Central India Journey
14 days visiting India
Land only tour from A$1684 *
On this tour we focus on an area of India that many visitors to India pass by; the central region of the sub-continent. From the bustle of Mumbai we visit the amazing temples and caves at Ajanta and Ellora; explore the city of Hyderabad, the city of pearls; discover the carvings at Hospet and relax on the beaches of Goa. A journey through some of the lesser known gems of India.
Highlights of the tour
Explore the bustle of Mumbai.
Ajanta caves - a series of Buddhist rock-cut cave temples.
Ellora - the 8th-century Kailashnath Temple.
Hyderabad –the City of Nawabs, City of Pearls, the Biryani City and now Cyberabad.
Visit Golconda Fort.
Badami Caves – temple carvings.
Hampi - old capital of the Vijayanagar Kings.
Goa - churches, Portuguese influence and fabulous beaches.
14 days Mumbai to Mumbai.
What is included in the Itinerary
- 11 Nights accommodation in standard comfortable hotels.
- 2 nights on overnight train.
- Transport and sightseeing as detailed below.
- Services of Totally India Tour Leader from Mumbai to Mumbai.
Single room option –Single rooms are available at all night stops including camping overnights.
Included meals – 13 breakfasts.
Transport - Coach; Train.
Group size – approximately 16.
Tour Leader/Staff – Local Totally India Tour Leader from Mumbai to Mumbai local guides on sightseeing tours, and drivers.
Accommodation standard - Hotels on this tour are mid-range; whilst not luxurious, they are clean and comfortable and all have facilities such as bar and restaurant. Accommodation on overnight trains is basic.
Energy Levels – This tour sees us moving on nearly every day, and has several early starts and long days; we will see a lot but must be prepared for crowded days as well as some relaxation time.
Day By Day Itinerary Duration - 14 Days, Mumbai to Mumbai
Day One, Sunday: Arrive Mumbai
After checking in at our hotel this morning we meet our Tour Leader and discuss the forthcoming tour. In the afternoon we have an orientation tour on foot, just of the Colaba area of the city; Mumbai as a whole is too large to take in at one go. The Colaba area is the gateway of Mumbai so we will start by visiting the honey-coloured Gateway of India arch; the Gateway of India: was constructed to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the city. It was completed in 1920 and remains as a striking symbol of the British Raj era. After this era ended in 1947, the last of the British troops departed through the Gateway of India. The city is the largest in India, the second most populated metropolis on the planet, and capital of Maharastra State. It lies on seven islands, with a natural harbour which made it a centre of the shipping trade. There’s more to see, of course: two contrasting faces of the city: the Mahatma Ghandi Museum, in the leader’s former home, and Bollywood, capital of the Indian film industry. There’s also India Beach, and offshore the cave temples of Elephanta Island. Above all the city is famous for its chaotic streets, for bargains and people-watching, whilst outdoor bazaars top the list of attractions. Popular waterfront destinations are Marine Drive, where visitors go to watch the sun set over the Arabian Sea, and the carnival-like Juhu Beach.
Day Two, Monday: morning in Mumbai; afternoon train to Aurangabad.
After breakfast we have our second tour of Mumbai with our local guide. We will visit the Mahatma Gandhi Museum and learn a little about the great man’s life and ideas, through an impressive collection of books, photographs and letters. On Malabor Hill we’ll drive past the Towers of Silence. Built by the Parsis fleeing persecution in Persia during the 17th century, the Towers were a mortuary for the dead. Being Traditionally Zoroastrians they were deposited in these towers to allow nature to dispose of them. We’ll also see Dharavi, the area where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed. In the afternoon we board the train to Aurangabad, a journey of some 6 hours as we head inland. Arriving in the evening, we transfer to our hotel.
Day Three, Tuesday: In Aurangabad; full day excursion to Ajanta Caves.
