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Spend over three weeks discovering the sights, sounds and flavours of India. From Delhi to Kochi and via the ethereal beauty of Rajasthan, experience the best street food in Delhi, the beautiful sight of the Taj Mahal in Agra, the delightful taste of Rajasthan's traditional cuisine in Jaipur and Udaipur, the colours of India's markets and bazaars and how to cook up delicious regional Indian dishes in a number of inspiring cooking classes. Relax on Goa's beaches, see Jaipur's breathtaking Palace of the Wind, explore the vibrant food scene of Mumbai and spend time in rural Rajasthan living it up in a 17th-century fort. Visit French Puducherry, wander around a tea farm in Periyar, take to the water on a houseboat in the Kerala backwaters and enjoy cooking demonstrations in Madurai and Kochi. You will relish every bit of this sensory trip through the heart of southern India. This unforgettable journey into the cultural and gastronomic heart of North & South India will satisfy every appetite.
Day 1: Delhi
Namaste! Welcome to India. Delhi is an excitingly chaotic capital city – filled with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars, there’s plenty to see, do, and eat. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be verifying your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have these for your leader. Celebrate the start of a memorable food adventure with a short stroll to a local restaurant. Here you'll enjoy your first taste of North Indian flavours over a delicious (and completely vegetarian) feast. Perhaps partake in a kulfi falooda (ice cream-style dessert) after dinner from a hole-in-the-wall place, considered one of the top-spots for kulfi in Delhi.
Day 2: Delhi
This morning venture out to Old Delhi, the historic city also known as Shahjanabad. Wander through narrow alleyways and enjoy an authentic Delhi street food-style breakfast. Keep your eye out for the local chaiwala (tea maker), well known for his delicious milky brew. Next, jump on the city's modern metro system and head to Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque and one of its most impressive buildings. While Hinduism is the dominant religion in Delhi, there is also a significant Sikh population – so continue the religious theme with an insight into the food traditions of Delhi’s Sikh residents over a vegetarian lunch at a local Sikh temple. After lunch, tour Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi. Visit the spice warehouses in the back alleys of Khari Baoli, Asia's largest wholesale spice market. See the spice selling process from truck to table, and meet a spice seller to hear him talk about how he mixes the spices for retailing. Next visit the Gali Paranthe Wali (lane of parathas), which has been in operation since the 1870s. Parathas are one of the most popular unleavened flat breads in Punjabi North Indian cuisine. Taste a number of delicious variations stuffed with fillings including potatoes, cauliflower, radish and cottage cheese. In the evening, you have the option to visit a local family in the suburbs for a home-cooked meal. This provides an insight into the day-to-day life of Delhites. Jot down some secret home recipes, get involved in the preparations, or simply enjoy a chat in the living room with warm and welcoming hosts.
Day 3: Agra
Get your first experience of Indian rail travel with an air-conditioned express train to the Mughal city of Agra (approximately 3 hours). Famed for the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal, Agra is a city with a fascinating history, rich in Mughal heritage, lush gardens and exquisite buildings and temples. Here you’ll visit the spectacular and iconic Taj Mahal. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century white marble Taj is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture, surrounded by trimmed English gardens. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz, it lives up to all expectations. Agra is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India, Agra Fort. Enter the dark red sandstone stronghold – part fortress, part palace and part prison – and search through throne rooms and tiny but incredibly decorated mosques. For lunch, join a Mughlai cooking demonstration. Mughlai cuisine refers to dishes that were developed during the opulent Mughal Empire period. Dishes tend to be rich and reflect a combination of cooking styles and recipes from Central Asia and North India. Meet a passionate cook, who'll teach you how to prepare classics such as malai ki sabzi (vegetables cooked with cream) and onion paratha (flatbread stuffed with onions and potato). The menu will, of course, depend on the season.After lunch and a rest, head to the Taj Mahal. Wander the grounds and marvel at one of the world's most iconic buildings. Watching the light change over the marble structure as day turns to evening is a truly unforgettable experience.For dinner, you have the option to jump on a chaat crawl in the city thought to serve up the country’s best. Chaat are savoury snacks (like fried potatoes or samosa broken into pieces with chutney) typically served from roadside stalls or carts in India and Bangladesh – the Indian equivalent to fast food. With its origins in the state of Uttar Pradesh, chaat have become immensely popular in the rest of India and the Indian sub-continent.
