Are you ready to ride an elephant to Amber Fort? Or view the majestic Taj Mahal at sunset? Sodha Travel is excited to announce our Golden Experience Giveaway! You and a guest can win a private 6 day/5 night tour of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur that includes deluxe hotel accommodations, private vehicle and driver, comprehensive touring, entrance fees, airport transfers, and much more!
Start your tour in Delhi, India’s capital and the illustration of heritage. Delhi is a bustling metropolis that incorporates the ancient with the modern. Amidst the skyscrapers, the monuments stand as a silent reminder to India’s legacy. Driving from the airport, you will be impressed with the tree-lined streets and garden parks. After an evening at leisure, enjoy a full day tour that starts in Old Delhi: Red Fort, a marvel of red sandstone; Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India; and Raj Ghat, a Memorial to Mahtama Gandhi. Also enjoy a rickshaw ride in the streets of Chandni Chowk. After lunch, explore the sites of new Delhi, including the Qutub Minar, which is the tallest stone tower in India. Also tour Humayun’s tomb, built by the widow of the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun, and an outstanding monument in the Indo-Persian style. Later, drive past the imposing India Gate, the Parliament building and Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President’s residence.
The next morning, drive to Agra by private transport. After a traditional lunch in the home of a local family, visit the Agra Fort, a magnificent citadel with marble palaces, ornate alcoves and terrace pavilions. In the evening, enjoy a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal. Built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj took over 22 years and 20,000 men to build. The monument is truly a wonder of the world.
After an evening at leisure, drive to Jaipur, en-route visiting the perfectly preserved and deserted red sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri. On arrival in Jaipur, transfer to your hotel. Jaipur, the vibrant capital of Rajasthan, owes its name, foundation and planning to the great astronomer and warrior Maharaja Jai Singh II. The city is fondly called the “Pink City” due to the pink colored buildings and avenues. The following day, tour this enchanting destination, starting with the Amber Fort. The final descent to this ancient city is made by elephant back—a truly memorable experience! In the fort, you will see magnificent palaces and halls covered with mirrored mosaics. After lunch, explore Jaipur City. Visit City Palace, a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architecture that is still occupied by the Royal family. Also view the Palace of the Winds and visit Jantar Mantar, the solar observatory. In the evening, spend independent time exploring the vibrant markets and bazaars. Jaipur is especially known for jewelry, fabrics, rugs and textiles.
There will also be a few special surprises for our winners, so be sure to enter and win for your chance to visit India! You can also enter on our Sodha Travel Facebook page, and the more you share, the more chances you have to win!
From October 31 – November 18, the Sodha Travel team will be traveling in North India. In addition to negotiating contracts and meeting with vendors, we will be conducting property tours, visiting the most recent sites and restaurants, and researching all the latest and greatest activities for our clients. This year, our destinations will include Delhi, Jaipur, Rajsamand, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Rishikesh. During our travels, we will be posting photos and journals on our blog and Sodha Travel social networks. We invite you to follow us on our journey as we celebrate Diwali and other regional festivals with the magnificent people of India.
Here is a brief description of the destinations we plan to visit:
Delhi: Located on the Yamuna River, Delhi (locally known as Dilli) is the capital of India. It is typically the first stop on the popular Golden Triangle circuit and offers many attractions for visitors. Because my husband’s family lives here, we often discover unique spots usually frequented by locals. Delhi is also overflowing with wonderful markets and bazaars, and we enjoy scouting the shops for treasured items. We are perhaps most excited about celebrating Diwali, the Festival of Lights, in India’s capital!
Jaipur: Jaipur is the capital and “Pink City” of Rajasthan. It is considered India’s center of jewelry and gemstones, and also known for handicrafts, glazed pottery, and block textiles. We will be visiting Galwar Bagh (the Monkey Temple) and the most acclaimed properties in the city, including Rasa and Oberoi Rajvilas.
Rajsamand: The Deogarh Mahal is one of my favorite hotels in Rajasthan, and we are excited to return to this restored Mewar Palace that is still partially occupied by the royal family. In the evening, we will participate in a rural ramble, a jeep ride through the countryside.
Udaipur: With a wealth of enchanting lakes, Udaipur is a true oasis in Rajasthan. The highlight of our property tours will include a visit to Taj Lake Palace, one of the most luxurious and romantic hotels in the world. We will also be participating in a regional festival and viewing the city frescoes.
