Highlights of Best of North and South India Tour

Important Facts

Duration: 28 Days
Pace: Relaxed
Destinations: Old and New Delhi ➜ Udaipur ➜ Ranakpur ➜ Jodhpur ➜ Deogarh Palace Heritage Hotel ➜ Jaipur ➜ Ranthambore Tiger Reserve ➜ Agra ➜ Fatehpur Sikri ➜ Orchha ➜ Khajuraho ➜ Varanasi (Ganges) ➜ Chennai ➜ Kanchipuram ➜ Mamallapuram ➜ Tanjore (Thanjavur) ➜ Trichy ➜ Chettinad Region ➜ Madurai ➜ Munnar ➜ Thekkady (Periyar Tiger Reserve) ➜ Alleppey (Houseboat Kerala Backwaters) ➜ Kumarakom ➜ Mararikulam Beach ➜ Kochi ➜ Chennai/Mumbai
  • With this Vacation India Luxury Tour enjoy the sights and sounds of the cities of Northern India and Southern India, from Rajasthan, known as the Land of Kings, to the serene beaches of Mararikulam. You will experience the most luxurious travel including the Taj and Oberoi hotels.
  • Your trip begins with a tour of Delhi, using the modern subway to explore beautiful gardens and the architecture of New Delhi. In the comfort of Indian tricycles, you continue on to fascinating Old Delhi to the old bazaars of Chandni Chowk and landmarks such as the Jama Masjid mosque, the Red Fort and the beautiful Raj Ghat park.
  • Leaving Delhi, your Luxury North India Tour flies you to Rajasthan, and the city of Udaipur, the ‘Venice of the East’: one of the most romantic cities in India where you will visit the beautiful lakes of Fateh Sagar, Udai Sagar, Swaroop Sagar and Lake Pichola with the ornate Lake Palace hotel.
  • From Udaipur you travel to Jodhpur, located on the eastern edge of the Great Indian Thar Desert. Jodhpur, the “Blue City” has an enchanting network of vividly blue painted houses surrounding the majestic Mehrangarh Fort and the 16th-century city wall. Inside the wall you will encounter the bustling, medieval streets, with the scent of incense and bazaars selling everything from spices to saris.
  • From blue to pink, your next step is to Rajasthan’s state capital the enthralling historical city of Jaipur, the “Pink City”. As a major commercial center, the city streets buzz as buses dodge camels and leisurely cycle-rickshaws. You will discover Jaipur’s majestic past in the magnificent Amber Fort where you can experience an elephant ride, or visit the Jantar Mantar observatory, featuring the world’s largest stone sundial.
  • Next you will travel to the city of Sawai Madhopur for a safari in the Ranthambhore National Park in search of the Bengal Tiger. With the Ranthambhore Fort, the 1334 sqkm Park is an enthralling experience of jungle, ancient temples, mosques, pavilions, and vine-covered tombs.
  • From Ranthambhore you journey to Agra, on the banks of the Yamuna river, to experience the unique romance of the Taj Mahal, testament to Mughal architecture. You will also be delighted by a trip to the atmospheric and photogenic ruined city of Fatehpur Sikri.
  • Leaving Agra, air conditioned train travel takes you on to the state of Uttar Pradesh and the city of Jhansi, gateway to the charming medieval village of Orchha, where you can relaxon the banks of the river Betwa, with its opulent abandoned palaces, graceful Chattris (cenotaphs) and beautiful surrounding countryside.
  • Your journey will take you to the state of Madhya Pradesh, and Khajuraho to marvel at the Monuments that encapsulate the essence of Indian aesthetics, exhibiting fine examples of erotic temple art dedicated to Hinduism and Jainism.
  • Your final destination in North India, Varanasi, known as the City of Life and located on the banks of the Ganges, is the center of spirituality in India where you will enjoy the Aarti ceremony and travel to Sarnath, following the footsteps of Buddha to the Dhamekh Stupa and Monastery where he preached his first sermon.
  • Fly to Chennai to begin your enchanting South India tour. Begin your South Indian tour in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu on the east coast of India
  • See the sights of the rock cut pillars of Mahabalipuram and the centuries -old temples of Kanchipuram, the best kept ancient sites in South India
  • Take in the distinctive Franco-Indian style of Puducherry (Pondicherry)
  • Be awe struck by the splendor of Chola architecture at the Great Living Chola Temples of Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Darasuram’s Airavatesvara Temple, Thanjavur’s Brihadishwara Temple
  • Discover the charm of the Chettinad region. Stay in a glorious mansion belonging to an original trader. View the earliest Burma teakwood pillars, Belgium glasses and granite flooring
  • Admire Madurai’s breathtaking temples the greatest cultural, symbols of Southern India
  • Look out for the wild elephants among the fantastic scenery at Periyar Tiger Reserve and learn how the world’s most popular spices are grown at the 500 -acre Spice Plantation in the beautiful Western Ghats
  • Visit India’s first European colony, Fort Kochi on the Malabar Coast, settled by the Portuguese, Dutch and eventually the British
  • Mingle with the local farmers in Munnar and explore their tea plantation and the factory where the world-famous tea is made!
  • Enter “God’s own country” the Alleppey Backwaters. Relax, and enjoy the scenery in your private houseboat
  • Be entertained by the exotic performances of the Kathakali dance in Kochi, with pulsating music and extravagant costumes and make-up
  • Laze about at the grand beach resort of Mararikulam and enjoy some fun in the sun for 4 Nights.
Show Full Travel Program

Your flight arrives into Terminal 3 (T3), Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. After you have passed through immigration, take the Green channel exit gate and our Luxury Rajasthan Tour Representative will be there to greet you. Every effort will be made for your comfort. He will escort you to your air-conditioned limousine for transfer to your hotel and assist you with your hotel check-in formalities.

You will spend two luxurious nights at The Imperial Hotel in central Delhi. This grand and centrally located five star hotel has been listed in Fodor as one of the World’s 15 Legendary Hotels. The Hotel boasts some of the best facilities available including a spa and swimming pool, four restaurants and health club.

Known as the City of Djinns, Delhi is one of the oldest surviving cities in the world and is home to 25 million people. Scattered with the relics of lost empires, Delhi is a rich tapestry of different religions, North-India-Sojourns and architecture evolving from its 1000 years of history. An amalgam of eight cities, Delhi today is a fascinating mixture of medieval fortifications, Mughal mausoleums, old bazaars, colonial-era architecture, and shopping malls.

Overnight in Imperial Delhi.

Delhi has always been the preferred capital of India and continues to retain its status as the administrative capital of the country. Over the years, the Moghul rulers, who reined in this city, have left it with a rich heritage. This afternoon, we take you on a guided tour to some of the most famous historical structures in New Delhi as well as Old Delhi, and then, it would be time for some royal food.

There’s nothing like exploring Delhi the way locals do by rickshaw, and this is precisely what we bring you. Making our way through the narrow, bustling streets adorned by temples, mosques and stalls, we take you to Jami Masjid, the Friday mosque, the largest of its kind in India.

From here, we make our way to the majestic Red Fort that stands as an ode to the Moghul architecture at its pristine best. Wandering through the courtyards of this historic wonder, you will enjoy the intricate design of this structure comprised of red sandstone etched with white marble.

We then walk though Khari Baoli Spice Market. This is one of the oldest wholesale spice markets in the world. You will smell the aroma of spices and Garam Masalas sold by masked women eagerly awaiting the next customer, as you walk and simultaneously make way to porters carrying bagfuls of nuts, herbs and spices. Test your bargaining prowess in these markets and freely interact with the local vendors. If spices are not your thing, try the colorful glass bangles, bindis, silk saris, traditional wedding attire, and more. It’s traditional shopping galore here. You also get the chance to view the abode of the celebrated Persian poet, Mirza Galib, in Ballimaran.

By the time you’ve covered the narrow alleys, it’s already time for lunch and we head towards the renowned Karims Restaurant. This is where you get to experience the spices that you’ve just witnessed. You’ll savor the traditional cuisines dear to Moghuls, in their unadulterated form at Karims. The restaurant itself goes back about 80 years! You’ll love digging your fingers (or forks) into the sheek kabas and mutton burras.

