Sacred Passage to India

This is the ultimate Indophile’s journey of the subcontinent, designed for traveller’s who wish to explore a deeper experience and understanding of the sub-continent’s extraordinary culture, history and belief systems.

This kaleidoscopic sweep through India’s great dynasties traverses six states – Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal focusing on the crown jewels that were created at various times by empires at the zenith of human creation – usually as an expression of the world’s most ancient religions from Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Sufism, to Jainism.

The trip begins with magnificent Hampi, created during the era of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14thC; then onto another UNESCO listed site, the Ajanta caves in Aurangabad, which is where the first Buddhist cave monuments date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. Next is Amritsar in the Punjab, home to the serene and soul-stirring Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine. Jaipur is only a short flight away – the capital of Rajasthan is known for its exquisite temples, palaces, forts, jewellery, textiles, fine crafts and hospitality. An understanding of India is not complete without an appreciation of the impact of the British Raj, thus the last two stops – first, the city of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, that was at its height under the Nawabs of Avadh who were great patrons of the culinary and other arts, and once the cradle of Hindu-Muslim-Sikh symbioses; and lastly Kolkata, the first capital of the British Raj that belies its out-dated squalid reputation. To this day, this thriving contadictory city is still regarded as the heartland of Indian culture, intellectualism, and art.


• supremely comfortable 4* + 5 * accommodations
• some of India’s, if not the world’s most significant historical and religious sites
• fully escorted by one of India’s most revered guides
• an appreciation of one of the most complex and ancient cultures on earth


NEW !!!
18 Days
Escorted | Small Groups | Guided | Bespoke
The inclusion of beautiful Kashmir will be assessed in another year
STYLE: culture | history | arts | architecture | cuisine | textiles
START | FINISH: Bangalore | Kolkata


All meals | entrance fees | accompanying expert guide and tour manager | domestic flights


Luxury + Deluxe


Luxury A/C mini coach


16  October – 2 November 2020


From USD $10,500 twin | double share


  • DAY 1


    You will be met at the airport on arrival and transferred to your 5* hotel near the airport.

  • DAY 2


    This afternoon take the afternoon flight to Hampi and check into your 4 star hotel in Vidyanagar Township, one of the fascinating “ideal” towns created by JSW Steel that is almost un-Indian in its serenity and extensive services. This evening visit the Kaladham Cultural Centre that enfolds in its interactive installation, a virtual landscape of panoramic locations enlivened by animated Hindu mythological events that reveal the folkloric imagination of contemporary pilgrims active at Hampi.

  • DAY 3


    Today, move to the spectacular World Heritage site of Hampi for a full day’s tour of the 14C-16C temples, palaces, pleasure pavilions and stables. The austere and grandiose site of Hampi comprises mainly the remnants of the Capital City of Vijayanagara Empire (14th-16th Cent CE), the last great Hindu Kingdom. It encompasses an area of 26 Sq.kilometers (10 sq.miles), located in a startling landscape of hills strewn with massive granite boulders, bordering the meandering river interspersed with paddy fields and palm groves.

    You will stay at Hampi’s premier luxury property for two nights.

  • DAY 4


    In its heyday, Hampi was considered one of the most privileged, beautiful and wealthy of cities, representing a highly evolved multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. Building activity continued over a period of 200 years reflecting the evolution in the religious and political scenario as well as the advancements in art and architecture.
    The sophistication of the varied urban, royal and sacred systems is evident from the more than 1600 surviving remains that include forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, mandapas, memorial structures, gateways, defence check posts, stables, water structures, and agoras.

  • DAY 5


    This morning drive about 3.5 hrs to Hubli & fly to Aurangabad via Mumbai.
    You will stay two nights at the best hotel in town.

  • DAY 6


    The Ajanta Caves are one of the oldest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, listed in 1983. The carvings and paintings at Ajanta date back to the beginning of the era of classical Indian art. The Ajanta caves along with the ones at Ellora are some of the most beautiful caves in India. The first Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. During the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D.), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group. The paintings and sculptures of Ajanta, considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, have had a considerable artistic influence.

  • DAY 7


    After this morning’s excursion to Ellora Caves take the flight to Delhi to overnight at an elegant hotel near the airport.
    Ellora’s 34 monasteries and temples represent an uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, that brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.

  • DAY 8


    Take the lunchtime flight and check into your luxury hotel.
    Later this afternoon visit the Golden Temple that is well deserving of several visits as the mood changes throughout the day. The Golden Temple, located in Amritsar in the state of Punjab, is a place of great beauty and sublime peacefulness. Originally a small lake in the midst of a quiet forest, the site has been a meditation retreat for wandering mendicants and sages since deep antiquity. Two thousand years after Buddha’s time, the philosopher-saint, Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of the Sikh religion came to live and meditate by the here. Over the centuries it became the primary sacred shrine of the Sikhs.

