End of Empires
Uncover the multi-layered history of vibrant India, from the mighty Mughal capital of Agra to the bustling former Raj centres of Kolkata and New Delhi.
Explore the story of the Mughal Empire, the British East India Company and the Raj in a tour of modern India starting in the current capital of New Delhi and ending in the coastal city of Kolkata that saw the arrival of the British and the spread of their commercial influence. En route see the Hindu and Buddhist jewels of India, including the Buddhist complexes of Sanchi and the Hindu temples of Bhubaneswar. Discover the shared inheritance of Alexander the Great, and learn how Hellenistic influences and European culture shaped the vibrant India of today.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Singapore Airlines flights to Delhi, or Cathay Pacific if continuing on post-tour. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Arrive in Delhi and transfer to your hotel for check-in (transfer included in tour price).
Join Iain and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing at 14:00. Then, explore the ruins of Tughlakabad, a 14th century fort including mausoleums that remain largely intact, and Qutb Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world with construction dating back to the late 12th century.
Tonight, enjoy a special welcome dinner with Iain and fellow travellers.
Following a morning talk by Iain, explore the Red Fort in the centre of Delhi, the residence of the Mughal emperors for almost 200 years up until 1856.
Then, enjoy a rickshaw ride in Chandni Chowk, a major shopping district in Delhi, alive with the smells and sights of spices, fruits and jewellery.
After lunch, continue to Jama Masjid Mosque, a 17th century construction of red sandstone and white marble by Shah Jahan, the same emperor behind the Red Fort and Taj Mahal.
Continue your exploration of Delhi with a visit to Humayun’s Tomb, the second emperor of the Mughal Empire, commissioned by his wife in the late 16th century.
After lunch, explore Lutyen’s Delhi, a portion of the city named after the British architect Edwin Lutyens, who was responsible for the design of the city during late British control. The area centres on Rashtrapati Bhawan, a 340-room building that is the official residence of the Indian president and the largest official residence of any head of state in the world.
Then, enjoy a private guided tour at the National Museum, the largest museum in India in terms of collection.
Check out of the hotel for an early morning flight to Bhopal (flight included in tour price).
Then, journey to the Bhimbetka rock shelters, an archaeological site dating to the Palaeolithic era exhibiting the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent. Some of the Stone Age cave paintings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters are believed to be as much as 30,000 years old. Return to Bhopal and enjoy some time at leisure.
In the late afternoon, enjoy a talk by Iain followed by dinner at the hotel.
Travel to the Buddhist complex of Sanchi. The centrepiece of the site is the Great Stupa, containing Buddhist relics, some of which date to the time of King Ashoka. Sanchi remained one of the greatest centres of Buddhist learning and piety for over 1,500 years.
Continue to the Udayagiri Caves, a 5th century site containing some of India’s oldest Hindu temples and iconography. Explore a number of royal caves filled with scenes of Hindu gods and mythological stories.
This morning, visit the Bhopal anthropology museum, presenting the story of human evolution with special reference to India, and the Taj-ul-Masajid, a late Mughal architectural work which, due to lack of funding, remained incomplete until 1985.
Depart Bhopal by train in the afternoon to Gwalior, and transfer to the hotel upon arrival.
Following a morning talk by Iain, explore Gwalior Fort, a structure known to date from at least the 10th century, although the inscriptions within may date to as early as the 6th century, including the second oldest known record of the number “0”. Wander the two palaces and defensive structures that still stand today.
Continue to the Jai Vilas Palace, a late 19th century palace by the Maharaja of Gwalior, showcasing the stately architecture from the period of the British Raj, and wander through Jiwaji Chowk market.
This evening, attend a lecture on the British colonial period in India.
Depart Gwalior for Agra by coach. Upon arrival, visit the Taj Mahal, arguably India’s most famous and treasured site. This mausoleum was constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a final resting place for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth. The emperor himself was buried alongside her following his own death some decades later.
After a talk by Iain, explore Agra Fort, a 16th century walled city which was the official residence of the Mughal emperors before their capital was relocated from Agra to Delhi. The fort was also the site of a battle during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, which resulted in the removal of control by the British East India Company and the imposition of direct control by Britain.
Discover the tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah, sometimes referred to as the ‘Baby Taj’. The tomb houses the remains of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal.
Then, enjoy a colonial tour of Agra and explore the cantonment area during the British Raj.
Depart Agra in the morning for the city of Jaipur, visiting Fatehpur Sikri en route. Founded in the 16th century as the Mughal capital, the city was completely abandoned in 1610 and supports only a small population today.
Continue to Jaipur and enjoy a talk by Iain en route. Check into your hotel in the evening.
