Rail Journey Through India

  • 13-day trip including a five-night journey aboard the legendary Palace On Wheels
  • Discover the highlights of Rajasthan, as well as Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, and the Taj Mahal.

Expedition Details


Step aboard the Palace on Wheels and set off on an unforgettable rail journey to the fabled cities of Rajasthan. Venture into majestic forts and palaces, visit the immense Amber Fort high above Jaipur, and watch the sunset light up the Taj Mahal. Experience one of India’s celebrated festivals or fairs on each departure and immerse yourself in the colors and rhythms of India’s captivating culture.

Trip Highlights

    • Travel for five nights aboard the Palace on Wheels, a train designed in the style of a bygone era, evoking the splendor of the maharajas.
    • Explore six UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Fatehpur Sikri and the incomparable Taj Mahal.
    • Search for tigers in Ranthambhore National Park, and spot rare birds and other wildlife in Keoladeo Ghana National Park.
    • Take a sunset camel safari among the evocative dunes of the Thar Desert.

Itinerary - 13 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Delhi, India

Depart on an overnight flight to Delhi. Upon arrival on November 9th, transfer and check into our hotel.
The Taj Mahal Hotel

Day 3 — Delhi

Set out on a tour of New Delhi, the capital established by the British in 1911, and see 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. Explore Humayun’s Tomb, a milestone in the history of Mughal architecture, and Gandhi Smriti, a museum honoring Mahatma Gandi. This evening gather for a special 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. Stroll through a local bazaar before visiting Hawa Mahal, or Palace of Winds, a stunning five-story sandstone building where the delicate latticework and honeycombed windows were originally designed to allow ladies of the court to watch life on the streets below. Today is the celebration of Diwali, the Festival of Lights, one of the biggest Hindu celebrations in India. Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evening with people exchanging gifts and lighting candles around their houses to seek divine blessings from the Goddess of Wealth.
Jai Mahal Palace (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Jaipur

Begin the day with a guided tour of the City Palace, a vast complex with a museum housing rare manuscripts, paintings, and an armory. Visit the 18th-century royal observatory known as the Jantar Mantar, and examine a variety of precise astronomical tools. In the afternoon, ascend to the hilltop Amber Fort and explore its exquisite and well-preserved palaces, temples, gardens, and pavilions. This evening, settle into your cabin on board the Palace on Wheels.
Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Ranthambhore National Park/Chittaurgarh

Set out on a morning game drive in Ranthambhore National Park in search of the elusive tiger as well as hyenas, jackals, and foxes. 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 its fairy-tale marble palaces, which appear to emerge 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 medieval, European, and Chinese architecture and is richly decorated with inlaid mirror-work, mosaics, and frescoes.
Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Jaisalmer

Today the train carries us into the heart of the Thar Desert to magical Jaisalmer. Rising above the city, the imposing turrets and bastions of the golden sandstone fort conceal a lively town within. Discover the havelis, once the mansions of wealthy merchants, decorated with elaborate facades. Later, ride a camel across the sand dunes of Sam and stop for a traditional tea in the desert.
Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Jodhpur

Jodhpur's blue-hued old city lies at the foot of massive Mehrangarh Fort, perched on a rocky outcrop some 120 meters high. Visit the 15th-century fort and learn about its colorful history. Explore the narrow streets and shops in the old city and enjoy lunch at Hanumant Palace 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. Search for egrets, flamingos, and many other bird species and wildlife. Then stop at a hotel near the park for a cooking demonstration and lunch. Take a guided walk around Bharatpur village before heading to Fatehpur Sikri, the capital of the Mughal Empire from 1569 to 1585, where elegant carved sandstone palaces remain incredibly well-preserved. Continue to Agra this evening.
ITC Mughal (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Agra

Rise early this morning to see the Taj Mahal’s marble sparkle 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. After lunch, explore Agra Fort's courtyards, mosques, and private chambers, which bring to life the story of the Mughal Empire. Pay a visit to a marble inlay workshop to see how the intricate stonework of the Taj Mahal was created. This evening, visit the iconic Taj Mahal at sunset before gathering for a festive farewell dinner.
ITC Mughal (B,L,D)

Days 12 & 13 — Agra/Delhi/U.S.

After breakfast, those who are interested can make a special visit to a local orphanage. 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

Jan Nijman

Jan NijmanJan Nijman is Professor Emeritus of Geography and Regional Studies at the University of Miami. Chair of National Geographic's new Global Exploration Fund for Northern Europe and a former member of National Geographic's Committee for Research and Exploration, Jan has spent more than a decade researching socio-economic and cultural change in India. The National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation have supported his work, and his papers have appeared in a wide range of international journals. Jan has received the University of Miami's Excellence in Teaching Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Jan will join the following departure:

Feb 28 - Mar 11, 2016



  • Oct 18 - 30, 2015 ALT
  • Nov 08 - 20, 2015
  • Jan 17 - 29, 2016 ALT
  • Feb 28 - Mar 11, 2016 ALT
  • Oct 23 - Nov 04, 2016 ALT
  • Nov 06 - 18, 2016 ALT

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.

In order to allow time for attending festivals, we will fly instead of drive from Delhi to Jaipur on the November 2016 departure.

The itinerary shown describes the November 8, 2015 departure, which includes the Diwali festival in Jaipur. Festivals or special activities on other departures include the following:

  • Dussehra festival in October 2015
  • Cultural exchange in Samode in January 2016
  • Maha Shivaratri festival on the February 2016 departure
  • Diwali festival in Jaisalmer on the October 2016 departure
  • Pushkar Camel Fair on the November 2016 departure
  • Expedition Cost

    Oct 2015 - Mar 2016


    Oct - Nov 2016


    Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $3,100 for October 2015-March 2016 departures and $3,350 for October-November 2016 departures.

    International airfare to/from Delhi is not included in the expedition cost. For the November 2016 departure, the additional group flight from Delhi to Jaipur begins at $260 (subject to change).

    Featured Expedition Moment

    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.