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Worldwide Small Group and Tailor Made Adventure Travel

What’s included

  • English-speaking local guides
  • 4 nights good quality hotel accommodation in Kochi and Delhi on a twin share basis
  • 7 nights on board the R.V. Vaikundam on a twin share, full board basis
  • 3 nights aboard the Maharajas' Express. Prices based on a Deluxe, twin share cabin.
  • All meals, snacks, soft drinks, local wines, beer and spirits are included on the Maharajas' Express
  • 14 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 11 Dinners
  • Internal flights and domestic transfers
  • All road transport by private vehicles
  • All sightseeing, activities, excursions and applicable entry fees - as described in the itinerary
  • Economy class return air fares from the UK & UK Departure Tax (flight inclusive only)
  • Single, timed group airport transfer for international flights
  • Opportunity to join one of our pre-trip meets in the Cotswolds

Kerala Backwaters Cruise & Maharajas’ Express

Adventure Cruising

India, Southern India | Adventure Cruising

New for 2020
Kerala Backwaters Cruise & Maharajas’ Express

Duration:  17 days from the UK

Flight inclusive from £5,675,
Land only from £4,945

Book now or call 01453 844400

Slow travel in style; meander through Kerala’s dreamy backwaters and then experience the romance of Rajasthan aboard India’s most luxurious train.


  • Discover the charms of Kochi and its picturesque Chinese fishing nets
  • Take a seven night cruise along the tranquil Keralan Backwaters
  • Enjoy cultural experiences and wildlife rich havens on regular shore excursions
  • Spend three nights aboard the opulent Maharajas' Express
  • Luxuriate in personal service, fine dining and a range of optional activities
  • Visit the Taj Mahal, the Amber Fort at Jaipur and Ranthambore National Park


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Temples, tigers and the Taj Mahal await you on this wonderfully indulgent holiday which contrasts two of India’s best-loved destinations: serene Kerala in the south and Rajasthan’s Golden Triangle in the north.

Your tour starts in India’s far south where you embark on a leisurely seven-night cruise through Kerala’s palm-fringed waterways. On board your home for the week, a well-appointed converted rice barge, you sail along canals and lakes, passing coconut groves and stopping to explore artisan villages, and to learn about Kerala’s wildlife rich wetland ecosystems. Onboard the R V Vaikundam you can revel in the excellent service, good-sized cabins with private bathrooms, delicious food and a range of experiences to give you a taste of Kerala’s music, arts and cuisine.

Then, flying north to Delhi, you channel your inner Maharaja and settle in for three nights of unashamed opulence on one of the world’s leading luxury trains. A personal butler, en suite cabin with panoramic windows, and fine dining ensure a real taste of luxury throughout your journey. In addition, the Maharajas’ Express comes complete with two restaurants, a lounge, ‘Safari’ bar, a boutique and first-rate service from the friendly, attentive staff. Rolling across the plains you stop at Agra to tour the exquisite Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, go on safari in Ranthambore National Park and explore the cultural delights of India’s ‘pink city’, Jaipur. There are special meals to enjoy in stunning settings plus a number of optional tours and activities to suit different interests.

By taking the pace down, and travelling by boat and train, this tour allows us to fully immerse ourselves in India’s lush landscapes and fascinating cultures. A truly unforgettable experience.

At a glance

Duration:  17 days from the UK

Guaranteed to run for a minimum of 4 clients

Maximum group size: 12

Land only joining city: Cochin

Accommodation types: Hotels, Cruise Boat, Luxury Train

Meal arrangements: 14 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 11 Dinners

