Deep, plunging valleys and looming mountain ranges that are breathtaking and heart-stopping all the same, Himachal Pradesh is a heavenly abode that none can forget once visited. Treacherous trekking routes and magical rivers along with quiet monasteries and relaxing resorts, there is so much to explore in Himachal Pradesh that you just can’t get enough of it. Whether it’s exploring quaint hill stations of attempting the impossible through paragliding, here’s a handy guide to take you through the roller coaster that is Himachal Pradesh.
Indian food enthusiast and travel expert James shares his top 5 recommended food experiences in India. The restaurant curries in the UK are totally different to authentic Indian cuisine and tasting the real dishes is an enlightening experience. From mouth-watering, juicy chicken and beef kebabs – seasoned with spices – to tapas style potato and chickpea dishes, and lightly fried pakora, there’ll be something for everyone.
It is customary to tip in India. Staff will happily to accept and appreciate it. Small tips (anything between 20 and 100 rupees) for small services, such as looking after shoes, carrying bags etc… are appreciated and bar staff also expect small tips. However, please do not feel obliged to tip every time, or to give more than a small note.
India is a vast country, with a colourful and sometimes chaotic way of life. For even the most well-travelled visitor, exploring the country can seem a little daunting. This is where the benefit of a guide (and driver!) becomes clear.
India is a vast country encompassing everything imaginable from the mountainous Himalayas in the north to the tropical coastal beaches of the south. It can be very daunting planning a trip to the country, as there is so much to see and it is home to so many different ways of life. Here, we’re sharing our expert tips on how best to start planning.
India, with a population of more than a billion people, a massive – and massively diverse – land mass and spellbinding diversity, can be a hard place to pin down. To me it feels more like a continent than a country and I can understand why some people find it a little bewildering and confusing.
We sent travel writer and wildlife enthusiast Robin McKelvie on a research mission to Satpura National Park. Less frequented than the more famous Ranthambore National Park, here he shares his experience spotting on his jeep, walking and canoe safari.
Delhi is one of those cities that you have to visit at least once in a lifetime. It is India’s London, Paris or New York, a truly global city bursting with enough to do to occupy you for a month, never mind a few days.
What makes Jaipur so compelling is that the ultra modern and new industries are built on a bedrock, a literal bedrock, of pink sandstone. The famed ‘Pink City’ is just that. Its old core is alive with pink hued stone, which changes shade constantly from sunrise to sunset.
On my Experience Travel Group adventure here I learned that there are myriad ways to discover the Pink City. One day I headed off with a knowledgeable local guide with residents of the city to discover places that they did not even know. On another I got up at sunrise for a guided cycle tour through the city as it woke. Here are my top 9 experiences in Jaipur for you to enjoy.
1. Lose Yourself in the Pink City – Yes it really is that pink! Gloriously so. Even at the height of the day the scorching sun casts a rich red hue as it warms the stone. It is early in the morning and at sunset, though, that Jaipur really does take on a quite breathtaking beauty. This is the time I recommend you lose yourself in the old streets, letting the centuries ease back as you weave past a sea of people, tuk tuks, motorbikes, cows, pigs and eve monkeys.
2. Explore the City Palace – No visit to Jaipur is complete without delving into the City Palace, actually a complex of palaces first built in 1729 and added to over the centuries. This is the very heart of the city and swirls together Rajasthani and Mughal architecture in one glorious pink confection. I especially enjoyed poking around in the Armoury, checking out ceremonial weapons, and eking through the cool, marble interior courtyards.
3. The Romance of the Palace of the Winds – The nickname of the Hawa Mahal is romantic in itself. It is worthy of the moniker, though, a dream concoction of red sandstone layered like a honeycomb pyramid. Every one of its 953 windows is intricately decorated, and would once have kept the royal ladies from display, allowing them to watch what was happening in the street outside without being seen themselves.
4. Take a Heritage Walk – I loved that Experience Travel hooked me up with a local guide who was seriously passionate about his city. I would never have found them otherwise as they had no web presence. As it was I joined a tour along with half a dozen locals – who all worked in design agencies – for an exploration of the old town that delved into long forgotten old mansions. People still lived in these old dames, much to the surprise of the locals in my group. We were very much discovering their city together. I also loved that we stopped off for street food titbits as we went. The guide knew the best stalls where both hygiene and quality was high.
5. Sunrise Cycle – This early start was more than worth it as I got to experience the city waking up from the unique perspective of a bike. If you’d told me before this trip that I would be cycling around the dramatic chaos of a major Indian city I would not have believed you. But here I found myself immersed in the urban jungle and loving every second. My expert guide ensured my bike and helmet were spot on before we embarked and looked after me all the way. We stopped off at street stalls for a delicious lassi, some sweet chai with the local workers and a wee bakery for sweet treats. Woven into the mix were a market bursting with colour and life and a Hindu temple, where Krishna was being enthusiastically and loudly worshipped.
