Our Best of India and Nepal tour has been temporarily modified due to the recent earthquakes in Nepal. Until Nepal is once again ready to receive tourists, we will instead visit Amritsar and the Golden Temple.
See how you can help by making a donation to the relief effort in Nepal.
Check out our new Best of India tour featuring the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
|Style||Escorted or Guided
Dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Departures||September 2015 – March 2016|
|Departs||New York Kennedy (JFK), Chicago O'Hare (ORD) (flight schedule)|
|Highlights||Delhi, Varanasi, Khajuraho, Agra, Taj Mahal, Amber Fort & the Golden Temple in Amritsar|
|Themes||History & Culture, Premium|
|What to Expect||This fast-paced, escorted tour includes a reasonable amount of walking or hiking, and reaches high altitudes requiring that you be in good physical condition to fully enjoy the trip. This tour also includes long scenic drives between destinations and may have limited rest stops.|
|As Seen in|
One of the best tours of India you'll find is our 15-day India and Nepal tour package. It will amaze you with its abundance of fascinating, stunning, and exotic sights and sounds. Adventure travel in India doesn't get any better, or more exciting. You'll visit many of India's most important and significant cities, including New Delhi, the nation's capital and third-largest city; Jaipur, known as the "Pink City" for its unusual rose-colored sandstone architecture; Agra, site of the Taj Mahal, the world's most famous monument to love; Khajuraho, with its exquisitely carved sculptures; and Varanasi, the holiest site in India, where thousands of Hindu pilgrims tour its temples and bathe in the Ganges River to gain religious merit. You'll continue to Nepal, at the foot of Mt. Everest, which few countries on Earth can match for its combination of spectacular scenery, exotic culture and hospitable people. All of this for prices that represent exceptional value for money.
Departures & Prices
per person, double occupancy*
|Mon||Sep 28||2015||Mon||Oct 12||2015||$3399||$2999||Available|
|Mon||Oct 19||2015||Mon||Nov 2||2015||$3449||$3049||Available|
|Mon||Nov 16||2015||Mon||Nov 30||2015||$3499||$3099||Available|
|Mon||Dec 7||2015||Mon||Dec 21||2015||$3599||$3199||Available|
|Mon||Jan 18||2016||Mon||Feb 1||2016||$3499||$3099||Available|
|Mon||Feb 8||2016||Mon||Feb 22||2016||$3499||$3099||Available|
|Mon||Feb 22||2016||Mon||Mar 7||2016||$3499||$3099||Available|
Want to stay longer? We may be able to arrange for you to stay later than the scheduled dates, including extra hotel nights and separate airport transfers. Contact us about prices and availability.
|Best of India|
|Single Room Supplement||+$699|
|Separately Paid Taxes & Fees|
|Delhi Airport UDF1 (paid separately)||+$15|
|India Visa & Processing Fee2 (paid separately)||+$80|
1. Fee is imposed by Delhi airport authorities and is paid in Delhi in local currency. Rate is approximate and may vary as currency fluctutations occur.
2. Visas for India must be obtained prior to travel. Comprehensive visa instructions will be included in your confirmation packet.
|New York Kennedy (JFK)||included|
|Chicago O'Hare (ORD)|
|All other departures||+$110|
This package includes round-trip flights from the cities listed above, subject to availability. Please review the flight schedule, especially if you're booking connecting flights.
Coming from somewhere else? Unfortunately, we don't offer departures from cities that are not listed, but you can book your own connecting flights separately.
Transfers: Transfers for this package are provided on a group basis only. For passengers deviating in any way from the group program, transfers are not provided. Individual, private transfers can be arranged at a supplement in price. Taxis and other forms of transportation are also available and may cost less than private transfers. If you wish to arrange private transfers, please request this service at the time of reservation.
To make a reservation, simply select an available departure date and reserve online using our secure booking system. Or call us one of our travel specialists at 800-555-5765, Mon–Fri 9:30–6:00 Eastern time. But first, check out our Things to Know section.
