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Grand Tour of India, Nepal and the Himalayas

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Explore India and Nepal by train, travelling through the iconic Himalayas

18 days From £3,245 per person
Operated by our sister company Great Rail Journeys

2023 Tour code: KTJ23

About the tour

Discover the highlights of India and Nepal as we experience some of the world's most beautiful temples, sights and scenery. We witness colourful ceremonies, lush national parks and golden cities before coming face-to-face with the breathtaking Himalayas.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 – To Amritsar

We fly to Amritsar via Doha.

Day 2 - Amritsar

We arrive in Amritsar and transfer to our hotel for the night. After time to freshen up, we visit the Wagah Border, which separates Pakistan and India, to witness the Beating Retreat Ceremony, a unique and unusual military concert and lowering of flags held every day at sunset.

Day 3 - Discovering Amritsar

We enjoy a guided tour of Amritsar, exploring with a local guide to see the Golden Temple, a resplendent building with a gilded façade and ornate carvings decking its inner walls. We also visit the poignant Jallianwala Bagh Gardens and memorial site, which commemorates the 1919 massacre of residents by British troops. Committed on the festival of Baisakhi, there's a museum on the site that teaches us more about the history of this atrocity. Afterwards, we board the train to Delhi, arriving in the evening for a two-night stay.

Day 4 – Delhi

Today includes a full-day sightseeing tour of both the old and new parts of the Indian capital. We begin exploring the colourful and aromatic market streets of Old Delhi before taking a traditional rickshaw ride through the vibrant bazaar for a better insight into local life here. Continuing to New Delhi, we discover impressive colonial architecture, leafy avenues and government buildings, a distinct contrast to the traditional atmosphere of Old Delhi. We make stops at the President's House, Parliament House and India Gate, as well as visiting Qutab Minar and the tomb of Humayun.

Day 5 - Agra and the Taj Mahal

We join the Gatimaan Express bound for Agra this morning. On arrival, we visit the imposing Agra Fort, built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in the late 16th century. Built on a hill above Agra, its centrepiece is a tower with a marble balcony where Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan spent his last days imprisoned. Inside the fort are some of the most exquisite specimens of Mughal architecture, including the Moti Masjid. Later, we travel across the city to the spectacular Taj Mahal, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Built by Shah Jahan in 1653 in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal, this famous white marble building is a true monument to undying love and is considered to be the world's finest example of Mughal and Persian architecture.

Day 6 - Lucknow

Boarding our coach this morning, we drive to Lucknow for two nights, a historic city that played an important role both during the Mughal and colonial periods. This sprawling yet exhilarating metropolis has long been regarded as the cultural and artistic heart of northern India. Lucknow and the state of Uttar Pradesh are the origins of elaborate Mughal cuisine, including varieties of tikkas, biriyanis and kebabs that are now popular across the world. You may like to sample the original and best at Aminabad market in the old part of the city. This is also a good spot to find examples of the Chikan embroidery for which Lucknow is famous. Chowk, also in the old city, is another ancient market and specialises in handicrafts, ornaments, toys, clothes and shoes.

Day 7 - Exploring Lucknow

Today, we visit the famous La Martiniere Boys' School, founded by an endowment from Major General Claude Martin of the British Empire. We also see the magnificent Bada Imambara, home to both a mosque and a labyrinth said to have 1000 different passageways, as well as the British Residency. Built in 1800 to house the British Resident General, following the annexation of the former Indian state of Awadh by the British East India Company in 1857, it became the site of a bloody siege following an Indian rebellion. The Residency's buildings and gardens have been preserved as they were at the time of the siege, with the bullet holes, cannon damage and other battle scars remain untouched.

Day 8 - Varanasi

Our final long-distance train journey takes us to Varanasi, a sacred city to the Hindus that attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. After checking into our hotel, this evening we watch a spectacular Aarti fire ceremony, an elaborate Hindu ritual. Priests carry tiered metal lamps, moving rhythmically to the sounds of sacred Hindu songs as the flames sway in unison creating an entrancing ambience.

Day 9 - Ganges cruise and Delhi

Early this morning, we take to the water for a cruise along the holy River Ganges, admiring the sun as it spreads its first orange hues on the slate-coloured water. We then take an excursion to Sarnath, where Buddha is said to have given his first sermon and which now, understandably, holds great significance for Buddhists. This afternoon, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Delhi.

