India Grand Tour

30 days
from
$4,845 AUD
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4.3 / 5 from 23 reviews >
Leisurely
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Trip code: 
AII
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Tailormade Adventures
Activity:
Cultural Wonders
Min age:
16
Group size:
5–16

The ultimate journey through the most diverse of countries

The variety that India offers is unparalleled - on this incredible journey we sample some of the country's many highlights. In the north we delve into the hustle and bustle of Delhi and Jaipur, admire the exquisite palaces of Rajasthan and marvel at the serene Taj Mahal. For the spiritually inclined there is time to experience the holy River Ganges at Varanasi. For wildlife we head to Ranthambore National Park and search for the elusive tiger. As we travel further south, there are cave temples and ancient ruins to explore and Goa's tropical beaches to relax on. We then visit the magnificent Mysore Palace before heading to the hill station of the British Raj at Ooty. Back on the coast, we explore historical Cochin, a port which has been luring traders and explorers for over 600 years. Our journey ends with a cruise on a traditional houseboat, with the chance to kick back on the tranquil backwaters of Kerala.

Highlights

  • Explore the holy city of Varanasi
  • A full day to explore the ruins of Hampi
  • Relax on the beaches of Goa
  • Cruise the backwaters of Kerala on a houseboat

Key information

  • 25 nights hotels, 1 night houseboat, all en suite, 3 nights sleeper trains
  • Group normally 5 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs
  • Travel by air-conditioned private bus and train

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner included
  • All accommodation
  • Transfer for group flights

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visas & Vaccinations
  • Single supplement
Call for general departures:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
+61 3 9998 9052
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

Delhi
to
Kovalam
  • Day 1

    Start Delhi; afternoon free.

    The group flight will arrive into Delhi in the morning and we will transfer to our hotel. Those who have made their own flight arrangements will join us at the hotel during the day (rooms may not be available until noon but it is often earlier than this). The rest of the day is free to relax or explore Delhi.
    Comfortable Hotel

  • Day 2

    Morning sightseeing; overnight train to Varanasi.

    Today we have a morning sightseeing in Old Delhi including the famous Red Fort and Jama Masjid (India's largest mosque). In New Delhi we see the fine colonial buildings, as we drive through the area, built by the British Raj in the early years of the 20th century and set in spacious tree-lined boulevards; these now house various Indian governmental departments. We then board our overnight sleeper train to Varanasi, India's most sacred city.
    Sleeper Train

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Morning arrival; free to explore temples and markets.

    We arrive at Varanasi in the morning and transfer to our hotel. Varanasi, located on the river Ganges, is one of the holiest cities in India and stands at the centre of the Hindu universe. As such, the city lives and breathes Hinduism: there are thousands of pilgrims, wandering holy men (Sadhus), religious leaders and casual visitors. It is a city to get immersed in by exploring its maze of narrow lanes, ghats, the many temples and watch the Hindu ceremonies that occur around the clock. There is time to explore the emporiums specialising in silks and brocades or maybe take a massage by the banks of the Ganges.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Boat ride on the spiritual Ganges; sightseeing; overnight train to Agra.

    Just before dawn, we take a boat out on the Ganges to witness the extraordinary spectacle on the ghats, the steps leading down to the river. Every day thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to these three miles of riverbank to immerse themselves in the waters of the holy Ganges. The rest of the day is free to continue exploring the city or relax at the hotel. In the late afternoon we board the overnight train to Agra.
    Sleeper Train

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Arrive Agra; visit the Red Fort.

    After arriving in Agra and checking in at our hotel we visit the imposing Red Fort of Akbar, third of the Moghul Emperors, whose mighty sandstone walls enclose the beautiful white marble Pearl Mosque and the palaces, halls, courtyards and fountains of his sons and successors, Jehangir and Shah Jahan.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Sunrise visit to Taj Mahal; to Jaipur via Fatehpur Sikri.

    At sunrise we visit the beautiful white marble Taj Mahal, built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631. The Taj is serenely beautiful and never fails to amaze a first time visitor. A few miles outside Agra is Fatehpur Sikri, the emperor Akbar's deserted royal city. The mosque, designed to hold ten thousand worshippers, the palaces, residences and halls of audience are all made of decorative red sandstone. But this magnificence only lasted 14 years, as in 1584 Akbar left Fatehpur Sikri to secure his outlying territories, leaving this city much as we see it today - in perfect condition. Continue journey to Jaipur. Total driving time approx. 7 hrs.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Visit City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Amber Fort.

