India: The Golden Triangle


Visitors to India often discover that the large country can’t be experienced fully in just one visit. That’s why we say it’s best for visitors to decide on a specific area to focus on depth. One of the most popular regions in India, and perhaps the best to suggest for beginners, is the Golden Triangle, which comprises the cities Jaipur, Delhi and Agra. Jaipur, so named for the pinkish hue of its buildings, offers some of the best shopping in India; Delhi, a sprawling metropolis, is an opulent display of India both old and new; and Agra, home to the famed Taj Mahal, is a must on any India itinerary.

Book Golden Triangle excursions through Delhi-based luxury outfitter Eastbound Tours (www.eastbound.in; insiders at Eastbound suggest devoting at least one week to the Golden Triangle tour), the land operator for Texas-based Ker & Downey (www.kerdowney.com). Additionally, Eastbound can arrange luxury transfers, either by air or car, between cities. Many guests prefer to drive the Golden Triangle route, as the views of the countryside and Indian life are often the highlight of the trip; in fact, it’s not uncommon to see camels, elephants, cows and vehicles trafficking the same roads.

 We think the ideal place to begin—and end—a trip to the Golden Triangle is Delhi (suggest your clients spend at least two nights in Delhi to get over jet lag).

In Delhi, we love the Taj Mahal Hotel New Delhi (www.tajhotels.com). Here, request the Grand Presidential Suite or the Oriental Suite for VIP guests; the views of the India Gate, a war memorial and symbol of freedom, will impress even the most seasoned traveler.

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the Taj Mahal Hotel’s Tanjore Suite features a separate living and dining area and distinct Indian décor.

Contact Head Concierge Sumit Chatterjee (sumit.chatterjee@tajhotels.com) for special VIP arrangements, such as a sunset visit to the Qutab Minar, one of Delhi’s oldest monuments, dating back to the 1190s, or General Manager Yannick Poupon (yannick.poupon@tajhotels.com) for VIP room bookings.

At the hotel’s spa, contact Spa Director Shaji Pampalayam (shaji.pampalayam@tajhotels.com) for VIP client needs, and be sure to book the Ayurvedic Synchronized Massage with Pasang Dolma; her magic hands will soothe the most jet-lagged muscles.

For VIPs who want to go sightseeing in the comfort of a luxury vehicle, Eastbound can arrange guided tours of New Delhi and Old Delhi with a private escort in a Mercedes-Benz. Guides will not only explain the history of this fascinating city, but they’ll also take clients to temples, mosques and other spiritual and cultural monuments throughout.

From Delhi, send your clients on to Jaipur—known as “the pink city”—with accommodations at The Oberoi Rajvilas (www.oberoihotels.com). Book the Royal Villa, (room 120), a private oasis of more than 1,000 square meters comprising gardens, a large private swimming pool and an outdoor dining pavilion. A separate living and dining room form the main building; the master suite has its own sauna. Conversely, the two villas (rooms 114 and 124) and the Royal Tent (room 220) are spacious and ideal for those traveling with families or an entourage.

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Oberoi Rajvilas' spacious accommodations are reminiscent of a private home.


Contact General Manager Sue Reitz (gm@oberoi-rajvilas.com) for bookings and VIP requests. Hotel staff can easily arrange helicopter fly-ins, as there is a private helipad on site. They can also organize elephant safaris with a picnic lunch at the base of the Naila Fort, and shopping excursions through the bazaars of Jaipur. Tip: Advise clients who want to take home an authentic memento that the city is known for its silk, jewelry, gemstones and ornate carpets.

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A suite at Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur features a billowing tented ceiling and plush amenities.

One of the highlights of the hotel is its spacious spa, built in a majestic 250-year-old mansion. Contact Spa Manager Gopal Kumar (spamanager@oberoi-rajvilas.com) to book the Oberoi Massage, the signature treatment. Tip: Therapist Abigal Sanate transports guests to a state of complete relaxation. Kumar also administers treatments, and his well-trained hands are suggested for those looking for a deep, revitalizing massage.

On site, guests dine at Surya Mahal, which features both Indian and Western dishes. Luxury moment: Request a table outside in the courtyard; guests who dine here enjoy live music and dance performances, the setting illuminated by the glow of four giant stone torches.