After lunch, we set out to explore New Delhi. The credit of planning this comparatively modern part of Delhi goes to the British with lush green surroundings that are befitting of a capital city. The Presidential Palace, which was once the residence of the British Viceroy to India, forms the core of New Delhi with architecture designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. You will see the majestic Parliament Building and other Government Buildings, and visit the India Gate that was originally built to honor the 90,000 men of the British-Indian Army who had laid down their lives for the Raj during World War I and the Third Afghan War.

We then head to Birla Temple or the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. This modern temple is among the most beautiful in the country and celebrates the lord of wisdom, Vishnu and his wife, the deity of wealth, Lakshmi. You will have a guided walk around the temple seeing the spotless marble surroundings glistening against the dusk sun. You’ll come across several smaller shrines dedicated to various Hindu gods. Note the attention to detail in every aspect of the temple.

Our final stop of the day is at Humayun Tomb, that dates back to 1570. The Tomb is onf of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and has the distinction of being the first garden tomb in the country. It is believed that the tomb was commissioned for construction by King Humayun’s widow and took a decade to complete. The intricacy of design and the symmetry of the structure will leave you admiring the Moghul architecture. It is also worth noting that the tomb laid the foundation of inspiration for the Taj Mahal that was to be built a century later.

Overnight in Delhi.

Leaving the excitement of Delhi, your journey continues as you fly to the historic and beautiful city of Udaipur where you will transfer to the renowned luxury hotel Taj Lake Palace on the shimmering Lake Pichola, for two nights of relaxation where you can indulge in leisurely sightseeing in the old city, rejuvenating spa therapies and private yoga and meditation sessions with the in-house Yogacharya. Enjoy a stunning view through scalloped arches from the Palace hotel rooftop and absorb its charm reminiscent of days gone by, which includes ornate fretwork screens and unique stained glass. With the wooded Aravalli Hills stretching away in every direction, Udaipur’s setting is considered one of the most romantic cities in Rajasthan with its fantastical palaces, temples, havelis (townhouses) and networks of narrow streets.

Overnight stay in Udaipur.

Founded in 1568, Udaipur has been known as the most romantic spot on the continent of India and has a magic and excitement of its own, created by the tranquil lakes, the ancient bazaars and beautiful countryside.

Start your day with a trip to the eastern shores of Lake Pichola and the beautiful palace of Fateh Prakash and its Crystal Gallery. The interiors are laden with royal artefacts and miniature paintings. You may also view armory of the Mewar dynasty. The Crystal Gallery is full of paintings, objects, arts and an exquisite collection of 600 crystals ordered from F&C Osler England by Maharana Sajjan Singh.

Next, your guide will bring you to the imposing majestic City Palace. Surmounted by balconies, towers and cupolas and towering over Lake Pichola and Lake Palace, the City Palace is Rajasthan’s largest palace and a conglomeration of 11 separate smaller palaces. The rooftop garden, with its hanging gardens, fountains, terraces and fabulous view is not to be missed. The luxurious and elegant surroundings, incorporating countless rooms walled with mirrors, antique miniature paintings, stained glass and elaborate mosaics will astound you. Inside, eight arches commemorate the eight times Maharanas were weighed here and their weight in gold or silver distributed to the lucky locals.You can purchase jewelry, fabrics and miniature paintings in galleries within the Palace walls or strike a bargain in the many shops which fill the streets just outside.

During the afternoon you will visit the 16th century Jagdish Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu it is an example of Maru-Gurjara Architecture. Reached by an elephant-flanked flight of steps, this Indo-Aryan temple was built by Maharana Jagat Singh in 1651. The main structure enshrines a black stone image of Vishnu as Jagannath, Lord of the Universe. With impressive intricate carvings, friezes and sculptures, it is the largest temple in Udaipur.

We then drive past Fateh Sagar Lake, said to be the pride of the City of Lakes. This beautiful lake is overlooked by a number of hills on the three sides and the Pratap Memorial on the north built by Maharana Fateh Singh. In the middle of the lake you will see Nehru Park – a lovely garden island with a boat-shaped cafe accessible by boat. Next we visit Sahelion-ki-Bari, the Garden of the Maids-of-Honor, a pavilion of rain fountains in the form of sculpted birds to form an illusion of rain dancing in cadence with dancing maids. The Kings used to enjoy the pools and fountains of this garden. The main reservoir has four black marbled kiosks in its corners and one white marbled kiosk in its center. On the top of kiosks, these fountains are.

During the evening, you will take a private cocktail cruise on Lake Pichola, to visit the resplendent Jag Mandir Palace. Your cruise will provide you with views of the ghats, against the backdrop of the City Palace complex. Built-in marble and yellow sandstone, the towering structure displays unforgettable architecture. 

Overnight in Udaipur.

Following a leisurely breakfast, your Luxury India Tour takes you to Ranakpur, one of India’s biggest and most important Jain temple complexes. The main temple, the 15th century Chaumukha Mandir, or Four-Faced Temple, constructed with luminescent milk-white marble is a masterpiece of architecture temple ceilings, festooned with foliate scrollwork, and geometric patterns, 29 halls, 80 domes and 1444 exquisitely carved pillars.

Continue your drive to the city of Jodhpur, known as the ‘Blue City‘, so-called because of the striking blue-painted dwellings of the fascinating medieval Old City, at their most impressive when viewed from the ramparts of the grand Mehrangarh Fort. The old city circles the fort and is bounded by a wall with several gates which keeps out the Thar desert sands. Exploring the palaces, forts and temples will reveal the city’s historic grandeur and you will be delighted by the colorful bazaars offering beautiful textiles, embroidered leather goods, lacquer ware, antiques, carpets, puppets and figurines.

Upon arrival in Jodhpur, transfer to your luxurious hotel.

During the afternoon you will be taken on a Jeep excursion to the Bishnoi village and community. The Bishnoi people are an eco-friendly Hindu sect, famous for their rich cultural Rajasthani Life and their true love for nature and animals.  They cherish the rare migratory birds, such as the godawan and sara cranes, that pass through the area as well as the Indian gazelle, blackbuck and many other species of the region. The Bishnoi people are hospitable and friendly, they will invite you into their home to enjoy a cup of chai and you will have the chance to experience their rich culture.

Your night is spent in your luxurious hotel suite with romantic views across to Balsamand Lake Palace. Located just outside of Jodhpur, on the banks of the 12th century Balsamand Lake, this 17th-century palace are a magical setting for royal rest and relaxation and an exquisite example of Rajput architecture, with its elegant swimming pool, lush green gardens, peacocks, decades-old trees, birds and friendly monkeys.

After the visit of Bishnoi Village, you will return to Jodhpur! 

Overnight stay in Jodhpur.

You will start the day, after a leisurely breakfast, with a visit to the outstanding Mehrangarh Fort, one of the largest forts in India. Built around 1460 the fort is situated 120 metres (400 ft) above the city and is enclosed by imposing thick walls. You may choose to climb the steep walkway, which passes under seven huge gates or, for an easier ascent, you can take the elevator up two levels from the ticket office. The fort also contains several exquisitely decorated palaces, not to be missed with their ceilings, walls, and floors covered with murals, mirror work, and gilt. The Fort Museum is one of the most well-stocked museums in Rajasthan, with a selection of royal palanquins, arms, costumes, paintings and decorated period rooms. Stand on the ramparts and admire the spellbinding views across the city of Jodhpur and beyond.

Having enjoyed a most rewarding visit to the fort, we begin our journey to Deogarh. The road takes us through the oldest fold mountains in the country, the Aravalli Range.

On arrival, we check into the Heritage Palace Hotel Deogarh Mahal. As the name indicates, the building used to be the private residence of a prominent aristocratic family, the Chundawats, who still occupies part of the hotel and keep a proud eye on things. Dating from the 17th century, it has been carefully restored and is lavishly decorated with mirror and colored glass mosaics.  The hotel is located on top of the hill in a romantic setting with a spacious central courtyard, sturdy battlements, turrets, domes, jharokha balconies and large gateways. In the olden days the palace was one of sixteen original thikanas, or feudal estates serving the Maharaja of Udaipur and is encircled by a traditional village. From the hilltop, it overlooks the beautiful countryside and the Gokal Garh Fort with its surrounding moat atop a nearby hill. The climate is refreshing and slightly cooler than the rest of Rajasthan.

After check-in you are lead through numerous courtyards, under tiny archways, walking on stone steps, shiny and smooth after centuries of wear and millions of shuffling feet. Your suite will take you back in time and could tell you many stories after 300 years of housing guests.

