From the Golden Triangle of the north to the peaceful backwaters of South India, you will be introduced to the customs, traditions, lifestyles, and superb cuisines that make India the destination of a lifetime! In the company of our local resource people, you will experience the spectacle of colors, sights, smells, sounds, and vitality that comprises everyday life in India. Experience the diversity that India offers. On this trip, we take you through the state of Rajasthan - where you will experience life in Old Delhi, the splendor of Jaipur, and home of the Taj Mahal and to Kerala, where life moves at a less frantic pace than in the cities. You will see some of India’s finest architecture, cruise the scenic backwaters, and enjoy performances of Indian classical dance and music. Welcome to India, where culture speaks, tradition echoes, beauty enthralls, and diversity delights. Breathe in different breaths, feel a difference in the air, get a taste of distinct cuisines, hear different accents. INDIA: Taj Mahal to Backwaters will enchant you forever!
Welcome to New Delhi - the capital city of India, home to approximately 17 million inhabitants! The city is divided into two parts including Old Delhi, located near the River Yamuna, and New Delhi, home to the national government, the imperial city created by the British Raj. This city is a fusion of the ancient and the modern and paints perfect picture rich with culture, architecture, human diversity, deep in history, monuments, museums, galleries and gardens.
Upon arrival into Delhi, our representative will meet and greet you at the airport and transfer to your hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure to allow you to settle into your new home away from home experience.
This morning, will take you to Old Delhi. We will start the day traveling by rickshaw past colorful bazaars, sacred temples, and colonial monuments through the winding streets of Old Delhi. Visit India's largest mosque, the white marble Jama Masjid or “Friday Mosque.” Rising from between the crowded medieval streets of Old Delhi, the Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India. Enjoy a photo opportunity of the iconic Red Fort (drive past), built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan before leaving Old Delhi.
Later explore New Delhi. The city was designed and built by the British in the 1920s and is made up of well-composed and spacious streets under the shade of beautiful trees and beautiful colonial government buildings. As you navigate the city, you will drive along the ceremonial avenue, Rajpath, past the imposing India Gate and Parliament House.
Visit the Gandhi Museum showcasing the life and principles of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation who led the nation against British colonial rule. (closed on Mondays)
You will also see Humayun's Tomb, which was built by the wife of Mughal Emperor Humayun, Haji Begum, in the mid-16th century. This red sandstone structure is considered to be the predecessor of Taj Mahal and one of the best examples of Mughal architecture.
Drive to the famous Qutab Minar, a tall tower built by conquering Mughal leaders which is now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1199 by Qutbuddin as a tower for his victory against a Rajput King and is considered a great example of Indian-Islamic architecture.
Later you will be taken back to the hotel for you to enjoy the facilities – the evening being at your own leisure.
Optional - Community service at the community kitchen
Visit to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. One of the most prominent Sikh temples, Bangla Sahib feeds more than 10,000 people every day, irrespective of cast, creed, color or religion. This is an integral part of ‘Seva’ or service, which is part of the Sikh faith. The temple also organizes various other socio-philanthropic activities and its picturesque setting is perfect to calm, relax and contemplate. Engage yourself in community service at the community kitchen or Langar of the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the spiritual and cultural center of the Sikh religion. Optional volunteer opportunities:
- Serving food to the people
- Cutting vegetables
- Making roti (Indian bread)
This morning, you will be transferred by private vehicle to the city of Agra. This is a fascinating way to see the country as we wind our way down from the foothills back to the plains and onward to the city of love - Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. On arrival check-in at your hotel.
This afternoon, visit Agra Fort, a great monument of red sandstone that dominates a bend in the Yamuna River and was constructed by the Mughals during 1565-1571. It was Emperor Akbar who laid the foundation of this majestic citadel in 1565. The Fort was ready by 1571 during the period of Shah Jehan, Akbar’s grandson. The fort is crescent shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. The Fort’s colossal double walls rise 69 feet in height and measure 2.5 kilometers in circumference encircled by a moat and contain a maze of buildings which form a small city within a city. The Fort contains splendid mosques and palaces in red sandstone and white marble built by two generations of creative builders during the time of Akbar and later Jehangir and Shah Jehan.
