An Insider's India

Go behind the scenes of iconic India to discover the local stories, hidden heritage and foodie secrets on our Insider’s India holiday.

At a glance
  • Get under the skin of the ‘real’ Delhi
  • Observe the Taj Mahal from a little-known viewpoint
  • Take a boat safari through the undiscovered Chambal Sanctuary
  • Sample Awadhi cuisine on a chef-led tour of Lucknow
  • Enjoy afternoon tea with a Nawab
  • Experience Varanasi’s spiritual side
  • Meet Varanasi’s artisan community
Itinerary
Price & Hotels

Delhi - 2 nights

Many visitors head straight to see Delhi’s awe-inspiring architecture, which is unquestionably eye-popping! But there's much more to the place, from exotic forts and exquisite mosques, to lip-smacking street food, and shopping that caters to every taste and budget imaginable. Your visit will take you behind the scenes of the city’s imposing facades to witness daily life, and sample plenty of local flavours.

Day 1 - Arrive Delhi, visit Mughal tomb, dinner at Veda

Includes:

On arrival in Delhi, you'll be met by a Selective Asia representative, who will accompany you to your hotel.

Welcome to Selective Asia! This level of personal service (such as private transfers, private tours etc) is what you can expect throughout your trip. A few services (eg boat cruises) will be shared, but we'll always make sure you're aware of these.

In the afternoon, meet your guide for a tour of Humayan's Tomb, a striking 16th century structure of white marble and red sandstone. Pop back to your hotel to rest and freshen up before heading out for dinner at one of our favourite restaurants, Veda, in Connaught Place, to enjoy your first holiday dinner in style.

Day 2 - Hidden New Delhi & Old Delhi Streetfood tours

Includes:

With your expert local guide, slip behind New Delhi’s majestic boulevards and tree-lined avenues to experience local life in this extraordinary city. On a quiet back street you'll discover the community of 60 washer-men who scrub laundry for hotels, hospitals and better-off residents - many of their families have done this for generations, but the trade is dying out. Explore a well-preserved ancient step well, and spend time at a prominent Sikh temple, where you'll have the chance to lend a hand in the community kitchen - a traditional part of Sikh temples, which feed people of all religions in their large dining halls. Take lunch in the hall amongst the other diners, before heading back to your hotel for a rest before your evening streetfood tour of Old Delhi. Feast on treats and sweetmeats, and visit what is allegedly the largest spice market in Asia, before stopping at India's largest mosque before bedtime.

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Chambal - 2 nights

The little-known National Chambal Sanctuary encompasses a 400km stretch of the River Chambal, flanked by wide ravines of mud cliffs and forest. It was established to protect the declining populations of gharial, a crocodile species, and Gangetic river dolphin. In addition to these endangered animals, the sanctuary protects eight species of turtle, smooth-coated otters, butterflies, and an impressive list of birds, including the Indian Skimmer. You'll stay in a comfortable safari lodge that begun life as a mansion in the 1800s, now run as an eco-friendly lodge by the great-grandson of the original owner. Your stay will include a river safari with a naturalist on board to help look out for wildlife, and a visit to the local village community, who are descendants of ancient influential clans.

Day 3 - Train to Agra, heritage walk with Taj Mahal view, drive to Chambal

Includes:

Head to New Delhi station to catch the train to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. This iconic tomb is every bit as majestic as expected, but you'll get a different view of it today once you've been met and transferred to the small village of Kachpura, on the opposite riverbank to the Taj. Here, you'll be met by a local guide for a walking tour of the village, discovering the significance of this rural community during the Mughal era. Along with the insight into village life, you'll enjoy excellent views of the Taj Mahal, and your visit will support a community tourism initiative. From Agra, you'll be driven out into rural Uttar Pradesh, arriving at the Chambal Safari Lodge in time for a nature walk before dinner.

Day 4 - River safari, village walk, Bateshwar temples

Includes:

Set off on a river safari with a trained naturalist from the lodge, keeping your eyes open for gharials basking in the sandy shallows. Return to the lodge for some time at leisure before your afternoon visit to a nearby village, Holipura, once a stronghold of the Chaturvedi clan who built grand havelis that are still in evidence today, still inhabited by descendents of the original owners despite being in varying states of decay. As the sun sets, take a boat to the sacred Bateshwar temples where you'll receive a priest's blessing, before returning to your lodge for dinner.

