India & South Asia
A land of contrasts, the lands of India Bhutan and Sri Lanka yhe cradle of spirituality and mysticism since the dawn of time. This is a land of epic snow-covered mountains, dense jungles full of tigers and sprawling cities where elephants roam the streets. A festival of colour and an assault on the senses you will love the many colourful places of worship, the imposing Mughul architecture of palaces and forts, strolling along the mighty Ganges and exploring the many ruins of bygone times. A major Hindu pilgrimage site, this area is a must visit for lovers of yoga, seekers of inner peace, connoisseurs of tea and of course…foodies who love a good curry!
Monks, Dzong, Wild
What makes Bhutan special is intangible and undefinable, yet will hit you fully on your regional journey across this incredibly diverse, scenic and joyful country.
Temples? It has many, each with architectural detail and spiritual history more intricate than the last. We’ll visit many of them, including of course the iconic Tigers Nest monastery in its lofty eyrie in the mountains outside of Paro. The journey to it is a hike like no other, and an essential pilgrimage for travellers to Bhutan.
Scenery? In droves. Or perhaps, flocks, as this trip affords a once-in-a-lifetime chance to encounter the rare and endangered Black-Necked Crane during its winter migration. You’ll be heralded by quirky wildlife and awe-inspiring vistas; your journey across the country will be wreathed by the snow-capped Himalayas as you travel through mountain passes, lush fields, alpine forests and sweeping valleys. And you won’t be limited to a tour bus either – you’ll hike your way through some of the best landscapes the country has to offer.
Culture? And then some! The last Himalayan kingdom offers a rich tapestry of vibrant art, folklore, steeped traditions and food, glorious food. You’ll marvel at the sheer breadth of Bhutanese culture as you undertake a cooking class; and spend a day at Genekha Festival and get caught up in the spirit of celebration.
What will strike you most, however, is the true essence of Bhutanese magic – the people. This trip has been designed to immerse you in local custom and maximise the time you’ll spend with these wonderfully welcoming people, who occupy a country where Eastern tradition and Buddhist heritage meet Western innovation, and where the country’s Gross National Happiness Index is its most important measurement of success. Stay in homestays, guesthouses and local hotels in historic cities and tiny villages. Break bread with Bhutan, a country that can teach us so much about the richness of shared experience.
The Hippy Trail
Embark on an expedition to India’s spiritual north on this 18-day quest for enlightenment in a region that will inspire and captivate you at every turn. Stroll along the holy river Ganges and try a yoga lesson in Rishikesh, marvel at the splendour of the Golden Temple in Amritsar and volunteer in one of the world’s largest kitchens to help feed the hungry. Explore ‘Little Lhasa’, the home of Tibetan Buddhism in India in Dharamshala and visit India’s highest and most boutique tea producing region for a walk through the gardens and a cheeky cuppa. Try to spot India’s most majestic inhabitant, the Bengal Tiger, in the deep, dark jungle and stay in a variety of traditional and immersive accommodation including havelis, lodges and a yoga retreat.
Festival of Lights
Immerse yourself in India’s festive spirit with this tour to not one, but two of India’s colourful festivals – Diwali and Dev Diwali. On this vibrant journey witness the illuminated cities, partake in joyful celebrations, and create lasting memories. From the bustling streets of Delhi to the serene ghats of Varanasi, this trip offers a truly enchanting experience of India’s rich traditions and ancient heritage.
As part of your tour to Diwali and Dev Diwali, stay in converted forts, some of which are hundreds of years old, former palaces that were once home to royalty, and revel in the festive atmosphere of India’s festivals alongside the local people.
Tale of a Tear Shaped Island
Explore the ancient cities of Anurdhapura and Polonnaruwa and survey vast jungles from the top of the Sigiriya rock fortress on this quest to the far reaches of mythical Shangri-La in Sri Lanka. Journey to the far north of the island to Jaffna to witness the sinking church and discover the remote islands of Delft and Nagadeepa. Meet a local Sri Lankan martial arts master, taste Sri Lankan cuisine in a private spice garden and catch the train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, a track which is truly a marvel of engineering.
