Saturday, March 2 Mumbai
Upon arrival in Mumbai, be greeted by a local representative and transfer to your hotel to get some much-need rest.
Sunday, March 3 Mumbai
Our tour begins with a boat excursion to Elephanta Caves. The cave temples were created between the 5th and 8th centuries AD and are famous for their magnificently sculpted panels. The best known depicts a three headed image of Lord Shiva, symbolizing the creator, preserver and destroyer of this universe in Hindu mythology. Take an optional Dharavi slum tour or rest at the hotel. Dharavi slum was founded in 1882 during the British colonial era. It grew in part because of an expulsion of factories and residents from the city centre by the colonial government. Dharavi has an active informal economy—including leather, textiles and pottery products made by slum residents and exported around the world. Enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Monday, March 4 Goa
Board an air-conditioned coach for a guided tour of Mumbai. Visit the Prince of Wales Museum, and catch glimpses of Marine Drive and Kamla Nehru Park. See the Jain temple, and the Dhobi Ghat. Drive past the Flora Fountain, the spectacular Crawford Market and the Victoria Terminus train station. This afternoon, board your flight for Goa—one of India’s hidden gems. Visitors to India flock to this state’s churches, convents, museums, festivals, and beautiful beaches. Goa has a distinctive character, reflecting the continuing influence of the Portuguese who formerly colonized the area. Enjoy authentic Goan cuisine at a local restaurant.
Tuesday, March 5 Goa
Spend half of the day on a tour of Goa. See the breathtaking views from Altinho Hill, overlooking Panjim, a city lined with cobblestone streets and colourful villas. See the sparkling Mandovi River as you make your way to Dona Paula to view India’s largest natural harbour, Marmagoa. Continue on to Old Goa to see the Basilica of Bom Jesus, in which the body of St. Francis Xavier (16th century) is enshrined in an ornate silver casket. Visit churches such as Sé Cathedral, St. Cajetan, and the Church of Lady Rosary. Also visit a spice plantation. After a morning sightseeing and lunch at a local restaurant, spend the remainder of the day immersed in the Carnival (Mardi Gras) and its street parades.
Wednesday, March 6 Goa
The morning is an opportunity for rest and exploring on your own. In the afternoon, see the old Portuguese Fort Aguada, constructed in 1612, on the shore of the Mandovi River. Then head to the beaches, made famous by the “hippies” in the ‘60s and ‘70s and still hosting many alternative communities. Browse the booths of local and international artisans at the 2,000 stall Anjuna Beach Flea Market. The seaside adventure continues with a sunset stroll along the Calangute or Anjuna beaches.
Thursday, March 7 Kochi
After a short flight, land in Kochi (formerly Cochin), a city founded in 1341 and now spread across islands in a stunning spot nestled between the Arabian Sea and the backwaters and lagoons. Kochi became a principal harbour for Malabar Coast’s extensive spice trade.
During this day and the next two, visit churches, schools and shrines associated with the earliest Christian communities in India that date their origins to the Apostle Thomas in the first century AD. Engage in conversations with leaders of those communities. Experience the rich international and inter-religious character of this city as we explore Kochi on walking tours, discovering surprises like a 16th century Jewish Synagogue.
Friday, March 8 Kochi
Visit churches (Syrian, Orthodox, Mar Thoma, Catholic) and interact with leaders. Enjoy an engagement with Nimmy Paul, who will guide you through a cooking demonstration of Kerala cuisine. Kerala dishes feature coconut, and distinctive spices, including tamarind. The demonstration will be followed by lunch. A professional cooking instructor for more than twenty years, Nimmy and her husband belong to a nearby traditional Syrian Christian community. In the evening, watch a Kathakali dance—a blend of dancing and acting with a vibrant combination of facial expressions and body movements that is brimming with masculine energy.
Saturday, March 9 Kumarakom
Tour Kochi’s Dutch Palace, home to some of India’s most beautiful murals and St Francis Church. En route to Kumarakom, there will be an opportunity to visit the Orthodox Theological Seminary—the first Orthodox Christian school of theology in all of Asia— and the Thazhathangady Juma Masjid in Kottayam. The mosque is a heritage site, more than 1,000 years old, renowned for ornate wooden carvings. Enjoy time to explore the gardens and beauty of this setting.
Sunday, March 10 Thekkady
Travel through forests and nature preserves to the forest and wildlife preserve at Thekkady. Tour a tea plantation where you’ll learn about the history of tea and the process of how tea is grown, plucked and processed. Top off the tour with a steaming cup of tea. Later, take in a Kalaripayattu performance—a martial art that originated in the 13th century and is one of the oldest combat practices in the world.
