Been there, done that, seen it all - no not yet! A great lover of India once said, "forty years are not enough to see India." There are only a few countries on earth with as much enormous variety that India has to offer. India somehow gets into your blood. It is simply not a country to see, it is a country to experience and relish. This tour is an adventure to off-the-beaten-track places. Pre-or post-tour extensions are available to Nepal, Bhutan or any other parts of the Indian subcontinent.
Arrive in India's busy capital, transfer to the hotel.
Travel to Amritsar, the home ofthe Sikh religion. Tour of the Golden Temple, the sacred marbled sanctuary with its bronze covered , gold leaf dome. Within the marbled sanctuary lies the Guru Granth Sahib - the Bible of the Sikhs. Also see the Community kitchen where 10,000 pilgrims are fed daily on a voluntary and complimentary basis. See Jallianwalla Bagh' and other sights of Amritsar. Overnight at the hotel.
Drive to Dharamsala via Dalhousie. The high snow-clad Dhauladhar ranges of the Himalayas form a magnificent backdrop to Dharamsala. With dense pine and deodar forests, numerous streams, cool healthy air, attractive surroundings and the nearby snowline, Dharamsala is the headquarters of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. The twin settlement of Lower and Upper Dharamsala with suburbs of McLeodganj and Forsythganj. retains a British flavour and colonial lifestyle. Over the years a large Tibetan community has settled in Dharamsala making it their home.
Full day to explore Dharamsala and its environs. If possible an audience with the Dalai Lama will be arranged.
Morning at leisure. Travel to Delhi today today by an overnight train.
Travel to Gwalior today. Later tour Gwalior. The 8th century city is dominated by a walled fortress that is situated atop a cliffed plateau nearly 2 miles long and rises a sheer 300ft from the plain. Visit the fortress which contains numerous temples, a mosque and several interesting buildings. See Teli-Ka-Mandir (11th century), an ancient temple and Gujri Mahal (16th century) and the surviving atrium of the great Sas-Bahu temple (mother-in-law and sister-in-law, 1093 A.D) are outstanding examples of Hindu architecture. Just below the fort's walls are 15th century rock-cut Jain statues that are nearly 60ft high. Later visit the City Palace and its grand Durbar Hall and museums.
Travel by train to Jhansi, then drive to Orchha. Located on a beautiful spot next to the river this small town has a collection of interesting palaces and temples.
Today you will drive back to Jhansi for your train to Bhopal. Aftenoon a brief tour of the city.
Today you will visit Sanchi, which is an unmatched repository of Buddhist art and architecture. It is a serene hill crowned by a group of stupas and pillars. The seat of Buddhist learning and a place of learning (11th-3rd century BC). Sanchi has stupas, Chaityas, temples, pillars, monasteries and impressive gateways.
Fly to Bombay. Besides being the major port of India, Bombay is also a great industrial center. A cosmopolitan city, it owes its prosperity to the industry and enterprise of its population of about 8 million. It is the commercial capital of India. Rest of the day at leisure to explore Bombay on your own.
Fly to Bhuj, Gujarat this morning. The town of Bhuj is partly surrounded by walls built in 1723. An imposing and intricate palace was built in 1865 at one of the gates. Its aina Mahal has walls built of marble covered with mirrors. There are ingenious pumps and siphons to fill the pond which has an intricate fountain. There is a fascinating collection.of Paintings, ornament. and exquisite inlaid ivory doors. On your tour this aftemoon You will visit the palace, later see the street of potters where men mould and fire the local white clay into pots. See the hand block printing and the techniques of tying and dying fabric. The Kutch Museum with its largest collection of Kashatrapa inscriptions is an interesting stop. The oldest of these inscriptions is dated 89 AD. See the coins, jewellery, gold and enamel work, textiles, woodwork, old utensils, arms and a secton on the communites, of Kutch. These communities live and dress as they have been doing for centuries.
The villages of Kutch region, each specializes in a different form of handicraft. Wood and cotton weaving, Ahir embroidery, block printing, nutcrackers and tie-dying. The Rabaris, Debariyas, Gracias, Sod has and other communites are the most colourful and still wear dresses bejeweled with mirrorwork. Today we will explore their villages. The villages consist of round mud huts with a single central support pole, and a thatched or tiled roof, all surrounding a large community courtyard. The women have an exquisite personal collection of embroidered quilts and garments. Walls, shelves, grain containers and cupboards are fashioned in mud with decorative designs washed with lime paste and embedded with mirrors which throw back hundreds of shimmering reflections when a candle is lit. Later continue on to a weaving community. It is a small village with narrow winding lanes and a pit loom in every home.