Day 10 - Kathmandu

Returning to the airport, we board our flight to Kathmandu in Nepal, checking into our hotel for two nights on arrival.

Day 11 - Patan

Visiting the neighbouring town of Patan, we listen to a master create music with singing bowls, an experience that has deep spiritual connotations in Buddhist culture. Later, we return to Kathmandu for a sightseeing tour, exploring its multiple city squares, where locals gather throughout the day, the erstwhile royal square and Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest stupas in the world, before taking a rickshaw ride to Thamel, a lively part of the city. Tonight, we dine at the well-known Rum Doodle restaurant. Once a hangout for brave mountaineers, here we chat to a local Sherpa as they relive their experiences of climbing Mount Everest.

Day 12 - Chitwan National Park

This morning we visit the Swayambhunath Stupa ahead of our journey to Chitwan National Park. After checking into our hotel for two nights, we enjoy a talk from a local naturalist about the wildlife that we might see over the next couple of days. Next, we walk to a nearby village populated by the Tharu People. Here, we learn about their unique way of life and culture. Most Tharu practice agriculture, raise cattle, hunt, fish and collect forest products, although the five higher status clans claim to be of royal descent. Although they are Hindu, the Tharu practice their own unique rituals, with each village being governed by a council and a headman.

Day 13 - Safari in Chitwan National Park

We visit a gharial, or Indian crocodile breeding centre, a site where this endangered species is bred and monitored to prevent extinction. After lunch, we take a wonderful Jeep safari through the jungles and grasslands of Chitwan National Park. Famous for its biodiversity, we may spot the Indian Rhino stalking its way through the wetlands and grassy plains, Bengal tigers, leopards, hyenas and even a sloth bear or two. Asian elephants and golden jackals also call this savanna home, and our expert guide will be able to follow animal trails and use their local knowledge to try and get us the best possible chances of a sighting.

Day 14 - Pokhora and the Himalayas

We drive into the Himalayas today, passing glacial rapids and jungle-covered mountains on our way to Pokhara for three nights. With staggering views of Fishtail Peak, also known as Machapuchare, this is one of the world's most scenic and sacred destinations.

Day 15 - Free time in Pokhara

With a free day, you may like to experience a little of what this region is famous for - mountain hiking. While there are plenty of advanced treks in the area, for something a little more easy going, you could visit the World Peace Pagoda at the top of Anadu Hill. Begin by taking a local boat across Phewa Lake, where you can pick up the trail to the summit for a walk through beautiful woodland which takes around one hour to complete. Alternatively, you can take a taxi from Pokhara straight to the top. Built in 1973 by Japanese Buddhist monks, once you reach the World Peace Pagoda, you can drink in views across the Annapurna Massif, Pokhara and Phewa Lake.

Day 16 - Exploring Pokhara

We drive up to Sarangkot, a mountain viewpoint that offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience - witnessing the sunrise over snow-clad Annapurna, one of the highest mountain ranges in the world. After breakfast back at our hotel, we explore Pokhara on a guided tour, visiting the Gorkha Museum, the Old Bazaar and a Tibetan settlement where we experience some of the country's ancient cultural traditions. In the afternoon, we enjoy a cruise across the tranquil waters of Lake Phewa, admiring the panoramic scenery of lofty mountains and the forested slopes of Anadu Hill which encircle us.

Day 17 - Kathmandu

We return to the Nepalese capital for a final night's stay.

Day 18 - London

We transfer to the airport for our flight back to the UK, travelling via Doha.

Additional information

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We will write to you around 10 weeks before your departure date with the precise meeting times for your tour group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Hyatt Regency Hotel, Amritsar

Hyatt Regency Hotel, Amritsar

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Taj Palace, New Delhi

Taj Palace, New Delhi

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Vivanta Hotel, Kathmandu

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Taj Bengal Hotel, Kolkata

Taj Bengal Hotel, Kolkata

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Taj Mahal Hotel, Lucknow

Taj Mahal Hotel, Lucknow

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Fish Tail Lodge, Pokhara

Fish Tail Lodge, Pokhara

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Taj Ganges Hotel, Varanasi

Taj Ganges Hotel, Varanasi

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Train

Shatabdi Express

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Grand Tour of India, Nepal and the Himalayas

Explore India and Nepal by train, travelling through the iconic Himalayas

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Lynne Broadley
Lynne
Simon Laverack
Simon
Ashleigh Howe
Ashleigh