From Delhi, the Taj Mahal & the cities of the Raj, we’ll focus on the art, architecture & history of this fascinating, sometimes contradictory land. This gay India tour has an abundance of famous temples, palaces, and forts. Take a leisurely pace, and relax in five-star luxury.
Our classic gay travel India tour begins in Delhi as we are swept away to another time and another place. Dotted with hundreds of landmarks, India’s modern capital of Delhi is also a very ancient city. From the beautifully carved 12th century Qutab Minar to the parliament house with its Victorian and 20th century influences, Delhi’s architectural gems transcend time.
Next we’re off to Agra to tour the famous icon of India, the Taj Mahal. We’ll also visit the Agra Fort with its 65-foot-tall walls and maze of temples, halls, gardens and mosques. Then we take a two-hour train ride to a lodge near the Ranthambore National Tiger Reserve for two nights and the possibility of seeing tigers in their native environment.
We’ll spend three days around Jaipur, the lovely “pink city” with its broad avenues and harmonious architecture. Our Spring 2017 tour coincides with the Holi Festival of Colors in Jaipur.
Our last stop will be Udaipur, considered by many to be the most beautiful city in all of India. Our elegant hotel overlooks the magnificent Lake Pichola and Aravalli Mountains, and is famous for service and style reminiscent of a bygone age. Our tour ends back in Delhi, from which you can fly home.
For those with more time to travel, consider our extension to the Hindi pilgrimage destination of Varanasi and the ancient temples of Khajuraho within India. And if you are able to stay a few more days, we invite you to experience the multi-cultural capital city of Nepal: Kathmandu.
March 14, 2019 to March 25, 2019 – US $7,298.00
Duration: : 12 Days
Optional Tour Choices: $2250 Single Supplement (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom
$7298 per person in double occupancy
Transfers between Delhi Airport and hotel on arrival and departure; All surface transportation within India as outlined in tour itinerary in air-conditioned mini-coach or train; Flight from Udaipur to Delhi, including airport departure taxes; Five-Star hotels or hunting lodge each night, with private bath, in double occupancy (single rooms available, subject to availability); Daily breakfast, five lunches and seven dinners, including wine at Welcome and Farewell dinners; Admission to sites described in itinerary; Services of English-speaking Indian guides, plus HE Travel tour director (with minimum number of participants); All hotel service charges, government taxes, porterage, and gratuities for drivers and included meals. HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
$2998 per person in double occupancy
$3698 single occupancy
Flights from Delhi to Khajuraho to Varanasi to Delhi; Comfortable accommodations for one night in Delhi, two nights in Khajuraho, and two nights in Varanasi; 5 breakfasts each day, 1 lunch, 2 dinners; local ground transportation; and tours with local guides in Khajuraho and Varanasi.
$2290 per person in double occupancy
$2790 single occupancy
$300 optional dawn Mt. Everest fly-by flight
Flight from Delhi to Kathmandu; Airport transfers; Comfortable accommodations for one night in Delhi, two nights in a deluxe Kathmandu hotel, and one night in countryside hotel; 4 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner; and excursions as shown in itinerary.
Additional expense: Nepal Visa upon arrival (approximately $25 USD paid by passenger)
International flights to and from Delhi; Visas for visiting India (information about obtaining a visa will be sent about 4 months before departure); Camera/video fee which is charged at some monuments; Lunches and dinners not described as being included; Gratuities for guides and HE Travel tour director; Personal items including: alcoholic beverages, snacks, laundry, and telephone calls; flights to and from Kathmandu on pre-tour Nepal extension.
Then we’ll visit India’s largest mosque, Jama Masjid, built in the 17th century. It took 5000 artisans fourteen years to complete and is a unique architectural piece of the Mughal period. It has three gateways, four towers and two minarets as tall as 120 feet. Nearby is the busy market area of Chandni Chowk, once an imperial avenue down which Shah Jahan rode at the head of lavish cavalcades and today often the scene of world’s most picturesque traffic jam with every kind of vehicle imaginable.