We only require a per-person deposit payment, which you can pay with your credit card or PayPal account. This deposit will be applied towards the cost of your package, and is generally non-refundable (details). The balance is due 75 days prior to departure (or within 72 hours, if you're booking less than 75 days prior to departure), and can be paid by credit card, PayPal, check or money order.
Day 1: Depart USA.Your exotic journey to India begins this evening as you depart from New York.
Day 2: Delhi. Late evening arrival in Delhi, India's capital. Following customs and immigration formalities, you'll meet our representatives and transfer to your hotel. Accommodations: Shangri-La Eros Hotel.
Day 3: Old & New Delhi. After buffet breakfast at the hotel, board your coach to explore Old and New Delhi, a city truly full of fascinating contrasts, where by day, temples are packed with the devout, and by night, hotel discos are packed with the affluent. Begin at the modern Laxmi Narayan Temple which enshrines Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the Hindu Trinity. Popularly known as the Birla Temple for the noted industrialist family which built it, Laxmi Naryan Temple was one of the first major Hindu places of worship that allowed the lower caste Harijans (untouchables) inside after Mahatma Gandhi made entry of Harijans one of the conditions for inaugurating the temple.
Continue to Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, built at the site of his cremation on the banks of the Yamuna River. Drive past the Red Fort and continue by bicycle rickshaw to the Jama Masjid, site of an exquisite mosque in red sandstone and marble. Completed in 1656 after six years of work by 5,000 laborers, it is considered one of the loveliest houses of worship in the world.
This afternoon you will visit New Delhi, which reflects the legacy the British left behind. Whereas the walled old city is all tradition in all its facets, New Delhi is a city trying to live up to the best of 21st century standards. Your tour to New Delhi begins with a visit to the Qutub Minar, the 234 foot high tower made of sandstone, known as the seventh wonder of Hindustan and the tallest stone tower in India and a wonderful example of Indo-Islamic architecture, complete with terra-cotta frills. At its foot lies the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, the first Muslim mosque in India erected in the 12th century on the site of a Hindu temple, from materials salvaged from 27 demolished Hindu and Jain shrines. Continue to the India Gate, a monument built by Edwin Lutyens to commemorate the Indian soldiers who died in the World War I and the Afghan Wars, and then proceed to the Parliament building and the Rastrapathi Bhawan, the President's residence. This evening join your fellow travelers for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant where you will enjoy sumptuous Indian food. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 4: Delhi & Kathmandu. After buffet breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for your flight from Delhi to Kathmandu, capital of the ancient mountain kingdom of Nepal. Kathmandu has the air of a medieval city with a maze of narrow streets, wooden temples and beautifully decorated palaces. In the background there is often the gentle sound of jangling cymbals and the markets are a rich blend of colors and aromas. Only in the 1950s was Nepal opened up to visitors and today the contrast between 21st century technology and traditional lifestyles help to make Kathmandu one of the world's most fascinating cities. Upon arrival, transfer to your deluxe hotel. Accommodations: Soaltee Crowne Plaza Kathmandu for Nov 16, 2015 departure, Hyatt Regency Kathmandu on all others. Breakfast provided.
Day 5: Kathmandu. After breakfast, board your touring coach for a sightseeing tour of Kathmandu. Visit Durbar Square, one of three royal palace squares in the Kathmandu Valley. It is the site of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex, which was the royal Nepalese residence until the 19th century and where important ceremonies, such as the coronation of the Nepalese monarch, still take place today. Continue to the Temple of Kumari, where the Living Goddess, the Kumari, acknowledges greetings from the intricately carved wooden balconies. Continue to Kasthamandap, a pagoda believed to have been built from the timbers of a single tree by King Laxmi Narsingh Malla and from which the city of Kathmandu got its name.
