Essential India & Sri Lanka

India | Sri Lanka

Culture

India's Golden Triangle & the best of Sri Lanka.

Dates & Prices

Intro

Begin your journey in India, at the heart of the historic city of Delhi. Walk the lively streets of Mumbai, visit the iconic Taj Mahal and explore the sights of Jaipur. Continue your voyage on to experience the rich culture of Sri Lanka. Visit the sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy and get a taste for Sri Lankan tea in Hatton before you take a step back in time, climbing the UNESCO-listed Sigirya Rock Fortress and exploring the ancient royal kingdom of Polonnaruwa.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Explore the heritage sights of Old and New Delhi
  • Visit the magnificent Taj Mahal
  • Beautiful Rajputana architecture of the Amber Fort
  • Explore Mumbai, India's most populous city
  • Sigirya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Ancient Royal Kingdom of Polonnaruwa
  • Home of ancient Sri Lankan kings at Kandy
  • Golden Temple Complex in Dambulla

Places Visited

Delhi - Agra - Fatehpur Sikri - Jaipur - Mumbai - Negombo - Colombo - Sigirya Rock Fortress - Polonnaruwa - Kandy - Dambulla Rock Temple - Hatton - Galle

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary
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Day 1 : Arrival into Delhi

Arrival into Delhi, where you will be met by a Travel the Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Delhi. 

Meal plan: Dinner

India’s capital and a major gateway to the country, contemporary Delhi is a bustling metropolis, which successfully combines the ancient with the modern. Amidst the vast spiraling skyscrapers, the remnants of a bygone era in the form of its many monuments, stand as silent reminders of the region’s ancient legacy. The first impression for any visitor travelling in from the airport is of a specious, garden city, tree-lined with a number of beautiful parks.

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Day 2 : Delhi

Spend the day visiting the sights of Old and New Delhi. Overnight in Delhi. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The walled city of Old Delhi, which includes the Lal Qila or Red Fort of Delhi, was established in 1650 AD by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Spice Bazaar, or Khari Baoli, is a street in Old Delhi known for its wholesale grocery and is one of Asia’s largest wholesale spice markets selling all kinds of spices, nuts and herbs. Operating since the 17th century, the market is situated close to the historic Delhi Red Fort. Learn about the spices on sale and smell their aromas. One of Delhi's most interesting buildings is the Jama Masjid (mosque), which is surrounded by traditional businesses that showcase centuries’ old arts and crafts. There is also a marvellous old-fashioned shop where you can test Indian perfume from cut-glass bottles. You will saunter through the main bridal street of Old Delhi, Kinari Bazaar, with its dazzling display of embroidered silk wedding saris.
 


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Day 3 : Delhi - Agra

Depart Delhi and take the train to Agra. On arrival in Agra, you will be transferred to your hotel. Spend the afternoon visiting the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Overnight in Agra. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

​The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built for Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The construction of the tomb began in 1632 and employed more than 20,000 workers. Situated on the right bank of the Yamuna in a vast Mogul garden, this funerary monument, bounded by four isolated minarets, reigns with its octagonal structure capped by a bulbous dome through the criss-cross of open perspectives offered by alleys or basins of water. The materials were brought in from all over India and central Asia and white Makrana marble from Jodhpur. Precious stones for the inlay came from Baghdad, Punjab, Egypt, Russia, Golconda, China, Afghanistan, Ceylon, Indian Ocean and Persia. The unique Mughal style combines elements and styles of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architecture.

Situated on the bank of the river Yamuna, the UNESCO World Heritage Agra Fort is an enormous, grand structure. The special feature of this fort is the 2.5km long and 21 metre-high circuitous wall of solid red sand stone in which each of the stones are closely bound by iron rings. The fort is surrounded by a deep moat. Some of the important buildings inside the fort are the Jahangiri Mahal, the Moti Masjid and Mena Bazaars.

Built in the early 16th century and formerly the capital of the mighty Mughals, Agra is famous for its beautiful medieval monuments. The city was pampered by the Mughals for more than two centuries, adorned with their beautiful artworks and striking architectural styles.The crowning jewel of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal (World Heritage Site) is one of the world’s most beautiful and beloved structures. 

