If you really want to know if your marriage is going to work out, why not put it to the test and choose a honeymoon destination like incredible India! We began by visiting the South first, before moving on up to Delhi to begin exploring Northern India.
After six weeks of backpacking in Southern India, we arrived in Delhi looking forward to the more cooling air of the mountains. Friends living in New Delhi put us up for a few days so we had the luxury of decent air conditioning, a cook, a driver and a smart new apartment block.
At first, it’s hard to get your head around New Delhi and India’s recurring contrast of the opulence associated with a newly emerging economic power rubbing shoulders with poverty. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to witness it for yourself.
The shopping mall in Connaught Place with its London-style themed restaurant called ‘Piccadelhi’ tickled me. There’s a quarter where you can take a temple tour and see an edifice dedicated to just about every deity there is, but I felt more at home in the noisy and aromatic winding quarters of Old Delhi. Here you can take a rickshaw and explore for yourself.
If you do find yourself with more time in Delhi, there’s a half-day trip just out of town where you can visit an impressive tower called ‘Qutb Minar’ in a complex with historical and religious significance for Islam.
I had previously visited Tibet, a country that captured my heart, so I was keen to share some of those Himalayan Buddhist vibes with my new wife. Most people looking for a ‘Himalayan experience’ tend to think of Nepal and Tibet, but some of Northern India is almost as remote and mystical as Tibet, but without the political undercurrents that flow in the ‘autonomous region’.
Our first stop was Rishikesh, made famous during the Beatles hippie phase when George Harrison, in particular, became heavily involved with one of the many ashrams there. You can attend a yoga class here or go for an exhilarating trek in the Himalayan foothills (low enough for altitude acclimatisation not to be an issue). I even tried white water rafting down the Ganges!
The next step deeper into the Himalaya is Shimla - a quaint little hill station with lots of monkeys. From here you can take a jeep tour through the Spiti Valley where you’ll come across Buddhist monasteries that are right on the border with China but feel as Tibetan as anything you’d experienced in Tibet. The light quality and the reflections here make everything perceptively sharper, and the scenery takes your breath away as you go through snow-capped passes with stupas and flapping prayer flags.
Feeling connected to the mountains we stayed in Vashisht then travelled from Manali down to Dharamsala and on to the home of H.H. The Dalai Lama in the beautiful village of McCloud Ganj.
If you’re unfamiliar with the plight of Tibet; in 1959 the People’s Republic of China invaded Tibet with the intention of forcefully taking over the administration. Fearing for his life, the Dalai Lama fled through the Himalayas to where India (alongside International diplomatic support) offered to set up ‘Little Lhasa’. Over 80,000 Tibetans followed him, and there they have a safe place to celebrate their culture and Buddhist traditions.
Having visited his rightful home in Tibet and seen the Potala Palace, I was thrilled to see what he's made of his new life – the ultimate spiritual optimist. The mix of travellers, Indian business people and Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns makes for an atmosphere that is unrivalled.
In his quest for world peace, His Holiness travels the world spreading his message of compassion, so he is rarely in residence. Having checked his schedule on various websites, we managed to get our timing right and attended a series of talks by the man himself which were being followed attentively by a mixed audience from all over the world - a moving and extraordinary experience in a unique setting.
Still on a high from the Himalayas, we’d heard great things about Rajasthan and were looking forward to exploring. We began in Jaipur which is the gateway to Rajasthan, and for those on a quick tour, this may be the only taster of this region.
Jaipur doesn’t disappoint but be aware that it’s hot, enormous and spread out, so if you have limited time, I’d recommend a guide and driver. It was in Jaipur that our fascination with archways began and it was something that recurred throughout the other cities of the region. The temples, palaces, forts and havelis (massive mansion-like constructions) all represent impressive architecture in the towns and their vast, ornate archways make for the perfect place to pose for a photo.
Our next stop was Pushkar which is much more manageable to explore on foot - the temple set on a lake is impressive. From here, you can head to Jodhpur. We experienced a little taste of luxury (our first and last 5-star experience in India), staying at the beautiful Taj Hotel for a couple of nights as part of our wedding present. After some of the places we’d holed up over the last few weeks, this felt like an extravagance. The old city of Jodhpur was stunning and shaded in pastel views - a beautiful place.
A true icon of India, we realised there could be no better way to round off our honeymoon than a visit to the Taj Mahal.
Commissioned by the emperor in 1632, this iconic building was designed to house the remains of his third and favourite wife. Over a period of 22 years, more than 20,000 artisans and craftsmen were recruited from all over the empire to assist with construction. Legend has it that the workers had their hands cut off afterwards so nowhere in the world could anything similar be created.
Agra is a tourist trap so you won’t need more than a night or two to visit the Taj Mahal. Although we were initially somewhat sceptical, we were blown away by the palace’s beauty both inside and out.
Our honeymoon came to a perfect finish as we stood watching birds circling above at sunset and painted the sky a mixture of hazy orange a purple. We knew we were feeling satisfied by the vivid impressions India’s landscapes and characters had made on us.
If you’d like to visit India, we can offer lots of recommendations based on our travels. Whether you want to visit on a shoestring or in more comfort, we can come up with tours or a tailor-made solution to suit your budget, including travel by small group tour, or independent travel with a private car and driver. Travel Nation can arrange direct flights to India or help you work out how to include India on a round the world ticket, call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email.