Holi is celebrated all over India and its many regions. In our opinion, the best place for upscale explorers to safely observe and participate in Holi is the charming, laid back city of Udaipur in Rajasthan. Besides being one of India’s best cities to relax and explore, with its abundance of hills, lakes and palaces, Udaipur’s residents tend to be more cultured than some of the people found in India’s larger cities, where foreigners participating in Holi celebrations can draw unwanted attention and even some harassment.
When our guests participate in Holi in an upscale area of Udaipur along with our guides and staff, they can experience the best of Holi festivities without any risk of other participants paying them undue attention. We provide traditional Indian clothing to all our guests for this festival, and the resulting multi-hued attire is yours to keep afterwards.
All our guests also get preferred seating for the ancient and colorful Holika Dhan ceremony at Udaipur’s City Palace on the eve of Holi. The King of Udaipur and the Royal Family lead the ritualistic ceremony with the King lighting the traditional Holika Pyre, which is followed by regional cultural entertainment and a sumptuous feast
Day 1: Arrive at Delhi
- most flights arrive either in the evening or at night, and we strongly recommend
that our guests consider arriving a day earlier as this allows you to recuperate from jetlag, and serves as insurance against international flight delays and cancellations. The cost of an additional nights Hotel stay can be quoted upon request.
Our services begin here
. You are greeted at the airport by an Easy Tours Travel Facilitator and ushered to a chauffeur driven vehicle. You are then driven to your boutique luxury hotel and assisted with your check-in. The next day’s plans are briefly reviewed and you are presented with your welcome package. Among other things, this package includes a beautiful journal for your explorations, travel documents such as your air tickets and hotel vouchers, as well as copies of documents (such as our General Travel Guide) that were sent to you earlier.
Day 2: Delhi.
Begin your exploration of India with a guided city tour of Old Delhi. This tour begins with the amazing Red Fort. Both the Jama Masjid (Mosque) and this massive structure were built by Shah Jahan, the emperor who created the Taj Mahal. The great city
inside the massive sandstone walls of the Red Fort offers visitors a large number of architectural and historical attractions; it was once known as the 8th wonder of the world. The Red Fort was the seat of the Mughal Empire for more than two hundred and fifty years and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an amazing example of a blend of Persian, Indian and European architecture. One of your most vibrant and enduring memories of India will be your next experience as you drive, walk and ride through the ancient city's streets and alleys for a couple of hours; enjoy a fascinating rickshaw ride,
and extended walk with your guide through the crowded ancient alleys of Chandni Chowk. The cacophony of sounds both ancient and modern from the cries of hawkers and the animated bargaining that have echoed through the centuries, to the modern motor horns, the riot of colors from spices to saris, and the equally diverse smells emanating from the street food stalls and spice markets that form part of the bazaar, this is truly an assault on the senses at every level. Next is an exploration of the Jama Masjid (1650 A.D.), the largest mosque in India. The Masjid (Mosque) is a magnificent example of Mughal architecture and is constructed of red sandstone and white marble. It is an active place of worship and its courtyard can hold 25,000 worshippers.
There is a break
After lunch a short drive will deliver you to an oasis of calm and serenity, which also happens to be your last destination in Old Delhi. The cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi (Raj Ghat) is a simple yet stirring memorial to the father of the nation. Lush lawns extend beyond the enclosure surrounding the black marble platform occupying the spot where the Mahatma was cremated. An eternal flame burns next to the platform.
you have the option to drive to the nearby National Museum, the crown jewel of India’s Museums, for a very short tour. If museums are not your cup of tea
, your Guide will offer alternatives to this highly recommended experience.
The museum is charged in its mission statement with being “the epitome of national identity”, a goal that it undoubtedly achieves. There is a plethora of exhibits and artifacts and a comprehensive tour would take well over a day. Our visit will be brief
, and your Guide will walk you through the Pre History Gallery’s Harrapan Collection and its displays from the Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished on the banks of the river of the same name. Most visitors to India are unaware of the fact that this was the most advanced and widespread of the world’s three oldest civilizations, and that the nation of India derived its name from this magnificent river.
You will be amazed by the sophistication of the exhibits of pottery, tools, coins, jewelry and other artifacts that range from 10,000 BC to 1000 BC
Please let us know if you would like a more extended visit while finalizing your tour reservation process.
After exploring the museum you will be driven back to your hotel.
Day 3: Delhi.
Continue your exploration of Delhi with a guided city tour of New Delhi. This excursion begins with a drive through Lutyens’ New Delhi. This drive will include photo opportunities at the following attractions - the exterior of the massive and awe-inspiring Rashtrapati Bhawan (known as Viceroy’s House during the British era) and Delhi’s landmark structure India Gate. From here you will be driven to visit the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara. This gold domed Sikh Temple
is the most prominent Gurudwara in Delhi and is associated with the eighth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Krishan. It was first built as a small temple by Sikh General Sardar Bhagel Singh in 1783,
who supervised the construction of nine Sikh shrines in Delhi during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shah Alam. The campus includes the temple, a kitchen, a school, an art gallery, and the holy pond (Sarovar), whose water is called Amrit (Holy Nectar). As with all Sikh Gurudwaras, the concept of langar (community meal) is practiced here and anyone may eat in the Gurudwaras Kitchen. Thousands of meals are prepared daily and served to all visitors, regardless of race, religion or other status. The food is prepared by the religious leaders who are assisted by scores of local volunteers. You will witness the fascinating processes of cooking, serving and cleanup for these countless meals. Only vegetarian food is served, so that no religion’s dietary restrictions are violated. After the langar ceremony, you will drive through Connaught Place, which is New Delhi’s downtown.
