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The Hill Stations of India

The Hill Stations of India The Hill Stations of India
£ 4980

Join Chris Caldicott on this remarkable journey to the British Hill Stations exploring the architectural and artistic legacy of British rule on the subcontinent. Strategic and important places of refuge from the high heat of an Indian summer, especially for the British Raj who were responsible for creating around 50 hill stations across the country, the most iconic and best loved of these are to be found in the foothills of the Himalaya.

The journey begins in the dynamic city of Delhi with a stay at the iconic Imperial Hotel designed to be one of the finest masterpieces in Lutyen's master plan for New Delhi. Continuing to Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikhs and home of the spectacular glittering Golden Temple, we will also visit the new superlative Partition Museum that subtly and movingly documents the consequences of the end of British Rule. From here we drive up into the hills to the British Hill Station of McLeod Ganj which today hosts the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in exile in next door Dharamshala.

In the upper reaches of the beautiful Kangra Valley we will stay at the newly opened Lodge At Wah on a working tea estate and take a ‘toy train’ ride on the colonial era Kangra Valley Railway. From the heritage hotel The Judges Court we will explore Pragpur, an ornamental village with unchanged shops, cobblestone streets, old water tanks, mud-plastered walls and slate-roofed houses. The narrow streets, are lined with fort-like houses, havelis and villas. Due to its unique architecture and pristine beauty, it was declared the first Heritage Village in December 1997. Finally, we visit the ‘Queen of the Hill Stations’, Shimla, summer capital of the British Raj and home to the Viceroy of India.

We will enjoy a melting pot of cultures and cuisines from Buddhist monasteries to colonial gems, tea tasting, organic produce and a famous ‘toy train’ ride on one of the five heritage lines left in India. The tour also encompasses the very essence of India – colourful spice and vegetable markets, exotic temples, flamboyant palaces, delicious local food, and last but not least its vibrant street life.

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15 days from
per person
Single Supplement:
Tour Date:
24th April 2022 -
8th May 2022

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    Detailed Itinerary
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    Day 1 London - Delhi

    Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) British Airways BA 257 departing London Heathrow at 19.25 hrs.

    Day 2 Delhi

    Arrive in Delhi at 08.20 hrs and transfer to the luxury 5-star Imperial Hotel, Delhi’s landmark hotel, where one night is spent. Conceptualised in 1934 by Blomfield and inaugurated by Lord Willingdon in 1936, it was designed to be one of the finest masterpieces in Lutyen’s master plan for New Delhi. Rooms are spacious with high ceilings and sumptuous décor, equipped with modern amenities, and the hotel has several award-winning restaurants. The public spaces and corridors are hung with an impressive collection of artwork of Raj subjects.

    Enjoy an early buffet lunch on the terrace veranda at The Imperial before checking into the rooms (guaranteed check in from 14.00 hrs). This afternoon, walk to Janta Manta which consists of 13 architectural astronomy instruments. The site is one of five built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, from 1723 onwards, revising the calendar and astronomical tables. Drive through Lutyen’s Delhi and Rajpath, a ceremonial boulevard lined grand Raj era administrative buildings with huge lawns, canals and rows of trees, and continue to Humayun’s Tomb for an afternoon stroll around one of the greatest architectural triumphs of the Mogul period. On to Khan Market New Delhi’s trendy and fun mecca of independent boutiques, cafés and bars where there will be time for shopping and optional evening drinks and snacks at a popular local café, Sodawaterbottleopenerwala. Return to hotel with dinner under own arrangements.

    Day 3 Delhi - Amritsar
    Delhi - Amritsar

    Morning transfer (with luggage) to Delhi airport for a domestic flight to Amritsar, the spiritual centre of the Sikh community. On arrival, transfer to the 5-star Taj Swarna where two nights are spent. Lunch under own arrangements at the airport.

    Afternoon visit to the Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib, meaning, ‘abode of God’, and the preeminent spiritual site of Sikhism. Visit the temple kitchens where legions of daily volunteers prepare and serve a free thali lunch to thousands of pilgrims. There will be an option to enjoy the spectacular sunset at the temple. Dinner at a local restaurant experiencing local Punjabi cuisine. 