Drive to Gondal this moming. Gondal is a transit point for Southem Gujarat. Once the centre of a former prosperous princely state, Gondal still has some impressive buildings. The present royal family still has the Maharaja's collection of 30 or so vintage cars and in the palace railway yard are two dilapidated royal rail carriages.
A full day's drive to Junagarh Fort, Chorwad and time permitting, Somnath Temple. Junagarh is an interesting town situated right at the base ofthe temple-studded Gimar Hill. See the Fort and the Ashokan edicts near the town which testify to the great antiquity of this site. The summer palace of the Junagarh Nawabs is 70 krns away at the popular beach resort of Chorwad. Driving along quiet coastal roads, through Chorwad and Verawal we will reach Somnath, one of the most sacred Shiva shrines in India. It stands majestically washed by the sea. Nearby is a temple marking the spot where Lord Krishna is said to have been accidentally killed by a hunter's arrow. Continue on to Sasan Gir, home of the Asiatic lions.
Drive to Bhavnagar today enroute visiting Palitana. A mile from town is Shatrunjaya Hill, the most important centre of Jain pilgrimage, with 863 Jain temples atop its twin peaks. The 1900 ft ascent from the base of the hill to the summit is a walk of some two kms, up more than 3,000 steps. At dusk, even the priest s depart from the temples, leaving them deserted for the gods. Should you wish, you can be carried up the hill in a swing chair car at an extra cost. The hilltop affords a fine view. The temples here are originally from the 11 th century and later redone in the 16'" century.
Fly to Bangalore, capital of India's Kamataka state. This well planned city is cleverly both a garden and an industrial center. Bangalore is home to India's main aircraft and telephone industries, as well as the famed Lal Bagh gardens. These meticulously cared for grounds have been a highlight of Bangalore for centurios. Trees, several hundred years old, fountains, tropical and subtropical plants and lotus ponds are spread elegantly over several acres of terraces.
Fly to Bangalore and drive to Chikmaglur. Later excursion to Helebid temples and Belur temples. First visit the exquisite Belur temples. The Chenakeshava Temple took 103 years to complete and the facade of the temple is covered with intricate sculptures and friezes. Inside the temple are hand-lathe tumed filigree pillars. At Halebid the walls of the temple are covered with an endless variety of gods and goddesses, animals, birds and dancing girls, yet no two facets of the temple are same.
Drive to Hospet, the base for our explorations into the ruins of Hampi. In the evening, a drive to the Tungabhadra Dam is a1so possible.
The Vijaynagar city ruins near the village of Hampi are set in a strange and beautiful landscape, a hill country that is partly desolate and strewn with enormous, rounded boulders, partly irrigated and cultivated. There are many sites to see and some to visit. Virupaksha Temple has a 160 ft high gopuram. Vittala tEmple is a world heritage monument. The outer pillars are musical as they reverberate when tapped. The stone chariot or cart in front of the temple is one of the most photographed objects here. The royal enclosure area of Hampi and the elephant stables are two other interesting stops.
A three hour drive will bring you to Badami. Set in a beautiful countryside amongst red sandstone hills, rock-hewn water tanks and peaceful farmlands, the small village of Badami was once a capitalof the Chalukya Empire which ruled the Deccan between the 4th and 8th centuries A.D. Your excursion to nearby Aihole artd Pattadakal is to see some of the earliest and finest examples of Dravidian temples and rock cut caves. See the Badami cave temples cut into the cliff face they display a range of Hindu and Visit rural India Buddhist art. Aihole is 43 kms from Badami. There are 70 structures in and around this serene village which are monuments to the vigorous experimentation in temple architecture undertaken by the Chalukyas. Here you can see temple architecture in its embryonic stage to later and more complex structures. One of them is unique - being circular in shape and surmounted by a primitive gopuram. Pattadkal is 16 kms from badami and this is where all coronations took place. Visit the Virupaksha Temple with sculptures that narrate episodesfrom the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharat. The other main temple, Mallikarjuna has sculptures, which tell stories from the Bhagvad Gita.
Drive to Goa. This former Portuguese colony is a picturesque land full of scenic charm and many attractions such as historic forts, elaborately omate churches and temples, evergreen hills and mountains, winding rivers and creeks, fields and particularly, the palm-fringed pearly white beaches which leave the visitor spellbound. The most famous churches are in Old Goa, 8 kms from the city of Panjim. The sacred remains of the patron of the East, St Francis Xavier lie enshrined in the Basilica of Bom Jesus and have made Goa famous as the "Rome of the East".
Today visit the Church of St Francis or take the day to stroll in Panaji or take advantage of some of Goa's fine beaches, warm water and mild weather.
Moming at leisure to rest or last minute shopping etc. Transfer to the airport for your connecting flight back home via Singapore.