3000 Years of Jewish India - January 2019
14 Days in India/13 Nights
Small group luxury tour - historically 15 travelers
Mumbai, Cochin, Kerala Backwaters, Jaipur, Delhi, Agra and the Taj Mahal – Extension to Khajuraho and Varanasi
Highlights of this very personal Burkat Global tour include iconic Indian and Jewish sites - widely known and only recently discovered; on-location talks on Indian Jewish and Indian history and culture; access to local Jewish communities; the Taj Mahal; and much more. We stay in personally selected five-star, iconic, luxury accommodations. Our groups are small, historically only 15. We provide specially selected menus at our favorite restaurants. Yes, we visit a few museums, but soon you will see that all of India is a museum.
Hear festive Indian and Indian Jewish music and enjoy traditional Indian and Indian Jewish food. Take in a modern Bollywood movie and an ancient Kathakali dance performance. In the same day, visit Hindu and Jain temples, a mosque and a long-hidden synagogue. Shop for great chotchkies, fine Indian crafts, exquisite Indian jewels, handmade fabrics, pashmina shawls, carpets and more. Try yoga and Ayurveda in the country where they began.
Relaxation time is important on Burkat Global tours, just like in India itself. Make time to swim in the gloriously designed and situated pools of your hotels and perhaps even in the Arabian Sea. Fortuitously, January is one of the best months to escape North American winters, and when visitors and locals alike enjoy the best weather. Come early – stay as long as you can.
Day 1 – Arrival Day
Whenever you arrive one of our representatives will meet you at the airport to help you check into The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. Your room will have a harbor view, right across from the Gateway of India. Take time to relax on your own with a walk along the harbor, explore the Gateway, and look for treasures in the markets along the back streets. To relax – snooze by the pool, join a yoga class or enjoy a massage at the spa. Depending on your flight time, we will go out for a nearby Shabbat dinner together. If you arrive early enough, we will have lunch with our tour director and enjoy an extra afternoon of sightseeing.
Note: Our formal tour program begins the next morning.
Meet your group after breakfast and begin your tour of the best of Mumbai, the megacity, the heart of India, and one of the world’s most exciting cities. Experience the colors that long ago enticed us to return to the city again and again. Explore beautiful synagogues, centuries-old Indian temples, colonial relics and colorful markets. Our first stop will be Mumbai’s oldest synagogue, in the heart of a teaming Muslim neighborhood.
During our private welcome lunch, get to know your group members, review a few rules, and learn more about what’s ahead on your tour. In the evening, meet members of the vibrant Jewish community at a special welcome dinner. Learn about the vital social programs for Indians – Jewish and not – all supported by global Jewish philanthropic organizations.
Travel by private boat to the Konkan Coast, where 2000 years ago Jews who fled Israel, when the Second Temple was destroyed, were shipwrecked. Visit the beach where they landed and the cemetery where they were buried. See brightly colored centuries old synagogues tucked away in tiny country villages. After a late lunch, board our private boat back to Mumbai. In the evening you will have well-earned time to relax, explore, and experience dinner on your own in exciting Mumbai.
Ride a private ferry across the harbor to Elephanta Island, site of ancient UNESCO World Heritage Hindu fifth and sixth century caves dedicated to Shiva, chief god of the Hindus. In the afternoon, enjoy a walking tour of Victorian Mumbai and the recently restored, formerly named Prince of Wales Museum. Learn about Sir David Sassoon, leader of the Baghdadi Jewish community. Lunch will be on your own. Dinner together at one of our favorite restaurants.
After a short, early morning flight, we begin to discover Fort Cochin (or Kochi) – an ancient, intimate island city, where you can see Chinese fishing nets, a Dutch Palace, Vasco da Gama's burial site, and Jew Town. Cochin has been rated a top three tourist destination by the World Travel & Tourism Council, a "50 Greatest Places of a Lifetime" by National Geographic Traveler, and one of "45 Places to Go" by The New York Times.
Our private boat takes us across the harbor to Jew Town to a favorite restaurant in an antique warehouse on the harbor. (Your bags will be sent ahead to our hotel.) After lunch, we walk past the homes of ancient Jewish spice traders and visit a cemetery. On Jew Street, we shop for Kerala spices, check in on old Mrs. Cohen at her Judaica shop, then experience a private after-hours visit to the spiritual Paradesi Synagogue - India's oldest. Examine ancient Torah scrolls and other treasures. Marvel at 300-year old Chinese floor tiles. Afterward, check into our hotel and enjoy a traditional Kerala dinner at Iris and Howard's favorite guest house.
Take a ferry across Cochin harbor to Vypin Island, called Muziris by ancient spice traders. Explore an archaeological site where 3000-year-old artifacts, from the land that is now Israel, have been uncovered. Cruise the Periyar River, an ancient spice route, to synagogues built nearly 1,000 years ago by Jewish traders. See homes and markets of Jewish families and their Brahmin neighbors. Examine the 1269 tombstone of Sara bat Israel, the oldest in India. If time and energy allow, explore an ancient Jewish cemetery, hidden and untouched for centuries. After lunch, try some yoga on the beach, or back on our hotel dock.
In the evening, enjoy a group dinner in another one of our favorite Cochin restaurants, right in your hotel.
Enjoy an early morning walking tour of Fort Cochin. Watch fishermen in their small fishing canoes, dredgers, container ships, tourist boats, and more, all careful to avoid the QM2 if it’s in port!
