See the dazzling Taj Mahal of Agra and the majestic Red Fort
Includes return economy airfares
27 days priced at £3709pp flight and hotel inclusive
Experience India close-up on this detailed tour, covering the temples, palaces and forts of the north, ...
... as well as the lush tropical waterways and palm-fringed beaches of the south. See India’s gleaming jewel, the Taj Mahal, and cruise the peaceful backwaters of Kerala on a houseboat on this colour-filled Journey.
Some of the highlights included are:
- Spot exotic creatures on a safari in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary
- Witness traditional dance performances in Kochi
- Unwind at the Kovalam Beach
- Cruise the waterways of Kerala aboard an overnight House Boat
- Visit India's sacred sites in holy Varanasi
- Discover the delights of bustling Delhi
- Admire Khajuraho's erotic temple carvings
- See the dazzling Taj Mahal of Agra and the majestic Red Fort
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- Small Group Journey with maximum group size 16
- All authentic local experiences mentioned except where specified optional
- All international & internal flights
- 22 nights in 4* hotels & hand-picked local gems
- 2 nights in unique heritage properties
- 1 night aboard a houseboat
- 25 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners
- Arrival transfers & all internal transport
Need to know+
- Arrives: Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL)
- Time difference: GMT+5:30
- Visa requirements: British passport holders require a tourist visa; please ask your travel consultant for more information
- Language: Hindi, English
- Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)
- Flying time from UK: Around 9 hours
- Plug type: 3 large round pins
- Voltage: 230 volts/50 cycles
Arrive in Delhi and meet the rest of your group at your hotel. Get ready for a feast for the senses as you join your guide for a walking tour around Old Delhi, including the Jama Masjid mosque and the Sheeshganj Gurdwara. Brave the crowds and the chaos at Chandi Chowk and perhaps take a look around the exquisite mosaic work and red sandstone archways of Humayun’s Tomb, the first garden-tomb in India, built in 1570 (optional, extra cost).
Take the train to the Pink City of Jaipur and browse the colourful bazaars. It’s not called the Pink City for nothing, so admire the rose-hued buildings, including the much-photographed Palace of the Winds. Tour the opulent City Palace, with its stained-glass windows and jewel-encrusted mosaics. See the technological advancement of the Jantar Mantar, an observatory like none you will have seen before. Then, for the icing on the cake, ascend to the top of the imposing Amber Fort for fabulous countryside views.
Drive on to Agra and explore its highlights by rickshaw. Visit the architectural masterpiece that is the Taj Mahal, a spectacular construction of white marble and a beautiful monument to love. Completed in 1653, the mausoleum was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Take a visit to the less famous, but still pretty impressive Agra Fort, a red sandstone complex filled with well-tended lawns, towering archways, and perfectly framed views of the Taj Mahal.
Board your train to Orchha, located on the banks of the Betwa river, and filled with palaces and temples. For such a small town, it really packs the sights in, so get exploring the Orchha Palace with its delicate chhatris (dome shaped pavilions). You’ll also visit a paper-making plant, part of a responsible tourism project that gives local women the chance to learn new skills, with the paper being made from recycled clothing and wood pulp. Take part in a local cooking demonstration and discover how spices influence the local cuisine.
Fly on to remote Khajuraho to view the famous Kama Sutra temples, which are around a thousand years old and carved with intricate erotic scenes. These exquisite examples of temple art are some of the finest in the world and are quite a sight to behold. There’s nothing vulgar about the sculptures – they explore the beauty of the human body and celebrate the variety of life. You’ll also enjoy a home-cooked meal with a local family, allowing you a glimpse into everyday life in the area, and take in a traditional dance performance.
Fly to Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges. Pick up the scent of incense in the air as you wander through the maze of alleyways that make up the Old City, and browse the market stalls. Perhaps head down to the river banks to see locals bathing and performing rituals and ceremonies that are still practised as they have been for hundreds of years. Experience the magic of a candle flower ceremony at sunset, then, the next day, take an early morning sunrise boat trip on the Ganges, passing the Ghats and temples along the way.