In the year 1681, Aurangzeb became the Mughal Emperor and he used Aurangabad as the base for his campaigns. He died in 1707 and his tomb is located at Khultabad, a small town near the city of Aurangabad which is also a popular tourist spot of the state. Many beautiful Mughal monuments can be seen in Aurangabad. The most famous being the Bibi Ka Maqbara which resembles a less well-proportioned Taj Mahal, and which we will visit on our way back from Ellora tomorrow. This monument is Aurangazeb's wife’s burial chamber. Behind this monument is also a small archaeological museum. However, although there are points of interest in Aurangabad, our main focus today is to visit the Ajanta Caves, and we drive there after breakfast. The Ajanta Caves were carved in the 2nd century BC out of a horseshoe-shaped cliff in the Vindhya Hills,along the Waghora River. They were used by Buddhist monks as prayer halls (chaitya grihas) and monasteries (viharas) for about nine centuries, and then abruptly abandoned. They fell into oblivion until they were rediscovered in 1819 by a British soldier on a tiger hunt. We spend some hours at Ajanta before driving back to Aurangabad for the night.
Day Four, Wednesday: Full day excursion to Ellora; evening train to Hyderabad.
The Ellora caves, locally known as ‘Verul Leni’ are located on the Aurangabad-Chalisgaon road some 30 kilometres from Aurangabad. At Ellora is one of the largest rock-hewn monastic-temple complexes in the world, as well as the largest single monolithic excavation in the world. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the caves are hewn out of the volcanic basaltic formation of Maharasthra, known as ‘Deccan Trap’, the term trap being of Scandinavian origin representing the step like formation of the volcanic deposits. The rock formation, on weathering has given rise to the appearance of terraces with flat summits. We can also see the channels near Cave 32 through which the volcanic lava once flowed. These channels, due to overheating, have a characteristic brownish red colour. Similar rock was used in the construction of the Grishneshwar Temple nearby and also utilised for the flooring of the pathways at Bibi-ka-Maqbara. Nearby is the Daulatabad Fort, built on a volcanic rock and protected by spike-studded doorways. We return to Aurangabad and there is some time free to explore a little of the city before we head for the railway station to catch the overnight express to Hydrabad, travelling AC 2 tier class.
Day Five, Thursday: Full day in Hyderabad.
Our train arrives in Hyderabad around breakfast time, and we transfer to our hotel. Capital of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad is located on the banks of the Musi River, on the Deccan Plateau. In fact there are two twin cities here: Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Hyderabad was the "old city", once the seat of the Nizam, the ruler of the largest and the most opulent princely state, whilst Secunderabad was where the British maintained a cantonment to keep the army within striking distance of the Nizam. Founded in the 1600s, the city has produced many wealthy men, partly due to the nearby diamond mines. Hyderabad's many epithets include the City of Pearls, the City of Nawabs, the Biryani City and, because of its high-tech industries of today, Cyberabad. We have a full-day guided tour of the city, visiting the Birla Temple, the Char Minar, and the Mecca Masjid Mosque. We’ll also visit the Golconda Fort, built by the Qutb Shahi dynasty and once thought to be impregnable. We have the rest of the day at leisure to explore the city’s bazaars.
Day Six, Friday: Drive to Gulbarga.
After breakfast we drive through the morning to Gulbarga, where we check in at our hotel around lunchtime. Worth seeing at Gulbarga is the fort originally built by Raja Gulchand and later strengthened by Ala-ud-din Bahmani. The fort contained 15 towers and 26 guns of which one was 8 metres long. Within the ramparts of the fort, there is an imposing mosque which resembles the great mosque of Cordoba in Spain. This mosque is the only one of its kind in the entire country. Several tombs of the Bahmani Sultans can be found in the eastern outskirts of the town, Khwaja Bande, the tomb of the great Sufi saint, Khwaja Syed Mohammed Gesu, is built in the Indo-Saracenic style. The Durgah Library houses almost 10,000 books in Urdu, Persian and Arabic.
Day Seven, Saturday: Drive to Bijapur.
