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Golden Triangle India Holidays Delhi Taj Mahal Jaipur Rajasthan Tigers

India and Bhutan Holidays & Guided Tours: Taj Mahal + Tigers Nest Monastery

India: Golden Triangle + Bhutan
IPX14D
14 NIGHTS
FROM £3,395
Per person sharing
International flights quoted separately
India And Bhutan Holidays Guided Tours Taj Mahal Tigers Nest Monastery

Our India and Bhutan holidays & guided tours combine two fascinating countries - one Hindu & one Buddhist. First explore the cultural treasures of India's Golden Triangle, including the incomparable Taj Mahal, then fly to peaceful Bhutan to experience its ancient cuture & visit Tigers Nest monastery, Tashichho Dzong (fortress), Punakha Dzong & othe sites. English speaking driver/guides & all sightseeeing included.

India And Bhutan Holidays Guided Tours Taj Mahal Tigers Nest Monastery
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India and Bhutan Holidays
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Old & New Delhi
• 
Taj Mahal, Agra
• 
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
• 
Jaipur
• 
Thimphu & Tashichho Dzong
• 
Punakha Dzong
• 
Chimi Lhakhang Monasetry
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Tigers Nest Monastery
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India and Bhutan Guided Tours
• 
India and Bhutan Holidays
• 
Old & New Delhi
• 
Taj Mahal, Agra
• 
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
• 
Jaipur
• 
Thimphu & Tashichho Dzong
• 
Punakha Dzong
• 
Chimi Lhakhang Monasetry
• 
Tigers Nest Monastery
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India and Bhutan Guided Tours
Day 1
You will be met at Delhi Airport and transferred to your hotel in this ancient capital of kingdoms and empires that is now a sprawling metropolis.
 
Delhi's strategic location was one of the main reasons why successive dynasties chose it as their seat of power and today it is a conglomerate of seven cities. The division between the old walled city and New Delhi marks a division in lifestyles, with the old city retaining its past traditions whilst New Delhi strives to match the pace of the 21st century.
Day 2
Today enjoy a full day tour of modern New Delhi and the 17th century walled city of Old Delhi, which came to prominence when Shah Jahan moved his capital here from Agra.
 
In Old Delhi enjoy a cycle rickshaw ride through 300-year old Chandni Chowk market, a maze of lanes crowded with noisy shops selling an extraordinary variety of items and foods, and past the Jamia Masjid (or Friday Mosque), the largest in India, and drive past the imposing walls & battlements of the Red Fort, once the most opulent palace in the Mughal Empire. We continue to the Raj Ghat - the simple but moving memorial on the site where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.
 
In the afternoon our tour of New Delhi starts with a visit to the Qutub Minar, an ancient victory tower built of red sandstone and marble in 1199 and still the tallest minaret in India. With its imposing cylindrical towers and surrounding ruins, it is today a World Heritage Site. Our next stop is Humayun's Tomb, the beautiful mausoleum of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, that inspired the Taj Mahal.
 
We drive along the Rajpath - the capital's broadest avenue - where you will see the imposing arch of the India Gate war memorial, Parliament House, the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential residence built for the Viceroy of India, and the government buildings on Raisina Hill.
 
Note: The Red Fort is closed on Mondays.
Day 3
This morning we drive 3.5-hours from Delhi to the ancient city of Agra, set along the banks of the Yamuna River and originally the capital of the Mughal Empire.
 
Agra is world renowned as the home of the Taj Mahal - that great symbol of love built by emperor Shah Jahan in the 16th century as a memorial to his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal.
 
On arrival we visit Agra Fort, a massive structure with walls over 70-ft high and 1.5-miles long that encompasses an astounding collection of well preserved buildings, many of them completed during the reign of Shah Jahan. After he was deposed by his son, he was imprisoned in this fort where he remained until his death - spending the rest of his life looking out along the river to the final resting place of his beloved wife.
 
At the end of the day we visit the stunning Taj Mahal. This magnificent white marble mausoleum took 22 years to build and, apart from its stunning design and perfect symmetry, it is noted for its elegant domes, intricately carved screens and some of the best marble inlay work ever done. Sunrise and sunset are particularly good times to visit and see the dome subtly change its colour.
 
Note: Taj Mahal is closed every Friday. You are allowed a maximum of 3-hours at the monument and cannot take in anything except your camera, water and essential medicine.
Day 4
This morning your guide will take you across the river to view the Taj Mahal at sunrise.
 
After returning to your hotel for breakfast, we visit the much quieter Itmad-ud-Daulah - fondly known as the "Baby Taj" as this mausoleum, built to honour the grandfather of Mumtaz, was the forerunner of the Taj Mahal.
 
Afterwards we travel 1-hour to the magnificent red sandstone royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, built by the emperor Mohammad Akbar as the capital of the Mughal Empire. The city was abandoned due to water shortage, when the capital was moved north to Delhi, and in more recent years the fort has provided a dramatic backdrop to several famous films.
 
