South & North India
Type: Classic Tour
Duration: 20 Days
Best Time to Travel: October – March
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South & North India - Itinerary
Come with us on a feast of the senses as we take you on a voyage of discovery in India! India is such a land of contrast and contradictions with a break taking array of temples, palaces, culture and national parks. In the south we explore ancient shore temples and colourful palaces, lush grassland and coastal towns rich in spices and history as well as Kerala – God’s Own Country. In the north enjoy the awesome constructions of successive Mughal Emperors and local Rajputs. Put simply there are too many highlights to mention by name – you’ll just have to see it for yourself!
Arrive at Chennai International Airport where you will be met and welcomed by your Indian guide. Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu and the fourth largest city in India, located on the Bay of Bengal. The city grew up around the British settlement of Fort Saint George absorbing many villages and now Chennai is a blend of remarkable colonial architecture and strong Tamil influences.
Head past the Marina, the long stretch of beach lined mainly by colonial buildings, to the Santhome Church, a soaring neo-Gothic building said to house the remains of the apostle Thomas. Join the devotees who flock to the 16th-century Kapaleeshwarar Temple, dedicated to Shiva and dominated by a colourful 37m gopura (tower) covered in stucco figures. The surrounding streets are a cornucopia of market stalls selling household items, gorgeous saris and religious paraphernalia.
Chennai – Mahabalipuram
Drive to Mamallapuram (55kms) on the Coromandel Coast, facing the Bay of Bengal. Spend time on the white-sand beach shaded by casuarina trees and hire a bike to pedal through the surrounding countryside but make sure you allow time to explore this wonderful open-air museum, much of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the morning we visit Mamammapuram with its UNESCO World Heritage listed monuments – most notably the Five Rathas, Sea Shore Temple and Arjuna’s Penance with its wonderful bas-reliefs covering two huge boulders. The exquisite detail, dating from the 7th century, depicts the flow of the Ganges down from the Himalayan mountains as well as scenes from Indian daily life.
Explore the Shore Temple. Dedicated to both Vishnu and Shiva, the decorative beauty of the temple, built in Dravidian style, has suffered erosion by its proximity to the sea but is still a remarkable structure.
Mahabalipuram – Tirupati
Drive to Tirupati (190kms).
Visit the Venkateshwara Temple. The Tirumala Venkateswara Temple is a famous temple on Venkata, the seventh hill of Tirumala. One of the most revered and richest temples in the world, it attracts devotees and tourists alike by the thousands every day. Indeed, it has overtaken the Vatican as the most visited religious institution.
The Venkateswara Swamy Temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara or ‘the Lord of The Seven Hills’ is sheltered. For Vaishnavites (devotees of Vishnu), there is no place equal to Tirumala for it here that Lord Vishnu chose as an alternative to Vaikuntha, his heavenly home. According to a Puranic legend, an angry Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort, left him. Unable to find her, the grief-stricken lord withdrew to this hill. He later married her incarnation but ‘Lakshmi’, having left him, had no money for the wedding and had to borrow from Kuber. Devotees making offerings at Tirumala believe they are helping the lord repay it. This holy city of Tirupati is home to many other temples and monuments with an architectural brilliance that draws visitors from around the world.
Tirupati – Anantapur
Following breakfast we depart Tirupati for the 290km drive to Anantapur. Anantapur has embraced modernity, but has not forgotten its historical past. The town is home to many ancient temples, monuments and forts that give a glimpse into the rich historical past of the region. At every corner of Anantapur and its surroundings, there is something to stop and admire.
Check in to hotel in Anantapur late afternoon.
Anantapur (Belum Caves)
Today we explore the Belum Caves. The caves, which run a length of 3,229 metres, are the second longest in India and are popular for their stalactite and stalagmite formations. The caves have long passages, fresh water galleries, siphons and spacious chambers. They have been formed over time due to a constant flow of underground water. At their deepest point, the caves descend 150 feet from the entrance level. There is a giant Buddha statue located just outside the caves, which is an indication that the Buddhist monks worshipped here thousands of years ago. However, it is the Shiva lingam inside the cave which attracts today’s devotees and visitors.
After visiting the caves we return to our hotel in Anantapur.
Anantapur – Mysore
We have an early start for the long drive (360km) to Mysore.
Arriving in Mysore we check in to our hotel, Sandesh the Prince. Often referred to as the City of Palaces, Mysore exudes charm. It has thronging markets, a rich noble heritage and is renowned for its sandalwood, incense and silk. A city rich in heritage, make sure you discover its royal palaces, sacred temples and majestic buildings but leave time to stroll through some of its many parks and gardens or along a wide leafy boulevard.
