A spice-infused tour of India from Kochi to Delhi

This all-encompassing tour of India takes in the highlights of north and south - revealing some of the country's wonderful secrets. Revel in the tropical climate, warm waters and lush green landscapes of the south in places like Kochi, Pondicherry and Madurai. Then be dazzled by the kaleidoscopic colours, the Mughal grandeur and the spiritual mysteries of the north in Jaipur and Agra. Travel from Kochi to Delhi and combine the slower delights of Kerala and Tamil Nadu with the rush and jumble of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan on this incredible adventure.

Start
Kochi, India
Finish
New Delhi, India
Countries
India
Themes
Explorer
Code
HHSZC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
864kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Known as the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’, Kochi is a fascinating blend of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences, and is best explored by ferry
  • Step back in time among the iridescent hills of the very British ‘Snooty Ooty’ - home of snooker and the charming Nilgiri toy train
  • Spot tigers, elephants, sloths and birds on safari around two of the best places in India to observe wildlife up close - Mudumalai National Park and Periyar Tiger Reserve
  • Feel energy radiate from the world’s largest solid crystal in the experimental city of Auroville
  • Experience a unique way of life with a family homestay in the idyllic backwaters of Kerala
  • Keep your adrenaline charged with a tiger spotting adventure among the lakes and crags of Ranthambhore National Park
  • Ride camels through the desert in Pushkar, gaining insight into the life of rural Rajasthan
  • Ballooning over Jaipur while the sun rises is an unforgettable experience
  • The hills and shimmering lakes of Udaipur make it India’s capital of romance
  • A trip to India wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal – a masterpiece of Indian architecture
  • Enjoy a variety of accommodation - from a fortified mansion to camping under the stars

