January 28 - February 9, 2019
About This Tour
India is an explosion of colors, music, traditional garb, aromatic spices, bustling markets, and the beautiful sounds of reverential chants. As the seventh largest country in the world and the second most-populous, India home to many different cultures and religions. Incorporating the festivals of these various cultures into our tours provides the most memorable experiences for our guests.
One such celebration is the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage in which devotees - young and old, fit and frail - gather to purge their sins by taking a ritual dip in a sacred river. It takes place only once every six years, when Jupiter, the Sun and Moon are particularly aligned! Among the revelers are Naga Sadhus (who never wear any clothes), Urdhwavahurs (who deny all physical pleasures), the silent Parivajakas, and the Shirshasins (who stand for 24 hours non-stop to meditate). This festival is so unique that UNESCO has listed it as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In addition to the Kumbh Mela, this tour will take you to many of the spiritual attractions of northern India, including Bodhgaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment, the sacred city of Varanasi, and the divine Taj Mahal.
Toto Tours has organized countless tours to different regions in India, and when you travel with us you can be sure that you will experience the best of Indian heritage and culture. We now invite you to experience a spiritual adventure in India like no other!
- New Delhi
- Old Delhi
- Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi *
- Qutub Minar, world’s tallest brick minaret *
- Delhi’s Red Fort *
- Sacred City of Varanasi
- Allahabad, one of India’s oldest cities
- Kumbh Mela Festival *
- Lucknow, Capital of Uttar Pradesh
- Taj Mahal *
- Agra Fort * Jaipur Extension
- Fatehpur Sikri, ghost city *
- Amber Fort *
- Jantar Mantar, stone observatory * * UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Arrive in Delhi
Arrange your international flights to arrive today in Delhi. Tour services begin with overnight accommodations tonight, and your room will be available for you at 3pm today. If you arrive in the early morning hours today, you will need to reserve your room for January 27 to have immediate occupancy when you arrive at the hotel. Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport has the three-letter code: DEL. Use this code when researching flights from your home city. International flights typically arrive in India late at night.
Delhi is the capital, and third largest city of India. Old Delhi was the capital of India during Muslim rule from the 12th to the 19th century. New Delhi was established in 1911 by King George V who wanted a new capital for the Indian Empire. The twin cities of Delhi are a kaleidoscope that promises everything for a tourist - historic sites, divine retreats, heritage, tourism, museums, gardens, galleries, film festivals, great shopping and more. Touring does not commence until tomorrow. You will be personally greeted at the International Airport upon arrival, presented with a fresh flower garland, and transferred to our hotel to enjoy some restful sleep after the long flights. Our time in Delhi is short, so we encourage you to consider arriving a day or two early to make the most of your visit to this city. (Meals aloft).
Tour Old Delhi / Hindu Cultural Sites
This morning’s tour starts inside the walled city of Old Delhi. Here lies the great Jama Masjid--the principal mosque of Old Delhi. The courtyard of the mosque can hold up to twenty-five thousand worshippers. From here we take an exciting rickshaw ride through Chandi Chowk, the old marketplace of Shah Jahanabad, now a colorful bazaar. At one end of the bazaar stands the Red Fort. After lunch, we drive to the enormous Akshardham Temple Complex (100 acres in size) that depicts Hindu mythology and Indian culture. The temple has 234 ornate pillars, 20,000 statues and many arches. This evening, Toto Tours hosts a Welcome Dinner at Chore Bizarre Restaurant.(All Meals)
After a leisurely morning, we check out of our hotel and drive to the airport for our noon flight to Bodhgaya (listed as Gaya on most maps), in the state of Bihar. Bodhgaya is one of the most important and sacred Buddhist pilgrimage centers in the world. It was here under a banyan tree, the Bodhi Tree, that Gautama attained supreme knowledge to become Buddha, the Enlightened One. On arrival, we transfer to hotel for check-in and some free time for lunch on your own. In the afternoon, we visit Sujata Village, the Niranjana River, and the magnificent Mahabodhi temple, which is an architectural amalgamation of many centuries, cultures and heritages. (Breakfast / Dinner)
