Arrive Mumbai by an international flight. After clearing immigration and customs formalities you are met by a representative from First Tours India and transferred to The Taj Mahal Palace, located by the sea face and adjoining the Indo-Saracenic Gateway of India. Mumbai is a long, narrow promontory covering 166 square miles, which juts into the Arabian Sea. Its downtown is the historic Fort Area in South Mumbai that derives its name from earlier colonial fortifications. This is the city's nerve centre, with the best known sights, hotels & restaurants.
The Taj Mahal Palace
Explore the Kala Ghoda area that teems with museums and art galleries, educational institutions, boutiques, restaurants and the finest array of heritage buildings in the city of Mumbai. Visit Prince of Wales Museum housed in an impressive building designed by George Wittet to commemorate the visit of Prince of Wales to India in 1905. The museum has a good collection of ancient Indus Valley artifacts dating back to 2000 BC and some priceless Tibetan and Nepali Art. The chief attraction here is the collection of over 2000 miniature paintings from the various art schools of India. Also visit National Gallery of Modern Art, the Jehangir Art Gallery that holds short term exhibitions of contemporary art, Victoria Terminus, Crawford market, Hanging Gardens, Kamla Nehru Park, Jain Temple and Mani Bhawan – Gandhi's Mumbai base between 1917 & 1934, this house is now a permanent memorial to the Mahatma. En route to your hotel stop on the Mahalaxmi Bridge to see the extraordinary activity at Dhobi Ghat, the largest open air laundry of the world.
Fly to Hyderabad and transfer to Taj Falaknuma, a luxury palace hotel where you can retrace the steps of Nizams, European royalty, enchanting Begums, distinguished Heads of State and walk the walk of Kings through this Palace in the Sky, 2000 feet above Hyderabad. Today explore the old city of Hyderabad. Founded by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth king of Golconda, Hyderabad gives a fascinating glimpse of past splendors – the legacy of its four hundred-year-old history. Visit Char Minar, built by Sultan Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah as a showpiece at the center of his beautiful city and Mecca Masjid, the grand mosque started in 1614 by Sultan Abdulla Qutb Shah. Built of black granite slabs this vast mosque can accommodate 10000 at prayers. Later visit Bangle Street and Lad Bazaar area. This area is located in the heart of the Muslim part of the city and consists of interesting buildings with wood and stone carvings and pink elephant gates.
Taj Falaknuma Palace
Hyderabad, the sixth largest city in India, was founded in 1591 and planned as a grid with the Charminar as its centre. In the morning drive to Golconda, the capital of the Qutb Shahi kings who ruled over the area from 1507 to 1687. Visit the massive Golconda Fort build on a granite hill. The Fort, originally built of mud in the 12th century by the Hindu Kakatiya kings, is surrounded by three walls. One encircles the town, another the hill on which the citadel stood and the last joined huge boulders on the high ridge with parts of masonry wall. Later visit the Qutb Shahi tombs located on a low plateau about 800 meters north-west of the fort. In the afternoon visit the Paigah Tombs belonging to the nobles of the Paigah family. These tombs are magnificent structures, decorated in stucco work and represent the Mughal, Greek, Persian, Rajasthani and Deccani style of architecture. The geometrical designs in the Paigah Tombs are unique and are perforated with screens with great craftsmanship. End the day with a visit to Salarjung Museum that houses the famous veiled Rebecca, the translucent white marble statue by Bezoni. The Salarjung Museum is the third largest museum in India housing the biggest one-man collections of antiques in the world. It is well known throughout India for its prized collections belonging to different civilizations dating back to the 1st century. Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III, former Prime Minister of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad spent a substantial amount of his income over thirty five years to make this priceless collection.
Fly to Bengaluru and drive 4 hours through scenic Karnataka countryside to Mysore. En route visit the fort, palaces and mausoleum date from the era of Tipu Sultan, the "Tiger of Mysore" at Srirangapatnam. The palace is mostly made of teakwood in the Indo-sarcenic style and mode of architecture. The rectangular spread of the whole palace is raised on a platform and open corridors with wooden pillars on all its four sides were perfect for the balmy breeze in summer. Along with ornamental gardens beautifully carved wooden staircases and bays provide access to various halls and the ceilings are adorned with floral patterns. Every inch of the interior has been covered with fascinating floor-to-ceiling murals depicting courtly life and Tipu's campaigns against the British. After sightseeing drive a short distance of 10 miles to Mysore and check-in to The Windflower Resort & Spa. Set amidst 10 acres of greenery at the foot of the sacred Chamundi Hill, the resort rooms are stylish, elegant and peaceful and complement the natural surroundings beautifully. Mysore, the erstwhile capital of the Wadiyar Kings, is known for its magnificent palaces, majestic buildings, sprawling gardens, broad avenues, exceptional edifices, shimmering silks, sandalwood and salubrious climate. Today, it is a pleasant and growing city in Karnataka with a seamless blend of old-world charm and modernity.