Next, visit the splendid collection of weapons and artifacts from ancient, medieval and modern Nepal at the National Museum, then proceed to Swayambhunath, also known as the "Monkey Temple" which is said to be over 2,000 years old and one of the world's most fabulous Buddhist Temples. Situated on top of a high hill where legendary Manjushri discovered the lotus growing in the ancient Kathmandu Valley Lake, Swayambhunath commands a superb view of the valley below. The four side of this ancient structure are painted with the compassionate eyes of Buddha. Between the eyes is a mystical third eye symbolizing true wisdom. The nose, appearing as an incomplete question mark, is the Nepalese number of one, a symbol of unity. The balance of the day is at leisure to explore Kathmandu independently. Your guide will gladly give you suggestions of interesting places to visit as well as markets to explore. Breakfast provided.
Day 6: Kathmandu. This morning, set out on a sightseeing tour to explore two magnificent and important temples, Pashupatinath and Baudhanath. Pashupatinath, the most sacred of all Hindu temples in Nepal, situated on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple precincts but may look into premises from the opposite bank. It draws tens of thousands of pilgrims and devotees from Nepal and India during the festival of Mahashivaratri (the night of Lord Shiva). Continue to Boudhanath, possibly the world's largest Buddhist stupa (temple) and a site of great veneration for Buddhists. Around the stupa a number of monasteries have sprung up number of the different sects of Tibetan Buddhism including one (on the west side of the stupa) that houses an enormous seated statue of Maitreya Buddha splendidly adorned. Enjoy the balance of your day to shop, stroll and explore Kathmandu on your own. Tonight, join your fellow travelers for a special dinner accompanied by a traditional Nepalese dance performance. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 7: Kathmandu & Varanasi. Enjoy the morning at leisure in Kathmandu to shop and explore independently. This afternoon, transfer to the airport for your short flight to Varanasi, the religious heart of Hindu India. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. The city gets its inherent charm from its location on west side of the Holy Ganges, where bathing ghats are always bustling with life at any given time of the day. Written records of the Skanda Purana and the Mahabharata mention Varanasi's existence as long as 3000 years ago. It is probably the oldest inhabited city in India, and one of the world's most ancient. As a place of devotion and worship, Varanasi attracts thousands of pilgrims every year, and many Hindus in the latter part of their lives wish to spend their retirement here. This evening, enjoy an aarti ceremony at the Assi Ghat. This ceremony celebrates the religious significance and history of Varanasi; replete with tales of plunder and destruction by conquerors and religious zealots. Accommodations: The Gateway Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Optional Excursion: Mt. Everest Flight. This morning you will have an opportunity to experience an optional Mt. Everest scenic flight over the breathtaking Himalayas (weather permitting). This optional excursion must be purchased locally.
Day 8: Varanasi.This morning at dawn, have a cup of tea or coffee in the lobby before you depart for an unforgettable experience on a cruise on the river Ganges, stopping at the most important of the bathing ghats. From your boat, you will witness the rituals of Hindu pilgrims, which follow centuries' old tradition and belief that those who die in Varanasi or whose mortal remains are immersed in the holy Ganges, will be incarnated to human life in the next birth. The riverfront, in the early morning, is a spiritually uplifting sight that you will long remember as a highlight of your India tour.
After your early morning tour of the bathing ghats, return to your hotel for a buffet breakfast. Later, board your touring coach for a visit to the city of Varanasi, including a visit to Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and the most sacred shrine in Varanasi. Continue to Banares Hindu University, considered to be the largest residential university in Asia. Within the university campus, Vishwanath Temple and Bharat Kala Kendra (Museum) are well worth a visit. Later in the afternoon, drive to Sarnath, located nearby north of Varanasi, which is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. During the 6th century C, Siddarth Gautama, who became known as Buddha, the "Awakened One" gave his first sermon. Return to Varanasi. Breakfast provided.
Day 9: Varanasi & Khajuraho. After the morning at leisure, transfer to the airport for your short flight to Khajuraho, the great temple complex discovered in 1838 that was built between 950 and 1050 A.D. by the Chandela dynasty, who claim descent from the Moon God and a mortal, Hemavati, with whom the god fell in love. Most of the temples of the north were destroyed by invaders, but Khajuraho escaped and stands today as an island of beauty.
