Tigers of the Forts, Iconic Taj & Palaces Tour in North and Central India (15 Days; # 125)
This tour takes you to the Best Tiger Park of Rajasthan (Ranthambhore National Park) & Madhya Pradesh (Bandhavgarh National Park) along with the must do visit to the iconic Taj Mahal, the royal city of Jaipur, Forts and Palaces of Jodhpur. Rajasthan is the culturally rich and fascinating desert state of India. The royal historical heritage in the form of palaces, forts, havelis, temples, mosques, tombs and monuments set against the desert landscape make Rajasthan a unique destination. The colourful dressing, deep rooted traditions, age old handicrafts, art, folk dance and music and delicious traditional cuisine showcase the rich Rajasthani culture. We start with Delhi, India’s capital city, where we’ll spend our first night of the trip in Hotel Shanti Palace. Leaving Delhi behind we fly to Jodhpur with the biggest fort in Rajasthan looming large over the blue tinged old city. Meherangarh Fort, its Museum and Jaswant Thada Cenotaph is definitely worth a visit. The grand modern 20th century Palace, Umaid Bhawan was made of sandstone without the use of mortar or cement to provide employment to the poor during the famine of 1920’s. Partly converted into a hotel and a museum, it provides a glimpse of a magnificent royal residence too. The best way to get the feel of the city is to drive through the old city and past the Clock Tower near the largest spice bazaar in the sub-continent. The narrow lanes selling juttis, tie and dye fabrics, antiques, silverware, furniture etc is a shopper’s paradise. And for the food connoisseurs, this is heaven. With the most scrumptious sweets, yoghurt lassi, thickened milk and spicy fried snacks, it will be difficult to save space for the delectable traditional main course. Our next destination is the walled heritage city of Jaipur, with its enchanting old bazaars, havelis, forts and pink hued buildings is full of romance and royal charm. There is so much to see in Jaipur but the best way to explore it being on the roads, soaking up the sights and sounds of this bustling city. Visiting the old heritage sights like City Palace, Hawa Mahal, various havelis and old palaces that have now been converted into luxury hotels, gives you a glimpse of its erstwhile grandeur. The stunning Amber Fort Palace established in 1592 by Man Singh I, is a sight to behold. The narrow lanes of the charming bazaars in the walled city are full of colour and beckon you to buy handcrafted souvenirs, paintings, textiles, blue pottery, traditional jewellery, bangles etc. Every lane is a veritable treasure of some artistry, tie and dye art, gem cutting and polishing, leather work, bangle making. You can see it all here. We also take you to a very interesting resort away from the city where the ambience transports you to a traditional Rajasthani village where you can enjoy a traditional meal, local folk dance and music performances, puppet shows etc. The next three days are dedicated to exploring Ranthambore more. We will take you for an afternoon drive in a 4WD to the park for tiger-tracking and animal viewing. Regardless of animal sightings, there is something magically peaceful and tranquil about a safari journey, the opportunity to be at one with nature, surrounded by beautiful scenery is hard to beat. Along with the scheduled morning and afternoon safaris, you can explore the ancient Ranthambore Fort on whose name the National Park has been named; Ganesh Temple and the Jogi Mahal which is the home to the country’s second largest Banyan tree and also offers stunning views of the Padam also, pond with lilies blooming. A visit to the local village may also be a good option for those interested. Art lovers must also visit the Ranthambore school of Art for the wildlife paintings created by local artists. The school contributes towards tiger conservation. After visiting Ranthambhore National Park, we’ll drive to Agra. A trip to India seems incomplete without a visit to the most iconic manmade structure in the world, the Taj Mahal, where we shall take you next. Built by Shah Jahan as the symbol of undying love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the sight of the white marble structure does take your breath away. After spending a night in Agra, we’ll take an overnight train to Katni to visit Bandhavgarh National Park. Our journey to Bandhavgarh by taking a comfortable train to Katni followed by a scenic drive to Bandhavgarh National Park. It is one of the best places in the world in which to search for this majestic big cat. Our base for the three nights stay will be a very nice wildlife lodge & wellness lodge – Monsoon Forest. It is a unique eco-lodge with luxury air-conditioned tents and indigenous central Indian mud house styled architecture. With beautiful grasslands, views of the forest and the Bandhavgarh Fort in the distance, serenity will seep into you. Be prepared to have a fabulous stay as they go out of their way to make your stay most memorable. Special romantic dinners, traditional massages and yoga sessions are also an option at this resort. Getting there will take us 3.5 hrs of driving through the Vindhyan hills, with lovely views of fields and villages of Madhya Pradesh. You get to see a glimpse of typical central Indian flora, vistas, architecture and way of living. It is a perfect start to the adventure ahead. Bandhavgarh is uniquely famous as a forest offering nearly 100 percent tiger sightings. The density of the tiger population at Bandhavgarh is one of the highest known in India. Along with the majestic tigers, one can hope to see more than 22 species of mammals and 250 species of birds. In the park, you can taste the real adventure of a jungle safari. The excitement begins to build up as we take you to the core of the forest and you begin to hear and spot the animal and birds. You can also choose to explore birdlife in the forests, fort or adjoining areas like the Bhadrashilla Lake, Gadhpuri Dam and Bhambhera Dam which are ideal for birding. You can either explore it in a jeep or follow the steep trekking path on foot with our trained local guides. Along with thrilling safaris, for those interested, we can also arrange a village visit or cultural performance of local tribal dance. Also recommended is a visit to the Baghel Museum which houses precious belongings including a stuffed white tiger of the Maharaja of Rewa who maintained Bandhavgarh as his game reserve. In Bandhavgarh, along with the Tiger, you can see the Leopard, Spotted Deer, Sambhar, Barking Deer, Blue Bull, Indian Gazelle, Hyena, Jackal, Wild boar, Sloth Bear, Common Langurs, Rhesus Monkey etc. The vegetation along streams and marshes is rich in bird life. The common species of birds seen here are Egrets, The Blue Bearded Bee-Eater, Darter, the Yellow and Red-Wattled Lapwings, Egyptian Vulture, Kingfishers and Indian Rollers. Reptilian fauna includes Cobra, Krait, Viper, Rat Snake, Python, Turtle and a number of Lizard varieties. After fantastic sightings at Bandhavgarh, we take the flight back to Delhi where our tour ends.