Impressions of India (& Holi)

26 Feb - 12 Mar, 2018
Applications close on: 14 Jan 2018
Group Size: from 8 to 12 people
Spots left: 6 spots left
Photo leader:
15 days, from 2387 USD

Vibrant Holi celebrations
The incomparable Taj Mahal
Bharatpur bird sanctuary
Gwalior Palace & Fort
Erotic temples of Khajuraho
Sunrise on the River Ganges
Photography tuition

Steve has travelled in India countless times, but has never taken part in the incredibly colourful and chatic Holi Festival. Noted for the joyful throwing of paint and coloured powder, Holi is at the heart of this exciting photography tour.

This itinerary will visit many of the most famous site of this incredible country, as well as a number of less visited and more hidden places. You will see the Taj Mahal, the great forts at Amber and Gwalior, as well as the erotic carvings on the temple at Khajuraho. We will see pilgrims in temples, and also bathing in the holy River Ganges at Varanasi - one of the most spiritual places in the country. Travelling by train, rickshaw, boat and bus we will see both the ancient and modern India, and have the chance to photograph countless expressive faces, ancient places and even unspoilt landscapes and birds.

The trip will include extensive photography tuition from professional travel photographer, Steve Davey, countless photo opportunities and the company of fellow photography enthusiasts, as well as the chaos of the Hindu festival of Holi.


Our adventure starts in the busy capital city of New Delhi, before heading into Rajasthan and the pink city of Jaipur. Here we will visit the City Palace, as well as the Hawa Mahal - the Palace of Winds. From Jaipur we drive to Bharatpur - home to one of the most famous bird sanctuaries in India.

A short hop takes us to Vrindavan where we will base ourselves for the Holi Festival - also visiting the nearby city of Mathura, the birthplace of Lord Krishna.We will stay here for three nights to explore the Holi Festival at a number of different locations and temples.

Another short drive takes us to Agra, where we will have a little time to gather our breath from the festival - and to photograph the Taj Mahal at sunrise, of course! One of the most beautiful buildings in India, everyone should visit the Taj at least once in their lifetimes.

Crossing into the state of Madhya Pradesh our next stop is the city of Gwalior - home to an intricate hilltop fort and a Royal Palace that is a byword for the wealth and power of the Maharajahs.

Continuing through Madhya Pradesh we spend an atmospheric night at the little visited city of Orchha, before continuing on to glean a few ideas from the erotically carved temples of Khajuraho! Guaranteed to make even the most broadminded person blush – these temples hark back to the days of the Kama Sutra!

Our final destination is the Holy city of Varanasi, or Kashi. Blessed with amazing light and graced by the holy River Ganges, Varanasi attracts pligrims from all over India as well as wandering holymen called sadhus who sport great dreadlocks and often perform incredibe Yogic feats.

Our tour finishes in Varanasi, allowing you to explore further, or to catch a cheap flight back to Delhi for your return flight.

Please note: this is an exploratory trip. Steve has travelled to most of the places on this itinerary, but never during the Holi Festival. This exploratory nature is reflected in the trip price. We will, however, have expert local people to guide us and to help us have the best experience and also come back with some excellent pictures!

 

Impressions of India itinerary

Day 1: Delhi
On arrival into Delhi, those on the recommended group flight are met and transferred to your hotel. Private transfers for other flights are available on request.

Standard Check in at the hotel is 14:00, but rooms can sometimes be available earlier. The only way to guarantee an early check-in though is to purchase an extra night of accommodation.

Although there are no official events planned for today, we will no doubt head out for some sightseeing in Old Delhi. Typically this includes catching the Metro to Old Delhi, where we get to look around the Spice Market, and also pay a visit to

Time permitting there is the option of group dinner (at own expense).

Included Activities:
Group arrival transfer
Accommodation: Hotel Clarks International or similar.


Day 2: Jaipur
This morning we depart at 06:05 for the “Shatabdi Express” to Jaipur. Our train is scheduled to arrive in Jaipur at 10:40, where we will be met on arrival, and transferred to our hotel.

After some time to check in, we will enjoy an afternoon sightseeing tour of Jaipur city visiting.

The City Palace, now converted into a museum, except a small portion that is still used by the royal family of Jaipur. Built in the fortified campus style, the palace covers almost one-seventh part of the city.

Jantar Mantar or Observatory was constructed between 1727 and 1734 by Maharajah Jai Singh II of Jaipur and is one of the five stone observatories in India.

We will also have some time to wander around the photogenic streets of the town.

Included Activities:
Train to Jaipur
Jaipur City Tour
Accommodation: Devraj Niwas or similar
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 3: Bharatpur
This morning you proceed for the visit of the ancient capital of Amber to see the fabulous Amber Fort. Maharaja Mansingh, Mughal Emperor Akbar’s most successful General, started the construction of Amber Fort in the 17th century. Before the City Palace was constructed in Jaipur, Amber was the seat of power. We will also visit one of the ancient step-wells that is close to Amber.

