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India Experience


Experience the real India on this comfortable introduction to the cultures of the north and the natural beauty of the south. Travelling from Delhi to Kovalam, see what India has to offer on a 22-day adventure. The country’s highlights and hidden jewels are revealed against a backdrop of green through the Western Ghats and in the vibrant towns of Rajasthan. Visit India's bustling cities contrasted with the quiet repose of tiny fishing villages, along with tea gardens, tribal homes and colonial enclaves. This wonderful introduction to India includes lavish palaces, vibrant bazaars, and the incomparable Taj Mahal, so take time to discover its beating heart.

22 days, from

$4,975

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: HHKZC
Style: Comfort
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  India
Accommodation: Hotel (19 nights), Resort (2 nights)
Transportation: Auto rickshaw , Boat , Cycle rickshaw , Metro , Plane , Private vehicle , Ferry , Train
Included Meals:

  • 21 breakfasts
  • 2 lunches
  • 7 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12
Minimum Age: 18

  • Explore the Taj Mahal – one of the most recognisable buildings in the world – and learn of its lesser-known poetic history from a local expert

    See behind the scenes of local cuisine during hands on cooking classes in Jaipur, Madurai and an insightful ayurvedic cooking demonstration in Kochi.

    Take a nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, looking out for tiger tracks with your local village guides.

    Soak up the unique atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony at dusk on the Ganges River in Varanasi, then wake up early for a sunrise boat ride, where you can watch the light gradually illuminate the many ghats and temples along the river as you pass

    From exploring a bustling bazaar to hanging out with the locals at a cinema showing a Bollywood blockbuster, feel the magic of India that runs through everything

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Delhi

Welcome to India. Arrive in Delhi and take your complimentary airport transfer to the hotel. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive early, make sure to get out and explore this exciting capital. Filled with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops, and endless bazaars, there’s much to see and do.

Day 2: Delhi

After breakfast, your tour leader will take you to the city’s historic heart with a guided walking tour of Old Delhi. Set off on the city's modern metro system, then get a taste of India's famed public transport with an optional cycle rickshaw ride through chaotic streets, such as the famous Chandni Chowk. Make a visit to the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque, and one of its most impressive buildings, then visit the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion. After a jam-packed morning of sightseeing adventures, sit down to a traditional (and delicious) Thali lunch. The rest of the day is free for further exploration, perhaps visit the World Heritage-listed Mughal masterpiece of Humayun's Tomb, the first garden-tomb in India, built in 1570. Wonder at the tall brick minaret of Qutub Minar, which was started all the way back in the 12th-century, or explore the mighty Red Fort of Delhi. Part palace and part fort, the Red Fort played an integral part in the history of the city with former residents ranging from royal families to British soldiers.

Day 3: Agra

Farewell Delhi’s hypnotising chaos this morning and set off for Agra, home to one of the world’s most recognisable monuments. Get a taste of India’s rail system with an express train journey to Agra (approx 2 hours). The best way to uncover Agra is by cycle rickshaw, so after arriving you’ll be taken on a rickshaw tour of the city. You’ll visit the spectacular Taj Mahal. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th-century Taj is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture, surrounded by trimmed English gardens. Agra is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India. Enter the dark red sandstone stronghold of Agra Fort – part fortress, part palace and part prison – and search through throne rooms and tiny but incredibly decorated mosques. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you please. A visit to Sheroes Cafe, which employs women who have been affected by acid attacks, is highly recommended.

Day 4: Jaipur

Today we head to Jaipur, Rajasthan's capital, by private vehicle. Stop enroute to Jaipur at Chand Baori stepwell – built over 1000 years ago, this is one of the largest stepwells in India. The architectural wonder was once a gathering place for locals and royals alike. The series of narrow steps creates a beautiful pattern that leads to a body of water below. After some time here, we’ll continue to the Pink City of Jaipur and discover more of its trademark pink hues on a walking tour with your group leader. Navigate crowded streets packed with cars, camel carts, rickshaws, trucks, and bicycles, past traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches, while observing the city’s intricate architecture. Visit a bazaar to browse handcrafted textiles, folk art, and the local specialty of semi-precious stones. Make a photo stop at India's most photographed building after the Taj Mahal, the Hawa Mahal, or 'Palace of the Winds'. You have the option of also visiting Jantar Mantar, an observatory filled with instruments to track the stars, built by the founder of Jaipur, Maharaja Jai Singh. This evening, continue to indulge in the wonders of Indian culture by watching a Bollywood blockbuster – an elaborate combination of action romance, drama, and music – at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema.

