Home to some of the world's most cherished historical, religious and architectural treasures, North India is guarded to the north by the imposing Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau; to its west lies the massive Thar desert; and the Vindhya mountains mark the southern frontier.
On the holiness spectrum, North India encompasses several of the most important pilgrimage routes and religious centres in the Subcontinent, creating a holy crossroads for the country's main religions. Hindus crowd the river banks of Varanasi, wade through the waters of Lake Pushkar and marvel at the grandeur of Akshardham Temple. Buddhists come to meditate under the Buddha's tree of enlightenment at Bodhgaya's Mahabodhi Temple. Sikhs flood the hallways of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Muslims pray in the grand mosque of Jama Masjid of Delhi and the many sacred shrines of Rajasthan.
Along with its vigorous religious standing, North India has an extensive history that is crystalized by an array of architectural wonders and defined by longstanding social constructs and cultures. The Maurya Empire established its grounds as early as 326 BCE, followed by dozens of civilizations, ending with the British Indian Empire in 1947. Mughals -- the masterminds behind the most impressive buildings in northern India, left behind some of the most beautiful manmade constructs, including the Taj Mahal and Akbar's Palace in Fatehpur Sikri. Rajput clans built forts and colorful palaces along the route to the Thar desert, across the state of Rajasthan.
Although many powers have conquered India over millennia, none have proved immune to its capacity to reverse the current of colonization and to mold its subjugators. India's vastness and its deep-rooted cultural resilience effortlessly absorbs the influence of its foreign intruders and resolutely stands its own with an unwavering sense of tradition and identity.
Learn to see past the mayhem of Delhi and step into the past as you explore a city steeped in history, overflowing with modern life, overwhelmingly wild and colorful. Delhi's relentless rhythm is dominated by bazaars, amazing buildings, vast gardens and delicious cuisine.
Agra & The Taj Mahal
Rising from the morning haze is the Taj Mahal, a architectural gem that has captured the imagination of travelers for centuries and represents the immaculate love of a husband to his wife. Along with the most beautiful building on earth, Agra boasts the Red Fort which isn't too far off either.
Palaces left, right and center. This city was once a prestigious capital and what's left today is a spectacle of color-fringed windows, breathtaking doorways and buzzing markets filled with handmade crafts and textiles.
Dominated by the tranquility of Lake Pichola, Udaipur is a city of pure charm with dazzling palaces, temples, traditional residences and countless narrow streets. Ride a boat on the shimmering lake to experience the old-world feel of Rajasthan's gem.
A sacred destination not fit for the light-hearted, Varanasi is one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities and the holiest in Hinduism. Pilgrims come to the Ganges for its sacred waters where loved ones are cremated in the hopes of liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
The Blue City of India calls for travelers willing to get lost in its winding streets, stretching along the 16th century wall and leading to unexpected bursts of color, incense and temples.
This crown-jewel of the Thar desert in western Rajasthan is dominated by its impressive citadel, a golden fort from a bygone era that conceals an enchanting town of winding alleyways and exquisite traditional homes.
Pushkar | Amritsar | Rishikesh | Shimla | Lucknow | & More
A Culinary Journey
The artistic and architectural heritage of Spain is a unique blend of numerous influences and cultures that have left their mark on the Iberian peninsula over time. Invaluable relics left behind by the ancient Romans, Celts, Visigoths, Moors and the more recent vanguardist contributions of Gaudi and Calatrava have placed Spain on the second highest ranking of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Europe. Within these architectural landmarks lies some of the most influential art in world history spanning a myriad of diverse schools and styles: discover the dark romance of Goya and the ethereal expressionism of El Greco in central Spain; follow Dali’s sensual surrealism towards the northern Mediterranean; trace Picasso’s unique radicalism back to his early days and birthplace in Andalucia.
| From the Journal | Morocco: A Journey Back Home
Royal Remnants of the Mughals
Spain’s vibrant folklore needs no introduction, yet beyond flamenco and bullfighting lies a world of tradition whose spirit has transcended time. Spain’s most beautiful art form comes to life through the living expressions of ancient rituals such as Semana Santaand the Feria de Abril in Seville, the San Fermines of Pamplona or the Castellersof Catalunya. Delve deep into the fabric of Spanish culture from the hand of passionate locals and field experts, going behind closed doors into intimate flamenco tablaos and traditional artisans’ ateliers, meet bullfighters, winemakers, gypsy jondo singers, and learn first hand what lies behind their unique crafts; Hear the Celtic chants in the mythical land of Galicia, or partake in one of the many local festivities that give the spanish word ‘fiesta’ all its meaning.
The Fabric of India
Delve into the royal heritage of India’s Pink and Blue cities, led by a design historian who will take you back to the era of the Maharajas. Go shopping with a textile expert in the cloth market of Jaipur. Enjoy a private visit to a master craftsman’s block printing atelier and create your own pattern. Spend an afternoon at the Anokhi Museum, located in a magnificently restored haveli or mansion. This museum displays a varied selection of block printed textiles alongside images, tools and related objects – all chosen to provide an in-depth look into the complexity of this ancient tradition.
A Maharaja’s Rail Journey
Spain’s fascinating history is a kaleidoscope of contrasting peoples and beliefs that have over time conquered, defeated and co-existed with each other. They’ve left behind an arresting collection of narratives housed within the details of opulent palaces, magnificent cathedrals, pre-historical caves and quiet medieval villages. Travel through some of Europe’s most fascinating ages beginning with the ancient remains of the Roman Empire, the gilded charms left behind by the colonial Nuevo Mundo, the Renaissance and Baroque awakening epitomised in the aristocratic opulence of the great cities, the Sephardic Jewish heritage dotted across the country and the fabled Moorish legacy of Al-Andalus, most notably Cordoba, Sevilla, Granada and endless white-washed villages in between.
Route of the Pilgrims
Take the pilgrim train to one of India’s most important spiritual hubs, for both Sufis and Hindus: Pushkar and Ajmer. Take in the quiet beauty of Lake Pushkar with a Bahman priest who will perform the blessing ritual of water. At dawn, hike to the top of a sacred hill to watch the sunrise over its dominant temple. Head down to Ajmer, only 30 minutes away, and a world of religious plenitude. Visit the world famous Chishti Dargah, where pilgrims of all faiths in India come to pay their respects with a basket of roses. Listen to like Qawwali music as your local guide translates the poetry. Meet with descendants of the Chishti Saint and discover a lifestyle that is fully centered on faith and spirituality.