In the afternoon you will depart Jaipur by private vehicle to Bharatpur. On arrival check in and relax.

Included Activities:
Amber Fort visit
Accommodation: Laxmi Niwas Palace or similar
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 4: Vrindavan
After breakfast you will enjoy a Cycle Rickshaw ride with your tour leader in Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary. Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary also known as Keoladeo National Park is a famous avifauna sanctuary that hosts thousands of birds, especially during the winter season. Over 230 species of birds are known to be resident. It is also a major tourist centre with scores of ornithologists arriving here in the hibernal season. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a World Heritage Site. At the time that we will be visiting, we should be able to see a number of migratory birds.

Afterwards depart Bharatpur by private vehicle to Vrindavan. Check in on arrival.

Included Activities:
Cycle rickshaw ride through Bharatpur Sanctuary
Accommodation: Krishnam Hotel or similar
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 5 & 6: Vrindavan

Holi is a special festival for people of Mathura, Vrindavan and the surrounding area where people relive the legends of Holi that have association with Radha and Krishna. The Holi celebrations continue for a week and each major Krishna temple celebrates Holi on a different day such as Banke Bihari temple, Nandgaon, Gokul and Barsana.

The precise events for Holi are still being decided, and these will be made available as soon as possible. Rest assured though we will be getting as close to the action as is possible and safe!

Accommodation:
Krishnam Hotel or similar
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 7: Agra
After a final foray into the Holi celebrations, we will depart late morning by private vehicle to Agra. On arrival we will be able to relax, and attempt to clean ourselves of paint from the past few days! This may well involve throwing away our old clothes - which by now will be stained a multitude of colours!

In the afternoon, we will attempt to head to a convenient spot to witness the sunset over the Taj Mahal. You could also visit the monument at your own expense if you wish, although it is very crowded in the afternoons.

Accommodation: Pushp Villa or similar
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 8: Agra
Today will be an early start to view the sunrise over the incomparable Taj Mahal. We will attemot to get over the far side of the river to photograph the reflections, but these days access to the river is often restricted. There is a formal garden on the far side, but access to this is an optional extra expense. After sunrise, we will proceed into the Taj complex for an extended visit.

Taj Mahal: visit the Monument of Love and a flawless architectural creation. Taking 22 years and 20,000 men to build, the white marble was quarried 200 miles away and transported by a fleet of 1,000 elephants. Built in the mid-17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as an expression of his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

Agra Fort: Built by Emperor Akbar on the west bank of the river Yamuna and beautified with palaces and gardens by Jehangir, Agra Fort today dominates the centre of the city.· Diwan-i-Aam (hall of public audience) and Diwan-i-Khas (hall of private audience) were built by Shahjahan for receiving audiences.·

Included Activities:
Taj Mahal entrance
Agra Fort entrance
Accommodation:
Pushp Villa or similar
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 9: Gwalior
This morning you will depart Agra by private vehicle to Gwalior.

In the afternoon, we will proceed to explore the city of Gwalior, visiting:

Jai Vilas Palace was built in the 19th century, in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. It was originally built as a palace which is now turned into a museum. It was designed by a famous architect of that time, Sir Michael Filose. Spread over an area of 12,40,771 square feet, the palace has a huge Durbar Hall which is beautifully designed with the world's heaviest chandeliers, intricate gold furnishings, and a large plush carpet.

Photography is not allowed inside of this museum, but it is still well worth a visit. If you thought that our current celebrities indulge in conspicious consumption, then the former rulers of Gwalior beat them hands down. There is a giant crystal railway train, used to pass port at banquets, a jewel-encrusted swing and the two chandeliers are so large, that the strength of the roof was tested with elephants before they were installed.

Gwalior Fort is an 8th-century hill fort. The fort consists of a defensive structure and two main palaces, Gujari Mahal and Man Mandir, built by Man Singh Tomar. The fort has been controlled by a number of different rulers in its history. The Gujari Mahal palace was built for Queen Mrignayani. It is now an archaeological museum. The Jai Vilas Palace (Jiwaji Rao Scindia Museum) is one of my highlights of the trip and is testiment to the power and wealth of the days of the Maharajahs!

Included Activities:
Gwalior city tour
Jai Vilas Palace entrance
Gwalior Fort entrance
Accommodation: MK Vivanta or similar
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 10: Orchha
This morning you will depart Gwalior by private vehicle to Orchha.

Orchha has changed very little over the centuries. Despite its small size it is filled with many beautiful temples and palaces, build here in the 16th century by the ruling Bundelas clan. When you arrive, take an orientation walk in rural areas untouched by modern life and meet the very friendly locals.

This evening we will witness the Ram Raja Temple puja (prayer) ceremony at the shrine at the heart of the city.