The Windflower Resort & Spa
After a leisurely breakfast drive 22 miles passing a couple of lakes through beautiful country and pretty clean villages to Somnathpur. This unobtrusive village has one of the best preserved Hoyasala temples in the Mysore region. Visit the exquisitely carved Keshava Vishnu Temple standing on a 16-pointed star-shaped platform. The friezes on its outer walls with their intricately carved rows of caparisoned elephants, charging horsemen, mythological birds and beasts, images of gods and goddesses, scenes from the epics are very impressive. This temple was the last important temple to be constructed by the Hoyasalas. Return to your resort for lunch. In the afternoon visit the magnificent Amba Vilas Palace, a treasure house of exquisite carvings and works of art from all over the world. Built by the Wodeyar rulers, the main block of this Indo-Saracenic building with domes, turrets, arches and colonnades was designed by Henry Irving in 1897. Continue touring up to the Chamundi Hill and visit the Nandi monolith, dating to 1659 and carved out of a single boulder 25 ft. long and 16 ft. high. The richly decorated bull is depicted crouching. At the summit of the hill is the Chamundeshvari Temple built in the 17th century by the Wodeyars and houses a beautifully decorated idol of the family deity. Also visit Devaraj Market - Mysore's landmark. The market has much-photographed piles of colors used for decorating idols, the banana halls, the wonderful array of vegetables and above all the flowers, making a real treat for the senses.
After breakfast drive 65 miles in 2 hours to the Kabini region – one of the richest wildlife habitats in India. Situated in the cusp of the Nagarhole and Bandipur National Park(s), it forms a part of the larger Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Arrive Nagarhole and check-in to Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge. Your accommodations are in palm-thatched suites inspired in design by the mud-walled huts of the Kadu Kuruba tribes. In the afternoon enjoy wildlife safari into the Nagarhole National Park in jeeps specially designed to facilitate wildlife sightings. Nagarhole, once the hunting ground of the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore, became a National Park in 1955. The steep valley of Nagarhole with rich deciduous forests, spectacular pools and rapids is abounding with wild animals, fish and birds. Kabini is home to the tiger, leopard, sambar, gaur, sloth bear and is also home to the largest congregation of Asian elephants. The flowering fruit trees attract birds like the Malabar trogon, Malabar lark, Indian Pita and white-bellied woodpecker. This evening enjoy tribal dances performed by a troupe of Kuruba tribal dancers to the accompaniment of wooden drums and wind instruments.
Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge
This morning enjoy a boat safari on Kabini River accompanied by a trained naturalist. River Kabini meanders between Nagarhole and Bandipur National Park(s) and offers an opportunity to observe a wild variety of water birds and also the very rarely seen Marsh Crocodile. The backwaters of the Kabini acts as huge water body and attract a wide variety of water birds. As the waters recede, they leave behind isolated pools of water that attract a multitude of birds as fish are often trapped in them. After breakfast enjoy a nature walk which would take you along the banks of the Kabini river and then through the scrub and fields along the village roads. A trained naturalist would unravel the beauty of birds, insects, trees and wild flowers. Also visit the Kuruba tribal settlement to see, feel and experience facets of tribal living as it unfolds every day. These Kurubas were originally hunter gatherers who switched to Swidden agriculture, and when that was banned, to collection of minor forest produce.
Drive to Bengaluru airport and fly to Chennai, formerly known as Madras, the state capital of Tamil Nadu and the gateway to the rich and varied culture of the South India peninsula. Originally a cluster of fishing hamlets along the Coromandel Coast, the city developed its cohesive shape under the British. Today, it is South India's commercial and cultural capital, and the fourth largest metropolis in India. Arrive Chennai and transfer to Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort & Spa, a snug resort built on the ramparts of an old Dutch fort. Set amidst 22 acres of whispering casuarinas and palm trees, the resort is located on Covelong beach offering a view of the enthralling Bay of Bengal.
