Exotic Cultural and Culinary Tour India

This exceptional and exclusive 11 or 14-day tour has been designed and conceived by Marieke Brugman, a renowned chef and teacher in her earlier career as co-proprietor of the Howqua Dale Gourmet Retreat and Cooking School.

The most obscure doors are opened to you, enabling you to experience the rarefied elegance and traditions of a by-gone, opulent princely lifestyle, the hospitality of Royal families, traditional rural villages, a cornucopia of art, craft and jewellery.
Enjoy exquisite architectural jewels, and rich, delicately scented and spiced cuisine.

This tour shares with you the history and nuances of Indian cuisine that is ancient and as varied as the different regions of the fascinating subcontinent. There is also plenty of opportunity for wonderful sightseeing, authentic cultural experiences and a little shopping. Continuing to Kolkata is an optional extension.


• the sumptuous environs of Raas Devigarh Palace near Udaipur
• the luxurious sanctuary of Amanbagh near Jaipur
• the option of adding the buzz of India’s most cultural and intellectual city, Kolkata
• some hands-on cooking classes and demonstrations
• dining with the royal family of Bedla


11 or 14 Days
TYPE: AoL Escorted | Small Groups | Guided | Bespoke
STYLE: culture | arts | architecture | heritage | cuisine
START/FINISH: Delhi | Delhi or Delhi | Kolkata


All meals, Cooking classes, entrance fees, guide, porterage


6* Luxury | Deluxe | Heritage hotels


Luxury mini coach


10-23 October 2018

2019 TBA


11 days from USD $11,290 twin/double share

Kolkata extension from USD $2,100 twin/double share


  • DAY 1


    On arrival in Delhi you will be met at the airport and transferred to the your 5 star hotel near the airport. Inspired by Mughal architecture, this serene, modern hotel has soothing gardens, outstanding service, and wonderful facilities.

  • DAY 2


    After a leisurely morning take the lunchtime flight to Jodhpur.
    Drive two hours then settle into your luxury and very peaceful rural estate surrounded by the Aravali hills. This is unspoiled rural Rajasthan at its best.
    This afternoon enjoy ambling the local village before a very special communal dining room dinner preceded by a cooking demonstration highlighting Rajasthani delicacies.

  • DAY 3


    This morning, after a village amble, drive via the spectacular white marble Jain temple of Ranakpur, renowned for its grandiose scale of architecture and elaborate ornamentation.
 Later, continue to your next destination, Raas Devi Garh Fort Palace at Delwara, one of India’s most spectacular heritage properties.

  • DAY 4


    From Devigarh take a day’s excursions to the magical city of Udaipur, an oasis of white marble, soothing lakes and green hills in an otherwise arid region. Here you will visit the City Palace complex. Lunch will be hosted in the ancestral home of Kawar Vijay Singh scion of the royal Bedla clan and his wife. For 200 years their household has preserved the traditions of ‘Karan’ cuisine and royal heirloom recipes. Before returning to Devigarh, enjoy the tranquillity of Lake Pichola’s glorious golden dusk on your private boat cruise.

  • DAY 5


    Today, enjoy the restful environs of the palace. There will be a mornings’ hands-on cooking demonstration that segues into lunch. There is also the opportunity to visit the nearby temples. Nearby at Eklingji are a number of fascinating temples including an 8th C Shiva temple, and at Nagda the ruins of some Jain temples with particularly fine carving.

  • DAY 6


    This morning fly to Jaipur, then travel by road through very scenic countryside to reach Amanbagh in time for lunch.
 Amanbagh is a lavish rural property situated in an oasis of greenery that is in stark contrast to the arid plains and craggy hills that surround it.
    Amanbagh boasts extensive organic vegetable gardens, a stunning pool and spa, wonderful library and a host of nearby excursions and activities.
    Tonight their head chef will create a royal banquet.

  • DAY 7


    Today you will enjoy an amble amongst the homes of local village women cooking bread over open fires and churning fresh white butter. Later sojourn for a cooking demonstration in the gardens followed by a simple lunch of dishes that are easy enough to replicate at home.
    Tonight’s feast will be in the style of the Nizams of Hyderabad, one of the justly famous regional cuisines of India endowed with spices, nuts, butter and saffron.

