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A Culinary Journey in India

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 14 day(s)
Group Size: 2 - 20 people
Destination(s): India  
Specialty Categories: Food & Wine   Cultural Journey  
Season: January - December
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 7995 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 7995 US Dollar (USD)

Join us as we journey in Indian style from Tamil Nadu (home to Indian vegetarianism) to Chettinad (with the most aromatic dishes on the sub-continent), from South Kerala (with its exotic tropical fruits) to North Kerala (with its unique seafood-focused Moplah cuisine), from Jaipur (with its delicate Rajasthani dishes) to Agra (with its magnificent Mughal biryanis) and finish in Delhi (to sample the robust Punjabi tandoori).

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: Madras. Arrive Madras this evening. Upon arrival you will be received and taken to your hotel. Overnight: Taj Connemara – Executive Heritage Room.

Day 2: Madras. After a leisurely morning, you will be taken for lunch at Saravana Bhawan famous for its Tamil vegetarian food. Tamil Nadu is the true home of Indian vegetarianism. Indigenous dishes are almost exclusively vegetarian. The highly developed Tamil vegetarian food (also known as Brahmin Food) is made of grains, lentils, rice and vegetables. Spices are added to give a distinctive taste. The main meals consist of rice cooked in a variety of ways and served with an array of vegetable dishes, sambar, rasam (a tangy thin soup made with tamarind juice and pepper) and curd. All meals must have the crisp papads or appalam without which the menu is incomplete.

After lunch at Saravana Bhawan you will be taken to visit Madras city in a half-day tour. Visit Fort St George, built by the East India Company in 1653 and said to be the first bastion of the British power in India and St. Mary's Church, the oldest Anglican church in the country. Visit the National Art Gallery and the Kapaleeshwar Temple - an ancient Shiva temple is a masterpiece in Dravidian architecture, fragmentary inscriptions in the temple date back to 1250 AD. For dinner tonight you will be taken to Southern Spice restaurant at Taj Coromandel Hotel. The restaurant evokes a rustic ambience with traditional artifacts from South India. Alleppey fish curry, Kohli Vartha Kozhambu, Mamsam Koora, Kori Kempu bazule, and the South Indian Thalis are house specialties. Overnight: Taj Connemara – Executive Heritage Room. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 3: Madras/Trichy/Karaikudi. This morning you will be taken to the airport to board your flight to Trichy. Upon arrival in Trichy you will proceed for a short visit to the temple. After lunch in the city you will be driven to Karaikudi (2 ½ hours) arriving late in the afternoon and check into the home-stay accommodation at The Bangala. This evening you will be hosted a most authentic dinner of highly specialised Chettinad cooking in the dining room of The Bangala. Chettinad cuisine is far cry from the bland cuisine of traditional Tamilian Brahmins – it is one of the spiciest and most aromatic in India.