We then drive 15-minutes to Bharatpur Station to board the express train (air-conditioned chair car) travelling for 2.15-hours to Sawai Madhopur in southeast Rajasthan.
 
You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel situated near Ranthambore National Park. This world famous tiger sanctuary was originally the hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Today it is the largest wildlife reserve in northern India, covering an area of over 250 sq miles (400 sq km).
 
Note: At Fatehpur Sikri there is a short transfer from the car park in a local bus, that will be very full and will not be air-conditioned.
 
When you board the train take only a small day pack, as your main luggage will remain with your driver. To avoid any unnecessary stress, on the train you will be accompanied by a local helper who will ensure you disembark at the correct stop. Please note he is not a guide and may have limited English. Always be alert for possible theft (eg do not wear expensive watches or jewellery & never leave your belongings unattended); do not buy any food or drink from hawkers and know the toilets are likely to be in a poor condition. Because of the very short (2-minute) stops at each station, train travel in India is not recommended for the elderly or those travelling with children, where a road transfer will be substituted. This will also be done during adverse weather conditions.
Day 5
This morning enjoy a private jeep safari in Ranthambore National Park.
 
Early morning is the best time to see tigers, but be aware that it is extremely difficult to find them in the jungle and sightings are never guaranteed. Best viewings are generally at the end of the dry season (March to May, although it is extremely hot from April onwards), when the tigers search out the waterholes - but you need to take at least 4 game drives for a good chance of a sighting.
 
Other animals you can hope to see include leopard, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, caracal, civet, desert cat, mongoose, ratel, sloth bear, langur & macaque monkeys, wild boar, palm squirrel, flying fox, porcupine, long-eared hedgehog, marsh crocodile, tortoise and softshell turtle. Also antelope such as sambar deer, chital, nilgai, chinkara and black buck.
 
In the afternoon return to the park for another game drive. In addition to the many mammals and reptiles, there are over 270 bird species - including eagles, falcons, owls, greylag geese, flamingos, parakeets, fly catchers, bee-eaters, grebe, terns, woodpeckers, hornbills and kingfishers.
 
Note: You will have a different driver on each jeep safari, as drivers are allocated according to a roster over which we have no control. Whilst some drivers are very good, unfortunately there are some who drive too fast. Speak sternly to your driver if this happens. In the winter months, morning safaris require warm clothes including woolly hats and gloves to protect you from the wind chill in your open vehicle.
 
Zones 1 to 5 of this tiger reserve are closed during the monsoon season (July to early October), but Zones 6 to 10 remain open.
Day 6
After a final early morning private jeep safari in Ranthambore National Park, return to your hotel for breakfast.
 
We then drive 4-hours to the chaotic and colourful "Pink City" of Jaipur - home to over 3 million people. On arrival check into your hotel in this capital city of Rajasthan.
Day 7
Today enjoy a tour of the city of Jaipur, which has been declared a World Heritage Site due to its cultural heritage.
 
Our first stop is to view the magnificent Hawa Mahal (the "Palace of the Winds") designed in the form of the crown of the Hindu god Krishna. This five-storey frontage looks like a bee's honeycomb with 953 small windows, each decorated with intricate latticework so that the court ladies living in secluded purdah could watch royal processions, without being seen themselves. Built of red and pink sandstone, it is particularly striking early in the morning when lit by the sunrise.
 
We continue to the Amber Fort - another World Heritage Site. This magnificent royal palace was built from pale yellow & pink sandstone and white marble and is divided into four main sections, each with its own courtyard. You will enter via the main courtyard (Jaleb Chowk), where returning armies would display their war booty and women could view them from the veiled windows of the palace. Once inside explore the amazing Palace of Mirrors and Hall of Public Audience.
 
We then visit the Jantar Mantar Observatory, the largest stone and marble crafted observatory in the world and also a World Heritage Site. It is the best preserved of five observatories built by Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur. It has 17 large instruments, many of them still in working condition.
 
Our day finishes with a visit to the nearby City Palace, the former Royal Residence part of which is now a museum. One of the major attractions here is the armoury with its impressive array of pistols, blunderbusses, flintlocks, swords, rifles and daggers used by the Maharajas of Jaipur. The Textile and Costume Museum on the first floor is another fine display, with items from all over India.
Day 8
Transfer to Jaipur Airport for your flight to the bustling city of Delhi.
 
You will be met at Delhi Airport and transferred to your hotel situated near the airport.
Day 9
Transfer to Delhi Airport for your flight to Paro in Bhutan. Your flight will take you over the mighty Himalayas with spectacular views of the snow-peaked mountains, including Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586m) and the world’s tallest mountain, Mt. Everest (8,850m).
 
You will be met at Paro Airport by your guide, who will drive you into this small town. After an early lunch at a local restaurant we drive across the valley to visit the lovely Ta Dzong (fortress), an ancient conical shaped watchtower built to defend the Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century - and now the National Museum of Bhutan. The museum holds a fascinating collection of art, relics, religious 'thangkha' (scrolls), paintings and Bhutan's exquisite postage stamp collection.
 
