Who needs a Roman Holiday? Hop on for a royal ride or go tiger spotting in the land of the Maharajas. Better still soothe your senses amidst the tranquil backwaters of God’s Own Country. Here’s taking a look at some of the most luxurious and exclusive holiday destinations in India.
PALACE ON WHEELS:Seven days of sheer indulgence and divine luxury.
About the Train: Peeping Inside The Palace
The 14 coaches of the Palace on Wheels are named after former Rajput states matching the aesthetics and interiors of the royal past. Each saloon has a mini pantry and a lounge to ensure availability of hot and cold beverages and refreshments and a place to get together.
The saloons are air-conditioned, with twin-bedded chambers, music, intercom and attached toilets. The furniture with its inlaid motifs has been specially designed for the train. The current Palace on Wheels is the third generation of the train. The original coaches are now kept in a museum. These original coaches were made of teak wood and had brass balconies for the maharajas and maharanis to get fresh air on their travel. The current coaches are a true imitation of the erstwhile grandeur. Laced with fine miniature art painting telling tales of romance and valour, the train recreates the feel of a royal abode.
The train has two lavish restaurants “The Maharaja” and “The Maharani” with a Rajasthani ambience. They not only specialise in the local Rajasthani cuisine but also authentic continental and Chinese cuisine. The train has a well-stocked bar offering the choicest of spirits. The two restaurants are panelled with mirrors and intricate chandeliers, giving it a look of a “sheesh-mahal”.
What to Do: The Palace on Wheels tour starts every Wednesday from New Delhi. The reporting time is 4.30 p.m. at Delhi’s Safdarjung Railway Station where a royal reception awaits you. The train departs from the station at 6.30 p.m. And thus begins your royal journey.
Where to Stay: On the train, of course. You are on a seven-day royal ride once on the Palace on Wheels. You only get off the train for some hours for sightseeing in the cities that the palace chugs through.
The train has two restaurants—The Maharaja and The Maharani—which are panelled with mirrors
What to Eat: Most of your meals are taken care of on the train. And the lunches are organised at 5-star resorts which, among other delicacies, offer authentic local cuisine. Some of the authentic delicacies to indulge in are “dal baati” for vegetarians and “lal maans” for non-vegetarians.
What to See: The Palace on Wheels takes you through some of the most beautiful and historic cities. Some of the prime attractions are Amber Palace in Jaipur, Lake Palace in Udaipur, The Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur and the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Tariff: Rs 1.20 lakh approximately
Address: Palace on Wheels, Rajasthan
Tourism Development Corpn. Ltd., Room No. 211 & 213, Ist Floor, Bikaner House, Pandara Road, New Delhi
Contact: 91 11 23381884
THE KERALA HOUSEBOAT: Lap up nature in these tranquil backwaters.
About the Place
The National Geographic Traveller has acknowledged it as one of the must-see paradises of the world. The phrase God’s Own Country best describes it. Dotted with serene backwaters, beckoning hill stations and pristine beaches, it’s not for nothing that Kerala is one of the most sought-after destinations of the world. The Alleppey district of Kerala is often referred to as the Venice of the East, being surrounded by waterways and canals. Renowned for the beautiful backwaters surrounding it, it’s also known for the famous Nehru Trophy Snake Boat race held every year around Onam. Alappuzha or Alleppey is also home to Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala, one of the few places in the world where farming is done below sea level.
Alleppey's allure is the backwaters. Begin with a cruise, then stroll back into the town, past the canals covered with mauve hyacinths. A backwater cruise on the Punnamada Kayal takes you along canals, past scenic islands offering sublime views of coconut and paddy fields, Chinese fishing nets and toddy tappers at work. Its beauty is not merely restricted to its backwaters, but in the man-made islands that you will find amidst the waters. These islands are hedged by mud walls, a haven for migratory birds, with paddy fields inundated with water throughout the year.
What to Do: Besides the backwater cruises, the trip to Alleppey is not complete without visiting the beautiful Alappuzha beach, which has the Arabian Sea on the west and a vast network of lakes, lagoons and fresh water lakes overlapping it.
Where to Stay: Kerala houseboats are an improvisation of the large country barges of old days. They are comfortably furnished with an open lounge, attached bedrooms and a kitchen. Every houseboat is manned by a cook, a guide and an oarsman. You could choose from a range of one-, two- or three-bedroom houseboats. Tariffs vary, depending on the route of the houseboat.
