Cultural and History Tour of India | Small Group Tour

Small group tour for mature and senior couples and solo travellers to India. Visiting Delhi and the red fort, Jaipur, Agra and so much more over 22 days explore the world of the Mughal.

From $8,129USD



  1. 1. Spend a night on a houseboat amidst emerald green tropical vegetation and exotic fauna.
  2. 2. Visit the wondrous Taj Mahal with its superb view.
  3. 3. Ride an elephant to and from the top of the hill on which the Amber Fort is situated.
  4. 4. Experience Chokhi Dhan, an ethnic village with live music, astrology, games, folk dances, and puppet shows.
Cultural and History Tour of India | Small Group Tour itinerary

Departure Dates

Departure Date Price
07 November 2024

Ends 28 November 2024

$8,129 Twin

$10,108 Single

07 March 2025

Ends 28 March 2025

$8,536 Twin

$10,571 Single

07 November 2025

Ends 28 November 2025

$8,536 Twin

$10,571 Single

06 March 2026

Ends 27 March 2026

$8,922 Twin

$10,902 Single

06 November 2026

Ends 27 November 2026

$8,922 Twin

$10,902 Single


Cultural and History Tour of India

Odyssey offers easy, convenient, and relaxed escorted small group tours across India and beyond into the Indian Sub continent. We explore India's natural beauty, its ancient, and Imperial heritage, its World Heritage Sites, and world famous cities, all with some truly spectacular scenery along the way of people, culture and landscapes. This and more is all waiting to be explored on one of Odyssey’s small group tours of India, designed for the senior traveller, and led by experienced, and enthusiastic like minded people.

Explore the enchanting tapestry of India with Odyssey's small group tour designed for mature and senior couples and solo travelers. Bounded by the majestic Himalayan ranges in the north and adorned with endless stretches of golden beaches, India unveils a vivid kaleidoscope of landscapes, historic treasures like the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort, royal cities such as Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, and Madras, a spectrum of colorful people, and a rich cultural heritage.

Odyssey presents fully escorted India tours tailored for intimate groups of fewer than 12 people, guiding you through the splendid destinations and heritage sites of Jaipur, Agra, Varanasi, Cochin, and Mumbai. Our Our 22-day tour is a feast for the eyes and spirit, providing a safe and enriching travel experience.

India, a land of immense diversity and extremes, boasts glacial heights in the north, arid plains in the west, and palm-fringed tropical beaches in the south. With a population surpassing a billion, India embraces over 18 official languages and a myriad of dialects, reflecting a rich cultural mosaic that changes with the diverse terrain. Delve into India's influential history, from the era of the Mughals to British rule, as well as its centuries-long spice trade with Arabs, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Our escorted tour in India unfolds the country's natural beauty, vibrant spice markets, and tantalizing cuisine. Witness UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the breathtaking Elephant Cave Temples off Mumbai's eastern shore, glide through the backwaters of Kerala, and explore a spectrum of destinations, from Northern India to Southern India. Immerse yourself in this unique travel experience, unraveling the layers of India's past and savoring its diverse and captivating present.

India Tour Itinerary

India is by no measure a monolithic culture or state, but a diverse collection of historic cities and nations each with their own distinct histories, language and culture. We offer a safe way to travel and explore this amazing country. explores these histories and distinctions, with each destination telling part of the rich and complex story that makes up contemporary India. Our small group tour visits the India's golden triangle (Agra, Delhi and Jaipur) and much more.


Jaipur the legendary ‘Pink City’, epitomizes the beauty and grandeur of historic India. The city takes its name from its founder, Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, one of 18th century India’s most enlightened monarchs. Fascinated with astronomy, mathematics and science, Jai Singh worked with the Bengali architect and scholar Vidyadhar Bhattacharya to create Northern India’s first planned city, following a grid system. The city was later repainted completely in pale pink (traditionally the colour of hospitality) by Maharaja Ram Singh to welcome the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) in 1876. Today, all residents of the Old City are required by law to keep their buildings painted in pale salmon pink, upholding the historic image of the city.


Agra in India's central region, is the most city famous for the nation's most recognizable landmark, the Taj Mahal. The city was founded in 1501 by Sultan Sikander Lodi, as the capital of the Delhi sultanate. Just over 20 years later, Emperor Babur defeated the last Lodi Sultan at Panipat, 90 km to the north, and the Mughal dynasty was founded, expanding over swathes of northern India. Agra was the capital of the Mughal Empire during the reigns of Jahangir, Akbar, and Shah Mahan. It was during this period that the city reached its peak of magnificence, with the grand structures of the Taj Mahal and the other mausoleums built along the banks of the Yamuna River.


