Even as a child, India struck me as a fascinating and intriguing place; since adulthood, it has been high on my bucket list of places to visit.
As recent empty nesters, my husband and I planned our first big trip – to India and the Maldives. With India being such a large country, we decided to focus on the Golden Triangle area in the north. This trip is ideal for first time visitors who want to see the Taj Mahal and the interesting historic cities in the north such as Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur etc. We had 11 nights as follows: 2 nights in Delhi; 2 nights in Agra (where Taj Mahal is located); 3 nights in rural Rajasthan (1 ½ hrs from Jaipur), 2 nights in Udaipur and lastly, 2 nights in Mumbai, where we really only had 1 full day to tour around, before a very early flight to Male.
India is truly an awakening experience and it is fascinating and extremely diverse. We loved all it and now have a better understanding of what India is all about. It was one of our best holidays both culturally and recreationally. Some of the many trip highlights include our rickshaw ride through Old Delhi and visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra, which is a terribly dirty city but a necessary stop for the Taj! Our most wonderful experience was in rural Rajasthan where we met villagers in a setting you would expect to see in National Geographic magazines. Udaipur, the Venice of India, is situated in the Aravelli Hills amongst beautiful lakes. The luxury hotels here are situated on Lake Pichola where boats ferry you across to the city of Udaipur, where the main sights are the City Palace and gardens where the royalty still live. Lastly, I loved my brief time in the vibrant, forever bustling city along the Arabian Sea, Mumbai, formerly called Bombay.
We arrived in Delhi in the early am, and were pickup up by a chauffeur in an Audi Q7, and taken to The Lodhi. From this moment on, we were treated like royalty! The Lodhi is located in the residential area where the foreign embassies are located. It is of contemporary Indian architecture with a façade like no other in Delhi: modern cubic structure and clean lines. The interior is very minimalist and immense with polished floors and a vast array of artwork along it’s walls.
Upon arrival we were escorted immediately to our room (Premier Lodhi room) where we were checked in by the most hospitable host, who explained everything about the room, the hotel, gave assistance with tours, restaurants and for my husband, even arranged a tailor to come that afternoon!
The hotel has 9 floors, but only has 32 rooms and 8 suites. The Lodhi, Deluxe & Premier rooms are spacious at 1350 sf, each stylishly appointed with a balcony and large plunge pool. The suites are almost double the size and a great option for families.
We were impressed with every aspect of the hotel from our amazing room to the beautiful building and grounds, with lovely facilities such as the spa, lounge, and other spaces, incredible art work, wonderful restaurants and most of all attentive personalized service from the entire staff.
The hotel has a policy not to tip individuals but rather place money in an envelope and leave it at the hostess desk at the end of the stay to be shared by all employees. We thought this was a great idea and eliminated the who and what do I tip each person, and gave all employees something.
A not to miss tour while in India is the rickshaw tour of Old Delhi. It’s an eye opening assault to your senses and an awakening to the way of life for most Indians.
Agra and the Taj Mahal
Our next stop was Agra to see the Taj Mahal. This is an obvious destination on a first trip to India and well worth it. After a sunrise or sunset tour of the Taj Mahal, and a look at the incredible Amber Fort, there is no other reason to linger there. The only luxury hotel in Agra is the Oberoi Amarvillas, from which every room looks out on the Taj Mahal! You enter the Amarvillas through a courtyard filled with a matrix of water filled pools and small fountains. As soon as you enter the lobby you are looking through floor to ceiling windows at the Taj. Our Deluxe Suite was delightful – a generous sitting room with its own full bathroom, and the bedroom with a large master bath with the finest appointments. We entered the suite and were treated to large windows in both the sitting room and bedroom looking directly on the Taj. Dinner choices at the hotel include the lovely gourmet Indian restaurant, where we were entertained by live music. For breakfast, the main restaurant (also overlooking the Taj) had an extensive a la carte menu, and also provided a buffet offering an endless variety of international choices not forgetting omelets made to order.