What to Eat: Kerala’s cuisine is mildly flavoured and gently cooked. Try mouthwatering delicacies like aviyal, which is cooked salad, seasoned with curd and coconut. Pathiri or pancakes and rice crunchies like kozhalappam too are must-haves.
What to See: A trip to Kerala will not be complete without experiencing a houseboat cruise. The routes of the houseboats cover villages, paddy fields, temples and beaches.
Tariff: Tariffs vary depending upon the route of the houseboats
Address: Coco India Tour Company
Kariyil Chira Buildings, Near Nehru Trophy Finishing Point, Rajeev Boat Jetty, Thathampally Post, Alleppey-688013
GLENBURN TEA ESTATE: Savour the scenery over a hot cuppa.
About the Place
The pristine beauty of the Himalayas with its snow-capped peaks, flaming red rhododendrons, sparkling white magnolias, exotic forests, fern-filled valleys and emerald green tea bushes—Darjeeling has all of them and more to attract tourists who need a break from the heat and dust of the plains. The “Queen of Hills” is also fast emerging as the best “Tea Tourism Destination” in the world.
The 1,600-acre estate, owned by the Kolkata-based Prakash family, is actually a river valley with breathtaking views of the Kanchenjunga Range. It stretches from an elevation of 3,700 feet, all the way down to the sandy banks of the two snow-fed Himalayan rivers— Rungeet and Rung Dung—that meander through the Rungeet Valley and Rung Dung tea estates.
Apart from the sprawling tea fields, Glenburn has forests that are a paradise for bird watchers and hikers. Across the river lie the forests and villages of the old royal kingdom of Sikkim, which you can access via a hanging bridge. One can walk across the river into Sikkim, play a game of croquet or beach cricket, have a refreshing dip in the river, fish for some local trout, river raft or simply soak in the sun. With acres of beautiful forests to explore, riverside and other in-house activities, and Darjeeling and Sikkim on its doorstep, a week at Glenburn could be truly relaxing, or action-packed with adventure, says Husna-Tara Prakash, owner of Glenburn Tea Estate.
What to Do: It can be a truly action-packed holiday complete with a camp out, river rafting and a hike through the forests. You can also learn about the fascinating process of tea making.
Where to Stay: A stay at any of the suites in the bungalow with their Spanish mahogony upholstery and European paintings take you back to the days of the British Raj.
To complete your ‘Glenburn Experience’, learn about the fascinating process of tea making
What to Eat: The sit-down dinner at the The Dining Room served in true planter’s style is a treat in itself. Food is served according to the select preferences of each guest.
What to See: One can take the ‘Tea Tour’, go on an excursion to the Glenburn campsite, hike along the Rungeet river to the nearby Manjithar village, do some river rafting on the Rung Dung, go on a drive-cum-hike up to the Lamha Haata Orchad or take a day excursion to Darjeeling.
Tariff: For Indians: Rs 12,500 for double occupancy and Rs 8,000 for single occupancy. The group rate (12-16 people) for the entire bungalow and estate rental is Rs 45,000 per night.
For foreign nationals: $400 for double occupancy and $265 for single occupancy. The group rate is $1,450 per night.
Address: Glenburn Tea Estate (Tourism Division) Kanak Building, 41, Chowringhee Road, Kolkata–71
Contact: + 91 33 2288 5630/1805,
Fax: +91 33 2288 3581
Ms. Husna-Tara Prakash,
Phone: +91 98300 70213
THE ORANGE COUNTY RESORT: It’s bound to leave you mesmerised forever.
About the Place
Situated on the Western Ghats in Karnataka, Coorg, the beautiful hill resort, is best known for its famous export to Bollywood, Aishwarya Rai. One trip to Coorg (also know as Kodagu) and its lush green valleys and teak wood forests are bound to leave you mesmerised forever. Coorg is known as the land of warriors and is one of the few places in the country that boasts of having a pleasant, temperate climate all year round. The mountainous region is home to the Kodava people, known for their martial traditions and hospitality. If the Kodava texts are to be believed, the 2,500-year-old civilisation of the Kodavas originated from a synthesis of people that formerly lived in the region of Oman & Yemen. Another belief claims that Scythian Greek soldiers brought by Alexander stayed on after his return and married the local women of Kodagu, to form a new, distinct race. It’s also called the ‘Scotland of India’ and ‘Kashmir of the South’ by people who visited and were enchanted by the hill station. Misty hills, lush forest, acres and acres of tea and coffee plantations, orange groves are what make Coorg an unforgettable holiday destination. It’s the land of chivalry and pride, where you get to live a life in solitary splendour. So wake up and smell its coffee.
