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India Holidays Golden Triangle Rajasthan Taj Mahal Jaipur Delhi Tigers

Amritsar + Shimla + Taj Mahal + Tigers


IPR20D
20 NIGHTS
FROM £2,995
Per person sharing
International flights quoted separately
This comprehensive holiday to India combines the great historic sights of the Golden Triangle with the spiritual centres of Amritsar, Dharamshala & Rishikesh. Visit the Golden Temple, Shimla in the Himalayas & take the Toy Train. Then visit Delhi, Taj Mahal in Agra & Jaipur, before enjoying wiith a thrilling safari to see tigers in Ranthambore. English speaking driver, city guides, private jeep safaris & sightseeing included.
Holiday India Amritsar Shimla Himalayas Toy Train Taj Jaipur Tigers
• 
Holiday in India
• 
Old & New Delhi
• 
Amritsar & Golden Temple
• 
Dharamshala
• 
Shimla in Himalayas
• 
Toy Train
• 
Rishikesh & River Ganges
• 
Taj Mahal in Agra
• 
Amber Fort in Jaipur
• 
Ranthambore Tigers
• 
Holiday in India
• 
Old & New Delhi
• 
Amritsar & Golden Temple
• 
Dharamshala
• 
Shimla in Himalayas
• 
Toy Train
• 
Rishikesh & River Ganges
• 
Taj Mahal in Agra
• 
Amber Fort in Jaipur
• 
Ranthambore Tigers
Day 1
You will be met at Delhi Airport by your driver and transferred to your hotel in this ancient capital of kingdoms and empires that is now a sprawling metropolis.
 
Delhi's strategic location was one of the main reasons why successive dynasties chose it as their seat of power and today it is a conglomerate of seven cities. The division between the old walled city and New Delhi marks a division in lifestyles, with the old city retaining its past traditions whilst New Delhi strives to match the pace of the 21st century.
Day 2
Today enjoy a full day tour of modern New Delhi and the 17th century walled city of Old Delhi, which came to prominence when Shah Jahan moved his capital here from Agra.
 
In Old Delhi enjoy a cycle rickshaw ride through 300-year old Chandni Chowk market, a maze of lanes crowded with noisy shops selling an extraordinary variety of items and foods, and past the Jamia Masjid (or Friday Mosque), the largest in India, and drive past the imposing walls & battlements of the Red Fort, once the most opulent palace in the Mughal Empire. We continue to the Raj Ghat - the simple but moving memorial on the site where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated.
 
In the afternoon our tour of New Delhi starts with a visit the Qutub Minar, an ancient victory tower built of red sandstone and marble in 1199 and still the tallest minaret in India. With its imposing cylindrical towers and surrounding ruins, it is today a World Heritage site. Our next stop is Humayun's Tomb, the beautiful mausoleum of the Mughul emperor Akbar, that inspired the Taj Mahal.
 
We drive along the Rajpath - the capital's broadest avenue - where you will see the imposing arch of the India Gate war memorial, Parliament House, the Rashtrapati Bhavan presidential residence built for the Viceroy of India, and the government buildings on Raisina Hill.
Day 3
Rise early this morning and transfer to New Delhi Station to board the express train (air conditioned chair class) departing 07.20 for Amritsar in the Punjab.
 
Enjoy wonderful views of the countryside as you travel through northwest India, arriving in Amritsar around 13.35. Here you will be met and transferred to your hotel in this pilgrimage city that is spiritual centre of the Sikh religion. This city is also known for its magnificent carpets and fabrics, farm produce, handicrafts, rich cuisine and culture.
 
Note: Because of the very short (2-minute) stops at each station, train travel in India is not recommended for the elderly or those travelling with children, where a road transfer will be substituted. When travelling on local trains be alert for possible theft (eg do not wear expensive watches or jewellery, never leave your belongings unattended or fall asleep). Also do not buy any food or drink from hawkers.
Day 4
This morning we visit the magnificent Golden Temple. Shining in the morning light, with its large dome surrounded by elegant minarets and splendidly gilded interior panelling, this temple is a magnificent place of worship for devotees of the Sikh faith worldwide. Near the temple we visit the Sarovar, a sacred holy water pool, and Langar - one of the largest community kitchens in the world.
 
Afterwards we visit Jallianwala Bagh where on 13 April 1919 British Indian Army troops under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer, fired into a crowd of hundreds of protesting men, women and children. This Amritsar massacre site is now a memorial garden.
 
