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Palace on Wheels

USA, Oregon, Ashland, 6 year old Christian Rego aka Buddy Backpacker hikes a section of the Pacific Crest Trail near Ashland Oregon with his mom Andrea Rego and Dion, Christian will be the youngest hiker to complete the Pacific Crest Trail in a single season

Destination: Delhi -Jaisalmer – Jaipur-Udaipur -Bharatpur
Duration :09 nights / 10days

 

DAY 01:ARRIVE DELHI

You will be met and assisted on arrival in Delhi and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.

DAY 02:DELHI (board PALACE ON WHEELS)

After breakfast in the morning proceed for the full day city tour of Old & New Delhi. In Old city visit Red Fort built by Emperor Shah Jahan; Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India; Raj Ghat- the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi and enjoy a walking tour in Chandni Chowk- the silver street of Delhi bustling with activity. In the afternoon visit Qutab Minar, the tallest stone tower in India; Humayun’s Tomb built in the Indo Persian style and a predecessor to The Taj Mahal in Agra; India Gate – A War Memorial Arch. Also drive past the President’s house, Parliament house, Government secretariat buildings and Connaught place – the heart of New Delhi and a busy shopping center. Delhi, the capital city of modern India, a city known for it’s rich, valorous and exotic history. Once the fabled city of the heroes of the Mahabharata, and ruled by the Rajputs before they were displaced by foreign invaders. The tour starts in the evening with a ceremonial welcome aboard the Palace on Wheels at Delhi Cantonment.  You will be introduced to your fellow travellers. Feel free to explore your new home, and acquaint yourself with its various facilities.  Relax with a drink at the bar.  Dinner will be served on board the two restaurants.  The train departs from Delhi at 17.45 hrs.

DAY 03:JAIPUR

Arrive at 00.00 in Jaipur the Pink City, known for it’s colourful and fascinating Architecture. Your tour begins at the Hawa Mahal or the Palace of Winds, followed by a visit to the Amber Fort, riding on canopied elephants in pomp and royal style of ancient maharajas. After indulging oneself in shopping at Rajasthali, the State’s Handicrafts emporium for souvenirs and crafts, an exotic and sumptuous lunch awaits you at the  majestic Rambagh Palace. The home of the erstwhile rulers, The City Palace, now a museum, full of royal splendor and the amazing Jantar Mantar – Astronomical Observatory, are to be explored at leisure. In the evening after a cultural program of enthralling dance and music, dinner is a celebration under the canopy of the star-lit skies at exotic Jai Mahal Palace. The train departs from the Pink City at 17.30 hrs.

Jaipur became the capital of the Kachchwaha dynasty when they shifted here from their hilltop fort of Amber.  It was built according to the principles laid down in the ancient Architectural Treatises, but with all the opulence deserving to a royal city. At its center rose the seven-tiered palace of the royal family, and around it came up gardens and temples, its Astronomical Observatory and the myriads of mansions and business houses. Jaipur also offers a greats shopping experience since the city is the country’s capital as far as handicrafts go – and they include a very extensive range – as well as a major international center for the cutting and polishing of gems and stones.  It also has a large number of palace hotels, and both Rambagh and Jai Mahal, which are the venues for their lunch and dinner, are intimately linked with the history of this former princely state.  Rambagh, in fact, was the last palace in which the former maharaja and his glamorous Maharani, and now Rajmata or Queen Mother of Jaipur, the popular Gayatri Devi, resided.  The palace not only has most of the original furnishings and artifacts, but its famous Polo Bar also has pictures of the last maharaja with English Aristocracy and other important guests.

DAY 04:JAISALMER

arrive at 06.15 hrs at Jaisalmer. Spend the day in this isolated, but Architecturally, one of the greatest Royal Bastions of the World. After a safari dinner served under the stars, at a campsite, come back to the train to resume your journey. Departure is at 23.30 hrs. Jaisalmer was the stronghold for the Bhatti Rajputs, and a hardier race never lived. Their earlier settlement was marked by bandit, as they looted caravans at will, stealing horses, and inviting the wrath of the West Asian invaders. Over time they began to settle, and the 12th century fort with its ninety-nine bristling bastions was established on top of Trikuta hill, exactly as prophesied for these descendants of Krishna.Isolated Jaisalmer may have been, a lost city in the sands of the Thar, more mythic than real for those of who heard it, but the caravans that passed through its territories enriched the coffers of the treasury. It also kept Jaisalmer in touch with the world, for such caravans carried not merely goods but also artisans and master-craftsmen. The Maharawalas of Jaisalmer thought little of making use of their services to build the magnificent, sandstone architecture for which it has become known around the world.