Monday, March 11 Madurai
After an early breakfast, hop on a boat to Periyar—South India’s most popular wildlife sanctuary, encompassing more than 777 square kilometers. Set on the beautiful man-made Periyar Lake, this well-loved sanctuary is known for its elephants, and is home to hundreds of species of birds and butterflies. Later, drive to Madurai—a vast, pulsating city, and one of the oldest in South India. Explore the bustling streets, which are full of open-air kitchens, colourful shops, and wandering cows.
Tuesday, March 12 Madurai
Tour the city tour of Madurai, especially the extraordinary Meenakshi Temple, which is dedicated to the consort of Lord Shiva. It is an outstanding representation of Dravidian temple architecture, with majestic Gopurams (towers) covered with stucco images of gods, goddesses and animals. Also visit the Tirumala Nayak Palace, a graceful 17th century building famous for stuccowork on its domes and arches. Visit the Gandhi Memorial Museum to learn about his life and current programs that put Gandhi’s ideals into practice. In the evening, observe a Hindu Aarti (worship) ceremony.
Wednesday, March 13 Chennai
Board your flight to Chennai (Madras), India’s fourth largest city, and the gateway to the south. This city is celebrated for its temples, silk production, and authentic Indian music and dance. Marina Beach is one of the world’s largest urban beaches, renowned for the many statues along the waterfront. Madras was the first major base of the British in India, and it is the traditional site of the martyrdom of St. Thomas the disciple of Jesus; a major centre of commerce, culture, and religion in south India; and the Synod office of the Church of South India (CSI). Tour the city and interact with leaders of the Church of South India to discuss inter-religious relations and the medical and social services offered by churches.
Thursday, March 14 Chennai
This full day bus tour to Mahabalipuram will be memorable. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, an architectural marvel, a “Sculptor’s Delight.” The area contains 14 cave temples, nine monolithic chariots, three stone temples (including the famous “Shore Temple”) and four sculptured rock panels. During the tour savour an authentic South Indian banana leaf lunch at a local restaurant.
Friday, March 15 Chennai
Today continue the exploration of Chennai. At San Thome Cathedral and St. Thomas Mount see memorials to St Thomas, who is believed to be buried in the cathedral. Admire the outstanding collection of Chola art at the Bronze Gallery of the National Museum. Ponder the colonial memorabilia at Fort St. George, the Fort Museum, and St. Mary’s Church. Enjoy the many reminders of ancient, colonial and modern India as we drive through the city. This evening, share memories and reflections on this incredible tour during a farewell dinner at our hotel.
Saturday, March 16 Depart for Home
Leave for the airport to begin the journey home, or fly to Delhi for the Golden Triangle extension.
Golden Triangle Extension Itinerary
Saturday, March 16 Delhi
Fly to Delhi. Upon arrival, take a guided city tour. In New Delhi, see India Gate, Parliament House, the Secretariat buildings and the Vice Regal Palace, and visit the Gandhi Smriti Museum and the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. In Old Delhi see the spice market in Chandni Chowk, and Raj Ghat. If time permits, have an evening visit to Akshardham Temple, a modern Hindu temple.
Sunday, March 17 Agra
Enjoy the Indian countryside and conversation with fellow travellers as you drive to Agra. Tour the Agra Fort, which was built and added to between the 16th and 17th centuries by successive rulers of the Mughal Dynasty. Visit the “jewel box” tomb of Itimat-ud-daula. Visit, linger, and admire the famous Taj Mahal at sunset. Often considered the pinnacle of Mughal art in India, the Taj was built by Emperor Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. When declaring it a world heritage site, UNESCO described it as “the jewel of Muslim art in India”. Few words can describe the magnificence of this monument. Evening at leisure or see the Light and Sound Show at Agra Fort.
Monday, March 18 Jaipur
Relax (or nap) on the way to Jaipur. En-route visit Fatehpur Sikri, an abandoned capital from the Mughal Empire between 1570 and 1586. It served as capital for little more than a decade, eventually abandoned for lack of accessible water. Later check in at your Jaipur hotel. Over dinner at an authentic local restaurant, reflect on your experiences and share them with your travel companions.
Tuesday, March 19 Jaipur
On your final full day in India, take an exhilarating excursion to Amber Fort perched on top of a hill. You may even be able to take a royal ride on an elephant (subject to availability) up the hill, like the Maharajas of past times. This beautiful and well-preserved structure was built in the 1590s. It is a delight to explore. Return to the city for a look at the grand Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), the City Palace, and the impressive Jantar Mantar, an astronomical observatory built in the early 1700s. Tonight, enjoy the hospitality of a local family. Following a traditional welcome by your hosts, learn about their culture, cuisine, rituals and festivals and savour the intoxicating flavors of Rajasthani cuisine.
Wednesday, March 20
Depart on flights for international connections, grateful for an amazing cultural experience!
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