India's exotic wonders
Join us on a fascinating 22-day tour of India, and journey across India, from Kolkata in the east to Mumbai in the west, before plotting a course south to the tranquil backwaters of Kerala. Take in the rich Raj-era history of Kolkata, the sacred ghats of Varanasi, the awe-inspiring beauty of the Taj Mahal and Jaipur's pink city, and unwind in country's lush south.
Fly to Kolkata via Mumbai.
Arriving in Kolkata in the early hours, your Tour Manager will be waiting to swiftly transfer you to your five-star hotel set on the edge of the Maidan - West Bengals' largest urban park.
After time to rest and freshen-up, your guide will take you on an afternoon tour to introduce Kolkata and its astonishingly rich history. Take in the grand General Post Office and other Raj-era buildings in Dalhousie Square; admire the antique - though operational - trams and the enormous Howrah Bridge (one of the world's longest cantilever bridges). End the tour with a visit to the bustling flower markets of Malik Ghat.
End your first day in this wondrously energetic city with a relaxing meal in the comfort of your hotel.
Begin today with a visit to Kolkata's potters quarter - Kulmartuli - an area that produces and decorates many thousands of beautiful Hindu idols each year. Later, take a ride on one of the country's oldest trams and unearth more examples of British Raj-era grandeur, taking in both the Victoria Memorial museum and the Marble Palace. End today's tour with a boat ride along the Hoogly River.
Rise early this morning to board a flight to Varanasi, Uttah Pradesh's 3000-year-old
sacred city. Check into your hotel in the ancient city before taking a trip to nearby Sarnath and the deer park where the Buddha gave his first sermon. Returning to Varanasi you'll have the chance to witness the Ganga Aarti, an ancient Hindu ritual of fire and prayer held on the banks of the 'Mother Ganga' at the Dashashwamedh ghat.
Wake early to board a river boat and watch the sunrise over Varanasi and the holy Ganges, as the devout pray on the banks and bathe in the cleansing waters. After breakfast, wave a warm goodbye to at-times-eccentric Varanasi and begin your journey to the state's capital Lucknow and your awaiting five-star hotel.
Begin your day with a guided tour of beautiful Bara Imambara, a Muslim shrine constructed in the 18th Century by local rulers who were attempting to provide work during a long and brutal period of famine. You'll also see the remnants of Lucknow's British Residency, which so famously provided refuge for some 3000 Britons during the uprising of 1857.
In the afternoon you'll have your first experience of the Indian rail network - the world's largest employer. Board the Shatabdi Express to Tundla Junction, Agra and one of the highlights of your time in India.
Your early alarm call will be forgotten as you sit in the predawn calm to watch the sun rise over what is arguably the most beautiful building the world has ever seen - the Taj Mahal.
After seeing this masterpiece of love and devotion up close, you'll have time to visit some of Agra's other iconic sites, including its enormous fort, the Mehtab Bagh gardens on the north bank of the Yumana opposite the Taj and the tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah.
Say a fond farewell to Agra and its most prized building, today, as you leave the state of Uttar Pradesh bound for the enormous desert state of Rajasthan and its capital city Jaipur. Enroute visit the imperial capital of the Moghul empire, Fatehpur Sikri.
Arriving in Jaipur in the afternoon, you'll have time to settle into your hotel before venturing into the city to see Aarti at the brilliant white marble Birla Mandir temple.
Journey just a few kilometres from the pink city of central Jaipur this morning, to visit the imposing Amber Fort - once the seat of the Rajput empire. Climb to the top of the fort to look out over the extensive battlements and the calm waters of Maota Lake.
Later in the day, enjoy a tour of Jaipur taking in the beautiful Palace of the Winds, the observatory and the City Palace.
Today we set a course southwest to Udaipur on the banks of lakes Pichola and Fateh Sagar, sometimes referred to as the Venice of India.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before beginning an enlightening tour of of this, one of India's calmest and prettiest cities. See the City Palace, the Jagdish Temple and the Saheliyon-ki-Bari - the beautiful Gardens of the Royal Ladies. Later you'll be free to enjoy a local tea in one of the city's many roof-top cafes or relax in the the hotel's grounds.
With the onset of evening you'll board a boat on Lake Pichola to see the water palaces Udaipur is so famous for a little more closely.
Today you'll take a short flight to one of the most populous cities on earth and meet some of the brilliantly humble and welcoming 20-million Mumbaikars that call the greater Mumbai area home. Your guide will show you some of the great city's most enthralling sites, including American-feeling Marine Drive, Gandhi's Bhavan, the Raj-era Gateway to India, the opulent Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and the ornate Victoria Terminus railway station - one of the county's busiest. You'll also witness the marvel that is Mumbai's network of dabbawalas delivering over 160,000 homemade tiffin lunches across the city.