Old Delhi exhibits the traditions of the Mughal emperors who presided there, and New Delhi, the British capital during colonial days, shows off the more modern side of India. In the afternoon we leave the walled city of Old Delhi behind to explore the sights of New Delhi.
However, even in New Delhi are some very old monuments. We’ll see the 12th century Qutub Minar, the highest stone tower in all of India. It was erected by Qutub-ud-din Aibak as a victory tower in 1199. It is considered one of the finest Islamic structures ever raised, and Delhi’s recognised landmark, even though it was built with the columns from 27 Hindu and Jain temples. Gracefully hand-carved along its entire height of 234 feet, the tower stands near the Iron Pillar, which has withstood the ravages of time and not rusted in over 1500 years.
We’ll visit the graceful mausoleum of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and drive past the modern Birla Temple, built in 1938. The uniqueness of this beautiful temple lies in the fact that it is open for all; it does not recognize any social or religious stratas. This was the condition on which Mahatma Gandhi agreed to inaugurate the temple. The temple houses idols of several deities, but is mainly dedicated to Laxmi (the goddess of wealth) and Narayana (the preserver). We will also see the President’s house, the Parliament house and the India Gate war memorial. We finish our busy day of exploring Delhi with our welcome dinner.
In the mid-16th and early-17th centuries, Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time that the symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality. Besides the monuments, Agra is known for the masterpieces of craftsmen recreating the glory of the Mughal period and for the Mughlai cuisine, the aroma of which fills the narrow lanes of Agra.
During our first evening in Agra we will follow the Mughal Heritage Trail, a community-based enterprise, to Kacchpura Village. Here we will get a behind-the-scenes look at the daily life of Agra. All funds paid for our visit are used to upgrade the village schools and to create sustainable livelihoods. We will also get a unique view of the unmistakable icon of India, the Taj Mahal, from across the River Yamuna.
We will awaken early the next morning for a sunrise visit to the monument, so we can personally witness the changing hues reflecting the gradually brighter sunlight. This mythic structure with its history of romance and survival from the ravages of various marauders threatens to underwhelm visitors who have lived in the shadow of its hype. But its symmetry, its purity, its whiteness, the elegance of its curves, and the majesty of its size and silhouette can still surprise and astound visitors. It is easy to understand why it was selected in 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Later in the day we will also visit the Agra Fort, which evolved during the reigns of three Mughal Emperors. Here we can witness the contrast of the stern red sandstone citadel raised by Akbar with the lavishly beautiful shimmering white palaces built by Shah Jahan. We will also visit craftsmen who create works of art by embedding semi-precious stones in marble, using geometric and floral patterns. This ancient art has been revived in the past few decades after long neglect.
From there we drive to Bharatpur and have lunch in a heritage mansion. In the afternoon we will take a 2-hour train ride to Sawai Madhopur, the entry point for the famous Ranthambore National Park. We then drive a short distance to our home for the next two nights, a former royal hunting lodge designed with art deco features.
The Park is one of the prime examples of Project Tiger’s conservation efforts in Rajasthan. It covers an area of over 400 square kilometers with many steep crags embracing a network of lakes and rivers. Atop one of these hills, the 10th century Ranthambore Fort stands like a silent sentinel. The terrain is a blend of impregnable forests and open bush land.
Ranthambore is best known for its reclusive tiger population, but there are also many panthers as well. Kachida Valley is considered to be the place to sight these rather elusive cats. One can also find marsh crocodiles, hyenas, jungle cats and sloth bears. The avian population includes black storks, quails, Bonelli’s eagles and painted storks. During the winter months, the park attracts a lot of migratory birds, including a variety of ducks.
The best time to visit the park is between October and April, so we will offer both a morning and a late afternoon “canter safari” during the best times to view game. It is the ideal park for wildlife photography. With so much to see and plenty to do, we will enjoy a leisurely two-night stay here.