Enjoy a leisurely morning wandering around the river Ghats of Varanasi, before catching a quick flight back to Delhi. You have the rest of the day free to enjoy the electric capital of India.
Watch the pace change and the temperature increase as you touch down in India’s tropical south. Chennai was settled in 1639 and is the fourth-largest city in India – check out the Government Museum and the Kapileshwar Temple, plus Chennai’s most famous landmark, Fort St George. If you are interested in motorcycles then a visit to the Enfield Factory is a must, or you could just wander among the temples and markets, soaking up the atmosphere.
Arrive into the scenic fishing village of Mamallapuram, visit the impressive two-towered Shore Temple, built in 700, with its many mandapams (carved pillars) and relax on the beach. One of the most impressive of the monuments is the Five Rathas, a collection of 7th century, monolith-carved temples adorned with animal statues, especially evocative at sunset. Check out Arjuna’s Penance, an impressive relief carved into two boulders depicting various myths and legends from the 7th century.
Check out the French style and architecture in Puducherry, where crepes and steak adorn the menu and many streets still use their French names. Along the way, you’ll stop off on in Auroville, an experimental township made up of 80 rural settlements and 1500 international residents. It is also home to the world’s largest solid crystal. Back in Puducherry, take a guided walking tour and visit the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded in 1926, as well as the European-style French quarter.
Take the train to the banks of the river Vaigai and the town of Madurai, filled with history, some of which goes back to the third century BC. Learn more about the father of the nation at the National Ghandi Museum, then take a look around the bazaars and tailors’ market. Check out the Sri Meenakshi Temple with its dark corridors and impressive shrines, and then explore various museums, palaces, mosques and intricate temple complexes.
Pass through pineapple and rubber plantations on the way to Periyar. See if you can spot elephants, sambar, deer and tigers in pretty Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. There’s a lovely lake here, often frequented by elephants who come to drink the water, and they can be seen splashing about to keep cool. Take a look around a local spice plantation and feast on a home-cooked meal with the owners, then join your guide for a nature walk in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, where you’ll be on the look out for sambar, bison, elephant and leopard.
Cool off in the hill station of Munnar and enjoy the lush greenery. Take a trip out to the impressive Mattupetti Dam, found at an altitude of 1700 metres. Munnar itself is at 1525 metres altitude, so offers a cool respite from the heat of the cities. Soak up the pretty views of the verdant Munnar Hills, which are unsurprisingly popular with Indian honeymooners, and relax in the lush tea gardens. Tea enthusiasts can also drop by the tea museum to learn more about this popular drink.
Discover the multicultural influences in Kochi, including the 16th century Portuguese-built Dutch Palace and the Jewish Synagogue. Kochi is actually made up of several islands, best explored by ferry. Check out Fort Cochin, the spice bazaars and the antique shops. In the evening, join in with a Kathakali dance performance, a dramatic and vibrant depiction of life’s stories and dramas. Its dancers train intensively to be able to perform it, and it involves some expressive facial expressions and hand gestures.
Board your pole boat and ride around the lake at Alleppey, soaking up the lush green rice field and palm tree scenery. Later on, Experience a more relaxed pace and immerse yourself in a local way of life as you cruise the peaceful, palm-lined river on a houseboat, dropping in to local villages, watching the fishermen and spotting the river traffic as it drifts by. Sleep peacefully to the sounds of the water lapping against your houseboat.
Swing by the Keralan capital Trivandrum, also known as Thiruvananthapuram, on your way to Kovalam. Once a sleepy fishing village, Kovalam is now home to Lighthouse Beach and Hawa Beach, both popular with holidaymakers and day trippers, and there’s some good surf. If that’s not your thing, yoga and massage sessions can be arranged. Chill out on the soft sandy beaches and later, visit the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, where most of the worshippers are women.
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