Jewels of India Gay Cultural Tour

our group in front of the taj mahal on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

 2020  Dates coming soon

A Gay Travel India Cultural Tour

Physical Challenge:

From Delhi, the Taj Mahal & the cities of the Raj, we’ll focus on the art, architecture & history of this fascinating, sometimes contradictory land. This gay India tour has an abundance of famous temples, palaces, and forts. Take a leisurely pace, and relax in five-star luxury.

$TBA

  • Explore Delhi with its vast and rich history.
  • Watch sunrise illuminate the Taj Mahal.
  • Visit a tiger preserve, with the possibility of observing reclusive Bengal tigers in their native habitat.
  • See the dreamy “pink city” of Jaipur and its famous seven gates.
  • Visit the romantic and lovely city of Udaipur built around Lake Pichola.
  • Relax after a day of touring at sumptuous five-star hotels.
  • See Mughal history come alive before your eyes.
  • Glimpse the daily lives of a variety of Indians during exclusive village and family visits.
  • Discover India, a land of overwhelming sensations!
  • Experience Kathmandu and fly by Mount Everest on our Nepal post-tour extension.

Tigers, the Taj Mahal and more!

Our classic gay travel India tour begins in Delhi as we are swept away to another time and another place. Dotted with hundreds of landmarks, India’s modern capital of Delhi is also a very ancient city. From the beautifully carved 12th century Qutab Minar to the parliament house with its Victorian and 20th-century influences, Delhi’s architectural gems transcend time.

Next, we’re off to Agra to tour the famous icon of India, the Taj Mahal. We’ll also visit the Agra Fort with its 65-foot-tall walls and maze of temples, halls, gardens, and mosques. Then we take a two-hour train ride to a lodge near the Ranthambore National Tiger Reserve for two nights and the possibility of seeing tigers in their native environment.

We’ll spend three days around Jaipur, the lovely “pink city” with its broad avenues and harmonious architecture. In most years our tour coincides with the Holi Festival of Colors in Jaipur.

Our last stop will be Udaipur, considered by many to be the most beautiful city in all of India. Our elegant hotel overlooks the magnificent Lake Pichola and Aravalli Mountains and is famous for service and style reminiscent of a bygone age. Our tour ends back in Delhi, from which you can fly home.

For those with more time to travel, consider our extension to the Hindi pilgrimage destination of Varanasi and the ancient temples of Khajuraho within India. And if you are able to stay a few more days, we invite you to experience the multi-cultural capital city of Nepal: Kathmandu.

Map:

 

Day 1: Arrival

diwali figurines on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

Upon arrival in Delhi, a guide will meet you at the airport, and escort you to our elegant New Delhi hotel.

You can rest in your sumptuous quarters, take a walk to shake off the jet lag, hit the pool or relax and rest for our India adventure.

 

Day 2: Delhi

b'hai lotus temple in delhi on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

Today we will explore the fascinating and sometimes fast-paced city of Delhi on a full-day tour. We start the day with a cycle rickshaw tour of Old Delhi, passing the Red Fort, a massive structure built with red sandstone and a magnificent symbol of Mughal elegance and design. We will also see the Raj Ghat, a simple memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.

Then we’ll visit India’s largest mosque, Jama Masjid, built in the 17th century. It took 5000 artisans fourteen years to complete and is a unique architectural piece of the Mughal period. It has three gateways, four towers and two minarets as tall as 120 feet. Nearby is the busy market area of Chandni Chowk, once an imperial avenue down which Shah Jahan rode at the head of lavish cavalcades and today often the scene of world’s most picturesque traffic jam with every kind of vehicle imaginable.

Old Delhi exhibits the traditions of the Mughal emperors who presided there, and New Delhi, the British capital during colonial days, shows off the more modern side of India. In the afternoon we leave the walled city of Old Delhi behind to explore the sights of New Delhi.

friends at humayuns tomb on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

However, even in New Delhi are some very old monuments. We’ll see the 12th century Qutub Minar, the highest stone tower in all of India. It was erected by Qutub-ud-din Aibak as a victory tower in 1199. It is considered one of the finest Islamic structures ever raised, and Delhi’s recognized landmark, even though it was built with the columns from 27 Hindu and Jain temples. Gracefully hand-carved along its entire height of 234 feet, the tower stands near the Iron Pillar, which has withstood the ravages of time and not rusted in over 1500 years.

