Glamorous and beguiling, North India crackles with energy and colour. Nothing compares to the splendour and romance of Rajasthan, spilling over with ancient temples and Mughal monuments. You have vibrant and exciting cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta, blissfully cool tea plantations, the soaring Himalayas and some of the world’s most outstanding luxury hotels – from historic havelis to Royal Palaces.
This mango-shaped Indian Ocean island is a bountiful and spirited nation, overflowing with natural wonders, abundant wildlife, sumptuous cuisine, ancient UNESCO World Heritage sites and a rich cultural legacy – from the cool colonial Tea Country and Cultural Triangle in the country’s interior, to the curvaceous caramel sands on the coast. The 17th century Dutch walled fort town of Galle is described by some as the St. Tropez of Asia, and Yala National Park is one of the best wildlife destinations outside of Africa.
Burma (also known as Myanmar) is a cultural gold mine: the Bagan plains are strewn with thousands of temple ruins stretching as far as the Irrawaddy River; Mandalay and Yangon are heaving with colonial buildings and glittering stupas; Inle Lake is a place of heart-stopping beauty where no electricity flows; and the gorgeous golden sands of Ngapali provide a quirky Myanmar beach holiday to complete your adventure.Rudyard Kipling wrote that Burma is 'quite unlike any land you know about', and this still very much applies over a century after it was written. With a civilisation that is more than 2,500 years old, Burma is a mysterious and magical land with magnificent temple architecture set in timeless and sublime landscapes. Tailor-made trips to Burma have been largely off-limits to tourists for decades ensuring that its astonishing natural beauty and charm have remained one of the world's best-kept secrets. Ox carts, locals dressed in traditional longyis and women with tree-bark paste decorating their faces all add to the sense that time has stood still here, even in the cities. Once again opening up to the world, this intriguing country is blessed with a unique natural environment of snow-capped mountains, beautiful lakes, mighty rivers, lush tropical forests and unspoiled beaches. Bordered by China to the north-east, Laos to the east, Thailand to the south-east, Bangladesh to the west, India to the north-west and the Bay of Bengal to the south-west, the Andaman Sea and its 1,199 mile uninterrupted coastline define Burma's southern periphery.The Burmese culture, heavily influenced by neighbours, is based on Theravada Buddhism intertwined with animist elements called nats, which are spirits that hold dominion over a place or person. Burma's diverse population (there are over 135 ethnic groups) has played a major role in defining its politics, history and demographics in modern times. In 2011 Burma fully opened her doors to travellers, who came from far and wide to explore Myanmar. Now there is extraordinary demand for a limited range of luxury hotels, and recent investment has allowed for some wonderful new luxury properties to open, meaning travellers needn’t compromise on luxury during their Myanmar Holiday. Burma's hospitable, open, inquisitive and friendly people provide visitors with their most memorable moments, and despite limited access to the internet or (for many) a proper education, the Burmese are remarkably well informed about outside events. From the busy city of Yangon to the royal city of Mandalay, the thousands of temples and pagodas in Bagan to the natural grace of Inle Lake, exploring Myanmar will make for an intriguing and beautiful tailor-made tour to Burma.
The tropical south has a different pace to the rest of India – it is slow and soothing, much like the backwaters of Kerala. Renowned for its welcoming people, lush scenery, delicious food and distinctive gopuram temples, South India is the perfect destination if you are looking for a relaxing, yet culturally stimulating escape. These spiritual cliff-backed beaches are ideal for a meditative break and some of India’s finest Ayurvedic medicine is practiced in the laid-back spas and resorts of this region.
This long sliver of a country provides memories you won’t easily forget – from your first bowl of delicious steaming pho to gliding past the mysterious rocky outcrops aboard a junk on Halong Bay. Busy cities from north to south provide a fascinating glimpse into Vietnam’s history, whilst islands such as Phu Quoc offer a stunning beach break.