There is a break
you will drive to visit the magnificent tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun. Delhi has such an abundance
of amazing monuments that this Tomb Complex (1562 A.D.) does not quite get the acclaim that it deserves. It is Delhi’s third UNESCO World Heritage Site and its amazing architecture and the elaborate gardens will captivate you as your guide explains the unique architectural and historic facets of this monument.
The last part
of this excursion is the awe-inspiring Qutab Minar (1193 A.D.). This 239 ft tall medieval tower is a symbol of victory and a beautiful example of Persian architecture from that period. There is a winding stairway inside the tower that goes up all the way to the balcony at the very top of the tower - unfortunately they are no longer accessible for visitors. The Qutab Minar and its Monuments are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Within the Qutab complex
, amidst the ruins of the Quwat-ul-Islam Mosque, stands one of the legendary Ashoka Pillars. This large iron pillar has withstood the ravages of Delhi’s weather (and recent pollution) and has not rusted in over 1500 years.
From the Qutab Minar you will be driven back to your hotel.
Day 4: Delhi - Varanasi.
You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel and driven to the airport. You are assisted with boarding the mid-morning flight to Varanasi.
You are greeted on arrival at the Varanasi airport and then driven to your resort where you are assisted with your check-in.
There is a break
Afternoon - after lunch you will experience
a walking city tour of Varanasi that includes visits to some of the ancient temples that lie along the banks of the holy river. You will walk through the narrow lanes and through the crowded bazaars to discover a way of life that has not changed much over the past few millennia.
Sunset cruise on the Ganga
- Two of the highlights of your time in Varanasi are the sunset and sunrise cruises on the Ganga. You can float your own lamps while you watch the ancient prayer and oil lamp ceremony at sunset. Your boat enables you to enjoy a great view of the hundreds of lamps as they are sent floating down the holy river.
Day 5: Varanasi – Delhi – Agra.
Start your day with an early morning boat cruise on the Ganga. The best time to visit the Ghats is at dawn, as that is when the pilgrims take their morning dip. It is also the ideal opportunity to experience some of Hinduisms ancient and iconic rituals. You can simultaneously witness the ceremony of a recently deceased Hindu’s ashes being immersed in the river, while nearby, another Brahmin priest orchestrates the naming ceremony of a newborn. Your boat offers an excellent view of all the activity on the Ghats - women bathing discreetly while still wearing their sarees, priests offering prayers as they immerse themselves in the holy water, men that are oblivious to their surroundings as they practice yoga or meditate on the banks of the Ganga.
Return to your resort
for breakfast and pack.
You are assisted
with your check-out from your resort and driven to the airport, where you are assisted in boarding the afternoon flight to Delhi. You are greeted on arrival at the Delhi airport and driven to Agra on North India’s newest highway. You are assisted with your check-in at your iconic luxury resort upon your arrival at Agra.
Day 6: Agra.
Enjoy a visit to the magnificent Taj Mahal at sunrise – the best time to see it during most of the year! The world’s greatest monument dedicated to love is obviously a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Taj Mahal was completed by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1653 A.D. as a memorial to his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal.
This spectacular white marble mausoleum was created by about 22,000 skilled craftsmen and it took twenty two years to complete. When you experience the Taj Mahal with an Easy Tours Tour Guide who shares unique insights into its innumerable facets, some of their passion for this masterpiece may rub off on you. As the rising sun’s rays illuminate the precious stones inlaid in the marble, they will gleam momentarily as the marble’s color changes. Return to your resort after this and enjoy breakfast.
You are at leisure
for a couple of hours to enjoy the amazing facilities and view of your resort. Join your Tour Guide for an afternoon of exploration at about noon.
There is a break for lunch.
From here you will proceed for a walk through Agra’s ancient and iconic Kinari Bazaar
. Although this has similarities to Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, there are enough unique elements to this crowded and lively market where all sorts of goods are sold, from spices to clothing to crafts and much, much more. The exotic smells emanating from the colorful street food stalls, the sounds of the negotiating buyers and sellers, the sight of cows meandering docilely through the crowds, all combine to make an experience that you will not forget.
After your walk
through the bazaar you will visit the first red sandstone fort of North India, the Agra Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1565 by India’s greatest Mughal ruler, Emperor Akbar. Its royal audience halls, immense stone courtyards, marble mosque and the private royal chambers give us a glimpse of the grandeur of the Mughal Empire.
Enjoy a sunset visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the incomparable Taj Mahal. Explore the amazing Taj and its surroundings until it is time to admire the sun’s rays setting on the façade of the world’s finest monument.
