incredible India amazing!

India, a unique country and civilization, is a mind-boggling potpourri of sights, sounds, colours and experiences as well as a culture-shock of astonishing contrasts. Immerse yourself in this tour but prepare for a revamp of any preconceptions towards one of the world’s ‘must-see’ destinations. 

The jewel of our tour is surely the Taj Mahal, at sunrise, when its colours and ethereal beauty is at its most amazing. Built to house the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, Emperor Jahan’s wife, it took 20,000 men 22 years to finish it. The end result transcends the extraordinary world monument it is. The tomb represents the ultimate expression of a pure and enduring love, a tangible expression of the unquantifiable. 

But there’s more. We’ll see the real India, a sub-continent that covers the full gambit of evolution, from the natural world, including the nation’s unofficial symbol, the tiger, in Ranthambore, through the Rajasthan forts and palaces of the Mogul empire, to the more recent Raj, and British colonial influence. 

We’ll stay for three nights in Rajasthan, regarded as India’s most colourful state, a region fringed by deserts, populated by a fiercely proud, warrior race and a plethora of forts and palaces. No area in all of India more clearly illustrates the paradox of ancient and modern which exist side by side. We stay in the capital city of Jaipur, known as the pink city due to the colour of its walls and so many of its buildings, and we visit the Maharajah’s City Palace as well as the great Amber Fort, one of the masterpieces of Rajput architecture, guarding the northern approaches to the city. 

We delve, ever deeper, into the culture and history of Rajasthan with our stay at the Alsisar Mahal, a restored fort, converted into one of the region’s best heritage hotels. In the same family for over nine generations, the present Thakur, king, of Alsisar has created a genuine hidden gem, with a mix of old world and new. A setting where Belgian crystal chandeliers hang above exquisite marble floors, quarried from the very quarries that supplied the builders of the Taj Mahal. And if you should spot the red and gold standard flying from the tower be camera ready as that means the king is in residence. 

On selected departures our tour continues on to the hill-station of Shimla, the summer capital of India during the Raj. At over 7,300ft, the cooler climate made this the ideal location to escape from the searing summer temperatures on the plains below. Dominated by the baronial splendour of the Viceregal Lodge, Shimla was, in those days, a microcosm of the colonialist’s homeland, with its Mall, surrounded by vast forests of teak and pine and located across a long ridge with steep mountainous terrain on all sides. Though Shimla was not the easiest place to get to, Victorian engineers managed to build one of the marvels of Indian Railways, the 96-mile narrow-gauge line to Shimla, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our journey ‘clickety-clicks’ along those very tracks laid by those intrepid imperial engineers more than a century ago. 

source: guardian advt.

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