Back in 2006 this is where it all began! Incredible Indian Tours was formed around this very trip and it is still one of our most popular tours! We designed the itinerary to showcase what WE love about India, and fortunately, we seem to have “hit the spot” for most of our clients as they LOVE this trip!
Seven years later the Women’s Only tour is still one of the best trips, anywhere, I have ever been on. Still remember it so fondly, thanks Deb.
The Essence of India Women Only tour was such an amazing adventure. My fist international trip on my own. Deb and Kim took care of everything, shared incredible knowledge and took us deep into the real India which I fell in love with so much that I am returning next year on the Heartlands tour. Small group size is perfect for dawn boat rides on the spiritually inspiring Ganges river, exotic spice markets and dining at authentic Indian restaurants. As a bonus I made long lasting friendships.
This classic and exciting tour takes you from Mumbai, the sprawling, commercial capital of India, and home to Bollywood, to the banks of the holy Ganges river in Varanasi. Explore the majestic land of the Kings – Rajasthan, and discover the magnificent Moghul cities of Delhi & Agra as well as smaller towns and villages of the authentic India away from the main tourist trail. We show you the well-known sights and introduce you to some wonderful off-the-beaten-track places that you simply will not find on other tours.
Learn the secrets of the massive forts of Rajasthan and enjoy the opulence and splendor of Maharajah’s palaces and castles, where you will be treated like royalty. Wander bustling markets and bazaars to uncover the perfect souvenir and find your inner spirit in India’s holiest town. Ride a camel into the sunset in the Rajasthani desert, search for the elusive Bollywood star in one of Mumbai’s movie-star haunts and dine at authentic Indian restaurants where you’ll find there’s more to Indian food than just butter chicken.
Experience Incredible India and Rajasthan on this Women-only Small Group Tour, fully escorted within India by one of our western female tour leaders (who live in India most of the year), with the services of local specialist guides for various activities and sightseeing. This tour is perfectly paced with plenty of time to see all the sights of India in an ‘up close’ and more intimate way as well as free time to experience more on your own or just to relax and recharge.
• Glitzy and glamorous Mumbai, the financial and entertainment capital of India. Mumbai, or Bombay as many locals still call it, is the ‘New York City’ of India – the city that never sleeps! Rub shoulders with Bollywood stars and tour the fascinating slums just a few miles apart.
• The beautiful lake city of Udaipur, often referred to as the ‘Venice of the East’ is our home in India and is picturesquely nestled amongst several man-made lakes and surrounded by the rolling hills of the Aravali mountains.
• Explore the old city of Udaipur – one of the most authentic local markets you’ll have the opportunity to wander through – before enjoying sunset drinks overlooking the iconic Lake Palace Hotel in Lake Pichola.
• Mount Abu, Rajasthan’s only hill-station rises out of the desert to a height of 1220 metres and has its own unique micro-climate. The elaborately carved Dilwara Jain temples are in stark contrast to the wild trails in the Mount Abu wildlife sanctuary where an early morning walk gets you out into the lush green natural surroundings.
• Spend a night like a Maharani (queen) in the heritage Ravla Bhenswara. Our hosts (descendants of the royal family who have lived in the castle for over 240 years) introduce us to nearby tribal villages and in the late afternoon we head to a rocky outcrop, home to leopards which might show themselves if we’re lucky. (We saw one last year!)
• The desert city of Jaisalmer, which is found on the western edge of Rajasthan, and has as its centerpiece the world heritage Sonar Quila, or Golden Fort – a fairytale sand-castle-like presence which is one of if not the only inhabited fort in the world.
• A camel safari deep in the Rajasthani desert at sunset followed by a candlelit dinner with entertainment under the stars.
• Jodhpur’s majestic Mehrangarh Fort, the most visually stunning and dominating fort in all India. Founded in 1459 in the drought-prone land of Marwar, a man was superstitiously buried alive in the foundations to bring the city good fortune and protection from drought.
• The unique Stepwell Square in Jodhpur – an ongoing urban development project in the heart of the ancient Blue City.
• Exploring the mesmerizing palaces and forts of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan where history easily comes to life in this Land of Kings.