Day 7: Agra - Ranthambore.
You are assisted with your check-out from your resort and then you are driven to Abhaneri
. You can either get a packed meal from your resort, or, before your arrival at Abhaneri, you have the option to stop for lunch at a reasonably priced nature resort that serves organic and all natural food, most of which is freshly picked from their estate. Chand Baori is a unique monument that is located next to a charming Rajasthani village. Please note that the local guides in Abhaneri are not as proficient in the English language as the guides you will have in other destinations, and their accents can be hard to understand. The massive 10th century Chand Baori
stepwell is one of the most impressive in all of India. The depth of the stepwell is that of a modern 7 storey building, and there are stairs leading down to the bottom from three of the 100 foot plus (35 meters) four sides of the opening. Enjoy a guided exploration of the stepwell and then you will walk through the small village to get a glimpse of the lives of the simple but proud Rajasthani villagers
. There will be young boys and girls herding goats, sheep, and cows around the area, camels carrying loads for their owners, and many other experiences that are only found in rural India. There are potters huts that you can stop at, as well as ladies weaving traditional garments, as well as opportunities to view many other indigenous activities. This is not a disguised effort to sell local wares, as is often found in tourism destinations. These are real villagers, and their simplicity, warmth, and hospitality will captivate you.
After this you will continue on with
your journey to Sawai Madhopur (Ranthambore National Park). The second half of this drive is through rural Rajasthan and there are multiple photo opportunities of the colorful villagers as they go about their daily activities. You will also encounter many camels and other livestock on this drive. You are greeted on arrival at your amazing luxury jungle resort and assisted with your check-in.
Since 2006, Easy Tours of India
has tracked the percentage of tiger sightings for our guests in Ranthambore National Park. More than 85% of our guests have had tiger sightings during this period, with many of them getting multiple sightings.
Day 8: Ranthambore.
Covering an area of 410 square kilometers, Ranthambore National Park runs along the eastern spur of the Aravali mountain range until it meets with the Vindhya ranges.
Ranthambore was once the Jaipur rulers’ private hunting ground. In 1972 it was declared a Sanctuary and was brought under the Project Tiger Conservation platform. Dry deciduous forest covers most of the park, and the vegetation is lush around the many small lakes and ponds. The open grasslands that are the tiger’s favorite terrain account for much of the land on the higher slopes. This varied flora supports a large number of animals including a variety of deer, the sloth bear, the shy caracal, leopards and of course, the tiger.
Enjoy wildlife safaris
into the park in the morning and evening.
In between safaris, you have the option of a guided visit to the Ranthambore Fort.
This excursion does have a fairly steep climb with approximately 700 feet of stairs. The massive Fort is one of the finest examples of the ancient Hindu concept of Vana-Durg, or a fort protected by a jungle. The history of this Fort (originally built in 944 A.D.) is a chronicle full of tales of blood and valor. Successively occupied by the Muslims, Rajputs and Mughals, the insides of the fort today lie partly in ruin. There are superb views of the park to be had from its ramparts. There is also an ancient temple located in the fort which attracts a continuous stream of pilgrims from the surrounding villages. A little note of caution - a large number of aggressive langurs (South Asian monkeys) have made the Fort area their home and it is not advisable to have food or shiny objects visible in your hands as you tour the fort as they will be snatched away.
Day 9: Ranthambore - Jaipur.
Enjoy your last safari into Ranthambore in the morning. Return to your resort after the safari to freshen up and have breakfast. You are at leisure for a while so that you can freshen up, after which you are assisted with your check-out from your jungle resort and then there is a break for lunch. After lunch you are driven to Jaipur. Sawai Madhopur itself (the community located next to Ranthambore) is a rural small town, and you will drive through it to get a glimpse of life here before you head for Jaipur. The first half of this drive is also through rural Rajasthan and there are multiple photo opportunities. You are assisted with your check-in at your boutique luxury resort upon your arrival at Jaipur.
Day 10: Jaipur.
Start your day with an excursion to the Amber Fort and Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located a short distance from the walled city.
Just like the Emperors of a few centuries ago, enjoy the ascent up to the ramparts of the fort on top of a colorfully caparisoned elephant. If you prefer not to ride the elephants, you can be driven to the rear entrance of the monument. The massive Fort complex was originally built by Raja Mansingh and is one of India’s finest examples of Rajput architecture. Explore the chambers and hallways, which are famous for their exquisite designs and handcrafted embellishments. Return to the valley beneath the Fort and you are driven to the historic Samode region for a unique Rajasthani experience. The custodians will give you a guided tour of the unique Samode Palace, presently operating as a luxury boutique hotel.
The famous Rajasthani lunch
is included at the Palace.
After lunch you will experience a camel back (camel-drawn cart is an option) safari through surrounding rural area, which is also dotted with historic monuments. A village walk will take place, when you can observe how the locals go about their daily lives and work.
Please bear in mind that this is a semi-arid locale and there are no large sand dunes.
You are driven back to your resort in Jaipur after the camel safari.
Day 11: Jaipur - Udaipur.
