Indian Excursions Co had the pleasure of assisting Maria and Peter with their travel plans in early 2019. The couple recently sat down with us to share their end-to-end feedback, offering first-hand insight into what it’s really like to travel with us.
By way of introduction, Maria is a school teacher and Peter is a commercial airline pilot. Both are originally from Europe, but are now living and working in the USA. They share a passion for travel and enjoy exploring the world on a four-week trip each year to a new location.
During their four-week stay with us in India, the couple explored the bustling cities of Delhi, Varanasi and Agra, before moving on to Rajasthan to discover Ranthambhore National Park, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Dechu in the Thar Desert, Jodhpur, Udaipur, and the quaint rural village of Narlai. They then flew down to Aurangabad to experience the awe-inspiring Ajanta and Ellora Caves, before uncovering the bustle of Mumbai and lastly ending on a relaxed note in the sleepy backwaters of Kerala.
All the beautiful photographs you see throughout this article were taken by Maria and Peter themselves, during their time in India. The couple were not compensated for their feedback.
Madeleine (co-founder and tour designer): In January 2019, we had the pleasure of welcoming you both to India on a four-week tailor-made trip. How did you first come across Indian Excursions Co, and what was your experience of the planning side with Madeleine?
Maria & Peter: For “easier trips” such as within Europe or to say somewhere like New Zealand or Chile (Maria speaks fluent Spanish) we tend to organize the trips ourselves – not only to save some money, but we also enjoy the planning side of the travel experience – however for trips to more complex destinations, we will use a professional tour planner/travel provider – for example, the year before we travelled to India we travelled for a month in Japan and used a professional organization to set it all up.
When planning our trip to India, there was no doubt in our minds we would use a professional company to help us get the most out of the trip. We emailed and/or called several prospective companies, both the large name brands and the smaller companies such as Indian Excursions, and from the first contact, Maddie was very responsive to our requests and clearly was enthused about meeting our travel goals and wishes, while staying within our budget.
We really liked that Maddie listened to our needs and we felt very much part of the planning process – that was our choice, I’m sure we could have been hands-off if we had wanted to, but we started with some outlines of ideas and worked with Maddie to end up with a stunning four-week trip. We were very happy, with both the planning and the execution and always felt we knew exactly what to expect at every stage of the process/trip.
Madeleine: You visited several great destinations during that time; what was your favourite(s), and why?
Maria & Peter: It is difficult to choose one. We had so many “wow – just wow” moments. Every place we visited had something unique. If we had to pick just one, Varanasi was very special for us due to its significance for the Hindi population. Walking through the crowded streets and markets was like being transported to medieval times. Seeing the cows just wandering the streets was amazing. Being a witness to the funeral pyre cremations by the Ganges river was something very special and touching – it was an experience I don’t think could be duplicated anywhere else in the world.
Madeleine: What would be your advice to someone planning a similar trip to Rajasthan?
Maria & Peter: I say call Maddie!!! In all seriousness, we had a seamless trip, but we saw many opportunities for pitfalls if the staff from Indian Excursions Co. had not been taking care of us. India is busy, chaotic and unpredictable so when planning a visit I would recommend having a very experienced tour planner taking care of you.
Madeleine: Which was your favourite hotel on the trip, and why?
Maria & Peter: We had many good hotels during the trip, however, if you can, try to splurge on the hotels, it makes such a big difference and in India, of all the places in the world we have been too, there really is a difference between the basic and the nicer rooms – we would highly recommend spending a little extra if you can on the room choice. Travelling around, visiting sights, walking through the crowded, noisy markets was wonderful but we certainly appreciated our nice hotel rooms to rest after a busy day. We personally loved the (Suryagarh) hotel in Jaisalmer, and while brand new, the room and food were superb. For the historic hotels we loved the Samode Haveli hotel in Jaipur, and for the big cities, Oberoi is unbeatable. But no matter the hotel, the staff everywhere were so helpful and nice you could not help but enjoy every location.
Madeleine: On the ground in India, how did you find Indian Excursions Co’s service?
Maria & Peter: Absolutely fantastic! We did not have to worry about anything except enjoying the trip. Everything was taken care of for us and that made for a very relaxing way to travel to India. From the moment our driver Sanjay and Shiv met us at the Delhi airport, to being dropped off at the airport at the end of our vacation, everything went really smoothly.
Madeleine: On reflection, if you were to change anything about your recent trip with us to India, what would it be?
Maria & Peter: Perhaps add one more day to some places. I would probably stay one more day in Jaipur and another in Jodphur. We tried to spend at least two nights at most places, but the two above deserved three if possible – however, it’s always a balance – they are only so many days available for one’s vacation!
Madeleine: How does India compare to other destinations you’ve explored in the world? And would you recommend it to friends and family?
Maria & Peter: India is fantastic. So many things to see, so many cultures and religions living together, so much great food – so many great hotels to enjoy – the list goes on and on. The Indian tourist board slogan of “Incredible India” sums it up nicely. Of all the places we have been in the world, and of all the vacations we have taken, our favourite to date was our trip to India – we would go again in a heartbeat.
Madeleine: Do you each have a favourite memory or story from your trip that you can share with us?
Maria & Peter: We had several, a chance encounter with a team of women repairing the road in Dechu that invited Maria to help and work with them, a wedding party dancing the streets in Narlai where we were invited to dance along with them, an Islamic restaurant in Mumbai where we were the only westerners, the Sikh temple in New Delhi where they serve free food, on a massive scale, for the poor every day, our first visit to a mosque, a camel ride in the desert – the list goes on and on and on – needless to say, it was an amazing trip for us.
Madeleine: How do Indian Excursions Co compare to other tour operators you’ve entrusted in the past? Would you recommend us to friends and family?
Maria & Peter: We found Maddie and Shiv to provide a level of customer service that exceeded the level of service provided by the best of the best name brand travel companies. I think that as a small company, they are able to really be on top of everything, and they truly do care about their customers and their customer’s experience. The end product is nothing short of excellent. We would absolutely recommend them to anybody planning a trip to India.
Madeleine: When the dust has settled on Covid-19 and travel gets back on its feet, where do you plan to go next?
Maria & Peter: Great question – a month in Indonesia was set-up for 2020 which could not happen due to Covid-19. So that’s probably the next trip once things open up, then Vietnam, Ecuador, Northern Greenland – probably in that order. We also like walking a lot, so we will spend a few weeks in Europe again soon on a walking holiday – South Tyrol in Northern Italy is lovely, as is the Salzburg area of Austria – both places have a fantastic network of walking routes, with great accommodation and food as well.
If a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Rajasthan, India tops your post-Covid bucket list, please do get in touch. As tried-and-tested experts in this specific region with a pandemic-friendly Flexibility Promise, we’re an ideal match to assist with your arrangements. If you’re not quite ready to contact us but would like further inspiration, please check out our guide on how to plan the perfect luxury India tour.0