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Journey through North India to Nepal, witnessing sacred sites and cultural highlights. From the majestic beauty of the Taj Mahal to the pink glow of Jaipur, the tranquil waters of the Ganges and the holy majesty of Varanasi, this full-on tour takes in North India's icons. Destined for Nepal, we explore the temples, bazaars, and nature of the Himalayan beauty, too.
Explore Tour Leader
1 nights simple camping
12 nights comfortable hotel
2 nights comfortable lodge
1 nights simple overnight train
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our tour starts in New Delhi, India's bustling capital, where old meets new and you can catch glimpses of a bygone era at every turn.
For those arriving in time, our tour leader will meet you in the hotel reception at 1.30pm for a welcome meeting followed by an afternoon city tour. We'll visit Qutab Minar, the tallest stone tower in India and Humayun's Tomb dating from the Mughal Dynasty. We also drive past the imposing India Gate (war memorial arch), the Parliament buildings and the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President's residence.
If you'd like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), which is around a 40-minute drive from the hotel.
If you'd like to join the city tour, you need to arrive at the hotel by 1.30pm. If you're booking your own flights, we recommend giving yourself at least one hour to clear the airport and 45 minutes to transfer to the hotel. The latest your flight should arrive is 12pm. If you miss the welcome meeting, the tour leader will catch you up as soon as possible.
Swati Deluxe (or similar)
Compared to New Delhi, the Old City is much closer to the image conjured up by Rudyard Kipling. This morning, a local guide will show us around Old Delhi by metro and on foot, culminating with a jamboree of deafening barter at Chandni Chowk Bazaar. A short cycle rickshaw ride will then take us to the Jama Masjid mosque.
Later in the afternoon, we'll transfer to New Delhi station for the train journey to Jaipur, arriving in the evening. Sometimes called the 'Pink City', Jaipur was first painted terracotta pink by Maharajah Sawai Ram Singh to celebrate the visit of Prince Albert in 1853.
Traditional Haveli (or similar)
This morning, we'll visit the once mighty Rajput capital of Amber (traditionally known as Amber Fort) and its fortress. Lying at the mouth of a rocky mountain gorge, overlooking Maotha Lake, the fort is a stunning creation of white marble and red sandstone that combines Hindu and Muslim ornamentation, including the mirrored halls of the Sheesh Mahal. It was from these towering walls that the Kachchawahas ruled over their kingdom for seven centuries, until its importance was eclipsed by nearby Jaipur.
We'll also take in the unique Hawa Mahal, the famous Palace of the Winds, whose extraordinary façade of red and pink sandstone towers five stories above the city streets. Built at the end of the 18th century, its 935 windows were designed to allow the women of the harem to gaze out on the city scene below without themselves being seen, the openings also create a refreshing breeze (hawa), which kept the palace cool in the hot summer months.
We'll spend some time exploring the lavish and well-preserved City Palace. Here, we'll find a fine collection of textiles, costumes, and armoury. Later this afternoon, we'll visit the extraordinary Jantar Mantar - a star-gazing observatory built by Jai Singh, the great Maharajah-astronomer.
Leaving Jaipur, we'll take the train to Sawai Modhopur, the gateway to Ranthambore National Park. One of the best of India's 'Project Tiger' conservation projects, Ranthambore was once the private reserve of the Maharajahs of Jaipur and covers nearly 400 square kilometres of lush jungle, turquoise lakes and ancient temples that provide a haven for crocodiles, leopards, tigers and 300 species of birds. During the dry season from September to May, when water is scarce, the animals stay close to the lakes and rivers, giving us the ideal opportunity to spot these elusive animals. We'll take a game drive into the park this afternoon.
Raj Palace Resort (or similar)
Heading back to the train station, we'll take the morning train to Bharatpur and then drive to the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri in the late morning. Founded in 1569 and abandoned scarcely 16 years later, it's a perfectly intact example of Akbar's imperial court. Among the many noteworthy buildings is the five-storied Panch Mahal. In the centre of the courtyard is the Pachisi Board where the emperor played a chess-like game with slaves as pieces. Perhaps the finest structure of all is the lotus-shaped central pillar of the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience). Later we'll drive on to Agra, arriving in the afternoon.
Hotel Amar (or similar)
This morning, we'll have an early start to see the sun rise over the marble dome of the Taj Mahal. Built by the emperor Shah Jahan to honour the memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz, the building took 22 years to complete and was once described by Rudyard Kipling as 'the embodiment of all things pure'. Built from marble and decorated with the most exquisite inlay work, the Taj Mahal required the labour of 20,000 men and is estimated to have cost something in the region of 3 million rupees (around $70 million today). Once we've witnessed the majesty of the Taj Mahal, we'll journey on to Delhi.