Spend the day exploring the Amber Fort, adorned with Hindu-style artistic features and overlooking the serene Maota Lake. Like much other Mughal architecture, the fort is made of a mix of red sandstone and white marble.
Afterwards, wander Jaipur’s bazaar, a thriving marketplace of bright colours, rich aromas and lively atmosphere that showcases the wares and traders of the city.
Explore the City Palace, a complex incorporating the Chandra Mahal and Mubarak Mahal palaces. The complex itself was first begun in the early 1700s, but has been constantly added to and modified up until the last century, and contains a fusion of western, Indian and Islamic architectural styles. Also visit the Jaipur Observatory, Jantar Mantar, a site containing 19 astronomical instruments made in the 18th century, including the world’s largest stone sundial.
Continue to the Hawa Mahal, or ‘Palace of the Winds’, which sits on the edge of the City Palace. The palace has 953 windows, all intricately decorated with latticework.
The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to continue your exploration of Jaipur at your own pace.
Depart Jaipur on a morning flight to Bhubaneswar (flight included in tour price), located in the East Indian state of Odisha (formerly known as Orissa). Nicknamed the ‘Temple City of India’, Bhubaneswar is also an important Buddhist and Hindu pilgrimage destination.
Dinner is at the hotel.
Following a morning talk by Iain, spend a full day exploring the temples of the city, including Rajarani, Lingaraja and Mukteshvara temples, sites dating to the 10th and 11th centuries. Rajarani Temple is referred to locally as a ‘love temple’, and it’s believed to have been a model for many designs which followed. Lingaraja Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, is arguably the most prominent landmark in Bhubaneswar. Mukteshvara Temple is the earliest of the three, and demonstrates early forms of temple architecture.
In the afternoon, journey a short way out of the city to the Dhauli Hills, known for its large rock inscriptions containing edicts of the 2nd century BC Indian Emperor Ashoka.
Spend the morning exploring the Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves, once the abode of Jaina ascetics and now a site of archaeological significance. Khandagiri is made up of 15 caves, while Udayagiri contains as many as 18, containing artworks, sculptures and intricate carvings dating back over 2,000 years. Continue onwards to the Museum of Tribal Arts and Artefacts for an historical insight into Ancient India.
Depart Bhubaneswar on an afternoon flight to Kolkata (flight included in tour price) in India’s far west.
Following a morning talk by Iain, begin your exploration of the former seat of the British Raj by visiting the Viceroy’s Palace, originally the residence of the Viceroy of India, and, after the British capital moved to Delhi in 1912, the residence of the Governor of Bengal.
Visit Calcutta High Court, the oldest in the country, which was built based on a medieval Belgian hall and built in the unique Gothic Revival architectural style. Continue to St John’s Church, the original seat of the Anglican Church in Kolkata and the third oldest church in the city. Then, see the Kolkata Town Hall, originally a building for social gatherings for Europeans, and fronted by Roman columns.
Finally, visit the Victoria Memorial Hall, a large marble building built between 1906 and 1921 commemorating the peak of the British Empire in India.
This morning, explore the Mullick Ghat Flower Market by the river Ganga, one of the oldest and most vibrant markets of the city, and visit the Calcutta Jain Temple, renowned for its enthralling beauty.
Then, explore the Indian Museum, founded in 1814 and the oldest and largest museum in India, housing over 60 galleries and sublime sculptures from the important early Buddhist sire of Bharhut. Later, visit the Asiatic Society of Bengal, initially a large contributor to the Indian Museum, while also retaining its own collection including inscriptions by Ashoka.
Tonight, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Iain and fellow travellers.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
For those continuing with the post-tour to Mumbai and Aurangabad, check out of the hotel and transfer to Kolkata airport.
For those tour members not continuing on the post-tour extension and returning home today, transfer to Kolkata Airport (transfer included in tour price) for suggested Singapore Airlines flights. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any extra nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
20 December 2019
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Singapore Airlines / Cathay Pacific
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders require a visa to visit India. Renaissance Tours will assist Australian and New Zealand passport holders obtain your Indian visa.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including drinks with meals
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
- Economy Class flights from Delhi to Bhopal, Jaipur to Bhubaneswar and Bhubaneswar to Kolkata (20kg luggage allowance)
- First class train ticket from Bhopal to Gwalior
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
- Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Iain Shearer
- Visa for India for Australian and New Zealand passport holders
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, mini-bar, taxis etc.)
- Airport porterage
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Delhi – The Imperial Hotel *****
Bhopal – Jehan Numa Palace *****
Gwalior – Taj Usha Kiran Palace *****
Agra – ITC Mughal *****
Jaipur – Taj Jai Mahal Palace *****
Bhubaneswar – Trident Hotel *****
Kolkata – The Oberoi Grand *****
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.