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All About

INDIA

October 2013

Your one-stop guide to all the latest news and developments in India

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www.travelbulletin.co.uk


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All About

India

CONTENTS What’s New - 4

Hotel Hotline - 7

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ooking a holiday to India can be a daunting experience for first-timers. There are so many sights to see, experiences to enjoy, landscapes to be stunned by, food to eat, yoga retreats to de-stress at, festivals to people-watch at… where do you start? The tourist board’s recent stage of its ‘Find what you seek’ advertising campaign pulls together many of the experiences that visitors can enjoy, with a collection of bold, inspirational images that just make you want to book your holiday straight away so that you can be part of what this amazing country has to offer. The value of a travel agent who knows about India and which operators feature which tours can not be underestimated to firsttime visitors to India. They can encourage clients to really focus on what their priorities are as we all know it’s not possible to experience the whole country in a two-week holiday. And then those first-time India clients will no doubt become repeat visitors, and if agents ensure they know exactly what new tours are coming down the line, and what’s the next big thing, they are guaranteed to secure that next booking. This year’s All About India supplement draws from the tourist board’s recent campaign and looks at tours that can take your clients beyond the Golden Triangle. In What’s New, we catch up with the operators to find out what new tours and experiences they are introducing for 2014. Our Hotel Hotline looks at the new properties that have opening or are opening next year. In Adventure, we focus on the tours that will appeal to your clients who have a strong spirit of adventure, and a passion for India. Our Peace and Tranquility feature goes beyond the traditional hotel spas to look at the treatment programmes that are focusing more on health and wellbeing. Temples, tigers and the Taj feature in Cultural India before a finally round-up of offers in our Holidays for less than… feature. So, hope you enjoy this supplement, it will help to improve your knowledge of what India operators have to offer for 2014 – and ultimately secure that booking. Angela Cronin Supplements editor All About India

Adventure - 8

Peace & Tranquility - 10

Cultural India - 12

Holidays for less - 15

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Lower Ground Floor, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London SW1W 0EX Tel: 020-7834 6661 Publisher: Jeanette Ratcliffe Written and researched by: Angela Cronin Email: angelacronin2003@yahoo.co.uk Design/Layout: Genaro Santos & Nicky Valsamakis Printed by: Wyndeham Grange Limited Cover Picture: iStock ISSN: 0956-2419

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With operators new to India dipping their toe in the market, existing specialists adding more off-thebeaten-track regions and the strength of the pound against the rupee, there has never been a better time to experience this incredible country

What’s

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ndia has always been a popular destination for travellers who have a sense of adventure, who want to experience culture, see historic architecture and be wowed by stunning landscapes. The tourist board’s latest stage of its ‘Find what you seek’ campaign digs deeper into this amazing country and the holiday experiences that it can offer, with poster campaigns inspired by what different kinds of travellers are attracted to India; from adventure seekers and romantics to culture vultures and history lovers; from beach lovers to people passionate about yoga and spiritual experiences. Operators, such as safari specialist 2by2 Holidays, are venturing into the market with 14 new tours, while old favourites such as Cox and Kings, Travel Indochina and Travelsphere have introduced the emerging region of Kashmir. And there has never been such a good time to visit India than now, with the favourable exchange rate between the rupee and sterling making the destination more accessible for those who have seen it as an aspirational holiday experience that is out of their budget constraints. Explore managing director Ashley Toft says as one of the company’s topselling destinations for 2012, India continues to be a popular choice. “Our customers have always loved India simply because of the diversity it offers. For some, it’s all about the wildlife and the chance to see endangered tigers in their natural environment. For others it’s the culture, landscape and local life. “And with the rupee/pound exchange rate as it is at 4

the moment, it’s definitely a great time to visit.” Here is a round-up of what the India specialists have in store for 2014. Intrepid Travel The adventure specialist has introduced a new food-inspired short break in Delhi for 2014 following strong sales of its 14-day India Real Food Adventure. The Delhi Bite-size Break will champion street fare, local specialities, home cooking and urban food culture in the city. Departure dates and prices have yet to be confirmed but prices for the India Real Food Adventure break

start at £1,140 per person. Intrepidtravel.co.uk Great Rail Journeys The escorted rail holiday specialist has launched its new India tour as part of its Worldwide Holidays By Rail 2013/2014 brochure. The 14-day Kerala & The Hill Stations Of Madras tour visits Chennai, Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram, Coimbatore, Coonoor tea plantation, Ooty, Kozhikode, Cochin, Mararikulam and a cruise around the backwaters of Kerala Backwaters. Prices lead in at £2,295 per person

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Golden Triangle with prices from £1,299 Meanwhile, the nine-day Taj Showcase five-star tailor-made itinerary allows travellers to explore the Golden Triangle while staying in the region’s most luxurious hotels including the Gateway Hotel in Agra, the majestic Rambagh Palace in Jaipur and Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur. Prices start at £2,599. onthegotours.com

