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Immerse yourself in the wonders of India on this unforgettable journey from New Delhi down to Kovalam. Discover the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, witness the Mughal splendours of Delhi and Agra, safari through Ranthambhore National Park in search of tigers and soak up the ambience of holy Varanasi. Travel on to Chennai, and to the depths of the lush, tropical south, exploring quaint fishing villages and scented spice plantations. Stroll the French Quarter of Pondicherry, learn Ghandi's story in Madurai, discover traditional dance in Kochi, cruise the backwaters of Kerala and finish in the beautiful seaside town of Kovalam.
Day 1: Delhi
Welcome to India. On arrival at the airport you’ll be transferred to the hotel. Please provide your flight details at the time of booking, or at a minimum 15 days prior to travel, to organise the transfer. There will be a Welcome Meeting in the hotel at 6pm on Day 1. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. 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. You can use any free time before the meeting to explore this excitingly chaotic capital city. Filled with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars, there’s plenty to see.
Day 2: Jaipur
Get your first experience of Indian rail travel with an express train into Rajasthan and on to its capital, Jaipur (approximately 5 hours). Then take a walking tour through the crowded streets packed with cars, camel carts, rickshaws, trucks and bicycles, past traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches. Walk to the city's crowded bazaars filled with handcrafted textiles, folk art, and the local specialty of semi-precious stones, then make a photo stop at India's most photographed building (after the Taj Mahal), the Hawa Mahal or 'Palace of the Winds'. There’s also the option to visit one of India’s finest palaces – Jaipur's Royal City Palace – or the astronomical instrument sculptures of the Observatory. This evening, continue to indulge in the wonders of Indian culture by watching a Bollywood blockbuster.
Day 3: Jaipur
Visit the opulent Amber Fort, the jewel of Jaipur. It is quite a sight, with its soft shades of red sandstone and white marble, and elaborate Hindu style flourishes. Explore the legacy of a fallen empire – ornate rooms of lavish murals, frescoed arches and delicate jali work. After spending some time here, the remainder of the day is free for you to explore parts of Jaipur that you might have missed yesterday.
Day 4: Rural Rajasthan Heritage Stay
Drifting high over the pink city while it’s bathed in early morning sunlight is a highlight for many visitors to Jaipur, so consider a hot air balloon ride this morning. This can be done between Septermber and June. For additional information see the Important Notes section of your trip notes. Today you drive to Kanota (approximately 1 hour). Your accommodation here is the beautiful Castle Kanota feature stay. Set on 8 acres and built in 1972, this heritage hotel is one of Rajasthan's finest.
Day 5: Ranthambhore
Drive from Castle Kanota to Ranthambhore National Park (approximately 5 hours). In the evening enjoy a safari through the park. Ranthambore National Park is one of the original Project Tiger reserves, a place where nature has reclaimed ancient fortresses and temples, and that is teeming with wildlife. In 4WD safari vehicles take game drives to search for animals and the majestic tigers which stalk through the jungle. You may also have the chance to explore the 1000 year old Ranthambore Fort, where two pavilions that have survived the ravages of war and time - Badal Mahal and Hammirs Court - give an idea of its old grandeur.Notes: Ranthambhore National Park is closed between 1 July and 30 September each year. On those trips affected, we'll visit nearby Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary. Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary is located approx. 16 km from Ranthambhore and, due to its hilly terrain, isn't as affected by the monsoon. Tigers inhabit this area also and spottings are more favourable at this time of year as they move away from flooded areas of Ranthambore.
Day 6: Ranthambhore
Awake early for a morning safari, a second chance to spot tigers. Even if the tigers are too stealthy to see, the park is filled with other animals like gazelle, hyenas, sloth bears, crocodiles, jackals, three types of antelope (nilgai, sambar and chital) and leopards to watch out for. Afterwards, enjoy free time at the resort. Later, in the afternoon, spend some time relaxing or take a stroll around town.
Day 7: Agra
Drive to Agra (approximately 5 hours). Here you visit Agra Fort, and India's most famous icon – the spectacular Taj Mahal. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his second wife and 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. Stop at the nearby Agra Fort, a fortress, palace and prison built of red sandstone by Akbar in 1565 and partially converted into a palace during the time of Shah Jahan.