    Jaipur was built in the early 18th century and is a planned city of broad avenues built of sandstone and painted pink at a later stage. In the centre of Jaipur is the City Palace, formerly the residence of the Maharaja it is now a fine museum containing rare manuscripts, paintings, royal garments and weapons. Close to the palace is one of the most intriguing sights of India, the observatory of Jai Singh. This is an assembly of immense astronomical instruments made of marble and brass set in a pleasant garden. We will also see Jaipur's impressive landmark, the Hawa Mahal, or Palace of the Winds. A few miles from the main city is the splendid Amber Palace; the imposing hilltop fort contains large courtyards and interiors with fine decorations including inlaid alabaster panels and a Chamber of Mirrors. We walk up the hill and through the massive gateway to the courtyard. Jaipur is a centre of many handicrafts, such as durries (woven rugs), carpets, printed cloth, semi-precious stones, leatherwear etc. It will be difficult to leave a workshop without buying anything!
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Drive to Ranthambore N.P.

    We make an early start and drive about 180 kms (approx. 5 hours) to Ranthambore National Park. We stay in a lodge not far from the park entrance.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 9

    Morning and evening game drives.

    Ranthambore is one of India's tiger reserves under Project Tiger. After initial success, poaching has reduced the tiger population and seeing a tiger is by no means guranteed, however, a number of Exodus groups have seen them over the last few years. We make our first game drive today early in the morning and a second drive in the evening to increase our chances of seeing tiger. There is a huge array of other wildlife, such as several species of monkey, deer, crocodiles and bird life, which together with the scenery, make for a fascinating and exciting day. Game drives are undertaken in a large open truck (called a canter) from which we have unobstructed views of the park and the animals.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 10

    Morning game drive; optional visit to ancient forts and villages; overnight train to Mumbai.

    In the morning we head back into the Park for our 3rd game drive. We board the overnight train to Mumbai in the late afternoon/early evening.
    Sleeper Train

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Free day.

    We arrive in Mumbai and transfer to our hotel. The rest of the day is free to explore. Mumbai is a fascinating city to visit. It is the country's most cosmopolitan city yet some of Asia's biggest slums are found here. It is India's financial powerhouse, where businessman walk amidst skyscrapers, and it is home to the most prolific film industry in the world, Bollywood. A playground for the country's rich and famous, with large shopping centres, bustling bazaars, hip restaurants and a trendy nightlife. Alongside this, half of the residents live in slums. There is lots to do in this city, from shopping in the bazaars to taking an evening stroll at Chowpatty beach.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 12

    Optional trip to Elephanta Caves; afternoon free.

    This morning you may wish to make an optional trip to Elephanta Island, (the return boat trip is about £3 (approx. US$5) for 3 hours and the entrance is about £4 (approx. US$7) per person). The main attraction is the rock-cut temples, carved between 450-740AD. The afternoon is free to explore this city including the Gateway of India Arch and the eerie Towers of Silence, on top of which the Parsees expose their dead to be devoured by the ever-present vultures.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 13

    To Aurangabad; visit Ellora Caves.

    We will take the early morning train to Aurangabad and then have a short drive to the cave temple complex at Ellora, a World Heritage site. The caves date from the 6th to the 8th century AD and have been painstakingly hewn out of the hillside. There are more than 30 Buddhist, Jain and Hindu temples, crowded with finely carved images. It is thought that the caves were carved by priests and pilgrims who used this ancient trade route. The highlight of the complex is the amazing Kailasa Temple, a replica of the mountain abode of Shiva and probably the world's largest monolithic structure. Carved out of solid rock it measures 33m. In spite of its massive proportions, the temple is carved all over in the most intricate detail. Later we drive back to Aurangabad.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 14

    Explore Aurangabad; visit Ajanta Caves.

    We drive to the caves at Ajanta (approx. 2 hrs). The 29 caves are spectacularly located in a pass in the Vindhya Hills and were only discovered in 1819 by a company of British soldiers on a tiger hunt. The caves were created between the 2nd century BC and the 7th century AD. They were cut from volcanic lavas in a forested ravine. They contain many carvings and beautiful wall paintings, depicting scenes from Buddhist legends. In the afternoon we drive back to Aurangabad. Later, if we have time, we can visit the Bibi-ka-Maqbara (optional) an imitation of the Taj Mahal which was built by the Moghul Emperor Azam Shah, son of Aurangzeb, as a mausoleum for his mother Rabia Ul Durani in the late 17th century.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    To Bijapur.

    Today is a long drive to Bijapur (approx.9-10 hrs.). Bijapur is a small and pleasant Muslim town with fine old buildings dating back to the 14th century, when the Muslim rulers of Delhi conquered the area. The city is dominated by the magnificent Gol Gumbaz, the huge mausoleum of its 17th century ruler Mohammed Adil Shah. The Jama Masjid Mosque is one of the finest in India, with its graceful, slender minarets.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 16

    Sightseeing of Bijapur; afternoon drive to Hospet.

