Experience India’s vibrant cultural heritage as you explore the monuments of Old Delhi, the hill forts of Rajasthan, and the holy city of Varanasi; and spend time in rural villages and the tiger habitat of Ranthambore.

Starting at: $6,887 * Price includes special offer * Includes airfare, taxes & all fees Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Morning light on the Taj Mahal, Agra
 Agra's Red Fort
 Holy man along the Ganges River
 Room of marble in Agra's Red Fort
 Delhi's Red Fort
 Qutub Minar, Old Delhi
 The old and new world: Lord Krishna. Credit: Joydeep Mukherjee
 The Amber Palace, overlooking Jaipur
 Amber Fort, Jaipur, India
 Amber Palace, Jaipur, India
 The newly restored Palace of the Winds in Jaipur
 Ancient observatory in Jaipur
 Ceremony essentials, Varanasi
 Stepwell near Jaipur
 Traditional block printing demonstration
 Architectural remains in Ranthambhore National Park
 Monkeys in Ranthambhore National Park
 Traditional Indian market. Credit: Linda Currie
 The City Palace Museum, Jaipur
 Agra's Red Fort
 Ghats along the Ganges River, Varanasi
 Father and son in Rajasthan. Credit: Linda Currie
 Jama Masjid Mosque, Old Delhi

Timeless India: Rajasthan, Varanasi, and the Taj Mahal

17 days from $6,887 | includes airfare, taxes and all fees

Experience India’s vibrant cultural heritage as you explore the monuments of Old Delhi, the hill forts of Rajasthan, and the holy city of Varanasi; and spend time in rural villages and the tiger habitat of Ranthambore.

or Call 855-330-1542


This tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.


Across northern India lie fairy-tale palaces and hilltop forts, enchanting cities filled with colorful chaos, and pilgrimage sites where spiritual traditions have endured for centuries. Experience the indelible traditions of India and the irrepressible energy of modern-day life on a journey from Old Delhi’s winding streets to the “Pink City” of Jaipur and the holy city Varanasi. Observe wildlife in Ranthambore National Park—including, with luck, one of its resident Bengal tigers. Explore the World Heritage-listed hill forts of Rajasthan and the exquisite Taj Mahal. Get acquainted with local traditions on visits to artisan villages and farming communities, and witness the timeless rituals of the faithful on the banks of the sacred Ganges.

Highlights Include:

  • Delhi: Experience the historic highlights of this engaging city, from the magnificent Red Fort of the Mughal Empire to the humble Gandhi mausoleum at Raj Ghat. Ride a rickshaw through the colorful Chandni Chowk markets, and see the towering minaret of Qutb Minar.
  • Jaipur: See the honeycomb sandstone facade of the Hawa Mahal, and examine centuries-old astronomical instruments at the Jantar Mantar, a World Heritage site. Venture to the extraordinary Amber Fort, and dine on traditional dishes in the home of a local family.
  • Ranthambore National Park: Observe a host of unusual wildlife from sambar deer to sloth bears during morning and afternoon game drives in this vast nature reserve. Learn about Project Tiger, which has helped increased the tiger population here and elsewhere in India.
  • Agra: Admire the architecture of the Abhaneri stepwell on the way to Agra. Then experience the incomparable Taj Mahal on a guided tour, and visit the beautiful palaces and temples of the Agra Fort. Enjoy a cooking lesson in a local home and sample your creations at lunch.
  • Varanasi: Soak up the mystical spirit of this ancient pilgrimage site, witnessing a traditional offering ceremony on the Ganges and visiting the ghats by boat. Venture to the holy Buddhist site of Sarnath and listen to the melodies of a classical sitar at a musician’s private home.
  • Local Culture: Watch artisans at work in the town of Sanganer, known for its woodblock prints and pottery. Spend a night in the countryside, visiting farming villages on a camel cart excursion, and soaking up local rhythms at a folk performance.  


Days 1–2: Depart U.S. for Delhi, India

Depart on an overnight flight to Delhi, India’s capital and second largest city.  Arrive after midnight on Day 2 and transfer directly to your hotel.

