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The Great Indian Adventure



  • 20 Oct
  • -
  • 21 Nov 2024
  • |
  • 33 days


per person

Availability: 16 places

    From the backstreets of Old Delhi to the backwaters of Kerala, embark on this epic journey through India and discover a dazzling kaleidoscope of colours, contrasts and cultural treasures.

    We begin our journey travelling through the heart of Rajasthan - the Land of Kings, where we experience a plethora of UNESCO treasures, wildlife encounters, and welcoming communities.

    From here we then head south to Mumbai - the 'industrial capital of India', where we explore the underbelly of this magnificent city and gain a better insight into who and what makes it tick. After discovering some of India's finest architectural highlights in Badami, Hampi and Mysore, we spend some time in the wildlife-rich landscapes of Bandipur National Park, before riding the famous Toy Train to Coonoor and exploring the lush tea plantations of the Western Ghats.

    We continue into the heart of 'God's Own Country', where we board our own private houseboat to explore the beautiful and idyllic Backwaters of Kerala, before finishing on the shores of the Arabian Sea in historic Kochi. This is a true journey of discovery encompassing some of India's most iconic cultural treasures and a real trip of a lifetime!

    Day 1

    DAY 1: Tour starts in Delhi

    Early check in will be available this morning and the tour starts around one o’clock at the hotel in Delhi, India’s bustling capital. After a group briefing and introduction over lunch, we will take a drive through New Delhi, visiting Rajpath and India Gate as well as Humayun’s Tomb, one of the best-preserved Mughal monuments, commissioned by Humayun's son Akbar and designed by the Persian architect Mirak Mirza Ghiya. This evening we will head to the lively Connaught Place for dinner.

    Day 2

    DAY 2: Delhi

    Today we will explore Old Delhi, wandering past old crumbling havelis, vibrant street food stalls, the famous Jama Masjid mosque and through colourful markets. Later this afternoon we enjoy an opportunity to experience the true flavours of Indian cuisine and Indian hospitality, as we visit the local spice and vegetable market to learn about the different ingredients, followed by a cookery class where we will learn to prepare a range of Indian delicacies before enjoying the fruits of our labours with a traditional dinner.

    Day 3

    DAY 3: Delhi - Agra

    Departing early this morning we will drive south to Agra, where on arrival we will have lunch at the empowering Sheroes Hangout Café, an establishment which supports women who have been victims of acid attacks and are fighting to stop acid attacks in India. This afternoon we’ll then visit the magnificent Agra Fort, before continuing on to a less-visited part of Agra to then enjoy a Mughal heritage walk through the farming community of Kachhpura, led by a USAID-trained specialist guide. The walk ends with some refreshments on the rooftop of a local home where we can enjoy watching the sunset and catch a glimpse of the beautiful Taj Mahal across the river in the far distance.

    Day 4

    DAY 4: Agra - Fatehpur Sikri - Chand Baori - Jaipur

    Early this morning we will visit the iconic Taj Mahal for sunrise. This is an extraordinary time of day to visit, as the soft sunlight hits the exquisite marble relief work and semi-precious stones, resulting in a stunning blend of light and colour. After some breakfast, set off to Jaipur, visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Fatehpur Sikri  and stunning Chand Baori stepwell on the way. On arrival, we freshen up before heading out for dinner.

    Day 5

    DAY 5: Jaipur

    Our day starts with a visit to the imposing Amber Fort, the Rajput masterpiece perched on a hillside overlooking the city. This colossal fort was built by Raja Man Singh I in the 16th century and is known for its artistic style, blending both Hindu and Rajput elements with its large ramparts, series of gates and cobbled paths. This afternoon we will discover the bazaars, cuisines and crafts of Old Jaipur on a walking tour. It's a great way to explore the crafts capital of India as we meet with locals and learn about the rich artistic and culinary traditions of this fascinating city.

    Day 6

    DAY 6: Jaipur

    This morning we head to the fascinating and beautifully ornate City Palace Museum, built by the founder and namesake of the modern city Jai Singh II. We’ll then visit Jantar Mantar, the UNESCO listed Royal Observatory, as well as see the spectacular Palace of the Winds. After lunch we’ll have the rest of the afternoon free to visit the local bazaar or relax at the hotel. Dinner this evening will be at your own expense.

