The 12-day, culturally varied holiday of North West India begins in Delhi before spending time in the Punjabi capital of Amritsar. Leave Amritsar, ascending by road and rail through the green tea estates of Kangra Valley, to reach the lofty heights of Mcleod Ganj and Shimla.
- Visit the Golden Temple of Amritsar
- Take picturesque train journeys on narrow gauge railways
- Converse with a Buddhist monk in Mcleodganj
- Meet with a historian at his residence in Shimla
- Visit Chandigarh, a meticulously planned city by Le Corbusier
Start your Punjabi adventure in Amritsar, home to the Golden Temple, the spiritual nerve centre of the Sikh faith. Reach Amritsar by efficient express train running from Delhi to Amritsar in under six hours. Amritsar is a pleasant city to explore on foot with your guide. Join the community kitchen in the early morning and help make a chapatti -each morning the kitchen feeds 30,000 people, incredible. Don’t miss the evening putting to bed ceremony, where the Adi Granth is lovingly returned to its resting place where it spends the night – it is quite something to see. For pure good-humoured and patriotic theatre, visit Wagah near Amritsar on the Pakistan border, for the nightly closing the border ceremony.
Ascending from Amritsar by road, travel through the Kangra valley, home to lush green tea estates and farmland, before reaching Palampur and Pragpur. These pretty villages provide perfect territory for some soft trekking. Perched upon terraced hill tops over shadowed by the Dhauladhar mountain range, breath in the fresh air. Nearly a century old, the narrow gauge railways continue to function, albeit slowly, through the foothills – it says something about the original manufacturing by the North British Locomotive Company. Catch a ride on the historical Kangra Mountain railway, earmarked for UNESCO status.
The Hill Stations
Exchange Hindu shrines for Buddhist prayer flags at Mcleod Ganj, the residence of the current 14th Dalai Lama. This area became a settlement of Tibetan Buddhism from 1960 following their exile from Tibet. Today it is a cultural crossroads, converse with a monk and learn about life in this small corner of Tibetan India. Hear more of their quest to preserve their traditional arts, crafts and unique culture.
What better way to explore the summer capital of British India than in the company of a local author who is well versed on the history of Shimla. Christianity made a late appearance after the arrival of the British less than 150 years ago. The Christ Church dominates the ridge of Shimla, built in 1844.
This British hill station is linked to the plains by the Kalka-Shimla railway, built at the turn of the 20th century, overseen by chief engineer H. S Harington. Featured in the Guinness Book of Records, it chugs through 103 tunnels as it descends the hillsides before reaching Kalka. Travel by rail to Kalka and then a short drive to Chandigarh, an interesting town, particularly if you have a penchant for architecture. Designed by Le Corbusier, the grid formed streets and a stark contrast to the usual chaotic development of other Indian cities. A must see is the Rock Garden whilst here.
When is the best time to vist the foothills of the Himalayas?
The ideal time to visit Amritsar is during October to March. Avoid very hot summers or equally chilly winters. The foothills of the Himalayas offer a welcome escape from the summer heat and can be comfortably visited during the early summer months of April and May.
How to make this holiday special
Why not extend your stay in Shimla and treat yourself to a relaxing stay at Wildflower Hall, a short 45 minute drive out of Shimla. Once the estate of Lord Kitchener, today this mountain retreat, managed by Oberoi is pure magic. The views are simply magical and the well thought through activities and spa programmes will keep you busy.
For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.