What to do in India
As a travel destination, India offers an incredible range of experiences. Avid adventurers will enjoy her dense jungles and soaring Himalayan peaks. Culture enthusiasts can immerse themselves in captivating village life and thrilling history. Foodies will find a vibrant new cuisine in each new city and region. Wildlife seekers can spend weeks hopping from one national park to the next, seeking out an incredible array of tropical flora and fauna, including, of course, the elusive Tiger. Sybarires need to do none of these activities at all and simply enjoy the opulence of India’s incredible luxury hotels and magical beach locations.
A private tour allows you to enjoy each of these experiences in an intimate and highly personalized manner. Explore this vast and kaleidoscopic destination at your own pace, accompanied by knowledgeable and passionate local guides who allow you to truly connect with locals and immerse yourself in the culture.
Color, chaos, and multiculturalism in India's cities
What can we say about India’s cities? Bustling doesn’t even begin to describe them! They are fast, chaotic, colorful, vibrant, multicultural hives of activity. Each of India’s leading cities -Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore – has its unique atmosphere, but what they all have in common is the wonderful juxtaposition of old and new, unique architecture, their diversity, and of course, their cuisine. Ancient monuments sit next to towering skyscrapers; temples rub shoulders with gurudwaras and mosques; auto rickshaws sit alongside the latest Mercedes or Audi, the occasional camel, and the omnipresent cow. The rules of the road are unfathomable; it’s better to leave that to your driver as you watch and marvel at the extraordinary scene. One of the best ways to see these cities is to venture out on a walking tour run by locals passionate about showcasing their city to you.
Stay in a rural place
India offers an extraordinary opportunity to stay in the opulent palaces of her great domestic royal families. Staying in a rural palace in Rajasthan can be an unforgettable experience. Not only do you get to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, but you also get to immerse yourself in this fascinating region’s rich culture and history. The palaces themselves are often beautifully restored and offer a glimpse into the opulence of Rajasthan’s royal past. Additionally, the surrounding countryside is often stunning, with rolling hills, verdant fields, and quaint villages. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient forts and temples, learning about traditional crafts and cuisine, or simply relaxing in a peaceful setting, staying in a rural palace in Rajasthan will be an enriching experience.
Track tigers and much more
India has unique wildlife not found anywhere else on the planet. Central India’s parks are the country’s most famous national: made famous by Rudyard Kipling, are now protected areas, and house a phenomenal array of wildlife. Their most famous predator is the Tiger, but there are also leopards and sloth bears, wild dogs, Jackals, deer, monkeys, and incredible birdlife. Surrounding these national parks are beautiful rural villages that remain untouched by time. It’s worthwhile spending an extra couple of days to visit these tribal markets and community projects. The wildlife parks in south India are where you’ll find Asian elephants and, in the Northeast, the one-horned Rhino. High in the Himalayas are brown bears and snow leopards, both difficult to spot, but both in remote areas of outstanding natural beauty. India also has wonderful wildlife conservation stories and unique locations such as Jawai, where Rabari tribes and leopards have lived harmoniously for centuries.
Dive into Indian cuisine
A misconception about the food in India is that it’s hot, hot, hot! But this isn’t the case: spices are used to add depth and layers of flavor to different cuisines. Different herbs, fruits, and vegetables grow in different regions depending on the topography and climate, so you’ll find that Indian food varies greatly from state to state. The north of India is the wheat region, and all curries are accompanied by naan or roti, perfect for soaking up delicious sauces. Delhi food is influenced by Punjabi cuisine, with the world-famous butter chicken the closest dish there is to chicken tikka masala. Mumbai is famous for its vada pav and other street food – locals go crazy for it. The south of India is coastal and rice-producing, so curry and rice are the staple, influenced by fish, tamarind, and coconut. There are so many nuances to Indian cuisine that it would take a lifetime to work them all out; however, we recommend taking a street food tour or a cookery lesson at least once on your trip.