The afternoon is spent exploring Deogarh’s narrow streets, encountering sacred cows, sari-clad women and oxcarts along the way. You can cast your eye into some of the many shops selling colorful textiles, bags of tobacco, clay pipes, or follow the scent of dried jasmine and cumin to the stores that sell exotic spices.

Just before the sun sets, you will meet up with your local host family to take a pleasant drive in their vintage jeep through the countryside. You will find this Rajasthan region especially picturesque with low walls surrounding well-tended farms and tiny rural settlements where peace and tranquility reign. The drive takes you to a nearby lake where there will be time to relax with some refreshments and interesting conversation. You will be back at the hotel for dinner.

Stay in Deogarh for the night.

Prepare yourself for this morning you are heading for a different kind of experience. You are taking the so-called local Monkey Train from Khambli to Phulad Village. This scenic railway line came into being in 1930 after cooperation between the Maharajas of Jodhpur and Udaipur.

The train meanders through tunnels and around hillsides all through the beautiful Kamlighat area. You can expect stunning views of the mountains and countryside on this short but fun filled ride. Joining you on the train will be many locals who depend on it for transaction, so there will be plenty of time for friendly chats and jolly banter. Although called the Monkey Train, there are no monkeys on board, they will be waiting at the remote stations, somehow always in time for the train’s arrival. And if they do not receive anything to nibble on, they might just join you on the train!

Your car or bus will be waiting for you on arrival at Phulad station from where you will be continue by car to Jaipur, the rose-hued capital of Rajasthan. Also known as the Pink City, because of the Terra-cotta colored lime plaster that coats the old part of the city’s walls, buildings, and temples. Jaipuris a thriving global commercial city with a multitude of enterprises including the production of precious and semi-precious stones and hand block printing textiles.

In Jaipur you will spend two nights at the beautiful Samode Haveli hotel in Jaipur, which combines stately architecture with intimate hospitality. The 150-year-old Samode Haveli is full of ancient character with an elegant painted dining room and an airy passage. Individually decorated suites surround beautiful ornate courtyards, and the lush gardens surrounding the hotel provide peaceful quiet. Located in the heart of the old city you can stroll easily around the city’s historic sites and colorful shops. 
Overnight stay in Jaipur.

Surely the best way to see this beautiful city, you may choose to take an optional Hot Air Balloon trip. Enjoy the mesmerizing sight of the massive balloons being inflated before you embark on a bird’s eye view of some of the most enchanting sights of Rajasthan. Serenely float over forts, castles, mountains and green plains and laugh as you see the crowds of children below racing to follow.

After breakfast, your Luxury North India Tour takes you to the 10th century Amer Fort, also known as the Amer Palace and former residence of the Rajput Maharajas, where massive ramparts, towers and domes surround a chamber of rooms and palaces. At the entrance to the palace near the fort’s Ganesh Gate, there is a temple dedicated to Shila Devi, a goddess of the Chaitanya cult. Within the fort you will discover ornate courtyards, lavish halls and Jai Mandir, also known as the Mirror Palace. Pierced screen windows of the enclosed pavilion offer enchanting glimpses of the surrounding countryside and water below.

During your tour of Jaipur, you will take a photo stop at Hawa Mahal, the Palace of Winds or Palace of the Breeze. Built in 1799, this five-story pink-stone masterpiece with its delicately honeycombed window was designed to enable the ladies of the royal household to view the city’s everyday life and royal processions in privacy.

Next we visit the 18th century complex of City Palace whose impressive array of courtyards, gardens and buildings provide a wonderful contrast to its many palatial structures including Mubarak Mahal, Chandra Mahal, Badal Mahal. See the biggest silver pots in the world, each filled with 900 gallons of the holy Ganges river sitting next to a huge stone chess set. Wander along elegant galleries displaying illuminating images of the historic royal family alongside cabinets of the clothes they wore.

Continue on to the World Heritage Site observatory, Jantar Mantar, housing the vast marble sundials invented by Maharaja Jai Singh II in the 18th century. The observatory features masonry, stone and brass instruments built using astronomy and instrument design principles of ancient Hindu Sanskrit texts and with data from Islamic astronomy during the Mughal Empire.

After lunch, a rickshaw ride will take you into the colorful bazaars and narrow streets of this cultured city. After the ride, your guide will introduce you to another gastronomical delight ‘the Indian sweets’, of the Lakshmi Misthan Bhandar Hotel, known as LMB which opened in 1727 and is still run by the Ghodawat family founders. They produce more than 500 different kinds of delicious sweet, the most popular of which, are the highly colored, sticky paneer ghewar.

Following these sweet treats, you will be charmed by a late afternoon elephant safari through the Nahargarh Reserve. After a welcome drink and a chance to feed the elephants, you will be seated in comfortable carriers on top of your pachyderm (two travelers per elephant). With the assistance of a local tribal guide, you will meander along a picturesque track, passing villages, monuments and a medieval fortress, and monuments, until you come to the center of the forest and the Dera Amer camp for a splendid private dinner.

You will then return to the Samode Haveli Hotel for a luxurious and relaxing night in Jaipur.

This morning, you will be driven to the 392 km² Ranthambhore National Park. Famous for its Bengal tigers and over 300 species of bird, this luscious and mysterious environment attracts photographers and wildlife enthusiasts from around the world.

Upon arrival, you will check-in to Indian,s most luxurious jungle resort, the Oberoi Vanya Vilas, with elaborate tents, wooden floors, a luxurious four-poster bed and private walled gardens with an outside deck for relaxing, and a butler.

Located at the junction of the Aravalli and Vindhya hill range, Ranthambhore National Park and wildlife sanctuary is known for its Bengal tigers and is one of the best places in India to see these animals in their natural jungle habitat. The park’s deciduous ancient forests are typical of Central India and you can discover here one of the largest banyan trees in India and a wide variety of trees, plants, birds and reptiles. Other major wild animals include leopard, nilgai, wild boar, sambar, hyena, sloth bear and chital. Steep rocky hills, lakes and lush meadows contribute to one of the most diverse and beautiful parks rich in birdlife such as the crested serpent eagle, paradise fly-catcher, and the Great Indian horned owl. The park’s royal past can be seen in its imposing fort and ruined vine-covered pavilions.

During the afternoon you will be driven, in a six-seater Jeep, deep into the park to experience the rich diversity of flora and fauna. You will be able to search the bush for the elusive Bengal tiger and encounter this super-predator at close proximity. You will also have the opportunity to look for crocodiles and monitor lizards that can be found on the banks of lakes within the park.

Returning to your jungle resort, enjoy the ambiance of the evening and be lulled to sleep by local musicians playing traditional Rajasthani music.

INFO: According to the 2019 census, India’s tiger population has risen by nearly 33% to 2967 from 2226 in 2014

Your Luxury North India Tour offers you the chance to join an early morning Jeep safari.

After breakfast, we will drive you to the ancient city of Agra with its many splendid Mughal-era architectural examples including the unique and beautiful Taj Mahal. Emperor Shah Jahan, said of the beauty of the Taj Mahal ‘the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes’.

On the way to the Agra you will visit the perfectly preserved and ghostly city of Fatehpur Sikri, a UNESCO World Heritage site with linkages since the Mahabharat period and Mahirshi Angira in 1000 BC. Founded by Akbar the Great in 1569, with the intention to join with Agra, it was deserted just 16 years later following his death – the water system was not able to support residents. It is at Fatehpur Sikri that the legends of Akbar and his famed courtiers, the nine jewels or Navaratnas, were born.

Upon arrival in Agra, you will check-in for two nights at the sumptuous Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel and marvel at the timeless monument to love, the Taj Mahal, just 600m distant, Gaze upon the magnificent Taj Mahal from the comfort of your room and watch the changing colors of the Taj Mahal and see its elegant dome by moonlight. The Taj Mahal is yours from dawn to dusk, without the crowds.

Overnight stay in Agra.

Early morning, before breakfast, you will head towards the east gate of the Taj Mahal to visit this magnificent monument to love at the most atmospheric time of day. Emperor Shah Jahan constructed the Taj Mahal in memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, whose death in childbirth in 1631 left the Emperor so heartbroken that his hair is said to have turned gray overnight. The world’s best craftsmen and 20,000 workers created this glistening white marble jewel which seems to float on a sea of red limestone.

