Tour India’s Gujarat & Rajasthan
Tour India’s Gujarat and Rajasthan States: Ahmedabad, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Khimsar, Pushkar, Jaipur, and ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
with Professor Cynthia Packert
January 5 – 22, 2024
Why take Far Horizons’ India Tour to Gujarat and Rajasthan?
- Visit ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Journey by 4-wheel drive through the Great Thar Desert to visit traditional villages
- Like royalty, climb to Amber Fort by elephant
- Ride a camel into the desert sand dunes to watch sunset
- Spend nights in heritage hotels, former palaces, fortresses, and luxurious spa resorts
- Limited to a maximum of 14 participants
Day 1: Depart USA
Day 2: Arrive Mumbai
Day 3: Tour Mumbai.
Day 4: Fly to Ahmedabad, Adalaj Stepwell, Gandhi Ashram.
Day 5: Tour Ahmedabad. Lothal.
Day 6: Modhera Sun Temple, Rani Ki Vav.
Day 7: Richabhdeo Jain Temple. Boat ride on Lake Pichola in Udaipur.
Day 8: Tour Udaipur.
Day 9: Lohargal Sun Temple. Ranakpur Temple.
Day 10: Tour Johdpur. Osiyan Hindu Temples.
Day 11: Tour Jaisalmer. Desert camel ride.
Day 12: Pokhran Fort. Jeep safari in Khimsar.
Day 13: Tour Pushkar.
Day 14: Tour Ajmer.
Day 15: Tour Jaipur.
Day 16: Fly to Delhi. Tour Delhi.
Day 17: Tour Delhi.
Day 18: Return to the USA.
The states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, located on the western border of India, are rich in tribal arts, resplendent architecture, and ancient remains of the many civilizations that have crossed this land, including the Mughals who ruled much of India from the 16th to the 19th century. And along with various diverse and interesting cultures, a multitude of religions call this area home.
Far Horizons’ 18-day journey includes ten breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage sites: Victoria Terminus, Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble, and Elephanta Cave in Mumbai; the ancient walled city of Ahmedabad; the dazzling Rani ki Vav stepwell in Patan; magnificent Jaisalmer Fort; Amber Fort and The Jantar Mantar Observatory in the Pink City of Jaipur; and the imposing Red Fort and beautiful Tomb of Humayun in Delhi.
But there’s more! See Gujarat’s prehistoric Lothal, more than 4,000 years old. View Jain sanctuaries, Hindu temples, Sufi shrines, and glorious mosques. Walk through stunning royal palaces, ornately-decorated stepwells, and impressive fortresses towering over the countryside. Travel by bus, 4×4, and camel through the Great Thar Desert to see small traditional villages. And enjoy the vibrant local markets bursting with hand-woven carpets, traditional paintings, tie-dye fabrics, embroideries, appliqué work, and so much more.
Won’t you join only 13 others for this truly unique sojourn.
Cynthia Packert received her MA and PhD from Harvard University in Fine Arts. She is presently the Christian A. Johnson Professor of Art History, at Middlebury College in Vermont. A scholar in South Asian art and architecture, Dr. Packert spent a year based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat while researching the work of a Swaminarayan Hindu sect that is based in Gujarat, India, and that has established a recognizable sectarian identity through its distinctive visual culture of elaborate temple arts and architecture. She was a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Scholar and recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship that supported her work while in India. Professor Packert has been the author of many publications including The Art of Loving Krishna: Ornamentation and Devotion and The Sculpture of Early Medieval Rajasthan. Her publications focus on Indian iconography, art, and religious imagery, with a special emphasis on Gujarat and Rajasthan. Conversant in Hindi, she has been an invited speaker throughout the United States, India and Europe.
India Tour Itinerary
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
Day 1: Depart USA
Day 2: Arrive Bombay, today called Mumbai. Overnight for two nights in the 5-star Trident Nariman Point Hotel with panoramic views over the Arabian Sea.