    Morning sightseeing visiting Gol Gumbaz and Jama Masjid. In the afternoon we drive to Hospet (approx. 3.5 hours), which is our base for the next two nights. The evening is free.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 17

    Full day exploring ruins at Hampi.

    Today we have a full day-visit to the beautiful ruined city of Hampi. Hampi is the site of the old capital of the Vijaynagar Kings, who ruled from the 14th to 16th centuries. Once the largest Hindu empire in India the city was destroyed in a battle in 1565 by the Deccan Sultans when Islam was spreading to South India. The ruins are almost ethereal and amid the boulder-strewn landscape we can see the finely carved pillars of the Ramachandra Shrine, the old market place, plus many other temples and monuments in the South Indian Dravidian architectural style. In the evening we return to our hotel in Hospet.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 18

    Drive through hills to Goa.

    Today we drive (approx. 10 hrs.) over the Western Ghats to Goa. The state of Goa was a Portuguese colony from 1510 until it was returned to India in 1961. The great Catholic missionary St Francis Xavier came to Goa in the 16th century and his body, perfectly preserved, lies in the Bom Jesus Basilica and a large part of the Goan population is still Christian. Goa became a meeting place of east and west, where merchants could buy and sell pearls, rubies, coral, silks, Chinese porcelain and exotic spices. These days Goa is an idyllic place with tropical white sandy beaches and palm fringed shorelines. The next 2 days are free for individual exploration of Goa.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 19

    Free day or optional excursions

    You may like to visit Old Goa, the spiritual heart of Portuguese Goa. Goa was famous for its spice trading and there is a chance to visit one of the spice farms dotted around the wetter, hilly, inland areas of Goa. Another recommended trip is to the Menezes Braganza House at Chandor, a fine Portuguese mansion, which shows the opulent lifestyle of the Old Portuguese families who established great plantation estates. Or you may just want to relax and explore the golden beaches dotted along the coast.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 20

    Free day or optional excursions.

    A day free for further exploration of the area or relaxation. Your leader will be able to suggest, and help organise, various optional activities.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 21

    To Udupi, pilgrimage site of Shri Krishna; continue to Mangalore.

    We drive to Udupi (approx. 8-9 hrs.), an important Teerthasthal (pilgrimage place) with its historical Krishna Temple. It is the cultural centre of Karnataka and has its own identity in the field of art and culture. Proceed towards Mangalore where we will spend the night.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 22

    Drive to Mysore.

    In the morning we drive to Mysore (approx. 8 hrs.), the city of royal places and spend two nights here.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 23

    Guided city tour of Mysore; afternoon visit Maharajah's Palace.

    Mysore is the city known for its sandalwood and the manufacture of incense sticks. It is Karnataka's second largest city. We have a sightseeing tour of Mysore and its surroundings. Just outside of Mysore is Srirangapatnam. Tipus' famous battles against both the French and the British are depicted here in the murals on the walls of his delightful summer palace. Ruins of the Fort and the Gumbaz, the family mausoleums are also here. Returning to Mysore we spend the afternoon exploring the beautifully restored City Palace. Designed by Henry Irwin and built in 1897 it is one of the largest palaces in the country and has been beautifully restored and maintained. The stained glass, wall paintings, ivory inlaid doors and ornate golden throne are all remarkable. The rest of the day is free to wander round the bazaar and maybe visit an incense making shop.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 24

    To Ootacamund hill station.

    It's a beautiful drive of about six hours as we cross the border from Karnataka into Tamil Nadu. We drive through the Mudumalai and Bandipur National Parks where we may spot deer, elephant and monkeys as we drive along and leave the plains for the Niligiri Hills arriving at Ootacamund hill station where we will spend two nights.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 25

    Relax, walk or ride the miniature steam railway.

    Ootacamund is queen of the southern hill stations and was a refuge for British Officials and tea planters in Southern India. At 2286m the climate is much cooler here and evenings in winter can be quite chilly. In the morning we will drive to Dodabetta Peak. At 2638m it is the highest peak in the Nilgiri Hills. From the top on a clear day we can see as far as the Mysore Plateau. For those who want, there is a pleasant walk through a variety of woodland (eucalyptus, conifer, shola) to Snowdon Peak (2450m) after which we walk back to the Botanical Gardens in town. The Botanical Gardens contain over 1000 varieties of plants, shrubs and trees including orchids, set amidst beautiful lawns. In the afternoon, if there is time and the narrow gauge Blue Mountain Railway is open, we will take the delightful one-hour train journey up to Conoor.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 26

    Descend the Nilgiri Hills to Cochin; evening free.