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TransIndus The India specialist released a group tours brochure earlier this month, which features nine group tours ranging from a nine-day introductory tour of the north, Glimpse of India from £1,195, to longer more in-depth tours such as our Southern Explorer from £1,798. New for 2014 include the 13-day Kerala Adventure itinerary, which costs £1,525 per person, and the 15-day Images of India and Nepal, which starts at £2,385 per person. The 15-day Rajasthan Land of Kings and the nine-day Essence of Kerala itineraries have been updated with prices from £1,825 and £1,195 per person respectively. All of the group tours include international flights, transfers, accommodation, internal transportation and guides. Travelsphere The escorted tours specialist is heading head back into the region of Kashmir, which until recently has been well off the tourist track. and include flights from London, nine included excursions, one lunch and 12 dinners as well as all transfers and the services of a professional tour manager. Talking about the new tour, national sales manager Tony Byrne says: “We’re sure travel agents will get behind our new tours to favourite destinations including this great Kerala and the Hill stations of Madras one to India.” On The Go Tours The escorted tours specialist has launched a new India 2013/14 brochure featuring three new tours. These include the 12-day Golden

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Triangle and Kashmir tour that takes in the highlights of India’s Golden Triangle before heading to Kashmir where travellers can live aboard a houseboat on serene Dal Lake. Located at the foot of the snow-capped Himalayas, Kashmir has recently reopened to tourism. Prices start at £1,399. The 15-day Railways of the Raj itinerary is a new group tour that includes six scenic train journeys from Kolkata to the hill stations of Darjeeling and Shimla, and on to holy Varanasi. This tour also includes visits to tea states, historic temples and the

Special offers Tucan Travel The tours specialist is offering 30% off group tours to India and Nepal as part of its new brochure sale. To qualify for the discount, clients only have to put down the deposit with the full amount payable closer to departure. The discount can also be applied to any departure date on our website. Prices start at £350 for eight days in Agra, Jaipur and Delhi. International flights not included. tucantravel.co.uk 5


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What’s New

The expansive, sandy beaches of Kerala feature in many twin-centre holidays that combine sightseeing with a few days on the beach

The nine-day Return to Kashmir tour moves from Delhi to picturesque Srinagar, located in the Kashmir Valley and famous for its gardens, lakes and houseboats. Prices start at £1,899 per person, and include seven nights’ accommodation, return flights, all overseas transfers and transportation and the services of a Travelsphere tour manager. Departures are between April and June 2014. The operator has also added the 15day Spice Plantations and Temples of the South tour that takes guests into the heart of Kerala, explores the littlediscovered spice plantations of Thekkady and visits the vibrant city of Mumbai. The tour also includes a night aboard one of Kerala’s famous Kettavolloms, houseboats and a tour of the Keralan capital of Cohin where guests are treated to a cookery demonstration by famous local chef and food journalist Nimmy Paul and her husband in her own home. During the visit to Thekkady, guests will have a chance to spot elephants, bison and monkeys as they explore culturally significant towns, temples and villages in the region. Prices for the tour start at £2,249 and include 11 nights’ accommodation on a 6

half-board basis, return flights, all overseas transfers and transportation and the services of a Travelsphere tour manager. travelsphere.co.uk Travel Indochina The tailor-made specialist has introduced a number of new independent short tours for 2014 after seeing an increase in demand for clients to visit more off-the-beaten track and emerging destinations. The new tours explore the Himalayan region of Kashmir with its Raj-era houseboats on montane lakes, its ornate timber mosques and mountain backdrops. Also, the vast ruins of the former city of Vijayanagar at Hampi, a World Heritage Site set in dramatic rocky hills scattered with temples and grand ruins. Travel Indochina has also introduced a Hyderabad itinerary, which visits this culturally-rich central Indian city with its extensive bazaars, ancient fort and museums housing the collections of the world’s richest man, the Nizam of Hyderabad. For next year, Travel Indochina is also offering its first Small Group Journey departure to one of India’s most popular festivals, the colourful Pushkar mela,

where thousands of nomadic herders gather in the sand dunes on the town’s edge to trade livestock, and celebrate the full moon festival. For more information, email agencysales@travelindochina.co.uk 2by2 Holidays The Southern and East Africa and Indian Ocean specialist has broadened its horizons with the introduction of India to its programme. The new product incorporates tours of the north, east, south and west, with a big focus on tours that combine temples and tigers with some of the more off-the-beaten track safari destinations in India. 2by2 also has seven tours that include the Golden Triangle alongside highlights of Rajasthan, visits to the Ranthambore Tiger Reserves, Goa, the Ganges and Bandhavagar National Park, home of the white tigers. All clients get their own driver/guide on these tours with a focus on small groups. Prices lead in at £994 for a ninenight Golden Triangle: Delhi, Jaipur and Taj Mahal tour. If there are more than four people, the price is discounted by 10%. Flights are not included. 2by2holidays.co.uk All About India


