Over 22 days your senses will be awakened on this thrilling adventure in India one of the world’s most intoxicating destinations. Discover Delhi and the Taj Mahal, head to Madhya Pradesh in search of tigers, then relax amongst the peace of Kerala’s idyllic backwaters.
- Just You Tour Manager as your host
- Return flights from Heathrow withEmirates Airways
- Use of an airport lounge in the UK
- 20nights in 4 & 5-star hotels & ahouseboatplus 1night in flight
- 44meals: 21breakfasts, 8lunches and 15 dinners
- Specialist Local Guide
- Welcome drink
- Overseas transfers & other transportation
- Dedicated Just You representative to greet you at all UK airports
- Day 1 UK to Delhi
- Today, you'll fly to Delhi on an overnight flight.
- Day 2 Delhi
On arrival in Delhi, we'll transfer you to your hotel, then we'll head straight out to explore. Our half-day sightseeing tour introduces us to Lutyens' Delhi, which was created in the early 20th century, when the British decided to move their capital from Kolkata. Edwin Landseer Lutyens was the architect appointed to design the new capital and we'll head along some of the wide boulevards and tree-lined avenues he created. We'll drive past two of Lutyen's iconic buildings, the President's House and Parliament House and see the impressive India Gate, which commemorates around 70,000 Indian soldiers who died during the First World War.
Our final stop before heading back to our hotel is the incredible Agrasen ki Baoli stepwell. This centuries-old landmark, which was originally used to harvest water, is wonderfully preserved, and as you gaze down the cascading carved steps you'll be simply amazed.
- Day 3 Dholpur
- Our first highlight today is a visit to the Agra Fort. Created by several rulers of the Mughal Dynasty, the fort was transformed into a glittering palace by Emperor Shah Jahan. Many years later, the Fort became a gilded cell, where he was imprisoned for eight years when his son Aurangzeb overthrew him in 1658.
Later, we'll realise many a dream as we make a pilgrimage to the wonderful Taj Mahal, described by Rudyard Kipling as 'an embodiment of all things pure'. This beautiful white marble mausoleum was painstakingly built over 22 years by Shah Jahan to celebrate and honour Mumtaz Mahal, his beloved wife who tragically died in childbirth. It is a symbol of eternal love, and we'll share a magical moment when we see it for the first time at dusk.
We then head to eastern Rajasthan, thought to be the setting of 'Mowgli's Brothers', a short story penned by Kipling. Here we'll stay in a charming, sleepy little town called Dholpur, which is packed with historical forts and monuments.
- Day 4 Dholpur
- After breakfast together, we'll drive to Chambal and explore the rich heritage held within its valley. Join your fellow travellers on an optional excursion where you can catch your first sight of a majestic Sarus crane or graceful Ganges River dolphins leaping in the air on an exciting river cruise. We'll sail along the Chambal River with a trained naturalist who will teach us about the river's wildlife. You might spot turtles enjoying the sun, and keep a lookout for gharial and mugger crocodiles. Expert boatsmen will carefully take us near the wildlife without disturbing the animals.
If you choose to spend today at leisure, your hotel features a swimming pool, indoor/outdoor games, a library, shopping arcade and horse-riding facilities. It's also well placed for a day of exploration if you prefer. Close by you can discover a stepwell, an ancient water storage system, and the ruins of the Shergarh fort.
- Day 5 Orchha
- We've got a fantastic day ahead of us. After breakfast, we'll drive to laid-back Orchha, which lies on the Betwa River. Flying a little more under the radar compared to its neighbour Khajuraho with its erotic sculptures, Orchha has a relaxed vibe and plenty of medieval charm. En route, we'll make a stop at Gwalior, an imposing sandstone fort set atop a picturesque hilltop overlooking the city.