Today enjoy a full day sightseeing of Bodhgaya. We will see the Bodhi Tree, Animeshlocan Chaiyata Temple Complex, Dhungeshori & Archaeological Museum of Bodhgaya, Bodhi Sarovar (pond), Vishnupada Temple, Japanese Buddha Temple, Thai temple and many more. The 25m-high Great Buddha Statue towers above a pleasant garden at the end of Temple Complex, surrounded by 10 smaller sculptures of Buddha’s disciples. The statue is partially hollow and is said to contain some 20,000 bronze Buddhas. (Breakfast / Dinner)
After breakfast we drive to Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh. On arrival, transfer to hotel for check in and lunch on your own. In the afternoon, we take a rickshaw ride to the Old City where you can have a bit of time to stroll the wonderful Old City on the Ganges. You can walk the narrow, cobbled alleyways, browse the bazaars and people-watch as locals prepare for the evening activities. Just before sunset, we board a private country boat to witness aarti (fire) ceremony performed by Hindu priests on the banks of the River Ganges. We return to our hotel for dinner and an overnight stay. (Breakfast / Dinner)
We have a very early wake-up this morning to enjoy a very moving sunrise boat ride on the Ganges to witness the sunrise religious ceremonies of Hindus. Afterwards, enjoy a brief walking tour of temples and ghats before returning to the hotel for breakfast and some time to rest from the early wake-up call. In the late morning (around 11 am), we visit Benaras Hindu University to see the arts and architecture museum Bharat Kala Bhavan, which houses a vast collection of paintings, Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and other materials of archeological importance.
After a lunch break, our afternoon tour takes us to the town of Sarnath to see the archaeological park where, in 500 BC, Lord Buddha preached his first sermon after his enlightenment. Next, we continue to Mulgandha Kuti Vihar Temple, a major place of worship for the Buddhist community of the world, with excellent frescoes. At 6:00 pm, local Buddhists chant the words to Buddha's first sermon. We will have dinner before returning to our hotel. (Breakfast / Dinner)
Chunar Fort / Allahabad
This morning we drive to Chunar Fort, an ancient edifice which has seen more than 1,500 years of history. After touring the Fort, we continue to Allahabad to see the Triveni Sangam confluence of three rivers--the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati Rivers. Allahabad is an important pilgrimage center for Hindus, and one of four venues of the Kumbh Mela. Note: Due to the sacred nature of this festival, all meals during our stay in Allahabad will be strictly vegetarian. Alcohol is also prohibited – there will be none available for sale anywhere in the city, but guests can bring some in their luggage for private, discrete consumption. Upon arrival we check into our tented Camp, where we will have dinner and the first of our three overnight stays. (All Meals)
Kumbh Mela - Mauni Amavasya (main bathing date)
Today is entirely free to enjoy the festival atmosphere of the Kumbh Mela. It is believed that the water of the most sacred and holy river in the Hinduism, The Ganga, turns into nectar on Mauni Amavasya day. Due to this belief Mauni Amavasya day is the most important day in Hindu Calendar to take holy dip in the Ganges. (All Meals at Camp)
Allahabad – Kumbh Mela
Breakfast at the camp. We will observe and participate in Kumbha Mela festivities again today, and those who wish can take a dip at the confluence of the three rivers. There are many options for exploration, such as Hanuman Temple, Akshya Vat, Allahabad Fort and other places. We can also visit different camps of worshippers to interact with the people. (All Meals at Camp)
Transfer to Lucknow
After breakfast drive to Lucknow, the Capital city of Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow is one of the most pristine and multicultural tourist destinations of India. The city primarily flourished during the 18th and the 19th centuries as an artistic and cultural center of India. Lucknow is known for its Nawabi heritage and architectural brilliance, as well as a total foodie’s paradise. Upon arrival, we check in to our hotel, with free time for lunch on your own and some rest. In the afternoon we visit Ambedkar Park, spread across an area of 107 acres of land and built in red sandstone. The well-maintained lawns, various columns and a canal that surrounds the vicinity make it a must-see local attraction. (Breakfast / Dinner)
Touring in Lucknow
Our full day of sightseeing takes us to many local attractions. The splendid architectural intricacies of Bara Imambara date back to the famine of 1784. The Shah Najaf Imambara is a white domed structure housing the silver and gold-plated tombs of a Nawab ruler and his family. The Jama Masjid is a grand mosque built in typical Mughal style with tall minarets and onion-shaped domes. Chota Imambara is magnificently adorned with chandeliers, gilt-edged mirrors, colorful stucco, and a brilliant throne. We will also see the British Residency, ornamental gateway Rumi Darwaza, and Ambedkar Park. (Breakfast / Dinner)
