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The holy cities of the Sikhs, sacred waters of the Ganges and spiritual retreats of Buddhist ashrams have given rise to the hauntingly beautiful religious ceremonies and ornate temples and shrines of India.
Depart London Heathrow on your scheduled overnight flight to Delhi.
On arrival in Delhi, you'll be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy your first Indian fare with lunch at your hotel then enjoy the rest of the day at leisure, exploring the sprawling metropolis of India's capital. Why not admire the sacred pool and gilded dome of the large Sikh complex of Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, see what lies beyond the marbled walls of the blossom-shaped Lotus Temple, or stroll the streets and take in the lively bustle and wafting smells of spicy food stalls before enjoying a welcome dinner in the evening.
Depart Delhi this morning for the neat roads of Chandigarh, India's first planned city. Nestled at the foot of the Shivalik Hills, the French architect who planned this space replaced the haphazard layout of other Indian cities with the orderly, self-contained sectors which make up this city, the capital of Punjab and Haryana. Explore these distinct regions on a guided tour of this peaceful, green city.
Today's journey takes you to Amritsar, home to the Golden Temple which gives it its spiritual significance. Explore this sacred city of the Sikhs and its atmospheric surroundings at your leisure this afternoon. Enjoy the fascinating Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum - the summer palace of the Maharaja who founded the Sikh empire, seek out one of the city's many temples or sip on a cold glass of the city's famed lassi, all at your own pace.
Amritsar's Golden Temple is your first stop on today's half-day tour. Witness the marble sculptures, gleaming golden turrets, and jewel-studded interior of this holy shrine of the Sikhs, and the cleansing rituals of pilgrims who bathe in the waters that surround it. Visit the Commemorative gardens of Jallianwala Bagh where a memorial serves as a poignant reminder of the 1919 massacre of civilians by occupying forces. After lunch, enjoy an afternoon to explore at your own pace or perhaps join an optional excursion to the India-Pakistan border to experience the fascinating flag-lowering ceremony, a daily ritual where each country's soldiers compete to march, salute and shout better than the other.
After breakfast, embark on a scenic drive where your car will wind through the soaring snow-capped peaks of the Dhauladhar Range to Dharamshala, best known as the home of the Dalai Lama. Established by the British in 1815, today the city has a decidedly Tibetan flavour seen in the Tibetan handicrafts, restaurants and museums which abound in this area.
Explore Dharamshala and the upper Dharamshala area of McLeodganj, a region steeped in the religious rituals and structures of Buddhism. Visit the imposing hilltop location of Namgyal Monastery, the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama, then travel onward to the vivid murals of the Kalachakra Temple and the fascinating Norbulingka Institute, a key centre for Buddhist teaching opened to safeguard the survival of Tibetan Buddhism's cultural heritage.
Journey to the Himalayan foothills and the city of Shimla nestled at its base. Set against the backdrop of the craggy peaks of the Himalayas, the colonial architecture, churches, temples and natural beauty of the city draw local and international visitors. Stop for lunch en route to Shimla and, on arrival, enjoy your evening at leisure in this mountainside retreat.
Use your day at leisure to unwind or immerse yourself in Shimla's spiritual landmarks and the tranquillity of the city centre, where traffic is banned. Follow the long, winding main street 'The Mall' to the numerous north Indian restaurants and shops of the area, or take in the exquisite stained glass windows and moving Raj-era memorials of Christ Church, Shimla's most prominent landmark.
This morning, you'll travel in style with a ride on the UNESCO recognised "Toy Train" - built for the British Viceroy and his delegates, the train is hauled along by a tiny diesel locomotive which rattles at a leisurely pace through breath-taking scenery to its final destination of Kalka. This afternoon travel to the neighbouring hill station of Kufri for a day of exploration in this charming town. Surrounded by the lush greenery of a forest reserve and lying under the imposing heights of the Mahsu Peak, the town enjoys fresh mountain air and sweeping views. Tour the magnificent Rashtrapati Niwas, the palatial former home of the British Viceroy, exploring its maze of corridors, grand wood-panelled rooms and the ancient articles and photographs of British rule in India.
Take in India's enchanting rural and city landscapes on this morning's drive as you make your way to Haridwar. On arrival, take a walking tour of a local market, where the smells of spiced pastries mix with the noise and bustle of vendors selling their wares. Walk to the shores of the Ganges, where chants and prayers fill the air and fire-lit offerings float along the river during the Ganga Aarti ceremony, a daily evening ritual dedicated to the gods and goddesses of the Ganges River. Every day hundreds of devotees participate in this ceremony, with numbers swelling to thousands on full moons or the eve of festivals. Witness this spell-binding ceremony before returning to your hotel for the night.
