North and South India are quite different in history, culture, cuisine and scenery � in just under 3 weeks you can get a taste of much of the country, the famous sights and more than a glimpse of what makes India so unique.
Day 1: You'll be met on arrival in Delhi and assisted with the transfer to your hotel. Remainder of the day free, overnight in Delhi.
Day 2: A full day in India's capital city with guided sightseeing of Old and New Delhi including ancient monuments, bustling markets, India's grandest mosque and the colonial-era building of New Delhi. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 3: Depart Delhi in the morning for the 4 hour drive to Agra where you can tour Agra Fort and spend time discovering the rich artistic past of the city; the traditional style of marble inlay work which was used to create many of the most stunning features of the Taj Mahal is still practiced today. Depending on the time of year, you may choose to visit the Taj itself this afternoon or the following morning (or both). Overnight in Agra.
Day 4: Drive to Bharatpur via Fatehpur Sikri and visit Keoladeo Ghana National Park for birdwatching at twilight. Fatehpur Sikri is one of the world's best preserved 'ghost towns'; a series of ornate and graceful Mughal era buildings which housed the capital of this empire in the late 16th century. The site was occupied for less than 20 years before being abandoned, but the very dry climate of this region (and the excellence of the construction) has allowed the buildings to remain in a fantastic state of repair. Tour this extensive site with a guide, and then continue on to Bharatpur. The Keoladeo Ghana National Park was once the private hunting preserve of the rulers of this region but is now famous as one of India's best sites for bird watching. Many migratory species from throughout northern Asia winter over in the Park and after a good monsoon when there is a lot of water in the area the sight of thousands of birds roosting and socializing is a spectacular one. Overnight Bharatpur.
Day 5: Revisit the National Park at dawn and later drive to 4 hours to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan and the legendary 'Pink City' espoused in folklore for centuries. In the afternoon you'll be able to explore the markets and bazaars of the Old City - a goldmine for shoppers and a fascinating place for people-watching even if you don't intend to buy anything. The Old City of Jaipur is widely considered to have the biggest range of goods on sale of anywhere in India. In the evening you can make an excursion to Chokhi Dhani ethnic village resort for a night of entertainment and a traditional Rajasthani feast, or for something a bit glitzier, head to the Raj Mandir, India's most ornate cinema, and join the exuberant local audience at a Bollywood movie. Overnight in Jaipur.
Day 6: A full day of sightseeing in and around Jaipur beginning with an excursion to Amber Fort where you can ride on elephant-back to the top of the ramparts. Tour the fort with a guide and then head into the city to visit Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory (home to the world's largest and most accurate sundial), the City Palace and Palace of the Winds. Free time later in the day for further exploration of the Old City. Overnight in Jaipur.
Day 7: Transfer to Jaipur airport and fly to Mumbai where you will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel in Colaba, South Mumbai. From here you can walk to the iconic Gateway of India and other famous sights of the colonial-era heart of Mumbai. You can also visit Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai's social hub, or shop in some of the fascinating markets around south Mumbai. Overnight in Mumbai.
Day 8: Morning excursion to Elephanta Caves with a boat ride across Mumbai harbour to Elephanta Island. Tour the caves here and then return to the city for an afternoon guided tour of some of the highlights of India's largest city, Overnight in Mumbai
Day 9: Transfer to Mumbai airport and fly south to Bangalore. You'll be met here on arrival and introduced to your driver. Depart immediately for Mysore with an en route stop at Srirangapatanam. This historic site was the seat of power of one of southern India's last great empires- that of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and its demise in 1799 came at the end of a particularly violent campaign by the British to wrest control of the region from Tipu Sultan..Today Srirangapatanam is a serene and peaceful place which belies its past. Continue on to the historic city of Mysore and spend time in the late afternoon exploring the markets, rich with the heady aromas of incense and sandalwood. Overnight in Mysore.
