India – A Trip Of A Life Time
A Luxury Adventure in India with Kids!
18 Day Itinerary
It was a trip of a lifetime… and one I am ready to repeat tomorrow. My family and I traveled to India for the first time and it was incredible. What we experienced, the smells, the colors, the people, the religion and the culture was all overwhelming but in the best of ways. We prepared for the trip ahead of time. We made sure we had our vaccines, a top notch medical kit including antibiotics in case of malaria and lots of disinfectants. We read travel guides and planned the route in absolute detail before we left. It needed to be organised because we travelled with our kids ages 11 and 15. I didn’t want to take a chance but still wanted it to be adventures. And it was!
We flew with Swiss Airlines to Delhi to our delight we all got upgraded to Business! What a way to start our journey – we were 4 very happy campers! Thank you Swiss!!
Day 1&2 DELHI
Upon arrival in Delhi approx 2am our driver was there to pick us up and bring us to our hotel. The Taj Mahal. A luxurious and traditional hotel located in the embassy district of Delhi. We stayed there for two nights sightseeing and eating our very first butter chicken but certainly not the last. ( Basically all my kids ate during the 18 days.)
Our first sightseeing day took us to Jama Masjid one of the most imposing and important Mosques in India. Built in 1656 by a Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It was built at the time for 1 million rupees which converts to approx. $15’000 today.
We then continued to Human’s Tomb built for the Mughal Emperor Human. The tomb was commissioned by human’s son Akbar in 1569.
A quick Rickshaw ride through Old Delhi was probably the activity which was the most fun for the kids ( and us). Small streets lined with shops, food stands, everything imaginable whilst motorcycles, Rickshaws, people, cows all try to manoeuvre the narrow streets all at the same time.. It’s fascinating how in the midst of chaos nothing ever seems to happen.
We then went to the Qutb complex, which is an array of monuments and buildings at Mehrauli. The best known structure in the complex is the Qutb Minar, built to honor the Sufi saint Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. The Qutb Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world, inspired by a minaret in Afghanistan. It is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Day 3 & 4 VARANASI
We flew to Varanasi. A place I have been wanting to see for as long as I can remember. No trip to India in my mind would be complete without visiting the Holy city and the Gages River. They say Varanasi or Banaras is the heart of India. Once you experience it you will understand India a little better than before. It is said that Varanasi is the most blindingly colourful, unrelentingly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet place on earth. Varanasi takes no prisoners. But if you are ready it may just be your favourite place you’ve visited. I believe it is!! Faith and Respect prevails in the ceremonies, the cremations and their rituals. Couples come to Varanasi to strengthen their Karma, family members come to cremate their loved ones, others come for pilgrimage – to have bathed in the holy waters of the Ganga at least once in their life.
I think we had the best hotel in Varanasi we stayed at the beautiful Heritage Jukaso Ganges located directly at one of the many Ghats only a few hundred meters from the famous Dasaswamedh Ghat. Dasaswamedh Ghat is one of the oldest and holiest Varanasi ghats, it’s where the famous Gangaaarti takes place ever evening.
We took an evening train to Agra. Ok this was an experience – we had booked a first class sleeper compartment for the four of us but because the train we booked was delayed by 5 hours we decided to take an earlier one. Not first class but second! This really doesn’t matter, I tried to explain to my son, second is still good since India has about five different classes. Second is still very good for tourists!! So you might of read all the things you might want to be careful of when on an overnight train in India. For example don’t buy food from vendors because they COULD be manipulated with drugs so passengers pass out and the thieves could rob you…. etc. etc.
We took along food and drink and got comfortable in our double bunk bed sleeper and drew the curtains. The beds were basic but they did have relatively clean sheets you could lay over the plastic mattresses. But I am not sure how clean they were. Anyway, we all played on our beds in our clothes and tried to fall asleep. When at about 3am a man came into our sleeper and woke my daughter to say he had his tea cups under her pillow. Now we know there were no tea cups there when we arrived. It was the middle of the night and I was fast asleep. When I finally woke still pretty much half asleep and I asked what was going on he left. I didn’t really see him and my daughter said everything was ok so we all went back to sleep. Never the less this was really strange!!!! So do be careful in overnight trains.
Day 5 AGRA
Arrival in Agra. The only thing to see in Agra is the Taj Mahal. Nothing else! But WOW, the Taj Mahal is sooo worth it! I have seen it twice and it takes my breath away every time. Agra was a little out of our way, but I wanted my kids to see it – It is one of the seven new world wonders – not to be missed! I wouldn’t suggest staying over night in Agra if you don’t have to. There is nothing else to see or do there except the Taj Mahal and t’s Fort.
Day 6 RANTHAMBHORE
On our way to Ranthambhore approx. a 4.5 hour drive from Agra. We stayed two nights at the Khem Villas a fantastic resort ( vegetarian) with beautiful tented accommodations with Spa, restaurant and a campfire every evening to discuss tiger and other animal sightings with other guests.
Day 7 RANTHAMBHORE
Wake up call at the Khem villas at 05:15 with coffee and tea brought to our tents. The kids were up in record time -actually even before the tea arrived and that is saying something. We all couldn’t wait for the Tiger Safari to begin. Our private Jeep picked us up at 06:00 after a quick breakfast and we headed into the still dark morning just as the sun was about to rise. Just fantastic! The national park is divided into different sections so that not everyone is in the same area. The park spans 392 square Km. Each area is unique. There is a large variety of animals that can be spotted here such as Leopards, striped Hyenas, Sambar deer, Chital, Jungle cats, sloth bears, Porcupines, Monkeys, wild Boars among many others but everyone wants to see the Diurnal Tigers. So I brief my kids and told them not to be disappointed if they don’t see a tiger. Many guests at the hotel had not seen one yet and I wanted them to be prepared. Did we see one? Find out here….
