Palaces, Deserts & Tropical Backwaters an
exploration of North India & Kerala
A small group tour led by Mark Woodrow
Monday 3rd February 2020 to Monday 17th February 2020
Mark Woodrow is a Parish Priest in rural Suffolk and a self-confessed Indophile. Having previously lived and worked in India, where fell in love with the food, the climate and the vibrancy that India offers, he is now also an experienced group leader, helping both large and small groups discover the vast diversity of people, traditions, faiths, cultures and geography that the Indian Sub-Continent has to offer. Mark is also an elected Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland.
Join me as we combine some of the best that North India and Kerala has to offer. We begin in the North Western State of Rajasthan where we will explore the bazaars and the majestic architecture of the Palaces of ‘the Blue City’ of Jodhpur (as seen in the recent BBC programme ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’), before travelling further North to discover the wildlife, the tribal communities and the haunting beauty of the Deserts of Rajasthan. We then head to the very South of the sub-continent and into the tropical paradise of the world famous Backwaters in ‘God’s own country’ of Kerala where we will float through the waterways and canals, watching the world pass gently by. Finally we retreat to the Malabar Coast, to finish our time relaxing beside the beaches of the Arabian Sea.
Due to the capacity of the houseboats in the second part of this tour, spaces are strictly limited and will be offered on a first-come-first-served basis. Once all spaces are allocated a small wait list will be operated in case of any cancellations.
London • Delhi • Jodhpur • Cochin • London
Monday 3rd February
Departing from London Heathrow EK002 at 13:40 (or other Regional UK Airports) we fly to Delhi via Dubai EK510 at 04:20+1 with Emirates Airline.
Tuesday 4th February
Arriving in Delhi at 08:55 we clear customs and immigration, before connecting to our Air India flight to Jodhpur AI475 at 12:55 arriving at 14:15. Transfer to The Ajit Bhawan Palace and a chance to freshen up before Dinner, followed by an early night.
Wednesday 5th February
After breakfast we begin a full day tour of the Blue City of Jodhpur, taking in the Mehrangarh Fort, Toorji Step Well, Phool Mahal, Umaid Bhawan Palace Museum, as well as the bustling Bazaars. Returning to The Ajit Bhawan Palace in time to have a drink in the bar before Dinner.
Thursday 6th February
After breakfast we head north, driving the 150km (approx. 3.5hrs) to The Clement Dune Resort where we check into our cottages which will be our home for the next 4 nights. This evening we enjoy a Folk Dancing Performance by the Langa before Dinner.
Friday 7th February
After breakfast we enjoy a morning Jeep Safari through the dunes. We will meet the local Bishnois and Raikas Tribal Communities with opportunities to purchase locally made weaving and other handicrafts. Returning home in the afternoon in time for a swim in the pool, before settling in to watch the desert sunset from the sundeck. Dinner and evening at leisure.
Saturday 8th February
After breakfast we once again take the Jeeps across the desert to Kheechan to see the migratory Demoiselle Cranes and other wildlife, before continuing onto the Salt Pans and the old town of Phalodi. Once again returning in the afternoon to relax before dinner and perhaps admiring the millions of stars visible from the clear desert sky.
Sunday 9th February
The morning is all about relaxation. So after a leisurely breakfast, enjoy the pool, read on your private veranda, or take time to watch the diverse collection of birds which frequent the dunes. After Lunch (and some more relaxation), we board our ‘ships of the desert’ to enjoy an Evening Camel Safari across the dunes to enjoy the sunset before enjoying a final dinner in the resort before our departure in the morning.
Monday 10th February
After an early breakfast, we travel south back the 150km to Jodhpur Airport (3.5hr) in time to board our Air India flight to Delhi AI476 at 14:55 arriving at 16:20. After a short stopover at the airport, we board our onward flight to Cochin AI48 at 18:05 with Air India arriving at 21:10. Transfer the 36km (1.30hr) to Forte Kochi Hotel and a late dinner before retiring after a long day of travelling.
Tuesday 11th February
After Breakfast we spend the day exploring the sights and sounds of Cochin, visiting the Chinese Fishing Nets, St Francis Church, Dutch Palace, Jewish Town and Synagogue, with time for lunch and souvenir shopping, before enjoying an evening Kathakali dance performance. Dinner at hotel.