Itinerary

Your Southern Indian adventure starts today in Kochi. Attend a welcome meeting at 6 pm with the travel group. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception.
If you arrive into Kochi early, there are plenty of things to see and do. Once an important spice-trading centre, Kochi has been under Portuguese, Dutch and British rule at various times throughout history. Visit the Kerala Folklore Museum or Vasco House, one of the oldest Portuguese houses in India, or check out the huge Chinese fishing nets dotted along the coast of Fort Cochin.
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
This morning, explore Kochi on an orientation tour. Board a local ferry to Mattancherry and drop by the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century before it was renovated and presented to the Rajas of Cochin by the Dutch. Pay an optional visit to Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth and home to many rare antiques. Then amble around the spice bazaars and antique stores of Fort Cochin. In the evening, experience a Kathakali performance. This Keralan dance is an ornately costumed display of storytelling, requiring complete control of the body.
Most of today is spent travelling. Catch a three-and-a-half hour train to Coimbatore, before travelling by private vehicle to Ootacamund (approximately four hours). Often referred to as ‘Snooty Ooty’, it was here that the game of snooker was named and possibly invented. Stretch your legs exploring the town’s Hindu temples or stroll through what almost feels like English countryside. Ooty is pleasantly mild in the summer but can get cold in winter, so make sure you come prepared with adequate clothing.
Today board Ooty’s famous toy train for a ride along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Be sure to get a window seat for great views. In nearby Coonoor, visit a tea plantation to learn about the history of tea production. Spend the rest of the day exploring Ooty’s Botanical Gardens, which are home to over 650 species of plants and trees. Alternatively, embrace your romantic side with a boat ride on the lake.
Take a private vehicle for the short drive to Masinagudi today. Set against the backdrop of the Nilgiri mountains, Mudumalai National Park was once the Mysore Maharaja's private hunting ground. In 1974 it was brought under Project Tiger and is now one of the best game sanctuaries in India to observe wildlife in close proximity. Embark on a short safari in search of tigers, leopards, elephants, sloth bears, sambars, spotted deer and much more. There's also an amazing variety of birdlife in the park.
Tonight’s family-run accommodation in Masinagudi is dormitory style.
Travel by private vehicle across the scenic Karnataka plains to Mysore, stopping to share a biryani lunch with our local friend Raju and his family. Mysore is an easy-going town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot. Your leader will provide an orientation tour for you to get your bearings. A visit to Mysore is incomplete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is full of colour, mosaics and mirrors.
This morning head out of Mysore and climb Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Durga. Continue on to the Keshava Temple in the small town of Somnathpur, an excellent example of Hoysala architecture. You’ll also have some time to pay an optional visit to Tipu Sultan’s mausoleum in Srirangapatna, or to return to Mysore for a palm reading or to catch a film at the local cinema.
Tonight take an eleven-hour overnight sleeper train to Chennai. Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned, and beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet).
Note: You’ll be visiting a few temples today, so please ensure that you’re dressed appropriately with legs and shoulders covered. Please also note that on the sleeper train you may be sharing with locals of the same or opposite gender.
After arriving in Chennai, take a private vehicle along the scenic East Coast Road to Mamallapuram. Explore this ancient seaport town by bicycle, paying a visit to the 7th-century Shore Temple and the enormous bas-relief rock carving known as Arjuna's Penance. There will also be time to inspect the town’s numerous mandapams (pillared temple pavilions), watch stonemasons at work or to relax at a beachside restaurant.
Travel by private vehicle for five hours through palm trees and rice paddies to Puducherry (or Pondicherry), with a stopover at Auroville. Comprised of 80 rural settlements and home to over 1,500 residents, more than half of who are foreign nationals, the living project of Auroville is dedicated to unity and also houses the world's largest solid crystal.
On arrival in Puducherry, join a group walking tour to see local temples, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the French Quarter. Once a French colony, you’ll see evidence of French influence in Puducherry's architecture, its wide town squares and even in the uniforms of the police.
Take a taxi to the railway station at Villapuram and board a train to the temple city of Madurai (approximately six hours). Madurai’s Tamil roots stretch back 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest cities in India. Wander the lamp-lit labyrinth of the Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, dedicated to the Lord Shiva and goddess Meenakshi.
Visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum, which displays a detailed account of India’s struggle for independence along with the bloodstained dhoti the famous leader wore when he was assassinated.
Note: Make sure that your shoulders and legs are covered when visiting the temple and please respect the no camera rule.
This morning, travel by public bus along a winding road to the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. High in the ranges of the Western Ghats, the park is set among stunning scenery and is the most popular wildlife sanctuary in Southern India. In the evening, enjoy a tour of a local spice plantation and a delicious meal prepared by the plantation owner's family.
Venture back into the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary today for a guided nature walk (you’ll be provided with leech-proof socks). Be on the lookout for guar, wild boar, elephants, spotted deer and tigers. Tiger sightings are rare but its a lovely walk in the jungle. For something extra, opt for a boat tour on the lake, which was artificially formed by the building of a dam in 1895. Now a vital water source for local wildlife, you may see elephants bathing playfully in the shallows if you’re lucky.
Travelling by private vehicle, pass through rubber, tea and coffee plantations on the way to the backwaters of Kerala. Board a boat to cross to the island village where you’ll stay with a local family tonight. In the late afternoon, explore the island with your homestay host. This is great chance to meet locals and learn more about their unique way of life. Take a leisurely punt boat ride around the waterways and enjoy the scenery. In the evening, share stories and a traditional home-cooked Keralan meal with your host family.
Wake early, before crossing the backwaters by private boat to Alleppey. From here, take a two-hour local bus back to Kochi. The rest of the day is free for some last-minute sightseeing or shopping.
Fly to Delhi for the second half of your trip. You must arrange your own flight from Kochi to Delhi. This flight is NOT included in the cost of the trip. Please try to arrange your flight for early in the morning as delays are common.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
In the morning, navigate the city’s metro system to discover Old Delhi on a guided walking tour. Hitch a ride in a traditional cycle rickshaw through a typical Indian traffic jam in the streets around Chandni Chowk marketplace. Visit Delhi’s oldest mosque of Jama Masjid, which is also India’s largest. Then head to the Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) to learn about the Sikh religion.
Travel to Agra by one of India's faster air-conditioned trains. Steeped in Mughal heritage, Agra has a wealth of gardens, temples and open rooftops. Visit the Taj Mahal and learn why Emperor Shah Jahan built it as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz. Buzz around Agra in a motorised rickshaw and explore inside the spectacular sandstone walls of the Red Fort, built to encompass the imperial city of the Mughal rulers in the 16th century. If you have time, move on to Akbar's Mausoleum to honour the great emperor.
Take a local bus to Bassi, a small town in the middle of rural Rajasthan (approximately four hours). Travel by private jeep to your accommodation for the night. On a walk through the village, see craftspeople at work and meet the locals. In the evening, stay in the beautiful heritage property of Fort Madhogarh, which has belonged to one of Rahasthan’s royal families for centuries.
On arrival, take an orientation tour around the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur. Get among the crowds of the city’s bazaars to shop for artisan goods and semi-precious stones. Set on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, visit the Amber Fort, an excellent example of Rajput architecture. The Sheesh Mahal inside the fort is a must-see. As the walls are completely covered in little mirrors, the hall illuminates with the light of a single match.
This morning, take an optional hot air balloon ride. Floating across the skyline of Jaipur in a hot air balloon can be a highlight of the trip. Take a cycle rickshaw to Hawa Mahal, also known as the 'Palace of the Winds’. Alternatively, head to Jaipur's Royal City Palace or the observatory of Jantar Mantar to see a collection of astronomical instruments. After a long day of exploration, perhaps head to the Raj Mandir Cinema to experience the glamour of a Bollywood film.

Note: Ballooning can be done over the city on the morning of day six between September and June. For additional information, please see the important notes section of the Essential Trip Information.
Travelling by private vehicle, head northeast to Ranthambhore (approximately five hours). Ranthambhore National Park was once a famous hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur, and was one of the original Project Tiger reserves. Explore the ruins of the park’s 10th-century fort, and in the evening take a 4WD safari in search of tigers and other wildlife.

Notes: The safety of our travellers is our highest concern and your tour leader has the authority to cancel or reschedule the jeep safari if they believe the vehicles available do not meet our safety standards.

