One of the most memorable trips I’ve ever taken was to India with TDactive holidays on their Golden Triangle India itinerary – made even better by the fact that we were in Jaipur to celebrate Holi Festival of colours! Here’s where we went and some highlights of my Golden Triangle trip…
“Up the village!” A phrase that will be etched in my mind forever and not one I thought I would ever associate with India!
There’s something pretty special about us Irish, and travelling with a group of Irish people means that the craic is pretty much guaranteed…even if at the other side of the world!!
As someone who normally either travels solo or with a group of fellow international travel writers, it was a breath of fresh air to join a Golden Triangle tour with 10 Irish holidaymakers, beyond excited about their much anticipated tour of India’s Golden Triangle.
Despite having travelled to India three times now, the prospect of travelling solo in Northern India still did not appeal to me. So when I heard about TDactive Holidays small group trips of The Golden Triangle, I jumped at the opportunity to join their tour.
With a bus full of characters, and an itinerary that would take us to some of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world, our trip started with a bang and an occasional screech of “Up The Village” which continued to simultaneously confuse and entertain our poor Indian travel guide.
My Golden Triangle India Itinerary
Exploring Old Delhi
Our first stop on our Golden Triangle India itinerary was Delhi, where the group got active from the get-go, participating in a guided cycling tour of Old Delhi at sunrise…probably the last thing i the world most people could imagine themselves doing on arrival in Delhi! Known to be one of the most densely populated cities on earth, and home to a staggering 20 million people, cycling the chaotic and maze like streets and laneways of Old Delhi turned out to be one of the highlight of the trip for most people I talked to.
Organized by the young and enthusiastic team from Spin Monkey, it should be on everyone’s Delhi itinerary. The sights, smells and beeping horns will no doubt overwhelm you and the colours of India you’ve always dreamt of will materialize before your eyes.
Next stop Agra
Following two busy days exploring Delhi, our group of merry men (and women!) headed off for Agra, home to the iconic Taj Mahal, and the place everyone was most excited to visit.
What could have felt like a long bus ride south was broken up with toilet stops thanks to our amazing driver, dramatic readings about Indian road rules (or the lack of..!) from one a talented member of the group and lots of fascinating insights into life in India my our guide touching on cultural traditions, the caste system and his own arranged marriage.
While we were all itching to get to the Taj Mahal, it turns out there’s a lot more to see in Agra than first meets the eye. When I say I’ve visited a lot of forts and temples in India, I mean I’ve seen A LOT. Despite this, I was still blown away by the beauty and size of Agra Fort. The fact that peeking out of the upper windows afforded the group with a panoramic view of the Taj Mahal helped sweeten the deal too!
Visiting the Sheroes Hangout Cafe
Another memorable spot and must visit for travellers to Agra was the Sheroes Cafe, a one of a kind cafe run by survivors of violent acid attacks. The cafe is primarily run by five courageous women who have survived unthinkable acts of violence. With scars still very visible on their faces and bodies, they welcome locals and customers alike into the cafe with the aim of creating employment, raising money to for the Stop Acid Attacks charity which supports acid attack victims and to raise awareness about such acts of violence in India.
Everything is donation based so you can head over and have a coffee or some lunch and then leave as big (or little) of a donation as you think you can afford.
Visiting cafes like this was one of the reasons I enjoyed the tour with TDactive Holidays as much as I did. The tour group was small enough that it allowed us to stop off in such small and intimate surroundings, and the timetable was flexible enough that when a few members wanted to leave early to catch sunset at a park opposite the Taj Mahal, it wasn’t a problem at all. It was the perfect mix of organized activities and shared meals and free time to head off and explore by yourself.
Sunrise at the Taj Mahal
The golden moment, or to be more accurate the Golden Hour, had finally arrived and it was time to catch the sunrise at the Taj Mahal…a lifelong dream for so many of us.
Watching the sun slowly rise behind the Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, and a stunning piece of architecture constructed to forever immortalize one of the world’s greatest love stories, was an experience I’ll never forget. They say some people cry on seeing the building for the first time, with seeing it with their own eyes the culmination of their life ambition.
For our group it was naturally a highlight, and whether you run around the place taking as many photos as possible or simply sit on one their famous benches for an hour to admire the masterpiece that is the Taj, it’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
NOTE: I’ve already written in detail about our early morning adventures along with some useful travel and photography tips so be sure to check out out my Taj Mahal post if you’re planning to visit.
Celebrating Holi in Jaipur
While the Taj Mahal was the site i was most keen to visit, celebrating Holi in Jaipur was the real highlight of the trip and no doubt the reason so many people booked this particular tour with TDactive holidays. Including one of India’s most popular and most colourful festivals on the itinerary is genius and celebrating holi in our homestay in Jaipur was an unforgettable experience – probably one of the most fun days I’ve ever had in my life.
Holi, otherwise known as The Festival of Colours, is an Indian Spring festival that is said to “signify the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring and the end of winter”. It involves family members and close friends throwing multi coloured powder in the air and rubbing the powder on each others faces. Things get messy fast, everyone drinks and dances and some people even end up jumping in swimming pools to cool down and wash off!
Celebrating Holi in our homestay in Jaipur could not have been more perfect – mainly thanks to our wonderful hosts who went above and beyond to welcome us into their home and family and ensure we enjoyed every last moment of the celebrations.
When your day starts with 10 Irish people sitting around eating a delicious breakfast and your Indian host announcing that there are only TWO rules to celebrating Holi (1: Holi starts at breakfast. 2: There are no rules to Holi) and then handing everyone a morning beer, you know it’s going to be a good day! I think the photos and videos do this enough justice without me writing too much!
The Pink City
Our stay in Jaipur, known as The Pink City, also involved a hike around the Amber Fort, riding around in 4×4 jeeps, a tour of the old city and what was most memorable to me, a trip to a stunning local cinema complex to watch an famous Indian blockbuster movie called “Pad Man” – which despite not understanding a word most of us found hilarious.
Going to the cinema in India is an experience in itself as everyone shouts back at the screen, cheers and even sings along to certain songs! If I ever go back I’m definitely going to try watch another movie – but maybe this time one with English subtitles!!
Our trip ended back in Delhi where we started, giving everyone a chance to do a little shopping, explore some local markets or simply relax and enjoy that much needed sleep in!
I was so glad I got to experience The Golden Triangle with such a kind, easy going and seriously fun group of travellers, and that I didn’t have to do it all solo. Special thanks to our amazing local tour guide for putting up with our endless questions and observations, and of course our crazy Irish idioms and inside jokes that must have had him pulling his hair out!
Hearing him shout “Up The Village” on the bus on our last day had us all in hysterics, and as he has nothing but good stuff to say about the Irish, i can only assume he enjoyed the tour as much as I did.
Editor’s note: Thanks to TDactive Holidays for hosting me on this small group tour of India. As always, all opinions are my own and I would be happy to give you advice about their small group tour of the Golden Triangle if you have any questions! Just shoot me an email.
The next small group tour they have to India, with a very similar itinerary, is next November and costs €1479 per person. For more details click here.