After breakfast depart Lucknow for Agra. Upon arrival, we check in to our hotel, with free time to freshen up and eat lunch (on our own) before sightseeing. In the afternoon, we visit the massive, red sandstone Agra Fort, built principally as a military establishment in 1565 and later converted into a palace. We also visit a center for demonstrating the exquisite art of setting semiprecious stones in marble known as "Parchin kari". In the evening we will go to Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden) for a beautiful romantic view of the Taj Mahal at sunset. Today our Farewell Dinner is at Pinch of Spice. (Breakfast / Farewell Dinner)
Taj Mahal / Delhi / Departure
Very early this morning, we make a sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal. We drive to a point where we must leave our vehicle and continue to the entrance by horse-drawn carriage. After our magical visit, we return to the hotel for breakfast and later depart for Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi, we will stop at Dilli Haat, a contemporary re-creation of a traditional outdoor market with a delightful mix of crafts from all over India, cultural activities, and food (where you can buy lunch). It is a perfect place for last-minute souvenir shopping. We will have day rooms at the Novotel near the airport for wash/change till 9:00 pm. Most international flights depart in the late evening or very early morning. After a brief rest and preparations for our homeward journey, we check out and transfer to the airport for our international flights. Let us know if you wish to extend your stay in Delhi. (Breakfast)
OPTIONAL JAIPUR EXTENSION
Taj Mahal / Fatehpur Sikri / Jaipur
After our sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal and a return to our hotel for breakfast, we say goodbye to our fellow travelers who head home today. As they depart for the Delhi Airport, those guests who are participating in this Jaipur Extension will drive about 40 miles to Fatehpur Sikri. It is one of the world's most perfect ghost cities and a fine example of Mughal architectural splendor at its height, built during the second half of the 16th century. The complex of monuments and temples is over 400 years old, but its pristine red sandstone buildings are as perfect today as when they were first chiseled. Afterwards, we continue driving to Jaipur, where we check into our hotel upon arrival. The rest of the day is free for independent activities. (Breakfast)
Enjoy a very full and festive day of sightseeing. At the Amber Fort, we experience the thrill of riding on an elephant up to the main entrance. Amber is a classic, romantic Rajasthani Fort Palace, with a rustic exterior and a lavish interior. Miniatures painted on the walls depict hunting and war scenes as well as festivals. Precious stones and mirrors are embedded into the plaster. Inside the Fort visit the Jag Mandir or the Hall of Victory.
Later we tour the city of Jaipur, visiting the Maharaja’s City Palace, which has been converted in part into a museum. Visit the Jantar Mantar, which is the largest stone and marble crafted observatory in the world, built by Jai Singh from 1728 to 1734. We finish our tour with a stop at Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds, a honeycomb palace with 953 latticed windows overlooking the bazaar and busy streets of Jaipur. This evening, attend a puja (prayer ritual) at the Ganesh Temple, one of the oldest in Jaipur. (Breakfast)
Return to Delhi
After a leisurely breakfast we begin the drive back to Delhi, arriving in mid-afternoon. Transfer to the Novotel near the airport for wash/change until 9:00 pm (no overnight). Most international flights depart in the late evening or very early morning. After a brief rest and preparations for our homeward journey, we check out and transfer to the airport for our international flights. Let us know if you wish to extend your stay in Delhi. (Breakfast)
Entry Requirements - All U.S. citizens need a valid passport and valid Indian visa to enter and exit India for any purpose. Most visitors, including those on official U.S. government business, must apply for visas at an Indian embassy or consulate abroad before entering the country. U.S. citizens seeking to enter India solely for tourist purposes, and who plan to stay no longer than 30 days, may apply for an electronic travel authorization at least four days prior to their arrival in lieu of applying for a tourist visa at an Indian embassy or consulate. Please visit the Indian government's website for electronic travel authorization for additional information regarding the eligibilities and requirements for this type of visa.Immunizations and Health - No immunizations are required, but the U.S. Center for Disease Control strongly recommends the following inoculations: tetanus, hepatitis A & B, typhoid, and Japanese encephalitis. Please check out their website at: http://www.cdc.gov/travel/indianrg.htm for complete details. You should only drink boiled or bottled water in India. Avoid cut salads, raw vegetables and fruits without skin everywhere except in hotel restaurants.