    A fairly long drive today (approx. 9 hrs.) as we leave the Niligiri Hills and head to the coast winding our way through lush tea and coffee plantations. We leave Tamil Nadu and enter Kerala as the road winds through forested hillsides. The ghat journey from Coonoor is one of the most scenic in South India giving superb views of the plains below. Magnificent groves of the slender areca nut palm trees line the road en route to Cochin.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 27

    Morning tour of Cochin; evening Kathakali dance show (optional).

    Cochin is situated on the Malabar, or 'Pepper Coast', and is one of South India's most interesting towns, believed to have been the first European settlement in India. Rich in history it retains a relaxed, quiet atmosphere. We have a sightseeing tour of Fort Cochin where most of the historic buildings are located amongst the narrow streets. The Portuguese Vasco de Gama landed here in 1500 and began trading with the Raja of Cochin. The Mattancherry Palace was built by the Portuguese in the mid 1500's and then was largely rebuilt by its second occupants, the Dutch. Built in traditional Kerala style the wooden architecture and wall paintings are still well preserved. St Francis Church is where Vasco de Gama died in 1524 and the building reflects the new European influence in the area. The Santa Cruz Cathedral is close by and was originally used as a warehouse by the British. The Chinese fishing nets line the entrance to the harbour and were introduced by the Chinese in the late 14th century. There is also time to wander round the tiny back streets hunting for souvenirs in the many antique shops and warehouses. In the evening there is the option to see the traditional beautiful dancing of Kathakali.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 28

    To Alleppey; board houseboat for backwater cruise.

    We drive to Alleppey (approx. 2 hrs.) where we board our houseboats and begin our cruise around the backwaters of Alleppey. The houseboat cruise is one of the highlights of the trip - these enchanting houseboats; built of Anjili wood and bamboo were the traditional method of transport of goods for hundreds of years. Now they have been decorated and made into comfortable cruise boats. As our boat meanders through areas of lush tropical vegetation we have the opportunity to view not only the prolific bird life but also gain a differing perspective on village life. The cruise takes us along shallow, palm-fringed canals where coconut fibre, copia (coconut meat) and cashews are loaded on to dugouts. In the evening the boat is anchored in the backwaters and we can watch the sunset over the rice paddies. All the houseboats are comfortably equipped and have twin bedded rooms with bathroom. There is a cook, boat driver and assistants for each boat and the food served is traditional Keralan fare using local produce. No trip to Kerala would be complete without the wonderful experience of the backwaters aboard these traditional houseboats.
    Houseboat

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 29

    To tropical beaches of Kovalam.

    In the morning we drive to the coastal town of Kovalam (approx. 5 hrs.). Once a relaxing hideaway on the old hippie trail, this beachside town has now been discovered, but the influx of tourism has not diminished this beautiful setting.
    Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 30

    End Kovalam.

    If you are travelling on Land Only arrangements then your trip will finish this morning after checkout. If you are travelling on the group flight we transfer to Trivandrum airport in the early hours of the morning for our flight back to London.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Vaccinations

India

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Some of our India trips spend time at altitude. In regions over approx. 2000m, there is low to no risk of mosquito-borne diseases. For trips going to altitudes of over 3000m there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness. Our itineraries are designed to enable everyone to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Please see the TRIP NOTES for further information.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 1 lunch and 1 dinner included.

You should allow at least £13 (US$17) per day for lunch and dinner. You can eat out very cheaply in India, but if you go to the more expensive restaurants most of the time, you will spend more than the suggested amount. Where meals are not supplied, our group leaders always encourage people to try local restaurants and street food vendors. They can make recommendations which will help boost small businesses and celebrate local specialties. In Jaipur, Varanasi and Delhi, we can even see how the food is made e.g. masala chai (tea), samosa (mashed potato snack), jalebe (Indian doughnuts), lassi (yoghurt drink). In most of the towns there is a good choice of restaurants and a choice between Indian and Western style food. If you are a vegetarian, India is an ideal destination. Tea and soft drinks are very cheap. A (large!) bottle of beer is approximately £3 (US$5). Mineral water is widely available. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.

Weather

Is this trip for you?

Activity Level: 1 (Leisurely) This holiday is designed so that you can see the best parts of India using a mixture of private buses and the extensive railway network. There is a lot to see in the time you are there, but it is paced so that it doesn't feel too rushed. India is a large country and we cover a lot of distance by road, travel time is kept to a minimum but please be aware there are a number of long drives, however there is also plenty of time for sightseeing and the trip ends on a very relaxing note. You should come armed for an experience: India can be hard work and the heat and the bustle of some of the cities can be a little overwhelming. That said, there are many places where you can find peace and there are few places in the world where you will return armed with great stories and memories to last a lifetime. Many people return to India time and time again.

