It is now also possible for nationals of a number of countries to apply online for their India visa, in advance of travel using the E-Visa facility. Please check the following website for further information and online visa application: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html
Additionally you travel twice by public train, namely the night train from Agra to Varanasi (Kota Patna Express) and from Varanasi to Delhi (Shivganga Express). During these train rides, you have a bed in a third-class car with air conditioning. This usually involves a six-person coupé with three berths on each side (3A class; 3 refers to the number of beds above each other and not to the class).
Sometimes you may have to share the coupé with four people, with two berths above each other (2A class). The coupés are usually open along the corridor side. Bed linen is provided but occasionally there is not enough. A sleeping bag liner and in the winter months, a sleeping bag - can then be a solution. Travelling by train in India is generally considered a relaxing and at the same time, impressive experience.
Delhi to Surajgarh / Nawalgarh: 272 km / 6 hours
Surajgarh / Nawalgarh to Bikaner: 260 km / 6 hours
Bikaner to Jaisalmer: 340 km / 8 hours
Jaisalmer to Jodhpur: 295 km / 5 hours
Jodhpur to Kumbalgarh: 185 km / 4 to 5 hours
Kumbalgarh to Udaipur: 150 km / 5 hours
Udaipur to Pushkar: 285 km / 8 hours
Pushkar to Jaipur: 150 km / 2 to 3 hours
Jaipur to Agra: 250 km / 8 hours
Agra to Varanasi: 600 km / 12 hours (night train)
Varanasi to Delhi: 800 km / 12 hours (night train)
NB: Just as with us, Indian trains and flights are not always on time. You also travel in an area where the infrastructure is far from optimal. Delays are certainly possible and the stated travel durations are only approximate. Some flexibility is greatly appreciated.
CAMEL FESTIVAL - BIKANER
The Camel Festival is a festival that is held annually in the city of Bikaner in honour of the helpers of men in this region: the 'camels' (actually dromedaries). The ship of the desert is inextricably linked to their own lifestyle here. They pull heavy carts, transporting bales of grain or assist in bringing water. The festival opens with a parade of beautifully decorated camels. There is a camel beauty pageant with prizes going to those decorated the best. Obviously there are camel races, there's a camel milking competition and want to see a camel dance? The camels have fantastic footwork, dancing gracefully and respond to the slightest indication from their rider. During the festival, tea is served and sweets are made from camel milk. Naturally, this festival attracts many Indians, dressed in their finest outfits.
DESERT FESTIVAL - JAISALMER
Jaisalmer rises like a golden mirage from the heart of the Thar Desert. An impressive fort with all its splendour, carved out of yellow sandstone, dominating the amber city. The bhati Rajputs of Jaisalmer were feudal rulers and lived off the taxes levied on the caravans. The caravans were loaded with precious silks and spices and brought the city great wealth. For years Jaisalmer remained untouched by outside influences. Then the trade started to focus more on shipping around the port of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), this meant the decline of Jaisalmer. But the desert fortress still has the momentum inherent in the tales of "Thousand and One Nights'.
The best time to visit the city is during the Desert Festival, normally held in January/February, when the city teems with the sounds of melodious tunes and pounding rhythms. There is a parade of camels, a very colourful parade with dancers, music and lots of people in their most colourful saris and turbans on their feet for all to view. A beauty contest attracts the most attention from local men. Traditional dances, exciting competitions (especially a game of tying turbans), tug of war, a cricket match and racing camels are among the festivities.
HOLI PHAGWA FESTIVAL - WHOLE OF INDIA
The Holi feast of Phagwa or Holi is a colourful Hindu festival that is celebrated annually throughout India (and Nepal). This spring festival is the sign of the beginning of a new season and is known also as the harvest festival. It is also considered a victory party: the victory of good over evil.
The old Hindu story around the festival is about Narasimha, an incarnation of the great Vishnu killing Hiranyakashipu, the great demon king. On the eve of the Holi the scene of burning Holika is re-enacted all over India. Wood fires are lit and a living object such as a plant is given up. Rice is thrown into the fire, which is considered a symbolic expulsion of evil. The ceremony also includes prayer, music and singing.
The next day Hindus return to the scene of their fire and smear themselves with the ash. Then in the afternoon they sprinkle one another with scents, perfumes and dyes with different colours having different significances.
During these holidays there is an atmosphere of freedom and happiness. Make sure you bring some old clothes, because most likely you will not be spared and you too will end up buried under coloured powders!
TEEJ FESTIVAL - JAIPUR
Rajasthan is India's most colourful and exotic state. The fairy-tale palaces, the massive forts and ornate clothing of the population are a feast for the eyes. Rajasthan evokes the image of classical India. The land where time stands still, the country where Hinduism still survives strongly in its traditional form.