Itinerary overview
Day Activity
Fly to Kochi (Cochin). Transfer to hotel and welcome dinner.
Guided city tour of Cochin and visit to see Chinese fishing nets.
Backwaters cruise onboard the RV Vaikundam cruise boat with regular on shore excursions. Disembark at Alleppey. Fly to Delhi.
Board the Maharajas’ Express and travel to Agra. Visit the Taj Mahal
Early visit to Agra Fort. Travel to Ranthambore. Afternoon game drive in the national park. Continue train journey to Jaipur.
Visit the Amber Fort at Jaipur. Optional activities including a city tour of Jaipur, a spa, or a visit to the astronomical observatory - Jantar Mantar. Dinner at Rambagh Palace.
Train arrives back at Delhi. Disembark and transfer to airport. Overnight flight to London.
Leader: Local leader, India
Local leader, India

Your Indian tour, trek or walking guide will be friendly, very knowledgeable about the region you are visiting and speak fluent English. We use one of the largest and oldest tour operators in India whose staff all have excellent training.

Kerala Backwaters Cruise & Maharajas’ Express Itinerary

  1. Day 1 - Fly London to Kochi (Cochin)

    Today you depart on your overnight flight to southern India.

    Overnight iconOvernight: In flight
  2. Day 2 - Arrive Kochi. Group transfer to hotel. Welcome dinner.

    On arrival at Kochi airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel - the Taj Malabar on Willingdon Island. This evening there will be a welcome dinner at the Riceboat Restaurant at your hotel, your first chance to sample some of the local specialities.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Taj Malabar Or Similar, Kochi
  3. Day 3 - Sightseeing Kochi.

    After breakfast you will head out to begin your tour of Kochi. You will cross the famous Thoppumpady Bridge connecting man-made Willingdon Island to Old Fort Kochi, and here you will start with a tour of Mattancherry, the bustling part of Old Fort Kochi and the epicentre of the spice trade for centuries.

    You begin with the Dutch Palace, actually built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Kochi in 1555. The Dutch renovated and expanded it a century later, earning it its name. The palace also contains some of India's finest mythological murals, the walls depicting scenes from the great Hindu epics: the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

    Then you will see the church of Saint Francis, India's first European church (ca. 1510), famed as the original burial site of Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, who died in Kochi in 1524 while on his third visit to India. Not immune to the turbulence of the colonial era, the originally Catholic St. Francis changed hands - and denominations - with each new power that took control of Kochi, becoming a Protestant Dutch Reformed church in 1663 then Anglican under the English in 1804.

    After lunch at a local restaurant you head to see the picturesque Chinese fishing nets unique to Kochi. These iconic land-based nets combine elegance and ingenuity with their massive frames balanced by counterweights manipulated by teams of up to six men. Long believed to have been introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He in the 14th century, or possibly travellers from Kublai Khan's court, these nets actually trace their origin to Portuguese settlers from Macau. You will no doubt want to take lots of photos before returning to your hotel.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Taj Malabar Or Similar, Kochi
  4. Day 4 - Visit the Kalari Centre at Nettoor. Drive to Marad and board cruise boat. Sail to Vaikom and visit temple.

    Today is the start of your backwaters cruise and your opportunity to really get under the skin of Keralan culture.
    After breakfast you head to Nettoor where you visit the Kalari Centre, a training centre for Kalaripayattu, Kerala's traditional martial art, said to be the origin of all martial arts including Karate. You will enjoy a spectacular student performance, and you will learn that Kalaripayattu is not just a martial art, but is in fact is a way of life.

    Leaving Nettoor, you drive to the nearby village of Marad where you board the R V Vaikundam by noon. The crew will welcome you onboard the boat with refreshments and a cold towel, before you receive your ship orientation and safety briefing. During this time your luggage will be taken to your cabin.

    Then you set sail as you gently cruise along the lake waving goodbye to the skyscraper-lined horizon of the city of Kochi. After lunch is served, the boat's resident expert will tell you all about Kochi, the Queen of the Arabian Sea, and its geographical, cultural and social significance.

    By evening you arrive in the ancient village of Vaikom. You disembark here and, after a short walk, head to the ancient temple of Shiva by tuk-tuk. You will take a tour of the temple to discover its history and architecture. The architecture of temples in Kerala is based on ancient principles of construction and the geographical features of the land. As per the traditional architecture, each element of the temple represents an element of the human body and a temple is considered to be not only the space for spiritual enlightenment but also a place for social networking. You then return to the boat for dinner.

