The Heart of India

The Heart of India

Explore the very heart of India on a ‘treat for all senses’ luxury tour, with its fascinating history, distinct cultures and delectable cuisine. Stay at two of Central India’s finest heritage hotels, both royal residences lovingly restored and owned by the scions of two of India’s noblest royal families.

Geographically located at the very centre of India, the city of Bhopal is an undiscovered gem, full of aristocratic imprints of its former rulers. The Great Stupa at Sanchi, one of the best-preserved ancient Buddhist sites in the world and Bhimbetka’s prehistoric rock paintings from the Early Stone Age are both World Heritage Sites.

Visit Ujjain, one of Hinduism’s seven holy cities and host to the magnificent Kumbh Mela every 12 years, a perfect place to soak in the sights and sounds of riverside temple ceremonies.

Explore the vibrant history of Indore, forever associated with the Holkar dynasty whose current ruler, Prince Richard Holkar plays host to us at Maheshwar’s Ahilya Fort heritage hotel where an enchanting sunset boat ride on the sacred Narmada River will surely be an everlasting memory.

Let your imagination be captured by the love legends and architectural gems of the impossibly romantic World Heritage Site of Mandu.

This is a great itinerary if you wish to delve into the rich cultures, traditions and history of a region which is often underexplored and firmly off-the-beaten track.

12 DAYS
FROM £2795
Idea
Themes:
Activity Levels
Leisurely Active
WHAT'S INCLUDED
  • Activities and excursions as specified
  • Entrance fees/tickets for the above
  • In-destination transfers & transport
  • Accommodation & Meals as specified
  • English speaking guides
  • 24/7 support while you travel

Explore this itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Bhopal

Arrive in Bhopal through a connecting flight from Delhi, Mumbai of the Midde-East. On arrival, you’ll be met at the airport and check into the Jehan Numa Palace Hotel, Bhopal’s best address and the erstwhile home of Bhopal’s last ruling family for 5 nights.

The Nawab Begums of Bhopal who ruled between 1819 and 1926, each succeeded by her daughter, were dynamic and charismatic women. Their personalities, vision, preferences, beliefs and action highlighted, and in some ways redefined Bhopal’s tradition with its combined Muslim and Maratha heritage. A cosmopolitan culture took root under the peaceful rule of the Begums.

This is a history that talks to you as you walk around the Jehan Numa Palace Hotel, enjoying the afternoon at your leisure.

None
Day 2: Bhopal

Explore the historic walled city of Bhopal, with its numerous grand monuments, vibrant markets and its many mosques, the grandest of which is the Taj-ul-Masajid. The two lakes at the heart of the city give it a unique ambiance during early mornings and dusk.

Enjoy Bhopal’s cuisine’s delicate flavours, evoking the times of the Nawab Begums.

Breakfast
Day 3: The Great Stupa at Sanchi

A pleasant day trip from Bhopal takes in the World Heritage site of the Great Stupa at Sanchi, one of the best-preserved and most visited Buddhist sites in the Indian sub-continent. The museums at Sanchi and nearby Vidisha are a great optional visit if you are keen on the rich sculptural art from the 2nd-5th century AD found at Sanchi and the numerous smaller Buddhist monuments that dot this landscape.

Nearby, Udaigiri Caves have a remarkable collection of religious iconography rock sculptures from 4th-5th centuries AD. The most impressive is of Vishnu in his incarnation as a boar raising the earth goddess Prithvi from the oceans. The enormous artwork is 14 metres wide and 7 metres high and has dozens of worshippers carved on either side.

The wealthy town of Vidisha is now home to the remains of an impressive 11th century temple, Bija Mandal. Once enormous, today just the base of the much larger structure remains, full of columns and ornately-carved statues. In the 17th century, the temple was converted into a mosque using much of the original stonework.

Before returning to our Palace Hotel, we also visit the 2nd century Heliodoros Pillar named after Heliodorus, who was an ambassador of the Indo-Greek king Antialcidas from Taxila to the local Indian king. It carries Brahmi script inscriptions including a verse of the Mahabharata.

Breakfast
Day 4: Bhimbetka & Bhojpur

A short drive to Bhimbetka – India’s richest collection of prehistoric rock paintings, discovered in 1957. Over 600 rock shelters (the largest group in the world) harbour paintings dating back to Early Stone Age, depicting hunting, dancing, music, domestic and religious scenes.

En-route back to Bhopal, stop and marvel at the magnificent 11th century Shiva temple at Bhojpur, never completed, yet majestic in its scale and grand architectural plan.

Breakfast
Day 5: Islamnagar

Today, visit the palaces of Bhopal’s Afghan rulers in Islamnagar, a synthesis of Hindu and Islamic decorative art, surrounded by formal Mughal gardens.

Enjoy the last evening in this royal city by relaxing in the royal charms of your hotel, and availing of its fine dining and other amenities.