Day 3 - Delhi

Enjoy a leisurely morning before meeting your tour director for a briefing on the journey ahead. In the afternoon, venture into the bustling streets of Old Delhi, the capital of Muslim India between the 12th and 19th centuries. Your first stop is Raj Ghat, where a simple black marble slab marks the spot where the “father of India,” Mahatma Gandhi, was cremated.  See the Red Fort, a stunning complex of palaces and pavilions built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and today a World Heritage site, and visit the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. End the day with a rickshaw ride through the colorful chaos of Chandni Chowk, a centuries-old market district where spice and silver merchants sell their wares amid historic temples. Tonight, gather for a festive welcome dinner.  (B,D)

Day 4 - Delhi

Spend another day discovering the sites of Delhi, a city of some 25 million residents that has been inhabited since the 6th century B.C.  Admire the elaborate carvings and inlay of the Qutb Minar, a 240-foot sandstone and marble minaret built to commemorate the Muslim victory over the last Hindu kingdom in 1200 A.D.  Pass India Gate, a majestic arch that honors Indian soldiers who died fighting for the British during World War I and the Afghan wars.  After lunch at a local restaurant, visit a Sikh temple (gurdwara), then dig deeper into the life and legacy of Gandhi at the Gandhi Smiriti museum,  housed in the building where the political and social activist spent his last days. The remainder of the day is yours to explore as you wish. (B, L)

Day 5 - Jaipur

Journey southwest into Rajasthan on a day-long drive to the enchanting “pink city” of Jaipur, so called for its rose-hued sandstone buildings. Arrive late in the afternoon and enjoy dinner at the hotel. (B,L,D)

Day 6 - Jaipur

Once a great city of the Rajputs, India’s legendary warriors, Jaipur brims with historic forts, palaces, and gardens, and is still encircled by its 18th-century walls. Delve into the rich heritage of this World Heritage site on a tour that begins at the stunning Hawa Mahal, or "Palace of the Winds", whose carved pink façade allowed the ladies of the court to watch everyday life without being seen. Tour the Amber Fort, the seat of the maharajas for some 700 years and considered the pinnacle of Rajput architecture. Examine astronomical instruments at Jantar Mantar, an observatory dating to 1728, and view royal art collections at the City Palace Museum.  (B,L)

Day 7 - Jaipur and Sanganer

Pay a morning visit to Birla Mandir, a Hindu temple built from pure white marble, then tour a local market. Travel to nearby Sanganer to watch villagers engage in traditional crafts such as block printing and making paper by hand. Sanganer is also known for its distinctive blue pottery, and you’ll have an opportunity to watch craftspeople paint intricate patterns freehand.  After time at leisure this afternoon, you are invited to dinner at the home of a Rajasthani family. Over a home-cooked meal with several generations of the family, gain a glimpse into everyday customs and witness the interplay of traditional society and contemporary lifestyles. (B,D)

Day 8 - Ranthambore National Park

Travel over rugged roads to Ranthambore National Park, once the hunting grounds of the maharaja of Jaipur. One of India’s largest nature preserves, Ranthambore is home to diverse flora and hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, mammals—including about 80 endangered Bengal tigers. The park’s wildlife roams amid evocative ruins of palaces and temples that date back to the Mughal Empire and earlier. Take an afternoon game drive, watching for sambar deer, leopards, and sloth bears as well as the elusive tiger. Gather for dinner at the lodge. (B,L,D)

Day 9 - Ranthambore National Park

Set out on morning and afternoon wildlife drives, exploring the park’s diverse landscapes on the lookout for unusual deer species, langurs, and rare birds. Learn about Ranthambore’s role in Project Tiger, a conservation initiative launched by Indira Gandhi in 1973 to protect the once plentiful Bengal tigers from poaching, habitat destruction, and conflict with humans. The effort has helped India’s tiger population rebound from an estimated 1,800 in the 1970s to more than 3,100 today. Stop to see picturesque ruins of old fortifications and the thousand-year-old Ranthambore Fort, part of a World Heritage site.  On the way back to the lodge, pay a visit to Dhonk, an organization that works with the Mogya people, a traditional hunting community. Discover how families who once relied on poaching tigers now earn their living by producing art and traditional handicrafts. (B,L,D)

