India luxury travel guide


2 MINUTE SUMMARY

Luxury travel in India is the difference between a mass produced, machine made pashmina that you buy in a Delhi bazaar and the handwoven, wild goat hair ones that you get from a small Kashmiri village. The latter is tailor made, finely crafted, multi layered and takes time. Our India luxury travel guide reveals journeys that not only take you to the three famous points on India’s Golden Triangle, but to many of the hidden glistening gems at its heart. Travel with an expert guide who reveals the complex layers of history behind a Maharaja’s palace, the complexity of Mughai cuisine or the history of fine arts such as in Royal Art Collections. Stay in a palatial heritage hotel in the heart of Kerala’s Ghat Mountains or beautiful backwaters, and immerse yourself in authentic Ayurvedic tradition. Or head to the heart of the Himalayas in Kashmir and be wrapped up in the prettiest of panoramas. And, of course, pashminas.

Best time to visit India


TEMPERATURE & RAINFALL

Locations: Kerala | New Delhi | Rajasthan
The best time for a luxury vacation in India depends on the region you are visiting. Herein lies the joy of a tailor made vacation as you discuss options with local experts. The Golden Triangle is molten hot from Apr-Jun, so best stay clear. Many national parks famous for tiger watching are closed during the July-mid Oct monsoon, although experts say this is the best season for Ayurvedic rejuvenation in Kerala. Monsoon does not hit the north as badly as the south, however, with Aug temperatures more like a European summer in Rajasthan. And mountainous areas are freezing in winter months.

Why choose a luxury vacation to India?


Responsible Travel recommends

There are some incredible budget vacations to India, so why pay almost double for one that has the luxury label attached to it? Well, if you go to a top restaurant anywhere in the world, your waiter will know all the ingredients, their provenance, the complexity of the recipe and the best wines to complement it. Similarly, if you go on a top luxury trip, your tailor made vacation advisor will be able to take time to discuss every single detail of your proposed itinerary.

They will create journeys that explore not only the tastes of India, but the cultural layers along the way. Street food is great, but being taken to a locally revered Mughai restaurant with Persian traditions is a luxury. Local handicrafts at the bazaar are fun, but exploring Royal Art Collections or meeting Rajasthani lacquer artists is a whole other world. And hiking the Western Ghats is heaven, but so too is falling into bed in a plantation mansion watching the mist fall over the tropical landscapes. These trips give you time to look under the many complex layers of this incredible country and so, if you are planning a trip of a lifetime to India, you will never regret that you paid for this privilege.

Accommodation


It’s not all heavenly heritage hotels in India, but on a luxury vacation you are almost definitely going to sleep in at least one of these historic buildings. They are the crème de la crème of Indian accommodation, although not exclusive to the Bollywood or Hollywood stars of this world by any means. Although they do all have a film set feel about them, with red carpets, Oscar worthy settings, balconies worthy of serenades. Stay in the summer palace of the Maharajas of Travancore, nestled in Kerala’s Cardamom Hills with traditional wooden houses scattered around their elegant grounds. Or at Ajit Bhawan in Jodhpur, a palatial former residence of Maharaj Dhiraj Sir Ajit Singh Ji, opened by his son. These hotels are exquisitely furnished, often with the family’s personal artifacts. Read more about heritage hotels in our Rajasthan guide.
However, swapping gilt and gold for more grassroots experiences can also very much part of luxury vacation experiences, and India’s wealth of hospitality can be celebrated at every strata of this complex society. You can seek out village homestays in Kerala or a more upmarket Chettinad mansion homestay in Tamil Nadu. Kerala also has plenty of mid range hotels, family run and adhering strictly to strict environmental policies, such as the ones run by a family owned chain with the wonderful motto “Nature remains the Chief Architect”.
There are other quirky overnight options for luxury vacations in India. First, stay on a houseboat as it glides through the beautiful backwaters, remote villages and inland tropical idylls of Kerala. Second, you can sleep under the stars in a luxury safari camp at Kanha National Park, popular for tiger watching safaris, but with a wealth of other wonderful wildlife sounds keeping your imagination ticking over as you doze off. Last but not least, sleep on board the Maharajas’ Express train as you travel like royalty through northern India. With 14 luxury cabins on board, a fine dining carriage and a bar with games room, this is one class act.

Shop until you drop


This is one of the most fun ways to be a responsible tourist – so leave plenty of room in your suitcase. When traveling with a luxury tour operator they will know all the quality places to buy excellent quality crafts, genuine handmade silks, teas, spices, jewelry or even a fine art sculpture. And if you want to make donations to local schools and hospitals, seek the advice of your tour operator because it may be possible to buy what is needed locally, and then donate it, thus supporting local shops and traders too.
Photo credits: [Top box: Aditya Siva] [Temp chart: ilaya raja] [Accomodation 1: Simon Pielow] [Accomodation 2: Simon Pielow] [Responsible tourism: Syna Tiger Resort] [Help desk: Roderick Eime]

Responsible tourism


Many luxury hotels and lodges boast impressive environmental and social credentials, from supporting tiger conservation efforts to keeping the Kerala backwaters pollution free. You can still support the local economy in many local ways, from having your own local chauffeur, supporting local education projects and by adhering to strict, responsible wildlife watching guidelines. Particularly when it comes to watching tigers or riding elephants. Click on the links to read more about our stance on these issues.
Written by Catherine Mack
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