Experience the real India on this comfortable introduction to the cultures of north India and the lush beauty of southern India. Travelling from Delhi in the north to Trivandrum in the south, discover everything that India has to offer. The highlights and hidden jewels are revealed against a backdrop of green on a Kerala tour and in the vibrant towns of Rajasthan. Visit India's flamboyant major cities and the quiet repose of tiny fishing villages, along with tea gardens, tribal homes and colonial enclaves. Discover the culinary delights of each region and stay in colourful hotels, heritage accommodation and even a palace!
Please note that due to ongoing construction works at Khajuraho airport, many airlines have reduced the number of flights into and out of this airport. As a result we have had to reroute some trips between Khajuraho and Varanasi to an overnight train rather than the flight. Whilst this will only happen on the odd occasion, please be aware that this change may be made to your itinerary. We will do all we can to secure seats on available flights and will aim to let you know if we have to change your trip, however please be prepared that this might be at late notice or once your trip has already commenced. Your itinerary will not change with the exception of this flight. All activities will continue to be included.
Why we love it
- Experience the real India on this comfortable introduction to the cultures of north India and the lush beauty of southern India.
- Travelling from Delhi in the north to Trivandrum in the south, discover everything that India has to offer.
- The highlights and hidden jewels are revealed against a backdrop of green on a Kerala tour and in the vibrant towns of Rajasthan.
- Visit India's flamboyant major cities and the quiet repose of tiny fishing villages, along with tea gardens, tribal homes and colonial enclaves.
- Discover the culinary delights of each region and stay in colourful hotels, heritage accommodation and even a palace!
Day 1-2 - Delhi
- Upon arrival you will be collected at the airport by one of our transfer representatives. Your Indian adventure will begin with an important meeting at 6 pm. You will find details of the meeting venue at the hotel reception.
- Keep in mind that you will need your next of kin and insurance details with you at this meeting.
- If you arrive early, you will have the opportunity to explore India’s capital - a bustling, exciting and often chaotic hub, filled with fascinating historical sites, galleries, museums and incredible bazaars.
- There are a number of sites worth seeing in your free time. The 1570 Mughal masterpiece of Humayun’s Tomb is a World Heritage-listed site. It was the first garden tomb in India.
- The tall brick minaret of Qutub Minar was crafted in the 1100s; it is a fascinating site to explore. You may also like to visit the mighty Red Fort of Delhi. This part-palace, part-fort has hosted a variety of guests ranging from British soldiers to royal families.
- Your tour leader will take you on an organised sightseeing trip through Old Delhi via the city’s modern metro, you will then have the chance to test India’s iconic cycle rickshaw with an adventure through the chaotic streets, including Chandni Chowk.
- You may also see the oldest mosque in Delhi, Jama Masjid, an impressive structure, before visiting the Sikh Temple, Sheeshganj Gurudwara.
Hotel Taj Princess or similar
Day 3-4 - Delhi - Jaipur
- You will travel by express train into Rajasthan and on to its capital, Jaipur today (approx. 5 hours).
- Here, traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches will make their way through crowded streets packed with cars, camel carts, rickshaws, trucks, and bicycles. You will also find bustling, brightly coloured bazaars filled with handcrafted textiles, folk art, and semi-precious stones, the local specialty. You will walk amidst the wonderful madness and discover the city for yourself. Jaipur is a favourite among travellers.
- You will then travel 11 kilometres out to the stunning medieval Amber Fort. This fort was built in 1592 by Maharajah Man Singh and is a superb example of Rajput architecture.
- You will also stop for photos of the Hawa Mahal (or Palace of The Winds), which is the most photographed structure in India after the Taj Mahal.
- You will also see one of five astronomical observatories built by the founder of Jaipur, Maharaja Jai Singh.
- Continue to indulge in the wonders of Indian culture by watching a Bollywood blockbuster - a vivid combination of action romance, drama and music, at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema.
Hotel Rani Mahal or similar
Day 5 - Agra
- Today you will journey across the plains of Rajasthan by private vehicle to reach Agra (approximately 6 hours). Agra is home to one of the world's most recognisable monuments, the Taj Mahal.
