God's Own Country With Taj Mahal-Varanasi-Khajuraho
We have a spectacular and memorable tour planned in this itinerary which gives you the opportunity to explore exotic and scenic places in both, the South and North of India. You will start your tour with arrival into Cochin and explore Kerala known as “God’s own Country” visiting Cochin, tea estates in Munnar, spice plantation in Periyar and the backwaters of Kerala known as “The Venice of the East”. Your journey then takes you up North to visit the famous Taj Mahal, architectural temples at Khajuraho which are more than 1000 years old and then to Varanasi – the most sacred pilgrimage centre for the Hindus.
You can either join us on one of the fixed departures of this tour or you can tailor make this tour with your required dates and with the required number of days to travel with your family or friends.
DAY 01 – ARRIVE KOCHI
Depending on your inbound flight, you will arrive at Kochi (Cochin) either late this day at Kochi international airport or during the night or even early morning on Day 02.
DAY 02 – KOCHI
You will start your amazing journey of discovery today after a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel and a bit of time to relax after your long flight.
In the afternoon we will drive to Fort Cochin - Kochi has been luring wanderers and traders for over 600 years and remains a living homage to its varied colonial past – giant fishing nets influenced by Chinese, a 16th century synagogue, ancient mosques, Portuguese houses built a millennia ago and the crumbling residuum of the British Raj. The result is an unlikely blend of medieval Portugal, Holland and the English country village grafted on to the coast of the Arabian Sea.
This is followed by a visit to the Dutch Palace – with its astonishingly well preserved murals, coronation called with portraits of Maharajas, impressive collection of palanquins, bejewelled outfits and splendid carved ceiling, the palace is originally built by Portuguese became to be known as the Dutch Palace after it was renovated by the Dutch.
We will also spend some time walking along Jew Town – it was once a bustling port area and now a centre of spice trade with biting aromas of ginger, cardamom and cloves.
In the evening, prepare to be dazzled by a Kathakali dance programme at the theatre, followed by a tantalising Gala Sea food dinner at a local restaurant in Fort Cochin.
Your overnight stay will be at your hotel in Kochi.
DAY 03 – KOCHI / MUNNAR
After breakfast at the hotel we will depart for Munnar and on arriving at Munnar you will check in at the hotel.
Munnar – known as the high range of the kingdom of Travancore is set with a backdrop of rolling mountain scenery, craggy peaks, manicured tea estates and crisp mountain air. It is the commercial centre of some of the worlds’ highest tea growing estates.
Overnight stay is at your hotel in Munnar.
DAY 04 – MUNNAR
Breakfast at the hotel will be followed by a memorable “Tea” discovery day. This starts with a morning trek along a tea plantation while viewing the plantations workers plucking tea leaves and transporting them to the factory. Our local guide will explain to you about the work and life of the plantation workers and will also give you first-hand information on the tea estates.
We will have lunch at the Manager’s Bungalow – a colonial Heritage Bungalow. After lunchwe will visit the factories to see how the tea leaves are processed into different categories of teas. For all the tea-lovers, this day give a valuable insight into your much loved beverage.
On return to your hotel, you will have another relaxing overnight stay in Munnar.
DAY 05 – MUNNAR / PERIYAR
After breakfast at your hotel in Munnar, we will depart for Periyar where on arrival, you will check into your hotel, where you can relax and prepare for an exciting day ahead.
In the afternoon we make a memorable visit to an elephant camp. After this we will embark on a guided informative plantation tour around the aromatic spice gardens, these visits will surely enhance your journey of discovery and knowledge.
Entertainment for the evening will be provided by a visit to a performance of ancient Kerala martial arts. Kerala cuisine is unique among Indian cuisines and this evening you will add to your culinary skills by learning how this cuisine is prepared.
Your overnight stay will be at your hotel in Periyar.
DAY 06 – PERIYAR / ALLEPEY
Breakfast at the hotel will be followed by an early downhill departure to Allepey – “The Venice of the East”.
