Day 1 - Arrive at the New Delhi Airport, where the Rural Odyssey team will meet and transport us to our hotel to get a good night's sleep before magical India unfolds before us. Overnight hotel stay in New Delhi.
Day 2 - Delhi
After breakfast, we will leave for Humayun's Tomb and Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. After lunch, we will visit India Gate, a war memorial and popular picnic spot / park in Delhi. Amy Larkin, our photographer and archivist, will offer advice and instruction on taking great photos throughout the day. Overnight hotel stay in New Delhi.
Day 3 - Delhi
After breakfast, we head to Swaminarayan Akshardham, a complex that highlights millennia of traditional Hindu and Indian culture, spirituality, and architecture. The campus features an Abhisheka Mandap, Sahaj Anand water show, a thematic garden and three exhibitions, the Sahajanand Darshan (Hall of Values), Neelkanth Darshan (an IMAX film on the early life of Swaminarayan as the teenage yogi, Neelkanth), and Sanskruti Darshan (cultural boat ride). After lunch, we will head to the train station to board our evening train to Agra. We will enjoy a boxed dinner on the train. Overnight hotel stay in Agra.
Day 4 - Agra & Taj Mahal
After breakfast, we will get our first views of the Taj Mahal from across the Yamuna River at Mehtab Bagh. At this peaceful site, Marissa will guide you in a group meditation, connecting us to the land and setting the tone for a serene day before we make our way through the crowds at the Taj Mahal, where our guide will share historical and architectural facts about this magical place. After lunch, we will explore Agra Fort, which also gives us a breathtaking view of the Taj Mahal from one of the fort's marble balconies. In the evening, we will board our overnight train to Varanasi. Overnight train from Agra to Varanasi.
Day 5 - Exploring Varanasi
We will arrive in Varanasi in the morning and relax in our hotel until the afternoon. Before lunch, Amy will lead a workshop on chronicling all of the magical moments on this trip. After lunch, we will leave for the Ghats (a series of steps leading down to the Ganges river) and see the Ganga Aarti (a ceremony worshipping the Holy River Ganges). After this, we will visit Man Mandir Mahal Palace. We will also visit the Chowk neighborhood to visit Lakshmi Chai, a generations-old tea stall to sample their famous "Malai Toast and Tea" followed by dinner in one of the cafes inside the secret alleys of this city. Overnight hotel stay.
Day 6 - Varanasi (Brijrama Palace Hotel)
Today, we will leave for Assi Ghat around 5 am, where we will watch the beautiful sunrise over the river, go for a boat ride on the Ganges and then have breakfast. After breakfast, we will take a Bajra ride (Indian wooden boat) from Mahishasura Ghat to reach Brijrama Palace, our hotel for the evening. Situated on it’s own Ghat, Brijrama Palace was built in 18th century by the Royal house of Nagpur and is one of the oldest structures in Varanasi. The palace hotel is constructed out of solid sandstone and has beautifully crafted interiors, featuring artistic verandas and pillars.
Day 7 - Varanasi-Delhi-Alchauna
We spend the morning resting in the palace hotel, and after lunch we will head to the airport to catch our flight to Delhi to board our overnight train into the mountains. Overnight train to Alchauna.
Day 8 - Alchauna Village (Kumaoni Culture)
We continue our journey to Alchauna, where we will be welcomed by our hosts and owners of a beautiful colonial estate at an altitude of 1500m. Our rooms are comfortable and quiet with beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. After lunch, we will walk around the nearby farms to understand and observe the traditional farming techniques of the local communities, and their ability to grow food in abundance without the use of any chemicals. After dinner, we will return to the estate for a bonfire, while our host family shares their family history with us. Overnight Stay in a Colonial bungalow.
Day 9 - Alchauna Village (Kumaoni Culture)
Get ready for one of the most exciting and fun-filled days in the village. After breakfast, we will go deep in the Himalayan forests for an incredible bird-watching experience, as the Lower Himalayas are home to many rare bird species. After lunch, a group of artists will be waiting to mesmerize us with their amazing cultural (dance) performance. Overnight Stay in a Colonial bungalow.
Day 10 - Alchauna Village (Kumaoni Culture)
We will spend the day relaxing and will take a leisurely hike (about 3km) to the top of Karkotak peak. Karkotak is a small peak at an altitude of 1800m with a small temple on the top. Locals believe Karkotak is a snake mentioned in “Purana” and “Mahabharata” and protects the village from natural disasters, and our guide will share the full story over lunch at the top. The trail goes through the rich forests of pine and oak trees, with the river in the distance and few villages. Locals use this trail to get the fodder for the livestock and to collect mud for floor plastering. After lunch, we will descend to Bhimtal and go for a boat ride. After tea, we pack our bags and say farewell to our hosts and depart for Delhi. Overnight train journey from Haldwani to Delhi.
Day 11 - Delhi
It's our final day in Delhi and you have the option of resting at the hotel or accompany us on a shopping excursion. In the evening, you will be transported to the airport, where you will board your flight home.