Spiritual India Trip Notes
Trip code: GISP
Trip valid from: 01/10/2011
Trip valid until: 30/06/2013
Trip length: 13 days
Trip starts in: Delhi
Trip ends in: Delhi
Maximum group size: 16
- Train Travel - A Quintessentially Indian Experience
- The Ganges And Varanasi
Journey to some of the earth’s most magical places on this special pilgrimage through India’s famed spiritual centres: the holy Sikh city of Amritsar and its renowned Golden Temple; the Dalai Lama’s home-in-exile, Tibet-infused Dharamsala; Rishikesh, the 'Yoga Capital of the World'; and Varanasi, with its grand spectacle of passionate pilgrims congregating on the banks of the sacred Ganges.
DelhiToday is an arrival day and no activities are planned, so you may arrive at any time. If you are arriving early, please check the noticeboard in the foyer of the hotel for suggestions of things to see and do in Delhi. A pre-departure meeting takes place this evening at the hotel. Please also check the noticeboard for details of this meeting and for any other messages from your tour guide. Please also bring your passport and travel insurance documents to the meeting. Afterwards we have the opportunity to go out for an optional group dinner.
AmritsarWe journey into Punjab and reach Amritsar, literally 'The Pool of the Nectar of Immortality' and home to the fabulously radiant Golden Temple (or Harmandir Sahib). Explore the holiest Sikh shrine in the world and its blissful surrounds. You’ll discover it was built with doors facing the four points of the compass; pilgrims of every religion or faith are allowed to enter, meditate and listen, as well as bask amidst soothing prayers for peace.
DharamsalaA six-hour drive takes us to Dharamsala. The town has grown from its 1849 native regiment encampment origins to its current incarnation as the capital for Tibetan Buddhist scholarship and a seat of power. Standing at the foot of Dhauladhar, the town offers magnificent views of snowy peaks, deodar and pine forests, tea gardens and beautiful hills, making a fine home for Tibet’s and arguably the world’s most renowned and venerated spiritual guru - His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. He resides in McLeod Ganj, the upper part of Dharamsala and a place where you’ll find yourself amongst many robed monks and Tibetan people.
DharamsalaWe further explore the small town of McLeod Ganj, its Buddhist temple and street market hubbub. Traditional Tibetan culture here remains strong and largely unaffected by adversity. You can visit the Norbulingka Institute, dedicated to preserving Tibetan culture, or go on short hikes to some of the many scenic spots around this remarkable hill station.
Dharamsala - Chakki Bank - overnight trainToday is a day of leisure in this tranquil and spiritual place. You have more free time to explore more of Dharamsala and absorb its ambience. In the late afternoon we depart and drive for three hours to Chakki Bank, where we meet our overnight train to Haridwar. Our scheduled time of departure is 8:35 pm (2035 hrs), but sometimes we need to wait for a while due to the train not running on time.
RishikeshAn early start sees us board the train north to the pretty town of Haridwar. The mighty Ganges river flows swiftly through this town, bearing glacial water down through the country. We’ll see a very different version of the river far downstream in Varanasi. Haridwar is a holy Hindu city, and there is time to check out the town, watch pilgrims pray along the banks of the river, or just relax, while we are in this vicinity. We take a short drive to Rishikesh, our base for the next three nights. Rishikesh is regarded as the ‘yoga capital of the world’ and ashrams are clustered in the hills. The scenery is beautiful and conducive to relaxation and meditation. We enjoy a yoga session of an hour or so each morning and the rest of the day is free. Stroll around the town and chat to Sadhus (holy men), enjoy an optional rafting trip, head back into Haridwar for further exploration, or take a walk through the hills to waterfalls. There’s plenty to do. Of course chilling out is always a good option.
Haridwar - overnight trainAfter a final yoga session, there’s time to say farewell to our peaceful base before we head back to Haridwar to catch an overnight train to Varanasi arriving in the afternoon of Day 9.
Varanasi - overnight trainRegarded as the spiritual heart of India, Varanasi is the city of Shiva built on the banks of the sacred Ganges River. Thousands of pilgrims flock to the great ghats to bathe in the holy waters - a ritual that is believed to wash away all sins. The city claims to be one of the oldest in the world and it’s a magical place where we are able to witness the rituals of life and death on the ghats, on an early morning boat ride. Our tour guide also takes us for a walk through the back lanes and crowded alleyways of this timeless city. After our time in Varanasi, we board another overnight sleeper train and head back westward to Delhi.
