- Visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar
- Take an unforgettable ride on the Toy Train Railway from Shimla
- Marvel at the Taj Mahal, the world's most famous monument to love
- Tour the majestic monasteries and mountains around Leh
|Day 1||Arrive in Delhi||Delhi|
|Day 2||Transfer to Chandigarh, Rock Garden & Sukhna Lake||Chandigarh|
|Day 3||Transfer to Amritsar, Tour the Golden Temple||Amritsar|
|Day 4||Transfer to Pragpur, India's First Heritage Village||Pragpur|
|Day 5||Transfer to Shimla & the Mountains||Shimla|
|Day 6||Shimla Sightseeing Tour||Shimla|
|Day 7||Ride the "Toy Train" to Delhi via Kalka||Delhi|
|Day 8||Day Trip to Agra & the Taj Mahal||Delhi|
|Day 9||Fly to Leh, Gateway to the Himalaya||Leh|
|Day 10||Leh City Tour, Spituk Monastery & Leh Palace||Leh|
|Day 11||Leh Monastery Tour: Thiksey, Hemis & Matho||Leh|
|Day 12||Likir & Alchi Monastery Tour||Leh|
Fly to Delhi, Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Delhi
Welcome to India! Once you arrive at the airport in Delhi, you'll be met by your local English-speaking guide, who will take you to your hotel in the center of this historic capital. After you've checked in, the rest of the day is yours to spend how you please. You could go sightseeing, explore the neighborhood, perhaps visit the Dilli Haat outdoor craft market, or just relax in your hotel.
Officially settled in the sixth century BCE, Delhi is one of the oldest living cities in the world and has been the capital of a myriad of fascinating dynasties, kingdoms, and empires. These days, it's divided into two distinct parts, Old Delhi and New Delhi. The old city is home to some of India's most iconic and beautiful historical monuments and majestic feats of architecture, like the Qutub Minar, the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, and Humayun's Tomb. The new city features more British-style colonial-era architecture and government buildings, like India Gate and the Raj Path.
Day 2: Transfer to Chandigarh, Rock Garden & Sukhna Lake
After breakfast, it's time to say goodbye to Delhi and begin your journey north to Chandigarh. Five hours' drive north of India's bustling capital city, Chandigarh, is the state capital of both Punjab and Haryana and the gateway to Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir, and northern Punjab.
Arrive in the early afternoon with plenty of time to freshen up and go on a short sightseeing tour of this quaint city, including the Chandigarh Rock Garden and Sukhna Lake. A prime example of local engineering combined with innovative creativity, the Rock Garden is a unique living landscape that showcases various works of art made using industrial and urban waste. After going for a walk around the garden, head to the beautiful Sukhna Lake in the foothills of the Shivalik Range and watch the sunset over the mountains before returning to your hotel for an evening of leisure.
Day 3: Transfer to Amritsar, Tour the Golden Temple
Today, you'll make another five-hour journey from Chandigarh to Amritsar in northwest India. One of the holiest and most sacred cities in Sikhism, Amritsar is both the home of and named after the iconic Golden Temple, with the city's name derived from the pool surrounding the temple, meaning "holy lake of nectar."
Once you arrive in the city, check into your hotel and relax for a while before heading out on a city tour. Round off your visit with a trip to the Golden Temple at sunset to watch the changing light illuminate the temple's glimmering exterior before making your way inside to experience the impressive evening ceremony.
Day 4: Transfer to Pragpur, India's First Heritage Village
After breakfast, it's time to head out to the countryside to explore India's first Heritage Village, Pragpur, located in the Kangra Valley. An hour or two's drive from Amritsar, Pragpur's traditional cobblestone streets, mud-plastered walls, and slate-roofed havelis have barely changed since the late 16th century when the village was founded by the Patials in memory of Princess Prag Dei of the Jaswan Royal family.
The village only has about 500 inhabitants but is well known for its cottage industries, with silversmiths, craftspeople, weavers, basket makers, tailors, painters, and musicians. Check out the Lala Rerumal Haveli, which was built in the Mughal style in 1931, and the historic Judges Court, an Anglo-Indian style resort that was built in 1918.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Transfer to Shimla & the Mountains
Settle in for a majestic journey today as you make your way from Pragpur to Shimla. This six-hour drive will take you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in northern India, including mountain passes, snow-capped peaks, lush green countryside, and forested orchards.
When you arrive, check into the hotel where you'll be spending the next few nights before heading out to explore the local market.
Day 6: Shimla Sightseeing Tour
Spend the day exploring the mountainous city of Shimla, the former summer capital of British India, with its colorful and eclectic mixture of architectural styles and beautiful vistas. Start your city tour on Mall Road before walking up to the Ridge to admire the British colonial-inspired Christ Church and to see the historic buildings and pre-British architecture.
After that, take a nice stroll through the forested paths on the way to the Temple of Jakhu, dedicated to the monkey god, Hanuman. The evening is yours to do as you please. Relax in the hotel, go for a wander and head out for a nice dinner before you make your way back to Delhi by train in the morning.
Day 7: Ride the "Toy Train" to Delhi via Kalka
Take a step back in time today as you board the UNESCO-Heritage-listed Shimla-Kalka "Toy Train" for an unforgettable ride through the mountains. Known as one of the most beautiful journeys in India, this railway line was built in the late 19th century to connect the rest of the country to Shimla, the then-summer capital of British India. Before the train line was finished in 1903, the entire government was forced to make the arduous journey from Calcutta to Shimla by horse and ox-drawn carts.
