"Discover the incredible diversity of northern India. From the massive Himalayan Mountain range, right through to Pangong Tso lake"
India is a country of huge diversity. Nowhere is this more evident than in the north, where the expansive Gangetic Plain meets the high Himalayas. Here, not only are the landscapes changing and varied, but so are the religions, languages and cultures. Get first-hand experience of this fascinating diversity with a tour through the beautiful cities of India’s northern states including Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Your tour begins with a visit to Chandigarh, India’s first ‘planned city’, and one of the holiest cities for Sikhs. Next on the agenda is Pragpur, a heritage village that, with its cobblestone streets and mud houses, seems almost frozen in time.
Continue to Dharamsala, the seat of the Dalai Lama, and on to the vibrant hill station of Manali. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, Manali is famed for its laid-back ambience as well as its apple and pear-growing prowess. Cross mountain passes to reach the high-altitude desert district of Leh, renowned for its spectacular scenery, palaces and monasteries. A white-water rafting excursion in Zanskar follows, with the high-octane adventure balanced out by the serene and stunning surrounding scenery. The final phase of this comprehensive tour takes you south into India’s Pink City, Jaipur, and further on into Agra. Here, your tour climaxes with a ‘bucket-list’ trip to the exquisite Taj Mahal.
Active India Holidays are local operators and, as such, have seen first-hand the benefits that tourism can bring to some of India’s most remote regions. They understand that tourism often helps to alleviate poverty and develop communities and, as part of the global tourism industry, acknowledge that they too have a crucial role to play in providing commercial benefits and financial impetus in local communities. The company is conscious of both the negative and positive impacts its operations potentially have within sensitive environments and communities, particularly in the Himalayas where most of Active India’s trekking and adventure operations are conducted.
To ensure that they operate in as responsible a way as possible, Active India trains all of its tour leaders and support staff on sustainability practices. One example is their ‘Leave no Trace’ policy, which ensures that campsites and trails are left free from any waste. The company even extends this policy to include the waste left by travellers who have come before them, collecting and disposing of any extra rubbish in a safe manner. Active India hopes to contribute towards building a tourism industry that brings pleasure to travellers whilst also constructing a future for the local people and places that the industry depends on.
Arrival in Delhi: Arrive at Delhi’s international airport and receive a traditional ‘Swagat’ (welcome) from Active India’s representative before transferring to your hotel. The rest of the day is free!
Delhi – Chandigarh: Drive to Chandigarh, the ‘gateway’ to the hill stations, after breakfast. Upon your arrival, transfer to your hotel before heading out for some sightseeing in the local area. Visit the popular Rock Garden, a great example of local creativity and ingenuity with its various art objects made out of industrial and urban waste. Next, visit another man-made wonder, the beautiful Sukhna Lake that lies in the foothills of the Shivalik mountain range.
Chandigarh – Amritsar: Today you’ll continue to Amritsar, one of the holiest cities for Sikhs. Check in to your hotel before paying a visit to the Golden Temple to witness the evening ceremony. Amritsar means ‘holy lake of nectar’, and takes its name from the pool around the Golden Temple.
Amritsar: Explore Amritsar’s historical landmarks on today’s sightseeing tour: visit Jalianwallah Bagh, built to remember the martyrs of the 1919 massacre, and Durgiana Mandir, a temple dedicated to Durga (a Hindu goddess). Later, witness the ‘Flag Down’ ceremony at Wagah Border (one of the entry points to Pakistan) that takes place every evening before sunset. The ceremony begins with a parade by the soldiers from both sides of the border and ends with a perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nations’ flags.
Amritsar – Pragpur: After breakfast, set off for the heritage village of Pragpur, home to the famous Kangra School of Painting. Take some time to rest and relax after checking in to your hotel, before going on a tour of the village in the afternoon. Explore the quaint shops, cobbled streets and mud houses of the village, which seems like it has remained frozen in time!
Pragpur – Dharamsala: Drive through fertile terraced fields and pine-covered mountains to reach the small town of McLeod Ganj. En route, stop by at the Pong Dam Wetland Wild Bird Sanctuary and Masroor, an ancient rock temple. Once you reach your destination of McLeod Ganj, check in to your hotel and enjoy a free evening in which to explore the local area.
Dharamsala: McLeod Ganj is world famous as the seat of the Dalai Lama, who settled here after being exiled from Tibet. Since then, the Tibetan ‘Government in Exile’ has opened schools, workshops and monasteries in and around the town. Visit Buddhist monasteries, the Parliament and the Tibetan-influenced bazaars before returning to the hotel.
Dharamsala – Manali: Take an early-morning drive to Manali, a famous hill station surrounded by verdant green forests. The drive (although long) is far from boring, traversing through the foothills of the Himalayas to reach the picturesque hill resort. Popular with both foreign tourists and Indian nationals, the town is renowned for its fertile agriculture, particularly for its apple and pear-growing.
Manali: Visit the pretty village of old Manali and the Temple of Sage Manu and the Goddess Hadimba. Later, wander through the Mall Road bazaar and pay a visit to the Buddhist Monastery.
Manali – Sarchu: Depart from Manali early in the morning for today’s exciting drive to Sarchu. Head for Rohtang Pass (3,970m), whose name translates as ‘pile of dead bodies’ – don’t be too alarmed, the spectacular views of the Pir Panjal and Himalayan mountain range from the top of the pass are far less sinister! This pass marks the beginning of the serpentine Leh-Manali highway, which you’ll continue to follow until you reach Sarchu, travelling by other high mountains passes en route.