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Lucknow - 3 nights

The capital of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow is home to some fine examples of British colonial and Mughal architecture. However, there’s more to Lucknow than its grandiose buildings - the city is rich in culture, particularly dance, poetry and music, and is well-known throughout India for its mouth-watering food, which you will have the opportunity to sample comprehensively during your visit!

Day 5 - Drive to Lucknow, heritage walk & chef-led food tour

Includes:

Having been driven to you Lucknow hotel, freshen up and step out with an expert local guide for a heritage walk of the city's old quarter. This densely packed area of the city brims with culture and history: its alleys are lined with the ornate windows and intricate woodwork of crumbling havelis, and artisan families sell handcrafted embroidery, kites, itars (perfumes) from tiny shops, much as they have done for generations. Conclude your exploration at a historic royal city gate, where you'll be introduced to the local chef who will guide you around foodie heaven on an evening food tour. Sample authentic local cuisine at various traditional eateries and food stalls, tasting a variety of treats while your guide explains the origin, ingredients and methods involved in each dish. Fully sated, return to your hotel to loosen your waistband!

Day 6 - City tour, tea with the Nawab

Includes:

Spend the day with your expert local guide, exploring some of Lucknow’s notable historic sites. Begin at the prestigious and imposing La Martiniere College, established in 1845 and boasting alumni such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Rajendra K. Pachauri. Visit The Residency, built in the 1800s as official home to the British in Lucknow, and refuge to thousands of British expats during the 1857 siege of Lucknow. For contrast to the colonial presence, explore the colossal Bara Imambara, built in the 1780s. Its name, 'big shrine', is something of an understatement - the complex contains a mosque, a large stepwell, a remarkable central hall, and a bewildering maze of secret tunnels connected by around 500 identical doorways. Continue to explore an elaborate tomb, before finishing the day in style by taking afternoon tea with a descendant of the Nawab (former rulers of Lucknow) in his home. Along with tea, you'll receive a fascinating insight into the Nawab clan and the history of Lucknow, as your host shares stories about his family, their opulent lifestyle and influence on the city's distinctive cuisine and arts scene.

Day 7 - Explore Lucknow independently

Includes:

Your day will be at leisure to explore Lucknow or relax at your hotel.

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Allahabad - 1 night

The holy city of Allahabad, or Prayagraj, is believed to be the site where Brahma (the Hindu god of creation) landed on earth and declared the city ‘king of all pilgrimage centres’. Every twelve years, millions of Hindu pilgrims gather here to attend the Kumbh Mela festival. Besides its religious significance, Allahabad was HQ for the independence movement against the British Raj, and home to the politically influential Nehru family. Your stay will include a visit to the Nehru's ancestral home, now a fascinating museum, the local fortress, and a unique temple.

Day 8 - Drive to Allahabad, boat to sacred Ganges convergence

Includes:

Head to Allahabad and check in to your hotel. Later in the afternoon visit Triveni Sangam, where the sacred Ganges, Yamuna and Sarawasti Rivers converge. As such it is considered to be an immensely auspicious spot, and Hindus believe that bathing here will wash away their sins. Pilgrims travel here to immerse themselves in the waters, especially during the Kumbh Mela festival when millions of devotees congregate for a holy dip. Board a small boat and travel out to the holy spot, where you'll have the opportunity to bathe in the river and be blessed by a holy man.

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Varanasi - 3 nights

Varanasi - formerly known as Benares - is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Considered to be the spiritual capital of India, it attracts millions of pilgrims from across the world, and is an essential stop if you wish to gain a deeper understanding of Hinduism. Devotees visit to dip in the holy River Ganges, said to wash away one’s sins, and perform rituals on its banks. The city is famous for its narrow winding streets, and around 2,000 temples, of which Lord Shiva’s temple - Kashi Vishwanath or the ‘Golden Temple’ - is the most famous. Your stay will include an early morning boat ride on the Ganges, and visits to significant devotional sites, as well as time spent with local artisans.

Day 9 - Tour Allahabad’s significant sights, drive to Varanasi

Includes:

Before departing for Varanasi, spend the morning exploring Allahabad's most significant sites. Start with the ancestral home of the Nehru family (influential in Indian politics) which has been turned into an excellent museum, its interior is full of memorabilia, personal effects, books and historic photos, and a room dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, who was a regular house guest. You'll also visit a beautiful walled garden containing three Mughal style mausoleums, the 16th century Allahabad Fort, and a temple that is submerged in water when the Ganges is in full flow. There'll be time to freshen up at your Allahabad hotel before the onward journey to Varanasi.

