Spiritual North India
Seek enlightenment in Rishikesh before visiting the ancient cities of Amritsar and Varanasi
Personalised journeys from start to finish
Save an acre of rainforest each time you travel
Every detail taken care of
- 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
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
Airport assistance at Delhi Airport
Flight from Delhi to Dehradun
Private transfer to your hotel
Check in to your room 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.
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.
Private transfer to Dehradun airport
Flight from Dehradun to Amritsar via Delhi
Private transfer to your hotel in Amritsar with guide
Accommodation in Amritsar
- 248 rooms and suites
- Two restaurants
- Lounge bar
- Outdoor swimming pool
- Fitness centre
Just 4km from the famous Golden Temple, the Hyatt Amritsar is a contemporary hotel that offers guests the very best in comfort and luxury. Elegant rooms feature sleek, modern design and the ten suites are located on the top floors, offering panoramic views. When it comes to dining, you are spoilt for choice with two restaurants offering everything from Italian, Thai and Chinese to traditional Punjabi cuisine. The lounge bar serves a decadent afternoon tea during the day as well as a selection of cocktails and fine wines, perfect for winding down after a day of sightseeing. The hotel features a fitness centre and spa for those moments when you simply want to unwind, as well as an outdoor pool whose refreshing waters are perfect for cooling off in under the heat of the Indian sun.
- 157 rooms
- Two restaurants
- Swimming pool
- Spa and fitness centre
Be welcomed by the Punjab’s famously warm hospitality at this luxury hotel in heart of Amritsar. Decidedly modern with the occasional nod to local culture and traditions, 157 spacious rooms have state-of-the-art amenities and are flooded with natural light from floor to ceiling windows. Dining options at the Taj Swarna include The Grand Trunk Road, an all day restaurant with Indian and international cuisine and The Chinese Room, as well as chic lounge bar, The Peg. There’s also a modern fitness centre, expansive Jiva Spa and a swimming pool to relax at after a day exploring the city.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Private transfer to Amritsar airport with guide
Flight from Amritsar to Varanasi via Delhi
Private transfer to your hotel in Varanasi
Accommodation in Varanasi
- Ten rooms and suites
- Lap pool
- Four-hole mini golf course
Set among beautiful gardens, mango orchards and marigold and jasmine fields is Nadesar Palace, a 19th-century colonial palace and once a guest house for the officials of the East India Company. With just ten rooms, the hotel is grand yet intimate and is a real oasis of calm. The hotel is dedicated to and named after the Goddess Nadesari, and there is a shrine to the deity in front of the building. Inside, the walls are adorned with works of art from the Maharaja’s personal collection while the rooms are filled with antique furniture and decorated in the same hues as the flowers that are offered to the holy Ganges. A lap pool is set within perfectly manicured gardens and for those looking for ultimate relaxation, the spa offers a range of treatments inspired by India’s ancient healing techniques. Once you’ve built your energy reserves back up, take to the mini four-hole golf course. One of the joys of travelling to India is sampling the food. The restaurant, which harks back to the bygone era of the Raj, serves traditional Indian cuisine alongside more international dishes. Private dining experiences are available to make your stay extra special, including a poolside Indian barbecue that is cooked in front of you while you enjoy the mesmerising music of sitar and tabla players.