However, even more magnificent, along the cobbled stone pathways of the fort, arose the havelis, the mansions of the Jain merchants who were as powerful in the court of the time, as they were adept in business. Their homes are a poetry of sandstone, carved and pierced incredibly into different patterns, and though they are opulent and effusive, the result is in perfect harmony, and never offending the eye.

jaipur

 

Not only is Jaisalmer’s Architecture magnificent, it’s meandering lanes, the many homes within the ramparts and the resounding rhythms of the Langa and  Manganiyar musicians have frozen this citadel into a medieval time-warp. Escape from here to the desert sands around the fort, and see them drift in the breeze, or take a camel ride, or simply enjoy the mesmeric dances of its folk performers. So must the kings have watched over their kingdom? However, you no longer need to travel to Jaisalmer in a caravan; your carriage is a luxurious train – fitting in the royal context.

DAY 05:JODHPUR

Its time for you to visit yet another desert kingdom, Jodhpur, where you arrive at 08.00hrs. You can spend the morning at Mehrangarh Fort that towers over the city like an eagle’s eyrie and then come downhill to lunch at Umaid Bhawan Palace, the largest art-deco residence in the world and now home to the head of the royal family, museum and luxury hotel. Departure, after unwinding and relaxing at the palace, is at 15.30 hrs.

The 500 year old history of Jodhpur, the bastion of the valiant Rathore Rajputs, bristles with conflicts and sieges, with battles and savage skirmishes, so it is difficult to believe that they found the time to not only build the impossibly invincible looking Mehrangarh Fort, but also its lavish and delicately embellished palaces. Within the Fort, reached by a steep path with huge guarding at its turns and places at angles, to prevent elephants from storming them, are a large number of apartments where the maharajas retainers now serve as guides. Within, the apartments are painted and gilded and have windows and balconies to allow them an uninterrupted view of the desert around it, now peopled with homes. The vintage battle arms of the royal past are well presented – swords and daggers and spears and matchlock guns; a battle tent seized from Emperor Jehangir; howdahs and chariots and carriages; cribs and beds; the royal, octagonal throne; musical instruments, large drums, even a collection of turbans.

From the ramparts of the fort, where the cannons are still mounted, the sweeping view also takes in a huge palace located on top of another lower hill. This is Umaid Bhavan, the palace the Maharajas set out to build as a famine relief project, but also ambitiously as the World’s largest private residence. It was intended to and did rival the Presidential palace coming up then in Delhi. Build by a British Architect; while the planning has incorporated the elements of the Rajput lifestyle (large county yards, for example, or a zenana wing), there is a formal western sense of symmetry and restrained sense of ornamentation. Only in the royal suites does exuberance take over, since a Polish artist, then traveling in India, was given the permission to create huge paintings to suit the art-deco theme of the architecture and furniture in the palace. The grounds of the palace are huge and towards the back, there is a bougainvillea garden, perhaps the only of its kind in the world, and at the end, a Baradari, a pillared pavilion where the maharajas held Mehfils, entertainment courts. Within the palace the courtrooms are more formal, while the ballrooms resounded, till recently, with the sounds of revelry, now captured in the whispered conversations of tourists.

DAY 06: SAWAI MADHOPUR

arrive at 04.00 hrs, steam into Sawai Madhopur, to spend the day in the wilds of Ranthambhor where your hosts are, of course, royal. Ranthambhor National Park is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, the most majestic of the big cats, and magnificent in its agility and grace.  As it moves through the underbrush, its tawny gold hide striped with black bands, merges with nature, and the jungle stands to attention.

Ranthambhor is also very picturesque.  A number of lakes from the shallow lands where tiger sightings are quite common, and where herds of deer can be seen foraging, while crocodiles bask in the sun.  The lofty hills ring the park, and in the distance, the ramparts of Ranthambhor fort create a dramatic silhouette.  Once, this was the scene for fierce battles, and for fiery Jauhars, but all that is of the past now, though former hunting lodges such as Jogi Mahal, close to the lakes, is still retains its former grandeur and glory.

