Raju Singh helps plan all our trips to India. Our Uncharted India expedition is for those who may have passed through this marvelous land before and stopped at major sights like the Taj Mahal but have always wanted to return for a closer look.
Here, Raju tells us why this journey is so special.
What makes this year's Uncharted India stand out?
This trip is not about regular tourist hangouts nor is it off-the-beaten track. It is an India that many read about yet one that has never been strung together as a journey.
It features legendary empires and breathtaking vistas, praised over centuries by Sufi and Hindu bards and the British, each with an impressive history, distinct identity, culture and religion. It’s an encounter of striking geographical diversity that is a mix of various ethnic groups, cuisines, art and festivals.
Can you tell us a little about some of the stops, what you might be doing there and some impressions of each?
This journey really begins in the Himalayas. The Himalayas always inspire me. Guests will have the best vantage point to witness morning and evening rituals along the Ganges during their stay at the Ananda Spa, perched just above Rishikesh. Oprah Winfrey recently visited the spa, her second time there, this February and wrote about it on her blog.
Ladakh is wonderfully paced. Out here we refer to Ladakh as a Tibet before the Chinese, which it is in every sense. For me, receiving Buddhist astrology from a Ladakhi oracle, little-known to the outside world, is memorable, as is witnessing a high-altitude polo match in its historic rough and rugged form.
Jaisalmer is like a mirage at the very end of the world. It rises out of the great Thar Desert. The luxurious camp resort guests will stay in epitomizes Jaisalmer’s romance: sundowners on the dunes, Rabari herdsmen, camel safaris, desert banquets, gypsy dancers and a symphony of Manganiyars, the wandering desert minstrels.
Ranthambore National Park is India’s top game reserve, with the entire forest dominated by the Ranthambore Fort. Formerly the private game reserve of the Jaipur royal family, Ranthambore is continually nominated among the finest wildlife destinations in the world.
Hampi is perhaps more magnetic than the Taj Mahal, in part because it is so difficult to get to with little or no travel connections. Volcanic eruptions have shaped it into formations and ruins that have their own forlorn aura. Sunsets here are a truly picture-perfect moment.
If you could offer any piece of shopping or dining advice to travelers what would it be?
Good Indian cuisine is about flavors rather than chili spice. Many visitors don’t realize that. On this particular trip, guests will taste a wide variety of regional cuisines. Be open-minded and don’t brace for spicy heat. It’s more nuanced than that.
Delhi is an all-encompassing shopping opportunity. Ladakh should be good for Tibetan-style jewelry and local artifacts. Srinagar is quite the shopper’s stop, famous for its Kashmiri carpets, shawls and woodwork. Jaisalmer has some old family stores with fine textiles, home furnishing and artifacts. Hyderabad is famous for its pearls, jewelry and textiles.
Guests have the option to build pre- and post-trip extensions. Do you have any suggestions?
In terms of pre-trip options, I recommend building three nights minimum to visit the Taj Mahal, if you haven’t been before, and the Kama Sutra temples in Khajuraho.
You could also spend three nights visiting the Taj Mahal and Jaipur, or three nights at the iconic Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur and the Jawai Leopard Camp, a luxe tented camp surrounded by rarely explored wilderness.
At the end, I would recommend building three nights to visit Ajanta, the Ellora Caves and Mumbai, or three nights visiting Kochi(formerly Cochin) in South India and Mumbai.
There are a limited number of seats left available on our Uncharted India trip, departing this fall. If you would like to book this journey, please email Andrew Ahl today at email@example.com or call her at 800.992.2003.