Day 1 Monday, November 25, 2019 Arrive Delhi
Today we depart Australia for Delhi. After clearing customs, we will be met by our representative and transferred to our hotel. The Grand New Delhi, nestled in the heart of Delhi’s National Capital Region, is the city’s most distinguished luxury hotel.
Day 2 Tuesday, November 26, 2019 Delhi
Today we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of magnificent Delhi. The city beautifully encloses magnificent landmarks and monuments that narrate the story of their glorious past. Delhi is known to have been continuously inhabited since 6th century BC. We start in Old Delhi and visit Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, with a courtyard capable of holding 25,000 devotees. Later, drive past the Red Fort to visit the Chandani Chowk on our cycle rickshaw ride. The main street of ‘Old’ Delhi is a magnificent bazaar and as fine a monument to congestion, colour and chaos as you’ll find in India today. Also visit, Rajghat – a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. We also visit New Delhi and drive pass the Iconic India Gate, a 42-metre archway built in memory of Indian soldiers killed during the First World War, the India Gate is also known as ‘Bharat Gate’. Situated in the heart of New Delhi, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it is the national monument of India. Later, visit Qutub Minar, Delhi’s most striking monument and Humayun’s Tomb both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Day 3 Wednesday, November 27, 2019 Delhi – Agra
Today we drive south to the historic city of Agra which reached the height of its magnificence between the mid 16th and mid-17th century. The golden age of the city began with the Mughals and Akbar made it the centre of art, culture, commerce and learning. During the peaceful reign of Shah Jahan, his passion for architecture came to the fore and the world-famous architectural masterpieces were constructed including the Taj Mahal. Later in the evening we visit Mehtab Bagh, translating to mean ‘Moonlight Garden’, the gardens surrounding the Taj Mahal are perfectly aligned with Mehtab Bagh.
Day 4 Thursday, November 28, 2019 Agra – Jaipur
Today we visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise, truly a sight to behold and described as the most extravagant monument built for love. It was built by Shah Jahan in memory of Mumtaz Mahal his third and favourite wife. En route to Jaipur visit Fatehpur Sikri, built in red sandstone, during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years. Fatehpur Sikri’s history is rich and nostalgic, with the empty walls of the imperial town echoing a past that could not sustain a future. Continue to Jaipur the largest city of Rajasthan is an epitome of magnificence and vibrancy. This city was established in 1727, and is India’s first planned city. It is also known as the ‘Pink City’. This royal place is rich in heritage, culture and architecture. With splendid fortresses, majestic palaces, tranquil temples and beautiful Havelis; other than these captivating attractions, Jaipur displays exquisite handicrafts and spectacular jewellery. These intricate works of art add life add colour to this Pink City’s uniqueness. We check in to the Trident Hotel, which offers stunning views of the Mansagar Lake and Jal Mahal. The evening is free to relax.
Day 5 Friday, November 29, 2019 Jaipur
This morning we visit Amer Fort, en route we have a photo stop at Hawa Mahal. Built of red and pink sandstone, its unique five-storey exterior is akin to the honeycomb of a beehive with its 953 small windows called jharokhas that are decorated with intricate latticework. This afternoon we visit the City Palace and museum, which lies in the heart of Jaipur city. This is a sprawling complex, with a vast array of courtyards, gardens, gorgeous buildings and a marvellous collection of art and artefacts, textiles and costumes, armoury, manuscripts and paintings and is without parallel in Rajasthan. Later, visit the Jantar Mantar, a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built between 1727 and 1734. The observatory consists of 14 major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars’ location as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declinations of planets, and determining the celestial altitudes. An excursion through the Jantar Mantar is a unique experience.
Day 6 Saturday, November 30, 2019 Jaipur – Delhi
A free morning, after a late check out we drive to Delhi. On arrival in Delhi we check in to our hotel where the remainder of the day is at leisure.
Day 7 Sunday, December 1, 2019 Delhi – Jorhat
– Board MV Mahabaahu Cruise
We transfer to Delhi airport and board our flight to Jorhat in the state of Assam. On arrival at Jorhat airport we take a short drive to Neamati Ghat and board the MV Mahabaahu our home for the next 7 nights. Enjoy the view from the open deck and scan the river for a fleeting sight of the Gangetic Dolphins. This evening the MV Mahabaahu drops anchor and we enjoy a welcome dinner.
