24 Day Heartlands of India – Goa to Kolkata

GoatoKolkata3a 24 Day Heartlands of India   Goa to Kolkata

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Maximum Group Size:
10

Tour Length 24 days / 23 nights

Starts in Goa on Sunday 28th October 2018

Finishes in Kolkata on Tuesday 20th November 2018

Entrance Fees Included for all sites visited as part of the itinerary

Fully Escorted by Deb Kindness, who has been travelling and leading tours through the Indian Subcontinent since 1993.

Cost From USD 4280 per person twin share (USD 5070 including Optional Single Supplement)

 

Accommodation Transport Meals
22 nights Hotels Airport Transfers 23 Breakfasts
1 night overnight train Train 1 Lunch
  Private Car/Minibus 2 Dinners
  Domestic Flights  
  Cycle Rickshaw  
  Auto Rickshaw  

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A journey traversing the breadth of India, taking roads less travelled through rarely explored towns and cities of the heartlands of India.

Beginning our journey in Panjim, the Portuguese influenced capital of Goa, we travel north and east through ancient villages and world heritage sites once major cities or holy towns. We explore rock-cut temples of sculptural extravagance, grand Muslim mausoleums and the commercial capital – dazzling Mumbai. Afghani fortresses and Buddhist stupas, Hindu Palaces and the crumbling British heritage of Kolkata lead to a fascinating and exotic trip through an India which is all at once traditional, exotic, bizarre and totally unexpected.

Experience Incredible India and the the Heartlands of India on this Small Group Tour, fully escorted within India by a western tour leader with the service of local guides for various activities and sightseeing.

 

Heartlands of India Group Tour

 

Gallery      Trip Notes      Itinerary

 

Day 1 Panjim

Arrival Day. No group activities today. In the evening there will be a welcome meeting before dinner.

Hotel: Panjim Inn

 

Day 2 Panjim

We travel to Old Goa and the spice gardens of Ponda to explore the side less travelled of Goa.

Hotel: Panjim Inn

 

Days 3-4 Hampi

We head up over the Western Ghats to the Deccan Plateau and to Hampi to explore the myriad sights and temples that make up the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire’s 15th century capital. Time also to relax in this quiet magical little town.

Hotel: Uramma Heritage Homes or similar

 

Days 5-6 Badami

Badami was once capital of the ancient Chalukya empire. The hills surrounding the picturesque lake as well as the the nearby towns of Aihole and World Heritage Pattadakal have some of the most ancient examples of Dravidian temples and rock-cut caves.

Hotel: Badami Heritage Resort or similar

 

Days 7-8 Bijapur/Overnight Train

We hop on a morning train to Bijapur, an old Muslim stronghold with some of the finest Islamic architecture in India. Mausoleums and Citadels, Mosques and Palaces were built by the Adil Shahi kings between the 15th and 17th centuries.

Hotel: Madhuvan International or similar

 

Day 9 Mumbai

We explore the fascinating, chaotic and frantic commercial capital of India, where we visit some of the sights including the Gateway of India, Dhobi (laundry) washers and Chowpatty Beach. There is the option to visit Elephanta Island and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, or perhaps you’d prefer to wander the markets and tree-lined avenues of downtown Mumbai, or spend the day Bollywood-star spotting at Juhu beach.

Hotel: The Fariyas or similar

 

Days 10-11 Nasik

After a free morning in Mumbai we take an afternoon train to Nasik, one of the four sites of the Khumb Mela – the largest religious gathering on the face of the planet. Situated on the holy Gadavari river, Nasik is a colourful town with exotic temples and bathing ghats where saddhus and pilgrims come to wash away their sins in the holy waters. Nasik is also home to the Sula Vineyards – one of India’s oldest and most reputed wineries. We spend an afternoon touring the vineyard before enjoying a meal in one of the fine restaurants at the winery.

Hotel: Lily Sarovar Portico or similar

 

Day 12 Ellora Caves

Travelling on to Aurangabad, we spend the afternoon at the spectacular Ellora Caves – carved monasteries, chapels and temples dating back to 600AD. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the masterpiece is the breathtaking Kailasa Temple, carved out of a cliff-face which is larger and higher than the Parthenon in Athens.

