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Highlights of India: Discover Delhi, Agra, Jaipur & Varanasi

Program No. 22519RJ
Watch the sun rise over the Taj Mahal, experience the Ganges River and its spiritual meaning and much more on this immersion into the history and culture of India.

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Oct 9 - Oct 20, 2024
Standard 2,999


Standard Single Ldg
Oct 9 - Oct 20, 2024
Standard 3,549
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Oct 23 - Nov 3, 2024
Standard 3,549
Nov 6 - Nov 17, 2024
Standard 3,549
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Feb 5 - Feb 16, 2025
Standard 3,499
Mar 12 - Mar 23, 2025
Single Lodging 3,499

At a Glance

Learn about Sikh culture in a local temple. Watch the sun rise over the Taj Mahal. Visit Varanasi, one of the holiest places along the Ganges River. India's most fascinating treasures are yours to discover on this learning adventure that begins in Delhi and makes its way through Agra, Jaipur and ending in Varanasi. Along the way, share meals with local families, learn how incredible mausoleums and forts were built generations ago and admire architectural relics that are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Extend Your Adventure

This program offers an optional program extension.

Extension: The Splendor of Nepal

Continue your learning adventure with a 6-day extension into Nepal. Explore grand temples, discover ancient palaces, and learn about Hinduism and Buddhism from local experts.
Activity Level
Let's Go!
Walking over varied terrain and cobblestones; extensive driving; hot and humid conditions.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Learn about Sikh culture as you observe prayer at a local temple and volunteer in their soup kitchen.
  • Watch the sun rise and set over the Taj Mahal in Agra, and explore the gardens of Mehtab Bagh.
  • Observe and learn about the daily rituals that people perform at ghats along the Ganges River in Varanasi, the holiest city in Hinduism.

