Journey to some of the earth’s most magical places on this pilgrimage through India’s famed spiritual centres: the holy Sikh city of Amritsar and its renowned Golden Temple; the Dalai Lama’s home-in-exile, Tibet-infused Dharamsala; Rishikesh, the 'Yoga Capital of the World'; and Varanasi, with its grand spectacle of passionate pilgrims congregating on the banks of the sacred Ganges.
Today is an arrival day and no activities are planned, so you may arrive at any time. If you are arriving early, please check the noticeboard in the foyer of the hotel for suggestions of things to see and do in Delhi. A pre-departure meeting takes place this evening at the hotel. Please also check the noticeboard for details of this meeting and for any other messages from your tour guide. Please also bring your passport and travel insurance documents to the meeting. Afterwards we have the opportunity to go out for an optional group dinner.
We journey into Punjab and reach Amritsar, literally 'The Pool of the Nectar of Immortality' and home to the fabulously radiant Golden Temple (or Harmandir Sahib). Explore the holiest Sikh shrine in the world and its blissful surrounds. You’ll discover it was built with doors facing the four points of the compass; pilgrims of every religion or faith are allowed to enter, meditate and listen, as well as bask amidst soothing prayers for peace.
A six-hour drive takes us to Dharamsala. The town has grown from its 1849 native regiment encampment origins to its current incarnation as the capital for Tibetan Buddhist scholarship and a seat of power. Standing at the foot of Dhauladhar, the town offers magnificent views of snowy peaks, deodar and pine forests, tea gardens and beautiful hills, making a fine home for Tibet’s and arguably the world’s most renowned and venerated spiritual guru - His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. He resides in McLeod Ganj, the upper part of Dharamsala and a place where you’ll find yourself amongst many robed monks and Tibetan people.
We further explore the small town of McLeod Ganj, its Buddhist temple and street market hubbub. Traditional Tibetan culture here remains strong and largely unaffected by adversity. You can visit the Norbulingka Institute, dedicated to preserving Tibetan culture, or go on short hikes to some of the many scenic spots around this remarkable hill station.
Today is a day of leisure in this tranquil and spiritual place. You have more free time to explore more of Dharamsala and absorb its ambience. In the late afternoon we depart and drive for three hours to Chakki Bank, where we meet our overnight train to Haridwar. Our scheduled time of departure is 8:35 pm (2035 hrs), but sometimes we need to wait for a while due to the train not running on time.
An early start sees us board the train north to the pretty town of Haridwar. The mighty Ganges river flows swiftly through this town, bearing glacial water down through the country. We’ll see a very different version of the river far downstream in Varanasi. Haridwar is a holy Hindu city, and there is time to check out the town, watch pilgrims pray along the banks of the river, or just relax, while we are in this vicinity. We take a short drive to Rishikesh, our base for the next three nights. Rishikesh is regarded as the ‘yoga capital of the world’ and ashrams are clustered in the hills. The scenery is beautiful and conducive to relaxation and meditation. We enjoy a yoga session of an hour or so each morning and the rest of the day is free. Stroll around the town and chat to Sadhus (holy men), enjoy an optional rafting trip, head back into Haridwar for further exploration, or take a walk through the hills to waterfalls. There’s plenty to do. Of course chilling out is always a good option.
After a final yoga session, there’s time to say farewell to our peaceful base before we head back to Haridwar to catch an overnight train to Varanasi arriving in the afternoon of Day 9.
Regarded as the spiritual heart of India, Varanasi is the city of Shiva built on the banks of the sacred Ganges River. Thousands of pilgrims flock to the great ghats to bathe in the holy waters - a ritual that is believed to wash away all sins. The city claims to be one of the oldest in the world and it’s a magical place where we are able to witness the rituals of life and death on the ghats, on an early morning boat ride. Our tour guide also takes us for a walk through the back lanes and crowded alleyways of this timeless city. After our time in Varanasi, we board another overnight sleeper train and head back westward to Delhi.
We arrive back in Delhi at dawn and the rest of the day is free to do your own thing. Red Fort and the impressive Jama Masjid (Great Mosque) are two of the city's most notable landmarks, whilst Raj Ghat is a monument that marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. In the final evening we have the opportunity to head out for a final group dinner (optional) before saying our goodbyes.
Our trip ends today around breakfast time. If you wish to stay on in Delhi, please pre-book your post-tour accommodation before you commence your travels. Delhi has many interesting museums and monuments. If you are interested in historical and cultural matters, it is recommended that you to extend your stay and visit some of these places. Humayun's Tomb and Safdarjang's Tomb are great examples of Mughal architecture and design. Hauz Khas Village is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown - a chic artistic enclave set right next to the remnants of a historical site.
Experienced regional tour guide and all transportation and accommodation as indicated in detailed Trip Notes. The following sightseeing trips are included: The golden temple, Haridwar - witness Ganga Aarti ritual, Varanasi - one morning boat ride on the Ganges.
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, airport/departure taxes, visas, pre or post tour accommodation, meals, optional tours, yoga sessions, sightseeing or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature, laundry and flights unless specified. Some places that we visit charge additional fees if you are entering with a camera or camcorder - your city guide will advise on these and they can be paid for locally.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
24 December 2013