Day 01 - Arrive Amsterdam at 09.10 and proceed to our connecting KLM flight
#871 departing for New Delhi at 11.20. Upon our arrival at New Delhi at 23.30, we will clear customs and meet our tour escort in the arrival hall. Proceed with assistance to Taj Mahal Hotel (superior room) for check-in. (www.tajhotles.com)
Day 02 - The morning is free to sleep in or to relax in your room. After lunch on your own in the hotel, we will meet in the lobby for departure on our tour of the Jumma Masjid Mosque, India's largest mosque followed by a rickshaw tour of the market around the Red Fort and a walking tour of the spice market conducted by One of the Group Member. We will have a welcoming dinner arranged by One of the Group Member.
Day 03 - After an early breakfast, we will proceed to our viewing platform to watch the famous Republic Day Parade. This spectacular parade is an annual festival that celebrates India’s independence. It includes the famous Camel Corps, elaborate dressed elephants, brass bands, folk dancers and dapper regiments in full-dress. After a group lunch, we will tour sites in New Delhi, including Mahatma Gandhi's Memorial, India Gate which was built to commemorate Indian soldiers who died in the 1st world war, Humayun's Tomb (the architectural predecessor of the Taj Mahal), and the Qutub Minar, the world’s highest sandstone minaret. The evening is free.
Day 05 - After breakfast transfer to airport to board the flight 9W333 departing at10.40 to Varanasi. We will arrive in Varanasi at 11.50 and transfer to Hotel Taj Ganges (Standard room). After lunch on your own, we will drive to the nearby town of Sarnath where Buddha preached his first sermon around 528 BC. This evening we will have a group dinner arranged by One of the Group Member.
Day 06 - After an early breakfast, we will drive through the city to the Ganges River to catch our boat for a beautiful sunrise cruse on the river as this ancient city comes to life. We will see thousands of Hindu people performing their early morning ritual of bathing in the holy river which they believe will free them from the circle of rebirth. The Pilgrims also make offerings of sweets, flowers and holy water to the Sun God. This afternoon we will transfer to the airport to catch flight 9W333 departing at 12.20 for Khajuraho and arriving at 13.00 after which we will transfer to Hotel Taj Chandela (Standard room) (www.tajhotels.com). After lunch on your own, the afternoon and evening will be free.
Day 06 - This morning we will tour the famous 10th and 11th century erotic temples known as the Western Group located in the center of town. The temples are covered with countless figures that are naturally carved and locked in poses that celebrate pleasures of the material world. After lunch on your own, we will visit the Eastern Group of temples also ornately carved on the outside with beautiful and lively sandstone figures of Hindu gods and goddesses. This evening we will have a group dinner and a performance of “Dances of India” by a local dance troupe.
Day 07 - After breakfast, we will drive to Orchha to visit this famous fort-town complete with palaces rising from overgrown foliage complete with exotic fauna. We will have a picnic lunch in Orchha before continuing on to the Jhansi railway station to catch the Shatabdi Express departing at 17.05 for Agra and arriving Agra at 20.18. Upon arrival we will transfer to Hotel Taj View (Superior Taj view room). (www.tajhotles.com) This evening is free.
Day 08 - This morning we will walk with One of the Group Member to a nearby restaurant for breakfast which he has arranged. After breakfast, we visit the Taj Mahal (1631-1653), a poem in white marble, built by Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaj Mahal. After lunch on your own, we will visit Agra Fort (Fort and Palace) situated on the west bank of the river Jamuna. One of the Group Member has arranged a special group dinner in the hotel prepared by his friend, a chef in the hotel.
Day 09 – After breakfast we will drive from Agra to Jaipur. On the way we will visit Fatehpur Sikri, a beautiful and deserted medieval city built by Akbar the Great in the 16th century to serve as the capital of his vast empire. The Mughals later abandoned this city for lack of water. Upon arrival in Jaipur, check in at hotel Rambagh Palace (Luxury room) (www.tajhotles/rambagh palace, Jaipur). One of the Group Member has arranged a visit to a working family farm followed by a group dinner prepared by the family.
Day 10 - After breakfast, we will have a half-day excursion to the Amber Fort including an elephant ride. En route to the Amber Fort, we will make a photo stop at the Palace of Winds (Hawa Mahal). After lunch on your own, we will visit the "Pink City" of Jaipur with a tour of the City Palace and Royal Observatory built by Janter Manter from 1728 to 1734. Late afternoon, we will visit a village fair to see the rich and vibrant cultural heritage of Rajasthan. We will have a group dinner tonight arranged by One of the Group Member.
Day 11 - After an early breakfast, we will transfer to the airport to board flight 9W3401 at 07.15 to Mumbai. Upon arrival, connect to flight 9W467 at 14.45 to Chennai (Madras). Upon arrival in Chennai at 16.30, we will drive to the sea resort of Mahabalipuram and check into Fisherman’s Cove, a sea-side resort. Dinner on your own tonight.
Day 12 - Today you will have the option of enjoying a morning of leisure or visiting the Five Rathas temples, shore temple and the famous bas-relief of Arjuna’s penance. The afternoon is free to relax on the beach or explore the grounds of this beach resort. The evening is free.
Day 13 - After breakfast we will check out of the hotel and drive to Chennai stopping at a vanilla plantation for a tour of the facilities. Upon arrival in Chennai, we will check in at Hotel Taj Coromandel (superior room) (www.tajhotles.com). After lunch on your own, we will have a short tour of the city. One of the Group Member has arranged a group dinner for us tonight at a local restaurant.
Day 14 - After an early breakfast, transfer to airport to board the flight 9W3529 at 06.30 to arrive in Cochin at 08.00. Upon our arrival in Cochin, we will drive to Allepey (90 kms) and board a cruise boat for a peaceful 2 to 3 hour cruise through the world famous and enchanting backwaters of Kerala. Upon completion of the cruise, the boat will put us ashore at the Kumarakom Lake Resort. www.hotelskerala.com/klresort/. Both lunch and dinner today will be on your own at the resort.
Day 15 - Today is free. Explore the grounds of this beautiful resort on the banks of the picturesque Vembanad Lake. The resort provides a large waterfront cottages built in the traditional Kerala style, some from ancient material. You can enjoy all the amenities of this resort including boating, fishing, a Jogging track, or an Ayurvedic Massage. The evening is free.
Day 16 - After breakfast, we will drive back to Cochin. Upon arrival, check in at the Hotel Taj Malabar (Superior room) (www.tajhotels.com). After lunch on your own, we will have a tour of the city which was settled by Jews from Yemen and Babylon over 1,000 years ago and later by the Portuguese, Dutch and British whose influence you can still see. We will look at many amazing sites in the city including fishing nets cantilevered over the entrance to the harbor which were introduced by the Chinese by traders from the courts of Kublai Khan.
This evening we will attend a special presentation of the colorfully costumed Kathakali Dance Drama. This 1500 year old mask dance originated in Kerala and expresses the nine emotions: serenity, wonder, kindness, love, valor, fear, contempt, loathing and anger. One of the Group Member will arrange a group dinner this evening.
Day 17 - After breakfast transfer to airport to board the flight 9W406 at 0830 hrs to Delhi. We arrive in Delhi at 12.55. This afternoon we will have a visit to Dili Haat and Connaught Place for sightseeing and optional last minute shopping. We will have an international group dinner tonight near Connaught Place and return to Indira Gandhi International Airport by 2200 hrs.