Days
26
Price from
$2,035NZD

Get set for an in-depth Indian excursion from Delhi to Goa

Travel across this huge country on this trailblazing adventure tour. In the north witness pilgrims performing ancient ceremonies on the ghats of Varanasi and marvel at the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. Down south, bask in the tropical southern climate, cruise along the Kerala Backwaters and come face-to-face with local customs in small rural towns. This fantastic trip finishes off on the gorgeous beaches of Goa – India's idyllic beachside holiday destination. Enjoy the freedom to be immersed in the diverse cultures of big, colourful, chaotic and enchanting India.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
From 1st January 2017 this trip will be a combination of GIRV North India Explorer and our new GISS Simply South India itineraries and will change duration from 26 to 23 days. More details will be available in the coming months with the itinerary outlined below:
1 Delhi
2 Delhi/Overnight Train
3 Varanasi
4 Varanasi/Overnight Train
5 Agra
6 Jaipur
7 Jaipur
8 Bundi
9 Bundi/Overnight Train
10 Delhi
11 Flight Delhi to Trivandrum (not included)
12 Varkala
13 Varkala
14 Kerala Backwaters
15 Kochi
16 Bangalore
17 Mysore
18 Hampi
19 Hampi
20 Goa
21 Goa
22 Goa
23 Depart


Start
New Delhi, India
Finish
Goa, India
Country
India
Code
GIBI
Physical rating
Traveller’s rating
1 review
Ages
Min 18 , Max 39
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Experience old and new India in the bustling streets of Delhi, where ancient temples stand against billboards advertising Bollywood films

  • Discover the ancient forts, lake palaces, rural villages and colourful cities of Rajasthan

  • The Taj Mahal in Agra may be one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, but its poetic history and beauty have the power to surprise even the most jaded travellers

  • Varanasi is among the holiest cities in India. Climb to hilltop temples at sunrise, dodge cows in the street, and observe pilgrims praying and bathing along the ghats of the sacred Ganges River during a boat cruise

  • Explore the beautiful south of India, getting elbows-deep in authentic southern Indian cuisine

  • A homestay with a local family is a special experience, especially in the serene backwaters of Kerala

  • Wander through Periyar National Park on the lookout for tigers and elephants

  • The city of Madurai showcases southern India at its liveliest. Explore the city’s bazaars and discover the colourful, intricately carved Sri Meenakshi Temple

  • Visit the World Heritage-listed Virupaksha Temple in Hampi, a spectacular monument surrounded by ruins

  • Golden beaches and age-old fishing villages make Goa one of India’s most tranquil retreats – and the perfect last stop on your adventure

Is this trip right for you?

  • This trip involves some long bus and train rides, which can be tiresome but offer a quintessential Indian experience. You’ll be taking a few overnight trains, including a 12-hour tip from Varanasi to Agra and a 15-hour trip from Delhi to Varanasi.

  • Sleeper trains are clean and air-conditioned and a great way to travel long distances while still getting maximum time in each place. Beds are padded berths with sheets, pillow and blanket provided (although some people prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet). Please note that you may be sharing with locals of the same or opposite gender. For your own security, take a lock for your hand luggage.

  • We visit a number of temples on this trip, which requires a certain level of modesty. Please bring clothes that cover the arms and pants/skirts that go past the knees. A light scarf is also a good idea for covering shoulders and arms when it’s hot.

  • Depending on the time of year, temperatures in northern India can get very hot and very cold. Please bring layers and a range of adequate clothing, including thermals and sun protection.

  • This second part of the trip involves some long overnight train journeys, including a 10-hour train to Hampi and nine-hour train to Goa. While this can be tiresome, entertaining chaiwalas (tea vendors), food vendors and conversations with locals make this a rewarding experience. For your own security, take a lock for your hand luggage on the sleeper train journey.

  • You will also be travelling by local bus on this trip. While conditions are basic, this is a great way to rub shoulders with the locals while enjoying the passing scenery.

