India and South Asia Heritage & Culture Holiday Ideas

Explore grand Mughal monuments, colourful Dravidian temples and ancient Buddhist civilizations, in addition to time-honoured traditions and rituals, on these heritage and culture holiday ideas for India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. Each is crafted by destination experts from a trusted local travel company.

Highlights

  • Watching sunrise or sunset at the Taj Mahal
  • Temple hopping through Tamil Nadu
  • Roaming the ruins of Anuradhapura
  • Discovering the hilltop forts of Rajasthan
  • Experiencing Tibetan culture in Dharamsala

Experiential Golden Triangle

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 6 nights

From the glorious Taj Mahal to dinner at a traditional Punjabi kitchen, this unique take on the classic Golden Triangle route combines North India’s star attractions with experiencing the ‘real’ Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. With a classic train journey and a visit to a maharajah’s former hunting reserve – today among the world’s finest bird sanctuaries – included, this week-long trip is as experiential as it is unforgettable.

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South India Coast to Coast

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 10 nights

Sample what Rick Stein believes is the “perfect curry” on the Coromandel Coast, discover the world’s finest Dravidian temples in Tamil Nadu and sip tea surrounded by the glorious Western Ghats. Not forgetting, of course, exploring Kerala’s blissful backwaters on a private houseboat, or watching the sunset over Fort Cochin’s Chinese fishing nets. To experience South India is to travel from its eastern to western coasts on this most enchanting of journeys.

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Bhutan Heritage Trail

  • When to go: March – December
  • Duration: 9 nights

With its flourishing age-old Buddhist culture – one that’s largely protected from the influences of globalisation – Bhutan’s unique heritage is very much ‘living’. This culturally orientated trip will introduce you to magnificent monasteries, terrific temples and delightful dzongs – all of which represent key parts of daily Bhutanese life – in addition to discovering this Himalayan mountain kingdom’s incomparable natural beauty.

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Essential Nepal

  • When to go: February – May, September – November
  • Duration: 9 nights

After exploring the medieval temples of Kathmandu and Patan, this spellbinding ten-day introduction to Nepal heads west to Bandipur – a ridge-top village tribute to traditional Newar culture – and Pokhara, whose lakeside location is enhanced by a spectacular Himalayan backdrop. After visiting the Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini, the trip culminates in Chitwan National Park, where canoeing down the Rapti River is complemented by a jungle safari on the back of an elephant. Welcome to Nepal’s enchanting essentials.

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Wild Golden Triangle

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 6 nights

Explore the rambunctious bazaars of Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, spot little-known Ganges river dolphins not far from the Taj Mahal and take an elephant to Jaipur’s imperious Amber Fort. This ‘wild’ take on the classic Golden Triangle route combines North India’s landmark attractions with off-the-beatentrack experiences; from travelling down one of India’s cleanest rivers to discovering remote caves populated by friendly sadhus.

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Classic Kerala

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 8 nights

Stretching from a palm-fringed Malabar Coast in the west to the verdant peaks of the Western Ghats in the east, Kerala is a state that richly rewards those who explore it. Beginning in historic Fort Cochin – which blends Portuguese, Dutch and British influences – this classic route takes in Munnar’s lush tea estates, Kumarakom’s enchanting backwaters and some of South India’s finest beaches.

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Spiritual Bhutan

  • When to go: March – December
  • Duration: 10 nights

Indulge in morning meditation sessions surrounded by the heavenly Himalayas, learn about Lamaism from student monks and visit a range of magnificent monasteries on this spiritually minded journey through the world’s most tranquil mountain kingdom. Crossing from central to western Bhutan via the prayer flags of Pele La pass – taking in iconic sights like the Tiger’s Nest temple complex along the way – this unique trip combines complete peace and quiet with a spirit of adventure.

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Guesthouse Explorer

  • When to go: November – April
  • Duration: 14 nights

Nothing gets you as close to the ‘real’ Sri Lanka as staying in the island nation’s gorgeous guesthouses and heavenly homestays. Do just that on this two-week journey across its central and southern regions, where you’ll climb to the summit of ancient rock fortresses, marvel at centuries-old Buddhist frescoes and spend at least two days lazing on an impossibly pretty palm-fringed beach. There’s even time to travel on what’s regarded as one of the world’s finest train journeys.