Breakfast
Day 6: Bhopal-Ujjain-Indore

After a leisurely breakfast, check out of your hotel and drive (3.5hrs) to the holy city of Ujjain.

In its heyday, Ujjain was on a flourishing trade route with Egypt, but today, it’s mainly a pilgrimage centre as one of the seven holy cities of Hinduism. The temples lining up the sacred river Shipra are great place to witness religious rituals and the praying devotees.

Later, drive onwards to Indore (1.5hrs), the city of the Holkars to check into your hotel.

Breakfast
Day 7: Indore

Explore the city monuments on a guided city tour.

The Lal Bagh Palace was built in the late 19th century by the Holkars, and is now a museum housing a collection of artifacts and paintings within its array of regal rooms. The paintings on the ceilings depict scenes from Indian mythology.

The Rajwada is another of the Holkar’s royal palaces. The seven storied structure is a fine example of their grandeur and architectural skills.

Later, visit the Sarafa Bazaar, a jewellery market by day that converts to a street food court at night.

Breakfast
Day 8: Mandu-Maheshwar

After breakfast, drive to the romantic World Heritage Site of Mandu to explore the enchanting collection of palaces, baths, pavilions and ornamental canals dating from the 13th century with your guide.

After spending the day exploring Mandu, drive onwards (1 hr) to check into the fabulous Ahilya Fort heritage hotel for three nights. The hotel is owned and managed by Richard Holkar, the scion of the Holkar dynasty.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9-11: Maheshwar

The majestic 250-year-old Ahilya Fort sits on the edge of a cliff, high above the mighty and sacred Narmada River, surrounded by the fascinating, unexploited town of Maheshwar.

The views from the hotel over the river and ghats are exceptional. Replete with history and intrigue, myth and legend, Ahilya Fort is a rare treat to relax and enjoy the gardens, courtyards, pool and the refined hospitality.

Enjoy strolling down through the town to the holy ghats. Walk along the riverbank pulsating with colourful life, a veritable gift to photographers. Visit the organic farm and participate or witness several small religious ceremonies and rituals that have been held in the Fort for centuries.

Visit the renowned workshops of the Rehwa Society, whose lady handloom weavers produce some of the finest Maheshwari silk and the nearby Ahilya School, which was started for the weavers’ children.

Take a boat ride across the Narmada River to visit a sleepy village, where life is in contrast to bustling Maheshwar town to enjoy a pleasant 45-minute walk through the village and its fields.

Embark on a moonlight river promenade boat trip on the Narmada, and soak in the magical experience of being rowed past temples and offered refreshing drinks. Watch the reflections become moon-shadows on the river as the moon emerges – an extraordinary experience.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 12: Maheshwar-Bhopal

After breakfast, it is time to say goodbye to Maheshwar and take a long drive (5.5 hrs) to Bhopal Airport to catch your return connections.

If your flights are during the day, an extra night near Bhopal Airport can be easily added to this itinerary.

Breakfast
Day 1: Arrival in Bhopal

Arrive in Bhopal through a connecting flight from Delhi, Mumbai of the Midde-East. On arrival, you’ll be met at the airport and check into the Jehan Numa Palace Hotel, Bhopal’s best address and the erstwhile home of Bhopal’s last ruling family for 5 nights.

The Nawab Begums of Bhopal who ruled between 1819 and 1926, each succeeded by her daughter, were dynamic and charismatic women. Their personalities, vision, preferences, beliefs and action highlighted, and in some ways redefined Bhopal’s tradition with its combined Muslim and Maratha heritage. A cosmopolitan culture took root under the peaceful rule of the Begums.

This is a history that talks to you as you walk around the Jehan Numa Palace Hotel, enjoying the afternoon at your leisure.

None
Day 2: Bhopal

Explore the historic walled city of Bhopal, with its numerous grand monuments, vibrant markets and its many mosques, the grandest of which is the Taj-ul-Masajid. The two lakes at the heart of the city give it a unique ambiance during early mornings and dusk.

Enjoy Bhopal’s cuisine’s delicate flavours, evoking the times of the Nawab Begums.

Breakfast
Day 3: The Great Stupa at Sanchi

A pleasant day trip from Bhopal takes in the World Heritage site of the Great Stupa at Sanchi, one of the best-preserved and most visited Buddhist sites in the Indian sub-continent. The museums at Sanchi and nearby Vidisha are a great optional visit if you are keen on the rich sculptural art from the 2nd-5th century AD found at Sanchi and the numerous smaller Buddhist monuments that dot this landscape.

Nearby, Udaigiri Caves have a remarkable collection of religious iconography rock sculptures from 4th-5th centuries AD. The most impressive is of Vishnu in his incarnation as a boar raising the earth goddess Prithvi from the oceans. The enormous artwork is 14 metres wide and 7 metres high and has dozens of worshippers carved on either side.