Varanasi also known as the 'city of lights', is one of the world's oldest inhabited cities. Colourful, intense and mystical, it is the spiritual capital of India and the country’s holiest Hindu city, located on the banks of the river Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is a city of pilgrimage for many Hindu and Jain people. Known as the city of Shiva, one of the principal deities of Hinduism, it is auspicious to die in Varanasi, as those who die here will be liberated from the cycle of reincarnation. For travellers, visiting Varanasi is a cultural experience like no other and the most interesting part of being in the city is just observing what takes place around and the many rituals going on throughout the day.

Cochin (Kochi)

Cochin located near India's southern tip, has long been among India’s most cosmopolitan cities. A center of trade and cultural exchange, Kochi has been shaped by a number of cultures: Indian, Chinese, Jewish, Portuguese, Dutch and British. Kochi spent parts of its history under various colonial rulers, beginning with the Portuguese in 1500 until 1663, when it passed to Dutch rule. Under the Dutch Kochi enjoyed its greatest prosperity, with wealth shared between the city’s Hindu majority and Muslim, Jewish, and Christian minorities. Kochi was then ruled by the British from 1795 to 1947, at which point it joined independent India.


Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is one of the world’s great metropolises, it embodies India at its most vibrant and contrasted, where Bollywood stars and finance billionaires live in luxury, and those left behind populate Dharavi, the world’s largest slum. Mumbai is the energetic heart of modern India, with its role as the financial, commercial, and entertainment capital of the subcontinent. The city of Mumbai has an ancient history. Settlements here date back to 1000 BC, with the city being a center of maritime trade with Persia and Egypt. In 1348 the city was captured by the Muslim Sultan of Gujarat, then, in 1534 it was ceded to the Portuguese, before coming under British rule as part of the dowry of the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, marrying Charles II in 1661. Today, Mumbai has a population of around 19.98 million, making it the seventh most populous city in the world and the second-biggest in India. As the richest city in India, Mumbai draws migrants from around the nation, seeking opportunities in finance, commerce, or hoping to find fame in Bollywood, the world’s biggest film industry.


Delhi embodies the synthesis between historic and modern India, featuring a frantic mix of medieval architecture, broad avenues, and modern design. Few cities have been built and rebuilt as many times as Delhi, with at least eight independent cities being established here, each leaving its ruins in the patchwork of the modern city. The earliest reference to a city in the Delhi area was made in the Mahabharata, with Delhi supposed to be Indraprastha, the legendary city of the Pandavas. Throughout its history Delhi has been ruled by numerous successive kingdoms, and has served the purpose of a religious, economic, and political hubs, and at one point a bastion against the invading Mongols. As the capital city, Delhi is home to important centers of religious, cultural and economic life and is a popular starting point for visitors to India.

Odyssey's India Tour Highlights

One of the highlights of our trip to India is a journey to the Amber Fort, in the heart of Jaipur in North India. In Jaipur, we also make time for one of the essential sights of India, the pink rose Maharaja's City Palace.

The Taj Mahal is another highlight of our trip , a favourite among Indian holiday destinations, but with the help of local guides and a local tour operator we also make time for unique experiences, lesser known archaeological and historical wonders off the tourist trail. One of these is Varanasi. Located on the west bank of the Ganges, this is India’s holiest Hindu city. The 90 or so ghats – steep steps leading to the banks of the river – define the region’s identity. While here, we take a ferry pilgrimage along the river early in the morning to watch the sun rise over the Ganges.

We also experience the spectacular Elephanta Cave Temples off Mumbai’s eastern shore on a guided tour. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the cave temples are chiselled into the rocky cliff and dedicated to the god Shiva.

In south India, the city of Kochi (Cochin) is a highly cosmopolitan trading centre for spices and seafood. The capital of Kerala, this city has an extraordinary heritage born from influences of Dutch, Portuguese, French, and British colonialism. Surrounded by palm groves, green fields, inland lakes, and backwaters, Cochin and Kerala have enchanted visitors from around the world for centuries.

Other highlights of our cultural tour include learning about the 3,000-year history of Delhi. In Delhi, we visit its most iconic monuments and places, including the Red Fort, Raj Ghat, and the colourful shopping bazaars. We also spend a night on a houseboat amidst emerald green tropical vegetation.

You can learn more about India with Odyssey's country profile, where all other escorted group tours departures are listed as well, for example the short version of this tour.

For more details about this guided tour, please click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.

Articles about India

The following list of articles are either published by Odyssey Traveller or are carefully selected external sources to maximise senior traveller's knowledge and enjoyment of India when visiting:


22 days

Day 1: Delhi

Accommodation: 2 nights at Royal Plaza or similar.