We’ll visit the graceful mausoleum of the Mughal Emperor Humayun and drive past the modern Birla Temple, built in 1938. The uniqueness of this beautiful temple lies in the fact that it is open for all; it does not recognize any social or religious strata. This was the condition on which Mahatma Gandhi agreed to inaugurate the temple. The temple houses idols of several deities but is mainly dedicated to Laxmi (the goddess of wealth) and Narayana (the preserver). We will also see the President’s house, the Parliament House and the India Gate war memorial. We finish our busy day of exploring Delhi with our welcome dinner.

 

Days 3-4: Agra and the Taj Mahal

gardens at agra fort on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour in uttar pradesh

Today we take a 4-5 hour drive to Agra, which was established in 1475 by Badal Singh and came into its own when Sikander Lodhi of the Lodhi dynasty chose it for his capital because of its proximity to the Yamuna River.

In the mid-16th and early-17th centuries, Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time that the symbol of love, the Taj Mahal, was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality. Besides the monuments, Agra is known for the masterpieces of craftsmen recreating the glory of the Mughal period and for the Mughlai cuisine, the aroma of which fills the narrow lanes of Agra.

During our first evening in Agra, we will follow the Mughal Heritage Trail, a community-based enterprise, to Kacchpura Village. Here we will get a behind-the-scenes look at the daily life of Agra. All funds collected from our visits are used to upgrade the village schools and to create sustainable livelihoods. We will also get a unique view of the unmistakable icon of India, the Taj Mahal, from across the River Yamuna.

taj mahal in pink light on the HE Travel gay travel India tour

We will awaken early the next morning for a sunrise visit to the monument, so we can personally witness the changing hues reflecting the gradually brighter sunlight. This mythic structure with its history of romance and survival from the ravages of various marauders threatens to underwhelm visitors who have lived in the shadow of its hype. But its symmetry, its purity, its whiteness, the elegance of its curves, and the majesty of its size and silhouette can still surprise and astound visitors. It is easy to understand why it was selected as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Later in the day, we will also visit the Agra Fort, which evolved during the reigns of three Mughal Emperors. Here we can witness the contrast of the stern red sandstone citadel raised by Akbar with the lavishly beautiful shimmering white palaces built by Shah Jahan. We will also visit craftsmen who create works of art by embedding semi-precious stones in marble, using geometric and floral patterns. This ancient art has been revived in the past few decades after long neglect.

 

Days 5-6: Ranthambore and Tigers!

detail of the column at akbars palace on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

We start our day with a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, built of red sandstone by Emperor Akbar the Great in 1569 and deserted 14 years later because its water supply failed. It is a perfectly preserved ghost city characterized by a harmonious synthesis of Hindu, Mughal and Persian architectural style.

From there we drive to Bharatpur and have lunch in a heritage mansion. In the afternoon we will take a 2-hour train ride to Sawai Madhopur, the entry point for the famous Ranthambore National Park. We then drive a short distance to our home for the next two nights, a former royal hunting lodge designed with art deco features.

The Park is one of the prime examples of Project Tiger’s conservation efforts in Rajasthan. It covers an area of over 400 square kilometers with many steep crags embracing a network of lakes and rivers. Atop one of these hills, the 10th century Ranthambore Fort stands like a silent sentinel. The terrain is a blend of impregnable forests and open bushland.

Ranthambore is best known for its reclusive tiger population, but there are also many Panthers as well. Kachida Valley is considered to be the place to sight these rather elusive cats. One can also find marsh crocodiles, hyenas, jungle cats, and sloth bears. The avian population includes black storks, quails, Bonelli’s eagles, and painted storks. During the winter months, the park attracts a lot of migratory birds, including a variety of ducks.

The best time to visit the park is between October and April, so we will offer both a morning and a late afternoon “canter safari” during the best times to view game. It is the ideal park for wildlife photography. With so much to see and plenty to do, we will enjoy a leisurely two-night stay here.

 

Days 7-9: Jaipur

produce street vendors on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

After one final early morning game viewing drive, we will have breakfast at our lodge, then drive about 3.5 hours to Jaipur. We’ll check into our rooms at our deluxe hotel, then get introduced to Jaipur during an afternoon city tour.

Jaipur is called the Pink City because most of its buildings are of sandstone. It was chosen by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (1693-1743) for his capital, and it is still the vibrant capital of the desert state of Rajasthan. Surrounded on all sides by rugged hills, crowned with forts and enclosed by embattled walls, Jaipur is a must-see for travelers to India.

The Old City, the actual Pink City, is a great place to wander around. Maharaja Man Singh II had the whole city painted pink when the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, visited Jaipur in 1876. Today, every home within the old city is obliged by law to maintain this facade. Fabulous, tall houses with latticed windows line the narrow streets of the old city, their rose pink color lending enchantment to a scene which is almost magical at sunset.

