However, our visits to the many sites of our first port of call, Delhi, were interjected by optional tours and welcome breaks at the hotel. We covered a lot of ground on our tour of contrasting New and Old Delhi and even packed in a cycle rickshaw tour of Chandni Chowk market area. Come dinner time, the local restaurant had been chosen by our guide for the good quality of food being hygienically prepared: important when travelling with children. There was a fantastic choice on offer and enjoyed by all,as the families started to get to know each other.
We thoroughly enjoyed the pink city of Jaipur, where a wonderful walking tour around the busy city was followed by dinner and an evening of traditional Rajasthani folk dance and music. Combining history with modern day, our visits here included Hawa Mahal (The Palace of Winds), originally built to enable the ladies of the royal family to watch everyday life and the processions of the city, the Amber Fort and a visit to watch a Bollywood film at the spectacular Raj Mandir Cinema, where we arrived by tuk-tuk. Visiting the cinema in Jaipur is a real family experience from young babies to grandparents - no one is left at home – all enjoying the glitz and glamour of a Bollywood production with everyone cheering for their favourite actors. It was a real highlight of our day.
Travelling through rural India to one of India’s premier national parks, Ranthambore, raised our excitement levels even higher. Once in the park, the jeep twisted and turned through the wooded landscape, up steep bumpy hills and down the other side, all eyes trained on the landscape; could our first tiger spot be just around the next corner? Numerous peacocks, king fishers, crocodiles, spotted deer, samba deer and blue bull had all been seen when we heard the langur monkeys bark a warning call. Alas, the calls didn’t materialise into a sighting, which our guide thought was probably a leopard, but our day in the park was topped-off with an encounter with a sloth bear ambling across the road looking for insects and invertebrates to eat. Our guide turned to us and said ‘WOW, that’s a very rare sighting, it’s much harder to see a sloth bear than a tiger: you’ve been very lucky to see that’. Feeling smug that we were the only people to see the sloth bear, we returned to our hotel. After a visit to a local school, two more game drives brought refreshed hope of seeing the iconic tiger but sadly it was not to be on this occasion, even though other jeeps within the nearby park zones had several sightings.
A stop at Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary, a former duck hunting reserve of the Maharajas, was a welcome break on our journey to Bharatpur. Our cycle rickshaw drivers pedalled their hardest and pointed out numerous bird species along the way. I’m not normally a bird watcher but the huge variety of species and the vast numbers kept everyone really interested looking for the next one. Some of the older children gave the rickshaw drivers a rest and took over the pedalling. On the way back to the bus we spotted a pair of Indian wild dogs crossing the road in front of us which was an unexpected treat. Onward to Agra, and an early bed in preparation for a pre-dawn start.
The Taj Mahal’s gates open at sunrise and being there early in the queue was definitely the best thing to do. Considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in Indo-Islamic architecture my first view of this iconic monument was all that I had hoped it would be and because we were there early we almost had the place to ourselves, if only for a brief time. We wandered the grounds and the internal structure for about an hour, taking plenty of photos in the changing morning light.
Our time in India was brief, the sights were amazing - beautiful historic forts and palaces, wonderful monuments to love, a wealth of fantastic wildlife, warm and friendly people and the tastiest food - I suppose the only word to describe it is Incredible!
Sally - senior travel consultant at Families Worldwide - travelled on our Taj & Tigers trip. Whether you're looking for culture, adventure or wildlife, contact us to plan your perfect family holiday to India!