Trips will run with a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 16 people. Private group bookings can be individually tailored. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information. *All of these trips will be fully escorted from arrival in-country until departure.
Please click on the trip title to get the day-to-day itinerary:-
A well-travelled client described this trip as a “Total surprise" and “One of the best I have ever been on". The reasons are: the great variety in geography, wildlife, people and the low level of preconception about this little-publicised destination. It is the feeling of being off the beaten track that lends the trip a greater sense of discovery.
Historically and architecturally speaking there is much to be seen. We visit: the largest fort in Asia, built by the Portuguese in the 1520s to control the opium trade across the Arabian Sea; the C10th Uppercot, Junagadh’s citadel and once seat of the rulers of Gujarat; the recently rediscovered Modhera, northern India’s best sun temple (UNESCO WHS), from the classical period of temple architecture (C9th – C12th); Patan, the largest and most intricately carved step well in India (UNESCO); the Dilwara Temples in Mt Abu with some of the finest examples of marble carving in the world (UNESCO); the ‘Pols’ or walled neighbourhoods of the State Capital, Ahmedabad, where rich merchants of old built their mansions (UNESCO); and the Gandhi Ashram, where the great man spent many years living by the river in Ahmedabad.
We also cover 2 protected and unique wilderness areas: Gir National Park, a dry deciduous forest habitat and the world’s only sanctuary of the Asiatic Lion (much rarer than tigers). The Park has a 300 strong population, with an equal number of leopards, making Gir India’s best ‘big cats’ reserve. And the Rann of Kutchch, a unique saltpan eco-system, producing 50,000 tons of shrimp every Monsoon before reverting to an arid desert for the remaining 8 months of the year. Yet, despite such extremes, it supports a great variety of wildlife, such as the Khur or wild ass, and is home to some rare bird species.
There is also great diversity in the ethnicity of the people we encounter on this trip, and many of the towns and villages we visit are still very traditional in their layout and customs. On the coast and around Gir there are hamlets populated exclusively by the descendants of East African seafarers and slaves. In the Rann of Kutchchh there are many traditional pastoralist communities; and in the mountainous north of the State tribal groups such as the Bhils and Garasias continue to survive the homogenising onslaught of modern India.
Accommodation is good throughout, in mostly Heritage Properties, a couple of which: Wordsworth Lodge and The House of MG are excellent. The food too is excellent; the ‘Thali’, or ‘plate’, comes from Gujarat, where one is served lots of little portions of the various preparations of the day (varies daily and seasonally), all at the same time, including dessert, and all accompanied by surprising varieties of breads. We shall sample the ‘best thali in Gujarat’ on our nighst in Ahmedabad.
Our 14 days/13 nights Tamil Nadu trip is new for 2020. It starts & ends in Chennai as there is a direct British Airways flight from/to London. It is an exploration of one of India’s largest States, the country’s tropical southern heart, speaking its oldest language, having a unique Dravidian culture, showcasing some of its oldest and largest temples, and populated by friendly and mostly agrarian people with a real love for colour. Throughout we use the best accommodation, 4 of our properties being small boutique hotels in restored historic mansions, serving the most authentic regional cuisine.
On arrival a short transfer to the south of Chennai takes us to the Taj Hotels Group’s Fisherman’s Cove, a luxury coastal resort with a long private beach and extensive manicured grounds. It is the perfect place to overcome jet-lag and to sample some of the delicious fish the Coromandel Coast has to offer. We visit the nearby UNESCO WHS of Mahabalipuram and DakshinaChitra, a living museum highlighting South Indian culture and architecture.
Our next stop is colonial Pondicherry, once the centre of France's Indian territorial ambitions. Despite now being a large town the historical centre is well preserved and retains a welcome laid back feel. It is split into the French and the Tamil quarters, we lodge at a mansion in the latter. Pondicherry has many sights of interest, a large bustling market, and street side coffee stalls. We shall also gain exclusive access to nearby Auroville, a unique experiment in international communal living. Our journey continues southwards and to the Kaveri delta, south India’s largest river and Tamil Nadu’s rice-growing belt. Between the C9th - C12th the Chola Dynasty erected its most magnificent temples here, many now UNESCO WHS.