Rural Rajasthan and Amanbagh
The highlight of our trip to India, hands down, was our visit to Amanbagh, a gorgeous resort located far from the crowded cities in the lovely Ajabgar Valley along the Aravali Mountain range. This resort, about 90 minutes outside Jaipur, focuses on immersion in local culture while also offering the highest level of resort luxury. We loved going out on one of the resort’s safari vehicles down rural dirt roads to visit small villages and meet the locals. We met a family weaving a rug outside their tiny but comfortable house. We trekked past a mountain lake to a pastoral valley where we met goatherders, farmers and woodsmen. Then on to town where a local villager invited us to tea which we enjoyed while surrounded by dozens of delighted schoolchildren pausing to meet us on their way to school in their brilliant blue shirts/blouses. We attended an offering ceremony at the local Hindu temple, and also visited one of the 10 top archeological sites in India, Bangharah, which we had virtually to ourselves because it is off the beaten path.
All this and many more immersive day trip adventures, too numerous to recount are offered by Amanbagh. At the end of the day we returned to a beautiful resort for relaxation and a gourmet dinner. We were in a Terrace Haveli, which was enormous, with a private enclosed patio. Open the door and you walk into a magnificent chamber about 50 feet long and 20 feet wide, with ceilings at least 15 feet high, marble floors and pillars. The room includes a sitting area with a huge pillowed divan and coffee table, a balcony overlooking the wooded area surrounding the resort, and beyond two marble pillars (with a desk and chair between them) is the majestic king sized bed and night stands. Off this main room there is a large bag storage room and then most impressive bathing area we have encountered.
Dining at the hotel is a delight. The food was exquisite and we dined outdoors entertained by excellent sitar and tabla ragas. The delightful head chef chatted with us from time to time while we dined and on our last day he gave us a private cooking class in a structure modeled on local villager houses. After the instructions we got to savor the results dining alfresco.
The service we received was unparalleled. And this went beyond being professional and attentive; throughout our stay we could not have had more warm and engaging conversations than we had with the staff we encountered, top to bottom.
We arrived at the Virtuoso property, Oberoi Udaivillas, in the evening just after dark, taking a charming boat ride across Lake Pichola ringed with the tastefully lit City Palace, the floating Taj Lake Palace, other hotels and villas. Arriving after dark at Udaivillas was magical, greeted with onion domes silhouetted in the starlit night, entering through a large courtyard around a large reflecting pool with the evening lights hinting at the magnificence that you will find the next day. The hotel consists of many beautiful wings around fountains, cascading water, pools, courtyards, and all surrounded by lush park-like grounds populated with peacocks. Our Premier Room was spacious with a dressing area, large marble bathroom, a sitting area with sofa, easy chair and table, and a window bay with a cushion seat overlooking the courtyard. The room opened out to a patio ringed by a low wall and a gate opening onto the grassy tree-lined courtyard with a sleek black marble swimming pool running down its center, the lounge chairs and umbrellas just a few dozen steps from our patio. The appointments throughout the hotel were a continual joy to encounter such as a sweeping curved staircase , a giant chandelier lit with hundreds of candles, statuary, art and artifacts on display at every turn. Evening outdoor dining combines luxe surroundings, an enchanting lake view, live music and dance, and outstanding cuisine.
We were just 2 nights in Mumbai with 1 full day to tour, so hotel location was paramount. We choose the majestic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, located on the waterfront overlooking the Gateway of India and Arabian Sea. Built as a grand luxury hotel in 1903 by a local Bombay Indian businessman as a place where “non-whites” could come and enjoy a world class luxury hotel from which they were banned from enjoying otherwise. The hotel is rich in history and has a location you can’t beat.
The hotels consists of two buildings, The Taj Mahal Palace and the Tower, built at different times and in different architectural designs. Our Deluxe Sea View room was located in the old Palace wing and was charming. It’s a large hotel, with 560 rooms including 44 suites offering the perfect blend of rich history and modern convenience.
Mumbai was a trip! Very different from Delhi and still very British. I would definitely suggest a private city tour with guide and driver. Our tour guide was extremely educated and passionate about her people. There is so many interesting daily life occurrences that speak to your heart and soul.
How can Ourisman Travel assist
With so many fascinating cultural and historical regions, a trip to India requires careful planning and lots of it. You can’t see all of India in one trip (unless of course you are there for months!), so it’s best to narrow down by region, such as we covered in the north. There are many wonderful Virtuoso hotels and tour operators all over India. We can help you prioritize the areas you want to visit and assist you with planning the day-to-day itinerary as well as offer the best value options for hotels and amenities.
If a trip to India is on your bucket list, contact Ourisman Travel and we can help you plan your trip of a lifetime!