General sightseeing (with a twist):
This combination walking and driving tour gives you a glimpse of some of the finer details of this mega city. You’ll see activity which is unique to the city and crucial to its inner working, such as the suburban train system, the Dhabawalas (lunch delivery), and the Sassoon fishing dock. The tour is ideal if you only have a day or two in Mumbai and would like to get a feel for the daily life of the city rather than doing a standard sightseeing tour.
Start with a heritage walk from your hotel past the Mumbai University, the Mumbai High Court and other historical buildings. A short walk to the station and a local train ride brings you to Mahalaxmi station, where you can see Dhobi ghat, the city’s laundry area. From here a vehicle will meet you for a drive along Carmichael and Altimont Roads, two of Mumbai’s most sought after residential locales (including the $1 billion home of Mukesh Ambani). Continue on to Kutachiwadi, a peaceful pocket of Indo-Portuguese houses connected by a series of small lane ways. A short drive brings you to Crawford market, from where you go by foot through several nearby markets such as Mangaldas (fabrics) and Zaveri (jewellery), finishing in the mixed goods market of Bhuleshwar. From here the vehicle will collect you for another short drive to Churchgate station, where by midday the Dhabawalas – the lunch delivery men – are in full swing sorting their precious, hot cargo. Your guide will explain the ingenious system they use for keeping track of each and every meal – a system regularly used as a case study by some of the world’s top universities. Continue south in the vehicle to Sassoon dock, where fishing boats will be arriving from their morning’s fishing – a chaotic climax to the morning’s activity. Finish with a well earned lunch at one of south Mumbai great restaurants – a Gujarati Thali at Chetana, Indian buffet at Indian summer or seafood feast at Trishna (direct payment).
The tour is subject to variation depending on the day of the week and the places open, etc, and includes either the heritage walk or the market walk, depending on what you have/will do with the rest of your time in Mumbai (we try to assign the same guide for all of your Mumbai activities so that he/she can coordinate your program).
Public Transport Tour
Touring Mumbai via public transport provides a very honest and realistic image of the city. On this tour, experience Mumbai as a Mumbaikar does: travel by the famous suburban train, by bus and by taxi. Join the millions of members of Mumbai’s working class as they head out in the morning. In the areas visited on this tour you will discover Mumbai beyond the typical tourist sites; this view of the ‘Maximum City’ will truly give you an idea of the struggle and challenges felt by the working class, as well as a sense of their unconquerable spirit.
Highlights of this tour include visits to a number of bazaars and markets, including: Chor Bazaar (literally ‘Thieves Market’), one of the largest, bustling flea markets in the city, it sells almost anything, where you can taste some local sweets, or purchase delicious home-made pickles and chutneys; Null Bazaar, a lively fruit, vegetable, fish and meat market – visually impressive and full of powerful, varied smells; Dadar Flower Market – in India, flowers are used everywhere – in temples, in taxis, at home, in women’s hair, and for all kinds of worship – here, you will see more flowers in one place than you’ve ever seen before. You will also visit Dhobi Ghat at Mahalaxmi, where you will see the dhobiwallahs, or washermen, scrubbing sheets from Mumbai’s largest hospitals and hotels at this busy outdoor laundry area and VT station, one of the busiest railway stations in the country, and the historical site of the terrorist attacks in November 2008. The award-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire” was also shot here. Finally, at Churchgate, in South Mumbai, witness the famous dabbawallahs: the dabbawallah operation is one of the most organised unwritten systems in the world. Every day, millions of lunches are collected from individual homes and then delivered to offices and worksites.
This morning you’ll be met by a guide at your hotel before taking a local taxi and train to the suburbs to visit Dharavi. Many people know Dharavi as the ‘largest slum in Asia,’ but there is much more to this historic area of Mumbai than poverty. On this walk you will see why Dharavi is the heart of small-scale industry in the city (its industries have an annual turnover of approximately US$ 665 million). You will pay visits to the recycling area, where old computers, parts and plastics are recycled; a biscuit bakery, where you can taste the tea biscuits that can be bought anywhere in Mumbai, hot and fresh at the source; and Kumbharwada pottery colony where artisans create all types of pots out of unfired, sundried clay. In addition, a factory rooftop visit provides an unforgettable view of the tin huts that house so many human lives stretching on as far as the eye can see. You will never forget this view!