Stay in traditionally-inspired and heritage-listed hotels, join a local village family for dinner and try seafood on the beach on this tour of Sri Lanka.
Festival of Colour
Immerse yourself in India’s festive spirit with this tour to not one, but two of India’s colourful festivals – vibrant and colourful Holi & the Gangaur Festival. On this vibrant journey witness the illuminated cities, partake in joyful celebrations, and create lasting memories. From the bustling streets of Jaipur to the lake city of Udaipur, this trip offers a truly enchanting experience of India’s rich traditions and ancient heritage.
Experience India’s Holi festival, a riot of colour on the streets of the cities. Celebrate your Holi in Jaipur with the local residents at the historic Govind Dev Ji Temple and engage in the tradition of throwing vibrant gulal (powdered colours) at one another.
In Udaipur witness and join in the celebrations of the Gangaur Festival. Celebrated by the local women, the Gangaur Festival involves the wearing of the most colourful sari’s and marks the worship and homage paid to Gauri in celebration of spring, marital fidelity, the harvest and childbearing.
In between these amazing festivals go on safari for leopards and savor dinner in an Indian stepwell in Narlai, shop till you drop in Jaipur, enjoy a food tour through Old Delhi and witness the humbling spectacle of the Ganga Aarti in the holy city of Varanasi.
Visit the more off the beaten track villages of Rajasthan with visits to temples of Khajuraho and Orchha, and who could leave India with out dropping in on the Taj Mahal in Agra?
As part of your tour, stay in former palaces that were once home to royalty and traditional haveli’s – India’s former mansions. Eat in locally owned restaurants and delight in delectable local cuisine for included meals and enjoy authentic experiences which support the people on a local level.
What is Holi?
The Annapurna Villages
In the shadow of ancient peaks, where whispers mingle with the mist, lies a realm where mortal footsteps converge with ethereal pathways. Traverse the Annapurna region, where time dances on the precipice of enigma. Each step emboldens the seeker, as celestial symphonies guide the way. Amidst terraced whispers and majestic silence, the ephemeral veil lifts, revealing vistas that kindle the soul’s wanderlust. Within the rhythm of footfall, whispers of forgotten tales resound, etching mysteries upon the traveler’s heart. As daylight intertwines with shadow, the journey becomes a delicate balance between discovery and the allure of the unknown. Unveil the enigmatic beauty of the Annapurna, for within its emerald depths, destiny’s tapestry unfurls, and the seeker finds solace in the enigma of day trekking in Nepal.
Nestled amidst the majestic Himalayas, the villages of Gauchok, Astam, and Dhampus beckon with their timeless charm. Embark on a journey where time slows down, and the essence of Nepal’s rural life unfolds. As you traverse narrow paths lined with vibrant prayer flags, you’ll encounter warm smiles and welcoming hearts of the locals. Gauchok, with its quaint stone houses, offers a glimpse into traditional Nepali culture. After departing Gauchok we ascend to Dhampus by vehicle and then walk to our isolated eco lodge. Feel the serenity of this idyllic location…..and finally we follow the ridgeline down to Astam, where panoramic vistas of snow-capped peaks reward the intrepid explorer. And finally, Dhampus, a picturesque hamlet enveloped in terraced fields, invites tranquility and a deep connection with nature. These villages, with their authentic simplicity and stunning landscapes, paint a vivid portrait of Nepal’s rustic allure, leaving an indelible imprint on the soul of every visitor.
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Frequently asked questions about India Bhutan and Sri Lanka
Do I need visas to visit India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
India and Sri Lanka require at least an e-visa for most nationalities but please check with your consulate locally as visa requirements change frequently.
For Bangladesh and Bhutan please check with your nearest consulate.