After returning to your hotel for breakfast, you will visit the 16th century walled city of Agra Fort . Built by Akbar, close to the gardens of the Taj Mahal, this powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques with exquisitely chaste, inlaid marble pavilions set in formal gardens with ornamental pools and fountains.

Your visit to the Red Fort of Agra is followed by a 90 minute motorized tuk tuk tour, where you will be able to fully experience the myriad sights and sounds of the bazaars of Agra, and immerse yourself if the local culture. You will travel past the famous Kinari Bazaar, Bijli Ghar Bazaar, Johri Bazaar where you will be able to barter for fined clothing, shoes, fabrics, jewellery, spices, marble work. You will see monkeys jumping from house to house. Cows and buffaloes and even elephants meander slowly amongst the traffic and squeeze through the crowds.

Your fun continues on into the evening as you enjoy the show, Mohabbat, a song and drama spectacle about the history of the Taj Mahal and depicting the eternal love story of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. 

Overnight in Agra.

This morning, you will embark on the super-fast and air-conditioned Shatabdi Express train to the city of Jhansi. Relax and enjoy the beauty and kaleidoscopic sights of this colorful country as your train speeds towards your destination where you will be met by our driver and guide.

From Jhansi, you will travel along scenic routes to the well preserved medieval city of Orchha, on the banks of the charming river Betwa lined with ornate palaces and ornamental temples built by the 16th and 17th-century Bundela rulers.

Arriving in the relaxing and laid back Orchha, you will enjoy a delicious lunch before you visit Orchha’s Fort, and its impressive palaces. You will visit the tiered palace Jehangir Mahal , crowned by graceful chhatris – elevated, dome-shaped pavilions – where you will traverse staircases and walkways featuring jeweled walls, naturally air-conditioned rooms and drive in elephant facilities. This 17th-century palace represents a zenith of medieval Islamic architecture. Behind the palace, camel stables overlook a green landscape dotted with monuments and you will be able to climb on the roof of the Unth Khana (Camel Stable) and get a fantastic view of Orchha town. Wander among the silent ruins behind the fort complex and you will be taken on an atmospheric journey back in time; an integral part of a visit to Orchha.

At the center of a bustling and colorful square, your guide will escort you to the Ram Raja Temple with its sumptuous bed chambers, fountains, dance platforms, and wall paintings. A guard of honor is held everyday and this sacred Hindu pilgrimage receives devotees in large numbers.

Finally you will visit the Cenotaphs of the Kings of Orchha on the banks of the river Betwa. Constructed during the 17th and 18th centuries, these fifteen intricate and beautiful tombs were built as memorials to celebrate the lives of the deceased.

From Orchha, you will continue your drive to Khajuraho, the City of the Gods, famed for its UNESCO World Site temples featuring the Kama Sutra engravings and depictions. There are more than 85 elaborately decorated red sandstone structures covered with griffins, nymphs, beasts, demons, and gods.

You will check in to your Khajuraho hotel, The Lalit Temple View Hotel, where you can relax as you take in the mesmerizing temples of Khajuraho. Enjoy your minibar, DVD player, 42-inch plasma TV, or pamper yourself with a massage and body treatment at the full-service spa. You can also take advantage of the outdoor pool, sauna, and steam room.

Your guide will lead you to explore the Western temples with over 800 sculptures of beasts and warriors, gods and goddesses, musicians and dancers. Almost every facet is covered in erotic carvings representing a distinct pattern of art and temple architecture of the Chandela rule.

Continuing to the Eastern group of temples these Jain and Hindu sanctuaries, with their intricate stone carvings, lofty terraces and adorned shrines are honored as India’s unique contribution to humanity and are an epic representation of expressive art.

During the afternoon, you will take a 45-minute flight to Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world and located on the banks of the holy Ganges River. Varanasi has drawn Hindu pilgrims from all over India for hundreds of years.

You will transfer to your Luxury Heritage Hotel, with magnificent views and just moments away from the ghats of the Ganges where Hindu pilgrims come to cleanse their souls of sin in the waters of the River.

After you have enjoyed some rest and relaxation, as evening approaches you will be gently transported on a sunset boat trip to witness the Hindu prayer, Ganga Aarti (religious ceremony on the bank of river Ganges). As hundreds of pilgrims arrive, enjoy the scent of sandalwood and incense and listen to the chanting and cymbals. The sight of devotees lighting little flicking oil lamps to float down the river is unforgettable in the early evening light.

The Suryauday Haveli (mansion) or Brij Rama Palace is one of those grand houses on the Ganges River which has been renovated to give a classy experience to their guests.

Overnight stay in Surya Uday Haveli or Brij Rama Palace.

You will arise before the sun for an early morning boat excursion on the sacred River Ganges, to witness devotees perform their ablutions, offer prayers, flowers, milk, sandalwood, and sweetmeats and to achieve moksha, liberation from the endless cycle of rebirth. Time seems to have stood still as you take time to appreciate the architecture of ancient palatial buildings, the sound of bells from the temples and the colorful sight of saffron-robed sadhus.

Return to hotel for breakfast.

Late Morning, after a leisurely breakfast, your guide will take you to the charismatic Sarnath where Buddha delivered his first sermon, and shared the Four Noble Truths with his five disciples, preaching the path to attain Nirvana. This is one of the most important Buddhist and Jain pilgrimage centres in India. In the third century, Emperor Ashoka built many exquisite monuments here, set in beautiful gardens. North of the main temple, you may explore the ruins of monasteries surrounded by the beautiful Deer Park, and view Ashoka’s pillar, a symbol of the cosmic axis, which was adopted as the national emblem of India and is depicted on the one rupee note and the two rupee coin. You can see the world’s greatest Indian Buddhist art at the elegantly arranged Archaeological Museum – the oldest museum of Archaeological Survey in India and a huge attraction for visiting school parties, tourists and academics.

Finally, later this afternoon, you will fly from Varanasi to Chennai, where your enchanting South India Tour begins.

When you arrive at Chennai International airport you will be welcomed and transported the hotel.

Today, our South India tour begins with a healthy and invigorating morning stroll along the 3km Marina Beach. As we enjoy our walk through the sand we will pass people going about their everyday lives: men playing cricket, some hauling in their boats with the catch of the day, families and friends enjoying the breeze along the shore, kite flying, people telling fortunes while others have theirs told, fish markets and corn-roasters.

We will view the immaculately kept traditional architecture as we venture on this one-day tour of Chennai in Fort George, India’s oldest fortress that was founded in 1640 by the British, when the East Indian Company was formed. You will learn how it has since become the headquarters for the legislative assembly of the Tamil Nadu state. We will tour the Wellesley House, St Mary’s Church and the Fort Museum where you will see several remnants from the British reign. Included in those relics are coins, weapons, medals and uniforms. Major-General Robert Clive who set up the political and military reign of the East India Company in Bengal was married here at Asia’s oldest Anglican Church.

Take a look at the other side of town; you will set your eyes on the elevated Catholic Cathedral of St. Thomas in its glorious white. This church was built initially in the 16th century by the Portuguese over the tomb of the Apostle Thomas a follower of Jesus Christ. Further on we go to the Government Museum which is also known as the Madras Museum. It bears an Indo-Saracenic style and is India’s second oldest museum. This site is home to the biggest collection of Roman artifacts in the world outside Europe. Here you will walk among an exclusive collection of contemporary and traditional sculptures, paintings, coins, archaeological findings, manuscripts made of palm leaves, Amravati paintings and very rare art done by some of India’s most famous artists in the likes of Raja Ravi Varma. It was between the 9th and 11th centuries that sculpting from bronze came to the fore. Make sure to look for the magnificent Chola bronzes of the 10th to 13th-century with images of the three-armed Ardhanarishiva personifying the male and female figures, Shiva, known as the Lord of Dance and Nataraja spinning in a ring of fire.

Go into the 400-year-old Temple of Kapaleeshwar and observe the Brahmin priests, the ones that interpret the Hindu texts, as they perform their daily tasks. Listen as you are told about the Hindu gods and understand why the queer ritual of walking clockwise around the temple is done by locals.

It’s time for lunch and you will be treated to a feast of delicious food at the finest restaurant in Chennai, Dakshin. This restaurant specializes in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu cuisine.