During the Teej Festival married women pray for a happy and long marriage to Parvati and Shiva. The festival is celebrated all over Rajasthan but is the most colourful in Jaipur. Joohlas (swings) are hung in trees with leaves and flowers. In Jaipur, a statue of the goddess Parvati is shown in a kilometer-long procession accompanied by decorated elephants, horses, camels, floats and more. There is music and dancing. A truly unique festival to attend.
PUSHKAR FAIR - PUSHKAR
Each year in the holy Hindu month of Kartika the sleepy Indian town of Pushkar puts on a spectacle that is unequaled. From all corners of the state of Rajasthan traders journey with their herds of camels to the otherwise quiet town on the lake, to arrive there in time for Kartik Purnima (full moon), the official starting date of the Pushkar Fair.
Although trade is the main reason for meeting, the market carries the character of a great party. In the market all kinds of animals are for sale: donkeys, goats, horses, bulls, but most of camels - the tractors of rural India. This is the largest camel market in India, tens of thousands of camels change over ownership. But apart from livestock dealers, this annual event also attracts thousands of desert and village peoples. The camel market is a motley collection of people and animals, smells and colours in short, an event that you should not miss if you're in India at the time.
A quarter of a million people enjoy this spectacular event, which is framed by music, dancing and performances by artists such as gargoyles and tightrope walkers. The festival also attracts tourists, both Indians (farmers, laborers, hawkers, beggars and buskers) and foreigners who travel to the dusty town on the edge of the Thar desert mainly to witness the highlight of these few days of the Pushkar Fair: the camels race through the sand dunes. Souvenirs are richly stocked: camel saddles, beautiful fabrics and various crafts. The Pushkar Fair is also a paradise for photographers, the local women wear their most beautiful saris and are adorned with sparkling jewels. The males have brightly coloured turbans over their huge mustaches and wear shoes with curled ends under their white dhotis.
Pushkar for the Hindus holds a religious significance. It is one of the few places in India where the god Brahma is worshiped in its own temple. Thousands of pilgrims each year visit the sacred lake near the city to immerse themselves. This is considered an act of purification. The lunar calendar determines when the annual fair is held.
PLEASE NOTE: The itineraries can be adjusted during these festival trips.
This tour is classified as Category B.
The difficulty of our travels varies greatly. Added to this is the fact that travel difficulty is a very personal perception. To give an indication of the difficulty of a particular holiday, we have developed the following classification system:
Category A: Light travel for everyone to do. Short distances, good hotels, travel at a slow pace.
Category B: For everyone to do as well. Sometimes long distances. Good hotels and camping facilities, sometimes an adventurous overnight experience, travel at a normal pace.
Category C: Good to do for anyone who prepares themself well and is flexible. There are tougher parts of the journey, such as longer distances or walking tours. Several nights can be spent in basic accommodation.
Category D: A relatively difficult journey, travelling long distances, often primitive accommodation or tents, and challenging walking tours.
The North India Adventure is a Category B holiday. It can be made by any reasonably healthy individual. In the summer the trip is considerably more difficult than during the rest of the year. Although in the cities we stay in simple medium-priced hotels, remember that you are travelling in a developing country with much lower living standards than you are used to at home. Also, roads may be temporarily blocked because of the weather or owing to their state of repair, in which case a detour is unavoidable. A flexible and positive attitude is just as important as a good physical condition.
Nature of the Trip
Rajasthan is India’s most colourful and exotic province. The fairytale palaces, the gigantic fortresses and the richly decorated clothing of the people are a treat for the eyes. Rajasthan forms a picture of classic India, a land where time stands still. Hinduism still exists here in it's traditional form. The journey takes you through barren desert, past cool lakes, luxuriant valleys and rugged mountains. We will pass through lively cities with bustling markets and remote villages. We shall also visit the temple of love, the world famous Taj Mahal. Another highlight is Varanasi, the religious heart of India on the banks of the Ganges.
We know that travelling to remote corners of this planet has its effects. At Shoestring we really try to make an effort to keep our impact to a minimum. We try to avoid the use of plastic water bottles on our treks through Nepal and we do not dump our litter during our trips through Africa. All of our staff have been trained to take special care to ensure we make as little impact on the environment as possible.Furthermore we support a lot of local projects which are mostly related to clean drinking water or making sure that children get vaccinated against illnesses such as tuberculosis. On most tours you will be able to visit some of the projects we support through our local agents. Find out more about the different projects Shoestring are involved with, how you can make a difference and our environmental policies here
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