X close menu

Textiles, Culture & the Raj

Tours
Textiles, Culture & the Raj
DATES

13 Sep 2020 - 30 Sep 2020


RATES
from NZD$12900 per person
Single rate from NZD$16500

Hover over rates for other currencies.

*Rates are per person based on Twin Share or Single Room.
*Prices are subject to change until paid in full as based on the USD.
*A 'Willing to Share' may be possible on this tour. Please enquire. 
*This Tour departs with a minimum of 8 Guests.
*Domestic flights are included but are subject to change until ticketing
*International flights are not included. PLEASE ASK FOR A QUOTE
*Insurance is mandatory for this tour. PLEASE ASK FOR A QUOTE


Textiles, Culture & the Raj Textiles, Culture & the Raj Textiles, Culture & the Raj
Textiles, Culture & the Raj

TEXTILES, CULTURE & THE RAJ 

 

Culture, architecture, textiles and cuisine are all part of this extraordinary tour; a 17-day exploration of one of the most fascinating countries on earth. A luxury tour that showcases the very best of India through its history, culture and exquisite textiles....This tour will captivate the senses...

This is a tour for those who truly want to immerse themselves into the long-held traditions of India: its storytelling, its weavers and textiles, its spirituality, and its many different cultures.  

Start in the incredible city of Kolkata enjoying exclusive experiences including lunch in the home of an interior designer and art consultant; explore the textile industry with a local expert focusing on batik and Kantha embroidery as well as dipping into some delicious dining. In Varanasi experience the creation of famous silk brocades and textiles produced by local weavers. Experience the Ganges in the evening and at sunrise and explore the city's culture through its food and design. 

Fly to Agra and visit the exquisite Taj Mahal and Agra Fort and explore city on foot; then to Lucknow to explore incredible architecture and discover some very famous designers. Head to Shimla to explore the romance and turmoil of the time of the British Raj.

This is a tour that will absolutely delight the senses.

Tour Overview
Duration
18 Days - SEPTEMBER 2020
Start Point
Kolkota
Finish Point
Delhi
Tour Style
Hosted Tour
Accommodation
Boutique Accommodation & Hotels
Meals
As per itinerary
Transport
Private Transfers, Domestic Flights
Max Group Size
Min 8 Guests, Max 12 Guests
Tour Inclusions
  • Hosted ex Kolkota by Donna Hipgrave
  • 3 nights luxury accommodation in a Deluxe room, Oberoi Grand Kolkata
  • 3 nights luxury accommodation in a Nadidhara room, Brijrama Palace Varanasi
  • 2 nights luxury accommodation in a Deluxe garden view room, Trident Hotel Agra
  • 3 nights luxury accommodation in a Residency Room, Lebua Lodge Lucknow
  • 2 nights luxury accommodation in a Deluxe room, The Claridges Delhi
  • 3 nights luxury accommodation in a Deluxe room, Oberoi Cecil Shimla
  • 1 night luxury accommodation in a King room, The Andaz Delhi
  • Arrival and departure private transfers
  • Internal domestic flights in economy class including 20 kgs of baggage:  Kolkata/Varanasi/Agra - Lucknow/Delhi - Chandigarh/Delhi
  • Breakfast daily
  • 10 main meals as per the itinerary
  • Private road transport in an 18 seater air conditioned mini bus
  • Services of English speaking experts and local guides as mentioned in the itinerary
  • private tours and guided tours as per the itinerary including entry fees as required
  • All current applicable government taxes and surcharges
Tour Highlights
  • Storytelling of the Raj with our own private historian
  • Access to the private home of an artist, filmaker extraordinaire
  • Fashion trunk show with local designers
  • Access to exquisite textiles, silks and fabrics, whilst meeting the weavers & creators
  • Private guided tours covering heritage, food and architecture
  • Private access only experiences (think fashion trunk-show)
  • The Taj Mahal
  • Boutiques & bustling bazaars

  • Exquisite Palaces & Forts

  • Boutique & Heritage accommodation

  • Small group of likeminded women

Tour Itinerary

Open all
Day 1 - Arrive Kolkota - Indian Delight
View

Arrival in Kolkota. You will be met on arrival by your private transfer and whisked to your lovely hotel, The Oberoi Grand. 

Donna Hipgrave, your Host for the Tour, will be there to meet you on arrival. 

Check-in relax and catch up with your travel companions this evening over a welcome drink.

Overnight:  The Oberoi Grand

Day 2 - Kolkota - History, Flowers & Art
View

This morning after a leisurely breakfast, you visit the "The Victoria Memorial" which houses a permanent collection of art and a well laid-out Calcutta Gallery, telling the history of the city. You will also spend time with your guide in the Marble Palace and the local Flower Market...

Your afternoon is at leisure to either kick back and enjoy your hotel or head out for an explore.

This evening enjoy dinner at Bomti Iyengar’s art filled home, where you welcome dinner will be a Bengali meal.