Just below the museum is the Rinpung Dzong, built in 1644 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founding father of Bhutan. The dzong was built on the foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche (also called Guru Padmasambhava) who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan in the 7th century.
 
At the end of the day we drive 1.5-hours to Thimphu, the tiny capital city of this remote mountain kingdom, stopping along the way at Tamchhog Lhakhang, a small private monastery with a traditional iron chain suspension bridge.
 
With Tibet to the north and India to the south, this 'Land of the Thunder Dragon' is the last bastion of Mahayana Buddhism - with chanting red-robed monks, sacred monasteries that sit precariously on sheer cliffs, and fluttering prayer flags that line the high ridges. Check into your hotel in this scenic valley in the western interior, where traffic is directed by policemen - as Thimphu is the only capital in the world without traffic lights.
Day 10
Enjoy a full day of sightseeing, as your guide shows you some of the most important landmarks of the city of Thimphu. You can decide what you would like to see and your guide will plan your sightseeing accordingly.
 
We suggest starting with a visit to the massive Tashichho Dzong, a Bhuddist monastery and fortress situated on the northern edge of the city with an amazing gold-leaf roof. Today this is the seat of Bhutan's government and where the king's Throne Room is located. You can also visit Takin Nature Preserve to see these animals, which have the head of a goat and hooves of a cow, grazing on the mountainside. Takin are unique to the Eastern Himalayas and the national animal of Bhutan.
 
A visit to the well preserved Folk Heritage Museum will give you a fascinating insight into the local culture. Alternatively you can visit Simply Bhutan, a living museum that resembles a Bhutanese village and brings to life the traditional cuisine, dance, religion and industry. At the National Institute for Zorig Chusum (meaning '13 Crafts') you can see students creating traditional arts and crafts.
 
Time permitting, you can visit the Textile Museum, the Royal Postal Museum and the Jungshi Paper Factory. You can also walk around the city and visit the bustling weekend Farmer's Market. Walk across the traditional wooden bridge to the open craft bazaar on the other side of the river. In the evening be sure to try 'ema-datsi' - a chilli and cheese curry that is the national dish.
Day 11
Today we leave Thimphu and drive to the old capital Punakha. Along the way we stop at Dochula Pass (3,048m). On a clear day, from here you can enjoy spectacular views of the eastern Himalayas, including Bhutan's highest mountain, Gangkar Puensum (7,550m). We also visit the lovely 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens.
 
We then descend through forest of hemlock and rhododendrons to the warm Punakha Valley. In Lobesa we visit the famous Chimi Lhakhang, a monastery dedicated to the divine madman, Lama Drukpa Kunley. It is also known as the Fertility Temple, as it is a place of pilgrimage for childless couples. You can take an easy walk through  paddy fields and Sopsokha Village to the monastery, or drive along a dirt road to the base of the hill and take a short walk up. Spend time at the monastery and learn more about this great leader, who often used outrageous methods to realise Dharma teachings.  
 
After lunch we continue northwards along the river, passing rice paddies and the newly established town of Kuruthang. In the distance across the valley you will soon see the magnificent 17th century Punakha Dzong, where the royal wedding took place in 2011. Its sits at the confluence of two rivers, the Mo Chhu (female) and the Pho Chhu (male), which are distinctive colours of green and blue. Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan from 1637 to 1907 and this lovely dzong is the second oldest and second largest in the country, and one of Bhutan's most majestic structures. It is contains the remains of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of Bhutan as well as a sacred relic known as the Ranjung Karsapani. This relic is a self-created image of Avalokiteswara (Compassion Buddha) that is said to have miraculously emerged from the vertebrae of Tsangpa Gyarey, the founder of the Drukpa School of Buddhism, when he was cremated.
Day 12
Today enjoy an energetic hike up the mountain to view the enchanting Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang) Monastery that clings dramatically on a huge rock cliff, 900m above the valley.
 
It is believed that in the eighth century Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), who spread Buddhism across the Himalayas, flew here on the back of a tigress and meditated for three years in a small cave, where the main shrine of the monastery stands today. Wear good walking shoes, as you will need to hike for 2 to 3 hours (each way) along winding footpaths and through pine forests and ascend many steps, but once you get there you will be rewarded with panoramic views over the forested valley below.
 
Later in the afternoon we drive along a scenic route to see the ruins of the Drukgyal Dzong, built in 1647 as a fortress to commemorate the victory of Bhutan against Tibetan invaders. In the evening enjoy a farewell dinner in town.
Day 13
This morning we leave Punakha and return to Thimpu where we view the giant statue of the Buddha Dordenma, one of the largest and tallest Buddha statues in the world offering a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the city below.
 
We also visit the Memorial Chorten, a whitewashed stupa with a beautiful golden spire dedicated to Bhutan’s third king - Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
 
We then drive slowly to Paro where you can stroll around the town, join a cookery class or shop for local handicrafts and souvenirs.
Day 14
Transfer to Paro Airport for your flight to Delhi in India.
 
You will be met at Delhi Airport and transferred to your hotel situated near the airport.
Day 15
Transfer to Delhi Airport for your flight home.