Day 4: Jaipur
Drive to the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur (approximately 5 hours). Jaipur was designed by royalty and has delighted visitors for centuries with its pink-hued buildings, wonderful bazaars, and rainbow of bright colours dancing along hectic streets. Jaipur, like Delhi, has both old and new parts, although you’ll concentrate on the old. The streets are busy with camels and bullock-carts, monkeys climb overhead, and you’ll pass traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches. Stop at India's most photographed building after the Taj Mahal, the Hawa Mahal or 'Palace of the Winds’. Here royal maidens once watched the streets below through the fabulous jali (lattice screens) which hid them from prying male eyes. Today snake charmers and fortune-tellers ply their trade below the same hideaway. Along the way, visit the oldest chaiwala in the city, a favourite of the Maharaja, cool down with a delicious kulfi (ice cream dessert) and marvel at the sheer breadth of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, pickles, tea and spices on display at the markets. In the evening, you may wish to check out a the extravagance of a Bollywood blockbuster, with all the Hollywood-style elements of action, romance, drama and music (sometimes all rolled into one), at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema. Your leader will also have plenty of dinner suggestions.
Day 5: Jaipur
Travel out to the old capital of Amber and explore the hilltop fort complex known as the Amber Fort. Set in stunning surroundings on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the opulent palace is the legacy of a fallen empire and a superb example of Rajput architecture, packed with elaborate rooms of lavish murals, frescoed arches and delicate jali work. One of its most spectacular buildings is the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors). With its walls completely covered with tiny mirrors, the hall becomes a dazzling fantasy with the light of a single match. For lunch try a local favourite, Kachori. Kachoris are deep fried bread stuffed with vegetables and lentils and are one of the most sought after snacks in north India. If sweets are your thing, try the Mawa Kachori, a dried fruit and mawa (milk solids) stuffed kachori, deep-fried and coated in sugar syrup. In the late afternoon you will learn the secrets of Rajasthani cuisine in a hands-on cooking class. Sit down to a sumptuous dinner of all you have prepared.
Day 6: Bijaipur
Today you’ll leave the city behind and drive approximately 6 hours to a Heritage Stay located in the Vindhyanchal Hills in the Mewar region of south-central Rajhasthan. This is an opportunity to learn about rural life and culinary customs. Stop en route to enjoy lunch with a local family. Your accommodation for the next two nights will be at 16th-century Castle Bijaipur, now a heritage hotel with an attractive dome, arched windows and doorways, all within the original fortified walls. Enjoy the palace’s blend of colonial and Mughal architecture as you relax by the pool or in the gardens, pampered by the Mewar hospitality of the hotel’s owners. Spend the rest of the day relaxing in your magnificent surrounds. Perhaps take a dip in the pool or take a walk around the grounds.
Day 7: Bijaipur
Today you’ll jump in a jeep and explore the surrounding farming communities. This is a major agricultural area and, depending on the season, you will pass through fields growing wheat, corn, maize, a variety of lentils, aubergine, spinach, fenugreek, okra, green chilies, tomatoes, potatoes, bottle gourd, sponge gourd, onion and garlic. Some of the spices such as turmeric, cumin are also grown here. In the late afternoon, return to your heritage stay and joing the estate's chef to discover how these ingredients are used in Rajhasthani desert cooking. Savour the results over a delicious dinner in the palace grounds.
Day 8: Udaipur
Travel to Udaipur (approximately 4 hours drive). On the way, stop at the village of Ranakpur, home to one of the country’s most impressive Jain temples. Jainism is a minority religion in India and is considered among the most rigorous spiritually-motivated diets on the Indian subcontinent. Jain cuisine is strictly vegetarian, and even excludes the eating of root vegetables such as carrots, onion and garlic due to the belief that uprooting the plant kills it and the micro-organisms around the roots. Experience authentic Jain cuisine in the common dining area at the temple, where Jain food is served to all the visitors. Arrive in Udaipur by late afternoon.Tonight you have a free evening for dinner. Udaipur has numerous rooftop restaurants so climb some stairs, choose a restaurant and settle in to watch the sun set over a shimmering lake.
