Tour: Amritsar & Himachal Pradesh

Date: 31 Aug - 11 Sep  2018

Duration: 12 Days

Fri 31 Aug - Day 1 Amritsar - Arrival Day

Day 1 is arrival day at Amritsar. From the UK, international flights usually fly into New Delhi Airport first with a connecting flight to Amritsar.  Once you have booked your flights, email us the details and we will arrange for your airport to hotel transfer. As sunset is quite late (just before 7 pm), we will visit the Golden Temple for a sunset capture prior to dinner.

Amritsar: Sunrise 06:05; Sunset 18:55; Daylight 14:12 Temp 26° - 40°; 

Sat 1 Sep - Day 2 - Amritsar to Chandigarh (4 h 12)

On day 2 we will head out for a sunrise capture of the  'Golden Temple' or the 'Sri Harminder Sahib'. The temple is the central place of worship in Sikhism, now the 5th largest religion in the world. The main structure dates back 400 years, although the gold plating was added in the late 19th century. From the Golden Temple we will drive to Chandigarh, which will take approximately 4 hours. 

Amritsar: Sunrise 06:04; Sunset 18:58; Temp 25° - 35°; 

Sun 2 Sep - Day 3 - Chandigarh to Shimla (3 h 30 mins)

On day 3 following check out we will drive to the hill station of Shimla, which sits at 2276 m above sea level and will give us the opportunity to acclimatise to the higher altitude during this tour. The drive will take approx 3 h 30 mins. Shimla is the capital of Himachal Pradesh and well known for it's British colonial architecture, as it was where the British used to spend their summers and as such, is the fictional location of the channel 4 series Indian Summers.  Following lunch we will head out on a relaxing heritage walk of the city, encompassing the most predominant examples of colonial architecture, such as the Vice Regal Lodge, Gaity Theatre, the Railway Board Building, post office, Bantony Lodge and Gorton Castle.    

Mon 3 Sep - Day 4 - Shimla to Sarahan (4 h 40)

On day 4 we will drive to Sarahan which will take us through the lush Kinnaur Valley, also known as the apple orchard of India, although pears, walnuts, apricots and potatoes are also grown in this fertile valley fed by the Baspa River.  The journey will take approximately 4 - 5 hours, with refreshment and scenic stops along the way. On arrival at Sarahan we'll stretch our legs by visit the Bhimakali Temple, of which there is an old and new temple built in 1927. The temples are classic examples of the wooden, almost fort like temple structures found within the region. The newer temple is 3 stories high, with intricately carved doors and windows on the upper floors and 200-yr old gold image of the goddess Bhimakali. 

Tue 4 Sep - Day 5 - Sarahan to Kalpa via Sangla Valley (3 h)

​On day 5 we will veer off the main road down into the Sangla Valley, for which there is only one road in and out, as it eventually leads to the Indo-China border and the last settlement before China Chitkul. We will drive to Chitkul, as it is most scenic of settlements, have lunch and take photographs of the surrounding scenary, including the Bapsa River and a visit to the local temple. Following Chikul we will drive back up the valley to Kalpa, which will take approximately 2 h 30 mins. If time allows we will stop at Sapni and / or Kamru Fort. On arrival at Kalpa we will check in to our hotel and reconvene for dinner. 

Wed 5 Sep - Day 6 - Kalpa to Nako

On day 6 we will continue our road trip from Kalpa to Nako, which will be essentially taking us on the After breakfast on day 12 we will continue our journey through Kinnaur Valley to Kalpa. After 2 hours we will turn off to visit Jangi village and Lippa Monastery. Apart from the monastery the village contains a further 3 temples due to the dual faith of Hinduism and Buddhism that runs through the valley.  What is also evident on entering Kinnaur, is the very different architectural styles between temples and dwellings in Kinnaur and those previously visited in Spiti. From Jangi we will also visit Rarang Monastery (30 mins), before driving on for a final 1h 30 mins to our accommodation in Kalpa. If early enough, we will head out for a stroll around Kalpa following check in, before returning for our evening meal.

 

 

Kaza (Langsza - Hikkim - Komik) - Following breakfast we will spend day 10 exploring 3 further villages within the surrounding area of Kaza, including the highest village in Asia, Komik, which is situated at 14806 ft. As with the other villages in the region it is agriculturally based, but on a smaller scale catering for a community of 84 people. Due to the isolation of the village it is occasionally possible to see local wildlife, such as Tibetan wolves, red foxes, Bharal goats and hares. Mid way we will stop by Hikkim, which is said to have the highest post office in the world, where, if the post master is about, you may have an opportunity to send a quick postcard back home. The lowest of the villages in terms of altitude, at 14436 ft, is Langza Village, which is often cited as the most beatific within Spiti due to its lush green pastures, akin to an oasis within an otherwise desolate landscape. There are approximately 130 people residing in the village across 30 homes and as the village has been predominantly Buddhist for centuries, it has a 1000 year old temple, called Lang Gompa, belonging to the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, accompanied by a gold statue of Buddha from the same era. Langza is further nicknamed 'Fossil Village', as marine fossils are often found in the sedimentary rock, from when it lay submerged under the Tethys sea millions of years ago. On completion of our tour of Langza we will return to our hotel in Kaza. 

