Rajasthan is the epitome of romantic India. Towering forts, ornate temples, peaceful lakes and glittering palaces characterise the cities and towns of this incredible north-Indian state. This luxury tour includes stays at some of the region's most characterful heritage hotels while taking in many of its highlights as you travel from Delhi's bustling bazaars, through historic towns and villages to the fairy-tale desert settlement of Jaisalmer. Mingle with spice traders, camel farmers and holy men as you journey to medieval Bikaner and on to Jodhpur, whose blue jumble is watched over by the imposing Mehrangarh Fort. Finally, soak up the romance of peaceful Udaipur before a flight south brings you to Mumbai's commercial powerhouse and the home of the Bollywood film industry.
Day 1: Depart UK
Board your overnight flight from London to Delhi, beginning your luxury India holiday on day two.
Days 2-3: Arrive India
Arrive in Delhi, the capital of modern India and transfer to your hotel where you'll have time to relax and recover from your flight. The next morning, embark on a full-day escorted tour of this magnificent, colourful city that includes a tour in one of the city's rickshaws as well as visits to the magnificent Red Fort, the bustling markets and vibrant bazaars of Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque.
Day 4: Neemrana
After breakfast, drive to the 15th-century Neemrana Fort & Palace. Set high on a plateau, it's medieval ramparts look out to majestic views of the ancient Aravalli ranges. Your afternoon is free to relax and enjoy the fort and its surrounding countryside.
Day 5: Mandawa
A scenic five hour drive brings you from Neemrana to Mandawa in northeast Rajasthan's Shekhawati region. Famed for its beautiful fresco-filled merchant's houses, known as havelis, the town is dominated by an 18th-century fort and a colourful bazaar, best explored on a fascinating afternoon tour.
Day 6: Bikaner
Continue on to the medieval city of Bikaner and its 16th-century Junagarh fort. Built by Karan Chand, the Prime Minister of Raja Rai Singh and sixth rule of Bikaner, its red sandstone temples and palaces – all marble detailing and handmade Italian tiles – look out to peaceful courtyards, sandstone havelis and exquisite Jain temples. Bikaner is also considered to have the best riding camels in the world and these amazing creatures, as well as being fast, are an essential part of daily life in this part of India.
Stay: Narendra Bhawan Bikaner (Superior)
Days 7-8: Jaisalmer
After breakfast, you'll travel to the desert town of Jaisalmer, its giant sandstone fort rising like a fairytale castle from the Thar Desert. Enjoy an included sunset camel ride across the Sam Sand Dunes and explore the fort with its winding lanes, beautifully sculptured temples and ornate palaces. You might also visit Gadsisar Lake, home to numerous shrines and an abundance of native birdlife.
Days 9-10: Jodhpur / Mihir Garh
Make your way to the city of Jodhpur. Often referred as 'The Blue City', due to its distinctive blue-painted buildings. this 500-year-old settlement is the former headquarters of the Rathore Rajputs and one of the most instantly recognisable cities in Rajasthan. Spend time exploring the imposing Mehangarh fort, one of the largest in India. Sitting on top of a 125-meter-high hill, it boasts commanding views of the surrounding landscapes and the swathe of blue-washed buildings below. We recommend staying in either Ajit Bhawan in Jodhpur itself, or Mihir Garh, around an hours' drive away (please note: Mihir Garh is closed from May to mid-July each year).
Days 11-12: Udaipur
Travelling on to the magical lakeside town of Udaipur, you'll stop along the way at the vast Jain temple complex of Ranakpur. Then, Continue on to Udaipur itself, where a tour tour will bring you to its City Palace, Jagdish temple and the gardens of Sahelion Ki Bariwith before a cruise on Lake Pichola's serene waters. There's time for independent exploration, too, soaking up the unique atmosphere of the city's winding lanes and the busy markets that fill the streets behind the palace.
Days 13-14: Mumbai
Fly south to Mumbai's sprawling metropolis and the centrepiece of modern India's progress on the international stage. Modern high-rises jostle for space with grand colonial buildings and remnants of the British Raj while millionaire businessmen and Bollywood superstars share the city's stage with some of India's most impoverished slums; it's a city full of contrasts and contradictions. An included tour will bring you to India Gate, busy Crawford Market, the beautiful hanging gardens at Malabar Hill and Mani Bhawan, a small but fascinating museum dedicated to the work of Mahatma Gandhi. On your second day in the city, take a boat ride to the island of Elephanta and visit its cave shrine, said to be the abode of Lord Shiva.
Day 15: Depart India/Arrive UK
Head for Mumbai's international airport, where you will board your day flight back to the UK before continuing your onward journey home.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website