When passing through the residential spaces, you will undoubtedly feel the sense of community and spirit that exists in the area. People from all over India live in Dharavi, and this diversity is apparent in the temples, mosques and churches that stand side by side. The tour ends with a visit to a resident’s house, enabling you to gain an understanding of how the incredible people of Dharavi live, and to the school and young adult centre that are supported by the tour’s organisers (not always open). A tour through Dharavi’s narrow alleys is quite an adventure, and you will leave with an enlightened sense of the purpose and determination that exists in the area.
A late afternoon walk through the historic markets of South Mumbai provides a taste of true India. The wide streets and narrow alleyways are alive with activity. In front of colonial buildings and alongside temples and mosques, vendors shout from carts that sell everything from colourful birds, to spicy snacks, to flowers and Indian clothes. Women of every faith and background haggle at vegetable stalls, talking with their hands; some wear full burqas, others saris in flamboyant colours, or Western clothes. Cows roam freely through the streets. Mouth-watering hot jalebi sweets fry in enormous, spluttering vats of oil. Beautiful swatches of silk and cotton cloth flutter in the breeze.
Highlights of this tour include visits to: Crawford Market, a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles that define South Mumbai; Mangaldas Market, where some of India’s most famous fashion designers purchase cloth for their creations; Kalbadevi and Khau Galli – try something spicy at this popular market where every Indian street food can be found from chaats to masala dosa; Flower Galli, a market that has been famous for flowers for nearly 100 years. Call in to Mumbadevi Temple, the historical Hindu temple after which ‘Mumbai’ city was named where you can receive ‘prasad,’ blessings from Hindu priests; and Bombay Panjrapole, dedicated to the welfare of cows (over 400 cows live here) and, as the cow is considered sacred by Hindus, people come to the shelter to feed them.
Mumbai by Night
Mumbai never sleeps and has a different atmosphere at night. As the heat of the day evaporates, teenagers, lovers, families and the elderly head out to enjoy the weather. Places like Marine Drive are crowded with Mumbaikars walking around or sitting and enjoying the spectacular sunset. As some people head home to sleep, some carry out religious duties, and others work in the markets, factories or call centres.
This walk enables you to experience the incredible contrast between modern, cosmopolitan and the traditional India. Highlights include visits to: Chowpatty Beach, where you can join Mumbaikers consuming coconuts, ice cream and Indian snacks such as bhel puri; Banganga Tank – the water from this famous tank, built in 1127 and surrounded by Hindu temples, is believed to have special healing powers; Jain Temple, considered one of the most beautiful, intricately-decorated temples in the city; Kamala Nehru Park, one of Mumbai’s greenest and most peaceful areas on top of Malabar Hill with great views out over Marine Drive and the Arabian sea; Kamathipura, the largest red light district in the world, it has been the subject of countless films, literary projects and art pieces; and VT station, one of the busiest railway stations in the country, this World Heritage Site is gloriously lit up in the evening. Enjoy this view with a cold drink at the end of your tour.
Mumbai by Bike
See India’s busiest metropolis in the cool weather and the calm before the city wakes up with this early morning bicycle tour of the city. Sleeping bodies dot the pathways that so many rush past during the day. Some devotees come out and perform puja (prayer), and others jog or do yoga before the heat of the day arrives. Mumbai is an entirely different place before the day starts: serene and peaceful, with light and mist spreading through the sky and promising another opportunity to every person in the city. The tour lasts for around 3 hours. All equipment is provided.
Some of the places covered include: VT station, a neo-gothic masterpiece and one of the busiest railway stations in the country; Marine Drive where you can cycle on the 3km walkway along the coast of Arabian Sea; Sasson Dock, the main fish loading and trading centre in South Mumbai and home to the original community of the area; Bombay Panjrapole, an old age home for cows; Mumbadevi Temple, the historical Hindu temple after which ‘Mumbai’ city was named.
Walking tours – history
The Apollo Gate and Front Bay Walk
It was the British East India Company that first realised the importance of Bombay’s perfect natural harbour. Deep enough to accommodate 150 ships and with a natural fortification in the form of mainland India, it was perfect for the company’s operations. And so with the Company renting the islands from the Crown, for £10/- annually, Bombay’s illustrious history began.
This walk gives you a chance to go back in time almost 350 years … to when there was no Mumbai, just one small island of Bombay. Walk along the periphery of the ‘front’ bay and re-chart the birth of this city. The walk covers the northern part of the old Fort, beginning in the European Renaissance style Ballard Estate business district with its perfect avenues and streets reminiscent of Victorian London. Pass by the famous Town Hall, which houses the Asiatic Society Library of Mumbai and the Horniman Circle Garden with its spectacular surrounding buildings. Walk down to the Flora Fountain circle, which in some ways resembles London’s Piccadilly Circus. Go past the 275 year old Indian Naval Dockyard with its beautiful mural representing the first establishments on the island. End the walk at the world famous Gateway of India and the now legendary Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
The Churchgate and Heritage Mile Walk
This walk takes you into the heart of the old Fort, exploring the ‘White Town’ or the European half of the old town that existed within the Fort walls.
