Having landed in Delhi to explore the best of the capital, our fascinating Spiritual India Tour whisks you to the banks of the Ganges, in the sacred city of Varanasi. The ghats – hundreds of stone steps flanking the riverbank – are an incredible sight, particularly at sunrise when thousands of pilgrims bathe in the spiritually cleansing waters. From Varanasi, fly to Agra: home of the world’s favourite monument to love, the Taj Mahal. Next, you’ll continue to the Pink City of Jaipur, in the heart of Rajasthan. The charming Samode Haveli will be your base while exploring highlights such as Amber Fort, the City Palace Museum, and the Hawa Mahal.
You’ll then board a flight up to Amritsar; home to the incredible Golden Temple, and the most revered site in the world for Sikhs. The final stop on your spiritual India tour will be Dharamshala. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama resides here in exile, where Tibetan Buddhists have settled and built numerous monasteries and temples.
No two places on this unusual tour are alike, and together they span many centuries of Indian history and form the backdrop to landmark events such as the birth of Buddhism, Mughal invasion and rule, epic Rajput battles and British imperialism. Our Spiritual India Tour is designed to give you an idea of what’s possible and is simply a starting point when crafting your tailor-made journey.
The rest of the day, if any, is yours at leisure. Depending on how early in the day you arrive, if you’d like to begin exploring this afternoon, you can let us know anytime. Your chauffeur is always on hand, and we’re only a quick call away on your complimentary mobile phone (or WhatsApp, if you prefer).
Later today, you’ll be met by your experienced local guide for a tour of the Ganges and its ghats by boat, culminating with the evening aarti ceremony. These aged ceremonies have changed very little over hundreds and hundreds of years. The smell of sandalwood and incense swirls around, while the sounds of prayer chanting and clashing symbols rise to a crescendo. Hundreds of little oil lamps twinkling on the river are a pretty sight.
The next stop on your Spiritual India Tour is Amritsar, and you’ll get there this evening on a short direct flight. Founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Amritsar is home to Sikhism’s holiest shrine, the spectacular Golden Temple. Upon arriving, there’ll be the chance to freshen up at Ranjit’s Svaasa. This 250-year old haveli is now a family run small boutique hotel in the heart of the city, owned by interior decorator Rama Mehra. Two restaurants are serving a wide range of options from Lebanese to Chinese, and, of course, Punjabi favourites. Alternatively, you may prefer the Hyatt or the Taj Swarna. Both are amongst the most comfortable hotels in the city and offer all the mod-cons expected of a high-class hotel. Those who’re seeking charm, heritage and an Indian feel will be happier at Ranjit’s Svaasa, while those who value a big comfy bed and 5* facilities would prefer the Hyatt or Taj Swarna.
Later this evening, you’ll be met by your guide to explore the spectacular Golden Temple at night during the ‘Putting to Bed’ ceremony. A unique and colourful ceremony, this daily ritual of putting the Holy Scripture to bed is a sight not to miss on a visit to Amritsar. The temple is home to the Adi Granth or Original Holy Book which is a collection of hymns of the great saints. The book is a focus of devotion, and during the day is kept in the Harmandir Sahib. It is returned to the Akal Takht every evening around 9.15 pm in winter and 10.15 pm in the summer. The Putting to Bed ceremony was the highlight of our recent stay in Amritsar. You may like to read about it by clicking here.
Later, pay a visit to Jallianwala Bagh, a memorial to more than 1,000 demonstrators who were killed or injured when the British, under the command of General Dyer, opened fire on them in 1919.
To end the day, you’ll head out to Wagah, a village divided in two at Partition, where the daily closure of the border takes place with great pomp and ceremony. Indian border guards in khaki and Pakistani border guards in dark green march, bark orders and lower their respective national flags in a symbolic stand-off, watched by orderly crowds of thousands waving national flags. There is much partisan cheering in the grandstands as the gates clang shut for the night, to be formally opened the next day again.
Having arrived in Dharamshala, you’ll be met by your guide to explore the Norbulingka Institute, a centre established in 1988 to teach and preserve traditional Tibetan art forms. There is also a stunning temple here, the Deden Tsuglagkhang, a magnificent example of Tibetan religious architecture, displaying some of the most exceptional work done by Norbulingka artists. It’s the perfect place for prayer and reflection.
This evening, you’ll check-in to the delightful Chonor House for a three-night stay. A small and friendly hotel of just 11 rooms, Chonor House has a wonderfully distinct Tibetan influence, with the décor in each bedroom depicting one aspect of Tibetan life in bold murals. There are a library, comfortable lounge, and restaurant serving huge portions of delicious Tibetan, Indian and continental food (we recommend the Thenthuk, a traditional Tibetan noodle soup). Chonor House is not a luxury property, but its incredible energy and location – right opposite the Dalai Lama’s residence and monastery – make it an exceptional place.
The Spiritual India Tour we’ve described here is merely a starting point to share a flavour of the possibilities. Every aspect is flexible, from the hotels to the destinations to the length to the sightseeing. For example, you might like to explore Rajasthan further by including stops in Jodhpur, Udaipur and Jaisalmer, or, take a Jeep safari in the jungle in Ranthambhore to spot wild Bengal tigers. Another possibility is to visit Khajuraho between Varanasi and Agra, to take in the ancient carved temples. While we have suggested some of our favourite mid-range places to stay, this itinerary is 100% bespoke, and our specialist can help you select hotel options best suited to you. All our tours are private, and tailor-made to complement your taste and interests. In essence, the itinerary described above is just a starting point, and together we can refine it into your ideal Indian experience. For more like this, you may find our suggested Golden Triangle with Varanasi tour inspiring (with which our extension to Amritsar pairs well), or our Luxury Tour of India: to the Golden Triangle & Beyond.
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