Day 3: Enjoy an early morning stop to observe Mumbai’s famous stone steps, or ghats, from a bridge overlooking the open-air troughs where, daily, 5,000 men wash the clothes of the people of Mumbai and manage to get them back to their rightful owners! Next, ravel by boat to the tranquil, forested island of Elephanta and its unique cave temple containing a massive Trimurti, or three-faced Shiva, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A glorious example of Hindu architecture, the 8th century cave is reached by climbing more than 100 steps to the top of the hill. See the Gateway of India, a colossal structure overlooking the Mumbai harbor that was built in 1924 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary before continuing on to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station— a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1888, the Victorian Gothic building boasts a stunning stone dome, turrets, and pointed arches. It is undoubtedly the Raj’s pièce de resistance. Gather this evening for dinner in one of Mumbai’s exceptional restaurants. (B/L/D)
Day 4: This morning’s flight takes us to the walled city of Ahmedabad, the main city in Gujarat state and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1411 by Sultan Ahmad Shah, Ahmedabad is our base for the next three days. We begin in Adalaj. Here, the 15th century Ruda Step well was dug down to the water table in order to provide not only fresh water but also refreshing relief from the sweltering sun. Next, visit Sabarmati Ashram, one of the residences of Mahatma Gandhi from 1915 to 1933 and now a museum in his honor. Move on to the marble, two-storied Hutheesing Jain Temple with its elaborate façade decorated with intricately designed carvings and 52 shrines. Overnight for three nights in Ahmedabad at the House of MG, built in 1924 as a home for a wealthy textile magnate and attractively refurbished to retain its old-world charm. (B/L/D)
Day 5:The old walled city of Ahmedabad is filled with many interesting historic buildings. Siddi Sayed Mosque is renowned for its stunning half circle windows with intricately carved stone latticework, called Jali. The Jumma Mosque, built in 1423 by the city’s founder, is one of India’s most beautiful. Dominating the old city, this sandstone structure has 260 pillars, each intricately carved, supporting fifteen domes. Our afternoon excursion takes us to prehistoric Lothal, a major urban center of the Indus Valley settled and built about 4500 years ago. Foundations of this well-planned city are still evident, and the site’s Archaeological Museum displays objects found there. Dinner is on our own this evening. (B/L)
Day 6: As we spend the day outside Ahmedabad, we begin in Modhera. In addition to fascinating Jain temples and carved wooden houses, Modhera hosts the Sun Temple, built by Raja Bhimdev I in 1026 AD. This sanctuary is open to the sky, and its walls and pillars are lavishly ornamented with images of gods in a celestial hierarchy. The entrance hall has 12 representations of Surya, the sun, and they appear to correspond to the 12 months of the year. A spectacular tank, or artificial pool, fronts the temple and symbolizes the primordial milky ocean from which the sun emerged in the Churning undertaken by the demons and gods. We also stop at Patan, an early capital of Gujarat and home of the famous Patola silk saris. Our final stop is Rani ki Vav, another magnificent stepwell and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rani (Queen) Udayamati commissioned this intricately constructed vav, or stepwell, in 1063 in the memory of her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty. Dinner is on our own this evening. (B/L)
Day 7: We leave Ahmedabad and Gujarat, and drive into Rajasthan state and to Rishabhdeo Temple, dedicated to Lord Rishabh dev, the first Jain Tirthankara to have conquered the cycle of death and rebirth. Possibly dating back to the 9th century, it is one of the four main pilgrimages of the Jains. Continue to the charming city of Udaipur, known for its ornate palaces and man-made lakes fringed by the lovely Aravalli Mountains beyond. We will enjoy a boat ride on Lake Pichola to gain an overview of the city and to see some of the most impressive historical monuments scattered along the lakeside: the City Palace that is actually several palatial structures that were built over 400 years, the opulent mansions know as havelis, and the steps down to the water called ghats including impressive Gangaur Ghat with its three arches. Overnight for two nights at the 5-star Hotel Fateh Garh, built on a hillside overlooking Udaipur. A designated Luxury Heritage Hotel, the elegant facilities offer royal splendor Rajasthani-style. (B/L/D)
Day 8: Our all day city tour will be filled with memorable surprises. The enormous City Palace is a fusion of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles, and 76 generations of royalty have left their mark on this fortified edifice. Although still owned by the Mewar regal family, much of it is open to the public and a portion is now a museum. Our explorations will take us through a splendid variety of courtyards, pavilions, terraces, living quarters, and luxuriant gardens, all enclosed by fortification walls and each more lavish and beautiful. Jagdish Temple is located within the City Palace complex. To reach it we must climb a steep flight of steps through a colorful cacophony of chanting and smell of incense. Just outside the city, Ahar was where the rulers of Mewar were cremated and the location of their cenotaphs, or monuments to honor them. In the afternoon, we will enter Mahakaleshwar Temple, where hundreds of believers of Lord Shiva worship each day. If we are fortunate, we will be there when one of the prayer services is occurring and observe devotees anointing with aromatic oil Nandi the Bull, the gate-guardian deity of the abode of Lord Shiva, and the Lingam, an abstract representation of the deity Shiva. (B/L/D)