Day 10 - Experience spiritual Varanasi

Includes:

Rise early to witness Varanasi come alive while devotees perform their morning rituals. It's a magical time of day here, and your dawn boat ride on the Ganges will be a memorable one, as you observe pilgrims and locals descend from the ghats (riverside steps) to dip in the river. After breakfast back at your hotel, step out for a walking tour with your expert local guide, to discover Varanasi's spiritual side. Stroll through the winding lanes of the old city, stopping at one of the most significant Hindu temple shrines in India, and at the city's main cremation ghat, considered to be the most auspicious place for a Hindu to be cremated. Cremation rituals take place here 24 hours a day, and the ashes are scattered in the sacred Ganges, which Hindus believe will free them from the cycle of rebirth. Spend a few hours at leisure back at your hotel, before a late afternoon boat ride to witness the spectacular devotional ceremony which takes place every day at sunset, with large flaming lamps, burning incense billowing in the air, and the rhythmic chanting of devotees.

Day 11 - Walking tour of artisan community

Includes:

With your guide acting as translator, take a walk to see local weavers hard at work on their traditional handlooms. You’ll get a first-hand insight into the history of the silk trade and how zari - the gilded thread of the city's jacquard textile designs - came to characterise the local sari. See the beautiful detail work done by hand in the homes of local artisans, and walk through the alleys of the weavers to learn how the local Muslim & Hindu communities have interacted and worked together for centuries. Stroll down Dal Mandi (formerly the courtesans’ neighbourhood), listening to folktales of the city’s elite and the high culture of music and dance in Varanasi, before dropping in to visit a classical tabla drum-maker, and ending your walk at the historic silk market.

Day 12 - Depart Varanasi

Includes:

Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

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We only provide privately guided holidays - meaning that you will not be expected to share guides or transport for the duration of your visit. You can also start on any day you choose.

Please click on the hotel category buttons below to view hotel details. These are recommended properties only - we have many alternative options for you to choose from if you would prefer. You can mix hotel categories throughout your holiday.

Hotel class Price per person (based on total # travelling)
2 persons 3 - 4 5 - 6
First Class £2,559US$3,334 £2,336US$3,044 £2,204US$2,871

The Claridges

Combining classic elegance with contemporary facilities and service, The Claridges maintains the high standards we’ve come to expect from this historic Indian hotel... See more

Chambal Safari Lodge

This family-run property began life as a mansion in the late 1800’s used by traders attending the region’s biannual cattle fair. However, over the years it became neglected until, in the late 1990’s Ram Pratap Singh returned to the property, renovated and converted it into a homely, eco-friendly lodge... See more

Lebua Lucknow

The centrally-located Lebua Lucknow will take you back to another era with lovingly restored rooms that mix modern amenities and vintage chic. Each of the high-ceilinged, airy rooms that spill onto courtyards and open spaces in this boutique hotel are works of art in themselves... See more

Hotel Kanha Shyam

Conveniently located in the heart of Allahabad, the Hotel Kanha Shyam comprises of 102 spacious, contemporary-styled guest rooms equipped with all the amenities you need for a comfortable overnight stay.

Guleria Kothi

Between Varanasi ghats on the river Ganges, the Guleria Kothi combines traditional styling with contemporary facilities... See more
Deluxe £3,119US$4,063 £2,893US$3,770 £2,761US$3,597

The Imperial

The Imperial is an elegant hotel steeped in history; an oasis of calm set in seven acres of manicured gardens in the chaotic heart of Delhi... See more

Chambal Safari Lodge

This family-run property began life as a mansion in the late 1800’s used by traders attending the region’s biannual cattle fair. However, over the years it became neglected until, in the late 1990’s Ram Pratap Singh returned to the property, renovated and converted it into a homely, eco-friendly lodge... See more

Taj Mahal Lucknow

With its elegant Marine Drive location, extensive grounds and sumptuous design, the Taj Mahal Lucknow is one of the city’s more opulent hotels… See more

Hotel Kanha Shyam

Conveniently located in the heart of Allahabad, the Hotel Kanha Shyam comprises of 102 spacious, contemporary-styled guest rooms equipped with all the amenities you need for a comfortable overnight stay.