    Overnight iconOvernight: R V Vaikundam Cruise Boat
  5. Day 5 - Sail from Vaikom to Chenganda to Kumarakom.

    After breakfast tuk-tuks will line the docking area waiting for you - it's a great photo opportunity. Your guide will lead the way to the Vaikom cultural centre, where you will watch a performance of 'Kathakali', the traditional dramatic and mimetic dance form. It is a unique blend of dance, music, action and literature and you will be mesmerised by the quality of the acting and mimicry, not to mention all the colourful make up. At the end of the show you will return to the boat and sail to Chenganda village. Here you will take a walk through the village spending time with the coir weavers, the shell harvesters and the local farmers. You will be able to talk to them about their way of life and watch various indigenous fishing techniques.

    Returning to the boat for lunch you continue your cruise through the Thanneermukkom Barrage. The barrage straddles Vembanad, the largest lake in Kerala, dividing the lake into two - one half with perennial salty water and the other with fresh water enriched by five rivers flowing from the hills. You will learn all about the indigenous practices of paddy cultivation in Kuttanad.

    As you continue to cruise through the expanses of Lake Vembanad take a seat at the viewing lounge to enjoy the lush landscape of its wetland ecosystem. By the evening you dock and then take a longboat to a farmhouse. This house is located on an island which was made by the men of the house by reclaiming land from the backwaters. On arrival you will walk around the farm and the owners will demonstrate the preparation of traditional Syrian Christian cuisine. You may also try your hand at cooking and listen to the story of the family before enjoying dinner here, after which you return to the boat for the night.

    Overnight iconOvernight: R V Vaikundam Cruise Boat
  6. Day 6 - Sail from Kumarakom to Kavalam.

    In the early morning, after a light breakfast, a short tuk-tuk ride will take you to Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary for a bird watching experience. The sanctuary comprises a cluster of lagoons from Lake Vembanad with a backdrop of mangroves, paddy fields and coconut groves.

    The walk will take around an hour and you will get the chance to view many birds. Endemic birds that are routinely seen here include waterfowl, cuckoo, owl, egret, heron and ducks. Parrots, teal, larks, flycatchers, wood beetle, and other birds are also seen here during their respective migratory seasons. After time to observe the birds, you return to the boat where a full breakfast will be served.

    After breakfast you continue to cruise the lake giving a further opportunity for bird watching from the viewing terrace or, you may prefer simply to relax, read a book, and just enjoy the delightful scenery. Lunch will be served whilst cruising.

    Later, you arrive into Kavalam where the Pampa River reverses its course and drains into Lake Vembanad. You dock here and leave the boat to explore the village. Your excursion begins by taking the ferry to cross to the other side of the river, before walking along the dykes surrounding the expanses of paddy fields, meeting some of the local people as you stroll.

    Overnight iconOvernight: R V Vaikundam Cruise Boat
  7. Day 7 - Sail from Kavalam to Kainakari to Pulinkunnu.

    After breakfast your cruise continues to Kainakari. Your morning excursion requires a short walk through paddy fields to reach Chavara Bhavan, the ancestral home of the Catholic Saint, Kuriakose Chavara, which is now preserved as a museum. This unique shrine can only be reached by boat and on foot. Saint Chavara, the first canonized Catholic male saint of Indian origin, was the co-founder of the first congregation for men, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, and of a similar one for women, Congregation of the Mother of Carmel.

    You return to the boat for lunch and set sail once more heading for the village of Pulinkunnu. Now the scenery changes to smaller waterways and you will get closer to the laid-back, life of the Keralan people. Later this afternoon you will experience paddling along narrow canal in small country boats, meeting the local villagers as you go.

    Overnight iconOvernight: R V Vaikundam Cruise Boat
  8. Day 8 - Sail from Pulinkunnu to Nedumudy to Champakkulam to Changankari.

