By Rui Ribeiro Africa & Indian Subcontinent Specialist

For first-timers in India, I always point towards either Kerala in the south or the Golden Triangle in the north. They both offer the perfect, manageable introduction to the country’s culture, food and famous highlights. However, they do differ.

The latter consists of city-great Delhi, Agra’s Taj Mahal and Rajasthan’s forts and tigers, while the former offers a certain quieter charm. In Kerala, golden beaches front a palm-tree-lined waterway maze that gives way to a succession of colonial towns and hill stations.

Resultantly, what you choose will be based on personal preference. Whether you’re after UNESCO-listed icons and capital-city chaos or houseboat backwater cruises and beach relaxation, I’ve put together the following comparisons and a pair of itineraries opposite to help you decide. If you’ve a little longer, it’s even possible to combine the two.

Rajasthan & the Golden TriangleKerala
Grand monuments, including the Taj MahalBeach relaxation and houseboat cruises
Chaotic, colourful marketsLaid-back coastal charm
A regal Mughal history, tied up in UNESCO-listed fortsIntriguing spice villages and British- era hill stations
Ranthambore – one of the world’s best places to spot tigersNatural beauty, including tea plantations and the backwaters
Delhi’s bustle and majestic heritageCharming colonial towns
Looking out onto Mehrangarh Fort over Jodhpur, Rajasthan

Mehrangarh Fort, Rajasthan

Cycle rickshaws lined up in New Delhi

Rickshaws in New Delhi

Munnar, Kerala, India

Tea plantations, Kerala


Our classic Kerala itinerary is, simply, the best of southern India, knitted together by stays in boutique lodges and explored on included private tours, with the services of a private driver throughout. You’ll start with the colonial-town charm of Kochi before heading into the Cardamom Hills to stay among its gorgeous tea plantations. Periyar’s wildlife, jungles and spice-village idyll will then see you onto a private houseboat cruise on the Keralan backwaters – a criss-crossing network of palm-fringed waterways and rice paddies. It all ends with three nights on Kerala’s golden beaches.

13-day independent tour in Kerala

Houseboat, Keralan backwaters

Rajasthan & The Golden Triangle

Our luxury Rajasthan holiday will introduce you to both northern India’s incredible royal heritage and its unique wildlife. You’ll start in Delhi, where you’ll take in its vibrant present and near-ancient past before you continue to Agra and, yes, the Taj Mahal. Then, over a three-day safari in Ranthambore National Park, you’ll search for tigers on included twice-daily game drives. It all finishes with the great fort cities of Rajasthan, including Jaipur's walled old town, the blue city of Jodhpur and Udaipur's regal spread of lake-side palaces. Throughout, every stop is brought to life by included private tours, the services of a private driver and stays in some of India’s best accommodation. Think landmark city hotels and luxury tented camps.

14-day independent tour of Kerala