Itinerary

Namaste. Welcome to Delhi, India. Today is an arrival day with no planned activities, except for a pre-departure meeting tonight at around 6 pm. Please look for a note in the lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform the accommodation as soon as possible. After the meeting, perhaps pop out for an optional group dinner.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
This morning head out on a walking tour around the commercial heart of Delhi, visiting Chandni Chowk (Sheeshganj Gurudwara) and Connaught Place along the way. Explore Old Delhi on a bicycle rickshaw to dig that little bit deeper. You'll then have some free time to do as much sightseeing as you can, before boarding an overnight sleeper train bound for Varanasi. The journey should take around 13 hours and you'll arrive into Varanasi early in the morning.
Included Activities
  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Delhi - Old Delhi Walking Tour
Optional Activities
  • Delhi - Humayun's Tomb - INR500
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arriving into Varanasi early, head straight to the hotel to freshen up before plunging head first into this holy city, which is one of the world's oldest. Explore the narrow laneways and backstreets on a walking tour with your guide, before watching the world pass by along the ghats. Your evening is then free to do as you wish.
Included Activities
  • Varanasi - Old City Walking Tour
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Wake up early and experience one of the highlights of your time in India. This morning, jump in boats and watch the sunrise over the Ganges. Pilgrims bathing, cremation fires and riverside haircuts - India is best before dawn and this is the best way to see it. The rest of your day is free to explore, before catching an overnight train to Agra tonight (approximately 11 hours).
Included Activities
  • Varanasi - Sunrise Boat cruise
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arriving into Agra early this morning, head to the most iconic site in India, the Taj Mahal. The highlights of India just keep coming. You have a full day to explore Agra on a motorised rickshaw trip, with Agra Fort being another incredible optional activity in the afternoon. The rest of your day is then free.
Included Activities
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Jump on a bus this morning and travel for around four hours to Rajasthan's pink capital, Jaipur. On arrival into the city stop off at the Hawa Mahal (pink sandstone palace) before heading to your hotel. Use the opportunity to freshen up and then venture out for a walking tour of the old city. In your spare time, perhaps take an optional tour of the Jaipur City Palace.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
For many travellers, a hot air balloon experience is one of the highlights of Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over Jaipur on the morning of day 7, between September and June. For additional information, please see the important notes section of your trip notes. Later in the morning, enjoy a guided tour of the medieval Amber Fort with a local guide. The rest of your day is then free to explore Jaipur on your own.
Included Activities
  • Jaipur - Hawa Mahal photo stop
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
  • Local Guide
Optional Activities
  • Jaipur - City Palace - INR400
  • Jaipur - Observatory - INR200
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Travel for around three hours this morning to Bundi, which feels like a world away from the chaos of Jaipur. Home to the famed stepwells and a ruined hilltop castle, it's a compact town best explored on foot. Meet your local guide and see this charming town through his eyes. Your guide will take you around the stepwell, Bundi Palace and may even point you in the right direction of best cup of chai in Rajasthan.
Included Activities
  • Bundi - Stepwell
  • Bundi - Bundi Palace
  • Bundi - Town walk
  • Local Guide
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day checking out more of Bundi. There are approximately 50 stepwells in Bundi, as well as a pretty impressive lake. Bundi is a friendly town and it's really fun to wander in the streets leading up to the palace - this is a good way to get a feel for the town. Tonight, catch an overnight train to Delhi, which takes around ten hours.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arrive into Delhi early, with the day free to do some more exploring. There are shopping experiences aplenty or perhaps book an Urban Adventure to get your last proper taste of North India. An optional group dinner tonight is a great way to finish this part of your trip in the north of India
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free morning in Delhi before making your way to the airport to fly to Trivandrum.

The internal flight from Delhi to Trivandrum is NOT included.

Direct flights to Trivandrum sell out early and other flights may have stops in either Mumbai or Chennai. If you cannot make the joining meeting at 6pm (to meet the new part of your tour) please let your leader on the northern section of the trip know. Your leader in the south will be able to give you an update in the morning.

Included Activities
  • Trivandrum - Orientation Walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
This is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Varkala sits on India's Keralan coast and is home to some of the whitest and most pristine beaches in the whole country. The sandy bay here is protected by soaring cliffs, the beach sits below the rock face, whilst the town itself sits prettily along the cliff edge above, a string of laid-back bars, restaurants, guesthouses and hotels. It's a great place to just kick back and relax, but if you want to get active, there are plenty of water sports on offer. Sitting on the sand and watching the sun dip below the horizon is the perfect way to end a day here.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Enjoy a free day in Varkala. This is a great place to sit back and relax, but if you want to get active there are plenty of water activities on offer, such as surfing and windsurfing. Even though this is a popular destination for Indian tourists, the beaches are quiet and laid-back. If you have time, perhaps rent a scooter and ride through fishing villages to Varkala Light House.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today take a local three-hour train along the Keralan coastline to Alleppey (Alappuzha). Alleppey's sleepy, palm-shaded backwaters are Kerala's hidden treasure. Once an important trading port and now famous for its August 'snake boat' races, Alleppey is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters and also hosts a mid-December musical festival. An auto rickshaw will take you from the train station to the boat boarding point. Crossing the backwaters, head to an island village to stay with local families overnight (approximately 1 hour). Your guide will take you on a walk around the village and introduce you to the local community. This is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live here. Strolling under palm trees and weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, learn about their lifestyles. You’ll also take a leisurely pole boat ride around the lake and enjoy the outstanding scenery.
Included Activities
  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole Boat Ride
  • Kerala Backwaters - Village walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Crossing the backwaters by private boat, head for Alleppey (approx 1.5 hrs).

Take a local bus to Kochi (approx 2 hrs).

Spread over several islands, Kochi is a fascinating place full of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences.

Stay at Intrepid Kaliveedu. This is a special lodge offering very different ambience with large landscaped gardens, air-conditioned rooms and a central location close to most of the sights in Fort Cochin.

We will reach Kochi around midday. Today we will go on an orientation walk with our leader and take in the sights in the vicinity of our accommodation.

Some of the sights to see include St Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica and the famous Chinese fishing nets.