Nowadays, the journey is much like it would have been back in 1903. Featuring dramatic views and impressive panoramas over the mountains and villages, the ten-hour journey involves crossing 988 bridges and viaducts and traveling through 102 tunnels.
In Kalka, you'll change trains and make your way to Delhi, where you'll be met on arrival at the station and taken to your hotel for the night.
Day 8: Day Trip to Agra & the Taj Mahal
Wake up early and make your way to the train station, where you'll board the train for a two-hour journey to Agra, home of the world's most iconic monument to love: the Taj Mahal.
Upon arrival, you'll be met by your English-speaking guide and driver, who will take you straight to visit the huge white marble mausoleum and tell you about its history. Built by Shah Jahan in honor of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, in the 1630s, this architectural jewel took 20,000 artisans 20 years to complete. Admire the incredible detail as you wander through the complex before making your way to the Red Fort, another pristine example of Mughal architecture.
This 16th-century impregnable citadel was built out of red sandstone and white marble and features a succession of marble palaces, mosques, and ornamental gardens, along with amazing views of the Taj Mahal and the Yamuna River. After touring the fort, make your way back to the train station to board the return train to Delhi, where you'll be spending the night.
Day 9: Fly to Leh, Gateway to the Himalaya
Wake up early to get to the airport for your quick hour-and-a-half flight from Delhi to the northern city of Leh in Ladakh province. Once the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, Leh was an important stop on the trade routes between India and China and has a fascinating and varied history.
Upon arrival, check into your hotel before heading out to explore the city, visiting the Leh Palace and Leh Monastery, and checking out the local bazaar. Leh is located high up in the mountains, so make sure you give yourself time to acclimatize to the altitude.
Day 10: Leh City Tour, Spituk Monastery & Leh Palace
Today, continue your tour of Leh with a short visit to the 11th-century Spituk Monastery, about 5 miles (8 km) from the city center, before heading up to the top of Namgyal Hill to explore Leh Palace with its beautiful views of the city. Built by King Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century, this imposing nine-story fortress has been abandoned since the mid-19th century when Kashmiri forces took control of Ladakh.
Spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets and exploring by yourself, or find a café to sit and drink chai and watch the world go by.
Day 11: Leh Monastery Tour: Thiksey, Hemis & Matho
Leh is famous for its amazing mountains and beautiful monasteries, and today you're going to combine the two with visits to three of the major gompas (monasteries) and a beautiful drive through the Indus Valley. Start with a drive out to the hilltop Thiksey Monastery, with its eye-catching red and white buildings. Belonging to the Gelukpa order (Yellow Hat) sect of Buddhism, this twelve-story complex dates back to the 15th century and houses some amazing Buddhist art, including statues, stupas, paintings, and swords.
From here, drive out to Hemis Monastery. Although it dates back to the 11th century, Hemis was re-established in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal and is now one of the biggest and wealthiest monasteries in Ladakh. It also has a rich collection of ancient relics, painted stone reliefs, and rare 17th-century murals.
Continue your tour with a trip out to the Matho Monastery right across the Indus River from Thiksey. Meaning "Many Happiness" in Tibetan, this monastery was founded in 1410 by Lama Dugpa Dorje and is the only monastery in Ladakh that belongs to the Sakya Order of Buddhism. Here you can see some 15th-century thangkas—Tibetan Buddhist mandalas and pictures painted on silk and cotton. After exploring the monasteries, return to Leh, where the evening is yours to spend as you please.
Day 12: Likir & Alchi Monastery Tour
Today is another chance to explore some of the most beautiful monasteries around Leh. Lying 32 miles (52 km) to the west of Leh, the picturesque Likir Monastery is perched upon a hill in the Indus Valley against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Wander through the 950-year-old halls, marvel at the intricate woodwork and ancient works of art that adorn the walls, and check out the thangkas, historical books, and statues, including the gilded gold 75-foot (23 m) high statue of Maitreya that sits on the roof, and the statue of Avalokitesvara which has 1,000 arms and 11 heads.
Then take a 30-minute drive through the mountains to the thousand-year-old Alchi Monastery. One of the largest and most famous monasteries around Leh, Alchi is situated on the banks of the Indus River, with its location allowing it to be a bit more spread out than the hillside Likir. Some of the buildings still date back to when it was built a millennium ago, like the big wooden door on the Main Assembly Hall, but lots of changes were made in the 12th and 13th century. Take a stroll through the temple complex and admire the faded beauty and grandeur, like the detailed woodwork, frescoes, and clay images made in the Kashmiri style.
Nearby you'll find huge statues and ancient chortens, Tibetan-style pyramidal structures of solid stone masonry that contain relics or commemorate Buddhas and Buddhist saints. After a full day of exploring, return to your hotel in Leh where you can spend your final evening exploring the bazaar and markets or just relaxing and enjoying the sunset views over the Himalaya.
Day 13: Fly to Delhi, Depart
After breakfast, make your way to Leh Airport to board your flight back to the hustle and bustle of India's capital city. Depending on the time of your departure, you can spend the rest of the day drinking chai and people-watching, picking up some more gifts and souvenirs, or squeezing in some last-minute sightseeing. When the time comes, your driver will meet you in the city and take you to the Delhi International Airport to board your departing flight. Safe travels!