India South & North
|Resort:||India South & North|
This all-encompassing tour of India takes in the highlights of north and south – revealing some of the country’s wonderful secrets. 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 the kaleidoscopic colours, the Mughal grandeur and the spiritual mysteries 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 this incredible adventure.
Day 1 Kochi
Your Southern Indian adventure starts today in Kochi. Attend a welcome meeting at 6 pm with the travel group. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We’ll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you’re going to be late, please inform hotel reception. If you arrive into 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, explore Kochi on an 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
Most of today is spent travelling. Catch a three-and-a-half hour train to Coimbatore, before travelling by private vehicle to Ootacamund (approximately four hours). Often referred to as Snooty Ooty, it was here that the game of snooker was named and possibly invented. Stretch your legs exploring the towns Hindu temples or stroll through what almost feels like English countryside. Ooty is pleasantly mild in the summer but can get cold in winter, so make sure you come prepared with adequate clothing. We stay in nearby Conoor, where dinner is included at our accommodation tonight.
Day 4 Ootacamund – Conoor
Today board Ootys famous toy train for a ride along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Be sure to get a window seat for great views. In nearby Conoor, visit a tea plantation to learn about the history of tea production. Spend the rest of the day exploring Ootys Botanical Gardens, which are home to over 650 species of plants and trees. Alternatively, embrace your romantic side 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 mountains, 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 game 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. Tonights family-run accommodation in Masinagudi is mixed gender dormitory style with a common bathroom. This dorm room is only open to our groups.
Day 6 Mysore
Travel by private vehicle across the scenic Karnataka plains to Mysore, stopping to share a biryani lunch with our local friend 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 tour 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. Youll also have some time to pay an optional visit to Tipu Sultans mausoleum in Srirangapatna, or to return to Mysore for a palm reading or to catch a film at the local cinema. Tonight take an eleven-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 7th-century Shore Temple and the enormous bas-relief rock carving known as Arjuna’s Penance. There will also be time to inspect the towns numerous mandapams (pillared temple pavilions), watch stonemasons at work or to relax at a beachside restaurant.
Day 9 Auroville – Puducherry (Pondicherry)
Travel by private vehicle for five hours through palm trees and rice paddies to Puducherry (or Pondicherry), with a stopover at Auroville. Comprised of 80 rural settlements and home to over 1,500 residents, more than half of who are foreign nationals, the living project of Auroville is dedicated to unity and also houses the world’s largest solid crystal. On arrival in Puducherry, join a group walking tour to see local temples, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the French Quarter. Once a French colony, youll see evidence of French influence in Puducherry’s architecture, its wide town squares and even in the uniforms of the police.
Day 10 Madurai
Take a taxi to the railway station at Villapuram and board a train to the temple city of Madurai (approximately six hours). Madurais Tamil roots stretch back 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest cities in India. Wander the lamp-lit labyrinth of the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, dedicated to the Lord Shiva and goddess Meenakshi. Visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum, which displays a detailed account of Indias struggle for independence along with the bloodstained dhoti the famous leader wore when he was assassinated.
Day 11 Periyar
This morning, travel by public bus along a winding road to the Periyar National Park. 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. 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 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 or just relax in this scenic setting.
Day 13 Kerala Backwaters
Travelling by private vehicle, pass through rubber, tea and coffee plantations on the way to the backwaters of Kerala. Board a boat to cross to the island village where youll stay with a local family tonight. In the late afternoon, explore the island with a local English-speaking guide or your homestay host. This is 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 two-hour local bus back to Kochi. The rest of the day is free for some last-minute sightseeing or shopping.
Day 15 Delhi
Fly from Kochi to Delhi today for the second part of your India journey. Meet your new group and tour leader at a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight.
Day 16 Delhi
In the morning, navigate the citys metro system to discover Old Delhi on a walking tour. Hitch a ride in a traditional cycle rickshaw through a typical Indian traffic jam in the streets around Chandni Chowk marketplace. Visit Delhis oldest mosque of Jama Masjid, which is also Indias largest. Escape from the frenetic pace of the city streets by ducking into a Sikh temple to observe a more spiritual side of this bustling metropolis.
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.
Day 18 Madhogarh
Take a local bus to Bassi, a small town in the middle of rural Rajasthan (approx 4 hours/210km). 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 the locals. In the evening, stay in the beautiful heritage property of Fort Madhogarh, which has belonged to one of Rahasthans 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 citys 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.
Day 20 Jaipur
This morning, take an optional hot air balloon ride. Floating across the skyline of Jaipur in a hot air balloon can be a highlight of the trip. Travel by 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 astronomical instruments. After a long day of exploration, perhaps head to the Raj Mandir Cinema to experience the glamour of a Bollywood film.
Day 21 Ranthambhore National Park
Continuing 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 parks 10th-century fort, and in the evening take a 4WD safari in search of tigers and other wildlife.
Day 22 Bundi
Travel to Bundi by private vehicle (approx 4 hours/150km). Navigate Bundi’s narrow streets on a walking tour. Wander through the downtown market and engage with the locals. Visit intricately carved baoris (step wells) and explore the 16th-century Bundi Palace (be sure to check out its famous murals). Another heritage stay awaits us tonight.
Day 23 Paangarh
Cross the Chittorgarh countryside to Paangarh Lake, spending the night sleeping in a permanent tent camp. On arrival, unwind with a cup of chai while watching the sunset over the lake and serene Vindhya Range. Enjoy a view out to the 15th-century Pangarh Fort, perched atop a hill to the north side of the lake.
Day 24 Bijaipur
Return to Bundi and take a slow train journey with local villagers (approximately three hours) to Bassi (same name as a previous destination, different place!) followed by a drive in an open-top jeep out into the countryside to visit pastoral villages. As the area is teeming with wildlife, your guide should be able to point out some native animals. While in the villages, perhaps get a temporary souvenir in the form of a henna tattoo. Enjoy a group meal of local Bassi cuisine in the evening, and relax in our heritage stay for the night.
Day 25 Udaipur
Our next journey by private vehicle takes us to Udaipur (approximately 4 hours/180km). Take a walk to soak up the citys 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, theres plenty to entertain you here.
Day 26 Udaipur
Visit Udaipur’s City Palace, one of the largest royal palaces in India. Enjoy an optional boat ride on the famous Lake Pichola (seasonal) and marvel at the island palaces off Jag Nivas and Jag Mandir. In the evening, perhaps enjoy a traditional concert that combines seven traditional Rajasthani folk dances.
Day 27 Pushkar
Take a six-hour air-conditioned train to Ajmer and then a private vehicle to your hotel in Pushkar. Enjoy a walking tour to visit the bustling ghats and temples around Pushkar Lake, and watch as the devout worship by the holy water. Share a meal with a local Pushkar family and learn about their life living in the desert.
Day 28 Pushkar – Delhi
Early risers can hike up to the Savitri Temple for amazing sunrise views over the town this morning. There might even be a steaming glass of chai waiting for you at the top if the chai man is there. Youll have free time to enjoy the rest of the morning in Pushkar. The Shatabdi Express train departs Ajmer around 2 pm for the trip back to Delhi, arriving at around 10:40 pm.
Day 29 Delhi
There are no activities planned for the final day and youre able to depart the accommodation at any time.