Imagine being buried in a pile of penny sweets wearing a suit made from feathers surrounded by the cast from West Side Story in full chorus. This kind of sensory overload is equal to that which you will experience on a trip to India. However the India trip, of course, will also be much more rewarding, enjoyable and less like a Lady Ga Ga video. One way to remove a bit of unnecessary intensity from an Indian adventure is to let somebody else take care of the plans, which is why I decided to go with rail holidays. With the worries of destinations and transport taken care of, I was free to soak up the experience.
First was the chaotic cocktail that is Delhi. What a magically intoxicating mix: throw in a handful of languages, a generous portion of New Delhi sophistication, mix in a few drops of ancient magic and blend in a bumper pack of Crayola. This is a city shared by medieval markets and cosmopolitan coffee shops; where tours of ancient monuments can be followed by a round of Mojitos. My highlight had to be the Red Fort: towering arches and auburn splendour hewn from sandstone in the 1600’s; the first of many architectural masterpieces to come.
Of course, nothing could quite prepare you for the Taj Mahal, the jewel in Agra’s crown. No matter the level of hype or hyperbole, this palace more than lives up to it. A fleet of 1000 elephants carried the dazzling slabs of white marble 200 miles to construct it; surely the most extravagant gift ever made to a lover. Inspired, I tried a similar feat with hamsters and Mini Cheddars when I got home. Apparently it’s not a good idea to use an edible building material.
Beyond the Palace of Winds, Fort Amber looms over the Maota lake. This really is the stuff that legends are made of. Whilst the Palace is a ghostly ruin, sand blowing beneath high arches, the Fort’s facade resembles a princess’ jewellery box.
Ranthambore National Park
If anything grapples with this incredible architecture to be the icon of northern India, then it has to be the elusive tiger. Our next destination, Ranthambore National Park is a haven for them, as well as a plethora of other animals including leopards, mongoose and crocodiles. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the safari, and we even caught a glimpse of the majestic tiger, lapping from the edge of a nearby lake.
Udaipur is another watery wonderland, rippling reflections of towers and temples decorating the surface of Lake Pichola. The floating palace at the water’s centre is positively dreamy, and our tour was lucky enough to arrive when the waters allowed a visit.
To round off are the ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples known as The Ellora Caves. Never before had I seen anything even remotely like this: an architectural wonder calved straight into a basalt cliff face. Statues, balconies and pillars stand frozen in time, expertly crafted over 1000 years ago.
Author: Sophie McGovern is an avid traveler who enjoys the challenge of travel. She still hops a train from time to time.