Our Review :

Gujarat and Sikkim regions are less touristy than Rajasthan, Uttarh Pradesh, the Ganges Valley or southern India.

Guides "books" are not very explicit on these destinations. Lonely Planet is still the most complete reference.

More and more blogs made by travelers just make you want to get there ... Artisanal communities, landscapes, villages and lifestyles, ancient palaces, old houses, have persuaded us to undertake this circuit.

We liked:

  1. Puce Some villages and some towns of Gujarat, where time seems to have stopped, and if it is not stopped, it left traces of a past that seems to have been prosperous and rich in craftsmanship. We were looking atmospheres, we found them. The old houses are fascinating and allow imagine what life must have been in these villages at the beginning of the last century. One might think that every family was living in its own little palace with search refinement worthy of the time. Worked doors, carved columns and balconies, painted walls, courtyards decorated ...

  1. Puce Villages (pols) that form the old Ahmedabad are very attractive, we do not seem to be in the sixth largest city in India, as Sihor with its old wooden houses and its welcoming population, Junagadh and Mahabat Maqbara mosque, Jetpur and workshops screen printing, Ajrakpur and block printing, Nirona and different craft communities, the old town of Patan with its small shops and pastel-colored houses, workshop double ikkat, Sidhpur and its fabulous Bohras' neighborhood houses, decor worthy of a Hollywood studio, Danta and encounters with Rabari, thank's to Mrs. Chandra Kumari, the landscapes from Danta to Ambaji, greener and less flat than in the rest of Gujarat where one drive mainly close to cotton and castor oil fields, Poshina and lush green countryside.

  1. Puce The village of Adpur by the foot of the Shatrunjaya hill near Palitana. An authentic village, far from the excitement of the city with a warm historic home stay. While thousands of pilgrims and tourists breathless climb the 4000 steps to join the Jain temples, we took advantage of the campaign, his concerns, his nonchalance and a nice chat with the owner of Vijay Vilas, Mrs. Bhagwati Devi, an inexhaustible family story teller.

  1. Puce The wealth of traditional clothing and customs of different communities of Gujarat, including Kutch. We regret not having a driver from the region, speaking Gujarati and English. We missed a lot of opportunities to communicate, to discover the way of life of each community. When we wanted to identify a community, the driver did not want to look like an idiot, replied that they were Adivasis (aboriginal people of India). He saw Adivasis everywhere!

  1. Puce Little Rann Sanctuary with wild donkeys and nigails are more and more amazing that sambar, axis deer, and lions of Sasan Gir.

  1. Puce Roopangarh village in Rajasthan, which was a delight for us, as were Bundi and Bassi. Set in a village fortifications, protected from big tour operators. Another image of India that  the one we are selling with globalization.

Values and traditions, not necessarily obsolete, an authentic welcome, survival trades but essential for the moment.

Real people, much less interested  than in other cities in the region (Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur etc ...).

A real good place to sit and share a cup of tea with people in the street, just for the pleasure of being together. That we live in our european villages, there is a little less than a century ... when there was still room for everyone, and each found its place.

Here we have to take time. We do not take pictures on the sly or secret as we have seen done by a group of French.

Each meeting is greetings, questions, looks, exchanges and mutual understanding. Then the photographic relationship becomes a time of sharing and not a capture. Many enjoy being photographed and appreciate being sent a copy of the photos.

  1. Puce Dinner on the terrace of Jaiwana hotel in Udaipur, for the pleasure of seeing the lake and the city light up with thousands of stars, and let us invade through the night ...The tourism department seems to have understood, night illuminations have been developed a lot since 2009.

  1. Puce Having Roopangarh Fort to ourselves for 24 hours. The scarcity of tourists make us become "Maharaja" for a day and take this immense fort at will. Breakfast on the terrace in the sun after having a little cold at night.

  1. Puce Darjeeling, because the people who live there seem happier, more cheerful, more respectful than elsewhere in India.

Yet the level of life does not seem higher than other regions. All houses even the poorest are decorated with flowers, everyone smiles or jokes in the street. The eyes of men is not weighed down by testosterone.

Here, people apologize when they upset, and if they do not do is that they come from Kolkotta, Delhi or Mumbai.

Women, even of a certain age, are beautiful, they have a smiling and open face. Most are thin and small size.

We do not like:

  1. Puce the practice increasingly widespread in India to charge entrance fees of the sites, museums, exhibitions, sometimes hotels and restaurants, 10 times more expensive to foreigners.

As to pay taxes based on income, I accept the idea of a redistribution of wealth sharing, equitable and responsible tourism. Still need to know who benefits from the redistribution!  I also accept that people have access to more equitably heritage.

But among the visitors there are not only poor Indians (for whom it should be free). Many local visitors, thanks to the "emergence" have higher incomes than ours. And they are not only rich foreign tourists who travel, some have saved  money several years to afford the trip of a lifetime.

