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
Travel for five nights aboard the Palace on Wheels, a train that evokes the splendor of the maharajas and travels to places not easily accessible by road.
In the company of a National Geographic expert, explore six UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Fatehpur Sikri and the hill forts of Rajasthan.
Experience the exquisite Taj Mahal at both sunrise and sunset, and photograph this iconic wonder under changing light.
Get a glimpse into daily life on a walk through Bharatpur village, and enjoy a private performance by a sitar musician in Agra.
Itinerary - 11 Days
Day 1 — Delhi, India
Arrive in Delhi and check in to our hotel. The Taj Mahal Hotel
Day 2 — 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 Gandhi. This evening, gather for a special welcome reception and dinner. The Taj Mahal Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 3 — Jaipur
Travel from Delhi to Jaipur, the capital of 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 the Palace of the 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. Jai Mahal Palace (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Jaipur
This morning, ascend to the hilltop Amber Fort, a 16th- and 17th-century complex. Explore its exquisite and well-preserved palaces, temples, gardens, and pavilions. After lunch, enjoy 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 Jantar Mantar and examine a variety of precise astronomical tools. This evening, experience Diwali, the Festival of Lights, on one of the biggest Hindu celebrations in India. Lakshmi Puja is performed in the evening with people exchanging gifts and lighting candles around their house to seek divine blessings from the Goddess of Wealth. India glows during Diwali: ceramic lamps burn, lights are hung from buildings, and fireworks light up the sky in a dazzling display. Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)
Day 5 — 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 6 — 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. Cruise by the Lake Palace Hotel on an afternoon boat ride on Lake Pichola. Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)
Day 7 — 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. Explore this magnificent fort and discover the havelis, once the mansions of wealthy merchants, decorated with elaborate facades. Later, ride a camel across the sand dunes and stop for a traditional tea in the desert. Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)
Day 8 — 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 with stunning views of the city, elaborately mirrored rooms, and a museum with a spectacular collection of miniature paintings, ivory artifacts, and weapons. Delve into the narrow streets of the old city with its blue hued buildings, clock tower, and people shopping at the Sardar Bazaar. Enjoy lunch before returning to the Palace on Wheels for the final leg of our rail journey. Palace on Wheels (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Keoladeo Ghana National Park/Agra
Disembark the train in Bharatpur 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 10 — Agra
Rise early this morning to see the Taj Mahal's marble sparkle in the dawn 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 once again at sunset before gathering for a festive farewell dinner. ITC Mughal (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Agra/Delhi
After breakfast, pay a visit to a local orphanage if you wish. Then drive to Delhi and relax in day rooms at the Taj Mahal Hotel. Later, transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Day rooms at The Taj Mahal Hotel (B,L,D)
Jan 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.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
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.