North India – Tea, Trains and Trails
Tea, Trains and Trails takes you on a journey from the capital city of Delhi to the rugged Himalayas starting from the Golden Temple in Amritsar in North India. Walk around colonial areas of Shimla, embark on panoramic train journeys, get a taste of the mighty Himalayas, taste the tea of Kangra and explore monasteries and areas where Tibetan Buddhism is thriving in Dharamsala.
Tea, Trains and Trails North India Highlights
- Marvel at the monuments of the Mughal era in Delhi (Humayun’s Tomb, Red Fort and Qutab Minar)
- Go back in time with the Kalka-Shimla heritage train and the Kangra-Pathankot narrow gauge train to Palampur
- Get charmed by the colonial heritage of Shimla, North India
- See the change of guard ceremony at Wagah Border, Amritsar
- Feel the air of spirituality surrounding the Golden Temple in Amritsar
- Explore areas where Tibetan Buddhism is thriving in Dharamsala and Mcleodganj
- Explore a tea plantation & tea factory in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, North India
- Indulge in a culinary workshop at Taragarh Palace, Palampur
- Get a glimpse of the Himalayas at Shimla and Dharamsala
- Hotel accommodation in a double / twin room with breakfast at all places
- Transport from arrival till departure
- Local guides with monument entrance fees
- Applicable government service taxes
- Any air fare or train fare
- Any meals that are ordered other than that which is part of the “Cost includes”
- Expenses of a personal nature such as gratuities, telephone calls, laundry, liquor etc.
- Additional costs and charges as applicable based on an changes made during the holiday
- India visa charges
- Travel insurance
- Any other item not specified in ‘Inclusions’
- Credit card bank charges
Expert Travel Opinion
Heritage Travellers – You can opt for one of the fine heritage hotels at Shimla, Dharamsala and/or Amritsar.
Experiential Travellers – You can opt for standalone experiences or stay options with experiential character as under:
- Delhi and Amritsar are renowned for heritage walks. Guided walk can be organised.
- Amritsar is most renowned for ethnic cuisine. Guided cuisine walk can be organised.
- Pragpur between Shimla and Dharamsala is a heritage village and popular with experiential travellers. You may consider an additional night or two at Pragpur or stay at Pragpur instead of Dharamsala.
- Gurdaspur between Dharamsala and Amritsar is home to some celebrated experiential lodges that offer travellers an experience of the Punjab countryside. You may consider an additional night or two at Gurdaspur or stay at Gurdaspur instead of Amritsar.
Adventure Seekers – Himachal Pradesh has many options for adventure travellers as under:
- Bir (between Shimla and Dharamsala) is the Hang gliding capital of India. Overnight stay required to be able to undertake tandem (for beginners) or solo flight (for experienced hang gliders).
- Mcleodganj is a base point for many treks in Dhauladhar area (e.g. Triund). You need to spend a day acclimatizing before undertaking one of these treks.
Day 01 - Delhi
Arrive at Delhi & Sightseeing Tour
Arrive at Delhi, the capital of India, one of the main gateways to India. Here you will meet our representative and will transfer to the hotel.
Next, sightseeing of Old Delhi starts at Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India. Drive past Chandni Chowk, once an imperial avenue of Mughal Royalty which is the busiest commercial area of the city. Walk through Chandni Chowk to savour the ambience of an oriental bazaar later drive past Red Fort. After Old Delhi sightseeing, visits various State Emporiums, representing various states of India near Connaught Place area. This complex is closed on Sundays.
In the afternoon, sightseeing of New Delhi starts from 12th century Qutab Minar, gracefully hand-carved for its entire height of 234ft, and the iron pillar, which has withstood the ravages of time and not rusted even after 1500 years. Drive past the India Gate (war memorial dedicated to the lives laid down of Indian soldiers), the president's residence - formerly the Viceroy's Palace, parliament House and the Secretariat buildings - an interesting blend of the Victorian and 20th century architecture.
Overnight stay at Delhi.
- If you are staying around Connaught Place in central Delhi, you may return to the Red Fort in the evening at 7:30 PM for the light and sound show. Alternatively, you can explore the beauty of one of the oldest commercial complexes built by the British, Connaught Place, popular for pubs, lounges, restaurants and big showrooms selling branded merchandise and handicrafts.
- If you are staying around south Delhi, you may visit Hauz Khas Village for shopping and dinner (Hauz Khas Village is well-known for pubs, lounges, restaurants and exquisite shops selling designer clothing and handicrafts).
Day 02 - Amritsar
Delhi to Amritsar
Today morning board a train for Amritsar.
Swarn Shatabdi (12029) Delhi to Amritsar (Departure: 0720, Arrival: 1345)
On arrival transfer to your hotel for 2 nights.