    Day 7

    DAY 7: Jaipur - Ranthambore National Park

    This morning we start the day with a wonderful rickshaw ride around Jaipur with the Pink City Rickshaw Company, an initiative that supports local women from low-income communities to earn a living. We will ride with the ladies to some local spots around the city then join them for some chai before leaving the city behind. From here we’ll continue our journey to Sawai Madophur, where the vast wildlife reserve of Ranthambore National Park is located - our home for the next two nights. This afternoon we visit Dastkar Ranthambore, a non-profit organisation aimed at providing income to the villagers who were displaced by the creation of the tiger reserve. Here we will have the opportunity to gain an insight into Dastkar and learn how the women and their families' lives have been transformed by the self-help initiative. Following this, we then embark on boat safari along the Chambal River, going in search of crocodiles, alligators and a variety of birdlife, the perfect way to enjoy sunset and get an introduction to this beautiful national park.

    Day 8

    DAY 8: Ranthambore National Park

    Early in the morning, while the mist is still rising, we’ll head into the park for our first game drive of the day and the chance to take in the natural beauty of Ranthambore, where the possibility of seeing a tiger - as well as many other wild animals - is as high as anywhere in India. After this we’ll return to our hotel for breakfast and a relaxing morning. After lunch we’ll head back in to the park for another game drive and the chance to spot some more wildlife. Dinner tonight will be at our hotel.

    Day 9

    DAY 9: Ranthambore National Park - Bijaipur

    This morning we can enjoy one final adventure into the national park, giving another chance to track and see some of India's most impressive animals. After breakfast we will then journey from the wilds of Ranthambore to the wonderful Castle Bijaipur. Here we will spend time enjoying rural India at its most sublime. Arriving in time for late lunch, this afternoon will be free to relax in this peaceful setting.

    Day 10

    DAY 10: Bijaipur

    Today you can relax at the beautiful grounds at Castle Bijaipur or you may choose to take part in some activities offered such as a cycling, horse riding or a massage. This evening we will enjoy dinner at the village of Pangarh. Set on the banks of a beautiful lotus lake and surrounded by hills on all sides, Pangarh is 1,000 years old and to this day the villagers hunt fish using spears in the marshy waters of the lake, famous for its abundance of seasonal lotus flowers. Optional activities at Castle Bijaipur are at your own expense and can be paid for locally.

    Day 11

    DAY 11: Bijaipur - Chittorgarh - Khempur - Udaipur

    This morning we'll drive west to Khempur, stopping off at Chittorgarh, the colossal fort that most represents the doomed idea of Rajput chivalry. Chittorgarh was attacked and taken by Muslim invaders on three separate occasions and always with the same result; Jauhar being declared - and while the men donned the saffron robes of martyrdom and rode out to certain death - the women consigned themselves to the flames on a huge funeral pyre. This afternoon we then stop for a late lunch at the Real Exotic Marigold Hotel AKA Ravla Khempur. Don't worry, although not super luxurious this charming converted palace hotel is a wonderfully quirky property that takes you into the world portrayed in the film. We will then drive a short distance to Udaipur, the Venice of the East. This evening we’ll enjoy a cultural dance performance at Baogore ki haveli before having dinner at a good local restaurant.

    Day 12

    DAY 12: Udaipur

    This morning we’ll take a guided tour of some of the key sites in Udaipur such as the City Palace, the Jagdish temple and the beautiful gardens at Saheliyon-ki-Bari. To allow for greater flexibility lunch will be at your own expense today, and this afternoon will be free to wander through the alleys and narrow streets, to take a cooking lesson or a miniature painting class. We’ll meet later in the day to take a sunset boat ride on Lake Pichola, before heading out for dinner at a local restaurant favoured by our clients.

    Day 13

    DAY 13: Udaipur - Mumbai

    This morning is free to relax or explore further, before meeting for some lunch after which we catch our flight to Mumbai mid-late afternoon. On arrival in Mumbai we will transfer to the hotel to freshen up before heading out for dinner.