Overnight: The Oberoi Grand (B / D) 

Day 3 - Kolkota - Textiles Galore
View

Today you enjoy a full day tour with a Textile expert. On this tour you will see different textiles from West Bengal and learn about the stories behind each of these skills.

“Batik”- Batik is an ancient art which uses wax and dyes to create a visual magic on fabrics.  It is believed that the term is a derivation from the word `Ambatik’ which when translated literally stands for a piece of cloth with small dots or writing with wax or drawing in broken lines.  There are varied theories about the place and period of origin of Batik. In India, the roots of Batik can be traced to the 1st century AD. Traditionally, the Khatri community of Gujarat were the only set of artisans for this art. Over a period, Batik was relegated to the background in India. However, in the 20th century, Batik was introduced as part of the syllabus in the University of Shanti Niketan – Kolkata. Thereon, the resurgence of Batik began.

Kantha Embroidery - Kantha, a popular style of embroidery that comes from West Bengal, is a significant symbol that displays the skill and talent of the rural women in Bengal. This is perhaps the oldest forms of Indian embroidery as it can be traced back to the first and second centuries A.D. The thought behind this needlework was to reuse old clothes and materials and turn them into something new. This is what makes kantha embroidery only one of its kind. Traditionally this embroidery was used for quilts, dhotis and sarees, but over a period it has evolved and made its way right into the heart of Indian fashion.

After a Local lunch, continue your textile tour by visiting ‘Dakshinapan”. This is an open-air shopping complex where you can find textiles and Indian handicrafts from all over India. Here you will also be shown the various types Bengal handloom saris.

Rest of day and evening at leisure.

Overnight:  The Oberoi Grand (B / L) 

Day 4 - Varanasi
View

After an early breakfast, check out and head to the airport for your morning flight to Varanasi.

On arrival you have a private transfer to your hotel, Brijrama Palace.

Enjoy exploring your hotel and surrounds during the afternoon at leisure.

This evening enjoy an evening boat ride at sunset on the Ganges and witness the activities by the river side watching the cremation at Manikarnika Ghat from the boat. Finally stop at Dasaswamedh Ghat to enjoy the Ganga Aarti ceremony from your private boat.

Dinner at leisure.

Overnight: Brijrama Palace (B)

Day 5 - Varanasi - Weavers District & Markets
View

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then it is time for to head out for the morning.

This morning you will walk through the weaver’s district of Varanasi and learn about the life of the weavers and the process of hand weaving of the famous silk brocades and Banarasi sari. This also means you will visit a few private residences of the weavers and get an opportunity to interact with them and gain a better understanding of their daily life.

Lunch is at leisure and then later this afternoon you will be taken to a wholesale market for textiles where you will have time for shopping and see the huge variety of fabrics and textiles that are produced here.

Overnight: Brijrama Palace (B)

Day 6 - Varanasi - Sunrise, Buddha at Sarnath & Foodie Heaven
View

This morning you have a very early start with a return to the river at sunrise, when the banks are alive with the multitude of worshippers who come to immerse themselves honouring life’s milestones as they face the rising run. This worship form is better known as “Surya Namaskar” which translates into paying homage to the sun god. And it is not through the formal acts of ritual, but through the most ordinary gestures of the riverside and marketplace that you will witness the charged, heightened drama of life in Varanasi.

Explore the maze of Varanasi’s by-lanes, trading bazaars and living temples before returning to the hotel for breakfast.

You then drive to Sarnath and visit the buried site of Sarnath, where the Buddha arrived after attaining `sambodhi’ (enlightenment) and preached his first sermon - All is Sorrow. This is known in the Buddhist world as the turning of the religious wheel (Dharma-Chakra Pravartana).  Sarnath remained an active centre of Buddhism up to the end of the twelfth century. Centres of learning arose, and many sects and sub-sects flourished here until it was plundered and raised to the ground. Visit the excavated ruins, museum and the temple.

Lunch at leisure. This afternoon poses a great opportunity for rest before this evening's activity.

Late afternoon head out for ‘Flavours of Varanasi’ where you experience the city while walking soaking up the colours, sounds, sights, aromas and tastes. Banaras offers you the best of history coupled with the best in cuisine as well. The streets have a wide range of eateries all offering delectably scrumptious food that is sure to suit every appetite. You can indulge in some great street foods served in any of the major bazaars and streets of old Banaras. Indulge in the delicious local food of Varanasi, like Chat, Mallaiyo, Lassi, Thandai, Banarsi Pan, and more. You are taken to 5-6 food joints which are very popular with the locals and offer a wide variety of food & beverages. After the street food visit one of the best restaurants for the main course dinner.

Overnight: Brijrama Palace (B / D)

Day 7 - Agra
View

Post breakfast, we check out and transfer to the airport to board flight to Agra.On arrival, we will transfer to our hotel, Trident Agra.