After breakfast we stroll through the colorful Devaraja Market followed by the magnificent Mysore Maharaja Palace with its turrets, domes and arches and an opulent interior. We also visit the Jaganmohan Palace and its collection of 19th century paintings.
We head up to Chamundi Hill for panoramic views of the city spread out below before exploring the exquisite hilltop temple dedicated to the goddess, Chamundi and dominated by a 40m-high gopuram (tower). We make a short stop at the huge statue dedicated to Nandi, the bull of Lord Shiva, on the way down.
Mysore – Mudumalai
Today we head to the foothills of the Nilgiris to the Mudumalai National Park, one of the best places to spot wildlife in Tamil Nadu. The lush grasslands and vast semi-evergreen forests are home to wild boars, sloth bears and elephants. The sharp-eyed may even spot the elusive tiger and panther, but we make no promises!
We take a jeep safari in to park in the late afternoon when the animals are at their most active. The keen-eyed driver will help you locate elephants, jackals, mongoose and porcupines and the many birds of prey that fly overhead.
Mudumalai – Coimbatore – Cochin
Today we continue westward to Cochin. We drive to Coimbatore station for the train to Ernakulam near Fort Cochin. With its rich colonial history (Fort Kochi is the oldest European township in India) and its fame for spices – Cochin’s spice trade can be traced way back to the time of the pharaohs – Cochin is a joy to behold.
We arrive in the afternoon and check in to our hotel.
Free time to relax.
We have a tour of Fort Kochi with visits to The Jewish Synagogue in what is locally called Jew Town, St. Francis Church which is the oldest European Church in India, the Santa Cruz Basilica built in 1557 by the Portuguese, the Dutch Palace, the Spice market and the 15th century Chinese fishing nets believed to have been brought by Chinese traders.
In the evening, enjoy a Kathakali dance show – the epic Ramayana comes to life at a Kathakali performance, traditional Keralan dance, where the characters use larger than life gestures, wear outrageous costumes and dramatic make up.
Cochin – Alleppey
After Breakfast we say farewell to Cochin and drive through the beautiful Keralan landscape to reach the backwaters. We board our house boat for a cruise around ‘God’s Own Country’ where lunch and dinner will be served on board.
Experience the daily lives of the locals from the decks of the house boat. Pass women washing their clothes in the river and farmers bathing their buffalo; watch as fishermen and vegetable sellers go from house to house by boat selling their wares; pass villagers standing up to their necks in water gossiping with their neighbour. Enjoy tasty local meals as the boat drifts along and watch as the sun sets over the ever-changing scenery before retiring to your cabin to be lulled to sleep by the gently lapping water.
Alleppey – Kovalam
After breakfast on board we disembark and drive to Kovalam (175km). Delightfully located on the stunning Malabar Coast, Kovalam with its three crescent shaped beaches lined by lush palm groves has long been a favorite with visitors to the region. The 1960s saw Kovalam put on the map when the hippy generation discovered the palm-fringed bays and secluded coconut groves. Development has added luxury resorts and beach hideaways for those who want to enjoy a taste of paradise. Our hotel is the Travancore Heritage Hotel.
Kovalam – Trivandrum – Delhi
Check out and transfer to Trivandrum airport for the flight to Delhi.
Upon arrival we will be greeted and transferred to our hotel.
Delhi – Agra
Drive to Agra (215km). Agra was the former capital of the Mughal court during the 16th and 17th centuries and its sublime monuments date from that era. The emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jehan governed their vast empires from here and as prolific builders; artisans from Persia, Central Asia and other parts of India were attracted by their patronage. The resulting luxurious palaces, tombs, forts and gardens can be seen along the Yamuna River; three of which, the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri have been declared World Heritage Sites.
Today in our free time we can visit Agra Fort. The elegant building inside provides a fascinating combination of Hindu and Central Asian architecture built by Emperor Akbar.
Agra – Jaipur
Early morning at sunrise visit the Taj Mahal, regarded as one of the Wonders of the World. The Taj Mahal mausoleum was created by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his favourite wife Mumtaz and took 22 years to be completed. Apart from its stunning design and perfect symmetry, the Taj is also noted for its elegant domes, intricately carved screens and some of the best inlay work ever seen.
