The Grand Tour of Northern India
... a journey of humbling experience,
from the foothill of the Himalayas in Delhi to the Arabian Sea, in
This three weeks tour begins in Delhi, a
city which seems to be a palimpsest, a city where the history of
India seems to rewrite itself over and over again, where empires were
born, prospered and fell. Each great monument in this city of contrasts,
is a landmark of a different historical, religious and political
landscape: from Asoka's Iron pillar to the Qutab Minar, from Humayun's
tomb to the Raj Ghat on the Yamuna River, which marks the place where
Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.
The tour proceeds to Kathmandu in Nepal,
nestled in the cradle of the highest mountains of the world, which is as
important a pilgrimage place today as it was in the middle-ages. The
hippie trail is a forgotten era, which ended with when the tolerance of
the Nepalese ran out. It is now a tourist destination both for the "trippies"
and the exclusive travellers for whom we organise special tours of this
extraordinary city and region at large.
From Nepal, return to India, and to Varanasi, situated on the West bank of the Ganges. Varanasi is also
known to Westerners as Benares, a city which has produced as many scholars as
scholarship on its status as one of the holiest cities of India.
Pilgrims flock to this city from the time of Buddha when he gave his first sermon in Sarnath in the 6th century B.C., about 10km from Varanasi, until today.
This Venice of the East is a sacred maze of meandering streets, from its
famous ghats to its temples and museums. Whoever has visited Varanasi,
will remember the beauty of the Ganges, a boat ride in the moonlight,
the sacred effervescence of temple processions, the amazing art and
craft at every corner, and of course the odd pan wallahs, wealthiest
merchants in town, selling a mixture of betel nut and spices, wrapped in
silver and sometimes in gold to chew as you walk around the city.
You then leave the west bank of the Ganges for Khajuraho (from khajura, which means date palm). Its
famous temples were built under the Chandela kings between 950 and 1050
AD. Temple construction continued until the 12th century. The temples
were not destroyed by the Muslim colonial powers for two main reasons:
the temples were lost in the jungle, but more importantly, they were no
longer attached to any important 'Hindu' patronage.
You then proceed to visit Orchha (which
means hidden), a wonderful example of a medieval fort and palace
set in a idyllic location, an island on the Betwa river. From there
visit Agra. One often reads that some monuments cannot be "avoided": this
usually means that although thousands of tourists may come to visit a
specific place, one still needs to see it for oneself. The Taj
Mahal is one of these monuments, too famous and extraordinary not to be
visited at least once in one's lifetime. This luminescent building, a
16th Century Mughal architectural extravagance towers above a
number of other important monuments in Agra, such as the Red Fort or
Akbar's tomb in Mathura.
After staying and visiting Jaipur, then
Jodhpur and Udaipur, the tour ends in Mumbai.
Click on the Map above for an