Expert-Led Group Tour

India group tour - Hampi and the Deccan Plateau

Departing 30th November - 10th December 2019

11 days

from $4,895pp
  • See the impressive cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora, dating back to 2nd century BC
  • Explore a heady mix of fascinating culture and history spanning two thousand years
  • Eat the best Biriyani in India and experience Hyderbad's buzzing culinary scene
  • Spend three unrushed days exploring the UNESCO site of Hampi, the Petra of India

The Deccan Plateau has seen several ancient and medieval dynasties flourish and many towns and cities created by them. This patronage has given rise to a rich and vibrant culture, which is unique for its syncretic nature. Replete with ancient cave temples, rock-cut monasteries, cave paintings, art, music and dance forms as well as fine textiles, this region is a delight to those seeking to explore the relatively lesser-known parts of India.  

The journey begins in Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra, the perfect base for exploring the city surrounds and visiting the amazing rock-cut temples of Ajanta and Ellora. From here visit Hyderabad, with emphasis on its buzzing culinary scene and the history of the Nizam’s dynasty that ruled until 1948. Visit the diverse site of Hampi, regarded as one of the most interesting and charming sites in India, partially due to its inaccessibility which keeps away large crowds. Over the duration of this small group tour, you will span a historical period of over two thousand years. 

Why travel with Jonty Rajagopalan? 

Exceptional guides are the first essential component of a successful holiday and in Jonty, Steppes Travel is confident we have found just that. Occasionally you meet someone who is such fun and so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their country’s history and culture that you just want to travel with them. Such an individual is Jonty. We have our chairman to thank for discovering her in Hyderabad.

This tour offers genuine experiences, some offbeat, and always full of interesting stories and people. Local cuisine and associated traditions are explored with much vigour in the company of Jonty and you can always count on her to ensure you experience the local delicacies.  She delivers an insightful and personal tour for those interested in getting to know the people and city life. She is welcoming to questions and can answer most questions on India and its history and culture, however significant or trivial. She offers a personal touch that is absent from the larger group tours.

"We had a really nice couple of days with Jonty, she is absolutely first class, probably best guide on the tour" - Ken Mcfarlane

Is this group tour suitable for solo travellers? 

Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour Expert. 

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room. 

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply. 

What is accommodation like in Central India? 

During this tour, you will stay in a carefully selected range of hotels. All hotels are at least of three-star standard and all offer restaurants on site while some offer pools and leisure facilities. These hotels have been chosen for their vantage points and good access to city sightseeing. Standards of some of the hotels in Central India are generally lower than other more visited areas of India and availability and choice are limited. We believe we have confirmed the best available hotel in Aurangabad and Hyderabad to deliver a good level of service. 

How fit should I be to enjoy this tour? 

General overall fitness is required. There is a lot of walking, however, at a leisurely pace with some stairs. We would suggest that you bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes, that are easy to take on and off as you may be required to remove your shoes when visiting mosques and temples. 

What is the food like in Central India? 

The majority of meals will be taken in fantastic locations, which make for a great dining experience. While in Aurangabad taste some typical Maharashtrian food including dishes like the multigrain flatbread Thaalipeet, the simple stir-fry Bhadra, the fiery Tamda Rassa and Kolhapuri Chicken made with dark spices. Depending on the time of the harvest season you may experience a local Hurda picnic. 

The state of Karnataka has a distinct cuisine and you will taste some of the simpler dishes like Kadubus, jollada rotis, served with spicy peanut chutneys and podis made in local homes. There are many delicacies made in local cafes around Hampi. For the adventurous try a simple Khanavali meal in one of the local restaurants. 

What will the weather be like?

Winter arrives at the end of November and with that comes pleasant daytime temperate hovering around 28/30 degrees, but nights are quite chilly, with the temperatures halving by nightfall. Historically, December is a very dry month in the Central Deccan Plateau with very little, if no rainfall. Pack layers and a jumper for the evenings. Air conditioning is not required in the evenings. 

