The South of India is distinctly different from the more popular North, and this itinerary is a fascinating look into what makes this culture tick. While most tourists may arrive in Delhi, this itinerary begins in Mumbai, the southern capital. And from beach cities to temple towns, this trip will introduce you to new foods, new ways of thought, beautiful warm weather, and a warm, welcoming people.
Welcome to India! Upon arrival at Mumbai’s International Airport, you will be met by our representative in the arrival area of the airport once you clear all immigration and customs formalities. You will then be transferred to your hotel for check in. (This service is on a private basis.)
Mumbai is a cluster of seven Islands that derives its name from Mumbadevi, the patron goddess of the koli fisher folk, its oldest inhabitants. The islands were tossed from one king to another emperor for two millennia, until the maritime trade empire of the British decided to develop the natural harbor into a city. In the four hundred years since then, the city has grown by a series of land reclamations which now link the original islands into one mass.
Today, Mumbai pulsates with activity. It is a city that is disciplined by no time frame, either by day or by night. Mumbai is also the country's financial powerhouse, its industrial heartland, and its economic nerve center. With dazzling shopping arcades, exciting sports activity, night clubs and bars, theater and music, gourmet restaurants and interesting sightseeing, Mumbai offers visitors a heady mix of all this and more.
Today, you will embark on a city tour of Mumbai. Begin at the Gateway of India, Mumbai’s principle land mark, is a huge archway on the water’s edge. The famous monument was built to commemorate the visit of the first British Monarch, King George V. Continue on to Crawford Market, named after Bombay’s first municipal commissioner. The market is at the northern end of the old British part of town and faces the crowded inner city.
Your last stop will be at the Prince of Wales Museum, a magnificent and somewhat strange structure built in a confluence of Gothic and Moorish styles and crowned by a sparkling white dome. The museum boasts a great collection of ancient Indus Valley artifacts as well as some priceless Tibetan and Nepali Art. (This service is on a private basis.)
This morning you will head on a excursion to the Elephanta Caves, located one hour by boat out of Mumbai. These rock-cut temples on the peaceful Elephanta Island are thought to have been carved between 450 and 750 AD. The temples survived Portuguese vandalism and remain equal in size, beauty and power to the caves at Ajanta and Ellora.
On this tour, you will transfer to the jetty at the Gateway of India to board boats (small local launches) to Elephanta Island, where you will see a 8th-century shrine cut from the hillside. Among the sculptures is the magnificent "Maheshmurti," or Hindu Trinity, representing the three aspects of Shiva the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. These caves provide an exciting glimpse of Indian sculpture dating from about 600 A.D. Huge panels depict episodes relating to Lord Shiva, each executed with power, grace and an amazing sense of movement.
After the tour, you will be returned to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Mumbai and transferred to the airport in good time to board your domestic flight to Goa. Upon arrival in Goa, you will be greeted at the airport by your driver and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Having been the meeting point of races, religions and cultures of East and West over the centuries, Goa has a multi-hued and distinctive lifestyle quite different from the rest of India. Hindu and Catholic communities make up almost the entire population with minority representation of Muslims and other religions. The tourist season in Goa begins in late September and carries on through early March. The weather in these months is usually dry and pleasantly cool. Besides the natural beauty, the fabulous beaches and sunshine, travelers to Goa love the laid-back, peaceful, warm and friendly nature of the Goan people.
Enjoy a half day tour of Goa. Nine kilometers from the East of Panjim is Old Goa, popular for its churches and cathedrals. Some of the old buildings are converted into museums maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Old Goa is still the spiritual heart of Christian Goa. It has been granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO for its extraordinarily grandiose churches and convents.
Goa was the second capital of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur before the arrival of the Portuguese. Under the Portuguese, the city grew rapidly in size and splendor. But it was short-lived because by the end of the 16th century. That of the British, French & Dutch, had replaced Portuguese supremacy on the seas. In 1843, the capital was shifted to Panaji.
Afterwards, you will be returned to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Enjoy this free time at your leisure.
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Goa and transferred to your accommodations in Badami. (Duration: 4 hours.) (This service is on a private basis.)
Badami is famous for its four cave temples - all hewn out of sand stone on the precipice of a hill. Legend has it there were two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala, who had a scam by which they could kill and make a meal of mendicants passing by. Their tricks worked until Agastya muni came by and counter-tricked them and brought an end to Vatapi's life. Two of the hills in Badami are supposed to represent the demons Ilvalan and Vatapi.
After breakfast you will enjoy a city tour of Badami.