Upon arrival in Delhi, we transfer to our hotel individually. Our tour begins with a welcome dinner and program orientation at a specialty restaurant. (D)

Day 2: Delhi

Accommodation: Royal Plaza or similar.

Today we begin exploring Delhi, the capital of India, a metropolis of great importance to the nation, serving as both the gateway to the country and the seat of its political power. It provides an intoxicating mix of the ancient and the modern. In its 3,000-year history, Delhi has been the site of 7 different cities. Its strategic location has long defined it as the seat of power. Delhi is a city waiting to be explored. (B,D)

Day 3: Jaipur

Accommodation: 2 nights at Diggi Palace or similar.

After breakfast, we drive to Jaipur (265 km / 5 hours drive). After checking in to our hotel, we enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure before heading out for dinner at a local restaurant.

The capital of Rajasthan was built in pink by the notable astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh. It was designed in honour of a visiting prince in the 18th century, and, ever since, has retained this colour. We visit Maharaja’s City Palace, the pink rose of the residential and business areas. (B,D)

Day 4: Jaipur

Accommodation: Diggi Palace or similar.

After breakfast, we continue to explore the Pink City with our tour guide on an excursion to Amber Fort, situated just outside the city, where we ride on elephant to the top of the hill on which the fort is situated. The Fort Palace of Amber was the Kachhawahas citadel until 1727, when their capital moved to Jaipur. Successive rulers continued to come here on important occasions to seek the blessings of the family deity, Shila Devi. The citadel was established in 1592 by Man Singh I on the remains of an old 11th-century fort, but the various buildings added by Jai Singh I (r. 1621-67) is what constitutes its magnificent centrepiece.

We have an afternoon sightseeing tour of the City Palace in the heart of Jaipur, known for its blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture. Not far away is the Central Museum. Occupying the Heart of Jai Singh II’s city, the City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the first half of the 18th century. The sprawling complex is a superb blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture, with open, airy Mughal-style public buildings leading to private apartments. Today, part of the complex is open to the public as the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum, popularly known as the City Palace Museum. Its treasures, which include miniature paintings, manuscripts, Mughal carpets, musical instruments, royal costumes, and weaponry, provide a splendid introduction to Jaipur’s princely past, and its fascinating arts and crafts.

Our next stop is Hawa Mahal. A whimsical addition to Rajasthan’s rich architectural vocabulary, the fanciful Hawa Mahal or “Palace of Winds” was erected in 1799 by the aesthete Sawai Pratap Singh (r.1778-1803). Its ornate pink facade has become an icon for the city. The tiered, Baroque-like composition of projecting windows and balconies with perforated screens is 5 stories high but just 1 room deep, its walls not more than 20 centimetres (8 inches) thick, built of lime and mortar. The structure was designed in this way to enable the veiled ladies of the harem to observe unnoticed the lively street scenes below. Dedicated to Lord Krishna, the Hawa Mahal, seen from afar, looks like the mukut (crown) that often adorns the god’s head. Visitors can climb up the winding ramp to the top, and a gateway towards the west leads into the complex. Within are administrative offices and the Archaeological Musuem, which houses a small collection of sculptures and local handicrafts, including some utensils dating back to the 2nd century BC.

We continue to Jantar Mantar. Of the five observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh II, the one in Jaipur is the largest and best preserved: the others are in Delhi, Ujjain, Mathura, and Varanasi. A keen astronomer himself, Jai Singh kept abreast of the latest astronomical studies in the world, and was most inspired by the work of Mirza Ulugh Beg, the astronomer-king of Samarkand. Built between 1728 and 1734, the observatory has been described as “the most realistic and logical landscape in stone.” Its 16 instruments resemble a giant sculptural composition. Some of the instruments are still used to forecast how hot the summer months will be, along with the expected date of arrival, duration, and intensity of the monsoon, and the possibility of floods and famine. (B,D)

Day 5: Agra

Accommodation: 1 night at The Wyndham Agra or similar.

After breakfast we depart for Agra (233 km / 5 hours drive). En route we stop for lunch at Bharatpur and, time permitting, we will stop at Keoladeo Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary before continuing to visit Fatehpur Sikri. An old deserted town from the Mughal Dynasty, Fatehpur Sikri, built in red sandstone in honour of Saint Salim Chisti. Chisti foretold the birth of 3 sons to Emperor Akbar. The town is an example of robust stability combined with much originality. Each important edifice here represents a style in itself. Notable among them is the Diwan-e-Khas, entirely unique in its concept, having a tall vaulted room with an intricately-carved central pillar supporting a platform that once held the emperor’s throne. The airy Panch Mahal, a 5-storied structure rising in pyramidal fashion, was probably used by the ladies of the court. Set like a jewel in a courtyard of pink sandstone, it is the finest building here, with the marble Tomb of Salim Chisti enclosed by finely carved, lacy marble screens. The Buland Darwaza, an imposing gateway 54 metres high, was built to commemorate Akbar’s Aligarh. The tomb is a combination of Muslim and Hindu architectural styles. We arrive in Agra in time for dinner and check in at our hotel.

