Delhi - Goa - Kochi - Munnar - Periyar - Kumarakom - Alleppey - Colombo - Pinnawala - Habarana - Sigiriya - Polonnaruwa - Minneriya - Kandy - Bentota - Galle
Tentative dates: January 17 - February 5, 2023 (20 days)
with Optional Agra - Taj Mahal Extension
Tentative dates: January 15 – 18, 2023
✔ Optional pre-tour to Agra and the iconic Taj Mahal, built in the 17th century by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
✔ The fun and frenetic capital of Delhi and Goa’s relaxing tropical atmosphere. The lush scenery, thrilling wildlife, colonial history and coconut-rich cuisine of Kerala and Sri Lanka.
✔ Kerala, a region of great natural beauty – a land of backwaters, fragrant spices, coconut groves, lush mangroves, and golden sandy beaches. A more relaxing experience than the chaotic cities of the north, the south-west of the country is the ideal destination for a first visit to India.
✔ The exotic island of Sri Lanka, whose landscapes range from palm-lined sandy beaches to lush forests and cool hill towns dotted with tea plantations. Visit a variety of World Heritage sites, from the picturesque hill town of Kandy, to the rock fortress of Sigiriya and the Portuguese fortifications of Galle.
Depart for India.
After arrival at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, transfer to your hotel. Free time to relax before dinner. (D)
India Gate, Delhi
Morning tour of Old Delhi, starting with Raj Ghat, the memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation. Drive past the iconic Red Fort and Chandni Chowk, one of the city’s oldest and busiest markets, and Jama Masjid – India’s largest mosque which can hold approximately 25,000 people.
This afternoon, discover New Delhi. Visit Qutub Minar, touted as India’s largest minaret, and Hamayun’s tomb, thought to have inspired the Taj Mahal, which it predates by 60 years. Constructed for the Mughal emperor in the mid-16th century by Haji Begum, Humayun’s Persian-born wife, the tomb marries Persian and Mughal elements. See the India Gate, Parliament House, President’s House and Lakshmi Narayan Temple. (B,D)
Humayun's Tomb, Delhi
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Goa, a kaleidoscopic blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures, sweetened with sun, sea, sand, seafood and spirituality. Transfer to your beachside hotel.
Remainder of the day at leisure to relax on the beach. (B,D)
Morning tour of Old Goa, former capital of Portuguese India until 1961, known for its colonial-era monuments such as the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which houses the remains of St. Francis Xavier, the vast Se Cathedral and the domed Church of St. Cajetan, inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Free afternoon to enjoy Goa’s relaxed tropical atmosphere or scour the markets. (B,D)
St. Cajetan Church, Goa
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Kochi (via Hyderabad). Known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the west coast of India from the 14th century. The Arabs, British, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese have left indelible marks on the history and development of this vibrant port city. Transfer to your hotel on arrival. (B,D)
Fishing nets in the backwaters of Kerala © Kerala Tourism
Drive to the beautiful hill station of Munnar, once the summer resort of the British Government in South India. Located in the Western Ghats at 1,600 metres above sea level, Munnar rises as three mountain streams merge – Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. As the centre of Kerala’s tea industry, sprawling tea plantations, clear lakes, picturesque towns and winding lanes abound. Munnar is also home to the Neelakurinji. This flower, which bathes the hills in blue once in every twelve years, will bloom next in 2030. Afternoon at leisure. (B,D)
Munnar © Kerala Tourism
Today explore Munnar and its surroundings, including Atukkad Waterfalls, the quaint hill town of Chithirapuram, renowned for its tea plantations, and the Floriculture Centre – a well-manicured garden with hundreds of rare varieties of flowers and herbal plants. Enjoy the spectacular view of the Western Ghats from Top Station. Visit the Tata Tea Museum, which depicts the history of tea plantations and processing since the earlier times. You will also visit one of Munnar’s beautiful tea plantations. (B,D)
Tea plantation, India
Depart for Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, home to elephants, Bengal tigers, bisons, wild pigs, sambars, leopards, langur monkeys and more. Enjoy a boat cruise on the lake.