- You will be taken on a cycle rickshaw tour of the city, a wonderful way to uncover the best of Agra. (Please note that in the case of an unreasonably hot, or cold, foggy day, the cycle rickshaw tour will be replaced with a battery-powered rickshaw tour.)
- Next you will visit the spectacular Taj Mahal - a masterpiece of glistening marble set amid picturesque, formal gardens. This amazing 17th century marble mausoleum was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his second wife, who died giving birth.
- Started in 1631, the project was completed in 1648 and employed a workforce of over 20,000 people. Construction materials were brought from all over India with the marble from Rajasthan transported by over 1000 elephants. The Taj has been described as a 'teardrop on the face of eternity' (by writer Rabindranath Tagore).
- You will also visit the nearby Agra Fort - a huge complex built originally as a military structure of red sandstone by Akbar in 1565, and partially converted into a palace during the time of Shah Jahan.
Raj Mahal Hotel or similar
Day 6-7 - Orchha
- From the majestic Taj, you will travel by express train to Madhya Pradesh (approximately 3.5 hours). Upon arrival in Jhansi, you will be collected by automatic rickshaws and carried through traditional rural Indian landscapes to reach the beautiful town of Orchha. Here you will have the opportunity to uncover a very different side of India (approximately 45 minutes).
- You will make a stop at Taragram on the way to Orchha, one of our Responsible Tourism projects. Taragram is a paper making factory that enables local tribal women to work outside the realm usually afforded to them. The paper is crafted from wood pulp and recycled clothing.
- Orchha is lovely town on the banks of the Betwa River. Initially a hunting area, Orchha has changed very little over the centuries. As the capital of Bundela, it was bestowed with a myriad of beautiful temples and palaces that belie its insignificant size.
- You will visit the Orchha Palace that was built by Bir Sing Deo for his friend Jehangir, who was a great Mughal ruler.
- Lastly, you will have the opportunity to be immersed in the flavours of the district’s culture with a cooking demonstration by the town’s local people.
Bundelkhand Riverside or similar
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 8 - Khajuraho
- KHAJURAHO AIRPORT:
- Please note that due to ongoing construction works at Khajuraho Airport, many airlines have reduced the number of flights into and out of this airport. As a result we have had to reroute some trips between Khajuraho and Varanasi to an overnight train replacing the flight. Please be aware that while we will continue to do all we can to secure tickets on the limited flights available, this change may need to be made last minute to your itinerary. Your leader will notify you at the Group Meeting of any changes. All activities will continue to be included.
- Today you will explore Khajuraho, a place famed for its incredible 1000-year-old temples, untouched by foreign invaders for centuries thanks to Khajuraho’s remote location, far from any major historical or modern centres.
- The temples are especially reputed for their explicit carvings that illustrate the entire Kama Sutra.
- Built during the Chandela Dynasty 1000 years ago, over a 100 to 150 year period, these temples have become a source of great perplexity for Indians and foreigners alike. The British only rediscovered the temples in the late 19th century.
- The reason behind their existence and more interestingly, the inspiration for the intricate, erotic carvings is open to wide interpretation. Some argue that the carvings, all located on the exterior of the temples, signified the act of leaving sexual desires behind upon entering the holy temples, while others think them descriptive learning tools for young boys in the area about life beyond religion.
- You will go on a tour of the western temple complex.
- You will also have the opportunity to see a performance at the famous classical dance festival that occurs here.
- Before leaving the town you will visit the home of a local Hindu family, where you will enjoy a home-cooked meal and be immersed in the life of middle-class Indians.
Usha Bundela or similar
Breakfast | Dinner
Day 9-10 - Varanasi
- From the wondrous temples of Khajuraho, you will take a short flight to the spiritual centre of Varanasi. At certain times of year this flight could be delayed due to heavy fog.
- Varanasi is awash with shrines and temples, it is the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims; devotees travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual centre. Varanasi is not known for its cleanliness, but it is recognised as one of India’s most inspiring cities. You will be overwhelmed with sensory wonder. From the labyrinth of narrow laneways packed with stalls and shops, and the dhobi wallahs and burning ghats, to the endless temples that echo with bells and chimes and the pungent aroma of incense. You will also bare witness to pilgrims performing ancient bathing rituals and ceremonies.