Agra is famous as being home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal. The city is also famous for its craftsmen and their superb inlay work on marble and soapstone, carpets, gold thread embroidery, and leather shoes. Also of interest are the Agra Fort, Sikandra, Ram Bagh, and Itmad-Ud-Daulah. Thirty five kilometres away are the imperial ruins of the Mughal city, Fatehpur Sikri. Agra is an old city and it is said that its name was derived from Agrabanad, a forest that finds mention in the epic Mahabharata. (B,D)

Day 6: Agra - Varanasi

Accommodation: Overnight train.

Today we visit the wondrous Taj Mahal, where we take in the superb structure and views. Taj Mahal, the architectural modern day wonder of the world, is a fine example of the fusion of many architectural styles. We continue with a visit to Agra Fort, designed and built by Akbar in 1565 A.D. It is constructed with barricaded walls of red sandstone and it houses the beautiful Pearl Mosque and numerous palaces including the Jahangir Mahal, Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Am, Macchhi Bhawan, Nagina Masjid, Meena Bazar, Moti Masjid, Sheesh Mahal, and Musamman Burj, from where Taj Mahal is visible in all its beauty. Later in the evening we will have an early dinner followed by a transfer to the train station where we will board our overnight train to Varanasi.

The Taj Mahal was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631. Its perfect proportions and exquisite craftsmanship have been described as “a vision, a dream, a poem, a wonder.” This sublime garden-tomb, an image of the Islamic garden of paradise, cost nearly 41 million rupees and 500 kilos (1,102 lbs) of gold. About 20,000 workers laboured for 12 years to complete it in 1643.

Situated on the West Bank of the Yamuna, Agra Fort was built by Emperor Akbar between 1565 and 1573. Its imposing red sandstone ramparts form a crescent along the riverfront, and encompass an enormous complex of courtly buildings, ranging in style from the early eclecticism of Akbar to the sublime elegance of Shah Jahan. The barracks to the north are 19th-century British additions. A deep moat, once filled with water from the Yamuna, surrounds the fort.


Day 7: Varanasi

Accommodation: 2 nights at Hotel Hindusthan or similar.

Upon arrival at the Varanasi train station, we are transferred to our hotel to freshen up. After lunch, we have a half-day sightseeing tour of the city including visiting the Ghats and attending the evening Aarti ritual at the Ghats for the river Ganges.

Also known as Kashi (“the City of Light”), or as Benares, Varanasi is situated on the west bank of the Ganges and is India’s holiest Hindu City, with a spiritual and religious legacy that goes back nearly 3,000 years. This is the city of Shiva, the foremost among the 12 places where the god burrowed and then burst into the sky in a fiery pillar of light (Jyotirlinga). Sanctified by Shiva’s all-pervading presence and the sacred Ganges, the 90 or so ghats along the river define the life and identify of Varanasi. Stretching from the southern Asi Ghat to the northern Adi Keshava Ghat, close to the Malviya Bridge, the Ghat covers more than 6 kilometres. Lined with temples and shrines, the ghats reverberate with the endless cycle of Hindu religious practice, from daily rituals to profound rites of passage. (B,L,D)

Day 8: Varanasi

Accommodation: Hotel Hindusthan or similar.

Today, we take an early morning boat ride on the Ganges, a ferry pilgrimage from Ghat to Ghat. People bathe early in the morning to offer prayers to the rising sun. The two cremation ghats are Manikarniks and Harishchandra, where funeral pyres burn day and night. Hindus believe that to die in Kashi and to be cremated on banks of the Ganges is to attain release from the cycle of birth and death.

After our boat ride, we return to the hotel for breakfast, and then depart for our tour of Sarnath, the buried Buddhist city where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. Sarnath was a renewed school of learning from 6th century BC to 12th century AD. Later on, we visit the ruins, the stupa, the Buddhist temple, and the museum. (B,D)

Day 9: Mumbai

Accommodation: 2 nights at Fariyas Hotel or similar.

Today we fly to Mumbai and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure.

