When to go:
Broadly speaking from October–April but Ladakh, in the very far north, can only be visited May–September.
From £2500 per person but £3500 per person for a more comfortable budget and £6000 per person for all-out luxury.
An inexhaustible list but A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is a heartbreaking, page-turning introduction to the complexities of the caste system or Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts for a more mainstream read.
Extra luggage. You’ll buy more than you think.
Did you know?
There are more mobile phones in India than there are loos.
India is not merely a country, it’s a continent. Travelling there is an assault on your senses: spices, colours, palaces, temples, bustle and a magic hard to articulate. India is a place you dream of visiting, but, with only limited time, where do you start?
Rajasthan offers the archetypal introduction, with famous cities, forts and palaces. Kerala is an altogether more relaxed state of rolling green hills and sleepy backwaters. The majestic Himalayas is crown the country, showcasing the most spectacular vistas in the world. But there is so much more to India than these three regions.
India has some of the most extraordinary places to stay: beautifully converted forts, low-key lodges and camps, and opulent palaces. But not every Maharajah has made a success of converting the family seat; Passpartout knows where to find the gems and the really outstanding hotels.
Some travel to India for its culture, some for its architecture, some for spiritual insight and some simply to get away from it all. Whatever you are after we can guide you and make sure you get the most out of your time there.
These are just a few of the activities we’ve arranged for our clients in the past. One of them could be the defining reason for your whole holiday, or simply an afternoon diversion.
Shopping, markets and food
– Where to start? Gorgeous textiles, gems and artefacts abound, but you’ll need one of our guides on your arm to take on the haggling. Stunning food markets are a feast for the senses and we often arrange evening tours to sample various street foods, and we know what’s safe for even the most delicate of constitutions. Thought you couldn’t experience that in India? Think again.
– Littered with staggering forts, temples and palaces, India is a feast for historical boffins. We like to encourage you to get away from the standard trails, and when you do you’ll find that you can enjoy many of these places all by yourself. For a real treat you could even stay in one of these historical sites. Overnight in a Royal Suite and breakfast on the ramparts. We know where the real treasures lie.
– Rhododendron and rare tropical orchids coat the country, but you have to find yourself in the right location in the right season. Up in the Kumaon region of the Himalayas, for example, you’ll find very few tourists but forests of rhododendron; we have some gorgeous converted villages houses here, the perfect base from which to explore these colourful hills.
– For centuries travellers have come for India’s unique and rare wildlife. There are some stunning national parks and, of course, if you do want to tick a tiger off a list this is the place to do it. All too often, however, these holidays have been sold on image and cliché – we can brief you honestly on what Indian safaris are really like, and help you make the most of this magical experience.
– Indian birdlife is extraordinarily rich and diverse all across the country, enough even for the most avid twitcher. Season and location are key, and you’ll find that most locals consider themselves experts, so if you need it you won’t be short of company in your pursuit.
– Most spas concentrate on ayurvedic treatments, the traditional medicine of India. There are a few excellent retreats but also plenty of hotels with good spas or even just simple massages on offer. If you want more luxurious spa facilities you can combine India with Maldives or even Thailand, where there is much greater choice.
– On the whole, beaches in India leave a lot to be desired in terms of value and location. However, there are a few diamonds in the rough, particularly in Kerala in the south, a great way to finish a longer trip; but to be really honest, India isn’t a beach destination in itself.
-Tradition is everywhere in India but increasingly you need to get out of the cities and off the beaten track for more authentic experiences. We know just such nooks and crannies where you might find you have a village festival to yourself … perhaps a last-minute invitation to a local wedding. There is an extraordinary town in northern Kerala, for example, home to one of the most celebrated cooks in India and the site of local Theyyam festivals, a riot of makeup and clothes, followed by dancing, drumming and chanting – simply mesmerising.
Trekking and hiking
-There is plenty of serious and gentler hiking. Up in the Himalayan foothills or even further in the high Himalayas it’s possible to do this in comfort and style while also avoiding the crowds. Further south in the Western Ghats you would be doing day hikes from lovely lodges. Everywhere you travel in rural India offers the opportunity for a hike around a local village – a delight and a must.
- Getting there
– India is about a 9-hour flight from London and the main access hubs are Delhi and Mumbai.
– India has a good network of domestic flights connecting major cities. For the more out-of-the-way places we would provide a car and driver. Getting to beautiful rural areas can sometimes take up to five or six hours in a car and your patience for this sort of thing will need to be taken into consideration. While trains have a romantic appeal the reality is that they are often subject to delays. However, if managed properly they can be an efficient and exciting way of getting around. The other way to approach your travel is to embrace it as part of the holiday itself, completing some of your journeys on foot, by bike, on horseback etc.
– The best time to visit most of India is from October to April, when there is a dry heat with very low humidity. During December to February it can be cold in the mornings and evenings, though the daytime is warm and sunny. May and June are humid, with temperatures rising to an intense and uncomfortable heat. The monsoon breaks in July and lasts until September. Naturally, being such a large country there is variation in the weather between regions. As a rule of thumb the one exception is Ladakh, accessible only May–September.
Visa/ entry requirements
– Tourist visas are necessary to get into India; these are 3- and 6-month single- or multiple-entry visas. You will need a valid passport and they must be obtained in your country of origin before travelling. For access to certain protected areas (e.g. national parks), you may need a special permit and, often, a guide; these are available locally.
Events (festivals, wildlife migrations)
– The list of religious, cultural, literary and musical festivals is so long that you can be sure that your holiday will coincide with something, whether it is local or national. Should you wish to visit during one of the major events, we may need to look at booking well in advance and these can be busy affairs so we’ll make sure you know what to expect.
- Cultural Nuts
– Immerse yourself in a country steeped in history and tradition.
– Bright colours, fabled forts, dusty villages and vibrant sunsets. India is the perfect romantic setting and with oodles of gorgeous places to stay you are spoilt for choice. But it’s not just about the hotel, it’s about the extra bits and pieces, like an intimate dinner atop a sand dune or breakfasting in a private temple ruin. Here’s where Passpartout really comes into its own, arranging those little extras that make a holiday something special.
- Young and Old Families
– Indians adore kids and having younger children around will only create even more opportunities to meet people. Older families can also have a wonderful time but this needs to be carefully managed so that there isn’t a cultural overload. We always keep activities varied and flexible: kids are easily bored by too much sightseeing but there are loads of more creative things to do that other travel companies ignore, like elephant painting, toy train journeys or even Indian dance lessons.
- Solo Travellers
– India has some gorgeous lodges and smaller hotels, suitable both for the lone wolf and the solo traveller who wants a little more society. Great guides make all the difference too, but you may want something slightly different: some of our guides aren’t technically qualified or professionally trained, but these self-taught, delightful companions know their city inside out, and will add a personal insight sometimes lacking in a more traditional approach.
- Big Parties
– Why not take over an entire fort or a palace for a milestone birthday? We have organised elephant polo, sand dune dinners and lakeside feasts. India is an amazing and exotic location for such celebrations.
- Limited Mobility
– India can be a tricky place to get around but if managed properly, using the right sort of hotels, it can work beautifully. There is a culture of respect in India and a can-do attitude which makes travel for those with limited mobility much more pleasurable.
– Provided you stick to the food recommended by us and your guide there is no reason to get ill in India. And the choice on offer is overwhelming. No food should be off limits and indeed out in the countryside you may find fruit and vegetables entirely alien to you: all part of the adventure.
– There are a number of beautifully run bird sanctuaries and lovely lodges from which to explore them. Indians are mad about birdlife and there is a wealth of local expertise.