Itinerary Details: 11 days/10 nights
Day 1: Delhi Arrival
Namaste. Welcome to India! Upon arrival, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel.
Delhi is a bustling metropolis that incorporates the ancient with the modern. Amidst the skyscrapers, the monuments stand as a silent reminder to India's legacy. Driving from the airport, you will be impressed with Delhi's spacious, tree-lined streets and garden parks. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 2: Delhi
After breakfast, enjoy a rickshaw ride in Chandni Chowk. Witness the architectural marvels, the multicolored facades, beautifully decorated shops, spice markets, 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 this 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.
While on the tour, stop at Khari Baoli, Asia’s largest wholesale spice market operating since the 17th century. Here you will have the opportunity to view the whole process: from the loading, carrying and unloading of the huge sacks of produce, to watching the busy shop keepers bargain with customers. You’ll also meet a spice seller to hear him talk about how he mixes the spices for retailing. The street is congested with shops on both sides selling spices, nuts, and herbs.
From here, make a quick visit to some of Old Delhi’s best known eateries including the Paranthe Wali Gali (lane of parathas) which has been in operation at Chadni Chowk since the 1870s. Visit Giani’s Kulfi Faluda, Natraj Dahi Bhalla, Akbar Pakwaan and Chole Kulche, as well as many hidden gems only known to locals.
Drive through New Delhi, passing India Gate, President’s Palace, Parliament, and other government buildings built in the first quarter of the 20th century by two famous English architects, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Your welcome dinner will be at the award-winning Indian Accent restaurant. Indian food has been seeing a trend towards modernity and chefs are exploring options of creating modern dishes with indigenous products. Tonight, experience a special meal where celebrity chef Manish Mehrotra will rustle up an array of dishes that are his own interpretations of modern Indian food that marries global ingredients and techniques with Indian traditions. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 3: Delhi
This morning you will be driven to Old Delhi for a nihari breakfast on the streets of old Delhi. Nihari is a stew made from beef or lamb and curry. Nihari originated as a dish of the Muslim upper class society in Delhi and it passed to other classes as Muslim ascendancy and power declined. This was after the waning of Mughal power in the mid to late 18th century when many Muslim families from the Mughal nobility became impoverished.
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. Every sikh temple across the world has ‘langar’ (free kitchen). Every day they serve chapati (bread) and lentil (dal), supplemented with vegetables to the devotees/ community. While at the Sikh temple, visit the community kitchen where food is prepared and served free of cost all day to thousands of people. You will have an opportunity to volunteer in the community kitchen – preparing and serving a meals. Volunteering in the cooking, serving, and cleaning process is a form of an active spiritual practice for devotees, but the service provided asks no religious affiliation of its recipients. This spirit of inclusion and equality is reinforced by the kitchen's adherence to vegetarianism, not because Sikhs are vegetarian, but because others who visit may be, and by serving no meat, they exclude nobody.
After the tour, leave for Chor Bizarre restaurant to sample the Kashmiri Wazwan cuisine, prepared by one of Delhi’s most experienced chefs. Chor Bizarre is the only Kashmiri Wazwan restaurant outside the Kashmir Valley, and has access to the secrets of this particular type of cooking. The chef gives a personal demonstration of the Wazwan cooking describing the spices used and the difference each spice makes to the complete flavor of the dish. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Day 4: Delhi/Agra
Today you have a day at leisure or you may board the express train to Agra. Upon arrival, visit the majestic Taj Mahal. Built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj took over 22 years and 22,000 men to build. The monument is truly a wonder of the world. Continue to the Agra Fort, a magnificent citadel with marble palaces, ornate alcoves, and terrace pavilions. Enjoy lunch with a local family and then board your express train back to Delhi. Overnight.
Day 5: Delhi - Hyderabad
In the morning, transfer to the airport and fly to Hyderabad. What was once a wealthy Muslim court in the heart of Hindu South India, Hyderabad developed a rich and royal cuisine combining the best of Muslim foods and South Indian flavorings. Influences of the various dynasties that ruled this region and the use of the local ingredients and spices have contributed to the diverse cuisine. The Shahi Nizam cuisine is very popular for its rich and aromatic taste.