Also decorate your hands with Mehendi or Henna. Mehendi (Lawsonia inermis) is a small tropical shrub, whose leaves when dried and ground into a paste, give out a rusty-red pigment, suitable for making intricate designs on the palms and feet. The dye has a cooling property and no side effects on the skin. Mehendi is extremely suitable for creating intricate patterns on various parts of the body, and a painless alternative to permanent tattoos.
Optional - Taj Facing Yoga
Before sunset, experience a yoga session at a location with an amazing view of the Taj Mahal. It will take approximately 1 hour. This session will cover basic Asana, Dhyana and Pranayam at a lush green mound about 150 meters away, facing the Taj Mahal. Imbibe yourself into the spiritual way of life, where your body and soul will get rejuvenated.
In the evening enjoy the grand live performance “Mohabbat-e-Taj”, based on the love story of Taj Mahal. This theatrical show portrays the lavish lifestyle of the Mughal era and the story of the emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved Mumtaz Mahal.
Rise early for a special sunrise tour of the Taj Mahal, glowing white through the early morning fog. Our guide will take you to the perfect architectural symmetry, the wonderful proportion and the sheer scale to inspect the exquisite detail covering every inch of marble. Explore the Shah Jehan’s monument to love the Taj Mahal, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, built by the Mughal emperor as the final resting place for his favorite Queen, Mumtaz. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630-1652 A.D) of hard labor and 20,000 workers, masons and jewellers to build. It was designed by the Persian architect, Ustad Isa. The verses of Holy Quran are inscribed on it and at the top of the gate’s 22 small domes, signifying the number of years the monument took to built. The elegant dome of the Taj has a diameter of 60 feet, and directly under the dome is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. Fantastic inlay work, using semi-precious stones, decorates the exterior and interior. (closed on Fridays)
Later drive towards Jaipur, known as the ‘Pink City’ due to its many pink sandstone monuments. Jaipur’s vibrant culture is on dazzling display in all the streets and bazaars. It is one of the great cities of the Rajput, with historic forts, palaces, and gardens. Jaipur is named after its founder, the warrior and astronomer sovereign Sawai Jai Singh II who planned his new capital to reflect the increasing wealth of the kingdom. Upon arrival we will assist with the check-in process at your hotel.
Enroute you will stop to visit the beautiful walled city of Fatehpur Sikri, built to commemorate the birth of Akbar’s son. The complex was completed in 1574 but abandoned only fourteen years later. Of particular interest are the red stone mosques, courtyards and the palace where Akbar reputedly played chess using slave girls as pawns. Following the visit, your drive continues on to Jaipur.
Optional – Local school visit
Enjoy a cultural meeting with local school kids. Explore new levels of service learning at a local school. Immerse in service work with local students and build long lasting relationship through educational and cultural exchange. Optional volunteer opportunities: - Interact with students and observe their educational experience in rural India
- Assist in a variety of roles from Teaching English to helping with computer education
- Conducting hygiene classes such as washing hands, brushing teeth, personal hygiene
- Try your hand at cricket, learn some rules of the game and play a friendly match against students at the school
- Roll up your sleeves and prepare to help repair and paint classrooms at the school. Your work will be greatly appreciated by the students and teachers at the school!
- Planting of trees
This morning, visit the Amber Fort, a spectacular complex of palaces, temples and apartments that offers a stunning view of the city. Amber Fort is a marvellous example of Rajput architecture with its terraces and ramparts reflected in the Maota Lake below. Go up the fort by jeeps. The interiors of the fort have various royal halls decorated with intricate ivory, mirror and glass work complemented by exquisite wall paintings. As you move between the rooms of this magnificent structure, feel the history and visualize the pomp and grandeur of a kingdom never conquered.
You will also visit the City Palace, a former royal residence built in the centre of the old city in a blend of the Rajasthani and Mughal styles. Next highlight is Jantar Mantar, the largest of the five remarkable observatories built by Jaipur’s founder. Its complex instruments, with scientifically designed settings and shapes, represent the high points of medieval Indian astronomy.
This afternoon, walk through the local markets. There are a number of bazaars in Jaipur - Textile, Spices, Vegetable and Fruits Market. Each of these markets possess a unique charm. The presence of a variety of markets in Jaipur makes Jaipur with no dearth of shopping areas. The Pink city is well known for being a top shopping destination: from jewelry to textile or even puppets, you can find everything you need!
Later in the day, get yourself engaged in turban tying for male and saree draping for females at your hotel.
