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Central Treasure Trail

Definitely not for the first time visitor to India, this extensive itinerary takes you through the heart of Central India. This Central India tour takes one to the impressive Gwalior fort, ornately carved Chandela Temples in Khajuraho temple tour, the ancient cave painting at Bhimbetka dating back to the upper Paleolithic period, Sanchi - the largest Buddhists site in India, and Ahilya Fort situated high on the sacred Narmada River amidst comfortable traditional simplicity of the 18th century. Finally, explore the exquisite 2nd Century Buddhist paintings and sculptures during the Ajanta & Ellora Caves tour, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

16 Days

Route

Start From

Delhi

Ends Here

Mumbai

Highlights

  • See the exquisite Taj Mahal
  • Enjoy the journey in an Indian Train
  • Orchha - Wander through the fort complex the home to three grand 17th century palaces
  • Khajuraho - Visit the famous erotic temples of the Chandela Dynasty
  • Explore the beautiful Ajanta and Ellora caves and temples

Optional Experiences

  • Dining experience at Jehan Numa Retreat, Bhopal

Best time to Visit

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Days

Day 1 Arrive Delhi

Photo Credit: Russ Bowling Welcome to India!

Upon arrival at Delhi airport you are received by a Vasco representative and escorted to the hotel where you are welcomed in traditional Indian style. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

 

Known for its survival against all odds, Delhi the capital of India has been the epicenter of Indian politics for centuries. The delightful ambiance of Delhi leaves a hypnotic spell on the visitors with its old world charm and modern lifestyle that coexist in this city of Djinns. Upon arrival you will experience the newly built state of the art Delhi airport and as the journey unfolds, you will be fascinated by the ancient architecture of Mughal Era while traveling through the crowded by lanes of Chandni Chowk where the sights and sounds of the ever growing city and spicy traditional Indian food will caste a magical spell on you. Several luxury hotels adorn the skyline of Delhi and are known for their traditional warmth and hospitality the world over. The mystic charm of Delhi lies in its architectural marvels and rich traditional background.     

Day 2 Delhi – Agra

  • 220 km

  • 4 hr

Taj Mahal, Agra

Take a super fast express train to Agra early in the morning. Refresh yourself after check-in and  visit Taj Mahal (closed on Friday), one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a symbol of eternal love. Words cannot suffice nor do justice to the wonder that is Taj Mahal. It is definitely the finest architectural example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1980s it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is regarded as one of the jewels amongst the monuments of India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of world heritage. It was constructed in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife employing thousands of artisans and craftsmen for more than twenty years.

 

We also visit the famed Agra Fort and marvel at the architectural masterpieces housed inside it. Agra's history goes back more than 2500 years, but it wasn't until the reign of the Mughals that Agra rose to importance. The heyday of Agra came with the reign of Akbar the Great who built the main part of the Agra Fort during his reign. Construction of the fort started in 1156 and was finished in 1605. Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, erected most of the buildings inside the fortress. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses within its walls the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

Day 14 Aurangabad – Ajanta – Aurangabad

Ajanta Caves

Today, after breakfast, embark upon a full day excursion of the Ajanta Caves (Closed on Monday), listed as a World Heritage Site and dating back to the second century. The caves contain sculptures and paintings depicting Buddhist religious art. The Ajanta Caves have thirty rock cut Buddhist caves basically designed to serve as prayer halls (Chaitya) and as Buddhist monasteries (Vihara). The Chaityas - large, rectangular chambers separated by rows of pillars are decorated by sculptures and murals depicting the many incarnations of Buddha. The Viharas, on the other hand, are rectangular shaped halls having a series of small cells which are attached on both sides. The caves also contain a visual form of the life of Buddha and interesting Jataka stories. After completing the visit of the Ajanta Caves return to Aurangabad for overnight stay.

Day 6 Khajuraho – Sanchi – Bhopal

Photo Credit: Travelling Slacker Sanchi Stupa

Today, in the morning after breakfast, leave for Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh and the erstwhile capital of the legendary king Raja Bhoj. En route we visit Sanchi, a peaceful hill crowned by a group of stupas and monasteries. The first stupa here was built in around the 3rd century BC. The Great Stupa here is one the largest in India and is surrounded by lesser stupas and a whole complex of monasteries, dining rooms, shrine rooms, preaching halls and rest houses. After visiting Sanchi, continue driving towards Bhopal. Upon arrival check-in at the hotel for overnight stay.

Day 16 Aurangabad – Mumbai – Journey Home

After leisurely breakfast at the hotel depart for Aurangabad airport to your flight for Mumbai. Upon arrival at Mumbai, you will be escorted by our representative to the international terminal for boarding connecting flight for your onward journey.

