23 Days Badlands, Beasts, Bishnois, & Beaches

October 16-November 7 2012

Prices from $2295 per person land only

ITINERARY


Day 1
   Arrival in Delhi

Namaste! Welcome to India! On arrival your Adventure Leader will meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel. There are no planned activities for today. After your long flight, you may want to freshen up and relax. If you arrive early and feel like going out to see the city, just talk with your Adventure Leader who will be on hand to assist you with directions, give you information on places to see, organize transport and point you in the right direction. Make sure you get plenty of rest today as we will start early in the morning tomorrow. This evening there will be a group orientation meeting complete with traditional North Indian snacks, refreshing drinks and dinner where you'll have the opportunity to get to know your Adventure Leader and fellow travelers while discussing the adventure that lies ahead. (Snacks, Dinner)


Day 2
   Bharatpur

In the morning we set out for Bharatpur, home of the UNESCO World Heritage Keoladeo Ghana National Park. After checking in to our hotel, which is just a stones throw away from the reserve, you'll have time to freshen up with a swim before we head into the park. A haven of wetlands and forests, the sanctuary is home to over 400 species of birds including a selection of herons believed to be among the best in the world, along with a wide variety of other wildlife. We'll explore the park by bicycle or peddle rickshaw (your choice) traversing the back trails of the sanctuary with our naturalist guide before returning to our hotel for dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)


Day 3
   Bharatpur and the Taj Mahal

In the morning after yoga and breakfast, we'll visit the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri. Built in the 16th century by Emperor Akbar, the well-preserved ruins were the capital of the Mughal Empire between 1571 and 1585 AD before being deserted. After exploring this ancient city we'll head out for Agra where we'll visit India's most famous landmark - the stunning Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal of course needs no introduction and is a remarkable mausoleum built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his favorite wife - Mumtaj Mahal. When one sees it in person understanding its history, the feeling is best summed up in the words of Rabindranath Tagore who described the tomb as "one tear drop...upon the cheek of time". Returning to our hotel, you'll have time to relax and freshen up before we meet in the evening for snacks, drinks and a vegetarian feast for dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)


Day 4
   Kishangarh

Today we set out into the desert stopping at Abhaneri village to visit its epic half millennium old Chand Baoli step-well, the largest step-well in India, before arriving in the romantic Kingdom of Kishangarh. Founded by a Jodhpur prince four centuries ago, the kingdom flourished with its military prowess and fortunes earned as a member of the Mughal court. Here we'll be staying at the Maharajah's beautiful monsoon palace built in 1870 just outside the walls of the massive Kishangarh Fort. Set on the banks of the monsoon fed Gundalao Lake, we'll be staying in the palace's lakeside rooms with gorgeous views of the calm waters of the lake. Arriving in the afternoon, you'll have time to relax before we head out on foot into the village exploring the colorful bazaar and centuries old streets of this princely state founded in 1611 AD. During our stay here be on the lookout for kites, peacocks, herons and wild ducks that call the nearby fields and monsoon fed lake home. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)


Day 5
   Kishangarh

After yoga we'll set out to learn a little bit about marble. Rajasthan is famous for its marble - you'll see it in temples, homes and palaces and this morning you'll get a chance to find out how it comes to be - from the quarry, to the cutting factory to the final product. After learning about marble we'll head out to the banks of one of India's largest salt lakes, Sambhar Lake, which has provided the local communities with salt for thousands of years. Throughout its history, Rajputs, Mughals and British alike, have all exploited this rich source of salt. We'll visit the salt works and pans here where we'll see salt "farmed" using many of the same methods they used centuries ago. If we're lucky we may also see some of the area's colorful but shy winged visitors, the flamingos. After visiting the salt flats, we'll head to the village of Roopangarh for lunch where we'll dine in a royal palace that dates back to 1648 before exploring the centuries-old streets of this colorful medieval town. Returning to our palace in the late afternoon, you'll have free time to explore the streets of Kishangarh on your own or simply relax taking in the views and regal splendor of the old monsoon palace. As the sun sets, we'll meet for snacks, drinks and a tasty Rajasthani feast! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 6   Bhadrajun

Today we get an opportunity to experience India well off the beaten track as we travel to the rustic yet charming village of Bhadrajun where we'll be staying as personal guests of the Raja (equivalent of a Lord) at his 16th century palace residence. This picturesque village will be our home for the next three days as we focus on local rural village life, culture and customs. Upon arrival in Bhadrajun, with its palace nestled among the red-tinted rocky desert hills and its delightfully peaceful village, you'll have free time to relax and take in the serenity of rural Rajasthan. As the sun sets over the desert landscape, we'll meet up in the palace dining room for dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)