In the afternoon we drive 2-hours to the Wagha Border, the only crossing point between India and Pakistan. Here the changing of the guards and flag-lowering ceremony is performed daily with blustering pomp and perfect drill by both side - described by Michael Palin as "carefully choreographed contempt". A jawan (infantryman) stands at attention on each side and as the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again.
Day 5
Today we drive 5-hours to the city of Dharamshala in the Kangra Valley, surrounded by dense coniferous forests.
 
This is the home of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama - the spiritual leader of the Buddhists of Tibet. It is also the headquarters of the government of Tibet, in exile since 1960 (the Central Tibetan Administration).
 
After checking into your hotel, relax in the beautiful Dhauladhar mountains.
Day 6
This morning we visit Tsuglagkhang - the Dalai Lama Monastery complex at McLeod Ganj in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley. Here you can learn more about the Buddhist faith and see traditional Tibetan prayer wheels.
 
We hike to see the beautiful Bhagsunag Falls and visit the old Bhagsunag Temple. We also visit the Anglican church of St. John in the Wilderness, in whose churchyard the former British Viceroy of India and Governor General of Canada, Lord Elgin, is buried. The church has lovely Belgian stained glass windows donated by Lady Elgin.
 
Then visit Kangra Art Museum and the War Memorial that honours Gurka soldiers - "the bravest of the brave" - who died in two world wars and fighting for the independence of India.
 
We continue to the Norburlinka Institute, dedicated to preserving Tibetan culture by handing down its traditions in art and literature and providing training, education and employment for the exiled people of Tibet. This includes high quality thangka painting, traditionally crafted statues, screen-printing, applique, woodcarving, wood painting, papermaking and metal craft.
 
Note: The Norburlinka Institute is closed on Sunday.
Day 7
A full day on the road today as we leave Dharamshala and travel 6 to 7-hours through breathtaking landscapes of deodar and pine trees, meadows, valleys, fruit orchards and the snow capped peaks of the mighty Himalayas to the hill station at Manali.
 
On arrival check into your hotel in this small town, through which the clear waters of the Beas River meander.
Day 8
Another full day on the road today as we travel 7 to 8-hours from Manali  through the stunning scenery of the Himalayas to the hill station at Shimla.
 
Referred to as the "Queen of Hills", Shimla was the summer capital of British India and is steeped in colonial history. On arrival check into your hotel and relax in the fresh mountain air.
Day 9
Today enjoy a half day tour of Shimla.
 
We start with a visit to the splendid Rashtrapati Niwas (Viceregal Lodge) that was built in 1888 by Lord Dufferin in Scottish baronial style, to house the British Viceroy and his staff for the six months they were based in the town. It is now a museum with beautifully laid out Botanical Gardens and a touching collection of hotographs from the late Victorian era and the last years of the Raj. It also houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies.
 
Afterwards we walk along the pedestrianised Mall from Scandal Point and Christ Church, past the Post Office, Gaiety Theatre and Town Hall. Here commerce rubs shoulders with stately colonial buildings, churches and other landmarks and at the end you will find the colourful local market - the Lakkar Bazaar. Shimla is particularly well known for the quality of its local pashmina shawls.
 
The afternoon is free to relax at your hotel or visit the hot springs that are believed to have medicinal value. You can also visit the ancient Jakhoo Hindu temple, situated at the highest point in the town (pay for guide & entrance fees locally).
Day 10
This morning transfer to Shimla Railway Station to board the Toy Train, travelling through beautiful scenery towards Kalka.
 
One of India's five 'Toy Trains' built by the British, it is registered in the Guinness Book as the greatest narrow gauge engineering achievement in India. The train passes through breathtaking landscapes of the majestic Himalayas - with 103 tunnels, 969 bridges, 919 curves and over 20 railway stations along the way. Enjoy splendid views of the snow-clad Himalayas, covered with thickly populated pine and oak forests.
 
As the Toy Train is not very comfortable, instead of travelling for 5-hours to Kalka we recommend you alight after 2-hours at Kundaghat Station (the stop after the busy market town of Solan) where your driver will collect you and transfer you 2-hours by road to Chandigarh.
  
The modern city of Chandigarh is the joint capital of the state of Punjab and Haryanaa, and is one of the best planned cities in India.
 