    Day 14

    DAY 14: Mumbai

    Today we will discover some of the finest monuments and buildings of this fascinating city. Visit the famous arch that is the ‘Gateway to India’, located opposite the stunning Taj building, Chhatrapati Shivajitrain train station (formerly Victoria Terminus), the Rajabai Clock Tower and library, and the colonial general post office. We’ll also visit the ‘Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat’, otherwise known as the largest non-mechanised laundry facility in the world! After lunch we can enjoy a few hours at leisure before setting off with our specialist guide to discover some of the city’s most celebrated culinary delights, from the famed Iranian cafes, to the popular Chowpatty Beach. Not just a tour for foodies, this is a wonderful way to experience the daily life and traditions of Mumbai’s locals and get off the beaten track to enjoy some of the country’s best and most affordable cuisine.

    Day 15

    DAY 15: Mumbai

    Located just off the coast on an island in the Arabian Sea, we take a short ferry ride from the Gateway of India to get to Elephanta Island, a picturesque setting for this exceptional UNESCO World Heritage Site. A glorious example of Hindu cave carving and iconography, the Elephanta Caves are an impressive complex of shrines, pillared hallways and courtyards built from the surrounding rocks, inside which lies the beautifully detailed sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses, that date from the 6th century. Enjoy some lunch before having the afternoon free to relax or explore at leisure, before meeting for dinner.

    Day 16

    DAY 16: Mumbai - Vijayapura (Bijapur)

    This unique tour is a must-do for anyone visiting Mumbai, as you get to explore the underbelly of this magnificent city and gain a better insight into who and what makes it tick. Starting before sunrise, we will witness the fisherfolk hard at work at the docks as the fresh catch is brought in, before continuing on to see hundreds of illiterate vendors sort through the different newspapers which are then distributed across the city. From here we visit a number of morning markets, including the colourful and fragrant flower market, which is always a highlight. These early hours of the day provide a fascinating insight into the communities and cultures of Mumbai and offer a wonderful contrast to the usual touring experiences. After breakfast and a rest, this afternoon we will then take a walking tour of the Dharavi slum, the heart of small-scale industry in Mumbai. As we wander through 'India's largest slum' we will witness a wide range of business enterprises and activities, from recycling and pottery-making, to embroidery and leather tanning. People from all over India live in Dharavi, making it a cultural melting pot, and a tour through its narrow alleys is quite an adventure. More recently Dharavi has become a focus of artists from all over the world, who in collaboration with the locals have painted murals on the walls of houses, and as we explore Dharavi it’s worth looking out for the abundant street art which the local community is very proud of. After the tour there will be some free time before catching our overnight train this evening.

    Day 17

    DAY 17: Vijayapura (Bijapur)

    We arrive early morning and can enjoy early check in to our hotel. After a rest and some lunch, this afternoon we’ll explore the magnificent Golgumbaz, which is Bijapur's largest monument boasting a 38-metre diameter dome, second only to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Climbing the narrow stairs brings you out onto the whispering gallery, where secrets whispered into the wall are carried across the dome to listening ears. Also in this sleepy town is the beautiful Ibrahim Rouza, which is considered by many to be one of the most finely-proportioned Islamic monuments in India.

    Day 18

    DAY 18: Vijayapura (Bijapur) - Badami

    This morning we drive south to Badami. This afternoon we then visit the Chalukya dynasty's wonderful 5th century temples at Aihole and the UNESCO site of Pattadakal. Aihole is situated in a quaint village where the main attraction is the unusual horse shoe-shaped Durga temple which is perhaps one of the finest temples in the region. Time permitting, we’ll visit the wonderful Archaeological Museum near Durga temple, which houses some of the finest stone sculptures from the 6th century onwards. From here we move on to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pattadakal, perhaps one of India’s most impressive Hindu complexes and home to nine temple shrines.

