On this comprehensive tour of North and South India, retrace the steps of India's legends. Experience the magnificent temples in Tamil Nadu, tea plantations in Kerala, majestic forts and palaces in Rajasthan, and Bengal Tigers in Ranthambore National Park. Be awed by the majestic Taj Mahal at sunrise and enjoy heritage walks in local communities.
Welcome to India! Upon arrival, meet our representative and transfer to the hotel.
Delhi showcases India’s unique ability to modernize at a rapid pace without casting aside its cultural, historical, and spiritual identity. The capital city is a vast metropolis, with eclectic neighborhoods that reflect different ethnicities, heritages, and mobility. New Delhi, the government district of Delhi, is the administrative heart of India and an embodiment of the zeitgeist of this huge, diverse nation. Amid the modern skyscrapers, award-winning restaurants, garden parks, breweries, and vibrant markets, a series of proud monuments provide silent reminders of India’s legacy.
Morning at leisure to rest after your journey.
Following lunch, visit Mehrauli and the Qutub Minar complex. Originally an ancient Islamic monument, the Qutub Minar is the tallest tower in India. Built of red sandstone and marble, the minar is not without controversy. Some believe it was built as a tower of victory to signify Muslim rule in the country, while skeptics claim it was erected to call the devoted to prayer. The complex also houses the first mosque to be built in India and an iron pillar that mysteriously has a high resistance to corrosion, even after being exposed to the natural elements for centuries. You will also drive by the India Gate, Parliament, and Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President's residence).
Your evening is reserved for a cooking lesson and dinner. Located in the chic and modern Hauz Khas community, your host has a delightful house with a beautiful terrace garden. Enjoy your interactive session followed by a cooking class and dinner with your lovely host. From having a simple meal with the family to a hands-on cooking lesson which is easy to reproduce at home, this is a great way to experience a local life in Delhi. A market visit is also included. A feast for the senses, this experience is known for providing a window into the culinary and cultural heritage of India. Overnight.
After breakfast, join a friend of Sodha Travel for a rickshaw experience in Chandni Chowk. This is not your standard guidebook tour! Witness the architectural marvels, the multicolored facades, beautifully decorated shops, ethnically dressed locals, and the fragrances emanating from the potpourri of eateries that line the historical alleys.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) built the walled city of Delhi on the banks of holy River Yamuna. It had a magnificent palace known as Red Fort, impressive mansions, enchanting bazaars, elegant shrines, royal gardens and fountains at every corner to romance ones' senses. The Emperor’s beloved daughter Jahanara designed a major street called Chandni Chowk in front of Red Fort, with a canal running down the center and pools at major intersections reflecting the moonlight.
During the British regime, the street underwent major changes and since then the area has witnessed some of the most important events in Indian history. Today these splendid ruins and tales of valor are a testimony of the evolution of the times. Chandni Chowk truly reflects the national unity, secularism and diversity of India. Note: This is a small-group program led by our friend Ritu with a maximum of 12 guests.
Continue to Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Named after a historical ghat of Old Delhi located nearby, Raj Ghat marks the spot where Gandhi was cremated after his assassination in 1948. Housed in an open-air garden area inside a walled complex, the memorial consists of a simple, flat black platform (reflecting the simplicity of Gandhi’s life) that is kept constantly decorated with an abundance of fresh flowers.
In the afternoon, visit the Sikh Temple (Gurudwara Bangla Sahib). In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of langar expresses the ethics of sharing, inclusiveness, and oneness. It is one of the largest attended community kitchens in the world. The food is freshly prepared and comprises of parshaada (roti), cooked vegetables, daal, kheer, and karaha prashad.
The service is performed by the volunteers called Sewadars. This practice of selfless service goes beyond the bound of religion and serves to nourish the soul, creating a sense of unity and oneness. The experience of the Gurudwara Walk will empower you to be one of the sewadars at the Gurudwara. In the role of a sewadar, experience the ultimate joy of giving.
Evening at leisure and overnight.
Delhi - Agra
In the morning, transfer to the rail station for your express train to Agra. Upon arrival, meet your guide and visit the Agra Fort. Its walls and palaces are a silent witness to the rise and fall of the Imperial Mughal Empire and feature a variety of ingenious Islamic inspired devices (some decorative, some more practical) within the fabric of the buildings. It is a citadel with marble palaces, ornate alcoves, and terrace pavilions.transfer to your hotel.
In the late afternoon, enjoy a heritage walk in Old Town. Step off the tourist track and visit the markets and local places of worship. Under the guidance of an expert, explore the busy streets for lost stories and past traditions. Learn about the architecture, history, and the age-old traditions and customs of this iconic city. This tour is conducted around the old market area and includes a visit to Agra's landmarks, such as the Jama Masjid, the spice market, and the famous goddess temple before ending the tour with an unusual view of the Taj Mahal from the Yamuna.