• The astonishing astrological/astronomical observatory – the Jantar Mantar and the brilliance of the Maharajah who built it. His nickname – Sawai – meant one and a quarter times smarter.
• Shopping and bargaining in the bazaars of the Pink City and the world famous jewellery district – an ideal place to pick up a colourful bauble or two.
• The unsurpassed Taj Mahal, the greatest monument to love ever built. During a sunrise visit this Wonder of the World is at its most peaceful and ethereal and it’s easy to perceive how a grieving Emperor designed it for his deceased Empress.
• Mughal heritage in Agra – the Agra Fort, Baby Taj, Akbars Mausoleum and the recently unearthed Mehtab Bagh – moonlight garden – from where Shah Jehan, the builder of the Taj would gaze on his beloved’s mausoleum by moonlight.
• Go back in time as we explore the living medieval town of Orchha, not much more than a small village with a remarkable wealth of deserted monuments – palaces, temples and cenotaphs.
• A sunrise boat ride on the Ganges in holy Varanasi, the holiest of cities where the sad and sweet rituals of death and reincarnation roll perpetually on in the pursuit of Nirvana and the hope for a better life.
• Walking through the alleyways and along the ghats (steps on the riverfront) of Varanasi to experience the real heart of the city.
• The origins of Buddhism at Sarnath, where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment and where you can wander through ruins, monasteries and meet monks from around the world or enjoy a meditative moment in the peaceful ‘Garden of spiritual wisdom’.
• The amazing Sikh temple – the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara in Delhi – whose enormous kitchen cooks up a storm! A minimum of ten thousand people are served a free meal daily!
• The craziness and excitement of India’s capital city Delhi where the teeming throngs of over 12 million people coexist in an eclectic blend of ancient and modern and the chai wallahs of Old Delhi serve diplomats and beggars alike. The sights, sounds, traffic and smells are a complete assault on the senses.
Excited? Come and experience the real India before it’s too late. The whole world is becoming more and more globalised, and individual cultures are changing, some very fast. India is on a steep growth curve, and many Indians are now as western as you and I in their expectations, their outlook towards the world and particularly in their use of technology. Now is the time to visit India and still experience the traditional Indian life, meet Indian people from many different backgrounds and also to glimpse the future of this fascinating part of the world.
Here is what to expect, day by day, on the Essence of India Women-only tour…
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Mumbai
Known as Bombay until its name change in 1997, Mumbai is India’s financial, commercial and industrial capital and it’s millions of residents seem to be constantly on the move. There is a multicultural feel here, with people from all over India and abroad having gravitated to the metropolis in search of a better life. Mumbai is also the home of Bollywood, so if you’re lucky you might bump into a star, a film shoot on the streets or even get offered a part as an extra in a Bollywood extravaganza.
Please arrive in time to meet with the group by Midday when we have a welcome meeting before we head out for lunch and an afternoon of sightseeing to the Gateway of India and the iconic Taj Mahal hotel.
Day 2 Mumbai
We have another full day to explore Mumbai, where we visit some of the sights including the Dhobi (laundry) washers, the Gandhi Museum and Chowpatty beach.
Days 3-4 Udaipur
We take a morning flight to Udaipur. Often called the romantic city, Udaipur lives up to its name with its white-washed havelis and palaces lining the banks of the charming lake Pichola. We visit the City Palace museum and take in a classic Rajasthani Dance show. We wander the local markets and learn how to make a sensational Indian curry. Why not try your hand at a spot of miniature painting or discover the lake on an afternoon cruise. Udaipur is a friendly and charming city just made for exploring.
Days 5-6 Mt Abu
We drive 3 hours to Mount Abu where we enjoy the charms of Rajasthan’s only ‘Hill Station’ ¬ a place to escape the heat of the plains. Well off the international tourist trail, Mt Abu is popular with Indian tourists and is famous for its remarkable Jain Temples. Some great walks and views are to be had in the hills surrounding the town.
Day 7 Bhenswara
A 3 hour drive today brings us to the small hamlet of Bhenswara where we get to spend the night like Maharanis (Queens) in a Heritage Ravla (Castle) 240 years old. We take a jeep safari to nearby villages and meet some of the local tribal people living in this remote part of South-Western Rajasthan.