    Day 19

    DAY 19: Badami - Hampi

    After breakfast we visit the famous Badami cave temples and Agastya Lake, an artificial lake decorated with an array of temples and cave sculptures including the Bhutanatha Temples. The Badami cave temples are set in a ravine at the foot of a rugged red sandstone outcrop surrounding the lake. These cave temples form a complex of Hindu, Jain and possibly Buddhist cave temples and are considered some of the finest examples of Indian rock-cut architecture, especially Badami Chalukya architecture, which dates back to the 6th century. This afternoon we will drive to Anegundi – the ruined fortified stronghold across the river from Hampi.

    Day 20

    DAY 20: Hampi

    Today we explore the scattered ruins of the 15th century city of Vijayanagar. We will visit the highlight of the Hampi ruins, the Vittala Temple, as well as the other main sights including the Elephant Stables and the Lotus Mahal, the royal enclosure and Queen’s Bath. Having lunch at a beautiful spot by the river we’ll escape the heat and relax, after which we’ll explore the Achutaraya Temple and enjoy a splendid view as we walk along the banks of the scenic Tungabhadra River.

    Day 21

    DAY 21: Hampi - Mysore

    This morning we can enjoy exploring Hampi further, visiting the main sights in the royal centre and the sacred centre. This afternoon is then free to relax before we catch our overnight train to Mysore in Karnataka.

    Day 22

    DAY 22: Mysore

    This morning we arrive in Mysore, the stunning cultural capital of the Karnataka region, located at the base of the Chamundi Hills. Heading straight to our hotel, we have a little time to relax before an afternoon visit to the nearby town of Somanathapura, famed as the site of the 13th century Chennakesava Temple. Considered one of the finest examples of Hoysala architecture in India, the temple was built at the height of the Hoysala Empire and is richly carved with friezes, sculptures and intricate images from the Indian epics.

    Day 23

    DAY 23: Mysore

    Long known for its festivals and palaces, Mysore can boast one of the most opulent and iconic buildings in southern India, the stunningly ornate Mysore Palace. Originally built in the 14th century, the palace of today is the result of a significant redesign by the British architect, Henry Irwin. A wonderful fusion of European and Indian influences, the palace is still the official residence of the Wodeyar dynasty, the royal family of Mysore. We take a walking tour around the city this morning, visiting the palace and the markets before driving out to the hills that surround the city. The Chamundi Hills are home to the impressive Sri Chamundeswari Temple and the sacred Nandi bull, one of the largest of its kind and carved from a single piece of rock. We’ll also stop off at the nearby impressive Srirangapatnam with its 18th century remains of Tipu Sultan’s fort, palace and mausoleum.

    Day 24

    DAY 24: Mysore - Bandipur National Park

    Today’s journey takes us on to Bandipur National Park, one of India's best-known reserves and another of the country's important Project Tiger reserves. Situated in the Chamarajangar district of southern Karnataka, the park stretches across some 874 square kilometres and provides shelter for a number of India's most endangered species including gaurs, sloth bears, tigers and four-horned antelope. This afternoon, once we have settled into our rooms, there will be the chance to head out and explore some of the area, either with walks or to a nearby temple.

    Day 25

    DAY 25: Bandipur National Park

    The cool of the early morning and late afternoon offers an ideal time to search out game, when the predators rise from the slumbers of the day in search of water and fresh prey. On two games drives today we will venture deep into the park in open-topped jeeps, in the company of experienced naturalist guides. We search amongst the landscapes of one of India's best-known protected areas in search of the growing numbers of Bengal tigers, elephants, bison, sloth bears and wild dogs. Bandipur is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and together with the adjoining Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarhole and Mudumalai National Park, it forms one of the largest protected areas in Southern India. With a diverse habitat and a thriving mammal population, this park offers a wonderful wildlife viewing experience. As well as its game, Bandipur National Park is also home to over 200 species of birds including honey buzzards, Indian vultures, bee-eaters, crested serpent eagles and a whole array of kingfishers.

    Day 26

    DAY 26: Bandipur National Park - Ooty

    This morning we will drive on to the town of Ooty, a once popular hill station set amongst the Nilgiri Hills. Located in the heart of lofty mountains and dense forest, the town used to be a popular getaway for the British of the colonial Raj and still retains some reminders of its genteel past. Ooty remains as popular today as it did during the years of the British Raj. This afternoon we can visit the botanical gardens as well as some of the main 19th century buildings, including the Ooty Club, where the game of snooker is said to have been invented.

