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Best of India: Treasures of Rajasthan & Kerala


IPI18D
18 NIGHTS
FROM £2,495
International flights quoted separately
This holiday showcases the very best of India, starting from the ancient city of Delhi. Visit the magnificent Taj Mahal & explore the architectural & cultural treasures of Rajasthan - including Jaipur, Jodphur & Udaipur. Stay overnight on a traditional Rice Houseboat in Kerala, before relaxing on Kovalam Beach. English speaking city guides, private driver, tiger safari & excursions included.
Photo Kerala Houseboat India Taj Mahal Rajasthan Golden Triangle
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Delhi
• 
Taj Mahal
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Fatehpur Sikri
• 
Ranthambore Tigers
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Jaipur
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Jodhpur
• 
Udaipur
• 
Cochin
• 
Kumarakom Backwaters
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Kovalam Beach
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Delhi
• 
Taj Mahal
• 
Fatehpur Sikri
• 
Ranthambore Tigers
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Jaipur
• 
Jodhpur
• 
Udaipur
• 
Cochin
• 
Kumarakom Backwaters
• 
Kovalam Beach
Day 1
You will be met at Delhi Airport by your driver and transferred to your hotel in this ancient capital of kingdoms and empires that is now a sprawling metropolis.
 
Delhi's strategic location was one of the main reasons why successive dynasties chose it as their seat of power and today it is a conglomerate of seven cities. The division between the old walled city and New Delhi marks a division in lifestyles, with the old city retaining its past traditions whilst New Delhi strives to match the pace of the 21st century.
Day 2
Today enjoy an orientation tour of modern New Delhi and the 17th century walled city of Old Delhi, which came to prominence when Shah Jahan moved his capital from Agra.
 
In Old Delhi enjoy a cycle rickshaw ride through 300-year old Chandni Chowk market, a maze of lanes crowded with noisy shops selling an extraordinary variety of items and foods, and past the Jamia Masjid (or Friday Mosque) the largest in India. We drive past the splendid Red Fort, once the most opulent palace in the Mughal Empire, and continue to the Raj Ghat - the simple memorial site where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.
 
In the afternoon our tour of New Delhi starts with a visit the Qutub Minar, an ancient victory tower built of red sandstone and marble in 1199 and still the tallest minaret in India. With its imposing cylindrical towers and surrounding ruins, it is today a World Heritage site. Our next stop is Humayuns Tomb, the beautiful mausoleum of the Mughul emperor Akbar, that inspired the Taj Mahal.
 
We drive along the Rajpath - the capital's broadest avenue - where you will see the imposing arch of the India Gate war memorial, Parliament House, the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential residence built for the Viceroy of India, and the government buildings on Raisina Hill.
Day 3
This morning we drive 3.5-hours from Delhi to the ancient city of Agra, set along the banks of the Yamuna River and originally the capital of the Mughal Empire.
 
Agra is world renowned as the home of the Taj Mahal - that great symbol of love built by emperor Shah Jahan in the 16th century as a memorial to his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal.
 
On arrival we visit Agra Fort, a massive structure with walls over 70-ft high and 1.5-miles long that encompasses an astounding collection of well preserved buildings, many of them completed during the reign of Shah Jahan. After he was deposed by his son, he was imprisoned in this fort where he remained until his death - spending the rest of his life looking out along the river to the final resting place of his beloved wife.
 
We also visit the much quieter Itmad-ud-Daulah mausoleum across the river - fondly known as the "Baby Taj", as it was a forerunner of the Taj Mahal that was built to honour the grandfather of Mumtaz.
Day 4
This morning at sunrise we visit the romantic Taj Mahal, a truly magnificent white marble mausoleum that took 22 years to build. Apart from its stunning design and perfect symmetry, it is noted for its elegant domes, intricately carved screens and some of the best marble inlay work ever done. Sunrise and sunset are particularly good times to visit and see the dome subtly change its colour.
 
After returning to our hotel for breakfast, we travel 1-hour to the magnificent red sandstone royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, built by the emperor Mohammad Akbar as the capital of the Mughal Empire. The city was abandoned due to water shortage, when the capital was moved north to Delhi, and in more recent years the fort has provided a dramatic backdrop to several famous films.
 
In the afternoon transfer to Bharatpur Station to board the air-conditioned express train (first class) travelling for 2.15 hours to Sawai Madhopur in southeast Rajasthan. Check into your hotel situated near Ranthambore National Park. This world famous tiger sanctuary was originally the hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Today it is the largest wildlife reserve in northern India, covering an area of over 250 sq miles (400 sq km).
 
