Indian Essence

Indian Essence is a spectacular 18-day journey to the historic and exotic cities of Rajasthan, and some of the less visited hidden gems in the north of India. Throughout the tour we stay at Indian Heritage hotels – typically properties that were formerly forts, palaces or traditional havelis – which have their own distinctive architecture, ambience and history. Step back in time and discover the glory of the great Mughal Empire and British Raj of India!

We begin with a two-night stay in the capital, Delhi, before heading to the small town of Mandawa, a treasure trove of architectural grandeur in the heart of the Shekhawati region. Our next stop is Bikaner, one of the three great desert kingdoms of Rajasthan, which is renowned for its opulent havelis and the imposing Junagarh Fortress. From here we move on to mesmerising blue city of Jodhpur, where a sea of boxy blue houses stretches along the walls of the historic old city. The delightful town of Narlai is our next stop, before moving on to India’s famous Lake City – Udaipur. Turning north we arrive at the charming city of Bundi, noted for its ancient step-wells, and its own unique style of Indian miniature painting. The fabled pink city of Jaipur is our next stop, before moving on to Bharatpur and its UNESCO heritage listed Keoladeo bird sanctuary and national park. The final destination on our remarkable discovery of the heritage and traditions of Northern India is Agra, home to the magnificent Taj Mahal!

Tour Fitness Level: Active



  • Stay at Indian Heritage Hotels – former forts, palaces and havelis
  • Take a tricycle rickshaw ride in Old Delhi including spice bazaar tour
  • Explore the off-the-beaten-track village of Mandawa
  • Enjoy a sunset walk through the narrow streets of Mandawa Village
  • Stroll through the streets of Bikaner famous for its historic havelis
  • Explore the lanes and alleyways of the famous Blue City of Jodhpur
  • Visit the antique workshops of Maharanis in Jodhpur
  • Enjoy a village safari and tribal tour in Bishnoi village
  • Take a leopard jeep safari in Narlai
  • See the beautiful Lake Palace on a sunset boat cruise in Udaipur
  • Take a walking tour of Bundi to see its stepwells, and bazaar
  • Visit the old city bazaar and flower markets in Jaipur
  • Enjoy a tour of Jaipur by tuk tuk
  • Explore the bird sanctuary at Bharatpur by tricycle rickshaw
  • Take a guided tour of the magnificent Taj Mahal at Agra


  • All flights between Australia and India (inc. domestic from your preferred capital city)
  • All ticketable air taxes (NB. may be subject to change)
  • All visas and courier fees
  • All accommodation in excellent hotels – mostly in Indian Heritage Hotels (twin-share)
  • All transfers and ground transportation
  • All meals as specified
  • Travel Directors tour leader throughout
  • Expert local guides throughout
  • All entrance fees for specified sightseeing
  • All tips and gratuities

Please note that whilst every effort will be made to adhere to the above pricing, currency fluctuations beyond our control can affect final costs. A booking form is to be completed by all passengers, and a non-refundable deposit of AUD $3,000 per person paid at the time of booking. All escorted tours are based on a minimum group size of 10 people travelling.


24/10/2025 Australia – Singapore – Delhi

Check in at your chosen Australian airport for your flight to Singapore with Singapore Airlines.

Depart Singapore, Singapore Airlines SQ 406, 16.50

Arrive Delhi 20.10

After completing customs and immigration formalities in Delhi we transfer to our boutique heritage hotel.

The Claridges


25/10/2025 Delhi (BLD)

A busy day today as we embark on an extensive sightseeing tour of Old and New Delhi. In the morning we soak up the history of the Mughal Emperors with a visit to the Red Fort, Jama Masjid Mosque, and the colourful and exotic Chandni Chowk market, before heading to Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi. After lunch we continue our tour with a visit to, India Gate and Parliament House, before returning to our hotel for dinner.

26/10/2025 Delhi – Mandawa (BLD)

After breakfast we board our coach for the 260km drive to Mandawa. Located in the heart of the Shekhawati region, Mandawa is popularly known as the ‘open art gallery’, and is famed for its palaces and Haveli traditional houses decorated in unique frescoed wall paintings with themes of wedding and festivals. We take a walk along the narrow lanes of this quaint little town to explore this vibrant art and meet local people. We also visit the Mandawa street bazaar and Royal cenotaphs.

