Palaces, Pleasure-Domes and Gardens
Join us for a passage through India as we explore the country’s gracious temples, spacious gardens, bustling markets and magnificent palaces.
Discover the treasures of the Subcontinent in the museums of Mumbai, and immerse yourself in the nation’s finest modern and contemporary art in public and private galleries. Wander through the verdant gardens of Udaipur, and bask in the rosy hue of Jaipur, Rajasthan’s ‘Pink City’. Admire Agra, where the formal gardens of Mehtab Bagh gaze wistfully across the river to the Taj Mahal. Revel in the glories of Delhi, where 17th century palaces contrast with a lively 21st century city.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Suggested departure from Australia or New Zealand on Singapore Airlines flights to Mumbai. If travelling on suggested flights, arrive in the evening (same day) and transfer to the hotel.
In the morning, enjoy a welcome breakfast and briefing with Claudia and fellow travellers before departing for a sightseeing tour of Mumbai.
Begin with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Victoria Terminus train station, travel past Marine Drive on the Mumbai waterfront and the traditional washermen on Dhobi Ghat, and then explore Mani Bhawan, Mohandas Ghandi’s political base in the early 20th century.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the National Gallery of Modern Art, displaying some of India’s boldest modern and contemporary art, and the extensive artistic and archaeological collection of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly, Prince of Wales Museum of Western India).
Return to the hotel in the afternoon before dinner in the evening.
Today, explore Mumbai on foot in a half-day walking tour. Start at the Gateway of India arch, and continue to the exclusive Royal Yacht Club, the Regal Circle and the Maharashtra State Police Headquarters. View Dhanraj Mahal, a lavish Art Deco palace built for a wealthy trading family in the 1930s, before strolling onwards to the Oval Maidan, a 22-acre green space which is never short of an informal cricket match. View the Knesseth Eliahoo Synagogue, the Flora Fountain and the Mumbai Samachar Building, the home of India’s oldest continuous newspaper (the eponymous Mumbai Samachar, first published in July 1822).
After a visit to the Dr Bahu Daji Lad Museum, which houses a treasure trove of industrial and decorative artworks, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the dynamism of Mumbai.
After breakfast, check out from the hotel and transfer to Mumbai Domestic Airport for a flight to Udaipur.
Udaipur was founded by Maharana Udai Singh in 1567. Still very much a traditional Rajput town, it is one of the most picturesque and romantic places in India, particularly when it glows gold in the early evening as dusk falls on nearby Lake Pichola.
Depart for a full-day sightseeing tour of Udaipur. Visit the Ahar Cenotaphs, built over the last 350 years to commemorate the Maharanas of Mewar. Explore the City Palace Museum, and the Crystal Gallery in the Fateh Prakash Palace, the largest private collection of crystal in the world. Much of its collection was commissioned by the Maharanas of Mewar, including dazzling objets d’art, perfume bottles, dinner services, furniture and decanters.
Continue to the Saheliyon ki Bari gardens, located near Fateh Sagar Lake, which were built in the 18th century by Maharana Sangram Singh for his queen and her ladies-in-waiting.
Greet the evening on an exclusive boat cruise on Lake Pichola, drifting past the palaces built on the lake’s two islands.
After breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel to Jodhpur. En route, visit the Ranakpur Jain Temples. Nestled in the heart of the Aravalli Hills, Ranakpur is one of the five holy sites in the Jain religion and is a popular pilgrimage destination. Its white marble temples were built in the 15th century, and the crowing edifice is the Adinath Temple, supported by 1,444 exquisitely carved pillars, no two of which are the same.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Ranakpur before continuing onwards to Jodhpur. Check in to the hotel in Jodhpur, followed by dinner.
Begin your exploration of Jodhpur with a visit to Jaswant Thada, the graceful marble cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II built in 1899. Continue to the imposing Meharangarh Fort, which has commanded the heights above the city since the 15th century. The fort is one of the largest and most impressive in all India and is said to be invincible from the outside.
