The Indian Big Five
Visiting India means seeing the iconic cultural landmarks. However, this intrepid itinerary combines the unmissable sights with India’s finest wildlife. Combine India’s Big Five in nature-enveloped national parks with some of India’s best loved monuments.
- Experience the diversity of India on a two-week trip that showcases the best of its wildlife and culture, staying in characterful properties
- Be submerged in Kolkata’s fascinating heritage that swirls around the Hooghly River
- See the world’s largest population of Indian one-horned rhinoceroses deep in rural Kaziranga National Park
- Bathe in Jaipur’s punk-hued glow as you explore palaces and forts
- Stay in a luxe tented camp in Ranthambore, looking out for tigers
- Be dazzled by the pearly white gleam of the Taj Mahal
- Take a safari and spot Asian lion and leopard in Sasan Gir National Park
A 14-night itinerary showing you Kolkata, Jaipur and the Taj Mahal as well as India’s Big Five - one-horned rhino, Asian elephant, tiger, Asiatic lion and leopard.
During the drier months of November – April when wildlife sightings are at their best.
How To Get There:
There are no direct flights from the UK to Kolkata so you can fly to Delhi and connect on to Kolkata from there. Alternatively, Emirates offer connections via Dubai. The total journey time is between 13 and 16 hours.
Be greeted by the cacophony of Kolkata, signalling the start of your adventure in India. Although initially overwhelming, find your way with a thoughtfully guided tour of West Bengal’s capital. Beat the heat with an early start at the River Hooghly, witnessing Kolkata residents perform their morning rituals, alongside the colourful riverside flower market. Learn about the history of the river in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries through the bankside architecture: Armenian and Portuguese churches, Jewish synagogues and colonial British-Raj era buildings such as the Writers’ Building – the former headquarters of the infamous East India Company, built in 1777.
Have lunch with Mr Bomti Surojit, an art collector and socialite, at his heritage home and sample home-cooked Bengali cuisine and admire his Bengali art collection before boarding a private river boat to gain a new perspective on the stepped ‘ghats’ of the river and passing under the city’s two huge and famous bridges, Howrah and Vidyasagar.
Stay: GLENBURN PENTHOUSE
Residing in the heart of historic Kolkata, Glenburn Penthouse is an elegant retreat from the city, with large bedrooms furnished with antique four poster beds and Bengali colonial furniture. The rooftop infinity pool is a great spot to cool off, and the plant-dotted terrace overlooking Victoria Memorial is a breezy choice for cocktails or contemporary Kolkata street food.
KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK
In stark contrast, leave the city behind and travel to the rural hinterland of India’s northeast Assam region via plane to Guwahati. Here in the floodplains of the Brahmaputra River, Kaziranga National Park is home to the world’s largest population of Indian one-horned rhinoceroses who roam among the forests, wetlands and grasslands. The Ganges River also flows through the national park – see the graceful sight of dolphins swimming in the holy waters and look out for Bengal tigers and Asian elephants too.
You’ll explore Kaziranga National Park by jeep safari or boat accompanied by well-trained naturalists who will bring this UNESCO-protected nature haven to life. At the end of the day, stop for a sundowner and pause to fully take in your surroundings. You also might visit a local village and see the homesteads of three different tribes in the area; Bodo, Mising and Karbi, walk through lush rubber forests or visit an Assam tea garden.
Stay: DIPHLU RIVER LODGE
Set on the grassy boundary of Kaziranga National Park, Diphlu River Lodge is surrounded by a patchwork of greens, and this all-natural retreat allows you to continue nature-spotting from your stilted, thatched cottages that overlook the surrounding forest.
From your natural retreat head straight back into Indian life in the colourful city of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, accessed by plane from Guwahati. A must on any itinerary of India, the Pink City of Jaipur is so called because of its terracotta plaster buildings, tinged with pink as seen on the observatory Jantar Mantar, where the world’s biggest sun dial can be found and the ornate Maharaja’s City Palace, built between 1729 – 1732 under the rule of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, home to the former ruling royal family. Explore all this and more with a guided tour of Jaipur which weaves through the vibrant city, characterised by bustling bazaars, beeping tuk-tuks, wandering cows and flashes of colourful saris.
