India by Rail Photo Expedition

  • 13-day photo expedition with an acclaimed National Geographic photographer, including a five-night journey aboard the Palace On Wheels
  • Document the highlights of Rajasthan, as well as Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, and the Taj Mahal.

Expedition Details

 

In India, everyday life plays out in bright colors, a vivid juxtaposition of ancient and modern against a backdrop of intricate architecture. Traveling aboard the Palace on Wheels train, document this enchanting land on photo shoots in rural villages, at the Taj Mahal, and amid evocative dunes. Focus on birdlife at a wildlife sanctuary, and snap action shots of dancers at a private performance. Then revel in the visual feast of Jaisalmer's Desert Festival, where snake charmers, puppeteers, and gymnasts vie with dancing camels for your attention.

Trip Highlights

  • Capture sunrise and sunset over the Taj Mahal, and go on photo shoots at five other UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Photograph the fairy-tale marble palaces of Udaipur's Lake Pichola by boat, and take a sunset camel safari among the sweeping dunes of the Thar Desert.
  • Search for tigers in Ranthambhore National Park, and for rare birds and other wildlife in Keoladeo National Park.
  • Document the dazzling energy of the Jaisalmer Desert Festival, a celebration of color, music, and Rajasthani folk culture.

Itinerary - 13 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Delhi, India

Depart on an overnight flight to Delhi, arriving the next day. Check into our hotel upon arrival.
The Taj Mahal Hotel

Day 3 — Delhi

Set out on a photo tour of New Delhi, the capital established by the British in 1911, and fill your viewfinder with architectural details of the India Gate and Parliament buildings. Then delve into Old Delhi, a patchwork of eight different cities built by a succession of rulers and a center of Muslim India between the 13th and 19th centuries. Take a bicycle rickshaw ride through the old city's busy, narrow lanes, and stop at a local spice market to capture the colorful bustle. Frame the golden spiked minarets of Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India and the final architectural achievement of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. This evening, gather for a welcome reception and dinner.
The Taj Mahal Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Jaipur

Travel from Delhi to Jaipur in Rajasthan. Known as the "Pink City" for its rose-colored buildings, Jaipur is protected by high fortifications and multiple gates. The afternoon is free to explore the city on your own. If you wish, join a photo excursion to a traditional fruit and flower market, or relax and enjoy the beautiful gardens of the Jai Mahal Palace Hotel, a masterpiece of Indo-Saracenic architecture dating back to 1745.
Jai Mahal Palace (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Jaipur

Begin the day with a morning photo shoot at Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, a stunning five-story sandstone building designed to allow ladies of the court to watch life on the streets below. Zoom in on the delicate latticework and honeycombed windows, and capture vibrant images of local men and women in traditional dress. Continue to Amber Fort, a 16th- and 17th-century hilltop complex that offers a treasures trove of photographic inspiration. Document its exquisite and well-preserved palaces, temples, gardens, and pavilions. Later this afternoon, take a guided tour of the 18th-century royal observatory known as the Jantar Mantar, and examine a variety of precise astronomical tools. In the evening, settle into your cabin aboard the Palace on Wheels.
Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Ranthambhore National Park/Chittaurgarh

With your camera in hand, set out on a morning game drive in Ranthambhore National Park in search of the elusive tiger, as well as hyenas, wild boar, spotted deer, and sambar. After lunch back on the train, arrive in the city of Chittaurgarh. Trace a turbulent history of siege, valor, and sacrifice at Chittaurgarh Fort, one of the largest forts in India.
Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Udaipur

Known as the City of Lakes, Udaipur is most celebrated for 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. Incredible photographic opportunities abound at this palace complex, the largest in Rajasthan, which blends medieval, European, and Chinese architecture and is richly decorated with inlaid mirror-work, mosaics, and frescoes. Later, explore the narrow streets of the old city by rickshaw, and stop to photograph a local market before visiting the 17th-century Jagdish Temple, adorned with fantastic carvings. This afternoon, a scenic boat ride on Lake Pichola provides an opportunity to capture the luminous white marble facade of Jag Niwas, now the Taj Lake Palace, and its shimmering reflection on the water.
Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Jaisalmer

