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Temples, Tigers & Toy Trains

Itinerary

  • Itinerary:
    Delhi - Amritsar - Dharamsala - Shimla - Rishikesh - Haridwar - Corbett National Park - Delhi
  • Duration:
    15 days / 14 nights (flexible)
  • Price:
    From £ 2,199.- per person (excluding flights)
Explore the Himalayan foothills in the very north of India: a region rich in religion and inspiring landscapes. Travel from Delhi into the cool Himalayan foothills. Gaze at Amritsar’s spectacular Golden Triangle, meet Tibetan pilgrims in Dharamsala, travel to Shimla on a toy train, soak up the spiritual atmosphere in Rishikesh and spot tigers in Corbett National Park.
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Day 1 – Welcome to India!

Touching down amidst the commotion of Delhi can be something of a culture shock! You’ll be met on arrival at the airport and transferred to your accommodation for the night.

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Days 2-3 – Amritsar

Early this morning you’ll be transferred to the train station. From the comfortable express train, you can watch the green countryside speed past the window. When you arrive in Amritsar you’ll be transferred to your hotel. Amritsar is the centre of the Sikh culture and home to the magnificent Golden Temple complex, which rivals even the Taj Mahal. In the evenings, the temple is illuminated with dozens of tiny lights reflecting in the Pool of Nectar, giving it an air of fairy-tale romance. You can visit the Golden Temple on your own, both at night when it’s beautifully lit up, and the next morning.

About 20 miles west of Amritsar lies the India-Pakistan border where the ‘Wagah border ceremony’ is held every day at sunset. On your second day in Amritsar, our driver and guide will take you there in the afternoon, and you’ll see big crowds of Indians and Pakistanis waiting for the show. There are soldiers wearing colourful uniforms, marching around and simultaneously lowering their countries flags. Then, before shutting the gates for the night, the soldiers from either side give each other a brusque handshake.

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Days 4-5 – Amritsar to Dharamsala

After breakfast, you’ll drive into the foothills of the Himalayas to Dharamsala. This lofty hill station was founded by the British in the mid-19th century to escape the summer heat. It is also known as ‘Little Tibet’, because it is home to the exiled Dalai Lama, and there’s a huge community of Tibetan refugees here. The monks define the gentle atmosphere of the town. Surrounded by evergreen forests and fresh green tea plantations, it’s an excellent place to unwind and recharge. Take a walk past the temple and wander amongst stupas and prayer flags in the pine forests. You will stay in a comfortable guesthouse for two nights.

There is much to see in and around Dharamsala. On a full-day guided tour today, you will visit the Dalai Lama’s temple and join the Tibetan pilgrims on their traditional “kora” (circuit of the temple complex). You can see the buildings that make up the Tibetan Parliament, including the library/museum. Surprisingly close to the town, you can walk through tea plantations and visit a functioning tea factory.

In Lower Dharamsala you can visit the fascinating Norbulingka Institute, a large complex dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture, with many workshops producing Tibetan handicrafts, a colourful temple, and a peaceful garden café. You can enjoy extensive views of the hills and mountains above Dharamsala, and take a short walk through a traditional village belonging to the Gaddi people, and visit the 19th-century St John in the Wilderness church.

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Days 6-7 – Dharamsala to Shimla

Today, you’ll be collected from your hotel in Dharamsala and transferred to Shimla, another hill station with a whole different personality. It’s a long drive through gorgeous scenery and twisting mountain roads. There will be opportunities for photo stops along the way. Once in Shimla, you’ll check in to a comfortable heritage hotel packed with old world colonial charm. Reminiscent of an English country cottage, it’s set within a shady alpine forest, with terraced gardens and lawns, and is within walking distance to The Mall, a dramatic mountain ridge crammed with shops and cafes.

Your time in Shimla is at leisure to explore independently. Once you’ve wandered the length of the main mall you can visit bazaars that form tangled, steep lanes packed with stalls and eateries. From ‘Scandal Corner’, there’s a steep climb up to the Jakhu Monkey temple – one of the highest points on Shimla ridge. Here, dozens of monkeys scamper around against a backdrop of distant snow-capped peaks.

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Day 8 – Take the toy train

In Shimla you board a narrow-gauge railway, also known as the toy train, for a spectacular journey through the mountains. There are great photo opportunities and the windows in the compartments can be opened so you can maximise the view. You can purchase hot chai and snacks during stops at the train stations. The almost 100km long journey ends in the afternoon at the train station in Kalka. Your luggage travels in a car from Shimla to Kalka, where the driver will meet you, and transfer you to Chandigarh to your simple, comfortable hotel where you will spend the night.

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Days 9-10 – Travel to Rishikesh

After breakfast there will be some time to explore Chandigarh before continuing your Himalayan journey to Rishikesh. Rishikesh lies in a picturesque setting at the foot of the Himalayas, and on the banks of the Ganges River. On arrival check into your comfortable hotel where you will spend two nights.

Rishikesh has a holy atmosphere and is also known as the birthplace of yoga, and most of our hotels offer a 1 hour taster to get you into the spirit of the place. The river here is clear and clean, so if you ever wanted to dip your toes in the Ganges then this is the perfect time.

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Day 11 – Travel to Haridwar

Your next stop on this special Himalayan journey is Haridwar, which is also located on the Ganges. The town is an important place of pilgrimage in Hinduism, and a special ritual takes place every evening at the Har-ki-Pauri Ghat. Pilgrims bathe in the Ganges, float candlelit offerings down the river and pray together. Your driver can take you close to Har-ki-Pauri, where you can walk through the narrow lanes and watch the ritual and, if you like, let a flower basket with your wishes float down the river. Alternatively, your hotel has its own (smaller) aarti ritual right outside, on the banks of the river, where you can enjoy a more serene experience. Your small, comfortable heritage hotel is located in the old town, and is steeped in the culture and tradition of Haridwar.

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Days 12-13 – Wildlife spotting in Corbett National Park

Head away from the Ganges to Corbett National Park. Named after the legendary hunter Jim Corbett, it is India’s first national park and home to an abundance of wildlife. With a little luck you will spot tigers, elephants, various species of deer, jackals and lots of monkeys. Your hotel has comfortable cottages hidden within a large garden with a lovely swimming pool and extensive lawns leading down to the Ramganga River.

During your stay you’ll head into the dense jungles of Corbett National Park on a jeep safari and a safari in a large vehicle into the special Dhikala zone, the centre of Corbett. You will be accompanied by a trained guide who knows his way around and has a trained eye for animals. Keep your camera ready and your eyes peeled for tigers in the thicket or fresh tracks in the sand!

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Days 14-15 – Back to Delhi & depart

After breakfast depart the Himalayan foothills and drive back to Delhi, the starting point of your trip. You will stay in the same hotel as at the beginning of your trip. Depending on when your return flight leaves, you may still have time for one last stroll through the city, or some last minute shopping.

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Temples, Tigers & Toy Trains

Accommodation

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