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Hotel hotline

Destination spa hotel Vana, Malsi Estate is opening later this year

From new spa retreats to suite additions to old favourites, here is a round-up of what is happening in India’s hotel world Vana Retreats A new retreat is poised to open in December that will put health and wellbeing at the heart of everything it does. Nestled within 21 acres of mango and lychee orchards, surrounded by Sal forest with views across the lower Himalayan foothills, Vana, Malsi Estate will have 69 rooms, 17 suites and four villas, and is the first property from the Vana Retreats brand. Its offering will include ayurveda in its purest form, with treatments and consultations being offered in an ayurveda centre and its cuisine in a dedicated restaurant. A separate wellness centre will offer treatments from Tibetan and Chinese traditional medicine, as well as consultations which address different needs. The spa will have an extensive treatment menu and the ritual spa will offer longer treatments and customised wellness sessions. Yoga will also be given significant importance at Vana, Malsi Estate. The Retreat will have 50 treatment and consultation rooms. There will be four yoga studios and pavilions, an indoor and outdoor pool, wet areas, watsu and a gym. Before they arrive, guests will be given a consultation to ensure they get their best out of their stay for their health and wellbeing. Room rates will start at £300 per person per night based on a minimum All About India

stay of three nights. vanaretreats.com Vivanta by Taj The hotel chain has opened two new hotels this year, both fully geared up for the corporate market. The first opened its doors in March in Gurgaon, 18 miles south of Delhi and is close to the city’s international airport. The hotel has 189 rooms with city and pool views, 18 suites, one presidential suite, an executive lounge, conferencing facilities and fully-equipped banquet halls. The hotel can also play host to highend business meetings and conferences. Rates start at £200 per room per night. Meanwhile, Vivanta by Taj, Surajkund opened last month. Located just a few minutes' drive from the commercial and residential district of South Delhi on one side and the corporate hub on the other, the new hotel overlooks the entry gate of the famed Surajkund Lake Complex. It is perched among the ancient Aravallis, a short distance from the Tughlaqabad fort. The hotel features 287 rooms and suites, conference and banqueting facilities and a Jiva Grande Spa. Iconic Knightsbridge restaurant San Lorenzo has celebrated its 50th anniversary with the opening of Maritime by San Lorenzo at Taj Land’s End in Mumbai. This move marks the restaurant’s

international debut. The menu will include San Lorenzo’s signature Italian dishes. Taj Lands End is a modern hotel located in Bandra, a buzzing area of Mumbai, with views of the Arabian Sea. vivantabytaj.com Gateway Hotels and Resorts The Gateway Expressway Chennai opened last month, bringing the total number in the group’s portfolio to 23. The 200-room hotel provides skyline views of Chennai, has a fitness centre, pool and spa. Prices start at £53 per room per night. thegatewayhotels.com ITC Hotels ITC Grand Chola in the Southern Indian city of Chennai has introduced two new suites. The Karikalan presidential suite and the Raja Raja grand presidential suite are the latest additions to the property, and both designs of the hotel are inspired by former emperors. The Raja Raja grand presidential suite is a six-bay suite and has an exclusive VIP lounge with dedicated entrance and elevator to the private pool, health club and separate living room, drawing room and kitchen. The Karikalan presidential suite has personalised check-in, a 24-hour butler, breakfast in-room and complimentary canapés and cocktails each evening between 6pm and 8pm. itchotels.in 7


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The quest for adventure A holiday in India is no doubt an adventure of a lifetime, and depending on how adventurous you want to be, there is an experience to suit all tastes and budgets. With Kashmir back on the scene, operators are offering clients the chance to stay in a houseboat on Dal Lake in Srinagar

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rom whitewater rafting in the foothills of the Himalayas, camping out along the shores of the Ganges to searching for tigers in the wild and visiting untravelled valleys, there’s adventure for all who want it. And with the regions of Jammu and Kashmir back in operators’ programmes following the easing of Foreign Office advice last year on travel to the region, your clients who want to explore the next undiscovered destination will be keen to hear what tours are available so they can get their next adrenaline fix. Cox and Kings is one of a number of specialists that has added Kashmir for 2014. The operator’s chief executive officer Peter Kerkar says that previously, the region had been one of the most popular areas in India for Cox and Kings’ travellers. “Changes to the British Foreign Office advice last year, coupled with signs of investment and infrastructure improvements to the region, have enabled our return to the region and we will be promoting escorted and private tours around Srinagar and the Dal Lake.” So with Kashmir emerging as a new destination and lots of other experiences to choose from, make sure you grab a few minutes to have a look at our Adventure India section. Camp it up Cox and Kings has added a new luxury tented camp that opened in August to its programme for 2014. 8

