The clamour, the smells and the colours of India create a spectacular sensual feast. From vibrant cities and quiet backwaters to some of the highest mountain ranges on the planet, this majestic country promises a never-to-be-forgotten luxury India holiday experience. Discover magnificent mosques and palaces infused by incense and strewn with vibrant flower tributes. Haggle in the noisy markets flanked by henna-painted women in their bright gold jewellery. There is simply so much to savour. To watch the sun set over the Taj Mahal, to tread the ramparts of Amber Fort or to visit the pink city of Jaipur...these are moments of unforgettable inspiration. Nor would any visit to India be complete without escaping the metropolitan hubbub to go tiger spotting in deepest Ranthambhore National Park, lodging in a luxury tented camp. Drift south to the tranquil canals and lagoons of Kerala for a sojourn on board a beautiful houseboat feasting on Spice Coast cuisine, or unwind a while on Goa’s bohemian beaches where the Portuguese heritage adds a European air. Across the country, spa resorts offer signature Ayurvedic treatments and spirit reviving therapies. Never have the senses been so fully engaged or the soul so thrillingly stirred. In 2017 India has been announced as the UK’s Year of Culture to mark cultural ties between our two countries and to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Indian Independence. The India-UK Year of Culture will be a curated programme that gives audiences in India and the UK access to inspirational, engaging and diverse art, music, theatre, design, performing arts, film and literature.
One of the oldest and largest cities in the world, Delhi is both cosmopolitan and historic and is packed with interest. Two of its monuments, the Qutab Minar and Humayun’s Tomb, have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, whilst no visit would be complete without seeing the majestic Red Fort, the historical Chandni Chowk market, and Raj Ghat - a memorial to Mahatma Ghandi. Delhi is also a shopper’s paradise - try the upscale avenues of Connaught Place, Delhi Haat for handicraft goods or Janpath Market for a variety of traditional souvenirs. A must do is an exhilarating cycle rickshaw ride through the streets of Old Delhi.
Set on the banks of the Yamuna River, Agra is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most notably the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Equally unmissable are the Agra Fort; one of the finest Mughal forts in India and deserted Fatehpur Sikri, known as the Ghost City. Directly opposite the Taj Mahal lies a Mughal garden originally built by Emperor Babur in the 16th century.
Jaipur’s graceful pink architecture has earned it the title of ‘The Pink City’. The most iconic attraction within the city is the intricate and fascinating facade of the Palace of the Winds, legend has it that the palace, which overlooks the main street of Jaipur’s lively Old City, was built so that the women of the royal household could watch the streets below without being observed. The Amber Fort stands perched atop a cliff just outside of Jaipur and is an example of Mughal and Rajput architecture, beautifully combining white marble and red stone. Famous for its majestic forts, opulent havelis, beautiful lakes and sand dunes it is also known for its musicians, artisans and craftsmen.
A city of many beautiful palaces, forts and temples, which stand in contrast to the stark, scenic desert landscape which surrounds it. Alternately known as the Sun City for the sunny weather it enjoys all year round or the Blue City for the indigo tinge of the houses, Jodphur is brimming with bazaars replete with items from lacquerware and carpets to the exquisite Rajasthani textiles and classic silver jewellery.
One of India’s most beautiful cities dominated by Lake Pichola, Udaipur is steeped in history. Well worth seeing is the temple of Eklingji, patron deity of Udaipur royal family and the Sas-Bahu temples at Nagda, the Grand City Palace on the banks of Lake Pichola and the Monsoon Palace in the hills nearby. Meander through the city’s lanes to discover exquisite havelis, temples, ghats, baoris and gardens.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest city in India, Varanasi has a unique charm. Sail the gentle waters of the Ganges with a boat ride at sunrise passing temple spires and palaces, visit the city’s vast array of shrines and lose yourself in the narrow serpentine alleys of the city.
Crammed onto a narrow strip of land, this cosmopolitan city has been transformed from a fishing settlement to a bustling metropolis packed full of architecture styles from Gothic to Art Deco, with remains from the colonial era of the British Raj. An abundance of outdoor markets and fine stores will satisfy any shopaholic; film buffs can explore the world of Bollywood and food lovers can marvel at the wealth of restaurants. Take a boat trip across the busy port to the enchanting Elephanta Caves for an unmissable excursion.