Jodhpur: From Udaipur we will travel to Jodhpur, en-route visiting Ranakpur, a pilgrimage destination famous for its exquisitely carved Jain temples. Jodhpur is the 2nd largest city in Rajasthan and known for its impressive fortified bastions. Our team will have the opportunity to visit a traditional Rajput home and spend time learning about the family traditions, past and present.
Rishikesh: To many, Rishikesh is considered the heart of yoga and meditation in Northern India. However, it also offers an array of adventure activities, including rafting, kayaking, cliff jumping, and trekking. Two members of our team will be participating in a thrilling 2-night rafting adventure on the Ganges River.
Tomorrow, August 15th, is India’s Independence Day. As the capital of India, Delhi will understandably have the largest celebration in the country. Delhi is a bustling metropolis that incorporates the ancient with the modern and the monuments stand as a silent reminder of India’s legacy. Many attractions in the city incur an entrance fee, with different rates for Indian and foreign nationals. However, there are also many free activities to enjoy in India’s capital and 22nd largest city in the world. Here are five of my favorite free traveler experiences in Delhi:
Gardens Galore: Spread over 900 acres, the Lodi Gardens contains various tombs and architectural works. Protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, the park is also a popular spot for locals enjoying morning walks. The Garden of the Five Senses offers modern art sculptures, herb gardens, bamboo courts, and a solar energy park. Cultural festivals and events are also held in the 20-acre park, so it is quite possible you may experience a festive dance or music performance!
To Market, To Market: Delhi is considered an epicenter for markets and bazaars. My favorites include Janpath, Connaught Place, Khan Market, Hauz Khas, and Lajpat Nagar. There is also Chandni Chowk, established in 1650 AD and considered one of the oldest and busiest street markets in Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad). Warning: Though visiting the markets is free, it may be difficult to resist purchasing the beautiful items along the way!
Exhibitions: Check out the exhibitions at the Delhi Art Gallery in Hauz Khas and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA). Both offer rotating arts and cultural galleries and performances, and most are free to the public. The current exhibition at the Delhi Art Gallery is titled Indian Landscapes – The Changing Horizon, featuring a selection of 400 works by over 100 renowned artists.
Temple Trail: Most temples and places of worship in India have no entrance fee. In Delhi, visit the Birla Mandir, Guruwara Bangla Sahib, and Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque that can accommodate 25,000 worshipers. Nearly 70% of all Delhi tourists also visit the Akshardham Temple, an elaborate temple complex that features an IMAX theater, musical fountains, sunken gardens, and a boat ride that explores India’s extensive history. Note: Though the temple and garden area have no entry fee, there is a nominal charge for the media attractions.
Handicrafts and Handlooms: The Crafts Museum, also known as the National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum, displays India’s tribal and rural art and artifacts. The Village Complex is an exhibition that displays village life from varying regions in India: “The huts, courtyards, and shrines are…built with regional construction material and by the respective village masons, artisans, thatchers, and carpenters. In every hut and courtyard, day-to-day items are displayed.” Each month, the museum invites approximately 50 craftspeople to reside on the property and demonstrate their talents.
Of course, there is also the option to hang out with the Delhiites in areas like Priya Complex, Khan Market, and Defence Colony. Still searching for free options? Check out the What’s Hot section every Friday in the Times of India. Explore, experience, and enjoy all Delhi has to offer! To learn more about Delhi’s vast attractions, contact a Sodha Travel Destination Specialist.
Last post, I was excited to announce our newest women-only tour: Colors of India. Just a few days ago, we also added a new Featured Tour: Legacy of Leh/Ladakh. Ladakh is a remote region in Northern India, located between the Himalayan and Kunlin mountain ranges. Historically a Buddhist kingdom, Ladakh was strategically placed at the crossroads of major trading routes. The region is commonly called “Little Tibet” and many travelers have discovered this destination as an alternative to visiting the disputed territory of Tibet.
Start your 8-day journey in Delhi, visiting the Red Fort, Raj Ghat, and Humayun’s Tomb . Then, fly to Leh and experience one of the few remaining abodes of Buddhism in South Asia. Here are just a few highlights:
- Hemis, the largest monastery in Ladakh
- Leh Palace, modeled after the Potala Palace in Lhasa
- Thiksey, an 800 year old gompa with panoramic views of the Indus Valley
- Lamayuru Monastery, currently housing 150 resident monks
To spotlight this spectacular region, reserve Legacy of Leh/Ladakh during the month of February and receive $50 off registration. For more information on Leh, check out our February edition of The Sodha Traveler.