Do I need a visa to visit India?

All visitors need a visa to travel to India. There is now a provision for an online e-visa for citizens of certain countries, including the UK and the visa must be obtained before arrival in all circumstances. Tourist visas issued in the UK have six months’ validity from date of issue.

Can I extend my stay in India after the tour? 

Yes, this can easily be arranged at the end of the tour. Private travel arrangements with a car and driver will be provided and a private guide arranged for sightseeing. From Mumbai, the internal flight network is vast. You can easily reach the beaches of southern India and Kerala. If the Golden Triangle is on your wish list, then travelling from Mumbai to Rajasthan enables you to include a short extension to visit the Taj Mahal and Jaipur. 

Departing on:
  • 30th November 2019

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights $Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
30th Nov 2019 10th Dec 2019 $ 6,608.25 $ 877.50 $ 1,343.25 Jonty Rajagopalan Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • A layover room on the final day at Mumbai Airport
  • All breakfasts, nine lunches and three dinners
  • All entry tickets to monuments and museums
  • All transportation by air-conditioned vehicles from arrival to departure.
  • Domestic Flights between Aurangabad to Hyderabad, Hyderabad to Bellary and Hubli to Mumbai.
  • Expert Tour Guide accompanied by local guides where required
  • Gratuities
  • Hotel accommodation as stated
  • VIP lounge access at Mumbai airport on arrival and departure day with VIP arrival and departure assistance

what is excluded

  • Indian Visa
  • International flights
  • Personal incidentals including additional drinks bill
  • Travel Insurance


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Access to the Mumbai VIP Lounge at Mumbai Airport is available prior to Aurangabad.

Fly Mumbai to Aurangabad

Meet your expert leader, Jonty at Aurangabad airport and transfer to the hotel.

Meet the group in the Garden Cafe late afternoon to recieve a brief from Jonty.

Tea and Cake

You will be staying at Vivanta by Taj, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Visit to the Ajanta Caves
The drive to Ajanta from Aurangabad is approximately two hours. Visit some of the main caves and get an understanding of the style and techniques of the paintings and sculptures. Hear more about the history of Buddhism in India. Some caves contain pillared prayer halls and painted ceilings and walls, which are amongst the oldest surviving Buddhist paintings in the world. Apart from the religious aspect of this site, the paintings are a documentation of a bygone era providing an insight on the life and culture of the people. Please note it is necessary to remove shoes while entering some of these caves. Before returning to Aurangabad, lunch is provided in a local restaurant.

One of the larger cities in present-day Maharashtra, Aurangabad has a rich historical past. Today, while it is mainly a gateway to the important World Heritage Sites of Ajanta and Ellora, the town also boasts a mini Taj Mahal. With a population of over a million people, Aurangabad today is a typical Indian city that straddles its past cultural wealth with its modernity. Aurangabad is also known for its delicate silk textiles. Once the city's chief source of income, these hand-woven fabrics remain in high demand and are known across the globe.

History of the Ajanta Caves
In 1819, a British hunting party led by Captain John Smith accidentally discovered the Ajanta Caves while chasing down a tiger. Acknowledged as the art gallery of ancient India, the site consists of 29 Buddhist caves set in a horseshoe shaped basalt hillock. These rock-cut temples and monasteries are believed to have been excavated from 2nd century BCE onwards. Filled with sculptures, murals and painted ceilings, the caves are a combination of viharas (monasteries or residence halls) and chaityas (prayer halls). In 1983, Ajanta was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site but even today remains a relatively lesser-known site in India. The magnificent paintings depict the life and times of Buddha and also narrate some of the famous Jataka Tales. The paintings depict scenes of battles, killings, gatherings and not only are they a brilliant example of the art of those times, but also provide a great insight on the culture, life and socio-economic milieu.

Return to the hotel. Remainder of the day at leisure.