Please note that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are responsible for the conservation of many monuments in India, including the Taj Mahal, and very occasionally this may mean that work is taking place at sites visited on this trip. The ASI’s schedule is never published so it is not possible to forewarn our clients of when work will be taking place.

Call for general departures:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
+61 3 9998 9052
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels, Houseboat & Sleeper Trains

25 nights hotels, 1 night houseboat, 3 nights sleeper trains. There is a variety of accommodation throughout this trip. Hotels vary from higher standard to a more standard property. On this trip we do our best to secure comfortable rooms for you even in the more remote areas.

Overnight trains

The overnight trains will be booked in 2-tier (or 3-tier depending on availability) sleeper A/C. Please note that the single supplement excludes overnight trains. There are many excellent trains in India however the standard of seating and sleeping is not in line with European standards. All seats are pre-allocated at the time the tickets are issued, meaning that we are not able to guarantee the whole group are together on the train, your leader will manage this as best as possible and will always check on you during the journey. Indian trains are safe to travel on however we would recommended that you keep any valuables with you at all times. Snacks are often offered on board (at an additional cost) but you may wish to purchase your own food prior to the journey. Whilst some trains have western-style facilities, the majority of services are equipped with squat toilets. When arriving in a city, after an overnight train, your hotel room may not be available immediately however your leader will try and get your rooms as quickly as possible or a room to freshen up in.

Call for general departures:
1300 131 564
Call for tailormade trips:
+61 3 9998 9052
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

The mountains will always draw us back to this majestic country: and now, with the return of a very special trip, the

  • Reviewed April 2017
    John Pearce

    Grand Tour of India

    This was an excellent trip. The places and sites visited were fantastic and had a great variety of interest - from temples, palaces, forts, places of historical interest, wildlife and a fantastic scenery throughout.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I really enjoyed visiting the temple caves of Ellora and Ajanta near Aurangabad. What an an amazing feat of construction, being carved from the volcanic lava mountains. The intricate and beautiful paintings at Ajanta were especially inspirational.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was Naveen Bazaz. At our initial group meeting he said that he wanted our group to think of him as a member of our family and this he undoubtedly achieved. His vast knowledge of everything about India (history, places, religion etc.) was beyond expectation. Any time of day or night he was always there to advise, care and look after our health and welfare requirements. I feel so thankful to have had him as our group leader and I strongly feel that without him the holiday would not have been so memorable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The holiday is aimed at seeing and experiencing as much of North and South India as possible in 31 days, which means that there vast distances to travel. Therefore be prepared for this and do not over pack as although hotel porters will help, inevitably a lot of responsibility for your luggage is down to yourself especially on the overnight trains.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would thoroughly recommend this holiday to anyone who loves travel and wants to experience all aspects of India's culture, religion, cuisine etc.
  • Reviewed January 2017
    Lorraine Quinn

    One for the Bucket List!

    Another wonderful trip with Exodus. A great overview of India inevitably means a lot of long travel days but overall a good balance of historic sights and wonders with relaxing moments and opportunities for exploring by yourself.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Most of the trip really. Varanasi at sunrise of course. The Taj Mahal. I loved Fatepur Sikri and Jaipur’s Amber palace. The Ranthambhore national park, both the park and the hotel we stayed in. The caves at Ellora and Ajanta, also Mumbai, Hampi, Ooty and the Nilgiri railway, Mysore Palace, the backwaters of Kerala and (sorry Steve but I have to disagree) Kovalam was great too – but we did stay a few extra days there afterwards. But also experiences of sizzling Samosa street food, chai and rotis at road side stops in the middle of the night (you won't get that unless your train is cancelled too!). Indian trains. Indian kids. Actually, Indian people! Elephants. Keralan sea food curries at Kovalam.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ajay Gupta was an excellent tour leader. Perfect English. Great sense of humour. Dedicated to looking after his clients. The demonetisation crisis was in full swing but Ajay appeared with large amounts of cash borrowed from friends and family to help us all out. Brilliant. When the overnight train was cancelled he managed, as if by magic, to get us a luxury bus out of nowhere to take us from Varanasi to Agra. It is always good to have a guide who is a native of the country and who can explain all the cultural and political nuances and Ajay was no exception. We are disappointed with Chaya's comments. I am sorry that she found the rest of us boring. I can live with that but we object to her criticism of Ajay since it was her husband's thoughtless comments that did upset Ajay one day. Please see Steve Toon’s comments on this.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't hang all your hopes on seeing tigers at Ranthambhore and just enjoy the wonderful light and the other animals (there are lots). We did see tigers but I think we were lucky. Quite by chance we saw wild elephants too later in the trip. Don't expect the standards you might get elsewhere in, say, SE Asia. Indians don't seem to do maintenance, even in the best hotels and the showers aren’t always hot. Don't expect an uninterrupted night's sleep everywhere – Indians don't do quiet. Don't expect clean streets (except, amazingly, in Mumbai) many Indians don't do litter bins. Don't expect good beer – in many places don't expect any alcohol – prohibition is spreading across India. The wi-fi is not always fast but it has been reasonably good in most hotels. Indian roads are not quite the same as those in the UK, and neither is the style of driving. Don't jump to the immediate conclusion that your bus driver is insane – it’s just how it is! Do expect to be amazed, delighted, to fall in love with the place, to want to come back and to have to question many of your own values. Go with it, be patient, things take time in India ....... and don't forget the universal sink plug.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you can, go a few days before the tour starts to see more of Delhi and stay a bit longer at the end to relax in Kovalam and enjoy the best fish curries you will ever have.
  • Reviewed January 2017
    Steven Toon