  • DAY 8


    Return to the bustling colourful capital of Rajasthan. Jaipur is famous for its many grand monuments and is specially regarded as a paradise for shoppers.
    The next three nights your residence is a former palace now hotel. After lunch, wander through the city’s lanes and local bazaars – a foodie’s walking tour that is well off the beaten track.
    Dinner this evening is in the hotel’s refined pan-Indian restaurant.

  • DAY 9


    Today, visit the impressive ancient capital, Amber Fort, the Royal Observatory with its beautiful sculptural forms that still function, and the wonderful Anohki textile museum housed in a restored haveli that tells the history of one of Jaipur’s oldest traditions – block-printing.
    This evening’s cooking demonstration will segue into a vegetarian banquet.

  • DAY 10


    This morning visit the impressive City Palace with its various museums and the wonderful Jantar Mantar (Royal Observatory). After lunch there is plenty of time for curated shopping for the ladies and if of interest to the gentlemen, a game of golf can be arranged at the Rambagh Golf Club. Nahargarh Fort has recently inaugurated a new contemporary sculpture park with works by Indian and international artists.

    This evening’s farewell banquet is in one of the prettiest dining rooms in all of India, decorated in Schiaparelli pink and serving a very elegant and refined contemporary take on Indian food.

  • DAY 11


    Guests departing the tour today will take the lunchtime flight back to Delhi where you have day-use back at the lovely Trident hotel for a shower and change before your transfer to the international airport.

    Guests continuing with us to Kolkata will take the early morning flight, then check into the Oberoi Grand- the grand dame of hotels built in the 1880’s when the British were still in their Indian capital.

  • DAY 12


    Today is a full day’s excursion around the monuments, bazaars and historical sights of this vibrant colourful city with many gastronomic highlights. This is a city passionate about food.

    A member of the local glitterati and intelligentsia will host drinks, dinner and a night of stories at his heritage apartment. He is also an avid collector of contemporary Indian art displayed in his rooms, with some works for sale.

  • DAY 13


    This morning visit the colourful flower markets.
    This afternoon visit a stellar textile cooperative where many important weaving, block printing and embroidery traditions are being kept alive. The Weavers Collective also has an impressive archive of museum quality textiles.

    This evening enjoy a grand finale banquet of Bengali specialities on the roof-terrace of Kolkata’s newest boutique hotel.

  • DAY 14


    The day is at leisure for any last minute shopping, packing sightseeing.
    We will reserve a couple of rooms for the group for late checkout, shower and change before transferring to the airport for evening flight departures.

    • Darjeeling – Glenburn Tea Estate |
    • Sikkim
    • Rajbari Bawali


Royal Rajasthan Barbie Mark

Hi Dear Marieke, how often we have thought of you and our wonderful Rajasthan trip! Thank you so much for sharing all your wonderful knowledge of India, shared with such a heartfelt passion that it was impossible not to come away sharing a little of that passion!  That to me is an indication of a very well thought out and loved tour, so thank you for taking us on the journey with you!
How wonderful to meet Durga also, a beautiful character and a great addition to the experience. Thank you again Marieke,

Royal Rajasthan Jono

Hi Marieke,
Oh yes, I am definitely back with a bang and trying desperately to keep some sort of ‘Karma’ about me… 
Where to begin….from our magical tented camp in Jodhpur that still sends shivers up my spine….to our picnic in the Aravlli hills with VB and his very elegant mum.
Our wonderful Indian food and desert fires at night. One of my most treasured feelings of India will always be the memory of Durga each morning wearing his beautiful turban and genuine warm smile….. such a lovely, lovely man is our Durga and what a privilege to spend time with him in his homeland.
You really do complement each other beautifully.  It certainly was a special time and only hope it won’t be our last.
Please keep me in the loop for new tours as we would all love to do another group holiday together.
A big hug and kiss from Jono and I xxxxoooo

Royal Rajasthan Lisa Brad

Dear Marieke ,
Thank you for the email and welcome home !
We really loved the Indian adventure Marieke and Durga style and felt we did experience so much more with the tented camps that were a favourite and all  the superbly chosen hotels  sharing some of the essence of India.. Every detail was thought about and the cuisine delicious. I have now stocked the pantry with The Very Best Basmati and have already attempted to make Indian dishes for the family, although not quite the Thali yet . I did love my yoga class with you on the rooftop at Deogarth and particularly loved the small town and our lovely Kashmiri boys at the turban shop. We loved our proud aristocratic Rajput Durga with a wonderful art of storytelling and a great sense of humour. You will be pleased to know that Brad and I are back to yoga once a week and Yin is our new experience .Brad is glued to Indian Summer and I am loving Nine Lives and am able to understand so much more regarding Hindu Jain and Muslim religion with a lot to learn. Thank you for such a wonderful experience in India and we will be back .We already miss the busy street life and the smiling beautiful faces .
Lots Love Lisa and Brad xxx

