Image: River Ganges in Varanasi, India
Rajesh Kumar Singh  /  AP file
A fisherman stands in his boat at sunrise in River Ganges in Varanasi, India. With the Deserts, Palaces and Ganges package, you'll sail along the Ganges by the holy city of Varanasi, tour Delhi, ride an elephant near Jaipur, and visit the iconic Taj Mahal.
updated 10/26/2007 12:45:59 PM ET 2007-10-26T16:45:59

The Real Deal: Eleven nights' accommodations, some meals, flights and ground transportation within India, and sightseeing from $1,421 per person—including taxes.

When: Depart on Dec. 1, 15, 2007; add $158 for Nov. 3, 17, 2007, Jan, 5, 19, Feb. 2, 16, Mar. 1, 15, 29, Apr. 12, 26, Sept. 6, 20, Oct. 4, 18, Nov. 1, 15, 29, Dec. 13, 27, 2008.

The fine print: There is a 10 percent discount for December departures reflected in the $1,421 price. Breakfast daily, two dinners, hotel taxes, airport-hotel transfers, overnight train travel, ground transportation, sightseeing tours, activities and most admission fees are included. Additional entrance fees are approximately $40 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $629. Visas are required for U.S. citizens and can be obtained through Travisa Outsourcing for $73 for a six-month multiple entry stamp ($60 for the cost of the visa and $13 service fee). Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: No deadline; based on availability.

Contact: On the Go Tours, 866/377-6147, onthegotours.com.

Why it's a deal: By booking on the two dates in December, you'll save ten percent off the regular package price of $1,579, or about $158 per person. On the Go Tours specializes in travel to far flung destinations and offers a sense of comfort and reassurance while exploring an unfamiliar place—making sure you don't miss any noteworthy sites. Plus, they have arrangements with local hotels to offer you lower prices than what you'd be quoted if you were to book accommodations on your own. They also take care of ground transportation, a local flight and provide the service of an English-speaking tour guide. Consider that the discounted $1,421 rate breaks down to about $129 per person per night for accommodations and all the included features.

Trip details: The Deserts, Palaces and Ganges package includes 11 nights' accommodations divided between seven cities. The journey begins with your arrival in Delhi, where you'll be met by the staff and transferred to Hotel Singh Sons. Your two-night stay includes a sightseeing tour of Old and New Delhi, with stops by India Gate, Qutab Minar, and Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. You'll also be treated to a traditional Namaste dinner at a local restaurant.

Then you'll take an express train to Jaipur, where you'll tour the City Palace and visit the Jantar Mantar space observatory. A highlight of your two-night stay in Jaipur is an elephant ride to the Amber Fort, built by Maharaja Man Singh in the 16th century. You'll stay at the Shahpura House.

Next on the agenda will be the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, home to more than 350 bird species. After spending the day riding through the park on a bicycle rickshaw, you'll stay overnight at the Chandra Mahal Haveli, a cozy mansion house in nearby Bharatpur.

On your way to visit one of India's most recognizable landmarks, the Taj Mahal in Agra, you'll stop by the ruins of the Mughal City of Fatehpur Sikri, which was abandoned long ago due to a lack of water supply. You'll stay overnight at the Howard Park Plaza Hotel in Agra.

Your journey will head south to Orchha for a night. The historical city on the banks of the Betwa River is home to temples and palaces that date back to the 16th century. You'll stay at Orchha's Amar Mahal hotel. After exploring Orchha for a day, you'll head east to Khajuraho, a village surrounded by the mountains of Chatarpur, to visit the ancient carved temples and spend the night.

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Then you'll catch an hour-long flight on Air India to Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges River where you'll stay for the next two nights at the Meraden Grand. With over 2,000 years under its belt, this is one of the oldest, holiest cities on the planet. Your two days of exploration will consist of a city tour and a sunrise boat cruise along the Ganges to catch a glimpse of the ancient Hindu cleansing ritual along the riverbanks.

When it's time to leave Varanasi, you have a choice of returning to Delhi by overnight train (in an air-conditioned sleeper car) or by plane. The train is included in the price of the package; if you prefer to fly, you'll pay an additional $279 per person for the ticket and a one-night hotel stay at the Singh Sons. After breakfast, on the morning of day 13 of your trip, you'll be transferred to the airport. (Both the breakfast and the transfer are included in the package.)

On the Go Tours also provides travelers with the option to tack on a few extra days in Delhi either before or after their trip for an additional $69 per person for a twin or double room; single supplement is $49.

For more tips on what to do in the area, visit India's official tourism Web site. You can find the latest exchange rate and the local time at BudgetTravel.com.

India's climate is tropical but it varies from region to region. December and January are the coldest and driest months of the year with a temperature average of 50-59 degrees in the northwest and 68-77 degrees in the southeast. Before you go, check the weather forecast.

Getting there: International airfare is not included. A recent search on Sidestep yielded round-trip fares to Delhi departing on Nov. 29 and returning on Dec. 13 starting at $980 from New York (Jet Airways), $1,252 from Chicago (multiple carriers), $1,404 from Miami (multiple carriers) and $1,498 from Los Angeles (British Airways).

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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