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 colors, 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
Themes
Explorer
Code
HHSZC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
864kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Visit Jaipur, India's romantic 'Pink City'
  • Admire the grandeur of the Taj Mahal in Agra
  • Trawl the bazaars of Old Delhi
  • Explore the Pushkar desert on a camel safari
  • Fall in love with Udaipur
  • Spot exotic wildlife on a safari adventure in Mudumalai
  • Ride the famous toy train in Ootacamund
  • Discover the diversity of Kochi
  • Cruise the Kerala backwaters
  • Soak up the chilled vibe of Pondicherry
  • Marvel at the Maharaja's Palace in Mysore

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 bison, wild boar, elephants, spotted deer and tigers. 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 a local English-speaking guide or 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.

Note: Accommodation is on a multi-share basis. All the families live within a few hundred metres of each other and contain at least one speaker of basic English.
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.
Namaste! Welcome to India. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. 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. If you have any free time before the meeting, perhaps visit the World Heritage-listed Mughal masterpiece of Humayun's Tomb or the tall brick tower of Qutub Minar.

Note: We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
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 the nearby Mansingh Sanctuary instead.
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, Train
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
  • Agra - Agra Fort
  • Agra - Red Fort local guide
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Backwaters - Guided walk
  • Bundi - Bundi Palace
  • Bundi - Stepwell
  • Bundi local guide
  • Delhi - Jama Masjid
  • Delhi - Old Delhi Walking Tour
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Ferry Kochi to Mattancherry
  • Heritage Stay - Village Jeep Safari
  • Heritage Stay - Village walk
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort guided tour
  • Jaipur - Walking tour
  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole Boat Ride
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple
  • Mamallapuram - Cycling tour
  • Mamallapuram - Shore Temple
  • Mysore - Chamundi Hill temple
  • Mysore - Home cooked lunch & family visit
  • Mysore - Keshava Temple
  • Mysore - Maharaja's Palace
  • Ooty - Tea factory visit and toy train ride
  • Orientation Walk of Mysore
  • Periyar - National Park Green Walk
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
  • Pondicherry - Auroville
  • Pondicherry - Walking tour and Sri Aurobindo Ashram
  • Pushkar - Walking Tour
  • Ranthambore - Evening Park Safari
  • Udaipur - City Palace guided tour
  • Udaipur - Orientation Walk

Dates

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Important notes

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 4.4 out of 5 based on 5 reviews in the last year.

India South & North , October 2015

India South & North , March 2015