Namaste! Welcome to India. Delhi is an excitingly chaotic capital city – filled with historical sites from different eras, museums and galleries, shops and endless bazaars, there’s plenty to see, do, and eat. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm. Please ask reception to confirm the time and place of your meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be verifying your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have these for your leader. Celebrate the start of a memorable food adventure with a short stroll to a local restaurant. Here you'll enjoy your first taste of North Indian flavours over a delicious (and completely vegetarian) feast. Perhaps partake in a kulfi falooda (ice cream-style dessert) after dinner from a hole-in-the-wall place, considered one of the top-spots for kulfi in Delhi.
This morning venture out to Old Delhi, the historic city also known as Shahjanabad. Wander through narrow alleyways and enjoy an authentic Delhi street food-style breakfast. Keep your eye out for the local chaiwala (tea maker), well known for his delicious milky brew. Next, jump on the city's modern metro system and head to Jama Masjid, Delhi's oldest mosque and one of its most impressive buildings. While Hinduism is the dominant religion in Delhi, there is also a significant Sikh population – so continue the religious theme with an insight into the food traditions of Delhi’s Sikh residents over a vegetarian lunch at a local Sikh temple. After lunch, tour Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi. Visit the spice warehouses in the back alleys of Khari Baoli, Asia's largest wholesale spice market. See the spice selling process from truck to table, and meet a spice seller to hear him talk about how he mixes the spices for retailing. Next visit the Gali Paranthe Wali (lane of parathas), which has been in operation since the 1870s. Parathas are one of the most popular unleavened flat breads in Punjabi North Indian cuisine. Taste a number of delicious variations stuffed with fillings including potatoes, cauliflower, radish and cottage cheese. In the evening, you have the option to visit a local family in the suburbs for a home-cooked meal. This provides an insight into the day-to-day life of Delhites. Jot down some secret home recipes, get involved in the preparations, or simply enjoy a chat in the living room with warm and welcoming hosts.
Get your first experience of Indian rail travel with an air-conditioned express train to the Mughal city of Agra (approximately 3 hours). Famed for the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal, Agra is a city with a fascinating history, rich in Mughal heritage, lush gardens and exquisite buildings and temples. Here you’ll visit the spectacular and iconic Taj Mahal. Best known as a monument to love and loss, the 17th century white marble Taj is a beautiful example of Mughal architecture, surrounded by trimmed English gardens. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz, it lives up to all expectations. Agra is also home to one of the finest looking forts in India, Agra Fort. Enter the dark red sandstone stronghold – part fortress, part palace and part prison – and search through throne rooms and tiny but incredibly decorated mosques. For lunch, join a Mughlai cooking demonstration. Mughlai cuisine refers to dishes that were developed during the opulent Mughal Empire period. Dishes tend to be rich and reflect a combination of cooking styles and recipes from Central Asia and North India. Meet a passionate cook, who'll teach you how to prepare classics such as malai ki sabzi (vegetables cooked with cream) and onion paratha (flatbread stuffed with onions and potato). The menu will, of course, depend on the season. After lunch and a rest, head to the Taj Mahal. Wander the grounds and marvel at one of the world's most iconic buildings. Watching the light change over the marble structure as day turns to evening is a truly unforgettable experience. For dinner, you have the option to jump on a chaat crawl in the city thought to serve up the country’s best. Chaat are savoury snacks (like fried potatoes or samosa broken into pieces with chutney) typically served from roadside stalls or carts in India and Bangladesh – the Indian equivalent to fast food. With its origins in the state of Uttar Pradesh, chaat have become immensely popular in the rest of India and the Indian sub-continent.
