For personal and professional endeavors, I have spent considerable time in Delhi. In addition to the city's diverse historical and cultural identity, little compares to Delhi's shopping scene. From luxury brands in DLF Emporio to handicrafts and antiques in Sundar Nagar, India's capital is overflowing with markets, malls, and bazaars. Many travelers visit Dilli Haat, an open-air market that features both permanent and transitional vendors. The space, designed to resemble a traditional village market, was created to showcase products from across India. Another popular spot is Paharganj, known locally as the Hippie Market. Located near the New Delhi Railway Station, Paharganj offers bargain-friendly bags, shoes, clothes, textiles, incense, jewelry, and more.
A few months ago, I wrote about the Best of Hyderabad in conjunction with a project for AFAR. With a colorful history spanning over 400 years, Hyderabad showcases the best of North and South India. And now, National Geographic Traveler has also listed the "City of Pearls" as a Best Trip 2015! (Not surprisingly, India also made AFAR's list of Where to Go in 2015.)
Last week, we spotlighted the tradition of mehndi in India. The ancient art form is generally applied during festivals and special occasions, particularly weddings. Did you know that Sodha Travel coordinates India Destination Weddings? Over the years, we have been delighted to plan the details for wedding celebrations throughout India. Often, the bride and groom wish to incorporate a tour for their friends and family before or after the wedding festivities. This is a great way for the guests to experience the highlights of India and also witness a traditional Indian marriage.
Indian-spiced popcorn? Yes, please! At the Portland Indian Bridal Showcase, I had the opportunity to meet Neha Patel, the owner of Masala Pop. Neha grew up eating her mom’s savory blend of popcorn, spiced in the tradition found in her native India. She started experimenting with her own blend of spices and flavors to create a one-of-a-kind snack with a spicy kick. After 15 years as a sustainability professional, Neha decided to pursue her dream of starting a specialty food business. She quickly turned her “hobby” into a retail shop and manufacturing space for Masala Pop to supply farmers market, co-ops, movie theaters, specialty grocery and more. The enthusiasm from customers inspires her to continue to create new and exciting flavors and products.
Agra, the Mughal capital for nearly a century, is one of India's most visited cities. Together with Delhi and Jaipur, it is part of the popular Golden Triangle tourism circuit and known for its marble and stone inlay handicrafts. The city also houses the famed and majestic Taj Mahal, considered one of the most worldly photographed symbols of love.
From October 31 - November 18, the Sodha Travel team will be traveling in North India. In addition to negotiating contracts and meeting with vendors, we will be conducting property tours, visiting the most recent sites and restaurants, and researching all the latest and greatest activities for our clients. This year, our destinations will include Delhi, Jaipur, Rajsamand, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Rishikesh. During our travels, we will be posting photos and journals on our blog and Sodha Travel social networks. We invite you to follow us on our journey as we celebrate Diwali and other regional festivals with the magnificent people of India.
Did you know that Sodha Travel has a department that caters to female travelers? Gender specific services include women guides and escorts (when available) and specialized activities, including mehndi sessions, culinary classes and spa services. Some of our female travelers have also selected a personalized shopping excursion and tailor-made traditional clothing, while others have requested visits to special needs organizations. As a woman who has traveled to India many times in various capacities – professionally, leisurely, alone, with friends and with family – I found my experiences very rewarding. For more information and recommendations, check out my recent article on Travelhoppers - Tips for Female Travelers to India.
I received an interesting phone call the other day from a woman who was considering traveling to India. She asked me only one question: "Allison, why should I travel to India?" Usually, travelers have already decided on India as their next destination, or they inquire about specific elements of traveling to the region. I appreciated the simple and direct question, though I had to find a way to summarize why I believe India is a travel-worthy destination. (Really, I could spend hours on the topic!) Here was my abridged response:
In May of 2005, while staying at the InterContinental in Goa, I was introduced to Forest Essentials bath and body products. It has since become my absolute favorite line of skin care and I wanted to share more about this company that has changed the course of beauty.
Established by Mughal Emporor Shah Jahan in 1650 AD, Chandni Chowk is considered one of the oldest and busiest street markets in Old Delhi (Shajahanabad). The street is positioned between two important historical sites: the Red Fort (Lal Qila) and Fatehpur Masjid, a 17th century mosque. Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, is also located within walking distance.