Upon arrival at Delhi airport you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel. There are no activities planned for the afternoon as members of our group will be arriving at different times, so you are free to work off your jet-lag exploring some of the bustling capital city on your own. If you like arts and crafts, don't miss the working artisans' village and gallery complex that comprise the National Crafts Museum. If you're short on time, ease into your Indian adventure with a stroll through Lodi Gardens.
After breakfast we drive some 275kms to Jaipur. We have a day and a half here to explore the chaotic capital of Rajasthan - quite possibly India's most colourful city. We have time to take in several of the medieval palaces and monumental forts that define this city, but be warned traveling between these iconic destinations can be an adventure in itself! Expect to see camel carts and elephants, scooters, trucks and bikes all jostling for space on the roads.
We'll visit the landmark, honey-combed pink facade of Hawa Mahal (The Palace of the Winds), the City Palace and Amber Fort plus the World Heritage listed Jantar Mantar Observatory. Here you'll find a curious collection of huge stone "instruments" that were designed to observe and measure all manner of astronomical activity from calculating eclipses to plotting the azimuth of various stars.
After breakfast we make our way slowly to Agra. Some 40km shy of the city, we stop to explore the fortified city of Fatehpur Sikri. Built during the second half of the 16th Century by Emperor Akbar, this so-called City of Victory was only the capital of the Mughal Empire for ten years, but it bears exceptional testimony to the great vision of Akbar and the architects of his day.
Of all the incredible monuments you are destined to see here in India, the Taj Mahal reigns supreme. Many pundits would argue that it is, indeed, the most famous building in the world. It is certainly the most extravagant monument ever built for love utilizing the skills of 20,000 artisans; taking 22 years to complete.
The Taj Mahal really is as spectacular as many of you may have envisaged - exquisite from every conceivable vantage-point. The attention to detail up close - the filigree, the calligraphy and the inlay is simply mind-blowing. So too, the symmetry of the building when viewed from afar. Agra Fort - a remarkable city-within-a-city on the bank of the Yamuna River provides us with possibly the best view of all, from the top of its octagonal tower. After our sight-seeing activities here, we drive back to Delhi, thus completing India's famed 'Golden Triangle' route.
Early this morning we transfer from our hotel to the Delhi railway station and board our scheduled train to Amritsar, the spiritual and cultural heart of the Sikh community. But before we explore this great city in earnest, we shall detour to the Indian border. Just 30km from Amritsar, is the Nation's only road crossing into Pakistan, and it is quite enlightening to witness the ceremonial closing of the gates and lowering of the flags that takes place at this juncture each day. The guards who participate in this drill are carefully chosen on the basis of height and imposing stature, and must perform the ostentatious pomp to perfection. The theatrical hostility is electrifying!
This morning we visit the Golden Temple, considered one of the most beautiful places of worship in the world. It is situated in the middle of a sacred lake, fed by an underground spring and is architecturally a unique blend of Hindu and Muslim styles.
Within the temple is the Adi Grantha, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs, displayed on a jewel-studded platform. Visitors are welcome, but are requested to show respect for Sikh culture by removing their shs, wearing a headscarf and refraining from drinking alcohol or smoking in the complex.
We also visit Jalianwala Bagh, the somber site dedicated to the innocent people gunned down by British troops during the Amritsar massacre, on April 13, 1919. At that time, thousands of men, women and children had gathered peacefully in the Jallianwala Bagh garden to celebrate the festival of Vaisakhi. But public gatherings were illegal at that time, and sadly the British soldiers opened fire. Between 379 and 1,000 people were killed, and many more injured. The Martyr's Well, which you can still see at the site today, is a particularly tragic reminder of the 120 souls who leapt into it and thus to their deaths in order to avoid the soldiers' bullets. The massacre was a turning point for British colonial rule in India and, ironically, a step towards the nation's Independence.
Later in the afternoon we drive up into the Kangra valley, in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, to heritage village of Pragpur.
Today you are free to relax and explore Pragpur at your leisure. This tiny hamlet is quite well preserved, with its centuries-old mud-plastered houses, country manors and cobble-stoned narrow winding alleyways. Very Indo-European!
The road to Upper Dharamsala, a hill station 65 kilometres from Pragpur, is slow and windy, but ultimately, promises reward if not with glimpses en route of the mighty Himalayas, then most certainly with cultural encounters on arrival!
Just beyond the main part of the town is McLeod Ganj, a place many locals refer to as "Little Lhasa". It is home to Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, several important Buddhist monasteries and many thousands of Tibetan Refugees. On a clear day there are exceptional views of the Dhalaudhar Range and its highest peak, 5,639m Hanuman Ka Tibba.
There are many places to explore in and around the town, and walks that will take you a little further a field, if you're feeling energetic. Be sure to spend time in the bazaar, if you're interested in Tibetan handicrafts or thangkas paintings, or see if you can volunteer your services for the day, helping refugees master the art of conversing with confidence in English.
Today we return by road to Amritsar and board our scheduled train back to Delhi.
This morning, after breakfast we take a comprehensive sightseeing tour of Old and New Delhi.
Key monuments we hope to visit in New Delhi include: India Gate(a memorial arch honouring soldiers who were killed in WW1), Biria Temple, and Humayun's Tomb an exquisite example of Mughal architecture, set in a magnificent formal Persian garden.
In Old Delhi we hope to visit the Red Fort (assuming it's not a Monday!) and from there, take a thrilling rickshaw ride through the narrow lanes of the bustling bazaar. Our destination is Jama Masjid the largest mosque in India.
After breakfast we will transfer you to the airport for your scheduled flight home.