assignment: Holi itinerary


Day 1: Arrive New Delhi
Welcome to Delhi. Officially there are no events happening today, but depending on when you arrive, Steve will be heading to Old Dehli to photograph the Spice Market, and you are welcome to join him. Later this afternoon there will be a welcome meeting (depending on arrival time). After the welcome meeting we can all head out for an optional dinner.

Accommodation: Jaypee Siddharth or similar. Standard check-in 14:00 hrs.


Day 2: Delhi to Ranthambore
After breakfast you’ll depart Delhi at about 07:30 and travel by train, arriving in Sawai Madhopur at about 12:50. After checking into your hotel, the rest of the afternoon is free to explore.

Accommodation: Ranthambhore Regency or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 3: Ranthambore
Today you will be taken on morning and afternoon safaris around Ranthambhore National Park by Jeep.

Ranthambore is a beautiful national park, and a great park to try and see the elusive tiger. Even if you aren't lucky enough to see tigers, there is still a lot to see here. There are a number of other animals, and the scenery is stunning. Ranthambore is a former Maharajah's hunting park, anddepending on which route you take in the park there are some atmospheric ruins inside.

The routes and the jeep drivers/guides are allocated by the park authorities and we will have no control over this.

In between the safari you’ll have free time to relax,edit pictures and prepare for the fun over the next few days.

Accommodation: Ranthambhore Regency or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 4: Ranthambore to Mathura
This morning you will take you last safari around Ranthambhore National Park. In the afternoon you’ll transfer to Mathura which is approx. 5 hour drive. Depending on when we arrive, we will be able to have a walk on the beautiful and historic ghats at Mathura, before having a serious planning meeting ready for the festivities the following day.

Accommodation: Clarks Inn Mathura or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 5: Pre-Holi celebrations at Vrindavan and Mathura
The chaos starts the day before Holi, and is most vibrat at the nearby city of Vrindavan. We will walk the narrow streets of Vrindavan and head for the stunning Banke Bihari Temple. People will start early, throwing powder and the streets will be very crowded.

Vrindavan town stands on the original forest of Vrindavan where the Hindu deity Krishna spent his childhood, on the banks of the Yamuna river. Numerous events are said to have occurred here: this is where Krishna did the divine dance with Gopis (Maharaas), spread the message of divine love with his lover Radha.

The Banke Bihari temple of Vrindavan is one of the holiest temples devoted to Lord Krishna in India. Constructed in 1864, the temple houses the idol of Lord Krishna in the form of a child. We have a contact of a local priest who should be able to help us get up to the balcony of the temple, where we should be able to take pictures of the crowds in the temple courtyard below. These are generally some of the classic shots of Holi.

To get into the temple, we will have to wade our way through excited and fervent crowds. It is not for the feint-hearted, or those who are afraid of crowds. We will also have to work fast, as we will not be able to stay in the temple for long, but it is an amazing sight and experience.

Although we have a good local contact, there are no guarantees that we will actually be able to get into the temple. The crowds simply may be too intense, or local rules and restrictions may have changed. Rest assured though, that we will have the help of a local priest, and will do our utmost to get us all into a good position.

Once the festivities in Vrindavan start to die down, we will return to Mathura, which will be gearing up for the afternoon Holi procession, where around ten vehicles drive through the street between Vishram Ghat and Holi Gate.

In the evening, we will attend one of the Holika Dahan, which are held in many places in Mathura and Vrindavan. Holika Dahan is a great ritual of the Holi festival. It celebrates the killing of the demon Holika by Vishnu and his burning on a funeral pyre. This ceremony falls night before Holi, and essentially will involve prayers, offerings and dancing around a large bonfire.

Accommodation: Clarks Inn Mathura or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 6: Happy Holi day!
Today is the main day, and we will have our Holi celebration at the Dwarkadheesh Temple

Holi is celebrated with all zeal and enthusiasm in all the country but Holi in Braj is especially famous all over the India for its unique celebration. Braj is a historical region which covers Mathura and Vrindavan. Famous and land of Lord Krishna, the region of Braj attracts pilgrims and tourists from all over the India and the World during Holi due to its special cultures and traditions.

The mood in Mathura will be intense, and we will head through the narrow streets to get to the Dwarkadheesh Temple. The atmosphere inside should be a little less crowded that yesterday at Vrindavan, but it will still be crowded and very messy. As before we will be trying to use a local contact to gain access into the temple.

