The magic of India can be found on its railroads, in its rivers, in its deep beliefs, on its beaches and in its hills. One of the largest and densely populated countries in the world, it's no surprise that it holds the majestic castles of the Raj, the colonial architecture of the British West Indies, the omnipotent presence of the Taj Mahal, the tranquility of the Dali Lama at Daram Sala, the street smells of Calcutta, and the nights of Mumbai and Goa. It's all there, and it's all attainable with either package trips or do-it-yourself travel planning.
Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) has several trips to the subcontinent. A 12-day India Majesty tour starting at $2,029 covers Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Khajuraho, and the mystical city of Varanasi, home to Shiva and Ganesh. The trip, which departs on May 23, 2005, includes round-trip airfare from New York to New Delhi, 10 nights at deluxe and first-class accommodations, full daily breakfasts, all transfers, an English speaking guide and transportation around the country in a first class air conditioned motor coach. All intra-India flights are also included in the price of the trip. Special activities include a boat ride down the Ganges in Varanasi, where Indian pilgrims bath themselves for purification, and an elephant back ride to Amber Fort. Airport security fees and travel taxes are not included in the price of the tour. To add three days and a trip through Nepal, add just $70.
Greaves India (tel. 800/318-7801; www.greavesindia.com) offers first class tours of India that focus on the country at large or specific areas or specific things such as palaces. Specializing in land-only outings, Greaves provides each trip with a professional guide knowledgeable in India, its people and its culture. The "Private Palaces" tour which starts in Delhi and allows guests to stay overnight in some of Central India's extraordinary palaces in Jaipur, Luni, Udaipur, Bambora and Deogarh. The trip starts at $1,340 per person with a $290 supplement thrown in for Air Conditioning road transport, and $75 supplement for daily breakfast. The trip includes all accommodations, all palace meals described in the detailed itinerary on the Web site, in-country flights, and chauffeur driven non-air conditioned drives. Also available is a twelve-day Malabar Days trip that explores in great detail the Southern tip of India where ancient civilizations fought for control of the spices trade. As a bonus to your trip, the people at Greaves India can arrange dinners and visits with families of distinction in the area who give great insight into the hereditary nature of the India caste system and the immediate Kerala vicinity. Check with a Greaves operator for prices for this and other Greaves offerings.
If you're looking for very lengthy guided tours of India from established operators, Globus Journeys (tel. 866/755-8581; www.globusjourneys.com) has a 21-day tour of India that covers a large portion of the country plus Nepal. Starting at $3,529 this air/land extrvaganza departs after the hot summer months have passed in the early September and October and hits such regional cities as Delhi, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Samode, Agra, Varanasi with an extension into Nepal. Accommodations are top notch and include 18 breakfasts and six dinners.