May 29 - Jun 12, 2023
AMAZING!!! We knew when our daughter said she wanted to take her senior trip to India that it was going to be a trip of a lifetime... but we never imagined it would be as amazing as it was! This was in HUGE part to Jay!!! Jay was incredible during the entire booking process. He listened to feedback, gave wonderful recommendations and everything he booked was perfect. During the trip he was equally as responsive when we added excursions. I would recommend Jay and Bespoke India Holidays to everyone!!!
In Delhi, our guide, Raj, was very knowledgable and it felt like we were walking the streets, riding tuk tuks, and visiting temples/sites with a friend. He was easy to talk to and answered all our questions. He took us to an absolutely delicious lunch and we even convinced him to eat with us! We loved all the sites in Delhi, and our favorite was the incredible Qutb Minar. Our teenage daughter was also very grateful to Raj for making her feel safe at this monument while several other Indian tourists were wanting to take photos with her and following her. We also loved immediately getting to see an Islamic Mosque and Hindu Temple in the same day. The trip would have been incomplete without our walking tour of Chandni Chowk - a must for any visitor to Delhi. Our hotel was wonderful in Delhi also.
We also were very glad to have our driver, Raj, with us from Delhi through Jaipur. Raj was very knowledgable on the drives about the different cities, crops and interesting things we didn't know. He made sure to stop for us at very nice restrooms and eateries. We felt like we were leaving a friend behind when we said goodbye to him in Jaipur.
In Agra, our guide, Kumar, was also very knowledgable about everything we saw. We loved having guides that were local to the area and knew and loved their rich history. Kumar took us to Agra Fort - which blew our minds. We were so excited to see the Taj Mahal, that seeing this was just awe inspiring. We loved learning all the history of Agra and it's incredible sites. Agra Fort was followed by "baby Taj" which was so stunning that we kept wondering how everything could get better and better... but it did! Kumar took us to see the Taj Mahal during sunset and then sunrise the next morning. I would tell everyone to do the same. Seeing and walking around the Taj Mahal is a breathtaking experience on it's own - but having Kumar there to talk about the history and take the perfect photos for us was perfect!! I could have stayed at the Taj Mahal all day... for days. It was almost a spiritual experience to learn the history all day... and then to see it and touch it and go inside. It was a top experience in India for me. After seeing the Taj at sunrise (which was the best time), Kumar took us to Fatehpur Sikri, which we hadn't given much thought to... but it blew our minds again! We loved all the history of the wives' palaces and the view of the village too. It was an amazing addition in Agra! Our hotel in Agra was great!
We next went to Ranthambore for the night. We felt like royalty when we arrived at our hotel (palace)!! The hotel was literally one of the most incredible places we have ever stayed! It was nice to relax that afternoon/evening also. We went for an early morning safari - and while we didn't see a tiger... there is no way we could complain about the spectacular views and animals we did see. The guide and driver were great.
We drove to Jaipur after the safari. In Jaipur, which was so different than Delhi and Agra, we went for a wonderful night tour of the bazaar with our guide, Hitesh. Hitesh was a wonderful guide and provided interesting cultural insights! He took us to see many unique places in the bazaar and bought us a delicious Jaipur treat!! The next day he took us to the Amber Fort, Panna Meena ka Kund and Jaigarh Fort. We really liked how he would explain all the history and then let us explore before the next location. He also took wonderful photos of us. Amber Fort was also an incredible gem in Jaipur - it blew us away, especially the painting that has survived. We went to Jantar Mantar which was very unique and cool. The City Palace tour was also wonderful. We wish we would have spent more time in the bazaar's in Jaipur. It was so different from Delhi and was very pleasant to walk around in. The hotel was great in Jaipur.
We flew to Udaipur the next day - and I must say that we took four flights domestically in India on IndiGo, and they were spectacular. What a great airline!! All of our flights were on time and all IndiGo employees were professional and kind. They handled and diffused difficult situations with grace and made all the flights relaxing.
In Udaipur, we were again blown away by our hotel! It was right on Lake Pichola!! Our driver, Umesh, and guide, Mukesh, were both great in Udaipur. Mukesh took us through Udaipur to see Jagdish Temple, a beautiful garden and City Palace. City Palace was amazing as well as the temple. The boat ride was so relaxing and wonderful too. We were treated to a great show in Udaipur where we saw traditional Indian dances and music. It was thrilling. The special part of our hotel was the AMAZING view of the nightly flight of thousands of fruit bats close enough to see their fangs!!! It was also in a great part of the city that we felt very safe walking around and shopping in. We added a tour the next day to a Ranakpur Jain temple... and that was literally one of the other mind blowing sites on the trip! I would tell anyone going to India that it's a must see!!! The drive was beautiful and totally worth it. Mukesh made sure to stop at great restrooms and a delicious restaurant for lunch afterwards. The temple was absolutely amazing for so many reasons and we couldn't believe it's rich and long history.