Hotel: Hotel Kailas or similar

 

Day 13 Jalgaon

We head today to Ajanta before stopping the night at Jalgaon. The Ajanta Caves date from around 200BC and comprise of around 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves. With intricate carvings and stunning frescoes, the Ajanta caves have also been proclaimed a World Heritage site.

Hotel: Royal Palace or similar

 

Days 14-15 Maheshwar

We base ourselves for two nights at the stunning Ahliya Fort in Maheshwar taking a day trip to visit the ruins of Mandu, a 10km long hilltop fort covered with erstwhile Palaces, Temples and tombs dating from the early 15th century.

Hotel: Labboos Lodge (Ahilya Fort) or similar

 

Day 16 Bhopal

We drive to Bhopal. In the afternoon visit the fascinating Museum of Mankind.

Hotel: Jehan Numa Palace Hotel or similar

 

Day 17 Sanchi-Delhi

We spend the morning visiting nearby Sanchi, with stunning Buddhist ruins. Founded by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC, many stupas and other religious structures were built here over the following centuries.  An afternoon train takes us to Delhi.

Hotel: The Hans or similar

 

Day 18 Delhi

Delhi is a city that has 

Hotel: The Hans or similar

 

Days 19-21 Varanasi

We take an evening flight on day 19 to Varanasi. The holiest city in India for Hindu’s, Varanasi, also known as Benares and Kashi (city of light) is a city full of Saddhus, Holy men, holy cows and Hindu temples. After transferring to our riverside hotel, we take a walk along the Ghats (steps along the river) on the bank of the Ganges and explore the old city. Whilst in Varanasi, we enjoy an evening ceremonial “aarti” on the riverbanks and take a dawn boat ride on the Ganges. We visit Sarnath, the site of Buddha’s first sermon and still have plenty of free time to explore the Ghats and alleyways of ancient Varanasi.  

Hotel: Hotel Banaras Haveli or similar

 

Days 22-23 Kolkata

In the evening of day 22 we take an flight to Kolkata. Kolkata, once the capital of British India is the crowded, decaying and fascinating cultural capital of India. With a morbid, yet passionate history, modern day Kolkata is a city with soul. Ancient rituals and colourful traditions blend in a city that is like nowhere else on earth.

Hotel: Fairlawn Hotel or similar

 

Day 24 Departure Day

There are no organised activities today. You are free to depart at any time.

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Trip Notes          pdf 24 Day Heartlands of India   Goa to Kolkata Download trip notes here

 

Group Size

Minimum 4, Maximum 10

Days

24 days / 23 nights

Starts in

Panjim, Goa

Finishes in

Kolkata

Tour inclusions

Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation as specified
All transportation between overnight stops and to and from included sightseeing
Entrance fees for all sites listed as part of the itinerary
Meals as specified
Tips and gratuities for hotel staff, porters, guides and drivers

Tour exclusions

Visa costs
Meals other than those listed
Drinks, meal tips, laundry and other items of a personal nature
International flights

Accommodation

Hotels (22 nights), Overnight train (1 night) 

This tour uses a variety of accommodation. From guesthouses to heritage hotels, we experience a wide range of accommodation styles. Hotel rooms are twin share with private bathrooms with western style toilets. Although most rooms will be air-conditioned, some may be fan-cooled. 

Optional single supplement

If you are a single traveller, you are not required to pay a single supplement as we will match you up with other travelers. However if you do not wish to share accommodation, but would like to guarantee your own room throughout the tour a single supplement of USD745 will be payable. Note that a single room will not be available on the overnight train.

Transport

Private minibus, Domestic flight, Train, Boat, Auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws and taxis as required for sightseeing.

Trains

Train travel in India is essential considering it is such an efficient and extensive network, and is also such a part of India’s culture and heritage. For our overnight journeys, we travel in air-conditioned sleeper carriages with two levels of berths. They are arranged in door-less sections each of four berths. They also have a row of two-tier (upper and lower) berths along one side. A conductor ensures that nobody without a reservation gets into the carriage. Each carriage usually has one ‘squat’ style and one western style toilet at either end. Bedding is supplied and is clean, but for peace of mind you may wish to bring a sleeping sheet. Meals are not included during our overnight train journey, but food is usually available.

Train journeys by day give us an opportunity to experience Indian life by rubbing shoulders with the locals. Travelling locally is always exciting and fascinating – you never know who you will meet.