This afternoon your tour of Khajuraho focuses on the famous erotic temples, which represent some of the finest examples of temple architecture in Northern India. The remote location of Khajuraho meant that the temples were unharmed by Muslim invaders and as a result, the intricately fine carvings are in very good condition and are said to represent life in heaven. The majority of the temples were constructed in a sudden burst of creative and religious energy, between the mid-10th and 11th centuries. After ruling for about 500 years the Chandela dynasty fell to the might of Islam and consequently the religious centre of Khajuraho was abandoned. The temples remain as a reminder of a society that believed in the full enjoyment of life, with all the senses being a path to nirvana. Of the 85 original temples only 22 remain, but many are in very good condition and remarkably beautiful in design and architecture, including the Kandariya Mahadeva, the Chatrabhuj, Parswanath and Ghantai Temples which you will visit during your tour. Accommodations: Hotel Chandela for departures until Apr 2015; Radisson Khajuraho for departures Oct 2015 onward. Breakfast provided.
Day 10: Khajuraho, Orchha, Jhansi & Agra. After breakfast, board your touring coach and drive the short distance to Orchha, picturesquely located on a bend along the Betwa River. This gorgeous medieval city, whose stone palaces and temples were built by its Bundela rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries, retain much of their pristine perfection despite the passage of hundreds of years. Among the abandoned structures in the temple complex, the beauty of the Jehangir Mahal, built to commemorate the visit of Emperor Jehangir in 17th, stands in sharp contrast to another structure in the same complex, the Raj Mahal, an earlier building adorned by colorful murals. A trail through the maze of intricate stairways leading to numerous turrets is an experience in itself.
After your visit at Orchha, transfer to Jhansi Railway Station to board the 6:00PM Shatabdi Express (air-conditioned cars) for Agra, where the Mughals, who were great rulers as well as great builders, created their greatest architectural wonders. There are many wonderful monuments in Agra, such as the massive but elegant Agra Fort, the Itimad-ud-daulah's tomb, and the magnificent, deserted capital of Fatehpur Sikri, but the greatest of all is the Taj Mahal, considered a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. Arrive in Agra and proceed to your deluxe, centrally located hotel for check-in. Accommodations: Jaypee Palace Hotel on Oct 19, 2015 departure, Trident Agra on all others. Breakfast provided.
Day 11: Agra. This morning you'll rise early to enjoy an awesome view of the Taj Mahal at sunrise. This incredible place is everything that has been said about it and more. Taking 22 years and 20,000 men to build, the white marble was quarried 200 miles away and was transported to the site by a fleet of 1000 elephants. Built in the mid-17th Century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as an expression of his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal is truly one of the wonders of the world. Though the Taj appears to be amazingly perfect from almost any angle, it is the close-up marble inlay work which is really astounding. You will have ample time to view and be mesmerized by this outstanding piece of architecture. Return to your hotel after the sunrise tour for buffet breakfast.
After breakfast, visit the Agra Fort, the seat and the stronghold of the Mughal Empire under successive generations and yet another example of impressive Mughal architecture. The present structure owes its origins to Akbar who erected the walls and gates and the first buildings on the eastern banks of Yamuna River. Shah Jehan added the impressive quarters and the mosque while Aurangzeb added the outer ramparts. You will also visit the Hall of Public Audience and Royal Pavilions.
This afternoon, lose yourself in the local marble and leather markets where you should do your best to bargain for the marble products and high quality leather wallets, shoes and belts. Be sure to visit the "Petra Dura Workshop" where you'll find beautiful marble inlay that is among the most renowned of India's handicrafts. During your visit enjoy an opportunity to watch as artisans create fine quality marble inlay pieces.
This evening, you are a guest for High Tea. This special treat, arranged exclusively for Friendly Planet's Best of India travelers, provides an opportunity to meet and interact with an Indian family and get to know something about life in India. Breakfast provided.
