This is an all-out exploration of India, from the Golden Triangle in the north to Kerala’s peaceful backwaters in the south.
- Return flights from Heathrow with Emirates and internal flights
- 16 nights in 4 and 5-star hotels and a lodge plus 1 night in flight
- 36 meals: 16 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 16 dinners
- Travelsphere Tour Manager
- Overseas transfers and other transportation
- Day 1 UK/Delhi
- Depart on your scheduled flight to Delhi via Dubai.
- Day 2 Delhi
- On arrival in Delhi this morning we'll transfer you to your hotel. Your sightseeing starts in the 17th century walled city of Old Delhi. Here you'll delve into a maze of crowded streets and vibrant markets, and stroll through the fabled street bazaar of Chandni Chowk. We'll stop to admire the marble domes of Jama Masjid Mosque before visiting the Gandhi Smriti Museum and Humayun's Tomb.
- Day 3 Agra
- Your day is filled with wonderful experiences, starting with a short tour of Paharganj, in central Delhi. You'll do this in the company of former street children, who now work with the Salaam Baalak Trust. This charity, supported by Travelsphere Cares, equips the youngsters with a range of skills and helps them to better their lives. They are also provided with a warm bed at night and a hot meal each day.
Next you'll tour New Delhi, where highlights include the India Gate, Parliament House and the Qutub Minar, a soaring sandstone tower.
Our next base is going to be Agra, which we'll reach by road.
- Day 4 Agra
- Today is the day that you'll see one of India's most famous landmarks, the incredible Taj Mahal. This mausoleum on the banks of the Yamuna River was built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz, and it's a sight that will take your breath away.
Close by is Mehtab Bagh, a centuries-old garden complex, which sits on the other side of the river and is exactly aligned with this iconic masterpiece. You'll get to see an alternative view of the Taj Mahal from here.
Later, you're going to visit the red-sandstone Agra Fort.
- Day 5 Ranthambore
- Today we'll drive to the deserted city of Fatehpur Sikri for a stroll through its pavilions and palaces. We'll then travel by train to Modhopur, and transfer from here by road to Ranthambore.
- Day 6 Ranthambore
- An exciting day is on the cards, with morning and afternoon safaris in Ranthambore National Park, said to be the best game reserve in India. We'll make our way through thick forest interspersed with pretty waterfalls, which provides the perfect habitat for more than 300 species of birds. With the help of a Local Guide we'll look for wildlife including crocodile, hyena, jackal and more. If you're lucky you may spot the elusive tiger or the even rarer leopard.
- Day 7 Jaipur
- Your grand tour continues this morning as we drive to the 'Pink City' of Jaipur, with a stop en route in the village of Abhaneri. Here we'll admire the unique carved stepwells, an ancient water storage system constructed to provide a water supply during dry periods.
- Day 8 Jaipur
- A morning of discovery takes you to the Amber Fort, a 17th century stronghold set high on a hill above the parched desert. Step inside to see the Temple of Kali, the Palace of Mirrors and the Hall of Pleasures. You'll also visit Jaipur's City Palace this morning, with the elaborate faade of the Palace of the Winds just one highlight.
- Day 9 Bangalore
- In the morning we'll fly to Bangalore, the capital of the state of Karnataka. The city is an important centre for business and technology but despite its cosmopolitan feel, it still retains many traces of its British colonial past in its grand architecture. If you head out to explore, look out for the grand Tudor-style Bangalore Palace and its beautiful gardens, or head to one of the many lovely parks – Bangalore is known as the 'Garden City'. You'll also find plenty of Western-style bars and restaurants if you want to stop for refreshments.
- Day 10 Hassan
- We're heading west by road to Hassan today. This is the oldest town in Karnataka, one of India's main coffee-growing regions, where Arabica and Robusta beans are grown. This afternoon you'll visit the temple towns of Belur and Halebid on an included excursion. The stone temples here were commissioned by the Hoysala Kings, who ruled most of Karnataka from the 10th to the 14th century, and are astounding works of art. The carvings you will see are so ornate and intricate that the architecture looks more like sandalwood than stone.
- Day 11 Coorg
- En route to Coorg this morning, we'll drive into the heart of coffee country, so expect to see an exceptional landscape. Misty green hills, endless mountain ranges and acres of coffee plantations, pepper and cardamom gardens make this one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. We're going to spend the afternoon at the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe, which is home to monasteries and temples including the spectacular Golden Temple. This huge complex displays gilded images standing 40 feet high and walls adorned with colourful paintings depicting gods and demons from Tibetan Buddhist mythology.
- Day 12 Coorg
- A day of discovery starts with a visit to the majestic Madikeri Fort, founded in the 17th century. The British constructed a Gothic-style Anglican Church here, which is now a museum, and look out for the two life-size stone elephants standing at the fort's entrance. Next you'll see the Omkareshwara Temple, which displays both Islamic and Gothic architecture and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Your tour concludes at the lovely Abbey Falls, which cascade 70 feet and are located amongst the area's verdant coffee plantations and cardamom gardens. Later, you'll find out much more about the production of coffee in India on a plantation tour.
- Day 13 Mysore
- According to legend, the city of Mysore was ruled by Mahishasura, a buffalo-headed demon who was slayed by the goddess Chamundeshwari on top of Chamundi Hill, where devotees still worship her to this day. This is your next destination and a tour this afternoon will uncover its highlights. The opulent City Palace is the star of the show – it's one of the largest monuments in India and is surrounded by a large garden.
- Day 14 Cochin
- We'll spend this morning travelling by road back to Bangalore, a journey which offers fantastic images of life in this intriguing part of India. En route we'll stop to visit Srirangapatnam, the island fortress of the warrior king Tipu Sultan. The 18th century ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore was renowned for his bravery in the wars against the British East India Company, and he is buried here. From Bangalore we'll fly to Cochin in Kerala.
- Day 15 Cochin
- We'll get to know Cochin on a morning tour, with highlights including the Jewish Quarter, the Dutch Palace and St Francis Church. This is where Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was originally buried. A wonderful treat today is a cookery demonstration, with lunch included, and we'll also see a display of Kathakali classical dancing.
- Day 16 Kovalam beach area
- En route to Kovalam today we include a wonderful cruise on Kerala's tranquil backwaters on a kettuvallam. These charming wooden houseboats were historically used to transport rice and spices. In this vast area of canals, lakes and palm-fringed lagoons you'll see narrow strips of land where communities live and farm, and everyday tasks are conducted on the water. Keep a lookout for an array of wildlife too, including kingfishers, egrets and fish eagles.
- Day 17 Kovalam beach area
- You might choose to enjoy some 'me' time today on the beach, which is just steps away from your spa hotel. You can laze on its golden sands under the shade of a palm tree, or take a dip in the enticing waters of the Arabian Sea. Perhaps you'll have the chance to watch as the fishermen haul in their traditional nets. Your hotel also boasts a swimming pool, an Ayurveda wellness centre, spa, gym and a boutique, so you don't have to venture too far.
- Day 18 Kovalam Beach area/UK
- Today we'll transfer you to the airport for your flight back to the UK.