Incense, flowers and light at an Aarti celebration on the River Ganges, India
Journey to the Sacred Foothills
By day, unwind in the peaceful atmosphere of pilgrimage sites, holy temples and ashrams that sit in the shadow of the Himalayas. By night, watch candlelit offerings float along the magical Ganges river, as the Ganga Aarti devotional ceremony takes place in Haridwar.
This trip to the foothills of the Himalayas offers a unique opportunity to sample how nature and religion play an inherent role in the life of all people within this enticing region of India. You will journey to the Dalai Lama’s monastery in Dharamsala and to Rishikesh, considered by many to be the yoga capital of the world.
Here, you will learn wisdom and receive a personal blessing from a pandit - a Hindu scholar. Wonder at the magnificent Golden Temple in Amritsar, the most sacred site of Sikhism and observe humanity at its best, as its community kitchen serves up to 100,000 people a day, for free.
As dusk falls, watch the atmospheric evening Aarti ceremony in Haridwar
Visit ashrams, street markets and be blessed in Rishikesh, the yoga capital of the world
Join throngs of pilgrims as they pay their respects at the spellbinding Golden Temple in Amritsar
Take part in a ritual kora walk around the Dalai Lama’s monastery in Dharamsala
Stroll around charming Shimla and see stunning colonial buildings in all their glory
Observe the daily lowering of the flags ceremony on the India-Pakistan border
Step back in time in Pragpur and see its preserved heritage architecture
This exciting trip to India includes international & internal flights, transfers, selected excursions, accommodation and all breakfasts.
From the first conversation until you arrive home from your holiday, you’ll be looked after by one of our Travel Designers who has travelled extensively in the region and will give advice from their personal experience on how to make the most out of your trip.
All of our trips are entirely bespoke and we will continually refine your itinerary until it’s perfect.
Your spiritual journey begins upon arrival into fast-paced Delhi. You'll be met by a local VIVID representative before being driven to your hotel for the night, located in New Delhi.
Enjoy some time to relax and freshen up before heading out in the evening to explore the animated Chandni Chowk bazaar with a knowledgeable local guide. At this time of day this historic market is India at its raw finest and you'll be glad of the local guide's presence as you jostle with street vendors, rickshaw drivers and even livestock! All this chaos is certainly worth it as you'll be sampling some of the capital's tastiest street food joints before finishing up at an authentic Delhi restaurant for dinner.
Things to do
Now that you have found your feet, day 3 starts in lively fashion with a train journey to the foothills of the Himalayas and the ancient Hindu pilgrimage site of Haridwar, or the ‘Gateway to God’. Its aura of spirituality will take hold of your soul, as you watch pilgrims travelling from far and wide to take a dip in the sacred waters of the Ganges.
Enjoy some time at leisure in the afternoon to wander through art workshops, participate in meditation, learn about herbal remedies, admire temples and listen to monks chanting hymns. As dusk falls, join hundreds of pilgrims and enjoy the serenity of the Ganga Aarti, a devotional ceremony where flowers and candle lit lanterns are floated out into the water of the Ganges.
On day 4 you'll enjoy a day-trip to the nearby holy city of Rishikesh, widely revered as the yoga capital of the world. Meander through old temples and ashrams, before receiving your own blessing from a local guru, or pandit.
Indulge your inner spirituality this morning with an early visit to the Shanti Kunj Ashram, a haven of peace, philosophy and knowledge. A local guide will explain how the ashram offers moral teachings and training to provide spiritual awakening.
After lunch, it's all aboard the train for a trip into the Punjab region and an evening arrival into the cultural city of Amritsar, home to the world-famous Sikh Golden Temple.
On day 6 take a guided tour of Amritsar and join throngs of pilgrims as they queue up to take a peek inside the inner sanctum within the Golden Temple. Elsewhere marvel at the community spirit in the dining halls where free food is provided for up to 100,000 people each day. Visit the Jallianwala Bagh public garden, a memorial to tragic events in India’s modern history and the important Hindu shrine at the Durgiana Temple.
Spend the afternoon exploring Amritsar at leisure, before being transported back to the Golden Temple in the evening to watch the 'Putting to Bed' ceremony. The first glimpse of the Temple lit up at night with its golden reflection glimmering in the water tank is something to behold. Afterwards you will witness Sikhism's holy book being put in its resting place for the night to the backing of chanting, music and incense - a very special experience.
The following day you will have the morning at leisure to wander the streets of this diverse city before you head to the Indian-Pakistani border in the afternoon to observe the Wagah border ceremony. A daily occurrence, this entertaining display involves much military might, drawing vast crowds and inspiring shouts and cries from both sides.
Things to do
Dharamsala & McLeod Ganj
Day 8 finds you leaving Amritsar, as your spiritual story continues up deeper into the Himalayas at the Tibetan settlement of Dharamsala, the holy residence of the Dalai Lama. This spiritual nirvana is the ideal place to understand Buddhism and Tibetan culture.
On arrival, waste no time and head straight into the suburb of McLeod Ganj where you will take part in a 'kora', a Buddhist ritual involving a clockwise walk around a holy site. In this case you'll be circling the Dalai's Lama's very own monastery alongside pilgrims and travellers alike. After that leisurely stroll, head to the markets of McLeod Ganj to delve deep into its bazaars where you can pick up some exquisite Tibetan handicrafts or try delicious steamed dumplings.
On day 9 it's time to get out and explore Dharamsala further with the help of a local guide. The Gyuto Tantric University is a quiet, secluded Buddhist monastery where younger monks chant using a specific technique that produces a low musical tone. You will also visit the Dolma Ling nunnery to see nuns debating topics of the day and the Norbulingka Institute - a Japanese style garden that houses Tibetan arts and crafts workshops. This is another peaceful oasis that you might find hard to leave!
Day 10 of your journey sees you bidding goodbye to Dharamsala and travelling the short distance to the small village of Pragpur, nestled in the scenic Kangra Valley. Here your adventure takes you off the beaten track as you enjoy the rest of the day simply wandering the narrow cobbled streets and watching local artisans at work in this little-discovered settlement.
You can almost feel as if you are stepping back in time in this village as its winding streets are lined with beautiful, heritage buildings all to the backdrop of epic mountain views. In the evening why not pop down to the village Aarti ceremony to continue your spiritual journey in a more rural setting?
On day 11, continue your travels south-east of Pragpur as you head to colonial Shimla which once housed the British ruling elite during the summer months as they escaped to the cooler air of the mountains. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to explore - best done on foot as much of central Shimla is pedestrianised - and as you stroll, you'll notice it's a mix of old and new with beautiful heritage buildings hiding amongst busy Indian markets.
Hit the streets early on your second morning in Shimla to enjoy a heritage walking tour with a local guide. As you walk, the sites such as the esteemed Shimla Club, Gaiety Theatre and Viceregal Lodge will be brought to life as your guide recounts stories of the Viceroy and other British dignitaries who lived here. You'll also walk along the Mall Ridge which, on a clear day, enjoys panoramic views of snow-capped peaks.
Enjoy a final leisurely morning in Shimla before jumping in the car and heading south of the city to Kalka - as you descend down from the foothills it's a scenic drive so keep your camera handy! In Kalka board a train to take you back to Delhi where you'll be staying for your final night in India near to the airport in preparation for your flight tomorrow.
On your final day your driver will pick you up in the morning and take you to the airport with plenty of time for you to catch your flight home. As you board, sit back and relax as you come away with many colourful memories of this spiritual part of India.