Day 12: Agra, Fatehpur Sikri & Jaipur. After buffet breakfast at the hotel, drive to Jaipur, popularly known as the Pink City because it was built of pink stucco in imitation of sandstone. En-route visit Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted red sandstone city built by the Great Mughal Emperor Akbar as his capital and palace in the late 16th century. It was abandoned soon after it was built when the local wells went dry and it remains today in much the same condition that it was over 300 years ago. It is complete with palaces and mosques and used to be a town larger than London when it was originally constructed. Now it is an extraordinary place to explore, with its buildings in near perfect condition.
Continue your drive to Jaipur. This capital of the state of Rajasthan is a land of beauty, color and paradox. Here you find invincible forts and magnificent palaces and gardens, waves of sand dunes and serene lakes. Except for the busy traffic of bicycles, cars and buses, little seems to have changed. Your hotel is centrally located for strolling, sightseeing and shopping. After check-in, enjoy a stroll through the colorful streets and bazaars, where you can enjoy the colorful display of women's dresses and turbans of men, adding to the sense of timeless charm and wonder of this lovely and fascinating city. Accommodations: Trident Jaipur. Breakfast provided.
Day 13: Jaipur. This morning visit the ancient capital of Amber to see the fabulous Amber Fort. En-route, stop at the Palace of Winds, the Hawa Mahal. Famous for its beehive like structure, the Mahal is an interplay of red and pink sand stone, carefully and painstakingly outlined with white borders and motifs, which served as an elaborate latticed facade behind which the cloistered ladies of the court used to watch the daily goings on in the street below.
Continue to the Amber Fort, begun in the 17th century by Maharaja Mansingh, Mughal Emperor Akbar's most successful General. The fort is surrounded by fortified battlements and overlooks the Moat Lake. Ruins and remains are spread over the Aravalli hills and sprawling crenellated walls lattice the surrounding area. Before the City Palace was constructed in Jaipur, Amber was the seat of power. Ascend to the fortress by jeep or elephant (if available) to view the sprawling complex of courtyards and halls, many of them hung with magnificent wall paintings and some inlaid witprecious stones and mirrors. In the Sheesh Mahal – Hall of Mirrors – a single lamplight is reflected in the many mirrors lighting up the entire room.
This afternoon, return to the city of Jaipur. Highlights of this afternoon's touring include the City Palace, an overwhelming complex of exquisite palaces, gardens and courtyards, decorative art and carved doorways. The City Palace Museum houses collections of rare manuscripts, armor, costumes, carpets and miniature paintings.
Walk to the adjacent Jantar Mantar (Astronomical Observatory), a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja Jai Singh II at his then new capital of Jaipur between 1727 and 1733. The observatory instruments are in most cases huge structures, built on such scale so that accuracy of readings can be obtained. The samrat yantra, for instance, which is a sundial, can be used to tell the time to an accuracy of about a minute. Enjoy the remainder of the day to wander about the local markets where you will find lovely silver jewelry, handicrafts and roadside mehndiwala (henna painters) who will paint ladies hands in the local tradition. Breakfast provided.
Day 14: Jaipur & Delhi. After breakfast you'll drive back to Delhi. Tonight, you are our guests for a farewell dinner at the Radisson Blu Hotel New Delhi Dwarka. After dinner, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the U.S. Passengers taking the optional Amritsar extension will overnight at the Radisson Blu Hotel New Delhi Dwarka; see extension itinerary below. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 15: Delhi/USA. Your adventure ends as you arrive New York this morning.
Why not take advantage of your already included airfare and add a fascinating optional extension to Amritsar, home of the breathtaking Golden Temple? The Amritsar Extension includes 1 night in Delhi, executive class train fare from Delhi to Amritsar, 2 nights in Amritsar with a full touring program, transfers, breakfast daily, and return airfare from Amritsar to Delhi. Passengers taking the Amritsar Extension will return to the U.S. 3 days later than the return dates shown.
