India can make a strong claim to be the most exciting and rewarding travel destination in the world. From the exhilarating pace of life in its colourful and vibrant cities to its exquisite temples and superb scenery, few visitors ever leave disappointed. There are not many countries where you could stay in a former palace and receive first-class service without breaking the bank, yet India offers a superb range of luxurious and characterful hotels at excellent value for money. Add the delightful food and the fact that with English as an official language it is easy to interact with the locals and it is no surprise that so many of our clients return again and again to the country, whether it’s to take an epic train journey, take a tiger safari in one of its national parks or simply live like royalty. For most, the biggest problem is where to start.
Where to start:
Rudyard Kipling described Mumbai as ‘the Mother of Cities’ and the city’s history is the story of an incredible transformation from its foundation to the present day. It was built expressly for trade by the British and, over the years, it changed hands from the fishing village of the Kolis, through the Portuguese conquest, to the Portuguese Infanta Catherine Braganza who took the seven islands of Mumbai as her dowry to Charles II of England. Mumbai was, and still is, the Gateway of India and a grand archway of that name was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911.
Kanha National Park
One of India’s largest national parks, Kanha’s lush sal and bamboo forests and green meadows provided the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. Along with elusive Bengal tigers, 22 animal species are regularly spotted here, including striped hyenas, leopards, anteating pangolins, highly endangered hardground barasinghas – a type of deer – and the unusual three-striped palm squirrel. With more than 200 recorded bird species, Kanha is also a bird watcher’s paradise.
Bandhavgarh National Park
Bandhavgarh, in the heart of India, has one of the highest density tiger populations in the country. Once the hunting preserve of the maharajas of Rewa, the reserve’s open terrain features large grassland meadows that offer good chances of tiger sightings. The park is home to a variety of other mammals, including leopards, Indian bison, hyenas and wild dogs. It is estimated that 150 bird species can be found here, including the migratory steppe eagle that arrives in winter.
Ranthambore National Park
One of the prime examples of Project Tiger’s conservation efforts in Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park, once the private hunting grounds of the maharajas of Jaipur, covers an area of 400 sq km. Although Ranthambore is famous for its tigers, it is also home to a large variety of animals, including sambar deer,panthers, marsh crocodiles, sloth bears and leopards, as well as being a bird watcher’s delight with more than 250 species of birds nesting there. The best time to see wildlife is between October and May – 4×4 safaris are subject to availability at the time of booking.Beyond the wildlife, visitors can also discover a majestic eighth-century fort, ancient temple ruins, run-down palaces and lakes within the park. Cox & Kings recommends at least a 2-night stay in Ranthambore.