Day 8 Monday, December 2, 2019 Sibsagar
After an early breakfast, proceed for a day-excursion to Sibsagar, the ancient city and capital of the Tai-speaking Ahoms, who came in the 13th Century AD to the area from the north-east and were essentially of Tibeto-Burman origin. Sibsagar town literally means ‘the ocean of Lord Shiva’ as it is built around a huge man-made water tank ordered by the Ahom Queen. The Shiva Dol, constructed in the year 1734 is believed to be the highest Shiva temple in India. Later, visit Rang Ghar, which was a place for hosting wrestling bouts and buffalo fights and other entertainment or important meetings of the Royals and their guests. We then visit a tea estate for a relaxed afternoon and a traditional Assamese lunch with the Tea-estate family who have been involved in the tea business for over a century. Return to MV Mahabaahu by sunset and enjoy a relaxed evening in the Soma lounge before dinner.
Day 9: Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Majuli Island & Mishing Village
Start the day with Yoga or go for a walk along the swamps to catch a sight of owls, orioles, changeable eagles, adjutant storks, sea gulls, kingfishers, swallows and many more. As you have your breakfast MV Mahabaahu sails towards Majuli Island, which literally means land between two rivers, the Subansiri and the Brahmaputra. Majuli is a cosmos of Assamese culture where various philosophies co-exist and thrive. Enjoy a talk on ‘Majuli’, the seat of Vaishnav culture and proceed in tenders to the mainland where a drive takes you to a scenic corner of a Satra for an interesting cultural performance by Satriya singers and dancers. Next drive to Kamlabari Satra to witness the Vaishnavite priests dancing to the rhythm of cymbals, drums and chanting in the temple premise. We have lunch on board and sail towards the closest Mishing Village. The Mishing’s live on the bank of river in ‘Chang ghars’, houses with raised platform. All Mishing women are expert weavers and we will see a demonstration. After the visit to Mishing Village, MV Mahabaahu heads towards Dhansiri Mukh where the waters of Bhramaputra and Dhansiri meet and enjoy an evening under the stars on a deserted island for dinner.
Day 10: Wednesday, December 4, 2019 Boat Safari
You may choose to do some Yoga or take an early morning walk on a deserted island before we sail towards the Eastern Range of Kaziranga for a boat Safari. We enjoy breakfast and a talk on ‘The River Brahmaputra and the life that exists alongside’. Later we leave for our safari by tender for approximately two hours. You can see roof turtles on protruding drift wood, water lizards, otters, elephants, wild buffaloes, rhinos, darters, herons, pied kingfishers, white throated kingfishers, serpent eagles and many more. Return to MV Mahabaahu for lunch. This evening we enjoy the Chef’s Cooking Demonstration followed by a talk on ‘Tea, Silk and Jute in Assam’.
Day 11: Thursday, December 5, 2019 Bishwanath Ghat & Silghat
Enjoy breakfast on-board followed by an interesting talk on ‘Kaziranga and the wildlife in India’. Then we board our tenders to go to the shores of Bishwanath Ghat. We enjoy a walk through the village and see how this suburban village thrives. Later, sail on for the next couple of hours and have a relaxed lunch before we reach Silghat. We take a short drive to the Kaliabore tea estate, which is a vast expanse of undulating land with tea bushes, watching the tribal women pick tea leaves. Visit the tea factory to see the process of producing Assam Tea and ‘all that goes into preparing a cup-of-tea.’ We return to where the ship is anchored. Close by a co-operative Jute Mill is an interesting place to understand how the Jute fibre takes the form of very eco-friendly gunny bags. By sunset, we enjoy a cultural evening on the ship.
Day 12: Friday, December 6, 2019 Kaziranga National Park
& Deserted Island
We have an early start today as we drive out to Kaziranga National Park. The most prized inhabitant of Kaziranga is the Greater One-Horned Indian Rhinoceros, but the Park is home to as many as 180 different mammals including wild elephants, tiger, deer, Asiatic wild buffalo and a rich variety of birds. We reach the Kohora Mihimukh range of the National Park; on elephant-back we search for the elusive rhinoceros, tigers, swamp deer and hog deer and a large number of very interesting birds. After breakfast at a resort in Kaziranga, we drive on to Bagori, the Western Range of Kaziranga and drive in open jeeps for more wildlife adventure and further exploration of this magnificent park. We return to MV Mahabaahu for a leisurely lunch and a relaxed afternoon. This evening we get together for a traditional Assamese-theme dinner.