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Day 4 : Agra - Jaipur

Drive to Jaipur, stopping en route at Farehpur Sikri, along with the Stepwells of Abhaneri. On arrival in Jaipur, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Jaipur. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The Stepwells of Abhaneri, also known as 'Chand Baori', is an ancient landmark that was once used to conserve water in the arid state of Rajasthan. The stepwell was built by King Chanda during the Nikumbh dynasty (between 800 and 900 CE) and dedicated to Hashat Mata - the Goddess of Joy and Happiness - upon its completion.

Fatehpur Sikri was built by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century to serve as the capital of his vast empire. Although Akbar had many wives, he did not have an heir, which led him to many holy men and finally to the renowned Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chisti, who lived in an isolated cave near Sikri. The saint blessed Akbar and soon a son was born to him. The grateful emperor named his son Salim after the saint, erected the grand Jami Mosque near the saint's dwelling and vowed to build a great city in that place. Thus emerged the great city of Fatehpur Sikri, a citadel of grand courts, palaces, mosques and gardens that rivalled the splendours of Delhi and Agra. However, destiny had other things in store for the city. Shortage of water and unrest in the north-west made Akbar abandon the city only 13 years later. Today, even after the passage of 400 years, the magnificence of this royal city has not faded and remains immaculately preserved.
 


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Day 5 : Jaipur

Spend the day visiting the sights of Jaipur, including Amber Fort, City Palace and the Jantar Mantar Observatory. Overnight in Jaipur. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Set in rugged, picturesque hills, the Amber Fort is a fascinating piece of Rajputana architecture. Constructed by Raja Man and completed by Sawai Jai Singh I, the fort is made from red sandstone and white marble. The rugged, forbidding exterior encloses an inner sanctuary with some spectacular art and architectural styles. The interior wall of the palace depicts expressive painting scenes with carvings, precious stones and mirror settings.

Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is one of the five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in the 18th century. These observatories incorporate many unique building styles, each with a specialised function for astronomical measurement. These structures, with their striking combinations of large scale geometric forms, have captivated the attention of architects, artists, and art historians worldwide.

City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the first half of the 18th century. The sprawling complex is a superb blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture with open, airy Mughal-style public buildings leading to private apartments. Today, part of the complex is open to the public as the City Palace Museum houses numerous medieval treasures including miniature paintings.

The capital and largest city in Rajasthan, Jaipur was planned and named by the Great warrior astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh II (1699–1744 AD). The buildings are constructed in pink sandstone after the whole city was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria in 1876 during their tour of India, with pink symbolising hospitality. Many of the avenues remain pink, giving Jaipur its popular name of the “Pink City”.

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Day 6 : Jaipur - Mumbai

Travel to the airport, where you will fly on to Mumbai. On arrival in Mumbai, you will be transferred to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Mumbai. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 7 : Mumbai

Spend the morning touring the city of Mumbai. The afternoon will be free for you to spend at your leisure. Overnight in Mumbai. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Mumbai is the most populous city in India, the economical and commercial centre of the country and the home of Bollywood, the Hindi film industry. Mumbai's most famous site is the Gateway of India, a 26-metre-high arch built to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary in India in 1911. Other important landmarks include the Marine Drive boulevard, known as the 'Queen's Necklace' due to its resemblance to a pearl necklace when viewed at night from above; Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest open air laundry; Crawford Market, the largest market in Mumbai,  named after  the first Municipal Commissioner of the city, Arthur Crawford; and the Victoria Terminus railway station, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The latter is famous for its blend of Gothic Revival and traditional Mughal architectural styles, and was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. In 1996 it was renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, after the founder of the Maratha Empire.

