Follow Yampu’s co-Founders through India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives
This city has assumed a British style with several gardens making the landscape much greener than we expected! In Delhi they have a very unique rule, if you cut down one tree here you are punished by having to replant five; a great way to keep the landscape as verdant as possible!
The highlights here are cultural monuments including the India Gate in New Delhi, and Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort, both in Old Delhi. We recommend taking a rickshaw ride through Old Delhi; this intense experience will bring you up-close to the daily lifestyle and culture of this active city.
Monica is still thinking of a lunch she had in the Claridge hotel at DHABA restaurant; a Dhaba is Punjabi cuisine often found on highways served out of trucks. The award winning home-style meals served at this Claridge Hotel restaurant range from tandoori kebabs, balti meat, baingan ka bharta and the Chef’s special thali.
We stayed at the Taj Hotel located in New Delhi. This beautiful deluxe property had a staff that was very formal and welcoming, upon arrival they gave us a blessing and welcome drink! If you stay here we highly recommend enjoying breakfast at the hotel one morning, it was delicious.
Agra is very popular for the Taj Mahal, but have you heard of the Black Taj or Baby Taj?
This city is full of history and legend that is sure to enthrall any visitor. We visited the Taj Mahal at both sunrise and sunset for amazing photos, and also explored the Agra Fort.
In Agra we stayed at the Oberoi Amarvilas, my favorite hotel in India and possibly even the entire world! At this gorgeous luxury property all the rooms overlook gardens to a view of the Taj Mahal. The staff is impeccable and nightly local dancers put on a show in the gardens outdoors located by the pool.
The ‘pink city’ in Rajasthan is very dry but has beautiful views, appropriately pink in hue.
In the city we visited the highlights including the Amer Fort (Amber Fort), the City Palace and Museum and Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds). Located about 15-20 minutes outside by car we enjoyed an elephant safari at Dera Amer, where we were also given the opportunity to feed, bathe and paint these gentle giants! This was a great family activity, but best done early in the day or in the afternoon.
In Jaipur we stayed at another Oberoi property, the Rajvillas. The rooms were beautiful: spacious and comfortable, and as with any Oberoi property, the service was flawless. One of the peaks of our vacation was the consistent and immaculate service we received at our hotels! The Oberoi Rajvillas has wonderful tranquil gardens away from the hustle and bustle of Jaipur.
However, if you want to be closer to the city sights we highly recommend staying at the Rambagh Palace.
En route from Jaipur to Udaipur we stopped and visited Pushkar, one of the oldest cities in India. This uniquely spiritual destination is one of the five sacred pilgrimage sites for Hindus and has over 400 temples!
Pushkar is also home to an annual camel fair in November, I wished we could have stayed longer in this unique and vibrant city!
Udaipur is a very beautiful and well-kept city; it was rated the Top City in Travel & Leisure; Leisure’s World’s Best Awards in 2009! I strongly recommend spending two or three nights here, and treating yourself to a deluxe accommodation to thoroughly relax and enjoy the city’s beautiful atmosphere.
We were thrilled to stay at the Lake Palace, another one of my favorite in the world! Situated in the middle of the lake you might be quick to assume that there are no outdoor gardens, incorrectly so.
The Lake Palace has beautiful courtyard and water gardens, as well as lavishly decorated rooms. We were upgraded to the suite that was used in the James Bond film Octupussy, what a treat!
Habarana, Sri Lanka
From India we took a flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka and transferred directly to Habarana; the transfer was about three or four hours from the airport. From here we were able to easily visit the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, one of my favorite new sites.
At Sigiriya we were able to climb to the summit and enjoyed sprawling views of the jungle below. We also explored the interior and were delighted at the cave walls decorated with ancient, and well-preserved, frescos.
While visiting the site our kids even made friends with some adorable monkeys. In Habarana we were in close proximity to Dambulla and enjoyed exploring the massive cave complex, five of which contain several paintings and monuments of the Buddha’s life.
During our stay in Habarana we were at the Cinnamon Lodge, a charming hotel that is surrounded by gardens populated by some of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen. The hotel was a welcomed escape into the remote nature after our days of touring the surrounding sites!
Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Travelling from Habarana to Passekudah we visited Polonnaruwa. This ancient city was one of my favorite sites; it had an awe-inspiring spiritual atmosphere that was enchanting.
While we were visiting there were groups that had traveled from as far as Thailand to pray at this particular site, I found that very significant. A few tips for your future visit: it is common practice to remove your shoes and please do not take any pictures with your back to the Buddha.
Passekudah, Sri Lanka
This remotely beautiful beach destination is still off the beaten path, not yet overwhelmed as a tourist destination we relished in its quaint charm. The weather here is sunny year round and the ocean waters are delightful, calm and clear conditions that are ideal for swimming and snorkeling.
We stayed at the sleepy beach hotel Maalu Maalu, and it was a welcomed and relaxing experience! The rooms are made to mimic traditional huts; they are very cute and spacious with a balcony that offered amazing views over the ocean. Another highlight of the Maalu Maalu was the food; it was delicious and made fresh to order!
From Passekudah we made our way to Kandy where we visited the Temple of the Tooth; this particular visit enchanted the entire family. The atmosphere at the Temple of the Tooth is profoundly spiritual and leaves a positive, lasting impression. We visited during the evening prayer when the temple was lit up against the night sky, it was a magical experience.
You can also visit the temple during the morning Puja, regardless of the time of day a visit to the Temple of the Tooth is a must.
In Kandy we stayed at the Chaya Citadel, located in a cloud forest dense with moisture. The hotel faces the river and features very pleasant scenery.
Pinnawala, Sri Lanka
Located in between Kandy to Colombo you can visit Pinnawala and we stopped to visit the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, a captive breeding ground for wild elephants. Here we watched from the riverbanks as the elephants enjoyed a bath and then were led through the village of Pinnawela, a very unique sight!
Pinnawala is a good location to visit Asia’s gentle giants, the elephants. We suggest lunch at the Millennium Elephant Foundation, a charity founded in 1999 where you can bathe and paint the elephants, and enjoy elephant-back safaris. From Pinnawela we continued on to Koggala, which is another 1 ½ hours past Colombo, where we stayed at the luxury hotel the Fortress in Koggala. Here the opulent rooms are well decorated and include a living area and balcony. From the hotel, between the months of November and April, you can enjoy whale watching excursions; I was disappointed that we didn’t have the time!
Galle, Sri Lanka
Traveling to Colombo we stopped at Galle, a fortified city that had a very similar vibe to Cartagena, Colombia. Galle is an interesting city to explore and I would recommend breaking up an itinerary with an overnight here. If it is a beach destination that you are looking for, Galle is easily accessible from Koggala and I would recommend visiting during a day tour.
Located on the west coast, Colombo is Sri Lanka’s largest city and commercial district. The city is busy and vibrant featuring an exciting blend of modern city life, colonial buildings and ancient ruins.
Despite being densely populated, Colombo has a few beautiful open spaces and nice areas to walk along the sea.
In Colombo we stayed at Casa Colombo. Housed in a beautifully restored building the hotel radiates a vibrant and artistic flair, a perfect fit for the bohemian traveler!
We finished our whirl-wind tour in the Maldives, an absolutely perfect place to recharge after a busy travel itinerary before returning home!
In the Maldives we stayed at the Taj Exotica Spa and Resort; the service here was absolutely amazing, and went above and beyond. The Taj Exotica Spa and Resort is by far one of my favorite hotels in the world now!
The accommodations are beautiful bungalows that are perched over the lagoon; the veiws are outstanding and you are able to watch as the marine life swims by.
Provided by the Taj, you can watch the daily shark and stingray feedings, and enjoy amazing diving and snorkeling adventures. The Taj was a great splurge in our travel, but there are also 3-star options in the Maldives.
We really felt that the beautiful scenery, amazing service and the delicious food (fresh seafood!) was well worth the extra cost. However, we recommend reserving full board if possible, with this option your meals are included, and trust us, the cuisine is amazing!