Wednesday 12th February
After Breakfast we travel on to the famous backwaters where we will meet up with our Houseboat to begin our 3 night exploration of the waterways of Kerala. Lunch and Dinner onboard. Watching the sun set over the trees and water.
Thursday 13th February
Another leisurely day exploring the narrow canals, passing waterside temples, watching the coconuts palms being harvested. A chance to slow down, maybe read some of the books you have been promising to get around to in between Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.
Friday 14th February (Valentine’s Day)
Could there be a more romantic way to begin the day than breakfast surrounded by the beauty of ‘God’s own country’? We continue our leisurely cruise, perhaps taking the chance to do some yoga or meditation on the deck. We watch the local fishermen, perhaps catching fish for our own lunch or dinner. We sit back with a cool drink as the world drifts slowly by.
Saturday 15th February
After breakfast we bid our farewells to the crew and transfer the 35km (1.5hrs) to our final hotel of this adventure, the Marari Beach Resort, and eco-extension of a fisherman’s village set in 30 acres of coconut groves, fruit trees and an organic farm, all right on the shores of the Arabian Sea. We relax or take a walk to explore before returning to the bar for an early evening drink before Dinner.
Sunday 16th February
After breakfast, you are free to enjoy all that the resort has to offer, a swim in the sea or in the pool, an Ayurveda treatment or massage, a yoga lesson, or visit to the local village to meet the resident community, or just soak up the final rays of sunshine before travelling back to the somewhat colder UK tomorrow! We gather for a final farewell dinner, a few drinks before retiring for the night.
Monday 17th February
After an early morning wake up, we depart with a packed breakfast travelling the 75KM (2hrs) to Cochin Airport in time for our flight EK531 at 09:40 to Dubai Arriving 12:10. After a short stopover we continue our journey onto London Heathrow EK003 at 14:30 arriving 18:20 [or other regional connecting flight.
- How to Book this Tour
- Travel Insurance
- International flight from London to Delhi and from Cochin to London with Emirates (via Dubai) in Economy Class. (Upgrades to Business Class can be arranged, subject to additional cost and availability at time of booking)
- 3 internal flights: Delhi to Jodhpur, Jodhpur to Mumbai, and Mumbai to Cochin, with Jet Airways in Economy Class. (Upgrades to Business Class can be arranged, subject to additional cost and availability at time of booking)
- 13 nights’ accommodation in hotels or houseboat with en-suite facilities (Check-in is 1400 hrs and checkout 12 noon. Early check-in late checkouts are subject to availability).
- 3-night river cruise on Backwaters of Kerala on board a Houseboat
- Daily breakfast and dinner at all hotels/breakfast, lunch and dinner on board houseboat and whilst at the Desert Retreat.
- All arrival/departure transfers, long drives and sightseeing by a chauffeur driven private air-conditioned vehicles.
- Services of a local English-speaking representative for all arrival and departure transfers to assist you at airports.
- Services of English speaking guide during sightseeing as specified in the itinerary
- Entrance fees to all monuments during sightseeing as specified in your itinerary
- Complimentary Mineral water while traveling and on sightseeing
- Full ATOL and ABTA bonding
- Services of Mark Woodrow as Trip Leader.
Cost does not include:
- India visa fee.
- Lunches (other than on the Houseboat and Desert Retreat)
- Any expenses of a personal nature like laundry, telephone calls, beverages, internet access, etc.
- Tips & Gratuities.
- Camera fees at monuments and other places of interest.
- Travel Insurance: It is essential to have adequate travel insurance in place before your departure. Please Ensure:
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover
- It provides cover for your whole trip
- It covers you for all activities
- It covers all your pre-existing medical conditions
- That you keep your Policy Number and Insurer’s 24-hour Emergency Number handy with you
Please click here to obtain a competitive quote for your travel insurance
- If you wish to book this tour, please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £1,200 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 10 weeks before departure. Youcan make the deposit payment by debit card or byelectronic transfers to our bank. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 4 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
- It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
- It covers you for all activities.
- Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
- If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.