India revisited

Susanne Hamer in Varanasi, India
Body: 
India is one of the most intense and interesting destinations in the world. 
 
This trip, I began my journey by flying SWISS from Los Angeles, with an overnight stop in Zurich. This is actually a few hours shorter than flying through the Middle East, and I loved the overnight stay and dinner in Zurich. We arrived in Delhi around midnight and went straight to our hotel.
 
Where you stay in India is extremely important and half of the experience of your journey. I stayed at the Oberoi hotels this time, and would generally suggest a combination of either Oberoi, Trident or Taj properties for your trip.
 
Delhi is divided into new and old Delhi; new built by the British, and old by the Moguls and Maharajas. Nothing prepares you for the “organized chaos” of this city. From 6-star opulence to people living by the side of the road.  Arrive to India with an open mind, as all your senses will be tested! You will see the narrow streets of old Delhi with the traders and shops, along with monuments and manicured lawns and gardens.
 
Varanasi, our next stop, is so intense and overwhelming, I am not sure that any words can adequately describe what awaits you. Intense, emotional, spiritual, surreal, a true test of your sensitivities, from rickshaw ride, the cows everywhere, the washing of bodies, the burning of the bodies, the smoke, the smells and chanting, the flowers floating in the Ganges, the bathing and praying in the holy waters. Nothing has changed in this city in the past 600 years. I would suggest spending two nights in this city and having an excellent personal guide --otherwise it is too overwhelming.
Our next stop is Agra and the required visit to the most beautiful monument of love, the Taj Mahal. The best resort to stay in here is the Oberoi, because it is located a two-minute golf cart ride away from the Taj Mahal. You can visit for sunrise or sunset, or simply sit on your balcony and enjoy this amazing monument.
You can also visit the Red Fort for a wonderful sound and light show in the evening. My suggestion would be a stay of two nights.
 
After a five-hour drive we arrive in Ranthambore, in hopes of seeing the elusive Indian Tiger on a tiger safari. I stayed at the Oberoi, an amazing safari-style resort with permanent tents. The Aman, another good option, has mobile tents and but is only open eight months of the year. Both are fantastic properties with their own game driving vehicles, which can only be booked on a private basis. After four game drives we were rewarded with one adult tiger leaving a watering hole and three large cubs waiting for their mother. For those of you that have been on an Africa safari, this is very different, and there is no guarantee  you will see a tiger at any time.
 
Our next stop was Jaipur following a three-hour drive through rural villages and towns. Jaipur is known as the “Pink City” and jewel of the Rhajastan. Here you will find the Amber Fort, over 600 years old, and the best way to ascend is by elephant. The Hawa Mahal is a pink screen wall built for the royal ladies to watch from and not be seen. The City Palace, Nahargah Fort, offers stunning views of the city and the Rambagh Palace. Rambagh Palace has been converted into a hotel. f you want to feel like a Maharaja or Maharani this is the place to stay! Shopping is a must in Jaipur, from stunning jewelry at the Gem Palace, silks rugs, bangles and block print. All are still made from hand by local artists. I would recommend a three-night stay.
 
The best time to travel to this part of India is November – April; however, if you are not afraid of the heat, May - June is the low season and is better for tiger viewing and there are fewer tourists at all the monuments and sites.
 
A quick hour flight back to Delhi, with a day room at the Oberoi in Gurgaon, and we leave back home on Swiss at midnight.