What to Do: A visit to Coorg is not just about a guided tour of the coffee and spice plantations. Madikeri or Mercara, in the district headquarters of Kodagu is a charming hill station. The 19th century fort here offers a panoramic view of the region. A scenic 36-km drive from Madikeri takes you to the Bhagamandala temple, built in the multi-roofed architectural style of Kerala. The Abbey falls, 9 km from Madikeri, offer a splendid backdrop for picnics.
Where to Stay: Opt for the Orange County Resort, situated in the tiny hamlet of Siddhapur. Located amidst 200 acres of coffee and spice plantations, the resort offers luxury tents, cottages, pool villas and presidential villas.
The beautiful hill resort
What to Eat: Coorg’s cuisine is best known for its distinct flavour and subtle use of spices. Interesting specialities include the kadambattu, akki rotis, and pandi curry.
What to See: Visit the Dubare Elephant Camp set up across the river Cauvery. Bylekuppe, the second-largest Tibetan settlement outside Tibet is also a must-see.
Tariff: Tariffs for a night’s stay for a couple range from Rs 10,000-Rs 21,000.
Address: Orange County Resort Karadigodu Post, Siddapur, Coorg Dist-571253 Karnataka
THE OBEROI VANYAVILAS: Rajasthan’s famed National park and tiger reserve.
About the Place
It’s the famed National park and tiger reserve of Rajasthan. Located in Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan, the park lies at the edge of a plateau and is bound by the Banas river on the north and the Chambal river on the south. It’s named after the historic Ranthambore fortress, which lies within the national park. Ranthambore National Park is probably the best place in the world to see wild tigers and is the only dry deciduous tiger habitat in the world though their population is dwindling. It’s the only forest reserve in the state of Rajasthan, and in the entire Aravalli hill range, where wild Bengal tigers still exist. The dry, deciduous habitat of the reserve makes it much easier to observe tigers in their natural habitat. Ranthambore is the place where the Aravallis and Vindhyas meet and this confluence, perhaps, is the reason for its rich bio-diversity. The park is open to tourists from October-June, and receives more than 50,000 visitors every year. Ranthambore was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955, and became part of the Project Tiger reserve in 1973. Located close to the outer fringes of the Thar desert, the place offers you the best of the desert land as well as the plain area near the hills.
The Vanyavilas combines the exhilaration of jungle adventure with the luxury of elegantly appointed spacious tents amidst serene, natural surroundings. There are 25 luxury tents, spread over the 20-acre resort. The Oberoi spa at the resort offers a number of holistic, non-clinical therapies, incorporating ancient Ayurvedic principles. The library bar offers an excellent selection of fine spirits, cigars and books on wildlife and is just the place to relax and exchange jungle stories. Guests can also enjoy nature walks within its premises, and be part of lectures and talks on wildlife.
What to Do: Besides the famed jungle safari, the three temples dedicated to Ganesh, Shiva and Ramlalaji, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, and located inside the Ranthambore fort, are a must-see. The park covers an area of 392 km and is famous for its tigers. Other wild animals include the leopard, sambar, chital and gaur. Do carry a pair of binoculars, sunglasses and sunscreen with you.
Where to Stay: The Oberoi Vanyavilas is set in 20 acres of landscaped gardens and offers the ideal base from which to explore the territory. The resort offers 25 luxury tents. It also organises daily safaris for the Ranthambore tiger reserve.
What to Eat: Sample traditional Rajasthani fare like dal, bati, churma. Batis are baked wheat balls, eaten with dal or lentils and churma or powdered sweetened cereal makes for the dessert.
What to See: A must-see are the three majestic lakes within the national park, specially the Padam Talao—a large lake which is the favourite watering hole for the animals.
Tariff: Tariffs vary with the change in season and range from Rs 34,500 to Rs 38,800.
Address: The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambore Road Sawai Madhopur-322001, Rajasthan
RAWLARESORT CAMEL SAFARI: Leave your footprints on the sands of time.