Amritsar is home to the most significant Sikh pilgrimage, Harmandir Sahib Gurdwara (dated 16th century) which is popularly known as the Golden Temple and it gets 100,000+ visitors on a daily basis from across the globe. At night, visit Golden Temple to see Palki Ceremony during which, the holy book of Sikh faith, Guru Granth Sahib is taken in a palanquin amidst melodious chanting of Gurbani Kirtan.
Overnight stay at Amritsar.
Day 03 - Amritsar
Amritsar Heritage Walk
Today morning, proceed for an Amritsar Heritage walk through the old bazaar of Amritsar. The tour commences from the historic Town Hall, then Qila Ahluwalia, then Jalebiwala Chowk which is home to a famous jalebi (local dessert) shop. You further walk through narrow, congested lanes covering Akharas, which were shelters for sadhus. Up ahead lies the Darshani Deori, from where you get an uninterrupted view of the Golden Temple. Then passing through temples & other buildings you come across Churi (bangles) Bazaar from where you make your way through narrow lanes to end the tour at Golden Temple gate.
Also called Sri Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple was laid by Guru Ram Das in the 14th century. It is acclaimed as one of the holiest sites of the Sikhs. It has four doorways and gorgeously decorated arches. Reflecting influences of both Hindu and Muslim styles of architecture, the temple standing in the middle of a tank.
Amritsar has gained tremendous popularity for its gourmet traditions; especially the dhabas (roadside eatery) that churn out, amongst an inexhaustible list of delicacies, irresistible kulchas, chola-bhaturas, tandoori chicken and fried fish; for a foodie a plate of chola-kulchas is an irresistible temptation.
Also visit the historic Jalianwala Bagh where, in April 1919, Colonel Dyer and his troops opened fire on non-violent protesters.
Afternoon excursion to Wagah border, 32km from Amritsar to witness the 'Change of Guard' on both sides of the Indo-Pak border. It is a spectacle comparable to 'Change of Guards' in London. The atmosphere is charged up on both sides of fences during the ceremony.
Overnight stay at Amritsar.
Day 04 - Dharamsala
Amritsar to Dharamsala
Today morning, you leave Amritsar for Dharamsala (210km - 5.5-6 hours). The hill station was established by the British between 1815 and 1847 but remained a minor town until H.H. the Dalai Lama settled here after Chinese invasion of Tibet in October 1959.
On arrival, check in at hotel for 2 nights.
Later stroll through the local market. Your hotel is located right in heart of McLeodganj and just 5 minutes walk away from the small but charming McLeodganj market. Walk through the colourful market where you can see shops selling daily grocery and household items, woolens and also artifacts. If willing, continue the walk till St. Johns Church, built in 1852, which is around 2.5km from the market in wilderness amidst thick cedar trees. Return to your hotel by car.
Overnight at Dharamsala.
Day 05 - Dharamsala
Today morning, visit the Tibetan Settlement in Mcleodganj. It is also the seat of H.H. the Dalai Lama. See the museum and the main Tibetan temple here.
Later drive to Norbulinka Institute, a registered trust functioning under the Chairmanship of H.H. the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan People. It is dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture in both its literary and artistic forms. Norbulingka is open every day from 9 AM to 5:30 PM. Workshops and offices are closed on Sunday and the second Saturday of each month, but the guesthouse, café, temple, museum and shop remain open.
Also visit the Tibetan Children's Village. At this boarding school, orphans are provided with a Tibetan education, clothes, food, and healthcare. In India there are over 10,000 children under the care of the TCV (Tibetan Children's Village), and many of the students are those who have escaped from Tibet.
Overnight stay at Dharamsala.
Expert Tip: One can spend the evening having a quiet dinner at Mcleodganj, home to many cafes, restaurants, etc. serving a wide range of cuisines from across the globe, including authentic Tibetan cuisine.
Day 06 - Dharamsala
Today is a full day excursion to Palampur visiting Kangra Art Museum, Kangra Fort and Musroor Rock Cut Temple Complex. (128km - 3.5 hours)
The Kangra Art Museum displays arts, crafts and rich past, artifacts that date back to the 5th century. It includes a gallery of Kangra's famous miniature painting and a representative collection of sculptures, pottery and anthropological items. Shamianas and dresses used by local royalty, old carved doors, jails, lintels and pandals are also on display. Coins, jewelry and manuscripts are included. A section houses the work of contemporary artists, sculptures and photographers.
Next move on to Masroor Rock Cut Temple complex. This 7th century cluster of temples is carved out from a single rock with descriptions of various deities, erotica and amorous sculptures blissfully engraved on its wall. With time the erosion has blurred the detailing of the stone carving and damaged some sculptures and the 1905 Kangra earthquake also caused further damage, however, the temple complex is still one of best specimens of rock cut temples in the Himalayan region.