This evening enjoy the ‘Colonial Walk', which is about the city’s Colonial architecture and heritage monuments. The walking tour highlights the vast range of architectural styles, planning elements and ornamental details, tracing the social and cultural history of the city.  The tour takes about 2 hours, and after we are dropped to Amar Niwas, where we will enjoy some refreshments with the fab JP Singh, who is the author of The Colonial Face of the United Province.  He loves sharing his knowledge of the British Raj, and some of the wonderful stories from his Grandfather's past. 

Overnight: The Trident (B)

Day 8 - Taj Mahal & Agra Fort
View

Post breakfast you will finally get to see the beautiful and iconic Taj Mahal, considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage.“ It is breath taking and photos really do not do this divine structure justice at all.  A true treat in every sense of the word.

Then you head to Agra Fort. Near the gardens of the Taj Mahal stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers.  It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques.

Later there is an option to visit the Carpet making, Zardozi and time permitting a marble inlay company to see the incredible ancient art of inlaying precious and semi-precious stones in marble by skilled artisans.

Dinner at leisure. 

Overnight: The Trident (B)

Day 9 - Lucknow - Film & Fashion
View

After checking out of the hotel you have a 5 odd hour drive to transfer to your hotel, The Lebua in Lucknow.

After freshening up at the hotel, you visit Kotwara House. Kotwara House in Kaiserbagh is the abode of the legendary film maker, fashion designer, painter and poet, Muzaffar & Meera Ali (a couple with many feathers in their cap of creativity). Their Lucknow house is in the area of the palace complex of Kaiserbagh and the very aura, interiors and artefacts that adorn their living space are no less than a living museum. You will have access to the living spaces of the house to understand how this creative couple live, work and eat. Enjoy a great evening seeing their collection and the workshop of Chikan, Zari and Mukaesh with an opportunity to interact with the artisans at work. Also enjoy a short dance clip from Muzzafar’s landmark films including Umrao Jaan or watch a documentary on Chikan & Zari Embroidery.

Dinner is at leisure.

Overnight: The Lebua (B)

Day 10 - Lucknow - Architecture, Fashion & Heritage
View

This morning you enjoy a city tour where you will visit the world’s most unique architecture, 'Asifi Imambara'. This monument was built as a relief measure for a devastating famine, in order to provide employment to the subjects of the state by Nawab Asif-ud-Daula'. This is the world’s biggest hall that is devoid of any pillar support, wood, iron beams or concrete walls. Salute the “Nawab” (Prince) lying in peace inside and proceed to see his noble work. We will also see the 'Rumi Darwaza' or the Turkish Gate and the Asfi Mosque.

You visit the Husainabad Complex.  The Clock Tower is the highest Clock Tower in Asia and in some ways superior to its counterpart, 'Big Ben'.  Today the clock stands motionless but has witnessed all of our times, the good, the bad and the ugly. Then enter the Babylon of East, The Husainabad Imambara, known for its beauty and pieces of décor. This was built in 1840 by Mohammad Ali Shah and is still considered to be a sacred address by the locals. You will also see the Satkhanda that stands as Lucknow’s incomplete leaning tower of Pisa.

After the city tour, enjoy a Chikan & Zardozi workshop to understand this art form, and then visit ace designer couple Masood & Almas (Almasood Label) who will show case their work in a trunk-show and show us the current work that their craftsmen are doing.

The afternoon is at leisure and this evening enjoy a Heritage Walk. You will reach 'Chowk' the oldest market place of Lucknow to appreciate the unique crafts of this Nawabi City. We walk in the by-lane of Chowk called ‘Gol Darwaza’ – a place that was once a seat of numerous ‘Kothas’ (small entertainment studios where girls performed in the evenings) and is now a market place that is known to house the best of handicrafts and Chikan work. This walk will showcase the culture of this fabled city and take you into the bygone era.

Overnight: The Lebua (B)

Day 11 - La Martiniere & Foodie Time
View

Post breakfast this morning you visit the architectural marvel, La Martiniere School which was designed by the Frenchman Major-General Claude Martin as a palatial home. Even to this day, Claude Martin is a revered personality in the city of Lucknow.

The afternoon is then at leisure and this evening enjoy a 'Culinary Walk'. Lucknow as a city has carved a niche by attracting gastronomes, who are discovering and re-discovering the Awadhi Cuisine. Take an evening walk and hop-in, hop-out of the traditional roadside eateries, trying the best that is on the menu.

Overnight: The Lebua (B / D)

Day 12 - Delhi
View

This morning after a leisurely breakfast you transfer to the airport to board your flight to Delhi.

On arrival check in to your beautiful hotel, The Claridges. The rest of the evening is at leisure.

Overnight: The Claridges (B)

Day 13 - Delhi - Sanskrit & Designers
View

Start the day with your expert visiting the Sanskriti Museum exploring its stunning collection of textiles and terracotta, and the smattering of arts and crafts strewn around. The textile museum at Sanskriti Kendra is a personal collection of a range of traditional Indian textiles – from Phulkari, Ikats to Indian brocades. You will be given an over-arching view of textiles from different Indian regions, along with the socio-cultural contexts of their manufacture and development.

