Epic India

Epic India

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Description

Travel across this huge country on this trailblazing adventure tour. In the north witness pilgrims performing ancient ceremonies on the ghats of Varanasi and marvel at the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. Down south, bask in the tropical southern climate, cruise along the Kerala Backwaters and come face-to-face with local customs in small rural towns. This fantastic trip finishes off on the gorgeous beaches of Goa – India’s idyllic beachside holiday destination. Enjoy the freedom to be immersed in the diverse cultures of big, colourful, chaotic and enchanting India.

Trip Name
Epic India
Last Updated
2019-12-26
Days
23
Capacity
16
Highlights
  • Experience old and new India in the bustling streets of Delhi, where ancient temples stand against billboards advertising Bollywood films.
  • Discover the ancient forts, lake palaces, rural villages and colourful cities of Rajasthan.
  • The Taj Mahal in Agra may be one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, but its poetic history and beauty have the power to surprise even the most jaded travellers.
  • Varanasi is among the holiest cities in India. Climb to hilltop temples at sunrise, dodge cows in the street, and observe pilgrims praying and bathing along the ghats of the sacred Ganges River during an impossibly scenic sunrise boat cruise.
  • Explore the beautiful south of India, getting elbows-deep in authentic southern Indian cuisine.
  • A homestay with a local family is a special experience, especially in the serene backwaters of Kerala.
  • Visit the World Heritage-listed Virupaksha Temple in Hampi, a spectacular monument surrounded by ruins
  • Golden beaches and age-old fishing villages make Goa one of India’s most tranquil retreats – and the perfect last stop on your adventure.

