Discover the enchanting delights of British colonial history on this magical tour across Northern India.
In the Days of the British Raj a hill town in the Indian Himalayas become the summer capital of government officials, military attaches, viceroys and attendant servants and families. They went to Shimla to escape the heat and even ruled from there. Now you can ride the same narrow-gauge railways they used (and built) as you travel the Kalka-Shimla line into Britain’s colonial past. Your stay in Shimla, ‘Queen of Hills’ includes visits to all the sights including the famous Gaiety Heritage Theatre and the iconic Christ Church. With broad-gauge steam (with foot plate ride) behind the world’s oldest locomotive (The Fairy Queen), vintage Rail Bus travel over a myriad of aqueducts and bridges on the Kalka-Shimla line and a steam-hauled adventure on the same line to enjoy, your tour gets off to a flying start! Your adventure also includes time in Delhi, with plenty of sightseeing among the greatest monuments in Indian history, including the National Rail Museum, where you can enjoy tea with the Museum Director. A short stay in Agra, where you visit the Taj Mahal – one of the seven Wonders of the World – and the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, precedes a whirlwind tour end in Jaipur, the Pink City of India. Ride on the back of an elephant at Amer Fort and visit the iconic Temples and Palaces of the city famous for its extravagant gems & jewels, reflecting the royal character of a bygone era. All yours to discover on this once-in-a-lifetime trip to the enigmatic East.
Depart for India
You board an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Delhi.
You receive a traditional welcome on arrival at New Delhi International Airport. You then transfer by air-conditioned exclusive coach to your reserved hotel. In the afternoon you visit the National Railway Museum – The museum focuses on the rail heritage of India since 1st February 1977. The recently renovated indoor gallery and outdoor exhibits from across the country makes it a special attraction. A number of attractions have been added to enhance your visit. (D)
Delhi to Rewari
After breakfast, you transfer to Delhi Cantonment railway station to board the main line steam hauled train hauled by either Fairy Queen (EIR No. 22), the world’s oldest locomotive, or WP locomotive No. 7161 (most likely). You can photograph the loco and meet your crew members who take pride in running this heritage steam locomotive. The train is scheduled to depart at 09:50 hrs, making its way through Delhi’s western outskirt to arrive at Rewari Junction at approximately 12:30 hrs. Enjoy a packed lunch on-board in the heritage saloon car before visiting the heritage Steam Centre, consisting of 7 to 9 steam locomotives of broad & metre gauge along with a museum and exhibits. There may be another loco in steam at the shed. In late afternoon, you board a regular service train from Rewari Junction to Delhi Cantt railway station. You’ll be met on arrival and transfer to your hotel for the overnight stay. (B L D)
City tour of Delhi
This morning you meet your guide in the hotel lobby for a tour of the historic city of Delhi. Under the influence of the many rulers who ruled this region, Delhi has been built, destroyed and re-built over seven times. Your guided tour takes you to the monuments that depict these different eras. The highlights include: Cycle Rickshaw ride in Old Delhi – Explore the narrow lanes of Old Delhi on a cycle rickshaw being peddled through the old part of the city showcasing the magnificent havelis, tiny shops, wholesale trading of almost everything you can think of; Raj Ghat – a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Originally it was the name of a historic ghat of Old Delhi on the banks of Yamuna river. A black marble platform marks the spot of Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation on 31 January 1948, a day after his assassination. An eternal flame burns perpetually at one end; The Red Fort – The Red Fort was the residence of the Mughal emperor of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857. It’s located in the centre of Delhi and houses a number of museums; Jama Masjid-Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Jama Masjid between 1644 and 1656. It was constructed by more than 5000 workers. It was originally called Masjid-i-Jahan-Numa, meaning ‘Mosque commanding view of the world’. About 25,000 people can pray in the courtyard at a time. Other tour highlights include: India Gate –At the centre of New Delhi stands the 42-m high India Gate, an Arc-de-Triumph-like archway in the middle of a crossroad. It commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the World War I; Laxmi Narayan Temple – also known as Birla Mandir, it is one of Delhi’s major tourist attractions. Built by the industrialist G.D. Birla in 1938, this beautiful temple is dedicated to Laxmi (the goddess of prosperity) and Narayana (The preserver). The temple was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi and people of all religion and faiths can worship there; President House – The Rashtrapati Bhavan or The Official Residence of the Head of the State is the official residence of the President of India, located at Raisina Hill in New Delhi. Until 1950 it was known as Viceroy’s House and served as the residence of the Viceroy and Governor-General of India. After your fascinating tour, you return to your hotel. (B D)
