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WEEKEND ESCAPES



Weekend Escapes

Weekend Escapes

We all know that living in Delhi has its challenges, even if all that it meant was living in big city. We also live here and know that one way to keep our sanity is to escape once in a while. Very fortunately there is a host of destinations that are easily accessible and ideal for a weekend break, ensuring that you can return to work on Monday refreshed and somewhat relaxed. We have listed our favourite weekend escapes below and what makes them special. One request, you may think that you have already visited the best known places such as Agra and Jaipur, but you may be surprised at how much else there is to do there even if you have seen the monuments before.



Agra

Agra, quite naturally is India’s most famous city, housing as it does the magnificent Taj Mahal. Splendour in white marble, magnificent architecture, art, design and of course the most incredible monument to love in the world. Whether visiting early morning or later in the afternoon, its magnificence never fails to impress, delight and astound. The nearby Red Fort, also a masterpiece but this time a military one, could there be two more contrasting buildings as neighbours?

Agra also houses two more fabulous monuments, Sikandra and Itm’d Ud Daula, which we believe people would flock to, if they weren’t over shadowed by the Taj Mahal. And, did you know? Agra has one of the best preserved army cantonments in the country? The NW provinces were run from here for over 50 years and there are wonderful churches, colonial buildings and bungalows. Just on the outskirts of the city is one of the most wonderful NGO’s with two centres, one of which houses rescued sloth bears and one which houses rescued elephants. It is possible to work in short visit or even volunteer for a day or a week!

Agra is just a 2 hour train ride or a 4 hour drive from Delhi.  

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Jaipur:

The famed Pink City, gateway to Rajasthan and one part of the Golden Triangle. It is best known for its monuments which are quite spectacular, just their names evoke magnificence and a sense of the grandeur of times gone by, The Amber Fort, the City Palace and the Hawa Mahal, of course, not to be missed is the observatory. It wasa built in the 18th century and still accurate to within minutes today and is also wonderful for photography.  

However, Jaipur has so much else to offer. It is emerging as an adventure destination, there are trekking options, jeep safaris and horse safaris through the countryside to visit the Meena’s, the original inhabitants of Rajasthan. Take the kids zorbing or quad biking or to go for a walk with and bathe an elephant. Take a hot air balloon ride over the surrounding countryside and witness the most spectacular sunrise.

Adventure not your thing? Jaipur is also a shoppers paradise and we have arranged some fabulous girl’s weekends away! From the bazaars of the old city to designer boutiques there is plenty to keep you amused for a full two days at least.

Jaipur is just a 5 hour drive or a 45 minute flight from Delhi.  

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Varanasi

India’s oldest living city, centre of spiritualty and one of the most important pilgrimage centres in the country. It is the spirituality of Varanasi that has attracted people for generations and it never fails to astound and captivate in equal measure. The evening aarti which can be seen from either the ghat or a boat is an age old, daily tradition and quite a spectacle which never fails but to mesmerise its audience. We also recommend an early morning start to visit Assi Ghat where there is a morning puja which wonderfully sets the tone for the early morning boat ride along the river. From your boat, as the sun rises, you will witness the devotion of the hundreds of pilgrims who may only make it to Varanasi once in their lives. It is easy to experience the evening aarti and the morning boat ride in a one night trip to Varanasi, however, if you have more time, we also recommend a visit to Sarnath, the university and to see some of the exquisite weaving that takes place here.  

Varanasi is a short flight from Delhi and an easy two day/one night destination.

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Amritsar:

Amritsar is a destination like no other in India. So many of our clients could not have imagined how incredible the Golden Temple is, not just in its magnificence but in the culture of the Sikh community and the fact that this entire gurudwara, visited by as many as 100,000 people a day, is solely run by volunteers. Free meals (and chai of course) are provided daily for all visitors to the temple who are in need of nourishment, a visit to the kitchens is quite an experience! It is also possible to volunteer here, rolling just some of the thousands of rotis that are consumed each day.

Beyond the Golden Temple is Jalianwala Bagh, a memorial garden to commemorate the Indian’s who were massacred here whilst on a peaceful protest. The newly opened Partition Museum is also well worth a visit, but allow a couple of hours to truly do it justice. The other ‘must do’ whilst in Amritsar is to visit the daily lowering of the flags ceremony at the Wagar Border, a theatrical spectacle not seen elsewhere!

Amritsar is an easy one night/two day destination from Delhi and can be reached by train or plane. 

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Ranthambore

There is little more thrilling than heading out in the early morning chill into a national park, in search of some of India’s extraordinary wildlife. India is best known for its tigers, but there is a whole host of other wildlife to be discovered, as well as an impressive collection of bird species, both indigenous and migratory. Ranthambhore National Park is within easy reach of Delhi and makes for an ideal getaway. It was at the forefront of Project Tiger and covers approximately 400sq km of rolling hills, grassland, scrub, forest, rivers and lakes however, its picturesque landscape is accentuated by the ruins of palaces and forts of this once royal hunting reserve. Ranthambore has large numbers of Sambar, Chital, and Nilgai as well as Chinkara, Mongoose and Monitor Lizards. However, it is the larger predators that are so compelling. These include Leopards, Hyenas, Jackals, Caracal, Sloth Bear, Marsh Crocodile and of course the Tiger, for which the park is famous.  

