Fabled Hill Stations & the Golden Temple
Revealing stories at every turn, India’s fabled hill stations will leave you spellbound. Step back in time in stunning Shimla, once the summer retreat of the British Raj. Savour delicate infusions in the tea capital of Northern India, let the artists of Andretta ignite your creativity, and discover a special kind of tranquillity in the home to the Dalai Lama. Wind through the mountains on the Himalayan Queen train, one of the finest engineering feats in India, and witness the theatrical flag lowering ceremony on the Wagah border. This is India at its most extraordinary.
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Day 1: Arrive Delhi
Namaste and welcome to Delhi, India’s capital and northern gateway. Enjoy a warm A&K welcome and private transfer to your stylish hotel, an oasis of calm just moments from the vibrant restaurants, shops and bars of Gurugram (Gurgaon). Once a sleepy suburb of New Delhi, Gurugram is now among the fastest growing cities in India and home to over 250 of the Fortune 500 companies. Drop your bags, relax and soak in the views over the azure reflection pool or explore your surroundings spread over nine acres.
Hotel: The Oberoi, Gurgaon
Day 2: Delhi – Chandigarh – Shimla
Return to the airport and fly to Chandigarh, designed by the Swiss-French modernist architect, Le Corbusier and independent India’s first planned city, known as “The City Beautiful”. Embark on a tour of the unusual Rock Garden, a spectacle of sustainable design. Marvel at man-made waterfalls and sculptures made entirely from discarded scrap material. After lunch, stop at the Open Hand Monument, designed by Le Corbusier and built to commemorate peace and prosperity. Continue by road to the striking Himalayan hill station of Shimla. Once the British Raj’s summer capital, Shimla offers an immersive look at India’s past, beginning with your luxury heritage hotel.
Hotel: The Oberoi Wildflower Hotel, 3 nights
Day 3: Shimla
Unveil the many remnants of British colonial life today. Start at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, also known as the Viceregal Lodge, formerly used by the Viceroy during the summer months until independence. Roam the immense Scottish structure and its beautiful botanical gardens, and glimpse photographs from the last years of the Raj. Continue exploring Shimla on foot, taking in the colonial architecture, museums, churches and the Jhako Temple. Spend your afternoon at leisure, revelling in the history of your luxurious hotel or continuing your exploration of the city.
Day 4: Shimla
Today, you step aboard the famous Himalayan Queen train. Journey deep into the Himalayan foothills through tunnels and over bridges along the century-old metre gauge line, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the finest feats of engineering in India. Your journey ends at Kandaghat station, after which you will return to Shimla. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure, relax in your hotel pool and spa, or enjoy an optional activity (additional charge). Choose from a short trek through the local rhododendron and cedar forests or take the cultural trail to Rudyard Kipling’s house and the Army Heritage Museum.
Day 5: Shimla – Palampur
Say goodbye to Shimla as you travel to Palampur, known as the tea capital of Northern India, enjoying a boxed lunch provided by your hotel as you travel. Settle into your beautiful lodge in the Wah Tea Estate, established in 1857 and now the largest working tea estate in the Kangra Valley. Take a guided tour, watching the Wah tea ladies pluck only two leaves and a bud before trying your hand at this intricate skill. Visit the factory and appreciate the processes of withering, rolling, fermenting, drying and sorting. Stroll through the organic farm, which supplies the lodge with fresh produce. Before heading to the gardens surrounded by tea bushes for an aromatic tea tasting.
Hotel: The Lodge at Wah, 2 nights
Day 6: Palampur
Stimulate your creativity at Andretta, a tranquil village and artists’ colony. Step inside the mudbrick home of Irish writer and dramatist Norah Richards, who established the village in the 1920s. See the colourful paintings of Sobha Singh at the small family-run gallery and try your hand at throwing a pot in Andretta Pottery. Later, ride the narrow gauge Kangra railway for a glimpse of local village life against the backdrop of the Himalaya. Continue to Baijnath and marvel at the quietly famous Shiva temple, a beautiful example of early medieval architecture built in the 13th century. Finally, admire the brightly coloured intricate paintings that adorn the walls of Tashi Jong Monastery, the homely residence of Tibetan refugees before returning to your accommodation.
Day 7: Palampur – Dharamshala
Begin your journey to Dharamshala, on the edge of the Himalayas, with a stop at a traditional nomadic settlement of the Gaddi tribe. Discover the Norbulingka Institute, dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture. Watch the Tibetan artisans and their apprentices as they practice the ancient Buddhist art forms of statue-making, thangka painting and appliqué, as well as woodcarving, tailoring and weaving. Step inside the temple to see some of the finest thangka frescoes. Continue to your hotel in McLeod Ganj, home to the Dalai Lama and the centre of Little Tibet, with beautiful views of the snow-capped Dhauladhar mountain range and the pristine Dharamshala valley.
Hotel: Fortune Park Moksha, 2 nights
Day 8: Dharamshala
Explore the Dalai Lama’s monastery, Tsuglag Khang, the largest Tibetan temple outside Tibet home to around 200 monks. Be mesmerised by the prayer wheels, colourful décor, and the Tibetan-style architecture. Continue to the small Gyuto monastery, the recent home of the Karmapa, the Tibetan spiritual leader. Return to the hotel and drink in the spectacular views or choose to unwind at the hotel’s Wellness Centre. This evening, join locals on a Kora Walk around the Dalai Lama temple and meet a Lama, if you wish.
Day 9: Dharamshala – Amritsar
Today you journey to Amritsar, home of the magnificent Golden Temple, the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism. Known by locals as Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple is surrounded by the holy waters of the Amrit Sarovar and devotees travel from across the world to bathe and pay their respects to the holy Sikh scripture within. Spend your afternoon at leisure before an evening visit to the Golden Temple for the auspicious Palki Sahib night ceremony. Witness the Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Book) being carried from the main shrine to the inner sanctum amid the chanting of hymns.
Hotel: Taj Swarna, 2 nights
Day 10: Amritsar
Rise early to visit the shimmering Golden Temple as morning prayers begin. Step inside the communal kitchen to see the Sikh community come together to prepare simple meals for the 35,000 pilgrims who visit the temple daily. Wind through the narrow lanes of the Hall Bazaar and pay your respects at Jallianwala Bagh, the memorial commemorating the 1919 massacre. Spend the rest of your afternoon at leisure or take a culinary tour into local neighbourhoods to sample the flavours of Punjabi cuisine (additional charge). This evening, drive to the Wagah border between India and Pakistan to witness the changing of the guard. Join hundreds of people to witness the theatrical pageant as the flags are lowered on both sides of the border. The ceremony has been taking place since 1959.
Day 11: Depart Amritsar
Your journey to India’s fabled hill stations comes to an end with a private transfer to the airport for your onward journey.
|2020 Dates & Prices||Twin Share||Solo Traveller|
|Departs daily from New Delhi:||From $5,165.00||Price on Application|
|Meals:||10 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners|
|Transport:||Airport Transfers & private air-conditioned vehicle|
|Flights:||Air Ticket: Delhi - Chandigarh|
|Accommodation:||10 nights accommodation|
|Guide:||Local English Speaking Guides|
|Entrance Fees & Touring:||Entrance fees & activities as per itinerary|
* Tour departure dates are subject to availability at time of booking.
* Prices and itinerary are correct at time of publication and are subject to change without notice.