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Gay Group Trip: North India Adventure

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Our Portrait of North India trip is defined by the opulent hotels we have chosen as our residences while we explore the sights and sounds of Mumbai, Udaipur, Jaipur, Agra, Delhi, and Varanasi. India is a “must see” and an essential trip for the well-traveled individual. Although it can be an assault on the senses, India leaves an indelible mark on those who travel here. The crown jewel is the Taj Mahal, the temple built by love, but there are many other one-of-a-kind experiences. Join us for an exciting two weeks in North India in March.

time difference


4.5 hours ahead of the UK

flight time


8-9 hours direct from UK

Available Dates : 28th February 2018

Day 1 - Arrival

Welcome to India! Following Customs, Immigration formalities and baggage collection, our Airport Representative will meet you outside the Arrival Hall, after which you will be transferred to the hotel.

Mumbai is a city of dreams, the glamour of the movie world, the razors edge of the skyscrapers to the mainland of the harbour, people here come from diverse ethnic backgrounds yet nurture the dream of success, their undying spirit adds color and flavor to this multicultural city. A throbbing, cosmopolitan metropolis, it still retains the glory of the past, the colonial legacy that coexists with the Maratha influence. Still considered as the heart of business India, Mumbai houses the country’s vibrant Stock Exchange. The Gateway of India is almost literally a symbol of entry into the country by sea or air.

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Day 2 - Mumbai

This morning, take a tour of the Elephanta Caves, an hour away from Mumbai by private boat. The Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island or Gharapuri (meaning the city of caves) in Mumbai Harbor. The island, located on an arm of the Arabian Sea, consists of two groups of caves – the first is a large group of 5 Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of 2 Buddhist caves. The rock cut architecture of the caves has been dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries. Spend the afternoon exploring the city starting with visit of Prince of Wales Museum. Built in gothic and Moorish architecture, it is a striking confluence of styles that came to be known as Indo Saracenic. It boasts of a significant collection of Indus valley artefacts some of them dating back to more than 5000 years. Most impressive are the miniature paintings – nearly 2000 of them, from various stylistic schools of India. Drive along Marine Drive, the sea – Front Boulevard, also known as the Queen’s Necklace as in the evening, the streetlights on this U-shaped road light up, the view from south Bombay’s skyscrapers or from the exclusive residential area, is that of a Queen’s Necklace. Explore the Malabar Hill area, the location of Banganga Tank, a major source of the city’s water, and a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Rama who is believed to be responsible for the gift of fresh water so close to the sea. This area also has the Parsi Tower of Silence, where Zoroastrians enact their ancient, sacred rites for the dead. The coexistence of these religions (and many others) in such close proximity for centuries is a testament to the diversity and tolerance that characterizes this fascinating metropolis.

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Days 3 and 4 - Udaipur

Start early morning for a unique experience to see the bustling city of Mumbai at dawn. You will get a peek into the underbelly of the city and insights into what makes this magnificent city tick. From watching the milkmen drive past with canisters, the melee of color at the flower markets, to experiencing the clamor and chaos of the arrival of over 100 tonnes of vegetables, fruits and meat – you will witness the mercurial character of Mumbai, like none other. Return to the hotel for breakfast. Later drive to the airport and fly to Udaipur. (Please note the luggage allowance on this flight is 15kg/33lb checked in baggage and 7kg/15lb hand luggage).

Arrive Udaipur and check in for your stay. Udaipur: Set on the shores of Lake Pichola and surrounded by hills, Udaipur grew in complete contrast to the harsh deserts of the rest of Rajasthan. From the late 16th century, peace brought about an era of renaissance in the arts and encouraged the building of beautiful palaces around the lake, culminating in the City Palace, one of the largest palace complexes in the world. The lake itself is a romantic setting surrounding the gleaming white Lake Palace and the Jag Mandir, a refuge of the rebel Mughal prince, Shah Jahan, soon to be the creator of the incomparable Taj Mahal. Rest day at leisure to explore the city by own or enjoy the hotel facilities.

