By Rui Ribeiro Africa & Indian Subcontinent Specialist

It's no secret that India is full of special experiences, but there's some that really stand out. From stays in royal palaces to trips in private houseboats, this is a collection of the most exclusive. Just remember, if anything interests, we'll be able to put together an itinerary designed just for you.

The Maharajas’ Express

Having been voted “The World’s Leading Luxury Train” in the World Travel Awards seven times running, the Maharajas’ Express is one of the most exclusive experiences the world over. Wood-panelled cabins are served by personal butlers, free-flowing drinks are offered in the club-like lounges and full-board, wine-paired fineries are dished up in the restaurant carriages. It’s all dressed in unashamed opulence, from hand-painted frescoes to gilded fixtures and leather armchairs. The indulgences continue off the train as well, with a full array of excursions included. Expect to toast the sunrise over the Taj Mahal with a glass of champagne before playing a chukka of elephant polo or enjoying a dinner with a Rajasthani royal family.

Travel on the Maharajas' Express

Club car

Spend the night in the Taj Lake Palace

As if staying in an 18th-century marble palace wasn’t enough, this regal jewel floats on shimmering waters, reached only by a scenic boat trip. It’s a fairy-tale vision of tumbling balconies, cocktail bars and fine-dining restaurants. You can even pamper yourself with its spa boat. After all, the Taj Lake Palace starred in Octopussy as the eponymous Bond Girl’s grandiose lair. It’s all set to the backdrop of Udaipur – Rajasthan’s water city where fantastical temples and ornate haveli residences are set among mazing streets and pretty lakes.

Stay at the Taj Lake Palace

Boat arrival to the Taj Lake Palace

Go in search of tigers

Home to over two thirds of the world’s tigers, India is the obvious choice for spotting these magnificent creatures. Getting up close to playful cubs or stalking parents among the dense central jungles is, simply, a highlight of world travel. However, that’s not to say that you’ll be without the finest in luxury. After returning from game drives with top guides and trackers, our curated itinerary will see you stay in some of India’s premier safari lodges. Expect everything from private watering holes and spa treatments to Relais & Châteaux fine dining and private villas with sunken outdoor baths. 

India's tigers, temples and Taj Mahal itinerary

Tiger drinking

A private houseboat in the Keralan backwaters

There’s perhaps nothing more romantic than drifting through the palm-fringed backwaters of Kerala in a thatched houseboat. Weaving between traditional villages and impossibly verdant rice paddies, it’s simply the best way to travel – not least for your private chef. They’re always on hand to serve up something ice cold, provide a steaming cup of chai or whip up a three-course spectacular from the galley. As you go, keep your eyes out for colourful kingfishers as river life plays out in front of you.

Stay on a houseboat on this itinerary

Houseboat on the Keralan backwaters

Umaid Bhawan Palace

This is your chance to stay in a royal palace, still home to Jodhpur’s maharaja family. Built from the same marble used in the Taj Mahal, it’s the world’s sixth-largest private residence and offers hilltop views over the entire city. You’ll be able to look out from Art-Deco rooms and colonnaded verandahs to Jodhpur’s bright-blue tumble of historic buildings, all watched over by the great 15th-cetury Mehrangarh Fort. Then, back at base, the palace’s 26 acres of gardens are animated by preening peacocks, the spa treatments are world class and fine-dining dinners are served up with folk performances. It’s no surprise that the palace is often found topping lists of the world’s greatest hotels.

Stay at the Umaid Bhawan Palace

Private dining at the Umaid Bhawan Palace