    Incredible India

    A truly amazing trip, well organised with some amazing sights, some of which were a wonderful revisit for me and some spectacular new sights. The trip could have been utterly ruined by the demanding and selfish attitude of two of the group who treated the tour manager as their own personal assistant and simply wanted everything their way and at their time. Some of the hotels were very basic and knowing about this before you go could help prepare you instead of being a shock after a long journey. However these are very minor points on what is an incredible trip through a wonderful country.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Sunrise over the Ganges in Varanasi was wonderful and we were very lucky to see two tiger cubs in Ranthambore. The Taj Mahal is always beautiful as is Ajanta and Hampi. Finishing the trip with a cruise on the backwaters of Kerela was a great ending to a wonderfuly trip.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ajay Gupta was amazing and great company and helped with everything especially the money. He had a few challenges including a cancelled train but got us from Varanasi to Agra on a bus which took over 12 hours but turned out to be a an adventure in itself. One of my fellow travellers has said he was moody which he wasn't. He was unhappy one day as he tried to help us on the mountain train in Ooty but this still wasn't good enough for one of the travellers and it really upset him. The two demanding people on the trip really pushed him and it is a credit to him that despite their demands he still tried his best even trying to help a resolve a situation of their own making.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go with the flow. If you are lucky enough to get Ajay (he is doing the February trip) he will help every step of the way. A must do is the slum tour of Mumbai it is not what you may think. It was an amazing day and Gitu our local guide was fantastic I can't recommend it enough. If you go with an attitude, are demanding and expect a personal service you are on the wrong trip, this is a group trip not an individual experience so try to be patient and think of others not just yourself. Be prepared for some very long journeys but you do get breaks and at times some of the hotels are pretty basic. On the drives make sure you wear your seatbelt, driving in India is a experience and can be a bit frantic at times. The hotel at Bijapur was poor and Exodus and the local team KVT should try to get a better hotel. Goa and Kovalem are a bit of an anticlimax as they are tourist resorts. Other hotels were wonderful especially Sandesh the Prince at Mysore which truly comliments the visit to Mysore.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Pack well and lightly and keep abreast of the money situation. When we left the ATM queues had reduced and the daily withdrawal limit had been raised to 4000 rupees a day, Keep your valuables with you on the train and lock them away. Most of all enjoy the trip and have a great time. There is plently of shopping opportunities if you are inclined but don't let that dominate the trip, see India not just the inside of a shop.
  • Reviewed January 2017
    Steven Toon

    India Grand Tour

    I've just returned from this trip which was long awaited and my second trip to India. The whole trip was amazing, I've revisited some amazing sights and seen some fantastic new ones. A small group of 8 of us made arrangements easy but it was good to be able to do your own thing if you wanted. I will say Goa and Kovalem were slightly disappointing but even then I managed to do something but they are really resorts and not sightseeing areas - take a trip to Old Goa it is really worth it.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were so many moments on this trip not just one. Sunrise on the Ganges is something to experience. We were very fortunate as the morning cloud had cleared in Varanasi this day giving us a beautiful sunrise. The tour of Mumbai including visiting the slum with the fantastic Gitu was truly inspirational. Revisiting the Taj Mahal was amazing and very atmospheric. Ajanta and Hampi are stunning and finishing on the houseboat on the backwaters of Kerela was wonderful.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ajay Gupta was simply fantastic. He had some real challenges to face including a cancelled train but he resolved this getting us a bus transfer to Agra which lasted over 12 hours overnight but even that turned into an experience. The money situation was seriously tricky at first but Ajay helped us until it all calmed down. He took all the worry away from us leaving us to enjoy the trip and seemed to resolve anything that was thrown at him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go with the flow and don't stress out about the minor details. if you are lucky enough to get Ajay (he's leading the February trip), he does it all for you. Things in India at times don't happen straight away and sometimes don't happen at all, don't worry about it. The driving in India is something else but you do get used to it and wear your seatbelt! The money sutuation had calmed down when we let but check up before you go. The ATM queues had died down by the time we got to the south and the witdrawal limit had been raised to 4000 rupees a day but the 2000 notes are very tricky to get changed.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hotels we got really varied in quality so much so one hotel was the test bed to compare others, I won't hold back it was in Bijapur and was truly awful although it had the cheapest and some of the nicest food with great internet in reception the rooms were awful and after a long drive not what you wanted. A phrase came into use going forward "at least it's not Bijapur". Other hotels are stunning Sandesh the Prince in Mysore was glorious. You go from hostel to luxury at times but just go with it it's about the trip not the hotels.
  • Reviewed January 2017
    Chaya Parmessur