We will check in on board a house boat and enjoy a relaxing scenic lunch on board.
You will have a chance to soak in the beauty of the passing landscape and rejuvenate as we cruise along the backwaters till evening after which the house boat will be anchored at around five p.m.
Dinner will be cooked and served on board the house boat.
Your overnight stay this night will be on board the house boat.
Day 07 – ALLEPEY / DELHI
Breakfast will be on-board the house boat after which you will be transferred by car to Kochi airport with a stop on the way at Fort Cochin.
You will arrive at Delhi late in the evening and check into your hotel for your overnight stay.
DAY 08 – DELHI / AGRA
After breakfast at the hotel we will leave for Agra - established by the Lodhi dynasty and later invaded by the Mughals, Agra reached its peak of its magnificence during the reigns of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan of Mughal Empire which had left a magnificent fort, the Taj Mahal and other fascinating tombs and mausoleums.
On arriving at Agra in the early afternoon, you will check in at the hotel.
You entertainment for the evening is a classical arts performance on the Taj Mahal.
Overnight stay is at your hotel in Agra.
DAY 09 – AGRA
You start this memorable day with an early morning visit to the famous Taj Mahal – “Tear drop on the face of eternity” or “The embodiment of all things pure” – described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, this architectural master piece constructed with a man power of 20,000 people from India and Central Asia and with specialists brought in from as far as Europe to produce the exquisite marble screens and marble inlay works. Built by emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his second wife “Mumtaz”; the word goes that Shah Jahan intended to construct an identical Taj in black marble as a tomb for himself on the opposite bank of the Yamuna – creating a mirror image in negative which is too fanciful to be true, which was part of the reason that his sons jailed him - as the empire could not afford this grandiose plan.
You will then return to the hotel for breakfast. Later we will visit the Agra Red Fort - with ear shaped fort’s colossal double walls rising over 20 metres in height and measuring 2.5 kms in circumference constructed with red stones, the fort which contains a maze of buildings, forms a city within a city – it is one of the finest Mughal forts in India. The main attractions of this fort are The Amar Singh Gate which is the sole entry point to the fort – the dogleg design was meant to confuse attackers, Diwan-i-Am – Hall of Public Audiences, Diwan –I-Khas - Hall of Private Audiences, the Gem Mosque – Nagina Masjid, the Ladies Bazaar, white marble octagonal tower, spectacular palaces and gardens.
Later we will visit Itimad –Ud – Daulah - also known as Baby Taj though it lacks the magic of the Taj, many of its design elements foreshadow the Taj.
In the afternoon your architectural exploration continues with a visit to Fatehpur Sikri - termed as the Ghost city of the Mughal Empire, this short lived capital of Mughal Empire is a brilliant example of Indo – Islamic masterpiece. The well preserved palace buildings and the mosque (still used) are a superb reminder of the Mughals at their architectural peak.
Overnight stay is at your hotel in Agra.
DAY 10 – AGRA / JHANSI / KHAJURAHO
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a morning train journey to Jhansi.
On arrival you will be met by your driver and driven to Khajuraho - Central India in the year 1000 is already old. Its temple architects and sculptors have passed through the classic and mannerist stages to the most flamboyant baroque and were at the zenith of their artistic power under the Chandella kings – the rulers of Khajuraho. Not only the life of the hunt, of feasting, of music and of dancing, though all are present in their sculpture, also the side of life that people tend to discuss in whispers or they do not at all – Portrayed with no false modesty and even less prudery are handsome men and voluptuous women immortalised in stone for all to see in the most intimate and most extraordinarily varied poses of sensual love – human and divine - sculpted with consummate skill and throbbing with life. And this erotic content does not distract from the great skill underlying the sculptors and the liberally embellished carvings of exceedingly artistic stone work showing a story board of life a millennium ago.
On arriving at Khajuraho you will check in at your hotel.
Entertainment for this evening is a visit to sound and light show on Khajuraho.