General Notes

Want to extend your adventure? Join us on "Extension: The Splendor of Nepal" (#22521).
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Jayanta Kar
Jayanta Kar was born and raised in Benares — the oldest living city — today known as Varanasi. He worked as a journalist for a leading newspaper and as a public relation executive before pursuing his childhood passion: joining the travel industry and leading groups all over India. He is fluent in Hindi, Bengali, and English. Jayanta lives in Varanasi with his wife and school-age daughter. He loves sharing Indian culture, customs, music, and food with travelers and enjoys sharing short stories in local schools.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Jayanta Kar
Jayanta Kar View biography
Jayanta Kar was born and raised in Benares — the oldest living city — today known as Varanasi. He worked as a journalist for a leading newspaper and as a public relation executive before pursuing his childhood passion: joining the travel industry and leading groups all over India. He is fluent in Hindi, Bengali, and English. Jayanta lives in Varanasi with his wife and school-age daughter. He loves sharing Indian culture, customs, music, and food with travelers and enjoys sharing short stories in local schools.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Darsan, Seeing the Divine Image in India
by Diana L. Eck
Tremendously useful for the traveler, this rigorous guide explains the significance and meaning of Hindu temples, festivals and ritual. Darsan, which translates as "seeing," reveals religious expression in India.
Nine Lives, In Search of the Sacred in Modern India
by William Dalrymple
From Sufi dervish and Buddhist monk to outcast and temple worshiper: nine people, nine lives, all captured by Dalrymple as he journeys throughout India in search of remarkable individuals transformed by religion. At turns bemusing, dazzling and heart-wrenching, this is his first travel book in 15 years.
India, Land of Tigers and Temples
by Axel Gomille
In his book of photographs, acclaimed wildlife photographer Axel Gomille brings readers up-close and personal with the exotic world of the Indian subcontinent. His simple, yet intriguing, collection includes tigers, sloth bears and elephants as well as holy sites and scenes of everyday life around the subcontinent.
Culture Smart! India
by Becky Stephen
A concise, well-illustrated guide to both social and business customs in India.
Eyewitness Guide Delhi, Agra and Jaipur
by Eyewitness Guides
With chapters on the Taj Mahal, Amber Fort Palace, Keoladeo Ghana National Park, the Red Fort and dozens of other highlights for the traveler, this compact, gorgeously illustrated guide to Delhi and its environs features 900 color photographs, maps and site plans.
Around India in 80 Trains
by Monisha Rajesh
A terrific account of Rajesh’s epic four-month, 25,000-mile journey to the India of her youth. She begins in her hometown of Chennai, chugs up the Konkan Coast, watches for tigers in Ranthambore and survives Mumbai’s chaotic local lines.
City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi
by William Dalrymple
Dalrymple infectiously interweaves his own experiences over a year in Delhi with its art, architecture, history and literature.
The White Tiger, A Novel
by Aravind Adiga
Mordant, funny, angry, horrifying, this Booker Prize-winning tale of a village pauper turned success (and murderer) skewers the ambition, inequity and corruption of 21st-century India.
Kaleidoscope City, A Year in Varanasi
by Piers Moore Ede
Whether he is attending Ramalila -- the city's annual performance of the Ramayana, talking to members of the caste who man the cremation ghats along the Ganges or simply searching for the best mithai, or sweet, in town, Ede presents a vibrant, kaleidoscopic portrait of contemporary Varanasi.
India Northwest Adventure Map
by National Geographic Maps
A double-sided, full-color map of Northwest India at a scale of 1:1,400,000 with good shaded relief, topographic detail, roads, waterways and basic travel information. Printed on waterproof, tear-resistant paper.
May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons, A Journey Among the Women of India
by Elisabeth Bumiller
A wonderfully written and fascinating portrayal of Indian women from Bollywood stars to Indira Gandhi to prostitutes. It's an insightful portrait of the country as seen through the eyes of its women.
The Buddha, The Story of Siddhartha
by PBS Documentary Film
The Buddha is a 2010 PBS documentary directed by David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere. The film follows the story of the Gautama Buddha's life and discusses the history and teachings of Buddhism. A simple and rich documentary explaining the Buddha's birth, live, death and his teachings.
Midnight's Children
by Salman Rushdie
Crowned Best of the Booker in 2008, Rushdie's greatest novel is a madcap, comic take on the birth of modern India in all its splendid and unexpected manifestations.
Mughal India, Splendours of the Peacock Throne
by Valerie Berinstain, Paul Bahn (Translator)
This illustrated pocket guide presents the history, culture and splendor of the Mughal court and its celebrated architecture in hundreds of archival photographs and drawings.
Incarnations, A History of India in Fifty Lives
by Sunil Khilnani
This sophisticated and entertaining collection of bite-sized biographies move well beyond Mahatma Gandhi to the warriors and film stars, entrepreneurs and corporate titans who have made India extraordinary.
India Birds
by James Kavanagh
A folding wildlife guide designed for quick reference in the field. With full-color images and text, it features more than 100 birds often seen in India.
Lonely Planet India Phrasebook
by Omkar Koul
A handy, palm-sized guide to pronunciation, basic grammar and essential vocabulary for the traveler.
Gandhi, An Autobiography, or the Story of My Experiments with Truth
by Mohandas K. Gandhi
There is no substitute for reading Gandhi in his own simple, direct prose. A highly recommended glimpse into the personality and life of this remarkable figure.
Capital, The Eruption of Delhi
by Rana Dasgupta
A fascinating look at sweeping economic changes in Delhi. Dasgupta examines how the influx of wealth into the city has spawned excess and gangsterism.
India, A Traveler's Literary Companion
by Chandrahas Choudhury (Editor)
Each of these 14 stories evokes place and landscape, providing an excellent introduction both to contemporary writers and to India's diverse cultures and history.
by Stanley Wolpert
Wolpert's reflections on India -- its religion and philosophy, its art, culture and politics -- make for a literate, succinct primer.
Taj Mahal
by Giles Tillotson, Mary Beard (Editor)
An enlightening pocket guide to the myth, meaning and legends of the celebrated tomb, "the queen of architecture."
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12 days
11 nights
23 meals
9 B 8 L 6 D
In Transit to Program
In Flight
Arrive Delhi, Hotel Check-in
The Suryaa New Delhi

Activity note: Hotel check-in is available from 2:00pm. There is no official programming today. Arrivals throughout the day and early evening. Any early morning arrivals today will need to book a pre-program hotel night if they would like to guarantee their room will be available prior to 2:00pm.

Afternoon: Arrivals throughout the day. Transfer from the airport to the hotel for check-in and relaxation after your long flight.

Dinner: At the hotel. Buffet. Coffee, tea and bottled water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Settle in and get a good night's rest.

Orientation, Qutub Minar, Gandhi Smriti, New Delhi Discovery
The Suryaa New Delhi

Activity note: Standing and walking for up to 1 hour in the Qutab Minar on stone walkways and uneven steps. Walking at Gandhi Smirti mainly on flat, level ground.