- The day will start early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, where you will pass a multitude of temples and ghats.
- In the evening you will witness the majestic atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony, while you cruise the Ganges at sunset. Traditional musicians will serenade you; this is a truly unforgettable experience.
Hotel Hindustan International or similar
Day 11 - Delhi
- You will have a free morning to explore Varanasi. You may like to wander through the ghats, or do some last minute shopping in the incredible bazaars.
- You will then fly to Delhi (approximately 1.5 hours).
- The evening is free for you to wander around the Karol Bagh markets or perhaps catch a metro to Connaught Place.
- Alternatively, Hauz Khas village is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown - a chic artistic enclave set right next to the remnants of a historical site.
Hotel Swati Deluxe or similar
Day 12-13 - Chennai
- Fly to Chennai for the second half of your trip. This flight is included in the cost of the trip. On sarrival in Chennai, you are met and transferred to your hotel.
- Chennai, formerly Madras, is the fourth largest city in India. It was the first major settlement of the East India Company in 1639.
- While it is exceptionally hot, and forever abuzz with activity and noise, Chennai is comparatively orderly; by Indian standards, it is considered to be quite efficient.
- The Government Museum is an excellent place to develop an understanding of the history of the city. Alternatively you might like to do a tour the Enfield Factory, definitely a must for motorcycle enthusiasts. It is only open on certain days, so it is worth checking this before you embark.
- Simply wandering the streets, exploring the lively local markets and beautiful temples is another lovely way to wile away the day.
Pride Hotel or similar
Day 14 - Mamallapuram
- From Chennai, you will escape the busy city and head for the sprawling, laidback beaches of Mamallapuram. You will drive along the scenic East Coast Road for two hours to reach this scenic fishing village.
- You might like to visit the Shore Temple, or see the abundant mandapams (carved pillars in front of temples). You can also watch stone carvers, see the fishing fleet, or just unwind and absorb the atmosphere of the town from a beachside restaurant.
Sea Bereeze Hotel or similar
Day 15 - Pondicherry
- You will drive on to Pondicherry today, briefly stopping at Auroville to experience an incredible experiment in international living (driving time: approx 3 hours)
- Auroville is home to 1,500 residents across 80 rural settlements. Half of the population are foreign nationals, and the purpose of the settlement is human unity. Auroville is also known for housing the world’s largest solid crystal.
- You will continue on your journey to reach the united territories of Pondicherry. This region is distinctively French. It is charming and romantic, replete with a Hotel de Ville, French consulate and a police force dressed in traditional red kepis hats and belts.
- Pondicherry also houses the famous Sri Aurobind Ashram. It was founded by Sri Aurobindo in 1926, and has become one of the most popular ashrams for tourists and ex-pats alike. It is also one of the most affluent in India.
- Pondicherry is a duty free zone, reputed for its quality leather and hand crafted paper products, you will notice the French influence of the area extends to the European feel of the shopping.
- You will wander through the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and also explore some local temples and the old French quarter.
Aurodhan Heritage Hotel or similar
Day 16-17 - Madurai
- Today you will take an afternoon train to Madurai. This six-hour journey will be in air-conditioned comfort, with a dining carriage and western toilets available to ensure your trip is enjoyable.
- Fascinating ancient temples and heritage sites punctuate Madurai’s landscape, with the city’s recorded history dating back to the 3rd century BC.
- You will wander the tailors markets and bazaars before visiting the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. Still active today, this ancient temple is a maze of lamp-lit corridors. The corridors lead to shrines where mysterious rituals take place.
- A visit to the National Gandhi Museum will expose you to the life and achievements of the 'Father of the Nation'; a wonderful chance to learn about the remarkable man behind India's fight for independence.
Germanus Hotel or similar
Day 18-19 - Thekkady - Periyar National Park
- Today you will drive to Thekkady, passing flourishing rubber and pineapple plantations (approximately 4 hours). Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park (Periyar Tiger Reserve), which is perched high in the ranges of the Western Ghats.