On our afternoon tour, we will visit the Maharaja’s walled City Palace (1732 AD), which occupies one-seventh of the city’s area. Our next stop is the observatory of Jantar Mantar, which literally means “instruments for measuring the harmony of the heavens,” and are the oldest astronomical instruments in India. Each has a specific purpose and still gives an accurate reading. We finish our tour with our guide leading us through lively city markets, including the Johari Bazaar.

a trio of colorful friends at the holi festival of colors on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

We have timed our tour so that we may celebrate the Holi Festival of Colors in Jaipur. Holi is considered to be the day of friendship when in keeping with the spirit of the day, people forget petty enmities and renew their friendship. It’s also the day when people toss powder of various bright colors on their friends to celebrate the day. (You are welcome to observe from a safe vantage point, or jump into the middle of the celebrations!).

During our stay in Jaipur, we will take a day trip through the countryside north of Jaipur to visit the Amber Fort (also called Amer Fort), which was the ancient capital of the state until 1728. With its honey-colored fortress-palace in the Aravalli Hills which can be reached by an elephant, Amber Fort has been described as the sleeping beauty of Rajasthan. The somber exterior belies the richness of the royal apartments, which open on to striking views of a gorge.

stone elephant carving on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

We’ll return to the serene hills near Amber Fort for a special treat – an elephant safari! We’ll start with a welcome drink for us, and food for the elephants, then one or two of us will climb onto each elephant. We will slowly follow a picturesque route with a local tribal guide, passing by villages, fields, the medieval fortress, and monuments, until we reach our camp in the middle of the forest, where we stop for lunch.

 

Days 10-11: Udaipur

beautiful balcony window in udaipur on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

This morning we embark on a 6-8 hour drive across the Rajasthan countryside to Udaipur, with a couple of stops along the way. (No airlines are currently flying between Jaipur and Udaipur, but if a flight is added on a reputable carrier, we will fly from Jaipur to Udaipur.)

Udaipur, one of the most romantic places in India, is situated around the shimmering clear blue lakes which whisper the mood of a bygone era. Founded in 1567 by Maharana Udai Singh on the advice of a sage, Udaipur was the last of the numerous Mewar capitals.

The city acquires its scenic beauty from the three lakes, Pichola, Fateh Sagar, and Udai Sagar, that make it a lovely oasis in the desert. Full of enchanting tales, Udaipur has a remarkable past, with episodes of heroism and splendor. Our home base as we explore this city will be one of the exquisite palace hotels overlooking Lake Pichola.

Upon arrival at our hotel, the rest of the evening will be free to explore the exquisite hotel grounds and sample one of their several fine restaurants.

The next morning we will visit the vast City Palace, the largest in the state of Rajasthan. It is comprised of 11 smaller palaces whose walls stretch for more than a mile along the shore of Lake Pichola and display magnificent works of marble and granite, as well as peacock mosaics. Nearby we’ll see the Jagdish Temple (1651), one of the largest and most popular Vishnu temples in northern India, then drive around Fateh Sager Lake and see the Sahelion Ki Badi (Queen’s resort).

Time permitting, we’ll wander through the hustle and bustle of the old market, including locations where the James Bond film Octopussy was filmed.

In the late afternoon, we’ll slow down for a boat ride on the placid waters of Lake Pichola, during which we can witness evening rituals on the bathing ghats (steps leading into the lake), and watch the sunset against the backdrop of the magnificent palaces. Then we will enjoy our Farewell Dinner together in a special setting that captures the spirit of this ancient land.

 

Day 12: Return to Delhi

women and carts along the road on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

Most of the day is free until early afternoon when we transfer to the airport for our 1.5-hour flight back to Delhi. We are scheduled to arrive in Delhi around 6 pm.

The tour officially ends with our arrival in Delhi. Those with evening international flights can stay at the airport and check in for their flights. We also have nearby rooms (with a transfer) available for anyone with a flight departing during the night or the next day.

See the Extensions tab for more touring in Varanasi and Kathmandu after the trip!

Varanasi – Staying on after the Jewels of India Tour

For those participants who have a little more time to spend in India, we are offering a three-night extension including a night in Delhi, and two nights in Varanasi.

Varanasi (once called Benares) is visited daily by thousands of Hindi pilgrims who come to bathe in the sacred Ganges River. During our tour, we will see many of the ghats (bathing sites) from both the shore and from a boat, and we will also visit nearby Sarnath, where Siddharth Gautama, the original Buddha, gave his first sermon.