You are assisted with your check-out from your resort after breakfast and you now proceed for a guided exploration of the walled city of Jaipur, including the magnificent City Palace. You will visit Jantar Mantar (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is the fascinating stone observatory built by Raja Jai Singh in 1728. Among other instruments, it includes a giant sun dial that is accurate to within 2 seconds. After the observatory comes a photo opportunity of the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Wind). This intriguing facade was built in 1799 so that the ladies of the court could use its unique windows and observe the bustling bazaar without being visible to the people on the streets. Continue the tour with an exploration of the City Palace, the former royal residence (a part of which is still occupied by the Royal family and is not accessible to the public), built in a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles. This immense complex also houses a number of museums that offer a large and impressive collection of costumes, armory and miniature paintings. You will also take a stroll with your guide through the “pink” bazaar in the heart of the old town, and watch the locals as they bargain for their everyday necessities.
There is a break
for an early lunch.
You are now driven
to the outskirts of Jaipur to the ancient Hindu pilgrimage site of Galtaji in the Aravalli Hills. The complex of temples here is collectively known as the Monkey Temple because a large tribe of monkeys lives here and believes they own all the monuments. We recommend that you don’t carry any food in your hands, as it may be snatched away. The complex of temples has several ponds that are fed by springs on the hill tops, and Hindu pilgrims consider taking a dip in these to be purifying. The monkeys agree and swim around the main pond with reckless abandon, and many of them can be seen diving into the pool
from various vantage points.
Enjoy a guided tour
of the beautiful Galtaji Temple, which is crafted in pink stone. There are other ancient temples in the complex, such as the Balaji Temple. Monkeys are everywhere, and they are obviously in-charge! For someone not used to their social behavior and grooming practices and rituals, observing them can be fascinating.
you will be driven to the airport in time to board your late afternoon flight to Udaipur. You are greeted upon arrival at the Udaipur airport and driven to your spectacular lakefront resort where you are assisted with your check-in.
Day 12: Udaipur.
Proceed for a city tour, including a tour of the fabled City Palace. At this Palace complex, explore the beautifully decorated rooms with thousands of exquisite, handcrafted mirrors that cover the walls, the ancient ivory doors (a dark reminder of Indian royalty’s passion for hunting), the brightly colored stained glass windows,
expansive inlaid marble balconies and the unique peacock courtyard. There are amazing views to be had from this structure, especially of Lake Pichola, the Lake Palace hotel and Jag Mandir Island. Enjoy a private tour of the amazing Crystal Gallery, which houses the world’s largest collection of priceless crystal. Marvel at pieces like the complete bedroom furniture set in crystal, discovered recently in a store room off the palace.
There is a break
you will enjoy a cruise on Lake Pichola and visit the historical and beautiful monuments at Jag Mandir Island (if available - the royal family at Udaipur will occasionally rent out the island for large celebrations, and on those occasions the island cannot be visited by tourists).
Return to your resort after this explorations.
Your guide will pick you up from your resort and accompany you to the City Palace complex where you will witness the ancient traditional Holika Dahan ceremony, or custom of lighting the Holi Pyre, on the night before Holi. The Royal family of Mewar (Udaipur and the surrounding regions) performs this celebration with great pomp and ceremony. A grand procession led by the Royals arrives and then the ceremony begins. After the ritual prayers for this occasion, the King lights the pyre. The end of the event is a traditional dance by a local troupe, performed only at this one occasion every year.
Dinner is included
at the City Palace after the ceremony.
Day 13: Udaipur - Mumbai.
Today is Holi, the festival of colors, one of India’s biggest festivals. We do not recommend celebrating Holi in almost all cities of India as this festival includes intoxicated youth who can get aggressive in the celebratory crowds, especially with foreign visitors.
The upscale area (in the small city of Udaipur) where our guests celebrate is an exception and the celebration here is a lot of fun, but not crazy. The locals take to the streets and everyone douses each other with powdered colors as well as colored water. You will walk through residential neighborhoods and small bazaars as you celebrate. Our guests are provided with traditional Indian clothing on the day before Holi and you are welcome to keep the colored clothing as a memory afterwards.
Return to your resort after the celebration.
You are assisted
with your check out from your resort and then there is a break
for lunch. After lunch you are driven to the airport in time to board your early evening flight to Mumbai. You are greeted upon arrival at the Mumbai airport and driven to your hotel where you are assisted with your check-in.
Day 14: Mumbai - Aurangabad.
You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel and then you proceed for a guided city tour
of Mumbai. The tour begins at the city’s signature landmark, The Gateway of India,
situated overlooking Mumbai’s harbor. This structure was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai. Drive around Horniman Circle and visit the Town Hall, right beside the docks of Mumbai, and the Victoria Terminus (now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus). It is India’s finest example of Gothic architecture and one of the world’s busiest railway stations. Next you will Visit the Prince of Wales Museum, built to commemorate King George V’s first visit to India in 1905. Designed in the Indo-Saracenic style, the museum has sections of art, paintings, archeological exhibits and natural history.
There is a break
The tour then takes a drive through the Flora Fountain and Fort area where you can view the impressive Gothic and Victorian buildings that were constructed during the British Raj.
