Family Indian Discovery    *alt*

13 days, from £1159
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Description

Enjoy this fascinating introduction to India as we visit the magnificent Taj Mahal at sunset, explore a hilltop fortress and discover the world heritage monuments of Delhi in the north. In the south of the country, we enjoy jungle treks, curry lessons and cruising along the backwaters on a houseboat in tropical Kerala. After this active adventure, we travel to the coast to relax on sandy beaches.

Tour comfort rating: standard

Tour pace rating: moderate

Itinerary


 Day 1 Arrive in Delhi with city tour of New Delhi

Arrive in Delhi and check in to our hotel. New Delhi was the creation of the British Raj of the 1930's and our afternoon tour includes; Qutab Minar, the tallest stone tower in India and Humayun's Tomb, the first example of an architectural design of the Mughal Dynasty. We also drive past the imposing India Gate (War Memorial Arch), the Parliament buildings and the Rashtrapati Bhawan (the President's residence). India's capital is a bustling metropolis which successfully combines the ancient with the modern. Amidst the tall and modern skyscrapers, there are still the remnants of a bygone time with numerous monuments and temples.
Meals included: none
Single room option


 Day 2 Travel to Agra and visit its Fort plus sunset at the Taj Mahal

We drive to the Mughal city of Agra (around 4 hour's drive) known to the world as the city of the 'Taj Mahal'. Agra is still associated with the Mughals, who besides being the countries rulers were also great builders. Agra Fort, which is the seat and the stronghold of the Mughal Empire, is a vivid reminder of the opulence and makes Agra one of the most remarkable cities in India. Late this afternoon we proceed with a sunset visit of the world-renowned Taj Mahal - The legendary Taj Mahal is celebrated for its architectural magnificence and aesthetic beauty. Emperor Shah Jahan built this exquisite white marble mausoleum for his favourite queen, Mumtaz Mahal, commissioned in 1631, it took 20,000 artisans 22 years to complete. Watching the sun set over this great monument is a wonderful way of watching the fading light illuminating the contours of this 'dream in marble'. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Taj Mahal has always evoked varying emotions from wonder to poetic verse and over the centuries has become a symbol of love and flawless beauty.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 3 Keoladeo Ghana National Park and onto Jaipur

This morning we drive to the Keoladeo Ghana National Park in Bharatpur. The National Park was originally called Ghana which means dense forest and is now named after the Keoladeo Shiva temple in the centre of the park. Initially a Maharaja's hunting estate built in 1956, it is now a bird sanctuary to some 375 species of birds including egrets, darters, cormorants, herons and painted storks with their colourful beaks and plumage. We are taken on a bird-watching tour by cycle rickshaw and hope to see some of these magnificent animals. Our journey continues on to Jaipur, the vibrant capital of Rajasthan which is renowned for its forts and palaces that have encapsulated an image of the 'Pink City' due to its pink-coloured buildings. An ideal base for touring the royal state, the city has the distinction of being the third jewel of India's 'Golden Triangle'. Its main claim to fame is that it is India's first 'planned' city built by the famous 18th century astronomer King Sawai Jai Singh II.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Single room option


 Day 4 Amber Palace and Fortress

We travel to the ancient capital of Amer to see the fabulous Amber Fort situated on a ridge just outside Jaipur city. The fort is surrounded by fortified battlements with ruins that are spread over the surrounding Aravalli hills. Our visit incorporates the chambers and hallways of the palace, famous for its design and decoration as well as Ganesh Pol, an imposing gateway painted with images of the elephant-headed god, Ganesh. We also stop at the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) - a five-storied wonder with a spectacular pyramidal facade with overhanging windows with latticed screens, domes and spires. In the afternoon, we visit the City Palace Museum which has a superb collection of Rajasthani costumes, armoury including swords with chiselled handles, an art gallery with an excellent collection of miniature paintings and rare astronomical works. We also see the awe-inspiring Jantar Mantar Observatory, a stone astrological and astronomical observatory built by Maharaja Jai Singh in the 18th century.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Single room option


 Day 5 Morning at leisure with flight to Kochi

The morning is free for leisure activities before catching an afternoon flight to Kochi via Mumbai, the commercial capital of Kerala and the most cosmopolitan of the state's cities. Cochin or Kochi has long been praised as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea'. Strategically located on the east-west sea route, Kochi is Kerala's major port and boasts one of the finest natural harbours in the world.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 6 Drive to Fort Kochi and watch the famous Kathakali Dancers

