Mystical and spiritual, India is a land of rich contrasts. Explore northern India's multifaceted culture, history, and traditions as you travel through the classic Golden Triangle and east to Varanasi.

Starting at: $5,887 * Includes airfare, taxes & all fees Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 The iconic Taj Mahal  Ancient stepwell near Jaipur  Detail of archway within the Amber Palace, Jaipur  The Amber Palace, overlooking Jaipur  Courtyard in the City Palace Museum of Jaipur  The City Palace Museum, Jaipur  The newly restored Palace of the Winds in Jaipur  Ancient observatory in Jaipur  Women at a temple in northern India. Credit: Linda Currie  Traditional Indian market. Credit: Linda Currie  Father and son in Rajasthan. Credit: Linda Currie  The elusive Bengal tiger, Ranthambore National Park  The Taj Mahal, Agra  Detail of inlaid stone at the Red Fort in Agra  Entrance to Agra's Red Fort, seat of Mughal power for generations  Pavilion inside the Red Fort in Agra  Detail of stonework on the Qutab Minar minaret, Delhi  Qutab Minar, India's tallest minaret, Delhi  Statue of Buddha at Sarnath, one of Buddhism's four holiest sites  The ghats along the Ganges River, Varanasi  Holy man along the Ganges River

Mystical India

The Golden Triangle and Varanasi With an Optional Extension to Nepal

17 days from $5,887 | includes airfare, taxes and all fees

Mystical and spiritual, India is a land of rich contrasts. Explore northern India's multifaceted culture, history, and traditions as you travel through the classic Golden Triangle and east to Varanasi.

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

TOUR BROCHURE

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WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

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! 

- Previous Journeys Traveler

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

See All Journeys Dispatches ››

Accommodations

* Click on hotel name to visit hotel web-site.

Taj Palace (formerly Taj Diplomatic Enclave)

Delhi, India

Surrounded by six acres of lush greenery in Delhi's Diplomatic Enclave, the Taj Palace Hotel features a contemporary décor accented by marble and brass. The 422-room hotel offers four restaurants, two bars, and a lounge; Fitness Center with Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, and spa treatments; outdoor pool; beauty salon; and laundry service. Air-conditioned guest rooms have private bath with hair dryer, in-room safe, mini-bar, Internet access, TV, and phone.

Number of nights: 3

Jai Mahal Palace

Jaipur, India

A masterpiece of Indo-Saracenic architecture, the Jai Mahal Palace is certified environmentally-friendly and the former home of maharajahs and three prime ministers of Jaipur. This 270-year-old hotel sits amidst 18 acres of beautifully landscaped Mughal gardens. Amenities include three restaurants, one bar, a bakery, and two lounges; a barber shop and beauty salon; an outdoor pool; fitness center; spa with massage treatments; billiards and game room;  complimentary WiFi internet access; and laundry service. Decorated with period furniture and Rajasthani paintings, air-conditioned guest rooms have private bath with hair dryer, tea- and coffee-making facilities, in-room safe, minibar, TV, and phone. 

Number of nights: 3

Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge

Ranthambore, India

Built in the 1930s by Indian royalty, the Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge is located just a short distance from Ranthambore National Park. The rustic-style lodge offers a restaurant and bar, croquet, badminton, and outdoor pool. Each of the 30 air-conditioned guest rooms has private bath with hair dryer, mini-bar, in-room safe, Internet access, TV, and phone.

Number of nights: 2

The Clement Village Retreat

Kalakho, India

Off the beaten track in rural Rajasthan sits The Clement Village Retreat, a rustic yet comfortable haven of guest cabins set amidst a series of traditional villages. The camp offers a unique opportunity to witness how much of India lives, away from the cities. During our stay we visit a local school, take a camel cart safari, and meet local Meena tribespeople in their homes. Along with a restaurant, gardens and bonfires add to the retreat’s ambience. The 17 air-conditioned guest cabins have private bath with hot and cold running water and hair dryer. This remote location has no telephone service.