Morning yoga session at the hotel Post breakfast; proceed on a city tour, starting with the opulent City Palace. Standing on a crest overlooking Lake Pichola, this majestic palace is a stunning blend of medieval European and Chinese architecture, surmounted by balconies, towers, cupolas and terraces with wonderful views of the city and lake. The entrance is through Hathi Pol (elephant gate) along the main street of the old city. The main part of the palace is now a museum with a large and eclectic collection. Stop off next at the three-storey Jagdish Temple, a wonderful Indo-Aryan temple built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1651. Climb up stone steps flanked by sculpted elephants and admire the intricate pillars, carved ceilings, stunning frescoes and the massive black, stone image of Vishnu as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. Continue on to the Sahelion-ki-Bari (Garden of the Handmaidens), a good example of the Hindu art of landscape gardening on a princely scale. Ornamental pools with finely sculptured cenotaphs of soft black stone are surrounded by a profusion of fountains. Afternoon at leisure to enjoy the facilities at hotel. Transport is available should you wish to explore the shopping options. Evening take a boat-cruise on Lake Pichola, covering the City Palace and Jag Mandir – a refuge of the rebel Mughal prince Shah Jahan, soon to be the creator of the incomparable Taj Mahal.

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Days 5 and 6 - Jaipur

We start Day 6 of this North Indian adventure with a drive to Jaipur. This drive is across the Aravalli Hills, the oldest mountain range in the world to Udaipur. The scenery along the way is superb and you will see many vignettes of Rajasthani rural life. Among the sights you see are colorful villages, farms where an ancient system of irrigation using bullocks and a Persian wheel are still in practice, outdoor schools and the sartorially vibrant people who add a splash of color to the countryside. There are endless opportunities for photography. Arrive Jaipur and check in for your stay. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan province is known for its arts and crafts, jewellery, hand-painted fabrics and stone sculptures; it old town is one of North India’s finest examples of a planned city embodying the best of Rajput and Mughal architecture. Afternoon at leisure to independent activities.

Day 7 begins with an excursion to Amber Fort. Jaipur’s Maharaja Man Singh, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s most successful General, started constructing Amber Fort in the 17th century. Before the City Palace was constructed in Jaipur, Amber was the seat of power. The Fort is surrounded by fortified battlements and overlooks the Moat Lake. Once you are on top, stroll through the sprawling complex of courtyards and halls. Many of the rooms have delightful wall paintings, with precious stones and mirrors inlaid in the walls. Most fascinating, perhaps, is the Sheesh Mahal (hall of mirrors) where a single lamplight is reflected in the many mirrors, lighting up the room.Later, visit Jantar Mantar, an observatory built by Sawai Jai Singh ll in the 18th century. The Maharajah, a scientist as well as an astronomer, had the principles of Euclid translated into Sanskrit. One of the most remarkable sites in Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar has fourteen major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses and tracking stars and planets.Continue to the City Palace built within the fortified area of the original city, with one of the finest monumental entrances in India. The Palace is now principally a museum housing a collection of great treasures, including miniature paintings, carpets, royal garments and other interesting objects from Jaipur’s intriguing past. The former royal family retains a part of the palace for their personal use. This evening, enjoy a home-hosted dinner and learn about daily life inside the old city from your local hosts.