Although the Chettiars (the local traders) are well known for their delicious vegetarian preparations, their repertoire of food items also includes all manner of fish and fowl and meats. The Chettinad cuisine also includes carefully preserved sun-dried legumes and berries that the Chettiar ladies make into curries. Oil and spices are liberally used in cooking and most dishes have generous amounts of peppercorn, cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, nutmeg, green and red chilies, etc. Some of the popular dishes in Chettinad menu are varuval (a dry dish fried with onions and spices), pepper chicken, poriyal (a curry) and kuzambu which has the ingredients stewed in a gravy of coconut milk and spices. Overnight: The Bangala – Standard Room. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 4: Karaikudi. This morning you will have an opportunity to understand and learn Chettinadu cuisine through some cooking demonstrations. After a leisurely afternoon, this evening you will be taken to explore the famous mansions of Chettinadu. Overnight: The Bangala – Standard Room. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 5: Karaikudi/Madurai/Thekaddy. This morning you will be driven to your next destination, Thekaddy (230 KM / 6 hours) known for its Spice Plantations. En route you will visit the temple town of Madurai where you will also have your lunch at Taj Garden Retreat hotel. You will arrive in Thekaddy late in the afternoon and would be at leisure for the rest of the day. Dinner tonight will be at the hotel – a typical Syrian Christian cuisine affair. Overnight: Shalimar Spice Garden – Elegant Cottage. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 6: The kaddy/Houseboat. This morning you will be taken to visit the spice plantations and see for yourself how a number of spices are cultivated in this part of the world. Later you will be driven to Alleppey (3 ½ hours) to board your Houseboat. Lunch will be onboard the Houseboat. Formed by 40 odd rivers that flow down to the Arabian Sea from the Cardamom Hills, this network of canals, lakes and estuaries comprises one of India’s most enchanting areas - a rural, riverine expanse of verdant coconut groves and rice paddies. The scene is idyllic and the mood romantic as you meander through the tranquil network of water canals, dotted with busy hamlets, lush green paddy fields. Keralan dinner will be prepared and served on board. Overnight: Air-conditioned Houseboat. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 7: Houseboat/Cochin. After breakfast onboard, you will disembark and driven to Cochin (1 ½ hour). Just before entering the Cochin city you may have lunch at Sarovaram, which serves authentic Keralan Vegetarian Thali. Upon arrival in Cochin you will check into your hotel. Rest of the day may be spent at leisure or you may explore Cochin on your own. This evening you will be taken to witness the spectacular Kathakali Dance Drama. The most popular and sacred dance-drama of Kerala, Kathakali, evolved across the last 400 years. This classical dance 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.

Themes center round the two great Indian epics - the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. We suggest arriving early in order to witness the artists putting on their make-up. Tonight you will enjoy Keralan style of coastal food at Taj Malabar Hotel. In Kerala, cuisine is as distinctive as its cultural life and is enriched with exotic tropical fruits, vegetables and cereals and garnished with the distinctive aroma of pepper, cardamom, chilies, and cloves-spices. The vast stretches of seashore ensure that Kerala is blessed with succulent lobsters, prawns, crabs, mussels and a whole range of delicacies. All enticingly cooked with exotic spices. Overnight: Malabar House – Suite. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 8: Cochin. Enjoy a tour of Cochin today. Formerly a princely state which beckoned travellers from distant shores, Cochin is also called "The Queen of the Arabian Sea". The sightseeing of Cochin will include Mattancherry Dutch Palace, the famous Jew Street and the beautiful Synagogue built in 1568 and St. Francis Church. You will also be taken to see the Chinese fishing nets along the shore. Lunch at the hotel. After a leisurely afternoon, this evening you will be taken to the home of a professional cookery instructor. You will have an opportunity to learn the nuances of traditional Kerala recipes from your host who will also serve you a sumptuous Keralan meal. Overnight: Malabar House – Suite. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 9: Cochin/Calicut/Tellicherry. Today you will be taken to the airport to board your flight to Calicut (IC-997; Departing Cochin at 1330; Arriving Calicut at 1400 hours). Upon arrival in Calicut you will be received and taken to Tellicherry (2 ½ hours) and check into Ayisha Manzil, a lovely mansion overlooking Arabian Sea. At Ayisha Manzil you will be the guests of Mrs Faiza Moosa who is a well known culinary expert of North Kerala Muslim cuisine and will teach you the secrets of making good, authentic curries. Tonight you will be hosted a most authentic Moplah Cuisine dinner. The Malayalam speaking North Kerala Muslims, known as Moplahs, trace their ancestry to the Arabs who had come to trade with Kerala and later married with local people to a create a sub cultural identity of their own.

