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Tuesday, 19 February 2013 14:40

Beyond Sightseeing: New Travel Products for 2010-11

Written by  Marian Goldberg
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Second generation, family-owned, New Delhi-based Indebo Tours (www.indebo.com) has created a series of new culinary itineraries. One-week immersions focus on either Indian Coffee in Northern Kerala or Tea in Northeast Darjeeling. Emphasis is on comparative tastings, pick-your own with a guide, the refining process, and comfortable on-property bungalow-stays. They have also created a 12-day North-South culinary and yoga experience that hits Mumbai, Cochin, Kumarakom, Jodhpur, Delhi and Amritsar. The yoga helps participants maintain a balanced metabolism, as the tour intersperses hands-on cooking lessons with visits to a wheat farm (the source for roti), other organic farms and fishing villages. Stays include Taj properties and a camel camp.  
Indebo’s culinary adventures will soon stretch farther a field into the burgeoning Nashik wine country, about 400 miles northwest of Mumbai. Here, they are crafting luxury FIT cycling excursions that include such wineries as Sula Vineyards, renowned for its Chenin Blanc and sparkling wine. Sula, which recently hosted the Miss India 2010 contestants, opened India’s first tasting room in 2005, added a modern three-bedroom guest house called “Beyond” two years ago and began firing up the tandoor ovens at its new fine dining Indian restaurant, Kareem’s @ Sula, in late 2009. Sula plans to open a 20-room eco-resort and spa this fall. Other area wineries include York Vineyards and the new Chateau Dori, which started with 100 acres at the base of the twin hills of Nhera-Ori but has another 300 acres just ready this year, along with a three-bedroom guest farmhouse with private Jacuzzi and swimming pool! The area might be reminiscent of the Napa Valley, save the workers wearing saris and the superb Indian cuisine.


Home-stays and Heritage Hotels 

Ruby Chadha of MakeMyTrip.com (www.makemytrip.com) is also offering 10% commissionable five-night excursions in Northern India (Delhi, Jaipur and Agra) including car, driver, and breakfast with home-stays at government approved 3-star privates houses and apartments for $250 per person land-only through September 2010, with $125 p.p. additional in October. 
New Jersey-based photographer, chef, travel agent Subrato Bhattachaya (www.subratobhattacharya.com), has created home-stay experiences in heritage properties. The one-week South India programs incorporate in-depth cultural interactions with the local people and healthy, home-cooked meals with a guide and driver, and two domestic flights starting at $1,208 per person double. All the proceeds aid widows and other disadvantaged groups. He is also creating a similar program in North India in 2011. 
In addition to heritage home-stays, historic heritage hotels beckon repeat travelers. Both Ravi Ramaswamy of Indebo and Victor Biswas of International Ventures and Travel (www.ivattravel.com) rave about the restored heritage hotels as a chance to experience traditional, upscale, Indian family life just outside the major cities. Notes Biswas, “Some of these properties belonged to former noblemen, descendents of the Maharajas.” They are restored and modernized, but maintain a timeless opulence. 

Be Rejuvenated

According to Pallavi Shah of Our Personal Guest (www.ourpersonalguest.com), who just returned from India, there are several new things around that she found special and different. The first design hotel, the Park Vembanad (www.theparkhotels.com), opened in the lush backwaters in Kerala, which until now had been lacking in luxury properties. There is also a new luxury barge called the Apsara, which belongs to them. Pallavi is now combining this with Cochin for a lovely five-night Spice Coast Experience. 
There is an increasing interest in traditional therapies. One of the most famous is ancient Ayurveda, or “the science of life.” Outside Bangalore, there is a picturesque holistic haven called Soukya (www.soukya.com), where you can rejuvenate body, mind and soul while living comfortably on a 30-acre organic farm. 
Pallavi is combining this with a seven-night luxury train, to transport her clients to some of India’s most fascinating ancient sites in utter comfort, complete with concierge and gourmet meals. These areas, while fantastic, have been difficult to reach in the past. This makes for an unbeatable combination. Visit www.thegoldenchariot.co.in 
For information call the India Government Tourism Office at 212-585-4901 or visit www.incredibleindia.org

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