Drive to the ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur (approximately 5 hours). Jaipur was designed by royalty and has delighted visitors for centuries with its pink-hued buildings, wonderful bazaars, and rainbow of bright colours dancing along hectic streets. Jaipur, like Delhi, has both old and new parts, although you’ll concentrate on the old. The streets are busy with camels and bullock-carts, monkeys climb overhead, and you’ll pass traditionally dressed Rajput men wearing colourful turbans and sporting magnificent moustaches. Stop at India's most photographed building after the Taj Mahal, the Hawa Mahal or 'Palace of the Winds’. Here royal maidens once watched the streets below through the fabulous jali (lattice screens) which hid them from prying male eyes. Today snake charmers and fortune-tellers ply their trade below the same hideaway. Along the way, visit the oldest chaiwala in the city, a favourite of the Maharaja, cool down with a delicious kulfi (ice cream dessert) and marvel at the sheer breadth of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, pickles, tea and spices on display at the markets. In the evening, you may wish to check out a the extravagance of a Bollywood blockbuster, with all the Hollywood-style elements of action, romance, drama and music (sometimes all rolled into one), at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema. Your leader will also have plenty of dinner suggestions.
Travel out to the old capital of Amber and explore the hilltop fort complex known as the Amber Fort. Set in stunning surroundings on a hilltop overlooking Maota Lake, the opulent palace is the legacy of a fallen empire and a superb example of Rajput architecture, packed with elaborate rooms of lavish murals, frescoed arches and delicate jali work. One of its most spectacular buildings is the Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors). With its walls completely covered with tiny mirrors, the hall becomes a dazzling fantasy with the light of a single match. For lunch try a local favourite, Kachori. Kachoris are deep fried bread stuffed with vegetables and lentils and are one of the most sought after snacks in north India. If sweets are your thing, try the Mawa Kachori, a dried fruit and mawa (milk solids) stuffed kachori, deep-fried and coated in sugar syrup. In the late afternoon you will learn the secrets of Rajasthani cuisine in a hands-on cooking class. Sit down to a sumptuous dinner of all you have prepared.
Today you’ll leave the city behind and drive approximately 6 hours to a Heritage Stay located in the Vindhyanchal Hills in the Mewar region of south-central Rajhasthan. This is an opportunity to learn about rural life and culinary customs. Stop en route to enjoy lunch with a local family. Your accommodation for the next two nights will be at 16th-century Castle Bijaipur, now a heritage hotel with an attractive dome, arched windows and doorways, all within the original fortified walls. Enjoy the palace’s blend of colonial and Mughal architecture as you relax by the pool or in the gardens, pampered by the Mewar hospitality of the hotel’s owners. Spend the rest of the day relaxing in your magnificent surrounds. Perhaps take a dip in the pool or take a walk around the grounds.
Today you’ll jump in a jeep and explore the surrounding farming communities. This is a major agricultural area and, depending on the season, you will pass through fields growing wheat, corn, maize, a variety of lentils, aubergine, spinach, fenugreek, okra, green chilies, tomatoes, potatoes, bottle gourd, sponge gourd, onion and garlic. Some of the spices such as turmeric, cumin are also grown here. In the late afternoon, return to your heritage stay and joing the estate's chef to discover how these ingredients are used in Rajhasthani desert cooking. Savour the results over a delicious dinner in the palace grounds.
Travel to Udaipur (approximately 4 hours drive). On the way, stop at the village of Ranakpur, home to one of the country’s most impressive Jain temples. Jainism is a minority religion in India and is considered among the most rigorous spiritually-motivated diets on the Indian subcontinent. Jain cuisine is strictly vegetarian, and even excludes the eating of root vegetables such as carrots, onion and garlic due to the belief that uprooting the plant kills it and the micro-organisms around the roots. Experience authentic Jain cuisine in the common dining area at the temple, where Jain food is served to all the visitors. Arrive in Udaipur by late afternoon. Tonight you have a free evening for dinner. Udaipur has numerous rooftop restaurants so climb some stairs, choose a restaurant and settle in to watch the sun set over a shimmering lake.
Udaipur, also known as the 'City of Lakes', is built around the shores of Lake Pichola and full of fascinating temples, ornate palaces and impressive 'havelis' (merchant homes). Take some time to discover its winding streets and shops full of traditional Rajasthani wares. Visit the City Palace, one of the largest royal palaces in India, and check out the unbelievable treasures within, from vivid murals to antiques and royal utensils.The rest of the day is free for your own exploration.
