The Perfect 10: King of India
What » A private-plane excursion through the subcontinent, with stops in New Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Ajabgarh, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Mumbai.
Who » The Chicago-based travel outfitter Greaves Tours has been taking clients to the Indian subcontinent—and only the Indian subcontinent—for more than 15 years. "It all began in the U.K., when friends and family started asking us to put together tours of India," says company president Carole Cambata. "We love India, and we do not want to dilute our knowledge, attention to detail, or personal contacts by moving out of the subcontinent."
The Trip » Traveling through India is notoriously arduous and time-consuming, but Greaves expedites the process with its recently acquired Super King Air B200 plane. Guests will have the aircraft at their disposal for the duration of this 15-day journey (the company will use BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes on the ground), which will focus on "a blend of luxurious and authentic, historic and modern experiences," says Cambata.
Cambata recommends that clients arrive in New Delhi and check into a two- or three-bedroom Lodhi Pool Suite at the city’s new Aman New Delhi hotel (see "Screen Gems," page 73). For this leg of the trip, Greaves can arrange a private visit to the National Museum and Humayun’s Tomb with Shobita Punja, an author and expert in ancient Indian art and architecture.
From New Delhi, the travelers will take a two-hour flight to the northeastern city of Varanasi. "We believe you haven’t experienced the real India without visiting Varanasi," Cambata says of the Hindu spiritual hub, where the group will stay at the Taj Nadesar Palace Hotel. "Mark Twain wrote of Varanasi: ‘Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.’" In the city, the travelers can meet with gurus and astrologers and take a boat ride along the Ganges.
For the next stop, in Agra, Greaves recommends the Kohinoor Suite at the Oberoi Amarvilas hotel for its views of the Taj Mahal. At the Oberoi, the travelers will enjoy one of several themed dinners that Greaves will schedule for this journey. "We re-create the lifestyle of the Mogul dynasty through a traditional Mogul-themed evening with chowkis [low dining tables], gaddas [mattresses], and plush bolsters and cushions draped in embroidered fabric," notes Cambata.
The group’s next destination, the 40-room Amanbagh resort in the Ajabgarh Valley, is modeled after a Mogul palace. Using the resort as their base, the travelers can ride on camels or in Jeeps through the villages of Meena, Gujar, and Rajput, where, during godhuli (the Hindi word for dusk), children play cricket and elders gather to share hookah pipes and the day’s gossip.
After transferring by car from the Ajabgarh Valley, the party will check in to the presidential suite at the Taj Rambagh Palace Hotel in the walled city of Jaipur, the capital of the state of Rajasthan. Jaipur is known as the "pink city" for its many pink structures, including the Hawa Mahal palace, which is shaped like the crown of the Hindu god Krishna.
"This itinerary incorporates India’s key cities and their most historically important forts and monuments," says Cambata, who suggests that, with 15 days and the Super King Air B200 plane, the group also visit Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Mumbai. Wherever they go, the travelers will experience Indian hospitality at its best. "In the past 15 years, India has seen the opening of some of the best hotels in the world," says Cambata. "Backpackers and hippies have given way to discerning travelers interested in culture and history and the type of experiences that Greaves delivers."
The Exclusive » Based on availability, Greaves can arrange a private evening with His Highness Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar in Udaipur. Singh is the leader of the Mewar dynasty, one of the world’s oldest royal families. The party will be transported by boat and vintage car from the Taj Lake Palace Hotel, which is set in a former Mewar palace on an island in Lake Pichola, to Singh’s residence for cocktails and dinner.
Price » From $118,000 per person for a party of two; from $69,600 per person for a party of four.
Greaves Tours, 312.525.3939, www.greavesindia.com