The Soul of India
DestinationIndia: Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore National Park,
Jaipur, Varanasi, Mumbai
Into Innermost India
Months, years, decades could profitably be spent exploring India’s 812 million richly varietal acres. But few of us have time to follow our bliss indefinitely, so we created The Soul of India to provide a thoughtful, succinctly paced, and delightful look at some of the continent’s most eye-brightening sights.
We begin in Delhi, “always interesting to all mankind” as Ved Mehta quoted a taxi wallah as saying. Then we pay homage to the Taj, whose praises we sing throughout. We peacefully search for what is perhaps the most splendorous animal on earth in Ranthambore National Park, wander the glamorous Pink City of Jaipur, and witness intense spiritual devotion at Varanasi, “the most supremely potent pilgrimage site on earth.” We end in the supercity of Mumbai, a distillation of India’s incredible energy and ambition, its daily familiarity with and deep attachment to its many thousands of years of history.
The Indian way of life provides the vision of the natural, real way of life. We veil ourselves with unnatural masks. On the face of India are the tender expressions which carry the mark of the Creator’s hand.
Science and Technology in India Through the Ages
- The glowing grandiosity of the Taj Mahal; Jaipur’s magnificent palaces; Varanasi’s deeply affecting spiritual luminosity; and the fascinating megacity of Mumbai.
- Sightings of the Emperor of Beasts, the Royal Bengal tiger, in Ranthambore National Park.
- Unstinting services of a Micato Travel Director, and our one-of-a-kind Concierge Service.
- Meetings with India insiders from all walks of life, and special entree to palace quarters.
- Some of Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best hotels: Jaipur’s stately Rambagh Palace, Agra’s sublime Amarvilas, and Ranthambore’s winsomely engaging Vanyavilas.
“Charming, capricious, imperial” (as John Foster Fraser wrote), Delhi is one of the world’s most intriguing mega-cities. Based from the modern, centrally located Taj Mahal Hotel, we’ll visit the imposing war memorial India Gate as well as Humayun’s Tomb (an inspiration for the Taj Mahal of 73 years later). With our Travel Director at helpful hand, we’ll wend Old Delhi’s twisting maze of streets and narrow, bustling, breathtakingly colourful byways, and visit India’s largest mosque, the imposing Jama Masjid and the nobly friendly Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, second most important shrine (after Amritsar’s Golden Temple) for India’s large and influential Sikh community.
There’s much more to Agra than the Taj Mahal. The Agra Fort is a masterpiece of Mughal architecture in its own right and the city itself is vivacious and engaging (which in India means extremely vivacious, exceptionally engaging). But “emeralds, rubies, and pearls…must pass away, yet still one solitary tear would hang on the cheek of time in the form of this white and gleaming Taj Mahal,” as India’s great laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote.
Heartliftingly, almost hallucinatorily beautiful, the Taj Mahal is one of the first artifacts we would present to aliens as proof of humanity’s worth. Our hotel, the universally admired Amarvilas, is a delight for those of us bewitched by the Taj: every window in the hotel looks out at the very nearby monument.
We drive in the morning to Ranthambore and the exquisite and intimate Oberoi Vanyavilas, named India’s top luxury hotel in Travel+Leisure‘s 2017 World’Best Hotels list. We come to subtly beautiful Ranthambore (thought by many to be the inspiration for Kipling’s unforgettable Jungle Book, of Mowgli and Bagheera fame) to see Panthera tigris tigris, an incandescent beast many consider the most impressive of Earth’s many trillions of sentient beings. Our chances of life-sparking sightings are very good. We cruise the park under the guidance of our Travel Director and astute local guides, who can identify the park’s super feline denizens by name and number, and sense their presence by the jungly warning cries that everywhere accompany Shere Khan. Micato, nine-time winner of Travel+Leisure’s Number One Best Safari Operator award, has a natural affection for Panthera leo, the African lion. But we must admit that seeing Leo’s Indian cousin amble imperially in Ranthambore is an almost shockingly exciting experience.
Residents of the entrancing Pink City are Parisian in their pride of place, and the city is the historic home of what is probably India’s most famous and flamboyantly rich ruling family. In fact, our three nights in Jaipur are spent in the Rambagh Palace, the fabulous former home of one of them, the great polo-playing, modernizing Maharajah Sawai Man Singh II.