Home to some of the planet’s highest peaks, The Himalayas include over a hundred mountains and cross through five countries. In the peaceful Indian foothills, close to the mythological cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh, retreat to a destination spa - surrounded by graceful Sal forests, overlooking the peaceful Ganga as it meanders into the distance, discover Indian wellness regimes and unify body, mind and soul.
Formally known as Madras, vibrant Chennai presents a cultural experience that is distinctly different from that of northern India. Music, dance and all other art forms of the South are cherished and nurtured, the city having a vibrant theatre scene and being an important centre for the Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form.
Kovalam encapsulates the very essence of Kerala’s laid-back lifestyle, with opportunities to cruise the tranquil backwaters or relax on paradisiacal beaches. Its scenic beauty and serenity is supplemented by the excellent grilled seafood which is brought fresh from the sea, whilst those in search of physical and spiritual rejuvenation can be pampered in Ayurvedic massage parlours and yoga centres.
A magical land of forts, rivers and beaches, bounded by the Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea to the west. Explore tranquil backwaters, virgin forests teeming with exotic wildlife and lush hillside plantations, where the highlight of any trip is a visit to the magnificent 300 year old Bekal Fort, perched on a headland above the Arabian Sea.
In addition to mesmerisingly beautiful beaches, the architectural splendours of Goa’s temples, churches and old houses have made the destination a firm favourite with international travellers. Once ruled by the Portuguese, whose influence still pervades local culture, the town has become a mecca for artists and writers, as well as an attractive destination for pilgrims visiting both Catholic and Hindu shrines.
A beautiful, quaint town set on a cluster of islands and a peninsula, Cochin is a blend of medieval Portugal, Holland and an English country village and is the gateway to Kerala and the backwaters. Along the shores look out for the iconic bamboo and teak fishing nets unique to this part of India and walk the winding streets lined with 500-year old Portuguese houses and the oldest church in India. Cochin makes up part of the area known as the Spice Coast, so make sure you take the time to enjoy the delicious Keralan seafood.
Relax on the banks of Lake Vembanad or cruise the serene emerald green backwaters on a private houseboat to spot a cornucopia of birdlife and observe colourful daily life on the riverbanks. Take a cycling tour to local villages to experience the authentic Kumarakom way of life. The Shiva Temple at Ettuman is famed for its intricate wood carvings.
Distinguished by lush green valleys, coffee plantations, teak wood forests and majestic mountain ranges, Coorg exudes adventure and romance. Appreciate the cooler air of the mountains as you take the challenge of trekking the peaks of Tadiandamol, Brahmagiri and Pushpagiri, the monsoon season being the best time to escape the lowlands.
The terrain that forms the backdrop of Kipling’s Jungle Book, Kanha remains lush as ever with its sweeping savannah grasslands, bamboo forests and gurgling streams. One of Asia’s finest wildlife sanctuaries, Kanha brings opportunities to view the magnificent tiger and many more animal species including leopard, bison and wild dog.
The forested habitat of Bandhavgarh is the abode of India’s highest density of tigers, with safari guests regularly reporting multiple sightings. In the wetlands expect to see kingfishers and egrets as vultures wheel and circle above. Join a jeep safari for your chance to witness these majestic animals.
This National Park is one of the more successful locations to visit in hope of spotting India’s majestic tiger in its natural habitat. Former hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur it is also a renowned heritage site thanks to the picturesque ruins which dot the terrain. Birds are present in large numbers; other common wildlife sightings include crocodile, gazelle, leopard and the fearsome monitor lizard.
Flanked by the majestic Pench River, Pench is one of the best tiger reserves in the country, whilst botanists can get to know some of the 1300 species of plants which grow locally, many of them prized for their medicinal value. Leopard too can be sighted, along with Indian civets, cheetah, sambar and nilgai.
Once a sleepy desert city, the golden city of Jaisalmer has transformed itself into a major tourist destination. Surrounded by the sands of the Great Indian (Thar) Desert, Jaisalmer can offer camel safari adventures and a wealth of spellbinding sights including Jaisalmer Fort and the exotic Gadi Sagar Tank.
The best time to visit India is from October to March. The monsoon season occurs from May to September with high rainfall particularly in the south, although hotel offers are at their most attractive during this time.
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