    This morning you cruise to Nedumudi. On arrival you drive through scenic villages for a little over one hour to reach Mannar. No visit to Mannar is complete without visiting a bell metal and brassware factory. Here you will meet the artisans and watch the indigenous method of casting traditional lamps, utensils and ornate locks, with the chance to purchase some brassware souvenirs should you wish. You drive back to the boat with time to refresh before lunch is served.

    In the afternoon you cruise to Champakulam. Kerala's old spice trade used to pass through this town en route to Kochi and other ports on the west coast. Settled more than 1,000 years ago by Syrian Christian traders, who later converted to Roman Catholicism under the Portuguese, the people chose to keep their syncretic cultural heritage. This can be seen in the monumental St Mary's Church on the riverside. Built in 1550, the foundations are said to be as old as the 5th century AD. Architecturally, it is a mélange of several European styles, from the Levantine altar and structure to the Dutch arches that tower overhead.

    In Champakulam you will visit the old church, a school and the local artisans who skilfully and passionately craft biblical characters. You will also see examples of the narrow, long Snake Boats (Chundan Vallom) which today are used for hotly competed races although they were originally designed as boats of war. They are considered a real icon of Keralan culture. Over one hundred oarsmen power these boats in races, moving their oars to the beat of drums at the aft of the vessels.

    The cruise continues to Changankary village, passing through several serene canals. Once there, you may relax on board or take a walk before dinner.

    Overnight iconOvernight: R V Vaikundam Cruise Boat
  9. Day 9 - Excursion from Changankari.

    This morning starts with an early breakfast, before driving to Aranmula. The village is home to a family of craftsmen who are skilled at making mirrors out of a special combination of metals, a secret that has been passed down through the generations. These mirrors have the distinctive feature of 100% reflection unlike the common mirror. Local people consider it as auspicious to keep one at home to attract prosperity and luck. Aranmula has a different feel to the other backwater villages you have visited as there is so much to see and do here. You start by visiting the famous traditional mural art gallery, where you learn about the art of mural painting. Then you proceed to the mirror makers and watch the different stages of their work. A walk through the village takes you to the ancient temple of Krishna, which is followed by a stop to see the snake boat and learn about the snake boat race which this village hosts every year.

    Lunch will be arranged at a local house located on the bank of the Pampa, a sacred river for the locals. After lunch you will drive back to the boat in time for refreshments before cruising on to Thottappalli village. Once docked you can take a leisurely walk to the beach before returning to the boat for dinner.

    Overnight iconOvernight: R V Vaikundam Cruise Boat
  10. Day 10 - Sail from Thottappally to Karumadi to Kanjippadom.

    An early breakfast this morning before taking a short drive to visit an ancient sacred grove near Harripad where serpents are worshipped. This is the only temple in Kerala which has female priests. You can walk inside to observe the rituals.

    At Thottappally you will mark your cruise by planting a coconut sapling at the village. The coconut tree is considered as the 'Kalpavriksha' or Divine Tree of Kerala. All parts of the tree are useful in one way or the other: the water inside is a healthy drink; the fresh kernel and the oil extract from dried kernel are inevitable components of every cuisine; fibre from the coconut husk is used to make coir, mats and geotextile; the palm fronds are used for thatching roofs; the wood is suitable for making furniture and all the dried parts of coconut make good firewood. Last but not the least, the toddy - the local alcoholic beverage drunk by labourers after toiling in the fields.

    After a leisurely sail you next arrive in the quaint village of Karumadi. Here you take a walk around a small shrine preserving the ruins of an ancient sculpture of Buddha. Along the way you may meet 'toddy tappers' who collect the sap of the stem of blossoming coconut flowers to make toddy. The tapper will tell you about the process of making toddy and may allow you to take a sip from his pot!

    Your next stop is the village of Kanjippadom to enjoy a leisurely walk. You will meet carpenters at the boat building yard and talk about the traditional method of building wooden boats (Kettuvallom) that involves joining wooden planks using coir, cotton and natural resin.

