• Taj Mahal

Agra, India Viewing spot: Yamuna or Agra Rivers Ah Taj Mahal, there you are as the world’s No.1 tourist trap and bane of happy-go-lucky travel photographers everywhere. Getting the money shot of this architectural wonder can be unbelievably tricky, and that’s why your best bet is on riverbanks, or even ON the water. Hire a boat to float out for a unique, full frontal angle. Trade-off? Sewage smell. Better than big crowds and fending off scams? You decide.

  • Vada pav

The vada pav, a potato fritter between two slices of bread, hails from India—just as much of the best vegetarian fast food does. Chilies, mustard seed, garlic, ginger, and curry give the fritters a spicy flavor that is traditionally complemented by zippy tamarind chutney.

  • Ranakpur temple - Rajasthan
  • Taj West End - Bangalore
  • Old Delhi Spice Market - Delhi
  • Agrasen Ki Baoli - Delhi

An ancient step well

  • Haveli Dharampura – Delhi

It’s the only renovated haveli in Delhi’s city center. It has an amazing rooftop and delicious food, plus it’s right in the heart of old Delhi.

  • Udaipur

Udaipur is a one hour flight from Jaipur, and I’m so glad we added this stop to our itinerary. Udaipur is the ‘City of Lakes’, and the center is much more walkable than all the cities I listed above. We loved staying in a local Haveli (restored mansion turned hotel) overlooking the lake, the infamous Taj Lake Palace, and visiting the City Palace. Overall, it was more affordable than the other cities since the majority of tourists stick within the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur circuit.

  • Bandhavgarh

Our last stop of the trip was a tiger safari in Bandhavgarh, India. We almost didn’t make it here, and our trip wouldn’t have been the same without it. From experiencing the rural towns, to seeing wildlife (including our first tiger!), to the best food we had on our entire trip, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s the best way to decompress from the chaotic cities of India and leave with a completely different impression.

  • Recommended 2 week itinerary:

Delhi (3 nights) Agra (1 night) Jaipur (3 nights) Udaipur (3 nights) Safari (4 nights) — Total days: 14 Only have 10 days? Follow the same itinerary above and drop the safari. Only have 1 week? Drop the visit to Udaipur and the safari.

  • Kankarwa Haveli - Udaipur
  • Delhi

When you arrive, you will be met by your local guide at the airport and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon with your guide, you will explore the charming historical part of Shahjahanabad, offering a cultural overview of Old Delhi. Take a step back in time as you enter Shahjahanabad, where you start with a fascinating walk through the alleyways of Chandni Chowk. You will walk past old crumbling havelis, some of them dating back to the 17th century, see the vibrant street food stalls, visit the famous Jama Masjid mosque with its tapering minarets and wonderful marble domes, and wander through colorful markets, including the spice market, considered to be the largest in Asia. From the back streets and bazaars, continue on to the imposing Red Fort, or Lal Qila, built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. It's considered one of the most important buildings of Mughal architecture from that period. After the tour, you will be transferred to your hotel, with rest of the evening at your leisure. For dinner tonight, head to the gorgeous and award-winning restaurant, Indian Accent. The creation of the master chef Manish Mehrotra, Indian Accent puts an inventive contemporary twist on Indian cuisine.

  • Gwalior

Early this morning you will be transferred to the train station in Delhi, where you'll be accompanied to your seat on the train. The train journey from Delhi to Gwalior takes about three hours. When the train arrives at Gwalior, you will be transferred by private vehicle from the station to your hotel. Later this afternoon, with your guide you will explore the imposing hilltop fort of Gwalior. An impressive structure towering over the city, it is only when you come close that you'll see the blue and green patterns of peacocks, elephants, and tigers on it. Enclosed within the fort is the Mansingh Palace, once home to the Hindu ruler and his eight wives, with circular towers and intricate design work. Outside the fort you will visit the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law Temples — they are intricately designed and dedicated to the gods Vishnu and Shiva, respectively. After the tour, you will be transferred to your hotel, with rest of the evening at your leisure. For dinner tonight, we recommend the restaurant Silver Saloon restaurant in Usha Kiran Palace, known for its regional Maratha specialties. Enjoy the morning exploring this small, friendly, and bustling city. In the central square there's an array of different architectural styles and influences to see before heading through the narrow, teeming lanes and through the various markets, where you can spot locals having henna tattoos applied or jostling for lassis. This is a relaxed tour taking in the local community and it is done at your own pace. Next, continue to Jai Vilas and Scindia Museum, an opulent palace built in 1874. Wonderful and bizarre antiques fill the rooms of this palace, including beautiful cut glass furniture and a grand dining room table with model railway tracks and a silver train that carries brandy and cigars for guests after dinner. After the exploring the Jai Vilas Palace and before returning to your hotel, the guide will take you to visit the tomb of Tansen and the tomb of Ghaus. Tansen was a famous 16th-century classical musician and singer and founder of the Gwalior Gharana school of music. In the gardens of his tomb, there is an ancient tamarind tree, from which singers still believe if you pluck a leaf from the tree and chew it, it will give you the vocal skills of Tansen. For dinner tonight, we recommend the charming restaurant in Deo Bagh hotel, set in the 17th-century heritage wing of the property.

