DID YOU LOVE JOANNA LUMLEY’S INDIA ON TV JULY 2017? we did …
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We work with India specialists who know this amazingly diverse country inside out, so contact us to create the perfect itinerary for you, from the foothills of the Himalayas, through deserts dotted with fortresses and holy rivers and festivals to the humid tropics of the south, there are enough places to see in India that you will return again and again!
Did you enjoying watching ‘Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and ‘Good Karma Hospital’ on TV ? (Feb 2017). Both are set around Cochin on the shores of Kerala in Southern India.
We can arrange tailor made holidays for you to visit this gorgeous part of India … maybe you would like to see why so many people decide to stay for longer!
Having taken my first trip to Northern India in 2013 (Jules) I’ve been lucky enough to return again a few times since – read more about Jules’ travels in India in our travel blogs – there is so much to see in this vast country that I’m sure you will return time and again too! BBC’s Hotel India (shown September 2014) gave us an insight to the running of one of the country’s most iconic landmarks and most luxurious of hotels. Ask us to tailor a holiday to include a stay there, or at the other luxury Taj Palace hotels!
This amazing destination really does feature a continent within one country, the culture, food and experiences are completely different in each of the different states and regions. Distances are vast and traffic crazy, so please do ask about the best way to fit in everything you want to see. We work with some of the best ground handling companies and top operators in India to craft tailor made holidays & tours to India. These contacts will ensure that you are treated like royalty and everything runs smoothly!
There are experiences around every corner, huge varieties of culture, cuisine and scenery and India has long been a favourite travel destination for the British, with a long colonial history here. This is one of the world’s great civilisations and had thriving cities from as far back as 2500BC along the Indus River Valley. Spiritual inspiration has always been at the heart of India and with thousands of temples in all regions and the high Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayas, this is a cultural journey like no other. Spas and yoga retreats can be found all over India. Make sure you at least make time for one massage or treatment during your journey!
When is the best time to travel to India? Mid September to Mid April is a best time to visit majority of India when the weather is normally warm and dry. North India has a dry heat throughout the year ranging from searing heat to freezing cold (from mid December to mid January, there can be a lot of fog in many areas of Northern India particularly). Our favourite time to visit Southern India is between mid December to March (ideally mid January or early March to avoid paying premium some of the hotels charge around Christmas or February period. You can also consider October and November but there are chances of reverse monsoon. April and May are hot and humid, can have pre-monsoon. June to August are monsoon season. In low season, you get good value for money). Kashmir and Ladakh are good July – September as they have very little rain.
If you want to visit the wildlife parks of India plan in advance as they are closed for several months of the year. Tiger reserves are best visited in October -November or February – March. India does have a lot of festivals! This can impact on travel and transport but we can advise you when is best to fit around your own choice of dates.
Where to go Many people head for the well trodden tourist trails such as Kerala or Golden Triangle. But please delve under the surface of ‘tourist India’ and embrace everything that this colourful country has to offer! The best things on any holiday are not just the ‘material’ sites, forts, palaces or places but the interactions you will have with local people and the way you travel. One of the highlights for me was taking a rickshaw ride and walk through the chaos of Old Delhi – the smells of the spices and incense and the noise of the traffic and chatter all around made for a completely absorbing assault on the senses! You can travel by road, air, rail (the Indian train network is amazing and there are several luxury trains too such as the Maharajah’s Express or the Palace on Wheels.), rickshaw, tuk-tuk, camel or cow cart!
Rajasthan The deserts and forts of this north eastern region are like entering a different world …. travelling down the road you are constantly surrounded by motorbikes carrying at least 3 people (sometimes families of 5!), ox carts and polished tractors. There are dramatic mountains and hill forts, dotted with medieval ruins and places of worship. Experience the wealth and majesty of the ‘maharajas’ and meet local villagers and farmers along the way. Udaipur is an attractive town on Lake Pichola, Jodhpur (the blue city) which gained it’s wealth due to the location with the ‘Silk Road‘, and Jasisalmer home to the golden fort where camel safaris are popular. If you are visiting Rajasthan ask me to tailor a trip for you to include some of the desert camps and visit the farming villages which surround you. We stayed at Amanbagh which is a simply stunning North African style luxury hotel – a true oasis in the desert!
If you are looking for a conventional tour or to join an escorted group, a good place to start is the Golden Triangle. This comprises of Delhi, Jaipur (the pink city) and Agra with other stops in the deserts around Rajasthan. The Taj Mahal at Agra is of course probably one of the most iconic sites in India and it’s advisable to try and get there at first light, before the crowds, when the best views are to be had of this incredible piece of architecture.