Continue the tour with a drive up to Malabar Hill where the hanging gardens give a panoramic view of the city and the Queen’s Necklace (Marine Drive). The tour ends with a visit to the famous Dhobi Ghat where you can observe the age old tradition of the Dhobis doing Mumbai’s laundry!
After this tour,
you are driven to Mumbai airport in time to board your early evening flight to Aurangabad. You are greeted upon arrival at the Aurangabad airport and driven to your comfortable hotel, where you are assisted with your check-in.
Day 15: Aurangabad. The Ajanta & Ellora monuments and caves
(both are, individually, UNESCO World Heritage Sites) near Aurangabad are widely recognized as India’s most amazing archeological sites. We have had many of our guests’ wonder why they are not standard on most other tours. A recent guest, who has been to over 90 countries, said that they “blow Angkor Wat out of the water”.
Enjoy a full day guided
excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ajanta
We recommend that you take advantage of the packed lunch that the hotel can provide for its guests, for both today’s and tomorrow’s excursions. Buddhist monks and local craftsmen began excavating, sculpting, and painting at Ajanta in the 2nd century B.C. The incredible variety of paintings and sculpture were created in hard rock by using primitive yet ingenious lighting, tools and materials. These 28 caves are a testimony to the devotion of the Buddhists, as well as the talents of their skilled craftsmen.
Of particular interest is the concept of Vertical Excavation. When your Easy Tours Tour Guide passionately explains this concept and describes the processes, you will be awed by the achievements of the craftsmen. Although the caves themselves are very impressive in their design and massive volume of sculpturing and excavation, it is the art inside the caves that will take your breath away. The incredible artistry and colors of the paintings and sculptures is unique - such art has not been seen anywhere else, not just in India, but anywhere in the world. Ajanta's incredible paintings are even more impressive considering that the color and texture you're admiring today was created by artists about two thousand years ago.
After exploring the caves at Ajanta you drive back to Aurangabad and your hotel.
Day 16: Aurangabad - Mumbai.
You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel and then you will proceed for a guided excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ellora. Explore the magnificently sculptured cave temples and monasteries of Ellora. There are 34 Caves here, and any one of them would individually be considered a significant attraction in most nations. They were built between 600 - 1000 A.D. and are devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Seventeen of these caves illustrate a resurgence of Hinduism in this area, as reflected by their Hindu themes, sculpture and art. The epitome of this is Cave 16, the awe-inspiring Kailash Temple. It was finished during the 8th century and is supposed to evoke one of the abodes of Lord Shiva, Mount Kailash in the Himalayas.
The Kailash Temple
is notable for its immense scale and detail; it is the most awe-inspiring of all of the amazing monuments at Ajanta/Ellora. More than 200,000 tons of rock was excavated and six generations of craftsmen worked for a hundred and twenty years to create this masterpiece.
On your way back
from the caves, time permitting you will stop at Daulatabad Fort. This 14th century hilltop Fort is an impressive sight but what will amaze you is your guide’s illustration of the multiple ingenious architectural facets that were used to make it virtually impregnable. The once sloping sides of the massive stone hill were manually carved sheer on all sides so that no one could climb straight to the top.
After this tour,
you are driven to Aurangabad airport in time to board your evening flight to Mumbai. You are greeted at the airport by a hotel representative, and ushered to your chauffeur driven vehicle. You are then driven to your hotel where you are assisted with your check-in by hotel staff.
Day 17: Mumbai - Cochin.
Check-out of your hotel and you are driven to the airport where you will board the morning flight to Cochin. Upon your arrival at Cochin you are greeted at the airport and ushered to your vehicle. You are driven to historic Fort Kochi and then there is a break for lunch. After lunch, you will be driven to your boutique historic Hotel, where you will be assisted with your check-in.
Start your exploration
of South India with a guided visit to the island of Cherai. Visit the 19th century Azheekkal Sree Varaha Venkateswara Temple - the temple Ratha (Chariot) is unique and very impressive. Also visit the Portuguese Fort, which was built in 1503 and is the oldest European structure in India. You will also stop at the Pallipuram Church, completed in 1577 by the Portuguese. There are some interesting artifacts in the church.
This exploration is
followed by a walk on Cherai beach that allows you to experience coastal Keralan culture.
You are then escorted back to your hotel where you are at leisure for a couple of hours.
In the evening
you are driven to an experience that is the highlight of many of our guests’ time in Kerala. You will be hosted by a famous Keralan Chef and her family at their home.
A delicious dinner will follow, and cooking lessons are included. At the end of dinner you will be driven back to your hotel.
Day 18: Cochin.
Start your exploration of the fascinating port city of Cochin and marvel in its culture and architecture, a result of centuries of various European influences combined with rich indigenous history
The guided tour begins from the Jewish Synagogue, which was built in 1568 and is still an active house of worship for the few remaining Jews in the area. Next to the synagogue is Cochin’s ancient and colorful Jew Street with its antique stores and souvenir peddlers. There is evidence of a Jewish presence in Kochi from 70 A.D. After the synagogue you visit the St. Francis Church, which was established by the Portuguese Franciscan friars in 1503. This is one of the first European churches built in India, and the famed Vasco Da Gama was buried in its courtyard for a few years before his remains were returned to Portugal.
