Tiger Safari, Pushkar and the Taj Mahal
15 days; 14 nights; 7 days riding.
This ride begins in Delhi and moves swiftly on to the Tiger Safari. Then a total change of place and pace as you explore one of the greatest animal events in the world, Pushkar Camel Fair. In the autumn each year the lakeside town of Pushkar changes character: gone is the peaceful, sleepy market town and welcome to thousands of colourful Rajasthanis who come to trade horses, camels and everything else that walks on four legs. But this is more than just a massive livestock market: the lake in the centre of town was created when the god Brahma cast down a lotus flower, making Pushkar an important Hindu pilgrimage site. The races that take place around the margins of the fair are spectacles of derring-do and horsemanship, and the dust, sounds, colourful clothes and brouhaha of the assembled masses combine to make a unique event on an epic scale.
The riding holiday in India is rounded off with a visit to the Taj Mahal.
[The date changes annually in accordance with the Hindu lunar calendar. See right hand margin for current details.]
The Itinerary for 2019
Pushkar Fair Ride, Tiger Safari & the Taj Mahal
Oct 31: Arrive Delhi
We will meet you upon arrival in Delhi and drive you to your hotel.
Nov 1: Full day Sightseeing of Delhi
Today we’ll explore some of the capital’s finest places.
Delhi: The old city, built by Shah Jehan in the 17th century, is a lovely example of Indo-Islamic architecture. New Delhi, designed and constructed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, is a mixture of east meets west: Moghul and Western styles. It has a circular Parliament House and an imposing Central Secretariat of two blocks which stand at the approaches to Rashtrapati Bhawan, the residence of the President of India. Delhi is today the political, economic and cultural capital of the World’s largest democracy.
New Delhi: Visit Humayun’s Tomb which is a predecessor of the Taj Mahal. Drive past Safdarjung’s Tomb and the 72 m high Qutab Minar. Nearby, amidst the ruins of the Quwut – ul – Islam Mosque stands the Iron pillar which has survived the vagaries of the weather and not rusted for 1,500 years. Drive on to the embassy area, the government buildings and the Birla temple. Drive past Jantar- Mantar astronomical observatory and through Connaught Place, New Delhi’s main shopping centre.
Overnight in Delhi hotel.
Nov 2: Train to Ranthambore Tiger Sanctuary
The train departs from Delhi station at 08:00. Railways in India are an amazing experience. The stations are unbelievably busy and teeming with people. At first sight you think “Chaos!!” but it’s not. India Railways is the world’s biggest employer and the trains run, well, like clockwork. Your personal guide plus porters will shepherd you through the busy platforms to your confirmed seat, where calm is restored!
The 5 ½ hr journey takes you to Sawaimadhopur, which is very close to Ranthambore. A car and driver will meet you at this much calmer station and drive you the short distance to the tiger lodge (15 mins). Lunch in the lodge.
In the afternoon join a tiger safari in the Ranthambore National Park
Return to Tiger Den Resort just after sunset for dinner and overnight.
Ranthambore National Park: nestles between the Aravali Hills and the Vindhya Range in southeast Rajasthan. This is India’s most successful conservation project. The Park’s history goes back to the days of the Maharajas when Ranthambore used to be a private hunting ground. It consists of about 400 Km² of rocky plains, flat hill tops, gentle slopes and precipitous cliffs covered by dry deciduous forests. Artificial lakes have been dug to ensure continuous water and there is an 11th C. fort in the middle of the park which adds a “jungle Book” atmosphere.
Besides the tiger, Ranthambore is a home to an impressive variety of other wildlife such as sambhar and the cheetal deer, leopard, sloth bear, chinkara gazelle, wild boar, Indian porcupine, jackal, hyena, marsh crocodile, the elusive caracal and about 300 species of birds.
O/N Tiger Den Resort, Ranthambore
Nov 3: Morning Tiger Safari. Pushkar
Join your second tiger safari which sets off before breakfast, at first light. Return to the lodge for brekky and then set off on the road to Pushkar, which is a six hr drive.
Arrive Pushkar and check in the exclusive deluxe tented camp which would be set up specially for this ride.
Pushkar: On the edge of a small and beautiful lake in eastern Rajasthan, lies the small town of Pushkar – a town of 500 temples and 52 bathing ghats. The town prides itself as the only place in the world having a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma, the Hindu God of creation and as such is, believed to be the centre of the creation of the world.
The origin of Pushkar is lost in myth. It is believed that Brahma, the creator, was in search of a place to perform a Vedic yagna (sacrifice). As he pondered, a lotus fell from his hands and water gushed from the spot. Today, the faithful bathe in the holy waters of the Lake Pushkar, on ‘Kartik Poornima’ (the full moon at the end of October or beginning of November). And on its banks, a mammoth 200,000 people and some 50,000 camels, cattle and horses become a part of the annual Pushkar fair.