Reminiscent of a bygone royal era, Orchha is a feast for the senses, dotted with vibrant ochre palaces and ancient forts. We'll indulge in some sightseeing, absorbing the town's famous sacred temples. These surviving relics were built by the Bundela rulers in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Next, we'll visit the ornate, multi-storey palace of Jahangir Mahal. The expansive 136-room citadel boasts eight elegant domes, walls adorned with intricate panels and stylish hanging terraces. Built by Akbar, the third Mughal Emperor, he named the palace after his son, Jahangir, and mainly used it for his Rajput royal wives. We'll take photos under the beautiful arches and marvel at the glorious palace, carved from a single piece of stone.
Next, we'll make our way to the magnificent Ram Raja temple, enclosed within the grand square. Up to 3,000 Hindu worshippers pray here every day. As the only temple in India that features Lord Rama as a king, it's said that those who look at his left toe will have their wishes come true. It's worth a try!
- Day 6 Panna National Park
- We'll make our way through central India to Panna today. First, we'll stop at the Khajuraho temples within India's Vindhya Mountain Range, where according to local legend, gods and deities – including Shiva the destroyer – enjoyed praying.
The temples were built by mighty warrior kings from the Chandela dynasty. However, the temples are well-known around the world for their intricate carvings featuring erotic poses from the Kama Sutra, of which only 22 of the original 85 have survived. We'll tour the monuments and will have plenty of opportunities for photos.
When we arrive in Panna, we'll get some much-needed rest as we'll be up bright and early tomorrow for our morning safari in Panna National Park.
- Day 7 Panna National Park
- Today's the day to truly immerse yourself in pristine natural beauty and imagine you're in Kipling's 'Just So Stories'. We'll set off for tranquil Panna National Park for an exhilarating game drive. Wait in breathtaking awe for a glimpse of a leopard running through the wilderness and rolling savannah grasslands.
From the safety and comfort of our Jeep, we could easily spot big cats, antelopes, hyenas, sloths, deer, monkeys, wild dogs and over 300 species of bird. Pinch yourself as you listen to the sounds of the jungle and take in the lush backdrop of 550 square kilometres of stunning scenery, with plunging gorges, cascading waterfalls and rolling savannah all around us.
In the afternoon, we'll have plenty of time at leisure to unwind at our hotel.
- Day 8 Bandhavgarh National Park
- Today, we've got a long but very enjoyable drive ahead of us that really gives us an insight into the remoteness and peaceful tranquillity of central India.
Hopefully, we'll be rewarded with a sighting of the elusive Bengal tiger tomorrow, when we visit Bandhavgarh National Park.
- Day 9 Bandhavgarh National Park
- Boasting the largest population of tigers in India, today's visit to Bandhavgarh National Park gives you your best chance to see one in its natural habitat.
It's not all about the big cats though – look out for many types of animal including wild boar, sloth bear, striped hyena, sambar and, when we get to more open swathes of wilderness, nilgai, a fascinating species of Asian antelope, and barking deer. A plethora of bird species also call the park home, from peacocks to parakeets. And take in views of the soaring cliffs and deep valleys, and the park's namesake, Bandhavgarh Fort. Scattered around the park you'll also see numerous caves housing shrines and ancient Sanskrit inscriptions.
- Day 10 Kanha National Park
- We're really getting into the swing of jungle life now, and after breakfast, we'll journey by road to Kanha. Relax as you admire central India's superb scenery, and when we arrive, we'll enjoy a leisurely afternoon exploring our new surroundings.
Tomorrow, we're off in pursuit of tigers once more in Kanha National Park, where 'The Jungle Book' comes to life.
- Day 11 Kanha National Park
- Today, fans of Rudyard Kipling's iconic childhood stories are in for a real treat. Arguably India's most impressive wildlife reserve, Kanha National Park is widely considered to be the inspiration for 'The Jungle Book'. This thrilling park is also known as the Kanha Tiger Reserve, so on our morning and afternoon safaris you're likely to see your very own Shere Khan.
