The prospect of a family trip to India can be a daunting one. While this vast, hugely diverse country has family-friendly attractions and activities galore, it’s also notorious for chaotic cities and the infamous “Delhi Belly.” Luxury travel in India is a whole different ball game, however; this two-week trip takes in all the best sights and experiences for families in India, while avoiding the complications and inconveniences. With high-end hotels at every stop, and quality private transfers to get from A to B, our memory-making trip of a lifetime takes the stress out of a first-time family trip around India.
Day 1-3: Delhi
India’s beyond-busy capital (the population is about 25 million) is the obvious place to begin your family vacation in India. Begin in style with a private transfer (around 35 minutes’ drive) to the city’s grandest hotel, the Leela Palace, whose fleet of Rolls Royce and BMW cars is available for airport meet and greets. The super-plush hotel has enormous rooms and incredible suites, and is very accommodating for families. A heated rooftop pool, ritzy spa, and several on-site restaurants mean the family is unlikely to want to move far from the hotel for the first 24 hours–all the better for recuperating from jet-lag! A 24-hour babysitting service is available should the grownups feel like exploring the city after dark.
? Boxout: India’s enormous capital city is divided into “Old Delhi” and “New Delhi.” The former a chaotic maze of medieval lanes, and the latter is a neat, modern garden city designed according to the skillful plans of British architect Edward Lutyen. Both sides of the city sit atop the remains of several previous incarnations of the city.
Given Delhi’s size and scale, the best way to see the sights is via a private driver and guide. Spots not to be missed include the UNESCO-listed tomb of Mughal ruler Humayun, the vast Red Fort, and the former home of Gandhi at a museum created in his honor. The vast Lodhi Park is a great spot for picnics and a rare bit of peace and quiet, while kids love the city’s Deer Park. Located in the southern part of the city, the park boasts ducks, rabbits and other fluffy friends as well as the eponymous deer. A rickshaw ride around Old Delhi, taking in the colorful bazaars, is a fun way to round off your family stay in Delhi.
? Tip: It’s worth giving the kids a crash course in Indian history before arriving in Delhi. Particularly prevalent are the might Mughals, who ruled the Indian subcontinent from 1526 to 1857. The six Great Mughals: Babar, Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb built a powerful empire and left a legacy of distinctive art, architecture, literature, and food.
Day 4-7: Varanasi
Board a flight to Varanasi, the captivating spiritual capital of the Hindu world. From Delhi, the flights last about 90 minutes. Take a riverboat tour along the Ganges River to admire the many grand palaces and temples, and watch the hordes of pilgrims perform ritual ablutions in the holy waters. Visitors can see master silk weavers at work, buy gorgeous silk creations, and all ages will enjoy a visit to the 18th Century Durga Temple, famous for its monkey inhabitants as well as its grand design. It’s well worth taking a side trip to nearby Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon after reaching enlightenment. Deer Park in Sarnath is a lovely place for families to take a picnic.
Where to stay: Check into the intimate Taj Nadesar Palace, where beautiful gardens are perfect for kids to run amuck in, and where guests can enjoy BBQs in the open air as they soak up the views.
?Boxout: Varanasi’s Golden Temple, dedicated to Shiva, only admits Hindus (and sacred cows), but non-Hindus can admire the glimmering gold-plated spire from outside. Nearby are narrow lanes packed with wandering animals as well as food sellers, market stalls and numerous mosques.
Day 8-9: Agra
There are just a few direct flights per week between Varanasi and Agra, home to the magnificent Taj Mahal, so be sure to time your flights accordingly–or allow time for the scenic eight-hour train ride.
Where to stay: For a truly luxurious family stay in Agra, book into the Oberoi Amarvilas, which is the only hotel in the world whose rooms have a view of the Taj Mahal, just 600 meters away. This hotel truly turns the luxury level up to 11, but remains a fun place for families – kids will love the enormous pool, the fountains and the golf buggy rides to the Taj Mahal. There’s fine-dining on site, with kids’ options available (and babysitting for parents who feel like a fancy meal sans kids).
? Boxout: Mangoes galore
Like mangoes? You’ll be in your element in India. India is the largest producer and consumer of mangoes in the world, and there are more than 100 different varieties. Kids tend to love mango whipped up with yogurt to make a cooling lassi, and they’re a great ingredient for grown-up cocktails, too.
Day 10-11: Jaipur
It’s a drive of around three hours from Agra to Jaipur, so be sure to book a suitably comfortable car and load the kids’ backpacks up with pens/pencils/iPads or whatever else keeps boredom at bay. You’re en route to Rajasthan’s famous “Pink City.”
Where to stay: Stay at the Rambagh Palace, and watch the kids’ faces light up when they’re greeted by a parade of decorated elephants and horses on arrival at this former royal residence. Aside from the opulence of the hotel itself, visitors on luxury family holidays in Jaipur can visit hill forts and spectacular palaces, race around vast parks and gardens, and soak up the color and culture of the medieval backstreets and bazaars, where tribespeople in bright sarees and turbans sell beautiful textiles and leatherwork.
Day 12: Udaipur
Set aside time in your schedule for at least a day in one of India’s most beautiful cities (90-minute flight from Delhi). A luxury family stay in Udaipur should include a boat trip around Lake Pichola, tour of the ornate city palace, and a visit to Jagdish Temple. Kids can try out their bargaining skills shopping for keepsakes at the bazaars, and burn off energy at the compact-but-fun Saheliyon Ki Bari Garden, where marble elephants, fountains and forts compete for kids’ attention.
Where to stay: Where you and the brood can lap up the luxury at Oberoi Udaivilas.
Day 13-14: Mumbai
Take the 90-minute flight to India’s other super-city, Mumbai (formerly Bombay), where you’ll The hotel can book you a whistle-stop tour of the big, bright city (famously the home of Bollywood) – be sure not to miss a boat ride out to the Elephant Island Caves, which is filled with fascinating Hindu statues dedicated to Shiva. Dining options take in everything from a patisserie serving fine pastries, to seafood and tapas, as well as traditional Indian cuisine, so guests may want to spend their last few nights simply lounging by the pool, soaking up the views and reflecting on their luxury family holiday in India.
Where to stay: Round off your trip in style with a stay at the Taj Mahal Palace, in the south of the city which offers dramatic views of the Arabian Sea, and where kids are greeted with a “Kids’ Passport” packed with puzzles and other things to do. Aside from exploring the vast, palatial pool and its grounds, the hotel lays on a range of bespoke creative activities for kids, so the grown ups can enjoy some pampering treatments at the super-lavish spa. Babysitters are available to look after the brood if the grownups feel like a kid-free nightcap or two.
We go to India for few months almost every year, so check out our top tips for family travel to India.
Before going to India try to learn some Hindi!