Victoria Alexander, Sydney

As my Ikat parrots fluttered in the breeze today I again felt lucky to have spent time in gorgeous Gujarat.
Thank you for more wonderful memories of India and for making the past two weeks so memorable.
Your thoughtful professionalism is deeply appreciated.
Gandhi is so right. The world has much to learn from India and I’m very grateful to have been fortunate enough to be able to be delighted by the spirit and people of it in your capable hands.  
With my love, Victoria. X

Caroline B Sydney February 2010

Dear Marieke….. home now where the snake charmer’s rug has found a perfect home. Everything here looks so pale, but it’s lovely to hear rain and eat avocado!
It was a truly remarkable trip, and I cannot say enough how much I admire your attention to detail, logistical prowess, standards, energy and ability to make a group cohere (inspired cocktails!) . You paced it all perfectly, calibrating the experience like a theatre director. I have made a list of eleven people I am going to write to about the trip and about the experience of traveling with you, we’ll see who nibbles and says they want to know more…
I know that many things will stay with me for life about this trip, and have inspired me on so many levels about day to day living.
Namaste! C xx

Wendy – Gujarat

Hi Marieke, What an amazing trip you and Durga created for us in Gujarat and now we have wonderful memories to ponder on and talk about, and the mystery of India will stay with me for ever. It’s vibrancy and zest for living is something I hope I will be able to show to Brian too before long as its an experience everyone should have once in a lifetime.  We were so lucky to go to such special places that wouldn’t have been possible if it hadn’t been for you and Durga and to go into people’s homes and experience their lifestyles was amazing, and Durga’s knowledge and his pride in showing his country to us, and his respectful friendliness to everyone he meets is a great lesson.  Thank you so much Marieke for making it all so memorable.  
Have fun, Wendy

Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer said of his visit: “I’ve been to so many literary festivals, from Shanghai to Bogota, and this one is definitely the least dry, the most carnival-like. Where else would you go from Shakespeare to contemporary politics to V.S. Naipaul and then Sufi music—each in such a full-bodied way? The music definitely had a cleansing, clarifying quality after that clash of ideas, like a sorbet in the middle of a rich meal”.

Jo – Trekking in Paradise

It was a trip like no other. The opportunity to stay close to the local Gujjar people and experience their environment as they have lived for perhaps hundreds of years. Little or no technology with magnificent, pristine, wilderness landscapes makes for that rare connection with a way of life we have long left behind. To me this is what made this trek around Aru in Kashmir so amazing and enlightening. On returning home my memories of the mountains and all I experienced have flooded my dreams. Quiet reflection on the daily life we were privileged to be immersed in has heightened my appreciation of this very special tour. Johnny our guide was so passionate and dedicated to the beauty and cultural heritage of Kashmir, he could not help but leave us with a new found love for his people and his land.

Of course the food was delicious, the company excellent and your co-ordination and support exemplary.

Thank you for it all Marieke – a challenging holiday with meaning, warmth, companionship and immense educational value. It will live on in my memory for all the years to come.

With lots of love,
Jo xx

Sal – Trekking in Paradise

I am writing quickly to tell you that we had the most amazing trek with Johnny and Gulam.  We absolutely adore them, and all of the guys on the team, it honestly could not have been better.  We walked a different route – which Craig asked for, so that we avoided having to return to Aru and Srinagar – we walked 60kms up over the mountains towards Sonmarg, where we are staying tonight. It was indescribably beautiful, the kids loved it, and so did we.  We were crying at dinner tonight, missing the guys.
I will write later in detail to describe the walk, but we have truly lost our hearts to these Kashmiri mountains and men, they are heaven.
Thanks so much for sending us to them.
Love Sal xxx