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Adventure Nepal: White Water and Walking

  • When to go: February – May, September – November
  • Duration: 14 nights

From white water rafting along the thundering Trisuli River to hiking part of the awesome Annapurna Circuit, this two-week journey offers a truly adventurous introduction to Nepal’s great outdoors. Along the way will be the chance to explore medieval temples, traditional villages and holy caves, not to mention the spellbinding cities of Kathmandu, Pokhara and Bhaktapur. There’ll also be the opportunity to explore the jungles of Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the back of an elephant.

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Absolute Golden Triangle

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 9 nights

Stimulate the senses on this extended version of the classic Golden Triangle route, where the thrill of discovering North India’s must-see sights – namely the timeless Taj Mahal, Delhi’s Mughal marvels and Jaipur’s awe-inspiring Amber Fort – is complemented by a tiger-spotting excursion in Ranthambore National Park and a trip down one of the country’s cleanest rivers, the little-explored Chambal.

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Sri Lanka’s Ayurveda Trail

  • When to go: November – April
  • Duration: 21 nights

Discover the time-honoured secrets of Ayurvedic healing on this relaxed three-week journey through Sri Lanka. Combining the island nation’s cultural heritage with a fortnight-long wellness retreat on the sublime south-west coast, this is a unique opportunity to discover ruined kingdoms and ancient healing techniques, palm-fringed sands and glorious Buddhist temples. After completing a tailor-made treatment programme – one that encompasses relaxation, rejuvenation and detoxification – you’ll leave feeling totally refreshed; the balance between mind and body restored.

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Bhutan for Adventurers

  • When to go: March – December
  • Duration: 7 nights

Combining thrilling Himalayan excursions with exploring traditional Buddhist culture, this adventurous introduction to Bhutan’s spellbinding highlights takes in heavenly hikes to mountain-dwelling monasteries, visits to precariously placed temples and white-water trips down rapid-packed rivers. Packing as much as possible into just a week, this all-encompassing trip can only be described as an adventure of a lifetime.

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Resplendent Rajasthan

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 14 nights

Depart Delhi’s Mughal marvels for Mandawa’s marvellous havelis; the first stop on a two-week journey taking in centuries-old Rajput forts, milky-white Jain temples and deserted former capitals. Combining such mesmerising attractions with unforgettable experiences – namely sunset boat rides, exploring sand dunes on camelback and riding a local train into the Aravalli hills – this is Rajasthan at its most resplendent.

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East Coast Explorer

  • When to go: May – October
  • Duration: 13 nights

Largely untouched by mass tourism, Sri Lanka’s east coast is defined by near-deserted golden sands, pretty fishing villages and fascinating cultural relics. After briefly exploring Sri Lanka’s gloriously green interior, this fortnight-long trip takes in laid-back Arugam Bay – a favourite of local surfers – and peaceful Pasikudah, which boasts one of the world’s longest stretches of shallow coastline. Before heading back west, there’s enough time to climb the iconic rock fortress of Sigiriya.

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Royal Rajasthan

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 12 nights

Follow in the footsteps of Rajput kings and queens on this palatial journey through India’s most colourful state. Beginning in Delhi – at the city’s most prestigious hotel, no less – before travelling to Rajasthan via Agra and the Taj Mahal, you’ll discover the state’s grand hilltop forts, ornately decorated temples and romantically ethereal lakes, before culminating the trip at mesmerising Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace – one of the world’s most iconic accommodations.

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Essential Sri Lanka

  • When to go: July – April
  • Duration: 11 nights

From the bustling capital of Colombo to lush sprawling tea estates, experience Sri Lanka’s awe-inspiring essentials on this thrillingly luxurious multi-centre journey. Heading into the hills from the capital, you’ll take one of the world’s most scenic train journeys before heading to the south coast, where fortified towns rub shoulders with picture-postcard beaches. En route is the opportunity to stay in this teardrop-shaped island’s finest boutique hotels.