 

Days 13-15: Varanasi Visit

the river ganges in varanasi on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

Varanasi (formerly called Benares) is situated on the banks of the holy Ganges River and is presided over by Lord Shiva. It is called the Eternal City and is distinguished by the many “ghats” along the riverside. (A ghat is a broad flight of steps that provides access to the water, especially for bathing).

From time immemorial Varanasi has been a seat of learning and an important religious center for Hindus. It is also one of the most sacred places of pilgrimage, being visited by millions of people every year. In addition to its role in Hinduism, Varanasi also holds an important place in Buddhism, since Buddha’s first sermon was given nearby.

 

Day 15: Varanasi to Home

sunrise over the ganges river on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

On our last day, we will fly back to Delhi in the afternoon. Since many flights to North America and Europe depart around midnight, no overnight hotel is included for this night. However, we will have a day room available at a hotel near Delhi Airport so you can freshen up for the flight home.

For those flying out the following day or later, please let us know if you would like to add additional hotel nights. See our FAQs for extension dates each year.

See the “Price Includes” tab for details on the cost of this Post-Tour trip to Varanasi

 

Kathmandu – After India Touring

For those able to continue after Varanasi, we are also offering a 4-night extension (1 night in Delhi and 3 nights in Kathmandu).

Day 15: Rest in Delhi

We’ll spend tonight at our hotel in Delhi to rest from our India tour and Varanasi Extension.

 

Day 16: Journey to Kathmandu, Nepal

Durbar Square in Kathmandu, before our HE Travel gay tour to India

Your flight from Delhi to Kathmandu is included in the tour price. (Since there are many flights from Kathmandu to destinations other than India, the flight from Kathmandu will be on your own.)

We will transfer to our deluxe hotel in this picturesque city, where you will have the evening to relax and recover from your long journey.

 

Day 17: Mount Everest and Kathmandu

a local artist in Kathmandu, before our HE Travel gay tour to India

Early risers may enjoy an optional dawn flight tour of Mount Everest (weather permitting). We will see some of the world’s highest peaks, and glimpse the Roof of the World, the Tibetan Plateau. After returning to our hotel in time for breakfast, we will then tour Kathmandu, exploring the riches of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of this historic capital and its surrounding region.

During a rickshaw ride past ancient temples and traditional markets, our senses will be delighted by the exotic sights and sounds. We will see the Buddhist shrine of Swyambhunath Stupa, the Royal Palace, and Patan, with its Golden Gate and Temple of Taleju.

 

Day 18: Bhaktapur and Dhulikhel

handmade puppets in Kathmandu, before our HE Travel gay tour to India

Today we drive 10 miles east to visit the elegant city of Bhaktapur, with its renowned Durbar Square of magnificent temples, sculptures, and palaces.

The National Art Gallery is housed within the Palace of 55 Windows, and we will also see Tamaudhi Square with its five-roofed Nyatoapola temple and Dattatreya Square. We will continue on to the mile-high town of Dhulikhel, which offers one of the best vantage points in the region for seeing the Himalaya range.

 

Day 19: Depart

In the morning, subject to weather conditions, you’ll be awakened early to watch from our hotel as the sunrise slowly illuminates the nearby mountain peaks.

We’ll be transferred to the Kathmandu airport for flights to your next destination (departure flights from Kathmandu not included in Extension price).

See the “Price Includes” tab for details on the cost of this Post-Tour trip to Kathmandu

2020 Jewels of India Main Tour

Price includes: Transfers between Delhi Airport and hotel on arrival and departure; All surface transportation within India as outlined in tour itinerary in air-conditioned mini-coach or train; Flight from Udaipur to Delhi (and Jaipur to Udaipur if available), including airport departure taxes; Five-Star hotels or hunting lodge each night, with private bath, in double occupancy (single rooms available, subject to availability); Daily breakfast, five lunches and seven dinners, including wine at Welcome and Farewell dinners; Admission to sites described in itinerary; Services of English-speaking Indian guides, plus HE Travel tour director (with minimum number of participants); All hotel service charges, government taxes, porterage, and gratuities for drivers and included meals. HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.

Not included: International flights to and from Delhi; Visas for visiting India (information about obtaining a visa will be sent about 4 months before departure); Camera/video fee which is charged at some monuments; Lunches and dinners not described as being included; Gratuities for guides and HE Travel tour director; Personal items including: alcoholic beverages, snacks, laundry, and telephone calls.

Optional Tour Choices:

$TBA Single Supplement (for solo travelers who wish to enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom)

 

2020 Price for the Post-tour Extension to Varanasi

$TBA per person in double occupancy

$TBA single occupancy

Price Includes: Flights from Delhi to Varanasi to Delhi (subject to availability); Comfortable accommodations for one night in Delhi and two nights in Varanasi; breakfast each day, 1 lunch, 2 dinners; local ground transportation; and tours with local guides in Varanasi.