V – Pearls South India

Dearest Marieke, 
Now back after another wonderful trip filled with endless colour and beauty, things I love, as simple as smiles on faces so ready to share, a temple glowingly yellow, an elephant engaged in blessing all and sundry, a plate of deliciously fresh organic food, lovingly prepared and served on a banana leaf from the grounds of the hosts plantation. Thank you for making all of this and much much more possible. Not the least of which was cruising the Venice of India in Kerala.  India is at its least exciting, it is full of promise, tolerance, spirituality and offers much that the rest of the world could sit up and take notice of.  I am thankful for the way in which you, with the erudite Durga by your side, present it and let it gently unfold, with a surprise here and there. The memories and photographs are what are now left. Thankfully neither will fade away. What you do is an art and involves detailed planning. I am appreciative of being able to take part in both.
With my love,

Karen Van A Sydney – Pearls South India

Hi Marieke,
Thank you so much.  What I would have loved to say to you before you and Usha jetted off after lunch was this:
I know that I have been blessed to be the recipient of your many years of experience in the subcontinent.  It showed in everything we did, from the delicious food and gorgeous hotels, the highly polished itinerary, the hospitality and friendship of everyone we met and of course, the ace up your sleeve in India, Durga.  As I am usually the one organising everything on our trips, it was great not to have to think about anything else except enjoying the sights in front of me and knowing what time the next meal was!  It is truly a holiday when you have no idea what day it is, and you don’t care to know either…
India is certainly a land of contrasts, and you were right in saying that as soon as the initial shock wears off, you are then free to experience the rest of what the country has to offer.  I am glad that we chose the soft landing in the south.  Thank you for converting a non-believer.
With love, Karen Van A Sydney

Melissa and Peter

Hi Marieke,
We are home now and I would like to thank you for organising such a wonderful trip for us.
India is such an amazing place.  I was reading Kipling’s book Kim as we travelled and enjoyed seeing little scenes straight from the book, from the oxen carts, the men in dhotis planting rice, the women herding goats, a girl gathering her buffalo out of the river, chickens scurrying around a thatched hut, the man sewing on a treadle machine and another ironing using a coal iron.
The highlights of the trip were the amazing bas reliefs at Mahabalipuram near the shore temple and the huge elephant and Nandi there, staying at Visalam, Mrs Meyappan’s wonderful lunch, an oxen cart tour of the town that Visalam is in, talking to children on a school excursion at Tanjore palace, eating cashews freshly roasted at the road side, and seeing the amazing town and village life along the roads.
We really enjoyed the driver and the car he used was so cool and comfortable.
Thank you for all your help and organization.
 Melissa and Peter

Luxury Womens Tour

As this is a new Tour, there are no testimonials yet.

Be the first to write a review after you join us on this magic carpet ride.

Jen Anderson

Dear Marieke these are my most cherished memories of my first trip to Sri Lanka with you as tour designer and guide:

– The three diverse and stimulating climate zones we travelled through: the dry plains of the north, the cool mountains of the centre and the monsoonal south.

– The Buddhist art that echoed Bagan’s Plain of Temples in Myanmar, their powerful geometries given highest expression in the caves at Dambulla and joyful celebration in the Temple of the Tooth at Kandy.

– The contemporary design aesthetic and colour palette found in many of the marvellous boutique hotels you found for us, which seem to reference the amazing ouevre of Sri Lanka’s one and only Geoffrey Bawa.

– The generosity and skill of our driver Indika, who made the journey so comfortable and safe.

– The stand out curry banquet served for dinner at the elegant Amangalla – a most memorable culinary sensation.

I do so hope to visit again. Love Jen Anderson

Emma Chapmana

” Having traveled and lived in India for over 25 years, nothing can beat the magic of the World Spirit Music Festival in Nagaur. It is a truly exhilarating experience  and an unbeatable assault on all the senses. The fort looks stunning and is lit up with thousands of magic lights and flowers, the most gifted musicians in Sufi music come from all over the world, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Africa and of course India. Days are spent lounging around on huge cushions absorbing the beauty of the venue, the music and eating the most delicious food. New friends are made and the last nighterupted in everyone dancing and partying under the stars. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is a little piece of heaven and you take the experience of being there and treasure it for weeks afterwards. If there is one thing you should do, if you visit India, is go to this festival.” Emma Chapmana

Sophie Sydney 2017

Dear Marieke,

We leave Udaipur this morning starting the long trek home.
It’s been a wonderful trip and I can’t thank you enough for all your thoughtful suggestions and excellent organising; we’ve felt in good hands all the way.
JLF was one of the most marvellous events I’ve ever attended; the mix of intellectual and cultural stimuli was a heady brew and not something I will ever forget; it’s what memories are made of.
Our reading group was extremely happy and satisfied – and believe me that’s a huge compliment as it’s not all that easy pleasing 8 strong willed women. But I think you knew that already.
I hope we can get together again some time in Sydney or Melbourne.