Day 10: You'll be joined by a local guide for a day of sightseeing around Mysore, including time in the opulent Mysore Palace and an excursion to the Chamundi Hill temple and its attendant statue of Nadi, the bull which accompanies Siva in Hindu mythology. This monolith Nadi statue is the largest in India. Stop for tea in the grand dining room of the Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel and later return to the city to explore the fantastic Devaraja market in the city centre. This extensive market is famous for flowers, fruit and vegetables, incense and oils and much more besides. If you happen to be in Mysore on a Sunday you can venture out in the early evening to see the unforgettable sight of the 97000 lights of Mysore palace being switched on. Overnight in Mysore.
Day 11: Depart Mysore and head into the hills of the western ghats mountain range and reach Nagarhole National Park by lunchtime. This Park, one of several which make up the Nilgiri Biosphere, is one of the best places in south India to see wildlife. Home to large populations of herbivores such as gaur (Indian bison), sambar and spotted deer and wild boar, the park is also one of the best places to spot leopards, sloth bears and, for the lucky few, the majestic Bengal tiger. Take a safari in the park by jeep in the afternoon, overnight at Kabini.
Day 12: Morning and evening safaris in the Park, one by jeep and the other by boat on Kabini Lake. In the prime season for wildlife viewing (February to May) large herds of elephants will almost certainly be seen as they come to the water's edge to drink. Bird life in Nagarhole is very plentiful and you are likely to see kites, hornbills and storks among others. Overnight at Kabini.
Day 13: After a final safari by jeep into Nagarhole National Park, drive 3 hours to Bandipur National Park. Despite its close proximity to Nagarhole the climate here is quite different and the more open vegetation (grassland and scrub forest) make wildlife spotting even more rewarding. Similar species are to be found here to Nagarhole with elephants being a very common sight. Overnight at Bandipur.
Day 14: A full day at Bandipur where you can take jeep safaris in the park or go for a guided trek in search of dhole (Indian wild dogs), porcupines and langur monkeys. Walking is not always possible in Indian parks but the opportunities at Bandipur are excellent. Overnight at Bandipur.
Day 15: The drive to Ooty is one of the most scenic in south India and traverses a dramatic climb up a long sequence of hairpin (switchback) corners. Your accommodation in Ooty will be at a unique Farmstay property just outside the town and away from the hubbub of this busy hill station. Overnight near Ooty.
Day 16: A day for activities including tea plantation visits and a tour of this historic region- the towns of Ooty, Coonoor and Wellington are all redolent with the atmosphere of colonial rule. Scenically this area is quite dramatic with high peaks, deeply carved valleys and endless vistas of tea estates stretching as far as the eye can see. Overnight near Ooty.
Day 17: The Nilgiri mountain railway is one of the great engineering projects ever undertaken in India and perhaps the most scenic train ride in the country is that from Ooty down to Coonoor. Take this short ride and then meet your driver at Coonoor for the drive to Cochin. Overnight in Cochin.
Day 18: A day around historic Fort Cochin and Mattancherry; Cochin has been at the centre of trade and commerce in Kerala for over 500 years and the myriad influences brought to the town by various cultures are on display everywhere. You'll visit the Chinese fishing nets, Dutch Palace, St. Francis church and 'Jewtown' with its tiny but beautiful synagogue. In the late afternoon you'll have the option of a sunset cruise on Cochin harbour and later attend a cultural centre to watch performances of Kathakali dance and Kalarippayattu, the traditional and ancient martial art of Kerala. Overnight in Fort Cochin.
Day 19: Drive 90 minutes to Alleppey where you'l board a private houseboat for a lunch cruise. Your final afternoon in India will be spend on a luxurious houseboat; cruise the famous Kerala backwaters and enjoy a delicious meal on board the boat. Later disembark at a backwater homestay or resort. Overnight near Alleppey.
Day 20: Time to explore around the backwaters before transferring to Cochin airport for your flight home.