|Taj’s Mahua Kothi is in the heart of Bandhavgarh National Park, which is teeming with jungle life.|
Luxury travel advisors highlight India’s best of the best for first-timers, and some hidden gems for repeat travelers.
The sheer size of India alone, not to mention its hundreds of distinct languages, dialects and customs, can be daunting. Luxury Travel Advisor reached out to India specialists who helped put the great country in perspective and offered advice on how to prioritize a trip for your India-bound clients.
“You can’t get overwhelmed with India, and you can’t do it in one trip,” says Ellison Poe of Poe Travel in Little Rock, AR. “I see India as many trips, but if you are going to do one, you are going to want to do Rajasthan.” It is the largest state in India and lies to the northwest, bordering Pakistan. “The itinerary would be Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur,” Poe adds.
|DEVI GARH’S ARAVALI SUITE BEDROOM. The five Aravali Suites have separate sitting and dining rooms.|
When sending her exclusive list of clients to India, Poe unequivocally recommends Oberoi Hotels & Resorts. “My favorites are the Oberoi ‘vilas’ properties,” she says. These include The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur, The Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra and The Oberoi Vanyavilas in Ranthambhore. Poe is also a fan of Amanresorts, which now has a property in Delhi.
Poe also tells us of a property that she believes sticks out above the rest—one, she says, that offers a true royal Indian experience: Devi Garh, which sits on the Aravali hills of Udaipur. This 18th-century palace-turned-boutique resort is a blend of Old-World India and modern-day luxury. We hear that the 39 suites radiate regal Indian luxury, from the local marbles and semi-precious stones used in the design to the private swimming pool and Jacuzzi that completes the Devi Garh Suite (which will “wow” your clients accustomed to being treated like royalty).
Dining in India is a symphony for the senses and Devi Garh makes sure its restaurant and bar play it right. Nice Touch: The Bar serves an exotic roster of drinks mixed with sexier ingredients like pomegranate juice or jasmine syrup. We also love the bar’s taster menu.
Want bespoke dining? The resort can arrange for intimate and exclusive dining experiences under the stars. Luxury travel advisors can contact Mary-Anne Denison-Pender ([email protected] tuk.com; 011-44-1295-758-150) at the resort’s UK office with questions.
“The whole hotel has this Zen feel,” says Poe. “It is magnificent.”
Off the Beaten Path
Poe recommends a trip to Varanasi depending on the time of year. “This is just an incredible trip, but you have to listen to your client because it isn’t for everyone,” she says. “It is a very spiritual place for the Hindu people. To visit it is sort of making a pilgrimage.” They consider it an honor to be able to cremate their dead on funeral pyres here, by the Ganges River. Overall, the experience is a blast of sounds, color and commotion, and truly unique.
For your clients who want to combine their India experience with an animal adventure, Poe speaks highly of Taj Hotels, notably the Mahua Kothi in Bandhavgarh National Park, which is a joint venture between Taj Hotels & Resorts and &Beyond. The park is a 173-square-mile tiger reserve in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. The property has 12 suites, each accessed through private courtyards. We love the décor of the suites, which pulses plush India (think textiles of burnt orange, handmade pottery, roof tiles and walls washed in lime and earth tones).
Exotic Excursions: Mahua Kothi organizes twice-daily jungle safaris as well as elephant safaris, guided nature walks and special picnics. For reservations, contact Rupesh Rai ([email protected]).
“Greaves, Greaves, Greaves,” says Barbara King of Great Getaways. “They are the best you could find for India. Greaves has offices in the UK and Chicago, making it oh-so-convenient for advisors to work with them. Their staff is second to none in expertise and professionalism.”
Poe is an advocate of Peirce & Leslie, one of India’s oldest luxury tour operators. “The star agent to work with is Shonali Datta,” says Poe. “She has the best guides. She can totally make it all happen.”
King seconds Poe’s recommendation to do the Northern Golden Triangle route (Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur). “This year, there is increased interest in traveling by private jet. Greaves has a couple of aircraft options of its own,” she says.
|THE BLACK POOL at Devi Garh is heated and offers views of the Aravali hills.|
India is hot (and we don’t just mean temperature-wise). “An indicator of the strength and growth of tourism in India is the number of international hotel chains that now have properties in India, such as Aman and Kempinski,” says King.
Fairmont Hotels is scheduled to open the Fairmont Jaipur this year, as well as the Fairmont Hyderabad, which will open in 2012.
In addition, Langham Hospitality Group is set to take off in India with an aggressive expansion plan. The first of Langham’s hotels in India will open in the first quarter of this year under the Eaton Smart brand at New Delhi Airport. Later this year, Langham Place will open in Pune (pune.langham placehotels.com). We hear that the group has also signed an agreement with Lavasa Corporation for two new hotels in Lavasa, which are slated to open in 2013.
Jet Airways, one of India’s international airlines, now flies from the U.S. with a stopover in Brussels, and according to Poe, is fitting for the luxury traveler. She also suggests Continental Airlines and American Airlines, which have direct service to Delhi.