Number of nights: 1

Courtyard Marriott Agra

Agra, India

Located on famous Fatehabad Road, Courtyard Agra is a luxury haven near the most celebrated jewels of India. Immerse yourself in 5-star comfort within spacious hotel rooms and suites, featuring resort-style amenities, plush pillowtop bedding and high-speed Wi-Fi. Savor distinctive cuisine, creative cocktails and fine wines at our four unique restaurants. Explore some of the world's most legendary attractions, including the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Celebrate and succeed in 24,000 square feet of elegant outdoor and indoor event space.

Number of nights: 2

Taj Ganges (formerly Taj Gateway Ganges)

Varanasi, India

Set amidst 40 acres of landscaped lawns, Taj Gateway Hotel Ganges offers a host of amenities including a restaurant, coffee shop, and bar; laundry and dry cleaning services; astrologer; outdoor pool, croquet, badminton, and yoga; and spa services. Air-conditioned guest rooms have private bath with hair dryer, coffee- and tea-making facilities, mini-bar, in-room safe, Internet access, TV, and phone.

Number of nights: 3

Hotel Pullman New Delhi Aerocity

Delhi, India

The upscale hotel is located adjacent to both international & domestic airport terminals and is well connected through the Airport Express Line which is just 5 minutes away. The Pullman New Delhi Aerocity is near the business hubs of Gurgaon, New Delhi, and Cyber City. It is also located close to Delhi's shopping malls including DLF Promenade, Emporio and Worldmark. A big complex of 670 rooms, Pullman and Novotel New Delhi Aerocity is a preferred destination for both business & leisure travelers.

Number of nights: 1

Tour Extension

Nepal Post-Program Option

Absorb the beauty of the Himalayan kingdom –and the warmth of its people – on this special journey featuring sacred shrines, royal cities, and indigenous lifestyles.

Your Tour Price Includes

  • Air transportation Varanasi/Kathmandu inclusive of airline taxes and fees
  • 4 nights’ accommodations: 2 nights in Kathmandu at Crowne Plaza Soaltee (Superior First Class); 2 nights in Nagarkot at Club Himalaya Nagarkot (Superior First Class)
  • 8 meals: 4 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners
  • Extensive sightseeing, including Pashupatinath shrine (UNESCO site); Boudhanath monument; colorful Bhaktapur, “city of Devotees;” Swayambhunath Temple; royal city of Patan; and Kathmandu and environs
  • Services of a professional Tour Director
  • Private motorcoach transportation
  • Gratuities for dining room servers, airport and hotel porters, and all drivers

Please note that guests on this extension will leave the India tour on Day 16 at the conclusion of the Varanasi stay.

Crowne Plaza Hotel Kathmandu-Soaltee
The 282-room Crown Plaza Hotel Kathmandu-Soaltee stands amidst 12 acres of gardens in the shadow of the Himalayas. The hotel offers several restaurants, bar, and lounge; Wi-Fi internet access (for a fee); safe-deposit boxes; gift shop; beauty salon; fitness center; spa with sauna and steam bath; outdoor pool; and laundry and dry cleaning services. Air-conditioned guest rooms have private bath with hair dryer, in-room safe, mini-bar, tea- and coffee-making facilities, TV, and phone.

Club Himalaya Nagarkot
Club Himalaya Nagarkot sits at 7,200 feet and commands spectacular panoramic views of the valley and of the snowcapped Himalayans, particularly at sunrise or sunset. The hotel offers several restaurants and bar, rooftop observatory, complimentary Wi-Fi internet access, indoor swimming pool, fitness center, spa with sauna and massage treatments, and library. Each of the 52 air-conditioned guest rooms features private bath with hair dryer, private balcony, TV, and phone.