Day 10 - Gadoli

Journey north to the village of Gadoli in the Aravalli Mountains for a taste of rural life in Rajasthan. Meet local children at a recently built library and enjoy lunch at your village retreat. Then climb into camel carts for a ride through the agricultural fields to surrounding villages, stopping to get acquainted with the Meena people. Once a nomadic tribe, the Meena are now largely farmers who live in decorated mud huts and retain much of their traditional culture. Back at the retreat tonight, enjoy dinner and a folk dance performance. (B,L,D)

Day 11 - Abhaneri and Agra

Begin the day with a visit to the Chand Baori stepwell in the village of Abhaneri.  As early as the 6th century, communities in northern India constructed unique wells that descended to the water table to provide water during the dry summer months. Admire this architectural marvel, which has three sets of 3,500 steps that descend 13 stories into a 100-foot-deep well. Opposite the stepwell, see the ruins of an elaborate temple dedicated to the goddess of joy and happiness.  Continue to the Mughal stronghold of Agra, arriving early in the afternoon.  After lunch at leisure, gather for a visit to the Itimad-ud-Daulah—often called the Baby Taj— a two-story marble mausoleum that inspired the Taj Mahal.  Then view the fabled Taj Mahal from the gardens of Mehtab Bagh, located directly across the Yamuna River from the site. (B,D)

Day 12 - Agra

Experience the magnificent Taj Mahal, a mausoleum of white marble and graceful symmetry that was built by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his beloved second wife.  Some 20,000 laborers and artisans from around the world spent 22 years constructing this monument to love. As your tour the site, get a closer look at the inlaid gems that form dazzling patterns in the marble—a decorative art known as pietra dura.  Next, venture into the imposing Agra Fort, a World Heritage site of fairy-tale palaces, beautiful mosques, pavilions, and gardens, where Emperor Shah Jahan was imprisoned by his own son. Then gather in a local home for a cooking lesson, preparing traditional dishes to savor over lunch. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (B,L)

Day 13 - Delhi/Varanasi

Drive to the airport in Delhi this morning and board an afternoon flight to Varanasi, Hinduism’s holiest city and a center of learning, civilization, and religion for thousands of years. With temples at every turn and the sacred Ganges coursing through, Varanasi is a revered pilgrimage site steeped in mysticism. Check in to your centrally located hotel and enjoy dinner with the group tonight. (B,L,D)

Day 14 - Varanasi and Sarnath

Rise early for a yoga session if you wish, taking part in an ancient meditation technique that originated in India some 5,000 years ago. Then head to Sarnath, one of Buddhism’s four holiest sites.  View excavated temples and stupas from the 6th-century monastic community that Buddha established after achieving enlightenment, then see remarkable artifacts including the Lion Capital of Emperor Ashoka—India’s national emblem—at the Sarnath Museum. Return to Varanasi and attend a traditional aarti ceremony on the Ganges. As you cruise this sacred waterway, witness devout Hindus setting lanterns afloat as an offering to the deities. (B,D)

Day 15 - Varanasi

Early this morning, return to the banks of the Ganges, where Hindu pilgrims perform their time-honored rites along the ghats (wide steps) leading to the river. Learn about the integral role of the river in Hindu belief and soak up the mystique of this hallowed water as you explore important ghats by boat. Then immerse yourself in the morning rituals of Varanasi, strolling down ancient alleyways past shopkeepers, cows, and local residents preparing for the day.  Return to the hotel for breakfast and enjoy free time to relax or discover more of the city.  Later, gather at the home of a famous musician for a private classical sitar performance.  As the home is also a music school, listen for students practicing. This evening, celebrate your adventures in India at a farewell dinner. (B,D)

Days 16-17: Delhi/Return home

Fly to Delhi and transfer to your hotel near the airport. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Depart on your flight home early the next day. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

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