A stimulating tour providing a fascinating insight into the country’s spirituality – from GBP 785 for 15 days
|Activities:||Walking at sites|
|Highlights:||Hinduism, Buddhism. Sikhism, Islam, Amritsar, Varanasi, Dharamsala, Rishikesh, Ganges|
There are probably more religions in Northern India than anywhere else in the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism – to name just a few. On this unique tour we visit famous pilgrimage centres and religious sites where you will come face to face with challenging philosophies and tradition which are intriguing to witness and absorb. This the perfect trip to immerse yourself not only in India as a country but also its many varied religions and cultures where the sheer intensity and zest for life will create a truly memorable lasting impression.
- Immerse yourself in India’s many varied religions and cultures
- Discover the main pilgrimage sites of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam
- Visit the renowned iconic centre of the Golden Temple of Amritsar
- Watch pilgrims bathe in the Ganges at Varanasi, Allahabad and Rishikesh
- Experience Tibetan culture at Macleod Ganj and Dharamsala
- Come face to face with daily rituals, colourful ceremonies and intriguing philosophy
- Explore your own spirituality in yoga and meditation classes
- Start in bustling Delhi and finish in Kolkata
Day 1 – DELHI
Arrive Delhi and make your own way to the hotel. Enjoy an afternoon orientation tour of Delhi including a visit the extravagant Laxmi Narayan Mandir which was inaugurated by Gandhi with the stipulation that it should be open to all castes (including the untouchables) and all faiths, so it is the perfect place to begin our journey into Indian spirituality.
Day 2 – AMRITSAR
Early morning express train to Amritsar, the capital of Punjab and home of the Golden Temple. This exquisite temple, centred in a small lake, features an intricate mix of Hindu and Moslem artistic styles yet has been the holiest shrine of the Sikh religion for more than 400 years.
Day 3 to Day 4 – DHARAMSALA
We travel by train and bus to Dharamsala, a hill station in Himachal Pradesh with a spectacular mountain setting. This is the home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile. Their settlement at the ex-British garrison town of Mcleod Ganj is a colourful example of their culture with many brightly coloured prayer flags and temples.. The whole town exudes a deep spirituality yet retains a somewhat cosmopolitan aura – this is not a ‘hippy’ guru centre but an energetic and enterprising hub of meditation.
Day 5 to Day 7 – HARIDWAR & RISHIKESH
A sleeper train takes us to the Hindu spiritual centres of Haridwar and Rishikesh. Rishikesh has long been a spiritual centre – made even more famous by a visit from the Beatles to the Maharishi in the sixties. Here you will be able to witness Hindu ceremonies up close as a walk along the ghats (stepped embankments) of the Ganges at sunset will see various colourful rites take place, many involving chanting and colourful lotus ‘boats’ put out to float down the river carrying the prayers of the devotee with them – feel free to join in!
Day 8 to Day 9 – ALLAHABAD
We travel by sleeper train to the Gangetic plains of Uttar Pradesh. Allahabad has a huge importance for Hindus – it is the site where Brahma offered his first sacrifice as it stands at the point where the Yamuna and the Ganges meet the mythical Saraswati River. Here priests assist pilgrims in the ritual ablutions of pilgrims taking a dip in the holy waters.
Day 10 to Day 11 – VARANASI
We continue by train to Varanasi (Benares) which is every bit as magical as its reputation. It is holy to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains and has been of cultural and religious importance for several thousand years. We can absorb all these facets of Indian life as we take an early morning boat trip on the Ganges followed by a walk through the old city. You can also take an optional excursion to nearby Sarnath, where Gautama the Buddha preached his first sermon 2500 years ago.
Day 12 – BODH GAYA
We board the train to Gaya. From here it is a short drive to Bodh Gaya, a quiet village near the river Niranjana. Bodh Gaya is one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage centres since it was under the Bo tree here that Gautama, the prince, attained enlightenment to become the Buddha. There are many Buddhist temples here built by numerous different nations reflecting their respective architectural styles. We can also visit the International Meditation Centre.
Day 13 to Day 14 – KOLKATA (CALCUTTA)
A sleeper train takes us from Gaya to Calcutta. Throughout the world, Calcutta has an unequalled reputation for poverty, squalor and overcrowding. Its grand colonial buildings offer a complete contrast to the confusion of tiny alleys in the working heart of the city where hand held rickshaws fly past wide-eyed children staring out from their canvas ‘homes’. Yet this vibrant capital of West Bengal is unmatched in India as a cultural and intellectual centre with a proud and welcoming population brimming over with rich Bengali humour. A fitting finale.
Day 15 – KOLKATA
Please note that owing to the likelihood of train delays, we recommend that passengers do not book departure flights departing within 6 hours of the arrival time at the tour end point for day trains, and within 8 hours for overnight trains.
Key: (B) = Breakfast, (L) = Lunch, (D) = Dinner