Activity Level

Activity Level 3:  Moderate / Active


Expectations: Most trips will feature long touring days, many full-day excursions, and a full and active itinerary with a faster pace and longer distances. Some tours may have activities with higher intensity and more active choices/options. Excursions require standing and walking for extended periods of time over more difficult terrain (cobblestones, city hills, stairs without handrails, limited or no access to elevators, muddy/slippery walking/hiking trails), and walking to city centers where coaches are prohibited. Specific itineraries may feature hiking, use of local transportation, extended overnight train travel, extensive use of Zodiac crafts or other smaller ship conveyances, or multiple internal plane rides. Some itineraries may require early morning departures and later evening returns. Travelers may be in remote and/or rugged regions, and may be touring at higher altitudes with steep ascents/descents. Leisure time may be limited (sometimes only in the later evenings). Certain tours feature more active excursions (such as moderate hiking, swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, bicycling, rafting, or kayaking), though another choice may be offered for an alternate skill level. Walking/hiking tours may feature up to six-mile walks/hikes.  

Appropriate for: Travelers who are physically fit, lead active lives, are comfortable participating in long days of activities, and expect some physical exertion. 

Testimonials

WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

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! 

- Previous Journeys Traveler
Reading List

Highly Recommended

India
By: Stanley Wolpert
This new edition brings Stanley Wolpert's brilliantly succinct and accessible introduction to India completely up to date for a new generation of readers, travelers, and students. In crisp detail, Wolpert gives a panoramic overview of the continent on which the world's most fascinating ancient civilization gave birth to one of its most complex modern democratic nations. India now includes new sections on the country's current global economic development, the recent national elections, and on its international relations, including those with Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, and the United States, India's new strategic global partner.
Mirrorwork: 50 Years of Indian Writing 1947-1997
By: Brand: Picador
This unique anthology presents thirty-two selections by Indian authors writing in English over the past half-century. Selected by Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth West, these novel excerpts, stories, and memoirs illuminate wonderful writing by authors often overlooked in the West. Chronologically arranged to reveal the development of Indian literature in English, this volume includes works by Jawaharlal Nehru, Nayantara Sahgal, Saadat Hasan Manto, G.V. Desani, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Kamala Markandaya, Mulk Raj Anand, R.K. Narayan, Ved Mehta, Anita Desai, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Satyajit Ray, Salman Rushdie, Padma Perera, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Rohinton Mistry, Bapsi Sidhwa, I. Allan Sealy, Shashi Tharoor, Sara Suleri, Firdaus Kanga, Anjana Appachana, Amit Chaudhuri, Amitav Ghosh, Githa Hariharan, Gita Mehta, Vikram Seth, Vikram Chandra, Ardashir Vakil, Mukul Kesavan, Arundhati Roy, and Kiran Desai.
Taj Mahal (Wonders of the World)
By: Giles Tillotson
An enduring monument of haunting beauty, the Taj Mahal seems a symbol of stability itself. The familiar view of the glowing marble mausoleum from the gateway entrance offers the very picture of permanence. And yet this extraordinary edifice presents a shifting image to observers across time and cultures. The meaning of the Taj Mahal, the perceptions and responses it prompts, ideas about the building and the history that shape them: these form the subject of Giles Tillotson’s book. More than a richly illustrated history―though it is that as well―this book is an eloquent meditation on the place of the Taj Mahal in the cultural imagination of India and the wider world.Since its completion in 1648, the mausoleum commissioned by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, has come to symbolize many things: the undying love of a man for his wife, the perfection of Mughal architecture, the ideal synthesis of various strands of subcontinental aesthetics, even an icon of modern India itself. Exploring different perspectives brought to the magnificent structure―by a Mughal court poet, an English Romantic traveler, a colonial administrator, an architectural historian, or a contemporary Bollywood filmmaker―this book is an incomparable guide through the varied and changing ideas inspired by the Taj Mahal, from its construction to our day. In Tillotson’s expert hands, the story of a seventeenth-century structure in the city of Agra reveals itself as a story about our own place and time.
India: A Short History
By: Robinson, Andrew
DK Eyewitness Delhi, Agra and Jaipur (Travel Guide)
By: DK Eyewitness