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Delhi
Namaste! Welcome to Delhi. Today is an arrival day with no planned activities, except a welcome meeting at 6 pm where you'll meet your tour leader and fellow travel pals. If you arrive earlier in the day, why not hit the streets and try and get into the Delhi flow. If you're feeling historical there’s the 14th-century Humayun's Tomb or 11th-century Qutub Minar. There’s also the former residence of royal families and British soldiers – the mighty Red Fort. After this important meeting, why not continue the introductions over an optional group dinner.
Day 2 - Delhi - Overnight train
This morning head out on a walking tour around the commercial heart of Delhi, visiting Chandni Chowk (Sheeshganj Gurudwara) and Connaught Place along the way. Explore Old Delhi on a bicycle rickshaw to dig that little bit deeper. You'll then have some free time to do as much sightseeing as you can, before boarding an overnight train bound for Varanasi. The journey should take around 13 hours and you'll arrive into Varanasi early in the morning.
Day 3 - Varanasi
Arriving into Varanasi early, head straight to the hotel to freshen up before plunging head first into this holy city, which is one of the world's oldest. Explore the narrow laneways and backstreets on a walking tour with your guide, before watching the world pass by along the ghats. Your evening is then free to do as you wish.
Day 4 - Varanasi - Overnight train
Wake up early and experience one of the highlights of your time in India. This morning, jump in boats and watch the sunrise over the Ganges. Pilgrims bathing, cremation fires and riverside haircuts - India is best before dawn and this is the best way to see it. The rest of your day is free to explore, before catching an overnight train to Agra tonight (approximately 11 hours).
Day 5 - Agra
Arriving into Agra early this morning, head to the most iconic site in India, the Taj Mahal. The highlights of India just keep coming. You have a full day to explore Agra on a motorised rickshaw trip, with Agra Fort being another incredible optional activity in the afternoon. The rest of your day is then free.
Day 6 - Jaipur
Jump on a bus this morning and travel for around four hours to Rajasthan's pink capital, Jaipur. On arrival into the city stop off at the Hawa Mahal (pink sandstone palace) before heading to your hotel. Use the opportunity to freshen up and then venture out for a walking tour of the old city. In your spare time, perhaps take an optional tour of the Jaipur City Palace.
Day 7 - Jaipur
For many travellers, a hot air balloon experience is one of the highlights of Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over Jaipur on the morning of Day 7, between September and June. For additional information, please see the important notes section of your trip notes. Later in the morning, enjoy a guided tour of the medieval Amber Fort with a local guide. The rest of your day is then free to explore Jaipur on your own.
Day 8 - Bundi
Travel for around five hours this morning to Bundi, which feels like a world away from the chaos of Jaipur. Home to the famed stepwells and a ruined hilltop castle, it's a compact town best explored on foot. Meet your local guide and see this charming town through his eyes. Your guide will take you around the stepwell, Bundi Palace and may even point you in the right direction of best cup of chai in Rajasthan.
Day 9 - Bundi - Overnight train
Enjoy a free day to check out more of Bundi. Perhaps spend the day exploring the city's 50-odd stepwells. Stroll narrow lanes of blue houses, one of the many enduring signs of the Bundi's royal past. Or check out some of the city's temples or lakes. Otherwise, you can't go wrong with another cup of chai before settling in for this evening's ten-hour overnight train journey. Tonight, you'll hop a train bound for Delhi.
Day 10 - Delhi
Arrive into Delhi early, with the day free to check out some of the sights you missed at the beginning of the trip and do some more exploring. There are shopping experiences aplenty or if you're after a bit more structure, perhaps book an Urban Adventure day trip. Don't worry if you're feeling overhelmed by choice in Delhi. Your tour leader can offer advice on how to make the most of your free day.
Day 11 - Delhi - Trivandrum
Enjoy a free morning in Delhi before making your own way to the airport for an unaccompanied flight to Trivandrum (flight and transfers are not included). Upon arrival, use a free afternoon to discover why Mahatma Gandhi dubbed Trivandrum the ‘Evergreen city of India’. Then head back to your hotel at 6 pm for a group meeting. As this is a combination trip, the make up of your group will likely change today. Some of your group will depart in Delhi, while new travellers will likely be joining in Trivandrum. Your tour leader will also change. Meet your new crew at the evening meeting, then perhaps head out for a group dinner.
Day 12 - Varkala
In the morning, head up the coast to the town of Varkala (approximately 2 hours). Once settled into your hotel, use some free time to explore the Keralan coast, which is home to some of India’s most awesome beaches on the Arabian Sea. Soaring cliffs protect Varkala’s sandy bay and, depending on the time of year, dolphins can be spotted from high up on the rocks. The main beach here is Papanasam Beach, which is long and golden with a backdrop of red laterite cliffs from where mineral water springs forth. Chill out here and witness fishermen pulling up their nets from the sea.
Day 13 - Varkala
Enjoy a free day in Varkala. This is a great place to sit back and relax, but if you want to get active there are plenty of water activities on offer, such as surfing and windsurfing. Otherwise, kick back on the beach and enjoy some low key time. Even though this is a popular destination for Indian tourists, the beaches are quiet and laid-back. If you have time, perhaps rent a bicycle and ride through fishing villages to Varkala Light House. Your leader will have all the top tips on what to do today.
Day 14 - Kerala Backwaters