After lunch, visit Chokelao Garden, which was laid out in 1739 as a retiring place for the maharaja, and the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, created in 2006 from what had been a neglected, overgrown wastleland next to the fort.
Return to the hotel in the afternoon. Later, there is the option of a heritage walk around Umaid Bhawan Palace, conducted by the palace butlers.
In the morning, visit the Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum, housing a fine collection of Victorian and Edwardian timepieces, weapons, porcelain and miniature paintings. Then immerse yourself in the azure beauty of Jodhpur’s old town with a heritage walk through the ‘Blue City’, discovering some of its hidden treasures and living traditions. Visit the Clock Tower Bazaar, which offers everything from fruit and spices to textiles and bangles – and an entire street dedicated to betel nut!
After lunch at a local restaurant, continue your exploration of the Blue City before a mid-afternoon return to the hotel, and dinner in the evening.
After breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel to Jaipur, stopping in the Sufi pilgrimage site of Ajmer for lunch.
Arrive in Jaipur in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel. Deriving its name from its founder, Raja Jai Singh II, the city of Jaipur was meticulously planned as a new royal capital when construction began in 1726. As a counterpart to our previous location in Jodhpur, in Jaipur the houses of the old city are painted in shades of light carnation and terracotta, giving it the name the ‘Pink City’.
Spend a day getting to know Jaipur. Laid out in nine large blocks corresponding to the ancient Hindu map of the universe, the buildings in the old town were originally painted a variety of different colours, but when Prince Albert visited in 1853 they were all painted pink, the traditional colour of welcome – and they have stayed that way ever since. Explore the City Palace, including the Mabarak Mahal which houses the Textile and Costume Museum, the Armoury, the Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences) and the 18th century Jantar Mantar Observatory.
Wander through the nearby Johari Bazaar, selling cloth, turbans, jewellery, edible silver leaf and colourful wedding outfits, and have lunch at LMB Restaurant, a pure vegetarian restaurant famous for its wonderful displays of Indian sweets.
Return to the hotel before an afternoon at leisure and then dinner in the hotel.
After breakfast, travel to Amer Fort, passing on the way the Hawa Mahal, the ‘Palace of the Winds’, which was once used by the ladies of the court to watch the daily goings-on in the street below. At Amer Fort, explore the Mughal-style architecture of its elegant halls and stately towers, where decorated elephants and snake charmers still display the centuries-old traditions of Rajasthan.
Enjoy a heritage walk through Amer Village, including the Jal Mahal temple, the Panna Meena Stepwell and the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing. The museum displays a varied selection of printed textiles along with the tools used in this traditional form of Rajasthani art.
The afternoon is at leisure to continue exploring Jaipur on your own, before dinner in the evening.
After breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel to Agra via Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur Sikri was constructed by Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1569 in gratitude to a local Sufi saint who had predicted the birth of three sons to the then-childless emperor. It served as the capital of the empire from 1571 to 1585, and its design – incorporating a mixture of Hindu, Persian and Islamic elements – is an expression of Akbar’s syncretic, even ecumenical, views on religion.
Continue to Agra and check in to the hotel. After lunch, enjoy an afternoon tour of Mehtab Bagh, the expansive gardens built on the opposite side of the Yamuna River from the Taj Mahal by Emperor Shahjahan. The tour will be led by one of Agra’s leading architecture conservationists.
Rise early for a dawn visit to the Taj Mahal, Emperor Shahjahan’s mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. When Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to the couple’s fourteenth child, Shahjahan turned his back on the administration of his empire and dedicated himself to the construction of the Taj Mahal. Fashioned from white marble with semi-precious pietra dura stone inlay work, it was described by Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore as “a teardrop on the face of eternity”.
Return to the hotel for breakfast, and then travel to Sikandra to visit the tomb of Emperor Akbar, a four-tiered pyramid of red sandstone and white marble. After lunch, visit Agra Fort, a 38-hectare walled city built by three generations of Mughal emperors in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Transfer to the Agra railway station and board the Gatimaan Express train to Delhi (main luggage sent by road), arriving in the evening, followed by dinner.