Day 7
  Bhadrajun

The history of Bhadrajun actually dates back thousands of years and is even mentioned in the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata. We start the day with yoga on the palace walls and a hearty breakfast before heading off to visit a local school in a nearby village as guests of the students and teachers. Later we'll return to Bhadrajun and explore the narrow-winding streets of this centuries old village before going by jeeps on safari into the desert to watch sunset from atop a sand dune. As the sun dips off into the arid horizon, we'll continue our journey out to a remote and auspicious Hindu temple that dates back well over 3,000 years for their aarti (Hindu ritual) ceremony. At nightfall we'll return to our palace residence for traditional local drinks and a candlelight dinner as personal guests of the Raja's family. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)


Day 8
   Bhadrajun

After yoga, we'll visit the Bishnois. The Bishnois are strict vegetarians and have been strong environmentalists for centuries. Known for their protection of the trees and wildlife that surround their villages, the Bishnois are self-sustaining and many of their villages, like the one we visit today - look similar to the way they've looked for hundreds of years. For lunch we'll join one of the Bishnoi families at their home for a traditional local vegetarian Bishnoi meal. After lunch we'll head back to the palace where you'll have time to freshen up and relax. In the late afternoon we'll visit a local girl's school where we'll join the students in the popular village game of sitolia. From the school we'll head outside the town to a colorful shepherds village, where brightly attired locals go about their lives much as they have for centuries - their vibrant clothes standing out in stark contrast to the surrounding desert. In the evening we'll return to the royal residence where we'll meet on the ramparts of the palace with breathtaking views overlooking the desert for drinks, snacks, dinner and a colorful evening of traditional Marwari music and dance. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 9   Aranyawas

After yoga and breakfast, we drive to the magnificent 15th century Ranakpur Jain temple - one of the five holiest sites in the Jain religion. This awe-inspiring temple sprawls over 48,000 square feet, has 20 domes and is supported by 1,444 pillars. Later, we head up into the Aravalli Mountains, one of the oldest mountain ranges in Asia, to Aranyawas, a serene hillside eco-retreat surrounded by forests, rivers and small villages. This is our home for the next two days, where we stay in cottages with scenic views. Checking in to our hillside chalets, we'll have time to relax and take a dip in the retreats step-well inspired pool. In the early evening, we'll meet for tea under the Banyan tree before setting out on a scenic hike around the eco-retreat's gardens. As the colors of the surrounding hills and forest change to night, we'll make our way to the eco-retreat's kitchen for our cooking class where we'll help create tonight's dinner. After preparing a tasty North Indian meal, we'll sit down around the campfire for dinner under the stars. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 10  Aranyawas

Our journey today takes us to the formidable medieval citadel of Kumbhalgarh. This massive 15th century fortress rises 1,100 meters from a prominent ridge and is encompassed by a 20-mile long defensive wall. It has seven majestic gates, seven ramparts, soaring watchtowers and rounded bastions making it nearly impregnable. It also boasts excellent panoramic views of the Shero Mallah Valley. After spending the early afternoon at Kumbhalgarh, we head back to Aranyawas for a late lunch before hiking through the surrounding fields and forests to a nearby Bhil (local tribe) village. As the evening approaches we'll settle down back at the retreat for a night of Bhil tribal music, dance, drinks and of course - more tasty food! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 11   Mount Abu

With lush forests, lakes and a cool climate, it is no wonder why the picturesque town of Mount Abu, located on the highest peak of the Aravalli Mountains, attracted the ruling elite of old Rajasthan including the British, who made it their summer capital. However, well before they set up shop, sages and saints were attracted by the peak's serenity, making it home to many sacred sites - the most stunning of which is the legendary Jain Dilwara Temples. Dating back to the 11th century, the artisanship of these intricately carved marble temples is nothing less than striking. After the temples, we're off to Guru Shikhar. Standing at 5,676 feet, it is the highest peak between the Himalayas in the north and the Nilgiris in the south. On reaching the top, we'll enjoy brilliant views for sunset before heading back to town where we'll take a stroll along Nakki Lake and have dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)


Day 12
   Ahmedabad

After breakfast we head out for Ahmedabad, the central city and economic capital of Gujarat - one of the staunchest vegetarian states in India. Here we'll visit the grandest of Gujarat's famous step-wells, Adalaj Wav. Built in 1499 by Queen Rudabai, the reigning Islamic ruler of the time, Adalaj Wav was a reprieve for the royal family as well as for weary travelers and pilgrims during the long dry summer months. From the step-wells we set off for Sabarmati Ashram. Founded by Mahatma Gandhi on the outskirts of the main city, the ashram was the base for the Indian freedom struggle transforming it into a symbol of non-violence and peace. After returning to our hotel and freshening up, we'll go for dinner at one of the city's finest vegetarian restaurants for a pure Gujarati feast. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)


