A Passage to
the real India


Text and photos by Päivi Arvonen.

A high-end holiday in India may leave certain vacationers craving something more than just massages, cocktails and pool time. “Travellers crave authentic experiences filled with activities that are not possible back home,” says Mark Thomsen, marketing manager of Trek Travel in the World Travel Forum 2014 Global trends report.

An inspiring example is Jaipur’s Tree of Life Resort & Spa, which offers its guests a unique taste of local life.

“I could see no other option than to involve locals in my business. I also noticed that a growing number of travellers are looking for opportunities to learn about real life outside the resort,” says Himmat Anand, owner and founder of the Tree of Life Resort & Hotels Corporation.

Travellers looking to combine relaxation with a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience will find the perfect escape at the resort, which offers its guests a number of ways to go local.

During a visit to the elephant village, it is possible to take a ride on an elephant and paint traditional decorations on it.

Luxury voluntourism

Teach a While is Tree of Life Resort & Spa’s voluntourism scheme, inviting hotel guests to teach – and also learn – at a village school where the teenage students speak fluent English. The hotel also runs its own scholarship programme for the education of girls.

Cook with the Chef begins with a visit to the local market in a three-wheeler auto rickshaw to buy cooking ingredients. This is followed by an opportunity to prepare an authentic Indian meal under the guidance of a local chef.

Joy with elephants offers guests a great opportunity to learn about these giant, friendly beasts.

“Interaction with the elephants and their mahouts (elephant caretakers), opened up a whole new India for me. It’s impossible to put a price tag on that kind of experience,” says Rebecca Bliss, a resort guest who describes herself as a “modern European nomad.”

This article was first published in the February 2015 issue of Finnair's monthly in-flight magazine Blue Wings.