Note: The small Toy Train is not air-conditioned, so be prepared for an interesting cultural experience (not a luxury journey). Your driver will continue overland and meet up with this slow train at some stations along the way, giving you the option to disembark and continue by road. Please note your porterage is already pre-paid.
Day 11
We travel 5-hours today from Chandigarh to Rishikesh, situated on the banks of the sacred River Ganges.
 
Rishikesh is a holy city with many temples along its banks and is vegetarian by law. Legend states this is where Lord Rama did penance for killing Ravana, the demon king of Sri Lanka. After checking into your hotel, balance of day at leisure in this town of yoga and ashrams.
Day 12
Today enjoy a City Tour, including the famous iron suspension bridges of Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula, which offers magnificent views. It is said that Lakshmana (the brother of Lord Rama) crossed the River Ganges on jute ropes at this point.
 
We also visit the Hindu temples at Haridwar, before proceeding at dusk to the Triveni Ghat (bathing steps) to experience the daily Aarti prayer ceremony on the banks of the River Ganges.
Day 13
This morning we transfer 1-hour to Haridwar where we visit its impressive Hindu temple.
 
In the afternoon you will be dropped off at Haridwar Railway Station in good time to board the 5.5-hour express train to Delhi (air conditioned chair class).
 
You will be met at Delhi Railway Station and transferred to your hotel in this bustiling city.
 
Note: Because of the very short (2-minute) stops at each station, train travel in India is not recommended for the elderly or those travelling with children, where a road transfer will be substituted. Likewise during December & January when heavy fog can causes long delays on the railways. When travelling on local trains be alert for possible theft (eg do not wear expensive watches or jewellery, never leave your belongings unattended or fall asleep). Also do not buy any food or drink from hawkers.
Day 14
This morning we drive 3.5-hours from Delhi to the ancient city of Agra, set along the banks of the Yamuna River and originally the capital of the Mughal Empire.
 
Agra is world renowned as the home of the Taj Mahal - that great symbol of love built by emperor Shah Jahan in the 16th century as a memorial to his beautiful wife Mumtaz Mahal.
 
On arrival for 2-hours we visit the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, which provides sanctuary to over 200 orphaned and distressed sloth bears, including many rescued dancing bears.
 
Afterwards we visit the magnificent white marble Taj Mahal mausoleum that took 22 years to build. Apart from its stunning design and perfect symmetry, it is noted for its elegant domes, intricately carved screens and some of the best marble inlay work ever done. Sunrise and sunset are particularly good times to visit and see the dome subtly change its colour.
 
Note: Taj Mahal is closed every Friday. You are allowed a maximum of 3-hours at the monument and cannot take in anything except your camera, water and essential medicine.
Day 15
This morning your guide will take you across the river to view the Taj Mahal at sunrise.
 
After returning to your hotel for breakfast, we visit the much quieter Itmad-ud-Daulah - fondly known as the "Baby Taj" as this mausoleum, built to honour the grandfather of Mumtaz, was the forerunner of the Taj Mahal.
 
Afterwards we visit Agra Fort, a massive structure with walls over 70-ft high and 1.5-miles long that encompasses an astounding collection of well preserved buildings, many of them completed during the reign of Shah Jahan. After he was deposed by his son, he was imprisoned in this fort where he remained until his death - spending the rest of his life looking out along the river to the final resting place of his beloved wife.
 
We then travel 1-hour to the magnificent red sandstone royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, built by the emperor Mohammad Akbar as the capital of the Mughal Empire. The city was abandoned due to water shortage, when the capital was moved north to Delhi, and in more recent years the fort has provided a dramatic backdrop to several famous films.
 
We then drive 3-hours to Jaipur which is the capital of Rajasthan. Check into your hotel in this chaotic and colourful "Pink City" - home to over 3 million people.
 
Note: At Fatehpur Sikri there is a short transfer from the car park in a local bus, that will be very full and will not be air-conditioned.
Day 16
Today enjoy a tour of the city of Jaipur, which has been declared a World Heritage Site due to its cultural heritage.
 
Our first stop is to view the magnificent Hawa Mahal (the "Palace of the Winds") designed in the form of the crown of the Hindu god Krishna. This five-storey frontage looks like a bee's honeycomb with 953 small windows, each decorated with intricate latticework so that the court ladies living in secluded purdah could watch royal processions, without being seen themselves. Built of red and pink sandstone, it is particularly striking early in the morning when lit by the sunrise.
 
