India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives by Private Jet

  • 21-day journey by private jet
  • Explore Jodhpur and the Great Indian Desert, the Ellora Caves, the Taj Mahal, Maldives, and more

Expedition Details

 

Discover the fabled cities, majestic monuments, and natural wonders of the Indian subcontinent on an unforgettable journey by private jet. Experience the ancient and the exotic, from the legendary treasures of Rajasthan, to the spectacular wildlife of Sri Lanka, to the pristine coral gardens of the Maldives. Immerse yourself in a fascinating intersection of cultures as you explore sacred pilgrimage sites, ancient rock fortresses, bustling bazaars, and more.

Trip Highlights

    • Explore four UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Ellora Caves, the Taj Mahal, and Sri Lanka’s ancient city of Sigiriya.
    • Visit the exquisite Golden Temple of Amritsar, the holiest of Sikh shrines, and witness age-old Hindu rituals along the banks of the sacred Ganges River.
    • Discover the temples, forts, and palaces of Rajasthan, and experience the legendary elegance of the Rajput era.
    • Go on a wildlife safari in Sri Lanka’s Minneriya National Park; snorkel amid the coral reefs of the Maldives; and ride a camel through the evocative Thar Desert.

Itinerary - 21 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./London, England

Depart the U.S. independently on an overnight flight to London. The following day, meet experts, staff, and fellow travelers for a welcome reception, followed by dinner at our hotel.
The Dorchester, London (D)

Days 3, 4, & 5 — Udaipur and Lake Pichola, India

Board our private jet and fly to Rajasthan, the “land of kings,” where, centuries ago, aristocratic Rajputs channeled their wealth from overland trade into sumptuous palaces and majestic gardens. Land in Udaipur, known as the City of Lakes, and admire the fairy-tale marble palaces that appear to rise from the waters of Lake Pichola. Venture into a spectacular labyrinth of courtyards within the City Palace, a soaring creation of marble and granite perched on the lake’s edge. This palace complex, the largest in Rajasthan, blends Rajasthani, Mughal, European, and Chinese architecture, and is richly decorated with inlaid mirror-work, mosaics, and frescoes. Later, wend your way through the Old Town and its bustling bazaars, and visit the Folk Art Museum, which boasts an impressive collection of traditional toys, musical instruments, puppets, and other regional curiosities. Then enjoy a sunset cruise on Lake Pichola, followed by a reception overlooking the city’s shimmering palaces.
Oberoi Udaivilas (B,L,D Daily)

Options: Venture deep into the verdant Aravalli Range to visit the Ranakpur temples—among the five holiest Jain sites and one of the most famous temple complexes in the world. Or see the Hindu temples of Eklingji and Nagda, go horseback riding in the Aravalli Hills, and meet with students at a primary school in a local village.

Day 6 — Sacred Sculptures of the Ellora Caves

Fly to Aurangabad and take a short drive to see the monumental hand-carved caves and temples of Ellora, a UNESCO World Heritage site. These Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain shrines have coexisted on the same cliffside perch since their creation during periods of religious harmony between A.D. 600 and 1000. Admire the distinctive styles, from the ascetic ideal to more intricate designs, which required several generations of builders to complete. Then visit the only example of Mughal architecture in the region, the Bibi Ka Maqbara, a 17th-century memorial affectionately known as the “Baby Taj” for its resemblance to the Taj Mahal.
Taj Residency, Aurangabad (B,L,D)

Days 7 & 8 — Jodhpur and the Great Indian Desert

Our private jet takes us to the city of Jodhpur, once an important medieval trade center. From here, venture into the starkly beautiful Great Indian Desert, a vast expanse of arid plains and soaring sand dunes. Ride camels over the dunes and encounter the small but vibrant desert community that thrives here, including chili and mustard farmers, carpet weavers, metalsmiths, and potters. Later, experience a magical evening under the desert stars in our deluxe tented camp, or choose to spend an additional night in Jodhpur at the Umaid Bhawan Palace.

