Journey through India’s Jewish past and present on this special tour of her Jewish heritage hubs – Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Cochin. These vibrant cities are home to living synagogues and a handful of Jewish Indian communities who you will meet with. Guided by our top Jewish-expert guides, you’ll see the most fascinating religious and cultural sites at intervals of travel that are in accordance with the Jewish faith.
Start in Mumbai, an exhilarating city with enormous religious diversity. Visit a Jewish synagogue, a beautiful restored Cathedral and a Muslim mausoleum in which the Koran is written on the walls in gold and gemstones. The Jewish community in Mumbai comprises 4,000 Bene Israel Jews who trace their origins in Mumbai to a shipwreck off the Maharashtra coast in 175 BC and a few hundred Baghdadi Jews from Iraq. A local historian will lead your tour of the Kenesethe Eliyahoo Synagogue, Magen David Synagogue and the Shaar-ha-Rahamim Synagogue. Next head to Delhi where you will take in the capital’s finest sites – including New Delhi’s colonial-era landmarks and Old Delhi’s hustling and bustling markets – as well as the Judah Hyam Synagogue.
In Calcutta explore a holy trail of religious sites around Brabourne Road – once home to Calcutta’s many immigrants including the Chinese, Armenians, and Jews & Muslims from the Middle East – with a number of different religious structures coexisting in close proximity. Calcutta has an estimated 25 Jews remaining in this city of 14 million people. Highlights here include the Magen David Synagogue and the Belur Math Shrine, which resembles a church, a temple, or a mosque depending on where you are standing.
End in the enchanting and laid-back port city of Cochin. Although there are only about 17 Cochin Jews left, Kerala’s Jewish history goes back to the time of King Solomon in 10th Century BC and there are strong remnants in the architecture and atmosphere. Jew Town is a twisting lane heaving with clothes shops and spice stalls; its treasured centrepiece is the little Paradesi Synagogue known for its hand-painted tiles and quaint Belgian glass chandeliers. Around Cochin, we will arrange for you to visit the Murziris Heritage Project’s restoration work on a number of rundown Jewish houses and three of the oldest synagogues in Kerala: the Kadavumbagam synagogue in Mattancherry, the Tekkumbagam synagogue in Ernakulam and the Pattanam synagogue. You can also view their fascinating excavation sites which are unearthing a variety of clothes, coins and agricultural tools dating back to the time of Roman traders.
Pre-departure planning is important.
Here are certain things you should watch for and plan for.
Check with the appropriate consulate or embassy in your country to find out if you will need a visa to visit the country of your destination, especially for an extended period of time. Some countries have extremely detailed and complicated entry/departure laws, and treat visits of a week or two very differently from longer stays.
If you’re traveling to one area, check the cost of living there. If it’s high you’ll probably want to budget more carefully and save some money before leaving. The lower the cost of living the less you’ll have to save, but be sure to have a back up reserve in emergency cases.
Talk to other people who have done a similar trip.
If you don’t know anyone personally, try any of the dozens of online travel web sites full of first-person travel stories covering every possible type of trip.
Plan big and loose. Read everything you can about the area.
There may be sights and attractions you didn’t know about. A rough outline of your trip might have three or four target points and a variety of ways to get between them.
You don’t want to find out that the weather isn’t what you thought, or the guide book was incorrect, after committing to 6 weeks in a specific spot.
Some trips will allow you more leeway than others. Travel plans in Asia can often be made day-by-day while summer travel in Europe should be organized at least a few weeks ahead, unless you’re prepared to hunt around for hotel rooms and train seats.
Set up a pre-trip time-line so you don’t end up with a full todo list your last week of work or school.
Things to consider are doctor’s visits for a check up, inoculations, and prescription refills; purchasing plane tickets; renewing passports and obtaining visas and other documents.
Check your insurance coverage abroad and purchasing additional travel insurance if needed. Don’t forget visiting friends and family members!
The longer the trip, the lighter you should pack. This might seem strange, but it’s true you can afford to lug a heavy bag around for a week or two, but do you want to have anything extra for a year?
Stick to the absolute basics and know what you can and cannot buy at your destination(s). There’s no point in bringing 6 months of toothpaste to Europe or buying a sarong at home to take to the tropics. If you are visiting several climates, try to arrange it so you visit the warmer places first and coldest last. That way you can purchase sweaters and long pants and not have to carry them any more than needed. Alternately, visit cold climates first and then ship unneeded layers home — or sell them off.
A good rule of thumb is to bring one outfit for the hottest day you’re likely to encounter, one for an average day, and one for the coldest.
Make sure everything goes with everything else (if that’s important to you), and remember that layers are always best.
Be prepared for uncomfortable trips. You will often find yourself in a busy, cramped, economy class environment and it could be for many hours – especially long plane trips.
If you want to arrive at your destination refreshed and able to enjoy the sights, then try a good quality travel pillow to support your head, some ear plugs to block out the screaming babies, and an eye cover to block out the sun or cabin lights.
Just avoid those cheap U-shaped pillows from airport shops – your head drops forward and you wake up with a stiff neck.
Make contact with the locals before you go.