Badami, the one time capital of the Chalukyas, is noted for several temples, some structural and other rock-cut, of the 6th and 7th Centuries. Badami saw a succession of rulers of which the Chalukyas were only the most important. There is architecture and sculpture here from periods ranging as far back as the 7th century AD Pallava rule to as recently as the 19th century Marathas. Badami was the capital of the early Chalukyas, who ruled much of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh between the 6th and 8th centuries. It was founded in 540 A.D. by Pulakesi I(535-566 AD), an early ruler of the Chalukyas.
One of the temples, Pattadakal reached its pinnacle of glory under the Chalukyan Kings and was once used as a ceremonial center where kings were crowned. The oldest of them all is the Sangamesvara Temple built by king Vijayaditya during the 8 century AD. Though not the biggest of the temples in Paddatdakal this temple dedicated to lord Siva is one of the fine examples of the high architectural standards maintained by the Chaluykan architecture. Almost all the temples are carved with dramatic themes from the Hindu mythology. A great majority of them is on lord Siva, especially the dancing aspects. The oldest of them all are the Mallikarjuna and the Virupaksha Temples. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Badami and transferred to your accommodations in Hampi. (Duration: 3 hours.) (This service is on a private basis.)
Today, proceed on a guided tour of the city. Hampi holds many delightful surprises. The most famous is the King's Balance where kings were weighed against gold or money which was then distributed to the poor. Also worth a visit are the Queen's Bath with its arched corridors, projecting balconies and lotus shaped fountains, the two storeyed Lotus Mahal, the huge Elephant Stables, the splendid Vitthal Temple with its musical pillars and the Stone Chariot, the Virupaksha Temple, Ugra Narasimha, the 6.7 meters tall monolith, the Pushkarini Tank, the Mahanavami Dibba, etc.
Temples of this city are noted for their large dimensions, florid ornamentation, bold and delicate carvings, stately pillars, magnificent pavilions and a great wealth of iconographic and traditional depictions, which include subjects from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The Pampapati temple is one of the largest temples at Hampi. The Vitthal temple is an excellent example of Vijayanagar style. Also present are some monolithic statues of Lakshmi, Narasimha and Ganesha, which are noted, for their massiveness and grace. Other temples in the surroundings are the Krishna temple, Pattabhirama temple, Hazara Ramachandra, Chandrasekhara temple and the Jaina Temple. (This service is on a private basis.)
A world heritage center, Hampi is the most beautiful of all the ruins in Karnataka. Founded in the 14th Century, this was the glorious capital city of a flourishing dynasty who were great patrons of art and architecture. The remains can still be seen in the vast ruins of Hampi, which historians have praised as 'greater than Rome'. Hampi is famous for its ruins belonging to the medieval Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar and it has been declared a World Heritage site. The temples of Hampi, its monolithic sculptures and monuments, attract the traveler because of their excellent workmanship. The Hindu style of architecture found at Hampi reflects the splendor of the Vijayanagar Empire. The rugged landscape adds to the historic ambiance of this site.
After enjoying a day at leisure of individual exploration, you will be picked up at your hotel in Hampi this evening. Your driver will then transfer you to the train station for your overnight train to Bangalore. (This service is on a private basis.)
Deep in the south of India, Bangalore is the city that dominates southern culture and commerce. Victorian-era architecture aside, the main reason to come to Bangalore is to see an Indian city with a burgeoning food and arts scene. In a country inundated with ancient culture and customs, Bangalore is special for its (relative) new-ness. The IT service industry booming in India is centered in Bangalore, and the result is a young culture keyed into the West, and speaking more English than most places in India.
Early this morning, upon arrival in Bangalore, you will be picked up at the train station and transferred to your hotel to check in and enjoy breakfast.
You will be met for a brief city tour of Bangalore. Visit the Fort Kempe Gowda, which was the stronghold of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and witnessed several fierce battles. You'll also visit Lal Bagh which has a rare collection of tropical and sub-tropical trees, plants and herbs to quench the thirst of search for scenic beauty by both layman and horticulturist. (This service is on a private basis.)
In the afternoon, you will be picked up at your hotel in Bangalore and transferred to the airport in good time to board your domestic flight to Cochin. Upon arrival in Cochin, you will be greeted at the airport by your driver and transferred to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
On a casual walk through Cochin, also known as Kochi, one can see a centuries-old synagogue, even older mosques, Chinese fishing nets, remains of Portuguese colonization and British Raj rulers, all while enjoying the tropical weather of the Malabar Coast. What was once one of India's most sought after ports is now a satisfying conglomeration of cultures and faiths that is difficult to find elsewhere.
This morning, proceed on a city tour of Cochin. You'll begin your tour with a visit to the Jewish Synagogue (of 1568), which is the oldest synagogue in the commonwealth. Next visit the ancient Mattancherry (Dutch) Palace built by the Portuguese in 1557. Another stop is made at the St. Francis Church, the oldest European built church in India.
