Tour Details at a glance
13 November - 6 December 2020
24 days / 23 nights
US$ 4850 twin share US$ 5810 including Optional Single Supplement
Minimum 4, Maximum 10
21 nights hotels 2 night overnight train
3 day trains 2 overnight trains Private air-conditioned minibus 1 domestic flight Taxis and rickshaws for sightseeing
23 breakfasts 1 lunch 2 dinners
Arrival and Departure transfers Entrances to sights as listed on the itinerary Guide fees Tips and Gratuities
Heartlands of India
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.
* explore the traditional Portuguese heritage of Goa
* wander the ruins of the once majestic Vijayanagar empire in Hampi
* witness the spectacular rock-cut cave temples at Badami
* uncover the charm of the ancient citadel of Bijapur
* live it up in glitzy and glamorous Mumbai
* explore the wineries and temples of Nashik
* be left breathless by the unsurpassed Ellora and Ajanta Caves
* uncover the history and charm of Mandu and Maheshwar
* be amazed at the Buddhist ruins of Sanchi
* discover the temple village of Orchha
* witness sunrise over the Ganges in holy Varanasi
* get enriched in cultural Kolkata
Day by Day 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
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
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
Days 7-8 Bijapur/Overnight Train
Today we drive 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.
On the evening of day 8, we take an overnight train to Mumbai
Hotel: Madhuvan International
Days 9-10 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
Days 11-12 Nasik
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 Godavari 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, which also has some splendid accommodation which we will call home for these two nights.
After a morning in town exploring the temples and ghats in the old town, we will enjoy a private tour and wine-tasting with one of Sula's winemakers.
Hotel: The Source at Sula
Day 13 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
Day 14 Burhanpur
We head today to Ajanta before stopping the night at Burhanpur. 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.
Burhanpur has been mentioned as one of the locations considered for Shah Jehan's tomb for his wife - the Taj Mahal. Although the Taj ended up being built some 800km to the north, there are still some fascinating monuments from Shah Jehan's time spent here.
Days 15-16 Maheshwar
We base ourselves for two nights in beautiful 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. Maheshwar is a wonderful and very peaceful location on the beautiful Narmada River, with temples, a fort and ghats reminiscent of those at Varanasi, but on a much smaller scale. We wander the Ghats at sunset and take a boat trip out on the river.
Day 17 Bhopal
Day 18 Sanchi-Orchha
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 Jhansi, from where we transfer the short distance to Orchha.
Hotel: The Orchha Resort
Day 19 Orchha
Orchha is a town lost in time with grand deserted palaces, and a countryside strewn with temples. A friendly place with a fascinating history, get a glimpse of rural Indian life and enjoy a home cooked meal with friends.
Tonight we take an overnight train to Varanasi.
Days 20-21 Varanasi
We arrive mid morning into 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
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: The Astor or similar
Day 24 Departure Day
There are no organised activities today. You are free to depart at any time.
Minimum 4, Maximum 10
24 days / 23 nights
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
Meals other than those listed
Drinks, meal tips, laundry and other items of a personal nature
Hotels (21 nights), Overnight train (2 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 travellers. If we are unable to match you up with another traveller of the same sex, we will pay your single supplement for you. Should you not wish to share accommodation at all, but would like to guarantee your own room throughout the tour a single supplement of USD 960 will be payable. Note that a single room will not be available on the overnight train.
Private air conditioned minibus, 1 domestic flight, 3 day trains and 2 overnight trains, boatride in Maheshwar and Varanasi, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws and taxis as required for sightseeing.
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.
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, Aihole, Pattadakal (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)
Palace Complex, Chatturbhuj Temple, Chattris (Orchha)
Dawn Boat Cruise, Sarnath Visit, River and City Walk (Varanasi)
Flower Markets, City Walk, Kali Temple (Kolkata)
23 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 2 Dinners
Travelling 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.
Exchange rates as at May 2019
AUD1 = 48 INR
CAD1 = 52 INR
EUR1 = 78 INR
GBP1 = 89 INR
NZD1 = 45 INR
USD1 = 70 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.
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 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 is highly recommended whilst travelling to India and is compulsory for any group tour with Incredible Indian Tours.
All foreign nationals require a visa to enter India. Most nationalities can apply for an e-Visa. Validities available are 30 days, 1 year and 5 years. You can apply up to 30 days before the date of travel for the 30 day e-Visa and 120 days before the date of travel for the 1 and 5 year e-Visas. The visa is issued online (you do not need to send your passport away) and takes up to 3 days. The 30 day e-Visas are double entry with validity commencing from the date of arrival. The 1 and 5 year e-Visas are multiple entry with validity running from the date of issue with stays of maximum 90 days at a time allowed with the exception of US, UK, Japanese and Canadian passport holders who can stay for up to 180 days at a time.
When applying for your e-Visa, be aware of a number of commercial websites offering e-Visas that do not belong to the Government of India and will charge you additional service fees to issue your visa.
The official Government of India e-Visa website is
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.
New Zealand http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/travelling
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 historic sites, local guides will be hired to provide more specific knowledge and enjoyment of the places we are visiting.
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.
E-212, 31st January Rd
Fontainhas, Panjim, Goa 403 001
Ph: +91 0832 222 6523/7169/8136
Fax: +91 0832 243 5220
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.
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 USD tba 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.
15 Shakespeare Sarani, Kolkata, West Bengal, 700071
Ph: +91 33 2282 9950
If you are staying on in Kolkata after the tour, extra accommodation is available at The Astor for USD tba 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 short 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 Rs400 (USD 6) per kilo.
Upon booking, you will receive a full tour info pack including a suggested packing list an other helpful information on preparing for your trip to India.
Inexpensive laundry facilities are offered by most hotels we use and are generally available wherever we have a two night stop.
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.
Travel documents: passport, visa, travel insurance (don't forget your emergency insurance contact details), air tickets.
Photocopy of above documents
First aid kit
Money: ATM card (widely available and easy to access); credit cards (widely accepted in big cities); cash (for emergencies)
Alarm clock and torch/flashlight
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.
Read the full tour dossier here on Issuu