Jaipur is called the Pink City because most of its buildings are of sandstone. It was chosen by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (1693-1743) for his capital, and it is still the vibrant capital of the desert state of Rajasthan. Surrounded on all sides by rugged hills, crowned with forts and enclosed by embattled walls, Jaipur is a must-see for travelers to India.
The Old City, the actual Pink City, is a great place to wander around. Maharaja Man Singh II had the whole city painted pink when the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, visited Jaipur in 1876. Today, every home within the old city is obliged by law to maintain this facade. Fabulous, tall houses with latticed windows line the narrow streets of the old city, their rose pink color lending enchantment to a scene which is almost magical at sunset.
On our afternoon tour we will visit the Maharaja’s walled City Palace (1732 AD), which occupies one-seventh of the city’s area. Our next stop is the observatory of Jantar Mantar, which literally means “instruments for measuring the harmony of the heavens,” and are the oldest astronomical instruments in India. Each has a specific purpose and still gives an accurate reading. We finish our tour with our guide leading us through lively city markets, including the Johari Bazaar.
The following morning we drive through the countryside north of Jaipur to visit the Amber Fort (also called Amer Fort), which was the ancient capital of the state until 1728. With its honey-colored fortress-palace in the Aravalli Hills which can be reached by elephant, Amber Fort has been described as the sleeping beauty of Rajasthan. The somber exterior belies the richness of the royal apartments, which open on to striking views of a gorge.
The afternoon is free to enjoy the facilities of our hotel, but transportation is available if you would like to explore nearby shopping options.
We have timed our tour so that we may celebrate the Holi Festival of Colors in Jaipur. Holi is considered to be the day of friendship, when in keeping with the spirit of the day, people forget petty enmities and renew their friendship. It’s also the day when people toss powder of various bright colors on their friends to celebrate the day. (You are welcome to observe from a safe vantage point, or jump into the middle of the celebrations!)
Udaipur, one of the most romantic places in India, is situated around the shimmering clear blue lakes which whisper the mood of a bygone era. Founded in 1567 by Maharana Udai Singh on the advice of a sage, Udaipur was the last of the numerous Mewar capitals.
The city acquires its scenic beauty from the three lakes, Pichola, Fateh Sagar and Udai Sagar, that make it a lovely oasis in the desert. Full of enchanting tales, Udaipur has a remarkable past, with episodes of heroism and splendor. Our home base as we explore this city will be one of the exquisite palace hotels overlooking Lake Pichola.
Upon arrival at our hotel, the rest of the evening will be free to explore the exquisite hotel grounds and sample one of their several fine restaurants.
The next morning we will visit the vast City Palace, the largest in the state of Rajasthan. It is comprised of 11 smaller palaces whose walls stretch for more than a mile along the shore of Lake Pichola and display magnificent works of marble and granite, as well as peacock mosaics. Nearby we’ll see the Jagdish Temple (1651), one of the largest and most popular Vishnu temples in northern India, then drive around Fateh Sager Lake and see the Sahelion Ki Badi (Queen’s resort).
Time permitting, we’ll wander through the hustle and bustle of the old market, including locations where the James Bond film Octopussy were filmed and have lunch at a restaurant owned by a German man with ties to Udaipur’s discreet gay community.
In the late afternoon, we’ll slow down for a boat ride on the placid waters of Lake Pichola, during which we can witness evening rituals on the bathing ghats (steps leading into the lake), and watch the sun set against the backdrop of the magnificent palaces. Then we will enjoy our Farewell Dinner together in a special setting that captures the spirit of this ancient land.
The tour officially ends with our arrival in Delhi. Those with evening international flights can stay at the airport and check in for their flights. We also have nearby day rooms (with a transfer) available for anyone with a flight departing during the night.
See the Extensions tab for more touring in India and Nepal after the trip!
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