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Embrace the vibrant energy of Delhi, the capital of India. On arrival, you'll be transferred to your hotel where this evening you'll join your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a Welcome Reception with drinks and appetisers.
We 'Dive Into Culture' this morning, embarking on an exhilarating rickshaw ride around Old Delhi. We'll view the UNESCO-listed Red Fort - its towering red sandstone palace walls considered to be the most opulent of the Mughal Empire, followed by a visit to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. Our next stop at Chandni Chowk to see first-hand how its merchants spend their day trading enthusiastically. We continue along the ceremonial avenue Rajpath and past Parliament House and India Gate, commemorating the Indian soldiers who died during WWI. After lunch in a local restaurant, we'll head to the district of New Delhi, where we'll visit the UNESCO-listed Humayun's Tomb to admire its magnificent Persian-style façades of white marble and red sandstone. Then it's on to another UNESCO-listed site, Qutub Minar, the world's tallest brick minaret. Our evening is at leisure.
Embark on a pilgrimage to the sacred city of Varanasi, located on the banks of the holy river Ganges. Immerse yourself in its spiritual surrounds, exploring the city's role as the centre of Hindu religion, before escaping to the countryside and 'Make A Difference' with a visit to Rameshwar village. 'Dive Into Culture' and witness first-hand how all local activities are aimed at sustainable livelihood and community empowerment whilst ensuring the economic growth of the under-privileged. Observe local women making papad and pickles, doing embroidery or making saris which they sell to the local markets. Visit the village school and the Shanti Dham Ashram, a catholic prayer centre for the Christian society living in Varanasi. Feed your soul as you cruise down the River Ganges to witness the ritual of Aarti, watching as the delicate diya laden with a candle and tiny blooms floats in a magical train down the river. Return to our hotel for dinner.
Admire the pink light of sunrise appear over the River Ganges, watching the sights and sounds of Varanasi stir slowly along the banks of the river. Observe the locals taking their morning bath in the holy water while worshipping the rising sun. Then, return to your hotel for breakfast followed by a visit to Sarnath, one of the four holy Buddhist sites sanctioned by the Buddha himself for pilgrimage. Explore the spectacular collection of Buddhist artefacts dating back to the 3 BC and see the Lion Capital of Ashoka with its inverted lotus carving, adopted as the national emblem of India. Return to your hotel for an afternoon and evening at leisure.
Take a short flight to Agra to delve into the imperial history of the Mughal Empire and India's Golden Age. Visit the UNESCO-listed Agra Fort this afternoon, gaining insight into the heritage, rituals and traditions of the dynasty that ruled here until the 17th century. As you drive through the city's crowded streets, connect with its vibrant spirit and witness local life first-hand. Enjoy dinner at your hotel and consider joining an Optional Experience.
Rise with the birds, embarking on a spiritual encounter with the magnificent UNESCO-listed Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Watch as the white alabaster marble of this monument of love glows pink and gold at the first hints of sunrise, admiring the flawless architecture that took 18 years and over 20,000 craftsmen to complete. Return to your hotel for breakfast, then depart for Jaipur, the Pink City and gateway to the colourful state of Rajasthan. This evening, we 'Connect With Locals', joining a local family for a 'Be My Guest' dinner in their home.
Our first stop this morning sees us explore Jaipur's UNESCO-listed Amber Fort, one of the country's most exquisite examples of Rajput architecture. Marvel at its royal halls decorated with intricate ivory, mirror and glass work, before returning to your hotel. En route, we'll enjoy a quick photo stop outside the Palace of Winds, whose latticed windows once revealed the outside world to the sheltered ladies of the royal household. This afternoon, we embark on a city tour including a visit to the ornate City Palace to see the seamless blend of traditional Rajasthani and Mughal Art. Across the road from the palace is the UNESCO-listed Jantar Mantar, featuring the largest sundial in the world. Later this evening, we'll join our fellow guests and Travel Director for dinner at a local restaurant.
Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims throughout the ages, travelling to the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal and its capital, Kathmandu. On arrival, check in to your hotel, then join your Travel Director and fellow travellers for dinner in a local restaurant.
Kathmandu's golden roofs glow brightly on your City Tour to the heart of its old town and Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here you will gain a deeper understanding of its role in the centuries of rule over this mountain kingdom. Admire the traditional pagoda-style architecture reflected in the temples and palaces that surround the square - the Hanuman Dhoka palace complex, the Mahadev Temple, the House of the Goddess Kumari and Taleju Temple. Journey to nearby Patan next, renowned for its collection of ancient temples, carvings and palaces, which you will see first-hand during a visit to Patan Durbar Square, a generic name given to plazas and areas located opposite Nepal's old royal palaces. Delve into the ancient Buddhist heritage of the City of Beauty and visit the Krishna Temple and Golden Temple. The delicate art of thangka painting takes centre stage next, as you continue to a painting school to observe students painting religious scenes on cotton and silk. Later, 'Make A Difference' with a visit to the Tibetan Refugee Camp which features a handicraft centre and provides shelter to the families of Tibetan refugees who fled the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959. Among these were gifted Tibetan carpet weavers whose talents remain on display today at the Jawalakhel Handicraft Centre, along with traditional Tibetan handicrafts.
Looming over Patan lies the UNESCO-listed shrine of Swayambhunath, which you will have an opportunity to visit today. Uncover its history spanning millennia and admire the galleries of prayer mills and gleaming white stupa, whose gilded spire provides the colourful eyes of Buddha a lofty vantage point from which to survey the surrounding valley. Share the intricately carved stone façades with the resident monkeys and admire the artistry of Nepalese craftsmanship as you walk through the remnants of Buddhist and Hindu iconography, said to be around 2000 years old. Then, visit a local market in the Thamel area and stroll through its narrow alleyways in search of the perfect mementoes of your trip. Return to your hotel for an afternoon at leisure or consider joining one of Trafalgar's recommended Optional Experiences.
Your soulful encounter with Nepal at its end, take a transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
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