If time allows, we also recommend a visit to Sheroes café. Away from the marble majesty of the Taj Mahal, the café is run entirely by victims of acid attacks so they can be self-sufficient and raise their families.
Agra - Ranthambore
Rise and shine for your sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal! Built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj took over 22 years and 20,000 men to build. The monument is truly a wonder of the world. Return to your hotel for breakfast.
Later, drive to Ranthambore (5 hours). Ranthambore is one of the most filmed wildlife reserves in the world. It was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and became a part of Project Tiger in 1973. As the park is relatively small, guests often view leopards, tigers, and jungle cats. Overnight in Ranthambore.
Morning and afternoon jeep safari in Ranthambore. Overnight.
Ranthambore - Jaipur
In the morning, drive to Jaipur (4.5 hours). Jaipur, the vibrant capital of Rajasthan, owes its name, foundation and planning to the great astronomer and warrior Maharaja Jai Singh II. The city is fondly called the “Pink City” due to the pink colored buildings and avenues.
From its creation in 1727, the royal families and nobles of Jaipur patronized the craftsmen and artisans of the city. These traditions continue to this day and modern Jaipur is considered by many as the craft capital of India. Traditional methods are still used to produce many valuable and highly prized items. Using skills passed down through generations, artisans and master craftsmen can be seen in the areas of Ghat Darwaza and Vishveshwar ji.
On afascinating heritage walk, mingle and talk with the locals while sampling some of the regions culinary delights; try pakoras, aloo tiki, samosas, and sweets from some of the city’s most popular street food vendors. Observe local artisans in their workshops; jewelers and silversmiths, gold and silver foil makers.
After breakfast, visit the Amber Fort. The final ascent can be made by jeep or elephant. In the fort, you will see magnificent palaces and halls covered with mirrored mosaics. Perfectly picturesque, this 16th century hillside residence is well preserved, boasting grand pavilions and mirrored halls that open onto flourishing gardens and courtyards. Although the palace’s main construction started in 1592 by Maharaja Man Singh, it was added to over the years by successive rulers and continued to be occupied by them until Jaipur was built.
Also view the Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal) and visit Jantar Mantar, the solar observatory built in the 18th century. It includes a set of some 20 main fixed instruments. They are monumental examples in masonry of known instruments but which in many cases have specific characteristics of their own.
Designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye, they embody several architectural and instrumental innovations. This is the most significant, most comprehensive, and the best preserved of India's historic observatories. It is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period.
Evening at leisure to explore the vibrant markets and bazaars. Overnight.
Jaipur - Rajsamand
After breakfast, drive to Rajsamand (4.5 hours) and transfer to your hotel. Located in rural Rajasthan, Devshree is an elegant and classic homestay with Bhavna and Shatrunjai. The 8-bedroom house was constructed in a traditional haveli style with deep verandahs and intricate courtyards of Rajput architecture and influence.
The interiors are airy and spacious, and the décor has a contemporary twist. The central courtyard is lovely to soak in the warm sun or sit by the cauldron of fire on the cold winter evenings. As the sun sets, you hear the villagers returning to their homes with their cows and goats, a golden time of day referred to locally as gaudhuli. You may also enjoy an open 4x4 jeep ride through the countryside. Overnight.
Rajsamand - Udaipur
After breakfast, drive to the magnificentRanakpur Jain Temple(2 hours). Surrounded by tangled forests with monkeys abounding in the courtyard, Ranakpur is one of the five important pilgrim centers for the Jain community. The temple, including the extraordinary array of 1144 pillars, is distinct in design with carved ceilings and arches decorated with friezes depicting scenes from the lives of the Jain saints.
Continue to Udaipur (2 hours) and transfer to your hotel. With a wealth of enchanting lakes, Udaipur is a true oasis in Rajasthan. Dotted with marble palaces, hibiscus gardens, and fountain pavilions, Udaipur appeals to the imagination of poets, painters, and writers. The city's inherent romance, beauty, and remarkable past redolent with episodes of heroism and splendor continue to enthrall travelers. Udaipur, the City of Dawn, looms up like a vision in white.
Overnight in Udaipur.
After breakfast, proceed for the city tour of Udaipur. First, visit the City Palace and Museum. The largest palace complex in India, it is a blend of Mughal and Rajput influences. Also see the 17th century Jagdish temple and visit the Sahelion ki Bari, an ornamental pleasure garden with fountains and marble kiosks.
Afternoon to explore the markets and meet with patrons of the tie and dye print famous to Udaipur. In the evening, enjoy a private boat ride on Lake Pichola to Jag Mandir for a champagne toast at sunset. Overnight.
Udaipur - Mumbai
In the morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Mumbai. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel.
Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is often considered the commercial and entertainment capital of India. The city also houses India’s Hindi film and television industry, affectionately termed as Bollywood.
Evening at leisure and overnight.
ST's Hotel Recommendation
Taj Mahal Palace
An iconic sea-facing landmark of Mumbai, the Taj Mahal Palace opened its doors in 1903. This legendary luxury hotel has played host to kings, dignitaries, and eminent personalities from across the globe. Reserve a table at Sea Lounge for the exclusive afternoon tea featuring English delicacies and local Indian favorites.
In the morning, take a boat ride to Elephanta Caves. Dating back to the 7th century, the caves are located one hour from the harbor. Four rows of massive columns cut into solid rock from three magnificent avenues lead to the outstanding three-headed sculpture representing Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. Dedicated to Shiva, the beauty and power of these phenomenal sculptures depicting the various manifestations of Shiva is overpowering.
Later, enjoy an introductory tour of the notable attractions of Mumbai: Dhobi Ghat, Gateway to India, Crawford Market, Marine Drive, and the old mansions in the Colaba area. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Mumbai - Kochi
In the morning, watch the city come to life on a three-hour tour that highlights the incredible work done by Mumbai’s dabbawalas and Dhobis. Your expert guide will share insight and information into how the lunch-pail men deliver freshly made food from people's homes to offices with 100 percent accuracy. Then you'll see Dhobis--Mumbai's traditional laundrymen--washing customer's clothes in the massive open-air ghat. This unique tour showcases two of the city's most interesting professions and offers insight into the daily life of this thriving city.
Continue to the airport for your flight to Kochi. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel.
Cochin, also known as Kochi, is one of the principal seaports of India and a growing center of international trade and information technology. The region has Arab, Dutch, French, Portuguese, and Chinese influences. Kochi is a scenic city sprawled over several narrow islands and a strip of peninsula sheltered within a saltwater lagoon. Coastal Cochin is an intriguing mix of giant fishing nets from China, a 400-year-old synagogue, ancient mosques, Portuguese houses and the remains of the British Raj.
In the evening, attend a traditional Kathakali dance performance. Originally performed only by men, this art form, with its intricate hand gestures, facial expressions and choreographed movements, evolved from an ancient martial art form. Overnight.
In the morning, explore Fort Kochi and Chinese fishing nets along the coast, a reminder of the days of Chinese settlers and merchants. A legacy left behind by the earliest people to call on the Malabar Coast, these nets are unmistakable as one enters the harbor. Records show that they were first erected between A.D. 1350 and 1450. Constructed out of Teak wood and bamboo poles, they work on the principle of balance. The best place to watch is from Vasco Da Gama Square, a narrow promenade that parallels the beach with stalls that serve fresh seafood and tender coconuts.
Continue to St. Francis Church. Considered India’s oldest church, St. Francis was a Roman Catholic Church during the Portuguese period from 1503 to 1663, Dutch Reform from 1664 to 1804, and Anglican from 1804 to 1947. Today it is governed by the Church of South India. The building was originally constructed out of timber and later reconstructed in stone during the 16th century. Vasco Da Gama, who died in Cochin in 1524, was buried here before his remains were returned to Portugal 14 years later.
In the evening, enjoy a Keralan cooking demonstration and dinner with a local Kochi family. Overnight.
Kochi - Kumarakom
In the morning, drive to Kumarakom (2 hours). An enchanting backwater destination, Kumarakom is a charming village on the Eastern bank of Vembanadu Lake surrounded by paddy fields. The lake's majestic canals, streams and distributaries weave an intricate web.
Later you will be transferred to Philipkutty’s Farm for lunch, a hideaway set on a remote farm island. The cuisine is mostly local and cooked by the family. Share stories, relish in the surroundings, and enjoy a lavish lunch influenced by the backwaters.
Evening at leisure and overnight.
ST's Hotel Recommendation
Coconut Lagoon is an exclusive hideaway nestled in a cove of Vembanad Lake. A CGH Earth property, the guest experience is luxurious and ecological, starting with the arrival at a private boat jetty.
Kumarakom - Munnar
After breakfast, drive to Munnar (2 hours). Munnar is nestled in the Western Ghats. A hill station and former resort for the British Raj elite, it's surrounded by rolling hills dotted with tea plantations established in the late 19th century.
Later, explore the tea plantations and visit a tea factory to sample the local blends. Munnar tea has flavor notes of cardamom, fig, pepper, coffee, and other spice influences.
Evening at leisure and overnight.
Munnar - Madurai
In the morning, drive to Madurai (4 hours). Most cities in India have a legend surrounding their origins. Madurai is no exception. The story tells how Shiva looked down on the city and drops of nectar fell from his locks. And so it was named Madurai, or City of Nectar. Ancient Madurai was a center of Tamil culture, famous for its writers and poets.