    Tonight you celebrate your sojourn over a farewell dinner onboard the RV Vaikundam.

    Overnight iconOvernight: R V Vaikundam Cruise Boat
  11. Day 11 - Sail to Punnamad and disembark at Alleppey. Drive to Kochi airport. Fly to Delhi and transfer to hotel.

    After breakfast you cruise to Punnamada Lake - the venue of the annual spectacular race of Snake boats from the different villages of Alleppey. The race takes place on the second Saturday of August.

    By 9.30am you will have disembarked and, after a stroll through Alleppey market, you will be taken to the airport for your onward flight to Delhi. On arrival in Delhi you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Taj Palace Hotel Delhi or Similar
  12. Day 12 - Taj Palace Hotel Delhi or Similar

    This five star hotel has beautiful spacious rooms, a swimming pool and friendly staff. This hotel is held in high regard in Delhi and is a favourite amongst travellers. If the Taj Palace Hotel is not available we will use a hotel of similar standard

  13. Day 13 - Transfer to Safdarjung station and board the Maharajas' Express. Travel to Agra and visit the Taj Mahal. Optional activities.

    After breakfast, you transfer to Safdarjung station to board the award winning Maharajas' Express - and one of the most luxurious ways to visit some of India's most celebrated attractions. Stepping on board you will enjoy a welcome drink and be shown to your cabin, named after a precious stone. Each cabin is adorned with fine textiles and antiques - fit for a maharaja - and also has a personal butler, private bathroom, generous sized bed/s, panoramic windows and modern conveniences.

    The train soon departs for its first stop, Agra, and en route you will be served brunch and receive a briefing about the many delights that await you in the days ahead.

    When you reach Agra you will be taken to the Taj Mahal to tour India's most iconic, romantic and majestic monument. Shah Jahan's 17th century monument to love remains one of the world's greatest buildings. Whether viewed from afar or close up the exquisite marble tomb never fails to live up to expectations. You will have ample time to tour the site accompanied by an expert guide, and no doubt take many photos.

    Later today there are optional activities available if you are interested (these are payable locally). You can choose to have a spa at a nearby hotel or attend 'Mohabbat the Taj Show' - a live dance drama based on the romantic history of the Taj.

    In the evening you can relax and sip a drink in one of the lounge bars on the Maharajas' Express, before enjoying a delicious dinner in one of its two fine dining restaurants.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Maharajas' Express
  14. Day 14 - Visit Agra Fort. Travel to Ranthambore National Park. Afternoon game drive. Train travels to Jaipur.

    Before breakfast, there is a an early morning visit to impressive Agra Fort, one of the most important Mughal forts in all India. Surrounded by massive double walls, the fort has been used as a military defence, emperor's palace and a gilded prison, and is a maze of buildings and courtyards built from red sandstone and marble. You will enjoy a tour of the parts of the fort open to visitors.

    You return to the Maharajas' Express for breakfast and time to relax as the train proceeds to Ranthambore. After lunch onboard the train you disembark for a thrilling game drive in Ranthambore National Park in search of a variety of wildlife including its most famous resident the Royal Bengal Tiger. Back onboard the train, there is an Indian evening with culinary delights whilst the train makes its way to Jaipur.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Maharajas' Express
  15. Day 15 - Visit the Amber Fort at Jaipur. Optional activities. Dinner at Rambagh Palace. Depart for Delhi.

    Following breakfast onboard, you will be taken to the famous Amber Fort, also known as the Amer Palace. The fort is Jaipur's premier tourist attraction due to its scale, opulence and location - situated high on a hill with its image reflected in the still waters of Maota Lake below. Like Agra Fort, it was constructed from sandstone and marble and is a vast complex over four levels comprising both defensive fort and Maharajas palace. Officially a World Heritage Site, there will be much of historic and architectural interest to enjoy on your tour here.

