Luxtripper Travel Editor
We loved India, let us show you this beautiful country!
I had no idea what to expect of India as I peered out of my little airplane window, but what I saw… no, felt as soon as I arrived into Delhi was incredible. Waves of hot balmy air, thick with the aromas of mouth-watering street food and perfumed with the scent of patchouli incense hit me like a ton of bricks. One street sent me past sun-washed crumbling colonial buildings, another into a tented magical bazaar heaving under the weight of colourful saris, dazzling jewels and mini holy statues.
Unsurprisingly there’s a bit of culture shock, the road system is near non-existent and business men don’t walk the streets in suits like in other cities, but it’s so easy to feel swept up by all the jewel-hued colours, warm people and the ancient secrets that lie within the narrow streets and alleys. I collected myself after staring at everything and thought ‘I need to see my hotel’, partly so I could see how it holds up to the visions of luxurious comfort that were in my mind, but also so I could regroup and get my bearings on this incredible city. I can honestly tell you now that The Oberoi New Delhi far exceeded all of my expectations.
This oasis of peace, tranquility and beauty is nestled right in the heart of Delhi, but the absence of noise makes you feel like you’ve been whisked off to the beautiful Indian countryside. The Oberoi New Delhi looks so sleek and modern on the outside, but as soon as I stepped inside I was subtly reminded of India’s lavish and luxurious past. I found myself wandering grand corridors of marble floors and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking stretches of lush green forests, how was I still in Delhi?
I was shown to the gorgeous Luxury Suite and it took everything in me not to jump onto my beautiful king sized bed and take a long nap! I walked across the gorgeous hardwood floors, past the plush cream sofas and chairs to the huge windows, and took in the beautiful garden view and Delhi’s buildings in the distance. It’s safe to say that my mind was put at ease after seeing how beautifully luxurious my room was, so I grabbed my sunglasses, reminded myself that I’ll be back soon for dinner, and headed out to explore Delhi.
Rickshaws dominate the roads here, so it only made sense for me to hail one down for my journey to India Gate. I couldn’t help but laugh as my driver weaved around Delhi’s traffic, I’m pretty sure there’s no road system here because he seemed to be driving where ever he felt necessary! I watched as we passed endless street food vendors, colourful stalls and eclectic buildings, but what really surprised me was all the cows we passed in the road! They were everywhere, and no one seemed to be moving them along either so I guess they’re as much a part of Delhi as the people themselves, however the biggest shock was when we drove past the colourfully painted elephants that seemed to wander the streets too!
We turned a corner and found a group of children playing cricket down an alley way, a gentle reminder of India’s vast and rich history. Colonial Britain’s presence can still be felt through many aspects of the city both big and small. There’s a magic in the air here that I started to notice every time I passed a traditional building, the way the sun glows through the beautifully ornate windows turns even a meagre cafe into a mystical palace.
I arrived at my first bucket list ticking monument, the India Gate. This incredible gateway immediately reminded me of Paris’s Arc de Triomphe, they’re almost the same size but this is undeniably the Indian equivalent. The grand promenade leading from India Gate up to the presidential residence (called the Rajpath) is a real echoing of India’s grand colonial past. This beautiful colonial arch of sienna hued bricks commemorates the 82,000 soldiers of the Indian Army from the First World War. I finished the day by watching the sun set through the arch itself, and knew that this is truly a moment I’ll never forget, and the perfect start to my adventure in India.
After waving goodbye to the beautiful maze that was Delhi, I caught my lift and watched as the scenery changed from maze-like modern buildings to endless vistas of rice paddies and sugar cane fields. Children with backpacks slung over their shoulders cycled to their schools and locals laughing to each other casually walked along the long stretches of roads to the nearby towns.
I headed for Agra to tick off one of the biggest experiences on my bucket list; the Taj Mahal. After passing by a multitude of street food stands, I finally stopped at one that was giving off the most incredible mouth-watering aroma, I ordered a roti with a deep red-hued curry and then did my favourite thing; watching them cook. There’s something both relaxing and exciting about seeing someone fire up a huge wok and seeing the ingredients sizzle!
Nothing could have prepared me for how incredible the Taj Mahal was. I stepped out of my car, walked past many vendors selling tiny Taj statues and arrived at the pristine manicured gardens and waterway, I was in awe. There’s a no-pollution zone around the Taj itself, which stops cars from getting too close and ruining the atmosphere, so I found myself walking along a beautiful lit marble path to the main gate.
Sunlight danced off the ivory-white marble mausoleum and reflected in the waters below, I’d seen it a thousand times throughout my life in countless photographs but it doesn’t compare to the real thing. It’s surprisingly tall in real life! I was immediately reminded of the scenes in Slumdog Millionaire when the children had been mistaken for tour guides but decided to go along with it anyway, which I think says a lot about India’s wonderful attitude of just going with the flow!