Note: Taj Mahal is closed every Friday. You cannot take anything in with you except your camera, water and medicine.
Day 5
This morning enjoy a game drive in Ranthambore National Park.
 
Early morning is the best time to see tigers, but be aware that it is extremely difficult to find them in the jungle and sightings are never guaranteed. Best viewings are generally at the end of the dry season (March to May, although it is extremely hot from April onwards), when the tigers search out the waterholes - but you need to take at least 4 game drives for a good chance of a sighting.
 
Other animals you can hope to see include leopard, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, caracal, civet, desert cat, mongoose, ratel, sloth bear, langur & macaque monkeys, wild boar, palm squirrel, flying fox, porcupine, long-eared hedgehog, marsh crocodile, tortoise and soft shelled turtle. Also antelope such as sambar deer, chital, nilgai, chinkara and black buck.
 
In the afternoon return to the park for another game drive. In addition to the many mammals and reptiles, there are over 270 bird species - including eagles, falcons, owls, graylag geese, flamingos, parakeets, fly catchers, bee eaters, grebe, terns, woodpeckers, hornbills and kingfishers.
 
Please note we always try to book jeep safaris, but these can only be reserved 90 days in advance and cannot be guaranteed - in which case your game drive will be in a 20-seater canter. In the winter months, morning safaris require warm clothes including woolly hats and gloves to protect you from the wind chill in your open vehicle.
 
Ranthambore National Park is closed during the monsoon season (mid June to September).
Day 6
After a final early morning jeep safari in Ranthambore National Park, return to your hotel for breakfast.
 
We then travel 4-hours to the chaotic and colourful "Pink City" of Jaipur - home to over 3 million people. On arrival check into your hotel in this capital city of Rajasthan.
Day 7
Today enjoy a tour of the city of Jaipur.
 
Our first stop is to view the magnificent Hawa Mahal (the "Palace of the Winds") designed in the form of the crown of the Hindu god Krishna. This five-storey frontage looks like a bee's honeycomb with 953 small windows, each decorated with intricate latticework so that the court ladies living in secluded purdah could watch royal processions, without being seen themselves. Built of red and pink sandstone, it is particularly striking early in the morning when lit by the sunrise.
 
We continue to the Amber Fort  This magnificent royal palace was built from pale yellow & pink sandstone and white marble and is divided into four main sections, each with its own courtyard. You will enter by riding up the ramparts on the back of a decorated elephant to the main courtyard (Jaleb Chowk). This is where returning armies would display their war booty to the people and women could view them from the veiled windows of the palace. Once inside explore the amazing Palace of Mirrors and Hall of Public Audience.
 
We then visit the Jantar Mantar Observatory, the largest stone and marble crafted observatory in the world and a World Heritage site. It is the best preserved of five observatories built by Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur. It has 17 large instruments, many of them still in working condition.
 
Our day finishes with a visit to the nearby City Palace, the former Royal Residence part of which is now a museum. One of the major attractions here is the armoury with its impressive array of pistols, blunderbusses, flintlocks, swords, rifles and daggers used by the Maharajas of Jaipur. The Textile and Costume museum on the first floor is another fine display, with items from all over India.
 
In the evening enjoy the unique experience of dining with a local family, where you will taste spicy Rajasthan food and gain insight into their Hindu lifestyle, with different generations living under the same roof.
Day 8
Today you have the opportunity to enjoy an Elephant Interaction, spending 2 to 3-hours up close and personal with Asian elephants cared for by a mahout family.
 
You can touch, wash and help feed them; have a painting class and learn about elephant decoration. Also learn about elephant medicines and treatments, before taking a walk with the elephants into the village.
 
Balance of day is free to explore Jaipur with your guide, enjoy some shopping or simply relax at your hotel.
Day 9
A full day on the road today as we leave Jaipur and travel 7-hours to the historic city of Jodhpur, the second largest in Rajasthan and known as the Blue City because of its many blue-painted houses.
 
This old walled and gated city encircles Mehrangarh Fort, with the modern city sprawling outside its walls.
Day 10
Today we drive 6-hours from Jodhpur through the mountains to beautiful Udaipur.
 
Along the way we view the vast and impregnable 15th century Mewar fortress at Kumbalgarh. Its great walls extend over 24 miles (38 km) and are second only in length to the Great Wall of China. These walls are wide enough to take eight horsemen riding abreast and the fort offers a superb birds eye view of the surrounding countryside.
 
We also stop at Ranakpur to visit its famous Jain Temple. Constructed of light coloured marble, this grand temple has very distinctive domes, shikhara, turrets and cupolas that rise majestically from the hill. Over 1,444 marble pillars support the temple, each one carved in exquisite detail and no two are the same. It is said that it is impossible to count the pillars. There is one beautiful carving made out of a single rock of marble, with 108 heads of snakes and numerous tails where you cannot find their end.
 
