In March of 2017, my family went to India for two weeks. My children were 12, 13, 15 and 19 years old at the time. It was an extraordinary experience. I have since tried to find a couple of words or sentences to sum up our time there. The default words – “amazing”, “fantastic”, “exceptional, “life changing”- don’t really work. This was a trip to one of the most complicated and chaotic countries that I have ever visited. It wasn’t perfect and in many instances, we felt uncomfortable both physically and emotionally. However, I would do it all again.
In this blog, I am going to provide our itinerary – where we went, where we stayed, where we ate, and what we saw. In the blog called Best Places to Visit in India: Four Reasons Why You Should Go, I discuss why India was an amazing place to visit. My third blog on India is called India with Kids: Eight Reasons Not To Go. This blog highlights many challenges that we faced when we visited India. I hope our experiences will help you decide whether India is the right trip for you and your family.
Like any trip we take, I spent hours and hours researching India. However, there came a time that I knew that I needed help creating our itinerary. For all the helpful advice and reviews offered by the internet, I wanted the expertise that only a local could provide.
It was my good fortune that I discovered Mona Kapoor, the owner of a travel agency called Indian Vistas. She was absolutely fantastic. I told her that I wanted to:
- visit cities and rural villages;
- see key cultural and historical sites;
- learn about local crafts and artisans;
- have experiences with animals; and
- meet locals and learn about their way of life.
She delivered an exceptional itinerary for my family.
Day 1 – Amritsar
Afternoon – We arrived and were greeted at the airport. On our way to our hotel, we stopped at The Yellow Chilli restaurant and had a delicious lunch. Afterwards, we went to our hotel called Ranjit’s Svaasa.
Evening – We went to the Golden Temple and watched the Sikh’s Holy Book be put to bed. The Temple was alive with thousands of people celebrating Holi and their pilgrimage to the Golden Temple. We ate dinner at the hotel.
Day 2 – Amritsar
Morning – We returned to the Golden Temple and toured the magnificent complex. A highlight was visiting the Langar, a kitchen run entirely by volunteers that provides between 50,000 -75,000 free meals a day. We also visited Jalianwala Bagh, a public garden near the Temple that commemorates a massacre by British soldiers in 1919. We went back to The Yellow Chilli for lunch.
Afternoon – In the late afternoon, we drove to the Wagah Border, the common border between India and Pakistan. We watched Indians and Pakistanis, on both sides of the border, celebrate the lowering of the Indian and Pakistani flags. It was a wild experience! There were thousands of people watching an elaborate choreographed routine with Indian and Pakistani soldiers on each side of the border. It was as much about nationalism as it was about cooperation between the two countries with a very complicated relationship.
Day 3 – Hoshiarpur
Morning – We drove approximately 3 hours to Hoshiarpur, a city and district in Punjab. There, we stayed in the countryside around 15 minutes out of town, on a farm called Citrus County. We were the only guests for our two night stay and were thoroughly spoiled by the owners and their staff. All meals were included in our stay.
Afternoon – After lunch, our host took us on a guided walk of the village next to the farm. We met many lovely families and were invited to every single person’s home for tea! We learned about how many families live in rural Punjab. Next, we hopped on the back of a tractor and took a tour of the orchards, which was lovely.
Dinner – In the evening, our hosts organized a cookout in the garden. We were taught how to make a delicious mutton stew from a family recipe, and then, we ate under the stars.
Day 4 – Hoshiarpur
Morning – Our host took us to Hoshiarpur for a walking tour of the city. We shopped in narrow alleys, all the while dodging people, cows and dogs, motorcycles and bicycles coming from all sorts of directions. We did see beautiful wood crafts, and leather shoes, and my daughter and I tried on traditional sarees. However, it was a relief to return to the quiet and calm of the farm.
Afternoon – We drove into the mountains and went for hike. Surprisingly, it felt odd to be isolated and surrounded by nature when the chaos of Hoshiarpur seemed only minutes away. There was a huge contrast between our morning and afternoon experiences.
Day 5 – Delhi
Morning – We drove back to Amritsar and had lunch at The Yellow Chilli.
Evening – We ate at Megu, a Japanese restaurant at the hotel. The restaurant was stunningly beautiful and the food was delicious.
