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Comprehensive tour of India

Has anyone on the forum, been on a comprehensive tour of India. I understand that the common tour divides the country into north and south. I am looking for a tour company that eithers puts them together or allows people to do the tours back to back. I would love to hear from anyone who has been to India and what are the “must sees”. We are looking for a tour that is longer than a couple of weeks.
Thank you.

Posted by
19207 posts

Caveat: My definition of "comprehensive" is probably quite different from yours.

I've been doing some research on India since placing a deposit on a February 2021 tour, but I think the chances the tour will run and I'll be prepared to risk having to depend on the Indian medical system during the winter of 2021 are extremely low. As a result, planning for the trip is a bit on the back burner at the moment and I haven't got a penciled-in itinerary. I was expecting to spend a total of about five weeks in India; the tour itself is fourteen full days on the ground. Five weeks is about the most time I'm willing to commit to a single trip, given what an intense experience India is--and I'm someone who regularly takes 4-1/2 month trips to Europe.

I'm definitely not going to try to see the whole country in five weeks. My reading to date suggests that a comprehensive tour of India would require many months. I rather doubt that anyone offers such a thing. One issue is that ground transportation is often rather slow in this very large country with many and widely scattered highlights. Although there are some reasonably fast express trains between some major-city pairs, I keep encountering references to travel times that amount to about 30 mph. Another consideration is weather. An extremely long trip would be harder to slot into the most comfortable time of the year, which of course varies if you want to see both hill towns/mountains and lowland areas.

Posted by
4946 posts

We visited four ports in India in 2015 while on a cruise. The ports were all in the SW of the country and included Mumbai, Goa and two other ports. It was in early April and the heat was oppressive, running close to 100 degrees F with lots of humidity.

Also, when traveling on Indian highways, we were in a small minibus and it seemed like about every two or three minutes we were going to have a collision with on oncoming vehicle. I recommend when traveling in India to avoid taking the highways as much as possible.

Loved the food and the people are nice. Lots of history to see.

Posted by
649 posts

Although my trip to India in April was cancelled due to Covid 19 I can share my info.

I book everything on my own after lots of research, for 2 separate private tours for a group of 4.

Arriving and departing from New Delhi, 3 weeks in total.

In New Delhi we book a 2 days private tour, with The Delhi way. They will go anywhere you want and make suggestions as well, going to all the major sites per your wishes.Private air conditioned van.

In New Delhi we had book a private slum walk with Pete India.

After that a week touring Agra, Jaipur, Jodphur (including a desert camping night). Private air conditioned van and private guided tours at the sites.
Booked with goldentriangletourindia.com (own by shailendra sharma)

Flight from Jodphur to Thiruvananthapuram (TRV)

A week touring Kerala (beach, Backwater tour, Theddaky and Munnar)
Using irisholidays.com

In all the package we could choose hotel options from 3 to 5 stars, we choose 4 stars and they looked fabulous and all had great reviews.

We saved 50% by booking our own and would have been on a private tour all the time.

Although we did not take the trip, all the correspondance with these agencies and payments were top notch. They will issue refunds for us, but they are still in lock down.

If you have specific questions you can pm me, I would be happy to help.

Posted by
246 posts

Have done 2 OAT tours in north and south India. They can be combined back to back with a few days between. Had great guides and diverse experiences. The north is the Big sites and the south is more local experiences. Take the trip in winter months to avoid heat and rainy season. We have enjoyed all our oat tours but would wait till the current health situation stabilizes. You can wait till 3 months before a trip to book. I always take a last minute tour at a discount. These tours are very similar to RS tours. I was sorry to read the current forum where oat is having problems with cash refunds on cancelled trips. They are part of the large Grand Circle travel group. I use them for travel across the world outside Europe. India is my favorite travel experiences-so different from the western world.

Posted by
1240 posts

I enjoyed the OAT tour I took and signed up for another one. It was cancelled because of COVID-19 and I was refused a refund even though that is what my contract stated. Their India tours were among several I WAS planning for the future. Not now, I just do not trust them.

Posted by
996 posts

While I have yet to tour India, I have done multiple trips with G Adventures (and G Adventures/National Geographic). They offer multiple tours of India, including some that appear to be quite comprehensive and last well over a couple of weeks.

I love their tour company. To me, they're a bit like Rick Steves but for the destinations outside Europe. (They do offer European tours as well, but I think RS has that one covered nicely.) The company is friendly. The guides are friendly. They don't have a 'no grump' rule like RS, but I've found some very friendly people on their tours.

You do have to carry your own luggage around, and packing lightly is encouraged. There's generally a fair bit of walking and some climbing which depends on what style of tour you want to take.

Posted by
223 posts

I went on an excellent tour of south India with Gate 1 in February. There was one person in the group who was doing a northern India tour with them back-to-back, so it can be done. We had a wonderful guide, nice hotels, an intrepid driver (no kidding about the roads!), good food, a compatible and interesting group of travelers.

The south India tour was a “small group” tour - they call this type of tour “discovery.” These tours are limited to no more than 22 people, so they have the feel of a Rick Steves tours. Most Gate 1 tours are called “classic” and these can have as many as 40 people. This would be too many for me. However, there were many people in the group who had taken many, many Gate 1 tours, mostly classic, and they were very happy with their experiences.

