“A superb 16 day tour, travelling in a small group and fully guided throughout, of North India’s cultural and spiritual highlights. ”
Amritsar | Golden Temple or Sri Harmandir Sahib | Pragpur | Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj | Norbulingka Institute of Tibetan Culture | Palampur | Mandi | Shimla | Toy train to 'Toy Train' to Kalka | Agra | Itmad-Ud-Daulah | Fatehpur Sikri | Agra Fort | Taj Mahal | Delhi
Description of India tour, mountains, temples & hillstations
Sixteen days of spiritual, cultural and natural India, starting in Amritsar where the magnificent Golden Temple, the holiest gurdwara of Sikhism, is one of the most stunning openers to any North India holiday. From here to Pragpur, nestled into the Kangra valley in Himachal Pradesh. Pragpur is known as a Heritage Village thanks to the preservation of its cobbled streets and traditional houses. A stunning spot, it is also gateway to the Dhauladhar mountain range and the southern peaks of the Outer Himalayas. We head further into this range where the next spiritual home, this time to the Tibetan monks, Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile: Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj. We spend a few days in this very special place, and then move south into the Himalayan foothills to the town of Palampur known as the ‘Tea Capital’ of North India.
Mandi is another spiritual spectacle on this North India tour and unknown to many tourists, despite its prolific religious architecture and places of pilgrimage. There are more than eighty temples and shrines here and the nearby exquisitely elevated Rewalsar town and lake is also one of the most tranquil locations for temples, built by Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists.
Heritage from the years of British rule is at the heart of the trip’s stop in Shimla, which was considered the summer hub during colonial years. Here you take the Viceroy’s ‘toy train’ journey to Kalka through the Himalayan foothills, considered one of India’s finest mountain railways and also a deserved UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Just as this holiday began on a high, it also ends on one, taking a train to Delhi and then on by private vehicle to Agra, home to Itmad-Ud-Daulah, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra Fort and, last but by no means least, the Taj Mahal.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: India tour, mountains, temples & hillstations
Accommodation & Meals: The accommodation for this trip is a mixture of hotels and you will notice that our hotels employ locally and use local produce from markets in the area wherever possible. The hotels are also waste and energy conscious and have their own policies like asking guests to turn off the power when leaving a room in order to save electricity. Where meals are not supplied, our group leaders always encourage people to try local restaurants and street food vendors. They can make recommendations which will help boost small businesses and celebrate local specialties- for example, Amritsar is a great place to try Lassi (Yogurt Drink) , Faluda (Ice cream), Aloo Paratha's, Samosa's and Chai. One of the hotels is family run, so clients can even walk into the kitchen and see how meals are prepared.
Charity For years we have been involved in campaigning for tiger conservation in Bandhavgarh. In late summer 2014 we teamed up with The Corbett Foundation, an Indian charity dedicated to conservation-oriented research. They have proved instrumental in enabling us to get the funds to where they are needed. Through this we have now completed the building of a community hall at Tala Village, solar pumps in the park for wildlife and staff in the dry season, bio gas plants and smart stoves for villagers and provided the salary for 2 full time teachers at the government school. Our work in India continues to be of great significance and most recently we have been able to purchase a 4 wheel drive medical vehicle and pay for outreach medical support.
Local Craft & Culture: There are several opportunities to support local people and their crafts throughout this tour by buying handmade products and souvenirs. In Dharamshala, we visit the Norbulinka Institute of Tibetan Culture, where Tibetan refugees are provided with training, education and employment. Here we stop by different workshops where students are learning Thangka painting, wood and bronze statue making, carving etc. At the end of the tour clients can purchase items manufactured in the Institute, which provides a huge support to the initiative and its students.
Community: Our Himalayan Community Support Projects have been helping people in the Markha Valley, Ladakh since the floods in 2006, when we helped people rebuild homes. Since then we have been involved with the local women’s groups and Youth Organisation for the Conservation and Preservation of the Hems National Park in building and running a successful Eco Café. The focus is using only locally made or organic produce and eliminating the plastic bottles littered around the Valley with the use of a UV water filter for trekkers. The Ladakhi women have been trained in needle and flat felting in order to make and sell felt snow leopards, ibex and blue sheep as souvenirs. This has had great economic, social and environmental benefit for the area.