In the morning, visit the tomb of the Emperor Humayun (the father of Akbar, whose tomb we saw yesterday). Humayun’s tomb in red sandstone and white marble is one of the finest examples of the garden tomb, and is a precursor to the Taj Mahal (which was built by his great-grandson Shahjahan). Enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the Lodhi Gardens, and then take a leisurely stroll through the 36-hectare gardens back to the hotel. The Lodhi Gardens, named for the last dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate before the city was conquered by the Mughals, contain the tombs of many of the Sultans of Delhi from the 15th and 16th centuries.
In the afternoon, visit Delhi’s bustling Khan Market and a pair of the city’s vibrant contemporary art galleries.
After breakfast, travel past India Gate and the Government Secretariat buildings on the way to a guided tour of the Rashtrapati Bhavan Museum Complex (the President’s House), comprising the Clock Tower, the Stables and the Garages. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before exploring the broad collection of the National Archaeological Museum, including textiles, armour, tribal art, manuscripts, jewellery, coins and musical instruments from across the sweep of centuries.
Then take in the riches of the National Gallery of Modern Art, whose collection includes works by Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Raja Ravi Verma, Nandalal Bose, Amrita Sher-Gil and M F Husain, as well as works by European and Asian artists.
In the morning, take a ride on the Delhi Metro, one of the modern engineering marvels of the world, from Patel Chowk Station to historic Old Delhi. In Old Delhi, travel by cycle rickshaw through the narrow lanes, past market stalls and hawkers’ stands, where time seems to have stood still for a hundred years. Visit the Red Fort, the great national edifice that was home to the Mughal court for 200 years and still plays host to official Indian Independence Day celebrations each year.
Enjoy a special farewell lunch with Claudia and fellow travellers.
For those departing India today, transfer to Delhi International Airport for suggested overnight flights on Singapore Airlines to Australia or New Zealand.
For those continuing on to the optional post-tour to Shimla, return to the hotel.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
14 August 2018
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do require a visa for India. The visa will be obtained by Renaissance Tours and is included in the tour price.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in luxury 5 star palace-hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner)
- Wines with welcome and farewell dinners
- Airport/hotel transfers on tour arrival and departure, if travelling on suggested flights
- Comprehensive sightseeing and visits to galleries, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Economy Class flight from Mumbai to Udaipur (20 kg luggage allowance)
- Executive Class travel on Gatimaan Express train from Agra to Delhi
- Visa for India
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Airport and hotel porterage (one piece per person) if travelling on suggested flights
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport porterage if not travelling on suggested flights
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Mumbai – Taj Mahal Palace Hotel *****
The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was commissioned by wealthy Indian industrialist Jamsetji Tata, and first opened its doors in 1903. Favoured by maharajas and European royalty alike, it was such a focal point that the Gateway of India was later built nearby. Playing host to everyone from W Somerset Maugham to Bill Clinton, it has become one of the symbols of Mumbai.
Udaipur – Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel *****
Constructed by Maharana Fateh Singh of Mewar (r. 1884-1930), the Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel is located on the eastern shore of Lake Pichola, and is still decorated with interior furnishing redolent of the Mewar dynasty. Within the hotel, the Durbar Hall and Crystal Gallery display the vast wealth of the maharanas who once lived there, from rare paintings to objets d’art and crystalware.
Jodhpur – Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel *****
Named after Maharaja Umaid Singh of Jodhpur, the Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel is the sixth-largest private residence in the world, and is still home to the Jodhpuri royal family. Built between 1929 and 1943, it also contains a museum of the maharajas’ porcelain, glassware and classic cars. In 2016, it was declared the World’s Best Hotel in the Travellers’ Choice Awards.