Day 7 - Agra

After breakfast we drive to the Agra. This route takes you through the region’s typical villages, where you can appreciate various scenes of traditional life. Comfort stops are made enroute. Enroute visit Fatehpur Sikri – the deserted red sandstone city that was built by Emperor Akbar as his capital. Ponder the mysterious desertion of this capital city that was dramatically abandoned a few years after it was built. It was a veritable fairy tale city and its ‘ruins’ are still in a pristine condition. Wandering through its palaces and mosques is like stepping back in time. Continue drive to Agra and upon arrival check in for your stay. Agra – Once a small village on the banks of the Yamuna, it was transformed by two great Mughal monarchs, Akbar and his grandson Shah Jehan into the second capital of the Mughal Empire – Dar-ul-Khilafat, or ‘seat of the Emperor’ in the 16th & 17th century. A world of contrasting edifices of redsandstone and white marble, narrow galleys, bustling streets and small buggies, Agra retains the irresistible charm that made this the favorite city of the Mughals. Afternoon, visit Agra Fort – the seat and the stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations. Approachable by two imposing gates and constructed of red sandstone, the citadel was built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar between the years 1565 and 1573. Encircled by a moat, this dramatic city within a city was the palace of three emperors, Akbar, Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb, each of whom made significant contributions to the wonderful architecture of the inner buildings – a combination of Persian (Islamic) and local Hindu styles.

Days 8 and 9 - Delhi

As dawn breaks, watch the sunrise over the incomparable Taj Mahal. It is fitting to see this extraordinary monument by the first light of day as its exemplary beauty is awe-inspiring and will create an unforgettable memory. Said to be one of the most elegant and a harmonious building in the world, Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan in 1630 AD to enshrine the mortal remains of his beloved Queen Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal manifests the wealth and luxury of Mughal art as seen in architecture and garden design, painting, and calligraphy. Arrive Delhi and visit Akshardham temple. Akshardham Temple, one of the biggest and most intricate religious place of worship ever constructed. Built in 5 years entirely from Rajasthani pink sandstone and Italian Carrara marble, this amazing structure has no support from steel or concrete and comprises of 20,000 statues, floral motifs and exquisite carved pillars made of stones. It is built along the river Yamuna and lies over an area of around 100 acres with beautiful gardens, water fountains and carved pavilions. The Akshardham experience is an enlightening journey through India’s glorious art, values and contributions for the progress, happiness and harmony of mankind.

Morning start on an exploration of Old Delhi, the capital of Mughal dynasty between the 16th and 19th centuries. In Old Delhi, visit Jama Masjid – the largest mosque in India built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in year 1650 AD and completed in the year 1656 AD. Then set off on an exciting rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, also known as The Moonlit Square. As you drive through the narrow lanes, witness the architectural marvels, the multicolored facades, beautifully decorated shops, ethnically dressed men and women and get bombarded by the cries of hawkers and fragrances emanating from the potpourri of eateries that line these historical alleys. Continue to Raj Ghat– a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, set within a beautiful park. Next drive through New Delhi, passing by Presidential Palace- the one-time imperial residence of the British viceroys; the India Gate – a memorial raised in honour of the Indian soldiers martyred during the Afghan war, Parliament house and other government buildings built in the first quarter of the 20th century by two famous English architects, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was during this time period that the capital of the British Empire was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. End the day with a visit to Qutub Minar, a 13th-century soaring minaret erected by the Afghan dynasties that ruled India from 1210 to 1526. The surrounding complex displays a visual history of India’s earliest political history—decorative Hindu panels, Islamic domes and early Afghan architecture converge to stunning effect. A walk through the complex provides an excellent overview of the varied architectural styles and cultural elements prevalent throughout India.

Days 10 and 11 - Jodhpur

Day 9 we travel to Jodhpur. Also called the ‘Blue City’, Jodhpur was once the capital of the former princely state of Marwar. It was founded in 1459 by Rao Jodha and is now the second largest city of Rajasthan. Flanked on its western side by the Mehrangarh Fort and on the eastern side by the stately sandstone Palace of Umaid Bhawan, the monuments temples and gardens of Jodhpur depict a multi-faceted grandeur. 

We then arrive at Jodhpur and check-in at UMAID BHAWAN PALACE hotel.Perched high above the desert capital of Jodhpur, Umaid Bhawan Palace is the last of the great palaces of India and one of the largest residences in the world, set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens.In the evening enjoy a heritage walk of the Palace and its museum.