Is tipping customary in India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
Yes. For services you undertake independently such as a meal in a restaurant you should budget roughly a 10% tip. Tipping is of course discretionary and should be in line with the quality of service received.
Tipping for local guides, drivers and other providers whose services are listed on the itinerary are included in the trip price.
Some street vendors may try to pressure you into providing a tip or ‘baksheesh.’ It is important that you only provide a tip if a service has been rendered and you feel the service has been up to standard. If you are being asked for ‘baksheesh’ by a provider of an included service, please direct the person to your trip leader or local guide.
How should I manage my spending money in India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
For India and Sri Lanka it is a good idea to bring some US dollars to change locally. ATM’s in large cities are reliable as long as they carry the MasterCard or Cirrus symbols. Card skimmers are widely used in 3rd party ATM’s so it is always best to use one that is inside a bank. Credit cards are widely accepted in both countries with the exception or local markets.
In Bhutan bring some US dollars to change for spending money. If you’re on an itinerary which includes India, Indian rupees are widely accepted in Bhutan. Credit cards are accepted in large cities and stores.
In Bangladesh it is a good idea to rely mostly on the exchange of US dollars although ATM’s are reliable in large cities. Credit cards are also widely accepted.
Can I use my phone in India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
You should check with your local provider if coverage is provided in the countries on your itinerary prior to departure. Make sure you are also aware of their international roaming charges.
It is fairly easy to pick up a local SIM card on arrival at the airport in India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, it becomes less easy to achieve this later on.
In Bangladesh you will need 2 passport sized photos and a photocopy of your passport and Bangladeshi visa to obtain a local SIM card.
If you wish to use a local SIM you will need to ensure your phone is unlocked prior to departure from your home country.
What is Internet access like in India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
Internet access in India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan is generally very good when in large cities or towns, it becomes less reliable in remote villages.
Hotels and cafes in large cities in Bangladesh will have WiFi although it may be somewhat unreliable.
What are the amenities like in India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
Toilets – All hotels in India and South Asia have clean, upright western toilets. Public toilets you encounter will likely be of the eastern squat variety.
Pharmacies – Pharmacies are readily available in major cities, although it is unlikely that the pharmacist will speak English. If you require medication from a pharmacy, please let your trip leader know as far in advance as possible. They will be able to arrange your local guide to go with you to collect what you need or the local guide may be able to pick up what you require on your behalf.
Hospitals – Hospitals in large cities are generally of a good standard. We ask that if you are feeling unwell that you let your tour leader know as soon as possible and consider their advice when it comes to hospital admission. Trip Leaders have the discretion to remove someone from the trip if they feel that continuing would endanger their health.
Please ensure you purchase adequate travel insurance that includes repatriation to your home country in the event of a medical emergency.
Can I bring my medication into India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
For all medication please carry a note from your GP detailing what medication you are on and why you are taking it to show to officials should you be asked.
Can I drink the water in India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
Absolutely not. Please do not even brush your teeth with the water. Most hotels provide complimentary bottled water for this purpose.
Drinking the water is likely to result in hospitalisation.
What is the food like in India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
We hope you like curry! We sure do! Chinese and Western dishes are also widely available.
Can my dietary requirements be accommodated in India Bhutan and Sri Lanka?
Absolutely. Please disclose these when you secure your place on the trip so that we can make our local providers aware. Your trip leader may not be able to accommodate any dietary requirements that have not been disclosed in advance.
If you have a gluten free diet, consider bringing some snack food from home. There will be plenty of fresh fruit in local markets, however, beyond that you may find that variety in snack foods for this diet may be somewhat lacking.
Is there a dress code in India Bhutan and Sri Lanka that I should be aware of?
Women should wear long trousers with a loose-fitting shirt or blouse over the top. Harem pants and a long kaftan work really well together and are readily and cost effectively available for purchase in markets locally. Women are required to cover their heads with a scarf in mosques.
Men should consider wearing long pants, shorts will attract stares.