- 32 rooms
- Tea and coffee lounge
- Roof terrace
Set on the banks of the holy River Ganges on one of Varanasi’s 87 ghats is Brijrama Palace, an opulent hotel that is perfect for those that want to be close to the heart and soul of this deeply spiritual city. Built in the 18th century by the Royal House of Nagpur, the palace has been lovingly restored. Murals, hand-painted ceilings and beautiful carvings revealed during the restoration have brought it back to life, ensuring the building is in keeping with this most atmospheric of cities. The hotel is approached by boat, immediately giving you the sense you are entering somewhere special. The central courtyard is filled with plants and sculptures and surrounded by a series of ornate pillars and arches cut from sandstone. Barnasi silk and gold leaf is used throughout the hotel and rooms are furnished with wooden four poster beds and beautiful Indian fabrics. You’re ideally situated to explore the city, a stone’s throw from Dasashwamedh Ghat where the evening Ganga Aarti ceremony takes place. As people flock with their offerings, the river becomes a blanket of twinkling lights with oil lamps and flowers carried along the water. The restaurant serves delicious vegetarian cuisine while tea, freshly ground coffee and traditional thandai can be enjoyed outdoors. In the evening there is live classical music in the lounge. There are few places on earth quite like Varanasi, so make sure you set aside some time to head to the rooftop and soak up its incredible and unique atmosphere.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Private transfer to Varanasi airport with guide
Flight from Varanasi to Delhi
Private transfer to your hotel in Delhi with guide
Accommodation in Delhi
- 40 rooms
- Two restaurants
- Cigar lounge
- Outdoor pool
- Tennis and squash courts
With its clean lines, crisp decor and modern take on Moghul architecture, The Lodhi is a cool and contemporary hotel in the heart of New Delhi. Despite being set within seven acres of grounds, the hotel has just 40 rooms giving it an intimate and exlusive feel. Rooms are elegantly styled in shades of dusky blue, grey and green and come with private balconies and plunge pools. Huge glass windows offer views out across Humayun’s Tomb and the Lodhi Gardens, from which the hotel takes its name. Sophisticated design touches prevail thoughout, from the light installations and sculptures to the gallery space in the foyer showcasing the work of contemporary Indian artists. The hotel’s restaurant, On the Waterfront, has a real buzz about it, with the ground floor overlooking a reflection pool and a glass pavillion for private parties. The Elan focuses on India’s diverse culinary traditions, and here you can same local delicacies from the north to the south. The library and cigar lounge are peaceful retreats in which to escape with a good book, while for those wanting to stretch their legs there is a 50m lap pool, three tennis courts, squash courts and a gym. Delhi Golf Club is also located opposite the hotel. After a day of sightseeing and exploring the city, relax in the tranquil spa which offers a range of traditional Indian treatments and therapies.
- 190 rooms and 43 suites
- Four restaurants
- Two bars
- Tea lounge
- Outdoor swimming pool
A driveway lined with tall palm trees leads to the grand white facade of The Imperial, one of Delhi’s most iconic hotels. Harking back to the days of the Raj, The Imperial is filled with old-world charm, its fascinating history a permanent presence. The opulence of colonial India is felt from the moment you enter; the high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and artwork from the 18th and 19th centuries giving a sense of grandeur. Rooms are beautifully styled with antique furniture, marble floors covered in Indian rugs, and photographs of iconic Indian landmarks and events on the walls. When the hotel opened its doors in the 30s, it became a meeting point for figures including Nehru, Ghandi, Jinnah and Lord Mountbatton who came to discuss the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. Photographs of the various battalions during the British Raj adorn the walls and the 1911 Restaurant is a celebration of the year Delhi became the new capital of India. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating and drinking, with four restaurants offering south east Asian, gourmet Indian and European cuisine. There is also a pastry shop and a tea lounge with a glass domed ceiling and tinkling fountain and the hotel’s two bars are some of the city’s most popular. An outdoor swimming pool is set within the verdant gardens of the hotel and there is a spa offering Ayurvedic therapies for when you want to simply drift away. Once you’ve recharged your batteries, head out and explore Delhi – you’re ideally located on Janpath, just moments from the renowned shopping district of Connaught Place and a short rickshaw ride from India Gate.
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.
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.
Private transfer to Delhi airport with guide
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Spiritual North India
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We create fully personalised trips from start to finish, working with you to pick locations, accommodation and guides that suit you.
Each time you travel with us, you preserve an acre of precious rainforest through our partnerships.
From in-depth private tours to restaurant reservations, we take care of every detail so you can make the most of your journey.