NEW TOUR: Darjeeling | Shimla | Chandigarh | Kashmir | Ladakh
Offered for the first time, this epic, luxurious adventure reveals the mystique of the Himalayas that has long captivated the imagination and exploits of dreamers, adventurers, pilgrims, scientists, spiritual seekers and mountaineers.
Running from the west to the east on India’s northern borderlands for 2,500 kms, the Himalayas are the world’s youngest and highest mountain range – a natural barrier separating India from the vast expanses of Central Asia and the Tibetan Plateau – rich with a kaleidoscope of landscapes, cultures and cuisines.
This journey begins in the Eastern Ranges in West Bengal with a night in Kalimpong renowned for its monasteries and colonial era architecture. Continue by road with stunning snow-clad vistas in the background to Darjeeling staying at a sumptuous tea estate.. Synonymous with tea and the British who established Darjeeling as an iconic hill station, it is towered by Khangchendzonga (Great Five-Peaked Snow Fortress – at 28,169 ft (8598m) – the world’s third-highest mountain). Loop back via Chandigarh, the capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana that was designed by the Swiss-French modernist architect, Le Corbusier staying at a luxury spa hotel for two nights. From here take the historic scenic Toy Train journey to Shimla, the former imperial summer capital of the British Raj in India from 1864 until Independence.
The tour continues to Kashmir with Srinagar as a base to experience the floating markets, stunning mosques and Sufi shrines, interactions with master craftsmen, wonderful cuisine, and shikara rides on Dal Lake.
The last six nights are spent in the famed Ladakh | Leh region with its high altitude deserts, glaciers, gushing rivers and waterfalls, orchid-filled forests, ancient mountain dwellings, remote shrines and monasteries and the most luxurious tented camp in the Himalayas.
• landscape biodiversity + monasteries and history of Buddhism in India
• an elegant, refined colonial style working tea plantation + luxury houseboat
• the most luxurious camp in the Himalayas
• remote, high altitude desert moonscapes
• a profound taste of Tibetan culture as it survives in India
AT A GLANCE
LENGTH: 22 Days
ACTIVITY LEVEL: Moderate – Challenging
TYPE: Small Group Tour | AoL Escorted | Bespoke
STYLE: Culture | Crafts | History | Food | Adventure
START/FINISH: Delhi | Delhi
All meals, local guides, activities, tour manager, domestic flights
Deluxe hotels, luxury camp + exclusive tea estate
18 May – 8 June 2023
from USD 13,900 per person based on twin/double share
Minimum 6 | maximum 14 guests
- DAY 1
Morning flight to Bagdogra then drive to Kalimpong, renowned for its clement weather, orchids and flower nurseries and where India meets Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan with Tibet on the horizon. Originally Kalimpong was part of the Sikkim Raja’s domain. Take a village trek through terraced farmlands before dinner.
This morning enjoy a ramble around Kalimpong’s monasteries before driving to the British hill station of Darjeeling that is synonymous with the world’s finest teas. Visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute that was started when Tenzing Norgay climbed Everest to give training in mountaineering skills and the Planter’s Club. This evening arrive at your exclusive tea estate for three nights.
Enjoy a wonderful day on the estate that is overlooked by Mount Kangchenjunga, and cultivate a connoisseurship in tea tasting, and a wonderful trek to the river where an elegant picnic will be laid out. You might also visit some of the local communities whose education and health are supported by many estate guests.
Glenburn is one of Art of Living’s preferred Indian retreats – a working plantation on the Rangeet River, that dates from 1859, with eight elegant colonial-style suites, exceptional service and cuisine, with terrific views, radiant gardens, clean mountain air, vast acreage of private forest and genial hosts. Mercifully there is no TV and WiFi is patchy at best.
After a late brunch drive to Bagdogra for the Chandigarh flight that connects via Delhi.
Your accommodation, a Mughal inspired spa hotel for two nights is located on 35 acres of landscaped grounds that touches the edge of 8,000 acres of protected Siswan forest at the foot of the Himalayas. The glamorous resort has an excellent spa offering Ayurvedic, western and eastern treatments.
Today is devoted to exploring the city’s non touristy attractions – Capitol Complex: a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Le Corbusier Centre, Gandhi Bhavan, the Rock Garden, the Rose Garden, Sukhna Lake…. And time permitting Virasat-e-Khalsa – the spectacular Sikh Museum out of town.
This morning board the famed toy train for the ride to Shimla. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 it was built in 1903 to streamline the conveyance of the British and their entourages to the summer capital, and is one of India’s most incredible feats of engineering, treating passengers with breathtaking views of rugged mountains, lush pine forests, waterfalls, valleys and picture-perfect hill stations.
A full day’s sightseeing in Shimla town – the Viceregal Lodge built in 1888, the official summer residence of the British viceroys until WWII and the scene of two crucial conferences (1945 and 1946) that essentially sealed the partition of India; the Gaiety Theatre lovingly restored between 2004 and 2009 and hoping for UNESCO status; the pedestrian friendly Mall and the Ridge once trodden by Rudyard Kipling and British society.
Gentle treks and leisure time at the hotel that was once the residence of the swashbuckling figure, Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, the British commander-in-chief of the Indian army who arrived in Shimla in 1902. Set among the pines and sacred cedars of Mashobra, it is poised on a spur with wraparound views of the Himalayas . There is an indoor pool, spa facilities and bracing walks abound.
