Tigers, Taj and tuk tuks… in India
My wife and I had always wanted to visit India to see tigers, the Taj Mahal and tuk tuks. When we arrived, we weren’t disappointed; India is every bit as amazing as you’d expect it to be, and much more. People describe it as an assault on the senses, but that only begins to tell the story.
At Ranthambore we had close up views of stunning tigers. In Agra we discovered for ourselves why the Taj Mahal is a world heritage site: surreal and ethereal in the early morning mist, glinting like a million jewels as the sun broke through. Finally, we had a jolly ride in a tiny but beautifully decorated tuk tuk in Kochi. We were living the dream!
We started our adventure in Jaipur, a bustling north Indian city. Cox & Kings booked us into one of the most beautiful, atmospheric and comfortable hotels in India: Shahpura House. With internal courtyards, balconies and elegant decor, Shahpura is a feast for the eyes. Providing an excellent base, we explored the city, visiting the beautiful Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), the Jal Mahal palace and the spectacular Amber Fort that dominates the hills above Amer.
Leaving Jaipur, we spent a few days enjoying the delights of Ranthambore and Agra before heading to Delhi. We’d been told to avoid Delhi: “bad air”, “not much to see” and “too crowded”. However, we were glad we went. The air was clear after the January rain and the city’s three world heritage sites left us completely stunned. Everywhere we went, all we saw were happy, smiling faces. The caravanserai – roadside inns used in the past by travellers – mosques, tombs and monuments at Qutb Minar are particularly grand. Nothing prepares you for the world’s tallest brick minaret. The first glimpse of this incredible structure takes your breath away.
From Delhi we flew to Madurai. The Meenakshi Temple was an unforgettable riot of colour and carving; a monumental and architectural masterpiece. In Madurai, we stayed at the charming Gateway Hotel, perched above the city on Pasumalai Hill. Originally the colonial home of a textiles magnate, it was as plush and luxurious as the original owner would have demanded.
From Madurai we headed up into the Western Ghats. First the Palani Hills above Dindigul, then the high Ghats around Munnar. In the Palani Hills we stayed at the hilltop Rajakkad Estate. It is a fine example of royal Keralan architecture, relocated to Tamil Nadu. Picturesque Rajakkad is a serene escape from modern life, with no television, swimming pool or mod cons. We strolled through the hotel’s beautiful surroundings, enjoyed the delicious home-cooked food and relaxed in the lush gardens. Rajakkad is a place to completely chill out – at least until a giant squirrel comes crashing through the trees to wake you from your reverie!
With colonial-styled bungalows, the Windermere Estate above Munnar is completely different to Rajakkad. It’s just as interesting though and a perfect base for exploring the surrounding mountains and tea estates. Leaving the Ghats behind, we travelled to the south-west coast to enjoy the delights of Alleppey and Kochi. The Marari Beach Resort near Alleppey proved to be another fantastic place to stay, with splendid villas and an abundance of fascinating wildlife. On a tranquil journey around the backwaters of Alleppey on a traditional shikara – a light boat – we saw wildlife and the traditional way of life for those that lived on the backwaters.
We finished our Indian adventure in Kochi, at the Fragrant Nature Resort. At the heart of the old city, this fascinating building was originally the headquarters of the East India Company in Kerala. It’s one of the many historic buildings in Kochi that are well worth a visit. Around the corner is the beautiful Mattancherry Palace, which features some of Kerala's finest paintings, the 16th-century synagogue in Jew Town, as well as the St Francis Cathedral – the first European church in India and the original burial place of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama. Paying homage to him at the spot where he ended his travels seemed appropriate at the end of our own incredible journey around this beautiful, intriguing and amazing country.
Amber FortCox & Kings arranges escorted group tours and tailor-made private travel throughout India. To visit many of the stunning sights described in this article, options include our Golden Triangle & Ranthambore group tour, or the Treasures of Southern India. Alternatively, find out more about all our holidays to India here. Share:
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