Lucknow, Varanasi and Khajuraho all lie in the northern part of India and provide widely different experiences that make India such a popular destination. Each uniquely distinct, these cities also share startling similarities and each has been the location of several major events in history that have left their indelible stamp on India.

Sample Itinerary
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  • Cox & Kings recommends 
Lucknow

Lucknow

  • Remnants of the Raj
  • Unique Indo-Persian culture

The city of Lucknow is today a crowded bustling place, where the old is starkly juxtaposed with the new. One of the finest cities of north India, Lucknow was the capital of the Awadh region, known for its genteel culture, sophistication and the exquisite manners of its people, who were laid back and stylish. The Nawabs of Awadh were extravagant and lavish builders, creating beautiful palaces, monuments and tombs, combining European and Indian styles. Lucknow was one of the hotbeds of the great Indian Mutiny of 1857 and the city was witness to some of the fiercest battles between the British and the Indian sepoys. The British constructed many excellent buildings in Lucknow, including the former Residency and La Martiniere College.

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Varanasi

Varanasi

  • One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth
  • The sacred Ganges river

Varanasi, known as Kashi, is possibly the oldest city in the world, occupied by man since pre-historic times. Situated along the banks of India’s holiest river, Ganga, the city is the epicentre of Hindu religious thought and worship, a place where it is believed that a dip in the river cleanses one of all sin. Lining the city are river-facing ghats where spectacular morning and evening aartis take place which are visited by the devout as well as the curious. An early morning ride on the river provides views of the city’s spiritual character at work, with people performing ablutions and ceremonies, funeral pyres aflame along the ghats, the sound of temple bells and chanting reverberating across the waves. Varanasi is also popular with Buddhists as it close to Sarnath, the place where the Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.

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Khajuraho

Khajuraho

  • Exquisite Chandela temples
  • Gateway to wildlife reserves in central India

Khajuraho in central India is world-famous for its exquisite temples featuring stunning carving and erotic sculptures. Built by the Chandelas in about 1000 AD, the temples were rediscovered in 1839 by the British, and depict the rites of creation, involving both body and soul. Originally numbering 85, only 22 of these temples survive today, the finest examples of Indian temple architecture; graceful in form and outstanding in decoration. In March every year an annual dance festival is held at Khajuraho where the masters of India’s classical dance forms gather and perform with the Khajuraho temples forming a perfect backdrop for their art.

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Lucknow’s Dhobi Ghats:

Lucknow’s dhobi ghats:

A dhobi ghat is an immense open-air laundry found in every city in India where specially apportioned areas are allotted to dhobis, washermen, who work in teams, washing, laundering and ironing the clothes of the city’s populace. A visit to a dhobi ghat makes for a uniquely colourful experience, quite literally, with vast numbers of clothing being washed and hung out to dry in the sun. The dhobi ghats of Lucknow are based along the Gomti River, and this is where new embroidered and hand-sewn garments are taken for washing and ironing before they make way to the marketplace.

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Lucknow on Foot

Lucknow on foot:

The perfect way to explore Lucknow is to walk through its old city and unravel the culture, architecture and lifestyle for which the city is famous. Approximately a one and a half hour walking tour with a local expert through the winding, narrow lanes of the old city will take you past historic havelis with ornate facades, temples, mosques and bustling markets with shops selling perfume, rich silks and brocades, silverware and the exquisite Chikan embroidered fabrics that have been the hallmark of this region for centuries.

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Evening Ganga Aarti ceremony

Evening Ganga aarti ceremony

At sunset every day, the ghats of Varanasi come alive with the evening aarti, prayers, that are performed with great fervour and devotion. In the Ganga Aarti, a beautiful ceremony led by the high priests of the leading temples here, diyas (oil lamps) are offered to the Ganges, the life-giving mother river, in thanks for the light of the sun, and set afloat on the waters. The ceremony is accompanied with music and flaming mashaals (fire torches), with all the light shimmering off the river waters, making a truly captivating sight.

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Meditate with the Monks at Sarnath

Meditate with the monks at Sarnath

Sarnath, a short drive from Varanasi, is one of most famous Buddhist centres in India, the location where Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. Sarnath itself is an ancient city, dating back to the Mauryan era, which flourished between 322 and 185 BCE, and the Sarnath Archeological Museum has an excellent collection of Buddhist art treasures. For those interested in meditation, it is possible to join the Buddhist monks at Sarnath after taking prior permission.

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Angling on the Ken River

Angling on the Ken River

The Ken River which runs close to the Panna National Park is the best place for game fishing in central India. The river has a teeming population of tiger fish, called mahaseer locally, and is accessible from Khajuraho as well which is just an hour’s drive away.

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Chandela Temples and Villages

Chandela temples and villages

The Chandela Temples in Khajuraho are considered one of the best specimens of Indian temple architecture in north India. These Hindu shrines have undergone extensive restoration work and are once again a sight to behold, their exquisite designs and architecture restored to its original brilliance.

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Village Safari

Village safari

Tikamgarh village is a destination that Cox & Kings recommends to those visiting Khajuraho and Orchha. Ruled in historical times by the Bundelas, the village has many ruins of immense character. Farming villages around Tikamgarh provide guests with an extensive insight into the life of rural villages and the farming communities here.

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