This morning fly Chandigarh to Srinagar. Kashmir has a rich spiritual heritage of all faiths and has been a land of sanskrit scholars, seers, saints, savants and sages. It also enjoys high levels of artistic practice in the hand made production of carpets, shawls, wood and metal craft. Srinagar stands as testament to much of its former glory with water the abiding feature: the water of its lakes, the springs of its Mughal gardens, the rush of its mountain streams and the lushness of its rice terraces and valleys
This morning is a fascinating walk through the by-lanes of the old city observing the local markets, heritage buildings and day to day life, as well as gleaning an understanding of Sufism and other spiritual traditions.
This afternoon travel out to nearby villages to appreciate all the skilled facets of luxury pashmina craft from weaving to embroidery.
This morning rise early to take shikara boats to be amongst the colourful tranquil floating fruit and vegetable market where local merchants ply their fresh produce, saffron and flowers. Later take up residency on your glamorous houseboat. Later travel the backwaters of the lake in shikaras to observe daily life before a sumptuous feast in a private home.
Visit some of the famed Mughal gardens then continue to the workshops where artisans ply their immense skills – exquisite handwoven carpets, intricate walnut wood carving and boat building, embroidery and crewel work, or papier-mâché. Others may wish to trek in the emerald valleys beyond the city.
This morning is a short and spectacular flight to Leh. Today is a mandatory day of rest, relaxation and hydration as you acclimatise to the altitude of 3600m.
Ladakh has had a tumultuous history of invasions and conquerors. It occupied a strategic location on the Silk Road network of routes trading in grains, textiles, fine breed horses, pashmina, cotton and spices – Tibet in the east, Kashmir to the west, Xinjiang to its north and mainland India below. Significantly, Buddhism left its lasting imprint here as it travelled from central India to Tibet via Ladakh.
Everything about the Ladhaki people is unique – their clothes, dialects, religious practices, folklore and traditions. The stark, desolate landscape and the fascinating cultural milieu is completely different from anywhere else in India – an environment between moonscape, sand dunes, remote lakes and verdant orchards. It is often referred to as the “Little Tibet” due to its cultural and environmental similarities with Tibet
Today visit some of the most important monasteries of Thiksey, Stok and Hemis. The villages and hamlets are replete with Buddhist Gompas wherein thousands of Buddhist monks and hermits are engaged in meditation and rituals.
Today journey north of Leh to the lush green Nubra Valley for an exhilarating high-altitude experience via the ancient Silk Road, over the possible highest motorable pass in the world, the 5600m Khardung La Pass that connects the Indus River valley and the Shyok River valley.
The Nubra Valley nestles between two impressive mountain ranges and is replete with an alpine desert-like landscape and verdant village hamlets. Two nights at the most luxurious camp in the Himalayas.
You will visit the Samstaling, Sumur and Deskit gompas and drive to the picturesque village of Sumur located across the Shyok and Nubra Rivers to visit a traditional local farm and enjoy a homely lunch at the house of the Kalon family.
This afternoon, take an adventurous ride on a double hump Bactrian camel, a breed that was critical to the Silk Road trade on the sand dunes of the Hunder cold desert.
Return to Leh that sits at an altitude of 3505 meters in a fertile side valley of the Indus that spreads out from the bottom of a typical Tibetan palace. On one side there is the desolate cold desert-like surroundings while on the other there are verdant farmlands. Explore the town and Tibetan wares on display.
This morning fly back to Delhi for a quiet day to process this epic, exotic journey before a farewell dinner.
Your hotel has a beautiful pool and spa and a portfolio of treatments to transition you back home.
7 June Evening International Departures are an option
Farewell to friends and fellow travellers as you gather your memories of a lifetime experience to return to your homeland.
We escort you to the airport to meet your international departure and can expedite a VIP exit, if required.
If you fell in love with India and were smitten, we have so much more to offer – Rajasthan, the South, Gujarat for tribals and textiles, treks, wellness retreats and imaginative, private, bespoke, exquisitely curated itineraries according to your interests. We also have programs in Neighbouring Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and marvellous Morocco. All delivered in inimitable Art of Living Style
Your Tour Leader, Marieke Brugman is an avid global traveller | foodie | yogi who has been leading small luxury groups of discerning travellers throughout the world from Europe to Asia for twenty-five plus years. The sub continent is her most passionate ‘subject’. This brand new epic adventure has been fermenting a long time. Her Indian explorations have taken her to the most far flung destinations in India, but now, for the first time, to the magical majesty and mystique of the remote, yet alluring 'moonscapes' of Ladakh that expands the imagination - the origins of Buddhism in India, the wonder at the history of the ancient Silk Road to the hardiness and endurance of such rich human culture lived so close to the 'heavens'.
For those who may be keen, she also offers yoga each morning as a brilliant way to start the day.
Your Tour Guide + Escort, Thakur Durga Singhji is an exceptional guide and host. A proud, aristocratic Rajput, Durga brings his culture and country vibrantly alive.
A rare Renaissance man, his interests are as diverse as philosophy, religion, contemporary politics, farming, tribal culture, music and poetry.
Durga is a marvellous and engaging raconteur, and his insights will leave a lasting impression and cement new friendships. He is revered as one of India’s most in-demand guides and has been Marieke’s friend and professional colleague for over two decades, accompanying all her programmes in India. His 'homeland' is the desert, but his erudition, knowledge and fascination for his India extends to its furthest horizons - from the Dravidian south to the lush Himalayas in the north and he eagerly awaits and invites your participation in this journey for the mind and all your senses.
BOOKINGS & ENQUIRIES
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