Later, visit the famous Dhobi Ghat open-air laundry and take a train ride with the locals from Churchgate to Mahalaxmi. After an energetic day, relax in the comfort of your five-star hotel.
Today sees a step-change in your tour as you leave the busy north of India, and fly south to Kochi - formerly Cochin - on the shore of the Indian Ocean.
After a relaxed breakfast, venture out on a guided tour of historic Kochi. Wander the grounds of the Mattancherry Portuguese Palace, visit the Paradesi Synagogue - the oldest operational site of Jewish worship in the Commonwealth - and tour Fort Kochi, an area famous for its picturesque Chinese fishing nets.
Experience something new, this evening, with a traditional Kathakali performance, combining dance, costume, ancient literature, music and painting.
Rise shortly after sun-up to watch local fishermen haul the day's catch onto the beach or enjoy a well-deserved lie-in before taking a rickshaw ride through the colourful fish market and the chance to take breakfast in the home of a local family.
Later you'll head to Alleppey and enter Kerala's backwaters, to board a traditional thatch-roofed 'kettuvallam' houseboat for a single-night stay. Spend the afternoon relaxing on-board as the vessel wends its way through the famous beauty of the Keralan waterways, passing rice fields, coconut plantations, temples and minute islands.
This evening your on-board chef will give a cooking demonstration before preparing a traditional Keralan evening meal.
Stepping back onto terra firma, wave a fond farewell to your kettuvallam and journey into the foothills of the Western Ghats and to your hotel in Periyar. Once settled in, join your guide for a tour of a local spice plantation. Learn about Indian spices and the rich history of trade that has made them ubiquitous throughout great swaths of the world.
Witness India's wild side this morning with an optional guided trek through Periyar's wildlife sanctuary. See numerous rare and endangered mammals, including Indian elephants, palm civets, giant squirrels and - for the lucky few - wild tigers and leopards. In the afternoon, take a relaxing boat-ride on the lake at the sanctuary's centre.
This morning you'll head further east, passing over the imposing Western Ghats, before descending to Madurai - one of Asia's oldest cities. Settle into your luxurious hotel - once the Madurai Club - and spend the afternoon and evening soaking up this incredibly vibrant city.
This morning you'll have an introduction to Madurai's Old City, with its colourful temple gates, known as gopurams, and beautiful Meenakshi temple. Witness devotees at worship and offerings being made in time-honoured tradition. You'll also have the chance to visit the beautiful 17th-century palace of Thirumalai Nayakkar Mahal.
Enjoy the buzz and thrum of the city by-night, as you take to a cycle-rickshaw to be ridden through the streets to see local markets and night-life in full swing.
Leave the hustle and heat of the city behind you and trace a path through ever-thickening forest en route to the cool climes of Munnar and its hill-station. Spend the night in this remnant of Empire, enjoying its perfectly manicured lawns and expansive verandas. Later in the day, enjoy a fascinating visit to a working tea plantation and the Tata Tea Museum.
Have a relaxed breakfast this morning before descending the Western Ghats towards the shores of the Indian Ocean and Kochi once more, for your final night in India.
After a final comfortable night, this morning you'll board a short flight north to Mumbai to join your intercontinental flight back to the UK.
British citizens require machine-readable passports when travelling overseas. Your passport must contain two blank pages and be valid for 180 days after your return date from India. A visa is also required for entry to India. Full details of how and when to apply will be sent out about eight weeks before departure. British CITIZENS and some other European nationals satisfying certain conditions may use the online e-Tourist Visa application process at a cost of $62 (US) per person. Other British passport holders, who are not British CITIZENS, must apply for a full visa which costs £92. You may also, at extra cost, use the services of CIBT, our recommended visa handling partner, who will handle the whole process for you. Note that all travellers of Pakistani descent, regardless of citizenship, will generally be subject to more detailed processing by the Indian authorities which can take up to four months from application.
Passports and visas
The transfer time from the airport to your hotel is approximately one hour.
Hotel transfer times
You are permitted to take one suitcase per person on the aircraft, which should not exceed 23kg.
If you have notified us of any special requirements, please check that they have been noted and acknowledged. This is especially important with any dietary needs you may have.
The majority of our tours involve a certain amount of walking, including a short walk from the coach stop to the town, attraction or venue you're visiting. If you are bringing a wheelchair, please let us know at the time of booking so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
Occasionally, for operational reasons, we may have to change the order of the excursions on your holiday. The final day-by-day itinerary will be confirmed on your Final Travel Documents, which you will receive approximately three weeks prior to your departure.
Should circumstances require, we reserve the right to accommodate you in alternative hotels, of a similar standard, nearby. Full details of your hotels will be sent with your Final Travel Documents.
Changes to your hotels