Also Recommended

Lonely Planet India Phrasebook & Dictionary
By: Lonely Planet
City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi
By: William Dalrymple
Sparkling with irrepressible wit, City of Djinns peels back the layers of Delhi's centuries-old history, revealing an extraordinary array of characters along the way-from eunuchs to descendants of great Moguls. With refreshingly open-minded curiosity, William Dalrymple explores the seven "dead" cities of Delhi as well as the eighth city—today's Delhi. Underlying his quest is the legend of the djinns, fire-formed spirits that are said to assure the city's Phoenix-like regeneration no matter how many times it is destroyed. Entertaining, fascinating, and informative, City of Djinns is an irresistible blend of research and adventure.
Capital: The Eruption of Delhi
By: Rana Dasgupta
**Winner of the 2017 Ryszard Kapuściński Award for Literary Reportage**    **Short-listed for the Orwell Prize and for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize**An extraordinary portrait of the fastest-growing city in the world—and the rise of a new global eliteSince the opening up of India’s economy in 1991, wealth has poured into the country, and especially into Delhi. Capital bears witness to the astonishing metamorphosis of India’s capital city, charting its emergence from a rural backwater to the center of India’s new elites. No other place on earth better embodies the breakneck, radically disruptive nature of the global economy’s growth over the past twenty years. In a series of extraordinary meetings with a wide swath of the population—from Delhi’s forgotten poor to its rich tech entrepreneurs— Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winner Rana Dasgupta presents an intimate portrait of the people living, suffering, and striving for more in this tumultuous city of extremes, as well as an uncanny glimpse of our shared global future.
Kaleidoscope City: A Year in Varanasi
By: Piers Moore Ede
Situated on the left bank of the Ganges, in the state of Uttar Pradash, Varanasi is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. For Hindus there is nowhere more sacred; for Buddhists, it is revered as a place where the Buddha preached his first sermon; for Jains it is the birthplace of their two patriarchs. Over the last four thousand years, perhaps no city in the world has stood witness to such a flux of history, from the development of Aryan culture along the Ganges, to invasions that would leave the city in Muslim hands for three centuries, to an independent Brahmin kingdom, British colonial rule, and ultimately independence. But what is the city like today? Home to 2.5 million people, it is visited by twice that number every year. Polluted, overpopulated, religiously divided, but utterly sublime, Varanasi is a living expression of Indian life like no other. Each day 60,000 people bathe in the Ganges. Elderly people come to die here. Widows pushed out by their families arrive to find livelihood. In the city center, the silk trade remains the most important industry, along with textiles and the processing of betel leaf. Behind this facade lurk more sinister industries. Varanasi is a major player in the international drug scene. There's a thriving flesh trade, and a corrupt police force that turns a blind eye.As with Suketu Mehta's Maximimum City Piers Moore Ede tells the city's story by allowing inhabitants to relate their own tales. Whether portraying a Dom Raja whose role it is to cremate bodies by the Ganghes or a khoa maker, who carefully converts cow's milk into the ricotta like substance that forms the base of most sweets, Ede explores the city's most important themes through its people, creating a vibrant portrait of modern, multicultural India.
The Idea of India: 20th Anniversary Edition
By: Khilnani, Sunil
A Traveller's History of India
By: Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda
India, named after the river Indus, is heir to one of the worlds oldest and richest civilizations and the origin of many ideas, philosophies, and movements that have shaped the destiny of humankind. This handy title covers the whole scope of Indias past and present history. Maps and line drawings.
Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India
By: Diana Eck
The role of the visual is essential to Hindu tradition and culture, but many attempts to understand India's divine images have been laden with misperceptions. Darsan, a Sanskrit word that means "seeing," is an aid to our vision, a book of ideas to help us read, think, and look at Hindu images with appreciation and imagination.
The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to Its Meaning and Forms
By: George Michell
