Highlights

  1. Witnessing Amritsar’s glorious Golden Temple
  2. Perhaps spotting the Dalai Lama in McLeod Ganj
  3. Camping at an altitude of over 4,200 metres in Sarchu
  4. Being driven along the dramatic Leh–Manali Highway
  5. Exploring Himalayan Buddhist monasteries

Day 1: Arrive in Delhi

Welcome to India’s spellbinding capital – a city of ancient Mughal architecture, colourful bazaars and colonial-era boulevards. On arrival, either relax at your hotel or venture out at your own pace. Overnight at Thikana.

Day 2: Delhi

Explore Old Delhi’s labyrinth-like streets on foot before arriving at the Jama Masjid, India’s largest mosque. After seeing New Delhi by car, the day culminates at Humayun’s Tomb and Qutb Minar. Overnight at Thikana.

Day 3: Delhi to Amritsar

Ride the rails north to Amritsar via the lush landscape of Punjab. Visit the exquisite Golden Temple in the afternoon before witnessing the theatrical – and hugely entertaining – Wagah border closing ceremony. Overnight at Hyatt Amritsar.

Day 4: Amritsar to Dharamsala

Travel north to the Himachal Pradesh state border, where Punjab’s plains are replaced by the Himalayan foothills. Continue to Dharamsala – specifically McLeod Ganj – home of the Dalai Lama and seat of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile. Overnight at Chonor House.

Day 5: Dharamsala

Spend the day exploring McLeod Ganj and Dharamsala – from the pretty St John in the Wilderness church to an educational community for exiled Tibetan children. Later, visit the cascading Bhagsunag Waterfall. Overnight at Chonor House.

Day 6: Dharamsala to Manali

The drive to the adventure hotspot of Manali begins after visits to the Norbulingka Institute – a centre preserving and promoting Tibetan culture – and Baijnath Temple – where pilgrims come in search of Lord Shiva’s reputed healing powers. Overnight at Banan Resorts. Image: Pdhang/Wikimedia Commons

Day 7: Manali

Visit the 16th-century, four-storey Hadimba Temple before sampling the backpacker vibe of Old Manali. Later, visit the riverside Manu Temple before taking a dip in Vashisht’s hot springs, culminating your day by exploring Naggar Castle. Overnight at Banan Resorts. Image: Anoop Pandit/Wikimedia Commons

Day 8: Manali to Keylong

This morning’s drive traverses the dramatic Rohtang Pass, which marks the end of Hinduism’s influence and the beginning of Buddhism’s. Proceed to Keylong following a stop off at Tandi’s hilltop Guru Ghantal Monastery. Overnight at Hotel Dekyid.

Day 9: Keylong to Sarchu

Continue north, halting at Darcha – the last settlement in Himachal Pradesh – for a passport check. After crossing Baralacha Pass and pausing for photos at Suraj Tal Lake, proceed to Sarchu for a night’s camping on the Jammu & Kashmir border. Overnight at camp.

Day 10: Sarchu to Leh

Today is about admiring some of the world’s most beautiful mountain scenery – from the literally breath-taking Lachung La Pass to the 4,800-metre high More Plains, not forgetting the stunning Indus Valley – en route to Leh. Overnight at Hotel Omasila.

Day 11: Leh

Spend the day exploring lively Leh, starting at the Shanti Stupa peace pagoda and finishing at the Tibetan-style Leh Palace. In between will be the chance to visit the pleasantly remote Sankar Gompa, located a half-hour’s walk from town. Overnight at Hotel Omasila.

Day 12: Leh

The second in the former Ladakh kingdom’s capital begins at Thiksey Gompa – arguably the region’s landmark monastery – before continuing to Shey – Ladakh’s old summer capital – and its 17th-century Naropa Royal Palace. Overnight at Hotel Omasila.

Day 13: Leh to Alchi

Head west on another thrilling drive to Alchi, visiting Likir Gompa – believed to have been around since the 11th century – en route. Later, explore Alchi Monastery, the oldest centre of Buddhist learning in Ladakh. Overnight at Uley Eco Resort. Image: Steve Hicks/Wikimedia Commons

Day 14: Alchi to Leh

Return to Alchi, stopping off to admire the beautiful wall paintings at Lamayuru Monastery and the “paradise for meditation” that is Rizong Gompa, complete with its gilded statues and murals. Overnight at Hotel Omasila.

Day 15: Leh to Delhi

Proceed to the airport for your flight to Delhi. On arrival, connect with your international return flight home.

Activities to consider

  • Walking tour of Delhi led by street children, courtesy of the Salaam Baalak Trust
  • Traditional Punjabi family meal and cooking lesson at Mrs Kidwai’s Kitchen

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