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Day 8 : Mumbai - Colombo - Negombo

The day will be free for you to spend at your leisure, before an evening flight to Colombo. On arrival, you will be transferred to Negombo. Overnight stay in Negombo. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Negombo is a quiet beach town on the western coast of Sri Lanka. It was under Dutch control for the majority of the 18th Century, becoming one of their most important sources of cinnamon, before being acquired by the British in 1796. Negombo is a great introduction to Sri Lanka with a friendly local community and restaurants to suit all tastes. It has an interesting old quarter as well as a 100km-long canal that was used during the town’s Dutch era. It also boasts a number of Catholic churches, boutiques and interesting stalls.
 


Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, is a vibrant city with a rich and diverse history. Its landmark colonial and modern architecture take influence from its Portuguese, Dutch, British, Islamic, Indian and Buddhist dwellers; and is most visible in the city's Fort district. Other interesting sights in Colombo include the Galle Face Green, Viharamahadevi Park, Old Parliament Building and the Independence Hall.
 


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Day 9 : Negombo - Sigiriya

The morning will be spent travelling to Sigiriya. On arrival, check in to your hotel, before visiting Sigirya Rock Fortress. Overnight in Sigiriya. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Negombo is a quiet beach town on the western coast of Sri Lanka. It was under Dutch control for the majority of the 18th Century, becoming one of their most important sources of cinnamon, before being acquired by the British in 1796. Negombo is a great introduction to Sri Lanka with a friendly local community and restaurants to suit all tastes. It has an interesting old quarter as well as a 100km-long canal that was used during the town’s Dutch era. It also boasts a number of Catholic churches, boutiques and interesting stalls.
 


The Sigirya Rock Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the wonders of the ancient world. It is located in the middle of a plain and consists of a 200m-tall central rock and two rectangular precincts that stand on the east and the west. The fortress is surrounded by wide moats that used to be full of crocodiles. Sigirya was built under the orders of King Kasyapa and was used as both a palace and a fortress. 

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Day 10 : Sigiriya

Begin the day with a visit to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Spend the afternoon at your leisure. Overnight in Sigiriya. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Between the 11th and 13th centuries, Polonnaruwa was a Royal Kingdom and served as Sri Lanka's second largest kingdom.. Once a military city, where King Vijayabahu defeated the Chola invaders from South India (in 1070 AD), Polonnaruwa is also home to many sacred monasteries and Buddhist remains, including the remarkable 12th Century 'Rock Temple', Gal Vihara. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it also boasts pristine and perfectly preserved sculptures and carvings.

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Day 11 : Sigiriya - Kandy

Travel to Kandy, stopping en route at Dambulla Rock Temple. Following your arrival in Kandy, spend the afternoon exploring the city, including a visit to the Temple of the Tooth. Overnight in Kandy. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka. Capital of the Central Province, Kandy is both a commercial and religious city; the latter being the predominant reason why the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Surrounded by mist clinging hills, Kandy is prone to soft drizzle and grey skies. However, its wet climate only illuminates the rich colours of its colonial houses and intricate silk saris worn by local women. The picturesque region of Kandy is also home to The Esala Perahera, one of the oldest and grandest Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka to commemorate the first teaching given by the Buddha, and the longest river in the country, the Mahaweli River.

The UNESCO-site Dambulla Rock Temple was built by King Walagambahu in the first century. Also known as the Golden Temple Complex, it is one of Sri Lanka’s most impressive cave temples, containing over 2000 sq metres of painted walls and ceilings. In fact it is thought to be the largest collection of paintings in the world, with over 150 images of the Buddha spread between the five caves, the largest being 14 metres tall.

The Temple of the Tooth, also known as Sri Dalada, is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy. Home to Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha – it has played a central role in local politics. For centuries it has been believed that whoever held the tooth would also hold governance of the country, hence why Kandy is the country’s sacred city.

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Day 12 : Kandy - Hatton

Depart Kandy and travel on to Hatton. The afternoon will be free to spend at your leisure. Overnight in Hatton. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Founded during British colonial times, Hatton's tea estates produce some of the finest tea in the world. The colonial influence is evident throughout; the name 'Hatton' derives from a village in Aberdeenshire, whilst a number of surrounding tea estates are also named after Scottish villages. The landscape is a kaleidoscope of colour, with tea pluckers wearing bright sarees dotting the vast estates covering the rolling hills.