Jaipur – Jai Mahal Palace Hotel *****
Set within 7 hectares of delicately-landscaped Mughal gardens, the Jai Mahal Palace Hotel was built in 1745 and is a stunning example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. In its time it was the official residence of the Prime Minister of the Princely State of Jaipur, and it has been painstakingly restored to its original Rajput-era glory – coupled with the best of modern amenities of course.
Agra – ITC Mughal Hotel *****
The ITC Mughal Hotel extends across 14 hectares of buildings and gardens, and to date is the only construction in India to have won the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture, given for its detailed recreation of Mughal-style architecture and design, including water channels, fruit trees, a lily pond and delicately-shaded walkways, with different elements dedicated to different Mughal emperors.
Delhi – Vivanta by Taj – Ambassador Hotel *****
Built by Walter Sykes George in 1945 in a mixture of Art Deco and Indian styles, the Ambassador Hotel is located next door to Khan Market, the fashionable retail centre of Delhi. Originally playing host to esteemed guests of the British Raj in the colonial headquarters of New Delhi, the Ambassador still welcomes the discerning traveller to the nation’s capital.
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted
TOUR TO SHIMLA
with Claudia Hyles
28 October – 02 November 2018 (6 days)
Sunday 28 October 2018 / Delhi
Enjoy dinner tonight at the hotel.
Mon 29 Oct / Delhi – Chandigarh
In the morning, check out from the hotel and transfer to Delhi Domestic Airport for a flight to Chandigarh. On arrival in Chandigarh, transfer to the hotel.
After lunch, explore Chandigarh with a sightseeing tour. Chandigarh was the first planned city of modern India, and Swiss-French architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (Le Corbusier) delivered what has come to be regarded as one of the finest urban designs in the world. Visit the Le Corbusier Centre, established in the architect’s office in the city, and the extraordinary Chandigarh Museum, which, after Partition in 1947, inherited almost half of the collection of Gandharan sculptures and Rajasthani miniatures which had been housed in the Lahore Museum, on the other side of the India-Pakistan border.
In counterpoint to Le Corbusier’s grand, official designs also visit the Rock Garden, the creation of an untutored genius by the name of Nek Chand Saini. Chand created the garden from the waste materials he found while Chandigarh was under construction, including rocks, bangles, bottle tops, discarded sinks and bicycle frames.
Continue to the peaceful Sukhna Lake, which Le Corbusier set aside as an oasis of tranquillity for Chandigharis of future generations.
Tue 30 Oct / Chandigarh – Kalka – Shimla
Check out from the hotel and transfer to Kalka railway station to board a chartered rail car to Shimla. The carriage, which resembles a motorbus from the 1940s, offers a charming way to ascend from the dusty plains of Kalka to the cool heights of Shimla. Enjoy lunch on board.
Arrive in Shimla and check in to the hotel, followed by an afternoon at leisure.
Wed 31 Oct / Shimla
This morning, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Shimla, the glamorous summer capital of British India nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, visiting the Mock Tudor Library, the Town Hall, the Vice-Regal Lodge, the Radio Station Building (exterior view), Christ Church and the Gaiety Theatre.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit Bishop Cotton School, founded in 1859 by an enlightened graduate of Westminster School and the University of Cambridge (and former master at Rugby School) to provide a sound education to the rising generation in British India, and the Army Heritage Museum.
Dinner tonight is at Chapslee Estate, an early 19th century building which once housed the Secretariat of the British East India Company.
Thu 01 Nov / Shimla – Kalka – Delhi
Spend a morning at leisure appreciating the charms of Shimla before lunch at the hotel. Check out from the hotel and descend by road to Kalka station for a train ride back to Delhi. Dinner is served aboard the train.
On arrival in Delhi, check in to the hotel.
Fri 02 Nov / Depart Delhi
Check out from the hotel in the early morning and transfer to Delhi International Airport. Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at the airport.
Suggested return flights to Australia or New Zealand on Singapore Airlines, arriving early in the morning of Saturday 03 November 2018.