Our Colors of India tour is now open! Join us on a women-only, 10 day/9 night itinerary in Northern India: Delhi, India’s capital; Agra, home of the majestic Taj Mahal; Jaipur, the Pink City of Rajasthan; Rajsamand, a Mewar town; and Udaipur, the City of Lakes. Travel with a group of women who share in the excitement of India, and make new friends in a supportive, safe, and enriching environment!
This package includes 5* accommodations with daily breakfast, economy airfare from Udaipur – Delhi, comprehensive touring with an English speaking guide, entrance fees to the monuments, airport transfers, fuel surcharges, and many special experiences, including:
- Sunset visit to the majestic Taj Mahal
- Overnight stay in a historic Mewar Palace
- Lunch at the home of a local family
- Elephant ride to Amber Fort
- Private mehndi (henna) session and Rajasthani cooking class
- Evening boat ride on Lake Pichola
- Rural ramble and dinner at Deogarh Mahal
To maintain an intimate cultural experience, this tour is limited to 18 guests. Also, if you are a solo traveler but wish to share a room, Sodha Travel will pair you with a roommate (based on availability.) Please visit our Colors of India page or contact us for more information.
Travel with a group of women who share in the excitement of India and make new friends in a supportive, safe, and enriching environment!
Coming soon, Sodha Travel will debut Colors of India, a 10-day tour for women only that includes Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Rajsamand, and Udaipur. In addition to superior hotel accommodations, comprehensive touring, entrance fees, and airport transfers, this tour will include many special and authentic experiences, including a private mehndi (henna) session, a Rajasthani cooking class, yoga sessions, and lunch at the home of a local family. Travelers will also have the opportunity to ride an elephant, stay overnight in a historic palace, and experience a traditional folk dance!
To maintain an intimate cultural experience, tour participation is limited to 16 guests. The proposed tour dates are October 8-17, 2012. Check back soon for a complete itinerary and pricing!
Effective December 1, 2011, the Airport Development Fee (ADF) at the Delhi IGI airport will be reinstated as follows:
International Departure – Rs. 1434
Domestic Departure – Rs. 221
The ADF is not included in any airline tickets that were purchased before November 28, 2011, and passengers will need to pay the additional fee at the check-in counter. Payment must be made in INR – no USD will be accepted – and the fee is per person, including children and infants. The ADF will be included in any new tickets being issued, unless otherwise noted.
The ADF started in March 2009 as a way for passengers to help fund the Delhi airport expansion project. Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
Established by Mughal Emporor Shah Jahan in 1650 AD, Chandni Chowk is considered one of the oldest and busiest street markets in Old Delhi (Shajahanabad). The street is positioned between two important historical sites: the Red Fort (Lal Qila) and Fatehpur Masjid, a 17th century mosque. Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, is also located within walking distance.
Chandni Chowk hosts an impressive mix of shops that specialize in silk, silver, crafts, spices, and leather goods. There are renowned restaurants, food stands, and sweet shops, including the original Haldiram’s, Meghraj and Sons, Bikaner Sweet Shop and Ghantewala Halwai. The street also houses several religious shrines that present a genuine cultural harmony: Sri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir and Bird Sanctuary, Gauri Sh
ankar Hindu Temple, Sikh Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, and Central Baptist Church. Nestled around Chandni Chowk are historic private residences and a labyrinth of small streets and neighborhoods. As a traveler, it is easy to become lost in the wondrous flurry of activity.
An important note for tourists: Chandni Chowk has been termed The Most Crowded Street in Asia. The side streets are exceptionally narrow and personal space is rare. If you prefer less congestion, consider viewing the hustle and bustle from a distance or visiting an alternate marketplace. Also, Chandni Chowk is closed on Sundays.
Calling all travel tips! We are in the process of updating our India and Nepal Destination Guides. We will also be adding a page of travel tips and hot spots, recommended by our travelers! Here are a few examples of recent suggestions:
“If visiting Kerala, be sure to take a cooking class. The region is overflowing with spices and the cuisine is some of the best in the world.” – Jason K.
” Try not to take offence to the looks by the locals. You are a foreigner and it is part of the culture. They are curious, not rude. ” – Barbara A.
“If visiting Delhi, be sure to visit Depauls in Janpath Market near Connaught Place for awesome cold coffee.” – Eliana R.
“Bargaining is an accepted part of the culture, but don’t walk away from a good deal for a few dollars of difference. The vendors depend on the sale for their livelihood and to support their families, and in the end you have a treasured item from your trip.” – Ronald L.
Please send your India and Nepal tips/recommendations and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 1. Thank you for your valued contribution!