Castle Mandawa


27/10/2025 Mandawa – Bikaner (BLD)

This morning we make the three hour drive to the cultural paradise of Bikaner, situated in the midst of the Thar Desert. With sand dunes scattered across the city Bikaner offers an ancient opulence, with its rustic Junagarh Fortress and Palace made completely out of red sandstone. Nicknamed the ‘camel country of India’ Bikaner has some of the finest camel breeds and is home to the world’s largest camel breeding farm. On arrival in Bikaner we transfer to our heritage hotel, home for the next two nights.

Narendra Bhawan


28/10/2025 Bikaner (BLD)

Aptly named one of the three great desert kingdoms of Rajasthan, Bikaner boasts an old-world charm with its opulent havelis reflecting a bygone era. Today we set out on foot to explore these traditional old mansions, and soak up the distinct local lifestyle and arts and crafts scene.

29/10/2025 Bikaner – Jodhpur (BLD)

Leaving Bikaner behind, we move south to the fabled blue city of Jodhpur. En route we stop for lunch, and on arrival into Jodhpur we check in to our beautiful heritage hotel.

Ajit Bhawan Palace


30/10/2025 Jodhpur (BLD)

The mystical blue-washed town of Jodhpur sits at the foot of the legendary 15th Century Mehrangarh Fortress that dominates the skyline. After breakfast this morning we begin our tour of this fabled city, exploring its winding streets, ancient buildings, markets, and the fortress. Later we board local jeeps and take a ‘tribal tour’ of the Bishnoi Village, where we meet with locals and learn about their unique lifestyle, fine artwork and pottery making skills. As dusk approaches we continue our jeep safari to spot the rare flora and fauna around Guda Lake, including Indian blackbucks, blue bulls, and demoiselle cranes, before returning to our hotel.

31/10/2025 Jodhpur – Narlai (BLD)

Today we drive to the delightful heritage town of Narlai which sits alongside a mammoth granite rock that’s dotted with caves and temples. This is a quiet and idyllic part of rural Rajasthan, and we take full advantage of everything it has to offer, with walking tours and jeep safaris. Late afternoon we head out on a sunset jeep safari around the town and to the lake, where hopefully we will spot some of the local birdlife as the sun goes down.

Rawla Narlai


01/11/2025 Narlai (BLD)

After breakfast we embark on an exciting jeep safari in search of leopards, accompanied by a naturalist guide. Later we head into the town and surrounding countryside where we learn about the culture and lifestyle of the local artisans, farmers and priests. In the afternoon we stroll through the town and meet some of the locals who are proud and happy to be part of this close-knit community.

02/11/2025 Narlai – Udaipur (BLD)

This morning we board our coach for the drive south to Udaipur – India’s famous Lake City. Shortly after leaving Narlai we arrive at the village of Ranakpur, where we stop to explore the sacred Jain Temples – an incredible complex of 29 white marble halls supported by 1,444 pillars, of which no two are the same. Re-boarding our coach we continue on to Udaipur. In the evening we enjoy dinner with fabulous views of the lake and the City Palace.

Jagat Niwas Palace


03/11/2025 Udaipur (BLD)

The imposing City Palace of Udaipur towers over the lake and is Rajasthan’s largest palace with a façade almost 250 metres long and 30 metres high. Near the entrance to the palace, seven arches commemorate the seven maharajas whose weight in gold or silver was distributed to the lucky locals in times gone by. Today we set out on foot to explore the City Palace, the royal maidens’ courtyard, and the Jagdish Temple which is dedicated to Lord Vishnu ‘Protector of the Universe’. Late afternoon we enjoy a sunset boat cruise on Lake Pichola to see the sparkle of Udaipur by night, and the famous Lake Palace.

04/11/2025 Udaipur – Bundi (BLD)

Today we journey north to Bundi, renowned for its picturesque forts and step-wells. We explore the famous Taragarh Fort, one of the most impressive forts in Rajasthan, and take a walking tour of Bundi Bazaar. We also visit the Sukhe Mahal, a small summer palace surrounded by terraced gardens where Rudyard Kipling once stayed.

Haveli Braj Bhushanjee


05/11/2025 Bundi – Jaipur (BLD)

The fabled pink city of Jaipur is our destination today, and we set out after breakfast on the four-hour drive. A feast for all the senses, the old city of Jaipur was painted pink in 1876 – pink being the colour of hospitality – to welcome Britain’s Prince of Wales on an official visit, and the tradition has been maintained. Our wonderful luxury heritage hotel, home for the next two nights, is located at Samode Village, a few kilometres from Jaipur.