Day 5: Jaipur

This morning, an optional early morning hot air balloon experience won’t disappoint – wake early for a breathtaking overhead view of the Pink City bathed in early morning light. Later, climb the twisting roads of the Aravalli Hills and round the final bend to see the massive Amber Fort loom into view. You’ll enjoy a walking tour to explore the Amber Fort with a local guide today. The legacy of a fallen empire, the opulent palace is a superb example of Rajput architecture and is packed with elaborate rooms of lavish murals, frescoed arches, and delicate jali work. Don’t miss the sparkling Mirror Palace, covered floor-to-ceiling in thousands of reflective tiles, the hall becomes a dazzling fantasy with the light of a single match. The afternoon is free to explore more of Jaipur that you might have missed yesterday. Then, this evening meet the rest of your group and leader for a special cooking class in a local home for dinner. You’ll learn the secrets, flavours and spices of traditional specialities from our welcoming hosts and then get to feast on your creations.

Day 6: Varanasi

Arrive in the holy centre of Varanasi after a short flight from Jaipur. Varanasi is awash with shrines and temples, and the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience this spiritual city. Take a walking tour of the old city, through narrow laneways packed with stalls and shops, past the dhobi wallahs, and the endless temples that echo with bells and the pungent aroma of incense. This evening soak up the unique atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony at dusk. A beautiful ritual to witness, you’ll watch on as locals give offerings of small candles cradled by leaves and flowers to the Goddess Ganga - then float the glowing hand-made pieces down the river as the sun sets in the background.

Day 7: Varanasi

Today starts early with a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges, where you can watch the light gradually illuminate the many ghats and temples along the river as you pass. There is an option to take a trip to nearby Sarnath, one of the four main Buddhist pilgrimage destinations. The site is where Buddha preached his message of the path to enlightenment and features a number of stupas and museums to explore. Alternatively, the day can be spent exploring the laneways and alleys behind the ghats, or picking up some examples of the excellent local silk industry.

Day 8: Delhi

Use a free morning to delve further into the spiritual atmosphere of Varanasi, wander through the ghats or perhaps haggle with vendors in colourful bazaars. Then, return to Delhi by plane for a last chance to explore India's capital. Perhaps head to the legendary Connaught Place for some last-minute shopping. This evening, why not share a meal with your group to reminisce about your travels.

Day 9: Chennai

Today, take a flight from Delhi to Chennai to join the second stage of your trip. This flight is unaccompanied, but your leader will provide you all the details, plus where to meet a representative on arrival in Chennai to be transferred to your accommodation. Chennai – previously known as Madras – is South India’s largest, and the perfect place to dive straight into the culture, religion and cuisine of the region. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers and your new Indian leader.

Day 10: Mamallapuram – Puducherry

From Chennai, drive along the scenic East Coast Road to the fishing village of Mamallapuram. Join a local guide for a tour around the town’s laidback beaches and temples, keeping an eye out for the sculptures and carvings dotted around the place. Visit the incredible 8th-century Shore Temple and its mandapams (carved pillars) to pay your respects to the deity Shiva. Continue onto Puducherry (Pondicherry) in the late afternoon where your evening is then free.

Day 11: Puducherry

Explore Puducherry, which was under French rule until 1954, and the European style of the town extends from beautiful colonial architecture right down to the uniforms of the police. Enjoy a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter, and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The rest of the day and evening is free. Puducherry’s food scene is truly unique, as Indian classics have a distinctly French spin on them – be sure to ask your leader for tips on the best places to grab dinner this evening.