Exit Requirements - No airport tax is currently charged upon departure from India, nor is one anticipated. However, any such taxes or fees instituted after publication of this itinerary will be the responsibility of the clients to pay directly to the appropriate airport authorities.
Making Travel Arrangements to IndiaOn this tour, international airfare is NOT included. You will need to purchase international air to Bangalore, India (airport code BLR), and return from Mumbai (code BOM). We encourage you to work with Steven Goldberg at Frosch Travel in Chicago, who will work with you to get the best flights from your home city.
One internal flight within India is included in the price of this trip.
You will need to arrive in Bangalore by late night on October 16, 2018 (or even after midnight on October 17). Late night departure is from Mumbai on October 30, 2018 (OR on October 31 if staying for the optional Mumbai extension).
Steven Goldberg / Frosch TravelToll-Free in USA: 1-800-323-1276
International guests, please call +1-312-371-9686 (Steven’s direct line)
When calling, please identify yourself as a Toto Tours participant. If you leave a message on Steven’s voice mail, he will return your call promptly. He will be happy to discuss your travel plans and help you decide when to purchase your ticket for the best rate. He can even get you discounted prices for Business Class travel.
NOTE: The recent trend in travel is for travelers to finalize their plans much closer to departure time than was customary in the past. While we try to be as flexible as possible we often must turn away last-minute registrants because we relinquish hotel space and air reservations 8 – 12 weeks prior to departure! Please keep this in mind when making your travel plans.
For passport / visa assistance, call Marc Gilland / Passport & Visa AdvisorsDirect: 704-246-6373
Toll-Free in USA: 1-844-318-1765
Please contact Marc via email, phone or Skype. When calling, please identify yourself as a Toto Tours participant. Marc and his direct staff have worked with Toto Tours for years and we recommend his services for our client’s passport and visa needs. Marc is readily available and typically will respond to emails promptly, after hours as well.
PassportsA valid passport is mandatory for international travel from the USA. Before booking travel please review your passport for the following required criteria:
- It’s valid for six months or longer after returning home
- Must be signed
- Has several blank pages in the passport (not including the last three pages of the book)
- Passport is in your current name
- Must be in reasonable good shape without torn pages, chewed cover or other mutilations. General wear and tear is acceptable
Passports that don’t meet these criteria will need to be renewed prior to travel. If you have questions regarding your passport, either contact the National Passport Processing Center at 1-877-487-2778 or call our preferred passport and visa partner, Marc Gilland, at Passport & Visa Advisors. PVA can process passports as quickly as needed, usually between one day and several weeks depending on the traveler’s requirements.
VisasA visa is required for travel to India and the Toto Tours participant must apply before departure for our trip. The two visa options applicable for this trip are an Indian e-visa and a tourist visa. Both can be applied for on your own or via PVA services.
E-visa - valid for 120 days, double entry for stays up to 60 days. Lead time is 3-5 business days. The e-visa application can be completed and paid or online. Costs for the e-visa are between $75-$80 and payment made directly through India channels. PVA charges and a’s process the application for an additional fee and will pay the visa fee using their credit card and charge you for the visa and PVA fees at one time.
Tourist visa - valid for up to 10 years, multiple-entry for stays up to six months. Lead times are between 10-15 business days after the submission. The traveler must complete an application form online, print/sign and send passport, application, money and supporting documents for submission to the Indian consulate that serves the traveler’s state. If you think you will want to return to India in the future (and Toto Tours offers many amazing tours in different parts of India), you should definitely apply for the 10-year visa PVA offers the service of filling out your forms for you if requested.
WHAT TO BRINGFrom late January to early February, the weather in India (in the locations we visit) will be very cool at night and very warm during the day. Delhi will be coolest, between 50 to 70 degrees, with all other locations getting almost 10 degrees warmer during the day. Laundry can be done at most of the places where we stay for two or more nights. You will be happier if you pack half of the clothes you think you need, do laundry along the way, and save room in your suitcases for fantastic purchases!