This interaction of two diverse cultures naturally resulted in a food culture, which is specific to only this region of North Kerala and is known as the Moplah cuisine. By and large Moplahs are non-vegetarians – fish is a much-relished item on the menu and is prepared in a variety of ways. Stuffed fish and chicken are special varieties served on festive occasions. Not that vegetables are taboo – far from it, they form a staple item at all meals. The drumstick including even the leaves, tapioca and yam are all prized vegetables on the menu. Pumpkin is used in the place of the present day potato in meat curries. The Moplahs also have their very own versions of biryanis. Overnight: Ayisha Manzil. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 10: Calicut/Bombay/Jaipur. Today you will be collected from hotel and taken to Calicut airport to board your flight to Bombay. Upon arrival in Bombay you will connect to your flight to Jaipur. Upon arrival in Jaipur you will be received and taken to your hotel. Dinner at the hotel. Overnight: Samode Palace – Deluxe Suite.
Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 11: Jaipur. Enjoy full-day tour of Jaipur city. Jaipur was founded in 1727 by Maharaja Jai Singh II and is a marvelous synthesis of architectural influences - Hindu and Mughal. The bazaars teem with people, camels, horses and a multitude of vehicles, while around them loom magnificent palaces and buildings. In the morning you will drive past the Hawa Mahal, otherwise known as the palace of Winds, and continue to Amber Fort. Hawa Mahal is just an elaborate facade behind which the ladies of the court used to sit and observe life in the streets below. Amber, the ancient capital of the region, still recalls its heydays in the majestic ramparts rising steeply along the contoured hillsides.

Here, elephant still carry visitors in stately splendour to the main Palace, through unusually high gateways, obviously designed to accommodate this archaic mode of transport. It is an extremely well preserved building and very delightful to explore. Visit the Jagmandir or the Hall of Victory glittering with mirrors, Jai Mahal and Temple of Kali. After lunch at Samode Haveli in Jaipur continue to tour Jaipur city – visiting the Maharaja's City Palace and the Jantar Mantar (observatory). Late in the afternoon you will return to your hotel. Tonight you will be hosted a Rajasthani Thali dinner at the nearby Samode Bagh. Rajasthani cuisine is perhaps the most sensitive among Indian cuisines. Rajasthan cooking in general has its own unique flavour where the simplest and the most basic of ingredients go into the preparation of most dishes.

Perhaps due to general scarcity of water, cooking is done with minimum use of water, instead milk, buttermilk and clarified butter is used. Non-availability of vegetables like tomatoes has led to the usage of dried mango powder while asafetida is used instead of onion and garlic. Gram flour is a major ingredient and is used to make some of the delicacies like khatta, gatte ki sabzi, pakodi; powdered lentils are used for mangodi, papad; bajra and corn is used all over the state for preparations of rabdi, khichdi and rotis. Various chutneys are made from locally available spices like turmeric, coriander, mint and garlic.

The hot favorites among non-vegetarian dishes include the Rajasthani kebabs called Sule, which are barbecued meat pieces of game roasted in 11 different ways. Pickled meat of boar is considered a delicacy. Exotic yogurt and cream based main-courses are common, like Safed Maas, Maas ki Kadhi, Khad, Besan ke Gatte, etc. One of the most favourite of Rajasthani non-vegetarian dishes is Laal Maas, an extremely hot dish that can be savoured only by those who have steel-lined intestines. Overnight: Samode Palace – Deluxe Suite. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 12: Jaipur/Fatehpur Sikri/Agra. This morning you will be driven to Agra (6 hours) – en route visiting Fatehpur Sikri. Lunch will be served at Laxmi Vilas Palace near Bharatpur. Upon arrival in Agra you will be taken straightaway to visit the incomparable Taj Mahal. Later tonight you will have dinner at the hotel’s Indian restaurant, Esphahan, where you will enjoy Mughalai cuisine dinner. The Mughals from Central Asia brought with them a gastronomic culture which when combined with Indian styles resulted in a magnificent cuisine called Mughalai Cuisine.