There is a break
You now visit
the most photogenic of Cochin’s attractions, the Chinese fishing nets. Folklore will have it that these enormous nets (or at least their design) were brought here by famed Chinese Explorer Zhang He about 600 years ago. Local fishermen manipulate these massive nets with an ease that comes from centuries of practice - it is a vocation handed down by generations. The lowering and raising of the nets has a synchronicity and rhythm that is quite an amazing experience. Some of the nets are more than a century old as the fishermen patch them up and keep going. Finish your exploration with a short guided walk through Fort Kochi and experience the unique local culture and architecture - Fort Kochi is one of India’s best cities to explore on foot. You will be driven back to your hotel after your walk.
Your Easy Tours Facilitator will pick you up from your hotel and accompany you to a local theatre where you will experience Kerala’s ancient performing art - a Kathakali dance performance. Kathakali literally means the art of storytelling through dance and the dance form is an ancient forefather of many Asian dance forms.
Day 19: Cochin - Backwaters cruise.
You are assisted with your check-out and driven to the backwaters. Arrive at Alleppey and you are assisted in boarding your Houseboat for a day cruise.
Take our word for this
, your backwaters cruise will very likely become one of your most treasured travel memories. The incredible lushness of the vegetation around the fresh water canals, rivulets and lakes, the beauty of the water bodies themselves and the abundance of coconut trees and other exotic plants create a subtropical environment not found elsewhere on this planet. When you combine this
with the opportunity to be part of a unique way of life that hasn’t changed much for a few centuries, it results in most visitors’ second highest rated experience in India (after the Taj Mahal). Relax and have a great time as you cruise the amazing backwaters. The cook and other staff make sure that all your needs are taken care of, while serving you with delicious Kerala cuisine.
At sunset, when all houseboats on the backwaters anchor on the shores of the lake,
you will disembark from your houseboat directly at the jetty near your magical lakefront resort.
The environmentally and socially progressive
resort offers a variety of unique local activities as well as great places to walk around in. These include Keralan martial art performances, guided tours of their organic farms, and a lot more. The Keralan cuisine served here is excellent and the chefs will be happy to provide recipes and cooking tips. The architecture is uniquely traditional Keralan, with large sections of teak that were transported directly over long distances from centuries old Keralan homes. The resort has some of Kerala’s best Ayurvedic practitioners and a therapeutic treatment is highly recommended - the staff at the resort will assist you in planning this.
Day 20: Kumarakom - Thekkady (Periyar National Park).
You are at leisure this morning to enjoy your fascinating lakefront resort, and its many activities and experiences. Check-out from your resort just before noon and there is a break for lunch at your idyllic resort.
After the early lunch you will enjoy the fascinating drive through the incredibly scenic rain forests of the Western Ghats as you head for Thekkady. This is one of the most beautiful drives in all of South India. Arrive at Thekkady and check-in to your scenic nature resort. This is the heart of spice country and the pleasant, mild aroma from the surrounding plantations will fascinate you when you arrive.
Day 21: Thekkady (Periyar).
Periyar National Park is located around a picturesque artificial lake that was formed in 1895 by building a dam on the Periyar River. The terrain is hilly and the elevation of the park ranges from a few hundred feet to about 6,000 feet above sea level. The lake occupies the valleys of the thickly forested hills serving as a permanent source of water for wildlife in the Park. Although it falls under Project Tiger, the main attractions of the park are definitely elephants.
is home to just under a
thousand elephants and also more than 60 other mammal species including tigers, bison, deer, wild boar and wild dog. There are more than 300 species of birds, and even 160 species of butterflies. Prominent among the birds are Cormorants, Kingfishers, Darters, the great Malabar Hornbill, and the racket-tailed Drongoes. Unlike Ranthambore, your chances of seeing a tiger in this park are extremely slim. Thekkady is a great stopover on this itinerary for a variety of reasons, only one of them being the National Park. The Spice plantations are another reason to stop here, as is the fact that this rural area happens to be located in one of the most picturesque parts of the Western Ghats.
Start your day
with a drive up to Lake Periyar and embark on a lake cruise on the spectacular lake. The scenery is both gorgeous and surreal, as ancient tree stumps still protrude from the waters of the 26-square-kilometer lake. Although Lake Periyar is officially a Tiger Reserve, chances of you seeing a big cat here are almost non-existent. What is very common is to see elephant herds as they come to the lake to drink, or as they traverse the terraced hills surrounding the lake. Wild boar are also a common sight.
Return to your resort after this and enjoy breakfast.
In the late morning you will visit to a neighboring spice plantation where an experienced naturalist will guide you through scores of different spice plants and illustrate their medicinal and gastronomical properties.
There is a break
for lunch at your resort.
you will be driven to Elephant Junction where you will mingle with the elephants, their trainers, handlers and other staff as they go about their daily business.
You will have opportunities to feed and assist in bathing the gentle giants, as well as experience elephant back rides. After this experience you will be driven back to your resort.
