There's nothing like a first-hand travel narrative to inspire
your wanderlust. Just ask Amar Grover. The Hong Kong-born
lawyer-turned-travel journalist has trekked all over the world
since changing careers, and has since published photos and written
accounts in top publications ranging from The Financial
Times to The Telegraph.
We caught up with Amar
Grover to discover more about his life on the road. Read on to
learn about what it's like to roam Himalayan valleys, explore the
jungles of Madhya Pradesh - and relax in a Rajasthani palace
Amar Grover has ventured around the
world as a travel journalist and photographer
Greaves: How did you first get into travel
journalism - especially after beginning your career as a
Amar Grover: "Even from my school days I'd always enjoyed
writing, so as dissatisfaction in being a lawyer mounted, the
notion of becoming a travel writer grew. Having already embraced
the concept of a gap year - and there were several wonderful gaps
where I travelled a lot - it felt an entirely natural
You were raised in Hong Kong before later relocating
to London. How did your childhood in Asia shape your experiences of
"Hong Kong always was a profoundly Chinese city, albeit one
developed on a British colonial framework. Growing up there meant I
took for granted its Asian character - all its exotic sights and
sounds, smells and clamour. I suppose it was a good primer for the
'intensity' of India and other Far Eastern destinations."
Stunning Himalayan peaks © Amar
You've travelled all across India and list it as one
of your favourite destinations. Are there any regions in the
subcontinent that have particularly stayed with
"The first region I visited was Rajasthan, and it still draws me
back time and again. One change I've noticed is that rural
Rajasthan is now much more accessible, thanks to a number of old
palaces and forts that have opened their doors to guests.
The other region I particularly like is the Himalayas. The
states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are stunning in parts -
not just for the high peaks but the people, culture and
architecture of their mountainous valleys. Ladakh is among my all-time favourite
destinations. A couple of years ago I also finally visited
Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast, which really feels and looks
more like upper Burma."
For first-time travellers to India, where's a good
destination to begin your discoveries? Any tips and
"I still think Rajasthan is probably the best place to launch an
Indian journey; there's lots to see, some wonderful accommodation,
and connectivity has never been better. And, after all these years
I'm still finding new places to visit. Kerala, too, is another
great and easy option, especially if you're after a more relaxing,
For me, combining some train travel (for longer journeys) with a
car and driver is an ideal way to see the country. Above all, don't
try and cram too much into an Indian itinerary; distances are
deceptive because most journeys here take longer than the
equivalent in Europe."
Grover has travelled all across
the Subcontinent © Amar Grover
Tell us more about your travel photography. What's
your strategy for getting good images when you're on the
"There's often an element of luck in great images, but you can
vastly improve your chances by:
a) Using early morning and late afternoon light as much as
b) Exploring and experiencing a location on foot - you miss an
awful lot from a car window
c) Noting good and/or discreet vantage points to await the
d) Having the patience of a saint
As a side note, I NEVER shoot people who clearly don't want, or
who seem reluctant, to be photographed."
The Golden Rock in Burma © Amar
Which parts of India are you yet to discover, and
what's next on your list?
"India's northeast remains pretty enigmatic, and I've yet to
visit Orissa. In the Himalayas, I'd like to return to
the remoter corners of Himachal Pradesh (the Kinnaur and Spiti
regions particularly) as well as Uttarakhand's Garhwal and Kumaon,
and Zanskar in Ladakh."
How do you think India is continuing to adapt and
cater to tourists? Have you noticed any big changes in the
hospitality industry there during the past
E-visa system for tourists marks a real change. Within India, I
think hotel standards have improved. The country's sophisticated
middle classes have money, want to travel and expect better-quality
accommodation than ever before, and this has driven many
What are your favourite luxury experiences in the
subcontinent? What can't travellers find anywhere else in the
world, in your opinion?
"I can't get enough of Rajasthan's palace and fort hotels. It's not so
much the luxury, but rather their remarkable character. While some
are vast and ostentatious, many of the more offbeat ones are
manageable in scale, imposing but not overwhelming."
The colossal Mehrangarh Fort in
Jodhpur © Amar Grover
You're an experienced hiker and nature enthusiast.
Is it easy to get off-the-beaten path in India? Any wild
destinations you particularly enjoy?
"It all depends on how bold you are. The Himalayan regions are
an obvious choice for the great outdoors, and there are dozens of
established trekking routes. In other places like Rajasthan, you'll
find fewer visitors in its rural properties, some of which are off
the well-trodden routes and offer a very different experience of
India. I've also walked a little in the Aravalli Hills as well as
Maharashtra's Western Ghats.
In tourism, there can be something of a herd instinct - but it
doesn't take much to get away from that. For instance, after seeing
Jodhpur's Mehrangarh Fort, try walking away
from the main city and into the earthy old quarter. Last year, I
walked through the forests below Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh -
swimming in the rivers there was an unforgettable, Jungle
What have you enjoyed about travelling in India with
Greaves? Any particularly exciting or memorable experiences that
you can share?
"I'm not shy of slightly eccentric itineraries, and Greaves
readily oblige. Last year in Gujarat, I visited the hilltop Jain
temples at Palitana ‒ it's a good hike up the hillside on a broad
paved trail to this beautiful site. Rather than return the same
way, I walked down another secondary trail to a village where my
driver was waiting for me. It was a very satisfying and spontaneous
Again in Gujarat, my driver had a hunch I'd be interested in
pausing at Sidhpur. I'd never before heard of the town, but he took
me to a grid of streets filled with incredible neo-classical
mansions with decorative plasterwork, window box balconies and
porches. They belong to the Bohras, a local Muslim merchant
community. But many have moved away leaving lonely caretakers
amidst strangely empty and decaying streetscapes - it resembled an
extraordinary and beautifully weathered film set."
More stories and photographs can be found on Amar's