About the Place
The Thar Desert Camel Safaris are a great way to see the desert in totality. The camel treks range from short rides around Jaisalmer to extensive trips that remind you of Lawrence of Arabia on his epic journey across the Sahara. With some glorious citadels and extremely colourful and untouched villages, the camel safari could be your most memorable holiday.
The Rawla Resort Camel Safari is one of the best in Jaisalmer. This camel safari takes you through the ever changing landscape of the desert on a route of your choice. They provide you with special Swiss tents and traditional cottages. The camel safaris are supplemented with colorful cultural evenings.
The safari is totally custom made for you. Right from the duration of the safari to the final destination… you get to choose it all for yourself. One thing's for sure, the journey on the ship of the desert will not be as challenging for you as it was for Marco Polo. You can close your safari in one day or choose a longer route.
The complete camel safari will cost you Rs 3,500 per person for a day. Best Season for Camel Safari: October to February. The summers are too harsh in the desert.
|Experience the desert in your very own oasis in special Swiss tents and traditional cottages|
Where to Stay: In case you have opted for just a day-long safari, you could return to the resort by the end of the day. But if you decide to explore the desert longer, then you can spend the nights in tents.
What to Eat: A camel safari does not mean frugal meals. You are served breakfast, lunch and a four-course dinner.
What to See: Beautiful settlements of nomads can be seen. The dunes and the sand patterns at dusk lend you mesmerising memories to last a lifetime. The cultural event after you camp for the day is the high point of your safari.
What to Carry on a Camel Safari: The climate is extreme. Afternoons are hot ranging from 30 to 45 degrees. Night temperatures may drop below zero. It is essential to stock both woollen and cotton clothing. Sun hats with large rims or cotton caps that can be dipped in water when it gets too hot around midday are essential, preferably with a scarf for covering the neck and forehead. Sunscreen cream, moisturisers and lip salve are a must. A water bottle too.
Tariff: The complete camel safari will cost you Rs 3,500 per person for a day.
Address: Rawla Resort, Registered Office, Gandhi Chowk, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
VIVADA CRUISES TO SUNDERBANS: Get acquainted with a rich biodiversity.
About the Place
Now you can actually take a luxury cruise through the meandering rivers and the eerie creeks of Sunderbans, courtesy Vivada Inland Waterways, the largest inland waterways company in India. Tourists always had other means to reach Sunderbans, which boasts a mix of dense mangrove forests and a fabulous wildlife. But a cruise on a 53-metre ship, which has on offer 32 air-conditioned, spacious cabins with attached baths, telephone, internet connectivity, ample reading stuff at the library, tea and coffee-makers and even an emergency kit, always eluded them. Now all these and more have been made available at M.V. Paramhansa.
Says S.K. Chakrabarti, Director (Tourism), Vivada Inland Waterways: “There has never been a river cruise that covers 375 km over 3 nights and 4 days at an average speed of 10 knots/hour, letting the most discerning traveller enjoy his holiday amidst nature, forest and in total seclusion. There is nature, wildlife, a canopy walk, privacy, on board entertainment like live performances of ‘golden oldies’, baul and bhatiyali songs, instrumental, wildlife film shows, interactive session with wildlife and forest experts and local theatrical performances on the ground and wide array of cuisine. The only complaint a guest can have is that the food is too much and too good. Where else can you get all these?”
What to Do: The chefs onboard from Global Kitchen ‘n’ Lounge, which runs popular fine-dining restaurants like Kurry Klub and KK’s Fusion, also take care of your appetite and taste buds. The mouth-watering spread of dishes are from all corners of the world, says Pradip Rozario, Chef Owner. Burn some calories at the cruise gym. You can also get an Ayurvedic treatment at the massage parlours or read at the library. The bar enables you to relax. Also on offer are an art gallery.
Where to Stay: On the ship, of course.
What to Eat: From Chicken Manckow Soup, Mulligatawny Soup to Chicken Hawaiian Salad, Yakhni Shorba Salad, Prawn in basil dressing, to Peking style Lamb, the menu is vast. There is also an array of vegetarian dishes.
What to See: The spectacular sunrise, traditions and culture of the people in the Sunderbans and the region’s rich biodiversity. And, of course, the wild animals. If you desire, there’s also an experienced guide on hand.
Tariff: Main Deck (Deluxe Rooms) $735 for 3 nights-4 days (plus taxes)
First Deck (Luxury Rooms) $885 for 3 nights-4 days (plus taxes)