Day 9: Udaipur
Udaipur, also known as the 'City of Lakes', is built around the shores of Lake Pichola and full of fascinating temples, ornate palaces and impressive 'havelis' (merchant homes). Take some time to discover its winding streets and shops full of traditional Rajasthani wares. Visit the City Palace, one of the largest royal palaces in India, and check out the unbelievable treasures within, from vivid murals to antiques and royal utensils.The rest of the day is free for your own exploration.
Day 10: Overnight Train
Begin today at the local market to collect ingredients for a cooking class, where you will learn how to prepare a traditional north Indian thali meal. A thali comprises of numerous dishes, which vary depending on which region the thali is prepared in. As you’re in Udaipur, you will make a vegetarian thali. Typical dishes include rice, dahl, vegetables, roti, papad (deep-fried flat bread), curd (yoghurt), small amounts of chutney or pickle, and a sweet dish to top it off. After all that cooking, enjoy your handmade thali for lunch. Tonight you’ll board an overnight train, bound for India's capital – captivating Mumbai (approximately 16 hours). The train will depart late evening and arrive after midday the following day.
Day 11: Mumbai
Arrive in Mumbai after your overnight train, reaching your hotel by mid afternoon. Known as Bombay until its recent name change, Mumbai is India's commercial capital. Some would say that Mumbai is also the food capital of India. This is the heart of Marathi cuisine, however you will also find huge culinary diversity that celebrates regional cuisines from across the country. In the late afternoon, wander down Marine Drive to Chowpatty Beach. Enjoy the sunset and snack on bhel puri and pav bhaji and other iconic Mumbai street foods.
Day 12: Mumbai
Time for sightseeing and soaking up the atmosphere of this incredible metropolis. This city of contrasts can be hard to get your head around – poverty standing side-by-side with prolific consumerism; a city of slums that’s also the financial capital of the sub-continent and has the shopping centres, bars and restaurants to match. Marvel at the remarkable Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat. At 140 years old it's Mumbai's oldest laundry and, with over a 1,000 troughs, it is also the worlds largest open air, human-powered one. Next, take in some of the key landmarks including the impressive World Heritage Site and historic railway station, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – a striking combination of gothic and traditional Mughal architecture. For lunch, seek out a restaurant known for serving Parsi cuisine, whose community is largely concentrated in Mumbai. The Parsis are descendants of Zoroastrians who are believed to have immigrated to India from Persia in the 10th century. Drop past Mumbai’s bustling Crawford Markets for an insight into local commerce. The rest of the afternoon and the evening are free for your own food adventures. Perhaps take high tea at the iconic Taj Hotel. There are also some fabulous restaurants in this city for all budgets and your leader will have plenty of suggestions.
Day 13: Goa
Take a flight from Mumbai to Goa (approximately 1 hour), arriving in the early afternoon. The locals say that time moves more slowly in Goa, so this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a bit of tranquility in an often frenetic country. Tinged with a Portuguese flavour, the state of Goa is blessed with lovely beaches, rich traditions, World Heritage buildings and mouth-watering food. Goa's dense forested areas and favourable climatic conditions also make it a perfect location to grow the spices liberally used in its cuisine. The most important of Goan spices, the chilli, was introduced to Goa by the Portuguese. In the late afternoon, visit a local spice farm that uses organic methods of cultivation. For the daring, try a taste of feni, a spirit made from either coconut or the juice of the cashew apple, much-loved in this region. In the evening, perhaps enjoy a meal at one of the shacks that line the beach. Goa is renowned for its seafood, and variations of the fish curry, laced with coconut and served with rice, has become a regional classic. This is the perfect place to give it a try.
Day 14: Goa
In the morning, join a passionate cook who has lived in Goa all her life. Take a guided tour through the markets and get to know the building blocks of Portuguese-tinged Goan cuisine, followed by a final hands-on cooking class. Learn to prepare meals such as hot pork vindaloo or chicken xacuti and enjoy a laid-back Goan lunch.The afternoon is free for shopping, a sight-seeing turn around Panjim, or simply relaxing on the beach. Tonight, savour a final group meal of seafood and spicy curry and farewell this epic Real Food Adventure.
Day 15: Bangalore
Today you fly to Bangalore (aka Bengaluru), the capital of Karnataka State. Bangalore is the centre of India's high-tech industry but is also known for its abundance of parks and green spaces. Enjoy an authentic Bangalorean dinner after the welcome meeting, followed by an orientation walk near the famous Mahatma Gandhi Road. This road is one of the busiest in the city and captures the metropolitan spirit of Bangalore ¬with a bounty of stores, food outlets and restaurants near the offices and metro stations.