You then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

This afternoon walk with your expert into the designers' district of Shahpur Jat where you will meet more designers and experience their work at their studios. Enjoy some time for shopping and then back to your hotel for the rest of the evening.

Overnight: The Claridges (B / L)

Day 14 - Shimla
View

After breakfast you transfer to the railway station to board your train to Kalka (Kalka Shatabdi).

On arrival in Kalka, board the Toy Train (Himalayan Queen) for Shimla. On this train journey you will be joined by a historian, Raaja Bhasin, who is an author and contributed in the making on famous TV series “Indian Summer”. He has many stories to tell on the journey.

On arrival in Shimla, transfer to hotel The Oberoi Cecil. Evening at leisure.

Overnight: The Oberoi Cecil (B / Packed Lunch)

Day 15 - Shimla
View

Today is at leisure for you to make your own memories in the beautiful city of Shimla. We can assist with tours or things you would like to do.  Perhaps spoil yourself at the spa and just spend time enjoying your surrounds.

How about an optional lunch at The Oberoi Wildflower Hall? 

Overnight: The Oberoi Cecil (B)

Day 16 - Shimla - Storytelling
View

Today, Raaja Bhasin will lead the day tour, bringing the city to life through his charismatic stories.

Visit and walk through the Himalayan Arboretum near Summerhill.  After that visit the Sankat Mochan temple and later walk or drive up to the Tara Devi Temple.

Post lunch visit the State Museum.

Then enjoy your Farewell Dinner at The Cecil.

Overnight: The Oberoi Cecil (B / Farewell Dinner)

Day 17 - Delhi
View

It is time to return to Delhi to begin your journey home as all good things must come to an end...

Post breakfast you drive to Chandigarh airport to board a flight to Delhi and then transfer to the Andaz Aerocity.  The evening is at leisure and for those in the mood you can meet for last night drinks to share your trip memories.

Overnight: Andaz Aerocity (B / Packed Lunch)

Day 18 - Farewell
View

Time to say farewell and transfer to the airport for departure. (B)

About this tour

Donna Hipgrave, Tour Host - Donna has an unending passion for travel and the ability to make the most of any opportunity that comes her way. Donna has passion for India and Sri Lanka that knows no bounds, and she has a keen interest in art and architecture.  When travelling she is committed to finding and sharing authentic experiences in each place visited whether it is a delicious meal in a private home or a dinner on the rooftop of the Jodphur Fort. Her love of caring for others ensures she is a wonderful tour leader, making sure that everyone is cared for from start to finish.

Food: Indian food is world-renowned for its tantalising flavours, spiciness and enormous variety. Many of the spices we now take for granted – pepper, cardamom and turmeric hail from India’s plains and jungles. The flavour of each Indian dish is a carefully judged balance of herbs, seasonings and spices, and each cook carefully maintains their own recipe for garum masala – literally ‘hot mix’. Rice is the foundation stone of Indian cooking, but you’ll also find many kinds of bread, from light, flat chapattis to fat, roasted naan. As often as not, Indian meals are served as thalis, with rice, sabzi (vegetables), soups, and side orders, all served on a single plate. The north of India specialises in meaty stews and kebabs, while the south favours highly spiced vegetarian curries and dosas (rice-flour pancakes).

Respect Cultural Differences: Things are done differently in Asia, and India is no exception. Please make sure in your dealings with local people you accept these differences. As a traveller you should keep as calm, cheerful and friendly as humanly possible. Patience and courtesy are virtues that open many doors in India!  Demanding tourists do not get smiles, service or respect.

Environmental Responsibility: Pollution and waste management is a huge problem throughout the world. Unfortunately in many parts of India, disposal systems are inadequate and recycling of plastics is limited. We suggest avoiding plastic packaging where possible and take along your own bag when shopping. Plastic bags will be offered for everything. Collect and dispose in the next town. The law protects certain endangered species of flora & fauna. Export & in even possession of these species as well as of wild animals, birds, reptiles etc., is illegal. The production and sale of items made from wild animals and reptiles, e.g.: Leopard skins, crocodile skins, elephant tusks etc., is also illegal. 

Practicalities

Weather: The weather in India varies dramatically. While the southern tip of the India is being lashed by tropical monsoon rain, the north will be blanketed in thick snow. Therefore, the best time to travel to India depends greatly on the destinations to be visited and the climate experienced there. Indian weather itself is divided into three distinct seasons - winter, summer, and the monsoon. India starts heating up from around the end of February, first in the northern plains and then the rest of the country. By April, many places are experience daily temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit).

Currency & Tipping: Rupee (INR; symbol Rs) = 100 paise. Notes are in denominations of Rs1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of Rs5, 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 20, 10 and 5 paise. Note: The import and export of local currency is prohibited. Sometimes smaller vendors will not take bills larger than Rs 500. It is best to carry a range of rupee notes if you are shopping at bazaars and local markets. 
Tipping is part of the culture in many countries in the world including India, but it is often tricky for particularly New Zealanders to get our heads around. 10 to 15% is usual in restaurants that impose no service fee; optional where service fee is added to bill. 