Breakfast: At the hotel. Buffet featuring a variety of options from Indian and American cuisine. Coffee, tea and water included.

Morning: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. All transfers and transportation throughout the program will be conducted via motorcoach and most field trips will be led by our Group Leader unless specified otherwise. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, engaging in activities on your own, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may be changed due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Today we board our coach to explore New Delhi. With our Group Leader we experience Qutub Minar, a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and one of the finest monuments in all of India, soaring up 237 feet. Qutab-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, began construction in 1192. The conical tower is an exquisite example of Indo-Islamic Afghan architecture. Qutub Minar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has survived the ravages of time impressively. From here we depart by coach to visit Gandhi Smirti, where Mahatma Gandhi - the "Father of the Nation" - spent his last 144 days from September 9, 1947 until he was assassinated on January 30, 1948. It has been preserved as a museum that displays Gandhi's few personal effects as well as paintings, pictures, sculptures and other relics. The memorial perpetuates Gandhi's legacy and highlights his values and ideas.

Lunch: At a local restaurant. Buffet featuring Indian cuisine. Coffee, tea and water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch, we board the motorcoach for an introduction to New Delhi. En route our Group Leader gives us an overview of the Indian System of Government, the world's largest parliamentary democracy. We take in the sites of India Gate, reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, a site that commemorates Indian soldiers who died during World War I; Parliament (Sansad Bhawan), the nation’s supreme legislative body; and President House (Rashtrapati Bhavan), a huge complex that serves as the official residence of the President of India. After our exploration, we return to the hotel to rest and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel. Welcome Dinner with complimentary glass of wine, beer or soft drink. Coffee, tea and bottled water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

Old Delhi, Jama Masjid, Sikh Temple, Home-Hosted Dinner
The Suryaa New Delhi

Activity note: Jama Mosque and the Sikh Temple each have around 40 wide steps with limited or no handrails; steps are also steep. Walking sticks are recommended for those who have difficulty climbing. Jama Mosque provides gowns to be worn by women. The Sikh Temple provides scarves to both men and women to cover the head. Neither location allows shoes, shorts or socks to be worn inside. The bicycle rickshaw ride in Old Delhi is through an extremely crowded market.

Breakfast: At the hotel. Buffet.

Morning: We begin our day with a presentation at the hotel on the Religions of India, led by a local expert. We then head out to visit Old Delhi on our motorcoach. Driving past the massive sandstone walls of the Red Fort, we gain an appreciation for this symbol of Mughal power and pomp. Arriving at Jama Masjid, we explore the largest Muslim mosque in India. Later, we embark on a delightful change of pace as we take a rickshaw ride in Chandni Chowk, a centuries-old market bazaar. Be amazed at the small narrow lanes and the flurry that surrounds this busy market place.

Lunch: At a local restaurant. Coffee, tea and bottled water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We explore the living culture of India as we visit a Sikh temple. After spending time listening to the prayers we visit the soup kitchen that offers daily free meals for anyone in need of food. We will explore the kitchen and, for those interested in lending a helping hand, we make some rotis with the women there. Sikh Temples are special places of worship where everything is run by volunteers. It is a requirement for all Sikhs to volunteer time at the temples. We return to the hotel in the late afternoon.

Dinner: At a local home. We divide into smaller groups of 6-8 for home-hosted dinners with local urban Indian families. Enjoy this opportunity to interact with family members and learn about their culture and traditions.

Evening: At leisure. Pack and prepare for our journey to Agra tomorrow.

Drive to Agra, Itmad-ud-Daulah Tomb, Sunset View Taj Mahal
Trident Hotel Agra

Activity note: Drive from Delhi to Agra is approximately 127 miles (207 kilometers) / 4 hours, with rest stops along the way. At the Itmad-ud-Daulah Tomb in Agra, shoes need to be removed.

Breakfast: At the hotel. Buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we board our motorcoach and depart for Agra. En route, the Group Leader will provide an introduction to Indian history and discuss the impact of British rule on India. We arrive at the hotel in Agra around midday.

