I visited India for three weeks in October 2018 as part of a G-Adventures tour group. We did the ‘Uncover India‘ itinerary, where we started off in Delhi and ended up in Goa. Read more about my top 10 highlights during this trip: –
The phrase ‘difficult paths often lead to beautiful destinations’ comes to mind when I think back to the sunrise hike I experienced in Pushkar, Rajasthan. I had a 4:50am alarm to climb 650 steps at an elevation of about 750 feet to watch the sunrise over the holy city of Pushkar with a bunch of monkeys, and this was one of my highlights during my three week trip to India.
When we finally reached the top, we were greeted with Chai Masala. Not only were we joined by cheeky monkeys who stole our seats on the rocks, we were also joined by two cows and I still wonder how they made it up to the top of Ratnagiri Hill!
Once daylight broke, there were amazing views of the lake, Pushkar town and its surrounding picturesque villages.
What goes up, must come back down! Thankfully the hike back down wasn’t as bad as the hike up there. If you don’t fancy the energetic route, there was a cable car that also took you to the top, but it was being repaired when we visited.
Of course a trip to India would not be complete without a visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the Taj Mahal. Built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor, Shan Jahan, it was in memory of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal.
As we entered through the gateway, I couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse of the perfectly symmetrical mausoleum, and I was thankful that there wasn’t any scaffolding visible (from the cleaning works that were taking place just before I was due to visit). It’s not often that I am left speechless; I’ve seen the Taj Mahal in so many photographs, but I’ve never appreciated how beautiful it is until I saw it in real life.
We visited in the late afternoon, and stayed for the sunset.
Despite the busy crowds, which can be expected, and being stopped endless times by locals asking for us to pose for selfies or photos with their families, I managed to tick off seeing the Taj Mahal from my bucket list.
The hotel that I stayed in when I was in Jaipur, Jaipur Inn, offered Bollywood dance classes up on the rooftop terrace for INR 500 each. The whole of my G-Adventures tour group took part in this, and we all had such a laugh learning the dance moves. The class lasted about an hour, and by the end we were pretty much professionals!
Throughout the rest of the trip, we’d just randomly burst into our Bollywood dance routine, impressing the locals with our moves. Even now, I still get the song stuck in my head!
Henna tattoos, known locally as Mehndi, are an Indian tradition and are often applied to girls during special celebrations such as weddings, Diwali and Eid. When I had the opportunity to get a beautiful design on my hand and arm, I couldn’t say no!
In Tordi Sagar, the hotel that I was staying in, Tordi Garh, had arranged for a couple of girls from the local village to do henna tattoos on us girls from the G-Adventures group for a small fee. It didn’t take them long to draw out the beautiful designs with the henna ink; they must’ve had lots of practice. I was so chuffed with it, and was sad when it eventually washed off about 10 days later.
In Udaipur, one of the optional activities was a cooking demonstration in which the whole group participated in. We entered the ladies house and sat watching her prepare delicious food. Although the cooking demonstration wasn’t what I thought it would be – I thought it would be a cookery class where we each had our own workstations – it was still really good, and we were able to go up and help make the dishes. I especially enjoyed cooking the chapatis and watching them balloon up on the gas flame. The lady told us that she quite often makes over 100 chapatis a day to feed her family, the animals she keeps and people in her local village.
Together, we made chai masala, vegetable pakoras with mango chutney – yum, malai kofta curry, chana masala, cumin okra and pulao rice. We were then able to sit down and enjoy the delicious dishes we’d just prepared, and learnt more about the lady whose home we were in.
I watched the most amazing sunset over a dam in Tordi Sagar, accompanied by Chai Masala and biscuits – how British does that sound?!
I can’t get enough of sunsets; the best things in life really are free, and I’ve seen some beautiful ones on my adventures but this one felt quite special as I got to share it with my new friends from my G-Adventures group.
We took a jeep ride from the nearby village to Tordi Sagar Dam, where we poured ourselves Chai Masala tea and ate biscuits whilst we waited for the sun to set for another day.
I don’t know when I will ever have the opportunity to wear one, but I couldn’t leave India without getting my own custom-made saree!
When we were in Jaipur, we made a stop-off at a shop called Krishna Textiles and it was here that you could get custom-made garments. Some people in the G-Adventures group got custom-made shirts, skirts and dresses but I’d already made my mind up that I wanted a saree and this was the perfect opportunity.
I selected the fabric that I wanted my saree to be made from and I chose a beautiful turquoise fabric with a silver pattern. Traditionally, the saree is made from a 4 foot wide length of cloth and varies in length, so the woman can drape it around her body. But I knew I was never going to be able to do that at home without any help, so the guys at Krishna Textiles said they’d make my saree into a separate top and skirt, with the fabric hanging from the skirt for me to drape around.
The next day, my saree was delivered to my hotel and I couldn’t wait to try it on. Wearing it, teamed with my henna tattoo created a lot of attention from the locals!
My first overnight sleeper train experience was from Ahmadabad to Mumbai, and it wasn’t as bad as what I thought it would be! After travelling through India using local transport, I’d expected the overnight sleeper train to be of the same standard but this was a little better, and it had air-con! I think G-Adventures had booked us onto the lowest class sleeper carriage, as we were in 3-high bunk beds! I was on the top bunk, with two people sleeping below me; just as well I had no plans to use the toilet facilities on the train!
As soon as we got on the overnight sleeper train, we made our beds up and left our main luggage under the bottom bunk bed. I slept with my valuables in my bed just to be on the safe side. As I was on the top bunk, I was right under an air-con unit so I found it quite cold during the night – keeping a jumper and leggings handy just in case you get cold is a must. We had someone in our carriage snoring so loudly ALL night so I wish I’d kept some ear plugs handy too.
When we arrived in Mumbai, we walked along the train platform and we saw different class carriages and some had 2-high bunk beds, and some carriages even had private rooms! So if you’re booking it independently, it might be worth comparing the fare difference for a more peaceful nights sleep.
I am a massive foodie, so of course food is going to make an appearance in my top 10 highlights of India! I must be the only person ever to have visited India, and come back heavier than when I went – I kind of wish I did get the infamous ‘Delhi belly’ to make the weight gain a little less damaging. But what did I expect when I was eating curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner?! Let’s not forget that all my meals were accompanied by rice AND naan, whereas the locals would choose between one or the other.
Three weeks was enough time to work my way through my local Indian takeaway menu, just so I could compare the curries to those we get back in the U.K. As expected, the curries in India were a lot tastier – and hotter, but I was surprised to see dishes like Korma on the menu. My favourite curries were the Butter Chicken and the Keema Matar. I also loved the garlic naan bread as it had fresh garlic cloves in it.
As a meat eater, I tend not to look at the vegetarian options when I am eating out, but when I visited Pushkar (a holy city where meat is forbidden) it gave me an opportunity to try vegetarian dishes, such as lentil or paneer curries which were equally as delicious.
I think travelling through India with a local tour guide helped us to not get ill, as Jaideep knew what restaurants to eat in and where we could get salad if we wanted to.
The food in India was definitely a highlight of the trip for me.
I couldn’t of asked for a better bunch of people to explore India with. Everyone in the group clicked straight away and we all got on so well, including our tour guide Jaideep. When you’re travelling with like-minded people, you go from strangers to really good friends within a couple of days, and that happened within this G-Adventures group. It was sad to say our goodbyes to each other at the end; some were just at the beginning of their travels, and like me, some were just on a holiday. I am grateful for the friends that I met along the way – thanks G-Adventures!
Read more about my Indian adventure here.
What were your top highlights in India? Please feel free to leave your coments below.