Gardens of India with Anne Swithenbank


Without question, India is one of the planet’s most engaging, vibrant and colourful countries, but it is also home to some of the world’s finest and most magnificent gardens. Join BBC Radio 4 Gardener’s Question Time panellist & writer Anne Swithenbank on a special guided tour of this remarkable destination to explore all things floral.

Timed to coincide with the limited annual opening of Delhi’s Mughal Gardens and staying in luxurious five-star accommodation, the tour includes guided visits to gardens as varied as Chandigarh’s Rock Garden & Pinjore Gardens, the Lodhi Gardens in Delhi, and the gardens of the Viceregal Lodge in Shimla. Excursions will also be made to the Taj Mahal, Jaipur & Fatehpur Sikri, and there will be the opportunity to experience a ride on the Himalayan Queen Toy Train, to explore the winding streets of Old Delhi, and to spend an evening in the company of a renowned professor.


   13 Days

  Tour Includes

  • Service of a specialist horticultural tour guide
  • Economy class international and domestic flights 
  • Five-star accommodation & breakfast throughout
  • Meals as detailed
  • Dinner and Question & Answer evening with Anne Swithenbank 
  • Guided tours of Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri & Jaipur
  • Garden visits as detailed
  • Question & Answer evening & dinner with a University professor
  • Toy train rail journey & jeep ascent to Amber Fort
  • Transfers and transportation 
  • Airline departure taxes
  • Service of a Cleveland Collection tour manager


  Single Supplement



From $4,855.00 per person based on 2 people sharing

Best time to go

The tour departs in February when the flowers will be in bloom and the climate is warm but not unbearably.

Departure Date

18 February 2019

Tour Highlights

  • Anne Swithinbank will join the tour for two full days
  • Timed to coincide with the annual opening of the Mughal gardens in Delhi
  • Guided tours of eight gardens
  • Lunch with a botanist in the Lodhi gardens
  • Dinner and question & answer event with a university professor in Shimla
  • Guided wild strawberry trail walk with naturalist
  • Escorted sightseeing in Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri & Jaipur
  • Journey on the Himalayan queen toy train
  • Luxury accommodation in all locations, including a stay at the remarkable wildflower hall
  • A specialist horticultural tour guide

18th February 2019: Departure

Depart London on the direct overnight British Airways flight to Delhi.

19th February 2019: New Delhi

On arrival, the group will be met and transferred to Eros Hotel. The British created their own Delhi with large, well-planned avenues and they planted 10,000 trees with over 100kms of hedges so that it would be green year-round and abundant with flowers; a botanical paradise. 

After lunch, the group will enjoy a gentle introduction to India with a drive past the iconic India Gate, Parliament House and the impressive Presidential Palace before visiting the 12th century Qutub Minar, the world’s tallest brick minaret.

This evening a welcome dinner will be held at the hotel, affording the group the opportunity to become acquainted with one another.

Accommodation: Eros Hotel [Half Board]

20th February 2019: New Delhi

Today the group will be joined by Anne Swithinbank, horticulturalist, writer & broadcaster and panellist on BBC Radio 4’s Gardener’s Question Time, to enjoy a guided tour of New Delhi - India’s capital and a major gateway to the country which successfully combines the ancient with the modern. 

First stop today will be at the magnificent Lodhi Gardens. Spread over 90 acres, this is one of the most pleasant green spaces in Delhi, where the numerous plants and flowers are at their best in February & March. The area was used as a burial site for pre-Mughal Sayyid and Lodi rulers, with the domed mausoleum tombs of Mohammad Shar, Sikandar Lodi & Shisha Gumbad all sited in an open landscape. The building of monumental tombs runs against the principles of Islam and it is probable that the idea was brought from Persia to India, meaning the gardens are a good place to reflect on the origins of Mughal garden design. 

Lunch will be enjoyed in the garden’s restaurant in the company of a renowned local botanist who, in addition to explaining some of the history behind India’s Mughal gardens, will also escort the group on a garden stroll. After lunch, there will be a visit to the Sunder Nagar Nursery, a 16th-century heritage complex which was established over 100 years ago to breed specimens for the new capital’s avenues, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from the numerous plants, the Nursery is also home to several heritage monuments.

The day is rounded off at the spectacular Humayun’s Tomb, an outstanding Indo-Persian monument with beautiful gardens, and a precursor of the Taj Mahal.

A Question & Answer session this evening with Anne Swithenbank will be followed by dinner.