Day 16: Kodagu
Start the day in Bangalore with a breakfast at a cherished Bangalorean establishment that is both one of the oldest restaurants in the country and a famous spice distributor. Indulge in a breakfast of masala dosa, a popular stuffed version of the traditional Indian dosa (fermented pancake). Made in two parts, the dosa usually consists of soaked rice and lentils ground into a batter. The stuffing is then made from boiled potatoes with a blend of mustard seeds, grated coconut, coriander and lemon juice. Add a few chutneys to serve and you’ll soon understand why this dish has gained international popularity. After washing down breakfast with an aromatic cup of traditional Indian filter coffee, continue on to check out some southern Indian produce at the Russell Market. A stop at the Krishna Rajendra Flower Market also offers a glimpse at some of the most brilliant colours in the world – the multi-coloured roses on sale makes for an intensely vibrant sight.After taking in the sights, smells and flavours of the markets, a private vehicle will transport you to the verdant landscapes of the Western Ghats and the Kodagu province. While a long drive (approximately 6 hours), the reward will be an evening stay at a guesthouse on a picturesque coffee plantation.
Day 17: Kodagu
Clasped deep within the rolling hills of the southernmost edge of Karnataka lies the Kodagu (Coorg) region. While the place boasts stunning thick greenery and an interesting warrior heritage, the next stage of the journey shares the hidden secret of Kodagu – the intensely fragrant and flavourful coffee. Drink a cup of the local brew and see if you can detect the notes of toasted nuts, citrus and milk chocolate. Spend the morning taking a walk through a plantation before indulging in a cooking class that focuses on signature Kodavan (Coorgi) dishes. Coorgis, a warrior tribe from southwest india, have made no effort to hide their love for pork dishes. Typically they cook using pork, jungle mangoes, jackfruit, kembh leaves and rice, cooking specialties such as nooputtu (string hoppers), otti (rice roti), pulao (mixed rice with or without veg) and kadumbuttu (rice-flour balls).After sampling some tantalising flavours at the end of the class, spend the rest of the day relaxing around the estate or exploring the lush countryside.
Day 18: Mysore - Overnight train
Depart from your guesthouse and drive to Mysore (3-4 hours). After arriving, you’ll be welcomed into a local home where the secrets to creating an authentic Indian biryani await. Biryani is typically prepared with spices, rice and meat, resulting in a fragrant dish that’s full of flavours. Depending on culture and region, different preparation techniques along with varying levels of spices and meats are used to prepare the dish. Hyberabadi biryani, for example, is one of the most popular styles of the meal and typically comes prepared with goat as opposed to Delhi biryani which can feature anything from expensive meats to pickles depending on the economic factors of a region. Considering the variety of biryanis out there, you might accidentally end up creating your own style during your stay!If there's time after lunch, take some time to explore the impressive gardens, arches and red domes of Mysore Palace or the Chamundi Devi Temple. In the evening, board an overnight train to Madurai.
Day 19: Madurai
Arrive in Madurai by mid morning. Crammed full of bazaars, temples, small industries, pilgrims, cycle-rickshaws, beggars and street markets, Madurai showcases southern India at its colourful and lively best. Madurai is Tamil Nadu's second largest town and ancient capital, with a recorded history that dates back to third-century BC. The city is recognised as the centre of Dravidian culture, with its main attraction the famous Shree Meenaksh Temple in the heart of the old town. Take some time to explore this ancient, still active temple, which is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors that lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed. Its many gopurams (temple towers) are covered with profusions of multi-coloured images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures and the views from one of the temple towers are breathtaking. The cuisine of the state of Tamil Nadu is also highly regarded and it is believed that the English word curry is derived from the Tamil word 'kari'. Characterised by the use of rice, legumes and lentils, the food of Tamil Nadu also has a number of regional variants, of which Madurai is a great example. Discover it's signature flavours on a street food tour with a passionate local foodie. Your guide is a professional IT engineer, but his true passion is food and sharing the delicious flavours of Madurai with others. Travel the city from east to west, past markets and temples, and get the inside scoop on the best street food the city has to offer. You’ll have the opportunity to sample delicacies such as peppercorn semolina, lentils and hand-churned ice cream made with sarsaparilla and seaweed. Finish up at a famous masala dosa spot which is so popular it only opens for 4 hours a day!
