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Diwali Delights – An Intimate Grand Tour of North India

Diwali Delights – An Intimate Grand Tour of North India

By Cosmo Brockway

As the world becomes smaller, with the advent of technology and social media, people are in fact are becoming less connected to each other. At Ampersand Travel we love to engage people with incredible destinations, but also to engage with like-minded cultural travellers who share our interests. In our age of fast-paced mass travel, it can be challenging to practice the art of authentic old-fashioned exploring and to meet fellow kindred spirits. We find delight in those moments that are harder and harder to find on itineraries now – sleeping on the roof of a desert palace and watching the stars, sitting on the floor of a Mughal shrine and listening to the hypnotic rhythms of Sufi music or chancing upon a solitary 19th century wooden church in a wildflower Kashmir valley. We understand that memories shared are memories twice treasured. This is why we have created our escorted guided tours - as featured in FT’s How To Spend It. These group experiences are kept to an ideal number so that guests can have the opportunity to both socialise and not feel crowded. The ebb and flow of travelling through such an inspiring and unique land as India allows for a great bonding. Our groups unfailingly part ways as lifetime friends bound by an experience that can be justly described as ‘life changing’.


The visually spectacular Festival of Lights, Diwali, will be our journey from 4th to 15th November 2018. Taking in Rajasthan, ‘the Land of Kings’, we will stay in forts, palaces and havelis across the desert state. Guided by author of Glorious Hotels of India, Cosmo Brockway, this will be a unique chance to experience memories that in the words of a previous guest ‘no amount of money can buy’. Starting in Udaipur, often called ‘the Venice of the East’ and the setting for the palace-festooned Lake Pichola, we will take in a wonderland of sounds, sights and vibrant colours. The flavour will be that of a fun house party as we are hosted by the charismatic Richard Hanlon at his creation, Bujera Fort. Located just outside the city, this fantasy fort is part Rajput royal home, part English country house. Days will be spent sailing on the lake, taking in sights such as the crystal gallery of the City Palace and visiting the homes of artisans with resident specialist Rosie Cornwallis, descendent of the famed Governor General of India. Finish the day watching the astonishing fireworks displays over cocktails and candle-lit dinner at Jagmandir Island, built as a folly by the Maharanas of Udaipur. A journey to the feudal fantasy of RAAS Devigarh palace, a short drive from the city, will see us entering into an enchanted world of pavilions, frescoes and contemporary art along with an intimate tour of a timeless village renowned for its craft scene.


A drive to Jodhpur, through the Aravalli Hills, one of the oldest ranges in the world, will include a visit to the serenely beautiful white marble Jain Temple, Ranakpur along with a champagne lunch with the convivial wildlife expert, Reggie Singh at his colonial style lodge in the hills. Singh, a grandson of the late Maharaj Ratan Singh of Jodhpur, who loves to entertain, is a fount of anecdotes about local legends and his Rajput heritage.


Jodhpur, the Blue City, will be our next destination to stay at RAAS Haveli. Set at the foot of the mighty Mehrangarh Fort, this sandstone confection is a hub of creativity and buzzing hospitality with its fabulous water-filled pleasure garden, indulgent spa and rooftop bar. Perusing the galleries, shops and glorious architecture of the Old City by day, we will spend the evening transported back to 1920’s princely India with a once-in-a-lifetime dinner on the sweeping terrace of the splendid Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace, the ‘Brideshead’ of Rajasthan and still home to the Maharaja of Jodhpur and his family. Afternoon tea with a local international family at their exquisite home, will include the chance to see their collection of antiquities and textiles, which will be informative plus have the opportunity to shop!


Jaipur, the Pink City, home to the Palace of the Winds, an ancient culture and the most colourful street life in the world, will be a highlight as we stay at the tranquil Samode Haveli, 19th century home of the royal Samode family. Flower-lined lawns, the most idyllic frescoed pool in India and rooms filled with atmosphere and treasures await here. From the haveli, we will take in the very best of the city. Jewellery admirers will be astonished at the unique breadth to see at the Amrapali Museum, The Gem Palace (where we will meet the owners, The Kasliwals, long standing court jewellers and hosts of royalty and celebrities from Jackie Kennedy to Kendall Jenner) and the recently opened Gyan Museum with its incomparable collection of artefacts. The studio of textile doyenne, Brigitte Singh will be visited along with the historic Amber Fort (which gives a chance to ride up the ramparts on an elephant in the tradition of Maharajas past). An unforgettable lunch will be laid out at the ravishing SUJAN Rajmahal Palace, owned by Princess Diya Kumari of Jaipur and flamboyantly brought to life by the chic SUJAN hotel group. As the sun goes down, we will enjoy cocktails at the romantic Bar Palladio, set in peacock-filled grounds, which was featured in World of Interiors.


The 10th morning will be spent in the skies of Rajasthan as we fly away to Delhi. This intoxicating city is like no other. Many visitors do not get to experience the true magic of India’s capital and so we have curated a considered glimpse into a city that has had at least nine lives. The masterpiece of Humayan’s Tomb, shrine to a Mughal Emperor and recently restored by the Aga Khan foundation, will be enjoyed in the cool of the late afternoon along with a walk through the roses and frangipani of its surrounding park, dubbed Delhi’s answer to ‘Central Park’. Sufi music, the qawaali’s of the royal courts, will be experienced at a heady 18th century shrine. We will be hosted by one of the city’s best-known families for a privileged dinner at their farmhouse just outside the city.


Wake up to a signature Taj breakfast before an early-morning pink-skied visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan, the hauntingly magnificent seat of the Indian government. Built by the British on an unrivalled scale as The Viceroy’s House, the building‘s history and tales will be unfolded with an expert guide along with its wonderful gardens, tended to by a gardener of great note and longevity! The day will feature a foodie and history walk through Old Delhi. With its maze-like lanes and panoply of temples, mosques, courtesan’s houses and layers of legend, this quarter is a sight to never forget. We will then weave our way to lunch on the rooftop terrace of the recently-restored Haveli Dharampura, sampling authentic cuisine with a bird’s eye view of the Mughal Great Mosque and surrounding panorama. After a restful afternoon, our last evening will be spent dining at the elegant Bikaner House, former townhouse of the Maharajas of Bikaner, and revelling in the courtly dishes of India past in grand style.


We very hope you can join us on what promises to be a very special and authentic tour of North India that has echoes of the 18th Grand Tours with a very intimate feel. Cultural adventure at its best!

For more information or to join our Unusual Escorted Journey's to India, please get in touch with Jessica Andrews:

info@ampersandtravel.com   //  +44 (0) 207 819 9770