  • DAY 9


    Return to the Temple that attracts devotees from all over India and Sikhs from around the world. The vast kitchens and dining room are surely one of the world’s wonders in terms of feeding the multitudes.
    Time permitting; also visit the Mata temple, the Partition Museum and the changing of the guards on the Pakinstani border for those who may be interested.

  • DAY 10


    Today fly to Srinagar where you will check into your luxury eco houseboat on pellucid Dal Lake. Kashmir has been romanticised by everyone from the 16th-century Mogul emperor Jahangir to Salman Rushdie who spoke of “the lush valleys, the lakes, the streams, the saffron meadows – the intense physical beauty and culture of enormous harmony”.
    This afternoon enjoy your shikara cruise of the lake.

  • DAY 11


    Kashmir has a rich spiritual heritage of all faiths and has been a land of sanskrit scholars, seers, saints, savants and sages- some belonged to the Buddhist faith, some advocated Shaiva philosophy, some were Sufis and some were saint-poets or nuns.
    Today’s full excursion visits local markets, Sufi shrines, mosques, spice markets, architectural marvels and Mughal gardens..
    Over Lunch experience Kashmiri food, kahwah and hospitality with an elegant local family.

  • DAY 12


    At dawn your colourful shikaras will row you to the floating flower and produce markets. After breakfast, proceed for an amazing village cum craft tour. You will meet men and women in their homes where they weave pashmina shawls and carpets, do embroidery, and paint papier-mâché objects and have the chance to interact with villagers living traditional lifestyles.

  • DAY 13


    After a morning flight to Lucknow settle into your 5* hotel. 
This evening enjoy a walk through the night markets sampling some of Lucknow’s great delicacies.


Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, thrives along the banks of Gomti River. The city, Awadh and Uttar Pradesh fell to the British during the imperialistic era. Today Lucknow is dotted with remnants of its rich cultural past. 
Lucknow is also known for its elaborate cuisine and Chikankaari, or exquisite shadow-work embroidery. Lucknow is an historically important city that was for many centuries at the heart of North Indian culture. In particular, the city was famous for (manners and hospitality, beautiful gardens and dance forms such as Kathak. It was also one of the sites of the 1857 Indian Mutiny (First War of Indian Independence). The Hindi spoken in Lucknow is considered the most beautiful and gentle in the country.

  • DAY 14


    Full day sightseeing includes the colossal Shiite tomb, Bara Imambara, the British Residency built in 1800 and the stage for the most dramatic events of the 1857 First War of Independence, the Chota Imambara, and the prestigious Boarding school, La Martinière.
    Also visit some textile studios as the city is renowned for its embroidery.

  • DAY 15


    Fly to Kolkata and check into your luxury Hotel.
    This afternoon’s neibhourhood stroll takes you to the grandiose British South Park Street cemetery established in 1767. Discover fascinating obelisks, temples and general gothic splendour, and telling stories on the tombstones.

    Dinner this evening is the private home of an art collector.

    Kolkata, (Calcutta) India’s second-biggest city, whilst conjuring images of squalid poverty, is surprisingly charming – a melting pot of crumbling British grandeur mixed with a vibrant cultural, intellectual and artistic beat. Originally leased by the British East India Company in the late 17thC who built its riverine strategic trading port, it became in the 19th C, the fist capital of the British Raj that drew large immigrant populations of Jews, Muslims, Armenians, and Chinese who left lasting legacies. It is a city passionate about food, boasting perhaps India’s most sophisticated cuisine and still houses quaint Anglo clubs and cafes, a racetrack, and other vestiges of its former glory.

  • DAY 16


    Today, step back in time on a walking tour that visits Dalhousie Square, St. John’s Church, the High Court, Governor’s House, General Post Office, Victoria Memorial and Writer’s Building. Glipmse the fascinating worlds of Asia’s larget flower market that bustles most of the day under the Howrah Bridge; Kumartuli a Potters colony where artisans fashions idols for ceremonies and festivals and streets lined with second hand books.

  • DAY 17


    Today we take a more oragnic approach and will arrange the day according to our guests’ interests. We can visit – some wonderful textile collaboratives that both support women’s entrepeneurship and the survial of textile traditions such as jamdani; an organic farm; art galleries; a cruise on the Hooghly River; old British clubs.
    This evening is a farewell banquet of Bengali delicacies.

  • DAY 18


    Today is for last minute shopping, sightseeing, relaxing.
We arrange a late checkout as most international flights leave in the evening and you will be transferred to the airport for your departure.


