Fit for Kings

After nearly 250 years in business, you better believe Cox and Kings knows India

By: Allen Salkin

Cox and Kings has been taking clients to India in style since 1758. No, that’s not a typo. The company was in business before there was a United States of America.

In 1989, the company, founded in London and Madras, India, established a U.S. presence. With a staff of 300 in India and a commitment to class and luxury, Cox and Kings USA aims to make clients feel looked after at every moment of an India itinerary.

“It’s a very customized, personal style of travel that we can organize in India because we’ve been there so long,” said Nathaniel Waring, president of Cox and Kings USA.

In the last three months, for example, Cox and Kings USA has arranged customized travel for about 300 clients and taken about 150 clients on group tours.

Cox and King’s recently unveiled a 20-day Imperial India tour. In Varanasi, clients are carried along on rickshaws. In Jaipur, there is travel by elephant. There are six departures in 2005, but the company is also a go-to place for customized luxury travel in India.

For instance, because many clients end their India itineraries in Bombay, it’s the place where many prefer to do their shopping before heading home. Cox and Kings has a specialist in Bombay, Rashida Anees, a prominent socialite.

“She’ll met you in the morning at the Taj, and will go over things you may want to buy,” Waring explained. “If you want to have a sari made, or handmade paper or art deco furniture, or leather garments, she’s a big shopper and knows all the best shops in Bombay.”

Anees will then take clients around town with her own car and driver, spinning a shopping whirlwind that will leave even the most discerning types giggling with glee. She is also a member of two old British clubs that now cater to the moneyed classes of Bombay.

“It’s like being a visitor in New York City and being taken around by someone who’s a member of New York society. She knows everybody in Bombay,” Waring said.

Another Cox and Kings-type customized affair is available in the south of India at the Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore, where many clients go for big-game viewing. Game viewing is done early in the morning and late in the afternoon, leaving clients free for long stretches in the middle of the day. “One thing we’ve done with several of our clients is to do a culinary class,” Waring said.

For the culinary class, the hotel chef takes clients the first midday to the local market for an education on the fresh vegetables and spices.

“The next day you go to his kitchen and he’ll walk you through several dishes and that night you get to eat what you cooked,” Waring said.

The company offers several group itineraries, as well.

The Southern Trader trip touches the Cardamom Hills and plantations of teak, pepper and rubber, the backwaters of Kerala, a working tea estate at the hill station of Munnar, little visited Hoysala Dynasty temples at Halebid and Belur and a classical private Indian dance performance in Madras the city which is now called Chennai. Here clients can also visit the historic Meenakshi Temple. The Splendor of the North tour serves up a Maharana-style meal aboard a former Udaipur royal pleasure barge, the Taj Mahal, a sunrise Ganges cruise and the floating palace of Udaipur.

Another of the tour operator’s Private Journeys itineraries is Splendors of the East. The trip starts in Calcutta, the capital of British India until 1911, with a Hooghly river cruise. It moves to the State of Orissa, on the shores of the Bay of Bengal where Brahmin temples are visited. Along the way, there’s the 13th-century Sun Temple of Konarak, the sculpted temples at Bindu Sarovar and the Udaigiri & Khandagiri caves once occupied by Jain monks. “Cox and Kings know India intimately,” Waring said.

After 247 years, what else would one expect.


Cox and Kings’ 16-day Splendors of the North tour begins and ends in New Delhi. Here are some highlights.

Days 4 -6 bring clients to what the company casts as “Sacred India,” Varanasi and Khajuraho.

Varanasi is toured by rickshaw bicycle. There’s a sunset cruise along the ghats of the Ganges River at sunset, where pilgrims can be spotted offering prayers amid the ringing of temple bells. These days also touch down at the temples of Khajuraho. Clients will see the erotic carvings of the Chandela temples.

Days 9-11 are spent around Jaipur, “the Pink City.” Clients climb aboard elephants for a ride to the elaborate Amber Fort. At the Palace of the Winds, 953 windows once allowed the ladies of the court to watch the street unobserved.

One evening is spent dining at the home of a Rajasthani royal family.

Days 12-14 linger in the heart of Rajasthan, including forays into Udaipur and a dinner served while cruising on a lake. Accommodation is at the Taj Lake Palace Hotel.

Day 15 has clients back in New Delhi for time to shop at the innumerable markets in the teeming city.