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Mandawa

Known for its intricatetly painted havelis (mansions of the business community), Mandawa, located in the Shekvati region of Rajasthan, is halfway between Delhi and Bikaner and just a 4 hour drive north of Jaipur. The stunning havelis that have made this region so well-known, were a source of great pride; the larger the haveli, the more ornate the painting and the more the paintings depicted the exotic, the wealthier the family. Sadly, many of these are now falling into disrepair but there are still some of real beauty and more recently, a couple of these have undergone some impressive restoration. Mandawa is now more than just the painted havelis, there are now jeep and horse safaris that take you on an exploration, deeper into the desert where you can enjoy the countryside and discover the local villagers which definitely makes this a fun, long weekend destination.  

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Dholpur

Today, hardly anyone has heard of Dholpur and yet in it’s past, the story was very different. Its strategic location, being on the main route from Kabul and Delhi to the Deccan, and its proximity to cities like Gwalior, Agra and Bayana, attracted the attention of almost all of the powerful kings and rulers of Delhi and Agra. To protect themselves, the rulers of Dholpur built impressive forts from where they could protect themselves and housed themselves in beautiful palaces in the between times. The red sandstone used to build these, local to the area, was also used to build the red fort. However, despite their efforts, the city was repeatedly occupied by invading forces, and suffered greatly from plunder and devastation. Still, it is a fun place to visit for a weekend, its ruined forts and palaces remain and the Van Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary is close by.  

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Orchha

Like something straight out of an Indiana Jones film, this sleepy village has much to show of its glorious past. Once a thriving city and the capital of the Bundhela kingdom from 1531 to 1783, Orchha is now a small village located amongst huge crumbling temples and palaces which rise out of the surrounding jungle and overlook the undulating hills and the wide boulder-strewn Betwa River. It really is quite extraordinary. Explore some of the many temples and palaces spread along the river and surrounding countryside, including the town’s imposing 17th century fort and palace on an island reached by a causeway, the Chaturbhuj Temple built on a vast platform of stone, and the numerous cenotaphs that dot the landscape.

We also recommend a visit to Tarragram, a unique paper making plant, set up to assist tribal women from the area. All the paper is made from recycled clothing and wood pulp. Also make time for the puja ceremony between 7pm and 8pm - at the Ram Raja Temple.  

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Khajuraho

Khajuraho is predominantly known for its temples which are widely acknowledged as having some of the most exquisite temple art in the world. They are listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and are considered among the seven wonders of India.

The artwork is beautiful and executed with a lack of inhibition that is rarely to be found in modern India and although these erotic sculptures have, in modern times, given these temples their fame, they are so much more. The Western Group of temples, in particular, contain some extraordinary sculptures. Exclusively carved out of sandstone, many of the carvings vividly depict couples in courtship, royal scenes, battles, marriage, meditation, and other daily life rituals as well as sexual intercourse. The intricacy of the tantric poses beg appreciation and offer a unique history lesson about the way of life in ancient India. One of the most striking aspects, perhaps, is how the women are skilfully and beautifully defined–strong, voluptuous, and idealistic.  

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Pushkar

With more than 500 temples, Pushkar is one of Hinduism’s holiest sites. The main temple, the Brahma Temple, is supposedly the only temple in existence dedicated to Lord Brahma. It is best known for the yearly festival, during October or November, which runs for a couple of weeks, the first part of which is largely for the trading of goods and livestock – notably camels. The ‘second part’ is much more religious, with many pilgrims and saddhus attending to cleanse their sins in the holy lake. The atmosphere is a riot of colour, noise and activity: occasional events are staged in a central arena; a fun fair wheel tempts the daring; street upon street of stalls sell bright clothes, textiles, or camel bells and street food. Thousands of people, both locals and foreigners, merge from far and wide to absorb the incredible atmosphere or partake in holy rituals.  

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Bharatpur

The pristine marshland of Bharatpur, now known as Keoladeo National Park, is a man-made avian paradise. Once the duck-hunting forest of the local maharajas, it was declared a sanctuary in 1956 and is the finest bird sanctuary in India, home to over 300 species of birds. The 29 square kilometres of swamp and lakes constitute one of the most important breeding and migratory areas in the world. In addition to the bird sanctuary, The Bharatpur Palace and Museum, Ganga Mandir and Laxman Mandir are also worth a visit.  

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Bishangarh Fort

The ultimate fairy tale fort, Bishangarh rises from its promontory, establishing its might over the surrounding countryside, it must be one of the most picturesque forts in all of Rajasthan and what’s more, its just a four hour drive from Delhi making it the perfect weekend getaway. With a wonderful infinity pool, choice of restaurants, a spa to luxuriate in and plenty of experiences to enjoy in the surrounding countryside, this is the perfect romantic escape, family break to explorers paradise!  

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