    Following your visit to the Amber Fort you may either return to the train or choose one of the day's optional activities (payable locally) - a city tour of Jaipur, a spa at a top hotel or a visit to the remarkable astronomical observatory, Jantar Mantar. This World Heritage Site, built in 1734 by King Sawai Jai Singh II, has the world's largest stone sundial along with 18 other stone astronomical instruments designed to track celestial bodies and to measure time. You then return to the comfort of the Maharajas' Express for lunch after which you have time to relax and enjoy the luxurious facilities of the train.

    The last night of your adventure ends in style with a special dinner at spectacular Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, before the train begins its journey back to Delhi.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Maharajas' Express
  16. Day 16 - Deboard at Delhi and transfer to hotel. Afternoon sightseeing tour of Old Delhi.

    After breakfast, you say a sad farewell to your attentive crew and deboard the train at the Safdarjung railway station at Delhi. You will then be transferred to your hotel.

    In the afternoon, you will take a sightseeing tour of Old Delhi. This part of the city is a labyrinth of narrow roads and streets filled with a myriad of people and colourful bazaars that keep alive the traditional workmanship for which Delhi has always been famous. Your tour will take you past the Red Fort, and include a visit to the Jama Masjid, one of the largest Muslim mosques in India. For a final taste of Indian life, you will take a bicycle rickshaw into the heart of Chandni Chowk - the silver square - so named because of the silver merchants.

    The rest of the day and evening is yours to relax and enjoy the excellent amenities at your hotel.

    Overnight iconOvernight: Taj Palace Hotel Or Similar Delhi
  17. Day 17 - Group transfer to Delhi airport. Depart for London.

    Depending on the time of your flight, you may have a few more hours at leisure before departing for the airport to catch your overnight flight back home.

    Overnight iconOvernight: In flight
  18. Day 18 - Arrive London.


Dates Availability Land Only Flight Inclusive from
Wed 21 Oct - Fri 6 Nov 2020 Available£4945 Book£5675 Book


Dates Availability Land Only Flight Inclusive from
Wed 10 Feb - Fri 26 Feb 2021 AvailableContact usContact us

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No Surcharge Guarantee

No surcharges will be applied to your holiday after you book. Prices on this website are updated regularly. The Flight Inclusive holiday price, or Land Only holiday price, will be confirmed to you at the time you make your booking. There will be no surcharges after your booking has been confirmed.

Flight inclusive holidays

The 'flight inclusive' holiday prices shown on this website are based upon our preferred airlines and the best priced economy class fares we are able to secure at the time of publication.

We will be able to advise on fares with alternative airlines, upgrades to Business Class, and the options for flights from regional UK airports, please contact us for more details.

What’s included

  • English-speaking local guides
  • 4 nights good quality hotel accommodation in Kochi and Delhi on a twin share basis
  • 7 nights on board the R.V. Vaikundam on a twin share, full board basis
  • 3 nights aboard the Maharajas' Express. Prices based on a Deluxe, twin share cabin.
  • All meals, snacks, soft drinks, local wines, beer and spirits are included on the Maharajas' Express
  • 14 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 11 Dinners
  • Internal flights and domestic transfers
  • All road transport by private vehicles
  • All sightseeing, activities, excursions and applicable entry fees - as described in the itinerary
  • Economy class return air fares from the UK & UK Departure Tax (flight inclusive only)
  • Single, timed group airport transfer for international flights
  • Opportunity to join one of our pre-trip meets in the Cotswolds

What’s not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visa fees
  • Optional activities and tours from the Maharajas' Express
  • Tips
  • Some meals (as per the itinerary)

Extend your holiday

There are many ways you can extend your holiday with Mountain Kingdoms: book extra hotel nights, relax at a beautiful beach resort, take a warm-up trek, arrange a personal sightseeing tour or enjoy specialist activities such as rafting, birdwatching or a safari.

We're happy to suggest ideas, provide quotes and make all the arrangements. We can also assist with flight and hotel upgrades. Just call us on +44 (0)1453 844400 or email and we will be pleased to help.

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