Duration: 11 days
Transportation: Airplane, auto, train
India is more than a repository of an ancient civilization. Its tumultuous and romantic history has shaped a country unlike any other, a lively and ever-changing mosaic. Women in saris of seemingly impossible combinations of colors vie for attention at bustling bazaars. Vividly painted mud-walled homes stand in stark contrast to vast deserts and chaotic cities. Bejeweled camels and sacred cows amble crookedly alongside cycle-rickshaws and elaborately clad sadhus on spiritual pilgrimage.
The trip offers a rare opportunity to explore a treasure trove of cultural, historical, and spiritual riches—and indeed to see places, through their importance in the life of the Buddha, that would shape the history of the region and the world.
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1: ARRIVE IN DELHI. Upon arrival in Delhi you will be greeted by our representative and transferred to the hotel. The Imperial is one of Delhi’s top hotels, and conveniently located in the heart of city. In the evening we gather for an orientation. The Imperial (L, D)
DAY 2: DELHI. Breakfast will be available at the hotel restaurant in the morning, after which we will meet as a group for an orientation to India and overview of our program itinerary. After this we will commence our exploration of the main cultural and historical sites of New and Old Delhi. This will include visits to historical monuments, and examples of classical Mughal architecture, such as Old Delhi’s Red Fort and Jama Masjid (the largest mosque in all of India). We will also have a chance to explore the nearby Chandni Chowk bazaar, one of the most colorful open public markets in the city; as well as Raj Ghat, the memorial site and eternal flame for Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaralal Nehru, and Indira Gandhi. We will take lunch at one of the many traditional restaurants in Old Delhi. In the late afternoon, participants will have the option of resting back at the hotel, visiting some of New Delhi’s capital district and museums, and/or shopping. We will have dinner together either at the hotel or at a nearby restaurant and retire early after this exciting first day, in order to prepare for the upcoming day’s activities. Overnight at the Imperial. (B,L,D)
DAY 3: VARANASI. Following breakfast at the hotel, we will transfer to Delhi’s airport for a flight from Delhi to Varanasi, the ancient City of Light, and perhaps the oldest city in the world. It is also one of the holiest and densest cities in all of India. Varanasi, formerly known as Banaras, is believed to be Lord Shiva’s earthly abode as well as the sacred city on the Ganges River to where faithful Hindus make their final pilgrimage (death and cremation in Varanasi bestows moksha, or liberation, upon the deceased). Upon arrival in Varanasi, we will transfer to our heritage hotel, Palace on the Ganges, which is located only a few meters from the holy Ganges River at Assi Ghat. After lunch at a local restaurant we will explore some of the nearby attractions along the river banks and within the city itself. In the late afternoon/evening, we will be joined by Professor Rana-ji Singh, Varanasi’s eminent Sacred Geographer and faculty member at the illustrious Banaras Hindu University. Rana-ji will give his famous lecture and slideshow on the living traditions of pilgrimage and worship in the City of Light, a primer for our own pilgrimage excursion the following day. We will take dinner together either on the roof of our hotel or at a nearby restaurant before retiring for the night to the sounds of bells and chants resounding from the many local temples. (B,L,D)
DAY 4: VARANASI. Today, following breakfast, we will step away from the Hindu traditions of Varanasi and instead explore the Buddhist heritage of the region, making a day trip to Sarnath, just over 30 minutes drive from Assi Ghat. This is where, in the Deer Park, the Buddha first gave teachings on the “middle way path to nirvana,” a philosophy which soon came to be known as Buddhism. Sarnath is also where some of the greatest universities of Buddhist learning were established in the 1st millennium, and today there remain extensive ruins and archaeological monuments to this legacy. There are also dozens of monasteries and temples from Buddhist nations throughout the world, as well as an excellent museum to explore for the remainder of the day. We will return to Varanasi for dinner in the evening and again stay at the Palace on the Ganges. (B,L,D)
DAY 5: BODHGAYA. This morning we will say farewell to Varanasi and drive 6 hours by private coach to Bodhgaya, the Diamond Throne (or Dorje Den in Tibetan) of Buddhism, stopping for lunch along the way. Here, under the Bodhi Tree in the 5th century BCE, a Hindu prince named Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment and set out to teach the world the Middle Way path to liberation which he had realized. Behind the Mahabodhi Temple here in Bodhgaya, at the very site where the Buddha himself sat 26 centuries ago, stands a descendent of that original tree. We will have the opportunity to circumambulate the Temple with hundreds, if not thousands, of Buddhist pilgrims from nations across the world, as well as sit under the canopy of the tree itself. Finally, we will also have time to visit temples and monasteries from the Tibetan, Zen, Thai, Burmese, and other respective Buddhist traditions. During our time in Bodhgaya we will stay just a short walk from the Mahabodhi Temple at the Royal Residency Hotel. (B,L,D)