By the end of February, the weather was getting hot in India, at least in the south. I would recommend checking weather patterns before choosing a date. Our guide recommended winter months and said that the tour he was leading after us (early March) would be very hot. However, he said that many travelers that come at that time of year are from Texas, and they take the weather in stride LOL. I would also want to avoid rainy seasons.

I loved my experience in India and hope to travel there again in the future!

Posted by
3 posts

You can plan your own tour, see exactly what you want to see, pick your own hotels for less money with better hotels than a prepackaged tour. TripAdvisor is a good resource to find companies that will put together exactly what you want and if you go this route get at least 3 quotes and US check references. We spent 2 weeks in India and 1 week in Nepal in Feb 2020 and it was super interesting. I wanted to see the Ellora and Ajanta caves so we flew into Mumbai and out of Delhi with Nepal in between. I think we had 6 internal flights due the distances and also had some long car rides. We really liked Nepal and would recommend it while you are in the region. India is huge so you will probably see the normal highlights on a package tour. India was very interesting and the way people live there is definitely different than our way of life. We did a safari in both India and Nepal and really enjoyed them (saw the rhino in Nepal and a tiger in India). Luckily we arrived back in the US 3/2 prior to everything shutting down.

Posted by
3789 posts

When I look at India, I was originally thinking to do it with a tour company, and of the 2 I tend to look at - Intrepid, G Adventures and Exodus, I would have booked Intrepid...partly because it had the best solo traveler rate. The 3 are pretty similar, starting out about 25 years ago as adventure travel companies. They offer a variety of comfort, budget and exertion levels. They offer multiple tours within India.
They would be tasters, in my book as India needs a lot more time.
I have also plotted an India DIY for post retirement. 3 months between Jan -end March. Start in the very south and hitting the Himalayan foothills at the end - to follow the weather. 3 months is a good start.

Posted by
8439 posts

Just wanted to add a general comment - do look to see how any tour company is treating customers during this pandemic.

I know Maria is aware of this but on the Trip Advisor Senior Forum many have posted about being treated poorly in regard to refunds for cancelled tours particularly by OAT and Gate1 (like Bob above). There have been refund success stories after people filed with the Attorney General for the states in which they are headquartered (MA for OAT and PA for Gate1).

So...if you are contemplating a future tour, do research now on the company to see what's going on. Carefully read to see how their refund policies may have changed. For the people who are currently getting refunds, the policy when they signed up was a full refund if the company cancels the tour. Print out pertinent refund policies when you sign up especially if they promise a full refund, not a voucher. I would never have thought to do that previously.

Posted by
3 posts

We did meet a very nice gentleman traveling as a single on the way to India/Nepal and he was meeting up with a tour from G Adventures and he told us he really liked their trips and had been taking their trips for a number of years. They do have both couples and singles and he said there was always a good mix and that he had made friends over the years that he not only kept in touch with but had been to visit them.

Posted by
3789 posts

I realize I didn't mention I took a G Adventures tour of Peru some years ago and was very happy with it. As a DIY type. I am picky. A coworker only travels with them and as mentioned, they have made numerous friends along the way and ines they often travel with. They chose the Indian tour for Tigers and were glad for it. Personally, I would consider Intrepid and Exodus as well as they jave similar reputation. Even though G is based in Canada, Exodusnin England, Intrepid in Australia, they all seem to attract a global mix. Age mix as well, but the more budget the more balance to young folks.

Posted by
8 posts

The biggest problem I as see from travellers is that they assume that India is just 1 country and they can explore it 2-3 weeks, which is totally wrong, though completely possible. Now I won't suggest any travel company here as quite some names have been suggested, on the contrary I will suggest some routes.

For travellers visiting India for the 1st time, I would suggest them to hassle in north India. As it is the real deal. One can go for a golden triangle tour which is a trip of New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, that required 4 to 7 days. Plus you can also add trips to Ranthambore (1 day), Jodhpur (1 day), Jaisalmer (2 days), Udaipur (2 days), Khajuraho (1 day) and Varanasi (1 day).And then catch a flight back to Delhi.

Later one can catch a flight to Bangalore, and visit, Mysore (1 day), Hampi (2 days), Goa (3 days or like rest for a week), and then Kerala (4 days). And finally is you have time, try visiting Kolkata and Mumbai, and then catch a flight back home or to any other country from Mumbai.

Hope my reply was useful, and if you need any assistance feel free to ask, as I have explored 2/3rd India and stayed here for more than 7 years,

Update: Covid conditions ,might force you to visit India, as they just crossed Brazil :(

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Beckie, A couple of weeks would not be enough to complete the comprehensive tour of India because there are numerous places that one needs to cover to have that 'comprehensive' feeling of India. Here are my 'must-see' locations of the comprehensive tour of India.

  • Aru Valley, Sonmarg, Gulmarg, and Srinagar in Kashmir.
  • Zanskar, Nubra, and Suru valley of Ladakh.
  • Kullu and Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh.
  • Forts & Pushkar festival of Rajasthan.
  • Rishikesh and Harsil valley in Uttarakhand.
  • Ghats of Banaras in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Golden Temple, Amritsar.
  • Beaches of Goa.
  • Tawang Monastery, Pasighat, Ziro, and Mechuka valley of Arunachal.
  • Living root bridges of Meghalaya.
  • Ajanta and Ellora cave temples of Maharashtra.
  • Alleppey backwaters of Kerala.