Marcel Proust said that “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes” and never more poignant words have been said when you entrust yourself to discover a place that is chaotic, infuriating, enriching, outrageous, exhilarating, fabulous and fantastic! As we found out India is all of these things and more, offering the ideal destination for discovery, no matter what time of year.
India is huge and so, not surprisingly, a land of contrasts. From the mountains of the Himalayas out to the pristine beaches that line the Indian Ocean, India offers a diversity that is virtually unparalleled, Travel across the great Indo-gangetic plain and through the jungle of Satpura and throughout this journey you will discover culture, wildlife, architecture, wellbeing, religion or an intoxicating mix of all.
India is renowned for its rich history of cultures with forts and fortifications everywhere, testament to the centuries of battles and marauding forces. Many of these are still in fabulous condition, whilst others gently crumbling. Old Delhi has the most visited with the magnificent Red Fort, not surprisingly. From here, we took the express train out to Agra to visit the stunning Taj Mahal described by Kipling as the “embodiment of all things pure”, and which certainly lives up to the reputation that surrounds it, assuming you can cope with the crowds.
We then took the classic route and escaped the tourists of Agra and dived deep into kingly Rajasthan that boasts innumerable superb defensive masterpieces. Our personal favourite is Jaisalmer, perched proudly on a hill and still occupied. Close to the Thar Desert you could take a run on camel back towards Afghanistan and seep beneath a billions stars, but the day we tried a huge thunder storm came over and we had to retreat! Another stunning fort is at Jodphur where you can see the delicate handprints of royal women embedded in the wall before they committed a ritual mass suicide, or Jauhar, in which the royal ladies throw themselves onto a fire rather than fall into the hands of an invading army.
India has a rich biodiversity, home to some of the world’s most iconic animals: Elephant, monkeys, antelopes, tiger, snow leopard and rhinos. If you are prepared to camp out for weeks you may be lucky enough to spot a snow leopard in the wild, but there are easier ways to experience the magnificent tiger by visiting some important tiger sanctuaries, notably Ranthambore in Rajasthan, or Bandhavgarh in the state of Madhya Pradesh (central north). Why not add a sanctuary to your own luxury trip to India. The whole experience of spotting a tiger is a journey in itself, exploring a forest wildlife reserve whilst sitting on top of an elephant, surrounded by butterflies and songbirds.
Without doubt, one of our greatest joys was to enjoy India’s unparalleled cuisine. The food is a wonderful melting pot of spices, vegetables, fish and meats all recreated into regional specialities, from grills and kebabs in the north to the fiery curries of the south. Despite the risk of ‘Delhi Belly’ which will get every traveller, no matter how seasoned, the cuisine caters for every taste from the classic to the adventurous, from the carnivore to the vegetarian and should be experienced.
Finally one of the greatest treats of travel is to discover something quite different from anything you know, expounding the fact that travel is a way to improve your knowledge but also in this case, your state of mind. India is steeped in ancient Ayurvedic medicine, that simply translates as the ‘knowledge of life’. Designed to strengthen and heal the mind and body, these ancient practices have transcended thousands of years. Having spent time in an Ayuvedic retreat in Nepal allow us to introduce you to experiences that will positively impact on your life, beyond your return home.