Optional - Jaipur by night
Late this evening, explore Jaipur by night. We will drive pass the key highlights of the city to see the colorful lighting of Jaipur. This is best time to explore the city than day time to enjoy the views of palace and fort with jeep safari. You can first have a view of Albert Hall all lit up at night. On the way you will be amazed by the artistic Hawa Mahal to see the celebration of lights on the palace. Hawa Mahal or Wind Palace, is so named because it was essentially a high screen wall built so the women of the royal household could observe street festivals while remaining unseen from the outside world. Passing through Birla Mandir, next view of amazing Jal Mahal where you will see the beautiful reflection of lights in the crystal-clear lake that surrounds it. Further drive to the Amer Palace is surely going to amuse and excite you to see the breath-taking play of lights on this majestic building. This tour will leave a long-lasting memory of how truly beautiful Jaipur city is at night.
Optional - Interaction with an astrologer
Later in the day, enjoy an intimate interaction with an astrologer and consult on your horoscope. This is a 30-minute personalized session who will read your birth chart, invite you to have an open conversation of topics of your interest and accordingly answer any queries. You will receive a copy of your birth chart according to Indian astrology. India being the land of many epics and Vedas, astrology in our culture plays an extremely important role. Indians have deep rooted firm faith in astrology and hence even today before starting or doing any auspicious work, the auspicious timings are being sought by an astrologer. Since astrology plays such an important role in our lives, how about organizing a personalized session of yours with one of the Vedic astrology expert, whose predictions will amaze you for sure!
Optional - Cycling
With the sunrise this morning, start cycling from Jal Mahal and ride till Amer City, at Amer you will witness a big movement of elephants assembling in at amber fort looks like a preparation of grand procession, riding further on the ancient cobbled pathways and passing by some of the narrow lanes witness the temples, havelies which tells you more about this city heritage and this is an interesting way to rediscover the ancient culture and architecture of Pink city. Riding on bike gives you an added advantage to discover the narrow alleys which have hidden gems and rich in historic facts.
This morning, go off the beaten path in Jaipur! The ancient Hindu pilgrimage site of Galtaji is accessed through a scenic drive past hills and thick vegetation, making this an expedition well worth your while. Enjoy an hour long tour of the picturesque locale and stroll by exquisitely crafted abandoned havelis (traditional houses). Climb the steps to the famous temples with the area’s friendly little monkeys for company! Stop at the temple’s pavilions for breathtaking views of the distant city and head to the main attraction, the seven holy kunds (tanks) that are still popular with pilgrims who bathe in them. Galta Kund has reportedly never run dry due to the natural water springs that supply these kunds.
Later, will organized a private blessing ceremony in a temple where can experience a traditional Hindu ‘aarti’ ceremony, a ritual offering of prayers. This blessing ceremony performed under the auspices of the temple ‘pundit’/priest who prays for health, happiness and well-being, couples exchange garlands. Return to hotel (around 1400 hrs) and enjoy free time at your hotel.
Next, get to know the exciting stories in Tales of Textiles in Jaipur. Discover traditional art in Jaipur! Visit the local block printers. You will meet with a printing expert who has been involved in block printing for over two decades! After your introduction, participate in a special block printing workshop to understand the entire process. This famous Rajasthani method of printing involves the artistic use of wooden blocks that are used to imprint on textiles with the help of naturally obtained vegetable dyes.
Late this afternoon drive to nearby village called Dera Amer, a preserved wilderness of natural beauty creating a sanctuary for animals to live in. The elephants and camels are adopted from Amer Fort and rescued from a life of hard labour. On arrival, enjoy a friendly interaction with elephants. You’ll tour the nearby forest area and be greeted by elephants. You will take the elephants for their evening walk along the treks conducted in the original Aravalli forests surrounding the camp. Follow a route passing traditional homes, agricultural fields, hills and ancient monuments. Panthers do inhabit the jungles and it is a very rare sighting, however, occasionally the hyena and wolf have been seen by guests along with antelopes and jackals. End your day with an intimate jungle dinner at Dera Amer under the stars and later in the evening we will drive back to hotel.
