We are excited to officially announce Imprint Tours’ Incredible India tour. We feel we are offering the best 19 days of Northern India, including Varanasi, Khajuraho, Agra, and Rajasthan. We’ve written about many countries using the word “diverse” to describe them. But now that India is the subject we must revise the concept. India brings a new standard of meaning to the description. We will visit diverse landscapes, cities, architecture, archeological sites, religious sites and monuments, and even subcultures while touring India. Read on to get a glimpse of what we have in store. Two exceptional highlights of the tour include Diwali and the world-famous Pushkar Camel Fair, a desert extravaganza. We’ll enjoy Diwali on our first evening of the tour in Delhi. After our get-acquainted meeting and dinner, we’ll enjoy a coach tour of the city, occasionally participating in this grand celebration. Observed all over India, Diwali is the Festival of Lights. Originally a harvest festival, participants lit clay lamps and offered celebratory thanks to Laxmi, goddess of prosperity. Today the lights are electrical or pyrotechnic, gifts are exchanged, houses and buildings are lavishly decorated, and a carnival atmosphere prevails. Delhi is famous for its Diwali festivities and it will be a grand way to kick off our tour. Both Diwali and the Pushkar fair are determined by the lunar calendar and we are fortunate to be able to include them both on a single tour (not possible again for several years). The Pushkar fair is India’s most famous desert festival, as desert nomads come from all over Rajasthan to buy, sell, and trade camels and cattle. Many festivities accompany the gathering and we’ll enjoy the colorful spectacle of this desert pageant. There will be elaborately decorated camels, horses, and caravans and we can watch camel and cart races and other competitions. There will be music, traditional food, handicrafts, magicians, jugglers, dancers, snake charmers, and, as with Diwali, a carnival atmosphere. Both Diwali and Pushkar are events not to be missed.
Other tour highlights include the holy city of Varanasi, the Taj Mahal, the erotic temple architecture of Khajuraho, and the forts, palaces, and desert of Rajasthan. While in Varanasi we will visit the home of some local musicians (Varanasi is also known as a center for Indian music) for an evening of dining and music. We’ll take a boat ride on the Ganges at both dawn and dusk. At sunrise we’ll see the devout engaging in their sacred ablutions and in the evening we’ll attend India’s most famous aarti ceremony as the faithful bid good night to mother Ganga. Before departing we’ll day-trip to nearby Sarnath, where the Buddha preached his first sermon. Visiting the archeological site, museum, and several Buddhist temples will present an opportunity to learn about this ancient Indian religion. At Khajuraho we’ll visit the temples with their famous erotic sculptures, affording one of several occasions to explore the mysteries of Hinduism. Of course, no tour of India is complete without a pilgrimage to the Taj Mahal and we will also visit the abandoned Mughal capital of Fatehpur Sikri outside Agra.
In Rajasthan, in addition to sacred Pushkar, we’ll visit Jaipur, enchanting Udaipur, Jodhpur, and a resort operated by the Bishnoi tribal group. Jaipur is home to Amber palace, a fortress-like mountain retreat where we will ride elephants up the zigzag approach road to its mighty gate; Jantar Mantar, an 18th-century astronomical observatory; and the famous Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. Next on our itinerary is romantic Udaipur, our favorite city in India. Enchantingly situated on the shore of lovely Lake Pichola, Udaipur hosts two floating palaces as well as the many-tiered City Palace. In addition to a tour of the City Palace we’ll enjoy a sunset cruise on the lake. Then we’ll retreat to a lake-side, garden venue for dinner with Udaipur’s illuminated temples and palaces reflecting on the lake as our view. On a day-trip we’ll visit the formidable Kumbelgarh fort, a 15th–century fort situated in the Aravalli hills that fulfills your fantasies about Rajput grandeur. En route to the Bishnoi resort we’ll visit Ranakpur, an exquisitely carved Jain temple in a rugged valley. From the resort we’ll organize a cultural connection by visiting a Bishnoi tribal village. The Bishnois are India’s original environmentalists, maintaining a careful symbiotic relationship with their natural surroundings for centuries. Part of their stewardship has been the preservation of the local Blackbuck antelope. During our visit we’ll meet Bishnoi farmers, shepherds, and weavers; learn about their customs, lifestyles, and even observe a traditional opium ceremony; and visit the Blackbuck sanctuary. We’ll also venture out into the Thar Desert for a sunset camel trek and a traditional Rajasthani feast, attended by Rajasthani folk music and dance. While in Jodhpur we’ll explore the labyrinthine streets of the “Blue City” and tour mighty Mehrangarh Fort, greatest in Rajasthan and still owned and operated by the Maharaja of Jodhpur.
The sights and activities listed above are just the beginning. The tour will also include the major sights of Delhi, Akbar’s Mausoleum in Sikandra, Chand Baori step well, the temples and cenotaphs of ancient Orchha, Ajmer’s Red Temple, and more. In addition we’ll be organizing numerous other “connection” experiences such as a cooking demonstration, an ashram visit, a Tiffin lunch, a sari/turban “tying” lesson, a “Bollywood” movie night, and tea with our Sikh host in Jaipur, and a craft village visit. As you can see we’ll be busy. But as always on an Imprint tour we’re building in plenty of down time with a number of free afternoons to explore on your own or relax.
One thing every visitor to India learns right away – things are done on India’s terms, not the other way around. Even McDonalds, now that they have gained access to India, serves Vegi Burgers and Chicken instead of their classic hamburgers. So it is with our tour of India. Imprint values normally include modest, mid-range accommodations, an abundance of free time for exploring and personal cultural connections, and inclusion of about half of the meals on a tour. But we would rather bend to the dictates of Indian culture than be bruised by insisting on our normal style. This provides a great opportunity for us and you. India can easily overwhelm, and an equal need here is for occasional and timely insulation. We will continue to organize the best connection experiences possible and provide ample time for personal exploration, but we will also provide comfortable places of retreat. For accommodations, we will continue to use modest, family-run, well located hotels when they can be arranged but we’re also opting for extra luxury, in the form of four Heritage-style hotels (usually converted forts or palaces) at well-timed stops. Regarding meals, we will provide much more than usual - 40 meals out of 53 [all breakfasts and 22 of the remaining 35 meals]. By providing more meals than usual we can be surer of sanitary conditions, food quality, and good value. All these added values and still less than $190 per day.