Sarchu – Leh: Another long drive today as you proceed to Leh. The drive, which takes around 11-12 hours, takes you through the expansive plains of the Kyang Chu Thang plateau and up to the high Tanglang-La pass (5,210m). A tiny temple and a few colourful prayer flags mark the top of the pass, which is the second highest motorable road in the world! Descend to Rumtse, an oasis village surrounded by barren hills. Following the road along the river, you’ll reach Leh late in the evening.
Spituk Monastery and Leh Palace: Visit the 11th century Spituk Gompa and the famous Leh Palace. Situated atop Namgyal Hill, this palace was built in the 17th century but was later abandoned in the mid-19th century.
Leh – Thiksey – Hemis – Matho – Leh: Visit three of the main gompas (monasteries) around Leh, starting at the Yellow hat Thiksey monastery. Its distinctive red and white buildings can be seen for miles! Continue on to the Red hat Hemis Gompa, the region’s largest and wealthiest monastery. This gompa houses a rich collection of rare 17th century murals and ancient relics, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Last but not least is the 16th century Matho monastery on the other side of the Indus.
Likir and Alchi Monasteries: Visit yet more famous monasteries, Likir and Alchi. Alchi, built approximately 990 years ago, is famed for its huge Buddha statues and intricate woodcarvings. Return to Leh in the afternoon, and explore the market at your leisure in the evening.
Zanskar Excursion: Enjoy an adventurous river-rafting adventure with an excursion to Zanskar. One of the world’s most dramatic river canyons, your downstream journey begins with some small rapids and becomes progressively more difficult. The surrounding scenery is truly spectacular, with huge cliffs opening up to reveal green valleys, snow-capped mountain tops in the background and waterfalls bursting from the canyon walls. After your high-octane adventure you’ll return to your hotel in Leh.
Pangong Tso Lake Excursion: Drive to Pangong Tso, a beautiful sapphire high-altitude lake. Due to its saline water, the lake has little micro-vegetation, and no aquatic life at all. However, the lake is home to a huge variety of birds including Bar-headed geese and Brahmini ducks as well as a wealth of other wildlife including Kiangs and Marmots. Return to Leh for a final overnight stay.
Leh – Delhi – Jaipur: Take an early morning flight from Leh to Delhi, crossing over the Himalayas. Admire the amazing views of the giant glaciers and enormous peaks of the iconic mountain range before the north Indian plains come into view. Upon your arrival in Delhi, you’ll immediately transfer by road to India’s ‘Pink City’ and Rajasthan’s colourful capital, Jaipur. Also known as ‘The City of Victory’, Jaipur has a rich cultural heritage and a distinct identity. Check in to your hotel and explore Jaipur’s bustling bazaars in the evening.
Drive to the ancient capital of Amer after breakfast. Visit the hilltop Amber Fort before proceeding to City Palace, which blends Rajasthani and Mughal architecture perfectly. Continue to Jantar Mantar, a fascinating 18th century Solar Observatory that can measure time to within two seconds using the movement of the sun. Finally, visit the Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), and admire its five-storied pink sandstone façade.
Jaipur – Fatehpur Sikri – Agra: Driving east towards Agra, you’ll stop at Fatehpur Sikri on the way to explore this impressive deserted royal city. The well-preserved fortress was once a political capital, until it was abandoned due to a lack of water. Continue on to Agra, a bustling city on the banks of the river Yamuna. Visit Agra Fort, which blends Rajput and Mughal influences in its architecture and can be more accurately described as a walled palatial city.
Agra – Delhi: Rise early to visit the incredible Taj Mahal at sunrise. This magnificent white-marble monument symbolises the eternal love of the 5th Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in the 16th century BCE. A visit to the incredible Taj Mahal never fails to leave a visitor totally captivated. Return to your hotel for breakfast for driving to Delhi for your overnight stay.
Delhi: After breakfast, head out for some last-minute sightseeing in Delhi. Visit the busy walled city of Old Delhi and explore India’s biggest mosque, the 17th century Jama Masjid, as well as the Rajghat, which serves as a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Experience the hustle and bustle of Chandni Chowk, a typical Indian market alive with activity, by foot or by rickshaw. Next, proceed to New Delhi, driving past the Presidential Palace and down the impressive Rajpath to India Gate. Finish with a visit to Humayun’s Tomb (which is said to have been an inspiration for the Taj Mahal) and Qutub Minar, a 72.5 metre ‘Tower of Victory’.
Tour Concludes: Check out of the hotel and transfer to Delhi’s international airport for your onward flight.
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- Refunds: 80% refund available until 30 days prior to check-in; 50% refund available 15 days prior to check-in; 25% refund available 6 days prior to check-in; within 5 days of check-in there will be no refund.
- All accommodation
- Breakfasts throughout the tour
- Full board meals during the Camp stay
- English speaking guides for city tours
- All land transport
- Government service tax as applicable
- Travel insurance
- Indian visa fees
- Any monument entrance fees
- Flights (domestic/international)
- Any optional activities or services not mentioned in inclusions
- Services of any professional English speaking tour leader/escort during the tour
- Miscellaneous expenses for tips, laundry, drinks, any medical emergencies and souvenirs etc.