Two years later than planned (due to a bit of a Covid delay), we returned to India to explore the northern region on WT’s Royal Rajasthan adventure. We were fortunate to experience WT’s Treasures of South India trip in early 2020 and were excited to visit other regions in the country. We began with a pre-trip extension that included exploring the old city of Delhi by rickshaw. The sights, sounds, and aromas of the tightly packed merchants made a great start to our trip.
Agra is full of beautiful and historical sites, and we began with the Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula, a stunning example of the Mughal style constructed of white marble, intricately carved and inlaid with semiprecious stones. The Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daula, also known as the “Baby Taj”, is considered by some to be the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. The detail of inlaid semi-precious stones in white marble is extraordinary.
Our second stop in Agra was the Agra Fort.
Built of brick and faced with red sandstone, the unusual defensive features included a moat stocked with crocodiles and a 90-degree turn between inner and outer gates, designed to slow attacking elephants!
The inner courtyard features formal gardens and the beautiful Diwan-i-Aam, or Hall of Public Audience, where rulers received members of the public and heard their complaints.
The Taj Mahal (literally, “Crown of Palaces”), declared in 2007 to be one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, is a stunningly beautiful building in white marble (Figure 6) inlaid with semi-precious stones (Figure 7). The Mughal structure is noteworthy for perfect design proportions that make it seem from a distance to be smaller than it actually is. We had the opportunity to visit twice, at sunset and sunrise.
Our stop at Ranthambhore National Park gave us three photo safari outings. We were lucky on our first morning, spotting a beautiful Striped Hyena. The park has diverse habitat including lakes, dry forests and open land providing habitat for birds, amphibians and mammals.
Luck was with us and on our second day we spotted a Bengal tiger. The tigers in Ranthambhore are well-documented, and distinctive fur markings identified this one as T-120, aka Ennead. Our safari guide did a great job of predicting behavior, so that we were well placed for unparalleled close-up viewing for nearly half an hour.
Moving on to Jaipur, we again enjoyed the historical buildings, but were especially struck by the colorful markets and amazing scenes on the streets. Roadside attractions were too numerous to count, including vendors for dried seeds and grains, open-air flower markets, and musicians playing traditional instruments.
Our last destination was Jodhpur, where the red sandstone Mehrangarth Fort dominates the skyline over the old walled city, which we entered by tuk-tuk to navigate the twists and turns of city streets en route to our hotel.
We explored the busy and colorful Jodhpur city market, with plentiful vendors and entertainers.
Our final exploration was the imposing Mehrangarh Fort complex, where the red sandstone construction features a profusion of delicate carvings.
—Text and photos by 11-time WT adventurer Greg Patterson, Royal Rajasthan.