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Family vacations to India

India is a magical destination to head off to on a family vacation, and depending on the ages of your children, we can tailor-make an itinerary totally around your family’s interests. India will no doubt be one of the most remarkable destinations they will have visited, hitting all the senses and no doubt creating memories they will never forget. We know that they might not want to trudge around countless temples and forts, so we blend experiences which children will find interesting. We also know that a balance to seeing things and dedicated pool time is a must! We hand pick guides that know how to make children smile. Here is our little guide to help answer some of your initial questions, but the best plan is to give us a call and we can expand on these.

Rajasthan

Main highlights: Taj Mahal, palaces, temples, architecture, villages, lovely hotels
Access point: Delhi (8.5 hour flight)
Ideal length of stay: 10 day to 2 weeks

Weather: We have sent families throughout the year to Rajasthan, but this is what to expect: Christmas and New Year offer pleasant day time temperatures of about 23-25°C and at night drops off to 8-9 degrees. February half term becomes warmer rising to about 26-27 degrees in the day and 10-12 degrees at night. Easter (based on late March) is ideal, rising to 31 degrees in the day and 17°C at night; May half term is very hot, with temperatures rising to about 40 degrees in the daytime, but you can expect superb hotel offers. The monsoon starts in late June when temperatures reduce to the mid-30s, but with a high humidity, making summer vacations possible, but a little uncomfortable. The tiger parks are not open in the Summer (July to October).

Family experiences: Rickshaws through Old Delhi, visiting the Taj Mahal, tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park, Balloon rides over Jaipur, face painting elephants, elephant polo, village safaris, dinners in local homes, riding horses near Jodhpur, desert camel rides near Jaisalmer, boat rides on the lake in Udaipur, cookery courses.

Prices: Prices in Rajasthan tend to be the most expensive in India, so a guide price for a 2-week vacation using the best hotels and experiences is £15-20,000 for a family of four.

Hotels: The hotels on offer in Rajasthan are some of the best to be found in the world and can be split into colonial hotels (e.g. Imperial Hotel), luxury hotels (e.g. Oberoi hotels, Aman hotels), palace hotels (e.g. Lake Palace Hotel, Rambagh Palace), heritage palace hotels (e.g. Samode Palace), heritage boutique hotels (Shahpura Bagh, Samode Haveli). Generally it is ideal to get a good mix of these to create a really good overall experience.

Itineraries: We have a family itinerary which combines Delhi, Agra, Ranthambore, Jaipur and then heading on for beach time in Oman. Also, see our introduction to India. Everything we do is customized, so almost anything is possible.

Drive times: These can be long – it takes 4-5 hours to link most destinations.
Interconnecting rooms: Possible in some city hotels.
Childcare/kids clubs: Childcare possible, but no kids clubs.
Recommended ages: 8+, although we have had children as young as 4 travel.

Himalaya (Nepal, Ladakh, Bhutan)

Highlights: snow capped mountains, trekking, remote villages
Access point: Usually Delhi, 8.5hr flight
Ideal length of stay: 2 weeks

Weather: Ladakh can only be visited in the summer (May-October) as it is in the rain shadow and does not get affected by the monsoon. Temperatures are pleasant (mid-twenties). For the rest of the Himalayan Region it gets hugely affected by the monsoon (June-end of September) with a lot of rain and mist so you can’t see the mountains. Best to visit from mid-October to mid-November when it becomes a little too cold. You can then visit from February to April when it gets a little hot before the monsoon breaks. It is usually far mistier in the spring when snow-capped peaks can be obstructed. The very best time in the last week of October.

Family experiences: trekking, meeting an Everest Summiteer, white water rafting, meeting Tibetan Lamas, listening to Tibetan monks chant, mountain biking

Hotels: Due to the off the beaten track nature of the mountains, they can vary hugely. In terms of luxury hotels and lodges the Aman Resorts in Bhutan are superb, along with Uma Paro, and the Oberoi Hotels in Shimla. The Shakti Village Houses in Kumaon, Ladakh and Sikkim are unique – authentic village houses which have been refurbished as much as possible for top-end Western guests. They are located completely away from the tourist areas and offer something completely unique and special. In Nepal, there are more traditional luxury lodges in the Annapurna Region and Everest with clean, simple accommodation.

Prices: These vary a lot. For the best value, Nepal is the place to go. The more exclusive Shakti Himalayan Village Walks are based on fewer people visiting these areas so are based.

Itineraries: We have designed a family itinerary for Nepal taking in Kathmandu, Trekking, Rafting and a little wildlife in Chitwan National Park. The Shakti Ladakh itinerary can be ideal for families wanting a summer vacation and Bhutan is an exclusive family getaway combined with Thai beaches to finish.