Breakfast and Lunch included

You will be staying at Vivanta by Taj, bed and breakfast

Day 3

Daulatabad Fort
Visit Daulatabad Fort, a short 30 minute drive from Aurangabad. Medieval Deccan consisted of various fortified towns that have seen several battles unfold. The Fort came into prominence in the early 14th century CE when Mohd-bin-Tughlaq shifted the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. Later it was taken over by the Nizams of Hyderabad. This is one of the best constructed forts in the world and was equipped with a complex and intricate defense system.

About Khuldabad
Continue to Khuldabad, a sleepy little town, for a tour of the shrines and Bani Begum Mughal garden. The landscape is dotted with several marked and unmarked tombs and Sufi shrines.

Apart from the famous shrines of some Sufi saints, visit the graves of two of the most powerful rulers of India. First is Aurangazeb, who true to his austere nature is buried in a simple unmarked grave next to Sheikh Zain-ud-din Shirazi, his spiritual advisor. The second is the tomb of the first Nizam of Hyderabad - Nizam-ul-Mulk who ruled over most of Deccan in the early 18th century with Daulatabad as his capital and is buried next to Sheikh Burhan-ud-din Gharib Chisti.

Lunch will be taken at a local restaurant before continuing to Ellora Caves.

Ellora Caves
Travel to the nearby site of Ellora, a magnificent UNESCO site. Ellora's rock-cut temples and monasteries are packed with spectacular Hindu, Buddhist and Jain sculptures, dating back to the fifth century. The masterpiece is the glorious Kailasha Temple; possibly the world's largest monolithic structure, the entire building is carved from living rock, and includes a gateway, pavillion, courtyard, vestibule, sanctum, sanctorum and tower. Spend a few hours exploring the main temples of this complex including the Kailas Temple, the Vishwakarma Temple and some of the Jain Temple caves.

The drive back to Aurangabad is approximately 45 minutes.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner included

You will be staying at Vivanta by Taj, bed and breakfast

Day 4

Morning Sightseeing at Panchakki and Bibi-ka-Maqbara
Today you visit the city of Panchakki, a 90 minute drive. Panchakki is a medieval system where the force of water is used to power a grinding mill. This engineering marvel displays the ingenuity of the underground water supply system, which moves water from a spring to the town through clay pipes extending to about eight kilometres. Apart from the mill, visit the shrine of the Sufi Saint and take a stroll around the gardens.

Later this morning visit the fondly named Baby Taj.

Hurda Picnic Lunch
Come December, the fields in the Deccan region are abundant with jowar (sorghum) crop, which is one of the ancient grains of the country. This non-gluten grain, like other millets requires very little water to grow and is far healthier than wheat and rice. At the initial stage of the harvest season, the grains are tender and the locals make a picnic out of these by roasting them on open fires by the side of the fields. For lunch today visit one of these locations and enjoy a Hurda picnic meal. Apart from the roasted sorghum grains, try local delicacies like pithla-bhakri, thalipeeth, masale bhaat and shrikhand.

Fly Aurangabad to Hyderabad

Breakfast and Lunch included

You will be staying at Taj Krishna, bed and breakfast

Day 5

Golconda Fort and Royal Tombs
Visit the Golconda Fort and Qutub Shahi tombs. Trace the history of the Qutb Shahi dynasty, which ruled Hyderabad between 1518 and 1687 AD. The narrative will include stories of the rulers of this dynasty with a special emphasis on the love story between Mohd Quli Qutb Shah and Bhagmati.

The climb up the Fort would be a sometimes steep, sometimes easy climb of about 360 steps and has excellent views of the Qutb Shahi tombs just outside the Fort area, the Charminar in the distance and the rest of the city's landscape. The Qutb Shahi Tombs are probably the most magnificent tombs in the city. Built by the Qutb Shahi rulers prior to their death, each ensured that their tomb is better than their ancestors.