Day 8 JAIPUR
It wasn’t planned but before we headed off to Jaipur we wanted to get one more Safari in. We just couldn’t resist!
After lunch we drove to Jaipur approx. a 4 hour drive to visit the Pink City. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan is a labyrinth of fascinating bazaars and historic sights. It is often called the pink city because it’s buildings are washing in a pinkish colour. We stayed at the Trident run by the Oberoi Group. The hotel was ok but it lacked atmosphere and I wouldn’t stay there again.
Day 9 JAIPUR
In the morning we climbed the Amber Fort by Elephant through a sloping cobbled incline to Jaleb Chowk, the main court yard of the fort. It was a fun experience seeing 120 elephants coming and going up the fort. The fort itself was quite interesting. I would definitely suggest grabbing a guide so they can explain the many many faceted of the palace and fort which began construction in 1592 and carried on over a period of 125 years.
In the afternoon we explored the old walled area of Jaipur beginning with the City Palace, the Jantar Mantar observatory and the Hawa Mahal ( Palace of Winds) This is probably the most famous building in Jaipur – the one you see on all the postcards. It has close to 1000 windows so the women of the courts could discreetly take some air and watch the activity on the streets below. Later in the early evening we walk along the market lined streets and visited the colourful bazaars. AND I must say, I found the most fabulous boutique ( tucked away) to buy silk Kaftans and bed linens. Yay!!
Day 10 JODHPUR
Heading to Jodhpur approx. a 6 hour drive. We stayed at the beautiful Heritage Ajit Bhawan hotel. Formerly the palace of the Maharaja of Jodhpur’s younger brother. The Ajit Bhawan was one of the first concept heritage hotels. The cottages and tents are set in gardens around the main building. The hotel is managed by descendents of the royal family. You can find my review here.
Day 11 JODHPUR/DESCHU
Jodhpur is the second largest city in Rajasthan and it is known as the Blue City because of the azure painted houses of the old city. We began by visiting the fabulous Mehrangarh Fort. Not to be missed if in Jodhpur! This fort was built in 1459. Inside the rugged fort, we found delicate latticed windows and pierced sandstone screens. The palace museum has breathtaking rooms filled with lavish royal elephant carriages, thrones, paintings, cribs and so much more. Grab a guide there is so much to see here. Once we had taken in as much as we could, we walked down the fort into the old town of Jodhpur to the many shops and bazaars.
After lunch we left Jodhpur and continued to nearby Deschu approx. a 2 hour drive and check in at the over the top fantastic Samsara Desert Resort. Where we were greeted by the manager and lucky us – once again got upgraded to their luxury Tents. After lunch we took a jeep ride out onto the dunes, visited a local village and family for a small insight as to how they live. Just before sunset we experienced a sensational camel ride that brought us on top of a dune only to be greeted with tea and biscuits with pillows and tables ( brought up – just for us) to view the spectacular sunset. You can not imagine how beautiful this was… though the camel ride was an experience not to be forgotten.
In the evening the whole resort was lit up with lanterns to show us the way to a platform where we were greeted by traditional Rajasthan folk dancers who danced and made music for us while we enjoyed our Apéro . We were then brought to a table upon the sand dune for our special Maharaja dinner. It was out of this world!
Find out more about the Dessert camp here
The next day ( and we really should have stayed two nights here!) we had a delicious breakfast and drove back to Jodhpur to board a plane to Goa.
We checked in at the Taj Holiday Village in Goa a Portuguese-Goan style terracotta roofed cottage resort.
Day 13 & 14 & 15 GOA
Relaxing by the pool, diving into the Ocean, reading, kids got out there iPads and iPhones and visits to local restaurants and Bazars. Basically just hanging, which was a good thing:)
Day 16 MUMBAI
Flight to Mumbai and checked in at the cool Taj Land’s End Hotel. Very modern, luxurious around cool laid back vibe.
Day 17 MUMBAI
Lots to do in Mumbai. Population approx. 16 Million over looking the Arabian Sea famous for it’s style and glittering Bollywood film Industry and the extremes of wealth and poverty.
We began our day visiting the Gateway of India. Mumbai’s most famous landmark. The Gateway of India was the first sight to greet travellers to Indian shores during the heyday of the British Raj. From the Gateway we boarded a ferry which brought us to Elephanta Island to explore the 6th century Elephanta cave Temples. Chiselled into a rocky cliff and dedicated to Shiva the caves contain some great masterpieces of indian sculpture. It’s a long ferry ride to Elephanta Island and it can be hot. Not sure if I would do this again.
We then continued to visit Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus one of the worlds most spectacular railway stations, Chor Bazaar, Crawford Market and to Mani Bhavan which was Gandhi’s home while in Mumbai. He gave many of his speeches looking down onto the crowds from his balcony. It is now a museum and very much worth a look.
Day 18 MUMBAI /ZURICH
Sadly we said goodbye to India for now…. and headed back to Zurich with memories that will last a lifetime! Thank you India!