Our tour of the Temples and Caves of Central India takes you to some of India's most offbeat tourist destinations which hold immense religious and cultural significance. You begin with a tour of Mumbai, the financial capital of India and also the hub of Indian film industry. Then keep moving towards north central India exploring places of historical importance like forts and palaces along with some very popular temples and caves. You will explore the incredible Ajanta and Ellora caves, the historic cities of Dhar, Orchha and Gwalior, the holy pilgrimages of Maheswar, Omkareshwar, Ujjain and Sanchi as well as the prehistoric Bhimbekta caves. Last, but not the least, we will visit the stunning symbol of love, the Taj Mahal before reaching the capital city of India, New Delhi. This tour is an insight into the incredible history, architectural finesse, multiculturalism, and religious passion prevalent in ancient India.
DAY 1 - Arrive in the City of Dreams, Mumbai
You will receive a warm welcome at the Mumbai International Airport by our travel representative who will assist you in your hotel transfer and check-in. The metropolitan city of Mumbai is the finance epicenter, fashion capital and the Bollywood hub of India. Previously there was a group of seven islands which were separate provinces, they were brought together by the British around 1720 to form present day Mumbai. The city also became the site of the first railway to be constructed in Asia. Today, Mumbai is an effervescent city packed with monuments and skyscrapers, beaches and slums as well as temples and churches, all standing side by side.
In the afternoon, you will proceed for a sightseeing tour of Mumbai. You will begin by visiting the iconic Gateway of India also known as the Entrance point of India, an archway with Indo-Saracenic architecture that overlooks the Arabian Sea. Then you will stroll along the famous boulevard of Marine Drive which arcs around the Arabian Sea. Glittering with hundreds of streetlights at night, it is also referred as the 'Queen's Necklace.' You will visit Mani Bhawan also known as the Gandhi memorial which is the erstwhile residence of Mahatma Gandhi in Mumbai. Another unforgettable experience will be a tour of Dharavi, the largest slum cluster in all of Asia right in the center of Mumbai, the place where Oscar winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" was shot.
Finally you can enjoy a relaxed evening in one of the most popular beaches in Mumbai, the Chowpatty Beach with local street food unmatched in taste and quality.
DAY 2 -- Explore the Elephanta Caves
In the morning, you will leave for an excursion to the Elephanta Island, which is a labyrinth of rock cut cave temples. These 1200 years old caves have stunning carvings and intriguing architecture. Its magnum opus is a 6m tall three faced statue of Lord Shiva. This renowned Trimurti sculpture signifies the holy trinity of the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. Later in the afternoon, you will be transferred to the Mumbai airport to board a flight for Aurangabad. On your arrival in Aurangabad you will be provided assistance with your hotel transfer and check in.
The city of Aurangabad got its name by being the capital of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 17th century AD. From UNESCO World Heritage Sites and bustling bazaars full of exquisite hand-woven paithani silks, local handicrafts and exotic gemstones, to the delicious local Tughlaq cuisine found in every corner, Aurangabad is packed with exciting experiences. The city retains its Mughal glory and heritage evident in its monuments, customs and traditions while rapidly heading towards industrial growth and globalisation.
DAY 3 -- Spend a day at the incredible Ajanta Caves
DAY 4 -- Soak in the stunning Ellora Caves
DAY 5 -- Delight in the History of Dhar
In the morning, you will drive 7-8 hours to the historic city of Dhar where you will be assisted with your check in at a heritage hotel. Set against beautiful hilly terrain with stretches of greenery and shimmering lakes, Dhar has witnessed the glorious rule of many rulers from Paramars and Khalji Sultans to Mughals and Marathas, who have all left their marks on the city. Brimming with legends of battles and wars as old as 11th century, Dhar is a delightful mix of different cultures. The town is full of architectural marvels such as forts, ancient monuments, old temples and mosques and studded with natural wonders of waterfalls, streams and lakes making it a perfect tourist destination.