Drive times: For Sikkim and Bhutan these can be long – as much as 5 hours in a day. For Nepal, most of the transfers are done by plane. Ladakh is accessed by a flight from Delhi and the village houses are only 2 hours or so from the capital Leh.
Interconnecting rooms: Shakti Village Houses are always taken exclusively; other hotels do not offer interconnecting rooms.
Childcare/kids clubs: No childcare/kids clubs
Recommended ages: 8+

Tiger safari in Central India

Access point: Either Mumbai (9hrs) or Delhi (8.5hrs) and then an internal flight (1hr), usually after a night’s stopover. The parks are located in Madhya Pradesh right in the heart of India.
Ideal length of stay: 8-10 days, unless you extend with places like Agra or Varanasi.

Weather: The parks are shut from July to mid October (approx) each year (but Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan opens 01 October). It does get very cold at night in the winter months (December and January), so is chilly when you do your game drives. Ideal time to visit is February half term and Easter when the undergrowth has reduced and it gets hotter so the wildlife is drawn to water. The best time (for sightings) is actually May half term when it is the hottest – but it does get very hot in the middle of the day meaning you often have to retreat to the air-conditioning.

Family experiences: elephant safaris (we can arrange half day excursions), jeep drives (private), visits to tribal villages surrounding the parks.

Hotels: The Taj Safari / & Beyond lodges are as good as you will find in Africa – all different they offer both luxury accommodation with the best naturalists. A rung below (and worth considering) are more boutique options such as Samode Safari Lodge and Flame of the Forest. These are smaller and more intimate than the Taj Safari Lodges, but don’t come with all the luxuries.

Itineraries: You can focus on a short tiger week away; but possibly add in the Taj Mahal or magical out of the way palace hotels such as Ahilya Fort. Prices: The &Beyond Circuit would cost over £20,000 for a family for a week, but less for the boutique options. The prices drop off a lot in April (which is actually the best time for sightings, but is hot – see above). See our Tigers in style itinerary.

Drive times: These are long between the parks, taking 5-6 hours between each park. You can choose to get a light aircraft between the parks to cut down the driving.
Interconnecting rooms: There is one at Baghvan in Pench National Park.
Recommended ages: 8-10+ - there will be early starts (5am wakeup calls and longer drives so really worth thinking about this).

Kerala and Karnataka

Highlights: Not too many temples/historical sights and is more about a slow pace of travel and seeing the local culture. Houseboats, hills, spices and excellent food.
Access point: Cochin (13.5 hrs via Dubai)
Ideal length of stay: 10 days

Weather: The only ideal time in late December – April – the summer is monsoon and it rains a lot more than Rajasthan, and October, November and December does get a fair bit more rain in the evenings making things misty and slightly more humid.

Family experiences: Haggling in the markets of Cochin, having your own elephant for the day to walk through a rubber plantation, a night on a houseboat, tea estates of Munnar, visiting a spice plantation, walking through the jungles of Periyar, some well-deserved beach time, cookery courses.

Hotels: A notch down on the hotels in Rajasthan; they are a lot more boutique, simple and with varying levels of service. You don’t get Amans or Oberois, so don’t expect really top-end hotels – it is all about the experience.

Itineraries: We have a family itinerary combining Cochin, Periyar, the backwaters and beach. For more adventurous families, we can combine Northern Kerala, an area where you see tribes, wildlife and stay in unique hotels with tree-houses. Kerala also combines well with the Maldives - see See Kerala and the Maldives.

Drive times: A maximum of 4 hours (Cochin to Periyar) in the south, and longer drives in Northern Kerala.
Prices: Much less than Northern India and starting from £7,000 for a family of 4 for a 9 night itinerary

Beaches (Goa & Kerala)

India's beaches are not absolutely amazing when comparing to the Indian Ocean islands, Red Sea, Far East etc. The beaches are not private meaning locals can be walking around. The hotels all have to be built at least 400m from the sea meaning few have good sea views. The hotels haven’t developed to cater for children in the way others have and children’s activities aren’t brilliant. Most do not guarantee interconnecting rooms.

Access point: No direct scheduled flights to Goa (fly via Doha or Mumbai) so 13-14 hours. Kerala is accessed via Dubai (13.5hrs)
Ideal length: 7-14 days
Weather: Ideal for Christmas, New Year, February half term, Easter and May half term
Family experiences: Portuguese churches in Goa, mountain bikes in Goa, day trips in Kerala to backwaters and Cochin.

Hotels: There are no excellent 5* deluxe hotels on the beach in India, but 3 or 4 we would say are good. The Leela and Alila Hotels in Goa are good – Alila offer Family Suites and is the newest on offer. The Marari Beach Resort in Kerala is the best when wanting to do day trips to Cochin and the backwaters and the Leela Kovalam offers the best sea views of all of them, but a poorer beach.

Prices: starting from £6,000 for a family of 4

Combinations: India can be combined easily with the Middle East (Dubai/Oman/Jordan) which act as a stopover on the way back (with better beach options). Flights to the Maldives depart from Trivandrum (Kerala) and Bangalore (South India). You can also combine Sri Lanka with Delhi, Mumbai and South India. Most of India is connected to Thailand, and many people combine Thailand with Bhutan. There are flights between Mumbai and Kenya too.

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