Situated on the banks of the Musi River, the 500 year old city is a major IT hub, second only to Bangalore. In contrast, it is steeped in a past of refined courtly life played out in elaborate palaces, and none grander than the Taj Falaknuma Palace. These days the city is a blend of old and new with burkha-clad women scouring the markets for traditional bangles, rubbing shoulders with local businessmen. Explore the city's streets, the grand palaces and monuments to uncover its fascinating history. The city is also famed for its aromatic biryani and double-ka-meetha, a bread pudding.

Visit to Simply South restaurant with Chef Challapathi
Chef Chalapati Rao, fondly known in the culinary world as Chef Challu, is renowned for his culinary skills and is known as one of the finest South Indian chefs. For lunch, Chef Challu will be designing a special tasting menu where he will showcase 'Three Regions on a Plate'. Certain iconic and some lesser-known dishes will feature on this four-course meal specially designed for the group.

Opt for an afternoon at leisure or embark on an optional craft tour

Breakfast and Lunch Included

Weaving and craft tour (Optional)
Visit some of the weaving communities. Hyderabad, like so much of India has had multiple influences in the area of arts and crafts, be it handloom weaving techniques or metal crafts, paintings or toy making. This region has been home to the most famous weaving techniques in silk and cotton. These colourful weaves are used on saris, fabric and home linen.

You will be staying at Taj Krishna, bed and breakfast

Day 6

Charminar - Old City Food Walk
Hyderbad is well known in India for it's fabulous Biryani dish. On this food walk through the busy markets and by-lanes of the old city, you will get a glimpse into the food ethos of this region as well as get a first-hand experience of the Hyderabadi passion for good food. Explore one of the oldest vegetable markets, make your way through some of the best morning snacks in town, participate in the Hyderabadi pastime of sipping cups of Irani tea with Osmania biscuits, bite into warm, just baked local bread and watch the efforts that go into preparing some of the best delicacies this region has to offer.

Chowmahalla Palace
Trace the history of this region between the early 18th century and 1948. The Nizams of Hyderabad who were well known for the grandeur and wealth, left behind their influence on the city in more ways than one. Take a walk around the four palaces of the Chowmahalla Complex and see the opulence with which this dynasty lived and ruled. Walk through the imposing Durbar Hall and the various rooms where the family has recreated a slice of life from the past.

Charminar Area Walking Tour
No place can give you a glimpse of Hyderabadi life like the Charminar area can. Here we stop for a well deserved lunch break. It is a brilliant mosaic of history, culture, modernity, crafts, business and old world charm - a perfect slice of this city's life. Walk through Laad Bazaar and get dazzled by the shiny lac bangles that Hyderabad is known for and take the by-lanes to meet the craftsmen who create 'bling'. Walk into the chaos of fluttering pigeons in the Mecca Masjid courtyard and then onto the simplicity of the Nizam's tombs.

Tour of Paigah Tombs
The Paigahs were a family second in nobility only to the Nizam family. Apart from playing an important role in the politics of the region, they also left behind their mark in the palaces they built for themselves. Some of them have been converted into clubs, resorts and other important buildings. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, they also built some magnificent tombs. The Paigah tombs have a unique architectural style with a combination of Turkish, Mughal, Persian and Rajasthani style of architecture.

Biryani Experience
This evening you will be driven to a local home for an authentic Biryani experience. Watch Biryani being home cooked and enjoy a sumptuous meal with a local family. The meal will consist of Biryani, its accompaniments and traditional kebabs and desserts.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner included

You will be staying at Taj Krishna, bed and breakfast

Day 7

The White Mughals
This morning trace the late 18th century tragic love story of James Kirkpatrick, the British Resident and Khair-un-Nissa, a Muslim noblewoman. Walk through the gardens of the British Residency, which was one of the most impressive British buildings in the country of those times and weave your way past the old graveyard and end up next to the ruined residency that Kirkpatrick built for his wife.

