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India South & North


This extensive 29-day adventure through India takes you from bottom to top, revealing the icons and local secrets of this diverse country. Revel in the tropical climate, warm waters, and lush green landscapes of the south in places like Kochi, Puducherry, and Madurai. Then be dazzled by kaleidoscopic colours, Mughal grandeur, and the overt spirituality of the north in Jaipur and Agra. Travel from Kochi to Delhi and combine the slower delights of Kerala and Tamil Nadu with the rush and jumble of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan on our longest Original-style India tour.

29 days, from

$3,295

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: HHSZC
Style: Original
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Details

Countries Visited:  India
Accommodation: Deluxe permanent tent (1 night), Heritage Property (3 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (16 nights), Jungle resort (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (1 night), Resort (2 nights)
Transportation: 4x4 Safari Vehicle , Auto rickshaw , Boat , Bus , Cycle rickshaw , Ferry , Jeep , Metro , Overnight sleeper train , Private vehicle , Shuttle Bus , Taxi , Train , Van
Meals: 5 dinners, 7 breakfasts
Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • Explore seaside Mamallapuram on a bicycle tour, pedalling to the eighth-century Shore Temple and incredible seventh-century stone carving known as Arjuna’s Penance.

  • Carve through the iridescent hills of Ootacamund (Ooty) on the vintage Nilgiri Mountain Railway, then visit a lush tea plantation.

  • Spot tigers, elephants, sloths, and birds on safaris and nature walks in three of India’s wildlife viewing hotspots – Mudumalai, Periyar, and Ranthambhore national parks.

  • Cruise the winding backwaters of Kerala and further immerse yourself in life on the water with an island homestay in this idyllic region.

  • Learn about life in the Rajasthani desert on a walking tour around the bustling ghats and temples of Pushkar followed by lunch with a local family.

Itinerary

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Day 1: Kochi

Your Indian adventure starts today in Kochi with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you arrive in Kochi early, there are plenty of things to see and do. Once an important spice-trading centre, Kochi has been under Portuguese, Dutch and British rule at various times throughout history. Explore with one of our Urban Adventures or wander down to the shore and seek out the huge Chinese fishing nets dotted along the coast of Fort Cochin.

Day 2: Kochi

This morning, take on Kochi with a leader-led orientation tour. Board a local ferry to Mattancherry and drop by the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century before it was renovated and presented to the Rajas of Cochin by the Dutch. Pay an optional visit to Paradesi Synagogue – the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth and home to many rare antiques. Then amble around the spice bazaars and antique stores of Fort Cochin. In the evening, experience a Kathakali performance. This Keralan dance is an ornately costumed display of storytelling, requiring complete control of the body.

Day 3: Ootacamund – Conoor

Buckle up, because most of today is spent travelling. Catch a 3.5-hour train to Coimbatore, before travelling by private vehicle to Ootacamund (approximately 4 hours). Often referred to as ‘Snooty Ooty’, it was here that the game of snooker was named and arguably invented. Stretch your legs exploring the town’s Hindu temples or stroll through what almost feels like the English countryside. Ooty is pleasantly mild in the summer but can get cold in winter, so make sure you come prepared with adequate clothing. You’ll stay in the nearby Conoor, where dinner is included at your accommodation tonight.

Day 4: Ootacamund – Conoor

Today, board Ooty’s renowned toy train for a ride along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Be sure to get a window seat for great views over the lush countryside. In nearby Conoor, visit a tea plantation to learn about the history of tea production. Spend the rest of the day exploring Ooty’s Botanical Gardens, which are home to over 650 species of plants and trees. Alternatively, get a little bit romantic with a boat ride on the lake.

Day 5: Mudumalai National Park – Masinagudi

Take a private vehicle for the short drive to Masinagudi today. Set against the backdrop of the Nilgiri Hills, Mudumalai National Park was once the Mysore Maharaja's private hunting ground. In 1974 it was brought under Project Tiger and is now one of the best sanctuaries in India to observe wildlife in close proximity. Embark on a short safari in search of tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, sambars, spotted deer, and much more. There's also an amazing variety of birdlife in the park. Tonight’s family-run accommodation in Masinagudi is a mixed-gender dormitory style with a common bathroom. This dorm room is only open to your group.

Day 6: Mysore

Travel by private vehicle across the scenic Karnataka plains to Mysore, stopping to share a biryani lunch with local host Raju and his family. Mysore is an easy-going town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot. Your leader will provide an orientation walk for you to get your bearings. A visit to Mysore is incomplete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is full of colour, mosaics, and mirrors.

Day 7: Mysore – Overnight train

This morning, head out of Mysore and climb Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Durga. Continue on to the Keshava Temple in the small town of Somnathpur – an excellent example of Hoysala architecture. You’ll also have some time to pay an optional visit to Tipu Sultan’s mausoleum in Srirangapatna, or instead, return to Mysore for a palm reading or to catch a film at the local cinema. Tonight, board an 11-hour overnight sleeper train to Chennai.