On the morning of day 10 we enjoy an in-depth tour of Jodhpur city. we will visit the magnificent Mehrangarh fort which dominates the town ringed with its massive protective walls. There are seven gates that lead into the fort. Inside the fort is a series of courtyards and palaces. Continue your tour to Jaswant Thada, located a short distance from the fort, just off the fort road, which is a white marble memorial to Maharaja Jaswant Singh II.

In the afternoon drive to Osian covering a distance of 65kms in approximately 1½ hours, where we will mount camels and head off for a short ride into the dunes and surrounding villages. Later enjoy sundowners at the dunes. After sunset return to the camel camp and enjoy the evening with folk entertainment followed by BBQ dinner. After dinner drive back to Umaid Bhawan Palace.

Days 12 and 13 - Varanasi

Morning fly to Varanasi (Note, luggage allowance on this flight is 15 kg checked in baggage and 7 kg hand luggage). On arrival, assisted transfer to the hotel and check in for your stay. The ‘eternal city’, Varanasi or Benares, is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India, and the Ganges, which flows through the city, is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals. For the Satpious Hindu, the city has always been a special place, and it is considered a particularly auspicious place to die, ensuring an instant routing to Heaven. Late afternoon, start on a guided Bengali Tola walk where you will have an opportunity to get a glimpse of the symbiotic life of the riverside people of Varanasi. Eventually, as you tour through the city you will end up on Bengali Tola, the street of the Bengalis, where you will be visiting the hidden Mother Goddess Kali shrines, and the vistas of life along the riverside. The tour continues to the historic ritual bathing site called Dashaswamedh, or the ten-horse sacrifice Ghat, the perfect way to conclude this walking city tour. Evening, watch illuminated aarti ceremony at Dasahwamedh Ghat. The presiding priests stand on a wooden Chauki in the water. To the chant of Sanskrit mantras, and the clash of cymbals and drums, the river is worshipped with flowers, incense, sandalwood, milk and vermilion. First the blazing camphor lamp and then the many flamed aarti lamps are raised high and then arched back to the water, the dark river reflecting the golden flames as Ganges accepts the worship. It is the Ganges that gives Varanasi its spiritual resonance.

“Early this morning, take a boat ride on the sacred Ganges. Hindus regard the Ganges as the elixir of life bringing purity to the living and salvation to the dead. Watch the wonderful colors of the sunrise as you meander along the sacred Ganges River in a boat. As part of their pilgrimage rites, the faithful walk down steps into the river to perform their religious ablutions. Watching the people worshipping at the ghats is an extraordinary experience. You may also witness a funeral pyre, an essential part of the traditional Hindu funeral ceremony. Disembark the boat and walk through the narrow streets of Varanasi before returning to the hotel. This walk will take you through an inextricable maze of small streets and alleyways, hiding in disorderly array no less than 2,000 temples and shrines. Domes, pinnacles, towers and derelict 18th-century palaces dominate the left bank of the Ganges River. The streets are noisy, colour is rife. Return to the hotel for breakfast. Later, you will visit the holy city of Sarnath. Here in Sarnath, Buddha is said to have preached his first sermon after achieving enlightenment, setting in motion the wheel of law. Right near the Dhamekh Stupa are the remains of Ashoka’s pillar, with his name engraved in the stone. The stupa is believed to mark the spot where Buddha preached his sermon at Deer Park. Sarnath is also home to the museum that houses the iconic Ashoka Pillar with its four guardian lions, the emblem of independent India. Around the site are a series of temples built by Buddhist groups from around the world. We will have the special opportunity to chant with the monks at one of the Buddhist Temples. Afternoon is at your leisure. In the evening, interact with a Hindu scholar to discuss the philosophy of Hinduism.

Day 14 - Departure

In the morning partake in Yoga session at the hotel. Yoga, the word derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj”, means to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. While practicing Yoga, one exercises yoking of all the powers of body, mind and soul. Remainder of the morning is at your leisure. Afternoon fly to Delhi (Please note, luggage allowance on this flight is 15 kg checked in baggage and 7 kg hand luggage). Arrive Delhi and check in to your flight for onward destination.

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