Our Luxury Custom Travel consultants are travel planning experts, drawing on their insider knowledge to curate custom itineraries for our guests. To stay one step ahead of the crowds, they go on scouting trips in search of the latest offerings in destinations across the globe.
Cheryl Evans, one of our consultants, recently returned from scouting India. We asked her to tell us about her experiences and share her favorite recommendations for exploring this captivating country.
Where did you go?
My journey in India began in Delhi and also included Varanasi, Agra, Jaipur, Bhopal, Mumbai, Jodhpur and Udaipur.
Where should our guests start for unique experiences in India?
Jaipur is a paradise for arts and handicrafts where you can find the works of India’s talented artisans around every corner. From its hand-cut gemstones and intricately-woven carpets to its eye-catching block print fabrics, the “Pink City” has so much to admire. Or start in Varanasi, an ancient city located on the banks of the River Ganges. This place of pilgrimage has a palpable energy and welcomes millions of visitors each year. We can arrange a private boat to take you along the river, where you can witness pilgrims purifying themselves in the sacred waters or performing funeral rites for their loved ones. As the sun sets, take in the nightly aarti ceremony in which Hindu priests offer fire to the goddess Ganga.
What are some can’t-miss experiences and destinations?
People often overlook Jodhpur when visiting India, but this “Blue City” in the desert is well worth the trip. Begin by exploring the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort and soak up the views of the colorful blue rooftops. Just a short drive away, you can wander the grounds of Jaswant Thada. This memorial for the royal family of Jodhpur features immaculately designed marble décor, as well as serene gardens overlooking the city below.
Exploring the oldest and busiest markets of Old Delhi by trishaw is an unforgettable experience. The bustling lanes are lined with street vendors, temples and mosques. Admire the vibrant saris that adorn the crowded shop walls, watch as laborers haul massive loads on bullock carts, and marvel at how well the traffic flows amidst the chaos.
If you’re exploring Mumbai, you should visit the Mani Bhavan Museum, Ghandi’s former headquarters in the city. Walking through the museum brought tears to my eyes. His personal room in the mansion has been preserved and offers a glimpse of his minimalist lifestyle. The displays feature his quotes and letters to many world leaders, as well as beautiful figurines depicting his lifetime achievements. You can also stand on the balcony where he delivered many a speech to people listening on the street.
You stayed in some remarkable properties. What made them special?
The inviting Imperial Hotel is a living museum in New Delhi that hearkens back to Victorian times with its high ceilings, ornate windows and colonial-era art. Don’t miss the breakfast served on the veranda of the 1911 Restaurant, or the breakfast buffet with a tasty array of options.
Travel + Leisure ranked The Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra the “Best Resort Hotel in India,” and rightfully so. Every exceptional detail adds to the tranquil atmosphere, from the melodic sounds of the sitar drifting up the marble staircase to the oasis-like pool and restaurants under the stars. The proximity to the Taj Mahal is unrivaled, and guests can conveniently transfer to and from the monument’s entrance by golf cart. I highly recommend visiting the Taj during both sunrise and sunset to see the colors of the marble transform with the coming and going of the sun.
On the way from Jodhpur to Udaipur, stop to stay at an exclusive, four-suite property in the Aravalli Hills just beyond the Ranakpur Jain Temple. Mountbatten Lodge was designed around its 400-year-old banyan tree that shades the outdoor dining area. The suites are unique and quite spacious, offering private plunge pools and wood-burning fireplaces to create an irresistible sanctuary for guests. If you’re looking for something to do in the evening, grab a cocktail and take a jeep ride up the ridge to watch a beautiful sunset.
Describe some of your favorite food experiences.
Peshawri Restaurant at ITC Mughal in Agra delivers authentic Indian cuisine from the North-West Frontier region with Afghan influences. As you enter the restaurant, you’re swept back in time and the aroma of fresh naan cooking in the tandoori oven wafts into your nostrils. Grab a bib and enjoy eating the many delicious dishes with your fingers. The dal is a must, made with tender, flavorful lentils prepared overnight—a perfect complement to the warm naan.
Trishna is tucked away in an alleyway in Mumbai surrounded by small boutiques and eateries. This intimate restaurant is well known for its seafood selection, and dishes like the garlic crab pomfret and prawn curry won’t disappoint. The service is also fantastic.
Brunch lovers will want to spend a morning at Umaid Bhawan Palace. Relax in oversize cushioned chairs and sip champagne as you soak up the garden views. Blooming bougainvillea and frolicking peacocks add bright pops of color to the greenery, and you can spot Mehrangarh Fort in the distance.
What surprised you about India?
Being in Varanasi was overwhelming but also one of the most impactful parts of my trip. You can sense both excitement and sadness there, but you just have to be willing to dive in with an open heart. Nothing could have fully prepared me for the experience. The driving in India entranced me too. Watching the cars weave through cyclists, bullock carts and pedestrians is like watching water rush down a stream. It’s especially amazing when you think that we have so many more accidents in the States in spite of all our traffic rules and personal space.
Hospitality is an important Indian cultural value, and the number of warm, welcoming people that I encountered during my trip made that very apparent. Traveling is about making connections, and in India, I found it so easy to do.
This is just a sampling of the unforgettable experiences that we can arrange for you in India. Our travel specialists would love to help you plan your perfect trip.