Travel to the far-flung corners of India on this trailblazing adventure tour. In the north, ride camels through Jaisalmer's desert, lose yourself in the electric bazaars of Jodhpur, witness pilgrims performing ancient ceremonies on the ghats of Varanasi and marvel at the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. Bask in the tropical southern climate, cruise along the Kerala Backwaters and come face-to-face with local customs in small rural towns. This fantastic trip finishes off on the gorgeous beaches of Goa â India's idyllic beachside holiday destination. Enjoy the freedom to be immersed in the diverse cultures of colourful, chaotic and enchanting India.
- Experience old and new India in the bustling streets of Delhi, where ancient temples stand against billboards advertising Bollywood films
- Discover the ancient forts, lake palaces, rural villages and colourful cities of Rajasthan: sandy red Jaisalmer, blue Jodhpur, white Udaipur and pink Jaipur
- Ride out into the Thar Desert on a camel safari. Feast on Rajasthani cuisine at sunset before bunking down to camp between the sand dunes
- The Taj Mahal in Agra may be one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, but its poetic history and beauty have the power to surprise even the most jaded travellers
- Pushkar and Varanasi are among the holiest cities in India. Climb to hilltop temples at sunrise, dodge cows in the street, and observe pilgrims praying and bathing along the ghats of the sacred Ganges River during a boat cruise
- A homestay with a local family is a special experience, especially in the serene backwaters of Kerala
- The city of Madurai showcases southern India at its liveliest. Explore the cityâs bazaars and discover the colourful, intricately carved Sri Meenakshi Temple
- Visit the World Heritage-listed Virupaksha Temple in Hampi, a spectacular monument surrounded by ruins
- Golden beaches and age-old fishing villages make Goa one of Indiaâs most tranquil retreats â and the perfect last stop on your adventure
- Sip sweet chai overlooking the glistening Udaipur Lake
|Physical||Cultural||Max Group Size||12||Duration||37 days|
|Themes||Explorer, Local Life, Once Upon a Time, Showstoppers, Trucks, Trains & Tuk-tuks, Under the Stars|
|Category||Bronze||Keep it simple, keeping inclusions to a minimum. These trips represent exceptional value and having a lot of free time to do what you wish.|
Day 1 - Delhi
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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 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.
India's capital is an exciting, busy, and often chaotic city but it's also one of the most interesting in the world with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars!
There are plenty of things to see and do in free time. Visit the World Heritage-listed Mughal masterpiece of Humayun's Tomb. This was the first garden tomb in India, built way back in 1570. Wonder at the tall brick minaret of Qutub Minar, which was started back in the 1100s. Explore the mighty Red Fort of Delhi. Part palace and part fort, it plays an integral part in the history of the city with former residents ranging from royal families to British soldiers.
Join your group leader on an excursion into the sights and sounds of Old Delhi! Set off on the city's modern metro system, then get a taste of India's famed public transport with an option for a cycle rickshaw ride through chaotic streets, such as the famous Chandni Chowk. Make a visit to the Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque and one of its most impressive buildings, then visit the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion.
Board an overnight train to Jaisalmer (approx 19 hrs). Our sleeper trains along the way are clean and air-conditioned, and are a great way to travel long distances and still get maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blankets provided but some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. Please note you may be sharing with locals in a same/mixed gender situation. It's advised to bring your own food on this train.
Day 2 - Delhi
Day 3 - Jaisalmer/Thar Desert
Looking like a scene from The Thousand and One Nights as it rises from flat desert surrounds, Jaisalmer is a centre for nomadic tribespeople who come to trade in the narrow twisting alleys full of markets and ornately carved houses.
Maybe visit the Jaisalmer Folklore Museum. Located on the banks of Garsisar Lake in the Mehar Bagh Garden, its wide variety of exhibits offer a great experience for visitors.
Pack a small overnight bag for our travels today and leave your big luggage at our hotel until our return.
Today brings an opportunity to ride camels out over the sand dunes to spend a night under the stars in the beautiful Thar Desert. We get driven by jeep to the camel camp, meet our guides and ride through the desert to our camping spot for the night (up to 3 hours).
After our ride we set up our camp and our guides will get a camp fire going to cook dinner. We truly are under the open sky here, with mattresses, pillows, sheets and blankets provided for camping out.
Wake up early the next morning for an amazing desert sunrise before a simple breakfast. Then we ride our camels again (up to 90 min) back to our drop off point to return by jeep to the city.