DelhiWe arrive back in Delhi at dawn and the rest of the day is free to do your own thing. Red Fort and the impressive Jama Masjid (Great Mosque) are two of the city's most notable landmarks, whilst Raj Ghat is a monument that marks the spot where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated. In the final evening we have the opportunity to head out for a final group dinner (optional) before saying our goodbyes.
DelhiOur trip ends today around breakfast time. If you wish to stay on in Delhi, please pre-book your post-tour accommodation before you commence your travels. Delhi has many interesting museums and monuments. If you are interested in historical and cultural matters, it is recommended that you to extend your stay and visit some of these places. Humayun's Tomb and Safdarjang's Tomb are great examples of Mughal architecture and design. Hauz Khas Village is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown - a chic artistic enclave set right next to the remnants of a historical site.
Itinerary VariationWhile the information presented here details our planned itinerary, including routes taken, activities included, accommodation and meeting times, please accept that unforseen changes may occur. We are constantly on the lookout to improve our program and further enhance your experience. Naturally, we will keep you up to date with any last minute amendments to your tour.
About The Imaginative Traveller
Our aim has always been to provide exceptional travel experiences. We believe that adventure travel should be stimulating, and that it should give you an authentic experience of a place. We want our travellers to relish the amazing diversity of countries and cultures the world has to offer. Our focus is on innovation, not imitation.
Obsessed with quality
One of our strengths has been our obsession with quality. We've always believed that our commitment to you doesn't end as soon as you've paid for your holiday. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Whilst most operators simply get a local company to handle the day to day operation of their tours, we do it all ourselves. We have managers for each of our key destinations around the world and all our small groups are escorted by our own leaders. Our local teams include guides, drivers, administration staff and contacts in the local community who help us ensure that our adventures are active and involving.
For comparability, all prices in this dossier are quoted in one currency. We use the US Dollar since that is familiar to most. However, once on tour you will need to pay for all goods and services in the local currency. See your Country Dossier for details of exchange rates.
Whether you’re taking in man’s greatest works at places like Petra or Angkor Wat, experiencing grand set-pieces like the Trans-Mongolian Railway or trying your hand at regional specialities like tango in Buenos Aires, getting to grips with local cultures is what travel’s all about. A few tips from a guide and a sense of adventure are pretty much all you need. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get the lowdown on high Tibet among Lhasa’s magisterial temples; follow up Delhi’s eye-popping bustle with a fix of its fiery food; and mix manic markets and Incan masterpieces in Peru.
No particular level of fitness is required for this holiday. You need only to be in good health.
Experienced regional tour guide and all transportation and accommodation as indicated in detailed Trip Notes. The following sightseeing trips are included: The golden temple, Haridwar - witness Ganga Aarti ritual, Varanasi - one morning boat ride on the Ganges.
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, airport/departure taxes, visas, pre or post tour accommodation, meals, optional tours, yoga sessions, sightseeing or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature, laundry and flights unless specified. Some places that we visit charge additional fees if you are entering with a camera or camcorder - your city guide will advise on these and they can be paid for locally.
9 nights Hotels/guesthouses,Overnight train
Single room supplementMost of our travellers like the thought of travelling with a few like-minded souls. There are NO compulsory single supplements on most tours as we simply arrange twin shared accommodation for you and another tour member of the same sex. But don't worry if that doesn't appeal. We do understand there are times when you just want a bit of privacy and 'me' time so we are more than happy to arrange a private room upon request when you book.
Bus,Local bus,Sleeper train,Taxi
*prices below are guide onlyAgra - Agra Fort entrance
- - US$8
- - US$50 per car / US$20 entrance fee
- - US$40 per car/entrance US$5
- - US$40 per car
- - US$40 per car/entrance US$4
Responsible Travel - Travellers' Guidelines
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It’s about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
- It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit.
- We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.
- Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
If you would like to contribute to our Worldwide projects, helping communities all over the World, you can also do this on our website or with a sales consultant. Please refer to our responsible travel page on the website for details of our current projects. Any donation you make will be matched £ for £ by Imaginative Traveller (up to a maximum of £1000).
Have a great trip!
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at email@example.comThe Imaginative Traveller & Gecko's Adventures This trip is operated by our partner company, Gecko's Adventures. Gecko's is an Australia based company with more than 10 years experience in adventure travel and they share our ethos for offering unique holiday adventures. As this is a code shared departure you can expect there to be both Imaginative Traveller and Gecko's travellers on your trip.
Last updated: 23/02/2012