Credit Cards: Credit Cards are widely used and accepted by local establishments (even in small towns). The most widely used card types are Visa and MasterCard, with Amex to a lesser extent. It would be a convenient option to use your Credit Card (valid for international use) whenever possible.

ATM's: ATM's are available in most main cities. You can take cash against Visa / Mastercard in most ATM'S. However, as different banks accept different cards, we advice you ensure that your card is valid for use in Italy by contacting your bank. Watch out for the Maestro or Cirrus logo.

The facts

Visas: Most nationalities require a passport & Visa for India. Details on how to apply for an Indian Visa will be provided. A Tourist Visa is currently USD$60

Safe Travel: Dress appropriately for the places you are visiting on any given day and on the whole a conservative approach is best – and decent covered in shoes when we are visiting areas like Old Delhi. While not strictly the oldest part of Delhi, it was founded in 1639 and has every infrastructure issue imaginable of a densely populated old city.


Not Included:

  • International Airfares - PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE
  • Travel Insurance - PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE
  • Local Airport taxes or excess luggage
  • Transfers unless with the group
  • Items of a personal nature & phone calls
  • Indian Tourist Visa
  • Laundry & Personal Tips
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Beverages unless specifically described. 
  • Optional excursions or activities that may be offered.
Travel advice / FCO

We constantly monitor the advice posted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any of the places visited on this tour. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns. Furthermore, you should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.

DATES

13 Sep 2020 - 30 Sep 2020


RATES
from NZD$12900 per person
Single rate from NZD$16500

Hover over rates for other currencies.

*Rates are per person based on Twin Share or Single Room.
*Prices are subject to change until paid in full as based on the USD.
*A 'Willing to Share' may be possible on this tour. Please enquire. 
*This Tour departs with a minimum of 8 Guests.
*Domestic flights are included but are subject to change until ticketing
*International flights are not included. PLEASE ASK FOR A QUOTE
*Insurance is mandatory for this tour. PLEASE ASK FOR A QUOTE


Tour Itinerary
Day 1 - Arrive Kolkota - Indian Delight

Arrival in Kolkota. You will be met on arrival by your private transfer and whisked to your lovely hotel, The Oberoi Grand. 

Donna Hipgrave, your Host for the Tour, will be there to meet you on arrival. 

Check-in relax and catch up with your travel companions this evening over a welcome drink.

Overnight:  The Oberoi Grand

Day 2 - Kolkota - History, Flowers & Art

This morning after a leisurely breakfast, you visit the "The Victoria Memorial" which houses a permanent collection of art and a well laid-out Calcutta Gallery, telling the history of the city. You will also spend time with your guide in the Marble Palace and the local Flower Market...

Your afternoon is at leisure to either kick back and enjoy your hotel or head out for an explore.

This evening enjoy dinner at Bomti Iyengar’s art filled home, where you welcome dinner will be a Bengali meal.

Overnight: The Oberoi Grand (B / D) 

Day 3 - Kolkota - Textiles Galore

Today you enjoy a full day tour with a Textile expert. On this tour you will see different textiles from West Bengal and learn about the stories behind each of these skills.

“Batik”- Batik is an ancient art which uses wax and dyes to create a visual magic on fabrics.  It is believed that the term is a derivation from the word `Ambatik’ which when translated literally stands for a piece of cloth with small dots or writing with wax or drawing in broken lines.  There are varied theories about the place and period of origin of Batik. In India, the roots of Batik can be traced to the 1st century AD. Traditionally, the Khatri community of Gujarat were the only set of artisans for this art. Over a period, Batik was relegated to the background in India. However, in the 20th century, Batik was introduced as part of the syllabus in the University of Shanti Niketan – Kolkata. Thereon, the resurgence of Batik began.

Kantha Embroidery - Kantha, a popular style of embroidery that comes from West Bengal, is a significant symbol that displays the skill and talent of the rural women in Bengal. This is perhaps the oldest forms of Indian embroidery as it can be traced back to the first and second centuries A.D. The thought behind this needlework was to reuse old clothes and materials and turn them into something new. This is what makes kantha embroidery only one of its kind. Traditionally this embroidery was used for quilts, dhotis and sarees, but over a period it has evolved and made its way right into the heart of Indian fashion.

After a Local lunch, continue your textile tour by visiting ‘Dakshinapan”. This is an open-air shopping complex where you can find textiles and Indian handicrafts from all over India. Here you will also be shown the various types Bengal handloom saris.

Rest of day and evening at leisure.

Overnight:  The Oberoi Grand (B / L) 

Day 4 - Varanasi

After an early breakfast, check out and head to the airport for your morning flight to Varanasi.

On arrival you have a private transfer to your hotel, Brijrama Palace.