Delhi to Chandigarh
You have an early morning check out from the hotel before transfer to New Delhi railway station to board 12011 Kalka Shatabdi Express at 07:40/11:05 hrs. On arrival in Chandigarh you disembark and check into your hotel. In the afternoon you have a short orientation tour of Chandigarh city, visiting Rock Garden and the lively and bustling market. Dinner and overnight accommodation will be in your hotel in Chandigarh. (B D)
Kalka to Shimla
This morning you take the train on to Kalka station, and change to the narrow-gauge line platform to board an exclusive chartered vintage Railcar bound for Shimla. You’ll enjoy the fascinating, scenic 96.5 km ride on this historical Kalka-Shimla ‘Toy Train’ line with its 105 tunnels and single and double arch bridges. This leisurely journey from Kalka to Shimla climbs the foothills of the Himalayas and negotiates an altitude difference of 1400 metres. Shimla straddles an eight-mile long ridge, with buildings clinging to the green hillsides. The British began coming here in the 1820s as a refuge from the summer heat and by 1864 Shimla, nicknamed The Queen of Hills, was the official summer capital of the British Raj. You arrive by early evening and are transferred to the hotel for your overnight stay. (B L D)
Shimla to Kathleeghat by steam
After breakfast, you walk down on the Mall road or are transferred by road to Shimla railway station to board an exclusive steam charter train ride hauled by KC 520 for a trip to Kathleeghat. You return to Shimla by 4x4 jeeps. (B L D)
Sightseeing in Shimla
Today after breakfast you’ll have a guided tour of Shimla, including its main shopping centre, the Mall. The Ridge is a spacious open space that runs from east to west along the Mall, which connects to the Scandal point on the west. Scandal point, at an altitude of nearly 8000 feet is Shimla’s highest peak and offers a beautiful view of the town and of the snow-covered Himalayas. At the top of the hill sits the Sankat Mochan Temple of Lord Hanuman (the monkey-faced god), home to countless playful monkeys. Also on the Mall is The Gaiety Heritage Theatre – a remarkable piece of Victorian-theatre architecture. It has been called a miniature version of London’s Royal Albert Hall. Among many other highlights is Christ Church, the second oldest church in Northern India. It has a majestic appearance and inside there are stained glass windows which represent faith, hope, charity, fortitude, patience and humility. (B D)
Shimla to Delhi
You enjoy a relaxed breakfast at your hotel and a free morning in Shimla before transferring by coach to Kalka. On arrival at Kalka station, you board the 12012 Kalka Shatabdi Express at 17:45 to arrive Delhi railway station at 21:55 hrs. Dinner will be served on board. On arrival in New Delhi, you are met before transfer to your hotel. (B D)
Delhi to Agra
After an early breakfast, you transfer to Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station to board a train for Agra (12050 Gatimaan Express – India’s first semi-bullet train) at 08:10 hrs to arrive at Agra Cantt railway station at 09:50 hrs. Breakfast will also be served on board. You’ll be Met on arrival and enjoy a guided visit of the Itimad-Ud-Daulah, also known as Baby Taj, often described as a ‘Jewel Box’ and regarded as a draft of the Taj Mahal. You’ll visit a local marble factory to witness the inlay work of precious stones also known as Pietra dura, which is the same art of stone work illustrated on the Taj Mahal & Baby Taj. You then transfer to your hotel for check-in. In the early evening, you visit Agra Fort – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built in red sandstone. It was originally mentioned in 1080 AD and came into limelight when great Mughal emperor Akbar (grandfather of Shah Jahan) made Agra his capital in 1558 and made major changes to the fort’s structure. Later Shah Jahan added a white marble palace inside the fort. (B D)
Dawn visit to Taj Mahal