Today the train carries us into the heart of the Thar Desert to magical Jaisalmer, founded by Rawal Jaisal in A.D. 1156. Rising above the city, the imposing turrets and bastions of the golden sandstone fort conceal a lively town within. Photograph the magnificent fort and discover the havelis, once the mansions of wealthy merchants, decorated with elaborate facades. Cap off our day with a sunset camel ride across the sand dunes of Sam, stopping for a traditional tea in the desert. Enjoy an outdoor dinner and special photo shoot with folk dancers and music unique to the Thar Desert region.
Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Jodhpur

Jodhpur's blue-hued old city lies at the foot of the massive Mehrangarh Fort, perched on a rocky outcrop some 120 meters high. Visit the 15th-century fort and learn about its colorful history. Shoot sweeping panoramas of the city below, and explore the museum that houses a spectacular collection of miniature paintings, ivory artifacts, and weapons. Later, in the heart of the old city, hone your portraiture skills during a photo shoot with local Rajasthani men displaying traditional handlebar moustaches. Enjoy lunch at a royal palace hotel before returning to the Palace on Wheels for the final leg of our rail journey.
Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Keoladeo Ghana National Park/Agra

Disembark the train in Bharatpur after an early breakfast and head into the wetlands of Keoladeo Ghana National Park, a renowned bird sanctuary. Keep your camera ready while searching for egrets, flamingos, and many other bird species and wildlife. Later, during a photo walk around Bharatpur village, meet with and photograph local residents engaged in daily life. Then stop at a hotel near the park for a cooking demonstration and lunch. En route to Agra, stop at Fatehpur Sikri, the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1569 to 1585, where elegant carved sandstone palaces remain incredibly well-preserved.
ITC Mughal (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Agra

Rise early this morning to photograph the Taj Mahal as it sparkles in the dawn's light. Constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, the Taj Mahal is often described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love. Today is Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colors, which welcomes spring and celebrates the triumph of good over evil with song, feasts, and the “play of colors,” in which celebrants douse each other in colored flour with radiant pigments. Get into the spirit and join the festivities or capture the brilliant colors with your camera. This evening, return to the Taj for a sunset photo shoot before gathering for a festive farewell dinner with a traditional sitar musician.
ITC Mughal (B,L,D)

Days 12 & 13 — Agra/Delhi/U.S

Rise early and cross the Yamuna River to photograph the Taj Mahal at sunrise from the beautiful Mehtab Bagh gardens. At a specially arranged photo shoot, capture the Taj's reflection on the water with camels in the foreground. Then drive to Delhi and relax in day rooms at the Taj Mahal Hotel. Later, transfer to the airport for your overnight flight, arriving home the next day.
Day rooms at The Taj Mahal Hotel (B,L,D)

Optional Extension

Related Trips

National Geographic Expert

Chris Rainier

Chris RainierChris Rainier specializes in the documentation of indigenous cultures, and is considered one of the leading documentary photographers working today. A National Geographic Explorer, Chris was a co-founder of the Society’s All Roads Photography Program and is a co-director of the Enduring Voices Project, documenting endangered languages and cultures. He serves as a contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine. His life's mission is to document endangered cultures and help empower them to use modern technology to save their ancient traditions through a project he directs called the Last Technology Program. He has conducted expeditions to all seven continents and the North Pole. Chris has won numerous awards for his photography, including the Lowell Thomas Award given by the Explorers Club for his work with endangered cultures. Chris was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society in London.

Chris will join the following departure:

Jan 25 - Feb 06, 2015

SEE OTHER EXPERTS »

Dates

2015
  • Jan 25 - Feb 06, 2015 ALT (waitlist only)
2016
  • Mar 13 - 25, 2016

ALT indicates a departure that has a slightly different itinerary than the one shown on this page. Click the ALT icon to see the day-to-day itinerary.

The itinerary shown describes the March 2016 departure, which includes the Holi festival in Agra. The January/February 2015 departure includes the Desert Festival in Jaisalmer.

Expedition Cost

2015

$10,995

2016

$11,595

Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $2,920 in 2015 and $3,100 in 2016.

International airfare to/from Delhi is not included in the expedition cost.

What To Expect

This is an active trip that involves walking up to two miles a day, climbing stairs (often without handrails), and walking on crowded streets with uneven footing. Participants should be physically fit. Those who are prone to motion sickness may be uncomfortable on the train or during drives on bumpy roads. This expedition is not suitable for anyone with a serious medical condition or limited mobility.