Return to Jodhpur and visit the 15th-century Mehrangarh Fort, a magnificent structure that towers above the blue-painted buildings of Old Town and holds priceless collections of art and artifacts. Explore Sardar Bazaar, where merchants preside over products made from antique royal saris, or take a guided tour of the museum within our historic palace hotel. This evening, we will dine at our hotel, Umaid Bhawan Palace, which is also one of the world’s grandest royal residences—still inhabited by a maharaja.
Manvar Tented Desert Camp and Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur (B,L,D Daily)

Day 9 — The Golden Temple, Amritsar

Fly to the city of Amritsar, the spiritual center of the Sikh religion, located in the northern state of Punjab. Visit the exquisite Golden Temple, a complex of sublime beauty and peacefulness, and the holiest Sikh shrine in the world. Explore the bustling Guru Bazaar, where vendors sell Punjabi crafts and spices, and observe the myriad of cultures that have found a home in this historic Asian crossroads and sacred city. This evening, return to the temple for a special dinner and a mesmerizing ceremony during which Sikhs carry their sacred text, accompanied by singing and drumming.
Ista Amritsar (B,L,D)

Days 10 & 11 — Agra, the Taj Mahal, and the Ganges River Culture of Varanasi

Board our private jet bound for Agra, the 16th- and 17th-century capital of India’s powerful Mughal Empire. Discover one of the world’s greatest architectural wonders, the Taj Mahal, built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Explore the monument, which soars above the banks of the Yamuna River, incorporating Persian, Indian, and Islamic styles. Admire its form among the reflecting pools and gardens that surround it, and examine its intricate mosaics made of precious stones.

Continue by jet to Varanasi, and observe Hindu pilgrims at their most sacred site along the banks of the Ganges River, where they gather on ceremonial stone steps, or ghats. Join pilgrims in an aarti, the ritual lighting of a ghee candle. Nearby, visit the monastic ruins of Sarnath, where Buddha delivered his first sermon. After a sunset cruise on the holy river, gather for a special dinner in illuminated gardens where Brahman singers chant Vedic hymns.
The Gateway Hotel Ganges, Varanasi (B,L,D Daily)

Alternative: Instead of the Taj Mahal, you may choose to venture into Kachhpura, a village within Agra inhabited by the Harijan people, formerly known as “Untouchables.” Meet with local families and visit a school. Then explore the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, an early 17th-century mausoleum renowned for its intricate marble-work and gardens.

Days 12 & 13 — Ancient and Modern Hyderabad

After an optional sunrise cruise on the Ganges, fly south to Hyderabad, a city once ruled by successive Nizams of the Asaf Jahi dynasty, and now an international technology hub. Discover the city’s many remarkable sights, including Charminar, a 16th-century arched monument crowned with four minarets; the Salar Jung Museum, housing one of the world’s largest private art collections; and the lavish Chowmahalla Palace, where the Nizams entertained royal guests and visitors. In the city’s business center, known as Cyberabad, visit the acclaimed Indian Business School, and discover how the modern tech industry has transformed Indian culture. We will stay for two nights in a superbly restored former palace, where you may enjoy a private tour of its lavish interior and gardens by an in-house historian.
Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad (B,L,D Daily)

Days 14, 15, & 16 — Natural Wonders of Sri Lanka

The next leg of our journey takes us to Sri Lanka, the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” Upon arrival, board the vintage Viceroy Special steam train and journey to Habarana, our base for exploring the area’s nature reserves and ancient capitals. Discover the incredible rock fortress of Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a wonder of engineering with water gardens and ancient frescoes believed to represent divine damsels. Explore the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, known for its traditional Sri Lankan waterworks and rock carvings, and the ruins of the Ritigala monastery, hidden in a jungle reserve where elephants and sloth bears abound.
Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana (B,L,D Daily)

Options: Choose from a variety of activities in the Habarana area: In Minneriya National Park, go on wildlife safari in search of elephants; tour a working spice plantation steeped in 1,000 years of tradition; or explore the Sri Lankan countryside from the back of an elephant; or spend time at the beautiful beaches of Trincomalee in the rarely visited northeast coast.

Days 17, 18, & 19 — The Maldives, an Indian Ocean Paradise

Fly over the Gulf of Mannar to the Maldives and take a short boat ride to the tiny island of Villingili. Relax in your own private paradise—an over-water villa set in a turquoise lagoon teeming with marine life. Explore the neighboring islands by bicycle via a 10- mile road that is the longest in the Maldives. Or swim or snorkel among delicate corals and the colorful creatures that inhabit them, including nudibranchs, harlequin shrimp, sweetlips, lionfish, and nurse sharks. You may even come face-to-gills with the gentle and graceful manta ray, some of which have a wingspan up to 12 feet. With luck, you might see a manta ray breach the water’s surface and launch into the air—an awe-inspiring sight.
Shangri-La's Villingili Resort and Spa (B,L,D Daily)

Options: Experience the pristine nature of the Maldives on a cruise to look for pods of dolphins, or go on a night-fishing excursion.

Days 20 & 21 — London, England/U.S.

Fly by private jet to London and gather for a farewell dinner. The next day, following breakfast, connect with your regularly scheduled commercial flight home.
The Dorchester, London (B,L,D; B)

Dates

This expedition is not currently being offered.