Days 8-9 Jaisalmer
Like something out of 1001 Arabian nights, Jaisalmer is both exotic and mysterious with a unique fort, one of, if not the only inhabited fort in the world.
We wander the ancient streets of the fort and the town, visiting the intricately carved sandstone havelis (merchant’s mansions) and temples. Jaisalmer is famed for its handicrafts and there are many wonderful shops in the bazaar.
On the afternoon of day 9 we head out to the desert for a short camel safari followed by dinner in the desert.
Days 10-11 Jodphur
Travelling on to Jodhpur we explore the palaces of the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort and the colourful markets in the city below. Famous throughout the country for its special Makhani (butter) lassi’s, Jodphur is also where the pants come from.
On day 11 we take a jeep tour around some traditional Rajasthani villages and visit local handicraft makers, meeting local potters, block print makers and dhurrie rug weavers.
Days 12-14 Jaipur
Today we drive to Jaipur, the ‘Pink City’ and capital of Rajasthan.
Amber Fort is a splendid example of Rajput/Mughal architecture and was the old capital of Rajasthan prior to 1727. We explore Amber Palace and stop to admire the Jal (water) Mahal and Hawa (wind) Mahal before taking a wander through the markets and colourful bazaars of Jaipur. We visit the wondrous Jantar Mantar and have the chance to see the splendid City Palace Museum. There is free time to explore some of Jaipurs many sights, or markets. We also experience a Bollywood extravaganza at the Raj Mandir cinema.
Days 15-16 Agra
Today we drive to Agra, via the remarkable architectural monument of Abhaneri stepwell and Castle Kanota, better known as the Viceroy Club in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies.
On day 16, we make a dawn visit to the truly amazing Taj Mahal before returning to our hotel for breakfast. Later today, we head to the remarkable Agra Fort, Akbars mausoleum and the exquisite ‘Baby Taj’. There’s time for some shopping, or relaxing by the pool or at the spa at our hotel or you might like to make a return visit to the Taj Mahal again in the afternoon.
Days 17-18 Orchha
A 3-4 hour train ride takes us further south to Jhansi, from where we travel a short distance to Orchha. Surrounded by temples and palaces seemingly forgotten by the passage of time, Orchha is a tranquil small town situated on a sparkling river with friendly locals and a fabulous ambiance.
On the evening of day 18 we take an overnight train to Varanasi.
Days 19-20 Varanasi
Said to be the oldest city in the world, Varanasi, also known as Benares or Kashi, seems to encapsulate all of India within its boundaries. The ultimate destination for all Hindu pilgrims, the city is full of temples, shrines and devotees. Life in Varanasi revolves around the Ghats along the Ganges where the bulk of the temples are located.
We arrive mid morning into Varanasi, also known as Benares and Kashi, the City of Light. After transferring to our riverside hotel, we take a walk along the ghats on the riverbank and explore the old city before enjoying an evening ceremonial ‘aarti’ on the banks of the river.
On day 20 we take a dawn boat ride on the Ganges and we also visit Sarnath, the site of Buddha’s first sermon. In the afternoon there’s still plenty of free time to explore the ghats and alleyways of ancient Varanasi.
Days 21-22 Delhi
We take a flight today to Delhi. On arrival we take a drive past New Delhi’s Rajpath, the ceremonial avenue lined with impressive and imposing government buildings, India Gate and the Rastrapati Bhavan, the President of India’s residence. Later we also visit the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Humayans Tomb before finishing the afternoon at the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, Delhi’s largest Sikh temple.
On day 22 we visit Old Delhi, the walled city once known as Shahjehanabad which was the creation of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. After joining the crowds to walk in the bazaars of Chandni Chowk, we ride cycle rickshaws through the laneways of the old city to the spice market. We immerse ourselves in the noise and smells of the crowded narrow streets and alleys, where different areas specialize in festival paraphernalia, silk, copper, brass and jewelery.
Enjoy a free afternoon taking in one of Delhi’s wonderful museums, or visit the markets of Dilli Haat, Hauz Khas or Khan Market.
Day 23 Departure Day
There are no organised activities today. You are free to depart at anytime.