Day 1 – Welcome to Amritsar
Upon arrival at the airport, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to your choice of hotel: The superior first class Radisson Blu or the deluxe Hyatt Hotel. This evening, you’ll visit Sri Harmandir Sahib, the magnificent Golden Temple of Amritsar. This is the most important religious site of the world’s Sikh community and revered by people of many faiths as a symbol of human connection, equality and spiritual solace. Your visit here has been carefully scheduled so you can witness the inspiring closing ceremony when the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the central religious text of Sikhism, is closed for the night.
Day 2 – Discover Amritsar
After breakfast, your private car, driver and guide will be waiting to show you the architectural, historic and cultural highlights of Amritsar, starting with the magnificent Golden Temple. In addition to experiencing the Temple’s tranquil atmosphere at your own pace, your guide will introduce you to Sikh leaders who will be happy to answer your questions and to introduce you to the basic tenets of Sikhism. You’ll also visit the Temple’s community kitchen, which feeds more than 5,000 people at a time throughout the day. The Temple feeds all people regardless of religion, caste, nationality, gender, age or social status – a revolutionary concept in the caste-regimented culture of 16th-century India when Sikhism was founded.
Not far from the Golden Temple is a stirring and sobering memorial dedicated to the people who perished during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. You’ll also tour the splendid Ram Bagh Garden, laid out by the first Sikh ruler in the beginning of the 19th century. In the adjacent Summer Palace, you’ll find a museum filled with interesting artifacts that will deepen your understanding of the region’s history and culture.
Later this afternoon, you’ll travel about 18 miles outside of town to the Wagah Border, the only open crossing point between India and Pakistan. Just before the sun sets, you’ll witness an incredible ceremony that has unfolded here every evening since 1959. With great pomp and fanfare accompanied by patriotic music from both sides, you’ll see Indian Border Security Forces and Pakistani Rangers march forth to lower their respective flags. After the ceremony, you’ll return to your hotel in Amritsar. Meals B
Day 3 – Journey to Dharamshala
After breakfast, you’ll embark on a scenic 4-hour journey with your private car and driver to Dharamshala. Upon arrival in this enchanting town, set against the forested mountains of northern India, you’ll check in to your choice of hotel: The comfortable Surya Resort or the deluxe Chonor House – designed by British architect David Porter and set in the deeply forested hills overlooking the Kangra Valley. The balance of this day is yours to relax and enjoy the idyllic setting of your hotel. Meals B
Day 4 – McLeod Ganj – The Residence of the 14th Dalai Lama
Just a few miles outside of Dharamshala, the community of McLeod traces its modern history to the mid 19th century, when it was founded as a civilian settlement for the nearby British garrison and named for then-Lieutenant Governor Donald McLeod. In 1960, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama arrived here and McLeod quickly became the thriving center for the Tibetan exile community. After exploring McLeod’s Tibetan-inspired architecture and learning about the region’s rich history, you’ll continue your sightseeing at St. John in the Wilderness; surrounded by a fragrant cedar forest, this handsome neo-Gothic Anglican church was built in 1852 and is the final resting place of Lord Elgin, who served as Governor General of the Province of Canada and Governor General & Viceroy of India. Before returning to your hotel, you’ll learn more about the region’s history and Tibetan-influenced culture at the Norbulingka Institute and Kangra State Museum. Meals B+L
Day 5 – Depart Dharamshala
After breakfast, join your guide for a tour of the impressive Buddhist Temple located near the residence of the Dalai Lama. Then check out from your hotel and transfer to the airport for your onward journey. Meals B