    Day 4 Amritsar

    Morning visit to the Amritsar Partition Museum, housed in the historical Town Hall with its arched verandas, doors with venetian glass, beautiful floor tiles and historic belfry. This new superlative museum subtly and movingly documents the consequences of the end of British rule and the partition of India into two countries. Walk through the old town and a quick stop at the Jallianwala Bagh, a historic garden and ‘memorial of national importance’ preserved in the memory of those who fell in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre when acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered troops of the British Indian Army to fire into a crowd of unarmed Indian civilians at the festival of Vaisakhi in April 1919.

    Enjoy a local lunch of kulcha, lassi and firni at Kesar da Dhaba. In the afternoon travel to the India / Pakistan Attari-Wagah border to witness the lowering of the flag’s ceremony, a daily theatrical military spectacle that India and Pakistan have jointly followed since 1959. The drill is characterised by elaborate, colourful and rapid dance like manoeuvres and raising legs as high as possible. Return to hotel. Dinner under own arrangements.

    Day 5 Amritsar - Dharamshala
    Amritsar - Dharamshala

    Morning transfer (with luggage) to Dharamshala and check into Chonor House, designed and built by British architect David Porter in a style intended to blend with the natural environment of the hills overlooking the Kangra Valley, and where two nights are spent.

    Lunch at the hotel. Afternoon walking tour of McLeod Ganj, also known as ‘Little Lhasa’ or ‘Dhasa’ because of its large Tibetan population. During British rule the town was a hill station where the British spent hot summers. Lord Elgin, the British Viceroy of India (1862-63) liked the area so much that at one point he suggested it be made the summer capital of India. He died at Dharamshala while on a tour there, on 20 November 1863, and lies buried at the St. John in the Wilderness church at Forsyth Ganj, just below McLeod Ganj. His summer residence, Mortimer House, became part of the private estate of Lala Basheshar Nath of Lahore and was acquired by the Government of India to house the official residence of the Dalai Lama. Visit the Buddhist sites including the Dalai Lama Palace. Dinner under own arrangements.

    Day 6 Dharamshala

    Morning walk from Dharamkot Village, to the temple of Gallu Devi with spectacular panoramic views. Visit the St. John in the Wilderness church, built in 1852, where Lord Elgin is buried, on the way back to hotel.

    Lunch under own arrangements. Visit to Norbulingka Institute, founded in 1995 by Kelsang and Kim Yeshi at Sidhpur, dedicated to the preservation of the Tibetan culture in its literary and artistic forms. Also visit the Nechung Monastery, the seat of the State Oracle of Tibet. Dinner at the hotel. 

    Day 7 Dharamshala - Kangra Valley

    There will be an opportunity to attend early morning Buddhist prayers in a local monastery. Depart (with luggage) to Wah, stopping off at Gyuto Monastery, a prominent monastery focused on Tantric meditation and ritual arts along with Buddhist philosophy.

    Enjoy a traditional MoMo lunch. Check into The Lodge at Wah, an eco-friendly homestay on the largest working tea estate in the Kangra Valley, and where two nights are spent. Afternoon jeep safari to the top of a mountain to enjoy the beautiful views. Dinner at the lodge.

    Day 8 Kangra Valley
    Kangra Valley

    Morning walking tour of the tea estate to observe and learn how the tea is plucked and processed from withering, rolling and fermenting to drying and sorting. The tour will continue to the gardens to enjoy a tea tasting.

    Enjoy a Khow Suey lunch at the lodge. Afternoon ‘toy train’ ride on one of the five heritage lines left in India. This small single gauge train, still a local means of transportation and wonderfully sans frills through quaint stations, is a fun ride back in time. Dinner at the lodge.

    Day 9 Kangra Valley - Pragpur
    Kangra Valley - Pragpur

    Depart (with luggage) for Pragpur stopping at the 1000-year-old Kangra Fort and Masroor Rock Temple, also known as the ‘Himalayan Pyramids’, dedicated to Lord Shiva and a significant pilgrimage site for Hindus. 