Take a local three-hour train along the Keralan coastline to Alleppey (Alappuzha). Alleppey's sleepy, palm-shaded backwaters are Kerala's hidden treasure. Once an important trading port and now famous for its August 'snake boat' races, Alleppey is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters. An auto rickshaw will take you from the train station to the boat boarding point. Crossing the backwaters, head to an island village where your local homestay is located (approximately 1 hour). Your guide will take you on a walk around the village and introduce you to the local community. This is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live here. Strolling under palm trees and weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, learn about their lifestyles. Take a leisurely pole boat ride around the lake and enjoy the outstanding scenery, then chow down on a traditional home-cooked meal.
Day 15 - Kochi
In the morning, cross the backwaters by private boat back to Alleppey (1.5 hours). You’ll then take a local two-hour bus to Kochi, arriving around midday. Spread over several islands, Kochi is a fascinating place full of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences. Here you’ll stay in a lodge in a central location close to most of the sights in Fort Kochi. Once you get here, stretch your legs with an orientation walk around some of the sights of the nearby area, including St Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica and the famous Chinese fishing nets. In the evening, there’s the option to attend a classic Kathakali dance performance at 5 pm. This performance takes years of special training and is an amazing slice of Keralan cultural traditions.
Day 16 - Kochi - Overnight train
Head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Kochi to explore the old Jewish quarter, synagogue (the Jewish community here goes back to 1,000 AD) and Dutch Palace (Kochi Palace) on an orientation walking tour. The tour takes around three hours, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Why not join an Urban Adventures day tours, such as Fort Cochin by Bike, Home Cooked Kochi or Kochi Food and Culture Tour. Afterwards, it’s time to get a true Indian experience – an overnight train to Bangalore. Indian trains are like a moving town – watch the colourful landscape fly by and chat with the locals as the chai wallah walks down the aisle singing about his tea.
Day 17 - Mysore
You’ll arrive into Bangalore pretty early in the morning, then catch a bus to your hotel in Mysore (approximately 5 hours). Mysore is an easy-going town with a pleasant climate; it’s well laid out, with wide streets and many gardens, making it perfect for wandering on foot. It’s also one of the best smelling places in India – it’s a major base for incense makers, so you’ll be surrounded by the aromas of sandalwood, jasmine, rose and musk. A visit to Mysore isn't complete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is a riot of colour, mosaics and mirrors. There’s also the option to visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur, a stunning example of Hoysala architecture just an hour out of town.
Day 18 - Mysore - Overnight train
Whatever you do, it’s up to you. It’s a free day. There’s loads of time to explore the explore the surrounding countryside, so head out and climb Chamundi Hill – site of the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga. No bull – half way up you can’t miss the huge vahana of Lord Shiva that’s carved from a single piece of black granite (it’s a bull). In the evening (approximately 7 pm), board another overnight train bound for Hampi. This should take around ten hours, arriving early in the morning.
Day 19 - Hampi
Arrive into Hampi and cross the river to your guesthouse on a small boat. Hampi is an ancient temple town sitting on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Once you’re settled in, maybe head over to the architectural masterpiece of Vittala Temple. This 16th-century temple is the home of mandapas (pillared pavilions), a pool, a palace and the popular stone chariot, which Hindu mythology says was Lord Vishnu’s pimped out ride. Need some tips? You're leader is the one with all the insider knowledge!
Day 20 - Hampi
Hampi’s a surreal ancient city on a prehistoric-looking landscape of huge boulders. It’s got literally thousands of ruins scattered about, and you could spend forever going from temple to temple in the back of a rickshaw. The town’s famous for it’s part in the Hindu epic story Ramayana, with Shiva and Parvati getting hitched here. Today you can explore the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire and the huge boulders on the outskirts of town. Check the majestic dome and pillars of the Virupaksha temple, the royal quarters, and the Archaeological Museum to get an idea of life here in the 16th-century. The essential sunrise or sunset pics can be snapped at Hemakuta Hill or Matanga Hill.
Day 21 - Hampi - Overnight train
Hampi is a great place to kick back and relax. Here there’s no better place to chill out that in Virupapuragaddi, which you can get to via boats across the river. It’s called the Hippie side and you can laze about in the backpacker cafes here. If you’re feeling like more walking then you can climb up the steps to the top of Annegudi Hill, which has great views of the surrounding countryside. If you’re not templed-out then there are no doubt still tonnes of hidden structures for you to explore by foot or bike. In the early evening, drive for around three hours by private vehicle to Hubli, where you’ll board an overnight nine-hour train to Goa.
Day 22 - Goa
Once the train arrives in Goa, head to the hotel and check in. Brimming with Portuguese influences and famous for the sandy beaches lining its coast, Goa is a fascinating region in India's southwest. The day is free to do what you like. Perhaps relax on the beach, sip a cocktail at a local bar or go for a final dinner in the evening with the rest of the group.
Day 23 - Goa
Your epic India adventure comes to an end after breakfast. There are no activities planned for this final day. Goa is a great place to end the trip – if you can, we recommend staying on for a couple of nights to relax and explore.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type

Accommodation

Homestay (1 nights),Hotel (14 nights),Lodge (1 night),Overnight sleeper train (6 nights)

Transport

Auto rickshaw,Cycle rickshaw,Jeep,Public bus,Private vehicle,Train,Overnight sleeper train,Metro,Shuttle bus,Taxi

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