Enjoy exploring your hotel and surrounds during the afternoon at leisure.

This evening enjoy an evening boat ride at sunset on the Ganges and witness the activities by the river side watching the cremation at Manikarnika Ghat from the boat. Finally stop at Dasaswamedh Ghat to enjoy the Ganga Aarti ceremony from your private boat.

Dinner at leisure.

Overnight: Brijrama Palace (B)

Day 5 - Varanasi - Weavers District & Markets

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and then it is time for to head out for the morning.

This morning you will walk through the weaver’s district of Varanasi and learn about the life of the weavers and the process of hand weaving of the famous silk brocades and Banarasi sari. This also means you will visit a few private residences of the weavers and get an opportunity to interact with them and gain a better understanding of their daily life.

Lunch is at leisure and then later this afternoon you will be taken to a wholesale market for textiles where you will have time for shopping and see the huge variety of fabrics and textiles that are produced here.

Overnight: Brijrama Palace (B)

Day 6 - Varanasi - Sunrise, Buddha at Sarnath & Foodie Heaven

This morning you have a very early start with a return to the river at sunrise, when the banks are alive with the multitude of worshippers who come to immerse themselves honouring life’s milestones as they face the rising run. This worship form is better known as “Surya Namaskar” which translates into paying homage to the sun god. And it is not through the formal acts of ritual, but through the most ordinary gestures of the riverside and marketplace that you will witness the charged, heightened drama of life in Varanasi.

Explore the maze of Varanasi’s by-lanes, trading bazaars and living temples before returning to the hotel for breakfast.

You then drive to Sarnath and visit the buried site of Sarnath, where the Buddha arrived after attaining `sambodhi’ (enlightenment) and preached his first sermon - All is Sorrow. This is known in the Buddhist world as the turning of the religious wheel (Dharma-Chakra Pravartana).  Sarnath remained an active centre of Buddhism up to the end of the twelfth century. Centres of learning arose, and many sects and sub-sects flourished here until it was plundered and raised to the ground. Visit the excavated ruins, museum and the temple.

Lunch at leisure. This afternoon poses a great opportunity for rest before this evening's activity.

Late afternoon head out for ‘Flavours of Varanasi’ where you experience the city while walking soaking up the colours, sounds, sights, aromas and tastes. Banaras offers you the best of history coupled with the best in cuisine as well. The streets have a wide range of eateries all offering delectably scrumptious food that is sure to suit every appetite. You can indulge in some great street foods served in any of the major bazaars and streets of old Banaras. Indulge in the delicious local food of Varanasi, like Chat, Mallaiyo, Lassi, Thandai, Banarsi Pan, and more. You are taken to 5-6 food joints which are very popular with the locals and offer a wide variety of food & beverages. After the street food visit one of the best restaurants for the main course dinner.

Overnight: Brijrama Palace (B / D)

Day 7 - Agra

Post breakfast, we check out and transfer to the airport to board flight to Agra.On arrival, we will transfer to our hotel, Trident Agra.

This evening enjoy the ‘Colonial Walk', which is about the city’s Colonial architecture and heritage monuments. The walking tour highlights the vast range of architectural styles, planning elements and ornamental details, tracing the social and cultural history of the city.  The tour takes about 2 hours, and after we are dropped to Amar Niwas, where we will enjoy some refreshments with the fab JP Singh, who is the author of The Colonial Face of the United Province.  He loves sharing his knowledge of the British Raj, and some of the wonderful stories from his Grandfather's past. 

Overnight: The Trident (B)

Day 8 - Taj Mahal & Agra Fort

Post breakfast you will finally get to see the beautiful and iconic Taj Mahal, considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage.“ It is breath taking and photos really do not do this divine structure justice at all.  A true treat in every sense of the word.

Then you head to Agra Fort. Near the gardens of the Taj Mahal stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers.  It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques.

Later there is an option to visit the Carpet making, Zardozi and time permitting a marble inlay company to see the incredible ancient art of inlaying precious and semi-precious stones in marble by skilled artisans.

Dinner at leisure. 

Overnight: The Trident (B)

Day 9 - Lucknow - Film & Fashion

After checking out of the hotel you have a 5 odd hour drive to transfer to your hotel, The Lebua in Lucknow.

After freshening up at the hotel, you visit Kotwara House. Kotwara House in Kaiserbagh is the abode of the legendary film maker, fashion designer, painter and poet, Muzaffar & Meera Ali (a couple with many feathers in their cap of creativity). Their Lucknow house is in the area of the palace complex of Kaiserbagh and the very aura, interiors and artefacts that adorn their living space are no less than a living museum. You will have access to the living spaces of the house to understand how this creative couple live, work and eat. Enjoy a great evening seeing their collection and the workshop of Chikan, Zari and Mukaesh with an opportunity to interact with the artisans at work. Also enjoy a short dance clip from Muzzafar’s landmark films including Umrao Jaan or watch a documentary on Chikan & Zari Embroidery.

Dinner is at leisure.

