India is a great destination for a family to explore together, or to branch off and follow individual interests. The country offers a wide range of terrain to cater to all styles, with quiet resorts on beachfronts in Goa, nature reserves filled with wild animals, adventure outings to mountaintops and bustling urban metropolises.
|Micato travelers interact with kids in Samode.|
Several tour operators offer luxury family escapes to India, and they all vary in terms of group numbers, length, options and flexibility.
Of course, some of the most exciting experiences are too unique to be part of a group package. Micato Safaris, for example, does not have any set tours of India. Instead, they talk to agents and their clients directly to fashion the best possible bespoke vacation. Marion Miller, an India specialist with Micato, pointed out that with the company’s insider access, they are able to arrange experiences that might be impossible with a larger group. For example, in Varanasi, kids can study sitar-playing with a Grammy-winning musician while Mom and Grandma consult with Hem Singh, the clothing designer for the Maharani of Jaipur, for original saris and bespoke couture. (The clothiers are reportedly so talented that they can look at a photo in a fashion magazine and recreate the design.) In Mumbai, they can have lunch with jewelry designer Kavita Behl, whose creations are sold in Saks Fifth Avenue. As a group, the whole family can go to food markets with celebrity chef Nimmy Paul and prepare a meal together.
|Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur is set on 32 acres of landscaped gardens.|
Outside of the cities, families can go to one of the new game reserves to try tiger tracking on the back of an elephant. (Kids as young as 10 have ridden elephants at Bandhavgarh.) Other activities Miller can help an agent arrange for families include exploring a Rajastani village by camel; learning how to tie a turban or wrap a sari; interacting with kids at school in Samode; hot air ballooning over the Amber Fort in Jaipur; baking Indian breads in a clay oven; exploring spice markets and bazaars; and taking a boat ride on Lake Picchola in Udaipur.
Greaves Tours offers a family tour of India that was designed by Carole Cambata, the company’s president. Tours are limited to 12 guests, guaranteeing an intimate and personal experience. Highlights of the 15-day tour include a visit to India’s first bear rescue sanctuary, the Integrated Sloth Bear Conservation and Welfare Project (ISBCW); a visit to an elephant village in Jaipur; a journey on board the Toy Train of Shimla; afternoon tea with a local family; an astronomer-guided tour of the Jantar Mantar observatory in Jaipur; a camel ride through local villages; an exclusive Village Festival event (only for guests on this tour); visits to UNESCO sites like the Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Qutab Minar, the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri; and hiking the Wild Strawberry Trail in the Himalayas. Wonderful Touch: Greaves has a private plane for domestic travel within India.
|The Elephant Festival is held annually in Jaipur.|
Cox and Kings has a special two-week tour of Northern India that focuses on the annual Elephant Festival in Jaipur, which takes place every March. The festival features a procession of brightly painted elephants followed by camels and horses, along with traditional Indian music and folk dancers in addition to a polo match and an elephant race. Families will also have a chance to explore the forts and palaces of Rajasthan and experience the iconic Taj Mahal.
The operator also offers a culinary tour that’s ideal for families, with visits to markets and plenty of restaurants that serve a variety of cuisines for different tastes. A more unusual option is a tour that focuses on the antiquarian fairs held in Kolkata and Delhi, which are a major draw for book fans. The fair celebrates the best from booksellers, writers and bibliophiles from all around the world. Visitors to the fair can wander through the stalls, stopping to grab a bite, get their portraits painted or just listen to the music wafting through the fair grounds.
Where to Stay
Oberoi Hotels and Resorts throughout India offers a 50 percent discount for children booked in a second room. Many operators use the Oberoi brand or Taj Hotels for their tours, and it would be hard to go wrong with either of these notable names.
In Jaipur, we hear the Oberoi Rajvilas has exceptionally nice gardens that are filled with peacocks. Parents can have a room across the courtyard from their children’s room, or upgrade to a two-bedroom suite (with a private pool) or a luxe air-conditioned tent. Guests are welcome to enter the open kitchen and watch the chefs at work, or learn about Indian cuisine. There is a putting green on site along with tennis courts, spa and a pool. (Good to know: All the pools at the Oberoi hotels in India come with attentive pool butlers who will shoo away any pigeon that comes close).
For swimmers, the Oberoi Udaivilas has an extensive pool system, with pools coming up to the doorsteps of some rooms. Parents will appreciate the quiet spa pool overlooking the lake, and kids will love the extensive main pool. This property has its own Wildlife Sanctuary, and allows guests to take part in the twice-daily feeding.