Explore this quaint little town by walking through its narrow dusty lanes which combined with ancient tales and time worn structures will transport you to another era. Visit the unique Bhojshala, the historic Dhar fort, the famous pillar mosque and the numerous beautiful temples dotting Dhar's cityscape. You can shop at the local markets for handicrafts, Pithora paintings and fabrics with traditional Bagh prints.
DAY 6 -- Soak in the divinity of Maheshwar and Omkareshwar
In the morning, you will drive 1-2 hours to Indore where our travel counsellor will assist in your hotel check in. You will then drive 2 hours to Maheshwar, located on the banks of river Narmada where pilgrimage and folklore intermingle. Capital of Ahilya Devi Holkar in the 18th century, Maheshwar is known for its beautiful temples and serene Ghats. However, this town is on the world map because of the exquisite handloom sarees and fabrics produced here since the 5th century. Here you can visit the remarkable cenotaph (chattri) of Ahilya Devi who died in 1795.
In the afternoon, you will drive for an hour to the scared 'Om' shaped island of Omkareshwar in the Narmada River, which is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga's of Lord Shiva. The scenic beauty of the island studded with lofty peaks and a serene pool is mesmerizing. It became a popular Hindu pilgrimage after surviving numerous plunders by Mahmud Gazni in the 11th century. The divinity of this town attracts thousands of people every year.
In the evening you will drive for 3 hours to spend the night in your hotel in Indore.
DAY 7 -- Visit the holy town of Ujjain
In the morning, you will drive for one and half hours to reach Ujjain, the city which traces its origin to the very dawn of Indian civilization and has an unparalleled tradition of learning and culture. One of the seven sacred cities of India, Ujjain is also famous as the 'temple city' because of its numerous Hindu temples. Situated on the banks of River Shipra, the city is one of the sites of the famous Kumbh Mela gathering that happens every 12 years and attracts millions of people.
On arrival in Ujjain, you will be assisted with your Hotel check in. You will visit the centuries old Mahakaleshwar temple which is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva. You will see the architectural marvel of Jantar Mantar, a prominent research centre for Hindu astrologers and scholars established in the 17th century by Sawai Raja Jai Singh. You will also pay obeisance at Gopal Mandir, a 19th century marble structure with a beautiful Krishna idol constructed in Maratha style of architecture. You can end your day by enjoying an enchanting sunset at the ancient Ghats on the banks of River Shipra.
DAY 8 -- Visit Sanchi -- The Land of Stupas
In the morning, you will drive 3-4 hours to reach Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh. After assistance with checking into your hotel, you will leave for a day excursion to Sanchi which is an hour away. Sanchi is not only a highly devoted Buddhist pilgrimage but it is also a testament to the glorious Buddhist architecture that flourished during the reign of Emperor Ashoka. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Great Stupa installed by Emperor Ashoka in 3rd century BC houses the remains of Lord Buddha. You will visit the temples, stupas and monuments of Sanchi which stand as an example of the rich and flourishing Buddhist art and culture in that era. You will also behold the Ashoka Pillar which is the inspiration for the National Emblem of India.
Later, you will go to Udaygiri caves home to 20 rock cut caves which are dedicated to Jainism and Hinduism. You will see shrines with intricately carved sculptures of Hindu gods Shiva, Durga and Vishnu depicting legendary stories. These caves date from 320 to 606 AD of the Gupta era in India. Later you will drive one and half hours to Bhopal and spend the night in your hotel there.
DAY 9 -- Visit Bhimbekta Caves, A prehistoric art gallery
In the morning, you will drive one and half hours to visit the archaeological site of Bhimbekta caves that span the prehistoric, paleolithic and mesolithic periods. These 600 caves which have paintings by pre historic man are the largest treasure of prehistoric art in the Indian subcontinent. You will be enchanted by rock paintings which give us a glimpse of the lifestyle of prehistoric men, their community events like birth, burial, religious rites, hunting as well as pictures of animals.