Begin today at the local market to collect ingredients for a cooking class, where you will learn how to prepare a traditional north Indian thali meal. A thali comprises of numerous dishes, which vary depending on which region the thali is prepared in. As you’re in Udaipur, you will make a vegetarian thali. Typical dishes include rice, dahl, vegetables, roti, papad (deep-fried flat bread), curd (yoghurt), small amounts of chutney or pickle, and a sweet dish to top it off. After all that cooking, enjoy your handmade thali for lunch. Tonight you’ll board an overnight train, bound for India's capital – captivating Mumbai (approximately 16 hours). The train will depart late evening and arrive after midday the following day.
Arrive in Mumbai after your overnight train, reaching your hotel by mid afternoon. Known as Bombay until its recent name change, Mumbai is India's commercial capital. Some would say that Mumbai is also the food capital of India. This is the heart of Marathi cuisine, however you will also find huge culinary diversity that celebrates regional cuisines from across the country. In the late afternoon, wander down Marine Drive to Chowpatty Beach. Enjoy the sunset and snack on bhel puri and pav bhaji and other iconic Mumbai street foods.
Time for sightseeing and soaking up the atmosphere of this incredible metropolis. This city of contrasts can be hard to get your head around – poverty standing side-by-side with prolific consumerism; a city of slums that’s also the financial capital of the sub-continent and has the shopping centres, bars and restaurants to match. Marvel at the remarkable Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat. At 140 years old it's Mumbai's oldest laundry and, with over a 1,000 troughs, it is also the worlds largest open air, human-powered one. Next, take in some of the key landmarks including the impressive World Heritage Site and historic railway station, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – a striking combination of gothic and traditional Mughal architecture. For lunch, seek out a restaurant known for serving Parsi cuisine, whose community is largely concentrated in Mumbai. The Parsis are descendants of Zoroastrians who are believed to have immigrated to India from Persia in the 10th century. Drop past Mumbai’s bustling Crawford Markets for an insight into local commerce. The rest of the afternoon and the evening are free for your own food adventures. Perhaps take high tea at the iconic Taj Hotel. There are also some fabulous restaurants in this city for all budgets and your leader will have plenty of suggestions.
Take a flight from Mumbai to Goa (approximately 1 hour), arriving in the early afternoon. The locals say that time moves more slowly in Goa, so this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy a bit of tranquility in an often frenetic country. Tinged with a Portuguese flavour, the state of Goa is blessed with lovely beaches, rich traditions, World Heritage buildings and mouth-watering food. Goa's dense forested areas and favourable climatic conditions also make it a perfect location to grow the spices liberally used in its cuisine. The most important of Goan spices, the chilli, was introduced to Goa by the Portuguese. In the late afternoon, visit a local spice farm that uses organic methods of cultivation. For the daring, try a taste of feni, a spirit made from either coconut or the juice of the cashew apple, much-loved in this region. In the evening, perhaps enjoy a meal at one of the shacks that line the beach. Goa is renowned for its seafood, and variations of the fish curry, laced with coconut and served with rice, has become a regional classic. This is the perfect place to give it a try.
In the morning, join a passionate cook who has lived in Goa all her life. Take a guided tour through the markets and get to know the building blocks of Portuguese-tinged Goan cuisine, followed by a final hands-on cooking class. Learn to prepare meals such as hot pork vindaloo or chicken xacuti and enjoy a laid-back Goan lunch. The afternoon is free for shopping, a sight-seeing turn around Panjim, or simply relaxing on the beach. Tonight, savour a final group meal of seafood and spicy curry and farewell this epic Real Food Adventure.
Your Real Food Adventure India comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you wish to continue your food adventure through India, check out South India Real Food Adventure (HHZI) and ask your booking agent about booking a connecting flight.