After your break for lunch, we drive to Kanchipuram (70 Km) also fittingly called ‘The City of a Thousand Temples’. It is the place both Indians and Hindus consider to be one of the seven most sacred cities in India. The compound is made of sandstone and it’s a great place to explore and see the intricate carvings of half-animal deities which were very popular in the days of early Dravidian architecture. Accompanied by our guide we will make stops at various temples and hear about the significance of Vishnu and Shiva, the Hindu gods. Travel around the city’s largest temple Sri Ekambareswarar which is one of the five main Shiva temples with each representing a part of nature. This particular temple was constructed sometime round 600 AD and symbolizes the earth. We go over to the Kailasanatha Temple, which was constructed in the early 8th century and is the oldest of all the temples in Kanchipuram.

We will spend at least 45 minutes at each and then visit Kanchipuram, and the silk shop close by- well known for selling the finest in handwoven silk saris. Here you will be given a silk-weaving demonstration as the very talented artisans take pure mulberry silk with a variety of stunning colors and make some of the loveliest saris decorated with fine gold thread.

Finally we drive to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed city to Mahabalipuram, (65 Km). It’s most recent name is Mamallapuram. In this city you will find several 7th and 9th centuries rock-cut monuments.

Overnight stay in Mahabalipuram.

Today we will explore the medieval sites of Mahabalipuram where the majority of structures were built in honor of the Hindu gods and display some of the oldest reminders of Dravidian architecture that still exist. Your guide will walk you through numerous cave temples and sculpted pillars. Amongst them are the Arjuna Penace, Shore Temple, Five Rathas, Krishna Butterball and Krishna Mandap. You will be enlightened about the Buddhist aspects of these remarkable constructions, along with their importance historically. Have a look at the prized feature of the stonework of Mamallapuram, a mammoth carving and one of the greatest medieval artworks in India. The Arjuna Penace is replete with images of the everyday life of the South Indians and Hindu myths adorned on two gigantic rocks. Plumb in the middle are nagas or snake-beings which go down crevices that were once water-filled and is symbolic of the Ganges. On the left there is Arjuna, who is a hero of the Mahabharata as he carries out fasting on one leg or self-mortification in order that Shiva with the four arms would give him the Pashupatastra or the god-slaying weapon that is extremely powerful. Additionally, there are a plethora of animals carved from the rocks such as a comical scene of a cat imitating Arjuna’s penance to several mice and a herd of elephant.

Along the road on the South from Arjuna’s Penance are the Panch Pandava Mandapa (Caves Temples), which are incomplete: these are the Krishna Mandapa, a famous portrayal of Krishna elevating Govardhana Hill in order to offer protection to the villagers and cows from a storm that was sent by Indra to destroy them. Clustered together on Mamallapuram’s southern end, the Five Rathas, which means chariot in Sanskrit, the vehicles for the gods. They have the look of a building but were, amazingly, carved from single large rocks. Every one of these temples from the 7th-century were devoted to a Hindu god and each is named after one of the Pandavas who were five brothers considered to be heroes in the classic Mahabharata, or their shared wife, Draupadi. The Rathas were unearthed from their hiding place in the sand some 200 years ago by the British. Arjuna’s stone chariot, which is dedicated to Shiva, is the prized feature with columns, small shrines on its roof and an octagonal dome. It was indeed the forerunner to the temples that would be built later on. A large Nandi, which is Shiva’s vehicle, stands aback of it and on the exterior are depictions of Shiva and other gods.

Our last stop for the day will be the well-known Shore Temples constructed in the 8th century by Narasimhavarman II. It has two towers and is a perfect example of Pallava architecture and the determination of the Pallava kings. Despite its size it contains carvings of superior quality. Some however, over time, have worn out and are now traces of the original carvings. Known as the earliest and most important free-standing stone temple in India, it is a brilliant rock carving looking over the sea. In a village renowned for stone carvers, don’t be surprised that even after a thousand years the chisel and hammer still play a vital role. Here you will still find some of the most creative pieces of all kinds; from small paperweights to monuments of Lakshmi, Buddha, Ganesh, Vishnu, Durga, Shiva and Krishna – in all sizes.

Rest of the time at leisure on the beach.

Overnight in Mahabalipuram.

Our drive from Mahabalipuram to Tanjore southwards unveils an extraordinary landscape with the greens of the paddy fields, golden expanses of harvested corn spread out on the road and coconut and banana trees extended to the skies. This fusion of nature creates a glorious sight. The rivers are occupied with women washing their linens while others balance the pots and baskets laden with sugar cane on their heads. Imagine this spectacular blend of color, people, animals and plants, bullocks, goats and monkeys making their way through the traffic – perhaps you may even spot a baby elephant.

On our way there, we will visit Gangai Konda Cholapuram Temple and Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram. These along with the Brihadeswara Temple of Tanjore have all been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India under the group Great Living Chola Temples. These are three stonework temples devoted to Shiva which showcase the progression of Chola architecture and art, exemplifying the Chola civilization throughout the period of the 10th and 13th centuries, which succeeded the Pallavan empire responsible for Mahabalipuram.

We stop first at the Heritage Temple of Gangai Konda Chola Puram, a temple that showcases some of the finest architecture in India and has a 9 story vimanam (temple tower) that reaches a height of 185 feet. Built in 1012-1044AD by Rajendra Cholason of the Rajaraja-I, it is believed that it was a memorial to his triumphant march to the river Ganga. The temple itself was constructed in 1020 AD and has been kept in good condition. Like other temples there are several images of the legends of Vishnu and Shiva. On a whole the temple abounds with splendid detailed carvings that are distinctively Chola styled. As part of its collection of stone sculptures there is a large stone lingam (Shiva phallus), a dancing Ganesha, a decorated well covered by a lion’s head and a beautiful band demonstrating King Rajendra Chola being enthroned by Shiva and Parvati. The temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram no longer operates as the Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram, Brihadeswara Temple of Tanjore do.

Heading a little further south we go to the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram, the third of three exceptional Cholan Temples that are World Heritage sites. It was constructed in the 12th century by Raja Raja Chola II an offspring of the Raja Raja who erected the Brihadeswara Temple at Thanjavur. On the exterior you will often find locals offering flowers and food to the shrine of Ganesh which is the elephant god and son of Shiva. This is one of the most popular places of worship and there is a distinct difference between this temple and the Gangaikondacholapuram and Thanjavur, in that this tower over the sanctum or the vinama is only 24m high. Even though this is a smaller complex it has several remarkable features, for instance the quality of the intricately carved sculptures, striking murals on the exterior walls of the main temple and depictions of musicians and dancers as well as the regular deities. Added to that there are scenes of medieval warfare carved into the walls and a very interesting enactment of a pregnant lady with an appearance of Lord Shiva demonstrating to the people the right position in childbirth? Yali, a legendary animal with a lion’s face, the trunk of an elephant, the tail of a bull and the body of a sea horse that is said to stop evil is also found here. The mandapa, a hall constructed to look like a chariot pulled by a horse is one of the most alluring aspects of this temple.

We continue our drive to Tanjore (Thanjavur). On arrival we transfer to the hotel. The channel of the Cauvery (Kaveri) River is a huge and fertile area for growing rice. It is the busiest part of Tanjore.

Spend the rest of the time as you wish! Overnight in Tanjore.

As we continue to tour South India we will visit Brihadeshwara Temple after breakfast .It is another testimony of the outstanding architectural skills that existed in ancient India.

This temple was constructed by the mighty King of Chola Raja Raja 1 between 985 -1012 A.D.A look at it immediately attest to both the architectural and engineering brilliance of Chola and it is a remarkable input to the actual Dravidian temple architecture. The temple continues to stand strong against the test of time and its 64.8m tall vimanam (tower over the sanctum sanctorum) in addition to its 80 ton stone dome are marvels to those who look on. There is no doubt that you will be fascinated by this huge temple site and the peace and serenity that is here. No wonder it has been considered the most valued architectural site of India and is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site and Great Living Chola Temples. The entrance to the shrine is protected by a colossal Nandi which is a holy bull carved out of a single rock and the stone walls are bedecked with several amazing carvings. In the shrine of the temple there is an enormous Mahalingam” (Shiva Phallus) with a height of 4 meters. Every inch of the temple is made of stone and has the title of being the first temple in the world to be made completely of that material. The irony of it is that to this day no one has been able to determine where the granite came from, as it is nowhere to be found in the environs of the city. There is a widespread belief that at midday, the temple’s shadow disappears and that the 14 tier tower over the sanctum sanctorum never falls on the ground at noon no matter what time of the year it is because of the way it was designed. One of the features of this temple that is different to the others is that it has idols of “Ashta-dikpaalakas” (Guardians of the directions) — Indra, Yama, Agni, Nirṛti, Īśāna , Varuṇa, Kubera and Vāyu, life- sized statues were initially used to represent each of these idols. However only four, Varuṇa (Water), Agni (Fire), Īśāna (aspect of Shiva) and Vāyu (Air) have been preserved.