Day 6 – Delhi
Morning – We went to Old Delhi and visited Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. Then, just steps away, we took a rickshaw ride through Chandni Chowk, a market area brimming with people, monkeys and cows, cars, bicycles and motorcycles. It was crazy and I was relieved to not be walking. Afterwards, we went to a Hindu Temple called LaxmiNarayn Temple and learned about the Hindu faith.
Afternoon – We had lunch at Lutyens Cocktail House for another fabulous meal. In the late afternoon, we drove 1 1/2 hours to Gurgaon, a city next to Delhi. Mona (our travel agent) and her husband hosted us for drinks and hors d’oeuvres in their home. It was so nice to get to spend time with them.
Evening – We went to the Kingdom of Dreams to see a live Bollywood show. The theatre complex was incredible and we saw some amazing dancing and costumes.
Day 7 – Delhi
Morning – We went to New Delhi and visited Qutab Minar and Humayun’s Tomb, which were fascinating. We drove around the colonial part of Delhi called Raisina Hill and saw various monuments and government buildings. We also went shopping at Hauz Khas Village, which had fantastic shopping for contemporary Indian fashion and art.
Afternoon – We had a delicious lunch at Lazeez Affaire and then, did more shopping.
Evening – We had dinner outside at Lodi – The Garden Restaurant. It was beautiful.
Day 8 – Agra
Morning – We drove four hours to Agra. We checked into the Courtyard by Marriott Agra and then, went to the Taj Mahal. This was an extraordinary experience and one of the reasons we decided to visit India. It did not disappoint.
Afternoon – We ate a delicious lunch at Bon Barbecue. After lunch, we visited stone masons descended from the masons who built the Taj Mahal. It was interesting watching them create works of art. Thereafter, we went to the Agra Fort, which was a fascinating. Dinner was at the hotel.
Day 9 – Ranthambore National Park
Morning – We drove 1 1/2 hours to Bhartapur to catch a train to Ranthambore National Park. The train ride was approximately two hours. This was a pretty interesting experience. We were all scattered about on the train in “first class” (which was not even close to first class in western terms) and shared spaces with other Indian people who couldn’t speak English. I loved looking out the window and seeing rural life. I also thoroughly enjoyed the people watching on the train. Everybody who we met was very helpful and kind.
Afternoon – We were met at the station and transferred to our hotel Sher Bagh. We had lunch (all meals were included in our stay) and then, went on our first tiger safari. We did not see any tigers, but saw other wild animals in beautiful surroundings.
Evening – We had cocktails and hors d’oeuvres by a campfire, and dinner under the stars. It was magnificent. I almost died when I bumped into a tiger outside our tent (story to follow in a later blog)…really.
Day 10 – Ranthambore National Park
Morning – We went on a tiger safari and saw a tiger. It was amazing.
Afternoon – We sat by the pool, played cards and read. In the late afternoon, we went on another safari.
Evening – We had cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner under the stars in a different spot on the property. It was spectacular!
Day 11 – Jaipur
Morning – We drove four hours to Jaipur and checked into the magnificent Taj Jai Mahal Palace and had lunch.
Afternoon – We went to Hawa Mahal, a wall with 953 little windows and balconies to allow women of the royal household to view outside events without being seen. After, we went on a walking tour of the market and learnt about spices and Indian foods. I love exploring markets in different countries! Later, we had High Tea on the roof of a home of a local family where we learned about the history of the family and the City, and had a tour of her house. It was very interesting.
Day 12 – Jaipur
Morning – We went to Amer, the Medieval Rahput Citadel. We rode up to the fort on the back of elephants. The scenery was breathtaking. Afterwards, we went to Jantar Mantar, a collection of nineteen architectural astronomical instruments and learned the history and use of these items.
Dinner – We ate dinner outside at Giardino, an Italian restaurant at the hotel. It was very good.
Morning – We visited Dera Amer, a farm on the outskirts of Jaipur, and had an elephant safari. We washed and fed the elephants. Afterwards, we painted them (with natural and organic products) in a traditional Indian fashion and then, climbed onto their backs for a walk in the mountains. We had a fantastic private lunch in the garden.
Afternoon – We visited a block printing factory and watched the traditional form of hand-dying and printing patterns on material. It was very interesting. On the way back to the hotel, we did a little bit of shopping.
We flew home.
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