Ranthambhor is particularly well known for its tiger sightings because the undisturbed ambiance and the spreading, shallow lakes provide them the surroundings best suited to their needs, and therefore sightings by day time are quite common. Various conservationists and wildlife photographers have worked at length here to document the life cycle of the tigresses of Ranthambhor, even giving them names, so that they are now a part of the regional lore. Since the best time to visit the park is early morning, the train arrives at 04.00 hrs, and leaves for its destination, Chittaurgarh at 11.00 hrs. Arrival at Chittaurgarh at 15.30 hrs. Chittaurgarh is India’s most valorous fort, its history an unending saga of passion, chivalry and romance.  Within its sprawling ramparts were beautiful palaces, but few of them remain, the fort having been sacked by invaders. Lunch and dinner are served on board the

DAY 07: CHITTAURGARH AND UDAIPUR

arrive at 07.30 hrs, Chittaurgarh and Udaipur, the capitals of the Sisodia Maharanas, enjoy pre-eminence among the Rajput clans of Rajasthan.   Spend the day sight seeing at Udaipur.  Lunch is at Lake Palace, the beautiful island palace built as a summer resort by the royal family, and now converted into one of the world’s finest hotels.  The train departs again at 20.00 hrs, and dinner will be served on board.

Maharana Udai Singh, laid the foundation for a new kingdom-Udaipur-situated by Lake Pichola, where the impressive City Palace was lavished with aesthetic and imaginative works of art, and the art of miniature painting was encouraged as decor-et-al .  Subsequently, the princes built the seemingly floating Island Palace, the royal summer retreat, offering a spectacular view of the lake and surrounding mountains. Besides the Lake Palace, there are other such retreats that have been converted into modern hotels, one of them, Shiv Niwas, being run by the current head of the family.  A graceful, valorous race, the Sisodias and their city bring alive the excitement of a medieval kingdom as it once was, and with a little imagination, can still almost be…

DAY 08: BHARATPUR AND AGRA

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Bharatpur. Arrive at 06.00 hrs at a royal kingdom where the Jats, rather than the Rajputs, ruled. Bharatpur’s Jat history is not too old, with Suraj Mal establishing a firm stronghold in a region contested by both the Rajputs and the Mughals. Suraj Mal’s exploits are legendary, and the fort, Lohargarh, or Iron Fort, has a history that recounts it with pride. The only fort in the state to have bastions of mud, these proved meritorious because they simply swallowed up the cannon shells, not allowing them to impact.

However, it is not for its fort, or palace, or even the close by fortified resort of Deeg that passengers of the Palace on Wheels are here; Their attention is drawn to the bird sanctuary, one of the finest in the world. The Keoladeo Ghana National Park was developed by a royal edict when dykes were created so that water could be canalized for the hunting preserve at the maharaja of Bharatpur wished to create. In the early decade of this century, Bharatpur became famous among visiting British royalty and aristocracy for the amount of game the visitors bagged. These days, thankfully, only shooting by cameras is permitted in this sanctuary with over three hundred species of birds, many of them migrant species that come from parts as distant as Siberia and China.

After visiting the sanctuary in the morning, visitors travel by couch to Fatehpur Sikri, the red sandstone city build by Emperor Akbar on a lavish scale, but which he had to abandon soon after because of shortage of water. From here to Agra, first for lunch at Welcome Group Mughal Sheraton and then for a visit to the world’s most well-known monument and well worth its fame; The Taj Mahal. Built in the memory of his beloved empress by Emperor Shah Jahan, this marble mausoleum is the greatest gesture of love known to mankind, and is breathtakingly, bewitchingly beautiful. Land for the building of the Taj Mahal in Agra came from the maharaja of Jaipur and the marble used in its construction was from the mines of Makrana, also in Rajasthan. The precious stones used in its inlay, and the craftsmen employed for the twenty-two years its construction took, came not only from India, but from all over the World.  The Taj Mahal is the perfect finale to your Royal Sojourn.

 DAY 09: DELHI

Wednesday, and you’re back in Delhi as early as 06.00 hrs where, after breakfast on board the train, you descend to the humdrum existence of modern life, with only royal memories to retain for the rest of your lifetime.