India has long captured the imagination of Western travelers with its 4000-year-old history, impressive forts, opulent palaces that bear testimony to the Mughal Empire, the juxtaposition of Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist faiths, centuries-old temples and tombs. Not to mention it's exquisite crafts, fiery cuisine, and a dizzying array of languages, cultures, and beliefs.
It has been described as chaotic and frenetic but equally as a place of great spirituality, tranquility and sublime beauty. Here the past collides with the present: cutting-edge advances in IT and medicine and trendy urban sophistication, contrast with arranged marriages, rickshaws, and saris of every color of the rainbow – all of which are alive and well today. Yoga, curries and Bollywood films have infiltrated our western culture, and while many of us dream of visiting India, few of us actually do given how intimidating it may seem.
Allow Frontiers to extend our expertise to your journey to this diverse but fascinating country. But be forewarned: our passion for India is contagious! Whether it's your first or fifteenth trip to India – and believe us, it takes at least fifteen trips to begin to scratch beneath the surface and really see it. We have an abundance of fresh ideas and a reliable network within the country to carry out flawless travel arrangements in the company of highly educated and personable guides.
Most travelers will be drawn to northern India, which serves as an outstanding introduction to some of the country's most famous sights. We like to start in Varanasi, the spiritual capital of the Hindu world located on the sacred Ganges river. The intricately carved temples at Khajuraho and the majestic Taj Mahal at Agra feature in most of our itineraries. Moving on to the imperial cities of Rajasthan, the pink city of Jaipur, the romantic lakes and palaces of Udaipur, and the periwinkle-blue city of Jodhpur are all special places and well worth exploring.
The options for accommodations in India run the gamut from some of the most luxurious resort properties in the entire world such as the Oberoi "vilas" properties and Taj "Palace" properties to quaint heritage options, deluxe tented establishments, restored family mansions, sleek urban sanctuaries, and charming B&B-style boutique hotels. Ideally, a taste of each is an excellent way to experience the many flavors of Indian hospitality, and we can help you select the options that best suit your individual tastes, preferences and budget.
If you're looking to explore India in greater depth or get off the beaten path, we have plenty of ideas here also. Venture north to the Sikh capital of Armitsar and see the famous Golden Temple; trek in the foothills of the Himalayas; visit the tea plantations of Darjeeling and the monasteries of Sikkim. There are totally unspoiled tribal areas in the center of the country and some fabulous textiles in the Gujarat, an area hardly visited by tourists.
Kolkata, or Calcutta as it used to be known, is certainly considered one of the world's great cities. It evolved from an obscure river village into the capital of Great Britain's Indian Empire and today is the capital of West Bengal. Its language, cuisine, and sights are very distinctive. This contrasts nicely with the tropical state of Orissa, the least densely populated region in India; visit its capital city, Bhubaneshwar, noted for superb Hindu temples. The best known is Konark, (the Sun Temple and one of India's great architectural marvels). Hyderabad was once India's biggest and richest princely state. Today it is one of India's leading IT capitals but still has a distinct Muslim influence.
We feel that South India is a compelling "second" trip to India. It is a little more sublime but a wonderful contrast to what one sees in the north. Moving southward, the coastal city of Cochin is famous for its spice and seafood trade as well as a unique Dutch heritage. Cruise through the backwaters of Kerala, perhaps enjoy a few days at an Ayurvedic spa, and then move on up into the highlands where rubber and tea plantations abound at the higher elevations. Cross into the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu and visit Madurai and its celebrated Minakshi Temple with its colorful painted exterior, typical of this region. Chennai, formerly known as Madras and again a city that was largely shaped during the British rule, houses some incredible temples and a coastal setting.
It is no coincidence that Rudyard Kipling was inspired to write The Jungle Book while traveling in India and, for the wildlife enthusiast, there is much to explore. There is a variety of birds and small antelope species but, of course, the main draw is the opportunity to see the Bengal tiger in the wild. Although the tiger's existence was threatened at the time of the Raj due to over-hunting, India has done an excellent job bringing pack the tiger population and protecting them in national park preserves. Recently some outstanding lodges have opened up in some of the country's top parks like Pench, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, and Ranthambhore so one can combine deluxe living with a top outdoors experience.
Photos courtesy of: Aman (Amanbagh, Aman-I-Khas), and Mountbatten Lodge
|These are just a few ideas to whet your appetite but do allow us to introduce you to "Incredible India," the Frontiers way! Contact Mollie Fitzgerald to discuss your trip today. Mollie serves on the Advisory Boards of Abercrombie & Kent, Belmond and Lindblad Expeditions. She has been identified by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the "128 Top Travel Specialists" in their annual August issue (since the inception of the list ten years ago) and part of Travel + Leisure's Super Agent A-List with specialties in Active Travel.|