Dedicated to his late wife, The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had this beautiful mausoleum built to house the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, and declared that no one would ever be able to match the beauty of both the structure and his beloved wife, and he may have been right. UNESCO designated it a World Heritage site in 1983 and it’s a striking symbol of India’s rich history.
In a time before skyscrapers and monorails, I can only imagine seeing this must have seemed almost dreamlike. I headed for the Yamuna river and found my spot shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists and locals alike who had the same idea as me, to watch the sunset behind the Taj Mahal. As the sun dropped lower and cast deep rosy shades of pink, purple and gold into the late afternoon sky, I was able to capture the perfect Instagram-worthy photo of this stunning historical sight. I knew this was a once in a lifetime experience, and the image of the magnificent Taj Mahal against that dream-like backdrop would stay with me forever.
It’s safe to say that I could have happily spent the rest of my trip gazing upon the beautiful Taj Mahal, so you can imagine my joy I felt when I found out my luxurious room at The Oberoi Amarvilas had a fantastic uninterrupted view of it! As I arrived I was taken back by how much this gorgeous hotel looked like a palace itself, and the interiors of grand marble floors, dazzling chandeliers and romantic lighting matched this feeling of grandeur.
I wanted to catch the final rays of the sunset so I enjoyed my dinner by candlelight along the exquisitely beautiful terrace overlooking the Taj Mahal, and it truly felt magical. As the light flickered from the candle and the sky turned deeper and darker shades of blue, I felt as though I’d been transported to a mystical time in India’s past. After trekking through the streets of Agra and staring upwards at the Taj Mahal, my neck and shoulders were feeling a little sore so I visited the opulent spa for a blissful treatment, and I have to say, sinking into a luxurious free standing tub of aromatic oils and magenta rose petals while taking in the view was a truly blissful way to end another mesmerising day in India.
I’d heard amazing stories from my friends about the beauty of Udaipur, of it’s gorgeous palaces and how it still remains traditional in it’s culture and way of life. After passing endless panoramas of lush farm lands and waiting patiently as a shepherd guided his colony of fluffy sheep across the road, we arrived in Jaipur, another beautiful town that you can pass en route.
As we drove through the beautiful streets, we saw these gorgeous havelis that really made me feel like I was driving through the set of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel! Sun-bleached blush buildings of opulent carvings, arches and murals lined the streets of the ‘Pink City’, old jewellery stores tucked into coves dazzled in the sun and women dressed in the most beautiful beaded saris walked the paths. As I turned corners I could hear the chimes of bells and sounds of prayers in the nearby temples, this was clearly a very holy place and I could feel it in the air. Motorbikes sharing roads with rickshaws, and buses cruising between ambling camels reminded me that this is a city that still moves effortlessly forward with time, but understands how to retain the charm of it’s rich past.
I was so excited to experience the true height of luxury in this famous town, and as we arrived in Udaipur I was in awe. Every corner I turned revealed a beautiful temple or palace with extravagant pillars and bas reliefs, some soaring tall in sun-washed shades of cream and white, others small and more vibrantly coloured. It’s often referred to as ‘The Venice of the East’ because of its beautiful location surrounded by tranquil azure lakes and the lush green hills of Aravallis.
I decided the best way to spend the day that would show me the true beauty of the city would be to visit the City Palace. This beautiful palace towers over Lake Pichola and its balconies, cupolas and towers offer serene views of the lake and the city itself. As I walked through each gallery, room and corridor I felt like I was truly beginning to understand the history and beauty of India’s regal past. I could imagine how it must have felt to be a king or queen who walked these halls many years ago, and how opulent and grand it all must have looked once upon a time, because it still looks beautiful even in this day and age.
One thing I was truly excited about was staying at The Oberoi Udaivilas because I’d heard of how it was one of India’s most beautiful hotels. Its huge opulent fortress resembles a grand palace and stands on the 200 year old hunting grounds of the Maharana of Mewar, it's a true throwback to the era of emperors. Their friendly staff greeted me with a smile and a traditional Indian blessing of a red bindi dabbed onto my forehead before my private butler led me to my room.
As soon as he opened the doors I couldn’t help but gasp at how gorgeous everything looked. I was staying in the beautiful Kohinoor Suite which was furnished with gorgeous plush sofas and chairs in cream. My verandah led out to a beautiful garden of frangipani trees surrounding a 21 metre long private pool! After a delicious dinner of green chilli curry with lobster, I escaped to the private pool and relaxed along the edge as I took in the beautiful sunset of orange and gold against the backdrop of Udaipur city and the lakes, and I thought about how much India truly made me feel like I was a Queen from it’s rich and regal past…