Our Sodha Travel team has been busy preparing new custom India tour programs that will be launched this summer! Based on your feedback and recommendations, we have crafted four itineraries that serve the diverse interests of our clients. The themes include family-travel, vineyards, Ayurveda, and more! Read on for an exclusive preview of our *new* private India packages.
Ayurveda, or “Science/Knowledge of Life,” is a form of holistic medicine. The earliest documentation of this healing system appeared in India over 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda focuses on balancing the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual elements of life to create ultimate wellness. This custom package focuses on retreats and spas in Kerala, a lush state in Southwest India that is often considered the birthplace of Ayurveda.
This 22-day comprehensive itinerary of North and South India includes Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Rajsamand, Udaipur, Mumbai, Cochin, Kumarakom, Munnar, Madurai, Tanjore, Trichy, Pondicherry, Mahabalipuram, and Chennai. Highlights include a private Keralan cooking session in the home of a local family, a stay in a historic Mewar palace that is still partially occupied by the royal family, and an optional private visit to the Bollywood film studios in Mumbai.
The Vineyards of India
Drink up! In addition to producing internationally recognized and award winning wines, many Indian vineyards now feature modern tasting rooms and luxury accommodations. Sodha Travel is excited to have partnered with a few exclusive and noteworthy vineyards to offer our clients exclusive property tours and wine tastings. Vineyards of India will include Mumbai, Nashik, Bangalore, and Nandi Hills.
Rajasthan: A Family Experience
Sodha Travel is very excited to offer our first package that caters to children and family travel! Ride an elephant to Amber Fort in Jaipur, stay in a historic palace in Rajsamand (where the children will no doubt feel like a prince and princess), experience a zipline near Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, and view wildlife in Ranthambore National Park. For the junior chefs, enjoy a private Rajasthani cooking demo; for the artists, make pottery with a local artisan.
Stay connected with Sodha Travel to learn more about these exciting new tour programs! Our first itinerary launches in June!
Imagine a space where prominent writers come together from across India, Europe, Africa, South Asia, and America to celebrate literature. The internationally renowned DSC Jaipur Literature Festival, now in its sixth year, will be held at Diggi Palace in Jaipur from January 24-28, 2013. The festival includes readings, debates, musical performances, children’s activities, and interactive workshops. It is the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific and considered one of the most prestigious events in India.
During my recent trip to Jaipur, I had the opportunity to meet with Thakur Ram Pratap Singh Diggi, the managing director of Diggi Palace. He graciously took us on an inside tour of the expansive property and gardens and shared some wonderful stories about the family heritage. The Diggi lineage traces back to 1524 AD and the family haveli was established in 1727. In 1991, Thakur Ram and his wife converted part of their home to a hotel and Diggi Palace opened their doors to tourists worldwide. The family is particularly proud of the Jaipur Literature Festival being held on their property, as it showcases both the rich history and progress of Jaipur.
The festival is free for the general public but registration is required. You can register online or at the event, though online is advised to avoid long lines. The attending speaker list is expansive and diverse and the festival program will be posted after January 1.
The city of Jaipur certainly adds a romantic backdrop to the event. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, is fondly called the “Pink City” due to the pink-colored buildings and avenues. Why pink? When the Prince of Wales visited Jaipur in 1853, the city was painted pink to welcome him. In addition to historic sites like Amber Fort and City Palace, Jaipur is known for its jewelry, gemstones, textiles, and distinct cuisine. Diggi Palace, nestled in a residential neighborhood at the end of a long driveway, offers 70 rooms and suites. The property also offers Taste of Diggi, a culinary workshop where guests visit the local markets and prepare specialty dishes with ladies of the resident local family. Sodha Travel highly recommends the charm and chronicles of Diggi Palace, where history blends with comfort to provide an enchanting experience.
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.
Did you know that Sodha Travel has a department that caters to female travelers? Gender specific services include women guides and escorts (when available) and specialized activities, including mehndi sessions, culinary classes and spa services. Some of our female travelers have also selected a personalized shopping excursion and tailor-made traditional clothing, while others have requested visits to special needs organizations. As a woman who has traveled to India many times in various capacities – professionally, leisurely, alone, with friends and with family – I found my experiences very rewarding. For more information and recommendations, check out my recent article on Travelhoppers – Tips for Female Travelers to India.
Also, remember that our women-only Colors of India tour still has space available! Explore the treasures of North India in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Rajsamand and Udaipur. Highlights include a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal, overnight stay in an historic Mewar Palace, and a private mehndi (henna) session. Be sure to contact our team for more information or to register!
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!
As India continues to be ranked one of the most favorable travel destinations worldwide, hotel chains are busy developing newer and more creative accommodations. Looking ahead, 2011 is going to be one of the most exciting years for unique properties, catering to both budget and luxury travelers. Here are a few of my most anticipated additions to the Indian market:
Rasa, Jaipur: Opening in March, the Rasa seamlessly blends modernity, luxury, and ecotourism. There will be forty tents with glass-wall facades and a private outdoor pavilion. Located adjacent to the 16th century Amer Fort, the futuristic Rasa also serves organic produce grown on site. The nearby nature sanctuary offers hiking and bird watching, all within close proximity to Rajasthan’s capital and Pink City, Jaipur.
Radisson Hotel, Haridwar: As much as I love Haridwar, a holy city on the Ganges River, there are very limited first-class accommodations that cater to the more discerning traveler. The Radisson will have 16 suites and 113 rooms with a variety of upscale facilities, including an all-day dining restaurant, specialty restaurant, bar, club lounge and tea lounge.
Park Plaza and Park Inn, Delhi: It is hard to believe that Delhi, India’s capital and one of the three cities on the Golden Triangle tourism circuit, has a limited number of reasonably priced moderate hotels in favorable parts of the city. But for this reason, I am very pleased to see three new properties opening in Delhi: Park Plaza New Delhi Dwarka, Park Plaza New Delhi Nari Nagar, and Park Inn Delhi CBD Shahdara. Park Plaza is an upper mid-scale brand that offers modern design in a comfortable atmosphere, while Park Inn is the slightly less upgraded counterpart. Both are highly recommended by travelers, and one of my clients calls their breakfast buffets “the best in India.”
Banasura Hill Resort, Wayanad: Though Banasura is already operational, I encourage travelers to experience this ecoresort before the popularity detracts from its charm. Banasura is located in the misty hills of Wayanad in the Malabar region of Kerala. It is also Asia’s largest “Earth Resort” and awarded the Greenest Destination in the Nilgiris Biosphere. The main resort is built entirely from mud, and the villas are constructed from rough hewn stone. Very impressive, considering the luxurious finishes and spacious rooms – not to mention a mud structure in an area known for heavy rainfall.
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.