Amongst the 950 square kilometres of peaceful rivers and lush rolling hills, we might also spot pythons slithering through the grass like vengeful Kaa, wolves reminiscent of those who raised Mowgli and sloth bears just like Baloo. Get up close and imagine yourself in the 'Just So Stories' as we make our way through savannah that stretches as far as the eye can see.
Although Kipling never visited Kanha, he was enthralled by his friends' photographs and the writers who travelled to the Seoni region and we'll see for ourselves how the park inspired every page.
- Day 12 Mumbai
- We're off to Mumbai, Rudyard Kipling's birthplace, today. Lapped by the Arabian Sea, the city that the writer would have known as Bombay, lies on the coast of Western India.
- Day 13 Cochin
- Today we fly south to Cochin, Kerala's cosmopolitan capital. Known as the 'Queen of the Arabian Sea' thanks to the beauty of its natural harbour, it is made up of picturesque islands and boasts unique houses built on stilts and tranquil backwaters.
- Day 14 Cochin
- A day packed with wonderful experiences begins with our morning tour of Cochin. Located right in the centre of Jew Town, a bustling port area and centre of Cochin's spice trade, the Jewish Synagogue is the oldest in the commonwealth, dating back to 1568.
Next stop is the Mattancherry Kerala Palace, renamed the Dutch Palace after the Dutch wrestled Cochin from the hands of the Portuguese. Step inside to admire the splendid murals that adorn some of the rooms, which are said to be amongst the best in India. We round off our tour with a visit to St Francis Church. It is here that Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama died and was buried. His remains were shipped to Lisbon some 14 years later, but his gravestone is interesting to view.
At lunchtime we are invited to a cooking demonstration in the home of a well-known local chef and food journalist. You'll not only learn how to use Kerala's aromatic spices in your own cooking but you'll get to eat the dishes created.
Another speciality of Kerala is Kathakali dance and we'll learn about this unique art form this evening before enjoying a 'Sadya' vegetarian feast.
- Day 15 Thekkady
- A long but rewarding drive is on the cards today as we head to Thekkady. There's a treat for all the senses as we journey past rice paddies, tea and rubber tree plantations and aromatic gardens of coffee, cardamom and pepper plants, while the Western Ghats mountain range provide a beautiful backdrop to the surrounding rainforests and backwaters.
As the sun goes down we'll head to a spice plantation where we'll enjoy a tour. The pepper grown on the Malabar Coast is some of the best in the world and is referred to as 'black gold'.
- Day 16 Thekkady
- We're heading into Periyar Game Reserve today. A thrilling cruise will give you the chance to look for elephants, bison and deer on the shoreline, as well as all manner of exotic plants that, if you're very lucky, may be hiding the elusive tiger.
- Day 17 Alleppey
- Our drive this morning takes us to Alleppey, where we'll board one of Kerala's famous houseboats for an overnight stay with a difference. Your 'kettuvallom' modelled on the area's traditional rice boats offers an unforgettable experience. Head on deck for a cruise through the backwaters to see how the locals live, then enjoy a tranquil evening as our boat anchors in a quiet spot.
- Day 18 Kumarakom
- Breakfast served on our houseboat is a great start to the day. We'll then take to the road and head to Kumarakom, cutting a route through coconut farms and fragrant spice gardens. A village tour and stop for lunch give us a chance to stretch our legs before arrival at our hotel.
- Day 19 Kovalam
- The final leg of our journey takes us to the Kovalam beach area today a stunning location with magnificent beaches on which to relax and soak up the sun as this epic tour comes to an end.
- Day 20 Kovalam
- You've another full day to relax in the beautiful coastal resort of Kovalam. You could choose to stay put and enjoy the facilities at your hotel, which include three swimming pools, a spa and health club.
- Day 21 Kovalam
- The day is yours to do as you please. Be sure to head to the beach to see the fishermen pulling in the huge Chinese fishing nets for which this area is famous.
This evening, gather with your fellow travellers for a farewell dinner.
- Day 22 Kovalam to UK
- Today we'll transfer to the airport for our flight back to the UK.