Day 13
   Sasan Gir

Today we drive across the plains of Gujarat to Sasan Gir and the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary - home of the last remaining habitat of the Asiatic Lions in the wild. We'll be roughing it out for the next couple of days staying just outside the sanctuary on the edge of the forest in tents where you'll have plenty of time to explore the jungle and its surroundings. Before arriving at Sasan Gir we'll stop at the Mahabat Maqbara in Junagadh. A stunning and intricate catacomb of the former Nawab rulers, the Mahabat Maqbara is one of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture found in Gujarat. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) 


Day 14
   Sasan Gir – Safari Tent Camp

The last remaining habitat of the Asiatic Lion, the Gir Forest National Park is a mixture of thick forests, banyan trees, rivers and streams. In addition, the national park is also home to leopards, deer, antelope, wild boar, monkeys, jackals and a plethora of bird varieties. After our morning yoga session down by the creek and breakfast, we'll visit the sanctuary's orientation center where you'll find information and details on the animals of the national park. After lunch we'll hop aboard jeeps and head out into the jungle on safari returning to our camp at nightfall. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)   

Day 15 & 16   Diu

Leaving the jungle behind, we head out for the western coast of Gujarat stopping at Somnath Temple, a highly sacred Hindu pilgrimage site held in great reverence throughout India. After visiting the temple, we travel to the 16th century colonial Portuguese island settlement of Diu. Nestled off the coast of Gujarat in the Arabian Sea, Diu is a unique fusion of history, sun, sand and sea. The town is a maze of winding streets filled with colorful buildings and ornate cathedrals; the centerpiece being the 1541 built massive and impregnable Portuguese Fort - complete with a moat. We'll spend two days here taking in the relaxed pace of the old settlement including exploring the island's historical sites as well as natural beauty where you'll have plenty of free time to wander around the town, spend time on the beach - or both - whatever you feel up for. (Breakfast (x2), Lunch (x1), Dinner (x2))

Day 17 & 18   Palitana

From the coast of the Arabian Sea we journey inland to Palitana, the most important pilgrimage site in the Jain religion. A faith devoted to strict vegetarianism, Jainism is based on the principals that all living creatures should be treated with mutual respect and no one life is greater than the other. Resting at the foot of Shatrunjaya Hill, Palitana is the base camp town of one of India's most scenic and extraordinary pilgrimage sites. Here we begin our climb up 3,500 steps to the summit where over 850 meticulously carved temples adorn the tranquil spiritual peak, which is complimented by epic views of the surrounding mountains, rivers and valleys below. While here we'll be staying just outside the town at the hundred-year-old royal country retreat of the Gohil Rajputs. (Brunch (x1), Breakfast (x2), Lunch (x1), Snacks (x1), Dinner (x2))  

Day 19, 20 & 21   Udaipur

After breakfast we set out on the road leaving the plains of Gujarat behind and head back into the desert for the enchanting oasis city of Udaipur. Arriving in the early evening at our home for the next three days, a charming old noble's haveli (mansion) set alongside the banks of the Lake Pichola, we'll settle into our rooms with picturesque views of the lake, the historical city and Royal Palace. After freshening up, we'll meet on the rooftop where we'll unwind over snacks and drinks while watching the colors of the old city change to night.

Often referred to as the Venice of the East, Udaipur is one of the most romantic towns in India. Surrounded by lakes, rolling hills and rich in history, we'll spend our time here taking in the alluring princely charm of Rajasthan visiting this over four centuries old city's stunning palaces, ancient temples and vibrant bazaars.

One of the highlights of our stay here is our visit to a very special animal rescue organization known as Animal Aid. We'll spend the morning with them out at their base where they not only offer a hospital, but also a home for the abused and neglected animals of the city.

While in the "city of lakes" we'll also meet up with our friends, who just happen to also be very good chefs, for a mouthwatering vegetarian cooking class where we'll be their guests at their home as they teach us how to prepare an absolutely delicious traditional Indian vegetarian meal - or should we say feast! But prepare to roll up your sleeves as we each not only learn, but also cook, our own Indian vegetarian dinner. That's right - we're all responsible for cooking our own meals so no mistakes (just kidding)! But don't worry - the chefs will be there to guide us through every step of the way!

