My vivacious neighbour Alyson is not my husband’s favourite person. Alyson is a travel agent and furniture importer who specialises in exotic India (this year she brought home a shipping container load of ornate wrought-iron gates, most of which are now installed at Foggydale Farm, hence my hubby’s nervousness at the mere mention of her name!)

Anyway, Alyson and I have put together a blooming awesome itinerary for a two-week fully escorted tour of India next March, taking in all the sights from the Taj Mahal to the Valley of Flowers. Think Eat, Pray, Love… plus Gorgeous Gardens!

Here’s the basic itinerary: 13 nights/14 days, departing Auckland on 20 March 2017, flying Singapore Airlines.

Day 1: Arrive in Mumbai, transfer to our hotel for a two night stay. (Accommodation 4* Deluxe + 5* Heritage Property.) Relax and enjoy some leisure time together.

Day 2: After breakfast, we’ll board a ferry to Elephanta Island, for a 1-hour cruise affording picturesque seaside views. Thereafter, enjoy the city tour of Mumbai visiting Gateway of India (a triumphal arch to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary) with its turrets and intricate latticework carved into yellow basalt stone. We’ll check out the treasures at the Prince of Wales Museum (carefully preserved, this mid-Victorian Gothic-style building was built in 1904 with beautiful gardens); visit Dhobi Ghat and Crawford market.

Day 3: After breakfast, we’ll fly to Jaipur and check into our hotel for a two-night stay. The evening is free to relax at the hotel or explore the Jaipur Bazaar, famous for textiles, jewellery, bangles etc.

Day 4: After an early breakfast, we’ll head out on an excursion to the majestic Amber Fort with a photo stop at Hawa Mahal, poetically known as the “Palace of Winds”. Continue to Amber Fort, the former ancient capital of Jaipur state, a superb example of Rajput architecture. The most enthralling experience of Amber Fort is the gaily decorated elephant ride to the Amber Fort. Later, well take a guided tour of Jaipur city starting with the City Palace Museum, registered in the Guinness Book of Records to contain the biggest silver objects in the world. Conclude your sightseeing with a visit to Jantar Mantar. One of the famed observatories built by Sawai Jai Singh, it is a complex of astronomical instruments, chiselled out of stone.

Day 5: After breakfast, we’ll travel to Agra for a two-night stay. Agra is home to India’s most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal. En-route we’ll visit Abhaneri Stepwell, an ancient village in Rajasthan renowned for its early medieval monuments.

Day 6: We’ll take an early morning visit to the Taj Mahal (closed on Fridays), the epitome of love. Standing on the banks of the river Yamuna, it was built in the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. This magnificent monument is built around a Charbagh or ‘four garden’ plan, split by watercourses, and reflects the influence of Persian architectural style. Come back to hotel for breakfast, followed by a sightseeing tour of the Agra Fort, built by Emperor Akbar; Itimad-ud-Daulah, nicknamed Baby Taj; a marble factory and then explore the colourful markets.

Day 7: After a leisurely breakfast, check out and travel to Delhi for a two night stay, with the rest of the day at your leisure.

Day 8: Take a guided sightseeing tour of Old & New Delhi. Begin with Old Delhi with a drive past Red Fort Palace to reach Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, built from red sandstone. Between the mosque and Chandni Chowk is a narrow shop-lined street along which you will be transported by cycle rickshaws on your most photogenic journey of the tour. We’ll also visit Khari Baoli, a street in Delhi famous for its wholesale grocery and Asia’s largest wholesale spice market, selling all kinds of spices, nuts, herbs and other food products. In the afternoon, explore New Delhi, which will include photo opportunities at some of the following attractions: the exterior of the Parliament House, the War Memorial Arch (India Gate) and residence of the President of India in New Delhi. Conclude your day with visit to Qutub Minar; being one of the most important landmarks of Delhi, with calligraphically decorated interiors and also inscriptions of verses of the Holy Quran.

Day 9: After breakfast we’ll fly to Srinagar, and be transferred to a traditional Kashmiri houseboat anchored on the prime location of Dal Lake, our accommodation for the next five nights.

Day 10: We travel to Gulmarg, Meadows of Flowers, situated 2,730 metres above sea level. The spring season starts by mid-March so it’s the best time visit Gulmarg. In spring, we will witness the meadows dotted with countless colourful bluebells, daisies, forget-me-nots and buttercups. Gulmarg is a wondrous mountain resort with the world’s highest golf course and also India’s premier ski resort. It’s a relaxed day to soak up the scenic beauty. On arrival, proceed for a local sightseeing tour of Gulmarg that includes a visit to famous nearby attractions. If you’re brave, take the gondola ride… Gulmarg is home to the world’s second highest cable car ride. In the evening, we’ll return to our houseboat.

Day 11: Explore the Dal-Lake, Waterways, Back Waters, Canals, Floating Garden, flower Garden, Vegetable Gardens of the lake area.

Day 12: We’re off to the Srinagar Tulip Festival – Asia’s biggest Tulip garden, on the shores of the famous Dal Lake. The garden looks like a silken carpet of bright coloured sprawling tulips over 5 hectares. The garden now boasts more than 2 million bulbs. Cultural programs, Kashmiri folk songs, sale of local handicrafts, and preparation of traditional Kashmiri cuisine forms an eminent part of the entertainment of visitors during the festival.

Day 13: The morning is free to explore the Tulip Garden, while later in the afternoon we explore the old city and visit Jama Masjid, originally built in 1394 and restored in 1672. As the largest mosque in Kashmir, Jama Masjid has 378 wooden pillars supporting the structure and is so large that it can accommodate thousands of devotees. Another great attraction is the Shah-e-Hamdan situated on the banks of River Jhelum.

Day 14: Enjoy breakfast together at our hotel. The tour concludes with a direct transfer to the Srinagar airport to board our Singapore Airlines flight home.

How much does it cost? A single room is $9790; double is $8490; internal flights $550 and tipping kitty approx $275 per person. For full details, talk to Alyson. Phone 09 292 4400, 021948508 or email: