I have just returned from India, a 17 day extravaganza taking in some well known favourites like Jaipur, Ranthambore and Jodphur and also visiting some less visited places like Orchha, Gwalior and Chambal.

For those visiting India for the first time, here is my recommendation for the “ultimate introduction to India” which offers the best combination of busy, colourful cities with peaceful hidden retreats.

Begin with a flight into the historical capital of Delhi where you spend a few nights acclimatising and easing into the swing of things at the Imperial Hotel. From here you take a short flight east to the quiet and well presented town of Khajuraho, where you spend 2 or 3 nights at the Sarai at Toria in the safe hands of Joanna and Ragu who provide a
wonderfully warm welcome and contrast to the busy city of Delhi. Spend the day visiting erotic temple sites followed by a gentle evening boat ride on the River Ken viewing the excellent bird life and listening to the sound of silence. Continue your journey by car to Orchha where you have time for lunch and a stroll around the many temples and palaces this town has to offer.

After a short drive to Jhansi you board the super fast and comfortable Shatabdhi Express Train to Gwalior where you stay at the characterful Usha Kiran Palace. An authentic heritage experience of a certain quality and standard that not only enhances the enjoyment of exploring the mighty Gwalior Fort but makes it it an extremely memorable visit. Your journey then takes you to Agra to visit the romantic Taj Mahal with a stay at the Oberoi Amarvilas offering the best views of the Taj from it’s balconies. A drive west brings you to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan and a buzzing, thriving city that is rocketing its way to becoming an extremely modern city (once all the road works are completed!!)

Stay at the Oberoi Rajvilas for the ulimate oasis of calm, relief and random celebrity spot! For those short on time head back to Delhi in order to fly home, otherwise continue west towards Jodphur with a must stop at Chhatra Sagar. Comfortable and immaculate Rajasthani tents overlook a beautiful lake, rich with birdlife, run by the very splendid Raj, Nandi and Harsh. Again another perfect “resting” place which offers a welcome contrast to the otherwise hectic cities and roads of Rajasthan.

Finally, continue to Jodphur for a few days where you end your holiday in the old town at The Raas hotel or at Mihirgarh Fort, located in the surrounding desert. Jodhpur is the most wonderful town with a medieval heart which has changed little over the years. Days can be spent in and around this area strolling in the bazaars, visiting the Fort or exploring desert villages. It’s an easy place to unwind and relax before returning home.