Day 8: Delhi
Travel from Agra to Delhi. Explore the bustling city streets on a walking tour. Also travel in the local style, by cycle rickshaw, to get another perspective on this frantic metropolis. Visit the Sisganj Gurudwara, one of the nine historic gurdwaras (Sikh temples) in Delhi, first constructed in 1783. Stop in at the awe-inspiring Red Fort, which is considered to be the peak of Mughal creativity. Also pay a visit to the 73 metre high Qutab Minar and about learn some of its history.
Day 9: Varanasi
Fly from Delhi to Varanasi. Awash with shrines and temples, this is the ultimate destination for Hindu pilgrims who travel from far and wide to experience such a spiritual city. Varanasi is not known for its cleanliness, but it is recognised as one of India’s most inspiring cities. Take a walking tour of the old city, through narrow laneways packed with stalls and shops, past the dhobi wallahs, burning ghats, and the endless temples that echo with bells and the pungent aroma of incense. Witness pilgrims performing ancient bathing rituals and ceremonies as your first day in this sacred city comes to an end.
Day 10: 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. Perhaps finish the day with an optional Ganges river cruise at sunset.
Day 11: Delhi
This morning will be free for you to soak up the atmosphere of Varanasi during your final time here. Maybe do some last minute shopping in the incredible bazaars or merely wander through the ghats. Then you return to Delhi by plane (approximately 1.5 hours) arriving early afternoon. This evening there will be an (optional) group farewell dinner organised for those interested.
Day 12: Chennai
Fly to Chennai for the second half of your trip. This flight is included in the cost of the trip. On arrival in Chennai, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Chennai, formerly Madras, is the fourth largest city in India. It was the first major settlement of the East India Company in 1639. With the rest of your free time today, take the chance to walk around India’s fourth largest city and perhaps visit the local marketplaces and temples. Don't forget - your adventure continues with another meeting for the entire group so you can all get acquainted at 6 pm.
Day 13: Puducherry (Pondicherry)
This morning you will leave the city behind and drive along the scenic East Coast Road (approximately 2 hours) to the fishing town of Mamallapuram, home to sprawling, relaxed beaches. Visit the 8th-century Shore Temple and its mandapams (carved pillars) and watch locals pay their respects to the deity Shiva. Later in the afternoon continue the drive to Pondicherry (approximately 3 hours) where your evening is free.
Day 14: Puducherry (Pondicherry)
Today you will visit Auroville, which sits just outside Pondicherry and is an experimental township dedicated to the concept of human unity. With more than 80 rural settlements and home to over 1,500 residents, half of the town’s population are foreign nationals. Auroville is also home to the world’s largest solid crystal, which you can examine. Back in Pondicherry you'll take a walking tour to see local temples, the French Quarter and the spiritual community of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, one of the most affluent and most popular ashrams for tourists and ex-pats alike. You’ll see evidence of French colonial influence in Pondicherry's architecture, sprawling town squares and even in the uniforms of the police. The city is also a duty free zone, reputed for its quality leather and hand crafted paper products. You'll notice the French influence of the area extends to the European feel of the shopping
Day 15: Madurai
Today continue by private a/c vehicle to Madurai. Its a six hour journey and will take up most of the day. there are plenty of bathroom and chai stops along the way. After arriving in the city, maybe head out on a guided orientation walk of the local area. Madurai’s recorded history dates back to third-century BC and has a fascinating story, with your guide being able to help you understand it. Venture out in the evening for some authentic Indian food.
Day 16: Madurai
Continue your walking exploration of Madurai today, wandering the tailors markets and bazaars before visiting 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. Take a trip to the National Gandhi Museum, dedicated to the life and achievements of the 'Father of the Nation' and the leader of India's fight for independence. This evening is free for you to use as you wish.
Day 17: Thekkady/Periyar National Park
Travel into the countryside this morning as you drive past rubber and pineapple plantations to Thekkady (approximately 4 hours). Thekkady is the gateway to Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve, perched high in the ranges of the Western Ghats. 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. This afternoon, take a tour of a local spice plantation
Day 18: Thekkady/Periyar National Park
This morning, take a guided nature walk in the acclaimed Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. 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. 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 ayurvedic massage (optional) or attend an exciting demonstration of Indian martial arts (kalaripayattu) at the Kadathanadan Kalari Centre.