The capital of Maharashtra is India’s most dynamic, cosmopolitan, and crowded city. The country’s financial centre and its busiest port, Mumbai is also home to the world’s biggest cinema industry, popularly known as Bollywood. Some 16 million people, from billionaire tycoons to homeless pavement dwellers, live in this teeming megalopolis. (B,D)

Day 10: Mumbai

Accommodation: Fariyas Hotel or similar.

In the morning, we enjoy an Elephanta Excursion. The rest of the day is spent doing sightseeing in Mumbai, where we have the chance to visit the Prince of Wales Museum and The Gateway to India, among other culturally significant sites.

The Elephanta cave temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on an island off Mumbai’s eastern shore, the 6th-century AD Elephanta cave temples, chiselled into a rocky cliff and dedicated to Shiva, contain some great masterpieces of Indian sculpture. Originally called Ghaarapuri or “Fort-City,” the island was renamed Elephanta by the Portuguese after a huge stone elephant that once stood here. (B,D)

Day 11: Mysore

Accommodation: 2 nights at Lalitha Mahal Hotel or similar.

After breakfast, we take a flight to Bangalore, and on arrival transfer by road to Mysore (145 km / approx. 3.5 hours drive). On arrival, we check in at our hotel. (B,D)

Day 12: Mysore

Accommodation: Lalitha Mahal Hotel or similar.

Today we enjoy a full day sightseeing. We will visit the Mysore Palace of the Maharaja. Built in 1911-12, the palace is a harmonious synthesis of the Hindu and Saracenic styles of architecture with archways, domes, turrets, colonnades, and sculptures that are magnificent. We visit the art gallery, drive up to Chamundi Hill to see Chamundeshwari Temple, and a panoramic view of Mysore. On the way back, we see the Nandi Bull.


Day 13: Wayanad

Accommodation: 2 nights at Vythiri Resort or similar.

After breakfast we drive to Wayanad (136 km / 4.5 hours drive). Upon arrival we transfer to the hotel.


Day 14: Wayanad

Accommodation: Vythiri Resort or similar.

We visit Pookat Lake and nearby Nilgiri wildlife reserve. Rich in biodiversity, the sanctuary is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, which has been established with the specific objective of conserving the biological heritage of the region. The sanctuary is rich in flora and fauna. The management lays emphasis on scientific conservation with due consideration for the general lifestyle of the tribal members and others who live in and around the forest. Elephant, spotted deer, bison, tiger, cheetah, and wild bear can all be seen here.


Day 15: Thrissur

After breakfast we drive to Thrissur (195 km / approx. 6 hours drive). Upon arrival we transfer to the hotel.


Day 16: Alleppy

Accommodation: Houseboat.

After breakfast, we depart to Alleppey (140 km / approx. 6 hours drive). Upon arrival we board a houseboat where lunch will be served. Later we will stop at Champakulum village to see the snake boat and the market here. Dinner will also be on board while enjoying the natural scenery.


Day 17: Kumarakom

Accommodation: 1 night at Backwater Ripples Retreat or similar.

In the morning we disembark and drive to Kumarakom for an overnight stay at an Auyrveda resort where we will learn more about this traditional Indian medicine. We visit the Punnathur Kotta elephant park, regarded as one of the largest elephant parks in the world, and Guruvayoor Temple, if time permits.


Day 18: Periyar

Accommodation: 2 nights at Spice Village or similar.

In the morning, we drive to Periyar (138 km / approx. 3 hours drive). On arrival in Periyar we check in to our hotel and take some time to explore the nearby area. We will visit Thekkady town as well as a spice plantation where we will be accompanied by a local expert guide on spices. The area is also known for its tea plantation(s).


Day 19: Periyar

Accommodation: Spice Village or similar.

We enjoy a morning boat ride on Periyar Lake and later take a nature walk led by a naturalist. The construction of the Mullaperiyar Dam across the Periyar river at Thekkady in 1895 submerged large tracts of land and created a huge lake, covering an area of 26 square kilometres (10 sq miles). Years later, in 1935, the then Maharaja of Travancore declared 600 square kilometres (232 sq miles) of forest surrounding the lake a wildlife sanctuary – – Periyar National Park. The Periyar Lake now forms the nucleus of the ecosystem of the sanctuary, which, over the years, has been expanded to 777 square kilometres (300 sq miles). Declared a Tiger Reserve in 1978, the sanctuary is a rare example of human interference having enhanced rather than damaged an ecosystem.


Day 20: Cochin

Accommodation: The Killians or similar.

After breakfast we drive to Cochin (154 km / approx. 4 hours drive). Upon arrival we check in at our hotel and explore the nearby area on foot.