    Lunch at a local restaurant. Check into Judge’s Court, a wonderful small heritage hotel in the foothills of the Himalaya, and where two nights are spent. Afternoon at leisure. Dinner at the hotel.

    Day 10 Pragpur

    Enjoy a morning walk exploring the heritage village of Pragpur, founded in the late 16th century by the Kuthiala Soods in memory of Princess Prag Dei of the Jaswan Royal Family. With its winding cobbled lane, mud-plastered walls and slate roofed houses, this village stands largely unchanged by time. It is also home to the famous Kangra School of Painting and has a quaint market with silversmiths and village weavers selling shawls and blankets.

    Picnic lunch provided by the hotel. Afternoon at leisure. Return to the hotel. Dinner at the hotel.

    Day 11 Pragpur - Shimla
    Pragpur - Shimla

    Morning departure (with luggage) for Shimla, which was declared the summer capital of British India in 1864. 

    Packed lunch en route to Shimla. Check into the Oberoi Cecil, a landmark Colonial-era hotel dating from 1884 with views of the Shimla Valley, where three nights are spent. The hotel features an indoor swimming pool and wonderful spa. Dinner at the hotel.

    Day 12 Shimla

    Drive to Ripon Hospital, one of Shimla’s most atmospheric timber-framed buildings, then past the old buildings of the secretariat to Woodville Palace, a heritage hotel since 1977. Walk to Raj Bhavan, formerly Barnes Court, past various heritage buildings to one of the first churches built in North India in 1846, Christchurch, on The Ridge. (Those who do not wish to walk can be driven to the lift and walk the last five minutes to the church).

    Lunch at a local restaurant. This afternoon walk past the Arts and Crafts style Town Hall and visit the Gaiety Theatre, lovingly restored between 2004 and 2009. This remarkable 320-seater theatre opened in 1877 and has long been a focus of Shimla social life, and Rudyard Kipling, Baden-Powell, Shashi Kapoor, Felicity Kendal and Michael Palin are among those who have trodden its Burmese teak boards. Visit the Minerva bookshop and then walk down the steps lined with food stalls, through the middle market. Enjoy tea at Chapslee, built in 1935 and once home to the Maharaja of Kapurthala. Today his grandson, Kanwar Ratanjit Singh owns the property and lives there. The interior remains unchanged. Dinner under own arrangements.

    Day 13 Shimla

    Enjoy a private nature walk and a picnic lunch in the grounds of ‘The Peak’, a bungalow that dates from 1863. It was originally used as the weekend retreat for many a viceroy, including Lord Ripon and Lord Lytton. Perched on a hilltop and nestled amongst ten acres of terraced apple orchards, ‘The Peak’ offers beautiful views of the surrounding landscaped hill slopes. Visit the ancient temple of Jakhoo dedicated to the Hindu deity of Hanuman and situated on Shimla’s highest peak. Continue past Gorton Castle, built in 1904, a massive and austere grey-stone edifice and formerly the colonial government secretariat. Dinner at an Indian Coffee House.

    Day 14 Shimla - Delhi

    Morning departure (with luggage) on the Himalayan Queen narrow gauge hill train to Kalka.

    Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon tour of the famous Nek Chand Rock Garden, an eighteen-acre sculpture garden in Chandigarh and one of the most famous sites in India. Transfer to Chandigarh airport for a domestic flight to Delhi. On arrival transfer to the 5-star JW Marriot Hotel near the airport, where one night is spent. Dinner at the hotel. 

    Day 15 Delhi - London

    Suggested flight (not included in the cost of the tour) British Airways BA 256 departing Delhi at 10.20 hrs arriving London Heathrow at 15.20 hrs.   

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    • Gemma took on board all I asked for and arranged a fantastic itinerary. She was always prompt and professional both in planning the holiday and during the very circumstances of Covid. We would not hesitate to come back to The Ultimate Travel Company.

      TS, August 2020