Day 9: Depart early for our long drive from Udaipur to Jodhpur. Along the way, stop to observe the stunning Ranakpur Temple, one of the five major pilgrimage sites of the Jains. Constructed in the 15th century, the white marble complex has 29 halls, a multitude of domes, and pavilions supported by more than 1,000 pillars, each intricately engraved with figures of dancing goddesses. Overnight for one night in the 5-star Radisson Hotel in Jodhpur. (B/L/D)
Day 10: Check out of the hotel early this morning and begin our explorations of the breathtaking sites in Jodhpur. Soaring 400 feet over the roofs of the town, massive and impregnable Mehrangarh Fort is one of the largest and most impressive in India. The red sandstone stronghold, known as the Citadel of the Sun, is a glorious testimony of India’s regal past and still owned by the Jodhpur royal family. Famed for its beautiful architecture, exceptional craftsmanship is exhibited in the fascinating sandstone palaces enclosed within the walls. The museum in the fort contains a selection of old royal palanquins, including the elaborate domed gilt Mahadol palanquin which was won in a battle from the Governor of Gujarat in 1730, along with weaponry, paintings and decorated period rooms. After our morning sightseeing, depart for Jaisalmer, stopping in Osian, an ancient oasis city legendary for its Brahman and Jain temples. From the 8th to 11th centuries the city was a prosperous trading center and the wealth of the city is shown in its strikingly beautiful religious structures. Known as the ‘Khajuraho of Rajasthan,’ the breathtaking sanctuaries are covered with elaborately carved figures of gods and goddesses. Overnight for two nights in the 5-star Suryagarh Hotel in Jaisalmer, a truly opulent and unique getaway where the romance of India’s sprawling Thar Desert comes alive. (B/L/D)
Day 11:Today we explore this fascinating desert city. Begin at the Desert Culture Centre and Museum which conveys the history of Rajasthan’s princely states and has exhibits on traditional Rajasthani culture. Next, explore Jaisalmer Fort, one of the largest fortifications in the world and where over 2,000 people still live and work inside its walls. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the huge complex was created using gleaming golden sandstone, and three formidable defensive walls protect the labyrinth of havelis, stables, granaries, and palaces inside that once belonged to Rajput kings. Located within the fort, Chandraprabhu is one of the sanctuaries dedicated to the 8th Tirthankar symbolized by the moon. Some sculptures within the temple are of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god and son of Shiva that show the close ties between Jainism and Hinduism. After our day spent within the walls of Jaisalmer, enjoy a camel ride into the sand dunes to experience the spectacular sunset over the desert. Our traditional dinner will feature live music of the region along with colorful folk dancing. (B/L/D)
Day 12: We begin with a visit to Pokhran Fort, a 14th century citadel. Continue to Khimsar, on the edge of the Great Thar Desert in the heart of rural India. Upon arrival, we will board 4-wheel drive vehicles to travel to nearby villages. Accompanied by a steaming cup of tea, delight in the glorious sunset on the Panchala sand dunes. Khimsar Fort was begun in 1523 by Rao Karamsji, 8th son of the founder of Jodhpur. Twenty one generations later a portion of the fortress is still the residence of that lineage while the rest has been opened as an elegant hotel, personally overseen by the family. We will spend one night here. (B/L/D)
Day 13: Our destination today is Pushkar, an important Hindu pilgrimage site. The town encircles a sacred lake that tradition says was created where Brahma dropped a lotus flower. There are a multitude of temples here, and our target is the renowned Jagatpita Temple, one of very few existing temples in India dedicated to the Hindu creator-god Brahma and it remains the most prominent among them. Topped by a bright crimson spire, the sanctuary is decorated with symbols of swans, the mount of Brahma, along with other deities of the Hindu pantheon. Shop at one Rajasthan’s liveliest markets, Sarafa Bazaar. Here you can find a vast array of hand embroidered items, precious stones, leather goods, silver jewelry and all kinds of handicrafts – block printed and tie-and-dye textiles, paintings, carved wood and ivory items, lacquer work, and pottery. Overnight for one night at the central 3-star Pushkar Palace Heritage Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 14: Five miles from Pushkar lies another Heritage city, Ajmer, our destination today. This town was a favorite residence of the mighty Mughals and one of India’s most important pilgrimage centers for both Hindus and Muslims. Among the many holy sanctuaries here is Dargah Sharif, the shrine of Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti who founded India’s Sufi order. Originally from Persia, he devoted his life to the service and welfare of the poor and downtrodden. The saint’s tomb is topped by a dazzling white marble dome and the crypt inside is surrounded by a platform covered with silver. Digambara Jain temple was constructed in the 19th century. The entrance gate is made of imported red sand stone, and the main hall presents a series of large, gilt-coverer wooden figures depicting Jain mythology. The first floor houses an astonishing collection of gold plate replicas of every Jain temple of the country. It is estimated that nearly 1000 kg of gold has been used in their creation. Our last stop will be the Mughal Museum. In 1570, Emperor Akbar constructed an elegant citadel and pleasure retreat of red sandstone that now is a rich storehouse of Mughal and Rajput body armor, other artifacts of the medieval period, and delicate Hindu figurines dating back to the 6th and the 7th century. Continue to Jaipur and overnight for two nights at the Heritage Shahpura House, a regal building, painstakingly restored to its original magnificence. Its current owners are descendants of the royal family of Shahpura. (B/L)
