Poppy Brown was lucky enough to experience her first Contiki tour in November 2017 when she got the chance to complete half the ‘Eternal India’ tour, which you can find in Contiki’s Asia brochure. Here are her experiences first-hand.
Contiki India Trip 2017 - Travel with no regrets.
Colour and chaos combined with tranquillity and splendour. India will bring your imagination to life like never before. If you are wanting to have your senses awakened then this is the trip for you!
My journey began with my Etihad flight from London Heathrow. Etihad is a great airline to travel long-haul, offering plenty of entertainment facilities and regular deliveries of food straight to my tray table. Our first flight was to Abu Dhabi where we had a stopover of two hours, before hopping onto our three-hour flight to Delhi.
Once in Delhi, we were greeted by our transfer who chauffeured us over to our first hotel. These transfers can be booked directly with Contiki when booking onto one of their tours. You can also add in extra nights before or after your tour to coincide with your flights.
Every Contiki trip starts with a welcome meeting and this is where you will get to meet your army of new friends from all over the world. Not only will you get to meet your trip manager, who will introduce you to the tour, you’ll also get to know your local English-speaking guide, who will travel with you throughout. This way, you always have someone with local knowledge with you on your journey.
We began our trip in Delhi at the Muse Sarovar Portico. This isn’t the original Contiki hotel but a very nice modern hotel just outside of New Delhi. The Contiki guests stay at The Ashtan Sarovar Portico, which is closer to the centre. We visited this hotel and they hosted an Indian buffet dinner for us.
We stayed in Delhi for two nights. Home to a staggering 25 million people, it was amazing to explore one of the most bustling cities in the world. We visited the Jama Mosque, where they provide you with cover-ups, before jumping on rickshaws and heading to a local spice market to experience an intoxicating dose of smells like never before. Next on the itinerary was a visit to a Sikh Temple - the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. Here, our local guide gave us a tour explaining the concept of Sikhism. We were able to take part in preparing food for the locals, giving us a chance to embrace a different culture. The last stops on our Delhi adventure were the Parliament House and the India Gate.
On our last evening in Delhi, our tour guide took us to Hauz Khas Village, a very trendy hangout area offering lots of restaurants and bars. It was very easy to catch a rickshaw from here back to the hotel and it will cost you no more than £2. Just make sure you carry the address of your hotel around with you, as some of the rickshaw drivers do not speak great English.
Then came the day we had all been waiting for… Agra. We were about to tick something major off our bucket lists. It was really nice to see all the group really excited; some of the girls had even bought saris. We began our day at Agra Fort, where our local guide gave us a tour. We then headed over to the Taj Mahal, where Contiki provided us with the entry tickets and, to our surprise, there wasn’t much of queue to get in. We had two hours to explore the Taj at our own pace – which is great because it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me; what an amazing building with an incredible story.
Next on our itinerary was Ranthambore National Park, known for its Tigers. We stayed at the Anuraga Palace – trust me, it was a palace. The beauty of these hotels in India is not the only special touch - they greet you with a flower garland, which adds that something extra. The usual Contiki hotel is literally down the road and is called the Regency Hotel. Both these properties had swimming pools and large modern rooms.
Whilst in Ranthambore, Contiki will take you to see Dhonk. This is an organisation they support which aims to provide a sustainable livelihood for the locals. It promotes local raw talent, offering alternative employment to the Mogya Tribe, the ex-poachers’ families. A percentage of these profits also goes to the tiger conservation.
One of the ‘Me Time’ optional activities Contiki offers is a safari. This is a great way to see the national park and maybe get a glimpse of a tiger. Unfortunately, on my tour, I didn’t get to see one, but the Contiki tour that was running alongside us did. However, there are plenty of other animals to see including deer, birds, monkeys and crocodiles.
Jaipur, the pink city. Here, we stayed at the Park Inn, a modern hotel which is only a short rickshaw ride away from those authentic markets we all want to shop in. Jaipur is definitely the best place to shop, especially if you are wanting to buy jewellery. You will get free time to do this, so make the most of it. Also, if you like henna, this is the place to get a tattoo done.
Whilst in Jaipur, we were taken to the Amber Fort and City Palace. Both are beautiful buildings with a lot of history and are included on the Contiki tour. Another ‘Me Time’ optional activity allows you to add on an Amber Fort trek, a great way to experience a sense of rural India. The trek follows the path children take to get to school in the city centre. When you reach the top, you are greeted with tea and biscuits from the locals. This breaks up your trip from the hustle and bustle of the cities.
In the evening, we went to a local family’s house where they presented a cooking demonstration and you can volunteer to help. The family have been inviting tourists into their home for over 16 years and once the demonstration is over you are invited to dine with them. They put on a wide spread of food for you and your new friends to enjoy. I must say - when travelling to India, if you like spicy food you are going to be fine. However, if you are like me and can only handle a little spice, you may be limited for food. Let’s just say I ate a lot of naan (so take snacks!).
The Contiki tour continues after this point. I wish I was able to experience all of it, as I would definitely love go back to India having done this trip. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves to learn about culture and I feel this is a journey everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. For more information about our India holidays, call our team 0800 021 3237 or drop by our branches in Woodbridge and Ipswich.