Located on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, Rishikesh is a famous Hindu religious destination, popular amongst devotees, yogis and adventurers. The city is known as the world capital of yoga and meditation, and India's sages have meditated here since ancient times. After a late afternoon arrival, acquaint yourself with this spiritual stronghold of northern India as you enjoy some time for sightseeing. In the evening, experience a second Ganga Aarti, soaking in this religious ceremony as the sun sets over Rishikesh.
Enjoy a day at leisure, with time to explore this city of the sages at your own pace. Why not explore the Tera Manzil Temple, a 13-storey shrine overlooking the Ganges, or visit the famed ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, visited by the Beatles in the 1960s. After writing over 40 songs during their ashram stint, including a number of hit singles, their spiritual retreat inspired millions and sparked Western interest in Indian spirituality. Alternatively, take an optional evening excursion (at a fee) and return to the Ganges for an hour-long boat ride which ends with the sun setting over the water, ghats and bathers of this sacred river.
A drive to Delhi takes you to the final stop on your Indian escape. Enjoy your afternoon at leisure in Delhi, with time to relax before tomorrow's full-day tour of Delhi's delights or explore the area further. Why not visit the 16th-Century Jama Masjid mosque, Shah Jahan's pre-Taj Mahal architectural feat, which offers fantastic views of Old Delhi from its minarets?
Admire the transition from Old Delhi's historic charms to New Delhi's detailed colonial town planning on today's rickshaw tour through the city. Travel past the imposing red sandstone exterior of the magnificent Red Fort and through Delhi's bustling streets to Humayun's Tomb, an elaborate mausoleum set in beautifully landscaped gardens. Journey onwards to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, draped in floral tributes, and the towering minaret and ruins of the ancient Qutab Minar complex.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your scheduled flight 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 £96 per person. The Travel Visa Company can only apply for this 120 days before your proposed travel date and takes around 10 working days to issue. It is only valid for a 60-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.
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 is to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi with Jet Airways (JIA) departing from
London Heathrow Terminal 4. Each passenger is entitled to 23kg of hold luggage plus one item of hand luggage providing the exterior dimensions (height length width) do not exceed 115cm and 7kg in weight. 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. Heathrow Airport advises that check-in should be three hours before your flight departure time. If you wish to arrange Airport car parking or accommodation at preferential rates, we recommend you book this in advance with Holiday Extras on 0871 360 2000, quoting HX313.
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 sufficient time before your departure. Sources of information include; www.fco.gov.uk, www.travelhealthpro.org.uk, www.hpa.org.uk, your General Practitioner or a specialist clinic. It is not advisable to drink the tap water.
This tour is accessible to most people with a good level of fitness and able mobility. It involves climbing steep stairs and getting on and off coaches and boats.
The minimum number of travellers in your group will be 10. If in the unlikely event there are less than 10 people booked on your tour date, we will endeavour to reduce any disruption to your holiday and try to operate your tour with lower passenger numbers. If we are not able to operate your departure date then you may be asked to change to a different date and 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 £500 per person will be sufficient for the duration of the tour. Tipping is not compulsory and is at your discretion. Should you wish to tip, this will be collected by your guide at the end of your tour for your convenience. It is asked that if you do not tip in the local currency, please do not give coins as these are difficult to exchange.
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The order of events and sightseeing may vary according to local conditions or for operational purposes. Your local guide will inform you of any schedule changes as they are informed of them. Some road construction and/or weather conditions may lengthen the driving times. Our intention is to adhere to the day-to-day itinerary as printed; however, the order of events and sightseeing may vary according to local conditions.
Once a famous hunting ground for the gallant rulers of Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park is spread over 1,344km2 and is one of the biggest national parks in India. Choose this extension to experience a variety of wildlife including tigers, leopards, deer and much more.
Extend your tour with a relaxing beach stay in the Indian State of Kerala. Relax in the popular resort of Kovalam, known locally as the paradise of the south, amongst the coconut groves for which the town is famous.
Experience the marble memorials, gilded domes and elegant minarets of India's lavish Mughal-era architecture as you explore the ancient palaces and forts of the north.
Travelling from Delhi to Agra, then Jaipur, this 10-day, 8-night tour of the Golden Triangle and the exotic Ranthambore National Park takes you through India's most famous sights.
Characterised by winding emerald rivers, exotic wildlife, spice plantations and lush landscapes, the south Indian state of Kerala exudes tranquillity and beauty.