|Day 1:||Arrive, Delhi. On arrival in Delhi you will be met and transferred to your homestay, and your welcoming hosts.|
|Day 2:||Explore Delhi. Today you have a full day guided tour of Delhi seeing all the main sites which are open on that day. There are numerous historical sites and monuments throughout the city reminding you of this varied past and today your guided tour will take you to many of these. You will explore the bustling alleyways of Old Delhi and the wide tree-lined boulevards of New Delhi. You are taken to the railway station in time for your 8:30pm train to Varanasi. (B)|
|Day 3:||Varanasi. You arrive in Varanasi at 9am. You will be met and taken to check in at your hotel before taking a guided city tour. (B)|
|Day 4:||The Ganges. This morning you are taken for a boat ride on the Ganges. You pass the ghats and see life unfolding by the river. In the afternoon, you visit Sarnath, one of the most important Buddhist stupas in the area. Enjoy an evening aarati (prayer ceremony) on the Ganges. (B)|
|Day 5:||Explore Varanasi. Today is a free day to explore Varanasi on your own. Depart Varanasi on the 10pm train to Agra. (B).|
|Day 6:||Agra. On arrival at station closest to Agra at 7am you will be met and transferred by car the rest of the way into town. In the afternoon you will have a guided tour of the Red Fort. (Note: as with Varanasi, Agra is a city of large hotels rather than small characterful places). (B).|
|Day 7:||Taj Mahal. Prepare for an early start to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise. It’s worth it! This is surely one of the main highlights of any trip to India and is an unforgettable experience. Later in the day you’ll be driven to Fatehpur Sikri to explore this amazing deserted city. This was the capital of the Mughal Empire in the late 16th century. There are many surviving buildings including palaces, halls and tombs which hint at the former grandeur of the city. The city was abandoned after some 14 years due to the lack of water in the area. Take 3:45pm train to Ranthambore, arriving at 6pm. You’ll again be picked up and transferred to your lodge near Ranthambore. (B,D).|
|Day 8-9:||Game drives in Ranthambore. The chance of spotting tigers in this park is really good, though of course we sadly can’t guarantee it. Note: Entrance to the park is very heavily controlled by the authorities and the rules change on a regular basis without notice. There are a finite number of vehicles allowed in the park on a rota system. There are small jeeps and large canters which take up to 20 people. You may not get the vehicle of your choice, or be permitted to enter the park every day of your stay here. So having some time and some patience here is well advised.(FB).|
|Day 10:||Jaipur. This morning we drive you from Ranthambore to Jaipur (about 4 hours). You have a free afternoon based in your lovely homestay lodging, a gracious colonial villa surrounded by sweeping lawns and palm trees. (B)|
|Day 11:||Full day tour of Jaipur and Amber. Amongst the famous monuments in Jaipur are the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds, from behind which the ladies of the palace used to watch the city’s processions and activities without themselves being seen, and the fascinating Jantar Mantar or observatory. There are also several museums and palaces and the shopping here is excellent. Amber was the capital of the area before Jaipur. It is an imposing sight with a hilltop location and lake below. The architecture is a blend of Hindu and Muslim influences. Originally built as a palace it still retains elements of opulence and artistry, with murals, paintings, mirror work and intricate carvings. Overnight in your homestay. (B).|
|Day 12:||Delhi. Drive to Delhi (about 4-5 hours) and stay in a homestay again. (B).|
|Day 13:||Depart. Transfer to airport. (B)|
The company - The company that organises this holiday is a multi award-winning responsible travel company. They try to ensure that nothing they do at home (in UK) or abroad compromises the environment or wildlife or exploits people. They believe in ensuring that travellers are well-informed, as an informed traveller tend to be a more respectful and sensitive traveller. They also believe in giving back to the country, people wildlife and environments which are affected by tourism.
Informed Travellers - They are about to bring out a Responsible Wildlife Viewing guide. For anything more specific, e.g. rules about visiting gorillas, this information is also given to clients. In addition, they offer more information about the native people and cultures in a destination country, which all adds to a traveller being more aware.
Carbon Offsetting - Every person that travels with this company automatically has their flights carbon offset. This is done through The Travel Forest, a project of registered charity, The Tribes Foundation. The Travel Forest plants indigenous trees to offset the carbon emissions produced when you fly on holiday. Whilst this is the primary motivation for planting the trees, the project also works as a poverty alleviation scheme and also aims to combat environmental degradation
In the UK - The UK head office has a good policy of recycling, reducing and re-using (electricity, paper, plastic etc). They also buy only fair trade goods such as tea, coffee, and use biodegradable detergents etc. They also make a point of buying only top eco-rated equipment (e.g. monitors).
Train travel - You will also be having two nights on an overnight train. Train travel is a great way to keep carbon emissions down whilst travelling, as otherwise the journey from Delhi to Varanasi and back would have to be by plane. Train travel is a great cultural experience too!
Ranthambore - Visiting Ranthambore helps conserve Indian wildlife including tigers by bringing in funds to the park. Of course all travellers are advised (as on all our holidays) how to respect the wildlife and habitats they come across. During the trip we use all Indian guides as another way to encourage the use of local services and keeping money in the country.
Informed Travellers - In terms of information, all travellers are given guidelines on Travelling with Respect, which includes advice on cultural aspects of your travels as well as protecting the environment. For any community-owned or run project, they also have an Community Tourism Information sheet for travellers to help explain how to get the best from the experience, and what to expect (good and bad). For trekkers, the company have a Porter Policy in place, a copy of which is given to clients.
Eco-ratings & community tourism - The company works with partners on the ground in each destination, and only uses local guides. They also primarily promote locally-owned services (hotels etc). They have eco-rated about 300 properties worldwide which they work with closely, so they are very clear which accommodations have good environmental and social responsibility credentials. This information is used to ensure that any traveller wanting to ensure they are really making a difference, can choose between one property and another on eco-issues. They also promote community-owned projects and services where applicable and possible. Indeed they were instrumental in setting up two community-owned ventures in Tanzania and Peru.
Travel Philanthropy - The company backs a charity called The Tribes Foundation with funds and administration. This is a registered UK charity whose principle aim is to relieve the poverty of indigenous communities in areas outside of the UK which are affected by tourism. The charity backs poverty alleviation, education, cultural preservation and conservation projects within these regions. It has backed schools, clinics, micro-business projects and more. They are currently raising funds for 9 different grassroots projects in nine different counties, which travellers are encouraged to donate to if they would like to give something back.
Homestays - You will be staying in a homestay for 3 nights of this holiday. Homestays really benefit the local family hosting you of course, but they also help the immediate local community. They do this as they almost always recruit staff from the locality, but local foods and services. As far as the traveller is concerned, the ability to talk with local people in a friendly, informal way opens up an area and its culture and traditions so that the traveller can absorb and enjoy more of the place they’re visiting.