The new camp is movable and is aimed at opening up travel to some of the most remote and captivating corners of India in style. The tents are modelled on African safari tents and will be fully air-conditioned and centrally heated. The chef will prepare Indian cuisine and a wide range of activities will be offered. This year, the camp started out in Ladakh and travels to Kotwara, near Lucknow, to learn about Awadhi cuisine and Sufi Music. At Maksudpur near Bodh Gaya, it visited historic forts and ancient sites, including the Barabar rock-cut cave temples, which are perhaps the oldest in India. It also travelled to the edge of the secluded Dudhwa National Park famed to experience the Indian wilderness, where guests were able to take an elephant-back safari and go in search of tigers, sloth bears and rhinos. The camp then travelled to Nagaland in the remote northeastern corner of India to watch the colourful Hornbill festival. It will return to Leh during the summer months for the Kalachakra festival, which will be led by the Dalai Lama next year.   The camp will open again in Ladakh next summer in the shadow of Thiksey Monastery. Activities will include boat trips on the Indus River, local polo games, walking, picnics and bird watching. How much? Prices for a 10-day trip, including five nights’ full board at the camp, is priced from £3,995 per person including

flights, transfers, excursions and accommodation with breakfast daily. The next big thing With the Foreign Office relaxing its advice on travel to Jammu and Kashmir, escorted tour specialists and adventure tour operators have been quick to add the destination to their programmes for 2014. The region ticks all the boxes for travellers, who love nothing more than exploring places that are relatively undiscovered by tourists – and there’s no time like the present. The Kashmir Valley is famous for its gardens, lakes and houseboats, and Cox and Kings has reintroduced tours to Kashmir for the first time in 25 years that make the most of the region’s USPs. The specialist has added the nine-day Srinagar: Heart of the Kashmir Valley tour that is available as a group or private tour. The itinerary explores the city of Srinagar, its scenic lakes, Mughal gardens and traditional houseboats including a two-night stay on a houseboat in Dal Lake. Travelsphere is also breaking new ground in its 2014/15 brochure with its Return to Kashmir itinerary, which begins in Delhi before heading to Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley. Highlights of the tour include a cruise on a traditional shikara on the mountainbacked Dal Lake where guests will be treated to views of floating gardens, lotus gardens and backwater canals, the Valley of

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Adventure Shepherds in Pahalgam, set amid dense pine and cedar trees, snow-capped mountains and at an altitude of 2,133 metres, along with sampling traditional Kashmir tea in a local tea house. A talk on the practice of Sufism, an ancient tradition of spiritual development, along with a traditional Wazwaan, a special royal banquet that consists of 12 courses, are also part of the tour and give visitors a full insight into the region’s cultural offering. How much? Cox and Kings’ nine-day escorted tour leads in at £2,395 per person including a two-night stay in a traditional Kashmir houseboat and a traditional ‘shikara’ cruise across the Dal Lake to explore narrow canals and waterways, pass colourful floating gardens and markets and visit isolated villages that have remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Meanwhile, Travelsphere’s nine-day Return to Kashmir tour starts at £1,899 per person and includes accommodation, flights, transfers and the services of a Travelsphere tour manager. Wild times Everyone knows about Africa and its vast safari offering, but many do not associate India with game drives and wildlife watching. However, India’s tiger population are a big part of what the country is all about for many visitors, particularly since it’s home to more than half of the world’s population of tigers. Madhya Pradesh in the centre of India is known as the tiger state. A third of its area is covered by forests and as a result it has 11 national parks and 31 wildlife sanctuaries. The state is believed to have the highest density of tigers in the world and is one of the few places where you are guaranteed to see a tiger in its own habitat. Bandhavgarh National Park has a high number of tigers, but it is also home to 250 species of birds as well as leopards, sloth bears, jungle cats, jackals and wild boars to name but a few. Madhya Pradesh is also home to the Kanha National Park, the inspiration for Rudyard Kilping’s Jungle Book. Insight Vacations has a six-day Call of the Jungle tour that takes guests on a search for tigers, leopards, sloth bears, gaurs, sambhars, chitals, chinkaras, wild boars and jackal at two of India’s best-known wildlife parks – Bandhavgarh and Kanha.

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The journey begins in Delhi, where guests stay at the Hyatt Regency before hopping on a short flight to Jabalpur for transfers to Bandhavgarh for an evening game drive in the national park where visitors may get to see Bengal tigers. Another day in Bandhavgarh follows before the tour heads to Kanha National Park for more game drives and wildlife watching. How much? The Call of the Jungle tour starts at £1,599 per person, including internal flights, five nights’ bed and breakfast, eight meals, game drives and the services of a local guide. Take a hike Himalayan, trekking, touring and mountaineering specialist Mountain Kingdoms has introduced a new tour for 2014, which journeys through spectacular gorges and passes, and is guaranteed to get the hearts of mountain hikers racing. The 32-day Kingdom of Zanskar Trek discovers the Tibetan Buddhist kingdom of Zanskar located in Ladakh, in the northwest Indian Himalayas. Heavy snowfalls during the winter cut the region off from the outside world for a number of months in the year so this tour is only available from 23 August to 23 September. The guided trek crosses the Phirtse La pass, before dropping into the Lunak valley and visiting the Phuktal Gompa monastery which clings to a cliff face – one of a number of villages on this trek that are perched on the edges of precipices. From here, the trek crosses the rarely travelled Stondge La pass to gain acess to the main Zanskar valley, before visiting the present king of the Zanskar Valley, Punchok Dawa. How much? Prices lead in at £3,675 for the 32-day trek, including flights. Expeditions specialist Secret Compass has introduced a new tour for 2014, called Expedition Arunachal, which it describes as a challenging adventure into India’s Arunachal Pradesh in the Himalayan valley system. This region is known as the Mountains of the Rising Sun or Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains, for its Tani Razi peak is the first point of India to see the sun every morning. This 22-day trek will aim to cross over a 5,000-metre pass to establish a connection