Accommodation: Eros Hotel [Half Board]

21st February 2019: New Delhi

The group will again spend today in the company of Anne Swithenbank, with the day’s undoubted highlight being a visit to the Mughal Gardens. Only open to the public for 4 weeks each year, these beautiful gardens are considered as one of the finest in India. Covering an area of 13 acres, they are home to more than 250 celebrated varieties of roses, making it one of the world’s very best rose gardens. Areas include the Musical Garden, the Spiritual Garden, the Herbal Garden, Bonsai garden and the Bio-diversity Park.

The Mughals were great builders and construction of gardens was a beloved pastime. Their style was heavily influenced by the gardens of Persia, particularly the Charbagh structure, (meaning Four Gardens). They are usually square or rectangle with a central focal point such as a tomb or pond and are divided into four quarters by channels of water, (which represents the four rivers flowing from the Garden of Eden. The three main garden types which came during the Mughal era were Tomb Gardens, such as Humayun’s Tomb; Palace Gardens, for example at the Red Fort; and Encampment Gardens, found at the Shalimar Bagh Gardens in Srinagar.

After lunch, the focus switches to fascinating Old Delhi, with the opportunity to experience a rickshaw ride through the winding alleyways of Chandani Chowk market before visiting Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, and the Sikh Temple, where the workings of the largest-attended, free community kitchen in the world can be observed.

Accommodation: Eros Hotel [Breakfast]

22nd February 2019: Chandigarh

This morning the group will travel to Delhi airport to depart on the direct morning flight to Chandigarh. On arrival, the group will be met and transferred to stay overnight at the JW Marriot Hotel. After lunch at the hotel, the group will travel to visit the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, a botanical garden which boasts more than 5,000 rose bushes of over 1,500 varieties, making it Asia’s largest and most spectacular Rose Garden. Spread over 30 acres, the gardens have beautifully carved out lawns and flowers beds.

The group will then travel to visit the acclaimed Rock Garden of Chandigarh. Created by Nek Chand and included in the BBC series Around the World in 80 Gardens, this unique garden nestles amidst 20 acres of woods and consists of art objects fashioned from industrial and urban waste. 

The day is rounded off by a tour of the multi-pillared High Court, and time at the beautiful Sukhna Lake at sunset.

Accommodation: JW Marriott Hotel [Breakfast]

23rd February 2019: Shimla

After breakfast, the group will travel to the spectacular Pinjore Gardens. The garden here has been laid in seven terraces which descend into the distance and achieve an almost magical effect. The main gate opens onto the highest first terrace, which has two Rajasthani-style palaces – the ‘palace of glass’ & the ‘airy palace’. The second terrace with arched doorways has the ‘painted palace’ whilst the third terrace has cypress trees, flowerbeds & groves of fruit trees. The next terrace down has the ‘palace of water’ with a square fountain bed, fountains & tree groves are on the next terrace, with the lowermost terrace having an open-air theatre.

After a stop for lunch, the journey continues to Solan where the group will travel on the toy train to Shimla. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the train travels on a narrow gauge line covering almost 100 km along a mostly mountainous route, where the top speed rarely exceeds 20 mph. Built by the British in 1904 to connect Shimla with the rest of the Indian rail system, it includes 107 tunnels and 864 bridges and is known for the dramatic views of the hills and the surrounding villages.

Arrive at the hill station settlement of Shimla to stay at The Wildflower Hall, Shimla.

This evening the group will enjoy dinner in the hotel in the company of a University Professor, who will elaborate on the concept of gardens in India & the history of Shimla, and host an informal Question & Answer event.

Accommodation: Wildflower Hall [Half Board]

24th February 2019: Shimla

This morning a tour of Shimla, the summer capital of the British Raj, awaits. Called the "Queen of Hill Stations" by the British and immortalized in Channel 4’s Indian Summers, Shimla is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, at a height of 7,238 feet, and is stunningly surrounded by pine, cedar, oak and rhododendron forests.

There will be the opportunity to explore the gardens of the Viceregal Lodge, an Elizabethan-style mansion built in 1888 for Lord Dufferin. Sitting on the flat top of Observatory Hill, this historic building’s gardens are a feast for the eyes. Amongst the best laid out gardens found at this altitude anywhere in the world, the well-manicured green lawns are surrounded by a riot of colourful flowers.

After lunch, the group will enjoy a delightful guided walk with a naturalist on Wildflower Hall’s Wild Strawberry Trail, which will be followed by an exquisite high tea.

Accommodation: Wildflower Hall [Breakfast]

25th February 2019: New Delhi

After a leisurely breakfast, the group will travel to Chandigarh airport to depart on the direct afternoon flight to Delhi. On arrival, the group will be met and transferred to stay overnight at the Eros Hotel.

