Live like a maharajah if only for a week or two

12 best Indian holidays
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The Independent Travel

1 Rajasthan on horseback Discovery Initiatives (tel: 01285 643333) offers a two-week riding holiday, beginning in Delhi and covering 150 miles, staying in old Rajput hunting camps. The tour price of £2,485 per person includes international flights, all meals on safari and all breakfasts in Delhi and Jaipur, road transport, local leader, accommodation, riding arrangements, tack, horses, camp musician, camp barber/masseur, grooms, full tented camp during ride with mobile kitchen, lectures and staff. The next tour departs 2 February 2001.

1 Rajasthan on horseback Discovery Initiatives (tel: 01285 643333) offers a two-week riding holiday, beginning in Delhi and covering 150 miles, staying in old Rajput hunting camps. The tour price of £2,485 per person includes international flights, all meals on safari and all breakfasts in Delhi and Jaipur, road transport, local leader, accommodation, riding arrangements, tack, horses, camp musician, camp barber/masseur, grooms, full tented camp during ride with mobile kitchen, lectures and staff. The next tour departs 2 February 2001.

2 Healthy holidays Indus Tours and Travel (tel: 020-8901 7320) is one of the first British-based tour operators specialising in tailor-made ayurvedic holidays at some of India and Sri Lanka's top Ayurvedic resorts. A 16-day stay including seven nights at The Coconut Lagoon resort in Kerala costs from £1,490 per person including flights, transfers, accommodation and some meals.

3 Independent travelling For those who want to discover India on their own terms, flights to Delhi start at £431 (including taxes) with Kuwait Airways until 9 December through Trailfinders (tel: 020-7938 3939). The Indian Tourist Office can recommend local travel agents in India from their offices in Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. For further information contact The Government of India Tourist Office, 7 Cork Street, London W1 (tel: 020-7437 3677; www.hcilondon.org). Visas to India cost £30.

4 Relax in Goa For those who want to experience Goa but not stay in a hotel, Lazydays (tel/fax: 01643 862159; www.lazydays.co.uk) is for you. This specialist rental company offers several properties on or near the beach. A week's stay at Casa Lenas, a Portuguese-style cottage sleeping four to six people, costs from £299 to £412. The price includes a six-times-a-week maid service, electricity, gas, bed linen changes, telephone and barbecue.

5 Tiger tiger A trip to the pink city of Jaipur, the Taj Mahal and a chance to sight the elusive Indian tiger are combined in a seven-day tour with Somak (tel: 020-8423 3000). Prices start from £1,083 per person, based on two sharing, and include scheduled flights, transport and accommodation.

6 Tea for two For those wanting an exotic festive season, spend Christmas in Darjeeling with Himalayan Kingdoms (tel: 01453 844400). Christmas Day is spent touring the tea plantations of Darjeeling, eating cucumber sandwiches at the legendary Windemere Hotel and riding the famous railway line. The 16-day tour also includes a trek to Sandakphu, leaves on December 21 and costs £2,395 which includes flights, transfers, meals and accommodation.

7 Himalayan highways Adventurers wishing to embark on a self-drive Jeep safari in the North Indian Himalayas should contact Chandertal Tours and Himalayan Folkways (tel: 01323 422213). Whitewater rafting on the river Indus and a trip to the Siachin Glacier on the Pakistan border can also be arranged. The trip can be part of a tour or organised for private groups and costs from £925, excluding flights.

8 A taste of the north For those short on time and new to the subcontinent, Exodus (tel: 020-8675 5550) has devised a 10-day trip entitled "A Taste of Northern India" using the extensive Indian railway network as the primary means of transport-ation. The round trip tour begins and ends in Delhi; the price includes return flights, transport by train and private bus, hotels and all breakfasts. Departures on 30 November and 10 December cost £997; 21 and 31 December, £1,078.

9 Pedal power The backwaters of Kerala can be explored using three different modes of transport with High Places (tel: 0114-275 7500) which offers "A Journey Through Kerala, Bike, Hikes & Boats". The trip costs from £1,480, lasts for 17 days and departs on 10 November, 21 December and 2 February. The price includes flights, b&b accommodation and some meals.

10 Sacred river Spend three days sailing India's sacred river Ganges, following the route of the god Vishnu, and also visit the revered city of Varanasi and the temples of Khajuraho with Explore Worldwide (tel: 01252 760100). Departures are available in November, December, January and February. The trip costs from £1,095 per person and includes flights, accommodation with some meals, transport, tour leader and some local guides.

11 Salute the Sun Freespirit Travel (tel: 01273 564230) has been organising yoga holidays to the Kailasan retreat in Kovlamam, near Trivandrum, in southern India for the past five years. Accommodation is basic but comfortable and is on a b&b basis. One week costs £115 and two weeks £225, excluding flights.

12 Life as a maharajah For an insight into a life of luxury, maharajah-style, Western & Oriental Travel (tel: 020-7313 6600) can organise tailor-made trips touring the palaces and temples of Rajasthan. A two-week holiday, based on two people sharing, costs from £2,695 which includes all flights, accommodation and some meals, transportation by private car, an English-speaking guide and all excursions.

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