UK - In flight
Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service collects you from home for your overnight flight to Delhi.
Delhi - Amritsar
Today we fly to Amritsar, and transfer to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Amritsar (4T). After some time at leisure, we experience one of the great traditions of the city this evening, the ‘putting to bed’ (Palki) ceremony. Twice a day, the holy book of the Sikh faith, the Granth Sahib, is moved in a grand procession from a dedicated chamber in the Sikh Parliament to the Golden Temple, and back again. This mass daily veneration, during which long lines of worshippers take turns to shoulder the burden of a heavy palanquin containing the scriptures, is something to behold, hinting at the tremendous spirituality of Amritsar.
This morning, we return to the Harmandir Sahib, or Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of Sikhism. At its heart, set within a sacred pool, gleams the Hari Mandir (Divine Temple) - a postcard-perfect, gold-plated architectural jewel topped with intricate spires and cupolas, and decorated inside and out with verses from the Granth Sahib. This is truly one of the world’s iconic places of worship, thankfully (like all Sikh temples) open to visitors. After exploration of the vast temple complex, including community kitchens which provide free meals to 10,000 pilgrims every day, we head out to walk the busy bazaars of the city and visit the historic Jallianwala Bagh, scene of the 1919 Amritsar Massacre, one of the most tragic episodes of the British Raj. We also take some time to admire the Durgiana Hindu temple, which clearly takes its inspiration from the Golden Temple. An afternoon excursion to the India/Pakistan border town of Wagah invites appreciation of the pomp and pageantry of the Lowering of the Flag ceremony.
Amritsar - Dharamshala
We drive today the 130 or so miles to Dharamshala, a small hill station surrounded on three sides by snow-capped peaks. This delightful town owes its current fame (and its nickname, the ‘little Lhasa of India’) to one particular resident, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who chose it as a place of spiritual exile in 1960. Our hotel for two nights is the Fortune Park Moksha (4T).
A morning sightseeing tour of Dharamshala includes the Tibetan settlement, residence of the Dalai Lama, and the Norbulingka Institute, a registered trust dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture in literary and artistic forms. We visit also the nearby Tibetan Children’s Village, a boarding school at which orphans are provided with a Tibetan education, clothes, food and healthcare. In total, the TCV cares for 10,000 children, many of whom fled Tibet.
Dharamshala - Pragpur
A morning’s drive takes us to the ornamental heritage village of Pragpur by way of a Dharamshala tea plantation and tea factory, where we learn about the plucking and processing of Kangra tea. In the afternoon, a walking tour of Pragpur’s beautiful cobbled streets, lined with richly decorated traditional buildings, offers an engaging glimpse of a regal past. The Judge’s Court, a splendid country mansion in the Indo-European style surrounded by orchards, is also a delight to explore. Our hotel this evening is The Judge's Court (3T).
Pragpur - Shimla
Today’s destination is Shimla, ‘Queen of the Hills’ and the summer capital during British rule in India (when it was known as Simla). In this idyllic retreat, 2,200m above sea level, temperatures averaged 15 to 20 degrees cooler than Delhi and the baking hot plains. Surrounded by pine, deodar, oak and rhododendron forests, through which whisper picturesque streams, all set against the snow-covered lower ranges of the Himalaya, it is little wonder Shimla exerted such a magnetic influence on those administrators of the empire, and it retains a certain romance for British visitors to this day. Our hotel for three nights is the Radisson (4T).
Echoes of empire still abound in Shimla, now the state capital of Himachal Pradesh - in its churches, libraries and grand colonial edifices such as the Viceregal Lodge. There is plenty to enjoy on our morning walking tour, including a visit to the Jakhu Temple, dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god.
A further day at leisure to do what the British did here from 1819 to 1947 - relax in the beautiful surroundings of Shimla.
Shimla - Kalka - Delhi
A scenic rail journey aboard the Himalayan ‘Toy Train’ transports us from Shimla through the Shivalik ranges to the delightful hill town of Kandaghat, where we take lunch at a local restaurant. Then we drive to Kalka railway station to board the Shatabdi Express, bound for Delhi. Upon arrival, we transfer to the Crowne Plaza Okhla (4T).
Delhi is eight remarkable historic cities in one - grand capitals of various dynasties, and then the glittering jewel of the British Empire. An endlessly fascinating sightseeing day takes in the best of Delhi, ‘Old’ and ‘New’, from the intricately hand-carved 12th century Qutab Minar minaret to the graceful garden-tomb of Emperor Humayun, the architectural inspiration for the Taj Mahal, and the beautiful Hindu Birla Temple to the grand avenues and government buildings of Lutyens’ New Delhi. We also visit Raj Ghat, the memorial to Mahatma Ghandi and the 17th century Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, which can accommodate a remarkable 25,000 worshippers.
Day 13 Delhi - UK
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. Upon arrival, your Titan vehicle will be waiting for the journey home.