Day 8: Mamallapuram

After arriving in Chennai, take a private vehicle along the scenic East Coast Road to Mamallapuram. Explore this ancient seaport town by bicycle, paying a visit to the seventh-century Shore Temple and the enormous bas-relief rock carving, known as Arjuna's Penance. There will also be time to inspect the town’s numerous mandapams (pillared temple pavilions), watch local stonemasons at work, or just to kick back and relax at a beachside restaurant.

Day 9: Puducherry

Travel by private vehicle for 5 hours through palm trees and rice paddies to Puducherry (Pondicherry). On arrival, head out with your group and leader on a walking tour to see local temples, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and the French Quarter. Once a French colony, you’ll see evidence of French influence in Puducherry's architecture, its wide town squares, and even in the uniforms of the police.

Day 10: Madurai

Transfer by taxi to the railway station at Villupuram and board a train to the temple city of Madurai (approximately 6 hours). Madurai’s Tamil roots stretch back 2500 years, making it one of the oldest cities in India. Wander the lamp-lit labyrinth of the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and goddess Meenakshi. Visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum, which displays a detailed account of India’s struggle for independence along with the bloodstained dhoti the famous leader wore when he was assassinated.

Day 11: Periyar

This morning, travel by private vehicle along a winding road to the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. High in the ranges of the Western Ghats, the park is set among stunning scenery and is the most popular wildlife sanctuary in Southern India. Both today and tomorrow, you’ll get to explore the national park on foot and will understand why Periyar is a popular wilderness sanctuary because of its lush surroundings. In the evening, enjoy a tour of a local spice plantation.

Day 12: Periyar

Venture back into the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary today for a guided nature walk. Encounters with animals in the wild are never guaranteed, and this is more of a jungle walk than an animal spotting tour, but do look out for tiger tracks, spotted deer, Indian elephants, or gaur – the world's largest species of buffalo. In the afternoon, unwind with an optional ayurvedic massage at your accommodation, or just relax in this scenic setting with a drink in hand.

Day 13: Kerala Backwaters

Travelling by private vehicle, pass through the rubber, tea, and coffee plantations on the way to the backwaters of Kerala. Board a boat to cross to the island village where you’ll stay with a local family tonight. In the late afternoon, explore the island with a local English-speaking guide, and sometimes your homestay host! This is a great chance to meet locals and learn more about their unique way of life. Take a leisurely punt boat ride around the waterways and enjoy the scenery. In the evening, share stories and a traditional home-cooked Keralan meal with your host family.

Day 14: Kochi

Wake early, before crossing the backwaters by private boat to Alleppey. From here, take a 2-hour local bus back to Kochi. The rest of the day is free for you to choose your own adventure. Perhaps you’d like to stroll down Princess Street for a spot of shopping, or book yourself into a southern Indian cooking class – your group leader will have some other recommendations, so be sure to ask them. Tonight, why not gather together with your group and have a night out at a local restaurant. Whatever you do, be sure to snack on a pazham pori (fried fritter of banana or plantain) while you explore the city.

Day 15: Delhi

Take your included (but unescorted) flight from Kochi to Delhi today for the second part of your Indian adventure. There will be a meeting at 6 pm to welcome any new travellers joining you on the next stage of your adventure. After the meeting, choose whether to join the group for an optional dinner.

Day 16: Delhi

In the morning, navigate the city’s metro system to discover Old Delhi on a walking tour. Hitch a ride on a traditional cycle rickshaw through a typical Indian traffic jam in the streets around the Chandni Chowk marketplace. Visit Delhi’s oldest mosque of Jama Masjid, which is also India’s largest. Escape from the frenetic pace of the city streets by ducking into a Sikh temple, Sheeshganj Gurudwara, to observe the spiritual side of this bustling metropolis. The communal kitchen welcomes all, and there's a chance to have a simple meal here together. The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy the sights of Delhi. Many past travellers have recommended the Delhi Food Walk or Home Cooked Delhi tours with Urban Adventures as a great way to safely (and deliciously!) explore the tastes of India.

Day 17: Agra

Travel to Agra by one of India's express air-conditioned trains (approx 3 hours/230km). Steeped in Mughal heritage, Agra has a wealth of gardens, temples, and open rooftops. Visit the Taj Mahal and learn why Emperor Shah Jahan built it as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz. Buzz around Agra in a motorised rickshaw and explore inside the spectacular sandstone walls of the Red Fort, built to encompass the imperial city of the Mughal rulers in the 16th century. If you have time, move on to Akbar's Mausoleum to honour the great emperor. For a meal that makes a difference while in Agra, consider visiting Sheroes Hangout, a remarkable social enterprise that supports survivors of acid attacks.

