Just Back: Magical and Spiritual India

(Photo by Sean3810 / Getty Images) The City Palace in Udaipur provides panoramic views of the enchanting “City of Lakes.”

I was thrilled to be invited by Passages of Distinction to participate in a discovery trip to India. Our itinerary, which was created by Travel Scope India, included visits to Delhi, Udaipur, Jawai and Jodhpur. Our group, all consisting of travel advisors from the New York area, traveled to Delhi via Etihad Airways, which connected through Abu Dhabi, enjoying their comfortable Business Class product.

Once we arrived in Delhi, we were greeted warmly by Mohan Narayanaswamy, managing director of travel for Travel Scope India, and Rohit, one of his fantastic team members, who were both going to accompany us during our entire journey through India.

Taj Umaid Dinner Top (Left to Right): Tom McLaughlin, Mohan Narayanaswamy, Adam Szymanski; Bottom (Left to Right): Allison Law, Jess Fontaine, Leah Offenbach, Shana Mandel, Kristiana Capati Choquet, Samantha Hartman, Nora Pena

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We spent our first night in Delhi at The Imperial hotel, before proceeding on our itinerary to Udaipur. This enchanting “City of Lakes” is more beautiful than I could ever imagine, and the photos simply do not do it justice. Upon arrival in the city, we traveled by wooden boat to our gorgeous and palatial accommodations at the Taj Lake Palace, which sits in the center of the lake. We were showered with rose petals at the entrance and each person received a traditional bindi. It was clear — we had arrived!

Leah in Jodhpur, which is popularly known as the “Blue City” because of the blue colors that adorn many of the houses in the old city area.

On our first full day of exploration, we woke before sunrise and were taken by boat to the shore at the base of a low-rising hill, from where we had to trek to visit a Bhil shrine. Decked out in celebratory garb, as our visit to India took place during the Navrathri festival, we began our uphill climb. Through the darkness, I couldn’t help but notice that we were joined only by the locals of Udaipur. I realized then what an authentic experience this was going to be.

Jodhpur attracts a lot of tourists looking to buy handicrafts.

Reaching the temple, we removed our shoes and waited our turn to stand in front of the shrine. The local people of Udaipur welcomed us as they prayed and chanted; so happy we were there to take part in their culture. It’s difficult to articulate the amazing energy of the people of India. They are very spiritual, always emitting a positive outlook on life, and are so kind to each other. After each of us paid homage at the shrine, we turned to find the sun rising over the unbelievably glorious city of Udaipur and gasped at the beauty of the sight. It was a beautiful and emotional moment for us all. 

Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace is set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens and offers 64 Art Deco-style rooms and suites.

We returned to the hotel to freshen up after our morning adventure, and set off to visit the Jagdish Temple and the city of Udaipur. Tuk-tuks whizzed us through the bustling city while we waved to the local artisans and craftsmen. Everyone we encountered seemed genuinely happy to see us, and grateful that we were visiting their country. After our exploration of Udaipur, our travels continued with a visit to Jawai and the Jawai Leopard Camp by Sujan Luxury.

A successful game drive by their incredible staff led to the sighting of a leopard. As darkness fell, we were surprised with a special blanketed area for stargazing, followed by cocktails around a campfire and a special dinner on property. Finally, we rested our eyes, tucked away inside our luxurious tents with the memories of our spectacular day still dancing in our heads. 

Henna is applied on hands and legs, mostly by women, during Hindu and Sikh wedding ceremonies in India.ens and offers 64 Art Deco-style rooms and suites.

Our journey continued to Jodhpur, the Blue City, where a completely private, exclusive, after-hours curated tour of the Mehrangarh Fort was arranged for us through the clearly fantastic connections that Narayanaswamy and Travel Scope India possess. The following morning, we explored the Fort, which proved to be a completely different, yet still magical, experience. We wandered through the mysterious Blue City and entered the shop of a local Bandhej artisan. And as we “ooh-ed” and “aah-ed” over his incredible creations, he explained the secret process of Bandhej, an ancient method of tying and dyeing cloth. His blankets, scarves and textiles were all masterpieces. 

In Jodhpur, we had the privilege of staying at the Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace — one of the last great palaces in India. That’s right...a palace! The hotel still serves as the primary residence of the royal family of Jodhpur, and our stay there certainly left us all feeling like royalty. 

Udaipur is known for lakes, forts, temples and palaces. Folk dance and music add to the city’s cultural richness.

At the end of our journey, we traveled back to Delhi and spent our last night at the beautiful Leela Palace Hotel. On our last day in India, we were treated to an early morning private yoga session on the hotel’s rooftop, overlooking the city of Delhi, as we watched the sky turn pink in the morning hours. The remainder of the day included a thrilling rickshaw tour, visits to India Gate and Humayun’s Tomb and, of course, shopping. The exquisite markets offered gorgeous clothing, linens and home products, jewelry, books, wellness products; anything your heart may desire. And then, sadly, it was time for our departure and the journey home — our magnificent adventure was coming to an end. I think I can speak for our entire group when I say we were all very sad to leave. India is such a special destination, unlike anything else I’ve experienced. It completely blew me away. It is not only the beauty of the country that makes it such an appealing destination, but also the magic of the people you encounter, the healing powers and the spiritual energy. There is truly nothing like it. I returned transformed and grateful. So, incredible India, this is farewell for now, but not for ever, as I will be sure to return.

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