Favourites of India

We like India so much it gets its own page.

These are our favourite places from our grand tour of India, going roughly clockwise from the north-east corner ....

Planters Club Darjeeling  
The Planter's Club in Darjeeling, a delightfuly faded Raj-style hotel and gentleman's club where we had a free choice of which room we liked because no-one else had checked in yet. We chose room 4, a wonderful wood-panelled room with a sitting room beside the balcony overlooking Darjeeling town and the mountains, a spacious bedroom with a log fire to take the chill off in the cold evenings, a luggage room and bathroom with a big old-fashioned bathtub.  The friendly hotel staff were falling over themselves to light the coal fire for us and soon the room was warm and cosy.
And on the subject of hotels, the Fairlawn in Calcutta.  A lovely, a green oasis of restful Raj-era luxury in the middle of the teeming Chowringhee district of Calcutta, where the rooms have high ceilings and good solid wooden furniture.  Mrs Violet Smith's family have been running it for 70 years, and we had an enjoyable discussion with her about the lost social lifestyle of the Raj that Violet had lived and enjoyed for so long, but which had all but disappeared now that she was almost the last expatriate still living in Calcutta
Fairlawn Hotel Calcutta  

By the sea in Puri, Orissa, on the Coromandel coast - from the Sea Queen Inn, where our room had a fabulous view of the waves breaking on the beach and the fishermen mending their nets.
Puri beach  
Puri beach sunset  

Hyderabad -  the impressive Golconda fort, a huge palace and fort complex built on a granite hill, it was the centre of a great empire in the 16th century.  And the Charminar, the symbol of Hyderabad, a wonderful arched structure with four minarets, situated at a crossroads in the bazaar quarter of town, surrounded by the bazaar  with countless barrow-boys selling spices, fruit and veg and all sorts of kitchen implements as their potential customers flowed around them
Golconda Fort Hyderabad  
Charminar bazaar Hyderabad  

Further down the Coromandel coast, by the sea at Mahabalipuram (now Mamalapuram) in Tamil Nadu with temples on the beach and ancient temples in the town.
Mahabalipuram beach  
Mahabalipuram Five Rathas  

The backwaters of Kerala, wonderfully tranquil to cruise gently along in your houseboat.......
Kerala backwaters  
Kerala houseboat  

Kochi, in Kerala, is one of our favourite places of all.  Lots of historic buildings, an interesting harbour, freshly-caught fish, another of our favourite hotels (the Grande Residencia) and cafés (the Teapot) and to cap it all, a procession of decorated elephants on their way to the temple preceded by a drumming band - a fascinating spectacle.
Kochi fishing nets  
Kochi elephant procession  

The magnificent Maharaja's palace in Mysore.... (left) the main palace and (right) the south gate.
Musore Palace  
Mysore palace south gate  

In Goa, it wasn't so much about being on the beach, but more to do with food and accommodation as usual..... we found the best tandoori chicken in a restaurant on Anjuna beach (with a real tandoor oven), and stayed in a lovely historic old hotel in Panjim town
Panjim Inn Panji Goa  
Cafe Mondegar Mumbai  

In Mumbai (Bombay) it's all about eating and drinking; lunch at one of the grand old Parsi cafes like the Britannia, a beer at Leopold Cafe, elegant afternoon tea at the Taj, lobster for dinner at the Gaylord restaurant and breakfast or (in this case) dinner at Mondy's (Cafe Mondegar).

And on the same theme, we enjoyed the vineyard tour at Sula vineyard near Nasik, followed by lunch overlooking the rolling hills full of grapevines.
Sula vineyard Nasik  
Kailasa temple Ellora

In the Unesco-listed temple complexes at Ajanta and Ellora are some magnificent temples, of which the most impressive is Kailasa temple (number 16) at Ellora; not built but carved out of solid rock.

Daman and Diu are two 'Union Territories' with a very Portuguese ambience, historic buildings and churches, well-perserved forts and fishing harbours (right). In Daman we stayed in a lovely old colonial mansion (below). In Diu, on an island off Gujerat state, we stayed first in a converted church and then in a former palace and explored the fort (below right).
Boats at Daman harbour  
  Hotel Marina Daman
Diu fort

Rajasthan has so many wonders it's hard to know where to begin. Udaipur is our all-time favourite, with outrageously picturesque lakeside houses, palaces and restaurants, as well as colourful markets and the chance for an elephant ride!
Udaipur Lake Palace hotel
Ambrai restaurant Udaipur  
Udaipur bridges  
Udaipur market  
Elephant ride in Udaipur  

Jodphur was one of our favourites in Rajasthan, with a wonderful fort, palace, market and a whole town full of interesting old buildings (and lots of great places to stay and eat, of course).
Jodphur town and wall  
Sadar market Jodhpur  

And Jaisalmer was another great favourite with another wonderful fort and palace, elaborate 'havelis' (noblemens' houses), cows and camels wandering in the streets and restaurants with wonderful views - the Trio restaurant for dinner with a view of the floodlit castle, and 8 July restaurant for lunch below the palace.
Cow's dinner time Jaisalmer  
Jaisalmer Palace and 8 July restaurant  

One of our favourite hotels is the Seventh Heaven in Pushkar, which has comfortable swings to relax in.
Seventh Heaven Haveli Pushkar
Amritsar Golden Temple

The Golden Temple at Amritsar took our breath away.

Staying in a houseboat and paddling around the lake at Srinagar in Kashmir was wonderful.
Dal Lake Kashmir
Dal Lake Srinagar Kashmir

And while in the mountains we also enjoyed the hill station at Shimla, especially staying at the old colonial Clarke's hotel.
Clarke's Hotel Shimla

As we tracked the Ganges across North India we stopped at Orchha which had lots of colourful old palaces and temples, and because it was a festival time, lots of colourful pilgrims queueing up to visit them.
Ram Raja Square Orchha
Pilgrims queueing at Orchha

At Varanasi (Benares) we set out on the Ganges in the evening to watch the amazingly atmospheric, noisy and crowded evening ceremony (right) and again in the early morning for the calm of sunrise (below). One morning worshipper (below right) found a 'window of tranquility'.
Ganga Aarti ceremony Varanasi
Ganges sunrise Varanasi
Worshipper at Varanasi

In Bodhgaya we were fascinated by the Mahabodhi Temple and the ancient sacred Bodhi tree, where people waited for hours just to catch a falling leaf.
Sacred Bodhi tree Bodhgaya

Grand tour of India
This is the 'grand tour' so far. Watch this space, because we hope it will continue ..... !

To return to our 'Seven Wonders', see ........  7 wonders

Or for the Runners-up, see .........................  Runners up

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