Included Activities:
Orientation walk
Accommodation: Raj Mahal Hotel or similar
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 11: Khajuraho
Today you'll visit the stunning Orchha Palace, built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, the great Mughal ruler. Take note of the grand Iwans (domes) that were built large enough to allow the movement of war

We will also visit the Chaturbhuj Temple: Built in 875 AD during the reign of Gurjara Pratihara dynasty, this famous temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The name literally means the one with four arms, and Lord Vishnu has been referred as Chaturbhuj in various Hindu texts.

This afternoon you will depart Orchha by private vehicle to Khajuraho.

Included Activities:
Orchha Palace visit
Accommodation: Clarks or similar
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 12: Khajuraho

Today we will have plenty of time to explore the famous temples of Khajuraho, which are noted for their erotic carvings. Many of these are somewhat shocking - especially when compared to the more reserved standards of contemporary India.

Morning: Proceed to visit the Western Group of Temples. The western complex of the Khajuraho group of temples houses the most important temples in Khajuraho. The Kandariya Mahadeva dedicated to Lord Shiva is the largest temple at Khajuraho. The Lakshmana temple dedicated to Vishnu is located near the Kandariya Mahadeva temple. Devi Jagdamba Temple Chitragupta Temple Chaunsath Jogini Temple etc. are the other major temple in the western complex.

At 23:50, we depart Khajuraho by the night train “Kurj Bsb Link Express” to Varanasi.

Included Activities:
Western Temple Complex visit
Accommodation: Night train
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 13: Varanasi
Our scheduled arrival is 10:50, and we will be transfered to the hotel.

After lunch we will proceed to the Old Town to explore the warren of tiny streets and alleys, before spending the evening soaking up the magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony, serenaded by traditional musicians on a Ganges river cruise as the sun sets.

Included Activities:
Evening prayers at River Ganges
Accommodation: Temple on the Ganges or similar


Day 14: Varanasi

Start early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, passing the many ghats and temples along the river. This boat ride is one of the highlights of any trip to Varanasi. Watching the sun rise over the Ghats is a spectacular sight and one not to be missed.

Later take a heritage walk in Varanasi: The ultimate destination for all Hindu pilgrims, Varanasi is full of temples, shrines and devotees. Varanasi is one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities and is certainly is one of the world's most amazing. Set off by cycle rickshaw to visit the oldest part of the city, bustling with tourists and priests, and if you are lucky, watch different rituals being performed. Wander through the Old City with its maze of narrow alleyways packed full of small shops and stalls.

Proceed for half day excursion to Sarnath. Sarnath is considered, as one of the richest place to have antiques from the Ashoka period, to the 12th century. After attaining enlightenment, the Buddha came to Sarnath, where he gave his first sermon preaching the middle path for attaining Nirvana.

Included Activities:
Sunrise boat trip
Varanasi heritage walk
Sarnath excursion
Accommodation: Temple on the Ganges or similar
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 15: Tour ends
There are no activities planned today and your tour ends after breakfast.

Meals included: Breakfast


Please note: although certain breakfasts are included in the itinerary, this is through the hotel on a Bed and Breakfast basis. As we are a photography tour, we may at times need to make an early start before breakfast is available at the hotel. In this case, an included breakfast will not be possible and we will have to make our own arrangements.

We are currently still finalising the events for the period of Holi in Vrindavan and Mathura. Some of this will depend on the find the best things to do and the most exciting places to be! As this is the first time that we have visited the Holi festivities, this trip is officially an exploratory trip - which is reflected in the price.

Holi in India is a somewhat wild and crazy event. People will throw coloured paint and water, and will often be somewhat drunk and get carried away. It will be loud and very crowded. There will be opportunities for staying closer to the hotel and enjoying a slightly more sedate experience if you prefer.

Another issue will be protecting cameras. We will be sending out more information about this later. Rest assured though that Steve has led a tour to the Lao New Year celebrations, which are marked with a similarly crazy three days of waterfights, and everyone emerged unscathed. You should expect to invest ina good quality raincover though, and might decide that using a smaller, waterproof camera might be the best option for this part of the trip.

Tour costs is from £1795, per person based on a twinshare; excluding international flights. All payments are to be made in Sterling.

Prices for our this trip is based on a twin share basis: that is on two people sharing a room. If you are travelling with a partner, or a friend, then this doesn't affect you, but if you are travelling on your own, you will be paired up with another same-sex member of the group to share with. Sharing a room, or paying the single supplement is compulsory on this trip.

If you would like to guarantee a room on your own, then you can pay the OPTIONAL single supplement of £450. Please speak to Steve for more details. The availability of Single Supplements is limited.

Steve's Impressions of India trip did everything it said on the tin and more. Not only did I get to see some of the most incredible sights, I've got spectacular photos to prove it. The combination of an intrepid tour guide with local knowledge and Steve's travel experience and photography instruction made it stand out from other trips I've been on.

Your love of photography and travel is infectious and I can honestly say I have never laughed or learnt so much on a holiday before!


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