between the Ghalum and the Sat Ti river valleys, tributaries to the mighty Lohit River. The trek will start in the village of Minzong before crossing the Lohit River and heading into the steep and heavily forested Ghalum river valley. The expedition will head into the dense sub tropical jungle teeming with wildlife such as leopards, bears and deer before heading high up into the mountains to follow the Ghalum river to its source at the base of the unclimbed Mount Tani Razi. At the base of the peak, there is the remains of US aircraft shot down in World War II. Once over the pass, the expedition descends into the watershed of the Sal Ti river. The highlights of the tour include visiting the region’s untravelled valleys, crossing an unnamed, unclimbed 5,000-metre mountain pass, attempting the first ascent of Tani Razi, travelling in the company of local tribal people and encountering endangered wildlife. How much? The 22-day trek departs on 1 November 2014 and costs £3,199.

India Tourism 7 Cork Street, London W1S 3LH, UK Phone: 020-7437 3677, 020-7734 6613 Fax: 020-7494 1048 E-mail: info@indiatouristoffice.org www.incredibleindia.org

Get in contact... Secretcompass.com Tel: 020-3239 8038 facebook.com/secretcompass Mountain Kingdoms Tel: 01453 -44400 twitter.com/MKingdoms Coxandkings.co.uk Tel: 0845-287 9926 facebook.com/coxandkingsUK twitter.com/coxandkingsUK Travelsphere.co.uk Tel: 0844-567 9966 Facebook.com/travelsphere Twitter.com/Travelsphere InsightVacations.com Tel: 0800-206 1468 facebook.com/InsightVacations twitter.com/InsightVacation 9


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Peace and tranquility

Healthy, hip and happy Spa retreats are no longer just about facials and aromatherapy massages. Destination spa hotels in India are putting health and wellbeing for the body - and mind - at the heart of their wellness programmes as more people look for long-term solutions to dealing with stress

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ver recent years, operators have seen an increase in demand for wellbeing holidays as the fast pace of 21stcentury life is increasingly taking its toll on people’s health. India knows a thing or two about getting the work/life balance right – after all, it’s the country where yoga and ayurvedic medicine originated and both of these holistic practices put a huge emphasis on ensuring that mind, body and spirit are all on an even keel as mental health is just as important as physical. So when it comes to looking for yoga retreats and luxury spa hotels to help people escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life, India has more than its fair share of fantastic options. In this Peace and Tranquility feature, we look at what’s coming down the line in 2014. Rajasthan Most travellers who visit Rajasthan are 10

doing so as part of their Golden Triangle experience. However, if they are looking for a bit of spiritual nourishment Indian style after they have ticked the temples and fortresses boxes, then they should check in to the luxury Leela Palace Udaipur and experience their new Spa and Spiritual Journeys. This new treatments package is available over three, five and seven days and highlights include: ayurvedic treatments in the ESPA-tented spa suites with private plunge pools overlooking Lake Pichola; a traditional ritual ceremony at the 150-year-old Lord Shiva temple; a spiritual tour with a private guide visiting the temples of Eklingji, Nagda, Nathdwara; private astrology sessions; and Jagdish temple and private yoga and meditation sessions in the Guava garden.  The seven-day programmes include a visit to the holy Jain temples at Ranakpur and the historic Kumbhalgarh fort with a sunset boat ride on tranquil Lake Pichola.

How much? Prices lead in at £1,087 per person for three nights which includes the wellness programme and accommodation in a lake-view room with breakfast. theleela.com Kerala  Vivanta by Taj’s property in Bekal in Kerala takes its wellness treatments really seriously with long-term programmes available of two to four weeks, which include yoga, ayurveda and spiritual retreats designed by qualified physicians. This hotel only opened last year and a big focus of its spa offering are the Alepa and Abhisheka pavilions where dedicated signature experiences of body anointment and purifying bathing ceremonies or ritualistic fire ceremonies (Homams) for guests, with chanting by the resident priest take place. How much? Prices lead in at £111 per night for a superior charm room. All About India


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Peace and tranquility

The Ananda in the Himalayas is firmly established as one of India’s leading destination spa hotels