This afternoon, we'll visit the Agra Fort. Built by Akbar the Great, the fort stands in an imposing position on a bend in the Yamuna River with views of the Taj Mahal further along its banks. We might have time before sunset to revisit the Taj Mahal, or the Itimad-ud-Daulah (Baby Taj) after which, we'll drive to Agra train station to catch our overnight train to Allahabad.
Sleeper trains are a rite of passage on any journey through India and are a great way to meet locals as we travel. Please note, we try our best to book second-class carriages and keep the group together, however due to demand and the train booking system, our group might be split, with some passengers in third class. If this happens, our tour leader will make sure everyone finds their seat and is comfortable.
Second-class sleeper carriages have four beds per compartment, separated by curtains. They're air-conditioned and bedding is provided, however, you might want to bring a sleeping bag liner for added comfort.
Overnight Train from Agra to Allahabad
Simple Overnight Train
After arriving in Allahabad early this morning, we'll head to a local hotel to freshen up and have breakfast before continuing our journey by road for approximately three to four hours to the sacred River Ganges. Once we reach the water, we'll start our boat trip downstream. The next two days will give a unique glimpse at rural life in India and a welcome chance to relax and unwind. We'll float peacefully through the Gangetic plain to Varanasi, passing villages and ornate temples, fields of wheat and rice paddies, and stunning sunsets.
The traditional wooden boats take up to four passengers plus two crew, who have all grown up living and working on or around the river. We'll make regular comfort breaks by the side of the river and there will be a 'support boat' which doubles as the kitchen following closely behind, with a chef on board preparing your lunch and dinner. You can also buy drinks onboard.
For our overnight stop, we'll camp on a sandbank in the middle of the Ganges in two-man tents. The location we use varies according to local conditions, but wherever we stop you'll be able to relax over dinner and stargaze before bed. Our wild camping is a simple but unique experience - facilities are basic and toilets are set up in a single pop-up tent.
Ganges riverside camp (or similar)
Today we'll continue our journey down river to the holy city of Varanasi where we'll disembark at Asi Ghat and transfer to our hotel. Varanasi (Benares) has been the centre of Hinduism since the dawn of history, its age is contemporary with Babylon and Thebes. Often known as 'Kashi' (City of Light) by Hindus it attracts over a million pilgrims each year - many of whom come to spend their last years here in the holy city. This evening, you can return to the ghats to witness the evening aarti ceremony when the Ganga is venerated with a display of light and sound.
Hotel Silk City (or similar)
This morning we'll take an early morning boat trip along the Ganges to see the Hindu devout bathing in its sacred waters. We'll then pay a visit to nearby Sarnath. Having gained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya Buddha came to Sarnath to preach his first sermon. The city was at its peak in the 5th century, when it was a respected centre of religious activity, learning and art. Muslim invaders destroyed much of the city and today remains of several monasteries and stupas can be seen. The afternoon is free to explore Varanasi's labyrinth of streets, bazaars and temples at your own pace. In the evening, there might be the option to take in a classical musical performance.
We have a long yet interesting journey today (around 8 hours), as we head north across the Gangetic Plains villages to the Nepalese border at Sonauli. First, we'll take a train from Varanasi to the town of Gorphpur. This is the furthest we can travel by train, so we'll switch to a bus and drive the remaining distance to Sonauli. We'll walk through customs and immigration into Nepal and meet our Nepalese bus which will transfer us to Lumbini to spend the night.
Lumbini Garden Hotel (or similar)
We'll start our day with a rickshaw sightseeing tour of Lumbini accompanied by a local guide. We'll have the opportunity to visit the birthplace of the Buddha, the Peace Lamp. and the Monastery of Peace pagoda. From here, we'll drive (approximately five hours) through the Terai, the narrow-forested lowland strip that stretches the full width of the southern border of Nepal. We'll stop in Butwal en route so we can pick up some lunch and then aim to arrive at Chitwan in the late afternoon. The oldest and best known of the national parks in Nepal, Chitwan consists of swamp, tall elephant grass and dense forest, and is a natural habitat for tiger, the rare one-horned Indian rhino, leopard, and sloth bear to name but a few. Once we arrive at the park, we'll take a short afternoon village walk close to the park to orient ourselves.