You are at leisure
for remainder of the day to enjoy your scenic pastoral resort and its surroundings, or you can explore the charming rural town that surrounds your resort. The flora (and other attractions) of your nature resort are very impressive, as are the nearby spice shops that sell locally grown products. The resort staff will be happy to give you a guided tour of the variety of plants and trees there, as well as their organic gardens. Upon request you can spend time with the chefs who will give you insights into the preparation of the delightful local cuisine that they offer. There is also a great Ayurvedic Spa that you can try – advance reservations are recommended.
Day 22: Thekkady - Madurai.
You are assisted with your check-out from your resort in the morning and you are driven to Madurai. The first part of this drive is through the incredible Western Ghats and you will have photo opportunities at pastoral hamlets and various lush plantations that grow tea and other crops. Arrive at Madurai
where you will break for lunch. After lunch you are assisted with your check-in to your comfortable hilltop boutique lodge. You are at leisure to relax and enjoy the scenic surroundings of your hotel.
More than 2,500 years old, Madurai is the second largest city of Tamil Nadu and an important cultural and commercial hub. It was once the seat of Tamil learning; it is still the area where the Tamil language is spoken in its purest form. The city is planned in the shape of a lotus. In contrast with its ancient roots, modern Madurai is a burgeoning industrial center, surrounded by vast stretches of paddy fields, dusty roads and crowded bazaars.
- Attend the iconic and impressive evening Palli Arai ceremony at the mammoth Sree Meenakshi Temple Complex with your guide. This elaborate and ritualistic ceremony has been written up in many international publications. You will be amazed by the incredible scale and colors that you are about to witness. Besides a glimpse of the ancient ceremony, this evening will give you a taste of what you will experience on the next day when you do a detailed tour of this awe-inspiring temple complex.
Day 23: Madurai.
Proceed for a guided city tour of Madurai. By far the main attraction of Madurai is the great Sree Meenakshi Temple. This awe-imposing monument
is the finest example of Dravidian temple architecture on this planet. Its Hall of a Thousand Pillars is a fabulous collection of elaborately sculpted and painted deities as well as other creatures from Hindu religious annals. The temple is always a beehive of activity as pilgrims from all over India come to seek the blessings of Meenakshi (Goddess Parvati) and Sundareswarar (Lord Shiva). Its vast interior is filled with worshippers at all hours of the day. You will witness Hindu priests performing various ceremonies in different parts of the temple complex as you explore this huge structure, including religious aspects of traditional weddings. According to Tamil belief, the temple has existed for about 2,000 years, but this current structure is a mere four centuries old (the previous majestic temple was destroyed by Muslim invaders in the 14th century). The massive complex includes 14 magnificent Gopurams that jut into the sky from different parts of the temple. These Gopurams have thousands of elaborate sculptures carved into them and these have been colorfully painted. The most significant of these Gopurams are the two golden towers dedicated to the two main deities, the tallest one reaches 170 feet.
After your exploration of the amazing temple complex you will Thirumalai Nayak Palace. Constructed in 1636 A.D. by an Italian architect, the palace is an interesting confluence of Dravidian, Islamic and European architectural styles.
There is a break
- Enjoy a walking tour through the colorful streets of Madurai and get to learn more about the fascinating history and culture of this ancient city.
Day 24: Madurai - Tanjore.
You are assisted with your check-out from your hotel in the morning and then you proceed on the drive to Tanjore. Arrive at Tanjore in the early afternoon and you are assisted with your check-in to your charming boutique residence. Please note that this beautiful property serves vegetarian cuisine and beer and wine, and no hard spirits. Lunch breaks at Tanjore will be at a popular rooftop restaurant (with views of the ancient city) that is very close to all the main attractions of Tanjore.
There is a break
you will drive to the Thanjavur Art Gallery. Of main interest here is the gallery’s incredible collection of ancient lost wax process bronzes, gathered from all over the region, that are unmatched in their beauty. There are also ancient temple stone sculptures and murals. The exploration of this gallery is something that everyone, art lover or not, will really enjoy.
Day 25: Tanjore - Pondicherry (Puducherry).
The Great Living Chola Temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and your day will start with a guided visit to the most awe-inspiring example of these, the Brihadishwara
. Please note that this massive structure has very little in common with any of the other amazing temples you may have seen in India. This incredible thousand-year-old Temple Complex is constructed solely of granite, a material so hard that, with all our current technology, no architect today would even dream of building a structure with the amazing detail and mammoth scale of the Brihadishwara.
These are just a few of the reasons why this monument is one of India’s most treasured architectural achievements.
This ancient temple’s crown
is a massive granite monolithic cupola made up of ten different pieces totaling about eighty two tons. This temple was built by the great King Rajaraja Chola. Construction commenced in 1003 A.D. and the height of the main structure is 216 feet, which means that the incredibly heavy cupola had to be raised about 200 feet and placed at the top of the structure. The temple itself is decorated with carved panels depicting mythological events. An immense Nandi (the Bull) stands in front of the main shrine - carved out of a single piece of granite and measuring 16 feet long and 13 feet high. The colors used on the elaborate frescoes inside the structures are said to have lasted this long because they were achieved by locating stones in those natural shades and grinding those stones to a paste. After your exploration of the Brihadishwara you will return to your lodging to check-out.