Day 3 Agra - Gwalior

Photo Credit: Politvs City view from Gwalior Fort

After breakfast, we drive to Agra railway station to board the superfast express train to Gwalior. A short journey in the train brings us to the heartland of India – the central region. In the afternoon we visit Gwalior Fort, which was once regarded as a jewel amongst all the forts in India. The fort dominates its surrounding from atop a hill, with a history of annexations beginning from the 14th century by the Tomar dynasty, in the 16th century by the Lodi dynasty and later by the Mughals and the Marathas. It was intermittently captured by British on two occasions but finally made its way to the Scindias. The area is so huge that, unlike most other forts of India, you need to drive instead of walking to visit all the sites. After visiting the Gwalior Fort visit the beautiful and elegant Jai Vilas Palace and the Scindia Museum (Closed On Wednesday). Parts of the palace even today serve as the royal residence of the Scindias. Return to the hotel for overnight stay.

Day 5 Orchha – Khajuraho

  • 190 km

  • 4 hr

Photo Credit: Liji Jinaraj Erotic sculptures at Khajuraho Temples

In the morning visit the Orchha fortress which houses some beautiful frescoes and architectural marvels. It was a fusion of various architectural styles, lending to the edifices of Orchha's uniqueness in construction and design. Visit the various palaces and the rooms with well preserved frescoes that have been based upon the various gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon.

 

After the visit leave Orchha and drive to Khajuraho, famous the world over for its beautiful temple architecture with sculptures inspired from the ancient text of love – The Kamasutra. After check-in visit the temples of Khajuraho. Most of the temples in Khajuraho, arranged in clusters, were built within a century between 950 and 1050 AD. The isolation of Khajuraho in terms of its location amidst the wilderness and craggy stone hills helped protect the stunning temples from the rampant destruction at the hands of the invading hordes who managed to ravage many other architectural wonders. Walk around and get amazed by the unparalleled temple art and architecture. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

Day 15 Aurangabad

Ellora Caves

After having visited the Ajanta Caves, today embark upon the excursion of the nearby Daulatabad Fort and the Ellora Caves (Closed On Tuesday). The Ellora Caves, like the Ajanta Caves, are listed in the world-heritage list. They were built by the rulers of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty and were built in the 7th century AD. The Kailash Temple of the Ellora caves is a masterpiece and the most attractive of all the temples housed in the caves. Carved out of a rock with the help of some 7000 labourers, it took nearly 150 years to complete. The Ellora caves are a mix of both Hindu and Jain faiths and house some amazing and un-imaginable works of art – the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else. Later spend some time visiting the city to experience its various sights and smells. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

Day 10 Dhar – Mandu – Dhar

Jahaz Mahal, Mandu

Spend the day today making an excursion to the city of Mandu. Once dubbed the city of joy, Mandu is now a deserted fort atop a desolate hill with tales from the past sweeping through the streets. Mandu, once the capital of Malwa, was constructed by Raja Bhoj in the 10th century as a summer retreat and fortress. Mandu is one of the finest examples of Afghan architecture in India. The golden period of Mandu was under the rule of the Afghans who turned Mandu into an independent kingdom and during this period many temples, palaces and ghats were constructed in the Afghan style of architecture. The excursion revolves around these magnificent constructs of imagination and love. The edifices of Mandu can be divided into three parts: The Royal Enclave which is basically a group of temples, The Village Group which is the residential area complex and The Rewa Kund area famed as the site of the legendary romance between Baaz Bahadur and Rani Roopmati. Amongst the various sites and places you visit, the most notable ones are the Baaz Bahadur Palace, Rani Roopmati Pavilion, Jahaaz Mahal, Jama Masjid and the Hoshang Tomb. Later return to Dhar for overnight stay at the hotel. 

Day 11 Dhar – Maheshwar

  • 75 km

  • 2 hr

Ahilya Fort

After having a leisurely breakfast and soaking in the morning beauty of Dhar, drive to Maheshwar. A historic temple town situated at the banks of the beautiful Narmada river, Maheshwar is overflowing with its past glory. Spend the rest of the day visiting the ghats on the river bank, many interesting temples that the city has and undertake a tour of the historic Ahilya Fort where you are housed for the night. The city finds mention in the epics; it was the capital of the great King Kartivarjun and according to the translation of its original name, ‘Mahishmati’, the abode of Lord Mahesh or Shiva. This explains the strong and close connection of the city with Lord Shiva. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

Day 12 Maheshwar – Omkareshwar – Maheshwar

Omkareshwar

Embark on a morning visit of the ghats to see the daily life of the people. Later in the day make an excursion to the sacred city of Omkareshwar, so called because the island on which it is situated is shaped like an ‘Om’. The site houses a hindu temple and is one of the twelve enshrined ‘Jyotirlinga’ shrines of the Lord Shiva. The main temple is that of Omkareshwar whereas the other is the Amareshwar – ‘lord of the immortals’. Omkareshwar lies at the meeting point of the rivers Narmada and the Kaveri and is as scenic as it is holy. Soak in the experience of this sacred site set amidst the true rustic India. Later, after visiting the township of Omkareshwar, return to Maheshwar for overnight stay.