    Day 27

    DAY 27: Ooty - Coonoor - Pollachi

    The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is one of the oldest mountain railways in India. Running through the Western Ghats between Ooty and Coonoor, the railroad was built by the British in 1908 and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Still operated by a fleet of steam locomotives, it offers a wonderful glimpse of a golden era of travel, as you spend part of the morning enjoying a sedate and spectacular journey through the lush hills and tea plantations aboard the famous 'Toy Train'. Upon arrival at Coonoor railway station, we transfer to Pollachi, where we can enjoy a village walk in the afternoon.

    Day 28

    DAY 28: Pollachi - Munnar

    This morning we drive to the beautiful hill station of Munnar, famous for its plantations and scenic beauty. After settling in we will get the chance to explore a local tea plantation. The lush landscapes of the Western Ghats provide ideal conditions for the sprawling tea plantations that flourish amongst the verdant foothills. A tour of a local tea plantation presents a chance to learn a little something about an industry that can date its cultivation in India back over 300 years.

    Day 29

    DAY 29: Munnar

    Today we will explore on foot through the beautiful Letchmi hills. Our walk will bring us through tea plantations, patches of Shola forest and grasslands as well as treating us to views of Idukki Dam, the highest arch dam in Asia, and Anaimudi, the highest peak in South India. We should hopefully spot exotic species and endemic birds of the Western Ghats, part of one of the world’s Biodiversity hotspots and we can enjoy a picturesque picnic along the way. Driving back to Munnar we have the option of visiting a tea museum or the Srishti employment project.

    Day 30

    DAYS 30 - 31: Munnar - Alleppey (Backwaters)

    This morning we drive to Alleppey to take to the waters of this most beautiful and unique of landscapes. Boarding our traditional houseboats, we will spend the next two days cruising the waterways and channels that honeycomb the coastal plains running parallel to the Arabian Sea. A unique ecosystem that is home to a rich variety of aquatic life, the backwaters present us with a time-honoured image of an India long forgotten, where scattered villages survive amongst the labyrinthine channels much as they have for generations. Kettuvallams (Keralan houseboats) once negotiated these canals carrying rice, grain and even royalty through the backwaters. Today they provide us with an ideal way to appreciate the tranquillity and tradition of this part of southern India. We’ll pass isolated communities and gardens of hibiscus and vegetables, hop off the boats to visit interesting sights en route, and spend our evenings moored up besides the lapping shores of these idyllic backwaters. Having two nights aboard our private chartered houseboats enables us to venture further into the backwaters to catch a glimpse of life rarely seen by foreign visitors to Kerala.

    Day 31

    DAY 32: Alleppey (Backwaters) - Kochi

    Disembarking our boats this morning, we drive to Kochi, the glittering ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’. Here we will take a walking tour around the historic old streets of Fort Cochin and the red-tiled riverfront of Mattancherry, once the old capital’s main market area and the centre of the Malabar spice trade. The city is also famous for its Chinese fishing nets, as well as the Santa Cruz Basilica and the Church of St. Francis, where the body of Vasco de Gama was held before being returned to Portugal. Made from teak and bamboo, the huge cantilevered nets are a legacy of some of the earliest visitors to the Malabar Coast, whilst the 16th century Church of St. Francis has the distinction of being the oldest European church in India.

    Day 32

    DAY 33: Kochi

    The oldest European settlement in India, Kochi is a vibrant mix of Arab, Chinese, European and Indian influences and home to the oldest church and synagogue in the country. Built on trade, the city began to prosper with the arrival of Jewish and Arab traders. With the later arrival of the Portuguese, and then the Dutch and English, Kochi went on to become a vibrant settlement, incorporating a rare fusion of European and Asian traditions and styles. Today will be free to enjoy some last minute retail therapy or explore at leisure, then we will enjoy a remarkable performance of Kerala's famous Kathakali dancing before our final dinner together tonight, with a chance to reflect on our journey and experiences.

    Day 33

    DAY 34: Tour ends in Kochi

    The tour ends after breakfast at our hotel. Those on our suggested flights will be transferred to the airport.