Over night in tented camp.
Nov 4: Explore Pushkar Fair
This morning you will introduced to your horse and take a trial ride. Once settled, all around the camp there are vast areas where horses can be tried and ridden. Once you have got used to your horse you can ride in to the camel fairground itself and become part of the activity.
Over night in tented camp.
Nov 5: Drive out of Pushkar (approx 6 Km); and ride to Amarpura (21 Kms).
If you thought Delhi central station was busy, the last day of Pushkar Fair is mayhem! To avoid the crowds of traders, we move the horses to a more peaceful spot during the night and drive out to meet them this morning. From the corral we ride along a valley dotted with occasional villages, farmland, sand dunes and a few temples. The ride is very interesting with opportunities of some good canters. Arrive Amarpura and camp a short distance beyond the village boundary.
Overnight in tented camp.
A typical day on safari
To give you an idea of what to expect here is a typical day on the trail…
Wake up early and have a wash in one of the camp’s warm-water shower tents before sitting down to some Indian-style scrambled eggs and Chai (chai = milky, spicy, sweet tea – which is much nicer than it sounds!).
The grooms will tack up your horse and we set off before the sun gets too hot. The morning ride usually lasts between 3 and 4 hours, with a watering stop en route for both horses and riders. It doesn’t take long for the horses to warm up and before you know it, we are cantering along the sandy tracks with the sun on our backs. The hours and miles fly by and in no time at all it’s time for lunch.
Life in the countryside stops when the mercury rises, so we take a long slow lunch in the shade and rest for several hours. Take a nap, play a card game, or simply enjoy some time to relax and read.
In the late afternoon as the sun descends we mount our Marwari horses once again and set off for about a two hour ride. Before long we’ll see the bright colours of the tented camp and a lively canter gets us there in no time.
The camp is no ordinary camp: it’s huge! The individual canvas-walled rooms are large enough to stand up in; they are carpeted and each contains 2 cot-beds; linen, blankets, quilts and pillows are provided. There are between 5 and 7 “rooms” erected around a central fire-pit, where we take sundowners and chat about the day’s action. There’s a communal mess tent for dining and a separate bathroom with hot showers: shower water is heated over a log fire. This creates a totally private camp in the bush. Beyond the camp is a separate kitchen, which you’re welcome to visit. The horses are individually tethered and looked after by the team of grooms.
Nov 6: Ride to Roopangarh (25 Km).
The ride to Roopangarh continues along the valley to a point where it opens out onto beautiful countryside, which is ideal riding country. The land becomes more arid and we ride by several deserted hilltop forts. Today there is an excellent chance of spotting the indigenous Nilgai antelope, which is the largest antelope of India. In the afternoon we approach the magnificent fort of Roopangarh. Arrive Roopangarh and stay overnight.
Roopangarh Fort is one of the oldest forts we visit, built in 1653 AD by Maharajah Roop Singh, the fifth ruler of Kishangarh. It’s just 125 km from Jaipur and became the capital of Kishangarh until the late 1750’s when it was eclipsed by Jaipur. It has invincible ramparts and several underground passages and an abundance of mystery. The fort sits on a mound and was originally made up of nine turreted fortifications. The serpentine entrance guarded against a frontal attack and leads to a splendid medieval hall beyond which is the gallery of very fine miniatures which have acquired worldwide acclaim. Besides paintings, there is a great tradition of music and poetry.
O/N Roopangarh Fort.
Nov 7: Ride to Bakhtawar (28 km).
The trail today is spectacular: the first half is along a beautiful range of the Aravali hills, villages and farmlands and across the salt flats of the Sambhar Lake which is the biggest salt water lake in India. The salt flats are a perfect place to let the horses have their head, and see what the Marwari is capable off. On the 2017 an Plus 2 polo player said “That’s the fastest I’ve been on a horse!” but tire your horse, there’s still a fair way to go. If there’s water in the lake there are good chances that you will get to see the flamingoes and other species. You are also likely to get good sightings of the Nilgai antelope.
Overnight in tented camp.
Nov 8: Ride to Kuchaman (28 km)
The ride to Kauchaman, which is a fairly large town, first takes you close to the hills and then across salt flats of another, smaller salt lake which is usually dry. From a distance you can see forts and temples on the hills: Kuchaman Fort looks very imposing and dominates the area.
Overnight in tented camp.
Nov 9: Ride to Bharija (30 km)
Winding paths skirt around farms and villages, leading steadily eastwards. The view is particularly wonderful if the crops are standing in the fields, swaying in the breeze. The contrast of the greenery, the sandy soil, the Khejri trees and brown hills is like a painter’s palette. Today’s ride is through one of the most spectacular areas of Rajasthan.
Overnight in tented camp.