Although we have a good local contact, there are no guarantees that we will actually be able to get into the temple. The crowds simply may be too intense, or local rules and restrictions may have changed. Rest assured though, that we will have the help of a local priest, and will do our utmost to get us all into a good position.

In the late afternoon, we will try to return to Vrindavan to take part on one of the strangest rituals of Holi: the Hauranga Holi. This is a bizarre ritual where men taunt women, who liberally beat them with laathi bamboo sticks. No matter how much you hide - if you are male, then you will get a few (relatively) good natured thwacks. If you tease the women to join in the fun, then trust me, some of these can be rather hard! It is all great fun though and a great way to finish the Holi day.

Accommodation: Clarks Inn Mathura or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 7: Dauji Temple then drive to Agra
In Mathura we are a little more than an hour away from Agra and the Taj Mahal, and so today we will drive to Agra, in order to photograph the beautiful Taj Mahal.

First though we have our final bit of Holi!

Some twenty kilometres outside of Mathura is the Baldeo Dauji Temple, which is dedicated to lord Balarama. The deity which is established by Vajranabha has huge eyes and is black in colour. The right hand is in raised position and a cup full of a drink which is called Varuni is placed in the left hand. This is a two-meter idol which is considered the biggest in Braja Mandal.

The temple is set up for Holi, with water fountains and powder shutes that ring the courtyard. We will have to arrive early to secure a prime position on the courtyard balcony, ready for the chaos that will ensue.

In a tradition which dates back some 500 years, women from the family that established the temple fill the courtyard. Men process round and throw water at the women and taunt them. The women respond by tearing of ther shirts and beating them with them. At one point a massive storm of powder is fired from pipes surrounding the courtyard.

There are over 3000 members of the family now, and the courtyard will be packed.

Towards the end of the ceremony, I suggest that we all head down into the courtyard for some 'on the ground' pictures. If you are a man, then your shirt will be torn off, but everyone will get soaked and covered in orange dye. After a quick change, we will proceed to Agra, calling in at the Tomb of Akbar the Great, at Sikandra.

In Agra we will head off to a unique location to get a good angle for the sunset at the Taj Mahal, before havinga review of all of our shots from the past few days!

Accommodation: Jaypee Palace or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 8: Agra then return to Delhi
We will have an early start in order to photograph sunrise at the Taj Mahal. There are two options here. We can get up early to be first in the queue to get in, or we could try a view of the Taj from a boat on the river (local restrictions may apply)!

Either way, it will be an early start, and we will also have enough time to explore the Taj Mahal before proceeding for a sightseeing tour of Agra, taking in the Red Fort.

Taj Mahal: visit the Monument of Love and a flawless architectural creation. Taking 22 years and 20,000 men to build, the white marble was quarried 200 miles away and transported by a fleet of 1,000 elephants. Built in the mid-17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as an expression of his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. [Taj Mahal remains closed on Friday]

Agra Fort: Built by Emperor Akbar on the west bank of the river Yamuna and beautified with palaces and gardens by Jehangir, Agra Fort today dominates the centre of the city. Diwan-i-Aam (hall of public audience) and Diwan-i-Khas (hall of private audience) were built by Shahjahan for receiving audiences.

In the afternoon, we will depart Agra by private vehicle to Delhi via the Expressway (Approx. 4 hrs drive).

On arrival in Delhi you’ll check into your hotel then we will all head out for an (optional) celebratory dinner, and a review of our best shots from the trip.

Accommodation: Jaypee Siddharth or similar

Meals included: Breakfast


Day 9: Depart Delhi
There are no events organised for today, although there are a number of things that you can do in Delhi, including an early visit to the Connaught Place Flower Market, or visiting some of the Mughal tombs and monuments and even ruined forts on the outskirts of the city. You can even take one of Intrepid Travel's Urban Adventures. We will be able to advise on some of the interesting things to do.

You can also book any extra accomodation you need through Intrepid Travel, if you wish.

Meals included: Breakfast



Whilst we have established good local knowledge and contacts, it is important to remember that local restrictions and conditions might prevent us from doing everythig that we are intending, especially where it involves getting into temples. Rest assured though that we will be using our best efforts and local contacts to achieve as much as possible.

Following the approach of a professional photographer will offer a unique way of covering this festival, and a fantastic opportunity to develop skills that will help your photography in future. However, the quoted price does not include the rights for any commercial exploitation. If you are hoping to publish pictures from this trip in any commercial context (other than on personal websites or on social media) then please contact Steve before booking.