15 nights from
Packing the best of both regal and rural India, north and south, into just sixteen days away, this is a fabulous introduction to India for first-time visitors. Travelling by air, road, rail, rickshaw, and river boat, staying in heritage hotels and eco-retreats, and visiting UNESCO sites and iconic landmarks, it is a journey through the country’s culture, colours, and centuries of heritage. In the north we tour from Old Delhi’s colonial buildings to Agra’s amazing Taj Mahal, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, and to palaces in the Pink City of Jaipur; via the ghost town of Fatehpur Sikri, Bharatpur’s bird reserve, and a safari in Sariska National Park to seek out the Bengal tigers. A flight south marks the transition from a feast of sightseeing to refreshing, slow-lane exploration, beginning in beguiling Cochin, an old colonial city by the sea, with a pan-Indian population. Scenic journeys circle from here to the tiered tea terraces of Munnar, to Periyar National Park, set amid spice plantations and forested hills, where we sail on the lake to view the wilderness and its wildlife from the water; and to Kerala, to cruise the sleepy backwaters around Alleppey, and conclude the tour at Kumarakom’s lake islets.
Fly overnight from London to Delhi via Dubai.
Key: B - Breakfast L - Lunch D - DinnerRead More
Fly overnight from London to Delhi via Dubai.
On arrival, transfer to the Heritage Hotel Maidens, imbued with old-colonial charm, for a two-night stay. An afternoon tour takes you to the 16th-century mausoleum of Mughal Emperor Humayun, UNESCO listed as the first garden-tomb in India, and the adjacent acres of the beautiful Sunder Nursery, a Mughal-era arboretum of rare trees.
A tour of Old Delhi passes the stately India Gate arch, parliament building, Viceroy’s House, and Red Fort; and visits the 17th-century Jama Masjid (‘Friday Mosque’), the second-largest mosque on the sub-continent; the Gandhi Smriti Museum, dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi and where he spent the last few months of his life; and the Qutab Minar, a 12th-century, 73m-tall ‘tower of victory’, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Transfer to the railway station this morning, and take the Gatiman Express to Agra, where your guide will meet you for a tour of the 16th-century Agra Red Fort, a lavish UNESCO listed palace, set by the Yamuna River and encompassing the perfect and peaceful Pearl Mosque. After settling in at the hotel, enjoy an evening visit to Mehtab Bagh (‘Midnight Garden’), perfectly aligned to view the Taj Mahal across the river. Overnight at the 5-star Taj Hotel and Convention Centre.
Start the day with a sunrise visit to the jewel in Agra’s crown, the Taj Mahal, the romantic icon lauded by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the world’s heritage. Return to the hotel for breakfast, before driving to Bharatpur, stopping enroute to explore UNESCO listed Fatehpur Sikri, a fortified Mughal city of sandstone homes and temples, founded in 1571, and completely abandoned in 1610. An afternoon tour in Bharatpur takes you by cycle-rickshaw to the UNESCO listed bird sanctuary of Keoladeo National Park. Overnight at the Heritage Hotel Laxmi Vilas Palace.
Take time at leisure or return on an optional rickshaw tour to Keoladeo, the large reserve hosting thousands of native and migratory birds, with over 300 species in its habitat of woodlands, wetlands, and grassland (pre-bookable, £60). Travel by road (5hrs approx.) to Sariska National Park, calling at the 17th-century ruins of Bhangarh Fort, steeped in a history of haunting legends. Overnight at the 4-star Sariska Safari Lodge.
(B, L, D)
Enjoy an early morning jeep safari in Sariska, nestled in the Aravali Hills. Famed for its population of Bengal Tigers, its forests and cliffs are also home to leopards, langur, and macaque monkeys, sambhar, chital and four-horned antelopes, jackals, hyenas and wild boars, and birdlife from peacocks to crested serpent eagles. Leave the reserve and drive to Jaipur, where we have a cooking demo and dinner with a local family. Two nights at the elegant heritage hotel Shahpura House Jaipur, a former royal palace.
A tour of the Pink City visits the Amber Fort, known for its huge, gated ramparts and Hindu design, and crowning a small hill overlooking Maota Lake; the City Palace, its temples and pavilions spread between courtyards and gardens; and the 18th-century Jantar Mantar Observatory, UNESCO listed as India’s most significant site for observation of astronomical positions; and views the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) its wall of windows allowing the women to observe the city, unseen.
Switching from northern landmarks to southern landscapes, transfer to the airport this morning to fly, via Mumbai, to Cochin, facing the sunsets over the Arabian Sea. A spice trading centre from the 14th century, it is a flourishing port city today. Evening at leisure. Two nights at the 4-star hotel Fragrant Nature, Cochin.
Take a walking tour of the Fort Cochin area, where landmarks include the Mattancherry Palace, Paradesi Synagogue, and St. Francis Church. With free time later, perhaps stroll the seafront to see the famous Chinese Fishing Nets, hung on teak and bamboo poles; and this evening, enjoy a performance of Kathakali classical Indian dance, followed by a visit to a local family home for a cooking demo and dinner with the family.
Travel by road (4hrs) to Munnar and visit the Tea Museum, with photographs, exhibits and machinery recording the transition of tea processing from its rudimentary origins to fully automated factory, and with a tasting room for you to sample some of its most exotic teas. Continue to the 5-star Fragrant Nature Munnar, with views of the misted mountains, for an overnight stay.
A walk through the tea plantations is a breath of fresh air and an insight of the locals’ lifestyle, as you talk with the workers and learn how to pluck the leaves. Drive south (3hrs) to Thekkady, at the edge of Periyar National Park, for two nights at the 4-star boutique hotel ‘CGH Earth’ Spice Village. Experience a Kalaraipayattu martial art performance this evening.
Periyar is one of seven Protected (biodiversity) Areas in India. In its landscape of marshy grasslands, semi-evergreens, and dense tropical forests, a hundred-year-old man-made lake sits at its heart, and langur, lion-tailed macaques, and barking deer share the ground with elephant herds and the park’s Bengal tigers. View the scene on an early morning boat ride on the lake, and later soak-up the scents and scenery on a spice plantation tour.
Travel (3½hrs) westward to Allepey, set at the heart of Kerala’s maze of waterways, to board a traditional Kettuvallam houseboat. Enjoy lunch aboard as you cruise the quiet backwaters, floating between verdant banks of trees and shrubs, and perhaps spotting kites and kingfishers, cormorants, and terns feeding in the shallows. Disembark in the evening and drive to Kumarakom for a two-night stay at the 4-star ‘CGH Earth’ Coconut Lagoon, an eco-hotel, accessible only by boat.
Kumarakom’s cluster of little man-made islets are sprinkled in the largest of Kerala’s lakes, Vembanad. Relax on a day at leisure here, to enjoy the hotel facilities, perhaps canoeing on the canals.
Transfer to Cochin for your return flight to London via Dubai.
Optional rickshaw tour to Keoladeo, the large reserve hosting thousands of native and migratory birds, with over 300 species in its habitat of woodlands, wetlands, and grassland.
Prices are per person in a twin / double room
Emirates from London Heathrow
Air travel and taxes, transfers, 14 nights' accommodation, breakfast daily, 2 lunches and 6 dinners, itinerary as described, services of guides and local representatives. If our specially negotiated airfares are unavailable at the time of booking, a supplement may apply.
Travel insurance, visa procurement fee, optional excursions, tipping, any government taxes or compulsory charges introduced after publication.
In certain countries we recommend the currency most widely accepted rather than the local currency.