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Silk saris, in bright eye-catching hues of fuchsia, emerald green and aquamarine, hang in bazaars. Fragrant mogra flower incense burns at a temple altar nearby. Aromatic chiles and cardamom waft from street stalls. India entrances visitors upon arrival, hitting and heightening all the senses.
From the tea vendor to the clothes washer (dhobi) to the rickshaw driver, people are essential to one another and community is the core of everyday life. And here at Micato, we firmly believe that interacting with locals is as big a part of the destination as any of its must-see sights and activities.
We trace our own roots to India (company founder Felix Pinto’s parents immigrated to Kenya from Goa during the days of the British Raj). For 30 years and counting, Micato has taken on the challenge of showcasing the subcontinent’s colourful and dynamic spirit. Understanding this country steeped in tradition and custom also means connecting with its immense heart and soul. Thanks to our Micato Travel Directors, all Indian nationals, Micato guests are granted insider access at every turn, allowing for a deeper connection.
As expected in a country of its size and diversity, India offers innumerable sights to behold and experiences to have. Below, a few at the top of our list for a first time visit. Though, we can safely say, it won’t be your last.
Poetry in the form of white marble, this architectural jewel leaves those lucky enough to visit awestruck and never the same. A love letter from Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to this beloved wife, Mumtaz, the marble-clad mausoleum and its surrounding gardens sit on the right bank of the Yamuna River in Agra. Built over 16 years, from 1632 to 1648, by the most skilled masons, carvers, painters and calligraphers in the land, it is truly a wonder of the world. Though heightened security and regulatory restrictions are in place, Micato travellers are typically among the first guests to enter each morning.
A maze of narrow alleyways with pint-sized shops and innumerable food stalls, Old Delhi and its famous Chandni Chowk market buzzes with frenetic energy. Navigate the labyrinth by rickshaw, passing rows of stores – many of them in the same family for generations – specializing in a singular ware such as gold jewellery or silverware or brightly dyed fabrics. Along with the goods, there are countless sweet and savoury snack stalls. From crispy, syrupy sweet jalebis fried on the spot to spicy chaat and golgappa (hollow wheat puffs filled with potatoes and sprouts and dunked in mint-tamarind water), embark on a food tour through the area, which serves and reflects the many communities that call this part of the city home.
India is home to the majestic and elusive Bengal tiger. Search for the big cat in the dense jungle of Ranthambore National Park in eastern Rajasthan, an area which once served as the hunting grounds of Jaipur’s maharajas. Government-led conservation efforts, begun under the auspices of Project Tiger in 1973, are working to raise tiger numbers, but poaching remains a threat. Along with tigers, the area also boasts leopards, hyena, jackals, spotted deer, sloth bears and countless species of plants, birds and reptiles. Enjoy it all from the Oberoi Vanyavilas luxury tented camp, which regularly hosts Micato guests.
Built between 1729 and 1732 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the City Palace of Jaipur is an immense complex of buildings, gardens, courtyards and even a planetarium. Seek out the intricate carvings at the three entrance gates to the palace as well as four smaller doorways symbolizing the seasons (the stunning Peacock Gate for autumn!) within the Chandra Mahal’s courtyard. While most of the palace is open to the public, one portion remains the private residence of the royal family descendants. Micato guests, however, are exclusively invited to step into the Maharajah’s sitting room to browse, with a glass of champagne in hand, the treasure trove of artifacts from maharajahs and maharanis past. Among them, dozens of marble and crystal objects, portraits, polo cups and an ornate silver throne!
Rajasthan’s second largest city, Jodhpur is synonymous with the blue-painted house exteriors at the feet of the Mehrangarh Fort in the Old City. While the colour may once have denoted the caste of the residents within, it is more commonly applied on walls nowadays as a cooling mechanism in this desert city where temperatures can climb into the 100s during the dry summer months. Micato guests also visit the well-preserved Mehrangarh Fort and the multiple courtyards and decorated palaces within including the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace); Phool Mahal (Flower Palace) and Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace). The fort also hosts several festivals and maintains a robust museum of musical instruments, rare artefacts, textiles and paintings. The next day, Micato travellers take a jeep into the village of Bishnoi nearby. As much of Rajasthan compromises tightly knit rural communities, this glimpse into the daily lives and occupations (weaving, pottery) of the local villagers is eye-opening. The Bishnoi, in particular, are known for being conservationists with a profound respect for nature and wildlife.
To visit The Holy City of Varanasi and purify oneself in the River Ganges, or Ganga as it is known in India, is a sacred pilgrimage for Hindus who believe taking a dip in the river will wash away their sins. Along the city’s 88 ghats (riverfront steps), devotees pray, chant, perform religious pujas and cremate those who have passed on open pyres. Aboard a boat at sunrise, with a flute player softly playing hymns, Micato guests feel the immense spirituality and sanctity of this holy place. Legend goes that the river was born of Lord Shiva’s own lustrous hair and henceforth irrigates the surrounding fertile plains.
Still fondly known as Bombay by locals, Mumbai is the country’s financial and entertainment capital. This is a city of dreamers and go-getters. From the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station (formerly Victoria Terminus) to the Gateway of India, the city’s architectural styles, such as Victorian Gothic and Indo Saracenic, especially stand out. The city’s famous Dhobi Ghat, an open-air laundry dating back to 1840, where 7,000 dhobis (clothes washers) hand wash and dry more than half a million pieces of clothing each day, is a unique and favourite attraction of travellers. And along with the old, Mumbai also features much of what’s new and exciting in India, including a strong contingent of contemporary art galleries in the Kala Ghoda district.
Micato’s India Specialists would be happy to custom design an Indian Journey to include any, or all, of these suggestions. Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our experts today and bring your journey to India to life.