Begin at FW Steven’s gothic masterpiece, the grand Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus also known as the Victoria Terminus. Walk down DN Road, also called the Heritage Mile, one of the oldest parts of the city, reminiscent of it colonial past, and make your way to the ornate Flora Fountain. Take a minute here to soak in the atmosphere of one of the busiest precincts of Mumbai. Next, explore the charming historic district of Kala Ghoda with its many Gothic buildings and numerous art galleries. Move on to the Oval Maidan where in a great phalanx lie the Old Secretariat, University Library and Convocation Hall, High Court Building, the old PWD Building and Telegraph Department – a truly imperial vision, monolithic, awe-inspiring and supremely self confident. As a group they form an impressively romantic skyline and bequeath a unique identity and style to the city. Finally take Veer Nariman Road (the former Churchgate Street) down to Marine Drive to enjoy a fantastic view of the Art Deco skyline.
The Northern part of the old Fort was known to Bombay’s colonial rulers as ‘Black Town’ because of the numbers of local inhabitants – merchants, traders, fishermen, cobblers, and ironsmiths – who dominated the area. The birthplace of the famed Bombay Bazaar, this was the crowded, dense section of the old town, a feature that can still be seen today.
This walk takes you into the heart of local life from the late 1800s. Explore the bylanes of what was once the commercial centre of the original city. Begin at Town Hall and cover the areas from outside and inside the original British defence establishment. Walk down Mahatma Gandhi Road and get a view of the regal Bombay Gymkahana, the cricketing battlefield of the British Raj. Walk past the beautiful Art Deco Metro Cinema while making your way to Crawford Market, buzzing with the activity of numerous vendors selling their wares. Wander up to the famous J J School of Art campus, the compound of which is famous for being the birthplace of Rudyard Kipling. End the walk at the Gothic masterpieces of FW Stevens, the Victoria Terminus and the Municipal Corporation Building, standing like silent sentinels watching the city progress around them.
This tour gives you a taste of what is called the ‘world’s largest dream factory’, a reference to the 1,000-odd films churned out by the Hindi film industry every year. It begins with a visit to ND Studios. Located on the outskirts of the city, it comprises 42 acres, and is the largest studio property in Mumbai. Here you can marvel at India’s most magnificent movie sets. A stunning example is the set constructed for the film “Jodhaa Akbar” which recreates the grandeur of Delhi’s Red Fort, Agra Fort and Amer Palace, Jaipur – all of them built to scale!
Following lunch, continue the tour with a visit to the Balaji Film Studios. Affectionately dubbed Mumbai’s ‘largest soap factory’, this production house produces the largest number of TV serials, reality shows and, most importantly, TV soaps in the country. Their enormous success lies in their ability to connect with the soul of various sections of Indian society, whether through mythological serials, cultural extravaganzas or family and romantic dramas. Here you will witness a live shoot – an exciting experience – where drama fills the air as actors play their parts on colourful and lavish sets.
One of the quintessential elements of a Bollywood film is the classic Bollywood dance number. Stylised and elaborate, these dance moves are a blend of various styles, ranging from belly-dancing, Indian folk, Western popular, even Western erotic dancing, and are strongly influenced by India’s classical Bharatanatyam and Kathak or Mujra dances associated with courtesans. What better way for your tour to end than with a dance class! An instructor will teach you the art of Bollywood style dancing while dancers perform various dance forms.
(The actual program can vary depending on what films or serials are being shot on the day of your tour)
Watch a Bollywood Movie at a Traditional Cinema Hall
For a fascinating and fun Mumbai experience, go to one the city’s traditional cinema halls to catch a Bollywood movie. The cinema boom of the 1930s saw the construction of a number of theatres, some of which are still operating today.
Bombay’s first Art Deco styled cinema was the Regal. Opened in 1933, the first film screened here was “The Devil’s Brother” with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Today, it is a multi-use building combining a cinema with shops at street level. It has been recently restored but keeps its original old world charm, dark wood interiors and satin furnishings. The main auditorium has a motif of sunrays in pale orange and jade green.