Day 19: Munnar
This morning drive north to Munnar (approximately 4 hours), an old British Hill Station cradled in a picturesque valley. At 1,525 metres above sea level, there’s likely to be dramatic drop in temperature here so be sure to pack warm clothing. You'll take a tour of a nearby tea garden where you can soak up the luscious green surrounds and, if its erratic scheduling allows, you will visit the tea museum. Relax for the evening in your accommodation in the mountain resort.
Day 20: Munnar
This morning take a guided walk around the lush hills of Munnar, India’s largest tea-growing region, which still retains some of its colonial charm from when it was a favourite summer retreat of the British. In the afternoon, journey out to the scenic Mattupetty Dam where you can take an optional motorboat ride. The town of Mattupetty is known for its Indo-Swiss livestock project devoted to cattle development. Your evening is then free.
Day 21: Kochi (Cochin)
In the morning, drive from the tea covered hills to Kochi (approximately 5 hours). Cochin, as it was formerly known, is spread over several islands and is a melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British influences. On arrival, take some time to relax after a long drive.In the early evening you will also witness a Kathakali dance performance, a classical, powerful, and dramatic dance style that combines symbolic storytelling with physical technique. It is one of the most vibrant and extraordinary theatre forms in the world, and requires incredible commitment and rigorous training physically, as well as incredible emotional sensitivity to properly express the nuances of expression required.
Day 22: Kochi (Cochin)
Today, you will explore the antique shops and spice bazaars, visit Fort Kochi and see the Chinese fishing nets that line the coast. You will also stop at 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. Continue on to visit the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest existing Jewish synagogue in India, built in 1568.Maybe ask your tour leader to make a booking at the excellent restaurant at the Grand Hotel.
Day 23: Alappuzha (Alleppey) Kerala Backwaters
Drive to the backwaters of Kerala this morning (approximately 3 hours) and discover Alleppey’s sleepy, palm-shaded waterways. Once a significant trading port, the town is now famed for the long ‘snake boats’ races that take place in August every year. Alleppey is a common starting point for journeys through the backwaters. Tonight, you'll sleep on a traditional Kettuvallam (houseboat). These floating cottages have western toilets, private bedrooms, a dining area and sundeck for you to relax on.
Day 24: Kovalam
A morning drive takes you to Kovalam via the capital of Kerala, Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) (approximately 4 hours). Kovalam was once a quiet coastal village known for its export of fresh fish and coconuts, but is now one of India’s most popular beach resorts. If you have free time, explore the old signalling 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.
Day 25: Kovalam
No activities are included today and your trip ends after breakfast. Kovalam is a lovely place to spend some extra days on the beach. Peregrine can organise a departure transfer to the airport in Trivandrum otherwise your leader will assist you in booking a taxi.
- Jaipur - Walking & market tour
- Jaipur - Bollywood Movie at Raj Mandir Cinema
- Jaipur - Amber Fort
- Ranthambhore National Park - Evening wildlife safari
- Ranthambhore National Park - Morning Safari
- Agra - Taj Mahal
- Agra - Agra Fort
- Delhi - Jama Masjid
- Delhi - Old Delhi tour
- Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
- Varanasi - Old City tour
- Varanasi - Sunset candle ceremony
- Varanasi - Sunrise boat trip
- Complimentary Airport Arrival Transfer
- Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
- Auroville - Experimental township
- Puducherry - Walking tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
- Madurai - Sri Meenakshi 1000 Pillar Entrance
- Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
- Madurai - Gandhi Museum
- Madurai - Walking tour
- Periyar - Spice plantation visit
- Periyar - Guided nature walk
- Munnar - Tea Garden visit
- Munnar - Mattupetty Dam
- Munnar - Town Walk
- Kochi - Kathakali performance
- Kochi - Ferry to Mattancherry
- Kochi - Jewish Synagogue
- Kochi - Dutch Palace
- Kochi - Fort Kochi walk
- Kovalam - Walking tour
23 Breakfast(s) Included
1 Lunch(es) Included
4 Dinner(s) Included