This morning, we depart Australia, via Jakarta, eagerly anticipating the astonishing diversity of India. As the sun dips low in the sky, our private jet lands in Kochi. The city is as much water as it is land, laid across the mouths of seven rivers and their numerous accompanying islands. Immediately, we are whisked to our residence for three nights, the sumptuous Vivanta by Taj–Malabar. As we have already dined aboard our jet, the evening is for relaxing and preparing for tomorrow's adventures.
This morning, stroll the north shore which is awash with Kochi’s iconic Chinese fishing nets. Aided by a local fisherman, you can try your hand at casting one. Another relic of Kochi's past is the Paradesi Synagogue. Built in 1567, it is the oldest Jewish house of worship in the Commonwealth, and one of the most beautiful, incorporating elements from east and west. When we enter the main prayer hall, make sure to look down. Handpainted blue and white Chinese tiles, each one unique, form the floor.
A short distance away in Mattancherry, the Dutch Palace demands our attention. Inside, riotous murals cover the walls, vividly portraying the Ramayana and Hindu deities. Despite the name, the palace was built by the Portuguese as a gift, or perhaps, a bribe, to the King of Kochi, in hopes of establishing trade relations. Our second stop of the morning is St Francis Church. Vasco da Gama was initially buried here after dying in Kochi. We return to our hotel for lunch. Afterwards, choose to spend your afternoon on these Your World experiences.
This evening, a celebratory welcome dinner and hypnotic kathakali performance awaits us at Bolgatty Palace, a charming Dutch colonial mansion with deep verandas and white walls.
We leave the city today for a day-long retreat in the tranquil backwaters of Kerala, the state to which Kochi belongs. Kerala is said to translate as 'land of coconuts', and as we are gently carried down its canals and lakes in a private houseboat, we only need to look towards shore to see why. Our houseboat, called kettuvallam, is a virtuoso display of craft. Using ancient techniques, the hull is built without a single nail, while the distinctive curved lines of the roof are created by handwoven bamboo and palm.
The morning turns smoothly into lunch - we dine onboard. In the afternoon, we continue lazily down the waterways, passing villages, old temples, rural churches and farmland, stopping when we choose. As the day becomes evening, we return to Kochi. Tonight, you have a choice of dining in any of our hotel's restaurants or at Trilogi Restaurant, named for the three regions of Kerala represented on the menu - Travancore, Kochi and Malabar. Expect to be delighted by fragrant spices and the freshest seafood united by creamy coconut milk.
Late this morning, we board our private jet, flying north along the coast towards Goa. A light lunch is served en route. On arrival, we are driven to Taj Exotica, our resort, set right on gorgeous Benaulim Beach. We check in to garden villas generously spaced throughout the grounds. Delight the senses with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, chillies, there for the picking when you visit a spice farm. Or simply absorb these stunning coastal surrounds at your own pace.
In the evening, we dine at our resort. Choose from its multiple, excellent restaurants. The beachfront Lobster Shack offers freshly caught seafood, simply prepared. At Miguel Arcanjo, bold Mediterranean cuisine is on show. Li Bai presents the spicy flavours of Sichuan. Eugenia is an all-day diner serving dishes from around the globe. And for a finely curated experience of Goan cuisine, Alegria is the perfect venue. Seafood and spicy, sour flavours are favoured - the use of vinegar is a distinctly Portuguese influence.
As a premier city in the Portuguese empire, Goa was lavished with grand cathedrals. This morning we visit two. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is a Baroque-style building with an ornate façade and altar, that contains the body of St Francis Xavier, the Jesuit famed for evangelising as far as Japan. Close by, the sprawling Sé Catedral was built to commemorate the 1510 Portuguese victory over Muslim armies. In between churches, we taste Portuguese 'pao' bread, fresh from the local bakery's oven.
Under half an hour away is Panaji, the state capital of Goa. Brightly painted villas, cobblestone streets, churches and red-tile roofs sit on terraced hills overlooking the south bank of the Mandovi River. Unlike other Indian cities, Panaji retains a laidback manner that encourages leisurely strolls. After lunch, back at our resort, choose from these Your World experiences or explore the region at your own pace.
Our morning flight sees us heading into the heart of northern India. After enjoying lunch onboard our private jet, Udaipur welcomes us early in the afternoon. We are driven to the shores of Lake Pichola, where a private boat ferries us to our residence for two nights. Unlike any other hotel you may have experienced, the Taj Lake Palace rises out of the water in white-marbled, colonnaded glory. Jag Niwas, as it used to be called, was built in 1746 by Maharana Jagat Singh II as a pleasure palace and remarkably, the hotel's Royal Butlers are descendants of the original palace retainers.