An hour’s drive from Cochin, set in tropical gardens on the edge of Vembanad Lake with the Keralan backwaters forming a backdrop, Coconut Lagoon is only accessible by boat, so guests can really cut themselves off from the outside world. The resort specialises in traditional ayurvedic spa treatments, fresh Keralan cuisine, and a celebration of the area’s rich heritage in its style and activities from cooking classes to sunset cruises. How much? Prices lead in at £823 per person based on seven nights in the heritage bungalow at the Coconut Lagoon, including breakfast. Goa Yoga beach retreats and Goa are good bedfellows, the seeds of which were planted back in the 60s with the arrival of the hippies on the beaches of India’s smallest state. Things have moved on a bit from the All About India

early days of yoga retreats, and while there are still lots of affordable places to enjoy a week or so of yoga, the luxury end of the market has really made its mark in Goa. One five-star property that is big on spa programmes is the Alila Diwa Goa. Located on Gonsua Beach in Majorda, set against the landscape of rice plantations and the Arabian Sea, the Alila Diwa has put together a Diwa by Design package for holidaymakers looking to escape the cold British winters. Available from December until the end of March, the package includes a sevennight stay at the Diwa Club, which is an exclusive private wing within the resort, unlimited spa treatments and dining at the resort’s various restaurants. With unlimited treatments at the nineroom Spa Alila, included in the package, guests can benefit from an array of ayurvedic therapies. A highlight of the spa treatment menu is the Skinny Moccocino, a scrub, massage and body polish therapy using rich cocoa, coffee and coconut to tone your skin, leaving it radiant. Locally grown coffee is used to exfoliate while the caffeine draws out impurities, with coconut providing deep skin conditioning. How much? The ‘Diwa by Design’ package starts from £1,412 and includes seven nights in a Diwa Room, transfers, all day breakfast, unlimited spa services and food and beverages from a select menu.

Himalayas Firmly established as a favourite among spa aficiondas the world over, the Ananda In the Himalayas is THE destination spa to book into for a digital detox. Once the residence of Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal in the foothills of the Himalayas, today it exists to restore and rejuvenate the energies of the travellers that check in to destress and detox. Combining the age-old therapies of yoga and ayurvedic treatments with modern technology, the spa has a Stress Management programme for guests who need to learn how to deal with stress in their lives. The programme includes: a wellness consultation; a detailed debrief session and lifestyle consultation; a fitness consultation, fitness test and body composition analysis; ongoing progress checks with doctor and spa consultants; reiki sessions; ayurvedic treatments; aromatherapy massages; reflexology; rose quartz facial or amethyst rejuvenation; personalised yoga sessions; cooking demonstrations, lectures, workshops and excursions. How much? Prices lead in at £2,200 per person and include five nights' full board, flights and transfers.

India Tourism 7 Cork Street, London W1S 3LH, UK Phone: 020-7437 3677, 020-7734 6613 Fax: 020-7494 1048 E-mail: info@indiatouristoffice.org www.incredibleindia.org

Selling tips Spencer Neal, head of industry sales for the Intrepid Group, shares his tips on the best way to sell India to your clients. 1. “India’s sheer scale can make it difficult to know where to start as an independent traveller, and it can also be something of an assault on the senses – it is colourful, chaotic and can be quite a culture shock. An escorted tour is a good option for first-time visitors, older clients, those unaccustomed to travel in Asia, and anyone who wants to really get under the skin of their destination and see ‘the real India’.” 2. “Reassure your clients that their tour leader will be able to keep them safe, help them navigate the often chaotic railways and roads, and advise them on where and what to eat to minimise the chances of Delhi belly.” 3. “India is a big country and its landscapes, sights and culture vary considerably, from the foothills of the Himalaya in the North, to the palaces and forts of Rajasthan, and the chilled out beaches and backwaters of the south. Find out what sort of India experience your client is looking for and cater for that, rather than selling them a whistle-stop tour of the whole country.” 11


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Cultural India

Temples, tigers and the Taj By road, rail or river, there’s more than one way to experience the cultural melting pot that is India

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ultural experiences form the backbone of any holiday to India, with temples, monuments and ancient civilisations peppering most itineraries to this country. Many of you may have sold twincentre tours that combine the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur with a few days on the beach in Goa, and while these still remain the most popular introductory holidays to India, operators are really pulling out all the stops to ensure that visitors can go beyond the Golden Triangle. From the hill stations in the Himalayas to the backwaters of Kerala; from the mosques in Kashmir to the colourful Tamil temples of Kadambavanam, there are so many options to include, but here is just a snapshot of what’s creeping over the horizons for the next 12 months. 12

By water Mention a river cruise in India, and most people think of sailing the backwaters of Kerala on a houseboat. However, India specialist Indus Tours is jumping on the increase in demand for river cruises all over the world with the creation of voyages on luxury vessel Mahabaahu along the Brahmaputra, the only river in the world that has the Himalayas as its backdrop. Mahabaahu has an on-board spa, pool and 23 cabins, and the operator has launched a supplement to complement its India brochure for 2014 called India and Bhutan Living Cultures and River Cruises supplement, which offers clients the chance to really get off the beaten track with five itineraries that feature cruises on board the river boat vessel along the Brahmaputra. The cruise gives guests the

opportunity to take part in a number of activities, including: wildlife watching on elephant-back for single-horned rhinos, elephants, wild buffaloes and tigers in the UNESCO World Heritage Kaziranga National Park; exploring the fusion of faiths at Kamakhya Temple, Sibsagar and Majuli Island; wandering though manicured tea estates; and encounters with local village life. This cruise can be incorporated into five itineraries, which include Mountains, Monuments and Mighty Brahmaputra, which combines the Brahmaputra cruise with a tour of the vibrant city of Kolkata, the hill station of Darjeeling and eastern India's soaring Himalayan peaks. The Bhutan and Mahabaahu tour, meanwhile, merges the cruise with a tour of Kolkata and on to the snow-clad Dragon Kingdom of Bhutan. Highlights,

