As much as India is known for her inspirational heritage, culture and traditions, she is also famous for the glitzy and glamorous Bollywood which churns out more than 1600 movies a year. This itinerary takes one on a journey through quintessential and iconic north India covering six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and also gives one a taste of rural, aristocratic Rajasthan, juxtaposing with the cosmopolitan culture of Mumbai. Enjoy interactions with the owners of a restored 17th century Fort. Spot the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger in the wild, and partake in the fast pace of Bollywood’s glamour world!
Taj, Tigers, Royalty and Bollywood
Rajasthan in Style
This itinerary offers an amazingly stylish north India experience. Travel through Rajasthan staying in some of the most unique hotels in the country. Each of these properties have been hand-picked with a criterion to be an oasis of calm that one would love to return to after the day’s exploration. Some of them are privately owned by the erstwhile aristocracy lending them a trademark sophistication and a traditional warm Rajput hospitality.
Classic North India
From the heart of modern India in New Delhi to the ghats of the holy city of Varanasi, this itinerary covers the classic cities of North India showcasing history, architecture, religion, nature and the subtle nuances of diverse cultural distinction that India is known for. An ideal introduction for the first time visitor to India spanning four states and the capital – New Delhi – much of whose heritage from the British Raj is now symbolic of the world’s largest democracy. While, the Pink City of Jaipur offers a glimpse of the aristocratic Rajasthani culture, Agra is synonymous with the romance of the magnificent Taj Mahal. Relish a bit of the countryside and nature at the Chambal Safari Lodge with its home style food. Lucknow, the medieval cultural capital of India, is the legendary centre of Nawabi etiquette and culture. Be it cuisine, clothes, music or dance, Awadh and the Nawabs were more refined than any. Immerse in its delicate culture. Then, deep dive into Hindu mythology, philosophy and spirituality in the city of light – Kashi, an ancient seat of learning with a legacy that goes back to more than 3000 years on the banks of the holy Ganga, India’s most venerated river. End the tour in Khajuraho. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the temples here were built in the 9th and 10th centuries, and are widely regarded as being the pinnacle of expressive north Indian temple architecture.
Foothills of the Himalayas
Northern Himalayas are often referred to as Dev Bhoomi or the ‘Land of the Gods’ as the stunning mountain range of Dhauladhar raises its head to gossip with the clouds. This itinerary takes one on a spiritual journey to Amritsar for an introduction to Sikhism and then on to Dharamsala to understand Tibetan Buddhism. Along the way, visit one of Himalaya’s most mysterious Hindu temples at Pragpur.
Coastal Kerala boasts of emerald green paddy fields, groves of coconut trees swinging in the gentle breeze, rolling hills with acres of tea plantations, eternal rainforests, and the maze that is Kerala’s backwaters located tantalisingly close to sandy beaches of the Arabian Sea. It is the perfect antidote to the big busy cities. Kerala’s verdant greenery with all its spice plantations and gracious homes gleaming with the warmth of polished wood, make for a great contrast when combined with a Rajasthan tour.
The Tamil Nadu – Kerala Experience
This is a two-week itinerary that deep dives into the best of Tamil culture and Kerala landscape. Explore magnificent ancient temples, some UNESCO World Heritage Sites with architectural grandeur and quirky bougainvillea lined cobbled streets of a former French colony. Meet and spend time with members of the local communities, learning about the very distinct Tamil culture, its music and art, and also about spices which attracted the Romans and the Arabs to trade with India. Experience a slice of daily life of Kerala’s backwaters (a maze of lagoons close to the Arabian Sea) and enjoy its food which is a delightful mix of Dutch, Portuguese, British and Jewish influences. Perfect for first timers to south India.
Starting from Mysuru and ending in Goa via Hampi, this exciting journey is a great mix of history, architecture, wildlife, lifestyle, good food, and a unique magical landscape which can’t be seen anywhere else in India. Mysuru has an amazing range of options available to explore the city, while Coorg, with its coffee plantations, is home to one of the most interesting communities of south India – the Kodavas – who have held on to their traditions and practices in the face of an India that is fast changing. Hassan’s temple sculptures and carvings are pure poetry in stone and the magical surreal landscape of Hampi is going to stay with you long after you return home. A great introduction to Karnataka and ideal for those who want to return for more.
Gujarat’s most famous son was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or the Mahatma as the world knows him today – a frail little man, with a will of iron, whose passive resistance gave India its independence. He walked, thousands followed. He talked, a nation listened. He resisted, an empire crumbled. In many ways Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi epitomized Gujarat whose long and sheltered coastline, dotted with ports, has since time immemorial, traded with contemporary cultures in goods, as well as in culture and philosophy. Ever open to the winds of change, it has never been blown away by them, developing instead a rich and unique mix of cultural heritage that gives it an identity of its own. The itinerary starts from Mumbai whose ebullience captured by Bollywood – the dream factory, draws millions here to make it big in the movie industry. From here, fly straight to the tribal heartland of central Gujarat, exploring the many temples, forts, palaces, wildlife parks and museums with hours of stories, legends and antiquities – enough to have you planning another visit. End the journey in Bhuj, a land of immense creativity, unbound imagination, untiring spirit and a mindboggling variety of soulful crafts.
