5 Unique Things to Do in India
Featured destinations: India
Published 11 January 2017
Unique is a word that comes quite naturally to India; its affinity for colour, its intricate culture, its driving styles. Indeed, even the most benign of activities in India – say walking down a crowded cow-filled street in Agra – can spur a certain spark of fascination. While the typical tourist trail in India is bound to evoke that spark, the possibility to push it to a unique extreme is always there. And well worth doing. Here are some of my favourite options:
Round the World Experts Helen and Kate on a rickshaw (Image: Lauren Burvill)
Ride around Old Delhi in a rickshaw
By far the most fun I’ve had on two wheels. A rickshaw ride around Old Delhi is not only a fantastic way to soak up the historic and explore colourful laneways, but it’s also a guaranteed afternoon of nervous giggles. The rickshaws in Delhi are bicycle led, making it somewhat faster to get around, but ultimately it is about the journey than the destination.
The view from the rickshaw ride. Image: Lauren Burvill
For our ride our driver navigated us through the narrow laneways of Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi’s vibrant shopping area akin to an Aladdin’s cave of wonders. I recommend wearing something very comfortable, keeping your eyes open, and holding on tight!
A tiger spotted on our morning safari of Ranthambore (Image: Lauren Burvill)
Stay in the jungle in Ranthambore
If you’re in Ranthambore, chances are you’re there to go on a safari. The national park is one of the largest in northern India and a popular place to see tigers. Game drives typically take place in the morning and afternoon, but if you’d rather spend your whole time in the jungle, you can at Khem Villas.
Luxurious tent accommodation at Khem Villas
Founded by Goverdhan Singh Rathore - son of Singh Rathore who was one of the park's founding fathers – and his wife Usha, the jungle camp is a luxurious haven set within emerald forest. On-site accommodation ranges from lavish cottages to plush tents complete with polished wooden floors and bathrooms, as well as double rooms. The Age Veda Spa and plunge pool are also just nearby. Dining is the freshest and most creative vegetarian you’ll ever eat, with all meals utilising the site’s organically grown fruit and vegetables. In fact everything from dairy to bread is made on-site.
A chair swing overlooking the resident crocodiles (Image: Lauren Burvill)
But best of all, Khem Villas offers a front row seat to India’s incredible jungle; tigers have been known to wander onto the grounds (at a safe distance of course), leopards can often be spotted in the morning, birds are absolutely everywhere and the on-site lake is home to two crocodiles. The Villas also offer the service of a naturalist (free of charge), who can show you around the property.
Meeting a local family (Image: Lauren Burvill)
Visit a home in a remote village
With over a billion people in India, the country’s culture and huge population was one of complete fascination for me. Travelling with our local guide Taj (all of our India holidays come with a private guide from Creative Travel), was not only a fantastic way to see India, but also to gain insight into local life, customs, traditions and religions. During our drives between cities he would point out the scenes that passed us; a wedding procession on elephants, a naked Jain monk on pilgrimage, village houses with storage shed made from cow dung.
Lauren posing for a photo with local children (Image: Lauren Burvill)
One of my favourite experiences though was visiting a home in a remote village – something I never would have been able to do without the guidance of Taj. It was early morning and the family was getting ready to send their kids to school. While the mothers cooked naan bread in a ground stove, the kids tested out their English on me. Taj showed us around, pointing out parts of everyday life in the village. Most houses are inhabited by extended families all living together, with most tending to a farm; usually wheat, rice or fruit. The family we visited farmed chillies, and also had a range of animals. After talking to the kids for a while, we thanked the family for being so hospitable to us. One mother even offered us some naan, which I was completely touched by. All in all it was a short, sweet but fantastic experience that I won’t forget.
A camel on the road near Ranthambore (Image: Lauren Burvill)
Go glamping with elephants in Jaipur
The horse, camel and elephant in Rajasthan are said to represent power, love and good luck respectively. Accordingly, it is common to see these three animals on the roads of India, particularly in wedding season which typically takes place from November to May.
Inside the accommodation at Dera Amer
Jaipur is a fantastic place to see these animals, particularly elephants. In fact, you can even stay with them at Dera Amer, a luxurious valley camp located in the foothills of the Aravali Range. Located on a sprawling estate, the camp offers a boutique experience where you will stay in a lavish two, three of four pitched tent complete with polished floors, double bed and spacious bathroom. During the day the camp operates a number of safaris via 4X4, camel and horse. For dining, there are several main venues, although you can also opt to dine privately and al fresco, in a forest complete with live barbecue, bonfire and traditional dancers.
Lauren painting an elephant (Image: Lauren Burvill)
While Dera Amer offers an incredibly peaceful and luxurious stay nearby the city of Jaipur, it’s the elephants that are undoubtedly the highlight. During your stay you’ll not only get to feed the elephants (their favourite food is bananas) but you can also paint them (with all naturally-sourced paints that are gentle to their skin), and even bathe them.
The view from the private grounds at the City Palace (Image: Lauren Burvill)
Enjoy private dining at the City Palace in Jaipur
Known as the 'Pink City of India', Jaipur is famed for its many forts and palaces which were painted blush during the rule of Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh, in a bid to welcome Prince Edward VII and Queen Victoria. Subsequently, Jaipur’s buildings are what mainly bring people to the city.Round the World Expert Jess inside one of the Palace's private rooms (Image: Lauren Burvill)
One stand-out building is the City Palace which is located in the heart of the city and was the seat of the Maharaja of Jaipur. In fact, the palace still acts as the royal residence today, so only a few of the complex’s palaces, pavilions, gardens and temples are open to the general public. But by seeing the Palace with our guide Taj, we were able to visit some of the private areas of the palace (and even spy the Princess’s Jaguar car parked in the driveway).
To make your visit extra special, with the help of Creative Travel it’s possible to not only tour some of the private areas, but also enjoy an exclusive dinner under the stars at the palace.
You can add all of these experiences to your tailor-made holiday in India. Lauren followed the Glimpses of Taj & Tigers Journey which includes a rickshaw ride of Old Delhi, jungle safari in Ranthambore, visit to a local village and a tour of Jaipur's City Palace as standard.