Tour Details at a glance
28 February - 22 March 2020
24 days / 23 nights
From USD3090pp twin share From USD4240pp including Optional Single Supplement
Minimum 4, Maximum 10
21 nights Hotels; 1 night Luxury Houseboat; 1 overnight train
2 domestic flights; 1 day train; 1 overnight train; Private airconditioned minibus; taxis and rickshaws for sightseeing
23 breakfasts; 1 lunch; 3 dinners
Arrival transfers; Entrances to sights as listed on the itinerary
Incredible India Tour
This is a brand new journey covering the highlights of both South and North India.
If you only get one chance to explore this incredible country, this is the trip to take. In just 3 and a half weeks, you will experience the vast diversity of this nation. From the gentle, tropical south, the temple towns of Tamil Nadu, French Pondicherry and God's own country Kerala to the deserts of Rajasthan, full of castles, palaces and forts. No trip to India is complete without visiting the world's greatest monument to love the Taj Mahal and we also visit the big metros of Mumbai and Delhi. As icing on the cake, you will also get to experience the amazingVaranasi, holy city on the banks of the Ganges.
A slightly more budget version of our regular tours, we stay in comfortable and clean 2-3 star hotels and guest houses, plus a few luxury stops on the way.
Experience Incredible 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.
* marvel at the ancient rock-cut temples of Mahabalipuram
* be charmed by the French colonial atmosphere of Pondicherry
* experience the magnificent Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai
* trek through the jungle on foot in Periyar Tiger Reserve
* help the local fisherman bring in a catch in their Chinese fishing nets in Cochin
* spend a night on a traditional houseboat in the backwaters near Alleppey
* live it up in glitzy and glamorous Mumbai
* relax in the beautiful lake city of Udaipur
* be amazed at Jodhpur's majestic Meherangarh Fort
* explore the palaces and bazaars of Jaipur
* be left breathless by the unsurpassed Taj Mahal
* witness sunrise over the Ganges in holy Varanasi
* be part of the craziness and excitement of India's capital city Delhi
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Mahabalipuram
Arrival Day. We have a group meeting at 6pm to discuss the tour before heading out for dinner.
Hotel: Ideal Beach Resort or similar
Day 2 Mahabalipuram
We spend the day visiting the world heritage sites of the ancient town of Mahabalipuram and soak up the vibes of this friendly beachside resort.
Hotel: Ideal Beach Resort or similar
Day 3 Pondicherry
We have a short drive to reach Pondicherry where we take a walking tour to experience the wonderful charms of this erstwhile French Colony which is full of wonderful architecture and fabulous boutiques and restaurants.
Hotel: L'escale Guest House or similar
Day 4 Madurai
We take a 5 hour train ride to Madurai - 'Athens of the East'. Home of the spectacular Sri Meenakshi Temple, Madurai is the quintessential Tamil Nadu temple town. After a day train we spend the late afternoon exploring the town and temple complex.
Hotel: Hotel Moskva or similar
Days 5-6 Periyar
A 4 hour drive today up into the Cardamom hills to Thekkady, our destination for the next 2 nights. We visit a spice plantation in the afternoon followed by an early morning guided walk through the Periyar National Park jungle on day 6 which is the best way to experience the park and hopefully see Elephants, Deer, Monkeys and more up close. A free afternoon to relax or shop or perhaps have an ayurvedic massage.
Hotel: El Paradiso Guest House or similar
Days 7-8 Cochin
Another 4 hour drive this morning to Cochin. We spend time visiting Jew Town and Mattancherry Palace, the St Francis Church and Chinese Fishing nets and soaking up the ambience in this wonderfully laid back town. Kerala is famous for Kathakali, an intricate and stylised form of dance. We watch a short performance as well as witness the intricate makeup application beforehand.
Hotel: No. 18 Hotel or similar
Day 9 Alleppey
A short 2 hour journey brings us to Alleppey where our traditional Kettuvallam (rice barge) houseboat awaits us. We spend the afternoon slowly drifting past idyllic tropical rural scenes in the lush palm fringed backwaters, on the way visiting villages to see local industries such ascoir-making, toddy-tapping and boat building.
Hotel: Spiceroutes Houseboats or similar
Days 10-11 Mumbai
Arriving by direct flight from Cochin, we have a full day to explore Mumbai, the exciting and frantic commercial capital of India, where we visit some of the sights including the Gateway of India, Dhobi (laundry) washers and Chowpatty beach.
Hotel: Hotel Residency or similar
Days 12-13 Udaipur
We take a morning flight to Udaipur. The city of lakes, Udaipur lives up to its name with its white washed havelis 'private mansions' and palaces lining the banks of the charming lake Pichola. We visit the City Palace complex and take a sunset boat ride on Lake Pichola.
Hotel: Hotel Pratap Bhawan or similar
Day 14 Narlai
A few hours drive north are the Ranakpur Jain Temples and the Mewar fortress of Kumbalgarh. We visit both en route to Narlai, a small Rajasthani town home to the stunning Ravla Narlai, our Heritage Castle hotel stop for the night.
