When Virgin Holidays’ very own Annabel Thompson went on the Taste of India tour, we caught up with her for a flavour of her adventures.
Hi Annabel. How was the Taste of India tour?
It was fabulous. I got to visit some amazing places full of beautiful buildings and scenery. I saw the Taj Mahal — a real pinch-me moment — and got to explore two stunning forts, which were like something out of a film. I also got to experience an authentic Indian market, see wild monkeys and have a great time exploring with friends.
How well does the itinerary give travellers a flavour of this vibrant and fascinating country?
You get to see the main highlights such as the Taj Mahal and the forts, which are all breathtaking. There are also some hidden gems which surprise you with their beauty, such as the Palace of Winds, Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah (also known by the nickname ‘Baby Taj’) and Sheesh Mahal — a bijou palace inside Amber Fort that’s like a jewellery box. These are sometimes overlooked in favour of the more popular attractions, but they’re gorgeous and the attention to detail is spectacular. I came back wanting to explore more of the country.
What were the highlights you were looking forward to before you travelled, and did they change as the tour progressed?
I was so excited to see the Taj Mahal and it didn’t disappoint, but my favourite part of the tour was exploring the forts, particularly Agra Fort. Striking red on the outside, it instantly makes an impact. Inside is marble, decorated with beautifully symmetric patterns. It’s elegant and definitely fit for royalty, plus you have great views of the Taj Mahal in the distance.
And what would you say to travellers who might not traditionally think tours are for them?
It was so nice to have everything organised and done for you, especially the transfers. The tour guides were extremely helpful and knowledgeable. Their expertise meant that you got a full experience of each area. They also knew the best spots for photos. This was my first tour — I’d love to go on another one (like the Jungles and Orangutans tour in Borneo).
Would you give us a couple more highlights?
I was mesmerised by the colours, sights and sounds of Chandni Chowk, one of Old Delhi’s busiest markets. Lanterns hang above the lanes, making it feel like a festival, it’s unlike any market I’ve ever been to. It was super busy, full of people buying materials, beads, jewels and spices. People were in tuk tuks and on motorbikes and while it was fast-paced, it was friendly. If I had been alone I wouldn’t have ventured down the small lanes in fear of getting lost, but our tour guide glided down them with ease, so we followed. It really felt like an adventure and was a great way to start the trip.
The Taj Mahal is stunning — grand and majestic. Photos don’t do it justice. As we got close, it started to rain. I’ve never experienced rain like it before, it was like a monsoon. Now that may sound bad, but it meant that the crowds disappeared and we had the site to ourselves. It was so peaceful seeing the empty grounds, and the rain made the Taj Mahal sparkle. Standing in front of that magnificent building is something I’ll never forget.
Find out more about our Taste of India tour and discover this beautiful country for yourself, and you can also check out all of our Tours and Safari packages if you fancy exploring another destination in detail.