Tonight your evening is reserved for a special cooking demonstration and tasting of Biryani, considered the most popular dish of Hyderabadi cuisine. Technically speaking, it is a simple dish of rice and meat cooked with spices; however, it evokes the most passionate emotions among many foodies. A good part of the Indian lifetime is spent hotly debating about the best Biryani and its origins. This tour will reveal the delectable path that this dish has taken across the different parts of India. Enjoy a detailed cooking lesson on the making of a biryani and enjoy a sumptuous meal with one of the traditional families in Hyderabad. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Day 6: Hyderabad
A typical Hyderabadi will spend hours debating the best place to have a cup of Irani tea. The cuisine of Hyderabad is a result of its history of over four centuries and the involvement with food is more than just to satisfy a basic need; in fact, the right to good food is often taken for granted by the people of this city. On a walk through the busy vegetable markets and by-lanes of the old city, you will get a glimpse into the food ethos of this region. End at a city monument where we will have a special stall set up serving the typical breakfast of this region. Watch crisp dosas and pesarattus being cooked in front of you and try tasting the local favorite snack - the chilly fritter! You will also meet a local expert who will explain the Islamic food practices and how they have played a role in the evolution of the Indian cuisine.
Afternoon visit to the Golconda Fort, one of greatest fortresses in medieval India. Evening talk and demo of the skillful art of slow cooking, Nawabi cuisine. The art of 'Dum' or slow cooking (the process by which an item gets cooked in its own juices) is reputed to have originated from the 'Nawabs of Awadh', the rulers of the Northern Provinces of India during the 18th century. Overnight in Hyderabad.
Day 7: Hyderabad
In the morning, visit to a local snack ‘factory’ and sweet shop. The increased political demands and subsequent creation of a separate Telengana state have had an influence on the resurgence of the local cuisine. One aspect of this cuisine is the snacks that are made using largely rice flour, sesame seeds, and other spices. Visit one of the famous outlets, which also has a kitchen attached, and watch the women making the snacks and sweets that are specific to the Telengana region. Items include Pappu Garelu, Sakinalu, and Parda Pheni.
In the afternoon, enjoy a home-based cooking lesson. Indians believe that the best cooked meals are the simple ones at home using family recipes, freshly ground spices, and lots of love! You will be given cooking lesson options, which will then be taught by the local expert home cooks. The menu will consist of simple stir fries, coconut based gravies, and a variety of rice and chutneys.
Evening at leisure and overnight.
Day 8: Hyderabad - Kochi
In the morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Kochi. 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.
In the evening, visit the home of a local family. Nimmy and Paul have been involved in 'At Home' hospitality for more than twelve years. Nimmy was also a professional cookery instructor for more than twenty years. They belong to a Syrian-Christian community in Kerala and in keeping with the tradition of their families, they enjoy having guests and serving good food. Nimmy conducts cookery classes and teaches guests the nuances of traditional Kerala recipes. She is also a food consultant to writers, chefs, and magazines. Nimmy, Paul, and their son Joseph reside in Kochi. Return to your hotel and overnight.
Day 9: Kochi
In the morning, explore Fort Kochi. Visit St. Francis Church, where Vasco de Gama was buried in 1524; the Dutch palace, built in 1555; and the Chinese fishing nets at the entrance of Cochin Harbor. Also explore the Jewish neighborhood and synagogue. Later, 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. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Evening lecture on Ayurveda followed by a demo on the preparation of dishes made in accordance with the Ayurvedic principles. Ayurveda describes six major tastes by which all foods can be categorized. To maintain perfect balance and be completely nourished, you should ideally have all six tastes at every meal: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter. Evening at leisure and overnight.
Day 10: Kochi/Alleppey
After breakfast, drive to Alleppey (1 hour) and board your private overnight houseboat. Spend the afternoon leisurely cruising the beautiful and enchanting Keralan backwaters. The kettuvallam or ‘boat with knots’ is held together with coir knots only - not a single nail is used during the construction. Lunch and dinner are prepared on board by your private chef using locally sourced ingredients. Overnight on the houseboat.
Day 11: Departure
Today, after breakfast, disembark your houseboat and return to Kochi. Transfer to the airport for your onward flight. Bon Voyage!