We continue to the Amber Fort - another World Heritage Site. This magnificent royal palace was built from pale yellow & pink sandstone and white marble and is divided into four main sections, each with its own courtyard. You will enter via the main courtyard (Jaleb Chowk) where returning armies would display their war booty and women could view them from the veiled windows of the palace. Once inside explore the amazing Palace of Mirrors and Hall of Public Audience.
 
We then visit the Jantar Mantar Observatory, the largest stone and marble crafted observatory in the world and also a World Heritage site. It is the best preserved of five observatories built by Jai Singh, the founder of Jaipur. It has 17 large instruments, many of them still in working condition.
 
Our day finishes with a visit to the nearby City Palace, the former Royal Residence part of which is now a museum. One of the major attractions here is the armoury with its impressive array of pistols, blunderbusses, flintlocks, swords, rifles and daggers used by the Maharajas of Jaipur. The Textile and Costume museum on the first floor is another fine display, with items from all over India.
 
In the evening enjoy the unique experience of dining with a local family, where you will taste spicy Rajasthan food and gain insight into their lifestyle, with different generations living under the same roof.
 
Note: If you would like to take a gift for your hosts, we suggest flowers. Avoid edible items, because of varying religious and dietary restrictions.
Day 17
Today you have the opportunity to enjoy an Elephant Interaction, spending 2 to 3-hours up close and personal with Asian elephants cared for by a mahout family.
 
You can touch and help feed them and learn about elephant decoration, medicines and treatments, before taking a walk with the elephants into the village. During the summer you can also see them being washed.
 
Balance of day is free to explore Jaipur with your guide, enjoy some shopping or simply relax at your hotel.
Day 18
This morning we travel 4-hours from Jaipur to Sawai Madhopur in southeast Rajasthan.
 
On arrival in Sawai Madhopur, check into your hotel situated near Ranthambore National Park and enjoy a private jeep safari in this world famous tiger sanctuary. Originally the hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Jaipur, today it is the largest wildlife reserve in northern India and covers an area of over 250 sq miles (400 sq km).
Day 19
This morning enjoy a private jeep safari in Ranthambore National Park.
 
Early morning is the best time to see tigers, but be aware that it is extremely difficult to find them in the jungle and sightings are never guaranteed. Best viewings are generally at the end of the dry season (March to May, although it is extremely hot from April onwards), when the tigers search out the waterholes - but you need to take at least 4 game drives for a good chance of a sighting.
 
Other animals you can hope to see include leopard, hyena, jackal, jungle cat, caracal, civet, desert cat, mongoose, ratel, sloth bear, langur & macaque monkeys, wild boar, palm squirrel, flying fox, porcupine, long-eared hedgehog, marsh crocodile, tortoise and soft shelled turtle. Also antelope such as sambar deer, chital, nilgai, chinkara and black buck.
 
In the afternoon return to the park for another game drive. In addition to the many mammals and reptiles, there are over 270 bird species - including eagles, falcons, owls, graylag geese, flamingos, parakeets, fly catchers, bee eaters, grebe, terns, woodpeckers, hornbills and kingfishers.
 
Note: You will have a different driver on each jeep safari, as drivers are allocated according to a roster over which we have no control. Whilst some drivers are very good, unfortunately there are some who drive too fast. Speak sternly to your driver if this happens. In the winter months, morning safaris require warm clothes including woolly hats and gloves to protect you from the wind chill in your open vehicle.
 
Zones 1 to 5 of this tiger reserve are closed during the monsoon season (July to early October), but Zones 6 to 10 remain open.
Day 20
After a final early morning jeep safari in Ranthambore National Park, return to your hotel for breakfast.
 
In the afternoon transfer to Sawai Madhopur Station to board the express train (air-conditioned chair car) for your 4.45-hour journey to Delhi Station, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel situated near the airport.
 
Note: Because of the very short (2-minute) stops at each station, train travel in India is not recommended for the elderly or those travelling with children, where a road transfer will be substituted. Likewise during December & January when heavy fog can causes long delays on the railways. When travelling on local trains be alert for possible theft (eg do not wear expensive watches or jewellery, never leave your belongings unattended or fall asleep). Also do not buy any food or drink from hawkers.
Day 21
Transfer to Delhi Airport for your flight home.
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