A Trip to India
India is a country that has been on my bucket list for the longest time, and I finally had the chance to go and experience it. I was lucky enough to go as part of an educational journey with the Signature Travel Network and Abercrombie & Kent. The 9 days I spent exploring the incredible country will go down as one of the most memorable trips I have been on.
After a long day of travel, I arrived in Delhi early morning where I was met by my private driver to take me to the beautiful Taj Mahal Hotel. After a few hours of decompressing and relaxing, I met the rest of the group I was going to be traveling with for the next week and a half. We headed off to see the Leela Palace Hotel for a site inspection, followed by dinner at Megu. Upon arrival at the hotel, we were delighted to take part of a traditional ceremony of light, where we thank the Almighty for all of the love, light and devotion we receive every day. It was a very special experience.
The next morning, we set out for an all-day tour of both Old and New Delhi. Our first stop was at the Jama Masjid, which is the world reflecting mosque, which also happens to be the largest mosque in India. After that we had the chance to experience a cycle rickshaw ride through the narrow city streets and then a visit past the Red Fort. In the afternoon we moved on to visit the new parts of the city which still hide historical wonders. Our first stop was Humayun’s Tomb, the first Persian-style garden tomb in India. We then drove down the Raj Path past the India Gate and the President’s Residence. The evening ended with a delicious welcome dinner at our hotel Taj Mahal.
On Sunday morning we had an early start and drove 3 hours to Agra, home of the famous Taj Mahal. Our first stop was the Taj View Hotel for lunch followed by a visit to the Agra Fort. The Agra Fort is an important site which was a stronghold of the Mughals. After about an hour exploring the fort, we went to the hotel to freshen up quickly before returning to see the Taj Mahal at sunset. I have seen pictures and heard stories of people who have been to visit, but I did not expect to be overcome by the emotions that I did when seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time. It is such an incredible masterpiece showing the eternal love for an Emperor and his queen, the beauty is hard to describe and put into words. It took 22 years, 22,000 laborers and over a thousand elephants to build the Taj Mahal. When you look closely at all the intricate details and a impressive architecture, you can see the why it took so long to build. The day ended with an incredible Thali dinner at the Oberoi Amarvillas Hotel.
Monday morning was another early start for us. We met at 5 am to catch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal. It is amazing how different the vibe and energy changes between sunset and sunrise; It was very peaceful. This morning we also had the chance to go inside the mausoleum and see the intricate marble inlay and other stunning details. After enjoying the sunrise at the Taj Mahal, we drove 6 hours to Jairpur. During our transfer, we had the pleasure of stopping to visit Fatehpur Sikri, a deserted red sandstone city that was built by Emperor Akbar in the late 16th century. Early evening we ended up in Jaipur and checked into the gorgeous Leela Palace Jairpur and enjoyed a very memorable meal at Mohan Mahal, where the entire restaurant is lit by only candles, it was magical!
The next day we enjoyed a full day city tour of Jaipur. Our first stop was the famous Amber Fort, which was the ancient capital of Kachhwaha Rajput’s from 1037 until 1727. As you walk around admiring the architecture, you can see distinct Mughal Influence in the design. After spending time enjoying the fort, we stopped at the Oberoi Rajvilas to check out the property and enjoy a leisurely lunch. Our next stops included the city center of Jaipur to visit the City Palace, Jantar Mantar Observatory and the Hawa Mahal. The Hawa Mahal is one of Jaipur’s most iconic buildings made up of pink sandstone and built for the ladies of the harem by Sakai Pratap Singh. We ended our evening by visiting one of the most incredible hotels in the world; Rambagh Palace. This luxury hotel used to be the former residence of the Maharaja of Jaipur and it is absolutely stunning with the mix of Rajput and Mughal architecture styles. I have never seen anything like it before. This is one of those hotels that you will not soon forget.
