorian-Gothic Christ Church and Scandal Point, named thus due to it being a popular social meeting place where people would gather and share gossip.
On Day 5 you are free to explore at leisure. Alternatively, embark on an optional excursion to the Kufri area of upper Shimla, where you can enjoy incredible views of the snow-capped mountain peaks of the Himalayas, followed by a visit to Wildflower Hall, the former residence of Lord Kitchener - a noted senior British army officer. Now a hotel, this beautiful building sits amidst a verdant forest with incredible views of the surrounding Himalayas. Here, you can enjoy a high tea lunch and a walk around the gardens (payable locally).
We leave Shimla and return back to Delhi, for two more nights. On Day 7 we visit Old Delhi, taking a rickshaw ride through the narrow streets of Delhi's bazaar for an incredible insight into the lives of the millions of people who live in the city. As you travel towards Chandni Chowk, you will be immersed in real India. We also visit the Jama Masjid which boasts the title of being India's largest mosque, Raj Ghat, a simple but moving memorial to Gandhi, 'the father of the Nation', and pass Delhi's Red Fort. Later we embark on a sightseeing tour exploring the wide, leafy avenues and impressive colonial architecture of New Delhi. Our tour includes India Gate war memorial, the grandiose Rashtrapati Bhavan, Humayun's Tomb and Qutab Minar, India's tallest stone tower, built in 1199.
We join the southbound Gatimaan Express early this morning to Agra. On arrival we visit Agra's imposing Red Fort, originating from the 15th century and considered India's most important fortification. Built on a hill above Agra, its centrepiece is a tower with a marble balcony where Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan spent his last days imprisoned.
Later we travel across the city to the spectacular Taj Mahal, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1653 in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal, this iconic white marble building is a true monument to undying love, and is the world's finest example of Mughal and Persian architecture.
We depart Agra by coach, stopping at Fatehpur Sikri, a perfectly preserved ancient red sandstone city built in the 16th century as India's political capital, but abandoned after only 14 years due to lack of water. Remarkably, the city remains exactly as it was 400 years ago, giving us an excellent insight into how life was during the time of the Mughal Empire. After a guided tour of the empty, ghostly buildings, we continue to Ranthambore. Our hotel here is the brand-new, 5-Star Sawai Vilas, set within acres of stunning gardens, lakes and fountains on the border of Ranthambore National Park and Tiger Reserve.
Ranthambore National Park is renowned as one of the best places in the world to spot wild Bengal tigers, and we head out on a game drive this afternoon to try to catch a glimpse of these majestic, elusive creatures, travelling in open-topped safari vehicles called 'Canters' which are for the exclusive use of Great Rail Journeys customers. We are treated to a further morning game drive on Day 11, increasing our chances of observing and photographing the activities of the tiger, as well as the myriad of other rare native wildlife that can be found here, including leopards, deer and crocodiles. This afternoon, we continue to Jaipur, where we check into our hotel for two nights.
We begin our stay in the 'Pink City' with full-day sightseeing tour, travelling by Jeep to the Amber Fort, located high on a hillside overlooking a lake. We have the chance to explore some of the ornate rooms within the palace complex before we continue our tour, seeing the ornately decorated City Palace, home to the current Maharajah of Jaipur, as well as the early 18th century UNESCO listed Astronomical Observatory. We also drive past the Palace of the Winds, a stunning red and pink facade built in 1799, whose intricately latticed windows were designed to allow the ladies of the royal household to look over the streets below without being seen.
This afternoon we drive back to Delhi, where we spend our final evening. On Day 14, we transfer to the airport for our flight to London, arriving late in the early evening.
Selected departures feature a guest speaker on Day 4 at Oberoi Cecil Shimla. We enjoy a talk from Raaja Bhasin for a detailed insight into the town through its people, history and culture. Raaja Bhasin is an acclaimed writer and researcher; most recently he served as history consultant on the Channel 4 series 'Indian Summers'. Born in Shimla, he was written two books on the former British retreat.
Tours departing between January and April 2019 will run at 13 days in length. We will enjoy one additional night in Jaipur, omitting the visit to Ranthambore National Park. Please call for further details. (Tour code - GTC)
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour
British Citizens require a visa to enter India. We can help you with visa applications up to 21 days before departure - please see the Visa section of 'Things You Should Know' for further details.
Please note: This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
Marvel at historic temples, spot an elusive tiger and visit beautiful palaces