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Delve into the spiritual fabric of this intoxicating country on our 17 day itinerary which showcases the complex heart of North India, from intriguing Hindu rituals upon the Ganges, to the Sikh's golden symbol of brotherhood in Amritsar and the colonial inspired Christ Church which crowns Shimla's snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Along the way, sample wild culinary delights, marvel at a chaotic tapestry of lost empires and discover one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, The Taj Mahal.
Depart London on your scheduled, overnight flight to Delhi.
On arrival into India's capital, you will be met by a local guide and transferred to your hotel. In the evening, experience flavoursome local dishes at your welcome meal.
Following breakfast, a full day city tour will commence and includes a visit to the Red Fort, where an imposing sandstone exterior conceals dramatic marble monuments of the Mughal Empire's past splendour. Travel through narrow streets and along naan scented markets on a rickshaw before stumbling upon the UNESCO recognised Humayun's Tomb, a captivating mausoleum that seemingly floats above landscaped gardens. Admire the transition en route from Old Delhi's historic charms to the intricate colonial town planning of New Delhi; view the minimalistic Mahatma Gandhi Memorial adorned in floral tributes before wandering through the Qutab Minar complex, a city awash with ancient ruins sculpted by the country's finest craftsmen.
This morning fly from Delhi to the sacred 'City of Life' - Varanasi. Check in to your hotel for the next three nights, before an afternoon at leisure exploring one of the world's oldest continually inhabited cities, regarded as one of Hinduism's seven holy cities. Your evening tour takes you to a ghat - steps that lead to the Ganges - to witness the humbling Ganga Aarti Ceremony, a spellbinding display of candles afloat along the river.
Begin today with a sunrise boat trip along the Ganges for a unique perspective of this spiritual watercourse and its vivid embankment of pastel edifices pierced by temple stupas. Spend the rest of your day on a walking tour through this ancient city to observe other ghats, each with distinct floral decoration and uses including the intriguing 'burning ghats' used for funeral precessions. Continue your exploration of Varanasi at the Vishwanath Temple, a monument dedicated to Lord Shiva and famed for an illustrious gold-coated dome. Return to your hotel for an evening at leisure.
Enjoy a half-day tour of Sarnath, a sacred site on which the Buddha gave his first sermon after finding enlightenment in 530BC. Your tour includes visits to ancient relics that document the area's spiritual significance including the Monastery Ruins, a tranquil park interrupted by a towering stupa engraved with delicate geometric carvings. Return for your final evening in Varanasi.
After breakfast, fly back to Delhi and drive across rolling hillsides cloaked in deciduous flora to the city of Agra, where a network of rickshaws, jalebis vendors filling the air with sweet aromas and ancient Mandir temples alluding to the Mughal Empire's past grandeur await.
Begin today at a tour highlight and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal. This iconic ivory-white mausoleum was completed in 1640 for Emperor Shah Jajan's beloved third wife. Wander along ornamental gardens to witness the breath-taking spectacle of its minarets and distinctive bronze dome reflecting the illumination of daybreak. After lunch visit the UNESCO recognised Agra Fort, an enormous sandstone city of pavilions, palaces and splendid courtyards behind 20 metre-high walls.
This morning drive to the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur. En route stop at Fatehpur Sikri, an ancient city famed for its lavish structures including Rumi Sultana, an elegant palace decorated with intricate animal carvings throughout. Your evening is at leisure to explore a colourful web of chaotic roadways disturbed by meandering camels, bazaars dressed in vibrant textiles and the constant whirl of cycle rickshaws around Rajasthan's largest city.
A full day tour of Jaipur begins at the Amber Fort, a former ancient capital centred on a distinctive pink-yellow marbled royal palace. You can travel to the fort by either jeep or elephant, allowing you to observe harems of the Maharajah, complex mosaic designs and snake charmers. Continue to the UNESCO recognised Jantar Mantar, a fascinating collection of archaic astronomical instruments including the world's largest stone sundial. Later this morning view the distinct Hawa Mahal, a pink honeycomb landmark, constructed to provide ladies of the royal household an observatory for city life.
Depart Jaipur on your flight to Chandigarh, from here drive along a winding track around rugged mountains and through luscious pine forests to the hill station of Shimla - the former summer capital of British India whose snow-dusted mountain position offers incredible views of the Himalayan mountains.
Depart Shimla this morning for a day in the neighbouring hill station of Kufri. Nestled at the Himalayan foothills, this charming town is surrounded by a picturesque forest reserve under the imposing gaze of Mahsu Peak. Having admired the wild beauty of Kufri, tour the magnificent Rashtrapati Niwas, a former home to the British Viceroy. Its opulent exterior invites visitors to explore a maze of corridors, opening into grand wood-panelled rooms.
Today is free for you to unwind or immerse yourself in Shimla's spiritual landmarks including Christ Church, which displays exquisite stained glass windows and moving Raj-era memorials.