After breakfast we make the morning drive to Bijapur where we check in at our hotel. The most important attraction of Bijapur is the Gol Gumbaz Mausoleum, which boasts the second largest dome in the world, beaten only by St Peters, whilst a second impressive structure is the Ibrahim Roza and the associated mosque; here is the tomb of the famous Adil Shahi Sultan Ibrahim II (1580-1627). Built under Adil Shah I, the Jama Masjid of Bijapur is a sober and massive stately structure. We have the afternoon at leisure in Bijapur to explore these sites.
Day Eight, Sunday: Drive to Badami.
It is a drive of some three hours to Badami,a small village, but where there are 4 cave temples. A UNESCO World Heritage site, they are carved out of the solid rock of a hill which is opposite Badami Fort. Three caves are in the Brahmanical style. The fourth one is Jain in style. Nearly 2000 steps lead up to the caves. The first cave has Shiva as Natraja with eighteen arms and he is seen in 81 dancing postures. Lord Vishnu is the holy deity of the second cave and is evidenced as a dwarf or Trivikrama. The third cave has Vishnu evidenced in many forms. The fourth cave is devoted to Jain Thirthankaras. After exploring the caves, the rest of the afternoon is at leisure.
Day Nine, Monday: Drive to Hospet.
After breakfast we leave Badami and drive to Pattadakal, also a World Heritage Site, with 7th century sandstone temples which are a mixture of north and south Indian styles. Our next stop is at the temples of Aihole. There are some 70 of them; perfect examples of Hindu medieval art. From here we drive to Hospet, arriving around lunchtime. Hospet is our base for our visit to the vast archaeological treasure trove that is Hampi. Hampi was the capital of theVijayanagara kings and capital of a vast empire, until it was destroyed in 1565. There is much to see here. The Vithala temple was built in the early 1500s by workmen of the Vijayanagara Empire. There are beautiful carvings on the walls of the temple. The 15-metre square Queen’s Bath is enclosed by a gallery, verandas and overhanging Rajasthani balconies. The minor waterfall inside the bath was once poured with cool, perfumed water that flowed out through an underground drain. Open to sky and carefully shielded on all sides, the bath was typical of the relaxed and opulent life which was the leitmotif of Hampi. There is also the Kings Throne, the Ramachandra swami shrine, the Lotus pavilion and much more at this site, which was reputed to be, at its peak, the size of Rome with a population of around half a million. Now a vast deserted site Hampi is a reminder that all things change with time. We drive back to Hospet for the night.
Day Eleven, Wednesday: In Goa.
An early start today, as our train arrives arrive in the early morning, just after 5 am. We transfer to our hotel and freshen up, and then we have two days to explore this old ex-Portugese colony. Goa is a natural harbour, coupled with wide rivers, and so served as a perfect base for the Portugese to take control of the spice trade from the East. It was colonised by the Portugese in the 1500s – they are said to have come here in 1510 - and stayed for some 450 years, with Goa being a major trading port ever since, with goods from east and west being bought and sold. Exotic spices, lacquered furniture, China porcelain, ambergris, silks and jewellery were all traded here. The time of the spice trade saw Goa at its peak, and it became the biggest city in the East with over 300 churches and a population of 40,000 people.
Although no longer the port it once was, Goa still retains much Portugese influence, in architecture, religion and food. Today our time can be split between exploring Panjim and the other towns of Goa, or just relaxing on the beach.
Day Thirteen, Friday: Morning in Goa; afternoon train to Mumbai.
After a further morning at leisure we transfer to Goa’s Thivim station to board the mid-afternoon train to Mumbai. All afternoon our route takes us through the beautiful scenery of the Western Ghats on what is arguably one of the most scenic rail routes in India. We reach Mumbai just before midnight and transfer to our hotel.
Please note that the itinerary detailed above may be amended from time to time, for operational reasons or due to force majeure, and night stops may be different to those detailed here. Where possible we will notify you of any changes prior to the commencement of your tour, but this may not always be possible.