For more than 1500 years, from the Indian subcontinent to the islands of the Indonesian archipelago, the temple has embodied and symbolized the Hindu worldview at its deepest level and inspired the greatest architectural and artistic achievements in Hindu Asia. In The Hindu Temple, considered the standard introduction to the subject, George Michell explains the cultural, religious, and architectural significance of the temple. He illustrates his points with a profusion of photographs, building plans, and drawings of architectural details, making the book a useful guide for travelers to Asia as well as an illuminating text for students of architecture, religion, and Asian civilizations. Michell's discussion of the meaning and forms of the temple in Hindu society encompasses the awe-inspiring rock-cut temples at Ellora and Elephanta, the soaring superstructures and extraordinary sexual exhibitionism of the sculptures at Khajuraho, and the colossal mortuary temple of Angkor Vat, as well as the tiny iconic shrines that many Hindus wear around their necks and the simple shrines found under trees or near ponds.
Gandhi: An Autobiography - The Story of My Experiments With Truth
By: Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi
Mohandas K. Gandhi is one of the most inspiring figures of our time. In his classic autobiography he recounts the story of his life and how he developed his concept of active nonviolent resistance, which propelled the Indian struggle for independence and countless other nonviolent struggles of the twentieth century.In a new foreword, noted peace expert and teacher Sissela Bok urges us to adopt Gandhi's "attitude of experimenting, of tesing what will and will not bear close scrutiny, what can and cannot be adapted to new circumstances,"in order to bring about change in our own lives and communities. All royalties earned on this book are paid to the Navajivan Trust, founded by Gandhi, for use in carrying on his work.
Around India in 80 Trains
By: Monisha Rajesh
In 1991, Monisha Rajesh's family uprooted from Sheffield to Madras in the hope of making India their home. Two years later, fed up with soap-eating rats, severed human heads and the creepy colonel across the road, they returned to England with a bitter taste in their mouths.Two decades on, she turns to a map of the Indian Railways and takes a page out of Jules Verne's classic tale, embarking on an adventure around India in 80 trains, covering 40,000km - the circumference of the Earth. She hopes that 80 train journeys up, down and across India will lift the veil on a country that has become a stranger to her.Along the way, Monisha discovers that the Indian Railways - featuring luxury trains, toy trains, Mumbai's infamous commuter trains, and even a hospital on wheels - have more than a few stories to tell, not to mention a colourful cast of characters. And with a self-confessed 'militant devout atheist' in tow, her personal journey around a country built on religion isn't quite what she bargained for...
Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire
By: Preston, Diana
Along The Ganges (Armchair Traveller)
By: Ilija Trojanow
Ilija Trojanow travelled along the Ganges, from the source, where it breaks free from the eternal ice in the Himalayas, to the great cities, by boat, by bus, on overcrowded trains. He visited the great Hindu festivals and talked to those who warn of ecological disasters resulting from gigantic dams.
India: A Traveler's Literary Companion (Traveler's Literary Companions)
By: Chandrahas Choudhury, Anita Desai
The latest book in the acclaimed series of literary travel guides brings together a delightful sampling of short fiction from one of the world’s most diverse, multicultural, and storied civilizations. India: A Traveler’s Literary Companion features 14 short stories from some of India’s best writers, collectively offering an insightful portrait of the beauty and complexity of Indian landscape, culture, and society. Travel to the Taj Mahal with Kunal Basu, as the humble accountant of his story becomes, in another incarnation, the architect of one of the world’s most resplendent monuments. Let Vikram Chandra leads readers by the hand into the ghettos of Mumbai (Bombay), where a small-time thug fences some gold bars he has stolen and then decides to find out what pleasures his money can buy. Journey with Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay’s silver-tongued salesman of medicated oil as he travels the trains around Calcutta, the city he loves more than anything else. And Nazir Mansuri’s Melvillian “The Whale” transports readers to a small fishing village on the west coast of India, where an embittered sailor makes every whale he sees the object of his fury. Stories from nine languages and more than a dozen distinct cultures and regions — from north, south, east, west, and even from India’s remote northeast — are brought together in this vibrant collection.
Midnight's Children: A Novel (Modern Library 100 Best Novels)
By: Salman Rushdie
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24x36 World Wall Map by Smithsonian Journeys - Tan Oceans Special Edition (24x36 Paper Folded)
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