India: Across The Ganges To Varanasi (Kumbh Mela Festival)

Group Tour

Overview

Following in the footsteps of both Mughal emperors and many a Hindu sadhu, this epic journey takes us first to the stunning sights of Gwalior’s immense fort and rural Orchha’s incredible 17th century palaces before heading to Khajuraho to gaze upon the famous erotic karma sutra carvings of its incredible temple complex.

We then make for Allahabad (also known as Prayagraj) which sits at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Sarasvati rivers and which is home to the largest ...

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HIGHLIGHTS

At a glance

MEALS

10 x Breakfasts
11 x Lunches
10 x Dinners

TRANSPORT

Minibuses, rickshaws, boats and bicycles

GROUP SIZE

Maximum: 12

EXPERT TEAM

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

ACCOMMODATION

10 nights x Premium

ENTRANCE FEES

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

FITNESS RATING

Low

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 8350 Wild Miles

ACCOMMODATION

Wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience. This can obviously vary greatly across both countries and tours. On this particular trip we will be in comfortable hotels throughout, with Gwalior especially likely to be a tour highlight. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.

FITNESS RATING

LOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).

LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.

MODERATE: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-5hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.

MODERATE/HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-6 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 4-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

Wild Miles Club

When you book a trip with Wild Frontiers you are awarded points, which are based on the return distance from London to the arrival city of your trip. Points are awarded for all our holidays, including both our escorted group tours and tailor-made trips. When you accrue points, you will qualify for the following discounts on all future bookings:

Blue More than 10,000 points 2.5% discount
Bronze More than 30,000 points 5% discount
Silver More than 45,000 points 7.5% discount
Gold More than 60,000 points 10% discount

Positive Impact of this Trip

Tree
Ten trees are planted per passenger on this trip
Community
Supports Wild Frontiers Foundation community projects
Wind Turbine
A contribution to renewable energy projects

Map & Itinerary

Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below

India: Across The Ganges To Varanasi (Kumbh Mela Festival)
EXPAND ALL ITINERARY DAYS
COLLAPSE ALL ITINERARY DAYS

Day 1 Tour Starts in Delhi: New Delhi Highlights

Day 1 Tour Starts in Delhi: New Delhi Highlights

After a group briefing and introduction over lunch, we will take a drive through New Delhi, visiting Rajpath and India Gate as well as Humayun’s tomb, one of the best-preserved Mughal monuments, commissioned by Humayun's son Akbar and designed by the Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiya. This evening we will head to the lively Connaught Place for dinner.

The Claridges or similar
Lunch, Dinner

Day 2 Delhi – Gwalior: Explore one of India's finest forts

Day 2 Delhi – Gwalior: Explore one of India's finest forts

This morning we take a morning train to the strategic city of Gwalior, whose famous fort lies some 122 kms to the south of Agra. The journey should take us around three hours. Gwalior’s history is a microcosm of centuries of political rule in northern India. Since the 8th century, its fort has passed through the hands of some of the region’s most influential dynasties including the Tomaras, the Mughals, the Marathas, the Scindias and the British.  Today it is considered the cultural capital of Madhya Pradesh and the old city is a visual treat, with its magnificent sandstone fort standing sentinel over a city that is filled with temples, palaces and a network of winding streets that are filled with old havelis and exquisitely carved doorways. Tonight, we will stay in our 120-year-old heritage hotel.

Deobagh Gwalior or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3 Gwalior - Orchha: Madhya Pradesh’s rural heartland

Day 3 Gwalior - Orchha: Madhya Pradesh’s rural heartland

We’ll take a final look around this splendid city this morning before continuing by road on to the city of Orchha, a medieval gem that lies on a bend on the Betwa River, some 120km to the south east. In between the scenic beauty that the place derives from the green hills, clear waters and the wonderful environment, we will also find a great combination of wonderful architecture which takes its inspiration from the Mughals and the Rajputs.