You’ll need to rise early today to enjoy a dawn visit with your guide to the famous wonder of the world – the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. One of the best views of the Taj is during dawn with fewer people around. The porous nature of Taj’s white marble helps it absorb light and thus reflecting different shades of white making it look even more stunning for pictures. You’ll have a relaxing hour or so to enjoy the views through different angles. Taj, as a symbol of love, has many stories to tell. The perfectly symmetrical monument standing tall since 1653 AD took 22 years & 20,000 labourers to complete. The unquestionable beauty of this piece of extravagance can only be treasured by visiting it. Afterwards you return to your hotel for breakfast. Later, you are driven to Bharatpur, and en route enjoy a guided visit of Fatehpur Sikri. This city originally belonged to the Rajput clan, but was re-found in 1569 by the great Mughal emperor Akbar. It served as the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1571 to 1585. It is at Fatehpur Sikri that the legends of Akbar and his famed courtiers, the nine jewels or Navaratnas, were born. Fatehpur Sikri is one of the best-preserved collections of Indian Mughal architecture in India. You then transfer to a heritage palace hotel in Bharatpur. In the early evening, you have a guided walking tour of Bharatpur village - you can walk amidst the fields, observe the village life and perhaps learn a bit about its 1000 years old history. (B L D)
Bird sanctuary visit
After breakfast, you have a guided tour of Bharatpur bird sanctuary by rickshaw with your naturalist guide. Keaoladeo Bird Sanctuary (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) was established in 1956. This 29-sq.km marshland is one of the finest bird sanctuaries in the world with over 360 species of birds, out of which 117 are the local birds. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it used to be a part of the private shooting reserve of the Maharaja of Bharatpur. Among many bird species to be seen here are storks, ducks, Chinese coots, kingfishers, spoonbills, sarus cranes and several birds of prey, including falcon, marsh harrier and eagle. 80 species of duck alone can be spotted here. Around noon you are driven to Jaipur, the Pink City of India. It’s the capital and largest city of the Indian state of Rajasthan. Founded on 18th November 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amer, the city today has a population of 3.1 million. In 1876 Jaipur was coloured in terracotta pink to welcome Prince Albert, and hence the name ‘Pink City’. (B D)
Early breakfast at your hotel is followed by guided excursions to: Amer Fort (Amber Fort). You’ll ascend the fort on the back of a gaily-decorated elephant! Amer was the erstwhile capital of the Kachwahas Rajputs before they moved to their newly built capital in Jaipur. The Amber Fort is built in white marble and red sandstone and the nearby lake adds to its charm. In 1592, construction of the fort was started by Raja Man Singh I. but took its present form during the reign of Raja Jai Singh. Visit the Diwan-e-Aam, or Hall of Public Audience, the Diwan-e-Khas, or Hall of Private Audience, the Sheesh Mahal (mirror palace), or Jai Mandir, and the Sukh Niwas, where a cool climate is artificially created by winds that blow over a water cascade within the palace; City Palace Museum is a palace complex in Jaipur, the capital of the Rajasthan state, India. It was the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur, the head of the Kachwaha Rajput clan. The City Palace is in the central-northeast part of the Jaipur city, which is laid in a grid pattern with wide avenues. It’s a unique and arresting complex of several palaces, pavilions, gardens and temples; Birla Temple, at the foot of Moti Dungri fort, is one of the major attractions of Jaipur. This enormous temple was built in 1988 and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu (Narayan), the preserver and his consort Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. Constructed in the finest quality white marble, the three huge domes of the temple represent three different approaches to the Hindu religion; Hawa Mahal Palace – The poet king Sawai Pratap Singh built this palace of winds, one of the landmarks of Jaipur. This five-storey building overlooking the busy bazaar street is a fascinating example of Rajput architecture and artistry, with its delicately honeycombed 953 pink sandstone windows (jharokhas); Jantar Mantar – The Jantar Mantar is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja (King) Jai Singh II between 1727 and 1734. He had constructed a total of five such facilities at different locations, including the ones at Delhi and Jaipur. The Jaipur observatory is the largest and best preserved of these. It has been inscribed on the World Heritage List as ‘an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period’. In late afternoon, you also visit a hand block-printing factory and local arts & crafts. The city is rightly famous for its extravagant gems & jewels, reflecting the royal character of a bygone era. (B D)
Return to UK
After breakfast at your hotel you transfer to Jaipur airport to board Jet Airways flight at 09:00 hrs to arrive New Delhi at 10:05 hrs. On arrival, you switch to departures (International) to board your onward flight to London. (B)
All prices shown are per person.
Meals included each day are shown as:
B = Breakfast - L = Lunch - D = Dinner