Mystical India

Mystical and spiritual, India is a land of rich contrasts. Explore its multifaceted culture as you travel through the classic Golden Triangle and east to Varanasi, stopping in Kalakho where local Meena tribespeople invite you into their homes.

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 The Taj Mahal, Agra, India  Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque, located in Delhi  Qutab Minar, India's tallest minaret, Delhi  Detail of stonework on the Qutab Minar minaret, Delhi  The Amber Palace, overlooking Jaipur  Detail of archway within the Amber Palace, Jaipur  Courtyard in the City Palace Museum of Jaipur  The City Palace Museum, Jaipur  Jantar Mantar, the open-air observatory in Jaipur  The Palace of Winds in Jaipur  Sighting of a Bengal Tiger in Ranthambore National Park  A family of monkeys in Ranthambore National Park  Temple ruin in Ranthambore National Park  Women at a temple in northern India. Credit: Linda Currie  Father and son in Rajasthan. Credit: Linda Currie  The legendary Taj Mahal in Agra  Detail of inlaid stone at the Red Fort in Agra  Detail of the inlaid stonework at the Taj Mahal  Pavilion inside the Red Fort in Agra  Entrance to Agra's Red Fort, seat of Mughal power for generations  Traditional Indian market. Credit: Linda Currie  Devotees offering gifts to the Sun God in the River Ganges. Credit: Arup Halder  One of the important <i>ghats</i> or steps along the Ganges River in Varanasi

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Of all the overseas trips we've taken, this trip ranks right at the top. Smithsonian did an outstanding job of balancing sites and activities with learning. We saw and did so much but we learned even more. We'll always remember India.

Ron Z.

I have wanted to visit India all my life and, therefore, had very high expectations. This trip far exceeded all those expectations. It was everything I hoped for and more! 

Brenda S.

India is not only mystical, but it is memorable, and magic. An initial visit only whets one's desire to return to experience the unique physical and spiritual senses over and over again.

Kenneth N.

I am so happy I saw India with the Smithsonian. It has such a rich and extraordinary history, and Smithsonian was the way to go! 

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Mystical and spiritual, chaotic and confounding, India is a land rich in contrasts. Join us to explore northern India’s multifaceted culture, history, and traditions as we travel through the classic Golden Triangle and east to Varanasi.

In sprawling Delhi, tour both Old and New Delhi and ride a rickshaw through colorful Chandni Chowk market. In the “pink city” of Jaipur, marvel at historic forts, royal palaces, and gardens built by maharajas. Learn about the ancient discipline of yoga at a private demonstration and visit the nearby village of Sanganer to watch craftsmen work at traditional block printing and papermaking. During game drives in Ranthambore National Park look for Bengal tiger, monkey, langur, and exotic birds, and join a camel safari in Kalakho, where local Meena tribespeople invite you into their homes. In Agra, visit the majestic Taj Mahal and take an Indian cooking lesson. Conclude your journey in the holy city of Varanasi to witness the powerful spiritual rituals along the Ganges River.


*Please note our itinerary for our Jan-Mar, 2015 departures differs from the below itinerary. Click here to view that itinerary. 

Days 1-2 — U.S. and Delhi
Depart the U.S. for Delhi on individual flights. Upon arrival late in the evening, transfer to your hotel.

Days 3-4 — Delhi
Built by a succession of empires, Delhi is comprised of many cities. Explore both Old and New Delhi beginning with an afternoon tour of the 16th-century Tomb of Humayun, Qutab Minar, and India Gate. The next day your exploration of Old Delhi begins at the Gandhi Memorial and continues with many highlights, including Lal Qila, the Red Fort complex of palaces where we stop for photos; Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque dating to 1656; a rickshaw ride through Chandi Chowk market; a Sikh temple; and a tour of the National Museum. (2B,2D)

Day 5 — Jaipur
Travel by coach to the "pink city" of Jaipur, one of the great cities of the Rajput, with historic forts, palaces, and gardens. Upon arrival late in the afternoon, settle into your hotel, once a Maharajah's palace. (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Jaipur
Explore the city's rich history beginning with the stunning Hawa Mahal, or "Palace of the Winds", an elaborate facade of carved pink sandstone. Tour the famous Amber Fort, a Rajput capital from 1037 to 1728 and considered the pinnacle of Rajput architecture. Visit an open-air observatory, then view some of the Maharajah's magnificent art collections at the City Palace Museum. (B,L)

Day 7 — Jaipur and Sanganer
Early this morning, enjoy a traditional yoga demonstration and chanting. In the nearby village of Sanganer, learn about traditional block printing and handmade paper industries, then experience the colorful sights and sounds of a local market. Enjoy an invitation to be dinner guests in the home of a multi-generational Rajasthan family. (B,D)

Days 8-9 — Ranthambore
Once the hunting ground of the Maharajah of Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park is now a 512-square-mile nature preserve that is home to hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, mammals— and of course, the endangered Bengal tiger. Arrive in time for an afternoon game drive, and enjoy additional game drives the next day. (Tiger and leopard sightings are not guaranteed.) (2B,2L,2D)

Day 10 — Kalakho
Early today depart for Kalakho and the Dera Village Retreat. Enjoy an afternoon camel safari to meet the local Meena tribespeople in their homes. (B,L,D)

Days 11-12 — Abhaneri and Agra
Travel to the village of Abhaneri to see the fortified Chand Boari stepwell (c. 800), whose 3,500 steps descend some 13 stories into the ground. Arrive in Agra in the early afternoon. The next morning, tour the Taj Mahal, the magnificent tomb built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife. After an Indian cuisine cooking lesson and lunch, visit the imposing Agra Fort, a vast complex that served for generations as the seat of Mughal power. (2B,1L,1D)

Day 13 – Varanasi

Depart by coach this morning for Delhi, where you board a late afternoon flight to Varanasi, the holiest city in Hinduism. Dinner tonight is at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 14 – Varanasi and Sarnath

Today visit nearby Sarnath, where the Buddha first taught after achieving enlightenment. One of Buddhism’s four holiest sites, Sarnath draws pilgrims from the world over. See some of the temples and stupas then tour  Sarnath Museum, housing a superb collection of Buddhist artifacts from excavations here. Highlights include a statue of the Buddha turning the wheel of law, and the celebrated Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka, dating to 250 B.C. Back in Varanasi tonight attend a traditional aarti offering ceremony during a cruise along the Ganges. (B,L)

Day 15 – Varanasi

Early this morning return to the Ganges, where Hindu pilgrims perform their rituals along the ghats (steps) leading to the river. Visit several of the important ghats by boat as you experience the spiritual mystique of these hallowed waters. Enjoy a private Kathak dance performance, then celebrate your journey with a farewell dinner. (B,D)

Days 16-17 – Delhi and Return to the U.S.

Fly to Delhi this afternoon and depart early the next morning for the U.S. on individual flights.  (B)