Please note that during winter months (Dec/Jan) temperatures in the desert can drop below zero. Your leader will monitor the weather forecast to decide whether this activity will be able to go ahead. Should weather conditions prohibit us from camping, we will take a day trip to the Thar Desert instead of the overnight stay. Some travellers have also preferred to being sleeping bags for camping in winter months. We recommend that travellers to India during this time of year bring adequate warm clothing, including thermals as even in the cities the temperatures can be low and hotels often are not centrally heated.
Day 4 - Jaisalmer
Day 5 - Jaisalmer
Day 6 - Jodhpur
Jodhpur is known for its antique shops and the best lassi in India. And yes, it is where those famous trousers come from.
Visit Sadar Bazaar, one of the oldest markets in India. Built around a clock tower amid spice and vegetable markets, juice sellers and sari materials, Sadar Bazaar also has numerous vendors with carts selling everything from Bollywood soundtracks to armfuls of sparkling bangles.
Explore the colossal Mehrangarh Fort and take in the great views from its ramparts, which dominate the city's skyline.
Take a tour of the nearby Bishnoi villages. The Bishnoi are a peaceful nature-loving community and no trip to this region is complete without experiencing the fascinating traditions of the tribespeople of rural Rajasthan.
Day 7 - Jodhpur
Day 8 - Udaipur
Udaipur undoubtedly lives up to its reputation as India's most romantic city. Rolling hills, white marble palaces and lakes come together appealingly and it's a centre for artists, dancers and musicians. The shopping is also superb, with miniature paintings being the speciality.
On arrival in Udaipur, take a walk around town to help gather your bearings. Explore Udaipur's twisting alleys filled with silver, shoes, bags, leather goods and miniature paintings.
There's plenty to see and do in your free time here:
Enjoy a half hour boat ride on the famous Lake Pichola and see marvels like Lake Palace and Jag Mandir Island (seasonal depending on the water level in the lake).
If time, visit 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.
Join the famous Spice Box cooking school and spend a half day learning the secrets of Indian cuisine. With lessons on preparation and cooking, you'll be able to whip up a full Indian meal in no time.
Be part of a musical concert combining seven traditional Rajasthani folk dances.
Check out the Monsoon Palace. Formerly known as the Sajjan Garh Palace, this palatial hilltop residence overlooks Lake Pichola. It was originally named after Maharana Sajjan Singh (1874â1884) of the Mewar Dynasty, who built it in 1884.
Explore Shilpgram, a rural arts and crafts village, which depicts the lifestyles of the tribal people of western India with displays of traditional mud huts and artistic performances.
Day 9 - Udaipur
Day 10 - Udaipur
Day 11 - Pushkar
Take private vehicles from Ajmer to our hotel in Pushkar (approx 45 mins).
Pushkar is one of the India's holiest places. It's also a market centre for many of the local village people and a great place to sit back and relax.
Head out to explore Pushkar's main bazaar and many sidestreets - some great bargains can be had, as some of the cheapest clothes and jewellery in northern India can be found here. Walk around the lake, with its bustling ghats and temples, to watch the devout as they worship at the holy waters. Visit the only Brahma Temple in India.
Early risers can make the sunrise hike up the hill to the Savitri Temple for magical views over the town. There could also be a wonderful steaming glass of chai waiting for you if the chai man is there - certainly well worth the trek.
Day 12 - Pushkar
Day 13 - Jaipur
A friendly, busy town crammed with palaces and bazaars full of jewellery, textiles and folk-based arts, Jaipur is a firm favourite with travellers.
Some options for your free time here include:
Make a photos stop at India's most photographed building after the Taj Mahal, the Hawa Mahal or 'Palace of the Winds'.
Take a walk to the city's crowded and colourful bazaars, which sell a wide variety of artisan goods. Semi-precious stones are the local speciality - be sure to wander by the stalls at least once.
Go to Jaipur's Royal City Palace - one of India's finest - and spend time exploring the various rooms and apartments.
Discover 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.
Day 14 - Jaipur
Day 15 - Abhaneri
The village of Abhaneri is prominent for 'Baoris', step wells which were invented to harvest rain water. These tanks were used as cool places of retreat and as water reservoirs during the dry season in this desert landscape. Whilst a lot of local tourists visit, this is the traditional rural Rajasthan, its a lovely stop away from the big cities of Rajasthan.
Day 16 - Agra
Agra is home to one of the world's most recognisable monuments, the Taj Mahal.