Day 13 Maheshwar – Aurangabad

  • 350 km

  • 6 hr

Bibi-ka-Maqbara

After a relaxed morning with time for some independent activities, drive to Aurangabad known for its medieval monuments and cultural heritage. The city was the seat of the Mughal Empire for a short period and boasts of a numerous important monuments and sites like the Bibi-ka-Maqbara, Daulatabad Fort and the world heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora. Upon arrival check-in at the hotel for overnight stay.

Day 7 Bhopal

Photo Credit: Arian Zwegers Bhimbetka Rock Paintings

Spend the entire day sight-seeing in the city of Bhopal which is clearly demarcated into the new and old city by the upper and lower lakes. Visit the Taj-ul-Masjid which is one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in India despite the fact that it is still incomplete. The two white domed minarets are protected by towering terracotta walls. Also visit the Jama Masjid and the Moti Masjid. The old city bustles with activity in it’s ironically laidback style. A plethora of sights, smells and experiences await you as you walk through the streets of the old Bhopal.

 

In the afternoon undertake an excursion to Bhimbetka to view the rich collection of prehistoric paintings in South Asia. In the middle of a dense deciduous forest there are more than 1000 shelters stretching for about ten kilometers. Half of them have prehistoric paintings while a smaller number of shelters have evidence of Stone Age habitation from Lower Paleolithic period to later Mesolithic period. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

Optional Inspiring Experiences

Dining experience at Jehan Numa Retreat, Bhopal

In the evening we will dine at Jehan Numa Retreat’s signature restaurant – Under the Jamun Tree – which is a visual and sensual delight, the simple but enchanting style and décor in perfect harmony with the natural beauty of its location and surroundings. Enjoy the ambience and the setting, as for the delicious and very select kebabs and curries served from the house live kitchen, created for a gourmet’s palate. The pleasant environs, a cool breeze filled with the most heavenly aromas and food that will transport your senses into a different world with every bite and give you an experience that's hard to forget.

Day 8 Bhopal – Ujjain – Indore

  • 255 km

  • 5 hr

Photo Credit: Arian Zwegers Ram Ghat, Ujjain

Today we leave for Indore after breakfast. En route a stopover at Ujjain, which is one of the seven most sacred city for the Hindus and one of the four sites where the holy festival of Kumbh is held once every twelve years. During the visit see some of the important temples at Ujjain, specially the Mahakaleshwar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of Ujjain itself. After experiencing the holy yet quiet town of Ujjain, continue driving to Indore and upon arrival check-in at the hotel. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

Day 9 Indore – Dhar

  • 70 km

  • 2 hr

Photo Credit: McKay Savage Holy City of Dhar

Have a leisurely morning breakfast and depart for Dhar, a medieval historical town that dates back to the 11th century. Visit Dhar Fort the most important historical monument in the city which was also the capital of the legendary King Bhoj. It was, however, Alauddin Khilji who, after coming to power, initiated the construction of the Dhar Fort and completed the fort in the 14th century. The fort stands tall even today as it stood centuries ago. After Dhar Fort we visit Bhojshala mosque. It was originally built as a temple and is believed to have been constructed by Raja Bhoj and later converted into a mosque at the hands of Alauddin Khilji. There are not only several Sanskrit inscriptions but also a large number of motifs like conch shells, bells inside the mosque. The very architecture and layout of the mosque is akin to that of a typical hindu temple. Dhar, besides containing these very interesting and unique historical monuments is also famous for its scenic beauty which is also something that you get time for to enjoy and appreciate. Overnight stay is at the hotel.

Day 4 Gwalior – Sonagir – Datia – Orchha

Photo Credit: fabulousfabs Sadhu in Datia

In the morning, after breakfast, check-out from the hotel and drive to Orchha. En route visit the enchanting Jain temples at Sonagir which are about 80 in number. After the Sonagir temples, continue driving to reach the fortress palace at Datia. The fortress palace was conceived as a single unit and was built in the 17th century during the reign of the Bundelas. The central palace is a square structure connected with the outer structure by bridges, making the architecture very unique and unusual. After the visit continue your drive to Orchha. It was established by the Bundela dynasty as the capital of their Rajput kingdom that was reemerging after being weakened by the defeat at the hands of the Tughluqs of Delhi. The new capital was named Orchha - the hidden place. Upon arrival at Orchha check-in at the hotel.

 

In the evening visit the Ram Temple of Orchha and witness the Aarti (prayer) ceremony. It is an overwhelming experience to be there at the prayer ceremony where the devotees chant the hymns and sing devotional songs dedicated to Lord Rama amidst the sound of bells and the perfume of the incense. After the ceremony return to the hotel for overnight stay.

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