Day 18: Madhogarh

Take a local bus to Bassi, a small town in the middle of rural Rajasthan (approx 4 hours/210km). Then travel by private transport to your accommodation for the night (approx 45 min/20km) in Madhogarh. On a walk through the village, see craftspeople at work and meet some of our local friends. In the evening, stay in the beautiful heritage property of Fort Madhogarh, which has belonged to one of Rajasthan’s royal families for centuries. Dinner is included here tonight.

Day 19: Jaipur

Travel on by private vehicle to Jaipur (approx 90min/50km). On arrival, take a walk around the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur. Get among the crowds of the city’s bazaars to shop for artisan goods and semi-precious stones. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, visit the Amber Fort, an excellent example of Rajput architecture. The Sheesh Mahal inside the fort is a must-see. As the walls are completely covered in little mirrors, the hall illuminates with the light of a single match. After the tour, you'll have further free time to spend as you wish.

Day 20: Jaipur

Today is a full free day that you can jam pack with experiences of your choice. This morning, you could take an optional hot air balloon ride. Floating across the skyline of Jaipur in a hot air balloon is a highlight of the trip for many travellers. Jump on a rickshaw to Hawa Mahal, also known as the 'Palace of the Winds’. Alternatively, head to Jaipur's Royal City Palace or the observatory of Jantar Mantar to see a collection of intriguing astronomical instruments. After a long day of exploration, perhaps head to the Raj Mandir Cinema to experience a Bollywood film.

Day 21: Ranthambhore National Park

Continuing on from Jaipur by private vehicle, head to Ranthambhore (approximately 5 hours/200km). Ranthambhore National Park was once a famous hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur and was one of the original Project Tiger reserves. Explore the ruins of the park’s 10th-century fort, and in the evening take a 4WD safari in search of tigers and other wildlife, such as hyenas, jackals, deer, langurs, marsh crocodiles, wild boars and birds.

Ranthambhore National Park is closed between 1 July and 30 September each year. On trips departing during this time, you'll visit nearby Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary. Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary is located approx. 16km from Ranthambhore and due to its hilly terrain isn't as affected by the monsoon. Tigers also inhabit this area and spottings are more favorable at this time of year as they move here away from flooded areas of Ranthambhore.

Day 22: Bundi

Next, travel to Bundi by private vehicle (approx 4 hours/150km). Navigate Bundi's narrow streets on an insightful walking tour, including wandering through the downtown market. Stop in at Bundi's intriguing and intricate step wells (baori), an architectural marvel, and once the source of water for the town. Check out the 16th-century Bundi Palace with its famous murals before checking into our next heritage stay for the night.

Day 23: Paangarh Lake

Take off from Bundi and take a local train to Bassi. cross the Chittorgarh countryside to Paangarh Lake. Enjoy the view out to the 15th-century fort and unwind with a cup of chai while watching the sunset over the lake. You'll spend tonight in a beautiful permanent tented camp, right on the lakeshore - a truly relaxing experience away from the chaos of India's cities.

Day 24: Bijaipur

This morning we drive in an open-top jeep out into the countryside past tranquil villages. You might be lucky enough to spot some native wildlife as we drive through the region. Meet some villagers and maybe even get a henna tattoo - a temporary but very traditional souvenir. Arrive at our next heritage stay and enjoy a meal of authentic local specialties. 

Day 25: Udaipur

Depart the heritage stay and begin your next journey by private vehicle takes us to Udaipur (approximately 4 hours/180km). Take in the city’s hills, lakes, and white marble palaces, or delve into its twisting alleys and bazaars filled with silver, leather goods, and miniature paintings. A popular centre for artists, dancers, and musicians, there’s plenty to entertain you here. After a city walk with your leader, the rest of your day is free.

Day 26: Udaipur

Visit Udaipur's City Palace, one of the largest royal palaces in India. Some suggestions for your free time after the tour include an optional boat ride on the picturesque Lake Pichola (seasonal) to marvel at the island palaces off Jag Nivas and Jag Mandir and seeing a cultural performance that combines seven traditional Rajasthani folk dances in the evening.

Day 27: Pushkar

Take a six-hour air-conditioned train to Ajmer and then a private vehicle to your hotel in Pushkar, a place synonymous with Rajasthan. Enjoy a walking tour to visit the bustling ghats and temples around Pushkar Lake, and watch as the devout worship by the holy waters and at the Brahma Temple. At lunchtime, share a meal with a local family and learn about their life living in this desert city. The rest of the day is free for you to explore further.

Day 28: Pushkar - Delhi

Early risers can hike up to the Savitri Temple for amazing sunrise views over the town this morning. Board the Shatabdi Express train, departing Ajmer around 2 pm for the trip back to Delhi, arriving at around 10:40 pm. Transfer to the hotel on arrival for your final night of the trip.

Day 29: Delhi

There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time.

Unscripted experiences, insider access and authentic local flavors


Our team of travel specialists and local contacts have curated some of the best, most exclusive and authentic experiences, restaurants and accommodations in India to truly immerse yourself in a way that wouldn't be possible in larger groups or just on your own.

29 days, from $3,295

to book call 1-844-205-6226