Unique India tips from some of the world’s top tour operators

Dal-Lake

Dal Lake Kashmir

My favourite place in India is Kashmir, in particular Dal Lake. The scenery of mountains and lakes is stunning, and there is something magical about being away from the heat of the plains in this calm and tranquil region.  I particularly love staying on the houseboats – where you are immediately transported into a quiet tranquil world away from the hustle and bustle that India usually confounds you with. I have been going there for 25 years, and despite the troubles that have now thankfully all but disappeared, it’s a place that gets under your skin and drags you back time and again. A visit to Kashmir provides one of the few chances I get to read, sit back, relax and watch the world go by on the lake. For the more active, houseboats offer a great base to explore old Srinagar, which is fascinating, as are the mountain regions of Pahalgam and Gulmarg.

Jonny Bealby, Wild Frontiers

Amanbagh

Amanbagh, Rajasthan

I can’t think of anywhere more perfect for a relaxing and enriching holiday than Amanbagh, a little-known rural gem and perhaps our favourite hotel in the world. Amanbagh is an ideal spot whether you’re travelling with your family or as a couple; there are some interesting local excursions, or if you prefer to do nothing, the hotel is a gorgeous place to chill out. Secluded in a picturesque valley in Rajasthan’s Aravalli Mountains, it is set in an oasis of crisp green lawns, towering palm trees and handsome Mughal architecture – chhatris, shaded courtyards and jail screens – accented with minimalist Aman decor. Dine on an expansive rooftop open to the stars, dive into your private green marble pool, ride the resort’s resident camel, salute the sun with a sunrise yoga session at an abandoned temple or venture into the local village for a ‘cow dust tour’ at dusk. You’ll see herders accompanying their cattle to the fields and young children frolicking in the pools and running with sticks and hoops along the mud beaten paths. This is India at its most beautiful and romantic.

Sacha Smith-Laing  Ampersand Travel 

Kerala

Kerala Backwaters

The Backwaters of Kerala are certainly a personal favourite of mine. Lush palm trees line the tranquil waterways and the pace of life here is very relaxed, with many rural villages scattered throughout the region. Catch a glimpse of the Backwaters’ friendly locals going about their daily life aboard a traditional houseboat. The cuisine on board is exceptional and the sunsets breathtaking. Being able to manoeuvre through the narrow waters without disturbing the communities either side is a very special experience. Expect many of them to wave to you as you pass by! A truly memorable place!

Jessica Lee,  Audley Travel

amritsar-golden-temple

Golden Temple, Amritsar

I’d seen photos and read about the Golden Temple since being a child growing up in India so visiting for the first time felt surreal.  I am not the most religious person but the temple certainly elated me spiritually. On a hot summer’s day, the sense of peace and tranquillity whilst sitting on the cool marble floor was incredible. Watching the water in the temple’s pool and listening to the soft chants of prayer is something I won’t ever forget. For me it is a perfect example of what religion should be: welcoming everyone from all religions and nationalities. The temple looks after anyone and everyone. For the hungry, there is a free meal service and anyone can go along to help with the service – cook, clean or serve – and get the much needed sense of spiritual satisfaction. 

Roop Kumar, Cox and Kings

McLeod-Ganj-City-778202

McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh

When it comes to India, my heart belongs to McLeod Ganj. Tucked away in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, McLeod is best known as being the home of the Tibetan government in exile – and of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. It’s busy, noisy, and congested, just like you picture small towns in India to be. But there is this ineffable quality to it – it’s a town that feeds the soul. Over the last 50 years, McLeod has become a mecca for those wishing to study Buddhism and Tibetan culture. Every day of the week there are courses, events, and gatherings that promote healing of body, mind, soul, culture, and community. Perhaps it’s the many volunteers who are there to assist the Tibetan refugee population, maybe it’s the dozens of monastery’s and nunneries in the valley, or maybe it’s the presence of His Holiness – but whatever it is, the energy of community and oneness is palpable. For some reason, the traffic and the touts aren’t noticeable in the same way that you find in other places. There is a spiritual quality to the place that makes it a perfect destination for those who seek that “something more” from life.

Lisa Tully Spiritual Quest Adventures