Overnight excursion from Delhi to Agra, with visits to three UNESCO world heritage sites: the incomparable Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. This optional post-trip extension begins from the same 5-star boutique hotel in Delhi (Hotel Siddarth) that is our home for the first and last nights of the main tour. The standard itinerary calls for a departure from Delhi back to the U.S. on July 26. Participants in this extension will depart India July 28. We leave our very comfortable accommodations at Hotel Siddarth early morning for a 6:00 A.M. departure by deluxe, air conditioned express train to Agra about a three hour ride. The views from the train will offer a fascinating perspective into a very different dimension of India than we’ve just experienced in the far north. The landscape, ethnicity and culture here is far more classically “Indian” than the arid, high altitude Himalayan world of Ladakh.
We will be met at the Agra train station by our driver and guide, and spend the day exploring the sights of Agra by air conditioned SUV or mini-van. We overnight in Agra at the 5-star Jaypees Palace hotel, with dinner at the hotel or a local restaurant. The following morning we continue our exploration of the Agra area, departing mid-afternoon by private car for the return trip to Delhi. We should arrive back in Delhi with time for relaxing at the hotel or last-minute shopping and packing for our departure back to the U.S. the following day.
Perhaps no other single man-made structure in the world is so universally admired and so iconic a travel destination. Often cited as one of the “Seven Wonders of the World”, the Taj Mahal is a masterwork of Mughal architecture and an emblematic symbol of love and devotion. The Taj was commissioned in 1632 by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a tribute to his favored wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who had died giving birth to their fourteenth child. No expense or effort was spared in creating the most magnificent structure possible. Over twenty years in the making, a work force of 20,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants transported the finest materials from across the subcontinent and central Asia to Agra, where the most accomplished master craftsmen and artisans from many countries labored together in common purpose. Although the white domed marble mausoleum is the most recognizable element of the Taj, it is actually just one component in an integrated complex of structures that includes several outlying buildings, gardens and reflecting pools.
This mission was commissioned by UNESCO and ICOMOS following a debate in India on the construction of the foundations of a new road along the River Yamuna between the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort within the framework of the “Taj Corridor” project.The mission followed a decision by the Delhi Supreme Court to suspend construction work and to seek international expertise before taking any final decision. During the mission Jean François Milou represented UNESCO and Giora Solar represented ICOMOS.
The objective was to review actions taken to conserve the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort with the Archaeological Survey of India and the local authorities and to observe the impact on the sites and on the surrounding areas of work carried out along the river by the Taj Corridor project. A further objective was to make recommendations to the Indian authorities on the better protection of these two sites inscribed on the World Heritage List.
The situation created by construction work carried out within the framework of the Taj Corridor project has shown the insufficiency of the regulations protecting a site labeled as part of the cultural heritage of humanity. Following consultation with representatives of the Archaeological Survey of India, Jean François Milou recommended the extension of the site inscribed on the World Heritage List to include a series of gardens, which, together with the Taj Mahal and the Fort, constitute a unique ensemble bearing witness to the development of Mughal culture in India in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
• Ram Bagh Garden (1526 – 1530)
• Itimud ud Daulah Garden (1622 – 1628)
• Chini Ki Rauza Garden (1639)
• Mehtab Bagh (1632 – 1648)