We take an auto-rickshaw (3-wheeler automated 'scooter') to Fort Kochi. Fort Kochi is the oldest European settlement in India (built in 1500), and has a mixture of English, Dutch and Portuguese influence. There is time to wander and take in some of the sites including the Chinese fishing nets or wander around the fish market as well as visit the Jewish quarter. Kochi is also a good place to see the famous Kathakali dancers, with its origins coming from the traditional temple rituals and an art form known as Koodiyattam. The performers use face makeup which can take up to three hours to paint on and makes this dance so unique within the country. Their features are heavily emphasised with their facial expressions and coordinated eye movements being important within the dance - during our visit, we can see the process of applying the make-up.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 7 Palace visit and drive to Thekkady

We visit the Mattancherry Palace which was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and is popularly known as the Dutch Palace. The Palace features Kerala murals, depicting Hindu temple art, portraits and exhibits of the Rajas of Kochi. A blend of colonial and Kerala architecture, it was a gift to the local ruler by the Portuguese in exchange for trading rights. The palace was later renovated by the Dutch and so gained the other name. We then drive to Thekkady via the meandering roads through the high ranges and past rubber and tea plantations. We should arrive mid to late afternoon.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 8 Nature trek in Periyar National Park, visit a Tea factory and drive to Chennmkary Village

After breakfast, we drive to Thekkady which is the closest settlement to the Periyar National Park. A stunning setting on the shores of Lake Periyar, it is home to a myriad of wildlife such as elephant, wild pigs, monkey and the flying squirrel. The park also boasts some 260 species of birds including darters, ospreys and kingfishers. We take a guided nature walk in the hope of spotting some of these wild creatures although sightings cannot be guaranteed. The park itself is made up of a variety of habitats including open grasslands and semi-evergreen forests with an abundant number of ferns, orchids and air-plants all making up a beautiful ecosystem with the trail often passing through evergreen forests interspersed with marshy grasslands. We then drive to Chennmkary Village via a visit to a tea factory at Vandeperiyar. The site houses photographs and machines depicting the flourishing tea industry that the region is famous for with an explanation of each stage of the tea making process. When we reach Chennmkary we meet our hosts for the next two days and explore the village. We will also walk among the seemingly numerous fruit and medicinal plants that surround the village, as well as strolling through banana and coconut plantations.There is also the option to travel by canoe and visit the famous temples of Karumadikuttan, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Accommodation at Chennmkary is spread over several village houses that is simply styled with traditional Kerala furniture. Due to space constraints, families may need to share a room together. The houses are close together, approx. 5-10 minutes walk between them and all have bedding and towels provided. The locals will cook the meals for the group and we all dine together giving the opportunity to understand how they live. The villagers grow their own rice, vegetables, coconuts and spices which are all used in the meals.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner


 Day 9 Free-time to explore Mancombo Village

Today is left free to explore the area with the opportunity to take a stroll through the serene Kerala hamlets and experience the tropical forests filled with the fragrance of medicinal flowers. To cover more expanses you can sail through the interior villages and backwaters in a non-mechanized open canoe to get a chance of experiencing traditional Kerala hamlets.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner


 Day 10 Drive to Alleppey and board a houseboat to the Kerala Backwaters

This morning we drive to the lively backwater centre of Alleppey where we board our houseboats and begin our relaxing cruise into the network of the Kerala backwaters. Converted from old rice-barges, with walls and roofs of coir, these simple vessels have a number of en-suite rooms and an area to relax and watch riverside life as we go by. On the more open canals, you can see boats with large sails - the bow often carved in the shape of a dragon. These vessels are a lifeline for the villages with a number acting as taxis, mail delivery carriages and goods transport. You may see great pyramids of coconuts or even the odd buffalo being carried along in this time honoured fashion. We plan to stop off at several points of interest en-route including the Chambakulam Saint Foreine Church and Chambakulam Chundan - the famous snake boats. Traditional Kerala cuisine is served on board.
Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner


 Day 11 Drive to the beach resort of Mararikulam

Disembarking the houseboat, we drive the short journey to the resort in Mararikulam with the rest of the day free to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and beach activities. Mararikulam is a typical fishing village which is located on the southwest coast of Central Kerala and offers an unblemished and pristine shoreline, swaying coconut palms, thatched huts and a view point to watch the striking sunsets.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 12 Day at the resort of Mararikulam

Free day at resort.
Meals included: Breakfast
Single room option


 Day 13 Tour ends Mararikulam

Our tours ends this morning after breakfast.
Meals included: Breakfast


Tour Map