Ranthambhore National Park is closed between 1 July and 30 September each year. On those trips affected, we'll visit nearby Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary.
Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary is located approx. 16km from Ranthambhore and is due to its hilly terrain isnt as affected by the monsoon. Tigers inhabit this area also and spottings are more favorable at this time of year as they move away from flooded areas of Ranthambhore
Today navigate Bundi's narrow streets on a walking tour. Wander through the downtown market and engage with the locals. Visit intricately carved baoris (step wells) and explore the 16th-century Bundi Palace (be sure to check out its famous murals).
Take a slow train journey with local villagers to the small town of Bassi (approximately three hours). Head to Castle Bijaipur by jeep, where you’ll spend the night. This fortified mansion is still run by the erstwhile local landlord and his family. Enjoy a group meal of local Bassi cuisine in the evening, and relax in the castle for the rest of the night.

Note: This town of Bassi is not the same Bassi we visit on Day 4 of the itinerary.
After breakfast, enjoy a drive in an open-top jeep out into the countryside to visit pastoral villages. As the area is teeming with wildlife, your guide should be able to point out some native animals. While in the villages, perhaps get a temporary souvenir in the form of a Henna tattoo. Spend the night under the stars camping beside a lake.

Note: During the monsoon period (April to September) we do not camp, but spend both nights in the heritage hotel.
After a short journey by private vehicle, arrive into Udaipur (approximately four hours). Take a walk to soak up the city’s hills, lakes and white marble palaces, or delve into its twisting alleys and bazaars filled with silver, leather goods and miniature paintings. A popular centre for artists, dancers and musicians, there’s plenty to entertain you in Udaipur.
Visit Jaipur’s City Palace, one of the largest royal palaces in India. Enjoy an optional boat ride on the famous Lake Pichola (seasonal - depending on the water level in the lake) and marvel at the island palaces off Jag Nivas and Jag Mandir. In the evening, perhaps enjoy a traditional concert that combines seven traditional Rajasthani folk dances.
Take a six-hour air-conditioned train to Ajmer and then a private vehicle to your hotel in Pushkar. Enjoy a walking tour to visit the bustling ghats and temples around Pushkar Lake, and watch as the devout worship by the holy water. A highlight of the visit to Pushkar is a camel ride out into the surrounding desert area. For those who don't want to ride a camel, there’s a camel-cart option.
Early risers can hike up to the Savitri Temple for amazing sunrise views over the town this morning. There might even be a steaming glass of chai waiting for you at the top if the chai man is there. You’ll have free time to enjoy the rest of the morning in Pushkar. The Shatabdi Express train departs Ajmer around 2 pm for the trip back to Delhi, arriving at around 10:40 pm.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
8 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 5 dinners
Transport
4x4 Safari Vehicle, Auto rickshaw, Boat, Bus, Camel, Cycle rickshaw, Ferry, Jeep, Metro, Overnight sleeper train, Private vehicle, Shuttle Bus, Taxi, Train, Van
Accommodation
Deluxe permanent tent (1 night), Heritage Property (3 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (21 nights), Jungle resort (1 night), Overnight sleeper train (1 night)
Included activities
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Ooty - Nilgiri Mountain Railway & Tea Plantation visit
  • Mudumalai NP - Wildlife Safari
  • Mysore - Home cooked lunch & family visit
  • Mysore - Maharaja's Palace
  • Mysore - Orientation Walk
  • Mysore - Keshava Temple
  • Mysore - Chamundi Hill & Temple
  • Mamallapuram - Cycling tour
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Pondicherry - Auroville
  • Pondicherry - Walking Tour & Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
  • Periyar - Guided Nature Walk
  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole Boat Ride
  • Kerala Backwaters - Village walk
  • Delhi - Old Delhi Walking Tour
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Agra - Agra Fort
  • Agra - Red Fort local guide
  • Heritage Stay - Village walk
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort guided tour
  • Jaipur - Walking Tour
  • Ranthambore NP - Evening Park Safari
  • Bundi - Stepwell
  • Bundi - Bundi Palace
  • Bundi local guide
  • Heritage Stay - Village Jeep Safari
  • Udaipur - City Palace
  • Udaipur - Orientation Walk
  • Pushkar - Walking Tour

Dates

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Important notes

1. The internal flight and transfers from Kochi to Delhi are NOT included.
2. A single supplement is available on this trip. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.
3. This trip finishes in Delhi on Day 29 at 12 midday.
4. Please see visa information regarding the length of this trip.
5. In 2015 Intrepid returned to Ranthambhore National Park after suspending our visits in 2014 due to vehicle safety concerns. The majority of vehicles have now been assessed and upgraded. Safety of our travellers is our highest concern and your tour leader has the authority to cancel or reschedule the jeep safari if they believe that vehicles available do not meet our safety expectations.

As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our India South & North trips score an average of 4.44 out of 5 based on 9 reviews in the last year.

India South & North , April 2016

India South & North , April 2016

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