  • Bhopal

This morning you will transferred by a private vehicle to the local train station where you will be accompanied to your seat on the train. The train journey from Gwalior to Bhopal takes four and a half hours. On arrival in Bhopal, you will be met at the station and transferred by private vehicle to your hotel. This afternoon, you'll explore Bhopal’s old city and historical sites with your guide. Echoing the magnificence of Lahore, Peshawar, and old Delhi, the streets of the old town are a colourful labyrinth of narrow alleys and noisy bazaars, spectacular mosques and exquisite palaces – albeit in a shocking state of repair. Nowhere is this more evident than the extraordinary Taj Mahal, a palace built in the 19th century. You will also be able to visit various other palaces and mosques, including the towering Taj-ul-Majid mosque, the largest in the country. After the tour, you will be transferred back to your hotel, with rest of the day at your leisure. For those who would like a full day of sightseeing, we recommend exploring the museums of Bhopal and the striking Moti Masjid, the oldest mosque of Bhopal. For dinner this evening, we recommend the restaurant Under the Mango Tree. This charming restaurant is set under an ancient mango tree in the central courtyard of the hotel. It's considered one of the best restaurants in Bhopal, and is known for its barbecued meats and breads baked in clay ovens.

  • Sanchi

This morning you will be driven in your private vehicle north to Sanchi to visit the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Buddhist stupas and the beautiful rock cut caves of Udayagiri ("Risen Mountain"). Sanchi is one of most iconic Buddhist sites in the country and is even featured on the country's currency. It’s a complex of Buddhist stupas, carvings shrines, pillars, monasteries, palaces, and temples that all date back to the 1st and 2nd century BC. The monuments are set in tranquil gardens with large trees overlooking the beautiful countryside, and as you walk around the sites you will hear parrots and birds and see monkeys jump from tree to tree. Udayagiri is an archaeological-historical site 10 miles north of Sanchi. Udayagiri is famous for a series of rock-cut caves and temples dating back to the Gupta Period (350-550 CE), a formative era for Hindu religious ideas. One of India's most important archaeological sites, the Udayagiri hills and its nearly 20 rock-cut caves are protected monuments. After exploring Sanchi and Udayagiri, you will be transferred back to your hotel, stopping off en route at the Tropic of Cancer for photo opportunities. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure.

  • Satpura

You will be collected from your hotel by your driver and transferred by private vehicle to Satpura National Park, stopping at the Bhimbetka rock shelters along the way. These caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site and may have been inhabited as early as 30,000 years ago. There are over 700 different caves, and the rock art contained within them is thought to be some of the oldest in the world. If you are interested in temple architecture, then we highly recommend a short detour to visit the 11th-century Bhojpur Temple. This Shiva temple has the largest Shiva lingam, or sacred stone, in the country crafted out of a single rock. Afterward, continue to your lodge in Satpura. Spend the morning and afternoon on a private game drive exploring the forests of Satpura National Park. The landscape is rugged with narrow gorges, deep ravines, and dense forests, and supports a vast number of mammals including the tiger, leopard, and bison. This unique park has a varied habitat and terrain and offers a magical, off-the-beaten path wildlife viewing experience without the crowds. Rise early this morning to depart the Reni Pani Jungle Lodge at 6 a.m. You will be driven to Pachmarhi, a lovely hill station, which is nestled in the mountains of Satpura. Arrive at 9:30 am to begin your trek. The trail starts with a descent from where you will see the landscape transform from sal to trek forests until you reach the point known as Kanchighat, where you will stop for a picnic lunch beside a forest stream. During the hike today, you will have chance of spotting a multiple of bird species that include, red-whiskered bulbuls, Indian nuthatch, oriental white-eye, the common tailorbird, and Indian yellow tit, among other species. After lunch you have the option of taking a dip in the stream. The hike ends at Dehelia camp, which will be your campsite for the night. The exclusive campsite is located on the banks of the Denwa River, along a picturesque sandy beach on and a good spot to see the Indian giant squirrel. This morning, after a leisurely breakfast, start your 10-mile hike for the day. The trail is partly along the banks of the Denwa and then enters into a pristine woodland habitat. It takes you through the different natural habitats and landscapes of Satpura — through lush forests, passing along high sand banks, past narrow waterways, and along high plateaus with stunning views of the beautiful scenery, including the confluence of the Denwa and Bainganga rivers. There may be portions when you will need to wade through knee-deep water. Stop for a picnic lunch at the Jhela camp, then continue along the Denwa riverbed and through dry deciduous woodland towards Manakachar, where Reni Pani's exclusive tented camp will be your stop for the night. Enjoy sundowners as you watch the sunset this evening and listen to the sounds of the jungle.