Your last stop is Kangra Fort. The fort, also known as Nagarkot or Kot Kangra is situated to the south-west of the old Kangra town and built atop the precipitous hill on the confluence of the Banganga and Patalganga rivers. In the annals of history, its earliest reference dates from the time of its invasions by Mahmud Ghazni in AD 1009, so, the Fort was built well before that. The entrance to the fort is guarded by a large gate of thick wooden planks fixed on the hinges of an arch constructed with sand stones. It is almost 15 feet in eight. The fort, once mighty, suffered huge damages in the 1905 Kangra earthquake.Return to the hotel by evening for your overnight stay.
Day 07 - Palampur
Experience Kangra Train & Tea
Today is the day to experience Kangra Train and Tea.
Early morning, leave your hotel to arrive at Kangra railway station for a journey by Kangra-Pathankot narrow gauge train to Palampur. The 164km line was commissioned in 1929 and it connects Pathankot in Punjab with Joginder Nagar in Himachal Pradesh. The train has only one class which is unreserved so join the locals and share space with them as the train slowly traverse through the beautiful Kangra valley.
52463 (Passenger) Kangra to Palampur (Departure: 0833, Arrival: 1959)
This is one of the few remaining narrow gauge train trains in India and unlike its more popular cousins in Darjeeling, Shimla & Ooty, it does not attract as many tourists but the experience of travelling with locals in second class carriage is completely different. Total distance covered by train 33km.
Arrive at Palampur railway station and head for the Tea Gardens. The Kangra tea, while is not as popular as Darjeeling tea, has its own distinct flavor. Walk through the plantations to arrive at Palampur Cooperative Tea Factory where you see various stages of tea processing. Taste the Kangra tea and then drive onward to charming Taragarh Palace which is another 45 minutes drive. Check in at lovely Taragarh Palace for 1 night.
In the evening attend a culinary workshop session with the chef of Taragarh Palace to learn some of the local dishes of Himachal Pradesh.
Overnight stay at Palampur.
Day 08 - Shimla
Palampur to Shimla
Today morning, drive to Shimla (7 hours) visiting Palpung Sherabling Monastery enroute. Palpung Sherabling Monastery is the seat of the XIIth Kenting Tai Situpa in India. A quiet walk through the pine forest with colourful Buddhist prayer flags on the sides of the road takes you to the gompa. The monastery has shrine halls, a monastic college, a school, a library, a museum, an exhibition hall and a dispensary, and all these are nestled deep inside the pine forest.
On arrival at Shimla, check in at hotel for 3 nights.
Overnight stay at Shimla.
Day 09 - Shimla
Shimla Heritage Walk
Today morning undertake a Heritage Walk of Shimla. Situated at 2205m and set amidst cool pine-clad hills, this charming hill station was discovered by the British in 1819 and used as their summer capital. Your walk includes the State Museum and Library, Vice regal Lodge (Indian Institute of Advanced Studies) which was built in 1888 for Lord Dufferin in Elizabethan style, Christ Church built in 1844 on the open area of the ridge, Gaiety theatre which opened on May 1887, Vidhan Sabha (the legislative assembly) and the scandal point. End the walk around the colourful Mall.
In the afternoon, visit the Jakhoo Hills. At 2455m, this is the town's highest peak and a famous point for Shimla's famous views. The summit is crowned with a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. The hill is full of paths and narrow roads which are enjoyable walks.
Overnight stay at Shimla.
Day 10 - Shimla
Today morning, leave for a nature walk around the sleepy village of Mashobra with packed lunch. The village of Mashobra was a favourite place for the British for weekend camping and hiking. A narrow trail takes you down to the village of Mashobra where you explore the small bazaar of village and sip a cup of Chai (Indian tea with milk), those interested can try their hands of Samosas or Pakoris which are common snacks found here. Continue your walk, passing through the village, open lands, old temple and arrive at a small waterfall. Enjoy your picnic lunch and then drive back to your hotel. (3-4 hours of walk)
In the evening, sample some varieties of locally grown fruit wines. This is a small industry which is gaining recognition and people have slowly started appreciating this product of Himachal Pradesh.
Overnight stay at Shimla.
Day 11 - Chandigarh
Shimla to Chandigarh
Today, transfer to Shimla railway station to board the Shimla-Kalka Himalayan Queen toy train for Kalka. The historic & UNESCO listed Shimla-Kalka train journey was inaugurated by the British Viceroy, Lord Curzon in November 1903, covering the distance of 96km from Kalka through the curving tracks, up to Shimla hills, the summer capital of colonial India. The toy train passes through 102 tunnels (originally 103), 969 bridges, 919 curves and 20 railway stations in its entire journey.
Your journey by this train ends in Kalka station from where you will connect to the Shatabdi Express for Delhi.
Himalayan Queen (52456) Shimla to Kalka (Departure: 1025, Arrival: 1610)
On arrival, transfer to the hotel.
Overnight stay at Chandigarh.
Day 12 - Delhi
Chandigarh to Delhi for departure
Today, transfer to Delhi airport (4.5 hours) to board your return flight back home.
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