Nov 10: Ride to Danta (20 Km)
Today’s ride to Danta is a short one but very beautiful as you ride across open country of picturesque villages, farmland and gentle undulating hills. As you get close to Danta, you can see the twin forts in the distance. Danta Kila (kila means fort), built in 1702, is a delightful mix of Mogul and Rajput architecture and is now a heritage hotel.
Overnight Danta Fort
Nov 11: return to Jaipur
After a leisurely breakfast, bid goodbye to your horses and camp staff and drive to Jaipur (2½ hrs). Arrive Jaipur and check at Hotel Alsisar Haveli or similar which isn’t an haveli, so much as a beautifully restored town house (with pool and extension added.) Once everyone has showered and eaten lunch, we’ll set off for a tour of Jaipur, the Pink City.
Jaipur: The rose-pink capital of Rajasthan, is surrounded on all sides by rugged hills crowned with forts. The city was built early in the eighteenth century and the Maharaja’s palace, still occupied, stands in the centre amidst lovely gardens. Houses with latticed windows line the streets, their rose-pink colour lending enchantment to the scene and the homes become almost magical at sunset. Jaipur is aptly called the “Pink City of India”. It takes its name from the famous Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, who founded the city in 1728. A keen astronomer, he built an observatory which still exists and is just as accurate as when it was first built. This observatory, Jantar Mantar, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Jaipur is noted for its craftsmen skilled in the art of cutting precious stones, emeralds, garnets and rubies. It is equally well known for brass inlay and lacquer work.
City sightseeing: some of the highlights are the City Palace which houses a museum containing rare manuscripts, painting and an armoury; the Jantar Mantar observatory which contains a sundial 33m high; the Museum amidst the Ram Niwas Palace Gardens founded in 1876 has a large collection of antiques; the Palace of Winds, a landmark of Jaipur, is made of pink sandstone and is actually no more than a façade.
Nov 12: Explore outside Jaipur
In the morning drive the edge of town and ascend to the hilltop Amber Fort; those who wish can access the fort on elephant-back.
AMBER FORT: is half fort and half palace with a commanding view overlooking the lake and the city of Jaipur. Built in the 17th century, the palace is a distinguished example of Rajput architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Jai Mandir (hall of victory) is so delicately ornamented with fine inlay work that it glows. The adjoining fort of Jaigarh, crowning the summit of a peak, is also an example of amazing beauty and grandeur.
The afternoon is free for leisure to rest or hit the shops for some retail therapy.
Nov 13: drive to Agra (4 hrs) via Fatehpur Sikri
After an early breakfast drive to Agra (about 4 hrs). Midway along the road lies the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and explore. Arrive Agra and transfer to Hotel Jaypee Palace.
In the afternoon visit Agra Fort which is on the riverbank with commanding views back to the Taj Mahal.
AGRA FORT: Agra Fort is one of the most important and robustly built strongholds of the Mughal period. It’s embellished with a number of richly decorated buildings that showcase the Mughal style of art and architecture. It was constructed by the third Mughal emperor, Akbar, on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh between 1565 and 1573. He ordered the renovation to be done in red sandstone and some 4,000 builders worked on it; it was completed in just 8 years.
This powerful fortress is surrounded by a 2.5 Km long and 21.4 m high castellated wall. Double ramparts have been provided with broad massive circular bastions at regular intervals. There are four gates on its four sides; one of the gates was called “Khizri-gate” (the water gate) which opens to the river front, where ghats (quays) were provided. The fort has survived through the onslaught of time, nature and men. Spreading over an area of about 94 acres, it comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jehangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jehan (builder of Taj Mahal ) audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques.
Nov 14: Visit the Taj and return to Delhi
In the morning visit the Taj Mahal.
THE TAJ MAHAL: one of the wonders of the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved consort Mumtaz Mahal. It’s a beautiful mausoleum in pure white marble and an architectural marvel. Built between 1631- ‘48 the monument sums up many of the formal themes that play through Islamic architecture. Its refined elegance is a conspicuous contrast both to the Hindu architecture of pre-Islamic India, with its thick walls, corbelled arches, and heavy lintels, and to the Indo-Islamic styles, in which Hindu elements are combined with an eclectic assortment of motifs from Persian and Turkish sources.
In the afternoon drive to Delhi (4 hrs) and transfer to the international airport in time for flight home, or onward travel, or extra days in Delhi.
Included in the price
Meet and greet at the airport.
Transfer to the stable by road
Trial rides to match horse and rider.
Full board throughout the ride (Indian or continental menu)
Glamping accommodation in luxury camp (cots, bed linen, en suite facilities)
Guide, grooms and all equine requirements.
Saddlebags x 2 each
Back-up 4 x 4.
Bottled drinking water and soft drinks while riding.
Guide and entrance tickets at Nawalgarh.
Entry permit to Pushkar
Transport to Jaipur
City tour and accommodation in Jaipur
Tour of Fatepur Sikri, Agra Fort and Taj Mahal
Return transfer to airport.
Bottled water and soft drinks at Pushkar.