On our last night we'll sample some of the tastiest Rajasthani cuisine the oasis town has to offer - a Mewari vegetarian feast at a local Rajput family's home, while enjoying traditional live music and folk dances and sipping on plenty of refreshing beverages. Make sure you have a good appetite and a good thirst - and don't forget to bring your party shirt and dancing shoes! (Breakfast (x3), Lunch (x3), Dinner (x3))  

Day 22   Udaipur - Train to Delhi

After breakfast you'll have the day free to get in any last minute souvenir shopping or just kickback and relax until we meet up in the early evening to catch the overnight train to Delhi. On the way to the railway station we'll stop for dinner before boarding the train (Breakfast, Dinner)

Day 23   Delhi

We'll arrive in Delhi in the morning by train and our adventure ends after brunch. If you would like to extend your stay at the hotel here or for any onward assistance, please talk with your VegVoyages Adventure Leader who will be more than happy to help. (Brunch)

WHAT'S INCLUDED

ACCOMMODATION:
22 night's accommodations...
- 4 nights at hotels
- 3 nights at Maharajahs' palaces
- 3 nights as guests of a Raja at his palace
- 2 nights at a peaceful hillside eco-retreat
- 2 nights at a tent camp
- 2 nights at a seaside island resort
- 2 nights at a royal countryside retreat
- 3 nights at an old lakeside royal mansion
- 1 overnight air-conditioned sleeper train

MEALS:
61 meals...
- 20 breakfasts
- 2 brunches
- 18 lunches
- 21 dinners

TRANSPORT:
- Private air-conditioned cars
- Jeep
- Boat
- Rickshaws
- Bicycles
- Train

STAFF:
VegVoyages Adventure Leaders & Local Guides

OTHERS INCLUDED:
- Yoga lessons
- Vegetarian and vegan cooking classes
- All site entry fees
- All local guide fees
- Live music and folk dances
- All activities as per the itinerary
- All entertainment as per the itinerary
- Airport arrival transfer in India
NOT INCLUDED:
International airfare, airport departure transfer, visa for India, personal travel insurance, gratuities and items of a personal nature.

Prices

All prices listed for each adventure are per person in US Dollars. The tour prices do not include international airfare, airport taxes, visa fees, travel insurance, tips, items of personal nature, laundry, still/video camera fees at sites (as applicable) or any additional transport, meals, drinks and/or other activities outside and which are not listed in the adventure itinerary or details section of each tour.

Insurance

It is compulsory and the responsibility of all VegVoyages travelers to obtain their own travel insurance. The travel insurance must provide coverage against personal accident, medical expenses, emergency repatriation and personal liability. VegVoyages also recommends that the traveler obtain additional coverage for flight cancellations, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal affects.

Airport Transfers

Please forward your confirmed arrival details at least 3 weeks before your adventure dates, including arrival time and flight number to us via email or post so we can arrange to meet you at the airport. All arrival airport transfers are already included in the tour price. The departure airport transfer is not included as many people like to stay on for a few extra days longer. However, we can help to arrange a taxi transfer from the hotel to the airport for you upon request.

Additional Accommodations

Due to flight schedules, you may require additional accommodation at the beginning and/or at the end of your adventure. Please let us know once you get your airline confirmed if you will need additional night’s accommodation so we can make the arrangement for you. Additional night’s accommodation per room (double occupancy) per day is as follow:

  • US$68 in Delhi
  • US$65 in Kuala Lumpur
  • US$65 in Bangkok

Single Supplements

VegVoyages adventures run on a twin share basis so single travelers don’t have to pay a single supplement. If you are a single traveler, we will pair you up with another group member of the same sex, who you would share a room with throughout the tour. However, if you are a single traveler and would like to have a room to yourself, a single supplement would be charged. Single supplement charges are as follows:

    • US$450 for Desert Kingdoms of Rajputana
    • US$630 for Badlands, Beasts, Bishnois & Beaches!
    • US$335 for Vegin' Out in the Land of Rajputs
    • US$395 for Camels & Canines & Cows - Oh My!
    • US$195 for The Green Triangle
    • US$455 Mekong Moment - 17 days Adventure
    • US$480 Rainforests, Reefs, Cultures & Cuisines! - 16 days Adventure

Passports, Visas & Vaccinations

Please make sure your passport is valid for 6 months beyond the duration of the scheduled tour, as this is a standard requirement of most countries. Also, please make sure that you have obtained all the appropriate visas needed for your travels. VegVoyages cannot accept the responsibility if you are refused the entry to a country because you lack the correct visa documentation. Please consult your physician for vaccinations and other personal medical necessities including preventative medicines as may be recommended by your doctor.

PLEASE NOTE

VegVoyages does not use animals on our tours for expeditions, rides and/or safaris. Laws concerning the humane treatment of animals are lacked and rarely enforced in the countries our tours go to. Although there are exceptions, many animals such as horses, camels & elephants are often mistreated, forced to work long hours and live in poor conditions without proper care. Should you individually decide to engage activities where animals are used - such as safaris - please check to see that the animals you are renting have been treated well and that their living and working conditions are humane. Thank you for your understanding.