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Seek enlightenment in Rishikesh before visiting the ancient cities of Amritsar and Varanasi

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What's Included

  • Exclusive private tours
  • Luxury accommodation throughout
  • Private transfers and domestic flights
  • Full support from your Travel Concierge before, during and after your trip
  • Boat trip along the River Ganges
  • Four nights at the peaceful Ananda resort in Rishikesh
Use this itinerary to inspire your bespoke journey

At a glance

Uncover India’s ancient spirituality on this ten-night trip to its most holy sites, gaining a unique insight into the country’s beautiful blend of belief systems, and perhaps yourself.

Begin your awakening by taking it slow in the foothills of the Himalayas at a stunning retreat overlooking Rishikesh. Strung along the sacred upper reaches of the Ganges, Rishikesh is a place famous for being the home of yoga, a magnet for Indian sadhus as well as soul searchers and seekers from around the world.

You’ll spend four nights at the Ananda, perhaps India’s finest wellbeing resort, renewing oneself with a holistic program of yoga, meditation, organic cuisine and blissful excursions into the surrounding forested hills.

With balanced restored, venture west to Amritsar in the Punjab. A centre for the Sikh faith, it is a thriving city and something of a showpiece for the region’s wealth. The great Golden Temple sits at its heart – the holiest Gurdwara of Sikhism – all reflected in a serene pool of holy water from which the city takes its name.

Spend the first of two nights here soaking up the atmosphere of the evening’s Palki Sahib, a breathtaking ritual where the holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, is carried in a heavy palanquin in a procession and put away for the night. See more of the city and learn about its history the next day, then head to the border with Pakistan to witness the bizarre but grand border closing ceremony.

Next return to the banks of Ganga, this time in Varanasi. Palpably ancient, this is India’s holiest city for Hindus and Jains. Its stepped ghats bustling with ablution-performing pilgrims and funeral pyres with their smoke drifting out over the sacred river, are perhaps some of the most spiritually evocative sights in the world.

Take a boat out onto the Ganges to see the floating candles of the nightly aarti ceremony and explore the old city’s winding back alleys, bazaars and temples with your guide. You’ll also visit nearby Sarnath, a place that Buddha is believed to have set in motion the Wheel of Dharma by delivering his first sermon to the five companions with whom he had sought enlightenment.

Delhi will be your host for the last two nights, with a full day spent consolidating all you have learned and experienced with an ordained Buddhist practitioner and leader of inter-faith cultural tours, visiting an eclectic mix of places of worship including the Lotus Temple, and learning about faith in modern India.

 

Example Trip Itinerary

Days 1-5

Rishikesh

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Airport assistance at Delhi Airport

Flight

Flight from Delhi to Dehradun

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel

 
Check in to the Ananda in the Himalayas Check in to the Ananda in the Himalayas

Check in to your room at the Ananda in the Himalayas.

Four days at the Ananda in the Himalayas Four days at the Ananda in the Himalayas

Enjoy your days at this beautiful resort in the mountains with a plethora of guided wellness experiences such as daily yoga and meditation classes, nature walks, spa treatments, wonderful food and fitness activities.

Afternoon tour of Rishikesh from the Ananda Afternoon tour of Rishikesh from the Ananda

Drive down the winding road into Rishikesh below to explore this small but deeply spiritual town ending with witnessing the daily evening prayer ceremony on the Ganges river known as Ganga Aarti. This is a devotional ritual that uses fire as an offering to the Goddess Ganga, made in the form of a lit lamp, on a small diya with a candle and flowers that's floated down the river.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Dehradun airport

Flight

Flight from Dehradun to Amritsar via Delhi

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Amritsar with guide

Days 5-7

Amritsar

Accommodation in Amritsar

Two nights in Amritsar Two nights in Amritsar

The largest city in Punjab and the centre the Sikh faith, Amritsar is a fascinating and tangibly spiritual destination. ‘Amritsar’ literally means a pool of holy nectar referring to the holy water pool at the Golden Temple. It was founded by Guru Ravidas in 1547 and is the seat of Sikh culture and heritage. It is a thriving city today and may be considered a showpiece of the prosperity and wealth of the Punjab state. Amritsar itself is an important religious place of pilgrimage for devout Sikhs, who desire to take a purifying dip in the holy waters of the Golden Temple (also known as Harmandir Sahib).

Golden Temple evening tour Golden Temple evening tour

This evening visit to the Golden Temple to soak up the atmosphere of the evening. If you wish, you can stay on for the for the Palki Sahib ceremony. In this ceremony the holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, is carried in a heavy palanquin in a procession and put to 'bed'. Visitors and pilgrims participate in this by helping carry the palanquin. The temple is fully illuminated and is quite breathtaking to view, with the lights reflecting in the waters of the holy pool.

Tour of Amritsar Tour of Amritsar

This morning you will be taken for the sightseeing tour of Amritsar starting with a morning visit to the Golden Temple. This Sikh temple is the holiest as this is the one that houses the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book, which is considered to be the eternal Guru. Although it was built in 1601, its present gilded decoration and marble work is from the 19th century. The temple is surrounded by a large pool of holy water and can be approached from all four sides by causeways.