Day 13: Saturday, December 7, 2019 Peacock Island
This morning we lift anchor and head towards an island that is occupied predominantly by a Muslim community who are involved in extensive farming. Enjoy a talk on ‘Kamakhya and the Occult and Peacock Island’ we then visit a village and gain an insight on village life. We return to the ship for lunch and sail towards the Peacock Island that is home to some Golden Langurs. After the Peacock Island visit, we sail towards Pandu Port and anchor at a jetty. We get ready for the Farewell Dinner ‘Alvida Bhoj’ and a relaxed evening.
Day 14: Sunday, December 8, 2019 Guwahati – Kolkata
This morning we drive to the Kamakhya Temple. A Hindu Temple devoted to the mother Goddess Kamakhya. From the temple we are transferred to Guwahati airport for our flight home to Australia via Kolkata.
Day 15: Monday, December 9, 2019 Arrive Australia
Today we arrive in Australia and the tour concludes.
OPTIONAL POST-CRUISE TOUR
Kerala Backwater Cruise
Day 1: Sunday, December 8, 2019 Arrive Chennai
After picking up our luggage, we will be met by our representative and transferred to our hotel the ITC Grand Chola. Situated in the heart of Chennai, overlooking the city’s lush parks and gardens the hotel pays homage to Southern India’s grand empires.
Day 2: Monday, December 9, 2019 Chennai/Mahabalipuram
This morning we depart for a guided tour around Fort St. George which was built by the British East India Company and also houses a small quaint museum known as the Fort Museum. Later we drive to Mahabalipuram and check-in to the Radisson Temple Bay, steps from the Bay of Bengal and spanning across 44 acres of lush landscaped gardens.
Day 3: Tuesday, December 10, 2019 Mahabalipuram
– Kanchipuram – Mahabalipuram
We embark on a half-day excursion to Kanchipuram, also known as the, ‘City of a thousand temples. The most famous of these are the Ekambeshwara temple and the Varaderajaswamy temple. We then drive back to Mahabalipuram to explore its five ‘Pagodas,’ or chariots. We will visit the photogenic and windswept Shore Temple, dramatically perched near a promontory overlooking the Bay of Bengal. We can see the aforementioned Panch Rathas (Five Stone Chariots), at the southern end of town. The rathas, which date to the 7th century, are extraordinary examples of rock shrines made from monolithic stone. In the centre of Mahabalipuram is the main cluster of temples and rock sculptures. Life size stone statues of an elephant, bull and a lion guard these delicately sculptured temples. Depictions of scenes from Indian mythology carved out of stone cover the temples. One of the most elaborate is the Bhagirathi’s Penance, which despite its mammoth proportions, is intricately carved.
Day 4: Wednesday, December 11, 2019 Mahabalipuram
This morning we drive to Pondicherry. The French relinquished control of their former colony just 50 years ago and “Pondy” (as it’s locally known) still bears its European heritage. The local cuisine has a distinctive French influence, as does the architecture of homes, boulevards and city buildings. Often referred to as ‘a little piece of Medieval France in India’ and ‘a sleepy provincial French town’, Pondicherry has managed to retain its French aura.
Day 5: Thursday, December 12, 2019 Pondicherry – Thanjavur
Today we drive to Thanjavur. En route we visit the temples at Chidambaram and Darasuram. On arrival in Tanjore we check in to our hotel.
Day 6: Friday, December 13, 2019 Thanjavur – Madurai
After breakfast, we check out and visit the magnificent Brihadishwara Temple the crowning glory of Chola temple architecture. The vimana, or tower, over the temple sanctuary soars to a height in excess of 261 metres, and is adorned with several exquisite pieces of Chola sculpture. The temple sits in the middle of a spacious courtyard, faced by a massive 6 metre-long sculpture of Shiva’s vahana (vehicle), the great bull Nandi, carved from a single piece of granite. We then visit Tanjore’s second great historical site, the Royal Palace complex, with its impressive observation tower. The Nayakas, who ruled this area in the 16th and 17th centuries, constructed the palace. Aside from the historical significance of the palace itself, the complex also houses several important museums and libraries. Later we leave for Madurai. Late evening, those interested can visit the night ceremony at the great Meenakshi temple.
