India is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. The name evokes visions of lonely mountains, lush rainforests, exotic creatures and more. Spice markets, vast gardens, elephants and peaceful monasteries are all staples of this culture-rich subcontinent.
Because of the wealth of history and unique cultural experiences that India has to offer, it is a prime location for small cultural tours. You can choose a tour that will take you all around the highlights of India and its neighboring countries or choose a unique aspect of the country such as the southern shores or even the old Silk Road.
Regardless of the journey you choose, traveling in a small group of other travelers is the best way to experience India. These five tours are the best small cultural tours in India for you to experience both the best sights and culture in the most intimate way.
Rajasthan: Taj, Temples & Tigers
If you’re looking for a well-rounded experience when you travel to Rajasthan, this tour is for you. On this 16-day trek through the country, you will experience exotic wildlife, Wonders of the World and breathtaking landscapes. This small group tour focuses on off-the-beaten-path locations in India, rather than more crowded tourist destinations.
You’ll start your tour in Delhi, with a leisurely afternoon look at several landmarks in the city. This includes Humayun’s Tomb and India Gate. Then, you’ll enjoy a leisurely drive to Agra to experience the Taj Mahal at sunset.
Other highlights of this incredible trip include seeing majestic tigers in Ranthambore National Park, landmarks in the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur and the historic old quarter of the ‘blue city’ of Jodphur. Along the way, you’ll see sprawling castles, looming cliffside forts, mosques, temples, and peaceful pilgrim centers. On this charming journey through the country, you will experience a broad survey of the Indian way of life that you won’t soon forget.
Karakoram Adventure: Kashgar to Kashmir
For those fascinated with rich and exotic tales of the ancient Silk Road, this 21-day small group India tour along the southern branch is a must. Traders, warriors, and lonely pilgrims alike have immortalized this historical trek that winds through northern Pakistan and the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.
You’ll begin your adventure by taking a leisurely three days to explore the Chinese city of Kashgar. From street markets to the Abak Hoja tomb and Id Kah mosque you will be immersed in the historical and cultural experience of this ancient city.
From Kashgar, you’ll travel through Tashkurgan along the Karakoram Highway and into the scenic mountains of Pakistan. In Hunza, you’ll spend three days at the Eagles Nest Hotel. This location is nestled in between soaring peaks and will be accessible by jeep for the tour.
Other notable highlights of this leisurely luxury tour include a visit to the breathtaking Fairy Meadows at the end of the Himalayan Mountains and the ancient Buddhist University town of Taxila. Passing through Islamabad and stopping to take in its famous mosques, the tour will then continue to Lahore, the “cultural capital” of Pakistan. You’ll also see the famed Golden Temple of Amritsar in India and the Moghul Gardens before returning to Delhi.
India: High Road to Kashmir
The exotic mecca of Kashmir was once incredibly difficult to schedule a tour to, considered “out of bounds” for most travel companies. However, this has changed within the last decade and Wild Frontiers has enjoyed great success with the 16-day High Road to Kashmir tour. In fact, this jaunt through India earned the 2014 50 Tours of a Lifetime from National Geographic.
You’ll start your journey in Delhi, enjoying the sights of the old portion before taking a once-in-a-lifetime flight over the Himalayan mountains the next morning. You’ll then stay in the mountainous town of Leh and take in the hauntingly beautiful monasteries in the region. The gorgeous treks through high altitudes, mountainous peaks, and remote monasteries are only matched by the luxurious cruise on a houseboat for three days in Srinagar. While here, you will see the famed Moghul Gardens and floating market. The tour will end in Delhi soon after.
North East India: Meghalaya Tree Bridges & Nagaland Hornbill Festival
The Northeastern region of India is not nearly as popular as other parts of India for mainstream tourism, which makes it a fantastic location for a cultural tour. The culture of this region has a unique twist and shares a lot in common with neighbouring regions of Burmese and Tibetan people. This part of India had restricted access for a very long time as there were too many potential security issues, but recently has opened up and relaxed into an area people can visit.
On this fabulous 17 Day Northeast Cultural Tour in India, you will get to experience things unlike anywhere else on the Indian subcontinent. From the wild landscapes of the Meghalaya with living root-tree bridges to the spectacular wildlife of Kaziranga National Park, this is a cultural tour not to be missed. A highlight for many is a stay on an island in the mighty Brahmaputra where visitors can get to know people of the various local tribes who inhabit the area.
The finale of this great adventure ends in the renowned Nagaland Hornbill Festival which is an amazing cultural event. If you're looking for a more off the beaten path cultural tour in India, this one is for you!
South Indian Odyssey
The South Indian Odyssey cultural tour was designed to give a comprehensive overview of the rich sights, sounds, and cultures of South India. This tour spans 19 days and traverses the continent from the Indian Ocean to the Arabian Sea.
The tour will begin in Chennai, where you will see the colorful Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. you’ll traverse the southern shore, stopping in the French-inspired Pondicherry. Then, you’ll continue on to Karaikudi, a unique and ancient town with distinctive limestone sculptures and houses and a cuisine all it’s own. You will also see the Bridhadeswara Temple in Thanjavur, one of the most precious sites of architectural history in India.
Other notable tour stops are the temple city of Madurai, which is at least 2500 years old. You’ll stay overnight before heading to Mysore on a comfortable overnight train. In Kabini, you’ll enjoy a safari that reveals Asian elephants, Sambar deer, Langur Monkeys and 250 species of exotic birds. The glittering city of Kochi is the last stop of the tour after a leisurely multi-day houseboat cruise through the backwaters of Kerala.