Day 12: Karaikudi

Drive to Karaikudi today. On arrival, check into your heritage property accommodation, an elegantly decorated mansion built in 1902. After settling in, take a walk around the village with your leader to learn about the lives of the local communities. Along the way, you’ll stop off to admire havelis – these old mansions were ornately decorated as a display of wealth, and many remain around this region today. This evening, ask your leader for recommendations on where to get some spicy Chettinad cuisine for dinner.

Day 13: Madurai

Continue on to Madurai. Here you will wander through the colourful markets and bazaars, then visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple in the city’s centre. Still in use today, this ancient temple is a maze of lamp-lit corridors leading to shrines where traditional rituals take place, including the remarkable thousand pillar hall. You might also like to explore the National Gandhi Museum (optional), dedicated to the life and achievements of the 'Father of the Nation' and the leader of India's fight for independence. Your evening is then free to spend as you please.

Day 14: Madurai

The day is yours for your own explorations of one of India’s oldest cities. Madurai has a wealth of treasures to uncover, from buzzing bazaars and tailors’ markets to roadside stalls selling cold glasses of jigarthanda and savoury idli rice cakes. Perhaps visit the Art Museum to see a superb collection of carvings, or check out the Tirumalai Nayak Palace. Regroup this evening for a chance to get hands on with a cooking class focused on Tamil cuisine. Local favourites include mutton balls, dosa, and crispy bun parottas, so prepare to leave with a full stomach and a load of new recipes.

Day 15: Periyar

Drive through rubber and pineapple plantations to Thekkady. Your accommodation here is on the outskirts of Periyar National Park, perched lakeside in the ranges of the Western Ghats. The sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, which was formed as a 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. This afternoon, take a tour of a local spice plantation. Here you’ll gain insight on the plant life, spices, herbs, fruits and flowers of the region, and how they are used in Ayurvedic medicine. Find out how the spices are grown, harvested, dried and prepared. Later in the day, you may like to attend a demonstration of Indian martial arts (kalaripayattu) at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre.

Day 16: Periyar

In the morning, take a guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary (approximately 3 hours). If you’re lucky, you could spot tiger tracks, spotted deer, Indian elephants and gaur – the world's largest species of buffalo. You may also have the chance to see Bonnet macaques and the Malabar giant squirrel, a species native to India. In the afternoon, unwind with an optional ayurvedic massage or just relax in this scenic setting.

Day 17: Kochi

In the morning, drive to Kochi, aka Cochin. Today is a long driving day, but your journey will be broken up with plenty of stops, and the fantastic scenery is sure to keep your occupied. Kochi is a veritable melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British influences. On arrival, you may like to stretch your legs and wander down the beach at sunset.

Day 18: Kochi

Visit the Dutch Palace (Mattancherry Palace), which was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese before the Dutch renovated it. Then check out the oldest functioning Jewish synagogue in India, the Paradesi Synagogue. For lunch today, you’ll meet a local expert and learn all about Satvik Bhojan, the ayurvedic diet. Take part in a cooking demonstration using the methods and recipes discussed, then enjoy the dishes for lunch. In the evening witness a classic Kathakali performance, a dramatic dance that combines storytelling with physical technique.

Day 19: Kerala Backwaters

Drive from Kochi to Kumarkon to your resort along the riverside. This sleepy village is quintessential Kerala backwaters, with its shady palm trees, winding waterways and traditional houseboats. On arrival, get out on the water and take a short cruise around the backwaters before heading out on a village walk. Stroll under palm trees and weave in between the rice fields while you see local residents going about their daily lives in this unique and tranquil environment.

Day 20: Kovalam

In the morning, drive to Kovalam via Kerala’s capital, Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). Kovalam was once a quiet coastal village known for its export of fresh fish and coconuts, but is now one of India’s more popular beach resorts. Visit the ancient temple of Attukal Bhagavathy in the afternoon. If you have free time, explore the old signaling station of Anchuthengu Fort or the 16th-century Koyikkal Palace. Your evening is then free to do as you wish. Perhaps head out with the group for a farewell meal together tonight – the local cuisine is known for its use of coconuts, curry leaves and fresh seafood, so dig in while you have the chance.

Day 21: Kovalam

Your trip comes to an end after breakfast and you’re free to leave the accommodation at any time.