From Jaipur, suggest your clients move on to Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Built by Emperor Shah Jehan as a tribute to his favorite wife, Mumtz Mahal, this ultimate tribute to love, completed in 1653, took almost 22 years and 20,000 workers to build.

In Agra, book your clients at The Oberoi Amarvilas (www.oberoihotels.com; see Luxury Travel Advisor June 2005, page 22), which has hosted such celebs as supermodel Christy Turlington, as well as heads of state and royalty. Upon arrival, they’ll be greeted and blessed by traditionally dressed Indian women during an aarti ritual.

 Contact Sales Manager Samantha Natraj (sales@oberoi-amarvilas.com) to arrange private charter and helicopter services, as well as any other VIP-related requests. Spa Manager Sameer Sharma (spa@oberoi-amarvilas.com) is travel advisors’ go-to contact for treatments at the hotel’s spa; it’s advisable to book treatments well in advance (insiders suggest making reservations at the time of room booking), as the spa is extremely popular with guests.

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The spa at the Oberoi Amarvilas specializes in Ayurvedic treatments, a craft that originates in India.


Luxury moment: For those seeking a romantic setting, dine under the stars at the poolside pavilion; guests design their own three- or five-course meal and dine to the sounds of the nearby waterfall and melodies of classical Indian music. Conversely, a special candle-lit dinner can be arranged on guests’ private balconies, affording breathtaking views of the sunset over the Taj Mahal. Private butler service is available upon request.

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Guests of Oberoi Amarvilas (above) can opt to dine in a private poolside pavilion for the ultimate romantic setting.

Travel advisors: Contact General Manager Visheshwar Raj Singh (gm@oberoi-amarvilas.com) for bookings and VIP-related needs. October through March is the busiest period at the hotel; rooms are sometimes booked as much as a year in advance.

Suggest that your clients end their India getaway by flying back to Delhi, this time with accommodations at the Imperial (www.theimperialindia.com), which is frequented by heads of state and celebrities. Best to book is the Royal Imperial Suite (room 231), which connects with nearby rooms, perfect for families and entourages. Suites 259 and 359 are also spacious and are outfitted with Indian antique furniture (all luxury suites include butler service). Contact Head Concierge Stephen Fernandez (sfernandez@theimperialindia.com) for VIP arrangements, including private airport transfers via Mercedes-Benz and helicopter charters. Fernandez can also put together specialized antique shopping tours and arrange for customized elephant rides. General Manager Pierre Jochem (pjochem@theimperialindia.com) welcomes contact for VIP room bookings. Advise your clients not to miss Spice Route, which has been recognized as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world.  

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The Imperial Hotel’s deco suite is one of the hotel’s most lavish accommodations, with clean, crisp lines and plush furnishings.

Access:

Recommended dining in the Golden Triangle

Olives: Excellent Mediterranean cuisine. Request a table in the courtyard under the banyan tree. Haveli 6-8, One Style Mile, Kalka Dass Marg, New Delhi; 91-11-2664-2552

Bukhara: Some of the best Indian food in the city. The Maurya Sheraton, New Delhi; Sardal Patel Marg, Diplomatic Enclave; 91-11-2611-223

Advisor Insight:

Sue Alstedt, a home-based travel advisor in Connecticut, relies on Ker & Downey for her clients’ India outings. Alstedt books all arrangements, including spa, excursions and special arrangements, directly through the tour operator, not the hotel. That way, there’s one point of contact, and, she notes, “I know that they will be well taken care of.”

Alstedt is partial to the Oberoi hotels.  “Oberoi is an Indian company and the service is phenomenal. Theirs rival any hotels in the world and I wouldn’t hesitate to book my most discerning clients there,” she says. “Of course, there are great hotels in the bigger cities, and great spas and country palaces/forts (like Devi Garh near Udaipur), but I would go out of my way to book clients at Oberoi hotels. They’re an Indian experience in themselves.”

Alstedt also thinks the key to a great India trip is a knowledgeable guide. “There are lots of English-speaking Indians, but often they’re not easy to understand.  If clients are really interested in exploring the culture, the right guide can make all the difference.” Alstedt suggests Delhi-based ground operator Eastbound for arranging stellar guides. 

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