    The Grand India Tour

    This is an amazing trip for experiencing different parts of India. The trip was very well organised and totally hassle free ( as compared to my previous trips as independant traveller). It was not the most exciting group we have travelled with, but it mattered as there was only 8 of us. In the end it was a long trip and was happy to go home. For me the great disappointment was the dirty & basic rooms we were given in a resort in Goa, miles away from real Goa. This should be explained in the trip notes.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspirational moment was interacting with local children. For example at Brindavan Gardens in Mysore at the evening fountain show ( one of my highlights although it is never mentioned in trip notes or by leader). I knew it from previous visits. The Kerala backwaters was wonderful & the food at the tiger resort in Ranthampore was divine.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I liked the trip leader and he was very efficient at dealing with the money situation & cancelled trains,etc. However, he was moody & looked pissed off with us many times & it created a bad atmosphere. People were worried to say anything for fear of upsetting him. He was great in Varanasi but places he did not like, eg Goa, he did not have much to say about. He was not great communicator, but that's his personality.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is 30 days with total strangers...it may work great & you will have friends for life, but on the flip side you could be spending time with people you have nothing in common with! This is the first time after several trips that I will not keep in touch with anyone from the group.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Some of the "standard" hotels were well below any standard! Aurangabad, Bijapoor & Goa! Despite some negative feedback above, the trip & India were amazing & my husband & I had a wonderful trip. Thank you exodus for another amazing one!
  • Reviewed March 2016
    Janet Hoare

    India very Grand Tour

    This is a trip that does what it says; takes you on a month long journey through India taking in as many highlights and experiences as it can. The trip is full on, the travelling times can be long and tiring but it's the only way to cover the variety that this itinerary offers inside a month.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There wasn't one inspirational moment for me as each stop offered something special, but the 'surprise' element was the contact with the Indian people. I had underestimated the numbers of local tourists sharing our experiences, so friendly and so keen to photograph us!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader, Ravi, was excellent. His English language skills even stretched to a 'British' sense of humour. As with other Exodus trips I knew I would be well looked after. He was vigilant and caring, would sort out any issues/requests but still treated us as adults with options! He seriously contributed to the success of our trip.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    As mentioned earlier this trip covers a lot of ground and can be tiring, in the dry season the air is polluted and dusty (especially in the north) we all had a chest cold at one point in the trip, asthma sufferers come prepared. The traffic is chaotic (always look in both directions) but only one of us collided with a motor bike, the rest of us learned quickly! Follow the advice of the tour leader on where to eat. You will survive and have a most brilliant time.
  • Reviewed December 2015
    Paul Emery

    Culture. Colour, Cuisine & Company

    A truly amazing introduction of this incredible country. From the crowded backstreets of New Delhi to the chilled backwaters of Kerala, this is an adventure that is not to be missed. Led by our attentive and informative leader Mahindra Soni, this is an exceptional tour that provides all the experiences expected of a large and diverse country. With air-conditioned transport and accommodation, we were provided unique and insightful opportunities to view the people, places, wildlife, and buildings for which India is famous. From the eye-opening railway experiences, the tuk tuks and rickshaw races of the cities, to the spiritual boat ride of the Ganges and early morning Taj Mahal visit, this was a brilliantly organised tour from start to finish. Providing a group of 14 strangers to mix and permit their own needs to be incorporated into the schedule, this group tour provided exceptional value for money - one that I would recommend to anyone who possesses a sense of adventure and endurance.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many to suggest with everyone inspired by different needs. For example, for some it was the historical buildings/forts/caves, for others the photographic opportunities of the game drives. Others enjoyed a greater religious understanding particularly at Varanasi, and some participants loved the local cuisine and cultural spice insights. For me, experiencing the diversity of both the Indian people and group participants in everyday life, the unanticipated interactions (e.g. a rearing horse; the response of a cow causing a car accident; Indian wedding at Hampi; three guys clearing a bird's nest 20 metres off the ground hanging by just two ropes, and the daily humour created by our tour guide) all produced many 'wow' moments that I will treasure.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was the 'star' and facilitator to everything that happened. Without him, things just would not have taken place in the punctual and efficient manner in which they did. In essence, we would not have understood or seen the true India without Mahi.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Previous reviews provide very accurate information on what you can expect so please read them. Additionally, I would suggest that for Mid- Southern India you stack up with a few pens, as children are so appreciative of these for schooling purposes.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Mosquito's were barely a problem at all. There were 5 single ladies on this trip and most were initially hesitant of what to expect. However, a warm inclusive group culture was established from the outset, and everyone looked after each other. This is a very professional, responsible and caring company that will look after your needs.
  • Reviewed January 2015
    Kevin McGee