Day 7: Saturday, December 14, 2019 Madurai
This morning we depart for a sightseeing tour of the Meenakshi temple and Tirumalai Nayak Palace. The Meenakshi temple of Madurai is estimated to receive 10,000 pilgrims every day. A baroque example of Dravidian architecture with twelve gopuras (towers), ranging in height from 40 to 50 metres, the towers are covered from top to bottom in a breath-taking profusion of multicolour images of gods, goddesses, animals and mythical figures. Every point in the temple has a legend attached to it. While exploring the temple, visit the ‘Hall of a Thousand Pillars’, with its fascinating study of human expression carved on the pillars, the walls and the ceiling. Just outside you will find the ‘musical pillars’, each emitting a different musical note when struck. Explore the Kambatti Mundapum containing pillars sculptured with various manifestations of Lord Shiva. The Meenakshi Temple is arguably the preeminent example of South Indian temple architecture, and is also one of India’s most important places of pilgrimage. Later explore the colourful markets of Madurai.
Day 8: Sunday, December 15, 2019 Madurai/Thekkady
This morning we drive to Thekkady. Thekkady is enchanting as the road winds through tranquil countryside, rich plantations and thick jungles. On arrival we check in to our hotel. A pleasant boat ride is a perfect way of observing the wildlife in their natural habitat (subject to water level) or a guided Nature Walk.
Day 9: Monday, December 16, 2019 Thekkady – Thottappally
Today we visit a spice plantation before departing for the backwaters. In the afternoon we board our private houseboat, an environmentally-friendly vessel unique to Kerala’s placid waterways. Prior to their conversion to passenger boats with all the modern comforts, these traditional craft known as kettuvallom once plied these waters as rice barges. Coir (coconut fiber rope) and resin from cashew kernels, not nails, hold the kettuvallom together – a ship making practice passed down through the centuries. The uniqueness of Kerala has always been its backwaters, and it has a mesmerizing beauty. On this comfortable floating home, you may spend your day relaxing and unwinding. As you slowly cruise along the backwater canals of the Arabian Sea, you may choose to stop and explore some of the many small villages, farmlands, old temples and churches that you come across. rhinoceros, tigers, swamp deer and hog deer and a large number of very interesting birds. After breakfast at a resort in Kaziranga, we drive on to Bagori, the Western Range of Kaziranga and drive in open jeeps for more wildlife adventure and further exploration of this magnificent park. We return to MV Mahabaahu for a leisurely lunch and a relaxed afternoon. This evening we get together for a traditional Assamese-theme dinner.
Day 10: Tuesday, December 17, 2019 Backwaters (Houseboat)
Today, we see Indian life up close as we slowly cruise along the palm-fringed backwater canals, a distinctive region whose beauty and tranquillity have earned it the title “God’s own country.” Along the way we go ashore to visit some of the local villages and farms, observing traditional livelihoods such as coir making, boat building, fish farming, rice growing and toddy tapping – the extraction of palm sap for production of palm wine, or toddy. We also see churches in a land synonymous with the very beginnings of Christianity.
Day 11: Wednesday, December 18, 2019 Backwaters (Houseboat)
After breakfast, we cruise to Thottappalli and disembark. On arrival in Kochi we check-in to our hotel with the remainder of the day at leisure. In the evening, we attend a performance of Kathakali dance, where facial expressions and hand gestures combine with movement to create this highly expressive traditional Kerala art form which depicts great Indian epics. Distinct among the six classical Indian dances, Kathakali is a highly dramatic dance depicting various stories, it originated in Kerala during the 17th century and has developed over the years with refined gestures and added themes.
Day 12: Thursday, December 19, 2019 Cochin
Today we enjoy a tour of Kochi. Fort Cochin, our first stop, where the Portuguese flag was first hoisted is also believed to be the oldest settlement in India. After, visit the St Francis Church, built in 1510 by friars brought to India by Vasco da Gama. The gorgeous view of the ocean from the beach enhanced by the Chinese fishing nets, first erected between 1350 and 1450AD, makes a picturesque sight followed by a visit to the Jewish Synagogue. Depart for the Dutch Palace, which contains mythological murals and traditional Keralite flooring. Finally, we have a traditional cooking demonstration and dinner with a local family.
Day 13: Friday, December 20, 2019 Depart Cochin
Your room will be available for use until 12 noon before transferring to the airport to board our onward flight to Australia.
Day 14: Saturday, December 21, 2019 Arrive Australia
Arrive Australia where your tour concludes.