Island Jungle Resort (or similar)
Once a private hunting ground, Chitwan is now a National Park, with thick tree cover and tall elephant grass sheltering a wealth of animals, most famously the one-horned rhino. Today we'll be kept busy with plenty of activities available, including jeep safaris to search out the rhino, bird watching, jungle walks and canoe trips along the Rapti River. The river trip will be dependent on the water level. Floating silently down the Rapti River allows us to spot many varieties of water birds and other wildlife. On a nature walk in the company of trained native naturalists, you can walk along trails in the less densely forested parts of the park. An early morning bird-watching walk near the river will reveal many of the 450 bird species that can be found in the park, especially kingfisher. A trained naturalist will help us get the most out of these excursions.
After a final early morning walk through the park, we'll leave for Pokhara. The drive will take around 6 hours depending on the traffic, and we'll take a packed lunch to have along the way. We pass through the bustling town of Naryanghat Bazaar, then head north beside the River Trisuli to the 'wild west' town of Mugling at the confluence of the Marsyandi and Trisuli rivers, before reaching our final destination for today. Pokhara is a relaxed town situated on the banks of Lake Phewa Tal and set beneath the Annapurna Range. The afternoon is left free to wander through the town, to pick up some souvenirs at the many Tibetan handicraft stalls or just relax by the lakeside after the journey.
Hotel Sarowar (or similar)
After breakfast this morning we'll stretch our legs walking up through small villages to the Japanese Peace Pagoda. This lookout point offers views across to the Annapurna Range and back down to the town of Pokhara. After enjoying the views, we'll walk back following a different path and stop to visit the Tibetan Tashiling Monastery. The afternoon is free to relax in Pokhara, where it's possible to take short walks around the lake. There's also the option to visit the Mountain Museum, an interesting museum dedicated to the history of Himalayan Mountaineering.
This morning, we'll drive to Kathmandu (approximately six hours away). We'll retrace our route back to Mugling, then continue heading east. Once we reach Naubise the road starts to climb and reaches a pass on the Kathmandu valley rim via a series of breathtaking zigzags before descending to the city. We might have the chance to take an optional trip to the Manakamana temple near Kurintar, time permitting.
Hotel Manaslu (or similar)
This morning, we'll have a walking tour of this historic city, visiting the bazaar and temples of old Kathmandu, accompanied by a local Nepali guide. Much of the day-to-day life of Kathmandu takes place in the local bazaar: a fascinating mixture of people selling spices; potters spinning their wheels; rickshaw wallahs honking their horns and the ever-present sacred cow wandering amongst it all. We'll end up in Durbar Square at the heart of the city. In the afternoon we'll plan to visit the temple of Pashupatinath on the banks of the Bagmati River, the holiest Hindu shrine in Nepal, and also to visit Bodnath, the largest stupa in the country and a destination for Buddhist pilgrims from all over Nepal.
Our tour ends at our hotel in Kathmandu.
There is considerable variation between the different regions of India but, in general, the climate is tropical. Summer temperatures on the plains are very hot, but cooled by the South-West Monsoon, which lasts from June- September. During these months it can be very wet and therefore very humid. At altitude, temperatures can become quite cool at night even in the summer and may drop below freezing between December and February so warm clothing is necessary. In the winter, northern and mid India can be very cool, with cold evenings, so warm clothing, including plenty of layers, are essential. The south of India remains warm and sunny during the winter months.
3 Pin Round
Catholicism, Hindu, Islam and Sikhism
Hindi and English.
Temperatures in the lower altitude regions are extremely pleasant. At Pokhara variations in temperature are very limited: from the coldest recorded of 8°C (46°F) to the highest of 31°C (88°F). The mountains are best admired, with greater air clarity, from October to January, while from February to May the skies may be hazy. Monsoon rains are strongest in June, July and August. The coldest months are December and January.
2 Pin Round
Jaipur - Bollywood film 250 INR; visit to Amber Fort 400 INR Agra - 'Baby Taj' US$ 4. Extra visit to Taj by rickshaw US$ 18 (if time permits). Varanasi - Arti ceremony US$ 10 Kurintar- Manakamana temple US$25 Kathmandu - Half day tour of Bhaktapur US$ 45 (min 4 people). Half day tour of Patan US$ 35 (min 4 people).
Lightweight clothing is needed from March to November, December through to February is cooler especially early mornings and evenings with the occasional very cold spell for which you should be prepared. You should bring a fleece and a woolly hat and gloves for the early morning game drives and camping. Thermals may also be useful for camping. Local people may be offended by western styles of dress. Brief shorts, tight fitting clothing, etc. should be avoided by both men and women.
Comfortable walking shoes, trainers and sandals.
One main piece of baggage and a daypack. Remember - porters are not always available, so don't overload yourself.
