The Ultimate Traverse

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The Ultimate Traverse – From Plains to Mountains

New Delhi –  North India – Nepal – Tibet

October to November and April

From the palaces and forts of Delhi we away to Agra to experience the Mughal era’s grandest achievement – the incomparable Taj Mahal. We take in the world’s oldest inhabited city, Varanasi, where Hindu pilgrims flock to bathe in the waters of the Ganges. Our mountain journey begins with an exciting overland journey from Kathmandu to Lhasa. We visit fascinating Buddhist monasteries and take in the stunning peaks of the Himalayas. We travel by jeep over the friendship highway through some of the most amazing scenery on earth, staying in small traditional hotels along the way.

Highlights

  • The Golden Triangle and Varanasi
  • Overland to Tibet
  • Mix of jeep and plane travel with train and coach links
  • Alternate between jungle lodges, small guesthouses and hotels
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Itinerary

Days 1 Delhi

You are met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The day includes a sightseeing tour of Sir Edward Lutyens’ New Delhi, the garden city built in 1911 by the British. We also visit the Birla Mandir (Lakshminarayan Temple), the President’s House, Humayun’s Tomb and India Gate.

Days 2 - 3 Jaipur

We travel by road to Jaipur. Known as the ‘Pink City’, Jaipur was founded by Maharaja Jai Singh II (1693-1743) and is the capital of Rajasthan. It is a city of contrasts, where camels and elephants wait at the traffic lights along with cars and scooters. The whole city was painted Pink when the Prince of Wales, Edward VII, visited Jaipur in 1876. Today, every home in the old city is obliged by law to maintain this façade. While in Jaipur we visit the Amber Fort, the former capital of the royal family of Jaipur, taking an elephant ride to the hilltop. Another highlight of our tour is the City Palace, the former royal residence built in a blend of Rajasthani and Mughal styles. The palace houses a museum with a superb collection of Rajasthani costumes and Mughal and Rajput weapons. We also visit the Jantar Mantar (observatory) and the Hawa Mahal.

Days 4 - 5 Agra

Our journey continues to the Mughal splendor of Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. On the way to Agra we visit Fathepur Sikri the ghost city built in honor of Saint Salim Chisti, who foretold the birth of 3 sons to Emperor Akbar. The Taj Mahal is one of the wonders of the world. It was built in 1652 by Emperor Shah Jahan. It took 22 years and 20,000 skilled artisans to complete. The Agra Fort lies across the river Jamuna. It was here that Aurangzeb, the third son of Shah Jahan, kept his father under house arrest. One can get a fantastic view of the Taj from the little octagonal tower in the Fort. From Agra we take the overnight train to Varanasi, giving you the chance to experience India by rail. The train is equipped with sleeper compartments so you still get a good night’s rest – the sound of the rolling wheels lulling you to sleep!

Day 6 Varanasi

On arrival in Varanasi we transfer to the hotel to freshen up and then stretch our legs with a walking tour of the city. From Varanasi we take an afternoon visit to Sarnath, the place where Buddha gave his first sermon. The spot is commemorated with a Stupa. We visit the ruins of the Buddhist monastery and the temple where one can see a life-size painting of the life of the Buddha. Before we leave Varanasi, an early morning boat ride presents an incredible scene as the multitude of devotees come to the river to pay homage to the Sun God. We pass the bathing ghats where thousands of pilgrims immerse themselves in the holy water of the Ganges, and the burning ghats where cremations are conducted. As we sail down the Ganges with the temple bells ringing on the shore one feels transported to a different world.

Days 7 - 8 Kathmandu

We transfer to the airport to fly to Kathmandu (elev.  1300m). After we have arrived and checked in to our hotel we begin our explorations of this beautiful and fascinating Himalayan kingdom. We see the sights and wander through the interesting bazaars and streets. We visit Durbar Square, with its pagoda-shaped temples, the Royal Residential Palace, and the temple of the Living Goddess – a young girl worshipped as a deity by all Nepalese.

Day 9 Nyalam

We leave Kathmandu early in the morning driving 123km through the lovely Nepal countryside to the Tibet border at Kodari. After completing the border formalities we check into our hotel at Nyalam on the Tibetan side of the border (elevation 3750 m).

Day 10 Shigatse

Today we continue onwards, passing monasteries and the camps of nomadic herders. We then cross the highest pass on our journey, the Gyamtso La (5220 m) before descending to the barren splendor of the plains. After a 244km drive we stay in Shigatse (elev. 3900 m), the second largest city in Tibet.

Day 11 Gyantse

Before leaving for Gyantse we visit the Tashilhunpo Monastery, one of the largest functioning monasteries in Gyantse. In Gyantse (elev. 3950m) we have time to explore the Pelkor Chode Monastery and the Gyantse Kumbum – a large stupa. We cover just 90km today.

Days 12 - 14 Lhasa

It is a fantastic journey today over the Karo La (5040m) where there is a huge glacier that falls within a few hundred metres of the road. We also follow the bank of the Yamdrok-tso – a beautiful turquoise lake. Finally we cross the Khamba La (4794m) before arriving at Lhasa (elev. 3650m) 261 km from our start. We have two full days to explore Lhasa. One day is spent visiting several of Lhasa’s many monasteries. Among them is the Sera Monastery, one of the best preserved in Tibet. Several hundred monks live and study here. We also visit the summer palace of the Dalai Lama as well as the Jokhang Temple – probably the most sacred shrine in Tibet. Of course we also visit the Potala Palace that overlooks the city of Lhasa and the Drepung Monastary. The latter was founded in the 14 th century and was once the largest in the world. It was left largely undamaged by the cultural revolution so there is still much of interest.

Day 15 - 16 Kathmandu

We leave Lhasa early in the morning for the 2 hour drive to Gonggar airport and our flight back to Kathmandu. The mountain views are spectacular. The rest of the day in Kathmandu is free to relax. The following day we visit Swayambhunath – the enormous shrine of the Buddha’s all seeing eyes. We travel to the ancient city of Patan, founded in the 3 rd century, with its hundreds of temples and palaces. This “city of beauty” has some of the most fascinating architecture of both Buddhist and Hindu cultures.

Day 17 Delhi

We travel back to Delhi by air. Here we visit Old Delhi, the ancient city built by Emperor Shah Jahan. We visit the Red Fort, and then take a bicycle rickshaw ride through the narrow lanes to the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India.

Day 18 Delhi

Our tour finishes with breakfast and transfer to airport for international departure.
Rah Villas Hotel Sonmarg
Malabar Resort Kerala