DAY 6: BODHGAYA, RAJGIR AND NALANDA. On our second day in the area we will explore some of the other legendary Buddhist sites to the north of Bodhgaya. Following breakfast we will travel 1-2 hours by road in our private coach to Rajgir, the ancient hilltop capital of the Magadha kingdom, historical pilgrimage place for Hindus, and location of some of the Buddha’s foremost teachings. Following lunch we will also visit the ruins of Nalanda, the 5th century Buddhist college which was one of the ancient world’s greatest universities. This center of learning and debate generated much of the most brilliant thought that still today comprises the core of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy. Walking the same paths which the Indian saint Nagarjuna wandered while formulating his ideas on emptiness as well as visiting the library ruins which once housed the original writings of Kamalashila and Shantideva, we will follow the thousands of footsteps of orange robed monastics from millennia ago. This day’s tour will conclude with a return to Bodhgaya and dinner at our Royal Residency Hotel. (B,L,D)
DAY 7: KHAJURAHO. This morning we will rise early and following a quick breakfast make the 6 hour return drive to Varanasi. After lunch we will then catch an afternoon flight to Khajuraho. Upon arrival in Khajuraho we will transfer to the Hotel Chandela and have the late afternoon and evening free for rest and individual exploration of this small town. A World Heritage Site, Khajuraho was once the capital of the Jajhauti Kingdom and later the seat of the Chandela Dynasty. Today it is known as one of the most famous collections of Hindu temples in all of India, particularly noteworthy for its magnificent and erotic sculpture and complex architecture. We will have dinner at our Chandela Hotel or in a local restaurant before retiring for the evening. (B,L,D)
DAY 8: KHAJURAHO. Following breakfast at our hotel, our second day in Khajuraho will be spent exploring the legendary architectural and sculpture complexes of the Khajuraho temples. This city of brilliant Hindu stonework was built primarily from 950-1050 CE by the Chandela Dynasty, but fell quickly to the Mughal onslaught from Central Asia at the turn of the second millennium. Today, the beautiful wonders which remain are matched by the question of why it was built in the first place. Whatever the answer, the remote location of the Khajuraho temples certainly benefited its preservation, and to this day the ancient exotica and erotica of the Hindu relief remains awe inspiring. We will return to the Hotel Chandela again this evening for dinner and rest. (B,L,D)
DAY 9: AGRA. After breakfast at our hotel we will have the morning available to further explore the Khajuraho complexes, take a leisurely stroll around the quaint local town, and/or rest poolside at the hotel. We will depart Khajuraho after lunch and drive 2-3 hours by private coach to the railroad junction at Jansi. From there we will board the early evening Shatabdi Express Train 2001, for a 2 hour ride to Agra. Upon arrival in Agra we will transfer to the Mughal Sheraton, and retire for the night following dinner at the hotel. (B,L,D)
DAY 10: AGRA. This morning we will rise by 5:00 in order to witness the spectacular sunrise at the legendary Taj Mahal (also known as the ‘Resplendent, Immortal Teardrop on the Cheek of Time’), Shah Jahan’s monument and mausoleum of eternal love for his wife. Following a morning at the Taj Mahal and lunch out on the town, we will venture to the famous Agra Fort and/or the lost city of Fatehpur Sikri. That evening we will be able to rest back at the hotel and have time for limited shopping excursions, and, if possible, we might also be able to experience an evening viewing of the Taj Mahal. Following dinner at one of Agra’s finer restaurants, we will return to the train station for the Shatabdi Express Train 2001 for a one hour ride to Delhi. Upon our arrival in the capital, we will return to the Imperial hotel. (B,L,D)
DAY 11: DELHI. Our last day in India will be generally open as a free day in Delhi, with ample time provided for sightseeing and shopping. There will be opportunity to visit various points of interest around town, such as museums and temples and/or traditional handicraft centers. Following an afternoon rest we will have a final dinner together at one of Delhi’s favorite restaurants before most participants transfer to the airport for their night departure and the return flight to home.
LAND COST: Available on request.
Included in Land Cost:
- Accommodations as noted in the itinerary
- Meals as noted in the itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)
- All ground and internal air transportation
- Sightseeing as noted with experienced English-speaking local guides
- Tips/gratuity to local staff (porters, drivers, local guides, etc.)
- All entry fees at all temples and monuments
Not Included in Land Cost:
- Medical and evacuation insurance
- Trip cancellation, travel delay or baggage loss insurance
- International airfare
- Miscellaneous expenses and tipping to the staff
- Visa fees, excess baggage fees
- Video, still camera, and movie camera fees
- Items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.
- Any extra charges incurred as a result of delays or natural calamities beyond Yama Adventures control
© Yama Adventures, 2020.