Day 15: The pink city of Jaipur is the picturesque capital of Rajasthan and a showcase of Rajasthani architecture. Glorious palaces and temples are scattered throughout the town in a variety of styles that span the centuries. Raja Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur, was no ordinary man. He was a scholar and an astronomer, and in building Jaipur, he gave India its first planned city. High walls enclose the old city, and the seven sections within are laid out in a calculated pattern, as dictated by the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient architectural treatise. Jai Singh created the Jantar Mantar, an open-air royal observatory with gigantic, astronomical instruments. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Monument. Then it’s on to the Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of Winds. The lovely five-story façade contains 593 finely screened windows and balconies that enabled the women of the court to watch street processions while remaining in a strict state of purdah. (B/L/D)
Day 16: An early start brings us to the Amber Fort, the former seat of the Rajput rulers of Jaipur and one of the royal fortresses of the Hill Forts of Rajasthan UNESCO World Heritage. As monarchs once did, we will ascend to the fortress seated on the back of an elephant. Fortified by natural hills and high ramparts, Amber’s magnificent palace is distinctly Rajput. The walls of the royal apartments are completely covered with intricate mosaics of mirrors and pieces of colored glass. After our exploration, return to Jaipur and the City Palace, the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Encircled by high walls, the sprawling complex was built in the early 18th century and is a blend of traditional Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. Within one of the exquisite buildings, the Mubarak Mahal is home to the Sawai Man Singh Museum containing a select collection of various types of Rajasthani dresses, a fascinating armory of Mughal and Rajput weapons, and spectacular swords, some encrusted with jewels and encased in magnificent scabbards. In the center of the compound with balconies and windows studding its seven-story façade, Chandra Mahal is still the abode of the Jaipur royal family. Fly to Delhi and, time permitting, visit the Red Fort, or Lal Quila, which was the main residence of the emperors of the Mughal dynasty for nearly 200 years, until 1856. It once housed the legendary Peacock Throne and the Koh-i-noor diamond that later was stolen by Persian forces. This immense fortress, built out of red sandstone, contains elaborate gardens, the harem, and the palace and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Overnight in the luxurious 5-star Imperial New Delhi, an elegant hotel offering the charm of the British colonial past. (B)
Day 17:This morning we will visit the two most important Mughal sites in Delhi. We also will visit the lovely complex of buildings commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Humayun’s wife to house her husband’s tomb. Our final lunch together will be in one of Delhi’s fine restaurants. There will be time to rest at the hotel prior to returning to the airport in the evening for the flight back to the USA. (B/L)
Day 18: Return to the USA. (B)
$10,295.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes group accommodations based on double occupancy; most meals (as listed in the itinerary); airport transfers for the group flights; entry fees to sites named in itinerary; ground transportation throughout the tour; gratuity to drivers and guides; emergency evacuation insurance for each participant.
Single Supplement Cost: $1,625.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: International flights to Mumbai and return from Delhi; Meals other than those listed in the itinerary; food, alcoholic and other beverages not on set menus; a separate donation check of $150.00 per person to a designated donation project; passport and visa fees; airport fees and taxes; excess baggage charges; email, telephone, and fax charges; necessary vaccines and tests; laundry or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and culturalprojects and museums we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable. We will be designating a donation project for this trip shortly.
A deposit of $750 per person is required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450.00 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
If you do not fly on the designated group flight, you are responsible for all flight arrangements and transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
Private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
We have carefully chosen hotels that are characteristic of the environment through which we are traveling. We will be staying in charming heritage hotels, opulent former palaces, fortresses, and luxurious spa resorts
Travel in India
The group will be walking into and around sites extensively, frequently over uneven paths. All participants must be in good health, physically active, and able to walk independently and unassisted for distances that may exceed a mile or more each day. As a courtesy to your fellow travelers, you must be able to keep up with the group during the daily outings. Please remember that many of the sites are on mountain tops and to reach them means climbing. Be prepared! Additionally, please carefully choose the footwear with strong support for your feet and ankles. If you are not physically strong, are walking with a cane, or have problems with climbing, please be aware that there will be no one to assist you. We are covering a large territory and there will be several long days. Team spirit and a good sense of humor are vital!
THIS TOUR TO INDIA IS LIMITED TO 14 PARTICIPANTS