    • 3-day extension to the glorious Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling, one of our favourite Indian hideaways
    • Sikkim
    • repair to the peace and quiet of Rajbari Bawali, two hours from the city
    • Bhubaneshwar | Puri temples


Chris + Andrea B Melbourne

Our recent trip with the marvellous Marieke certainly delivered “Morocco the Magnificent”! In true Marieke style the itinerary was wonderful, thoughtfully researched & cleverly curated to ensure an experience that delighted all of the senses. We returned home feeling enlightened by what we had learned, inspired by the welcoming, knowledgeable local people we met, and enriched by the exposure to so many fascinating aspects of Moroccan culture. The diverse accommodation was part of the appeal and the culinary delights nothing short of amazing! Marieke made sure all our needs were met and that each day held something special and memorable – always with a smile, an entertaining tale or two, boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm for the joys of travel!
Chris + Andrea B Melbourne | September 2018

Michael + Carolyn L Perth

Thanks again for the wonderful tour of Morocco. Your choice of five cities and two additional overnight destinations (in the Agafay Desert and the Ourika Valley) provided us with as broad and varied an exposure to Morocco as could possibly be fitted into two weeks. Carolyn and I have, at last,  “twigged” to your focus on authenticity and on getting close to the sense of a place.
On this tour, again, your choice of accommodation, your selection of tour guides and the numerous locations you identified for meals, all reflect your own style as well as your intuition for the tastes of more occasional travellers such as us. For meals, the food and the ambience and the view provided, repeatedly combined to create unique experiences; your ability to identify local artisans gave those of us so inclined with the focused opportunity to shop and to learn still more about this incredible country; the unexpected interactions with hotel and Riyadh owners, ex-pats and academics left us feeling enlightened and very special.
Perhaps the best “measure” of your talent is the fact that we both had such an extraordinarily good time, one of our very best holidays. There were just so many high spots and we proceeded at such an agreeable pace, rarely pushed but never bored. And always exceptionally well fed and watered.
Many thanks once again for your expertise and guidance and wonderful company.
Kind wishes, Michael + Carolyn L Perth | September 2018

Sally Cousens, Sydney 2018

Dear Marieke

Thank you for providing us with an opportunity to experience the rich history and natural beauty of Morocco. We were lucky to have a variety of wonderful experiences and leave having a better understanding of Morocco’s history, cuisine, culture, art, geography and geology.
Your local guides were generous with their time and knowledge. I felt safe to travel through busy souks knowing that the guides were there to make my shopping pleasurable, interesting and hassle free.

The experience of travelling through the countryside gave us a more sobering perspective of Moroccan life. We drove through mud brick villages where donkeys and mules are the main form of transport and where there is often no electricity.

Travelling through Morocco allows you to experience many different changes of landmarks, landforms and colours. Some towns and villages were whitewashed with brilliant blue trim, Fez was ochre yellow and it is essential that Marrakech’s buildings are coloured the orange pink that correspond to the nearby Atlas Mountains.

The mosque is the focal point of villages, towns and cities and the call to prayer five times a day is a gentle reminder that we were in a muslim country.

We were not just observers, we rode mules up into the mountains to meet up with a Berber family who provided a traditional lunch of vegetables and meat cooked in tangines over charcoal fires. We rode camels in the desert, took a horse drawn carriage in Marrakech, were entertained by expats and locals in their riads, their restaurants, their homes. We saw artisans use their age-old skills and were able to buy items directly from the craftsperson. We stayed in lovely riads and enjoyed the hospitality, the mint tea and the delicious meals provided by local owners. We also stayed a night in the desert and in a stylish hotel high up in the mountains.

If I had my time over I would have wanted to see more of Morocco! No time is time enough to experience all that Morocco is!  September is a good time weather wise. Not too hot or cold, just right! Thank you Marieke for organising a tour that was diverse, fascinating, informative and stylish. Thank you also for Soufian your right hand man who solved any problem that came along effectively and affectionately. Sally Cousens, Sydney 2018


Your Tour Leader, Marieke Brugman, other than leading tours on the sub-continent for more than twenty years, has travelled extensively to the furthest corners of this compelling country, coming to grips with its vast history and culture. She is excited about sharing this new tour - a string of pearls that will allow deeply inquisitive travellers to experience some of India's greatest epochs, architectural marvels, and intoxicating variety of cuisines.

Tour Guide, Durga Singh is regarded as one of India's most respected and revered guides. He has been Marieke's collaborator for twenty years. Durga is an exceptional raconteur, a walking encyclopedia on history, religions, architecture, agriculture and almost any conceivable subject you may wish to delve into. He is also excellent company and together with Marieke, he ensures that all AoL tours have an element of fun.


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