As of last month, there have been terminal changes at the Delhi airport for domestic flights. Please refer to the table below:
|Airline Name||Departure Terminal||Arrival Terminal|
|Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways, Jet Konnect, Jetlite, Kingfisher Airlines, Kingfisher Red||Terminal 3||Terminal 3|
|IndiGo Airlines, SpiceJet, Go Air||Terminal 1D||Terminal 1C|
All Air India flights have been operating from Terminal 3 since November 10, 2010, while Jet Airways and Kingfisher flights moved to Terminal 3 from November 14, 2010. All international flights to/ from Delhi have been operating from Terminal 3 since the last week of July 2010.
Terminal 1C and 1D are next to each other, within walking distance. Terminal 3 is about 9 kilometres away from Terminal 1. DIAL provides a complimentary shuttle bus service for passengers every 20 minutes between Terminal 1 and 3.
Please remember that the airlines recommend you reach the airport at least two hours prior to departure. Expect some traffic jams on the roads leading to Terminal 3 as the city adjusts to additional traffic. If you have a scheduled airport transfer, your representative will keep you updated of flight schedules. Otherwise, please check with the airline before you leave for the airport, as some flights are likely to be delayed. Also, if you are arriving at Terminal 1 and have to catch an onward flight from Terminal 3 (or vice versa), please collect any checked-in baggage and proceed to the catch the shuttle bus.
During this time of year, fog is common in North India and departures/arrivals in Delhi are frequently delayed or cancelled. Please visit the Delhi Airport website for updated information.
In May, Sodha Travel started planning a customized tour for Jack Haggin and his wife, Ella. Like many worldwide travelers, Jack first referred to the internet and guide books when planning a 3-week trip from Delhi – Rajasthan. However, he started to become overwhelmed at the options and contacted us for assistance. Jack had already booked certain accommodations and day tours online, and we stepped in to coordinate the additional services.
During our conversations, I learned of where Jack and Ella had independently reserved their hotel accommodations in Delhi and Agra. I expressed my concerns, as these properties were very poorly ranked in my files in regards to security and sanitation. Also, the hotel in Delhi was not centrally located, which was important to Ella. However, the guest house came highly ranked in a popular guide book, and he decided to keep the reservations. I was also concerned about the local transport company he had confirmed through the hotel, but he felt if there were any serious issues, the hotel would reimburse his money.
Jack and Ella returned from India in mid-October, and last week I received the following email from Jack. It is reposted with his permission:
Wow, where to start. India was a spectacular country. The colors, the people, the food, the history, and the architecture were mind blowing. It was unfortunate that I missed so many of the positive elements of India the first week of our trip, due to the incompetence of our vendors that I had reserved online. Our hotels in Delhi and Agra were not clean, as you had professionally indicated in an early phone call. We even had bugs in our room in Agra. Lots of bugs. The day tours had “guides” that I seriously question were even guides?? Their clothes were not clean, they asked for money for meals and made us wait in line at the sites. Then there were the vehicles. Our car had no A/C, torn upholstery, and a funky smell. And then our car broke down en-route from Delhi – Agra. We had to wait over four hours until a replacement vehicle was sent, trying to communicate with a driver who spoke no English. To top it off, the hotel would not refund our money for these services. The hotel manager said it was their policy and written in the contract, though we never signed a contract!
Then, as you know, our services started with Sodha Travel. The representative arrived at our hotel to transfer us to the railway station in Agra for our train to Jaipur. He was on time, well dressed, and communicated clearly. The vehicle was clean and the driver was polite. And the good things kept on coming – our hotels and havelis in Rajasthan were just beautiful. The cars were well maintained and the tour guides were knowledgeable on everything regarding the destination. Each representative and guide was on time and it all flowed so easily. It allowed Ella and me to relax and enjoy our surroundings, which is what we are ultimately supposed to do on vacation! They also gave us restaurant recommendations and helped us barter in the markets.
Please keep my email and feel free to share it with other travelers who are considering booking services independently in India. My wife and I have traveled all over the world, including Chile, Bolivia, Morocco, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and many countries in Europe and Latin America. As wonderful as India is, I would not consider it easy to navigate without professional advice and assistance. This is also not to say that my experience should be used as an example for all travelers, as I am certain many people have had good experiences in India when not using a specialized travel agency. But I really, really encourage people to think about what experiences they could be missing out on by trusting the internet and guide books for their information. Don’t risk it. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t think twice about calling Sodha Travel to plan every detail of my trip. Your team was very professional and reliable and such a relief to Ella and myself, in more ways than words can say.