China’s colossal size, lightning-fast development and language hurdles means a holiday to China can be hard to tackle as an independent traveller. Travelling in China need not be daunting, and Ampersand’s tailor-made holidays to China provide just the right amount of self-exploration and hand-holding, combining ultra-luxury at the very best hotels with cultural adventures accompanied by truly incredible guides. China is the third largest country in the world, and three times larger than India, so there is little doubt of the plethora of experiences on offer. The difficulty is knowing where to begin... It is also an essential stop for anyone hoping to learn more about the direction the world is taking this century. No first holiday to China is complete without visiting the truly unique city of Beijing, where you can't help but be impressed by the vastness of the Forbidden City and the scale of the Great wall of China, and the buzzing metropolis of Shanghai to learn of its colonial past and its lightning fast development of the future. Thereafter you are still spoilt for choice between travelling to Xi'An to explore the first emperor's Terracotta Warriors, delving into Yunnan province for trekking and natural beauty in the mountains, following the majestic Yangtze River or Huangpu River, eating your way through Sichuan province and Chengdu as well as visiting the popular Giant Panda Bear or going to Hangzhou, the fabled city on West Lake. And then there’s the exhilarating city of Hong Kong, with infamous shopping, cuisine and a dazzling skyline. There is something to interest anyone and plenty to learn from your holiday in China; from the way the country is being shaped in the mega-cities to the way the country used to be through its beautiful calligraphy, tea making and classical music – much of which is still practiced today, and we can organise for you to learn from the masters in their craft. Our travel advice for anyone planning a first trip to China would be to incorporate a journey on a high-speed train, to spend an afternoon at a traditional teahouse, to learn calligraphy from a master and to visit a park in the early morning to watch locals practising tai chi and sing rousing Communist songs. We believe experiences like these will make you fall in love with the country just as much as the sights will. We are constantly bowled over by China – its beauty, ancient history and powerful present are all intoxicating, but what we feel is most fascinating is the unexpectedly fun and agile sense of humour of its people. The best piece of advice we can give is to avoid trying to do too much. This is a massive country and deserves to be visited more than once.
Asia, Tailor-made . . .
'Luxury is in the experience'
We love luxury and style at Ampersand Travel, but we also love to engage with our destination. If that means the odd bumpy road or eccentric hotel in order to see something truly special, that's fine by us. Most of our clients agree (they know that luxury isn't far away, after all), and for those that don't, we are happy to arrange super-luxe holidays from start to finish.
Founder & Managing Director of Ampersand Travel
We're always re-visiting our destinations. Visit Ampersand's blog here to find out the latest news hot off the press.
Hot off the press from our favourite destinations
Japan: renowned for its pioneering technology, buzzing metropolises and quirky fashion trends. But equally as intriguing is her ancient history and rich culture. This itinerary will take you off the beaten path to the Izu Peninsula – a land of hot-springs, cloud-shredding peaks, empty coastal headlands and hospitality traditions unchanged for 400 years. This trip follows in the footsteps of Stanley Stewart’s How To Spend It article, “Taking it Izu”
Probably best known for her beaches and 20th Century history, Vietnam’s centuries of rich imperial history and many diverse inland hill tribes, who have largely managed to avoid the sprint towards modernity, are often overlooked. With the recent openings of a handful of hotels in the northern cultural heartland, it has now become possible to get off the beaten track without having to slum it.
Of all the states in India, Rajasthan is undoubtedly its most regal; steeped in a fascinating Mughal history, this grand region is filled with royal palaces, fairy-tale forts, ancient temples and ravishing forests roaming with tigers. It is also home to some of the finest hotels in India and the world – from princely royal palace hotels and historic havelis to opulent modern classics and stylish tented camps. Here are Ampersand’s Top 10 Hotels in Rajasthan.
beautifully converted into a niche boutique hotel.
The Bespoke Luxury Travel Experts
At Ampersand we believe that “luxury is in the experience”. We love travelling in style but are not afraid to step off the usual circuit in order to experience something more rewarding. We specialise in exclusive tailor-made holidays that are perfect for honeymoons, cultural tours, family trips, wildlife adventures, sabbaticals and multi-generational holidays.
Over the last 13 years we have established ourselves as a leader in luxury Asia holidays to the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and the Far East. In keeping with our desire to share the places we know and love best, we are thrilled to add the British Isles to our portfolio of destinations.
Our clients are mostly private individuals who recognise that time is their most precious asset and want to entrust it to experts with a well proven track record. This smoothes out the planning process and ensures that they have the most rewarding and memorable experience possible. We also look after some of the world’s most acclaimed museums and organisations who rely on us to arrange once in a lifetime group tours for their most important patrons.