Maharashtra, one of the largest and most populous states in India, is an exciting new destination with an amazing contrast in landscape, monuments, culture and experiences. While its colourful festivals galvanize its millions into fervent motion, there exist lazy palm-fringed beaches, lofty cool-green mountains, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, impressive national parks and bustling cosmopolitan cities. This is an India which is equally vibrant, colourful and beautiful when compared to some of its well-trodden destinations, yet unexplored. The Konkan region of coastal Maharashtra and mangoes is an unbeatable combination. Very rarely do travellers get to see where this delicious fruit grows during their India holiday. How exciting it would be to eat, drink and sleep mangoes for a few days! This itinerary, during April-May, offers just this. Stay near a mango orchard, pluck mangoes from the trees and enjoy an unlimited supply of the king of fruits!
An Introduction to India
Culture & Religion
This three week, escorted journey with an accompanying guide, is a great introduction to India. First timers, who want to deep dive and spend time understanding and enjoying the true essence of India would
appreciate this itinerary that one may hesitate to do alone, but is ideal in the comfort of a small group.
This itinerary is a great introduction to India’s east, starting from Kolkata, an erstwhile trading post of colonial India, now the largest city of the east. Busy, chaotic, yet irresistibly charming, the Bengalis of Kolkata love their fish and their addas (informal chats) where just about everything under the sun is open to animated debate. At the height of colonial trade, goods were loaded onto boats on the Hooghly that flows through Kolkata and offloaded in warehouses by the Thames in London. Let’s not forget the gentlemen’s clubs. Kolkata has many – The Royal Calcutta Golf Club established in 1829, is the oldest outside the British Isles. From Kolkata, fly to the cooler climes of the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas. With its incredible mountain views, monasteries, rolling tea gardens and orchids, for the British Raj, this region was once a refuge from the sweltering heat of Kolkata during summer. On a clear day, the views of the Himalayan peaks are simply majestic, and the prayer ceremonies in the monasteries are a moving occasion and a time for peace. Get to know more about the local communities of Nepalese origin here and their favourite lair. End the tour in a tea estate by immersing in the story of Darjeeling – the champagne of teas.
Beyond the Chicken Neck
The ‘Chicken Neck’ in the east is the slimmest point on the map of India. It is a corridor so slim (it measures half the distance of the Boston Marathon), lying between the Bangladeshi and Nepalese borders; a mere 14 miles. Beyond the ‘Chicken Neck’ lie the seven states of northeast India, politically and geographically distant from the rest of the country. Here, some of its indigenous communities are culturally closer to Myanmar and other southeast Asian nations than with Rajasthan or even Kolkata, from where this journey begins. Venture beyond the ‘Chicken Neck’ to spend time in Assam; the gateway to northeast India and where the river Brahmaputra – big, bashful and benign – flows. It is India’s only ‘male’ river and Assam’s life-giver and destroyer, the grim reaper whose scythe, year after year, rips through the very crops that its waters would have nourished just months before. Travel in Assam, discovering the land of Kamakhya, the divine female energy and Endi, the non-violent silk; visit the Kaziranga National Park, home of the one-horned Rhino and take a private ferry across the Brahmaputra to watch white robed monks swirl like dervishes while playing medieval instruments in Asia’s largest freshwater river island. End the tour by staying in a 150-year-old tea bungalow. Listen to stories of Assam Tea, and also make an interesting side trip to one of the 19 bio-diversity hot-spots in the world.
For the Love of Nature
Forests, Tigers, Tribes & Ancient Landscapes
Escorted by a naturalist, this earthy itinerary is for nature lovers with eclectic interests in indigenous art, yoga, culture and anthropology; not limited to wildlife and nature alone.
A Journey Through Time
For the Love of Art & History
Experience the art and architectural heritage scattered through the length and breadth of this vast country. The architectural wonders of India include more than 20 World Heritage Sites. (There are hundreds more and one wonders why they are not listed.) More than 4000 years of history can be read in her art and architecture. This itinerary, escorted by an expert, will take one through a journey that will illustrate the many facets of Indian art and architecture, the symbolism in the ornamentation, the details of planning. Experience the tides of Indian history from the 2nd century BC to the present. How each visitor, invader, trader or migrant influenced the rich fabric of her culture, art and architecture and gave it a new hue. The composite mish-mash that exists today, has hundreds of influences, beautifully adopted by a generous welcoming community.
Jewels of the Himalayas
Once considered as mystical and inaccessible as Hilton’s Shangri-La, this landlocked country of valleys and peaks has attracted an astounding number of visitors for decades. From the endorsers of ‘Flower Power’ in the hedonistic 60s to the daring adventure traveller, Nepal has catered to the diverse needs of visitors in its own inimitable way.
Sri Lanka in Style
Sri Lanka’s history boasts of diverse cultural influences from across the seven seas through trade and colonisation, which gave rise to a wonderful vibrancy that permeates every aspect of life here. Cuisine, music, art, architecture, languages are all testimonial to this beautiful synthesis. This itinerary lets you experience some of the best that Sri Lanka has to offer, in style. Travel through Sri Lanka, staying in some of the most charming hotels of the country, hand-picked to escape to after the day’s exploration; distances are reasonable and the drive easy. In short, it has all the makings of a great holiday.
East by Northeast
In pre-currency Bhutan, the trade merchants appointed by the landed aristocrats left for Tibet and India with their mule trains carrying leather, tobacco, paper, rice, sandalwood, indigo and madder, and returned with gold dust, tea, woollen clothes, silk and salt.