Continue to Udaipur and check into your hotel in this serene city of lakes.
Day 11
Today enjoy a half tour of the highlights of Udaipur, the former capital of the kingdom of Mewar that offers history and culture, as well as some lovely scenery. It is famous for its many Rajput palaces, such as the Lake Palace that covers an entire island and is now a luxury hotel.
 
We visit the City Palace, the focal point of the city with several areas of interest such as the Suraj Gokhada balcony, Badi Mahal garden palace, Sheesh Mahal palace, Mor Chowk (peacock courtyard) and Zenana Mahal (queen's palace). The Crystal Gallery at Fateh Prakash palace has possibly the largest collection of crystal in the world including objects d’art, furniture, washing bowls and even a crystal bed.
 
Next we visit the Jagdish Temple, with its imposing sculpted figures and heavily ornamented interiors and Sahelion-ki-Bari Gardens, constructed for 48 maids who accompanied the wife of Maharaja Sangram Singh II as dowry.
 
Afternoon is at leisure to relax at your hotel or enjoy some shopping. Alternatively you can visit the temples at Nagda, Eklingji and Nathdwara. Nagda has an ancient Mewar palace dating back to the 6th century and its Sas-Bahu temples are exquisitely carved. Eklingji was built of sandstone and marble and its 108 temples are enclosed by high walls, with a roof comprised of hundreds of knobs. Nathdwara is an important Hindu pilgrimage centre that is famous for nurturing intricate Pichwai paintings that portray Lord Krishna.
 
In the evening enjoy a boat riode on Lake Pichola (subject to water levels).
Day 12
Transfer to Udaipur Airport for your flight to Mumbai and onward connecting flight to Cochin in the beautiful southern state of Kerala - fondly called "God's own Country". This Arabian seaport, now known as Kochi, was at the centre of the spice trade for many centuries.
 
On arrival enjoy a city tour of Cochin - known to the ancient Greeks, Romans, Jews, Arabs and Chinese as an important trading centre. The Portuguese established the first European settlement in India here and the city was later colonised by the Dutch and then the British.
 
Visit St. Francis Church built by the Portuguese, where explorer Vasco Da Game was first buried. Also visit Mattancherry Palace with its famous murals depicting scenes from Hindu legends associated with Shiva, Vishnu and Krishna (closed Fridays); the Dutch Palace and the Jewish Synagogue (closed Fridays & Saturdays). Then walk along the shore to see the old shore-operated Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi, each operated by a team of up to six fishermen.
 
In the evening a special treat awaits - a performance of the famous Kathakali classical dance.
Day 13
This morning your driver will collect you from your hotel in Cochin and introduce you to the beauty of rural Kerala, as you travel 2.5-hours to the small town of Kumarakom, situated on Vembanad Lake - the largest backwater in India.
 
Check into your hotel and relax surrounded by these tranquil waters.
Day 14
This morning board your air-conditioned Rice Houseboat set on Vembanad Lake. This network of backwaters, lakes and rivers stretches over 930 miles (1,500 km) and provides a vital waterway for transporting people and their produce, once used to transport goods from isolated interior villages to the larger towns but now largely used for pleasure.
 
As the water is level with the land here, spend the afternoon relaxing and watching the agricultural lives of the people who live along the canals and work in the rice paddy fields, as you cruise through the Kerala Backwaters.
 
In the evening see the sun setting over the tranquil backwaters and enjoy dining on delicious local Kerala cuisine prepared by your chef.
Day 15
After breakfast disembark at the merchant town of Alleppey and transfer 5-hours to Kovalam (meaning "a grove of coconut trees").
 
Check into your beach hotel and relax on the shores of the Arabian Sea.
Days 16 To 18
At leisure to relax on the beautiful beaches of Kovalam on the Arabian Sea, with its warm shallow waters that are ideal for swimming.
 
Three famous beaches separated by rocky outcrops form the crescent of Kovalam Beach - popular Lighthouse Beach, Hawah Beach (also known as Eve’s Beach) frequented by fishermen in the early mornings, and the much quieter Samudra Beach.
 
Also enjoy the wide variety of ayurvedic spa treatments for which this region is renowned and its tasty regional cuisine.
Day 19
Transfer 30-minutes to Trivandrum Airport for your flight home.
Day 20
At leisure to relax at your hotel where a very late checkout has been arranged, so that you have the use of your room all day.
 
Later you will be transferred 30-minutes to Trivandrum Airport for your flight home.
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