With new direct Air Canada Dreamliner flights from Vancouver to Delhi launching October 20, a direct flight from Toronto available now and Canada’s recent addition to India’s e-visa program, it’s never been easier for Canadians to travel to India. In light of the royal visit to the subcontinent by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge last month, we sat down with Cris David, president of Insight Vacations Canada, to talk about four luxurious Indian travel experiences fit for a prince.
India’s luxury hotel offerings include over-the-top converted palaces and former royal residences, like the Taj Lake Palace on Lake Pichola in Udaipur, built in 1746 for Maharana Jagat Singh II.
“It’s a building no one would be able to build today,” David said. “It’s a magnificent sculpture in marble in the middle of a lake, built as a pleasure palace. You can hear stories and anecdotes about the shenanigans of the royalty who once lived there.”
The hotel has been featured in several movies, most notably as the home of the title character in Octopussy.
“Arriving is a breathtaking experience,” David said. “You come in on a private jet boat and are showered with rose petals. You’re escorted to the front desk under a sequined umbrella to protect your skin from the sun.”
Ranthambore National Park is the former hunting ground of the Maharajahs of Jaipur. Responsible modern hunters, of course, hunt with cameras rather than guns, but the park remains the best place to search for Bengal tigers in the wild.
After a long, hot day in the royal hunting grounds, it’s only reasonable to rest your head at the Nahargarh Ranthambore, built in the style of a traditional hunting palace in the foothills of the Aravalli Mountain Range near the park.
“There’s no place better to retire to after a photo game safari than the Nahargarh,” David said. “These are incredible spacious guestrooms decorated in traditional Rajput style.”
This classical dance style featuring elaborate makeup and costumes stems from traditional dance and theatre performance styles in the southern region of Kerala. Dramatizing epic stories, performances in the sixteenth century would last all night long – up to eight hours. Modern performances are much shorter so that they can be enjoyed in an evening.
Incorporating highly specialized eye, foot and body movements, Kathakali requires intense training.
“The dancers train for six years before they start to perform,” David said, adding that each dancer spends up to three hours applying the makeup for a single performance.
You may have visions of riding an intricately decorated elephant, channelling princes past. But as tourists and tour operators have started to recognize the exploitation and harm inherent in riding these creatures, the former bucket-list activity has gone out of favour, with most reputable tourism providers halting the practice altogether.
“We’ve removed wildlife rides from all tours,” David said. “Riding elephants is exploitative and cruel to the animals and is something we’ve taken out of all our programs, not only in India. We’ll take you to places you can see them, meet them, but not ride them.”
Visit elephants at a refuge, but let your dreams of riding them go.