The region is known as the Spice Village of India for its vast spice and tea gardens; cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric and vanilla cover much of the landscape. Tour a spice plantation on your way to Thekkady, on the Tamil Nadu border. Tonight enjoy a Kalaripayattu Martial Art Show – one of the oldest, traditional martial art forms in Kerala. (B,D)
Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary © Kerala Tourism
Today drive to Kumarakom, a cluster of islands in the Vembanad Lake. This beautiful backwater destination is a paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and canals. Afternoon at leisure. (B,D)
Kumarakom © Kerala Tourism
This morning, transfer to Alleppey. Experience the backwaters of Kerala aboard a premium houseboat. The backwaters are a network of 1,500 km of canals, both manmade and natural, 38 rivers, and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other. The houseboats – or Kettuvallam – used in early days for the transport of goods from isolated interior villages, are today converted and designed for comfortable cruising and overnight stays. Cruise along the backwaters, winding your way past small villages. Overnight on board. (B,L,D)
Houseboat, Alleppey backwaters
Following breakfast on your houseboat, drive to Kochi. Enjoy a city tour including the Mattancherry Palace, a Portuguese palace popularly known as the Dutch Palace, with astonishing murals that depict the entire Ramayana and Mahabharat. See the Jewish Synagogue – the Commonwealth’s oldest, constructed in 1568 after allowing Jewish refugees from Jerusalem to settle here during the Crusades. Watch the Chinese-style fishing nets along the shore. Tonight enjoy a performance of Kathakali Dances. (B,D)
Kathakali female character make up © Kerala Tourism
Transfer to Cochin International Airport for your flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka. On arrival, transfer to your hotel in the resort town of Negombo. Remainder of the day at leisure. (B,D)
Sardines drying on the beach, Negombo
Depart for Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, founded in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Department to afford care and protection to the many orphaned or injured elephants found in the jungles of Sri Lanka. Watch the elephants bathe in the Maha Oya River. Late afternoon arrival in Habarana. (B,D)
Young elephants, Pinnawala
Full day excursion, starting with the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya – or Lion Rock. Rising dramatically from the central plains, the enigmatic rocky outcrop contains the ruins of an ancient civilization, thought to be once the epicentre of the short-lived kingdom of Kassapa. A series of moats, ramparts and water garden spread out on two sides of the rock, with the remains of a pair of giant stone lions’ paws still guarding the staircase that leads to the summit, once occupied by a royal palace. Continue to Polonnaruwa, the country’s capital from the 11th to the 13th century, considered one of the best-preserved historic cities in the world.
Tonight, join a jeep safari tour of Minneriya National Park – the largest known meeting place of Asian elephants in the world. Other mammals found in the park include sambar, spotted deer, macaque and purple-faced langur monkeys, sloth bears, leopards and numerous birds. (B,D)
Sigiriya frescoes © Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau
This morning explore the Golden Temple of Dambulla – the centre of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus alike for 22 centuries. The cave monastery is covered with exquisite 2,000-year-old murals depicting the life and times of the Lord Buddha. The shrines also house a collection of 157 statues of Buddha in various sizes and poses, including a 15-metre long reclining Buddha and vividly coloured frescoes on the walls and ceiling, making this the largest antique painted surface in the world.
Visit a spice garden and watch how nutmeg, chilli, cinnamon, cloves, curry leaves and cardamom are grown and processed. This evening, enjoy the rich culture of Kandy brought alive with a colourful cultural show. (B,D)
Dambulla Temple © Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau
Visit the sacred Temple of the Tooth, which houses one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics and attracts followers of the Buddhist faith from all over the world. The Royal Complex situated around the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy Lake – comprising the King’s Palace, the Queen’s Palace, the Audience Hall, the Royal Boathouse and the Royal Summer House – represent the zenith of ancient Sri Lankan architecture. Transfer to Bentota, arriving late afternoon. (B,D)
Bentota Beach © Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau
Drive to the beautiful city of Galle. At its beating heart is the old fortified quarter – a walled cape which has stood through the colonial periods of the Portuguese, Dutch and British. Once a vital trading post between the east and west, Galle was the main maritime port for the country for more than 200 years. Today this bastion still retains many of its military features, narrow streets and Dutch-colonial buildings. Return to Bentota and visit a turtle hatchery. (B,D)
Galle Fort © Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau
Head to Colombo, the country’s largest city and capital – a jumbled mix of modern business blocks, colonial buildings, temples and tumble-down flats and houses. On a panoramic tour, pass by the Buddhist Temple of Seema Malakaya, the National Museum, Old Parliament, Independence Memorial Hall, the gentrified neighbourhood of Cinnamon Gardens and the harbour. Celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner at the hotel. (B,D)
Colombo harbour at night © Sri Lanka Tourism Bureau
Transfer to Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport for your flight(s) home. (B)