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India Luxury Travel Guide

INDIA LUXURY TRAVEL GUIDE

 

A land of great contrasts and diversity, India is a nation of nations, rich in culture dating back thousands of years. It would take more than a lifetime to see everything India has to offer, so use my guide below to get started on planning your ultimate luxury trip to this incredible country.

View of Himalayas -_Tungnath Trail, Uttarakhand
View of Himalayas -_Tungnath Trail, Uttarakhand

Regions

 

The Himalayas are perhaps India’s most distinctive natural feature. Despite the isolation of the mountains, many communities thrive here including Srinagar in Kashmir and Dharamshala, home of the Dalai Lama.

Map of India

Western India is most famous for Rajasthan and its princely palaces. The desert state is also home to National Parks with an abundance of wildlife. India’s financial capital Mumbai is located on the western coast.

 

The Northern Plains include such cultural heavyweights as Delhi, Agra and Varanasi. While Mughal influence dominates much of the cultural heritage in this region, the Plains offer a diversity of sites from Hindu Khajuraho to the Golden Temple in the holy Sikh city of Amritsar.

 

Northeast India is dominated by the cultural powerhouse of Kolkata, the former capital of the British Raj. Darjeeling sits to the north of Kolkata while Nagaland in the far east of the country is a bastion of tribal culture.

 

South India has a very distinct identity from the north. Geographically separated by the Deccan Plateau, the south has much greener landscapes. Kerala is famous for its canals and rivers while cities such as Chennai beat to the drum of Tamil culture.

HIGHLIGHTS

 

The Taj Mahal is undeniably India’s most famous landmark. A monument to love, the Taj Mahal is situated a couple of hours south of Delhi and is best visited at sunrise or sunset to avoid the crowds.

Taj Mahal Luxury Travel

The Taj Mahal

 

The Backwaters are a network of waterways crisscrossing the verdant state of Kerala in south India. Everyday life is intimately connected to the water here and a houseboat cruise is a special way of exploring this region.

The backwaters of Kerala – Cohin, Kerala

 

Rajasthan is the ultimate princely state with a succession of decadent palaces dominating historic cities and the scorching desert landscape.

 

India’s National Parks are a counterweight to the hectic cities. A carefully chosen safari can bring you up close to tigers, leopards, and hyenas. Some of the country’s best National Parks are Ranthambore and Ranna National Park.

 

India’s Hill Stations have always been preferred places to escape to and relax. Shimla was famously popular among the colonial British and Darjeeling is famous its tea plantations. In the south, Ooty is a favourite getaway destination for locals.

 

The most sacred city in Hinduism, Varanasi is a deeply spiritual place that pulsates with energy and overwhelms even the most seasoned traveler.

 

Mumbai is a global metropolis that sucks in people from across the country to create an incredibly diverse tapestry of traditions and cultures. It is also an unrepentantly modern city and offers visitors a fascinating insight into contemporary life in India.

 

Madurai is the cultural capital of Tamil Nadu, a south Indian state. Among its treasures is the Meenakshi Temple, a millennia-old Hindu temple covered in thousands of colourful sculptures.

 

Kochi is a trading town on the Keralan coast. Having been occupied in turn by the Portuguese, Dutch and British the town retains a strong colonial feel.

EXPERIENCES

 

Experience the palaces of Rajasthan in princely style by privatizing access to the City Palace in Jaipur or the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodphur.

 

Hawa Mahal Jaipur

Book a suite at the Oberoi Amarvilas for a private dinner that overlooks the Taj Mahal at sunset.

 

Hike in Ladakh with a private guide and porter for an exclusive visit to the Shakti Kumaon Village.

 

In Mumbai, join a private guide to gain an insight into the lives of the dabbawalas and dhobis and visit the flower market and fish market to get under the skin of local life.

HOTELS

 

India can count many luxury properties among its hotel offering, from grand city hotels to sleek country resorts. Kumarakom Lake Resort is infused with south Indian style and is located along the backwaters of Kerala. In Rajasthan, make like a prince and stay in one of the state’s many palace hotels. The Taj Lake Palace is an iconic hotel surrounded by the water of Lake Pichola, Udaipur. The Imperial Hotel in Delhi retains a colonial touch for those looking to experience sophisticated city life.

For the adventurous traveler, Aman-i-Khas is a luxury resort on the edge of Ranthambore National Park and makes the perfect base for an Indian wildlife experience.

Aman-i-Khas Luxury Travel Tents

Aman-i-Khas Luxury Tents

WHEN TO GO

 

India’s climate can be broadly summed up into three seasons: winter, summer and monsoon. October to March is best for north India with comfortable daytime temperatures and cool evenings. The south enjoys warm temperatures year-round. The monsoon lasts broadly from June to October with regional variations. April and May can be unbearably hot in north India and this is the season to escape to a hill station.

 

 

GETTING THERE

 

India offers an e-visa service for tourists. You can apply online here. Make sure your passport has a minimum of six months’ validity from the date of arrival in India.

 

Delhi and Chennai are important hubs for international flights into north and south India respectively, along with Mumbai and Kolkata for the east and west. Many domestic flights connect through these cities for access to the regions.

 

LOCAL TRAVEL

 

India has a sprawling rail network and a train journey is for many an essential component of a trip to India. Journeys are long and the ticketing system somewhat complex so it’s a good idea to hone in on a particular train ride. The toy train up to Shimla is a classic train journey and the Maharajah’s Express offers a luxury travel experience.

 

A countrywide itinerary will warrant at least a couple of domestic flights to travel between regions and there are regular flights operating between cities.

 

For touring, ask your travel agent to arrange a private guide and chauffeur car with a reputable local company.

 

TRAVEL TIPS

 

Check with your doctor well in advance of your trip for any necessary vaccinations. Keep hydrated when travelling and consume only bottled water. Make sure the seal is not broken.

 

Locals are incredibly friendly and often willing to help travellers navigate their way around (often in exchange for a small fee!). Use common sense and especially in big cities solo female travellers should avoid travelling on their own.

 

Pack loose, comfortable cotton or linen clothing and practical shoes. For visiting temples, both men and women should cover their shoulders and limbs, so it helps to have a shawl handy. Winter evenings in hill stations and the northern plains can be chilly, so pack some layers.

 

Tipping is common in India and it helps to have plenty of small notes to tip porters, drivers and guides.