Accommodation: Eros Hotel [Breakfast]

26th February 2019: Agra

After breakfast, the group will be travel south to Agra to stay overnight at the luxury Trident Hotel. Once a small village on the banks of the Yamuna, Agra was transformed by two great Mughal monarchs into the second capital of the Mughal Empire and is a place of contrasting edifices of red sandstone and white marble, narrow galleys, bustling streets and small buggies.

After enjoying lunch at the hotel, the first stop will be at the massive Agra Fort, which houses the Dewan-e-Khas and Dewan-e-Aam (Halls of Private and Public Audience), before a visit is made to the garden complex of Mehtab Bagh, which was built as an integral part of the Taj complex and, lying on the opposite bank of the river, offers splendid views of the Taj Mahal.

Accommodation: Trident Hotel, Agra [Breakfast]

27th February 2019: Jaipur

The sightseeing this morning at sunrise will be remarkable – at the truly magnificent Taj Mahal. Built by Mughal Emperor Shahjahan to enshrine the mortal remains of his beloved Queen Mumtaz Mahal, it is an extraordinary building. The gardens which surround the Taj Mahal are an integral part of the attraction and are without doubt one of the major highlights of any visit. The Taj Mahal occupies the north-end corner of the garden, with a raised marble lotus-tank with a cusped border in the centre. The four walkways are identical and the symmetry with which the whole garden has been laid out can be clearly observed as one enjoys an unhindered view of the mausoleum from any spot. 

After returning to the hotel for breakfast the group will continue onwards to visit Fatehpur Sikri - a deserted red sandstone city built by the Great Mughal Emperor Akbar in the late 16th century. Abandoned soon after it was built when the local wells ran dry, today it remains a ghost town complete with palaces and mosques.

After taking lunch the journey continues onward to Jaipur to stay for three nights at the Trident Hotel. The capital of Rajasthan province, Jaipur is known for its arts and crafts, jewellery, hand-painted fabrics and stone sculptures, and it is one of North India’s finest examples of a planned city embodying the best of Rajput and Mughal architecture.

Accommodation: Trident Hotel, Jaipur [Breakfast]

28th February 2019: Jaipur

After an early breakfast, the group will travel to visit the UNESCO World Heritage hilltop fortress at Amber, ascending the imposing fort by jeep.
The Kanak Vrindavan Garden, located in a valley surrounded by hills, will also be visited. An exquisitely landscaped garden which forms part of a temple complex, there are fountains & lush plantations with terraces, and intricately-carved marble columns and lattices.

After pausing to view the elegant Hawa Mahal, or ‘Palace of Winds’; an elaborate building encrusted with delicate screens and carved balconies, lunch will be enjoyed before a visit is then made to a local gemstone factory.

Accommodation: Trident Hotel, Jaipur [Breakfast]

01st March 2019: Jaipur

Today will be a mixture of sightseeing and shopping. The City Palace will be the first stop; built within the fortified area of the original city round a series of garden courts, it boasts one of the finest monumental entrances in India. It is now principally a museum, with the former royal family retaining a part of the palace.

Next up will be the Sisodia Rani Ka Bagh Garden. Built in 1728 by Sawai Jai Singh for his queen, it is laid out in the Mughal style and depicts the legends of Radha and Krishna through a series of tiered multi-level gardens with fountains, watercourses and painted pavilions.

The day is completed with the opportunity to watch some of Jaipur’s famous cottage industries at work – wonderful carpets, magnificent textiles and fine gems - and to buy some of the affordable gifts and products on offer.

Accommodation: Trident Hotel, Jaipur [Breakfast]

 02nd March 2019: Departure

This morning the group will travel to Jaipur airport to depart on the direct morning flight to Delhi. On arrival connect with the onward direct daytime British Airways flight, arriving London Heathrow late afternoon.



Tour Excludes: Indian visa, other meals where not mentioned in the programme, personal expenses, travel insurance, tips & gratuities (approx. GBP40.00 per person)

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Our Experts

A regular panellist on Gardeners' Question Time on Radio 4, Anne also contributes to BBC Gardeners' World Magazine and has co-presented coverage of Chelsea Flower Show.

Anne Swithenbank

Anne Swithenbank

Anne has been the gardening columnist of the News of the World as well as contributing to BBC Gardeners' World Magazine and the Western Morning News. She has written a number of books including: BBC Gardeners' World Book of Houseplants, Bloom, Gardeners' World Book of Containers and The Greenhouse Gardener. She has been a regular panellist on Gardeners' Question Time on Radio 4 and has co-presented extensive coverage of Chelsea Flower Show.