Journey through India: From Royal Rajasthan to Kerala
Enjoy a grand adventure that blends the north and south of India in a single journey, weaving the sub-continent's cultural heritage into a comprehensive and magical experience.
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This tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.
From north to south, India beckons with colors of infinite richness, sounds of enduring spirituality, and sights of unending wonder. Encounter India’s fabled historical and spiritual heritage on this unique itinerary with highlights both on and off the beaten path from royal Rajasthan to Kerala.
Begin by touring the classic Golden Triangle, featuring Delhi, with the Gandhi Memorial and the Tomb of Humayun; Agra and its sublime Taj Mahal; and the “pink city” of Jaipur, with its Amber Fort and City Palace Museum. You’ll also explore Udaipur’s magnificent City Palace complex overlooking Lake Pichola, and in Jodhpur tour the imposing hilltop Mehrangarh Fort. Journey to the Thar Desert for a two-night stay at the Dera Dune Retreat near Jamba, perched atop a 130-foot sand dune, and embark on a camel safari. Then depart Rajasthan and travel to Mumbai, India’s energetic commercial capital in the south. Conclude with three days in Kochi, “Queen of the Arabian Sea,” where highlights include a demonstration of Indian cooking with celebrated chef Nimmy Paul, a full-day city tour, a cruise along Kerala’s scenic canals, and a performance of Kathakali dance, a traditional Kerala art form. An optional extension to Sri Lanka is also offered.
Days 1-2 - U.S., Delhi, India
Depart the U.S. and upon arrival late evening the next day, transfer to your hotel.
Days 3-4 - Delhi
Built by a succession of empires, Delhi is comprised of many cities. This afternoon tour Old Delhi, capital of Muslim India from 1100-1800. Begin at the Gandhi Memorial, open to the sky and with an eternal flame, then continue to the massive Red Fort complex of palaces and Jama Masjid, India's largest mosque dating to 1656. Conclude the day with a rickshaw ride in Chandni Chowk, Delhi’s colorful market. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Today’s touring includes Bangla Sahib, India’s most important Sikh house of worship. Spend time viewing the superb collection of Indian art and artifacts at the National Museum, and explore Qutab Minar (c. 1052), India's tallest minaret, standing at 238 feet tall. (2B,1L,1D)
Days 5-6 - Agra
Traveling by coach today to Agra, stop en route at Akbar the Great’s mausoleum in Sikandra, a Mughal architectural gem built in 1613. Late this afternoon watch the sun set over the Taj Mahal.
The next morning presents a travel highlight as you embark on a sunrise tour of the Taj Mahal, the magnificent tomb built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz. Return to the hotel for breakfast then visit the imposing Agra Fort complex (c. 1565). (2B,2L,1D)
Days 7-8 - Jaipur
Travel by coach today to the “pink city” of Jaipur, one of the great cities of the Rajput, with historic forts, palaces, and gardens. Early the next morning, join a yoga demonstration. After a photo stop at Hawa Mahal, the elaborately carved pink sandstone “Palace of the Winds,” tour opulent Amber Fort. Built by the Kachhawah Rajputs as their capital from 1037 to 1728, the complex of pavilions and palaces sits at the pinnacle of Mughal architecture. Learn about the care of elephants at the nearby “elephant” village of Kunda, then visit the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing. This afternoon visit Jantar Mantar (c. 1728), the open-air observatory with its huge astronomical instruments, and the City Palace Museum, housing the magnificent art collections of Jaipur’s Maharajahs. (2B,2L,1D)
Days 9-11 - Udaipur
Travel by coach to Udaipur, “City of Lakes.” The next day, after a stop at the Eklinji complex of 108 temples dating to the 8th century, visit Udaipur’s highlight: the royal City Palace complex overlooking Lake Pichola. Bedecked with balconies, towers, and domes, City Palace was built in 1559, then added onto over the next 300 years. Tour the museum inside, then see nearby Jagdish Temple, with its elaborate ornamentation. This afternoon enjoy a relaxing boat ride on the lake. The next morning, see a prized collection of Rajasthani folk arts at the Lok Kala Museum, then continue to the cluster of cenotaphs (memorials) to the Maharajahs of Mewar who once reigned here. Later visit a nearby village. (3B,2L,3D)
Day 12 - Jodhpur
Travel by coach today to Jodhpur, stopping for lunch at Ranakpur, where you'll visit its spectacular marble Jain temple. Arrive in Jodhpur later today and visit Jaswant Thada, a landmark memorial built of intricately carved white marble, then walk through Jodhpur’s vibrant markets. (B,L)
Day 13 - Jodhpur and Jamba
This morning, tour Jodhpur’s imposing hilltop Mehrangarh Fort (c. 1459), with its seven gates, various palaces, and well-regarded museum. Then depart for Jamba, traveling through the Thar Desert as the undulating dunes reflect the golden glow of the sun. Late today take a camel safari through the dunes to nearby salt pans. Your unique lodging for two nights, the Dera Dune Retreat, perches magnificently atop a stabilized 130-foot sand dune and provides a wonderful base for exploring this remote area of Rajasthan. (B,L,D)
Days 14-15 - Jamba, Jodhpur, Mumbai
This morning, during a visit to a school, you'll join the children in crafts projects. Next embark on a jeep safari, and meet with ethnic groups in their villages. The following day return to Jodhpur for the flight to Mumbai, arriving late in the afternoon and dining tonight at your hotel. (2B,2L,2D)
Day 16 - Mumbai
Today encounter India’s most populous city, as well as its commercial and entertainment capital. Begin at the modest – and revered – two-story Mani Bhawan, Gandhi’s headquarters in Mumbai from 1917-1934. During a city tour, you'll see the waterfront Gateway of India monument; Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai’s famed open-air “laundromat;” the Hanging Gardens with their animal-shaped hedges; and Marine Drive, overlooking the seaside promenade. This afternoon, visit Mumbai's main museum of art, archaeology, and natural history. Your tour concludes at the vibrant and beautiful Crawford Market. (B,L)
Day 17 - Kochi
Mid-morning fly to the port city Kochi (formerly called Cochin), the first of Europe's colonies in India. Later take a walking tour of Fort Kochi to see its mix of Portuguese, Dutch, and British historic colonial buildings. Tonight join celebrated chef Nimmy Paul for a demonstration of Indian cooking, followed by dinner. (B, D)
Days 18-19 - Kochi
A full-day tour reveals Kochi's multi-layered past. Highlights include the Dutch Palace, with its rare Keralite flooring and mythological murals; St. Francis, India’s first European church (c. 1510); and the photogenic Chinese fishing nets unique to Kochi. Then enjoy time at leisure for lunch on your own and to explore Kochi’s old town as you wish. Tonight attend a performance of Kathakali dance, where facial expressions and hand gestures combine with movement to create this traditional Kerala art form. Following the performance enjoy a farewell dinner at your hotel.
The next morning, cruise along Kerala's palm-fringed backwaters of lagoons, lakes and canals and see the life of local villages and farms up close. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (2B, 2L, 1D)
Day 20 - Depart for U.S.
Very early this morning depart for the airport and your return flight to the U.S.