Today, we devote ourselves to the awe-inspiring architecture of Udaipur's other royal buildings and gardens. Rajasthani and Mughal architectural styles fuse perfectly to form the balconies, towers and cupolas of the City Palace - in actuality, a sprawling complex of multiple palaces. From the upper terraces, we enjoy sweeping views of the city, Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir, the other floating palace on Lake Pichola. Stroll past exquisite mirror work, filigreed marble and handlaid silver. There are more rooms than we'll ever be able to see, but we cannot miss the Suraj Gokhda, from which kings would address the public, the Mor Chowk courtyard for its glass mosaics, and Bhim Vilas for its paintings of Krishna. The morning continues at Saheliyon-ki-Bari, a formal garden with lotus ponds, marble pavilions and elephant-shaped fountains. Its name means 'Courtyard of the Maidens', so named because it was built for a princess and the 48 attendants who followed her to Udaipur as part of her dowry.
We return to our hotel for lunch. An hour before sunset, we may choose to take our private boat across Lake Pichola to Jag Mandir palace. Bathed in the late evening sun, the cream surfaces of Jag Mandir glow golden. We also pay visits to Borra Mahal and Khas Mahal. Optionally, witness the spirited folk and tribal dances of Rajasthan in beautiful Bagore-ki-Haveli, built in the 18th century by the prime minister of Mewar. Back at the Taj Lake Palace, choose from the hotel's three restaurants for dinner, including Neel Kamal, where traditional wood fire stoves are used to prepare royal cuisine exactly as it was served to rulers past.
We depart Udaipur, enjoying a light lunch on our jet before arriving in Jaipur. As soon as we land, we check in to the Taj Rambagh Palace, our home for three nights. As with our last residence, this too has an illustrious past - it was the court of the last ruling Maharaja of Jaipur. Absorb the plush surroundings on your afternoon spent at leisure. In the evening, select from its three restaurants for dinner, including Suvarna Mahal, which occupies the former palace dining room and showcases the cuisine of India's northern princely states. Tonight, we retire early in anticipation of tomorrow's excitement.
Greet the day spectacularly with a sunrise hot air balloon flight over the legendary Amber Fort in Amer, seat of the kingdom before Jaipur was built. Those who prefer not to wake so early can join us later for an exploration of the fort from the ground.
We board 4WD vehicles for the drive up the hill. On foot, we enter the fort, where each successive space is grander than the one before. After lunch in our hotel, spend your afternoon on one of these Your World experiences.
We further immerse ourselves in the lives of the maharajas, with a morning tour that takes in Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and the City Palace. Hawa Mahal means 'palace of the breeze', so named for the intricately latticed façade that lets in cooling breezes, and more famously, allowed women of the palace to observe the street without being seen. Jantar Mantar was the king's astronomical observatory, a collection of 20 fixed instruments constructed according to principles of ancient Sanskrit texts. Many separate palaces make up the City Palace, and we explore their fusion of Islamic, Hindu and European styles. Interestingly, Chandra Mahal, the grandest of the complex, serves as residence for the current Maharaja of Jaipur. While his title no longer comes with powers, it still inspires respect among 'his' people. Jaipur is also famed for its artisans - we visit a traditional block-printed textile workshop and a carpet weaving studio. We have lunch in our hotel, after which, similar Your World experiences from yesterday are on offer.
Dinner tonight is at your leisure. Choose from any of the hotel's atmospheric restaurants. Or dine al fresco on the veranda.
This is our final morning in Jaipur. You may choose to spend it exploring the streets at your own pace, or, if you're after a more immersive experience, go on a bicycle and gastronomic tour of the city. We stop at a few favourite local haunts, sampling freshly made sweets and savouries. Step into a Hindu temple, marvelling at the level of ornamentation. You may even take part in morning prayers with devotees. In between, we visit several havelis, lesser to the palaces only in size, not grandeur. Our discovery of Jaipur complete, we depart for the airport and our next destination, Agra.
We land in Agra just before lunch and travel to the Oberoi Amarvilas, our home for two nights. While it is extravagantly modelled on Indian palaces, the main draw is its proximity to the Taj Mahal. It is just 600 metres away, and every room within has an unobstructed view of this marble mausoleum.
After lunch and an afternoon spent at leisure, you may choose to truly soak in your surroundings with these Your World experiences.
For those who select the full moon viewing, or simply rather explore our hotel's dining spaces, the Oberoi Amarvilas has two restaurants on offer, of which Esphahan is the real highlight. Besides showcasing the most unique and rarely seen regional dishes, dinner is accompanied by live santoor music.
This morning, the Taj Mahal beckons a thorough exploration. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan, as a tomb for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, it takes Persian principles of architecture to soaring heights. We travel there in our hotel's golf buggies, with the option of following a professional photographer who will advise us on the monument’s best angles. After breakfast, we continue on to Agra Fort, a walled city that was the royal residence of the Mughals. We then visit a nearby marble workshop where artisans practise inlay techniques used since Mughal days.
Lunch takes place in our hotel, after which, you may choose from these Your World experiences.