Amar Mahal Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4 In Orchha: Mughal architecture & cooking with a local family

Day 4 In Orchha: Mughal architecture & cooking with a local family

Founded by the Rajput prince, Rudra Pratap, Orchha went on to become the power-base of the Bundela dynasty of the 16th and 17th centuries. Today it is home a superb complex of palaces including the Jehangir Mahal, a stunning piece of Islamic design that is justly considered to be one of the finest examples of Mughal architecture in the country. A tour of the city introduces us to this and a number of other significant landmarks that date back to a golden age of Indian architecture, including the delicate murals of the Raj Mahal and the elegance of the beautiful two-storey Raj Paryeen Mahal. During our time here we'll also have the chance to join a local family for a cooking demonstration followed by a meal. Orchha remains for many one of the India’s lesser known rural highlights.

Amar Mahal Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5 Orchha - Khajuraho: Into a world of temple erotica

Day 5 Orchha - Khajuraho: Into a world of temple erotica

Leaving Orchha behind this morning we head next for the temple city of Khajuraho, lying some 180 kms to the south east. Travelling by road, the journey should take us around three and a half hours, reaching the city in time to enjoy an afternoon’s sightseeing tour of the famous monuments. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Khajuraho can boast the largest collection of medieval Hindu and Jain temples in India and its remarkable series of erotic carvings has earned it the accolade of one of the ‘Seven Wonders’ of India. Spanning a period of some 200 years, these majestic sandstone monuments once lay at the heart of the Chandela dynasty and while only 25 of the original 80 temples still remain in any significant form, they do nonetheless represent some of the finest examples of temple architecture anywhere.

The Lalit Temple View or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6 In Khajuraho: Explore the surrounding countryside

Day 6 In Khajuraho: Explore the surrounding countryside

After a relaxed start we will plan to rent some bicycles* for a ride around the local villages and temples in the area. Despite its inevitable and growing appeal to visitors, Khajuraho is still steeped in its traditional rural ways and as we cycle to the Eastern and Southern temples, we will have the chance to enjoy a more authentic interaction with the locals. If we’re lucky children may even break away from their games of cricket to speak to us...but don't bank on it!

*see the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section below for more information on cycling 

The Lalit Temple View or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7 Khajuraho – Allahabad (Prayagraj): Slow roads and rural sights

Day 7 Khajuraho – Allahabad (Prayagraj): Slow roads and rural sights

Today affords us the chance to sit back and enjoy a slow drive through rural India taking in the villages, vegetation and agricultural areas that are still home to the majority of India’s almost 1.5 billion population. Finally, after crossing the famed Yamuna river (which flows through both Delhi and Agra) we’ll arrive in Allahabad, also knows as Prayagraj, which will be our base for the next two nights. Expect some chaotic scenes as although we’ve scheduled our visits to avoid the very busiest days of the Kumbh Mela, this is still the largest human gathering on earth (!) so please come prepared for a raw yet mesmerizing experience. 

Approx  6 hours driving

Badi Kothi or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8 In Allahabad (Prayagraj): Experience the Kumbh Mela

Day 8 In Allahabad (Prayagraj): Experience the Kumbh Mela

With a full day in this ancient city which lies at  the "three-river confluence" of the Ganges, Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati, there’ll be ample time to learn about the heritage and history of this important Hindu pilgrimage destination but also to observe the rituals associated with the Kumbh Mela.

Due to transport restrictions please note that it may be necessary today to walk for up to 10kms today. And remember if the sounds and sights get too much for anyone, you can always take refuge in the sanctuary of the hotel.

Badi Kothi or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9 Allahabad - Varanasi: Following the route of the Ganges

Day 9 Allahabad - Varanasi: Following the route of the Ganges

Today we will head to Varanasi, considered to be one of the oldest cities in  existence. Lying along the banks of the sacred River Ganges and once described by  Mark Twain as ‘...older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend...’ it is one of the oldest Hindu pilgrimage sites on earth. Long believed to be the place where the material and the spiritual worlds converge, the city is steeped in the lore and traditions of Shiva, and has been a centre of learning and civilization for over three millennia.