Experience an Indian Festival
Festivals in India are vibrant, colorful, and often noisy affairs. Many are for religious purposes, while others can be for other specific reasons, such as cattle trading fairs. What most of them have in common is that they follow the lunar calendar meaning that the dates change every year. The main festivals celebrated yearly are Holi, the festival of color (sometime in March), and Diwali, the festival of light (end of October to mid-November). Don’t worry if your travel dates don’t coincide with an annual festival; throughout the country, there are daily ceremonies that take place, such as the eccentric Wagah Border Ceremony near the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the Ganga Aarti ceremonies in Haridwar and Rishikesh, and the putting to bed of the gods in Madurai. More recently, many new fairs have come up, The Jaipur Literary Festival, held in January, is now Asia’s most significant literary festival.
Trek in the Himalayas
Amid the spellbinding beauty of the Himalayas, which spans five states across the north of India, is some of the finest hiking in the world. An unfathomable number of trails are available to hikers of all levels, although some of the most beautiful treks can be found on the gentle slopes of the lower Himalayas. This region features snow-capped mountains, bubbling streams, pine forests, and open meadows. It’s a spectacular place to get out and stretch your legs. Treks range from 1-day hikes from a luxury lodge or converted farmstead to multi-day treks when staying in village homes along the way, experiencing the genuine hospitality of these rural, hill people. Fresh mountain air, beautiful scenery, charming remote villages, and interacting with the locals make a track in the Himalayan region extraordinary.
Kick back on India's beaches
India’s coastline is 7500km long, so it stands to reason it has fabulous beaches. Goa, with smatterings of Portuguese still spoken on the streets, sun-dappled beaches, and shacks serving a variety of cuisines, is synonymous with good times. The beaches to the north tend to be busy, attracting the party crowd, while the shores of the south are more relaxed with more luxurious hotels.
Kerala offers a less developed beach scene, kilometers of sand, and few hotels…it’s all about the beach and relaxation. Also, being the home of that ancient Indian wellness treatment, ayurveda, many resorts have the opportunity for a spot of traditional pampering.
The Andamans, closer to Thailand but still a part of India, have the brilliant and beautiful white sand beaches we often dream about. Unique boutique resorts are scattered on clusters of islands in this archipelago. The diving here is also fantastic: Jacques Cousteau put it on the map!
Luxurious train travel
India has some of the most luxurious trains in the world, inspired by the bygone era of the maharajas. Sumptuous carriages, exquisite dining, bars serving perfect cocktails, onboard spas (and wifi), and often fascinating speakers to regale you with stories of the region.
Exploring different parts of the country, waking up in a new destination every morning ready to explore and see some of the most remarkable destinations that India has to offer in the utmost luxury, is what the train experience is all about. There are several luxury trains, but the World’s Leading Luxury Train winner at the World Travel Awards (2012 – 2018) was the Maharajas’ Express, which also won Asia’s Leading Luxury Train award from 2020 to 2022. Pipped to the post in 2019, the Deccan Odyssey won the World’s Leading Luxury Train though it had been Asia’s Leading Luxury Train from 2010 to 2019. These trains take in India’s best-loved destinations and take you to some lesser-known gems that traveling in such luxury allows you to explore.
Not-so-luxurious train travel
A train journey in India gives a unique insight into the country and is a wonderful opportunity to observe or meet some of the local people who are usually quite curious about you too!
The routes that can easily be incorporated into an itinerary are between Delhi and Agra and Jaipur and Delhi. These 3-5 hour journeys give a great insight into India’s biggest employer, with over a million people employed to run the nationwide train network. But an enjoyable experience is to try one of the three “Toy Trains,’’ narrow gauge trains created by the British Raj to take them up to the hill stations during the summer months.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway opened in 1881 and was the first and is still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway. The Kalka Shimla Railway opened in 1903, and The Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Tamil Nadu was completed in 1908. All three railways are still fully operational, with journeys that wind up through the hills at an achingly slow pace, allowing you to take in the beautiful and often dramatic scenery.
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