Further south and inland we stop in Chettinad District, known for its sophisticated cuisine and huge mansions built between 1857 and the 1930s by the local Brahmin community. They traded throughout British Asian dominions and amassed great wealth. Next we leave the plains and climb to 1,000m into the Western Ghats, where we lodge at a lovely coffee, pepper, and banana plantation set in tropical forest. The organic food they serve is all local and the dawn chorus is unrivalled.
Finally we fly back to Chennai, where we lodge at the Leela Palace, the city’s best luxury hotel. We spend a morning being guided through the surprisingly well preserved colonial ‘Madras’, as Chennai was known. The East India Company’s Fort St George alone is of great interest, with a museum and the earliest Anglican church east of Suez!
This is our ‘Classic’ North Indian trip, often our clients’ first India experience, the one that makes them fall in love with the Subcontinent. Throughout the trip we use some of the very best Heritage and ‘Boutique’ accommodation. Rajasthan, rightly renowned for its wonderful forts and palaces, is surprisingly conservative, its inhabitants cling obstinately to their clans’ traditions and customs. In the south western part of this well-travelled State we have gone off the beaten track, avoided the crowds, gone into the countryside. As guests of unique properties we experience the ‘real’ Rajasthan. The trip starts and ends in New Delhi, where we stay at the excellent Imperial Hotel, and follows a southerly route. From Jodhpur, the desert capital of Marwar and the 'bazaar of western Rajasthan', dominated by one of its most formidable forts, to Udaipur, the romantic seat of the Mewar kingdom, ruled by the Sisodia Maharanas (the world’s longest, continually ruling, dynasty). During this trip we walk in the Thar Desert’s tribal and wildlife rich semi-arid belt; stay at a private, perfectly preserved Art Deco hunting lodge; visit the Jain temple to Lord Adinath in Ranakpur, with its 1444 carved marble columns a masterpiece of C15th Indian architecture (UNESCO); walk in Kumbalgarh National Park’s forests and through the steep sided valleys of the world’s oldest mountain range, the Aravallis; climb up to the roof of Kumbalgarh fort, impregnable even to the Moghul Emperor Akbar the Great, for a stunning panorama of the surrounding mountains from 1,200 m (3,900 ft) above sea level.
The diversity of landscape and the opportunity for real contact and interaction with the proud and hospitable locals is what makes this trip stand out. As a client who had already travelled Rajasthan 3 times prior to coming on our trip said: "You have shown me this State like I have never seen it before, and I have learned more in 2 weeks with you than all the previous times put together”, this is what we aim to provide!
Our Hidden Rajasthan itinerary has been described by many of our regular India clients as “The best”. It covers the State’s little-travelled south east, where the hilly and forested terrain, small rival Principalities, and lack of infrastructure conspired to keep this corner of Rajasthan off ‘the beaten track’ until recently, when small palaces and forts have begun to be converted into charming boutique hotels.
The trip starts and ends in Delhi where, as always, we stay at the excellent Imperial Hotel. One of the highlights of this journey are the lovely Heritage properties that host us, often we take them over completely; they are all very different in character and we contract the very best rooms available. Places like Castle Bijaipur, with its many courtyards and pavilions, or Bhainsrorgarh Fort, impossibly perched on vertical cliffs above the mighty Chambal River. We explore this green and fertile countryside, known as ‘the opium belt’, by doing 1/2 day treks, jeep safaris, birding and village walks, boating and lots of other activities. Beautifully carved figures on hidden C10th temples, the mightiest fort in Rajasthan, the unspoilt bazaars of Bassi, the unrivalled palace frescoes of Bundi, a day spent along a river searching for and looking at 7,000 BC Palaeolithic rock art, all contribute to the ‘cultural’ aspect of the trip.
We end the trip with Ranthambore, the world-renowned tiger reserve. Here we spend 3 nights at Khem Vilas, quite simply one of the best, and 2 full days of safaris, exploring the varied terrain of this beautiful park, and walking up into its C10th fort. A morning train ride takes us back to Delhi and a final night at The Imperial before we fly home.