Approx 4-5 hrs driving

Radisson Varanasi or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10 In Varanasi: Ghats, Ganges and a sunset Aarti ceremony

Day 10 In Varanasi: Ghats, Ganges and a sunset Aarti ceremony

Early this morning we’ll head down to the ghats and take to the  river by private boat to witness one of the most evocative sites in India as the faithful come down to the holy river for their early morning cleansing. From here we’ll explore this most remarkable and photogenic of cities, taking in the riverfront ghats and temples that spill down into the holy waters of the Ganges. There are over 80 of these ghats hugging the banks of the river and every day they are covered in a swarming mass of humanity, as pilgrims, tourists and dhobi wallahs flock to the river to work, pray and bask in the shadow of the towering pavilions and palaces that line the river’s edge. One of the most macabre and fascinating sights is the ghat at Mahashmshana, the ‘Great Cremation  Ground’, where the bodies of the recently  interred are cremated and their ashes scattered across the waters of the Ganges, thereby achieving instant salvation. Although photography is accepted from afar, it is strictly forbidden when close up  at these ceremonies. After a break we’ll then head back down to the Ganges for a late afternoon stroll along the ghats and a boat ride to see the famous sunset Aarti – the celebration to Lord Shiva.

Radisson Varanasi or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11 Visit Buddhist Sarnath before returning to Varanasi where the tour ends

Day 11 Visit Buddhist Sarnath before returning to Varanasi where the tour ends

This morning we’ll take a short drive to nearby Sarnath. It was here that Buddha preached his first sermon and as such remains an important site for Buddhists who come here on pilgrimages from all over the world. The Dhamekha Stupa is the most conspicuous structure built in Sarnath standing at almost 40m high and dating back over 1500 years. Sarnath is a peaceful place which will allow for some time to reflect on the more intense experiences from earlier on in the tour in Allahabad and Varanasi. The tour itself finishes in the early afternoon back in Varanasi and those on the suggested group evening flight will have some free time before being transferred to the airport for onward flights.

Breakfast, Lunch

ACCOMMODATION USED ON THIS TOUR

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards offering a higher-end experience
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards offering a higher-end experience
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards offering a higher-end experience
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards offering a higher-end experience
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards offering a higher-end experience
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards offering a higher-end experience
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Accommodation displayed here should be taken as a guide only. *Please refer to the Detailed Itinerary of your individual departure for more information.

PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?

All group tours can be taken on a private basis.

Additional Details

Events

Kumbh Mela Festival

Kumbh Mela Festival

The Kumbh Mela is a truly extraordinary occasion with a history that is typical of the ancient traditions of India. The word Kumbh takes its name from the immortal pot of nectar that legend says was fought over by the demigods and demons, during which a scattering of drops fell in four places - Allahabad (Prayagraj), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasi. The festival itself is celebrated at various times in various places depending on the alignment of the planets, and 2025 happens to be one of those special occasions that takes place every 12 years. The sheer number of people who gather for this event to bathe at the confluence of Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Sarawswati rivers is quite astonishing and makes for one of the most spectacular and memorabe events in the world.

Responsible Travel

With local people, culture and eco-systems in mind, responsible travel and sustainable tourism are at the core of Wild Frontiers. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our travellers but also benefits the people and places we visit.

When designing our tours, we actively seek out experiences that have a positive impact on the communities and precious environments we visit - from supporting social enterprises; resting our heads in rural homestays; and eating at locally owned restaurants; to helping fund conservation projects that protect wildlife and their habitats. 

Visit the Responsible Travel area of our website to read more, including the work of the Wild Frontiers Foundation through which we fundraise to aid community empowerment and education projects.