Take a short drive to Allepey and board a private houseboat for an afternoon on the Kerala Backwaters. Float along on traditional hand-crafted thatched-roofed former rice boats on Kerala’s crisscrossing lakes and canals. You’ll see villagers fishing from dugout canoes, bathing by the shore, making coir, and brewing toddy. Watch children ferried to schools while their mothers walk along narrow paths to the rice paddies.
Your onboard chef will prepare an elegant lunch while you lounge on the deck, the scented silence punctuated only by muezzins’ calls to prayer, church bells, and the birds. A unique and magical experience. We think the Backwaters may be the most peaceful place we have ever visited.
Return to Cochin for a Kathakali Dance performance in an ancient Cochin theater, then dine on your own – we will help you select one of our local favorites.
Later in the afternoon, we will fly to the Pink City of Jaipur, the colorful capital of Rajasthan. In the meantime, we check out of our hotel and take Iris' hard-won short-cut to the airport via a short private boat ride across the harbor to Ernakulum, the commercial district of Cochin. (Your bags will be sent ahead!)
From the Ernakulum boat dock, detour through the narrow streets of the old market to a hidden synagogue behind a tropical plant and fish store. The proprietor is always eager to tell us his version of Cochin Jewish history. Light lunch along the way.
Arrive in Jaipur after a long day and welcome Shabbat at our hotel, enjoy dinner on your own in one of our hotel’s exquisite restaurants.
In the morning, we will ride up the mountain, on an elephant, to the ancient walled Amber Fort, then tour the City Palace, the huge complex of courtyards, gardens, and buildings that blend Rajasthan and Mughal architecture. After lunch, we will visit some of the famous Jaipur craft shops for jewelry, hand-woven fabrics, carpets and more. In the evening, we will all find a favorite Jaipur restaurant and if we are lucky, some special Indian dancing.
From Jaipur we drive to Delhi – the beautiful, British-designed capital of India. See the India Gate and the president’s palace, the 234-foot-high Qutab Minaret and the 16th-century tomb of Humayun. We will stop for lunch at a local restaurant. Enjoy dinner on your own in one of our local favorites or in our exquisite hotel. If you dine in, ask to be seated at the table where Gandhi advised government leaders on the future of India.
Take a bicycle tuk tuk ride through the narrow and congested streets of the old market and visit the Red Fort, built by the ruling Mogul emperor Shah Jahan. Also visit Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque, also built by Shah Jahan. Stop for lunch along the way. Visit Vast Rajghat, where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. In the late afternoon, visit the Judah Hyam Synagogue and learn about the Jewish community at a private dinner with a few of Delhi’s remaining Jewish families. Hear stories of the community that used to number 250-300 families. Dinner together in one of our favorite restaurants.
Drive to Agra, stopping for lunch along the way. Arrive in time to visit the Taj Mahal at sunset. Commissioned in 1632 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz, the Taj is considered by most who see it as the most beautiful building in the world. In our opinion, this is one of the few places we have visited, that is even better than we expected.
After a long day, enjoy dinner with the group in one of our hotel’s excellent restaurants.
If you like, visit the Taj Mahal again, at sunrise. After breakfast, we will explore the impressive Agra Fort, built by Emperor Akbar, who many believe was the greatest Mogul emperor of India. Akbar was imprisoned here in his final years by his sons, in an exquisitely decorated room overlooking the river valley.
Explore nearby Fatehpur Sikri, built by Emperor Akbar as a new grand capital for his empire. It was the capital beginning in 1571 and mysteriously abandoned in 1585. All the buildings of this World Heritage Site are made of Red Sikri sandstone including a royal palace, public and private halls, women’s quarters and are a blend of Islamic and Hindu styles.
In the afternoon, we will leave some time for shopping – Agra is famous for crafts made with inlaid marble…the same found on the Taj Mahal itself. Lunch will be along the way. In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at our hotel.
Drive back to Delhi for your flight home, doing some sightseeing, last minute shopping, and lunch along the way. If you are going on the post-tour extension to Khajuraho and Varanasi, your departure will be from your hotel in Agra. If you are flying home, there will be time for dinner and a some relaxing at the airport before your flight.
Post Tour Extension: Khajuraho and Varanasi - 5 Days and 4 Nights
Your extension includes all meals, transportation including flights, motor coach, boats and tuk tuks, hotels, sightseeing, entrance fees, local guides and tour escort throughout, and all gratuities. The only extra might be a totally optional additional gratuity for your tour director/escort and motor coach driver if you think they did an extraordinary job (we which think you will!)
From Agra, travel to Khajuraho, stopping at Orchha to tour the ancient fort complex. Orchha means ‘hidden.’ It is situated on the banks of the river Betwa. There are huge palaces with views of the countryside from their upper levels.
Visit Khajuraho’s famous medieval Hindu and Jain temples with their erotic sculptures. Khajuraho temples are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and considered among the “seven wonders” of India.
Take an early morning sunrise boat trip on the holy river Ganges to see the Ghats and cremation sites. Watching people bathing and worshipping at the Ghats is one of the most extraordinary experiences while in India.
After breakfast, tour the Bharat Mata Temple with its large marble relief map of India, Durga Temple, Tulsi Manas Mandir, Banaras Hindu University and its Art Gallery and the Mosque of Moghul Emperor Aurangzeb.
In the afternoon, take a short drive to Sarnath, the buried Buddhist city where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon and one of four important Buddhist pilgrimage sites designated by Buddha. Visit the Buddhist Temple and its Buddhist museum, with artifacts found during the Sarnath excavation.