Day 15: Delhi & Amrtisar. Early this morning, set out with your guide and a box breakfast to the train station in Delhi to board an executive class train car bound for mystical Amritsar. Enjoy the scenery as you pass by vast farmlands and colorful cities. The 6 hour journey leads northwest through India’s interior towards Amritsar, just 20 miles from the Pakistan border. Amritsar, literally meaning "holy pool of nectar", is home to the Golden Temple, the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikh religion. This important Sikh shrine attracts visitors and pilgrims from around the world and the vast number of visitors it receives rivals that of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Upon arrival in Amritsar this afternoon, you will transfer to your hotel for check-in. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Accommodations: Hyatt Amritsar. Box breakfast provided.
Day 16: The Golden Temple & Wagah Border. This morning, you will visit the Golden Temple, the Harmandir Sahib. The construction of the temple began in the 16th century under the reign of Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh Guru, and was completed by his successor, Guru Arjan. In the early 19th century, Maharaja Ranjit Singh covered the upper floors of the temple with gold, which gives it its distinctive appearance and its English name, "Golden Temple". The temple’s architecture is a blend of both Hindu and Muslim styles and over the years, additional golden gilding and precious stones were added giving the temple a truly dazzling appearance. The sacred lake that surrounds the temple is fed by an underground stream and at night the lake provides a breathtaking reflection of the shimmering Golden Temple. However, Amritsar also holds a dark past as it was the site of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. On April 13 1919, British Indian Army soldiers under the command of Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer opened fire on an unarmed gathering of men, women and children in the Jallianwala Bagh Garden Park and to this day, bullet holes still mark the walls on the park’s premises.
This afternoon you will visit the Wagah Border to watch a Border Retreat Ceremony. Wagha is the only open land border between Pakistan and India. The ceremony takes place every evening before sunset and consists of a brief parade of Indian and Pakistani forces opening the iron gates, while simultaneously lowering each nation’s flag. Both sides quickly shake hands then proceed to close the gates again. Each evening, this strange spectacle attracts many visitors on both sides. Breakfast provided.
Day 17: Amritsar & Delhi. This morning you will explore the city and visit the Golden Temple once again. Then continue to the Durgiana Temple, sometimes referred to as the Silver Temple for its carved silver doors. Its resemblance to the Golden Temple in its structural design is remarkable, and because it draws fewer crowds, you will have the opportunity to explore and inspect its architecture and sculptures more carefully. You’ll see intricately carved images of the goddess Durga in her various incarnations and though various other deities found their place in the interior of the temple, it is clear that goddess Durga is the prevalent deity of the shrine.
This evening, you’ll transfer to the airport in Amritsar for a short flight back to Delhi. Upon arrival, you’ll check-in for your onward flight returning to the U.S. departing shortly after midnight. Breakfast provided.
Day 18: Delhi/USA. Your memorable journey ends today when you arrive in New York.
Had a wonderful time in India. Our tour guide was excellent and even paid for a few incidentals to entertain the tour group that were not included on the tour. The elephant and rickshaw rides were worth the price of the tour!
Camille Lauer, New York, NY
Our tours may look similar to others you've seen, but we invite you to shop & compare. There are important differences that make Friendly Planet tours the best you can find.
No Compromise on Quality: Despite our extraordinary prices, there are no compromises on our India & Nepal tours. Throughout your tour you'll stay in Superior & Deluxe, centrally located hotels that are noted for their amenities and service.
Included Features: Your transfers as well as all the important touring are included, not expensive extras as in other tours.
Credit Cards or Cash: You asked, and we listened! Whether you pay by check, money order or your favorite major credit card, your tour price on this tour is the same. There is no extra cost to charge your dream vacation to India & Nepal.
Personal Service: Most important of all, the extra ingredient that makes our tours stand apart from others—the wonderful, personal attention you'll receive from our friendly staff in the USA and our representatives in India —is completely free of charge. Compare our India programs to others, feature for feature. You'll see for yourself that ours are the very best value for money you'll find anywhere.