6. Delve Through History – The Albert Hall dates back, as it sounds, to colonial times. It is a glorious example of colonial architectire, fusing European, Indian and Islamic styles into one chocolate box pretty whole. Within its ornate walls the story of the city is elegantly and evocatively told. This is a must if you want to learn more about what makes Jaipur tick and the eclectic influences that have woven its rich fabric over the centuries.
7. Dinner with the Royal Family – When Experience Travel told me I had the chance to dine with a local family I didn’t for a second expect it be a royal family! Yet here I found myself in the kitchen at Sai Niwas as a descendant of the royal family of nearby Jodhpur cooked me up a gloriously spicy dinner along with her renowned polo commentator son. I enjoyed a hands-on cooking lesson before we devoured a delicious dinner and talked about the history of the city and vagaries of life today in Jaipur, getting a totally unique experience.
8. Sculpture and Light – It was back to the City Palace for a spectacular show that not only entertained, but informed me about the history of the local maharajas. This son et lumiere show (which only opened in 2014) is a must do. You can combine it with dinner at the restaurant here too. It takes a swashbuckling and spectacular journey through six centuries of the local dynasty.
9. Trek to the Hill Forts – On my last morning in Jaipur I was picked up and whisked off out of the city into a rugged crumple of hills. Here I joined a local guide, who led me through a small village and up through a Hindu temple on to the bare hills. We met a farmer who was out looking for his oxen. He was worried as a leopard had just been spotted in the area! We eked our way up through the wilderness to Kuntilgarh Fort. From the ramparts I could see myriad forts, palaces and walls stretching all around. The scene reminded of the Great Wall in China, not something I had been expecting to see on the edge of Jaipur, but Jaipur is like that!
Rajasthan has an abundance of heritage and offers some fabulous cities to visit including: Jaipur, Ajmer, Jodshpur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh and Jaisalmer. Here’s a short guide by local Rajasthan enthusiast, Rohit, about the top things to experience in the state.
Learning about our ancestors can help us to get to the bottom of our identity; what has our family done, where have they lived and how does that influence ourselves and our relatives today?
Exploring your family tree can be a fascinating and exciting trip through history, but with such a wealth of information out there on the Internet – and so many different resources to take it from – where do you start?
Sheena travelled to the Jaipur Literature Festival 2014 and had an incredible experience listening to the world’s most respected writers and artists during the week-long celebration. Here she shares the highlights of her adventure.
Mu explored the wild and varied nature of India’s famous national parks. Spotting wild peacocks rooting at the side of the road, to hearing the chattering of Nynah birds to close encounters with rather confident monkeys, here she shares her experience:
India has the fastest growing aviation market in the world, making it ever easier to reach different regions for a particularly insightful holiday.
With the approach of Queens and Wimbledon in the coming weeks we have decided to take a look at the rise of Asian tennis.
Nick shares part 2 of his top 10 experiences in Southern India. From experiencing local festivals, to sampling delicious food, he gives his insider tips to getting the best out of your holiday to Kerala.
After returning from his trip to South India, travel specialist Nick shares part 1 of his top 10 experiences in this relaxed and stunning region of the world.
India is always an explosion to the senses and brilliant place to explore and relax. This year, there are some exciting new experience on offer that give you the perfect excuse to start planning your holiday to this diverse country.
James, with his in-depth knowledge of India, Borneo and Southeast Asia is the newest recruit to the ETG travel team. He’s joined us after a sensational demand for our holidays and we’re very pleased to welcome him as a travel specialist. Get to know James in his introductory blog.
Sam gives his insider tips on travelling in India. From turban tying, to kite flying to staying in castles, here he tells us more about his favourite experiences.
Philippa Kaye, our ‘on the ground’ travel expert in Delhi, says everyone travelling to India should stay in a homestay. I was surprised because for me ‘homestays’ conjure images of quaint local houses, with pretty basic conditions, in remote rural locations – they certainly weren’t for everyone. I went to investigate myself to resolve the great Indian homestay conundrum.
Finding your next family holiday destination can be a daunting prospect. To make your life a little easier, we’ve put together a round-up of the best family holiday destinations all around Asia.
With the launch of our newest destination, I thought it’s time to share some of my insider secrets and favourite experiences in India.
Fantastic news from the High Commission of India today; UK passport holders can now gain entry to India via their successful E-visa scheme which has being running for many nationalities since November 2014.