Lunch: At the hotel. Buffet featuring international and Indian cuisine. Coffee, tea and water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch we check in to the hotel and have some down time. In the late afternoon, we take our motorcoach on a field trip to the mausoleum of Itmad-ud-Daulah Tomb, popularly known as the “Baby Taj.” It was the first monument in India built entirely in marble rather than red sandstone. The tomb was built from 1622 to 1628 by the Queen of Jahangir, Nurjahan, as a memorial to her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg. Its fascinating history chronicles the “rags to riches” saga of a poor merchant who rose to become chief minister of the Mughal emperor. The elaborately carved tomb in the Islamic style — like a jewel box set in a tranquil garden on the banks of the Yamuna River — was an inspiration for the Taj Mahal years later. We continue to Mehtab Bagh, a garden complex across the Yamuna River opposite the Taj Mahal. Here we are joined by a local expert to learn about Mughal Architecture as the sun sets over the Taj Mahal.

Dinner: At the hotel. Buffet featuring international and Indian cuisine. Coffee, tea and water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue enjoying the company of new Road Scholar friends, sharing your favorite experiences of the day.

Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Cooking Demonstration, Free Time
Trident Hotel Agra

Activity note: Our early-morning visit to the Taj Mahal is subject to weather conditions. If the weather is not fine, we may visit the Taj Mahal after breakfast. Early morning wake up call, to depart for sunrise at Taj Mahal. Both the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal involve long periods of standing, walking and a few small steps, low and wide. At the Taj Mahal, a short wait is expected at the entrance gate. Once inside, the walking tour is around 1.5 hours with benches to rest on throughout.

Breakfast: We will set out pre-dawn to watch the rising sun bathe the pristine white marble of the Taj Mahal in warm hues of gold, ochre and orange (subject to weather conditions). As the UNESCO World Heritage Convention states, “An immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage.” The building is unique due to its perfect proportions, distinct femininity, and medium of construction and ornamentation. You will have some time to explore the exquisite grounds and view the highly decorated interior chamber before we return to the hotel for breakfast.

Morning: After breakfast, we set off to explore Agra Fort with our Group Leader. We visit the important sections of the fort and learn about its historical significance. Originally planned as an impregnable military structure by Akbar, over a period of time the Agra Fort acquired all the elegance, lavishness and majesty of an imperial palace. Our morning concludes with a unique cooking demonstration at a local family’s house.

Lunch: At the family's house. Enjoy lunch made especially for us.

Afternoon: After lunch we return by motorcoach to the hotel for a free afternoon. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most, or simply rest and relax at the hotel. The Group Leader will also be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: At own arrangements. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: Pack and prepare for our journey to Jaipur tomorrow.

Drive to Jaipur, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur Market
Trident Hotel Jaipur

Activity note: The drive to Jaipur is approximately 149 miles (240 kilometers) / 6 hours with stops along the way. Jantar Mantar, walking up to ½ mile on mainly flat surfaces. Our walk in the market is mainly on even ground with a few steps.

Breakfast: At the hotel. Buffet.

Morning: Today we head west towards Jaipur. Along the way, we learn about modern India from our Group Leader. We arrive in Jaipur in time for lunch.

Lunch: At a local restaurant. Coffee, tea and water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We transfer to our hotel and check in. After settling in, we head out to visit Jantar Mantar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built by city founder Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh between 1727 and 1734, the Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best-preserved in India. We then take a late afternoon walk through a local market. We can appreciate the essence of this amazing city as we absorb the riot of colors and activities at the market. We return to our hotel and have the remainder of the afternoon and evening at leisure.

Dinner: At own arrangements. Your Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

Lecture, Amber Fort, City Palace, Home-Hosted Dinner
Trident Hotel Jaipur

Activity note: At the Amber Fort we board Jeeps to drive to and from the main gate. The fort is set up on a hill and has several flights of stairs with uneven walkways in between. Walking at the fort for approximately 0.5 mile. City Palace, walking up to ½ mile on mainly flat surfaces. Hawal Mahal is a stop en route for a nice view or photo.

Breakfast: At the hotel. Buffet.

Morning: This morning we are joined by a local expert for a presentation on Contemporary Women's Issues. We then board our motorcoach and set out for Amber (pronounced Amer) Fort, set in rugged hills approximately six miles from Jaipur. En route, we stop for photos at Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), located on the edge of the City Palace. Hawa Mahal allowed the royal ladies of the palace to be able to watch any processions and activities on the street without being seen by the public. At Amber Fort we learn about the Construction of this ancient citadel, which began in 1592. The formidable exterior of red sandstone and white marble with its terraces and ramparts is reflected in Maota Lake. The fabulous interiors are a blend of Hindu and Mughal art and architecture. These former royal halls are decorated with intricate ivory, mirror and glass work, complemented by exquisite wall paintings. After our morning's exploration, we transfer by motorcoach to lunch.

