Writer Lydia Swinscoe heads to the beautiful state of Rajasthan to discover family delights in the Pink City
The sights, colours and delicious foods of India, are wonderfully intoxicating
India is a chaotic, bustling, busy country, and can be overwhelming even for the most seasoned traveller. But, if you haven't lost your adventurous spirit, and are hankering after something a little different than the white sand beach holidays filling up your Instagram feed, then it could be just the ticket. India might not automatically jump out as the most family-friendly destination, but plan it right and this incredible country will leave your children wonderstruck: they, and you, will be talking about it for months.
The Fairmont, Jaipur
Our destination of Jaipur, India, makes up part of the famous golden triangle along with Agra, stopping point for the Taj Mahal and Delhi, where we flew into. This well-travelled tourist route allows you to see three different parts of India with the convenience of each place being a comfortable drive or flight away. Jaipur is known as 'the pink city' because many of the buildings here are painted a shade of pink. Simple, but eye-catching and certainly memorable.
A stones throw from Jungle Book territory and just a short flight from Delhi, Jaipur is the perfect place to relax after trips to the magnificent Taj Mahal and crowded capital. There are numerous low-cost airlines that make the one-hour flight from Delhi to Jaipur; we flew with Air India for around £20 each. You can also take one of the many trains, it takes around four and a half hours and costs anywhere between £1.35 to £7.15 depending on coach class and seats. It's an exciting way to make the journey; you get to see some great scenery and chat to local people. However, with very young children, flying might make more sense, especially if your trip is a short one. Grab any taxi from Jaipur Airport to the Fairmont Hotel, remembering to fix fares before your journey or pre-book with the hotel beforehand. The journey takes around 30 minutes.
Our eight and a half hour return flight from London Heathrow to New Delhi was with Virgin and cost £453. They provide great in-flight entertainment, kids meals and activity packs if booked in advance.
The impressive bathrooms at The Fairmont, Jaipur
As soon as you step out of the taxi, the pomp and splendour of The Fairmont, Jaipur hits you. A welcome trumpet fanfare plays from the turrets above and you're whisked into a symmetrical frangipani garden before settling into the opulent reception with a juice and cool towel.
The first and only Fairmont Hotel in India, built in the traditional style of the regions grand Mughal palaces, this really is a luxurious stay. The Fairmont's 199 rooms have everything you'd expect of a five star hotel, but the real 'wow factor' were the bathrooms. Huge stone bathtubs are filled with bubbles and rose petals on request, providing a real treat after a day of sightseeing.
The swimming pool at The Fairmont, Jaipur
Each room has bespoke furnishings and design, giving it some really royal charm. The facilities for children were excellent with a separate swimming pool complete with inflatables and toys. Everyday the staff made the towels in our room into cute animal shapes and left notes wishing our stay was enjoyable. There is a great activity room, babysitting facilities and cinema screen just for the kids.
The polite and super attentive staff were always at hand to give advice and recommendations, booking taxis and arranging excursions or babysitting.
What we did
Factor in a few days of relaxing pool time at The Fairmont. There's so much to see and do in Jaipur but the heat and relentless bustle of the city will mean you'll want some time to refresh in the calm oasis of the hotel too. We took a taxi to Amer Fort, only 15 minutes away from the hotel and the journey itself is interesting enough. We spied elephants walking down the road, plenty of fun sights, cool countryside and of course cows ruling the roads.
The fort itself is stunning and the fun audio guide will keep older children entertained. You can ride an elephant up to the fort, however, since the welfare of these animals is questionable, why not take a walk instead? Don't miss the light show each evening at 6.30pm, as well as being informative and interesting; it's also very pretty.
An auto-rickshaw ride is a must, it may not sound like much but the noises and sights on any journey will enchant the whole family. Whilst in the city itself, auto-rickshaws provide the perfect vehicle to zip you around the city, just remember to fix fares before you set off.
There's a floating palace, Jal Mahal, on a lake in the city too, try to see it at night for gorgeous reflections and don't forget to check out the local markets. Even a walk around the fruit and vegetable markets will be a fun experience the children won't forget.
Monkeys and temples aplenty
A dolls museum is located just 4km outside Jaipur city and provides a fun few hours. You'll find dolls from all over the world there as well as many wearing clothing from different Indian states, and entry is less than 5p. When buildings and museums get too much, the nearby Monkey temple should do the trick.
Take an auto-rickshaw or taxi to Galtaji Temple, it'll take around 30 minutes. Once there walk up to the temple, you'll see hundreds of wild monkeys and lots of other animals such as goats, pigs, camels and cows. You'll also see dancing, singing and bathing ceremonies as it is a Hindu pilgrimage destination and a real eye-opener for children.
Food in India is as colourful as the eye-catching clothing
What we ate
There is a choice of seven restaurants and lounges at The Fairmont Jaipur. Our favourite was all day dining restaurant, Zoya, with a range of Indian and Western dishes. They serve up delicious Indian food such as the traditional Rajasthani dish, Laal Maas, a favourite of mine made with lamb and lots of red chilli. But they also serve a whole range of other options from around the word, Thai, Malaysian, Italian; you name it, they've got it.
We also ate breakfast each morning in Zoya, which really was outstanding with everything you could imagine. On the last day, our flight was pretty early so we missed breakfast, thankfully the staff were on hand to pack us up some treats to go.
Breakfast in Zoya
Anjum, the tea lounge served up wonderful cakes and homemade pastries as well as fabulous Masala Chai (tea made with spices and milk). We ate lunch here while having lazy pool days; everything on the menu seemed to be a big hit. You can also sample the Fairmont's 'Tea Tasting Ceremony', offering guests the opportunity to taste some of the best teas from around the world, with scones, sandwiches and homemade macaroons.
The Fairmont, Jaipur offers so much to make a stay here so unforgettable; I loved the flower petal patterns on the bathroom floor and complimentary fruit in the room everyday was a nice touch. There's traditional entertainment and dancing in the courtyard, and falconry for the children to enjoy. If you're looking for a view of Jaipur from above the hotel can arrange hot air ballooning or mountaineering in the nearby Aravalli hills. And you can get active with complementary BMX bikes available for guests, just ask at reception for recommended trails to follow, you might even see wild monkeys if you're lucky.
Double rooms at The Fairmont, Jaipur start from £120 per night including a buffet breakfast, extra beds are available for children under 17 years.
Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to New Delhi daily.
Children's activity rooms at The Fairmont, Jaipur