AgraDiscover the timelessness of love in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. Considered to be the world’s greatest monument to love, the Taj Mahal was built by the inconsolable Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his second wife who died in childbirth. The Taj Mahal is most alluring in the early morning where the play of light bathes the complex with a soft, red glow. Why not stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas, a truly outstanding hotel that boasts uninterrupted views of the Taj Mahal.
GoaWhen you first set eyes on Goa’s palm-fringed beaches and mesmeric sunsets, you are likely to think that you are on a South Pacific island rather than in a city that was once the linchpin for the Portuguese spice route. Gleaming white-washed churches sit alongside lush rice paddy fields, while crumbling forts look across the expansive Arabian Sea.
JaipurTraditionally the color of hospitality, Jaipur is known as ‘the pink city,’ for the color of its older buildings. The city’s hue is brilliantly displayed in the Hawa Mahal, or “Palace of Winds,” which radiates an orangey- pink glow in the rising sun. Exquisitely carved gates divide the city into neat rectangles, making sightseeing surprisingly easy.
MumbaiIndia’s answer to Hollywood, Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) and more affectionately as “Bollywood” is the heart of Hindi cinema, the largest film industry in the world, and has all the kitschy glamour of its western rival. Escape the humidity and mingle with locals in a gigantic air conditioned cinema, while watching star-crossed lovers battle gun-wielding thugs before breaking into song.
New DelhiBuilt to epitomize the spirit of British sovereignty, New Delhi is a lavish blend of malls and colonial mansions, tree-lined avenues and taciturn government offices. The centerpiece of India’s carefully planned capital is Connaught Place, a vibrant circle of bars and banks, restaurants and renowned shopping. Stroll down the beautiful Raj Path and enjoy its quaint gardens and ornamental ponds.
RanthamboreA prime example of India’s conservation efforts, Ranthambore National Park covers 820 miles and is home to jackals, panthers, abundant birdlife, and the world-renowned “friendly tigers”. Watch as a tiger languidly stretches in the midday sun unperturbed by visitors, or sit back and take in the wild beauty of verdant bush as it creeps towards dense forest on a jeep safari. For a slower pace, visit the park’s creeper-covered 10th century fort and make an offering to Ganesh, the elephant headed god of good fortune.
UdaipurKnown as the ‘City of Sunrise,’ Udaipur is often described as the most romantic city in India and is built around the picturesque Lake Pichola. The city’s labyrinth of temples and havelis (ornate houses) invites hours of quiet contemplation. The two islands in the lake command attention with their lotus-lined waters and floating palaces, one of which was formerly the royal summer palace and is now a Taj Hotel.
VaranasiA crumbling maze of a city that rises from the ghats (steps) on the western banks of the Ganges, Varanasi is in many senses the quintessential India. Varanasi is seen by devotees as the holiest of Indian pilgrimages, home of Shiva, where the devout come to wash away their sins. Cruise the waterfront at dawn and witness the most surreal scenes, when devotees come to bathe, meditate, and perform ancient rituals to greet the sun.