Also, pay a visit to view the amazing Chinese fishing nets. Cochin’s Chinese fishing nets found here are the only ones of their kind in India. It is believed that traders from the court of the Chinese ruler Kublai Khan introduced these nets here.
For lunch today, enjoy a cooking demonstration at a local home. Nimmy and her husband Paul, your hosts, have been teaching foreigners the art of cooking at their home for more than twelve years. This is a comfortable and informal experience that is just as memorable as it is delicious and laid back! (This service is on a private basis.)
In the evening, proceed to a local theater where you will learn about Kerala's fascinating art from, Kathakali. The Kathakali performers begin to train for their art at a young age, and their study continues for a lifetime. Here you will enjoy a dance performance. Kathakali is the classical dance-drama of Kerala, South India, which dates from the 17th century and is rooted in Hindu mythology. Kathakali has a unique combination of literature, music, painting, acting and dance. (This service is on a group basis.)
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Cochin and transferred to your accommodations in Thekkady. (Duration: 4 hours.) (This service is on a private basis.)
Located on the Tamil Nadu and Kerala border, this region is known as the Spice Village of India for its vast spice and tea gardens. The road winds through mountains, descending through a carpet of tea bushes, estates of tall rubber trees and gardens of coffee, cardamom and pepper. The aroma of the spices fills the air.
Upon arrival in Thekkady (Periyar) you will check in to your Resort. The Resort is located on the fringes of the Periyar Game Preserve. This unique wildlife sanctuary is about 300 square miles and centered around an artificial lake fed by the Periyar River.
This evening, proceed to visit the park for game viewing by boat. The convoluted waterways afford great opportunities of elephants, bison, deer and occasionally a tiger sightings. All manner of flora and fauna flourish in this tropical habitat, making it one of the premiere reserves of Southern India.
In the morning, you will be picked up at your hotel in Thekkady for your transfer to your next accommodations in Kumarakom. En route to Kumarakom, you will stop for an interesting tour, before proceeding to your hotel. (This service is on a private basis.)
Today, you will have the chance to enjoy a tour of a spice plantation.
Sprawling tea estates cover much of the landscape, but cardamom, rubber, vanilla and coffee plantations are also aplenty. Perhaps that explains the never-ending cups of green cardamom-flavored tea proffered at any time of the day. Walk amid the palatte displaying variant shades of green, neatly arranged into terraced farms, the symmetry broken only by the sudden appearance of a gurgling stream. A lazy mist curls through the hills tuning life into a dreamy rhythm, as you find yourself renouncing to this sensual overflow. It is believed that the spice trade dates back three thousand years in Kerala. As for the many spices that find their home here, Pepper still remains the king. Nevertheless, the slanting slopes also caress a variety of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric and curry leaves. (This service is on a private basis.)
An enchanting backwater destination, Kumarakom offers visitors many other leisure options. Boating and fishing facilities are available at Kumarakom. Holiday packages on the houseboats, traditional Kettuvalloms, are an out-of-this-world experience at Kumarakom. An unbelievably beautiful paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and canals adorned with while lilies - this is Kumarakom.
After breakfast you'll enjoy a visit to the Kumarakom bird sanctuary.
Located on the banks of the Vembanad Lake, the bird sanctuary is spread across 14 acres. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, an ornithologist's paradise is a favorite haunt of migratory birds like the Siberian stork, egret, darter, heron and teal. A visit to the bird sanctuary, set within the lush acres of wooded land nearby, acquaints you to the variety of migratory birds that flock in thousands, some from the Himalayas, some even from as far as Siberia. In addition, you can get thrilled of the native kingfishers ablaze in psychedelic colors, experience a walk under rookeries of egrets and night herons or lone golden-backed woodpeckers and even delight in the acrobatics of the paradise fly-catchers. (This service is on a private basis.)
This afternoon you will board your houseboat. The backwaters in Kerala are a network of 1500 Kms of canals both manmade and natural, 38 rivers and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other. Before trucks became popular, the main cargo transportation was through backwaters by 'Kettuvalloms'. Kettuvalloms or Houseboats (Riceboats) are country boats that were used in the early days for the transport of goods from the isolated interior villages to the towns.
Dining on board is an experience in its self. Though based on the tradition of fish and vegetables, in keeping with the demands of a cosmopolitan clientele, the cuisine served aboard the houseboats features a far more sophisticated menu than a kettuvallom. The ethnic meals are prepared on board by a personal cook and fish delicacies such as white prawns, pearl spotted fish, crabs and mussels are the specialties. The meals include lunch, evening coffee or tea with snacks, dinner and breakfast.
Once on the boat, you will cruise along the backwaters for a couple of hours. Pass small villages and see how the local people live. The lushness of coconut trees will astound you. En-route visit villages to see coir making, tea shops, paddy fields, temples, beaches etc. till sunset. At night the boat is anchored at a beautiful and quiet part of the lake. (This service is on a group basis.)