Overnight stay is at your hotel in Khajuraho.
DAY 11 – KHAJURAHO / VARANASI
Breakfast at the hotel will be followed by a visit in the morning to the western and eastern group of temples in Khajuraho, where you will be awe struck by the architectural talent of the creators of old.
We will then return to the hotel and check out.
Later you will be transferred to the airport to connect to your flight to Varanasi –“Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together” – Considered as a centre of learning and civilisation for over 2000 years, it claims to be one of the oldest living cities in the world. The city of Shiva is colourful, charismatic and spiritual and is one of the holiest places in India. This city is the heart of the Hindu universe, a crossing place between the physical and spiritual worlds and the Ganges is viewed as a river of salvation and as an everlasting symbol of hope to past, present and future generations. This magical city is the place where the most intimate rituals of life and death take place in public.
After arriving at Varanasi you check in at the hotel.
In the evening your guide will take you around the ghats and you will view the sacred evening Arathi – a ritual performed every evening on the banks of river Ganges.
Overnight stay is at your hotel in Varanasi.
DAY 12 – VARANASI / DELHI
Today starts early in the morning with a boat ride on the River Ganges followed by a walk through the narrow streets of Varanasi.
This will be followed by a refreshing breakfast back at your hotel.
You then check out of the hotel and we will drive to Saranath - one of the four important sites on the Buddhist circuit. Buddha gave his famous first sermon here to a handful of followers to preach his message of the middle way to nirvana after achieving enlightenment.
After visiting the Stupas, we will visit the archaeological museum which housesancient treasures such as the amazing and well preserved 3rdcentury BC lion capital from the Ashoka pillar which has been adopted as India’s national emblem. It is a stunning huge stone umbrella carved with Buddhist symbols, bas reliefs, sculptures and Buddha images.
After a delicious lunch in the city – you can also spend time watching the weavers working on the Varanasi silk – a light silk which can be used for making garments, window screens, bed spreads and table cloths.
Later you will be transferred to the airport to board your flight to Delhi, where on arrival you will check in at your hotel for your overnight stay in Delhi.
DAY 13 – DELHI
After a refreshing breakfast at the hotel you will have set out to explore Delhi - the Capital of India.
Delhi - encapsulates two very different worlds, each reflecting deliciously different experiences – The Old and New Delhi. Old Delhi served as the capital of Islamic India and The New Delhi built as the imperial capital of India by the British; sprinkled with glittering gems like captivating ancient monuments, magnificent museums and imperial colonial building.
We drive out to Rajpath – which means the Kingsway, is a beauty of Lutyens New Delhi is flanked by two large Secretariat buildings with the President of India’s resident on the western end. The Rajpath hosts the Republic Day parade every 26 January. We will then visit India Gate which pays tribute to around 90,000 Indian army soldiers who died during World War I in the northwest Frontier operation in 1919, it is a 42 meter high stone memorial arch.
Our drive continues along the diplomatic enclave, along the narrow lanes of Old Delhi – Chandni Chowk which is called the back bone of Old Delhi with its temples and mosques and along Red Fort built by Shah Jahan which displays the pomp and power of the Mughal Empire.
You will also have the opportunity to visit Gurudwara Bangala Sahib – the place of worship for the Sikh community and spend some time in the community kitchen where huge quantity of food is prepared and served to everyone irrespective of caste and religion.
Your taste buds will be tickled with lunch at a local speciality restaurant in Khan Market.
After lunch your discovery delight continues with a visit to the Humayun Tomb – A squat building with high arched entrances that let in light, topped by bulbous dome and surrounded by formal gardens is a brilliant example of early Mughal architecture.
We end the day with a walk along Lodhi Gardens – a ninety acre park in the heart of Delhi displaying mosques and tombs built during the Lodhi dynasty.
Dinner and overnight will be at your hotel in New Delhi.
DAY 14 – DEPARTURE
Today your amazing tour of exotic India comes to an end as you are transferred to the airport for you to board your flight home.