Kochi, better known as Cochin, is Kerala’s most cosmopolitan city. It is also its main trading centre for spices and seafood. Built around a saltwater lagoon of the Arabian Sea, Kochi is in fact a collection of narrow islands and peninsulas. While mainland Ernakulam boasts of concrete shopping malls and glitzy apartment buildings, Mattancherry and Fort Koch have an old world charm, with their blend of Dutch, Portuguese, and English bungalows and quaint narrow streets. The scenic location of Kochi’s natural harbour, surrounded by palm groves, green fields, inland lakes, and backwaters, has enchanted visitors from across the globe for centuries. Cochin is a natural harbour created by the famed underwater Malabar mud-banks whose quality ensures that the rougher seas are outside and the calmer waters are within the harbour. Vasco-de-Gama placed this city on the world map. It has a Jewish synagogue, Portuguese churches, mosques and Hindu temples.


Day 21: Cochin

Accommodation: The Killians or similar.

Today we have a full day sightseeing in Cochin visiting the Dutch Palace, built by the Portuguese and known for its murals, depicting scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, as well as the dresses and palanquins used by Cochin’s erstwhile rulers. We will see Koonan Kurishu Shrine, which is a small chapel. We will also see the Jewish Synagogue, which has a number of copper plates inscribed in the Hebrew script, as well as Fort Kochi, St. Francis Church, the oldest to be constructed by Europeans in India, Santa Cruz Basilica with a beautifully painted ceiling, and Chinese Fishing Nets near the harbor’s entrance of Cochin.

In the evening we enjoy a performance of the traditional dance of the Kerala region, called Kathakali, which is a highly stylized classical Indian dance-drama, with elaborate make-up and costumes, detailed gestures, and well-defined body movements and complementary percussion.

The Mattancherry Palace, constructed by the Portuguese in the mid-1550s, was given to the ruler of Cochin as a token of goodwill in exchange for trading rights. It was later renovated by the Dutch, and so gained the misnomer: Dutch Palace. The 2-storied structure, built around a courtyard with a small shrine to the goddess Bhagavati, is today a museum with a rare collection of murals and royal artefacts. In the central Durbar Hall, where coronation ceremonies were once held, is the portrait gallery of the Kochi rulers; it also displays palanquins and textiles. The adjacent bedrooms and chambers are renowned for their fine 17th-century murals, representative of Kerala’s temple art, painted in rich, warm shades of red, yellow, black, and white. They depict religious and mythological themes as well as episodes from the Ramayana.

St. Francis Church was established in the early 1500’s by the Portuguese (who called it Santo Antonio). It is one of India’s earliest European churches, with a simple façade that became the model for later churches. Taken over by the Dutch and then the British, it is today affiliated with the church of South India. Within are numerous gravestones with inscriptions, the earliest a Portuguese epitaph dated 1562. Vasco da Gama was buried here in 1524 until his body was taken to Portugal 14 years later.

Fort Kochi is Kochi’s natural harbour, created by a massive flood in 1341. It attracted imperialists and merchants from all over the world. In the 16th century, the Portuguese built a fort here, which was later occupied by the Dutch and then the British. Today, this quarter, with its mixture of architectural styles, encapsulates Fort Kochi’s tumultuous history. The most important building here is St. Francis Church, erected by the Portuguese in 1502 and considered to be among the oldest churches built by Europeans in India.

This area has now been declared a Heritage Zone to preserve its many historic buildings.


Day 22: Cochin

Your India holiday tour concludes today after breakfast. If you’re departing later in the evening a late check-out can be arranged at the hotel.


Tour Notes

  • Itineraries may change if flight schedules, site availability, and other inclusions have to be amended prior to departure.

Includes / Excludes

What’s included in our Tour

  • 19 nights of hotel accommodation.
  • 1 night onboard houseboat.
  • 1 night of rail travel with shared facilities.
  • 21 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 21 dinners.
  • Transport in comfortable and modern coaches.
  • All excursions and entrance fees as indicated.
  • Gratuities and necessary tips.
  • 2 internal flights and taxes.
  • Services of Tour Leader for the duration of tour.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • International airfares and departure taxes.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Visa service and fee
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
Level 2 - Moderate

Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, be in good health, mobile and able to participate in 3-5 hours of physical activity per day, the equivalent of walking / hiking up to 8 kilometers per day on uneven ground.

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07 November 2024


Ends 28 November 2024 • 22 days

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Reading List Download PDF

India: A History

John Keay

Fully revised with forty thousand new words that take the reader up to present-day India, John Keay’s India: A History spans five millennia in a sweeping narrative that tells the story of the peoples of the subcontinent, from their ancient beginnings in the valley of the Indus to the events in the region today. In charting the evolution of the rich tapestry of cultures, religions, and peoples that comprise the modern nations of Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, Keay weaves together insights from a variety of scholarly fields to create a rich historical narrative. Wide-ranging and authoritative, India: A History is a compelling epic portrait of one of the world’s oldest and most richly diverse civilizations.