Early this morning, check out and drive to Jaipur airport to connect your flight to Mumbai which was named by the original inhabitants, the Kolis, after their goddess mother Mumba Devi. Mumbai was once a group of seven islands given to the British as a dowry when Charles II married Catherine of Braganza. The British leased the islands to the East India Company, who in turn began initial development of the city. Today this cosmopolitan city is one of India’s most important centres for commerce, foreign trade and the thriving film industry of Bollywood. Owing to its immense opportunities it attracts migrants all over India making the city a place of many communities and cultures. On arrival, transfer to your hotel.
This afternoon, get ready for a scintillating Bollywood tour with a professional guide. In this tour, you will drive past ‘star homes’ and reach a Studio. Watch on-going shoots of Films/Television Serials/Ad-Films, glimpse the mechanics; be privy to behind-the-sets happenings and to the glamor associated with the nation’s dream-factory. Highlights - Sound Post Production… enjoy a short session of dubbing your own voice; a Studio Tour with live shooting mostly for TV serials and Ad-films; a Bollywood Gallery; VFX-Special Effects; also visit a Bollywood Cafe.
This morning, discover Mumbai at dawn. To experience the true spirit of Mumbai, take a tour of the city at dawn. You will be picked up at your hotel by your guide for a more personalized experience. Start the tour at the local market place and explore the local streets on foot later. Your first interaction will be with the newspaper vendor who is busy sorting the publications for the day. Walk across the street to the fruit and vegetable wholesalers, occupied in negotiation and selling. The next stop will be at Sassoon docks which will awaken your senses with all its sights and sounds. It is Mumbai’s oldest dock, where fresh catch from the sea is bought by traditional Banjara fisherwomen dressed in colorful saris who sell them later in the city. Towards the end of your tour, catch a glimpse of daily acitvities in Mumbai: flowers being traded in bundles, freshly baked bread being churned out of bakeries, and the most essential commodity, milk, being delivered to the doorstep.
After a short tea break, will go for Dabbawalla Tour. The famed dabbawallas of Mumbai are people who collect freshly cooked food in lunch boxes from homes and deliver them to offices. The word literally translates as one who carries a box. Around 5,000 dabbawalla’s deliver tiffins to over 160,000 locations daily, using a non-computerized system dependent on teamwork and careful timing, and awarded the ‘Six Sigma’ by Forbes. Start at 0930hrs and reach lower Parel station where you can watch the dabbawalla’s arranging their tiffins and boarding a train to Churchgate Station. Drive to Churchgate where you will see the tiffin sorting area and receive a brief introduction and get an overview of the system, and how tiffins are coded and then distributed. Experience a train ride from Churchgate to Mahalaxmi station and alight at the Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest open-air launderette, where laundry washers work hard throughout the day to wash the city’s laundry. Glimpse the individual wash pens where piles of clothes are soaked in soapy water, before being thrashed on a traditional concrete flogging stone, and hung out in the sunshine on long lines adorning the skyline.
Later witness the historic Gateway of India, built during the British rule. Drive by the world’s most expensive real estate along Marine Drive, also known as the Queen’s Necklace, as the streetlights resemble a string of pearls at night. Discover the plethora of colonial architecture including the High Court, Mumbai University, Flora Fountain, Asiatic Library, Prince of Wales Museum, Municipal Corporation Building and the fascinating, fully-functioning Victoria Terminus Railway Station. Whilst the building is closed to the public, you can glimpse the Parsi Tower of Silence with its circling vultures. Unwind amidst the topiary of the Hanging Gardens, or in Kamala Nehru Park and Horniman Circle. Learn more about Mahatma Gandhi at Mani Bhavan, a museum and reference library.
(Optional) This morning we start our day with a yoga and meditation session. Now that you have been sampling some of India’s most exotic foods, here comes time for relaxation and rejuvenation. Ancient India’s gem, Ayurveda is a specialty of Kerala, and Coconut Lagoon is equipped with a specialised Ayurvedic facility where you’ll be treated with massages and other treatments (at your own expense). Ayurveda literally means the science of life (Ayur = Life, Veda = Science). It is an ancient medical science which was developed in India thousands of years ago. The ancient Vedic literature written by sages has clear instructions to maintain health as well as fighting illness through therapies, massages, herbal medicines, diet and exercise.