This morning after indulging in breakfast on board, you will disembark from your houseboat in Alleppey.
You will be greeted by your driver, who will transfer you to your accommodations in Varkala. The drive time should be approximately 3 hours. When you reach your beautiful hotel, check in, relax and start taking advantage of all the amenities!
Varkala beach is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea. These formation cliffs are a unique geological feature on the otherwise flat Kerala coast. They are known among geologists as Varkala Formation and a geological monument as declared by the Geological Survey of India. There are numerous water spouts and spas on the sides of these cliffs. The beach is a haven for sun-bathing and swimming.
The evening views of the sunset are worth lingering over. There are several small restaurants and snack shops near and around Papasnanam beach, which attracts the maximum visitors both for leisure as well as for religious reasons.
Enjoy this free time at your leisure.
Today, you will be picked up at your hotel in Varkala and transferred to the airport in Trivandrum. (This service is on a private basis.)
Located just off the Colaba Causeway, it's right in the heart of the city, yet far from the bustling crowds. At Fariyas, you are just ten minutes away from the business districts of Nariman Point, Ballard Estate and The World Trade Center. Its scenic location offers a breathtaking view of the harbor- just 2 minutes away from the Gateway of lndia and other historical sites like the Prince of Wales Museum, David Sassoon Library to name a few. Offering modern décor and floor-to-ceiling windows, rooms at Fariyas have plenty of natural light and fitted with a safety deposit box, flat-screen TV with cable channels and thoughtful touches.
Perfectly located for exploring all that Candolim has to offer, the Country Inn & Suites is a fab option for couples. Come and experience traditional Goan hospitality right in the heart of town, ensuring you are well looked after and stress-free. With a pool surrounded by palm trees and a seriously tempting spa, this Portuguese-style hotel is quite a sanctuary for those looking to unwind.
Surrounded by mountains and greenery, this 2-storey hotel is located at the Station Road, and close to the Badami Cave Temple. There are 27 rooms to choose from. Guests are served complimentary breakfast through room service and can also savour on a multi-cuisine fare at the Pulakeshi Dining Room, a coffee shop-cum-restaurant, which is open for its patrons from 6a.m to 11p.m. A swimming pool and fitness equipments are available for rejuvenation
Located amid the lush green ambiance of Vidyanagar Township in the culturally rich state of Karnataka, Hyatt Place Hampi is among the best hotels in Hampi. Spread over 10 acres of land, this upscale, select-service hotel, is ideally designed for the discerning business or leisure traveler. The hotel offers 115 “smart-design” guestrooms - including seven rooms with private plunge pools and three suites that afford guests a spectacular and unrivalled view of the Sandur Mountain Range, making it the perfect hotel to stay near Hampi.
If anything, Casino Hotel is rather nondescript from the front. However, as in many courtyard style dwellings in India (or Europe for that matter), it's charms become evident once you enter. The classic Kerala combination of tiled roof, wooden beams and rough plaster creates a haven of warmth and light around the grassy central space, which is divided up neatly between the Fort Cochin seafood restaurant and the pool.
The first ISO Certified four-star resort in Kerala, Cardamon County is conveniently perched on the gradient of a gently sloping hill facing the Periyar Tiger Reserve. The architecture and landscaping of the entire resort has been thoughtfully created in deference to the ethereal beauty of its natural surroundings. The interiors of the resort have been aesthetically designed and furnished in an appealing blend of contemporary styling and a natural charm.
Abad Whispering Palms is located at Kumarakom the most exotic resort destination in Kerala right on the bank of the Vembanadu Lake in natural back water surroundings. Situated amid a natural backwater setting, it is a place where you can relax and bask in the luxury of tranquility. The resort is spread out and built in Traditional Kerala style, ensuring privacy during your stay.
Conveniently located in Varkala, The Gateway Hotel Janardhanapuram Varkala is a great base from which to explore this vibrant city. From here, guests can enjoy easy access to all that the lively city has to offer. With its convenient location, the hotel offers easy access to the city's must-see destinations. Simply put, all the services and amenities you have come to expect from Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces are right in the comfort of your own home. The hotel provides airport transfer, bar, room service, safety deposit boxes, smoking area to ensure our guests the greatest comfort. Guests can choose from 30 rooms, all of which exude an atmosphere of total peace and harmony. The complete list of recreational facilities is available at the hotel, including outdoor pool, hot tub, garden, massage, tennis courts. Whatever your reason for visiting Varkala, the The Gateway Hotel Janardhanapuram Varkala is the perfect venue for an exhilarating and exciting break away.
*Pricing is based on two persons traveling together, based on availability, subject to change.