Bring a 2-3 season (temperature -5°C to 0°C) sleeping bag for the Ganges Sailing (a sleep sheet is sufficient in Sep/Oct and April), a torch and a personal water bottle. Tents (with mosquito screens), mattresses, 2 blankets per passenger (Nov- Mar), eating and drinking utensils are provided locally.
Bus, Boat, Rickshaw, Train
Accommodation in India is as varied as the country itself and standards might not always meet those back home. Service can be slow, especially when travelling with a group and a number of hotels in India don't serve alcohol due to complicated licencing laws or for religious reasons. Hot water is not always available at small properties and with a group staying, you might find the water is cooler if you're showering last. Hotels also don't usually have heating, so it can become chilly in the winter months, however, blankets will always be provided. Due to the growth in tourism in India, it's not always possible to stay at our listed accommodation and an alternative will be found. In Delhi, we'll stay in a small hotel, chosen for its location in the Karol Bagh area. It's walking distance from markets and restaurants and within easy reach of Old and New Delhi. All rooms have air conditioning and en-suite facilities. Due to the nature of the low-rise buildings in the area, some rooms are internal. If you have an issue with your room, please speak to your tour leader. We'll spend one night camping along the sides of the Ganges. This is a basic set up but gives us the unique opportunity to relax and stargaze by the water. We'll sleep in two-man tents and facilities are simple with a pop-up toilet tent. The exact location varies.20
Can you drink the water?
The water quality is poor and therefore it is recommended to avoid drinking tap water during your trip.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
\red5\green99\blue193;\red177\green45\blue26; India: Holders of passports endorsed British citizen, as well as Australian, New Zealand and US passport holders may be eligible for the e-Tourist Visa to enter India. Unfortunately the Indian government are not currently granting visas for anybody travelling with a Canadian passport. The visa can be applied for through the official Indian government visa website only - \ul https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html\ulnone . Please check all eligibility criteria that can be found on the website but important points are listed below - You must be arriving into one of 29 selected entry points which can be found via the official Indian Government website link above. However, you can exit from any of the authorised immigration check posts in India. Passports must have at least 6 months validity from the date of arrival in India and at least two blank pages for stamping. Visa applications will take approximately 4 days to process. There are different validity visas and the costs are as follows: 30-day validity (travelling between April and June) - $10 30-day validity (travelling between July and March) - $25 1-year validity - $40 5-year validity- $80 Those applying for a 30 day electronic visa can only apply within 30 days of arrival for your visa to be valid. Furthermore double entry is permitted and you can only obtain two 30-day visas in a calendar year. Please note these costs are subject to frequent change so you should check on the official Indian government visa website mentioned above. Biometric data will be collected on arrival in India. If you are not eligible for the e-Tourist Visa, please refer to VFS Global to apply for your Indian visa - \ul https://www.vfsglobal.com/india/uk/how_to_apply.html\ulnone Whilst the online form offers a relatively quick way to apply for a visa, some applicants have reported difficulty in completing the form. If you do require assistance, then you may consider applying through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. They can complete the online visa on your behalf for a service fee + the visa cost. See \ul www.travcour.com If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846 . It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination. Nepal: An entry visa is required by UK, New Zealand, Australian, US & Canadian citizens and can be obtained on arrival at Kathmandu Airport and various international border crossings between Nepal and its neighbouring countries. This currently costs $30 USD for a 15 day visa, $50 USD for a 30 day visa and $125 USD for a 90 day visa. All visas are issued as multiple entry visas and are valid from the date they are issued. There have been reports of lengthy delays when completing the form to obtain the visa at the airport, especially during peak times. We therefore recommend that you fill in the visa information prior to arrival using the following link: http://online.nepalimmigration.gov.np/. This will produce a receipt with a barcode, which you will need to print off and produce on arrival to obtain the visa. Please note if you are filling in the form before you arrive, please do so only within 15 days of arrival as application forms are only stored for a maximum of 15 days. Whether you are filling in the form on arrival or before, a passport-sized photograph for immigration is required along with the exact cash. Payment must be made in cash, UK sterling and US dollars are both accepted. If you are ineligible for the visa on arrival or wish to obtain a visa before you travel, please refer to your nearest Nepal embassy. 20
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
An ability to swim is essential for your safe enjoyment of the water based activities on this trip. If you wish to participate in these activities then we insist that you are able to swim.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against Tetanus, Infectious Hepatitis, Typhoid and Polio. Please consult your travel clinic for the latest advice on Malaria, Dengue and Zika Virus. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against malaria, infectious hepatitis, typhoid, tetanus, polio and Japanese encephalitis. Consult your travel clinic for latest advice on different prophylaxis available against malaria. Although not compulsory, travellers may wish to take immunisation against meningococcal meningitis. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.