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Cultural India Festivals

The tea plantations in Kerala feature in many southern India itineraries

including visits to medieval monasteries fortresses, provide insight into the rich traditions and spirituality of this remote and mountainous part of India. For a holiday offering the best of both worlds, the 16-day Golden Triangle with Brahmaputra Cruise blends the highlights of northern India with a seven-night cruise along the Brahmaputra River. Ideal for the firsttime visitor to India, this itinerary takes in the Golden Triangle destinations of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur before boarding the Mahabaahu for a cruise down the Brahmaputra. How much? Prices lead in at £3,940 per person for the 17-day Mountains, Monuments and Mighty Brahmaputra tour, which includes seven days on board Mahabaahu, sailing down the Brahmaputra river.

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Adventure specialist Wild Frontiers has introduced a new 18-day tour of southern India that includes two nights cruising around the Keralan backwaters on a houseboat. The Southern Indian Odyssey journeys from the shores of the Indian Ocean to the beaches of the Arabian Sea, and during this 18-day experience, there is the chance to: visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Mahabalipuram and the living Chola temples at Airavateswara and Bridhadeswara: discover the traditional villages and palatial mansions of Chettinadu region; see ancient shrines and experience Tamil culture at Kadambavanam; discover Madurai – the heart of the Tamil and Dravidian cultures; two nights on a houseboat sailing around the Keralan backwaters; a visit to Cochin’s harbour and Mysore’s stunning palace complex.

India knows a thing or two about festivals, with a packed calendar of events throughout the year. Here are some of the highlights of the festival calendar Ladakh Festival in the Himalayas (September 2014) – a spectacular procession is the focus point of this event with dancers, performers and musicians in ceremonial costumes, performing while singing and dancing to traditional orchestra tunes. The Hola Mohalla Sikh Festival (March 2014) – visitors get the chance to see great displays of horsemanship and mock fighting. Diwali, Festival of Lights (November 2014) – India’s favourite and most glamorous festival. Pushkar Express (November 2014) – this is all about cattle trading, religious pilgrimage, celebration and festivities, including the longest moustache competition, a camel beauty pageant, a cricket match, musicians, dancers, magicians and snake charmers as well as hundreds of authentic stalls. Holi (March 2014) – Celebrated all over India since ancient times, Holi is an annual festival that takes place on the day after the full moon in the Hindu month of Phalguna. The central ritual of Holi incorporates the applying and throwing of coloured water and powders on friends and family which gives the holiday its modern name the Festival of Colour. Hemis Festival (July 2014) – this event celebrates the birthday of Guru Padamasambhava, said to be the second Buddha, with music, mystic mask dances and sacred plays Jaisalmer Desert Festival (February 2014) – this is all about colourful parades, brightly adorned elephants and camels, floats, singers dancers and marching bands. A great festival atmosphere not to be missed. On the Go Tours has put together a number of packages that incorporate the festivals with prices from £299 per person for the four-day Ladakh Festival package from 22 September-25 September, excluding flights. Onthegotours.com

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Cultural India Emerge yourself in the full experience with a trip to an Indian street market to see and smell all the street food and spices

How much? Prices lead in at £2,795 for a departure date of 20 November 2014. Flights are not included. By rail Holidays by rail are back with a bang as travellers opt to embrace the glamour and luxury that train travel can offer. The launch of the luxury Maharajas’ Express back in 2009 really helped to put holidays by rail in India back on the map, and for 2014, rail holiday specialist Great Rail Journeys has introduced a new tour of India. The 14-day Kerala and The Hill Stations Of Madras journeys from the 14

city of Chennai to the Keralan capital of Cochin, via the Duronto Express, the Blue Mountain railway that heads up into the tea plantations of Tamil Nadu, the Shatabdi Express to Cochin and finally a cruise around the backwaters of Kerala. The ultimate holiday by rail is the 15day India’s Palace on Wheels, which starts in Delhi, then travels on the Toy Train to the hill station of Shimla in the Himalayas before heading back to Delhi for a seven-day rail experience on board the luxurious Palace on Wheels. The journey takes guests to the Pink City of Jaipur, Ranthambore National

