While no single itinerary can truly capture the entire essence of India in under three weeks, on this tour you'll get a glimpse of many of the highlights of north and south India. The tour suggested here takes in elements of India's rich history, some of her unique wildlife, a few temples and the world famous Kerala backwaters.
Day 1: Arrive Delhi On arrival in Delhi you'll be met and assisted with the transfer to your hotel. Overnight in Delhi
Day 2: Delhi Join a local guide to begin your journey with a full day of sightseeing in India's remarkable capital city. Places visited will include the Red Fort, Jama Masjid (India's grandest mosque), the stunning minaret tower, Qutb Minar, the markets of Old Delhi and a lot more besides. If you have the time, a second full day in Delhi is well worth it. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 3: Delhi - Agra Only when you go to leave Delhi do you start to get a feel for how vast the city is- 14 million people, all on the go and interacting in a wonderful pageant of humanity. The drive to Agra will take 4-5 hours. In the afternoon, join a guide and visit the Taj Mahal- a sight which no amount of words or number of photographs can truly do justice to. No matter how high your expectations are of this most remarkable building, they will still be exceeded. Overnight in Agra.
Day 4: Agra - Bharatpur Time in the morning to revisit the Taj - depending on the time of year the sight of the rising sun illuminating the marble of the building can be utterly stunning. Later in the morning depart Agra and drive to the abandoned Mughal city at Fatehpur Sikri before continuing on to Bharatpur and visiting the famed Keoladeo Ghana National Park in the late afternoon. This expansive wetland area is home to a vast array of migratory birds from throughout Asia which make this Park their home over the winter months. A gentle walk in the company of a local ornithologist will enable you to see the widest possible number of species in these delightful surroundings. Overnight at Bharatpur.
Day 5: Bharatpur - Jaipur There will be time to visit the Park again in the morning prior to driving to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. Afternoon free in Jaipur- among the possibilities here is the chance to take in a Bollywood movie at the Raj Mandir- as opulent and grandiose as many of the films screened within! Jaipur is a cosmopolitan city and combines the bustling modernity of 21st century India with a dignified sense of its own storied past. Overnight in Jaipur.
Day 6: Jaipur A full day in Jaipur to take in some of the city's many highlights. The Fort at Amber is a vast edifice which dominates the surrounding countryside from its position high on a ridge- tour the Fort with a guide in the morning and then head into the city centre to the Palace and nearby Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory built in the 18th century and housing the world's largest (and most accurate) sundial. Time in the afternoon in the markets and bazaars of Jaipur's Old City; a treat for shoppers and browsers alike. Overnight in Jaipur.
Day 7: Jaipur - Mumbai Transfer to Jaipur airport and fly to Mumbai where you'll be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Befitting its status as India's largest city, Mumbai is a sensational city where every conceivable element of India comes together to create a dizzying feast for the senses. You'll stay in Colaba in South Mumbai within easy walking distance of markets, restaurants and many of the city's most famous landmarks. Overnight in Mumbai
Day 8: Mumbai In the morning, take an excursion across Mumbai harbour to the ancient rock-cut temples on Elephanta Island before joining a guide in the afternoon to visit some of the major landmarks of Mumbai including Chowpatty Beach, Victoria Railway Terminus and the Gateway of India. Overnight in Mumbai.
Day 9: Mumbai - Chennai - Mahabalipuram Transfer to Mumbai airport for a morning flight to Chennai. You'll be met on arrival and transferred immediately to the small beachside resort town of Mahabalipuram (90 minutes drive). Free time during the remainder of the day to enjoy the beach and the quiet atmosphere of the town as you ease into the more serene pace of life in south India. Overnight in Mahabalipuram.
Day 10: Mahabalipuram - Pondicherry Mahabalipuram was once a major trading port and capital of the Pallava Dynasty which ruled southern India over 1000 years ago. Many wonderful monuments to this illustrious past still stand and several have been recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. Tour these with a guide in the morning, and then drive 2 hours south to Pondicherry in the afternoon. This unique town was the stronghold of the French in south India and its leafy avenues and grand colonial homes give a hint of its Gallic past. Enjoy an evening stroll on the beachfront promenade. Overnight in Pondicherry.
Day 11: Pondicherry - Tanjore Today's drive takes in several temples from throughout the past 1000 years of Tamil history, culminating with the most majestic of them all- the Brihadishwara temple in Tanjore. The area traversed during the journey south is also very picturesque- this region is the agricultural heartland of Tamil Nadu; an almost endless tapestry of emerald green rice paddies, dotted with tiny hamlets and groves of coconut palms. Overnight in Tanjore.
Day 12: Madurai - Chettinad - Tanjore The Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu is becoming well known for its marvelous architecture as well as its unique cuisine. Stop off here for lunch and a walking tour of the village of Kannudakathan, before continuing on to Madurai in the afternoon. Overnight in Madurai
Day 13: Madurai A major commercial centre as well as a place of pilgrimage drawing devotees from around the south, Madurai is dotted with impressive sights - today you'll visit the flower markets, Nayak Palace and the museum celebrating the life and works of Mahatma Gandhi. Conclude your day with a tour of Sri Meenakshi Temple - one of the most famous temples in India and definitely one of the most beautiful. Overnight in Madurai.
Day 14: Madurai - Kanyakumari - Kovalam. Head south to the very 'end' of India at Kanyakumari and then head west, continuing on into Kerala and the golden sand beaches at Kovalam, a great place to relax and enjoy a massage or a swim in the tepid waters of the Arabian Sea. Overnight at Kovalam
Day 15: Kovalam A complete day to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere here- Kovalam offers many ways to unwind whether it be sipping a juice by the pool, walking among vast groves of coconut palms or swimming in the sea. Overnight at Kovalam.
Day 16: Kovalam - Backwaters Head north to visit Krishnapuram Palace and then further to Alleppey where you will board a houseboat for an afternoon lunch cruise on the unique backwaters, a vast maze of natural and manmade waterways. After some hours cruising on the backwaters, disembark the houseboat at a resort or homestay adjacent to the backwaters. Overnight near Alleppey.
Day 17: Alleppey - Cochin Morning around your accommodation to explore as you wish, before driving 90 minutes to Cochin. The historic Fort Cochin area is one of the most diverse and interesting places in Kerala- you'll have ample time to explore on foot and in the evening attend a performance of Kathakali, the traditional dance/drama of the state. Overnight in Fort Cochin.
Day 18: Cochin - Thettakad Join a local guide for a morning of sightseeing around Cochin. Later head out of the city and stay overnight at Thettakad, close to Cochin airport and convenient for departure the following day. Overnight at Thettakad.
Day 19: Thettakad - Depart In the morning, you'll be able to visit Kodanad Elephant Training Camp where you can join the mahouts as they give the elephants their daily bath in the nearby river. This is an unforgettable way to farewell India prior to your flight home. Later transfer to the airport for connecting flights.