Lunch: At a local restaurant. Coffee, tea and bottled water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We visit the City Palace, still the Maharaja's residence but largely given over to a museum containing rare manuscripts, fine specimens of Rajput and Mughal paintings, royal apparel and an armory. We return to our hotel with time to freshen up before having dinner with local families this evening.

Dinner: Traditional dinner with a family at their home. Coffee, tea and bottled water included.

Evening: At leisure. Pack and prepare for our early-morning departure for Varanasi tomorrow.

Drive & Fly to Varanasi
Taj Ganges

Activity note: The drive from Jaipur to Delhi is 180 miles, approximately 5 hours. The flight from Delhi to Varanasi is approximately 1 hour.

Breakfast: Early-morning cold breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Early morning, we board our coach for the transfer to New Delhi airport for our flight to Varanasi.

Lunch: At the airport.

Afternoon: Our flight to Varanasi arrives in the evening. We transfer to the hotel and check in.

Dinner: At leisure.

Boat Ride, Sitar Performance, Sarnath, Aarti Ceremony
Taj Ganges

Activity note: The morning boat ride and evening ceremony require walking down the ghats (steps) to get to the Ganges River to board small boats to go out on the river. Participants must be able to climb down and up ghats for approximately 20 - 40 steps depending on the water level, and get in/out of small boats. To get to the ghats also requires walking ½ mile on busy, narrow, cobblestone streets possibly with smoke from cremations. Walking at Sarnath mainly on flat, level ground.

Breakfast: We begin before breakfast with an early morning boat ride on the Ganges River to see the daily rituals on the ghats along the Ganges. We continue with a short walk along old Varanasi to explore some of the temples in this area before returning to the hotel for breakfast.

Morning: After breakfast we depart by motorcoach to visit the home of a professional musician and watch a classical sitar performance. After learning something of classical Indian music, we board our motorcoach and return to the hotel.

Lunch: At own arrangements. Your Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: We set out for an excursion to Sarnath, the holy site where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment at Bodhgaya. In the late afternoon we depart to the River Ganges to witness an Aarti Ceremony while enjoying a river cruise (subject to weather conditions). We will witness the sacred Hindu prayer ritual of "puja" and "aarti". Puja refers to a variety of rites, one of which is aarti (also arti, arati), a ceremony in which light from little lamps with wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Aarti also refers to the songs sung in praise of the deity when lamps are being offered. We return to our hotel for dinner.

Dinner: Farewell Dinner with complimentary glass of wine, beer or soft drink. Coffee, tea and bottled water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Pack and prepare for departures tomorrow.

Free Morning, Departures, Program Concludes
In Flight

Activity note: There is no programming today. 11:00am hotel check-out followed by lunch at the hotel. Early afternoon airport transfers to Varanasi Airport. Mid-afternoon flight to Delhi is approximately 1 hour. Flight from Varanasi to Delhi is included in program cost. Arrive Delhi Airport late afternoon/early evening. International flights home should depart Delhi Airport no earlier than 10:00pm. Participants booked on the Nepal extension will depart early morning from Varanasi to Kathmandu via Delhi.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: For those joining the program extension to Nepal (Program # 22521 Extension: The Splendor of Nepal), you will board a very early morning flight to Kathmandu via Delhi. Your Group Leader will provide the flight itineraries and information required for those joining this extension program. For all other participants, we have a free morning. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions for your free time. Late morning check-out of hotel.

Lunch: At the hotel.

Afternoon: Transfer from the hotel to Varanasi Airport. Participants will board flights leaving Varanasi early in the afternoon for Delhi. These flight tickets are booked by our local vendor in India and will be given to you by your Group Leader. Once in Delhi, our program concludes. Your flight leaving Delhi must not leave any earlier than 10:00pm in order to allow enough travel time from Varanasi. Once in the Delhi International Airport, participants will check in for their international flights home. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for this program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page to share photos of your program or visit our Instagram page! Best wishes for all your journeys!

In Transit from Program
In Flight

Morning: Arrive North America.

Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.