Drive to Jaipur (260km) stopping en-route at Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted red sandstone city built by Emperor Akbar in 1571 in honour of the famous Sufi saint, Salim Chishti. The Mughal capital for only 14 years it was abandoned due to lack of water. The buildings, blending Hindu and Islamic styles of architecture and reflecting Akbar’s secular vision remain in an excellent condition and it is a fascinating place to wander around. From here we continue on to Jaipur.
Jaipur, or the ‘City of Victory’, was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II and is a well-planned city of magnificent palaces and buildings. Built from rose-coloured terra cotta, it is often known as the ‘Pink City’. Nowadays the capital of Rajasthan with a population of over 4 million, it is a city full of contrasts with bazaars teeming with turbaned elders and jean clad youngsters to camels, horses and a multitude of vehicles. On arrival, check-in at the hotel.
We have an excursion to nearby Amber Fort, the ancient capital of the region prior to Jaipur. Now a deserted complex crowning the crest of a hill with panoramic views, Amber Fort is extremely well preserved and a fascinating place to explore. The fort’s majestic ramparts follow the natural contours of the ridge and the palace is full of hidden gems – the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of mirrors), Jas Mandir with its latticed windows and glass inlay work and Zenana (Women’s quarters). Elephants still carry visitors in stately splendour to the main Palace, through magnificent high gateways. After Amber Fort we drive the 7km to Jaigarh Fort.
We return to Jaipur for some city sightseeing including the opulent Maharaja’s City Palace which occupies the heart of Jai Singh II’s city and has been home to the City’s rulers for 200 years. A superb blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture, the interiors of the Palace are lavishly furnished and decorated and the Museum houses a fabulous collection of textiles, art and crafts and arms. We also look at the Jantar Mantar or Observatory. Built by Jai Singh II, a keen astronomer in 1728 it resembles a collection of giant sculptures and was used to determine the position of the stars and planets, accurately calculate Jaipur’s time, make horoscopes and is today still used to forecast the expected arrival date and intensity of the monsoon and summer temperatures. There’s time for a photo stop at Hawa Mahal or Palace of Winds – Hawa Mahal, is a palace in Jaipur, India, so named because it was essentially a high screen wall built so the women of the royal household could observe street festivities while unseen from the outside.
Jaipur – Delhi
Return to Delhi by road (270km).
Free time at leisure.
Explore vibrant Old Delhi including the Jama Masjid – India’s largest mosque. Enjoy a rickshaw ride through the narrow names of Chnadi Chowk – once an imperial avenue of Mughal royalty and now home to the busiest commercial market of Delhi. We also visit Raj Ghat and Shanti Vana, as well as the Red Fort, Qutub Minar and Humayun’s Tomb. This tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal.
From Old Delhi we switch our attention to New Delhi. We drive past India Gate (a war memorial commemorating the lives of Indian soldiers), Rashtrapati Bhawan – the Presidential House and formerly the Viceroy’s Palace, Parliament House and the Secretariat Buildings- an interesting blend of the Victorian and 20th century architecture.
Check out from our hotel and transfer to Delhi international airport for our onward flight.
- Room accommodation in twin share
- Private transportation by air-conditioned car for the entire tour
- Experienced English speaking Indian guides throughout (excluding Tirupati)
- 1 bottle drinking water in car / day
- Daily breakfast and meals as mentioned in itinerary (full board on house boat and Mudumalai)
- Kathakali dance performance in Cochin
- Jeep safari in Mudumalai National Park
- Train ticket Coimbatore to Cochin
- Flight Trivandrum – Delhi
- Entrance and sightseeing fees as mentioned in the itinerary
- Airport arrival and departure transfers
What's Not Included?
- International Flights
- Drinks during meals
- Lunch and Dinner unless specified
- Optional tours
- Indian visa
- Any personal expenses such as laundry, hotel phone, porters etc
- Tips and gratuities
|Location||No. of nights||Hotel||Room Type|
|Chennai||01||Royal Plaza||Standard Room|
|Mahabalipuram||02||Mamalla Heritage||Standard Room|
|Tirupati||01||Fortune Kences||Standard Room|
|Anantapur||02||Lotus Grand||Standard Room|
|Mysore||02||Sandesh The Prince||Executive Superior|
|Cochin||02||No. 18||Standard Room|
|Alleppey (Houseboat)||01||Lakes & Lagoons||01-bedroom AC Houseboat|
|Kovalam||01||Travancore Heritage||Beach Grove|
|Delhi||01||Africa Avenue||Standard Room|
|Agra||01||Clarks Shiraz||Standard Room|
|Jaipur||02||Fortune Select Metropolitan||Standard Room|
|Delhi||02||Africa Avenue||Standard Room|