Day 20: Kandukathan
Drive on to Kandukathan (approximately 2 hours), famous for its unique architecture and salt trade, arriving around midday. Settle in at your accommodation, an impressive mansion built in 1902 by prosperous merchants who used construction materials, decorative items and furnishings imported from East Asian countries and Europe. Relax, go for a swim in the swimming pool, then get ready for a real treat – a masterclass in Chettinad cuisine. Chettinad cuisine is distinct to the Chettiars, a successful trading community who built a reputation for ‘eating like kings’. This regional cuisine in revered throughout India and is well regarded for its liberal use of spice, replacing chilli with pepper to impart a subtle heat to dishes. Chettinad cuisine also incorporates seafood, chicken and lamb, although Chettiars do not eat beef and pork. In the hall of the mansion, learn to prepare famous Chettinad dishes including the signature chicken drumstick curry accompanied by mint chutnie, and follow it with a sumptuous feast in the open-air courtyard.
Day 21: Periyar
Rise early and drive past rubber and pineapple plantations and thick jungle to the spice plantation town of Thekkady (approximately 5 hours). Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, perched high in the ranges of the Western Ghats. Thekkady proudly celebrates the food traditions of both Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and the town and its neighbouring villages are highly regarded for their spice cultivation. Prepare for a fragrant tour of a spice plantation and discover some of the many varieties grown here, from ginger, cardamom and vanilla, to pepper, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg.
Day 22: Periyar
This morning, venture into the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary for a guided nature walk. The sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, which was 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. Wildlife encounters are never guaranteed, but if luck is on your side you may see some Indian elephants, deer, tigers 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. In your free time, you can enjoy an optional ayurvedic massage or attend an exciting demonstration of Indian martial arts (kalaripayattu) at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre. In the late afternoon, head out to the home of a former rickshaw driver turned cooking teacher. The class will be conducted in an open courtyard with a small barbeque, where some of the cooking will take place. In this class you will also learn the secret to preparing porotta, a layered flatbread typical to parts of Southern India. Feast on your efforts over dinner.
Day 23: Kerala Backwaters
Before departing Thekkady, stop and learn about the important staple crop of tea with a local grower. Enjoy a hearty cup or two before embarking on your onward journey. Transfer by private vehicle to a homestay on the banks of the Kerala Backwaters (approximately 7 hours). Swaying palm trees, lush rice paddies, winding waterways, Ayurvedic massage and welcoming locals all await on this amazing Kerala Backwaters homestay. In the evening, join your hosts for a home-cooked dinner and pick up the trick to whipping up payasam (a delicious, jaggery and coconut dessert).
Day 24: Kochi
Wake early and help prepare a traditional Keralan breakfast staple, appam (a type of pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk). After breakfast take a walk through the village and hop on a pole boat ride to explore the waterways. Transfer to Allepey by boat (approximately 1 hour) and then take a private vehicle to Kochi (Approximately 2 hours). Cochin, as it was formerly known, is spread over several islands and is a melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British influences. Take an orientation tour of the town on arrival, stopping by Fort Kochi. In your spare time a boat trip is the best way to tour the main sights, which include the oldest church in India and Vasco de Gama's final resting place. You can also explore the city by bike. The evening is free for you to explore. Perhaps seek out the best coconut curry in town or witness a Kathakali dance performance, a classical, powerful, and dramatic dance style that combines symbolic storytelling with physical technique.
Day 25: Kochi
Today take in some of the city's most interesting sights. 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. Interestingly Kochi is also home to a Jewish community that has roots going back as far as 1,000 AD, and you’ll see the Jewish synagogue in the city. Built in 1568, the Pardesi Synagogue is one of the oldest existing synagogues in India. Late in the afternoon visit a traditional 1940's Kerala home located in the heart of Fort Kochi, and enjoy a final cooking class. Among the dishes you’ll learn to prepare will be a Keralan classic – fish curry. Sit down and enjoy a final feast with your new friends.
Day 26: Kochi
Your Real Food Adventure of South India ends this morning. There are no activities on your final day and you are free to leave at any time. If you wish to extend your stay, perhaps consider heading further south to relax on the beaches at Varkala.
23 Breakfast(s) Included
12 Lunch(es) Included
10 Dinner(s) Included
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