Park to see tigers in the wild, Udaipur for a cruise on Lake Pichola, the fairytale walled city of Jaisalmer in the Thar desert, the Blue City of Jodhpur and finally finishing up at Agra for a visit to the Taj Mahal. How much? The 14-day Kerala and the Hill Stations Of Madras tour costs from £2,295 per person and includes flights, excursions and some meals. The 15-day India’s Palace on Wheels journey costs from £3,695 per person. By road If you have clients that love nothing more than feeling the wind whip through their hair as they ride on the back of a motorbike, then Totally India has just the tour for them. There’s a choice of two tours, North India Motorbike Safari and South India Motorbike Safari. The nine-day North India option starts and ends in Delhi, includes six days on the road and highlights include game viewing in Sariska, a tour of Jaipur and the Amber Fortress, a visit to the village of Karauli in rutal Rajasthan, a trip to Chambal River and a visit to the hill station of Nainital in the Kumaon region. The 15-day South India Motorbike Safari begins in Kovalam and finishes in Chennai. Twelve days are spent on the road visiting: Kanyakumari, India’s southern-most point; the holy island Ramashwaram holy island; the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai; the French colonial town of Pondicherry; and the shore temples of Mamallapuram – explore the shore temples. The operator provides Royal Enfield motorbikes for all tours with a choice of either 350cc or 500cc. Participants must have held a motorbike licence for two years and be comfortable with the sometimes chaotic traffic conditions in India. How much? The North India Motorbike tours cost from £1,465 per person and includes accommodation, mosts meals and tours. Flights are not included.

India Tourism 7 Cork Street, London WIS 3LH, U.K. Phone: 020-7437 3677, 020-7734 6613 Fax: 020-7494 1048 E-mail: info@indiatouristoffice.org www.incredibleindia.org

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Holidays for less than… From six-day Golden Triangle tours to month-long journeys around India, we speak to operators to get the lowdown on the best deals around …£1,000 Intrepid Travel offers an eight-day Golden Triangle tour that takes in Delhi’s Red Fort, the Taj Mahal in Agra and the pinkhued streets of Jaipur. How much? Prices lead in at £445 per person and include hotel accommodation and one night in a heritage homestay, some meals, excursions and entrance fees, local transport, and services of a local tour leader. The price excludes flights. intrepidtravel.com/hhsn

The red sandstone fortress of Agra is also on the agenda, alongside fairy-tale palaces, the mosques of the Mughal rulers and the deserted imperial city of Fatehpur Sikri. How much? Prices for Insight Vacations’ Classical India with Nepal start at £2,784 per person, including internal flights, 12 nights’ bed and breakfast luxury accommodation with a further five meals, included sightseeing and the services of a professional and tour director. insightvacations.com

Travel 2 has a six-day Golden Triangle tour with departures from 1 May to 30 June 2014. How much? Prices lead in at £959 per person and include return flights if booked by 30 November. travel2.com

Wildife Worldwide offers animal lovers the chance to explore India’s national parks with its 16-day Tiget Tiger trip. The tour takes guests on game drives in Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh to seek out the Bengal tiger and a range of other wildlife and is escorted by experienced local wildlife guides throughout. The itinerary also takes in Agra, the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Itmad-Ud-Daula, before journeying to Delhi where the adventure ends. How much? Prices lead in at £2,990 per person including international and domestic flights, transfers, 14 nights’ accommodation, most meals and guided activities. wildlifeworldwide.com

…£1,500 Hayes and Jarvis has a private, seven-day tour of India’s Golden Triangle that takes in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Sikar. How much? Prices lead in at £1,399 per person based on 2 December and include international flights. hayesandjarvis.co.uk …£3,000 On the Go Tours has a nine-day Taj Showase itinerary explores the Golden Triangle, while offers guests the chance to stay in some of the most luxurious hotels in India. These include the lavish Gateway Hotel in Agra, the majestic Rambagh Palace in Jaipur and Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur. How much? Prices lead in at £2,599 per person including bed-and-breakfast accommodation, transfers and tours. Flights are not included. onthegotours.co.uk …£5,000 Insight Vacations has a 13-day Classical India with Nepal itinerary that visits Delhi, the temples of Khajuraho and the Taj Mahal, the house in which Mahatma Gandhi lived and died, Durbar Square and the ancient Royal Palace complex, the sacred Swayambhunath, known as the Monkey Temple, the colossal Stupa of Bodhnath and the ancient capital of Bhadgaon. Other must-see sights in the journey include the Aarti Ceremony at the Ganges, and a dawn cruise past the Ghats of Varanasi.

Exodus’s 31-day India Grand Tour is a great itinerary for travellers keen to see all the top must-see attractions of India. These include: the palaces of Rajasthan; the temples and fortresses of Agra; the tiger reserves of Ranthambore; the cave temples and ancient ruins in the south; the backwaters of Kerala; the beaches of Goa; the banks of the holy River Ganges at Varanasi and the wonderful palaces in Mysore. How much? Prices lead in at £2,899 per person with the next departure on 8 December. The price includes flights, accommodation and some meals. exodustravels.com Travel 2 has an eight-day journey on the luxury Palace on Wheels train that visits the Pink City of Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur; Ranthambore National Park; the city of Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur, the red stone city of Fatehpur Sikri and Agra for Taj Mahal. How much? Prices lead in at £3,359 per person travel2.com 15


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Travel Bulletin India Supplement 2013