Inside the temple complex you will see a tamarind tree that is garlanded with scraps; pieces of saris which the local girls tie onto the branches in belief that they will get pregnant. As you pass along the sides of the road, there are also rags hanging from trees filled with the placenta of cows to ensure the health of the newborn animals. You may find it unusual. However, most everyone here are strong believers in the power of their gods. The Cholas were important patrons of the arts and often ordered exclusive bronzes, with many of them being dancing Shivas circled by rings of flames. Time has not changed the way that these bronzes are done, as the same method used thousands of years ago still being employed today.

After feasting on a tasty lunch, we will go on an excursion to Tiruchirappalli, universally known as Trichy or Tiruchi (45 km from Tanjore). It was a major capital of the Nayak rulers in the 17th century.

Go to the spectacular Srirangam Temple Town, which is believed to be the largest temple in India. In reality it is a compound of temples which lead to each other through gates somewhat like the Forbidden City. Spanning an area of about 156 acres, Sri Ranganathaswamy is said to be the world’s largest temple that functions, whereas the temple in Angkor Wat is considered the biggest non-functioning temple. With 49 different shrines all of them devoted to the god Vishnu, in order to get to the inner sanctum from the south, you have to pass through the temple towers or seven gopurams. If you are not a Hindu you are not allowed to pass the sixth gopuram, therefore non-Hindu’s will not be able to see the innermost sanctum with the image of Vishnu as Lord Ranganatha, resting on a snake with five heads.

These 21 gopurams or temple towers are filled with epic sculptures of humanity, statues of bulls, gods, Hanumans, many Ganeshas, animals and demons, all climbing on top of one another, reproducing, at times dying, destroying, etc. You may be surprised at the numerous scenes of sex on the gopurams, with lots of erotica and phallic symbols; short, fat, tall, skinny and some reaching even as far as the ceiling. As you will hear from your guide, Krishna was a naughty playboy who had over 16000 girlfriends. On one of the largest sized gopurams, you will see a mural of him actually watching women bathe. It’s a vivid scene; when these women removed their saris and left them on the river shore to bathe, Krishna stole them and he had a perfect view of several naked women.

There is another side to this little town of Srirangam. Visit the busy bazaars with gorgeous fabric shops clothing, religious items, jewelers, tea and drink and plastic toys for sale. See Brahmin’s houses, Brahmin priests clothed in white, offering a blessing in exchange for a little donation, learning centers, schools, holy tanks etc. The temple elephants roaming about with their riders (mahouts) also add to the life of the charming town as they also offer to bless the pilgrims.

As it gets close to sunset we visit the Rock Fort Temple, a world famous temple that sits some 83 m high on a huge ridge and stands imposingly over Trichy. To get there you will climb 400 steps all carved out from a single rock, said to be dated back some 3,800 million years. You will not climb alone as several pilgrims take the trek through the rocks with you, also aiming to reach the top. It will not be a boring climb as you will pass temples on either side with lovely carvings including the Pallava cave temples from the 6th century. Enter for a moment and take a look at the well-known Gangadhara panel on the left with a depiction of Shiva holding back the Ganges waters with one strand of his hair. And, when you reach the top, take a deep breath and enjoy the expansive view of Trichy all around. Not forgetting the Deity Ganesha on the peak of the temple. It’s in the cool of the evening that we will make our climb upward to the temple, where we will also be in time for the beautiful sunset over Trichy. This will be an amazing trek for both Hindus and non-Hindus alike. [On the way down, look for the cows kept in the temple to provide milk for the puja at the top of the temple.]

Return to Tanjore. Overnight stay in Tanjore.

Today, we drive to the rural area of Tamil Nadu in the Chettinad region and you are sure to enjoy the ride from Tanjore to Chettinad. Along the way you will see the most wonderful landscape and you can take a bite of a roasted cashew purchased from a family by the roadside.

There are 75 villages in the Chettinad region in an area of about 9 square miles. You will easily recognize the differences between this region and the Tamil Nadu temple towns that we visited earlier. Here, you will find elaborate mansions, bustling bazaars, and villages. Chettinad, which was the established home of the Chettiars, a group that was very prosperous in business and banking in India, still has remnants that reflect their rich art ,architecture and cultural heritage and a slow-paced lifestyle.

After a bumpy ride on the country roads we arrive at our Visalam hotel in Chettinad. It’s going to be a unique experience, with style and glamor from the thirties in an airy Art Deco mansion. Your stay at Visalam will be memorable. It is a spectacular hotel with a main courtyard in the open skies, uniform tiled floors, extravagantly carved teak doors and stone pillars. To add to the ambiance there is a tranquil pool area and dinner is served on a balcony with only the light from the silvery moon and candles. The hotel is situated in the middle of the Indian village.

We will take a walk through the village in Chettinad and view the architectural trinkets that are quite unusual. In the latter part of the last century the Chettiar sub-caste were very successful in the areas of banking and business across Asia from Sri Lanka to Burma and they remitted the monies back home so that they could build these impressive palaces. Massive mansions were constructed from the profits derived but they are now dilapidated. Even so when you go beyond the exterior to the inside you will find classic Italian marble interiors, Japanese tiles, teak from Burma and English steel, from courtyard to courtyard . You will also see rooms that are packed as high as the rafters with cooking pots passed on from generation to generation. Though worn you can still imagine the past splendor of the villas, wedding hall and colonial-style cottages, with some of them being Art Deco works, others elaborate in style and covered in urns and statuettes.

Further we travel through the roads of Chettinad either in ox cart or by bicycle. Browse through the antique shops and take a look at the paintings and furniture of the Chettiar families. Observe the handloom weavers making saris in ancient local designs with the legendary traditional wooden handlooms. Then we will pay a visit to the tile makers as they skilfully create and decorate the tiles by hand. The Chettiars loved their food just as much as their homes and the cuisine from Chettinad is becoming more and more famous all over India. The Chettinadu mansion is the ideal place to experience this cuisine with ; pepper chicken, tomato prawns, banana leaf, pomegranate raita (yoghurt) and two varieties of mango chutney (sweet and spicy), along with other delightful cuisines.

Overnight in Chettinad.

We drive to Madurai today, which is Tamil Nadu’s second largest city and is spoken of in Tamil’s literature for over 2000 years. It is home to the historic Meenakshi Temple.

We take a guided tour of Madurai after transferring to the hotel!

A must see in Madurai South India is the Sri Meenakshi Temple. You will be amazed at this place. It is here that you will find a plethora of the 330 million Hindu gods. They are jam-packed everywhere sitting on each other’s heads, kings and warriors tightly packed together and images of deities. Legendary monsters and animals cover the tall gopurams in a kaleidoscope of colors. Home of Meenakshi the warrior goddess with three breast (‘fish-eyed’ – an epithet for perfect eyes in classical Tamil poetry), the temple is a striking example of the architecture found in Hindu temples in South India, when it comes to their size and the numerous amounts of gods and goddesses covering the 14 mammoth towers. Legend has it that the beautiful Meenakshi (a version of Parvati) was born with three breasts and according to prophecy her extra breast would disappear after meeting her husband. When she met Shiva and became his wife the prophecy was fulfilled. The temple that now exists was constructed when Tirumalai Nayak ruled in the 17th century, but its roots date back some 2000 years.

A step over the threshold of the temple will take you into what you may think is another world. The whole complex is unbelievable, somewhat like its own town. There is a network of columned halls and courtyards bursting with followers. Rising from the grubby streets of Madurai are 12 multicolored towers looking like pyramids with flat pinnacles. When you go inside you will be greeted with the abundant smell of incense, the clanging of bells, the chanting sounds of priest with their breast bare, wedding market stalls and, young priests being given teachings in the Vedas and a mass of worshipers. On top of that, there is the covering of deities with bright red vermilion paste and crushed marigolds. Dancing gods have butterballs thrown at them and elephants give out blessings.