You will also visit the Langar or community kitchen, where at least 80,000 people are fed every day. Regardless of class, caste, sex or faith anyone can eat a wholesome hygienic vegetarian meal here as a community service. At this temple you will have a chance learn about this fascinating religion and its people.

Finally head to Jallianwala Bagh, the site of a memorial to commemorate the victims of the infamous massacre carried out by the British in 1919.

Wagah Border ceremony Wagah Border ceremony

Visit the famous Wagah Border for the evening 'lowering of the flags' ceremony, a daily military practice that the security forces of India (Border Security Force) and Pakistan (Pakistan Rangers) have followed since 1959. This ceremony takes place every evening before sunset at the Wagah border, which as part of the Grand Trunk Road was the only road link between these two countries before the opening of the Aman Setu in Kashmir in 1999. The ceremony starts with a perfectly coordinated parade by the soldiers from both the sides and ends up in the lowering of the flags. One Jawan stands attention at the gate on each side. As the sun sets, the Iron Gate at the border is opened and the flags are lowered. The flag is folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a handshake between the soldiers. The grandeur of the ceremony attracts many visitors from both sides of the border and tourists from all over the world.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Amritsar airport with guide

Flight

Flight from Amritsar to Varanasi via Delhi

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Varanasi

Days 7-9

Varanasi

Accommodation in Varanasi

Two nights in Varanasi Two nights in Varanasi

An ancient settlement on the banks of the Ganges, Varanasi is India’s spiritual capital and important among numerous faiths. Varanasi’s 84 ghats - stone embankments that step down into the river- are its most iconic sight. Most are crowded with pilgrims performing ritual ablutions in the river waters while a few are used solely for cremation. Sublime and sometimes shocking to visitors, the whole experience is utterly unforgettable.
The rest of city is home to some 23,000 temples, the sandstone Ramnagar Fort and numerous centres of education, philosophy, music and art. Small-scale industries and household production employ most of Varanasi’s residents and its winding alleyways are one of the best places to find fine silks, carpets and crafts.

boats-varanasi-india
Evening aarti prayer ceremony Evening aarti prayer ceremony

In the evening, you will be taken for a boat ride on the River Ganges and experience the evening aarti prayer, one of the most important and popular ceremonies of the Hindu faith sometimes called the 'ceremony of light' that involves waving lighted wicks before the sacred images to infuse the flames with the deities’ love, energy and blessings. You will also float your own lamps down the river.

boat-ride-ganges-varanasi
Ganges boat ride and old city walking tour Ganges boat ride and old city walking tour

This morning you will be taken for a boat ride on the River Ganges. After the boat ride you will meet a local expert on the ghats who will lead you on a private walking tour in the old city. On this walk you will see the back alleys, old havelis, temples, labyrinth of streets, street vendors and pilgrims that line the banks of the Ganges.

sarnath-varanasi-india
Tour of Sarnath Tour of Sarnath

Head out of Varanasi to visit the sacred site of Sarnath. It is here that Buddha is believed to have set in motion what Buddhists call the Wheel of Dharma by delivering his first sermon to the five companions with whom he had sought enlightenment. Together with him, they formed the first sangha, or company of Buddhist monks. You'll explore the ancient stupas and make a visit to the small but excellent museum at the site.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Varanasi airport with guide

Flight

Flight from Varanasi to Delhi

Transfer

Private transfer to your hotel in Delhi with guide

Days 9-11

Delhi

Accommodation in Delhi

Two nights in Delhi Two nights in Delhi

With a population of over 18 million, Delhi is an international metropolis. Perhaps daunting at first sight, a little exploring soon reveals a rich, diverse and fascinating culture. Throughout most of its history, it has served as the capital of various kingdoms and empires, captured and rebuilt time and time again. Every dynasty left its mark and as you start to explore, you’ll discover reminders and relics from this colossal game of pass the parcel.

As well as centuries worth of history to explore, Delhi is also one of the best places in India to shop, try the many different styles of food and experience the buzz of a city where its millions of inhabitants are going about their daily business. And if weaving your way in and out of the rickshaws and cyclists ever starts to get too much, turn the corner and you’ll find a tranquil garden or a quiet enclave in which to stop, gather your thoughts and recharge.

buddhist-practitioner-shantum-seth
Day with Shantum Seth Day with Shantum Seth

Shantum Seth who is the foremost teacher and guide to the sites associated with the Buddha. A Buddhist practitioner, he is an ordained teacher (Dharmacharya) in the Zen tradition of the Vietnamese Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. He teaches in India and other countries. In the last few years he has been leading inter-faith, educational, cultural and spiritual journeys across India.

Start your day at the spectacular Bahai or Lotus temple with its twenty seven unfurling petals made of white marble. We then visit the Sacred Heart Cathedral and feel its sense of peace. After lunch we go to the Bodhi temple and hear stories on the life of the Buddha and his teachings. The mood changes sharply from modesty and grandeur to ritual and colour at the famous Laxminarayan Temple which houses a large number of idols of Hindu gods and goddesses. It was among one of the country’s first temples which had no caste restrictions and Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated it on that condition. End the day at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the temple of the followers of the Sikh religion.

Flights & Transfers

Transfer

Private transfer to Delhi airport with guide

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