The lamb kebabs were laced with spices, the rice pulao of India were cooked with meat and turned into wonderful biryanis, lamb and meat roasts were now flavoured with Indian herbs, spices and seasonings. Also, Indian dishes were garnished with almonds, pistachios, cashews and raisins. At this time the tandoor was created by the royal chefs…. The Indian rotis and the leavened breads were merged into Tandoori Naans. Meats were now marinated in yoghurt and spices and also cooked in tandoors. The idea of concluding a meal with sweetmeats was also introduced. Overnight: Amar Vilas – Deluxe Room with Terrace. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 13: Agra/Delhi. Early this morning you will have another opportunity to visit Taj Mahal, this time around sunrise. Later you will visit Agra Fort and the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah. After a vegetarian lunch at Dasaprakash restaurant you will be driven to Delhi (4 hour). Dinner tonight will be hosted at the famous Spice Route restaurant of the hotel. Heralded as one of the top ten restaurants in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, The Spice Route - serving Southeast Asian cuisine, has been designed to reflect the journey of spices from the Malabar Coast in Kerala through Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia to Thailand and Vietnam. The Restaurant is an overwhelming visual depiction of the art and culture that travelled through these regions. Overnight: The Imperial – Heritage Room. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Day 14: Delhi. Today you will be taken for a full day tour of Old and New Delhi. Old Delhi pulses with the energy and colour, the hustle and bustle of thronged bazaars and is laced by a maze of narrow lanes which twist and turn between tall, leaning houses full of the sights, sounds and aromas of the Indian sub-continent. In Old Delhi you will see the famous Red Fort surrounded by shops, and bazaars, the Jama Masjid with its tapering minarets and wonderful marble domes and the Chandni Chowk. In Old Delhi you will also have an opportunity to enjoy rickshaw ride. For lunch you will be taken to the famous Punjabi restaurant, Punjabi by Nature.

Punjabi cuisine (from the Punjab region of Northern India and Eastern Pakistan) can be non-vegetarian or completely vegetarian. Punjabi people have vigorous appetites and their food is like the Punjabis themselves, simple, sizeable and hearty with no unnecessary frills or exotic additions. The Punjabi tandoori cooking is celebrated as one of the most popular cuisines throughout the world. Huge earthen ovens are half buried in the ground and heated with a coal fire lit below. Marinated meat, chicken, fish, paneer, rotis and naans of many types are cooked in this oven and the results are absolutely amazing. Naans and paranthas, rotis made of maize flour are typical Punjabi breads. Of course, over the years the roti has been modified to add more variety, so there is the rumali roti, the naan and the laccha paranthas, all cooked in the tandoor.

After lunch continue to visit New Delhi. As a complete contrast, New Delhi stands in formal splendour. It is a city of wide boulevards, which offers ever changing perspectives of Lutyen's landscaped city. It is a city known for its formal parks, magnificent Parliament Building, the Rashtrapati Bhawan (the official residence of the President of India in the 330 acres of land and designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens) and India Gate. In New Delhi you will also visit Qutab Minar, the 72.5 mts high tower dating back to 13th century, and Humanyun's Tomb (built in the 16th century and architecturally the fore runner of the Taj Mahal). Later in the evening you will be taken to Bukhara Restaurant for dinner – the restaurant is known for its fine cuisine of North West frontier of Indian Subcontinent, which is a variation of Mughalai cuisine. Overnight: The Imperial – Heritage Room. Includes: (B), (L), (D).

Trip Format: Independent Trips are designed for independent-minded travelers who like to travel on their own (without a Horizon escort), but still want to experience our superbly designed itineraries at reasonable prices. The itinerary and prices are always fixed, and the departure dates may be flexible or fixed depending on the specific trip.

Guides: An English-speaking local guide & driver will accompany the trip throughout.

Level of Activity: Light - Strolling through city streets, country walking, camel riding (optional). Suitable for all ages and abilities, with some opportunities for extended walks or alternate activities.

Level of Luxury: Indulgent - This trip is designed with a focus on indulgence and creature comforts. The accommodation is the best available, which usually means a combination of well-known luxury hotels (Relais & Chateaux, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Design Hotels, etc) and lesser known gems with plenty of regional character and charm (from wilderness lodges to converted 17th century monasteries). The food is always first rate, with a blend of haute cuisine and regional delicacies, the transportation is discrete and comfortable, the guides are knowledgeable and charming and the events are unique and memorable.

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:
- All accommodations on a shared twin/double room basis
- Most meals (as indicated)
- All domestic flights and international flights within Indochina
- All entrance fees and tours
- All transfers and baggage handling
- All local experts and specialists
- The leadership of a local guide throughout the trip
- All special events and on-trip surprises
- All gratuities to porters, drivers, restaurants and other service staff
- All pre-departure materials, including documents wallets and destination details.