Afterwards, drive down to Raymond's Tomb and hear the story of how the French dominated this region for a few years. Hear about the Frenchman who played such a remarkable role in the history of this place and his popularity, which led to him being 'adopted' by the Nizam and even have a locality named after him.

Lunch at Secunderabad Club
The Secunderabad Club is a symbol of the colonial influence in the city. Built as a cantonment area for the British as a part of the subsidiary alliance between the British East India Company and the Nizams, Secunderabad soon grew into a European colony with its wide streets with clock towers, colonial bungalows and churches. The building that currently houses the Secunderabad Club was also given to the British officers for their entertainment. Today, it is one of the most exclusive clubs in the city and still retains its old world charm. Enjoy lunch in the dining room of the club. Please note, the dress code for the Club requires men to wear collared shirts and long trousers please.

Optional Afternoon at Leisure

This evening dinner will be hosted

Optional Tour of Mah Laqa Bai's Tomb
If you opt to take an afternoon tour, drive down to Mah Laqa Bai's tombs where the famous poet and courtesan Chanda Bibi is buried. Mentioned in detail in the novel, she is known to have played a major role in the politics of those times. Her tomb, recently restored with the help of US Consulate funding, is at the base of the sacred hill of Moula Ali which in the late 18th century was used by the British residents as a place to rest and relax.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner included

You will be staying at Taj Krishna, bed and breakfast

Day 8

Fly Hyderabad to Bellary

Afternoon Exploration of the ruins of Hampi
Walking around Hampi is like exploring Petra, where ruins of a forgotten dynasty remind you of how quickly fortunes can change. Unlike the other towns that are visited on this tour, Hampi has not mushroomed into a modern town where newer buildings fight for space with older edifices. The modern day town of Hospet is several kilometres away making the abandoned ruins at Hampi even more poignant and evocative.

One of the most noticeable features are the rocks of Hampi. These huge volcanic rocks are scattered all over Hampi and a rock enthusiast can make a whole trip out of exploring these rocks. While Hampi is a spread over an area of about 40 square kilometres with hundreds of monuments scattered around, it is impossible to cover all of them on one trip. Finish the day from the top of Matanga Hill. The climb will take about 30 minutes and involves some scrambling over a few rocks right at the end. Watch the sun set over the Hampi ruins and then return to the hotel.

With over 500 monuments dotted along the Tungabhadra river amongst a back drop of giant boulder strewn hills, the spectacular site of Hampi has captivated visitors for hundreds of years. It was this dramatic landscape that made the site so strategically attractive to the Vijayanagara leaders that made Hampi the capital of their empire from 1343 to 1565. Sites of interest are the Virupaksha Temple, the Queen's Bath, the Mahanavami Dibba ('the great platform'), Hazararama Temple, the Queen's Enclosure and the elephant stables.

You will be staying at Heritage Resort, bed and breakfast

Day 9

Morning visit to Temple Ruins of Hampi
After a quick tour of the Varaha shrine, the Narasimha Statue and the King's Balance, you will continue to the Vithala Temple, which is considered one of the most impressive of the buildings in Hampi. Even in its incomplete and pillaged state, it remains the finest example of not just Vijayanagara architecture but South Indian temple architecture as well.

After the tour of the Vithala Temple, there will be a wonderful coracle boat ride to visit the village of Anegundi on the other side of the Tungabhadra River, where a traditional Karnataka lunch will be served in a local home in Annegundi.

Visit to the Kishkinda Trust
The Kishkinda Trust (TKT) assists the villagers of Anegundi at a grassroots level to build their skills and to conserve their historical heritage. One of their projects is connected to crafts where the village women produce craft items using banana fibre. Started with eight women, today the project supports and generates income for almost 200. Visit their workshop and interact with the women to understand more about their work.