Reducing Single Use Plastic

We recognise the environmental issues and challenges around single-use plastic in many countries we visit and are actively working with our partners on the ground to reduce plastic waste on our tours and within the hotels and restaurants we visit. You can help to reduce your personal plastic waste by taking a refillable, filtered water bottle with you on your trip. Filtered water bottles can be refilled from water sources including your hotel room and restaurant taps, drinking fountains and refill stations. Every time you refill your bottle without the use of single-use plastic, you will be helping to reduce waste and protect the environment. Filtered Water Bottles | Wild Frontiers (wildfrontierstravel.com)

Supplementary Information

On Two Wheels

On Two Wheels

Bicycles are still frequently used by locals to get around in more rural areas of India and we think it’s a great way to see the countryside and discover a quieter side to Khajuraho. Surfaces may be slightly uneven in places but the terrain is very flat and the ride on DAY 6 is classed as easy, leisurely and well within the capability of anyone who can ride a bike. Please note that cycle helmets are NOT provided or able to be sourced locally so although not mandatory we’d always advise you to bring your own for safety and protection. Anyone wishing to opt out of the ride can easily do so, allowing more time to relax at the hotel or to enjoy the rural delights of Khajuraho at your own pace. Please note also that bikes can be rather rudimentary so please don't come expecting top-of-the range mountain bikes!

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
VS 300 London Heathrow (LHR) 18:05 Delhi Airport (DEL) 08:25
VS 9076 Varanasi Airport (VNS) 21:45 Delhi Airport (DEL) 23:15
VS 303 Delhi Airport (DEL) 02:55 London Heathrow (LHR) 07:25

Visas

VISAS

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact a reputable visa agency. More details can be found here - https://www.wildfrontierstravel.com/visa

For this tour UK passport holders currently require require a visa for India.

Passports should ideally be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the end of your tour.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

VACCINATIONS & ADDITIONAL TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements for travellers to India.

For all destinations, please make sure you are up-to-date with any standard vaccinations (e.g. MMR, Hepatitis A, Tetanus) as recommended by your local health care provider. 


For the most up-to-date information on all vaccination requirements and the most suitable anti-malarial tablets, we strongly suggest that you seek advice from your local travel centre or consult an official travel health website such as www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk or www.travelhealthpro.org.uk

Covid Testing: No mandatory testing is currently required for vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers.

If necessary further details will be sent out to you upon booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas & vaccinations are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Alternatively, you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries*. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your requirements.

*Please note bespoke, tailor-made itineraries need to be a minimum of 7 days and we can only offer them in countries where we have a tailor-made expert

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Key Information

CLIMATE

Indian wintertime temperatures along the Gangetic plains should be very pleasant with daytime averages of around 15-25oC dropping in the evening to around 5-10oC. It can sometimes feel chilly in the early morning and in the evenings so it is definitely worth bringing some warmer clothes with you.

IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.

KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour. However it is worth mentioning that the Kumbh Mela festival can be an intense experience due to the sheer numbers of people attending and so absolutely not suited for anyone who might become ill at ease in large crowds.

On DAY 6 in Khajuraho there will be the opportunity to explore the countryside by bicycle.  Please note that cycle helmets are NOT provided or able to be sourced locally so although not mandatory we’d always advise you to bring your own for safety and protection.  Surfaces may be slightly uneven in places but the terrain is very flat and the ride on DAY 6 is classed as easy, leisurely and well within the capability of anyone who can ride a bike.  Anyone wishing to opt out of the ride can easily do so, allowing more time to relax at the hotel or to enjoy the rural delights of Khajuraho at your own pace. Please note also that bikes can be rather rudimentary so please don't come expecting top-of-the range mountain bikes!

NEW TOURS

Never complacent, here at Wild Frontiers we are continually on the look-out for new tour ideas. Each year we aim to put on a selection of new tours in order to continually provide our clients with a fresh and varied choice of some of the best journeys on the planet. Although a lot of fun, these tours will often involve a greater element of unpredictability than our better-established tours, so please come prepared.

THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL

We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.

TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip. On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour.

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.

INSURANCE

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

General Information

TOUR PRICE

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.

DEPOSIT

A 10% deposit is required to confirm your booking.

PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 8350 Wild Miles

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.

Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Airport Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events. 

WHY WILD FRONTIERS?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.