One of my greatest adventures to-date was a recent three-week journey from the Arabian Sea to the Himalayas across the Indian subcontinent. We started out at the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, which was the pinnacle of my hotel stays around the world. While in Mumbai we took a ferry boat to the nearby Elephanta Island and explored the Colaba neighborhood. A homestay in a village outside of Nasik gave us the opportunity to experience village life in a comfortable setting and taste the wines of the local vineyards of India’s wine region. Our next stop was the World Heritage Site Ellora and Ajanta Caves like something straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. As a central hub, a stopover in Delhi gave us the opportunity to explore the historical sites of Old Delhi and then hopped on a train to the ubiquitous Taj Mahal in Agra, definitely a must-see for any world traveler. Next stop Khajuraho home to a very interesting, but little-known temple complex. The absolute highlight of this journey was our stay in Bandhavgarh National Park where we followed the alarm calls of monkeys, peacocks, spotted and barking deer to find tigers. Having the highest density tiger population, Bandhavgarh offers the best chance to see wild tigers in India and you can even explore the park from the back of an elephant. Ask to see the hidden Vishnu statue while in Bandhavgarh—that’s a highlight in itself. Of course no travel in India is complete without the culture-shocking city of Varanasi, the holiest city for Hindus. Streets built centuries before vehicles means you rub shoulders with passing cows, Hindu holy men, and riverside funeral pyres, which make Varanasi overwhelming for the senses but a boat ride to make puja on the Ganges can be a peaceful experience. And then finally up to the Himalayas, a whole other world from the rest of subtropical India. Sunrise from Tiger Hill over the Himalayas where you can see three of the world’s highest peaks including Everest and the nearby Kanchenjunga was spectacular, and Darjeeling with its tea plantations and distinctly Buddhist feel make for nice respite after a whirlwind trip across one of the most unique and adventurous travel destinations.
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First published in the Post Haste Summer 2014 edition of Keeping Posted.