Northern India – Himalayas Explore the tea estates and toy trains into the Himalayan foothills or venture further into other countries and regions such as Nepal and Bhutan. It is possible to arrange ‘village to village’ hill walks in the north of India, where you have a local guide who takes you through the rural villages and forests to stay in peoples houses and really get to know the real India of this region. Watch how they weave textiles from Yak hair, gather food and crops from the forests and create their homes in the hills. Flying into Delhi, you can head north to Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs or into Himachal Pradesh and explore Shimla, the old British summer capital where you can see snow capped mountains from this ‘cool retreat’. If you want to stay in the town of Shimla, head to the Cecil Oberoi or in the cool forests at Wildflower Hall (where we stayed) which has a beautiful setting and an outdoor hot tub! Also in northern India you can experience diverse locations such as Lucknow (Indo-Persian culture), Varanasi (on the banks of the sacred Ganges river) and Khajuraho (from where you can access some of the wildlife of central India). Gujarat is a real ‘off the beaten track’ experience in the far north west bordering Pakistan. There are famous textiles produced here in the area of Kutch and a museum of textiles in Ahmedabad (state capital).
Central India Although you are in the heart of the country here, this is where you will find places that are least touched by the modern world. There are tribal groups of people living here, ancient forests and historical sites. Forts and palaces survive at Mandu and Ahily and there are cave paintings and archaeological sites in places like Pachmarhi. Flights into Mumbai (Bombay) on the western coast of India give access to a network of roads and trains into the centre of Maharashtra. On the southern edge of the Deccan plateau is Bangalore (now Bengaluru) known as the garden city and a fast growing business centre. Ancient forts and rock hewn temples can be found around Badami, Hyderabad and Hampi.
Eastern India Flying into Calcutta (India’s second largest city) it is recommended you spend a few nights here to experience the diverse culture where extreme poverty mixes with the monuments and universities. From here you can head into the far Eastern regions such as Darjeeling (with it’s tea plantations and colonial heritage) and Gangtok (Tibetan Buddhist culture and village walks). On the other side of Bangladesh is Assam and the far eastern regions of Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.
Southern India is probably the best known to most British tourists with the ‘spice coast’ of Kerala being a popular destination. With it’s spice gardens, tea plantations and the tropical coastline full of seafood, this is a great ‘foodie’ holiday choice! Visit the backwaters and homestays to experience the rural charm and real side of Kerala and combine this with other parts of the south such as Cochin or Mysore. Flights into Chennai (Madras) on the east coast enable you to explore the old French coastal town of Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu. The colonial buildings here and the baguettes and bakeries remind you of the colonial past but mixing with the modern Tamil traditions means you can enjoy spices and croissants watching over the Bay of Bengal!
India has an amazing range of terrain and habitat from the huge central plains and rivers to the mighty Himalaya mountains and the natural forests and reserves are home to an amazing variety of wildlife including plenty of options for tiger safaris. Corbett National Park lies in the Himalayan foothills and was the birthplace of ‘Project Tiger’ set up to preserve natural habitats in India. The vegetation here is dense and home to over 600 species of birds, wild elephants and hundreds of plant species.
Kaziranga National Park, the oldest in Assam, sits on the Brahmaputra river and protects the Indian one-horned Rhino. The park with it’s marshes and grasslands protects the Begal tigers too and is home to wild elephants, barasinghas and many birds. On the East Coast of India is Chilka Lake, a Ramsar wetland and large brackish lagoon.
The Little Rann of Kutch in Gujarat is a spectacular coastal wetland for amazing birding holidays. Winter is the best time for birds here. The area was proclaimed a wildlife sanctuary in 1973 and protects the Indian Wild Ass, not found anywhere else in the world. In Sasan Gir National Park (south west Gujarat) is the last natural home of the endangered Asiatic lions. There are also leopards, hyenas, wild boar and over 250 species of birds.
Madhya Pradesh in Central India is a great place to visit several of India’s wildlife parks and reserves. Panna National Park is home to Bengal tigers, leopards and sloth bears and is full of lush forests, gorges and waterfalls. One of the best populations of tigers in India can be found in Bandhavgarh National Park, once a hunting reserve for the Maharajas this park now has large grasslands and also has Indian Bison, wild dogs and hyenas. One of India’s largest and most famous parks is Kanha (inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book). A ‘new kid on the block’ in the wildlife circuit is Satpura National Park, home to tigers, leopards and sloth bears and unique in that you can experience walking safaris here. Near the Satpura hills is a beautiful park rich in flora and fauna at Pench National Park. Cheetals, Sambar and Nilgai are regularly seen at the roadsides here.
Food and drink of India Food is a major attraction in India and you can enjoy cookery classes, homestays, shopping in markets and a mouthwatering range of local and regional specialities here. If you enjoyed Rick Stein’s India on BBC then get in touch and see where you can sample some amazing Indian food. There are homestays in Kerala and cookery classes all over India, so if you wanted to experience authentic regional Indian food ask me to tailor a culinary trip for you. You’ll be suprised to find that India also makes it’s own wine – it’s not bad either!
How to get there From the UK there are several direct flights (British Airways, Jet Airways, Virgin) and a few indirect. To Delhi is just over 8 hours, Mubai nearly 9, Calcutta just under 10 and about 10 hours to Chennai. UK passport holders do need a visa for entry to India, this is obtained before travel and details will be given to you when you book.
So what are you waiting for? Get in touch and let us plan your trip of a lifetime to ‘Incredible India!’
01728 748209, use the live chat or send an enquiry.