We'd be curious to see the reaction of the Indian middle class coming to visit the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre to which we require an entrance fee 10 times higher than that charged for the French under the pretext that if  they have taken the plane to come in France means they can afford. Lonely Planet agrees.

  1. Puce The look and behavior of men in Gujarat. In many places men are grouped around the tea merchant or spicy snacks. In many places we felt uncomfortable, attacked "visually" by macho behavior, voyeurs, even into the car during our stops. Hard not to feel undressed when you are a woman. In India, European women, whatever their age or dress, undergo "thanks" to the globalization of mobile phone pictures taken hundreds of times without their consent in order to complete the collection of aggressive and arrogant young males (17 -35 years). First time we met so often this behavior in India.

  1. Puce The fact that very few people speak English in Gujarat, even in hotels.

  1. Puce The incivility and lack of education of many Indian making tourism. Noisy in hotels, not respecting queues, reading the newspaper or eating by putting their elbows in the face of neighboring, hustling violently to take your place, always trying of claiming, bitching, trying to obtain privileges etc ...This is not new but it is becoming more common

  1. Puce Lack of restraint from Buddhist monks in Tibetan monasteries, which are far from the precepts of bases, like the lack of interest in material things, the appetites of consumption, signs of recognition. Nothing justifies a monk wearing Crocks, Nike, has an iPad or Galaxy, Iphone, Ipod, Blackberry etc ...


Emirates Airline for the quality of its service and attractive rates of return France to Delhi and Ahmedabad France.

Air India domestic flights from Bagdogra Delhi - Bagdogra Delhi, for the quality of its service

Tour Operator :

A local travel agency for booking hotels with breakfast, rental car and driver: Atithi Voyages

mail: rajeev@atithivoyages.com site: http://atithivoyages.com/

Contacts with Rajeev to prepare the trip are effective and clear. We do our detailed proposals and he responds if it is feasible or not. Sometimes giving interesting advice to visit.

Atithi employs drivers in subcontracting, and when the circuit area is away from Delhi, they rely on their correspondent on place.

We do not understand why we encountered so many difficulties at this time.

We had insurance that drivers will be familiar with the area, which is the case only for the portion Darjeeling / Sikkim.

In Gujarat the two drivers, originally from Rajasthan, knew neither the road nor the language for the first, not language for the second.

Safaris in Sasan Gir did not seem reserved, we missed one because of this

  1. The first driver - Harish - did not know the way, and was lost every time, wasting a lot of time, we asked to change. ropy

  2. The second driver - Devilala - didn' mind about our program and did what he want or what he know. We request the intervention of the local correspondent repeatedly. He seemed especially hurry to get to the point. ropy

  3. In Rajasthan, the third driver - Ainil - systematically refused to leave the main road, and always found reasons not to consider our request. 4 days spent with him, he was a day and two half days in rest ! ropy

  4. For Darjeeling / Sikkim part, vouchers showed only two thirds of visits we had planned and added others that we did not want. The driver - Sagar Thapa - managed to finish the days' tour around 13h to be at rest all the afternoons. ropy

    Although we loved this trip, we regret to have to negotiate with all drivers, almost every day, a program that has been defined in detail, according to our wishes, with the local agency manager.

Does it come from Atithi, or service that rents cars and drivers? We will not know. We expressed our complaints to Athiti they are sorry ...

In a next trip, we will require before paying the deposit that the local agency returns us our detailed program with signature and verify that the driver has the same copy.

Hotels :

We have selected some hotels, others were proposed by the agency, others were imposed by the circuit conditions, some cities or villages having no other choice. Hotels in Ahmedabad, Delhi and Bhuj are proving to be very poor choice in terms of comfort and location. A budget identical, there is better. View reviews of hotels.

Good to Know

1 - Food : We take lunch in small restaurants on the road or in towns crossings and diner in hotels where we stayed. We do not eat meat, fish, or seafood. So never Tourista!

India vegetarian cuisine is full of flavors. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, except spicy rice & curry + dahl, and delicious thali it is difficult to discover interesting local cuisine in local restaurants (as can be done in South India).

In Darjeeling and Sikkim there is tasty Tibetan and Nepalese cook. Local tourists becoming more numerous, most restaurants offer menus from North or South India , or China, to the detriment of the local cuisine. Which reduces the number of restaurants serving real local cuisine and menus offer only momos.

Meals ranged from 170 to 450 rupees (2.70 to 6 euros per person drink inclued).

When we are tired of rice & curry, there are vegetables Noodles or vegetables rice wich offer a sweet rest to our taste buds. In some cities there are even macabre and pizza hut.

We bought water in the village shops or supermarket 18/20 rupees (0.26 / 0.29 €) a liter and half bottle. Restaurant 1 liter of water is 40/50 rupees. It is important to ensure that the caps were not glued, or tampered.

Most hotels have a complimentary bottle of water per person available in the rooms.  Breakfasts are international and Indian ...