In the afternoon, you will be transferred to the Bhopal Railway Station to board a train for Jhansi. On your arrival you will be helped into a car which will take you to Orchha in half an hour. In Orchha our travel representative will assist you in your Hotel check in.
DAY 10 - Discover the Hidden Gem called Orchha
Orchha means 'a hidden place.' This historical town on the banks of River Betwa is truly one of the secrets of Indian tourism. Built in 16th century, it was the seat of the powerful Bundela dynasty. In the morning you will explore spectacular temples, grand palaces and charming cenotaphs of Orchha built in a unique Mughal-influenced Rajput architectural style. Later, you will drive 3 hours to Gwalior en route visiting the Datia Palace. Explore this 7 storied architectural wonder adorned with arches and chattris made in a mixed Mughal and Rajput style of architecture with charming Bundela paintings on the inside.
On arriving in Gwalior, our travel counsellor will assist in your hotel check in. The culturally rich city of Gwalior is full of grand palaces and glorious temples that are a testimony to its glorious past. Gwalior also holds a very important position in the history of Indian classical music. In the evening you will go to the amphitheatre at Man Mandir in Gwalior Fort to watch 'Son-et-Lumiere,' a spectacular sound and light show that will dramatically carry you through the rich history of the fort and the beautiful love story of Raja Man Singh and his queen Mrignayani.
DAY 11 -- Explore the magnificent Gwalior Fort
In the morning you will proceed for a sightseeing tour of Gwalior. You will first visit one of the largest and most magnificent forts in India, Gwalior Fort referred to as 'the pearl amongst fortresses in India' by Mughal emperor Babur. The 6th century fort dominates the city of Gwalior from the top of a rocky mountain. Enclosing three temples and six palaces within its sandstone walls studded with blue ceramic tiles, the fort is an architectural delight. In the fort you will visit Teli Ka Mandir, the highest building in Gwalior dating back to the 9th century dedicated to Lord Vishnu. You will be charmed by its blend of South Indian architecture with North Indian motifs. In the eastern side of the fort, you can visit the larger than life Sas-Bahu Temples of Lord Vishnu adorned with exquisite carvings and sculptures.
In the evening, you will drive 3 hours to reach Agra and check into your hotel for the night.
DAY 12 -- Behold the stunning Taj Mahal
Legacy of the Mughal Empire's art, culture and architecture can be seen everywhere in Agra's forts, mosques and mausoleums. Situated on the banks of River Yamuna, the city draws millions of visitors each year who come to visit the Taj Mahal.
At sunrise you will be mesmerized by the majestic Taj Mahal, most beautiful of the Seven Wonders of the World. This ivory white marble edifice stands tall as an ode to the eternal love between Emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The beauty, magic and romance of the Taj Mahal will surely be etched in your hearts forever. After breakfast, you can visit the colossal Red Fort of Agra built with red sandstone by Emperor Akbar. You can also explore the local markets to shop for artifacts and marble handicrafts as souvenirs. Later you will drive 5 hours to Delhi and check into your hotel with assistance from our representative.
DAY 13 -- Departure from the Capital city of Delhi
Delhi is loud, colourful and full of life. The city is filled with historical monuments testifying to its rich Mughal and colonial past and bustling bazaars brimming with handicrafts, textiles and souvenirs. It is also a world class metropolitan with global multinationals, luxury hotels, top notch restaurants and a flourishing art hub. The city offers a treasure of experiences with something to interest every traveler.
After breakfast, you can explore the narrow winding streets of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi with its charming havelis, mouth watering local food and historical places of worship on a cycle rickshaw. You will visit the grand Red Fort, a silent witness of Mughal history and splendour. You will be dazzled by the grandeur of Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in Asia. Later, you can also drive through the meticulously planned Lutyen's Delhi with its wide avenues and 100 years old colonial buildings. You will also see the Indian Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidents House) and the grand archway of India Gate, a memorial for Indian soldiers.
Later in the afternoon, you will be transferred to the Delhi International Airport to board a flight to your onward destination.
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