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Day 13 : Hatton

Spend the day on tour of a tea plantation and factory in Hatton. Overnight in Hatton. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 14 : Hatton - Galle

Travel to Galle. On arrival, check in to your hotel before spending the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Galle. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

From 1505 to 1640 the Portuguese governed Galle, ruling for 135 years before being defeated by the Dutch, who constructed the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort. When the British acquired the city in 1796 they turned the fort and city into their administrative centre. However, after the country became a formal British colony in 1815, Galle declined in importance as the British developed Colombo as their capital and main port. Despite being heavily damaged in the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, the city operates a booming tourist trade and local economy; complete with schools and colleges, administrative offices and courts. 
 


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Day 15 : Galle

Enjoy a free day in Galle, where you can relax and explore Galle Fort. Overnight in Galle. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 16 : Galle - Colombo Airport

Transfer to Colombo Airport for your departure flight. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Extensions

The Golden Triangle (5 days)

Marvel at India's most incredible forts and palaces

Kolkata & Sunderbans (6 days)

Discover colonial Kolkata and the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve

Indian Odyssey (29 days)

Experience the best of North and South India

Hill stations to the Himalayas (20 days)

Travel through the Himalayan foothills to Ladakh

Rajasthan Explorer (15 days)

Fort cities, rural villages & camel fair

Textiles & Artisans of Gujarat & Rajasthan (16 days)

Nomadic tribes, traditional textiles, crafts & Mewar Festival

Classic Bhutan & Assam Cruise (18 days)

Experience Bhutan's rich culture, colonial Kolkata and rural life in Assam

Hidden Rajasthan (13 days)

Rural villages, grand forts & wildlife

Kerala & Karnataka Explorer (14 days)

Idyllic backwaters, tropical forests & ancient temple towns

Glimpse of India (11 days)

Golden Triangle, tigers & exotic Goa

Tribal Orissa & Chhattisgarh (14 days)

Distinct tribal cultures, unique temples & traditional textiles

Highlights of the Subcontinent (22 days)

Discover iconic sights of India, Nepal & Bhutan

Essential India & Sri Lanka (16 days)

India's Golden Triangle & the best of Sri Lanka.

Essential India & China (17 days)

Visit the two most populous countries on Earth.

Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters (15 days)

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

Wildlife of India & Borneo (21 days)

Get under the skin of Asia's two best wildlife spots.

Wildlife of Madagascar, India & Borneo (29 days)

Spot lemurs, tigers & orangutans

Best of Bengal & Sikkim (14 days)

Colonial Kolkata, Darjeeling toy train & Buddhism

Glimpse of India & Nepal (16 days)

Golden Triangle and the Himalayas

Classic Kerala (10 days)

Tea, spices, backwaters & beaches

Kerala Calling (15 days)

Tropical mountains, tea & spice plantations, and backwaters

Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival (15 days)

Wildlife, tribes & rural life in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur

Taj, Tigers & Temples (14 days)

An intoxicating immersion into India's diversity

Spirit of South India (14 days)

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu to backwaters of Kerala

Karnataka Odyssey (14 days)

Coffee farms, wildlife and stone temples

Essential Rajasthan (10 days)

Discover the forts, palaces, villages and desert of Rajasthan

Tribes of North East India (14 days)

Remote tribal cultures in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Nagaland

Living Bridges of Meghalaya (7 days)

Waterfalls, hills and living bridges in North East India

Sacred India (14 days)

Uncover the religious diversity of India

Markha Valley Trek (12 days)

Set foot in Ladakh's hidden Himalayan valleys

Big Cats of India (14 days)

Experience the thrill of the Indian jungle ...