Kaza: Sunrise 05:12; Sunset:19:28; Daylight: 14:16; Temp: 4° - 19°;

Thu 6 Sep - Day 7 - Nako to Kaza via Tabo Monastery

 Kaza to Nako via Tabo Monastery On day 11 we will start the day with a 1 hour drive to Dhankar village, where up until the merger of Lahaul and Spiti Valley in 1960, used to be the capital of Spiti. Its choice as the former capital is apparent, as the village sits embedded into the surrounding rock in vertical tiers, crowned by Dhankar monastery atop a 300m jagged cliff. Its position ensuring the safety of its inhabitants during war mongering eras, with tales of monks throwing stones at ensuing invaders to keep them at bay. Whilst in Dhanker we will visit the monastery and take a stroll around the village. If conditions are good and we have made good time, we will include a 1 hour hike to Dhankar Lake, but we will make this decision on the day. From Dhanker village we will drive to Tabo monastery, which externally, with its series of mud brick cubic structures, looks straight out of a Star Wars movie set. The monastery is thought to have been founded in 996 CE and its primitive exterior, belies early examples of some of the most beautifully painted Buddhist murals. Following Tabo we will drive for a further hour, which will officially take us out of the earthen undulating landscape of Spiti and into the greener pastures of Kinnaur Valley, to a small hamlet called Nako where we will stay overnight. 

Fri 7 Sep - Day 8 - Kaza (Langsza - Hikkim - Komik)

On day we will explore the villages and area around Kalpa, with a particular focus on Sangla Valley, for which there is only one road in and out, as it eventually leads to the Indo-China border. We will start with a visit to the neighbouring Kothi village, followed by Roghi Village (46 mins drive). From here we will head down into Sangla Valley and visit Sapni Fort (40 mins). We will then move onto Kamru Fort (1 hour) and carry onto Batseri village where we will stop for lunch. This will take us 3/4 of the way through Sangla Valley, which is renowned for its natural beauty. The last village within the valley before the Chinese border is called Chitkul, but as we have a 4 hour drive back the way we came and to our overnight accommodation in Sarahan, we will only include a visit to Chitkul if we have made exceptionally good time and the weather and road conditions are good.

After breakfast on day 12 we will continue our journey through Kinnaur Valley to Kalpa. After 2 hours we will turn off to visit Jangi village and Lippa Monastery. Apart from the monastery the village contains a further 3 temples due to the dual faith of Hinduism and Buddhism that runs through the valley.  What is also evident on entering Kinnaur, is the very different architectural styles between temples and dwellings in Kinnaur and those previously visited in Spiti. From Jangi we will also visit Rarang Monastery (30 mins), before driving on for a final 1h 30 mins to our accommodation in Kalpa. If early enough, we will head out for a stroll around Kalpa following check in, before returning for our evening meal.

 

Kalpa: Sunrise 05:14; Sunset 19:25; Daylight 14:12; Temp 4° - 19° 

Sat 8 Sep - Day 9 - Kalpa to Sarahan via Sangla Valley

Sun 9 Sep - Day 10 - Sarahan to Chandigarh

There is no way around it day 14 is a full day drive to take us out of Kinnaur Valley  to the nearest airport with the most frequent schedule of flights, namely Chandigarh. We will start with an early morning visit to Bhimakali Temple, in Sarahan, of which there is an old and new temple built in 1927 (the build date of the original is uncertain but it is thought to have survived an earth quake in 1905). The temples are impressive examples of the wooden, almost fort like temples, found within the region. The newer temple is 3 stories high, with intricately carved doors and windows on the upper floors and 200-yr old gold image of the goddess Bhimakali. Depending on when they change over from summer to winter timings, our visit may coincide with morning Aarti, a devotional Hindu ritual using lit ghee wicks. From here we will journey onto Shimla, stopping for lunch on route.  

Chandigarh: Sunrise 05:22; Sunset 19:29; Daylight: 14:07; Temp 27° - 36°;

Mon 10 Sep - Day 11 - Chandigarh Airport - Departure Day

Day 15 is departure day from Chandigarh airport. As per arrival, for UK customers, you will need an internal flight to Delhi and a connecting flight from Delhi to UK from there. Once you have booked your flights email us the details and we will arrange your hotel to airport transfer, which is included for those departing on 12 September.

Useful info / links: For booking flights we find www.skyscanner.net an easy to use comparison site, particularly for combination flights. For UK customers, your Amritsar flight will likely arrive the day after your departure, so we advise selecting a multi-city option and searching for a flight from the UK to Amritsar (ATQ) the day before the arrival date. The minimum number of stops is 1 and the shortest flight time is around 12 hours. Airlines that offer regular flights to and from Amritsar and Chandigarh are Jet Airways and Air India. If you usually fly BA or Virgin they also offer regular direct flights into Delhi and then partner with a domestic carrier. At the time of publication flights were ranging from £450 - £550, but this will no doubt change as the departure date draws near.

The ethical bit....

For each tour we select a charity that works in the area we visit to donate £25 per person to. For this tour we have selected a charity called Spiti Projects, which was set up in 1993 by a former UK nurse, Joan Pollack. The charity is committed to helping improve the health and wellbeing of the people of the Spiti Valley and since it's incorporation has successfully built a hospital, school and clinic. They have further implemented a child sponsorship scheme, a mud brick incentive (to encourage the return to traditional methods of building more suitable to the high altitude conditions in Spiti) and a 'knit for spiti' project, where you can send knitted clothing to the charity for distribution in preparation for the harsh winters. If you are interested to discovering more about this charity please do not hesitate to visit their website: www.spiti.org

 

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