The wealthy town of Vidisha is now home to the remains of an impressive 11th century temple, Bija Mandal. Once enormous, today just the base of the much larger structure remains, full of columns and ornately-carved statues. In the 17th century, the temple was converted into a mosque using much of the original stonework.

Before returning to our Palace Hotel, we also visit the 2nd century Heliodoros Pillar named after Heliodorus, who was an ambassador of the Indo-Greek king Antialcidas from Taxila to the local Indian king. It carries Brahmi script inscriptions including a verse of the Mahabharata.

Breakfast
Day 4: Bhimbetka & Bhojpur

A short drive to Bhimbetka – India’s richest collection of prehistoric rock paintings, discovered in 1957. Over 600 rock shelters (the largest group in the world) harbour paintings dating back to Early Stone Age, depicting hunting, dancing, music, domestic and religious scenes.

En-route back to Bhopal, stop and marvel at the magnificent 11th century Shiva temple at Bhojpur, never completed, yet majestic in its scale and grand architectural plan.

Breakfast
Day 5: Islamnagar

Today, visit the palaces of Bhopal’s Afghan rulers in Islamnagar, a synthesis of Hindu and Islamic decorative art, surrounded by formal Mughal gardens.

Enjoy the last evening in this royal city by relaxing in the royal charms of your hotel, and availing of its fine dining and other amenities.

Breakfast
Day 6: Bhopal-Ujjain-Indore

After a leisurely breakfast, check out of your hotel and drive (3.5hrs) to the holy city of Ujjain.

In its heyday, Ujjain was on a flourishing trade route with Egypt, but today, it’s mainly a pilgrimage centre as one of the seven holy cities of Hinduism. The temples lining up the sacred river Shipra are great place to witness religious rituals and the praying devotees.

Later, drive onwards to Indore (1.5hrs), the city of the Holkars to check into your hotel.

Breakfast
Day 7: Indore

Explore the city monuments on a guided city tour.

The Lal Bagh Palace was built in the late 19th century by the Holkars, and is now a museum housing a collection of artifacts and paintings within its array of regal rooms. The paintings on the ceilings depict scenes from Indian mythology.

The Rajwada is another of the Holkar’s royal palaces. The seven storied structure is a fine example of their grandeur and architectural skills.

Later, visit the Sarafa Bazaar, a jewellery market by day that converts to a street food court at night.

Breakfast
Day 8: Mandu-Maheshwar

After breakfast, drive to the romantic World Heritage Site of Mandu to explore the enchanting collection of palaces, baths, pavilions and ornamental canals dating from the 13th century with your guide.

After spending the day exploring Mandu, drive onwards (1 hr) to check into the fabulous Ahilya Fort heritage hotel for three nights. The hotel is owned and managed by Richard Holkar, the scion of the Holkar dynasty.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9-11: Maheshwar

The majestic 250-year-old Ahilya Fort sits on the edge of a cliff, high above the mighty and sacred Narmada River, surrounded by the fascinating, unexploited town of Maheshwar.

The views from the hotel over the river and ghats are exceptional. Replete with history and intrigue, myth and legend, Ahilya Fort is a rare treat to relax and enjoy the gardens, courtyards, pool and the refined hospitality.

Enjoy strolling down through the town to the holy ghats. Walk along the riverbank pulsating with colourful life, a veritable gift to photographers. Visit the organic farm and participate or witness several small religious ceremonies and rituals that have been held in the Fort for centuries.

Visit the renowned workshops of the Rehwa Society, whose lady handloom weavers produce some of the finest Maheshwari silk and the nearby Ahilya School, which was started for the weavers’ children.

Take a boat ride across the Narmada River to visit a sleepy village, where life is in contrast to bustling Maheshwar town to enjoy a pleasant 45-minute walk through the village and its fields.

Embark on a moonlight river promenade boat trip on the Narmada, and soak in the magical experience of being rowed past temples and offered refreshing drinks. Watch the reflections become moon-shadows on the river as the moon emerges – an extraordinary experience.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 12: Maheshwar-Bhopal

After breakfast, it is time to say goodbye to Maheshwar and take a long drive (5.5 hrs) to Bhopal Airport to catch your return connections.

If your flights are during the day, an extra night near Bhopal Airport can be easily added to this itinerary.

Breakfast

Interested in this itinerary? It's great as is, but we'll be happy to tailor it for you.

Our prices do not include international flights unless explicitly stated.

The price shown is per person, based on two people travelling and sharing a room, outside peak periods. Prices may vary depending on the time of travel, and single supplements may apply.

Our Accommodation Ratings

Opulent: Exceptional, unashamedly the best of sheer luxury. (£££££)

Luxury: Outstanding levels of 5* comfort, hospitality and facilities. (££££)

Premium: Excellent levels of comfort and hospitality and a wide range of facilities. (£££)

Mid-Range: Good levels of comfort and hospitality, with a reasonable range of facilities. (££)

Simple: Clean and simple, no frills. Often in areas of natural beauty or near wildlife reserves. (£)