India: In Word and Image, Revised, Expanded and Updated

Eric Meola (Photographer), Bharati Mukherjee (Introduction)

Gorgeously jaw-dropping, India has been beautifully redesigned with 32 additional pages of glorious photos shot by Eric Meola since India was first published.

This revised and expanded version of Eric Meola's 2008 India takes the reader on a journey through Mumbai, Rajasthan, Agra, Dungarpur, along desert roads, to the Ganges water's edge, including spectacular ruins, the Taj Mahal, and the Festival of Elephants, capturing the spectacle and vibrant colors of these ancient regions.

INDIA is rapidly becoming one of the pre-eminent leaders of the twenty-first century. For more than a decade, Eric Meola has returned repeatedly to India, photographing the people, temples, landscapes, architecture, celebrations, and art of this uniquely exuberant and incredibly diverse country. Meola's journeys took him from the Himalayas and monasteries in the North to the temples of Tamil Nadu in the South, from the color and pageantry of Rajasthan in the West to the tea plantations of Darjeeling in the East. Over 200 photographs (edited from more than 25,000 images) will fill this beautifully printed, large-format book. The photographs will be accompanied by dozens of essays, stories, and poems by contemporary and classical Indian writers.



Stanley Wolpert

This new edition brings Stanley Wolpert's brilliantly succinct and accessible introduction to India completely up to date for a new generation of readers, travelers, and students. In crisp detail, Wolpert gives a panoramic overview of the continent on which the world's most fascinating ancient civilization gave birth to one of its most complex modern democratic nations. India now includes new sections on the country's current global economic development, the recent national elections, and on its international relations, including those with Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, and the United States, India's new strategic global partner.


India: A Sacred Geography

Diana L. Eck

India: A Sacred Geography is the culmination of more than a decade's work from the renowned Harvard scholar Diana L. Eck. The book explores the sacred places of India, taking the reader on an extraordinary trip through the beliefs and history of this rich and profound place, as well as providing a basic introduction to Hindu religious ideas and how those ideas influence our understanding of the modern sense of "India" as a nation.


A Passage to India

E.M. Forster

Among the greatest novels of the twentieth century and the basis for director David Lean’s Academy Award-winning film, A Passage to India tells of the clash of cultures in British India after the turn of the century. In exquisite prose, Forster reveals the menace that lurks just beneath the surface of ordinary life, as a common misunderstanding erupts into a devastating affair.


The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India's Young

Somini Sengupta

A penetrating, personal look at contemporary India―the world’s largest democracy at a moment of transition.

Somini Sengupta emigrated from Calcutta to California as a young child in 1975. Returning thirty years later as the bureau chief for The New York Times, she found a vastly different country: one defined as much by aspiration and possibility―at least by the illusion of possibility―as it is by the structures of sex and caste. The End of Karma is an exploration of this new India through the lens of young people from different worlds: a woman who becomes a Maoist rebel; a brother charged for the murder of his sister, who had married the “wrong” man; a woman who opposes her family and hopes to become a police officer. Driven by aspiration―and thwarted at every step by state and society―they are making new demands on India’s democracy for equality of opportunity, dignity for girls, and civil liberties. Sengupta spotlights these stories of ordinary men and women, weaving together a groundbreaking portrait of a country in turmoil.


India: Brief History of a Civilization

Thomas R. Trautmann

India: Brief History of a Civilization, Second Edition, provides a brief overview of a very long period, allowing students to acquire a mental map of the entire history of Indian civilization in a short book. Most comprehensive histories devote a few chapters to the early history of India and an increasing number of pages to the more recent period, giving an impression that early history is mere background and that Indian civilization finds its fulfillment in the nation-state. Thomas R. Trautmann believes that the deep past lives on and is a valuable resource for understanding the present day and for creating a viable future. The result is a book that is short enough to read in a few sittings, but comprehensive in coverage--5,000 years of India in brief.