Maybe you have a friend-of-a-friend or a foreign exchange student from high school you remember, or just found a friend through a travel web site; almost everyone is happy to welcome a foreign visitor to their home town. This might be as elaborate as a home-stay for a few weeks, or just coffee in their home town or dinner at a locals restaurant.
Travel planning is about more than just knowing where you’re going. Prepares to navigate, take control and be ready for anything. This section helps you steer clear of disaster and stay open enjoy the unexpected.
- Banks – Open Monday to Friday 9am to 2pm. Some banks are closed for lunch.
- Emergencies – For police, dial a local phone number; for ambulance call a hospital.
- Internet Access – Wifi is standard in most hotels and free in many coffee shops.
- Mail – Buy stamps at the Post Office. Convenient post offices are located all cities. Most are open Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
- Safety – Pickpocketing can be a common problem. It is suggested for men to keep wallets in their front pocket. Purse snatching also occurs at times.
This site contains information with a very personal and friendly structure. It also has great links to other related sites online.
Information, internet access, maps, and train passes are available at local Tourist Information terminals. These are located at various sites around the city. Expect a wait if you arrive late in the afternoon or during lunch time. Local travel agencies are also helpful for quick information and finding hotels. There is no service charge for these services. Hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, and Saturday 10am to 2pm.
Getting in from the airport and other arrival locations. Travel planning is about more than just knowing where you’re going. Prepares to navigate, take control and be ready for anything. This section helps you steer clear of disaster and stay open enjoy the unexpected.
- Plane – Flights arrive at the main airport near city center. If flying from European cities, you might land at a connecting airport. There is a tourist information office at the Terminal E, international arrivals, open 8am to 6pm.
- Train – A train station is on the lower level of the airport. To get into the city, follow the marked signs.
- Taxi – From the airport there is a flat-rate for the 1-hour trip, depending on traffic. Hotels charge up to $80 for shuttle service.
- Train & Bus – Trains and buses arrive a city center. This is the transportation hub for the city and is surrounded hotels.
A perfect place for exploring on foot, with local shops around every corner. You will eventually walk somewhere, it’s just going to happen. If you don’t like crowds, uneven cobblestones, heavy traffic or narrow sidewalks, take a taxi or rent a scooter.
Day 1 – Arrival – Mumbai
Transfer to your hotel and enjoy the day at leisure.
Day 2 – Mumbai Excursion
Take a privately guided day trip to Alibaugh, 145km from Mumbai, to visit the Jewish synagogues and graveyard in Navgoan, en route visit a synagogue in Panvel. Return to Mumbai by ferry.
Day 3 – Mumbai
Visit the 4 important synagogues of Mumbai and the Bhau Daji Lad museum. This evening have dinner at Kenneth Synagogue with a special prayer.
Day 4 – Mumbai City tour
Half day visit to Elephanta Caves followed by a half day tour of Colonial Mumbai.
Day 5 – Mumbai -Delhi By Air
Fly to Delhi and transfer to your hotel. Day at leisure.
Day 6 – Delhi City tour
Full day private sightseeing tour of Old & New Delhi, including Red Fort, Jama Masjid, the bazaars of Chandni Chowk, Qutub Minar, Humanyun’s Tomb, Lutyens Buildings and India Gate.
Day 7 – Delhi
Visit the Judah Hyam Hall, a centre for Jewish and interfaith studies, and the house of Mr Baruch B. Benjamin, the first President of the Jewish Welfare Association New Delhi.
Day 08 : Delhi – Agra
Morning drive to Agra (203 kms / 4 hrs). Upon arrival transfer to the Hotel. Later visit Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his Queen Mumtaz Mahal, in 1632. Later proceed to Agra Fort, built by the great Emperor Akbar in 1565 A.D. Overnight in Hotel.
Day 09 Agra – Delhi -By Surface and Calcutta By Air
Drive back to Delhi for a flight to Calcutta. Transfer to your hotel and enjoy the day at leisure.
Day 10 – Calcutta
Private sightseeing including New Market area, Nahoum’s Bakery Shop, Beth-El Synagogue and Magen David Synagogue. After lunch visit Victoria Memorial and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Day 11 – Calcutta
Visit two Jewish Girl’s Schools at Park Street and Bowbazar. After lunch visit Marble Palace, Kumartuli (Potter’s Colony), College Street Book Market and Indian Coffee House.
Day 12 – Kolkatta to Cochin By Air
Fly to Cochin. Transfer to your hotel. Day at leisure.
Day 13 – Cochin
Privately guided tour of the ancient North Parur Synagogue and Chendamangalam Synagogue.
Day 14 – Cochin
Privately guided sightseeing tour of Cochin including Mattancherry, the Dutch Palace, Paradeshi Synagogue at the Jew town, the Chinese fishing nets, St. Francis Church, Broadway Market and a boat trip to Fort Cochin. Evening Cultural Centre visit to enjoy a Kathakali performance.
Day 15 -Cochin
Day trip to the Muziris Heritage Project accompanied by a fantastic guide and storyteller.
Day 16 – Departure
Transfer to Cochin airport for your international flight home.