We will be taking private vehicles or flights for all other journeys.

Activities included

The following is a list of included activities on this trip. Other activities are optional and will be at your own expense.

Panjim, Old Goa, Spice Gardens, (Goa)
Vitalla Temple; Royal Enclosure (Hampi)
Badami Caves, (Badami)
Gol Gumbaz, Ibrahim Roza, (Bijapur)
Gateway of India, Dhobi Ghats, Crawford Market, Chowpatty Beach (Mumbai)
Sula Vineyards Tour, (Nasik)
Mandu Ruins, (Mandu)
Sanchi Buddhist Stupas, (Bhopal)
Old Delhi, Humayans Tomb, Rajpath (Delhi)
Dawn Boat Cruise, Sarnath Visit, River and City Walk (Varanasi)
Flower Markets, City Walk, Kali Temple (Kolkata) 

Meals included

22 Breakfasts, 1 Lunches, 2 Dinners

Meals

Traveling with Incredible Indian Tours we ensure that you will experience a vast array of the gustatory treats available in India. Generally, meals are not included in the trip price when there is a choice of eating options. This allows you to choose where, and what to eat. More often than not however we eat together as a group. Your leader will offer suggestions for favourite restaurants throughout the trip.

Money Matters

Money exchange As at October 2017

AUD1 = 49 INR
CAD1 = 50 INR
EUR1 = 76 INR
GBP1 = 85 INR
NZD1 = 44 INR
USD1 = 64 INR

There are many ATM machines (which accept both Cirrus/Maestro debit cards and Visa and MasterCard) throughout India. This is a safe and convenient way to access money in India, however we suggest that you bring a small amount of money in cash (suggested $300) in case there are times that ATMs are not available. The major currencies, including AUD and CAD are no problem in general to exchange. Visa & MasterCard credit cards are accepted in major shops and restaurants in the bigger cities.

Spending money

Although entrance fees to specified sites are included in the tour price, there are additional sights that you may like to visit. Many sites levy camera fees.

Spending money requirements will differ from one person to the next. You will need to take into consideration your spending habits when allowing for drinks, shopping, and optional activities.

It is recommended you allow enough money for the following:

Meals – USD500 (or equivalent)
Optional Activities – USD100 (or equivalent)
Money for drinks, shopping and incidentals.

Tipping

Tipping is an integral part of Indian life and is essential to a smooth trip. To make things easier we cover tips for hotel room boys, local guides and for drivers of private transport we use. We do NOT cover restaurant tips. You will need to allow approximately 10-15% on top of your restaurant bill.

Physical rating 3/5

You may need to carry your bag/pack up and down railway station and hotel stairs. There will be plenty of walking around towns or sites, which due to the warm to hot weather in India at this time of year will make general sightseeing a little more strenuous.

Culture shock rating 3/5

Conditions in India are not always as comfortable as in other countries. You may need to occasionally deal with a squat toilet, cold showers or power failure.

Travel insurance

Travel Insurance is highly recommended whilst traveling to India and is compulsory for any group tour with Incredible Indian Tours.

Visas

All foreign nationals require a visa to enter India. Most nationalities can apply for an e-Tourist visa. The Indian Government is in the process of extending this e-Tourist facility to more countries so check this website to find out the latest eligibility details.

https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html

For the e-Tourist visa, you need to apply within 120 days of travel 60 days validity. The visa is issued online and takes up to 3 days.

Regular tourist visas (issued by the Indian Embassy or Consulate) for those nationalities who do not yet have availability of the e-Tourist facility, or for those who require a visa longer than 60 days, are usually issued for 6 or 12 months and are either Single, Double or Multiple Entry. As the validity begins from date of issue, be sure you do not apply for your visa too early. For information, or assistance with obtaining a visa, check out the following websites.

Australia http://www.vfsglobal.com/india/australia/visa_services/index.html
New Zealand https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/Registration

USA https://www.in.ckgs.us/visa/
UK https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/Registration
Canada http://www.blsindia-canada.com/touristvisa.php

Health

We recommend that you consult your doctor for current medical travel information about before departure. Your leader will be carrying a basic first aid kit, but we suggest you bring along your own as well as any personal medical requirements .

The following websites have up-to-date information about health requirements.

