by Gill Charlton and India expert, The Telegraph, January 30, 2020
Nick Trend explores India by boat, train and camel.
1. Going green
Well off the usual tourist trail, Cherrapunjee in the Khasi Hills of north-east India lies in a region of waterfalls, lush forest and verdant gorges. Natural bridges made from rubber trees span the valleys (most famously the Double Decker Bridge in Nongriat) and the hills are also home to tall monoliths that mark the reign of the Jaintia kings from the 1500s. Travel the Unknown explores the area, taking in the wonderfully-vibrant and busy bazaar of Shillong and the ancient, Sacred Forest of Mawphlang.
Living Bridges of Meghalaya from £1,795 for six nights including flights, transfers and some meals. Departs March, October and November. For details, see Travel the Unknown (traveltheunknown.com).
2. Arts and crafts
Textiles are central to Gujarati culture and Mountain Kingdoms has launched a new itinerary which explores their heritage. Highlights include visits to craft markets and local museums with hands-on demonstrations of wood block printing, weaving skills and tie-dye techniques. Tour dates coincide with October’s 10-day Hindu Navrati festival in Ahmedabad and there’s a chance to join in and mark this celebratory, musical event. The price also includes the delights of an early morning, desert jeep safari.
Colours of India – Gujarat Textiles from £3,795 for 14 nights including flights, transfers and all meals. Departs Oct 17 2020. Mountain Kingdoms (mountainkingdoms.com).
3. Heritage railway
The Kalka-Shimla Railway – a 60-mile narrow-gauge track through the Himalayan foothills in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh – is one of India’s Unesco-listed heritage lines. Great Rail Journeys has an escorted tour that includes a trip on the Shivalik Express. It also includes a six-night stay on the grand Palace on Wheels train travelling between Delhi and Agra in comfortable sleeper coaches, with sightseeing stops at Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur.
India’s Palace on Wheels and Ultimate Rajasthan from £4,745 for 14 nights including flights, transfers and most meals. Departs March, October and November 2020. Great Rail Journeys (greatrail.com).
4. Family highlights
Family group tours are a great way to explore and make new friends. Explore offers an escorted itinerary aimed at parents and children which starts with a day in Delhi. Highlights include a sunrise trip to the Taj Mahal, a game drive in Ranthambore National Park, a cooking lesson in a rural village and a guided tour of Jaipur’s Palace of the Winds. Accommodation is in comfortable hotels, usually with pools.
Family India Golden Triangle from £899 for nine nights including transfers and some meals. Excludes flights. Departs April, July, August, September, October and December. Explore (explore.co.uk).
5. Off the beaten track
Striking architecture, crafts, shrines and rural landscapes make India’s east coast a fascinating and less touristy alternative to the Golden Triangle. Ace Cultural Tours has an in-depth tour to the area, led by photographer and illustrator Annie Owen. Highlights include the remote tribal villages of Odisha, the pilgrimage town of Puri, the 13th-century Sun Temple in Konark and a chance to spot birds at Chilika Lake.
Odisha from £4,295 for 14 nights including flights, transfers and most meals. Departs Nov 21 2020. Ace Cultural Tours (aceculturaltours.co.uk).
6. Tiger trails
Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh are among India’s top national parks for tiger spotting, best between October and early spring (the parks are closed to visitors during summer months). A tiger-watching trip offered by Exodus explores all three and includes 15 game drives in jeeps. Combine wildlife watching with a trip to Agra and a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal.
India Tiger Safari from £2,799 for 15 nights including flights, transfers and some meals. Departs March, and October to January. Exodus travel (exodus.co.uk).
7. Himalayan trek
Gentle terrain makes the eastern foothills of the Himalayas around Darjeeling ideal for walking. The Mountain Company organises an itinerary which follows trails along the Singalila Ridge running south from the Kanchenjunga massif along India’s forested border with Nepal, overlooking iconic peaks such as Everest. Nights mostly at campsites, with one spent at the historic Himalayan Hotel in Kalimpong.
Kanchenjunga Singalila Ridge from £1,395 for six nights including transfers and all meals on trek, but not flights. Departs March 23 and Oct 12 2020. The Mountain Company (themountaincompany.co.uk).
8. Culinary insights
The variety of culinary styles in India can be daunting, so a knowledgeable guide makes a huge difference. Intrepid Travel offers an escorted journey from Delhi to Goa, travelling mainly by train and including a street-food breakfast in Delhi, lunch at a Sikh temple, a Mughlai cooking demonstration in Agra and a Kachori lunch in Jaipur. It takes in a spice farm in Goa too and explores the food stalls along Mumbai’s Chowpatty beach.
India Real Food Adventure from £1,276 for 14 nights including nine lunches and four dinners. Departs February to September. Excludes flights and transfers. Intrepid Travel (intrepidtravel.com).
9. Bike, walk, kayak
Southern India’s quiet roads and backwaters make it well-suited to walking and cycling. World Expeditions leads a tour departing from Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) and finishing at the coastal city of Kochi. It includes a bike trip through tea plantations near Munnar, a visit to the spice estates in the Cardamom Hills and a trek through the cloud forests of the Western Ghats, concluding with a kayaking expedition and a relaxing houseboat cruise in Kerala.
Bike, Hike and Kayak South India from £1,930 for 13 nights including some meals and one transfer. Excludes flights. Departs October. World Expeditions (worldexpeditions.com).
10. Overland adventure
A road trip adds another dimension to travel around India and insights into rural life. Dragoman specialises in overland trucks with comfortable seating, cooking facilities and camping equipment. One of its most exciting journeys is between Delhi and Mumbai; it includes a camel safari in the Thar desert and the cave temples of Ellora and Ajanta.
Rajasthan and Rajput Explorer from £748 (plus £405 towards food) for 15 nights including all meals. Excludes flights and transfers. Departs January, February, October and November. Dragoman (dragoman.com).
This article was written by Gill Charlton and India expert from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].