2 - Our journey: We built our journey with the Lonely Planet guide book and some interesting web sites and blogs.

Our trip axis was meeting with different communities, discovery of specific crafts and way of life , wildlife, cooking, old houses, characterful accommodation.

In Gujarat and Rajasthan, our steps were about 150-250 km, Darjeeling and Sikkim from 50 to 90 km.

We've arranged several times to stay at least two nights in one place, in order to have time for sightseeing and not have to make the bags every day.

3 - visits: We all scheduled unmissable visits mentioned in the guides, plus unusual suggested by some independent travelers. What to add stops to delight the eye and the heart, and stay opened to what happend.

This time we did not get any surprises from drivers, none of them knowing original spots, off piste or confidential place. We find that more often Indians drivers behave like taxi drivers. They simply transporting guests from one place to another. When Rajeev says that the driver will be keen to make us discover his region, it is not true.

4 - If it all over again,

  1. After the experience in South India with Indian Panorama and this last experience with Atithi, we never choose a local agency that does not have its own drivers. Unless they have written guarantees on a formal contract. 

  2. When we travel, we have quite specific ideas about what we want to do and see, we are open to all proposals that can optimize our stay, but if we sign a contract that is for it to be respected.

  3. If it is to make the circuit found in all catalogs, we do not see the need to travel alone or "à la carte". Especially when this is the 6th or 9th time we go to a same country.

  1. We will stay one more day in Adpur to explore the countryside in greater depth, around Vijay Vilas.

  1. We avoid the reserve of Sasan Gir which is like most Indian Reserves, random, unpredictable and where the luck factor is more important than competence of rangers.

  1. We will come down to Diu, drive along the coast and will go to Porbandar to stay in the footsteps of Gandhi.

  1. In Kutch, we avoid the "white desert", Ludiya and north, to focus on south and Mandvi.

  1. We will do again Rajasthan's villages like Jaisalmer, Mandore (Bishnoi communities), Bassi, Bundi, Roopengarh and would spend at least two days with the association Barefoot College in Tiloniya (19km between Roopangarh and Kishangarh) to discover their activities. Original social innovation where they educate women and children to enable them to learn a trade. Development of solar energy, and more.

  1. We will stay two more days in Darjeeling to make Tibetan cooking classes, taking care to come later in the year to increase the chances of seeing Kanchenjunga clearly.

  1. Rather than go to Sikkim, we will go to Bhutan, not so far, but more expensive, the King charging foreigners for Gross National Happiness.

5 - Various

  1. The craft of Kutch which was originally intended for local consumption, traditional clothing, home utensils, interior decoration, is moving increasingly towards tourism production. This leads to produce objects that have little sense apart from being placed on a shelf or a corner fireplace.

  1. Except in communities workshops, handicraft items are sold often quite expensive, but in Bhujodi Hiralaxmi Memorial Craft items are really good quality and nice looking .

  1. Outside village, avoid to ask in the street where you can find such address or items: there is always someone who listen and offer to take you where you want to go or not want to go, sometimes invoice will be increased ... commission requires ...

  1. About Ayurveda: as in Sri Lanka, Indian multiply Ayurvedic centers as tourism develops. Massages, clinical consultations, specialized laboratories.

  2. 1 Ayurveda is a "science of life and longevity" whose origins date back to the Vedas (Hindu sacred books).

  3. His goal is harmony and balance between body and mind, between us and the world, between microcosm and macrocosm.

  4. Unlike to what suggests these "health centers", Ayurveda uses many areas to achieve this balance, a way of being, living, thinking, specific diet and lifestyle, practice of yoga, meditation and breathing techniques.

  5. When an imbalance occurs, it is the subject of a diagnosis by a qualified practitioner, based on the study of humours (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). A modified diet and care are proposed depending on the diagnosis.

  6. We do not eat anything, you do not do massage any part of the body, with any oil.

  7. Usually the massage is effective only when accompanied by a particular healthy diet, specific exercises, to which are added some drugs developed according to specific rules, often herbal.

  8. 2 The majority of massage centers and treatments are scams. The staff and doctors are not formally trained. Sometimes it is the hotel staff who provides massage to round the end of the month, or for "fiddling with" of western ladies. We have often observed and experienced, even in luxury hotels.

  9. True Ayurvedic massages are still practiced by a person of the same sex as the person being massaged.

  10. After all it is holidays, nothing prevents you from doing good to yourself, but there is no evidence that this was an Ayurvedic massage.

  1. Finally, a phrase that opens many doors: Me apka photo ley sakta hou ? : Can I take a picture?

  2. it ends 99/100 with a smile, a head balancing from left to right to give you the open right to image, enjoying the respect that was shown. What many local Smartphone devotees should learn in French or English.

  3. Few western tourists and Indian aske people if they agree to be photographed ... rarer still those who propose to send a copy of the photos... pity.

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