Visit the Taj Mahal - a masterpiece of shimmering white marble set amid beautiful formal gardens. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz, this 'teardrop on the face of eternity' (as it was described by writer Rabindranath Tagore) lives up to all expectations.
Visit Agra Fort on the banks of the Yamuna River. Built in 1565 by Emperor Akbar, the fort was originally designed to be a military structure. It was converted to a palace in Emperor Shah Jahan's time and eventually became his prison after he lost power in 1658.
Leave for Varanasi on an overnight train (approx 12 hrs).
Day 17 - Agra
Day 18 - Varanasi
You have a plenty of free time to explore this holy city:
Wander through the Old City with its maze of narrow alleyways packed full of small shops and stalls. See pilgrims bathing and performing rituals and ceremonies unchanged for hundreds of years; temples full of bell chimes and the smell of incense; the dhobi wallahs and the burning ghats.
Spend the evening soaking up the magical atmosphere of a candle flower ceremony, on a Ganges river cruise as the sun sets.
Day 19 - Varanasi
Day 20 - Varanasi
Day 21 - Delhi
You have a free rest of the day to relax or explore Delhi. Your leader will be on hand to give you some suggestions.
Day 22 - Trivandrum
The internal flight from Delhi to Trivandrum is NOT included. There may not be many direct flights on this day with a lot of flights going via Mumbai or Chennai. If you can get there before 6pm you can join the new joining meeting. If not, your leader will be able to update you in the morning.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Day 23 - Varkala
Day 24 - Varkala
Day 25 - Kerala Backwaters Homestay
Auto rickshaws take us from Alleppey train station to the boarding point for our boats.
Alleppey's sleepy, palm-shaded backwaters are Kerala's hidden treasure. Once an important trading port and now famous for its August 'snake boat' races, Alleppey is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters and also hosts a mid-December musical festival.
Crossing the backwaters, head to an island village to stay with local families (approx 1 hour).
Explore the backwaters with a local guide to observe the different facets of local life - this is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live here. Strolling under palm trees and weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, learn about their lifestyles.
Take a leisurely pole boat ride around the lake and enjoy the outstanding scenery.
Accommodation is on a multishare basis and all the families live within a few hundred metres of each other, with at least one person in the family speaking a reasonable standard of English. Food is traditional Keralan home cooking.
Day 26 - Kochi
Take a local bus to Kochi (approx 2 hrs).
Spread over several islands, Kochi is a fascinating place full of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences.
Stay at Intrepid Kaliveedu. This is a special lodge offering very different ambience with large landscaped gardens, air-conditioned rooms and a central location close to most of the sights in Fort Cochin.
We will reach Kochi around midday. Today we will go on an orientation walk with our leader and take in the sights in the vicinity of our accommodation.
Some of the sights to see include St Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica and the famous Chinese fishing nets.
There's the option of attending a Kathakali dance performance tonight at 5pm. This classical dance is a highly charged and powerful drama that combines devotion and physical virtuosity with symbolic storytelling to produce one of the most impressive and vibrant forms of theatre in the world. It requires lengthy and rigorous training to attain complete control of the body and sensitivity to emotion so as to be able to render all its nuances through facial expressions and hand gestures.
The following day we will head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Kochi where we explore the old Jewish quarter, Synagogue and Dutch Palace. The tour takes approximately 2-3 hours after which the rest of the day is free.
In your free time why not join one of our Urban Adventures such as Fort Kochi by Bike, Home Cooked Kochi or Kochi Food & Culture Tour. Please check with your leader in advance if you would like to book one of these tours and they can assist in making arrangements.
Day 27 - Kochi
Day 28 - Periyar National Park
Day 29 - Thakaddy / Periyar National Park
Day 30 - Madurai
Visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. This ancient, still active temple is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors which lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed.
Wander the bazaars and the tailors' market.
Day 31 - Madurai
Day 32 - Mysore
Mysore is an easygoing town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot.
A visit to Mysore isn't complete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is a riot of colour, mosaics and mirrors.
Visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur - a stunning example of Hoysala temple architecture (approx 1 hr from Mysore).
You have plenty of time to explore the surrounding countryside, so head out and climb Chamundi Hill - site of the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga.
Day 33 - Mysore
Day 34 - Hampi
Hampi is a beautiful ancient temple town situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.
Explore the Vittala Temple - the architectural highlight of Hampi's Vijayanagar ruins.