Monuments to the wealth and monumental ambition of Jaipur’s Maharajah abound: grand City Palace, where members of the family still live; the Star Warsy observatory of Jantar Mantar, and huge yet lyrical Amber Fort, designed for protection in case of war (which never came) and for royalty’s never-ending quest for luxury. One morning we’ll lift off on a heart-stirring hot air balloon ride, flying high, then low over Jaipur’s awakening suburbs, waving to kids on the way to school, housewives putting up laundry, solemn old men on bicycles who break into big smiles as we waft overhead. We’ll explore Jaipur’s famous shopping bonanzas, and one evening we’ll get up close and personal with a winsome Elephas maximus at a private estate, helping bathe and taking a short walk alongside the beautiful beast, ending with a festive, open-air dinner.
We fly to Varanasi in the morning, via Delhi. From our base at the Taj Ganges Veranasi (formerly known as the Gateway Ganges) we’ll venture out to the much-pilgrimaged site at Sarnath, where the Buddha went public for the first time after his enlightenment at nearby Bodh Gaya. But our focal point is Varanasi, in many ways the beating heart of the Hindu universe, perhaps the earth’s most supremely potent pilgrimage site. We’ll observe ancient rites on a quiet early morning boat ride on the sacred river Ganges, watching in the pink and gold light as devotees perform ritual sunrise baths and religious ceremonies, chant mantras, sing hymns, and go about the business of enlightenment. We’ll return at sunset, when tiny sacred lamps are ceremoniously lit during the ancient—and in the Indian way, very contemporary—aarti ceremony. Perhaps nowhere in India, or the world, is it possible to witness so clearly, colourfully, and intensely many thousands of years of unbroken dedication to spiritual exploration.
A world vanguard city, Mumbai is India’s unquestioned financial and commercial hub, a gleaming magnet for India’s millions of go-getting entrepreneurs: We’ll encounter the famous dabbawallahs of Churchgate Station, who prepare and deliver upwards of 175,000 lunches a day. We may do some spirited bargaining at Chor Bazaar, or the Thieves Market, where everything and anything is available. We’ll roam the former Prince of Wales Museum, one of India’s premier art and history museums, and enjoy a leisurely walk through Colaba market near our lodgings, the exquisite Oberoi Mumbai, before dinner and our late night flights homeward.
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|Jan. 15 – Jan. 30||Mar. 04 – Mar. 19||Oct. 07 – Oct. 22||Nov. 25 – Dec. 10|
|Jan. 22 – Feb. 06||Mar. 11 – Mar. 26||Oct. 14 – Oct. 29||Dec. 02 – Dec. 17|
|Jan. 29 – Feb. 13||Mar. 18 – Apr. 02||Oct. 21 – Nov. 05||Dec. 09 – Dec. 24|
|Feb. 05 – Feb. 20||Mar. 25 – Apr. 09||Oct. 28 – Nov. 12||Dec. 16 – Dec. 31|
|Feb. 12 – Feb. 27||Apr. 01 – Apr. 16||Nov. 04 – Nov. 19||Dec. 23 – Jan. 07|
|Feb. 19 – Mar. 05||Sep. 23 – Oct. 08||Nov. 11 – Nov. 26||Dec. 30 – Jan. 14|
|Jan. 06 – Jan. 21||Feb. 24 – Mar. 11||Sep. 29 – Oct. 14||Nov. 17 – Dec. 02|
|Jan. 13 – Jan. 28||Mar. 03 – Mar. 18||Oct. 06 – Oct. 21||Nov. 24 – Dec. 09|
|Jan. 20 – Feb. 04||Mar. 10 – Mar. 25||Oct. 13 – Oct. 28||Dec. 01 – Dec. 16|
|Jan. 27 – Feb. 11||Mar. 17 – Apr. 01||Oct. 20 – Nov. 04||Dec. 08 – Dec. 23|
|Feb. 03 – Feb. 18||Mar. 24 – Apr. 08||Oct. 27 – Nov. 11||Dec. 15 – Dec. 30|
|Feb. 10 – Feb. 25||Mar. 31 – Apr. 15||Nov. 03 – Nov. 18||Dec. 22 – Jan. 06|
|Feb. 17 – Mar. 04||Sep. 22 – Oct. 07||Nov. 10 – Nov. 25||Dec. 29 – Jan. 13|
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Departs Wednesday, Returns Thursday.
Land Arrangements, Per Person (2020)
|Balance of Year||December 15-31|