This morning catch the UNESCO recognised Toy Train to Dharampur Station - built by colonial forces, it offers dramatic views along its winding course through untouched forests and across immense gorges. Arrive in the city of Chandigarh for an evening at leisure.
Following breakfast, take the train to the largest city in the Punjab state, Amritsar. Your afternoon will be at leisure to explore the Sikhs' holy city at your own pace.
Enjoy a half-day city tour of Amritsar with a visit to the Golden Temple. Revered amongst Sikhs, this spectacular golden tank blends Islamic and Hindu architecture, surrounded by the Pool of Nectar. The ancient monument also contains a mesmerising display of floral motifs carved into marble alongside shimmering gold panels. After lunch enjoy an afternoon to explore at your own pace, alternatively undertake an optional excursion (at a fee) to the Indian-Pakistan border and witness the fascinating flag-lowering ceremony, a daily ritual of each side's soldiers competing to out-march, out-salute and out-shout one another.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport in Amritsar and fly via Delhi back to the UK.
A visa is required for entry into India. British Citizen Passport Holders will need to obtain an e-Tourist Visa (eTV) for travel to India. We work closely with The Travel Visa Company who will be able to arrange your visa on your behalf. Please call them on 01270 250 590 and quote 'Mercury Holidays'. The cost of the visa is approximately £72 per person. The Travel Visa Company can only apply for this 30 days before your proposed travel date and takes around 10 working days to issue. It is only valid for a 30 day single entry stay from the date of arrival. When calling the Travel Visa Company they will advise you of any changes to the fees or the procedure, they will also advise you of all information they will require in order to apply for the visa. Alternatively you can visit The Indian Visa Application Centre in London: 142-148 Goswell Road, London, EC1B 7DU.
You must obtain suitable travel insurance prior to departure. Mercury Holidays is partnered with Holiday Extras which offer insurance at the following prices:
|Age in Years||Up to 64||65 - 74||75 - 85|
|Up to 17 days cover||£42||£79||£135|
If booking more than 10 weeks before departure a deposit of £250pp will need to be paid at the time of booking with the full amount payable at 10 weeks prior to departure. The deposit applies to adults and children. If you are within 10 weeks of travel then the full balance of the holiday will be payable.
Your flight to Delhi International Airport is with Jet Airways(9W), departing from London Heathrow Terminal 4. Please note that all flight times and numbers listed are provided for guidance only and are subject to change. Final flight details will be confirmed on your e-ticket and final documentation which will be sent to you approximately 10 days before departure.
Each passenger is entitled to 23kg of hold luggage, however weight restrictions will be finalised on your e-ticket receipt. Should you wish to take additional luggage you will need to pay extra at check-in. Check-in should be at least 3 hours before departure. Checked baggage allowance may vary. Please refer to the bottom right of your E-ticket receipt for the correct baggage allowance. For example, if it shows '20k' this means your allowance is 20kg; or '1PC' means one piece not exceeding 23Kg. For handling purposes the maximum weight of any single piece of baggage must not exceed 32 Kgs.
Hand Luggage: One piece of hand luggage with maximum total dimensions not exceeding a total of 115cm in size and 7kg in weight.
Your baggage allowance on all the internal flights will be 15kg, your additional allowance up to 23kg must be purchased at a cost of 350 INR (approx £3.50) per kilo and can only be done at the domestic ticket counter before your flight. Please refer to the Airline's website for further details and the most up-to-date information.
It is your responsibility to check any health and vaccination requirements applicable to your booked arrangements. We can only provide general information about this. Health and hygiene facilities and disease risks vary from country to country. You should take health advice about your own needs as early as possible and in good time before your departure. Sources of information include; www.fco.gov.uk, http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/, www.hpa.org.uk, your General Practitioner or a specialist clinic.
This tour is accessible to most people with an average level of fitness and normal mobility. It involves full days of sightseeing, often on foot, and includes some climbing of stairs and getting on and off coaches. This tour is not suitable for anyone with walking difficulties.
The minimum number of travellers in your group will be 8, and the maximum will be 35. If in the unlikely event there are less than 8 people booked on your tour date then you may be asked to change to a different date. A full refund will be made available to you should this alternative not be suitable.
This is a fully escorted tour, meaning that you will be met on arrival by your national guide who will remain with you for the duration of your trip. You will also be joined by a local guide in each of the cities which you visit, ensuring that you have first-hand knowledge at all times.
The currency in India is the Rupee or Rs. The Rupee is a closed currency and officially you are not allowed to take any cash out of India. US Dollars and GBP are also widely accepted in India should you wish to keep an alternative currency on you.
You will need to take some extra money with you to cover any personal purchases, such as souvenirs, laundry and extra drinks and snacks. Approximately £400 per person will be sufficient for the duration of the tour.
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Visit Amritsar, the cultural and spiritual centre of the Sikh religion, located in the heart of Punjab. Famous for its traditional handicraft and handloom products the city is also home to the magnificent Golden Temple, Sikhism's holiest shrine and one of India's most serene and humbling sights.
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