More than 1.2 billion people … 30,000 years of history … a breathtaking blend of Mughal and British culture … a Hindu population that embraces the tenets of the world’s oldest religion: kindness, honesty and compassion. India is many things and returning Gate 1 travelers agree that it is one thing above all – a unique and spellbinding travel experience that no one should miss.
India is one of the world’s most vibrant and sensory places on earth. This land of enormous wealth yey widespread poverty may not always be for the faint of heart, but travelers come home awe-inspired by breathtaking natural and manmade wonders from Rajasthan jungles to Rajput hill forts, and by elegant monuments to a proud past.
Magnificent Mughal Temples and Fortresses
Most trips to India begin in Delhi. Its old city is rich with historic treasures and artful monuments – 60,000 of them! One of the most moving is the modest Martyr’s Column where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. On a grander scale, the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, boasts eight domes and two minarets. About 25,000 can pray here. Just across the way stands the splendid 17th-century Red Fort, an ornamental work of art ordered by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.
Shah Jahan oversaw an upsurge of Mughal architecture on northern India’s landscape. The most memorable was not built as a fortress, but as a temple of love. In nearby Agra, thousands of craftsmen took 22 years to build the Taj Mahal, a monument to the Shah’s third wife. Its gleaming bulbous domes and sentry-minarets are synonymous with India. The Shah oversaw construction of the Taj from Agra Fort – actually a 94-acre walled city of red sandstone. Its earthen tones and intricate patterns are spectacular. Within the grand fort lies a maze of courtyards, marble mosque and lavish private chambers of the emperor. You’ll also find yet another gesture of love here: a “jewel box” of a mausoleum built by an empress for her father.
Cities of Vivid Color & Culture
India’s hill forts are true architectural triumphs of the Rajput princely states that ruled between the 8th and 18th centuries. Like at Agra, entire cities thrived within their walls, including merchant and educational centers. Amber Fort, another masterwork and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, overlooks the “pink city” of Jaipur from high on a hill above Maotha Lake. Its four courtyards hosted military parades and troop inspections that spectators could view from the windows of perimeter apartments. Amber provides a glimpse into the Rajput past unlike any other. Like the princes before us, Gate 1 travelers can ascend to its entrance with spectacular views of the rose-hued city below.
Jodhpur is a city of a different color; homes here have long been painted blue in the Brahmin tradition. Its ancient streets make for a soothing stroll through azure hues as the imposing (and red) Mehrangarh Fort, known as the “Citadel of the Sun,” watches over. Meanwhile, colorful personalities light up Udaipur. Bollywood celebrities and diplomats travel to this palace-dotted city for lavish functions and events. Its City Palace reflects Udaipur’s extravagance. This massive red sandstone gem sprawls on the banks of lovely Lake Pichola.
Mumbai, Bombay of old, is spread out over seven islands and is one of the world’s busiest and more vibrant ports. Roman Catholic churches and a Portuguese colonial quarter might make you think you’ve strayed from India. But the indigenous culture is very much present at the mighty Gateway Arch on Mumbai Harbor and at the Mumbai headquarters of Gandhi. The most authentic and fascinating glimpse of local culture unfolds at Dhobi Ghat, an open-air laundry where clothes are painstakingly laundered by dhobis (washermen).
Witness the Ancient and the Sacred
Among all of India’s cities, Varanasi is the oldest. This “city of temples” is India’s Holy Land of Hinduism. Pilgrims journey here from near and far to pray at the city’s ancient temple sanctuaries and to descend the ghats, or riverside stairways, to perform ablutions in the mighty Ganges River. We board a boat before dawn so we can witness the devout as they partake in their rituals. It is a sublime experience, one you’ll carry with you long after this very memorable sunrise. In the evening, you can return to the Ganges for a sacred prayer ceremony, illuminated by oil lamps and candles.
The nearby temples of the Chandela Empire are illuminating in their own right. Though the empire’s capitals were centered in Kalinjar and later Mahoba, the city of Khajuraho saw a surge in temple construction over a 200-year period. About 80 were built, assembled without mortar; 25 remain over an eight-square-mile area. Some temples are adorned with carvings that depict sexually explicit acts, which most scholars agree represent some of the world’s finest erotic art. No matter your view, the carvings provide insight into the sexual lives of medieval India.
Step into Kipling’s Jungle Book
When we think of India today, we often forget the classic images first conjured by Rudyard Kipling in his Jungle Book. Thankfully, the inspiration for his fairytale vision still exists in Ranthambore National Park. This land of breathtaking beauty and vast deciduous forests provide a magnificent glimpse of the epic jungles that once covered much of central India. Today, leopards, wild boars, 270 species of bird, and other fauna reside among the brush, but Bengal tigers are the stars of the sanctuary, and the reason the park was established. We go in search of these elusive cats during a thrilling safari.
Nepal: Majestic Beauty, Right Next Door
For many Gate 1 travelers, India is the gateway to its northern Himalayan neighbor, Nepal. Its soaring peaks and dramatic terrain have molded a simple, largely agrarian culture, making it one of the most peaceful places on earth, and one of the most breathtaking. We’re pleased to tell you that you can combine your journey to India with a visit to Nepal’s soaring heights
There is more to Nepal than the mile-high Himalayas. You’ll find astounding cultural, religious and geographic diversity here. The Nepalese comprise almost 90 ethnic groups, speak as many languages, and honor as many traditions. And its tallest peaks and mountain ranges spill into smaller hills, valleys, and plains where abundance of birdlife and other wildlife thrive, including the Royal Bengal Tiger and the One-Horned Rhinoceros.
So spiritual are the Nepalese people, some say their country is home to more gods than people. You just might believe it after a stroll through Kathmandu—or “K-Town” as it is known to locals and trekkers. The palaces, adorned with prayer flags and stupas, and the warrens, lined with ancient buildings, create a medieval and meditative atmosphere.
Nepal’s magnificent splendor is everywhere. One of the small nation’s most stunning natural wonders lies in the province of Chitwan. Its plains are often called the bread basket of Nepal, but the region is more known for Chitwan National Park, home to a rich variety of flora and fauna thrive in subtropical lowlands. Gate 1 travelers head into the park for a safari in the most thrilling way—by elephant! It’s a great way to connect with this spectacular world. And speaking of connecting, there’s also a chance to explore by ox cart and on foot … and we’re sure to visit some locals in their home.
Announcing a Whole New and Luxurious Way to Travel:
Gate 1’s Signature Collection
Now you can experience India and Nepal like a maharajah with Gate 1’s Signature Collection. You’ll enjoy private visits with locals and rewarding cultural exchanges throughout your trip, while enjoying the most personalized service and 5-star award-winning luxury hotels. You’ll have views of the Taj Mahal from your room in Agra and enjoy a sunrise visit to the famous temple. Tour an organic farm and visit the largest collection of crystal in the world in Udaipur. Have a private visit with a Mt. Everest Sherpa, and savor special meals fit for Mughal kings, including a royal dinner in Udaipur Palace on Lake Pichola.
Plus, Gate 1’s sister company Discovery Tours brings you even closer to the local people during our Incredible India & Nepal itinerary. These in-depth experiences open cultural doors accessible only to a small group. No matter how you’d like to experience this entrancing part of the world, we have an itinerary that suits you … and your budget.
Gate 1 Travel unveils the mysteries of India and Nepal on unique itineraries packed with features and value. We invite you to view our video about these two magical destinations. Then give us a call to reserve!