Bali Cave and Durga Temple
Time and energy permitting, visit the Bali Cave and Durga Temple near Anegundi before returning to the hotel at Hospet.

You will be staying at Heritage Resort, bed and breakfast

Day 10

A Full Day at Hampi
In the morning drive to the Queen's Bath and take a tour of the monuments in and around the Royal Enclosure. A stop will be made at lunch time in a local cafe before continuing to the Indo-Persian style of buildings this afternoon. These include the Elephant Stables and Guards' Quarters.

Return to the hotel today around 6pm.

Special Farewell Dinner
This evening there will be a farewell dinner with Jonty and hosts.

You will be staying at Heritage Resort, bed and breakfast

Day 11

Drive from Hampi to Hubli (Road Journey)

Drive from Hampi to Hubli today. Start after an early breakfast to reach Hubli in four hours.

Fly Hubli to Mumbai

A hotel room has been provided for your comfort if you are awaiting an international connection

Optional : An afternoon tour to Dharavi can be organised at an additional local cost,

Half Day Slum Tour
Embark on a visit to Mumbai's slum area, Dharavi, where one million people live in a seemingly chaotic, dirty existence with hanging wires and open drains.

This two and-a-half hour tour is led by a local resident who aims to change your perceptions of the slum by showing you the industrious nature and education of the people, the secular harmony, a zeal for life and hope of a better future.

Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is a city teeming with culture, architecture and people. This vast metropolis, energising and dynamic, is home to proud and liberal 'Mumbaikars'. Having boomed as a port during the 18th and 19th century, Mumbai is rich with colonial architecture, whilst towering contemporary structures underline the city's recent prosperity. These glimmering skyscrapers contrast greatly with these are the city's slums, which make up large parts of this modern city and serve as a reminder of the mixed fortunes of its residents. There are incredible places to eat in Mumbai including historic Parsi restaurants such as Brittania & Co. Mumbai is also the home of Bollywood so watch out for film sets throughout the city.

You will be staying at Leela Hotel, room only

Destination Experts

Our experts have unrivalled firsthand knowledge of India

Joe Parkes, Travel Expert

"It was extremely helpful to work in conjunction with Joe and his much more up to date knowledge of India and arrive at an itinerary which we were happy with. We enjoyed the whole trip and probably what made it special for us was the fact that all the arrangements worked so well and we really didn’t have to worry about anything at all. Even when we decided to make a small change it was dealt with efficiently and promptly. We can't think of anything that would have made our trip more enjoyable."

"The service from start to finish has been excellent. Joe was very quick to respond to any queries and put together an excellent itinerary at short notice."

"A pleasure to deal with Joe. Efficient, helpful, knowledgeable and fun!"

Read More

Kate Hitchen, Travel Expert

"Kate was calm and bent over backwards to accommodate my jitters about going to Kashmir in the light of tighter FCO guidelines just a few days before our departure. She was absolutely correct in advising against what I thought we should do. Several times during the holiday we said that, 'Kate was dead right about that!'."

"We asked for a rather particular kind of Indian holiday. You delivered it in full. Highlights? Honestly, each day was a highlight in itself. "

Read More

For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Expert

Jonty Rajagopalan

Jonty Rajagopalan
Born in Hyderabad, Jonty quit the corporate world to follow her passions of history and food. A certified, albeit fussy foodie, her biggest passions of food, history and her love for offbeat locations keeps her exploring the length and breadth of India. Being an avid traveller she is always curious to know more about the people, traditions, and especially the food of that region. She delivers interesting stories and conversations with locals, all of which you might not experience when travelling independently.
Enquire about this Expert Led tour:

Group Size:

Min 4 / Max 9

Tour Expert:

Jonty Rajagopalan

Departure Date (S):

  • 30th November 2019

  • Moderate Activity - The tour may occasionally involve slightly longer walks, but nothing over 4 hours. The tour will involve visits to a variety of sites throughout the duration of the itinerary and be at a moderate pace.

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