Taj Fisherman’s Cove Resort & Spa
Begin touring of Chennai visiting the Kapaleswar and Parthasarathi temple complex. The Kapaleswara temple is a 16th century Siva temple with a 40 meter Gopuram or gateway, built after the original was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1566. Dedicated to Lord Krishna as the royal charioteer, the 8th century Parthasarathi temple complex shows five of Vishnu's 10 incarnations. Also visit Fort St. George – Britain's first bastion in India, St. Mary's Church – the oldest Anglican church in Asia, San Thome Cathedral, Chennai High Court - a masterpiece of Indo-Saracenic style architecture and University building. We suggest hot lunch at Annalakshmi Restaurant which serves fine south Indian food in a beautiful environment. After lunch visit the Government Museum that houses the world's most complete and impressive selection of Chola bronzes and stone sculptures from South India and the Deccan. Return to your resort en route visiting Dakshinachitra. This heritage village on the Coromandel Coast provides a fascinating glimpse into the homes and lifestyles of the southern Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Drive 45 miles to Kanchipuram known for its temples and hand-woven silk saris. An erstwhile capital of the Pallavas and Cholas dynasty, the town is dotted with the soaring spires of a thousand temples. Visit to the Ekambareswara temple with its thousand pillared hall, Sri Kamakshi Amman temple and the 8th century Kailasanatha temple, a perfect example of early Dravidian architecture. Kanchipuram is also known as the "Silk City" of India as more than 5000 families living in and around the city are engaged in the weaving of silk saris and silk fabrics. Visit a co-operative society set-up by local weavers. Proceed to Mahabalipuram, a UN World Heritage Site, and explore the Pallava period cave temples, monolith temple chariots and relief sculptured rock panels. Set in a boulder-strewn landscape on the Bay of Bengal this 7th century city is called to be a sculptor's delight which boasts some of India's most sublime rock-cut art. The spectacular Shore Temple perched dramatically on a promontory by the sea has a low boundary wall with rows of seated Nandis surrounding it. Placed inside are a reclining Vishnu, a 16-faceted polished linga and reliefs of a composite form of Shiva with his consort Parvati and sons Skanda and Ganesh. Return to your resort in the evening.
Fly to Kochi and transfer to Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, located on Wellingdon Island with magnificent views of the harbor and the beautiful backwaters. Kochi, better known as Cochin, is Kerala's most cosmopolitan city and 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. In the evening enjoy Kathakali dance drama, Kerala's most popular theatre form, is recognized as one of the major classical Indian styles. This is a unique dance form that combines dance, yoga, ballet and traditional Indian medicine. It has more than a hundred Mudras or gestures depicting deities, demons, heroes, heroines and kings each based on episodes from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The day ends with a visit to a private home to experience Kerala cookery and the warm hospitality.
Taj Malabar Resort & Spa
Today visit the Dutch Palace also known as Mattancherry Palace built by the Portuguese in 1557 as a gift for Raja Veera Kerala Verma of Kochi in exchange for trading rights. The main highlight of the palace is the series of murals painted on the wooded walls. Proceed to the 1568 Synagogue located at the heart of Jew Town. The synagogue's treasures include beautiful silver and gold Torah scrolls, a multitude of hanging oil lamps and crystal chandeliers, and a superbly crafted brass pulpit. The floor is covered with exquisite hand-painted blue willow-pattern tiles which were brought from Canton in the mid-18th century making it one of the most striking places of Jewish worship anywhere. Later enjoy a walking tour of the old streets of Fort Kochi to discover this historical town. The area of Fort Kochi was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and has now been declared a Heritage Zone to preserve its many historic buildings. Also visit the spice market where the air is filled with the pungent smell of spices, the Chinese fishing nets along the Vasco Da Gama Square; Santa Cruz Basilica, a church built originally by the Portuguese and was proclaimed a Basilica by the Pope John Paul II in 1984; the 1510 St Francis Church originally dedicated to Santo Antonio, the patron saint of Portugal; VOC Gate, the large wooden gate built in 1740 with the monogram of the once mighty Dutch East India Company carved on it; and the Indo-European style Bastion Bungalow built in 1667 on the site of the Stromberg Bastion of the old Dutch fort.
Overland journey to the backwaters region of Alleppy and embark on a quaint, thatched roof houseboat for one of the most memorable experiences – the boat journey in the backwaters of Kerala. This bewildering labyrinth of shimmering waterways, composed of lakes, canals, rivers and rivulets, is lined with dense tropical greenery, and preserves rural Kerala lifestyles. The view changes from narrow canals and dense vegetation to open vistas and dazzling green paddy fields, homes, farms, churches, temples and mosques.
Private air-conditioned Houseboat
Enjoy early morning cruising the backwaters and explore the labyrinthine network of waterways which weave through villages set amidst lush vegetation, offering glimpses of Kerala's unique rural lifestyle, where land and water are inseparable. After breakfast disembark from the houseboat at Alleppy and transfer to Kochi airport in time for flight to Mumbai. Arrive Mumbai and transfer to Taj Santacruz where day-use room is reserved. Nestled in the heart of Mumbai, this luxury hotel is a mere 10 minutes from the international airport.
Today depart Mumbai with colorful memories that will add untold pleasure to last for a lifetime.