Incarnations: A History of India in Fifty Lives

Sunil Khilnani

For all of India’s myths, its sea of stories and moral epics, Indian history remains a curiously unpeopled place. In Incarnations, Sunil Khilnani fills that space, recapturing the human dimension of how the world’s largest democracy came to be. His trenchant portraits of emperors, warriors, philosophers, film stars, and corporate titans―some famous, some unjustly forgotten―bring feeling, wry humor, and uncommon insight to dilemmas that extend from ancient times to our own. As he journeys across the country and through its past, Khilnani uncovers more than just history. In rocket launches and ayurvedic call centers, in slum temples and Bollywood studios, in California communes and grimy ports, he examines the continued, and often surprising, relevance of the men and women who have made India―and the world―what it is. We encounter the Buddha, “the first human personality”; the ancient Sanskrit linguist who inspires computer programmers today; the wit and guile of India’s Machiavelli; and the medieval poets who mocked rituals and caste. In the twentieth century, Khilnani sets Gandhi and other political icons of the independence era next to actresses, photographers, and entrepreneurs. Incarnations is an ideal introduction to India―and a provocative and sophisticated reinterpretation of its history.


The Chaos of Empire: The British Raj and the Conquest of India

Jon Wilson

The popular image of the British Raj—an era of efficient but officious governors, sycophantic local functionaries, doting amahs, blisteringly hot days and torrid nights—chronicled by Forster and Kipling is a glamorous, nostalgic, but entirely fictitious. In this dramatic revisionist history, Jon Wilson upends the carefully sanitized image of unity, order, and success to reveal an empire rooted far more in violence than in virtue, far more in chaos than in control.

Through the lives of administrators, soldiers, and subjects—both British and Indian—The Chaos of Empire traces Britain’s imperial rule from the East India Company’s first transactions in the 1600s to Indian Independence in 1947. The Raj was the most public demonstration of a state’s ability to project power far from home, and its perceived success was used to justify interventions around the world in the years that followed. But the Raj’s institutions—from law courts to railway lines—were designed to protect British power without benefiting the people they ruled. This self-serving and careless governance resulted in an impoverished people and a stifled society, not a glorious Indian empire.

Jon Wilson’s new portrait of a much-mythologized era finally and convincingly proves that the story of benign British triumph was a carefully concocted fiction, here thoroughly and totally debunked.


Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity

Katherine Boo

In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.

Winner of the National Book Award | The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award | The Los Angeles Times Book Prize | The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award | The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award


Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond

William Dalrymple

The first comprehensive and authoritative history of the Koh-i-Noor, arguably the most celebrated and mythologised jewel in the world.

On 29 March 1849, the ten-year-old Maharajah of the Punjab was ushered into the magnificent Mirrored Hall at the centre of the great Fort in Lahore. There, in a public ceremony, the frightened but dignified child handed over great swathes of the richest country in India in a formal Act of Submission to a private corporation, the East India Company. He was also compelled to hand over to the British monarch, Queen Victoria, perhaps the single most valuable object on the subcontinent: the celebrated Koh-i Noor diamond. The Mountain of Light.

The history of the Koh-i-Noor that was then commissioned by the British may have been one woven together from gossip of Delhi bazaars, but it was to be become the accepted version. Only now is it finally challenged, freeing the diamond from the fog of mythology that has clung to it for so long. The resulting history is one of greed, murder, torture, colonialism and appropriation told through an impressive slice of south and central Asian history. It ends with the jewel in its current controversial setting: in the crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Masterly, powerful and erudite, this is history at its most compelling and invigorating.

Connectivity in Motion: Island Hubs in the Indian Ocean World (Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies)

Burkhard Schnepel (Editor), Edward A. Alpers (Editor)

This original collection brings islands to the fore in a growing body of scholarship on the Indian Ocean, examining them as hubs or points of convergence and divergence in a world of maritime movements and exchanges. Straddling history and anthropology and grounded in the framework of connectivity, the book tackles central themes such as smallness, translocality, and “the island factor.” It moves to the farthest reaches of the region, with a rich variety of case studies on the Swahili-Comorian world, the Maldives, Indonesia, and more. With remarkable breadth and cohesion, these essays capture the circulations of people, goods, rituals, sociocultural practices, and ideas that constitute the Indian Ocean world. Together, they take up “islandness” as an explicit empirical and methodological issue as few have done before.

Spices in the Indian Ocean World (An Expanding World: The European Impact on World History, 1450 to 1800)

M Pearson

By turns exotic, valuable and of cardinal importance in the development of world trade, spices, as the editor reminds us, are today a mundane accessory in any well-equiped kitchen; in the 15th-18th centuries, the spice trade from the Indian Ocean to markets all over the world was a major economic enterprise. Setting the scene with extracts from Garcia da Orta's fascinating contemporary Colloquies on the drugs and simples of India [Goa 1563], this collection reviews trade in a wide variety of spices, exploring merchant organisation, transport and marketing as well as detailing the quantitative evidence on the fluctuations in spice trade. The evidence and historical debates concerning the 16th-century revival of the Mediterranean and Red Sea spice trade at this time, are fully represented here

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