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Temple Hopping in Tamil Nadu

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 6 nights

Largely untouched by would-be conquerors from the north, Tamil Nadu has firmly held on to its Dravidian identity – most notably via its collection of awe-inspiring temples. Dating from the ancient Chola, Pallava and Pandyan dynasties, they range from Mamallapuram’s modest Shore Temple to Madurai’s magnificent Meenakshi Amman complex. Discover both – and just about every monument in between – on this eye-opening north-to-south journey through one of India’s most awe-inspiring states.

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Wild Sri Lanka

  • When to go: July – April
  • Duration: 14 nights

Sri Lanka is wild in just about every sense of the word – from the herds of elephants roaming Yala National Park to the sprawling tea estates of the Central Highlands. The island nation’s wild appeal isn’t limited to land, either – off the coast are schools of flying fish, pods of dolphins and, perhaps most impressively, the chance to see blue whales. Experience all this and more on this luxuriously wild two-week journey through the island nation’s central and southern regions.

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Karnataka: Culture, Coffee & Wildlife

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 9 nights

Sandwiched between central India and the country’s tropical south, Karnataka is among South Asia’s most rewarding destinations – largely because of its fascinating culture, verdant coffee plantations and superb wildlife-spotting opportunities. From exquisitely ornate temples to spotting herds of wild elephants, this is the perfect introduction to one of India’s most captivating – and largely undiscovered – states.

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Ultimate East

  • When to go: October - April
  • Duration: 13 nights

Witness a spellbinding aarti ceremony on the holy River Ganges, take to the hills onboard Darjeeling’s famous ‘toy train’ and get breathtakingly close to Kangchenjunga – the world’s third-tallest mountain – on this eye-opening introduction to India’s east. Starting in Delhi before venturing into Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Sikkim, this two-week journey goes from Hinduism’s heartland to the bosom of Buddhism via time-honoured rituals, spectacular landscapes and arguably the world’s best-tasting tea.

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Sri Lanka for Adventurers

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 12 nights

From trekking to remote jungle villages to rafting down the thundering Kelani River, experience Sri Lanka’s verdant valleys, raging rivers and colourful coastline from a uniquely adventurous perspective. There’ll also be opportunities to explore the island nation’s cultural side – namely remote mythical temples, abandoned ancient capitals and caves adorned with exquisite frescoes.

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Himalayan Highway: Amritsar to Leh

  • When to go: May – September
  • Duration: 14 nights

A journey that begins in earnest at Amritsar’s exquisite Golden Temple culminates at the dramatic Himalayan surroundings of Leh, 3,500 metres above sea level. Experiencing Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist culture – and visiting the Dalai Lama’s adopted home town – en route, take one of the world’s most spectacular road journeys on this adventure-focused journey of a lifetime.

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Tigers & Temples

  • When to go: October – April
  • Duration: 8 nights

Go in search of tigers in their natural habitat, be inspired by some of the world’s finest temple carvings and discover where Rudyard Kipling was inspired to write The Jungle Book. This superstimulating trip to laid-back, landlocked Madhya Pradesh – via Delhi’s Mughal marvels and bustling bazaars – combines the best of the natural and man-made worlds in thrilling fashion.

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Adventurers’ Golden Triangle

  • When to go: October – March
  • Duration: 10 nights

From cycling ancient trade routes in Rajasthan to rafting down the Ganges to Rishikesh, this adventurous take on the classic Golden Triangle route combines North India’s must-see sights with some seriously exciting excursions. Along the way will be the chance to witness ancient holy rituals, indulge in yoga sessions and take a ride on the back of an elephant.

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Cycle Rajasthan

  • When to go: October – March
  • Duration: 10 nights

From pedalling through Bishnoi villages to arriving at exquisite Jain temples, discover the thrill of exploring Rajasthan – India’s most colourful and arguably most fascinating state – by bicycle. Along the way will be the chance to tuck into a traditional lunch with a local family, interact with remote tribal communities and take a cruise on the ethereal Lake Pichola.

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