According to travel expert Prachi Joshi of The Times UK, “Traveling in India can overwhelm your senses with sights, smells, and sounds. One moment you might be gazing at the snowclad Himalayas in Ladakh, and the next, sipping beer and eating fried fish at a beach shack in Goa. You could listen to the clattering of train wheels as you careen through the Nilgiri mountains or the gentle lapping sounds of Kerala’s backwaters on a houseboat cruise… Then there’s the contrasting architecture: swanky malls in Bengaluru and ancient archaeological wonders in Mahabalipuram.” And the food – a national treasure in its own right – spicy, rich, flavourful, and diverse!
Tracy Hughes, Certified Travel Consultant of Stellar Travel, recently spent ten days traveling throughout India. Read along as she shares her experiences, favorite sites, and the unexpected moments she’ll never forget!
What was the purpose of your trip?
I went with a small travel advisor group on a Familiarization Trip hosted by Abercrombie & Kent, which allows travel advisors to experience destinations first-hand to serve clients better. Abercrombie & Kent pioneered luxury travel over 60 years ago, bringing an award-winning combination of exclusivity, comfort, and authenticity to each location and itinerary. I was fortunate to experience the ten-day Signature India & the Taj Mahal itinerary.
What were your accommodations and transportation like?
Like all Abercrombie & Kent’s journeys, our itinerary included stays in five-star resorts and provided private transportation between flights and from various destinations. Each resort was stunning, with impeccable service!
My favorite stay throughout the journey was at The Leela Palace in Jaipur. I stayed in a Royal Villa with a private plunge pool, personalized butler service, and enchanting views of palace landscapes. It was the most relaxing and serene hotel I have ever had the pleasure of staying at. For dinner, I had a one-of-a-kind experience at Mohan Mahal, the most elegant restaurant at the Palace. The restaurant took three years to build, and the walls are decorated with 350,000 pieces of cut glass of the traditional Thikri work, reflecting the light from the candle-lit tables and creating a magical setting. I recommend anyone traveling to Jaipur to stay and dine at The Leela Palace. It was truly exceptional!
What was the weather like throughout your journey?
Hot! I traveled in May, and the temperatures sometimes reached 116 degrees Fahrenheit. I would not recommend anyone to visit during that time. Generally, the best time to visit India is December through March, during the dry season. In the first months of the year, most of the country basks in bright, warm sunshine, and rain is almost non-existent.
What type of traveler would you recommend to travel to India?
I’d encourage travelers of most ages to go to India if they are interested in exotic destinations and are up for an adventure! You do a ton of walking, so you need to be in good physical condition and have the mobility to explore the various sites, regions, and outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, tiger safaris, and beaches.
India is known for causing culture shock for many foreign travelers. It’s both beautiful and dirty, chaotic and peaceful. Feeling comfortable in under-developed areas is a must due to exposure to poverty.
What was the highlight of the trip?
The food was terrific, with various cuisines like curried vegetables, flatbreads, rice, lentils, chutneys, fresh cheeses, fruits, and sweets. Eating is an experience in India, and the cuisine varies by region. For instance, Butter Chicken in Delhi is prepared differently in other parts of the country. Each town has unique styles and specialties to explore and indulge in.
We visited the famous Mumbai Spice Market during a Five Senses walking tour. The aroma was incredible! We could buy the spices with the option to have them dry-roasted and ground into a masala mix. We saw many local women put spices used in their family dishes into a container and then put them into a massive machine that pounds them into seasoning packets. The whole experience was inspiring and made me hungry!
What were your favorite sites or activities?
We did a sunrise and sunset tour of the Taj Mahal. Both were stunning, but I most enjoyed the sunrise tour when there were fewer crowds and milder temperatures.
Another favorite activity was going to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib – Sikh Temple in Delhi. The temple seats 20k people and prepares to feed that many daily. Everything is donated, from the food to the time spent cooking.
What was the most unexpected part of the trip?
The people. Everyone we encountered was very genuine, cheerful, and family oriented. They all wanted to take pictures with the group, and our lovely tour director even invited the group to his home for a meal. He lives in a multi-generational compound in Udaipur that houses 36 people. They eat meals together daily and welcomed us with open arms!
What I will remember the most from my trip are the people, the warm smiles and hospitality of a country with more than 1.3 billion people, embracing modernity while firmly holding on to traditions and culture — and eager to tell you India’s story.