 

2020 Price for the Post-tour Extension to Kathmandu

$TBA per person in double occupancy

$TBA single occupancy

$TBA optional dawn Mt. Everest fly-by flight

Price Includes: Flight from Delhi to Kathmandu; Airport transfers; Comfortable accommodations for one night in Delhi, two nights in a deluxe Kathmandu hotel, and one night in countryside hotel; 4 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner; and excursions as shown in the itinerary.

Additional Expense: Nepal Visa upon arrival (approximately $25 USD paid by the passenger)

“I’ve been privileged to travel to over 70 countries in the world, with numerous travel companies and on many cruises, but I’ve never been more thrilled or excited or satisfied than by HE’s ‘Jewels of India.’ India is exotic and colorful and mysterious, a true feast for all the senses. As an avid amateur photographer, I’m always looking for that ideal shot and in India, the perfect photograph is just waiting around every corner; I took more than 2000 photographs in 10 days.” – Phil Cooper, Baltimore MD

“Excellent trip, thoughtfully planned and well executed.  The HE guide was first rate.  Fully lived up to my expectations.” – Jim Warren, San Francisco, CA

“I’ve been aware for over 20 years of HE’s excellent reputation. My trip to India was my first experience with HE Travel. My expectations were met. The guides were excellent and friendly. Your reputation is well deserved. I hope to travel with HE again.” – Joseph Martinez, New York, NY

“The well-planned itinerary with an extraordinarily informed local guide and the ease of travel [was] well coordinated.  It provided an excellent overview of India, its customs, people and history.” – Peter Ilchuk, Tampa, FL

“India is an amazing country with incredible destinations. While travel is sometimes a bit difficult, the payoffs when reaching the destinations are without question worth the effort. Our HE guide was stellar.” – Keith Degi, New York, NY

“As always with HE Travel, the locations are well thought out and the staffing and hotels 1st rate” – Jeff Zirpolo, Colonia, NJ

Most of our trips draw more single travelers than couples. When couples do join us, it’s usually because they’re looking forward to interacting with a gay group; if they wanted a holiday by themselves, they wouldn’t have signed up to travel with us. Furthermore, the activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends. You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself.

For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can’t match you with someone.

map of jewels of india itinerary on the HE Travel gay India cultural tour

This tour starts and ends in Delhi, India.

As of early 2019, direct flights between North America and Delhi are offered by United (from Newark), Air India (from JFK, Newark, San Francisco and Chicago), and Air Canada (from Toronto). There are numerous one-stop connections to Delhi via European hubs. United and Air India offer additional non-stop or 1-stop flights between North America and Mumbai (the Indian name for Bombay), but these will require an overnight stay in Mumbai and a domestic connection to Delhi.

We have reserved a hotel room for everyone starting on the evening of Day 1 (the starting day for the trip), and the first group activity is a city tour of Delhi starting the morning of Day 2. Most North American travelers will leave home on the day before Day 1, arriving Delhi late evening on Day 1 or early morning on Day 2.

If anyone wishes to arrive a day or two early to be refreshed for our tour, we can reserve extra hotel nights for you, along with an optional excursion in Delhi on Day 1.

For those taking just the Jewels of India Main Tour

Our trip officially ends when our flight from Udaipur arrives in Delhi in the late afternoon of Day 12. Since many international flights from Delhi depart very late at night or early morning, there are no group activities scheduled after this flight, but we will arrange a day room or overnight room as needed for those with flights during the night or on the following day, or who join our extension. Those taking just the main Jewels of India Tour on the extension should plan to depart late on Day 12 or on Day 13.

For those also taking the Varanasi extension

Spend the night of Day 12 at a Delhi hotel, then depart from Delhi on Day 13 for two nights in Varanasi.

In 2020: We will return to Delhi on March 26 for flights home late night on March 26 or early on March 27.

Depending on flight times from Varanasi, we will have day rooms in Delhi before these flights, but extra hotel nights can be added for anyone staying longer.

For those also taking the Kathmandu extension

Spend the night of Day 15 at a Delhi hotel, then depart from Delhi on Day 16 for two nights in Kathmandu and one night in Dhulikhel, Nepal.

In 2020: Plan your flight home from Kathmandu after midday, March 30.

Physical Challenge Level 1

 

To enjoy this trip you should be ready to spend several hours a day walking around historic sites, sometimes with uneven steps, and readily adapt to often hot and humid conditions.

For answers to your additional questions, please email info@hetravel.com or call 305-294-8174


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