Warmest Regards,
Sophie Sydney 2017

Christine & Marilyn Shady

The breathtaking beauty of the spectacular Ahhichatragarh Fort, Nagaur provided a perfect setting for the World Sacred Music Festival in February 2018.  The desert location with warm days and clear star filled skies at night was enchanting; so too, the call to prayer we heard at dawn and dusk each day.
The various concerts featured extraordinarily talented musicians and singers from all over the world – music expressing both sacred & ancient traditions.  We were entertained, charmed, seduced and enchanted by these performances.  A truly blissful experience.
The daily program of sublime concerts was interspersed with superb meals celebrating the gastronomic heritage of Indian cuisine, served in a grand out door pavilion.
Accommodation in the fabulous Royal Tents was such a unique and wonderful experience with wonderful service including ‘bed tea’ in the mornings.

Thankyou Marieke for your timely invitation to join you at Nagaur. This festival was indeed remarkable and the experience of a lifetime.

Christine & Marilyn Shady

Sophie Sydney 2017

Dear Marieke,

We leave Udaipur this morning starting the long trek home.
It’s been a wonderful trip and I can’t thank you enough for all your thoughtful suggestions and excellent organising; we’ve felt in good hands all the way.
JLF was one of the most marvellous events I’ve ever attended; the mix of intellectual and cultural stimuli was a heady brew and not something I will ever forget; it’s what memories are made of.
Our reading group was extremely happy and satisfied – and believe me that’s a huge compliment as it’s not all that easy pleasing 8 strong willed women. But I think you knew that already.
I hope we can get together again some time in Sydney or Melbourne.

Warmest Regards,
Sophie Sydney 2017

Caroline Baum Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, Marieke does so much more than seek out the most exquisite accomodation and sites. She maneoeuvres her travellers to front row seats to witness age old temple rituals, finds the stalls in the market with the ripest mangoes and brings them back to your hotel for sunset cocktails. If she could, she would spot you the leopard on safari. Nothing is too much trouble. Her knowledge is deep, broad and always up to the minute. Her quest for the best is relentless. She has a sixth sense for when her guests want more and when they need less. She shares their enthusiasm for watching a herd of elephants grazing almost within reach, or their pleasure relaxing by an exclusive pool or watching them inhale the aroma of freshly rolled cinnamon bark on an island or visiting a private garden lush with memories of past revelries. She can find you the perfect gemstone and the place to set it, the length of hand dyed cloth you have to have, the recipe for the eggplant dish you had at dinner, the best place to see a kingfisher at dawn or a peacock in the rice paddies. Once you have travelled with Marieke, there is no going back. Without her, a country is a paler version of itself.

Caroline Baum | Author • Journalist • Curator • Moderator


Your Tour Leader, Marieke Brugman has had an abiding love affair with India for over twenty years and lost count of how many groups she has led and how many curated journeys she has designed for private travellers and small groups. India is sometimes maddening, but always fascinating, surprising, soul-stirring. She has negotiated her way throughout the subcontinent, seeking out its many hidden gems – special spas and yoga retreats, exceptional craftspeople and artisans, ambient hotels with unique character, and stepped into many kitchens to learn their secrets and share her own. ‘How is it that basically the same spice box and very similar ingredients across that vast land can be interpolated into such dazzling variety and explosion of flavours?’
She looks forward to sharing her friends and some of her favourite destinations such as the glamorous Amanbagh and Devigarh, and especially the richly varied cuisines.

Your Tour Guide, Durga Singh is an aristocratic, proud and erudite Rajput whose family seat is Mandawa in the Shekhawati region, north of Jaipur. When they first met, Durga in typical Indian male fashion had only ever been cooked for. Marieke then invited him to her cooking school in Bali where he took up knife and apron. Ever since, he has taken up a keen interest in the regional variations to be found in India and can now tell you that a dal makhani made in Jodhpur will be superior to any other because of the sweet quality of the water. On his family farm, he practices organic principles so that his family and guests at his hotel enjoy superior wheat, millet and other grains.
He has a marvellous sense of humour, is always unstintingly caring of our guests, and with his vast scope of knowledge and multiplicity of interests, is able to illuminate almost every aspect of his complex culture with passion and clarity. He and Marieke have been collaborating now for over two decades.


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