Hotel: Ravla Narlai or similar
Day 15 Jodhpur
Travelling on to Jodhpur we wander the palaces of the magnificent Meherangarh Fort before exploring the markets in the city below. Famous throughout the country for its special Makhani (butter) lassi's (yoghurt drink), Jodhpur is also where the pants come from.
Hotel: Hotel Haveli or similar
Days 16-17 Jaipur
A 6 hour drive today to Jaipur, the 'Pink City' and capital of Rajasthan. Amber Fort is a splendid example of Rajput/Mughal architecture and was the old capital of Rajasthan prior to 1727. We take a wander through the markets and colourful bazaars of Jaipur and visit the wondrousJantar Mantar.
Hotel: Hotel Arya Niwas or similar
Days 18-19 Agra
Leaving Rajasthan, we head further east today to Agra. We make a dawn visit to the incomparable Taj Mahal and visit the remarkable Agra Fort and the exquisite 'Baby Taj'. On the evening of day 19 we take an overnight train to Varanasi.
Hotel: The Retreat or similar
Days 20-21 Varanasi
We arrive early morning into Varanasi. After transferring to our riverside hotel, we take a walk along the Ghats (steps) 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 Temple on Ganges or similar
Days 22-23 Delhi
We have a morning flight into Delhi. Included here is a visit to Old Delhi visiting the old Delhi spice market and Chandni Chowk, the busiest marketplace in Asia. We also pay our respects to the Moghul emperor Humayan, at the spectacular tomb built by his grieving widow in the mid 16th century.
Hotel: The Hans or similar
Day 24 Departure Day
There are no organised activities for today. You may leave at any time.
Minimum 4, Maximum 10
24 days / 23 nights
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
Meals other than those listed
Drinks, meal tips, laundry and other items of a personal nature
Tips and gratuities
Hotels (21 nights), Overnight train (1 night) Luxury Houseboat (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 USD1150 will be payable. Note that a single room may not be available on the houseboat and will not be available on the overnight train.
1 day train, 1 overnight train, 2 domestic flights, Private airconditioned minibus, Backwater canoe ride in Kerala, 2 boat trips on the Ganges in Varanasi, taxis and rickshaw for some 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 journey, we travel in air-conditioned sleeper carriages with two levels of berths. They are arranged in door-less, curtained sections each of four berths. Broad-gauge sleeping carriages 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 'squat' and 'western' style toilets 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 for our other land journeys.
The following is a list of included activities on this trip. Other activities are optional and will be at your own expense.
Shore Temple; 5 Rathas; Town Walk (Mahabalipuram)
Heritage walk (Pondicherry)
Sri Meenakshi Temple; (Madurai)
Spice Plantation; Guided walk through Periyar Tiger Reserve (Periyar)
Boat ride on the backwaters (Kerala)
Gateway of India, Dhobi Ghats, Crawford Market, Chowpatty Beach (Mumbai)
City Palace, Market walk,Traditional dance show (Udaipur)
Jain Temples, Kumbalgarh Fort (Narlai)
Mehrangarh Fort, Market walk, (Jodhpur)
Amber Palace, Jantar Mantar, Market walk (Jaipur)
Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Itimud-ud-Dualah, (Agra)
Dawn Boat Cruise, Sarnath Visit, River and city walk (Varanasi)
Old Delhi, Humayans Tomb, (Delhi)
22 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 2 Dinners
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.
Exchange rates as at April 2018
AUD1 = 50 INR
CAD1 = 51 INR
EUR1 = 80 INR
GBP1 = 93 INR
NZD1 = 48 INR
USD1 = 65 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 collect a tip kitty for hotel room boys, local guides and for drivers of private transport we use. This does NOT cover restaurant tips. You will need to allow approximately 10-15% on top of your restaurant bill.
Tips: Allow USD60
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 traveling 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-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.
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.
New Zealand https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/index.html
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 some sites, local guides may be hired where we think more specific knowledge will add to the 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.
Joining hotel and arrival instructions
Ideal Beach Resort
Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu 603104
Ph: +91 44 2449 5161
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.
Situated north of Mahabalipuram, our joining hotel is a short rickshaw ride to the centre of Mahabalipuram and its monuments which are scattered within a 1km area of the town. Featuring a swimming pool, the resort also has it's own stretch of beach, a spa, two restaurants and a bar.
Early arrival information
If you are arriving earlier than day 1, extra accommodation in Mahabalipuram is available at USD110/120 Single/Double (or equivalent) per night per room. Please notify us as early as possible if you require extra accommodation as this hotel can be booked up well in advance.
15A/6 W.E.A., Ajmal Khan Rd, Karol Bagh,
New Delhi, 110005
Ph: +91 11 4502 5500
If you are staying on in Delhi after the tour, extra accommodation at Florence Inn is available at USD65 Single/Double (or equivalent) per night per room. Again, if you will require extra accommodation in Delhi, please advise us as early as possible as rooms tend to get booked out quickly at peak season times.
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.
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 and travellers cheques (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
Comfortable closed-in walking shoes for the hike through Periyar National Park
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 tour dossier here on Issuu