There is a break
you will proceed on the drive to Pondicherry.
Arrive at Pondicherry in the early evening and you are assisted with your check-in to your boutique colonial lodging. Picturesque Pondicherry was the location of the entire first act of Life of Pi.
Day 26: Pondicherry.
You are taken for a guided tour of this fascinating town that has been called the French Riviera of the East. With a long history of trade and war, the current city started taking shape under French Governance a few hundred years ago. History here goes back a lot further, as a large number of artifacts from a two millennia old Greek Trading Post (for trade with Rome) have been found just a couple of miles down the road from the city. This extremely laid back city has two distinct parts, the Colonial and the Indian, which are separated by a small canal. The Colonial side is the older one, with Mediterranean houses in tree lined streets still called Rues and Boulevards. The Indian side is typical of a Tamil city, with quite a bit more noise and crowding. There are interesting churches and temples, as well as other fascinating reminders of a grand colonial past.
Your tour ends
Your boutique residence
is in the heart of the colonial quarter and we recommend that you explore the area on foot on your own this afternoon. Delightful little European cafés and restaurants abound, and there is a large European expatriate community living here who you will encounter as you explore. The mix of the local Tamil population and the expats makes for an interesting local culture and lifestyle.
Day 27: Pondicherry - Mahabalipuram.
You are assisted with your check-out in the mid-morning and then you proceed on the scenic drive to Mahabalipuram. This 3 hour drive will take you through coastal villages with frequent glimpses of the Bay of Bengal. You will stop for photo opportunities with villagers selling freshly picked local fruits and vegetables. Arrive at Mahabalipuram and you are assisted with your check-in to your ocean front resort after breaking for lunch.
You are at leisure
for the remainder of the afternoon. Mahabalipuram is a quintessential Tamil small town and is a great place to take walks and explore the local culture. The locals are very friendly and welcoming. A captivating sight can be experienced from the beach twice a day as the local fisherman head out in their colorful fishing boats early in the morning and then again when they return in the afternoon with their catch.
Day 28: Mahabalipuram.
Start your day with a guided exploration of the ancient port of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This laid back coastal town south of Chennai is world famous for its 8th ce
ntury shore temple and other historical marvels. Mahabalipuram was the second capital of the Pallava Kings of Kanchipuram, the first Tamil dynasty after the fall of the Gupta Empire. The massive rock sculptures carved into softly sloping hills, monolithic temples, ancient manmade caverns with incredible sculptures and the world’s largest bas-relief in stone, all combine to make Mahabalipuram a living museum. Vying with this splendor is a beach and the picturesque Bay of Bengal. The famous Pancha Rathas (Five Chariots) Temples, the Penance of Bhagirath (also known as Arjuna’s Penance), the Shore Temple, the massive bas-relief Descent of the Ganges and the eight Mandapams (Shallow halls carved out of sheer rock) are all located within the small coastal community.
Return to your resort
for lunch and some relaxation.
- Enjoy a guided walk down the beach as this allows you to mingle with the local fishing community and their colorful wooden boats. You will see a variety of activities going on - many of the fishermen are returning from their day’s work and they are going through various processes of pulling their boats up on the beach and organizing their nets and other gear. The fish are stacked into plastic bins which are then weighed right there on the beach. Now the negotiating takes place. You will witness women repairing nets and a lot of other similar activity. Boats will be coming ashore, and some of the larger boats will actually head out at this time of day. Photo opportunities abound, including the famed 8th century Shore Temple, from which you are only a stone’s throw away.
Day 29: Chennai - International/Mumbai/Delhi Flight.
You are assisted with your check-out in the mid-morning and then driven to Chennai airport in time for your outbound flight.
Departure Option 1:
If you are boarding your international flight from Chennai, since most international flights depart at night or the very early morning, we recommend that, those who have late flights, ask us to facilitate a room for them at the Trident Hotel near Chennai airport. The Hotel can also facilitate late night/early morning airport drop-offs.
Departure Option 2:
If you are boarding a daytime flight to Mumbai/Delhi (flight cost not included in Domestic Flight Supplement)
in order to connect with your international departure from that city, you will have three options.
Departure Option 2A:
If your international flight departure is less than four hours from your scheduled arrival time at the domestic terminal at Mumbai or Delhi, you will ask the airline staff to assist you with checking in for your next flight (occasionally this may require a transfer to another terminal – airport coaches are available) OR
Departure Option 2B:
If your international flight departure is four or more hours from your scheduled arrival time at the domestic terminal at Mumbai or Delhi, you are greeted at the Mumbai/Delhi airport by an Easy Tours Facilitator and your personal chauffeur. Your personal vehicle and chauffeur are available to you until 9 pm for your assisted check-in at the airport. This is a good time to do some last minute shopping and/or sightseeing if you are so inclined - OR
Departure Option 2C:
If your flight departs early the next morning, you may want us to arrange a room for you so you can rest.
Our services end at Mumbai/Delhi/Chennai airport.