There's the option of attending a Kathakali dance performance tonight at 5pm. This classical dance is a highly charged and powerful drama that combines devotion and physical virtuosity with symbolic storytelling to produce one of the most impressive and vibrant forms of theatre in the world. It requires lengthy and rigorous training to attain complete control of the body and sensitivity to emotion so as to be able to render all its nuances through facial expressions and hand gestures.
Included Activities
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing walk
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today, head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Cochin to explore the old Jewish quarter, synagogue and Dutch Palace (Kochi Palace) on a guided walking tour. The tour takes around three hours, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Why not join one of our Urban Adventures day tours, such as Fort Cochin by Bike, Home Cooked Kochi or Kochi Food and Culture Tour. Please check with your leader in advance if you’d like to book one of these trips.
Optional Activities
  • Kochi - Dutch Palace - INR5
  • Kochi - Kathakali performance - INR300
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Set high in the ranges of the Western Ghats is the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. This wildlife sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, formed by the building of a dam in 1895, which meanders around the contours of the wooded hills and provides a permanent source of water for the local wildlife. Though it's a tiger reserve, sightings are few. Its a great little town to get away from the hustle and bustle of India for a few days
Included Activities
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
After breakfast, enjoy a free day with an optional walk around Periyar National Park. Be on the look out for tigers and other wildlife such as bison, wild boar, elephants and spotted deer.
Optional Activities
  • Periyar National Park - Guided Wildlife Walk - INR750
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims, cycle-rickshaws, beggars and street markets, Madurai showcases southern India at its colourful and lively best.
Visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. This ancient, still active temple is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors which lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed.
Wander the bazaars and the tailors' market.
Included Activities
  • Madurai - Walking tour
Optional Activities
  • Madurai - Sri Meenakshi Temple - INR50
  • Madurai - Aayiram Kaal Mandapam - INR50
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day in Madurai. Perhaps head to the Ghandi Museum to learn about the man who fought for India’s independence or wander through the 1,000 pillars of Aayiram Kaal Mandapam. This is also a great opportunity to haggle with vendors at the bazaars and the tailors' market.

In the evening, take an overnight sleeper train to Mysore (approximately 7 hours).
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Board a local bus to Mysore (approx 3 hrs).
Mysore is an easygoing town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot.
A visit to Mysore isn't complete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is a riot of colour, mosaics and mirrors.
Visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur - a stunning example of Hoysala temple architecture (approx 1 hr from Mysore).
You have plenty of time to explore the surrounding countryside, so head out and climb Chamundi Hill - site of the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga.
Included Activities
  • Mysore - Orientation Walk
Optional Activities
  • Mysore - Keshava Temple - INR200
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day in Mysore, with plenty of optional activities to keep you busy. Perhaps explore the countryside surrounding Mysore. Climb up Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple at the top, which is dedicated to the goddess Durga. At 7 pm board an overnight 10-hour train to Hampi via northern Karnataka.
Optional Activities
  • Mysore - Maharaja's Palace - INR200
  • Mysore - Chamundi Hill & Temple - INR100
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Arrive in Hampi and cross the river to our guesthouse by canoe.
Hampi is a beautiful ancient temple town situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River. Its also one of our favourite towns
Optional Activities
  • Hampi - Vittala temple - INR500
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
After breakfast, explore the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire and the huge boulders on the outskirts of town. Use the rest of the day to explore. In the early evening, drive for around three hours by private vehicle to Hubli, where you’ll board an overnight nine-hour train to Goa.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Famous for the sandy beaches that line its coast, Goa is a fascinating and distinctive region in India's southwest. Brimming with Portuguese influences and bursting with fresh food, this region has earned its idyllic badge.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time. Goa is a great place to end the trip – if you can, we recommend staying on for a couple of nights to relax and explore.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.

Meals

No meals are included on this tour

Transport

Auto rickshaw, Bus, Cycle rickshaw, Metro, Overnight sleeper train, Shuttle Bus, Taxi, Train, Van

Accommodation

Guesthouse (2 nights), Heritage Property (3 nights), Homestay (1 night), Hotel (11 nights), Overnight sleeper train (3 nights), Resort (2 nights)

Included Activities

  • Delhi - Sheeshganj Gurudwara (Sikh Temple)
  • Delhi - Old Delhi Walking Tour
  • Varanasi - Old City Walking Tour
  • Varanasi - Sunrise Boat cruise
  • Agra - Taj Mahal
  • Jaipur - Hawa Mahal photo stop
  • Jaipur - Amber Fort
  • Local Guide
  • Bundi - Stepwell
  • Bundi - Bundi Palace
  • Bundi - Town walk
  • Trivandrum - Orientation Walk
  • Kerala Backwaters - Pole Boat Ride
  • Kerala Backwaters - Village walk
  • Kochi - Fort Kochi sightseeing walk
  • Periyar - Spice farm tour & dinner
  • Madurai - Walking tour
  • Mysore - Orientation Walk

Reviews

Our Big India trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 1 review in the last year.

Big India , October 2016

Tamsin Leah

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. This is a combination trip and the composition of your group as well as your tour leader may change.
2. The internal flight from Delhi to Trivandrum is NOT included. You must book this ticket yourself.

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.