If you truly want to experience the culture on your tour in South India, then this expansive temple complex is a great place to do so. Many of the traditions here have been kept intact; for example, this is reflected in their way of dressing. Here, you will seldom find men in shorts or women in anything other than their saris. Western styles of dressing are not popular. Most Tamil women braid their hair and decorate it with jasmine flowers clipped behind. They love wearing toe rings, bangles, gold necklaces (or taali) and to show that they are married they wear red vermilion paste in the part of their hair.

Why not spend the afternoon taking a city on foot adventure. On the opposite side of the temple you will find the market jam-packed with small stalls, very affordable crafts, housewares made by hand (like the iron tava griddles) and votive materials like candles and flowers. The streets are also lined with men foot-treadling their sewing machines and making garments. Here’s the fun part- you get to choose whatever style and fabric you like, the tailors take your measurements and you come back in just two hours and collect your finished outfit. Talk about convenience and service! Take a break from the traditional tea loved by Indians and enjoy a cup of coffee suited to your taste at one of the local stalls. Then in the evening if you wish, you can go to what is called the “ going to bed ceremony’” which is quite an unusual affair, plenty of noise and upheaval and the goddess with the fisheye and her husband are removed from their individual day- time abode into the inner sanctum and placed together so that they can enjoy a night of good loving.

Overnight in Madurai.

Today, we begin our journey to Periyar (Thekkady) and make our entrance into what is known as “God’s Own Country – Kerala”. This title refers to the rich heritage, history and culture of Kerala. It also embodies the beautifully green landscape and socio-political stability. If you “Yahoo” the question what is “God’s Own Country- Kerala?” here is what you will find “Nestled between the pristine waters of the Arabian sea on the west and the lush Western Ghat mountains on the east, its intense network of rivers and lagoons, thick forests, exotic wildlife, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters and a long shoreline of serene beaches make it a traveler’s paradise.”

After you have enjoyed your breakfast, we will make our way to the remote areas of the Western Ghats, the boundary between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. As we travel on a zig-zagged road our eyes and minds will be pleased by the beautiful sights of lush green forest and a quick glimpse of the grassy valleys beneath. We cross the border into Kumily (Thekkady) with a myriad of spice plantations and the Periyar Tiger Reserve.When we arrive we will transfer to the hotel. Here you will feel the change both in humidity and temperature from what you experienced in Tamil Nadu.

The main attraction of Thekkady is the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary which is about 777 sq km with about 360 sq. km of dense evergreen forest. It is situated by the side of the large 15 square kilometers man-made lake which was built in 1895 by the British as a source of water for the areas around Madurai. The sanctuary was named a Tiger Reserve in 1978. It is also seen as a natural treasure, housing several rare types of flora and fauna. The park’s flora includes grass species, orchids, over-flowering plants and the Podocarpus Wallichianus, the lone South Indian conifer.

In the afternoon hop on a small boat and cruise on the lake in the middle of the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Experience the serenity, the green scenery everywhere, animals coming down to the edge of the water, elephants, wild boars or the Sambar Deer known as the rusa unicolor, which is a large deer indigenous to the subcontinent of India. Also keep a look out for the Nilgri Langurs and the large Gaur (Indian Bison).

You will have lots of time to explore the bazaars and visit several shops where you can purchase vanilla, chilies, turmeric, cardamoms, peppercorns and other spices. In the evening watch the performance of Kalaripayattu, which is a traditional type of martial arts. It is an Indian Martial Art performance that will amaze you! Precise! Action Packed! A perfect display of medieval Indian culture that takes years of dedication training and discipline.

There is a wealth of heritage in terms of drama and dance in the state of Kerala, particularly in Kochi; this goes way back to some 1500 years ago. And so in the evening we will enjoy a spectacular Kathakali Dance Performance, which is considered one of the oldest forms of theater on earth. “Kathakali” means story-play. This extravagant dance is enhanced by the pulsating rhythms of the drums and singing and is a lively depiction of the triumph of truth over lies. It has 24 mudras that represent the expressions of the nine human emotions of anger, serenity, wonder, loathing, love, kindness, valor, contempt and fear. The dancers take on different roles in the performances that are traditionally created on topics from Hindu folklore, in particular the two historic tales, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The use of a large amount of makeup and colorful costumes in the Kathakali is quite conspicuous and is used to accentuate the characters as super-beings from another world; this make-up can be clearly identified by the skilled eye as rajasik or heroic and tamakik or demonic, satvik or godlike. 

Overnight in Thekkady!.

We have our breakfast and then drive from Thekkady to Munnar.

Our trip takes us through rough and rocky mountain terrain to Munnar. Above the clouds you can watch the mist snugging on to the mountain tops. Look around at the scenery of the tropical mountains, with fields of emerald green tea plantations. Take in the refreshing mountain air mingled with the aroma of the tea leaves.

On our way we go to the local spice plantation and our guide will explain the importance both culinary and medicinal of cloves, pepper, turmeric, curry leaves, vanilla, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and several other herbs and spices. It is a lesson that will benefit you for a life time and you will be surprised at the many uses of these magical products of nature. When we arrive we will check-in to the resort hedged in by tea plantations.

Late afternoon we take a half-day guided tour of Munnar.

This guided tour will stay etched in your memory forever as you visit the origin of the world’s favorite beverage. It is in the high areas of Kerala that you will find the most industrious tea plantations in the region. Munnar is the commercial center for some of the highest tea-growing estates in the world, with over 120,000 hectares of tea plantations. Corporate magnet Tata operates most of the plantations here, along with the local co-operative Kannan Devan Hills Plantation Company (KDHP).

The culture and lifestyles of this region will be explained by your guide. In Munnar life is focused mainly around the tea plantations and the people are able to maintain a relatively quiet and modest lifestyle. You will find the women harvesting the tea with their sprightly fingers and a look over the fields presents a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors that blend in beautifully with the mass of green on the plantation. Visit the Nallathanni Estate in Munnar and go to the Tata Tea Museum that houses an extensive collection of interesting artifacts like the 1905 Rotorvane. Old items of machinery and photographs are also on display and give an excellent idea of the old- fashioned way of processing tea. You can learn how it is produced, its taste and the impact that this simple beverage has on the lives of people. The room for demonstrations is specifically designed and you can have a taste of a variety of teas. Overnight in Munnar.

Munnar’s prime location way up above the topmost tea plantations makes it a perfectly relaxing place from which you can explore the Rajamalai Sanctuary, part of the unique Eravikulam National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site. It was established in the 1970s mainly to protect the Nilgiri Tahr, an endangered species of wild goat found in the grassy hills of Southern India. It is a lush habitat with high rolling hills covered in grass, scattered with valleys and a few spots of shola evergreen forest.  It houses a number of other rare animals, butterflies and birds. In the Sanctuary you will find several species of unusual birds like the Kerala Laughingthrush, Nilgiri Pipit, White-bellied Blue Robin, Painted Bush-quail, Nilgiri Flycatcher Indian Scimitar-babbler and many others.

Please note: Eravikulam National park remains closed for 60 to 75 days during the calving season starting 1 February.

Rest of the time at leisure in Munnar, overlooking the tea plantations.

Overnight in Munnar.

Today morning, after breakfast, you will travel down from the hills of Munnar and head towards the coast of Kerala. This trip will see us passing a sea of tea plantations as we continue to drive into the center of Alleppey the backwaters territory. There is no better place to experience the Kerala backwaters than by the traditional Houseboat.

Kerala state is well known for its network of interlocked canals with more than 900 Km of watercourses. This network system consists of 5 major lakes and 38 rivers and several narrow canals – natural and also artificial, connected to each other. There is a combination of seawater and freshwater in these backwaters so you can imagine the uniqueness of this ecosystem and the variety of species that live there e.g. kingfishers, turtles, crabs and of course a plethora of palm trees streaked in gold. Amongst the interweaving channels you will find towns, cities and villages like Alleppey, Kumarakom, and Kochi.