This evening, we indulge in an al-fresco gala. Arrive in time for sunset drinks, overlooking the Taj Mahal and its kaleidoscope of colours. If this is not enough of a spectacle, magicians, wrestlers, tight rope walkers and henna painters will entertain us before we sit down for a sumptuous dinner.
We board our short flight to Varanasi, enjoying a light lunch onboard. The Taj Gateway Hotel, set in 40 acres of peaceful gardens, welcomes us for one night. Our first stop is Sarnath, a half hour drive away. It was here, in the deer park, that Buddha reportedly delivered his first sermon. At the Sarnath Archaeological Museum, see priceless sculptures of bodhisattvas and Hindu deities from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD. The highlight is the Lion Capital of Ashoka, a carving of Asiatic lions on top of a disc featuring chariot wheels, the very same wheel that today is seen on the Indian flag.
The afternoon continues with an optional visit to the iconic ghats of Varanasi. Begin with a wander through its winding alleyways and end at the ghats - riverfront steps leading to the Ganges. A rooftop has been privately reserved for our party. From this perfect vantage point, we watch devotees perform the day's aarti ceremony as our Hindu guide explains the significance of the river and the ritual. We then board a waiting boat, where we are rowed to the middle of the river for a front row view of the spectacle. We dine in our hotel tonight.
Choose from the two restaurants available. As we are in a holy city, you may choose to complete your experience with a sattvic meal at Varuna. A sattvic diet contains ingredients, which, according to Ayurvedic principles, are good for both mind and body.
By dawn, the ghats of Varanasi are a completely different place. Only a handful of devout pilgrims are up at this hour, allowing us a clear view of the enchanting geometry of steps painted in vivid colours. Overhead, a few lonely birds circle while the worshippers take their ritual bath and pray. We have the option of waking early to witness this riveting sight. When morning has fully broken, we make our way through atmospheric back lanes to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. It is one of 12 jyortirlingas, or holiest Shiva temples, in India. Breakfast takes place in our hotel, after which, we rejoin our private jet for the flight to Kolkata.
A light lunch is served inflight and we arrive in Kolkata early in the afternoon. On arrival, we are driven to the Oberoi Grand, a five-star luxury hotel housed in a palatial 1880s mansion. Our home for two nights is known for its colonial-era interiors, exquisite handmade wood furniture and exceptional dining, having played host to countless dinner parties since the time of the British Raj. Choose how to spend your afternoon with these Your World experiences.
This evening, pick from our residence's two spectacular restaurants. Since Kolkata was at the crossroads of cultures, Bengalis have embraced Mughal, British, Chinese and Jewish influences alongside their traditional cuisine. Taste the best interpretations of each tonight.
Today promises to be a heady immersion into the city's many personalities, starting with a privately chartered tram tour. Our heritage tram picks us up then travels the length of the city, taking in numerous historical, cultural and religious sites. Some highlights include B.B.D. Bagh, a square that was once the East India Company's headquarters, the General Post Office, Chitpur Road, Nakhoda Mosque, Rabindranath Tagore's house, the Star Theatre and the Dharmatala neighbourhood.
We now explore Kolkata's magnificent colonial buildings on foot. Gothic, baroque and classical revival styles with Oriental and Mughal influences predominate. The British Raj maintained order through perceived might, not sheer numbers, and so, architecture played a key role in telegraphing their power.
We drive over the Howrah Bridge which spans the Hooghly River, connecting Kolkata to its twin city of Howrah, before stopping for lunch at a local Bengali restaurant. In the afternoon, we visit the Victoria Memorial, dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria. The white marble monument brings to mind the Taj Mahal. It showcases, within its 25 galleries, numerous portraits and relics of Victoria's reign. Our last stop for the day is Nirmal Hriday, a hospice founded by Mother Teresa in 1950. The evening ends with a sumptuous farewell dinner in the lush, palm-filled courtyard of our hotel.
This is our last morning in India. After breakfast, spend your time on these Your World experiences, including those from Friday.
We return to our hotel and check out before having a relaxing lunch. It is mid-afternoon when we board our private jet for our journey home.
As you contemplate your favourite parts of our odyssey, allow our inflight crew to pamper you for the last time. Flying via Darwin to Sydney, we land in Australia this morning, where we say our goodbyes. Here's to your next Captain's Choice journey.
Sometimes travelling can be a chore, distracting you from the fascinating places you are in. That’s why everything mundane has been moved behind the scenes. You will never have to carry a map, luggage, small change for tips or bargain for a taxi fare.
Our Valet Luggage service is also included, which means that we treat your luggage as preciously as we would our own. Simply pack your bags. We pick them up and make sure that they arrive safely at your next hotel. We also provide home-to-airport-to-home transfers. And just in case, a doctor travels with us too.
Welcome to your homes away from home. Each one has a certain something that sets it apart from every other residence at its location. Whether for its history, cultural significance or natural setting, we’ve selected only the very best.
Business-class private jet journey from Sydney to Sydney.
Per Person Twin Share.
Prices are in Australian currency.