ExpertFlyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway
Over the past ten years, India’s status as a place to do business has grown immensely. According to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), India is the 10th largest business travel market in the world. With more Westerners traveling for business and gaining appreciation for the vast and unique cultural attractions, history and landscape, more leisure travelers are keen on exploring India, but it’s a big country – 1.2 million sq. miles covered by more than 1.2 billion people!
Louise Nicholson, a trained art historian, India travel expert/guide and author of more than 25 books, including National Geographic Guides to India, says, “You can’t see all the major sites of India in one trip, unless you have a few years to spare. My mantra is ‘less is more’, meaning the fewer places and areas you travel to, the more you will undoubtedly get out of your journey.”
TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travelers’ Choice destination picks for India include the following geographies in their top five: 1. Jaipur 2. New Delhi 3. Mumbai 4. Jaisalmer 5. Bardez
We asked Louise to give us her version of the top 5 special choice destinations in India. Not surprisingly, her picks are quite unique. In fact, only Mumbai made her top five when compared to TripAdvisor’s choices.
“This is almost impossible to do, so much choice, as if you want the top five destinations in all of Europe! But here are five choices for five very different tastes; India is all about finding the right place for YOU, which is what I have been doing for 35 years.”
Mumbai – a great entry city for a first visit to India. Many people just transit through, but it merits stopping and exploring. Mumbai is a bustling buzzing port-city made great by the British in the 19th century, and now the financial, fashion, film and entertainment capital of India. Downtown (around the Taj Mahal hotel) is easy and safe to walk, and you can find bars, restaurants of all cuisines, the Prince of Wales museum, cool contemporary design and art galleries in beautiful old warehouses, and fantastic fashion. Other areas have their own neighbourhoods for eating and shopping; I really like Bandra.
- Udaipur, Jodhpur, Nagaur – the best trio of cities in fairytale Rajasthan, and you just drive between them – so, no airport hanging about. These are some of the best Rajasthan cities at the moment, thriving, not too big, walkable, great hotels. Ideal for honeymooners and people wanting the full combo of dazzling colours, romantic forts, shopping direct from craftsmen, and outrageous playtime palaces, many of which you can stay in and partake of their amazing spoiling spas. At Nagaur you stay in the palaces the queens lived in!
Tamil Nadu – this is the state in South India where you see historic India, but living full pelt today, especially in the huge temple cities with their temple bazaars, festivals, their own in-temple elephants. You can start from Chennai and then do a tour through the villages and fields to visit Mahaballipuram, Thanjavur, Thiruchirappalli and Madurai. Good historic hotels along the way. Find delicious food, music, weavers, ladies in glistening saris. And watch all those rituals and festivals. You even have a drop of French sophistication at the former French colony of Pondicherry!
- Ajanta and Ellora – two world class mind-blowing sites inland from Mumbai; you just take a 40 minute flight to Aurangabad, which is your base for visiting each site. Still in rural India, it is as if you are discovering each one. Dating from 2nd century BC up to the 8th century AD, or so, you see the birth of monumental sculpture and painting that spread eastwards across the Buddhist world, and Hindu and Jain sculptures that set the tone for the great medieval achievements. As if that were not enough, one of India’s most important Shiva pilgrimage temples is at Ellora (almost no foreigners know about it), and the high quality shimmering Paithan silk weaves on sale in Aurangabad.
Sikkim – up in the lush and pristine Lower Himalaya hills located between Bhutan and Nepal, Sikkim was an independent kingdom until recently. Few tourists visit, yet it is tranquil, varied and very beautiful. Just the place for relaxing in the spring and fall. You start from Darjeeling, crossing into Sikkim to explore a very distinct culture. You can visit a tea plantation, go inside ancient monasteries to hear monks chanting, spot orchids hanging from trees and great big rhododendrons blossoming in their natural habitat. You can take walks through villages and farms to spot hill birds, see how people live close to the earth, and take hikes of varying challenge into the mountains. There is even a superb new hotel built in Sikkim style with excellent food and rooftop terraces where you can gaze – all day long if you wish – at a row of family snow-capped Himalayans peaks. I am taking a tour there next April – come with me!
For more about Louise and her special trips to India, visit: www.louisenicholsonindia.com.