Another Art Deco styled cinema in Mumbai is the Eros. Its construction in 1938 marked the beginning of Back Bay reclamation. Partially faced with red Agra sandstone, the building is painted cream. The foyer is in white and black marble with touches of gold. Marble staircases with chromium handrails lead up to the upper floor. It features murals in muted colours depicting Indian architectures and has a seating capacity of 1,204.
Metro cinema is an Art Deco theatre also constructed in 1938. It was built and originally run by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the Hollywood studio. In 1970, the cinema was taken over by the Gupta family and with Indianisation came the era of screening Hindi films and flashy, glittering, star-studded premieres. It soon became Bollywood’s most famous red-carpet theatre (often riot police had to be called in at film premieres!). However, despite this, the Metro could not stand up to the multiplex invasion. After a massive retrofitting job, it re-opened in 2006, converted into a multiplex. It now has six screens, which are among the largest multiplex screens in Mumbai. It has however, managed to retain its original (restored) art-deco interiors. Its spaciousness, artistic murals, glittering chandeliers, rich drapery, Italian marble flooring, columns, railings, glass panelling, and shades of red from the original design are still in evidence.
To view a spectacular Bollywood film in one of these extraordinary Art Deco environments is an experience not to be missed in Mumbai! Ask us to allow time in your itinerary for you to see a Bollywood film
This unique guided tour will give you an understanding of life in rural India. Village life is alien to many visitors’ experience of India; it is a completely different world to that of the towns and cities where they spend most of their time. There are approximately 500,000 villages in India, about 80% of which, have fewer than 1,000 inhabitants. Settlements range from tiny hamlets of thatched huts to larger settlements of tile-roofed stone and brick houses. It is in villages that India’s most basic business – agriculture – takes place. The work ethic is strong, with little time out for relaxation, except for numerous divinely sanctioned festivals and rite-of-passage celebrations.
This tour visits two separate communities, a typical rural village and an Adivasi tribal village (Adivasis were the original inhabitants of India) enabling you to observe and experience the way in which these communities live. Your guide will explain their beliefs, customs, including the role of women, their superstitions, religion and the problems that they face, and you will be able to interact/ask questions through him/her. There are a number of activities to participate in during the day. Spend time in people’s houses and wander around the village (almost certainly accompanied by some local youngsters). Perhaps take part in some farming activities. To truly experience life in the villages, you need to do some village work! You may like to have a go at ploughing a field, harvesting rice, making bricks, or even learn to carry water on your head. Or you may simply prefer to go fishing or swimming or play a game of cricket. Pay a visit to a school to experience the infectious enthusiasm of the students and gain an understanding of the education system. Food is an essential part of this tour and lunch in one of the villager’s homes is a highlight. Eat what the villagers themselves eat – rice and a few vegetable dishes (possibly fish or chicken, if desired). Beware that you will be encouraged to eat with your hands! (Food and cooking facilities are clean and hygienic, if fairly basic. Plenty of mineral water is provided).
Travel on this tour is by boat and rickshaw. This enables you to truly enjoy the experience of being in the countryside and provides a very ‘up close and personal’ view of rural life. On the return boat trip in the evening, you will see the Gateway of India, Taj Mahal Palace and other landmark buildings stunningly lit up as you approach Mumbai.
High Tea at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel
For some, no visit to Mumbai would be complete without a visit to the iconic Taj Mahal Palace, which ranks amongst the finest hotels in the world. Pay an afternoon visit to its popular Sea Lounge and indulge in a lavish high tea (served every afternoon between 3:30 and 5:30pm). A wide array of teas and coffees are available, as well as delicious savouries and sweets from various Asian counties, including hot snacks, dim sum, kebabs and mouth-watering scones and pastries from its famous desert trolley.
In addition to its food, what makes the Sea Lounge interesting is its culture, history and clientele. Although its exact date of opening is not known, it has always been a part of the Taj Mahal Palace. Originally known as The Palm Lounge in the early sixties, it became known as the Sea Lounge in 1966. Sea Lounge regulars have always had fixed tables. In the 1970s it became known as a place for matchmaking. Families of prospective brides and grooms would meet here from initial meetings to finalising proposals. Moviegoers from the Regal and Eros cinemas would come in after film screenings for a coffee and dessert. The essence of Sea Lounge is that it was and will always be a place for people to meet, relax, eat, drink and, well, lounge.
The Casablanca Room, Taj Mahal Palace and Tower
Tucked away in an alcove of the famous Taj Mahal Palace is a small private dining room – the Casablanca Room. Offering beautiful views over the Arabian Sea and a special menu, this is the ideal spot for a romantic dinner.