Suggested Packing List:
- Proof of citizenship. Passport and visa required.
- Comfy walking shoes for day tours.
- Polo shirts / T-shirts (5 - 6).
- Lightweight, long sleeve shirts (2 - 3) for cool evenings.
- Shorts – 2 or 3 pairs.
- Jacket, scarf, hat, gloves.
- Lightweight long pants.
- Sunscreen / lip balm.
- Sunglasses / sun hat with tie-on.
- Personal toiletries (Bring an anti-diarrheal remedy just in case!)
- Mosquito repellent, with Deet.
- Camera, lots of digital memory, extra batteries.
- Ziploc Bags (sandwich size for documents, gallon size for wet items or toiletries).
- Electrical Adapter. The electricity supply in India is 220 Volts.
- A good book for the long flights.
Money MattersThe currency unit in India is the Rupee (INR). As of March 20, 2018, the interbank exchange rate was 64.80 INR to the U.S. $1.00. ATMs are readily available in the major cities, and offer the best exchange rate for obtaining local currency. Credit cards are also widely accepted in establishments catering to tourists.
Tipping Guidelines—Virtually everyone in India expects to receive a tip. In tourist restaurants or hotels a 10% service charge is often added to bills. We will make collective tips to our drivers and guides, and a suggested tip amount will be provided prior to departure.
The Toto SpiritToto Tours provides Adventure Travel Experiences as differentiated from tours in the traditional sense. Adventure Travel allows (even encourages) you to be an active participant. Adventurers can be identified by certain traits. They are:
- fun-loving optimists who have a sense of humor and accentuate the positive;
- good natured realists who are willing to accept situations as they exist;
- undaunted by the unexpected, like occasional delays or bad weather;
- willing to forego some of the amenities we normally take for granted;
- eager to try new things & test limits;
- not whiners!
Travel InsuranceWe recommend you purchase travel insurance with Travel Guard to cover for unforeseen events prior to and during your trip. Please follow the link below or call us for more information.
Tour prices per personPrice: $3,900 in double occupancy hotel accommodations. Add $500 for Jaipur Extension.
Private Room: $1,300 additional, for a total tour price of $5,200. Add $700 for Jaipur Extension (Paying a single supplement is not required. Toto Tours will try to match you with a roommate if you are traveling alone and prefer to share a room. If this is not possible, a single supplement will be applied to your reservation before the final payment date.)
Deposit: $600. (Due at time of registration for the tour. May be paid with a credit card.)
Remaining Balance (main tour only): $3,300 double / $4,600 single
Remaining Balance (w/Jaipur): $3,800 double / $5,300 single
Remaining Balance Due: November 8, 2018 (80 days prior to departure) (Full payment required with reservation form if enrolling after this date.)
Included: Airport transfers at the beginning and end of the tour; 12 nights hotel accommodations; hotel breakfasts daily plus Welcome & Farewell Dinners and other meals as specified in the itinerary; day room use for late departure from Delhi; ground transportation in air conditioned motorcoach; internal flight within India (Delhi to Bodhgaya); sightseeing activities and entrances as listed in the itinerary; 2 bottles of mineral water per day during drives; porterage at hotels, railway stations and airports; festivals and cultural performances as indicated; fully guided and escorted tour.
Not Included: Round trip airfare to Delhi, India (DEL); visa fees; airport taxes and departure fees; ground transportation for sightseeing on your own (taxis, local guides, etc.); meals and optional activities not specifically listed in the itinerary; camera fees; bottled water beyond two bottles included daily; alcoholic beverages; insurance; laundry; telephone calls; faxes; or any other expenses of a personal nature. Tips to drivers and guides and other conveyance attendants are not included; tipping guidelines for our group tips will be provided prior to departure.
Click hotel name to read description
- Delhi (2 nights): Hotel Lalit
- Bodhgaya (2 nights): Oaks Bodhgaya
- Varanasi (2 nights): The Gateway
- Allahabad (3 nights): Royal Heritage Camp
- Lucknow (2 nights): Vivanti by Taj
- Agra (1 night): Jaypee Palace
- Delhi (day room): Novotel
ACCOMMODATIONS – JAIPUR EXTENSION:
Click hotel name to read description