Overnight: The Lebua (B)

Day 10 - Lucknow - Architecture, Fashion & Heritage

This morning you enjoy a city tour where you will visit the world’s most unique architecture, 'Asifi Imambara'. This monument was built as a relief measure for a devastating famine, in order to provide employment to the subjects of the state by Nawab Asif-ud-Daula'. This is the world’s biggest hall that is devoid of any pillar support, wood, iron beams or concrete walls. Salute the “Nawab” (Prince) lying in peace inside and proceed to see his noble work. We will also see the 'Rumi Darwaza' or the Turkish Gate and the Asfi Mosque.

You visit the Husainabad Complex.  The Clock Tower is the highest Clock Tower in Asia and in some ways superior to its counterpart, 'Big Ben'.  Today the clock stands motionless but has witnessed all of our times, the good, the bad and the ugly. Then enter the Babylon of East, The Husainabad Imambara, known for its beauty and pieces of décor. This was built in 1840 by Mohammad Ali Shah and is still considered to be a sacred address by the locals. You will also see the Satkhanda that stands as Lucknow’s incomplete leaning tower of Pisa.

After the city tour, enjoy a Chikan & Zardozi workshop to understand this art form, and then visit ace designer couple Masood & Almas (Almasood Label) who will show case their work in a trunk-show and show us the current work that their craftsmen are doing.

The afternoon is at leisure and this evening enjoy a Heritage Walk. You will reach 'Chowk' the oldest market place of Lucknow to appreciate the unique crafts of this Nawabi City. We walk in the by-lane of Chowk called ‘Gol Darwaza’ – a place that was once a seat of numerous ‘Kothas’ (small entertainment studios where girls performed in the evenings) and is now a market place that is known to house the best of handicrafts and Chikan work. This walk will showcase the culture of this fabled city and take you into the bygone era.

Overnight: The Lebua (B)

Day 11 - La Martiniere & Foodie Time

Post breakfast this morning you visit the architectural marvel, La Martiniere School which was designed by the Frenchman Major-General Claude Martin as a palatial home. Even to this day, Claude Martin is a revered personality in the city of Lucknow.

The afternoon is then at leisure and this evening enjoy a 'Culinary Walk'. Lucknow as a city has carved a niche by attracting gastronomes, who are discovering and re-discovering the Awadhi Cuisine. Take an evening walk and hop-in, hop-out of the traditional roadside eateries, trying the best that is on the menu.

Overnight: The Lebua (B / D)

Day 12 - Delhi

This morning after a leisurely breakfast you transfer to the airport to board your flight to Delhi.

On arrival check in to your beautiful hotel, The Claridges. The rest of the evening is at leisure.

Overnight: The Claridges (B)

Day 13 - Delhi - Sanskrit & Designers

Start the day with your expert visiting the Sanskriti Museum exploring its stunning collection of textiles and terracotta, and the smattering of arts and crafts strewn around. The textile museum at Sanskriti Kendra is a personal collection of a range of traditional Indian textiles – from Phulkari, Ikats to Indian brocades. You will be given an over-arching view of textiles from different Indian regions, along with the socio-cultural contexts of their manufacture and development.

You then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

This afternoon walk with your expert into the designers' district of Shahpur Jat where you will meet more designers and experience their work at their studios. Enjoy some time for shopping and then back to your hotel for the rest of the evening.

Overnight: The Claridges (B / L)

Day 14 - Shimla

After breakfast you transfer to the railway station to board your train to Kalka (Kalka Shatabdi).

On arrival in Kalka, board the Toy Train (Himalayan Queen) for Shimla. On this train journey you will be joined by a historian, Raaja Bhasin, who is an author and contributed in the making on famous TV series “Indian Summer”. He has many stories to tell on the journey.

On arrival in Shimla, transfer to hotel The Oberoi Cecil. Evening at leisure.

Overnight: The Oberoi Cecil (B / Packed Lunch)

Day 15 - Shimla

Today is at leisure for you to make your own memories in the beautiful city of Shimla. We can assist with tours or things you would like to do.  Perhaps spoil yourself at the spa and just spend time enjoying your surrounds.

How about an optional lunch at The Oberoi Wildflower Hall? 

Overnight: The Oberoi Cecil (B)

Day 16 - Shimla - Storytelling

Today, Raaja Bhasin will lead the day tour, bringing the city to life through his charismatic stories.

Visit and walk through the Himalayan Arboretum near Summerhill.  After that visit the Sankat Mochan temple and later walk or drive up to the Tara Devi Temple.

Post lunch visit the State Museum.

Then enjoy your Farewell Dinner at The Cecil.

Overnight: The Oberoi Cecil (B / Farewell Dinner)

Day 17 - Delhi

It is time to return to Delhi to begin your journey home as all good things must come to an end...

Post breakfast you drive to Chandigarh airport to board a flight to Delhi and then transfer to the Andaz Aerocity.  The evening is at leisure and for those in the mood you can meet for last night drinks to share your trip memories.

