India, Incredible India, land of contrasts. Exquisite beauty, grinding poverty, fabulous wealth, pomp and ceremony, magnificent palaces, colorful saris, gray dusty landscapes, charm and politesse, patience, acceptance, corruption, and cruelty are all juxtaposed at any one moment. Add a heady mix of incense, flowers, chants, sitars, drums and car horns. Not insistent, not saying “get out of my way” but rather, “toot toot, I’m behind you, passing on left.”
How does one describe a country that stretches from the 28,000-foot high snowcapped Himalayan Mountains in the north that shelter the elusive snow leopard, to the sun kissed beaches and wafting palm trees on the Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal in the south? On the edge of the great desert of Rajasthan, one finds the magical cities of Jaipur, Jodpur, Udaipur and Agra, renowned for the incredible palaces of their Maharajas and for magnificent forts and temples such as the Taj Mahal and the Amber Fort. On the banks of the sacred Ganges, the city of Varanasi quite simply defies description -- the epicenter of spirituality where death, rebirth, belief, and mundane life all meet. Jungles teeming with exotic birds, tigers, elephants, and even rhino, are bordered by sleepy villages where little has changed in the past 100 years. Festivals erupt on an almost daily basis with colorful, flower-drenched processions led by exquisitely decorated elephants and cows. This is the land of Bollywood where people really do burst forth in song and dance. It is a highly spiritual country, home to Sikhs, Jains, Jews, Christians, Moslems and Buddhists. Every state, every city and every town is vastly different from its neighbor.Yet they all share a respect for life and family. You will find stunning natural beauty, peaceful villages, teeming cities, magnificent temples, extraordinary birds and wildlife. To experience India is to be deeply touched in one’s innermost being.
47 tiger reserves - 30 languages spoken - Birthplace of Ayurveda
Though the Golden Triangle is considered a must-see, we much prefer the quieter life of southern India or the far north. Floating on your private boat among the rice fields in the backwater of Kerala, home of Ayurveda, is our idea of heaven. There is much to see and appreciate along the way, including the church of a congregation founded by Thomas the Apostle in the year CE 92. Gujarat is noted for its amazing crafts and delightful villages as is the northern state of Punjab, home to the Seikh Golden Temple at Amritsar. But being safari aficionados, pride of place has to go to the game parks, of which there are many. The experience is not as wild as parks in East Africa or Botswana, but the scenery is outstanding, the wildlife plentiful, and the camps we recommend are true “wow” experiences. Seeing a tiger from the back of an elephant is amazing. Passing along roads brimming with color adds a whole new dimension. For those who revel in intense sensation and challenge, Veranasi should not be missed.
Travelers who love to immerse themselves in other cultures will be incredibly stimulated in India. You cannot stay on the edge of India or look at it from a distance. At some point your eyes will burn from the intensity of chili in the air, your ears will be filled with the music and the constant hooting of horns, and your brain will reel trying to establish order within the chaos. India truly has some of the most original and beautiful hotels in the world where you will be lavished with attention and care and surrounded by exquisite beauty. But beauty is not only found in luxury hotels. Even the poorest peasant is draped in gorgeous saris. Doors are painted, cows are decorated, and trucks are painstakingly covered in intricate designs. The mountain ranges are breathtaking, as are the massive expanses of rice paddies, endless white beaches fringed with palm trees and the well-tended tea and coffee plantations in the highlands. There are 47 tiger reserves in India and several have excellent lodging and good infrastructure for visitors. There are knowledgeable and dedicated guides and wardens. And best of all, most people speak English and love to engage with visitors. You are welcomed in temples and mosques, homes and shops. It is paradise for the curious.
Many people dislike India for all the reasons that others love it. For some the dirt, the traffic, and the immersion in such a different culture is just not their idea of vacation. And if you don’t like spicy food, you will be hungry.
For most of India, the best time is from October thru May, with the ideal time for wildlife-viewing being February and March. India has an extraordinary variety of climatic regions, ranging from tropical in the south to temperate and alpine in the Himalayan north. In December and January, temperatures average around 50–59°F in the area around Delhi. Temperatures rise as one proceeds towards the equator, peaking around 68–77°F in mainland India's southeast. December and January can have freezing temperatures at night in Rajastan and at the higher elevations in the north, though most of the northern states experience cool and dry winters as they are sheltered by the Himalayas.
Avoid the summer months, June thru September. It is hot and dry or hot and rainy. Only the highlands are pleasant during these months.
Accommodation in India is definitely less than in Africa, but to take advantage of the fabulous hotels and camps that we consider part of the experience, you should plan on $5000 to $10,000 per person for two weeks. We highly recommend that you take advantage of our connections to some of India’s best guides and have a private guide.
You can see monuments and wildlife from the back of an elephant; ride a camel into the desert; and take a train bearing names such as Royal Rajasthan, Palace on Wheels, or the opulent Maharaja’s Express. The palm tree-lined back waters of Kerala are best experienced on an overnight journey on a picturesque private boat. Walk through colorful bazaars, busy cities, and small villages. Wherever you go, you will be well received. Most people in India speak English and are happy to communicate with you. In the game parks (Kanha, Pench, Kazaringa, and Bandavgarh are our favorites) you will be in open sided 4X4 vehicles, very similar to those in Africa.
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