Visit the Amber Fort, set up on the ancient Aravalli Hills mountain range. Made from marble and pink and yellow sandstone, the fort’s majestic ramparts part to reveal huge gates where elephants to this day carry guests to the palace. Marvel at silver temple doors of Siladevi Temple and the intricately decorated interiors of the Majarahia’s living quarters.
Stay: Raj Mahal Palace
As the sun sets, watch Jaipur glow golden, picking up architecturally details; the Amber Fort a deep ochre. Back at your hotel, you will stay in a palace of your own, the pink-hued Rajmahal Palace Raas Jaipur, a 19th regal retreat reimagined for the modern traveller. Elegant and refined, the palace has just 13 rooms and suites decorated in Indian Art Deco, tranquil gardens and swimming pool.
RANTHAMBORE & TAJ MAHAL
Perhaps one of the biggest and well-known national parks in northern India is Ranthambore, home of the rare Bengali tiger that skulks around the billion-year-old deciduous forest, ravines and lakes. At its heart is the 10th century Ranthambore Fort, hewn into a rocky outcrop, offering views over the parkland. Beautifully crumbling old hunting lodges dot the forest, which now are overrun with grasses and the odd monkey inhabitant. Explore the national park by jeep safari with expert guides from Sher Bagh and as well as lucky tiger sightings you will also be introduced to a wealth of wildlife Ranthambore has to offer such as leopards, hyena, wild dogs and spotted deer.
From Ranthambore, you will take the train to Agra, enjoying a snapshot of local Indian life as you watch villages fly by. Enjoy a restful night at Agra before an early start to admire the Taj Mahal before the crowds dispel its mysticism. Built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, the luminescent marble of the Taj Mahal is one of India’s most evocative sights – your sunrise private view will be hard to forget.
Stay: SHER BAGH
Whether you stay in a tented jungle suite or a larger family suite (complete with brass bathtubs, glass walls and verandas) you can’t fail to be enchanted by Sher Bagh. The location in a billion-year-old forest, the refreshing pool, the old-world service, the candlelit corridors, dinners under the stars and most of all, Sher Bagh’s conscious efforts in the conservation of Ranthambore National Park mean your time here is truly special.
SASAN GIR NATIONAL PARK
From Agra you will transfer to Delhi airport and onto Rajkot in Gujarat, the gateway to Sasan Gir National Park located in the far north-eastern peninsula of India. Experience a whole new part of India with pervading and deep-rooted Gujarati culture and cuisine. First though, be at one with nature and its fascinating wildlife; take a safari in Sasan Gir National Park where there are 700 recorded Asiatic lions and over 1,000 recorded leopards so keep your eyes peeled as you traverse the spectacular teak forest by jeep. A jungle walk is also recommended with a guide at dusk, allowing you to tap into the sights and sounds of nature on a more granular level spotting chital deer, blue bulls and paradise flycatchers. Stop regularly for replenishment – either drinks and snacks, hot tea or a picnic.
On another day, visit the Maldhari neighbours and gain an intimate understanding of the local culture of these semi-nomadic herders who live amongst the lion.
As your time in India comes to a close, prepare to fly back to Mumbai and onward home, with an deeper understanding of India’s natural and cultural jewels.
Clasped in the wilderness of Sasan Gir National Park, Aramness seeks to emulate village-style lodging, giving guests the rooted, authentic feel of staying in Gujarat alongside unpretentious luxe comfort. Kothi-style suites come with shady courtyards, spacious bathrooms and verandas with views over the greenery of the teak forest. Food is a highlight here from the sumptuous afternoon tea to delicious Gujarat vegetarian Thali platters in the evening.
This seamless itinerary is quite the trip – combining some of India’s best and most iconic sights with its Big Five – rare, endemic wildlife that’s a true privilege to come up close to.
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