We flew to Madurai next - and just like in America, the south is different. Not better or worse, just different - and wonderful!! I am so glad our daughter wanted to see the Meenakshi Temple - it was her favorite site! Our guide, Vasand, took us on an epic trip the first night. We rode tuk tuks into the temple (that was a real thrill) and were able to witness a very special religious Aarti ceremony inside the temple. We felt honored to be able to witness that and have time before the ceremony to learn from Vasand about the different statues and rituals. Vasand was another guide that we felt like we were walking around town with a friend. He was comfortable and knowledgable and very easy to talk to.
In the morning, we met our driver, Sujidh, who would drive us for the remainder of our trip. He was a wonderful driver, knowledgable and kind as well. He went above and beyond even trying to make me aware of a sporting event he knew I wanted to see since we connected as fans of the same EPL club team!
Vasand took us through a flower market and banana market in the morning, going slow enough to let us interact with the vendors and even buying us flowers and bananas!! He went at our pace (which was slowing down by this time in the trip) and took us for a walk around the Meenakshi Temple in the daytime so we could see all the incredible workmanship. We drove by the biggest water tank in Tamil Nadu and then visited a temple and the Gandhi Museum. The hotel in Madurai was another marvel to us! We felt like we were in a jungle, yet just off the road!
The next day we drove into the mountains to Thekkady. What a little piece of paradise!! The drive in and out of the mountains was absolutely gorgeous and our driver, Sujidh, knew so much about all the crops and cities along the way. We went to a wonderful spice plantation with our guide, Cedu, who knew everything about all the spices. We went on an unforgettable boat ride inside the Periyar National Park and saw many elephants, water buffalo, deer, wild boar, and birds. It was perfect!
The next day we drove through the clouds on our way to Alleppey in the backwaters of Kerala. This was another experience that blew our minds. We needed the day to relax, but the beauty was just awe inspiring. We saw a new lifestyle and we just loved to see a part of their lives on this totally unique journey. The boat and its crew were just all amazing and we wish we could have stayed another day there too! This was a really nice relaxing point in the trip and provided a break from the rest of the tour. The cooking was especially delicious on the boat.
We went to Cochin the next day, and this was definitely the most humid of all the locations! We were shocked actually, as we were driving down from Thekkady, we could already see some Christian influence, but Cochin was full of Christian influence. It was fun to see the Jewish area and then all the different buildings with influence from China, Holland, Portugal and England. The Chinese Fishing Nets were a highlight for me. I loved the history and watching them work today. We also loved the old dance form of Kathakali and martial art form of Kalarippayattu.
We very much appreciated and loved each guide/driver talking to us about their religion, families, and the history of their individual states in India. Our daughter wanted to come to India because she loves Indian food and wanted to learn about their history, religions and culture. We all fell deeply in love with the people we met, the culture and even more of the food! We hope we make it back to India again and when we do, we will absolutely be connecting with Jay and Bespoke India Holidays!
This hotel is amazing and while still in the city area, felt removed and relaxed. The complimentary breakfast was delicious and we had a beautiful view of the Lotus temple.
The Clark Shiraz had a unique and beautiful interior and the employees were kind. We had a view of the Taj Mahal from our windows and our rooms were very clean!
Incredibly rewarding part of the trip! The staff were attentive and kind, and the cook especially was talented and made some of the most delicious food we had on the trip! We were relaxed and each found books that were provided on the boat that we enjoyed. A small detour in a canoe was greatly enjoyed and we felt we experienced amazing cultural insight.
Incredibly unique experience staying at this palace of a hotel! The pools were serene and the surroundings were exciting to explore. We had a delicious and personal dinner and the staff were attentive and friendly.
This hotel was clean and close to great areas in Jaipur! They took the time to pack a breakfast for us when we had to leave the hotel before breakfast hours.
Incredibly serene area, we enjoyed the spa at this hotel greatly and had a relaxing stay. The staff were gracious and apologetic when there were issues with dining, and we felt taken care of.
An oceanside restaurant makes this hotel special and exciting! Our rooms were nice and the air conditioning was much appreciated!
The structure of this hotel is fascinating and the walk outside is straight into the heart of Udaipur, minutes from "Times Square". We also found kind shop-owners nearby where we could get water and snacks throughout our stay. The restaurant was beautiful and our rooms were comfortable.
This hotel had interesting activities and we enjoyed getting to know other hotel goers at a cooking demonstration with the Head Chef, and a special dance performance! The rooms were nice!