When we reach Alleppey we will get on our private houseboat with three crew members. Your houseboat is really a transformed  Kettuvallam (rice barge). It is made out of anjali (jackfruit) wood in the traditional way; ‘Kettu’ means knot and ‘vallam’ means boat. Eighty feet long, these boats have been modified for the provision of housing that is very comfortable even though it’s simple. The carpet is coir matting made from the husks of the coconut tree and there is southern style furniture made from cane .Your bedroom will be air-conditioned, there is an open lounge, kitchenette, a deck and of course the crew which on most occasions includes two oarsmen. Light will be given by lanterns. Enjoy the ride as the boat floats on through the backwaters of Kerala. Experience the joy of traveling along this paradise in the environs of Kerala. You will pass coconut palms, colorful local houses, paddy fields, and lots of bird-life, children heading back from school (often rowing), people carrying out their daily chores of washing pots, pans and clothes and even bathing themselves in the thin channels of water, and locals waving their hand with warm greetings. Even in these narrow canals you will find commerce, for it is here that for centuries copra (dried coconut kernels which produce oil), and cashews and coir (coconut fiber), have been laden on to small boats headed for other regions for sale.

Of course your trip on the houseboat would not be the same without lunch. Feast on fresh Kerala fish and chicken with coconut-based curries and a myriad of fresh ingredients, lots of vegetables and if you can handle it some delectable homemade desserts, all prepared by the crew.

You will spend the night time on the lake in your private houseboat. It will be a quiet night, perhaps to be interrupted only by the waves, a boat passing or the songs of the birds. Watch the sunset between the coconut trees as you dine. It could turn out to be a very romantic night.
Overnight in the Houseboat.

After breakfast today we will drive to Mararikulam, a beach destination. The shallow beach here is called Marari, it is private and lined with a long stretch of coconut palms. This fishing village is up the Malabar Coast, midway between where the Indian Ocean meets the Arabian Sea. Much has not changed from the days of old: men still go out to sea to get an income from their daily catch and you will experience the warmth and hospitality of the Kerala people. Upon arrival, transfer to your beach resort.

Relax and unwind: you are free to spend the day as you wish. Maybe you will swim in the sea, enjoy the sunshine on the beach, read a book or enjoy an Ayurvedic treatment!

Overnight in Mararikulam.

Be happy! Get up this morning to the singing of the birds in the garden as we spend another day of our South India tour at Marari. Take a stroll through the beautiful gardens after breakfast and make time to be one with nature, listen to the bird songs, watch the woodpeckers and sun-birds and admire the lovely tropical flowers. As you walk along the beach you are sure to see the crabs scurrying about and enjoy the sounds of the crashing waves with the feel of the water on your toes. Laze around the pool in your hammock and let your body soak up the sun.

If you want some exercise you can cycle to the village nearby and have a chat with the locals, while you watch the skilled artisans make coir fiber. Meet the friendly children and have a taste of the delightful fresh fish that is served on the beach. Overnight in Mararikulam.

It’s the penultimate day of our tours in South India. We will drive to Kochi, formerly Cochin, a city that was constructed on a peninsula and a bundle of islands. Unlike Mumbai, the repossession of this land has not made is possible to join these islands together. The islands have continued to be separate and the area has the atmosphere of a canal town. There is an old fashioned method of transportation with ferries that linkup from different places of the city. Kochi is a modern, busy port and is unique because it spans the part of the land between the opening of the Backwaters and the Arabian Sea. Its harbor is also known as the “Queen of the Arabian Sea,” and was previously a key trade and commerce center for the British, Chinese ,Arabs, Greeks, Dutch and Portuguese. It is also a place with a fantastic fusion of cultures and religions; Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Jewish— with all of them stamping their marks on each of these wonderful islands.

After arrival visit Fort Kochi. It is a captivating network of small alleys and very big houses belonging to merchants with a depth of history. The streets emanate an ancient colonial allure with its lovely monuments and a diversity of languages and cultures like the Konkinis, Gujaratis, Jews, etc. We reach the entrance of Kochi Harbor and see the projected Chinese Fishing Nets that the Chinese traders brought here; these nets are also called cheena vala, which have been passed down from generation to generation and continue to be used on a daily basis by the fishermen here. Their fish can be had at the many stalls lining the edge of the waters or perhaps as you dine in a fine restaurant.On our tour accompanied by our expert guide we will walk to the St Francis Church, which is the oldest European church in India built in 1503 by the friars of the Portuguese Franciscan order. Before the remains of Vasco da Gama were transferred to Lisbon, they were buried here for 14 years and the tombstone remains here as a reminder of him.

Jewish Town, is our next point of exploration and home to one of India’s most ancient synagogues constructed in 1568.We trace the beginnings of the Jewish community back to the Diaspora and even to Thomas the Apostle a follower of Jesus who is said to have journeyed to India in 52 AD. Make sure that you check out the distinctive willow patterned porcelain floor tiles all done by hand and brought from Canton by a Rabbi in the middle of the 18th century. This Rabbi had an interest in trade in that city. Not far away is Mattancherry Palace, which was erected initially by the Portuguese and exchanged for the rights to trade from the Raja of Kochi.

In the afternoon you will transferred to Kochi airport for your flight to Chennai or Mumbai, from where you take the onward international flight.

You can also opt to spend 2 nights in Mumbai, one day for city tour of Mumbai and second day for the excursions to the ancient caves of Elephanta and Kanheri.

India your way, your route, your style

• Price based on two persons in a double room
• Prices are in USD Excluding international flights
• Do you prefer to travel alone or would you like to come to India with a group of friends? We will be happy to tailor-made your tour program that meets all your wishes and needs

Travel Period PRICE PER PERSON  
Apr 1, 2022 – Mar 31, 2023 from Price on Request (Deluxe) INQUIRE NOW
Apr 1, 2022– Mar 31, 2023 from Price on Request (Deluxe) INQUIRE NOW

Would you like to have the trip tailored to your wishes?

Our itineraries are only examples and suggestions and can be customized individually. For example, a trip can be shortened or extended with additional destinations or monuments, the hotels can be a mix of 4 and 5 star etc. Let us know your personal wishes so that we can adapt the trip to your wishes. Connect with our travel expert for a 1:1 consultation and receive your obligation free travel proposal. Together with the travel request we will send you the hotel list so that you can get a picture of the hotels selected on the internet. We promise ✔Competent and Friendly Guides ✔Expert Drivers ✔Best Hotels ✔24/7 Support. Read more on Why Vacation India?

Get in Touch: [email protected] / +91-99274-65808 (India Calling & Whatsapp) / USA/Canada: 1 (888) 414-6804

Services Included

  • 28 days individual travel from New Delhi to Kochi
  • 27 Nights in a double room or single room in selected hotels according to the booked category
  • Daily breakfast
  • A high quality air-conditioned car (Toyota Innova Crysta) with driver at your disposal during your entire stay
  • Round trip, sightseeing and all excursions as mentioned in the tour program
  • Services of a Local English speaking guide
  • Two shared Jeep Safari in Ranthambore National Park
  • First Class Train Ticket from Agra to Jhansi
  • Private Boatride on Ganges at Sunrise and at Sunset with Guide
  • Excursion to Sarnath in Varanasi
  • Transfers airport – hotel – airport
  • All entrances as described in the tour program
  • Visit to the Taj Mahal in sunrise
  • Boat ride on lake Pichola in Udaipur
  • Golf cart transfer to Taj Mahal
  • Elephant ride or Jeep to Amber Fort in Jaipur
  • Visit of the Tiger Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur, where you have a unforgettable panorama of Jaipur can enjoy
  • Guided Walk through the old pink city of Jaipur
  • Rickshaw ride in Old Delhi
  • Boat safari in the Periyar national park
  • Visit to the Kalari Martial Arts Program in Thekkady
  • Visit to the Kathakali dance program in Thekkady
  • 2 liter bottles of mineral water per person per day
  • 24 hours contact in India
  • All taxes and fees, parking, fuel charges, tolls and interstate taxes etc.

Services not included

  • International and Domestic Flights
  • Any type of travel insurance
  • Visa fees
  • Main meals not mentioned
  • Separate camera and video charges during the visits to
  • Expense of personal nature like tipping, laundry, telephone/fax calls, alcoholic beverages, camera/video camera fee at monuments, medical expenses, etc.

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To receive the list of Hotels selected for this tour, please email us at [email protected]

pushkar camel fair tour rajasthan

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