As we enter 2024, a year of opportunity unfolds ahead with a world of glorious landscapes, striking architecture and illustrious histories waiting. Dive beneath turquoise waters in The Maldives, embark on a safari adventure in Sri Lanka and immerse yourself in a world of color and vivacity in Rajasthan.
Jaipur and Jodhpur: the jewels of Rajasthan
In anticipation of a visit from Britain’s Queen Victoria in 1876, Maharaja Ram Singh painted Jaipur’s buildings pink- the color of hospitality. The city earned the nickname ‘The Pink City’, and remains as beautiful and hospitable today as it was over a millennium ago.
Nestled between rolling hills on three sides, Jaipur is home to many magnificent palaces, most famously the Hawa Mahal where 953 small windows cover the five-story pink sandstone building, causing a honeycomb-like effect. The forts erected as Jaipur’s early defenses still stand offering sweeping views of the surrounding hills and lakes and insights into Jaipur’s rich and storied past. One such is the Amber Fort, where a fusion of Rajput and Mughal styles of architecture is presented in ochre sandstone and white marble.
Rich aromas of the city’s delicious street food fill the air at bustling bazaars, which house rows and rows of stalls selling Jaipur jewelry, artisanal handicrafts, traditional dress and colorful textiles.
And then there’s Jodhpur, the Blue City, another Rajasthani gem which sits amongst high sand hills and is nicknamed for its iconic azure-hued buildings. Here, the skyline is dominated by the hilltop Mehrangarh Fort, where echoes of tales of valor thread through intricately carved stonework and interconnecting courtyards.
Spend a morning in the spirited Sardar Market, busy with smells of rich spices, stalls of bright gifts and sounds of laughing locals, and an afternoon in the tranquil Mandore Gardens, complete with cenotaphs that sit amongst verdant greenery.
An incredible experience in itself, stay at the Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace where the regal opulence of bygone eras seamlessly blends with modern comforts and impeccable service. To this day, the magical palace remains the residence of the Maharaja of Jodhpur and his family, so the accommodation is truly fit for a king.
The Maldives: the paradise islands in the Indian Ocean
There’s no better place on earth to reset mind, body and soul than the idyllic Maldives, where lush green interiors give way to pristine white-sand beaches. Famed for its stilted overwater bungalows you’ll start the day diving into crystal-clear waters which glisten beneath the morning sun and finish the day watching the sunset over the ocean.
Below the surface is a whole new wonderland to explore, where you can snorkel through an aquarium of blushing coral, colorful fish and friendly sharks and manta rays. The tropical marine life of the Maldivan waters also swim past diners of the island’s famous underwater restaurants such as the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, where guests can enjoy fresh seafood and an enviable wine list.
Where relaxation with overwater spas, calming yoga classes and wellness programs meet adventure with invigorating watersports such as water skiing and kayaking, The Maldives are home to countless picturesque resorts, from the alluring villas of Jumeirah Vittavelli to the ultimate relaxing retreat at the Four Seasons Resort.
Sri Lanka: where ancient charms and scenic splendors unfold
For centuries, traders and travelers have been drawn into Sri Lanka, creating a rich and diverse culture where ancient, native traditions meet modern influences, and ornate prehistoric temples meet grand colonial estates.
Sri Lankan safaris, considered some of the best safaris outside Africa, will take you past trumpeting Asian elephants, elusive leopards, wild boar and buffalo, cheeky langurs and macaques, snapping crocodiles and furry sloth bears, while boat rides on the turquoise waters offer close encounters with whales and dolphins.
Travel from place to place on the country’s scenic train rides which take you through dense and bushy forests, flourishing tea plantations that paint the landscape green, undulating valleys and cities full of vim and vigor; and embark on breathtaking hikes to spots unreachable other than by foot, such as Sigiriya, the mighty fortress set atop a rocky plateau or through the clouds to Adam’s Peak where unforgettable views of the surrounding mountains await.
As you travel around the country, stay in unique hotels such as the Ceylon Tea Trail Bungalows, which are simply dripping with old-world charm, and the centuries-old, elegant Amangalla, a sanctuary within the UNESCO-protected Galle Fort.
Images Credits: Train journey through Sri Lanka by Sotnikov Misha © Shutterstock; Hawa Mahal by Belikova Oksana © Shutterstock; Maldives spa by TSN52 © Shutterstock; Lighthouse at Galle Fort by Tatevosian Yana © Shutterstock.