INDIA ILLUMINATED – a Cultural & Holistic Wellness Journey

This journey has been curated so you will experience India in all its intoxicating extremities from seductive, colourful, cacophonous, chivalric Rajasthan to the soothing, sybaritic, otherworldly, exclusive enclave of Vana – India’s and one of the worlds most lauded health retreats.

At the start, all your senses will be ignited by the exotic and compelling experience of the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, festivals, music, bazaars like no other on earth. Indeed, it makes you think about the meaning of life, in ways that you don’t, living in the west.
At the other end, allow your senses to be soothed by the deeply authentic healing environment of Vana – a hilltop retreat in the fabled region of Dehradun – with passionately dedicated staff offering a multiplicity of ancient and modern treatments.

Whilst the Rajasthan prelude may look familiar, we bring to this unique program twenty five years of experience, connection and familiarity that will prise open the unexpected, allowing you to float above and beneath the tourist veil.

This is a one-off program not to be missed.



• seven days of quintessential exotic Rajasthan
• glorious, stylish boutique hotels in Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaipur
• private viewing of one of India’s most outstanding museum collections
• cooking, curated shopping, sublime meals
• seven days in one of the world’s most salubrious wellbeing retreats


9 02 16 Days
TYPE: AoL Escorted | Small Groups | Guided | Bespoke
STYLE: culture | arts | heritage | cuisine | holistic wellness
START/FINISH: Delhi | Delhi


All meals, entrance fees, guide, Vana 7-day wellness program, porterage


6* Luxury | Deluxe | Heritage hotels


Luxury mini coach


1-16 September 2020


9 days Rajasthan from USD $5700 twin | double share
plus domestic airfares
7 days Vana Retreat from USD $3700 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


    Fly to Jodhpur where there is so much to explore from the majestic Mehrangarh Fort to the colourful chaotic ancient bazaars. Stay two nights in the only luxury hotel in the old town and the ‘go to’ boutique property in the Blue City that has a wonderful spa.

  • DAY 3


    Today explore the marvellous treasures and rich museum collections of the Fort, the Royal Cenotaphs, and the astonishing Umaid Bhawan Palace.
    A lunch of Rajasthani delicacies will be enjoyed to the accompaniment of heavenly, music performed by one of India’s most esteemed Santoor players.

  • DAY 4


    A scenic drive through the ancient Aravali mountains brings you to your next destination for three nights – India’s most spectacular, all-suite, heritage property – a stunning 18th C Fort whose architects have retained all the romance and splendour of the original 18thC complex, but installed utterly modern and unique interiors.

  • DAY 5


    A day trip to the nearby 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 and enjoy the tranquillity of Lake Pichola’s glorious golden dusk on your private boat cruise before returning to Devigarh.

  • DAY 6


    Enjoy a day in your gorgeous hotel. This morning we offer a cooking class followed by lunch and henna, or sari tying.
    The remainder of the day is free for spa treatments, a gentle meander through the local hamlet, or a visit to the nearby temples.

  • DAY 7


    After your flight to Jaipur, settle into your heritage hotel that was a former royal hunting lodge. This afternoon visit some of Jaipur’s standout monuments – Amber Fort, the Royal Observatory and the Anohki textile museum.

  • DAY 8


    This morning enjoy an exclusive viewing at one of Jaipur’s most outstanding private art collections inaugurated by the scions of a famous jewellery family where lunch will be served.
    Later some time for some curated high end shopping before a finale dinner in one of India’s prettiest dining rooms.

  • DAY 9


    Fly to Dehradun via Delhi, and arrive at Vana to begin your seven-day wellness retreat. Vana is a five-star ashram, with you as the object of veneration. Yoga, Ayurvedic medicine and meditation find their roots in India, yet here in this sublime retreat are combined with spa and beauty treatments, spa cuisine and luxury accommodation

  • DAY 10 TO 16


    The state-of-the-art facilities include an outdoor pool, an indoor water-therapy pool, a fully equipped gym, various studios and pavilions, and scores of treatment and consultation rooms. Doctors plan your therapies from leading Ayurveda, Chinese and Tibetan traditional medicine practitioners.



    Find health from insideout and outside-in with the following inclusions

    • A Retreat Program with yoga, meditation, cuisine lessons, functional fitness, talks, music and more
    • Arrival and departure wellness consultations.
    • All cuisine including breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.
    • Private treatments/specialist consultations/sessions based on 2 wellness weights per night per guest.
    • Attire to wear within and outside Vana, footwear, summer and winter accessories.

  • DAY 16


    Fly back to Delhi in time for your international evening departures


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 eggpant 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, exquisite palaces and private collections. She has a special interest in the ancient sciences and practice of yoga and Ayurveda and looks forward to sharing her friends and some of her favourite destinations such as the glamorous Raas hotels and Vana retreat.


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