India is a vast country offering visitors an amazing array of sights. Opulent palaces, Mughal architecture, white sandy beaches, vibrant cities and tranquil backwaters all await discovery. To explore it all would take months and indeed, for many Gap year students with the luxury of time, it is a popular first stop on the well trodden route via Asia to Australia. However for those of you wanting to experience India for the first time we would recommend a trip to Rajasthan, a land unequalled for its heritage and culture.

First stop Delhi, a busy and exciting city. Here you can visit the beautiful Lotus Temple, explore the Red Fort in the old town or take a rickshaw to Silver Street and try out your bartering skills in the busy markets. Then onto Agra, which has some of the most stunning architectural wonders of the Mughal period. Lose yourself at Sikandra, the last resting place of the Mughal Emperor, Akbar the Great, visit the ancient capital Fatehpur Sikri, where local children keep visitors amused by jumping off the dangerously high walls into shallow muddy pools below, leaving enough time to explore the magnificent Agra Fort. This imposing red sandstone fort was rebuilt by Akbar in 1573 and its towers, ramparts and bastions symbolise the confidence and power of this 3rd Mughal emperor. Entering the monumental Delhi Gate, two life-sized stone elephants guard the wooden drawbridge that leads you across to an inner paradise of mirrored palaces, white marble mosques, walled gardens and peacock thrones.

However Agra is most famous for the inspirational and utterly beautiful Taj Mahal. This pure white marble mausoleum is one of the eight wonders of the world and, although you will have seen it a hundred times before, nothing can compare to being there as the sun slowly rises over its glittering domes and minarets. It was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife and queen Mumtaz Mahal. He was deeply in love with her and when she died he dedicated the next twenty year to creating this symbol of his eternal love. It is a special, slightly sad place and, even as the crowds start to gather, you can sense just a hint of his loneliness and the intensity of his grief.

Leaving the metropolis behind, head for Ranthambore National Park, a former hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur. This is the land of the Bengal Tiger, made famous by Rudyard Kipling and the reserve offers one of the best chances of spotting these magnificent cats. There is an abundance of wildlife here so look out for sloth bears, wild boar, porcupines, leopard, Sambhar deer and, hanging from the trees, the colourful tail feathers of peacocks gone to roost. Just outside the park there are some lovely tented camps and colonial lodges, where over afternoon tea and cucumber squares you find yourself drifting back to the time of the Raj.

The colourful and lively cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur are also a must. Jaipur, known as the Pink City, is a mix of modern living and traditional values. Expensive cars expertly dodge the sacred cows that wander the highways and crowded buses rub shoulders with painted elephants en-route to the Amber Palace, set high above the city. You must visit the extraordinary observatory, Jantar Mantar, which consists of fourteen enormous geometric devices used for measuring time, predicting eclipses and tracking stars and then take a moment to stand beneath the Place of Winds. It’s highly decorative facade screened the royal ladies, who were forbidden from being seen by men, allowing them to secretly watch the festivals and processions unfolding below.

Udaipur, the City of Lakes, is renowned for its palaces, the most famous being the Lake Palace. Its white marble silhouette is perfectly reflected in the waters of Lake Pichola and a sunset boat trip followed by dinner is a real highlight. Jodphur, the Blue City, has a charm and a grace all of its own and is one of our favourites. Within the walls of the old city the pace of life seems to slow a little. Sat at a cafe, sipping the eye wateringly bitter coffee, the streets are a sea of colour; men crowned by colourful turbans, hennaed ladies adorned in bright costumes and bedecked in jewels, copper pots brimming with spices and bazaars selling their carpets, leatherwear and inlaid marble. A great last stop to stock up on gifts and for buying the wonderful textiles and richly embroidered cloths available.

If you are interested in learning more about this exotic location or would like help creating your own tailor-made itinerary please talk to John or Martin. John travelled to India in October this year and also visited the holy city of Varanasi, a fascinating city where Hindus come to wash away their sins in the Ganges.


Water Buffalo : Zambia
Travelling around
Travelling by car with a guide is the best way to see India and bombing about the countryside in an old Ambassador can be an adventure in itself. Or for a real treat climb aboard the Maharaja Express, a luxurious train that launched last year. Just the name, the Maharaja Express, summons up romantic images of times gone by, the swish of satin gowns, crushed velvet smoking jackets and the crackle of a freshly poured G&T.
Robin Pope Safaris
Best time to visit Rajasthan is between April and October.
Visas are required for most passport holders and must be applied for in advance.
Flying time on a direct carrier is just over 9 hours.
Currency is the Indian rupee and most cities have ATM’s which accept the major bank cards. It is advisable to take some travellers cheques with you as a standby.
Quick Guide
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