  • Goa

Spend the day exploring the more interesting and hidden parts of Goa with your guide. Start the morning at the vibrant Mapusa market before continuing to the capital, Panaji, to experience the bustling fish market, which offers wonderful photo opportunities. Head to the famous Hospedaria Venite restaurant for lunch. This atmospheric restaurant serves some of the best Goan and Portuguese food in Goa. After lunch, your guide will take you to explore the historical Portuguese Mansion Homes of Goa, before returning to your hotel. For dinner, we recommend Mum’s Kitchen to try to regional Goan and Konkan specialties.

  • Ahilya by the Sea - Goa
  • Jehan Numa Palace Hotel - Bhopal
  • Satpura Under Canvas - Satpura
  • Reni Pani Lodge - Satpura
  • Taj Usha Kiran Palace - Gwalior
  • The Claridges - Delhi
  • Masque - Mumbai

Masque is not easy to find. Hidden deep in an old industrial section of Mumbai in a building that used to be a cotton mill, entering the restaurant conjures stepping through an enchanted doorway into another dimension. Outside is all dark steel and grit; inside are the soaring ceilings and sleek modernity of what is possibly the most ambitious restaurant in India. Chef Prateek Sadhu spent time in the kitchens of Alinea, The French Laundry, and Noma, and you can see those influences, particularly that of Noma, in the style of cooking and service at Masque. But the flavors here are decidedly Indian. Sadhu often focuses on his native Kashmir, which he visits frequently to seek inspiration while foraging and shopping for ingredients. While the tasting menu format — snacks, then increasingly richer larger courses, then dessert — will seem familiar to the moneyed world traveler, the food is entirely distinctive. Ingredients like smoked buttermilk and pickled jackfruit are elegantly paired with seasonal greens, meats, and seafood. Katlam, a delicious Kashmiri bread as flaky as any croissant and yet denser, richer, is paired with a small bottle of ketchup made from jamun, otherwise known as black plum (and purported to have a wealth of health benefits). Sticky smoked pork neck was brightened by local mango, which also appeared alongside a dessert of black rice ice cream. There’s a level of passion from the staff here — from the servers to the impressively mustachioed sommelier to the cooks who usher you into the kitchen for one pre-dessert course — that is almost unnerving in its enthusiasm. But give into it, and you might find yourself with a fervor for Masque that mirrors the immense amount of effort it takes to create an experience like this one.

  • Shree Thaker Bhojanalay - Mumbai

The sign on the wall of Shree Thaker Bhojanalay says, “Please don’t waste food.” It instructs you only to order what you will eat, and to eat everything on your plate. It’s a noble sentiment, but it becomes hard to honor as the hosts enthusiastically insist you try just one more thing. “No, no, I’m full,” you’ll say. “Yes, yes, just try. You must try.” In a crowded neighborhood through a nondescript doorway and up a small staircase, this all-you-can-eat Gujarati vegetarian thali restaurant, which has been serving Mumbai since 1945, is one of the world’s great examples of true hospitality. And the food is stunningly good. Once seated in the stark, tile-floored dining room, a thali plate is placed before you, then quickly filled by waiters carrying trays and vats containing all manner of deliciousness: chutneys, snacks, assorted breads drizzled in ghee, and an endless varieties of vegetable preparations. Dhal, pulao made with fresh young coconut, vegetable curries, creamy okra, bitter gourd studded with cashews. There are fritters filled with fragrant herbs, paneer patties, and a cup of fresh buttermilk to wash it all down. As soon as one dish is empty, a waiter appears to ask if you’d like it refilled. I was blessed to be in Mumbai during mango season, and even more blessed to partake in Shree Thaker’s aamras, a silky mango puree so bright and perfumed it tasted like essence of summer. The hard part was then convincing the host that I didn’t need four more servings, or three other kinds of dessert. In fact, I lost that battle completely. “You will try,” he said firmly and happily. Resistance was futile.

apr 25 2016 ∞
sep 4 2019 +