Brijrama Palace

A major draw of visiting Varanasi is the sacred River Ganges, so can there be any better place to stay than directly on its banks? The grand Brijrama Palace offers visitors this memorable opportunity... See more

Solo travellers are always welcome - please contact us for a tailored quote.

These prices are shown in GBPUSD.
Selective Asia is a UK-registered company, but our client-base spans the globe, so we bank in both GBP and USD and can therefore provide a fixed price in either currency.
We also have payment facilities in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the EU, and can typically offer better-than-bank exchange rates on the date of payment in these currencies (against a booking priced in GBP).

Itinerary additions

At Selective Asia we specialise in creating unique, tailor-made experiences. The holiday itineraries provided on this website are intended to help you visualise what is achievable in your destinations of choice, over a given period of time and at an intended budget.
Whilst many clients are happy with one of our recommended itineraries in the current form (and at the price quoted), there are those that wish to personalise their holiday in some way, whether it be a change of hotel, an additional destination or even start from scratch. This is when our tailor-made specialists come into their own; with many years of experience both living and working in the region they are ideally equipped to advise on alternatives and to facilitate any necessary changes.

The important stuff

Please note: During high season periods (such as Christmas and New Year) hotels often levy a surcharge and these are not included in the above prices. Your consultant will be happy to advise you of these.

Inclusive:

  • English speaking, local guide
  • All accommodation listed
  • Land transportation by private air-conditioned vehicles
  • Any domestic flights listed (unless marked otherwise)
  • Any train journey listed (unless marked otherwise)
  • All admission fees at attractions, temples and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
  • All meals listed
  • International flight reconfirmation.

Exclusive:

  • Flights to/from Asia. We are an ATOL bonded operator and can arrange flights for all our clients, regardless of whether you are departing from the UK or from almost any other worldwide destination.
  • Entry visas
  • International airport departure taxes
  • Any meals not listed in the itinerary
  • Drinks, other than water on activity days
  • Personal expenses (laundry, telephone, drinks, tip...)
  • Travel insurance
  • All other services not listed in 'inclusive'

Please note

All prices are correct at the time of publishing. They are liable to change and can only be confirmed upon submitting an enquiry.

 

Extras

Flights

We will arrange all internal flights used within our holiday itineraries. We can also arrange discounted flights from all UK airports to Asia and we are a fully bonded ATOL operator. If you would like a quote for your international flights then please complete the required section on the enquiry form.

Visa

You will require a visa to enter India. Your consultant will be happy to advise you on visa requirements.

Passport

Please ensure that you have a valid passport with at least 6 months validity remaining after your return date. You will also need at least one blank page for each of the countries you are visiting.

Insurance

You will require a comprehensive travel insurance that covers you for medical costs associated with hospitalisation, emergency travel and repatriation back to your home country. We offer our customers a specially discounted insurance policy, ideally suited to the needs that a trip such as this creates. Tick the insurance box in the enquiry form and we will send you a quote to suit your needs.

Vaccinations and Malaria Prevention

You will undoubtedly require vaccinations for your visit to Asia. Please consult your doctor or a vaccination clinic for the most up-to-date advice. They will also be able to advise you of the most suitable anti-malarial medication if required. It is important that you do this well in advance of your departure date.

Booking Procedure

Only once you are completely happy with any holiday itinerary we create for you will we ask for a payment. In order that we can secure availability for your booking we would typically require a deposit of 20%.

Travelling Responsibly

We care about the places and the communities that you will travel through. It is important to us that we travel as responsibly as possible throughout Asia and that we are giving something back to the regions and the people that make these journeys so special. Full details on our approach to responsible travel can be found on a dedicated section of this website.

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

Make it yours!

Call us on 01273 670 001

Get in touch

Our tailor-made service costs you no extra

This itinerary is designed to work straight off the peg, but we'll happily tailor it until it's a perfect fit for you, to ensure we’re making the absolute best of your time and funds. All you need to do is ask...

Your own private guides & drivers

You'll typically have your own private guides & drivers throughout your trip. When you will be sharing a service (eg a boat cruise) with others, we'll always let you know.

Book With Confidence

For peace of mind when booking your future holiday to Asia, we have introduced flexible booking conditions & full financial clarity.