Samode Palace

Samode Village

06/11/2025 Jaipur (BLD)

A full heritage programme today as soak up the wonderful sights and sounds of Jaipur. We explore the UNESCO World Heritage listed Amber Fort, taking a jeep to reach its hilltop location, from where we have stunning views of the surrounding area. An underrated gem in Jaipur is the Wholesale Flower Market, known as the Phool Mandi, where farmers from the surrounding villages bring their freshly cut flowers, selling up to 50,000 kg per day. Perhaps the most distinctive landmark in the pink city is Hawa Mahal – the Palace of Winds – and we visit this remarkable pink-coloured beehive designed palace, which is an amazing example of Rajput artistry.

07/11/2025 Jaipur – Bharatpur (BLD)

This morning we board our coach for the four hour drive to Bharatpur. Just south of the city lies the UNESCO listed Keoladeo bird sanctuary and national park which has long been recognised as one of the world’s most important bird breeding and feeding grounds, hosting more than 360 species within its 29 sq km. In the afternoon our expert naturalist escorts us through the park to see how many species we can spot.

Laxmi Vilas Palace


08/11/2025 Bharatpur – Agra (BLD)

Leaving Bharatpur behind we make the short journey to Agra, located on the banks of the Holy River Yamuna, and home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World – the Taj Mahal. Built in memory of his beloved wife by Emperor Shah Jahan, this marble mausoleum is the greatest gesture of love known to mankind and is breathtakingly, bewitchingly beautiful. As dusk approaches we head to the riverside for a picturesque sunset viewing of this magnificent masterpiece of Mughal architecture.

Grand Mercure


09/11/2025 Agra – Delhi (BL)

As dawn breaks this morning we experience a sunrise grand tour of the Taj Mahal including the beautiful garden and the outlying red sandstone buildings. After our visit we return to our hotel for breakfast, and later head to the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage-listed Agra Fort – effectively a walled-city – with its impressive Pearl Mosque. After lunch we board our coach for the 230km drive to Delhi for our flight home.

Depart Delhi Singapore Airlines SQ 403, 21.50

10/11/2025 Singapore – Australia

Arrive Singapore 06.00

On arrival in Singapore connect with your flight back to Australia.


If I travel alone, do I have to pay the single supplement?

If you wish to have sole use of a hotel room on the tour, you will need to pay the single supplement. If you are travelling alone but willing to share a room, we will endeavour to match you up with another solo traveller of the same gender. We cannot guarantee that a share-match can be provided, and in the event that this cannot be arranged at the time of final payment, you will need to pay the single supplement.

What is the food like on this tour?

Contrary to popular belief, Indian food is not all hot curries and rice. The range of food we sample is varied and interesting.

What is the standard of the hotels?

All of the hotels on this tour are 4 – 5 star, and most of them are Indian Heritage Hotels – typically properties that were formerly forts, palaces or traditional havelis – which have their own distinctive architecture, ambience and history.

What is the weather like in October/November?

This is a perfect time to visit the north of India. There is little to no rainfall, and temperatures averaging 27 – 30 degrees celcius.

How much money do you recommend I take and what are the best currencies for this trip?

Because almost everything is included, we would suggest an amount of $600 AUD per person as being ample for the 18-day journey. Unlike our other tours, there is no need to take any currency other than Australian dollars, which can be changed easily into local currency en route.

Do I need any visas for this tour?

Yes, an Indian visa is required. This is included in the tour cost and will be arranged by us well ahead of departure.

Do I need vaccinations for this journey?

No vaccinations are mandatory on this route, although some health authorities suggest vaccinations against typhoid and hepatitis. Tetanus should certainly be up to date. If in doubt, we suggest you consult your GP.

Is the water safe to drink?

We err on the side of caution on all of our tours and advise travellers to drink only bottled water. This is easy to obtain everywhere. The standard of hygiene is surprisingly high along the entire route.

Are credit cards acceptable?

Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the journey and ATMs are available along the entire route. However it is not recommended to rely on these as your main source of funds.

Are there internet facilities en route?

Most of the hotels we use have internet facilities. There are also many internet cafes in the near vicinity of the hotels offering cheaper access.

Do mobile telephones work?

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone mobiles work throughout the entire journey. You will need to ensure you have global roaming. Contact your service provider for further details.

How much should we tip the guides and porters?

There is no need to tip guides or porters as all tips and gratuities are included in the tour cost.