Overnight: Andaz Aerocity (B / Packed Lunch)

Day 18 - Farewell

Time to say farewell and transfer to the airport for departure. (B)

About this tour

Donna Hipgrave, Tour Host - Donna has an unending passion for travel and the ability to make the most of any opportunity that comes her way. Donna has passion for India and Sri Lanka that knows no bounds, and she has a keen interest in art and architecture.  When travelling she is committed to finding and sharing authentic experiences in each place visited whether it is a delicious meal in a private home or a dinner on the rooftop of the Jodphur Fort. Her love of caring for others ensures she is a wonderful tour leader, making sure that everyone is cared for from start to finish.

Food: Indian food is world-renowned for its tantalising flavours, spiciness and enormous variety. Many of the spices we now take for granted – pepper, cardamom and turmeric hail from India’s plains and jungles. The flavour of each Indian dish is a carefully judged balance of herbs, seasonings and spices, and each cook carefully maintains their own recipe for garum masala – literally ‘hot mix’. Rice is the foundation stone of Indian cooking, but you’ll also find many kinds of bread, from light, flat chapattis to fat, roasted naan. As often as not, Indian meals are served as thalis, with rice, sabzi (vegetables), soups, and side orders, all served on a single plate. The north of India specialises in meaty stews and kebabs, while the south favours highly spiced vegetarian curries and dosas (rice-flour pancakes).

Respect Cultural Differences: Things are done differently in Asia, and India is no exception. Please make sure in your dealings with local people you accept these differences. As a traveller you should keep as calm, cheerful and friendly as humanly possible. Patience and courtesy are virtues that open many doors in India!  Demanding tourists do not get smiles, service or respect.

Environmental Responsibility: Pollution and waste management is a huge problem throughout the world. Unfortunately in many parts of India, disposal systems are inadequate and recycling of plastics is limited. We suggest avoiding plastic packaging where possible and take along your own bag when shopping. Plastic bags will be offered for everything. Collect and dispose in the next town. The law protects certain endangered species of flora & fauna. Export & in even possession of these species as well as of wild animals, birds, reptiles etc., is illegal. The production and sale of items made from wild animals and reptiles, e.g.: Leopard skins, crocodile skins, elephant tusks etc., is also illegal. 

Practicalities

Weather: The weather in India varies dramatically. While the southern tip of the India is being lashed by tropical monsoon rain, the north will be blanketed in thick snow. Therefore, the best time to travel to India depends greatly on the destinations to be visited and the climate experienced there. Indian weather itself is divided into three distinct seasons - winter, summer, and the monsoon. India starts heating up from around the end of February, first in the northern plains and then the rest of the country. By April, many places are experience daily temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (105 degrees Fahrenheit).

Currency & Tipping: Rupee (INR; symbol Rs) = 100 paise. Notes are in denominations of Rs1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of Rs5, 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 20, 10 and 5 paise. Note: The import and export of local currency is prohibited. Sometimes smaller vendors will not take bills larger than Rs 500. It is best to carry a range of rupee notes if you are shopping at bazaars and local markets. 
Tipping is part of the culture in many countries in the world including India, but it is often tricky for particularly New Zealanders to get our heads around. 10 to 15% is usual in restaurants that impose no service fee; optional where service fee is added to bill. 

Credit Cards: Credit Cards are widely used and accepted by local establishments (even in small towns). The most widely used card types are Visa and MasterCard, with Amex to a lesser extent. It would be a convenient option to use your Credit Card (valid for international use) whenever possible.

ATM's: ATM's are available in most main cities. You can take cash against Visa / Mastercard in most ATM'S. However, as different banks accept different cards, we advice you ensure that your card is valid for use in Italy by contacting your bank. Watch out for the Maestro or Cirrus logo.

The facts

Visas: Most nationalities require a passport & Visa for India. Details on how to apply for an Indian Visa will be provided. A Tourist Visa is currently USD$60

Safe Travel: Dress appropriately for the places you are visiting on any given day and on the whole a conservative approach is best – and decent covered in shoes when we are visiting areas like Old Delhi. While not strictly the oldest part of Delhi, it was founded in 1639 and has every infrastructure issue imaginable of a densely populated old city.


Not Included:

  • International Airfares - PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE
  • Travel Insurance - PLEASE ASK US FOR A QUOTE
  • Local Airport taxes or excess luggage
  • Transfers unless with the group
  • Items of a personal nature & phone calls
  • Indian Tourist Visa
  • Laundry & Personal Tips
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Beverages unless specifically described. 
  • Optional excursions or activities that may be offered.
Travel advice / FCO

We constantly monitor the advice posted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In particular we will always advise clients of any travel warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any of the places visited on this tour. Please feel free to contact us should you have any specific concerns. Furthermore, you should be aware that any travel warnings or advisories may affect the validity of your travel insurance. Therefore, at the time of booking your tour it is essential you check any restrictions on cover with your insurance provider.