Australia https://www.travelvax.com.au/
New Zealand http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/travelling
USA 
https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/

UK http://www.travelhealth.co.uk/
Canada https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/health-safety/vaccines

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Communications / Keeping in touch

Most of our hotels have Wifi, as do many restaurants and cafes. You can also purchase a local prepaid sim card (for unlocked cell phones) and data sticks (for mobile internet on your laptop) easily and inexpensively in India. Recommended are Vodafone, Airtel and Reliance. You will need extra passport photos for this as well as photocopies of your photo and visa page from your passport.

Your tour manager

Your tour manager is there to organise and streamline your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Whilst they are not a guide per se, they will share their local knowledge, give you suggestions for your free time and manage the day to day running of the tour. They will introduce you to their local friends and recommend great local restaurants and experiences. They will have a broad general knowledge of India, so do feel free to tap into their wisdom. At some sites, local guides may be hired where we think more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting.

Responsible travel

We believe strongly in responsible travel. This includes being respectful to the local culture (ie dressing appropriately, and learning a few basic cultural do’s and don’ts), being mindful of the environment, and leaving a positive image behind. Remember we are ambassadors for our country. Bringing a few photos of your family and home with you is a great way to interact with the locals by giving them a glimpse of your world whilst you visit theirs.

Joining hotel

Panjim Inn 
E-212, 31st January Rd
Fontainhas, Panjim, Goa 403 001
Ph: +91 0832 222 6523/7169/8136
Fax: +91 0832 243 5220

Transfer/joining instructions

Your airport transfer pickup will await you holding a sign with your name when you exit the baggage claim area of the arrivals hall. There may be large crowds here so please look carefully for your transfer.

Arriving early

Our hotel in Panjim is located in the heart of the Latin Quarter of Fontainhas in Panjim, Goa’s capital city. The hotel is surrounded by quaint lanes and aristocratic houses. The hotel itself was built in the late 1800s and has been owned by the same family for over five Generations.

Early arrival information

If you are arriving earlier than day 1, extra accommodation in Panjim is available at USD95/105 Single/Double (or equivalent) per night per room. Please notify us as early as possible if you require extra accommodation as the Panjim Inn is popular and can be heavily booked up well in advance.

Finishing hotel

The Fairlawn Hotel
13A Sudder Street, Kolkata, West Bengal 700016
Ph: +91 33 2252 1510

Staying on

If you are staying on in Kolkata after the tour, extra accommodation is available at The Fairlawn Hotel for USD64/80 Single/Double (or equivalent) per night per room.

What to take

We will be on the move a lot, so try to pack as lightly as possible. The smaller your bag in India the better, as the various modes of transport we use tend to have limited storage space. In addition, you will find that your bag probably needs space to expand for all that shopping!

India is very conservative and we ask that you dress accordingly. As a guideline, shoulders and knees should always be covered. The wearing of shorts is looked upon by locals as akin to wearing your underwear and will limit your entry into mosques, temples and other places of worship. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool. Singlets, tank tops and shorts are not suitable attire for India.

Note that some Indian domestic airlines have recently reduced their check-in baggage allowance to 15kg. If you have heavier luggage, you may need to pay the excess at the airport for your internal flights. Excess luggage charges are around Rs300 (USD 5) per kilo.

Laundry

Inexpensive laundry facilities are offered by most hotels we use and are generally available wherever we have a two night stop.

Weather

The weather during our journey should be great. Daytime temperatures will be warm to hot, in the range 25-35oc. Night time temperatures will be comfortable. Rain is not very likely at this time of year, but sun is, so sunblock and a hat are essentials. Blankets are provided on the overnight train journey.

Checklist

Travel documents: passport, visa, travel insurance (don’t forget your emergency insurance contact details), air tickets.
Photocopy of above documents
Day pack
Health vaccinations/medication
First aid kit
Money: ATM card (widely available and easy to access); credit cards (widely accepted in big cities); cash and travellers cheques (for emergencies)
Money pouch
Alarm clock and torch/flashlight
Mosquito repellent
Ear plugs can be very useful if you are a light sleeper
Lock for your bag or suitcase
We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt to store your passport, air tickets, credit cards and cash. Avoid bringing valuable jewellery with you. Some hotels we use have safety deposit boxes. A lock and chain are useful for securing your luggage on overnight train journeys.

 

 

If you have any questions or would like more information please contact us:

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