Wednesday morning, we took a flight to Udaipur, also known as the “city of lakes”. Once we landed, we began our day touring the city of Udaipur. First up was the Royal City Palace which towers over Lake Pichola. Within the palace we visited the main museum which hold a diverse array of artifacts; everything from weapons and gear, glass and mirrors to miniature paintings and ornamental tiles. The most fascinating display we saw was the 129-year-old Crystal Gallery in the Fateh Prakash Palace. We then headed to Saheliyon ki bari to admire the lush green lawns and fountains from the 18th century. After working up an appetite sightseeing in the morning, we had the pleasure of visiting a local family in their home for a traditional home cooked Mewari meal. It was very special being able to learn how to cook traditional food and then all sit down to enjoy the meal together. The day ended at the Taj Lake Palace with a memorable rooftop dinner.
Udaipur has some really incredible temples, and Thursday we had the pleasure of visiting a few of them. We started off visiting the the most famous of the 70 temples, Eklingji Shiva Temple, which was built in 734 A.D. The next temple was the SahastraBahu Temple in the city of Nagda, which was founded in the 6th century. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and has some of the most beautiful carvings I have seen. After spending time admiring all the intricate details both inside and outside of the tombs, we made our way to visit the Oberoi Udaivillas Hotel for a look around and a delightful multi course lunch. Later that evening, we were surprised by a visit to our tour guide’s family home to meet all of his family. It was such a special evening talking to and getting to know all the family members.
After a memorable stay in Udaipur, we took an early morning flight to Mumbai on Friday. At the airport, we were met by our guide for the day and set off to explore the massive city of Mumbai, the financial and entertainment capital of India. Mumbai is located on the Konkan coast of India and is said to be the city that never sleeps. It is also a melting pot of many different cultures. It was a very different feeling right from the start, compared to the other smaller towns that we recently visited. The first stop on our half day tour of Mumbai started with the famous Gateway to India, which was built to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary on their visit to India in 1911. We then headed to Mani Bhawan, a simple building that Mahatma Gandhi stayed in whenever he visited Mumbai. It has been turned into a museum and research center which we were able to go to and spend time learning more about Gandhi’s life. We then took a drive down the Marine drive and saw Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, which is an incredibly stunning Gothic building. We ended our tour at the Prince of Whales museum which houses about 50,000 exhibits of ancient Indian history. The evening was spent enjoying dinner at the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where we also happened to be staying for our time in Mumbai.
Saturday was my last full day in India, but it may have been one of my favorite days. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we set out for a “Five Senses Tour” which was a journey throughout Mumbai experiencing different things that engaged each of our five senses. We started off with “sight” as we took a historic walk through the colonial precinct of Mumbai hearing stories of Mumbai’s history and visiting the famous landmarks along the way. Next up was “sound”, which took us to a Bollywood Dance studio. This was by far my favorite part of the day. We spent our time learning our own personal Bollywood Dance from an extremely talented choreographer who had us all in sync and dancing to the beats of famous Bollywood music. After dancing up an appetite, we headed to the “taste” part of our tour. Lunch was a sampling of the quintessential Thali fare which was full of flavor, Indian spices, curries and more. With full bellies we went on our way to the “smell” part of the tour where we ended up at the famous Mumbai Spice Market. Not only can you buy al your spices here, but you can also get the dry roasted, and ground into your own masala mix. The smells just walking through the market were intoxicating in the best way possible. I made sure to bring some spices home with me so I could use them in the new dishes I learned how to cook earlier in the trip. The last stop on our tour was “touch”. To get a real “feel” of what it it like to be a local in Mumbai, we had the chance to ride the local train through the city. Thankfully, it was not rush hour, so we were able to find a seat and enjoy the ride without being crammed into the cars. Mumbai’s train is one of the largest and busiest commuter train systems in the world. Around 7.5 million people commute on the train every single day. After the tour ended we all went back to the hotel to relax and pack since some of us had to leave that evening to catch our flights home. I said my goodbyes to all my new friends I have made while traveling throughout India. It was sad to say goodbye to the people I shared so many incredible moments with the last 9 days, but I knew we would always have a special bond.
My trip to India was everything I thought it would be and more. I am incredible grateful for the opportunity, and I highly recommend a trip to India for anyone who is looking to visit a country rich in cultural heritage, historical landmarks, culinary delights, warm hospitality and more. You will be not be disappointed.