21 days, from Tuesday, February 6 to Monday, February 25, 2024
A fascinating exploration of northwestern India, from Delhi to Bombay, with many fabulous sights such as Agra’s world-famous Taj Mahal; picturesque Rajasthan jewels such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur; exotic Jaisalmer, an oasis town in the Thar Desert; the Little Rann of Kuch wildlife sanctuary; Dholavira, Lothal, and other archaeological sites of the ancient Indus River Civilization. Four-star (or in some cases “best available”) hotels, excellent food, and lots of culture and history dispensed by expert local guides and your tour escort, historian Jacques R. Pauwels, author of ‘Beneath the Dust of Time: A History of the Names of Peoples and Places’.
1:55PM departure from Toronto to Dubai with Emirates Airlines flight EK 242.
Our destination today is Udaipur, 250 km from Jodhpur, a trip that will offer another kaleidoscope of impressions of Indian nature and culture at their best! En route visit to the Ranakpur Temple, cradled in a verdant valley Aravalli Hills, on the banks of the river Maghai, one of the holiest places of the Jain faith. Dinner and overnight in Hotel Howard Johnson or similar in Udaipur, a city whose palaces, forts, temples, gardens, and lakes m romantic backdrops caused it to be used as the setting of many movies, including James Bond blockbusters.
Morning city tour, with as highlights the enormous City Palace. Afternoon at leisure, and boat tour on beautiful Lake Pichola in the evening.
Early morning departure, as there will be lots to see today on our trip of 350 km! Entering the State of Gujarat, we visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the fortified town of Patan: an intricately carved stepwell of no less than seven levels, dating back to the 11th century AD, silted over by the nearby Sarasvati River, rediscovered in the 1940s, and restored in the 1980s; it was designed as an inverted temple, highlighting the sanctity of water. This will also include a visit to the Sahasralinga Tank, a medieval artificial water reservoir. On to the village of Modhera to inspect the famous local Hindu Sun temple, dedicated to the solar deity Surya located at Modhera village, another tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site, and late afternoon arrival in Bajana, a village in a region known as the Little Rann of Kutch. Accommodation in Hotel Royal safari Camp or similar.
Rann means “desert” and Kutch (or Kuchchh) is a district of Gujarat. The Rann of Kutch, consisting of the Little and the Big Rann of Kutch, is a vast region of salt marshes straddling the border between the State of Gujarat and Pakistan’s Sindh Province; it is a flat region, very close to sea level, watered by many rivers and flooded annually during the monsoon season, i.e. from June to September’ the waters evaporate during the long dry season, leaving the Rann dry again, morphed into salt desert but also grassland, both of which attract wildlife. Today we enjoy a full-day jeep safari into the Little Rann of Kutch, a salt marsh and biosphere reserve that is home to the Asiatic Wild ass, popularly known as Ghudkhar. as well as many species of migratory birds, e. g. cranes, ducks, pelicans, spoonbills, and flamingoes, falcons, eagles, and vultures, as well as mammals such as the Indian wolf, desert fox, gazelles, jackals, and nilgai, Asia’s largest type of antelope. The Wild Ass Sanctuary of Little Rann of Kutch has been placed on the UNESCO’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites.
After breakfast, we leave Bajana and motor a relatively short distance (200 km) to the town of Dholavira, located on an island in the middle of the Big Rann of Kuch, at times a white, salt-covered wasteland, where we will explore the fascinating and historic ruins of one of the many urban centres of the Harappan Civilization, also known as the Indus Valley Civilization IVC), a Bronze Age high culture similar to those of Egypt and Mesopotamia, that flourished in the third millennium BC but disappeared under circumstances that have become better known recently but continue to be the object of much controversy, as your guides will explain. Locally called Kotada Timba, the site is the second largest IVC site in India and fifth largest in Indian sub-continent. (Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, the best-known centres, are located in Pakistan.) Dholavira was recently (2021) adopted by UNESCO as a World Heritage Centre. Dinner and overnight stay in simple but comfortable accommodations, the Dholavira Tourism Resort (http://dholaviratourismresort.com)
On the road again, and today’s destination is another relatively small town, located about 300 km from Dholavira, Gondal, once an important one of the princely state that became part of British India but continued to be ruled by its lords of the Rajput dynasty. Upon arrival there, we will visit their Naulakha Palace, built in the 17th century and known for its stone carvings and exquisite balconies, before checking into Hotel Orchard palace.
Departure from Gondal after breakfast. After a drive of about 180 km, we reach the extremely important archaeological site of a 4,500-year-old city of the IVC, Lothal, discovered only in the 1950s. Here, we will inspect the impressive ruins of massive docks, warehouses, drainage systems, etc., showing clearly that this used to be a busy and sophisticated seaport, involved in trade with lands as far away as Mesopotamia. Lothal has been placed on UNESCO’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites. After our visit, continue for dinner and overnight in Hotel Lemon Tree or similar in the big and bustling city of Ahmedabad, approximately an 80 km journey.
After breakfast, we start our sightseeing program in Ahmedabad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which will include as many as possible of the following sites: Gandhi Ashram, a former house of Mahatma Gandhi, from where he began his historic 1930 protest march against a salt tax imposed by the British, now a Gandhi memorial and pilgrimage site; the Calico Museum, featuring a wonderful collection of handmade antique and modern Indian textiles; the Jama Masjid Mosque, built in 1423 by Ahmad Shah in 1423; Jhulta Minara, the mysterious swaying minarets of the Siddi Bashir Mosque; and Akshardham Temple, a splendid Hindu house of worship and a spiritual and cultural campus. Then we head for Ahmedabad airport in time for the departure of our short flight to the metropolis of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, the capital city of the State of Maharashtra. Arrival and transfer to the Hotel Fariyas or similar.
All-day sightseeing in Mumbai, popularly known as “the city of dreams”, as people from across the country seek their fortune here. We start with a side trip to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Elephanta Caves, located on a nearby island, featuring temples carved from solid rock dating back to the 7th century. In the afternoon, tour of the city centre, with many buildings in the Victorian Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau style, collectively classified as a UNESCO site, the monument known as the Gateway to India, the Towers of Silence, and Marine Drive. We finish with a visit to Malabar Hill, an upscale residential area known for the Hanging Gardens, a hillside park with a wonderful view of the city and the Arabian Sea. At the end of the tour, transfer to the airport in time for our departure for Dubai at 10PM, arriving just before midnight.
Flight Dubai to Toronto, departing at 3:55 AM and arriving at 9:15AM
- International flights from Toronto - Delhi; Mumbai - Toronto. Domestic flight from Ahmedabad - Mumbai. - Accommodation based on double occupancy, in first-class/4-star or “best available” hotels. - Overland transportation by coach and/or minibuses. - Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily as outlined in the itinerary. - All visits and sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary. - Hotel taxes and gratuities. - Services of local guides as well as a Pauwels Travel tour escort.
- Mandatory Tourist Visa for India: approximately $140 plus postage. Please click here or call the office for information on how to apply when Visa services reopen. - Gratuities for local guides and drivers, in total approximately $125 USD, to be collected by the tour director for disbursal as needed. - Travel insurance.