Enjoy some free time this morning to relax before you depart for your afternoon boat cruise through the Kerala Backwaters on one the region’s trademark houseboats. Built without a single nail, the planks of these shallow barges are tied together with strong coir rope. From your comfortable vantage point, observe the rituals of village life; farmers tilling fields with buffaloes, women washing laundry and children splashing in the water. You will see shallow, palm-fringed lakes studded with Chinese fishing nets and shady canals where coir (coconut fibre), copra (dried coconut meat) and cashews are loaded onto dugouts. A Keralan lunch will be prepared and served on board.
This morning, explore the nearby Backwater villages by Country boat. You will love the life style of people living in village. They live a laid back and scheduled Life unlike the fast life in the city. The village people live a simple and hassle-free life and Seem to be happy with whatever they have. Experience local village activity like coir yarn processing - made from coconut fibre found between the hard-inner shell and the smooth outer surface of the coconut, and witness copra processing - Kerala’s oldest industry. Later walk through the paddy fields and meet the local people or take a ride to the nearby village market.
Optional - Cycling through country roads and small villages
Later enjoy cycling through country roads and small villages where we will see coconut husk being processed and made into coir ropes and mats. You will love the life style of people living in village. They live a laid back and scheduled life unlike the fast life in the city. The people live a simple and hassle free life and seem to be happy with whatever they have. We hit the backwaters and cycle along the waters till a jetty, where we will embark a wooden canoe, to be taken to your backwater homestay.
This morning drive to Kochi (Cochin), also known as Ernakulam, the commercial capital of Kerala. The word Ernakulam was derived from a Tamil word Erayanarkulam which means “Lord Shiva's abode.” Be ready to experience India at its most exotic form!
This afternoon, you’ll be joined by the vivacious Anu Mathew and her mother at Philipkutty farm to learn Keralan cooking. Learn the age-old recipes passed down over the generations cooked with wholesome local ingredients.
Optional - Kochi by Cycle
Cycling through the picturesque seaside town of Fort Kochi, and witness the city start to wake up and stir. Join the locals for a hot brimming cup of tea as they start with their day, where you get a peek into the varied and diverse communities from faraway lands who have made Fort Kochi their home. Cycle through the different neighbourhoods of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry and discover how 39 communities’ live shoulder to shoulder in absolute harmony. Ride along to catch all the action with the hustle-bustle in the local markets.
This morning, discover Kochi by taking an easy walking tour through Willington Island and the historic part of old Kochi at Fort Cochin and Mattancherry, filled with picturesque tiled roofs and pastel-coloured buildings. Kochi has the best natural harbour in the country. It is set amidst picturesque lagoons and backwaters famous across the world. Enjoy the breeze passing through the romantic backdrop of swaying coconut and palm trees. Traders from the west came around the 3rd century seeking spices, ivory, and teak. Much later, in the 15th century, the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British came to in the guise of merchants, but often stayed on as colonial rulers. Later, take a walk around the historic parade ground as you watch the locals play football - a truly Kochi ritual. Watch the local economy in action in the local fish harbour where the fresh catch of the day is unloaded and auctioned off by local auctioneers. Also see the fascinating Chinese fishing nets, and participate in Kochi’s main enterprise, commerce, by stopping at markets that has tea, jute, chilies, turmeric, cashew, ginger, cardamom and pepper.
The tour includes the Dutch Palace, Jewish Synagogue built in 1568 and St Francis Church - the oldest church built by Europeans in India.
Optional - Spice Trail
Next will take you to the Spice Trail adventure. Discover the story of Kochi and Kerala through the story of the Spice Trade and how it influenced world history. Perceive how trade has influenced not just the culture of this place but also the local cuisine. All this and more in what is possibly one of the most interesting port towns in the East. Stop at local cafe which was once a bustling pepper godown for a glass of ice tea and understand what went behind the restoration of this heritage building.
Optional - The Toddy Trail
Explores the local alcoholic drink from the coconut tree - Toddy and the traditional craft of its production - Toddy Tapping. Visit a coconut grove and meet the toddy tapper who will show you the indigenous tools used for Toddy Tapping. Watch the Toddy Tapper in action as he demonstrates how the toddy from the coconut tree is tapped, chopped and extracted. Try some freshly tapped toddy straight from the tree to the cup. Later drive to the local watering hole - a toddy shaap where toddy is paired with local delicacies and explore the Toddy Shaap sub cuisine.
Today you will transfer to the airport connect to your international flight back home.
We wish you safe travels back home and we look forward to welcoming you back and continue exploring Incredible India in the near future.