- The sanctuary surrounds a beautiful lake. The lake formed as result of a dam that was built in 1895. It ambles through the contours of the wooded hills, and is a permanent source of water for local wildlife.
- A guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary will offer you the chance to experience the wilderness and maybe glimpse some wildlife. Wildlife encounters are never guaranteed, but if luck is on your side you may see some Indian elephants or gaur - the world's largest species of buffalo. You are more likely to see Bonnet macaques who are often found near the entrance to the reserve, or the Malabar giant squirrel, a species native to India.
- Next, you will be taken on a tour of a local spice plantation before sitting down to a delicious meal prepared by the owner’s family.
- In your free time, you can enjoy an ayurvedic massage (optional) or attend an exciting demonstration of Indian martial arts (kalaripayattu) at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre.
Rangerwood Hotel or similar
Breakfast | Dinner
Day 20-21 - Munnar
- You will be driven to Munnar today (approximately 4 hours). Munnar is an old British hill station that is cradled in a picturesque valley. Sitting higher up at 1525 metres (4575 feet) you will notice a dramatic drop in temperature here, so be sure to pack appropriate clothing to accommodate this.
- You will visit a nearby tea garden, where you can bask in the luscious, green surrounds, and if the erratic scheduling of the museum allows, you will visit the tea museum.
- Next you will journey out to Mattupetti Dam, a town known for its Indo-Swiss livestock project. It is situated 13 kilometres from Munnar and sits 1700 metres above sea level.
Deshadan Mountain Resort or similar
Day 22-23 - Kochi (Cochin)
- After blissing out in Kerala, you will drive on to Kochi (approximately 2 hours). Kochi, formerly known as Cochin, is spread over several islands, and is known for its melting pot of influences, from Chinese and Portuguese to Dutch and English. The ferry network is the best way to explore the area.
- You will explore the wonderful antique shops and spice bazaars, as well the sights of Fort Cochin such as the Chinese fishing nets.
- You will also visit the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Palace), which was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese and later claimed by the Dutch in 1663. The Dutch improved upon the existing palace before presenting it to the rajas of Cochin.
- In the Mattancherry area, you also visit the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest existing Jewish synagogue in India, built in 1568.
- Next you will go on an excursion to Vypeen Island, it is one of the group of islands that collectively forms Kochi.
- In the early evening you will also have the opportunity to witness a Kathakali dance performance, a classical, powerful, and dramatic dance style that combines symbolic storytelling with physical virtuosity. It is one of the most vibrant and extraordinary theatre forms in the world, and requires incredible commitment and rigorous training physically, as well as incredible emotional sensitivity to properly express the nuances of expression required.
Grand Hotel or similar
Day 24 - Alleppey (Kerala Backwaters)
- From Kochi, you drive south to the backwaters of Kerala (approximately 3 hours).
- Discover Kerala’s beloved hidden treasure in Alleppey’s sleepy, palm-shaded backwaters. Previously a significant trading port, Alleppey is now famed for its snake boat races (in August). It is the most common starting point for most journeys through the backwaters, and hosts a music festival in December each year.
- You will be taken on a boat ride around the lake, the perfect vantage point to enjoy the gorgeous scenery, before wandering through nearby villages, between expansive rice fields, and under swaying palms. This is the perfect way to gain an insight into the local lifestyle.
- Please note that trips departing in 2014 will stay at the Deshadan Backwater Resort. Trips departing in 2015 will be staying in traditional houseboats.
Deshadan Backwaters Resort or similar
Day 25-26 - Trivandrum - Kovalam
- A morning drive takes you to Kovalam via the capital of Kerala, Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). The journey takes approximately 4 hours.
- Kovalam used to be quiet coastal village known only for its export of fresh fish and coconuts. It was discovered 30 years ago and was transformed from obscurity to one of the most popular beaches in India.
- You will visit one of the most ancient temples in south India, the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The majority of its devotees are women and as a result it is often described as 'Sabarimala of the Women'.
- Your trip ends in Kovalam after breakfast on Day 26. The nearest airport is Trivandrum. Your tour leader can assist you with arranging a transfer to the airport. These are not included, but can also be booked through us or your travel agent.
Sagara Beach Resort