    Great tour, well guided

    Arriving in Delhi and travelling gradually South, the tour climaxes gently in a day and night on a Keralan houseboat. The tour was cleverly designed, so that the early weeks were full of sights, but the pace grew gradually more relaxed as it progressed. There is a lot of travelling, obviously, so it was good to have a comfortable coach.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Inspiration followed inspiration. Sunset on the Ganges, in a boat with a sitar virtuoso. Whale-sized prawns in Kerala. Scent and colours everywhere. The universal friendliness was remarkable. India really seems happy to see you.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    It's a long tour in a big country. There is a lot to organise, and Jitu did it smoothly and discreetly. He was invaluable on the few occasions when things went wrong, securing a fresh room when the first one was damp, or locating food in an apparently barren station when the train was delayed. Halfway through the tour I had what could have become a serious medical bother, and Jitu flew calmly into action and organised appropriate and high-quality medical attention. He was invaluable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't be put off by the thought of mosquitos. You soon grow accustomed to slathering on the gunk, and they don't trouble you. Some of the bus trips are all-day affairs, so bring some good books or load an iPad with movies. India can do anything except make a recognisable coffee. If it's important to you, bring your own.
  • Reviewed January 2015
    Barry Cooper

    India Grand Tour

    This is an excellent tour to enable you to see a large part of this country in one tour. You spend time in Delhi before travelling to the famous sights of Northern India, Varanasi, Agra and Ranthambore. The trip then goes on to Mumbai and the south visiting less well known areas but the opportunity to see and experience rural India.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There was not one inspirational moment of the trip but several, The mass bathing in the Ganges on the Dewali of the gods, sunrise over the Taj Mahal, the sight of a tigress and her three cubs, vibrant Mumbai. historical Hampi and Mysore and life on the Kerala waterways

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Mahindrai was excellent. We were an exceptionally small group, only three, and that gave us the opportunity to see and experience India more intimately than a larger group since we could visit the small restaurants, walk around cotton packing stations and be absorbed more in Indian life than it would have been possible for a larger group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Patience is required for Indian travel. In Delhi, the railway station was a ten minute drive from the Hotel, the drive took over an hour and we arrived to see the train leaving. Traffic conditions are appalling and noisy, the car horn being the most important part of a vehicle for the Indian driver! We arrived at Varanasi Station at 10pm to be told the train was running forty-five minutes late, it arrived five and a half hours late at a platform which was too short for the train so it was necessary to walk alaong the track.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I can think of no other tour which can give you such a good view of India in one visit.It is very well constructed and although there are long days of travel there is always something to see and experience. Do not miss the Cecilia Beach Shack restaurant in Goa. We had our best meals at this restaurant of freshly caught fish superbly cooked. The restaurant is owned by two Goan brothers and their aunts are the cooks. It fits perfectly into the Exodus policy of responsible tourism.
  • Reviewed November 2014
    David Monahan

    India Grand Tour Oct 2014

    Outstanding trip in every respect, made especially memorable by the quality of our tour leader Chetan Shanker. Given the modest price of this long trip, the quality of the hotels (with only one exception) exceeded our expectations. What a way to see and learn about a most interesting country.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the pilgrims gathered along the Ganges in Varanasi (Benares).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Unbelievably good - cannot praise him enough. Knowledgeable, capable, cheerful, funny and totally engaged. He made things happen - he would sense what the group was interested in and adjust our activities accordingly. If we return to India it will be on condition that Chetan is our group leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes there are negatives in visiting India (poverty, trash, health concerns) but they are far exceeded by the positives.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A truly memorable experience. For the photographer or videographer, India is a rare treat. The country's history - including its religious history - is fascinating. The one thing I would have liked to see would have been a folk dancing performance (we did see a classical dance performance).

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