The history goes back to the 6th century BC when it traded with Greece and Rome. The Nayakas laid out the old town in the pattern of a lotus with narrow streets surrounding the Meenakshi Temple. In the evening, attend an Aarti at the temple. The ceremony takes place every evening when the temple bronze of Lord Shiva is carried to the bed chamber of Parvati. The procession is accompanied by religious prayer and temple music.
Overnight in Madurai.
Madurai - Tanjore
Rise and shine! Start a little early today to visit the famous wholesale flower market in the city. Just north of the Sri Meenakshi Temple, the daily flower and vegetable market is a labyrinth of bustling laneways strewn with aromatic herbs and vegetables. In the thick of it, on the 1st floor of a nondescript cement building, is the gorgeous flower market. Vendors dexterously heap mountains of marigolds and jasmine onto scales for the temple flower sellers here.
Continue to Tanjore (3 hours). The capital of the Great Chola Empire, Thanjavur (Tanjore) also served as the capital for the Nayaka Empire and Maratha rulers. The Chola kings who were great patrons of the arts built most of the 93 temples. While they lavished their wealth on the temples, they also encouraged the belief in the divine right of kings and the practice of donating a part of one’wealth to the temple for spiritual gain.
Visit the famousBrihadisvara Temple, a world heritage monument built between 985 and 1012 AD by Rajaraja I. It is a magnificent structure with a 14-story high vimana, a towered sanctuary that houses the main deity. A dome carved from an 80-ton single block of granite tops the vimana. An enormous Nandi bull, the traditional vehicle for Shiva, guards the entrance to the main sanctuary.
According to legend, the Nandi Bull grew every year until it was threatening to overwhelm the temple. Ultimately a nail was driven into its back to prevent its growth. There are also 81 carvings showing the various poses of the classical Bharatanatyam poses, which is the first record of any classical dance form. Overnight.
Tanjore - Pondicherry
In the morning, drive to Pondicherry (3 hours). Pondicherry, a former French colony, presents an unique combination of European culture and Indian traditions. Its history can be traced back to Agastya, the revered sage of the south who built his hermitage here in 1500 BC. It became a part of India in 1954, but traces of its history as a French colony still remain in its churches, cuisine, grid-pattern streets and colonial buildings.
At leisure and overnight.
ST's Hotel Recommendation
Palais de Mahe
Located in the French Quarter at the intersection of colonial and contemporary, Palais de Mahe welcome guests with high ceilings, arched doorways, and spacious rooms. Take a stroll on the nearby promenade or enjoy a dip in the courtyard pool.
After breakfast, visit Auroville, which developed around the ashram of the Indian yogi Sri Aurobindo. The development of this project is based on a “universal township where the men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, politics and nationalities.”
Afternoon at leisure to enjoy the promenade, markets, and boutique shops. Overnight.
Pondicherry - Mahabalipuram
After breakfast, drive to Mahabalipuram (2 hours) and visit the temple complex. The open-air museum of Tamil art in living rock is the work of students under the patronage of the Pallava rulers.
Strewn along the coast are some outstanding examples of 7th century sculpture – cave temples, an enormous bas-relief depicting scenes from the Indian epic the Mahabharata, and an amphitheater of chariot shaped temples. The landmark of this marvelous collection is the Shore Temple, a world heritage monument. Evening at leisure to relax on the beach or explore the town.
Overnight in Mahabalipuram.
Mahabalipuram - Kanchipuram - Chennai and Departure
In the morning, drive to Chennai via Kanchipuram (3 hours). Kanchipuram is one ofHinduism’s seven most sacred cities. The city dates from the 2ndcentury BC, during the time of the early Chola reign. Successive dynasties built hundreds of temples, resulting in the nameThe Golden City of a 1000 Temples, with the earliest surviving temple dating from the 6thand 7thcentury.
Apart from being a center of pilgrimage, Kanchipuram is also famous for itssilk weaverswho settled in this area in the 16thcentury. Silk, being a pure fabric, is used to dress the images of the various deities during festivals. The silk weavers came from neighboring Karnataka and made saris woven in jewel colors and decorated with gold threads. Most of the weavers work from their own homes that you will visit during this trip.
Arrive in Chennai and transfer to the airport for your onward flight.Bon Voyage!
Daily breakfast and some dinners
Private vehicle and driver
Airfare from Udaipur - Mumbai and Mumbai - Kochi
Express train from Delhi - Agra
Two game drives in Ranthambore National Park
Comprehensive touring with a private guide
Entrance fees to the monuments
Local, immersive experiences
Exclusive cooking demonstrations in Jaipur and Kochi
Private boat ride and champagne toast in Udaipur
Airport and rail station transfers with assistance
Road/interstate taxes, fuel surcharges, and parking fees