Kashmir and Ladakh Explorer (14 days)

Houseboats, Himalayas & Hemis Festival

Heart of India (14 days)

Lucknow, Varanasi & the wonders of Madhya Pradesh

Monks, Tribes & Rhinos (20 days)

Himalayan mountains, unseen tribes & amazing wildlife

Wildlife of North East India (14 days)

Diverse wildlife in Assam and the Sunderbans

Big Six of India (15 days)

Spot tigers, lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino & elephants

Delicacies of North India (14 days)

Discover the huge diversity of North India's cuisine

Taste of South India (15 days)

Experience the flavours and exotic spices of South India

Treasures of Gujarat (14 days)

Villages, temples, salt flats & the world's last Asiatic lions

Reviews

I thoroughly enjoyed my tailor made tour of northwestern and central India. Guides and accommodations were excellent and we saw as much of the area as could be packed into two weeks. I look forward to another tour with Travel the Unknown.

Mary Trubek (USA) , Tailormade India

What an excellent service! Rahul adapted, extended and improved our trip so many times without a qualm and we ended up with the trip of a lifetime. The destinations are unusual and interesting but everything has been checked out by the team and works brilliantly. I can`t wait to do another trip.

Penelope Smith , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

Another fantastic trip with this company. WE really managed to get off the beaten track and have seen some amazing sights. Well put together. We will travel again with Travel the Unknown

Hazel & James Frost , Tailormade India

This is our second fabulous trip with Travel The Unknown and we were not disappointed. Rajasthan's vibrant colours of turbans and saris, the noise, the spicy aromas, the silence in the hot air balloon over rural Jaipur, the majestic forts and palaces of ancient times, sighting leopards in the wild, all far exceeded our expectations and the heritage homes and hotels we stayed in, whilst being of high standard in every way, still had a friendly family touch. Thanks so much to Rahul and the team for such a memorable trip. Six weeks on and we still can't stop talking about it. I can't wait for the next one!

John & Christine Gregory , Tailormade India

Another great trip from Travel the Unknown. I would recommend this company to anyone who wants to move outside the boundaries of the usual tourist itinerary.

Catherine Crawford , Kashmir & Ladakh Explorer, India

Travel the Unknown put together an Itinerary in North East India - Living Root Bridges for me and a travelling companion. The accommodations, transportation, promptness of drivers, and knowledge of our guide was excellent. Easy booking from office and good pre trip information. Thanks TTU!

Christina Taft , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

Wow, India is incredible and Travel The Unknown put together a trip that really showed the diverse nature of the country and cultures, from the busy capital Delhi to the splendour of the Taj Mahal and then off the main tourist trek with an overnight sleeper train to Varanasi on the Ganges, the Hindu religious capital with bathing , washing and cremations alongside the river - an astonishing experience. We then moved to the forgotten North East corner where there is a tribal culture in an area seemingly cut off from the rest of India. Our destination was the Living Root Bridges which are unique and remote. Just want to go back to India for more...

Ken Sankey , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

Gotta say thanks to Travel The Unknown for organising my fascinating trip to a little-known area of the world. The scenery was fantastic, food was amazing, the guide was great and the living bridges were inspiring. An India not many get to see. Thanks again.

Stephen , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

I had been studying the Apatani Tribe for quite some time… I’m talking roughly 7 years! Travel The Unknown made my dreams come entirely true. They organized every aspect of my experience in the most minute detail. I have never felt such confidence in an agency nor worked with one more knowledgeable about their destination. Because of them and their kind efforts, I will continue to travel with Travel The Unknown for all future expeditions to this or similar regions. Thanks, Travel The Unknown, for everything!

Christian Noni , Tailormade North East India

As always Travel The Unknown were exceptional in organising my trip to India. The guides for Meghalaya and the Golden Triangle were friendly, extremely helpful and very informative. The tour was busy but never felt rushed; the combination of Meghalaya and Golden Triangle giving quite a varied perspective of India.

Terry Cooper , Living Bridges of Meghalaya

The Living Root Bridges trip was our first time with Travel the Unknown and we would have no hesitation from booking with them again.

Andria & John Palmer , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

This trip was my first time travelling with Travel The Unknown, but definitely not my last!

Lori Martin , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India
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