India is a great, unfathomable land of contradictions. For every vestige of the British Raj, you will witness deeply held traditions. For every Mercedes standing idle in gridlocked city streets, you will a sacred cow wandering among traffic as it pleases. For each lavish palace, you will see a modest temple. And for every moment of beautiful chaos, you will experience sublime serenity. It is an intoxicating place, one you have to experience to believe.
To fully give yourself over to India and her many incongruities, you need only know one thing: The Hindu population here embraces the tenets of the world’s oldest religion: kindness, honesty and compassion. You experience it everywhere: from bustling cities to Rajasthan jungles, from Rajput hill forts to elegant monuments to a proud past. Returning Gate 1 travelers agree that India is one thing above all – a unique and spellbinding travel experience that no one should miss.
Magnificent Mughal Temples and Fortresses
Most any trip to India begins in Delhi. Its old city is rich with historic treasures and artful monuments – 60,000 of them! We won’t have time to see them all, but perhaps 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 worshippers can pray here. Just across the way stands the splendid 17th-century Red Fort, an ochre-hued 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, gardens, 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 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 local 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 the city’s culture unfolds at Dhobi Ghat, an open-air Laundromat where clothes are painstakingly laundered by 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 an experience at once serene and sublime and one you’ll carry with you long after this very memorable sunrise. One 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 have their own illumination to offer. 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, all that inspired 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 its soaring heights
Of course, there’s more to Nepal than the Himalayas and the surrounding mile-high mountain culture. 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” to locals and the mountain trekkers that pass through. More than 50 palaces, pagodas, and temples are adorned with prayer flags and dome-like stupas, and its heady 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, where a huge array of rich flora and fauna thrive in subtropical lowlands. Gate 1 travelers head into the park for a safari! 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 local villagers in their home.
Experience India (and Nepal!) Your Way with Gate 1’s Signature Collection and Discovery Tours!
Gate 1 Travel has long enjoyed a solid presence in India, which means you can rely on our classic guided tours here to give you an insider’s glimpse of a complex and moving culture. And if you wish, you can take advantage of our expertise so you can witness Mother India’s splendors from different perspectives.
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. 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.