through the looking glass
Walking is often the best way to experience what a destination has to offer – its landscape, history and culture. Escorted by a Mindful Practitioner, in this walking holiday, not only do you do that but also practice mindfulness to heighten awareness of the surroundings. With the stunning Dhauladhar mountain range never too far away, walks in Dharamsala, the home of the 14th Dalai Lama, and Palampur, will be in complete resonance with nature. In the pretty village of Karjan, walks are about immersing the self in the unspoilt nature, local culture of the Himalayan villages and their way of life. In Shimla, take in the history and listen to the many stories, whilst exploring the once summer capital of British India on foot. This a unique bonding and learning experience with compelling conversation, making it a one of a kind walking holiday where you are mindful and awake.
- October to mid-December and again mid-March to mid-April is ideal for this itinerary. Late December through February is peak winter in the region with snowfall likely to cause disruptions to the itinerary and hence avoidable.
- The Rhododendrons are in bloom from mid-March till mid-April.
- The 17th Karmapa, the second most important Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, whenever he is in Dharamsala, grants an audience and blesses people every Wednesday at the Gyuto Tantric University.
- The seven-day long Kullu Dussehra, which is held in the month of October, is the best time to visit Manali. We recommend a day trip from Karjan to witness the Kullu Dussehra celebrations.
- Walks are moderate to easy, often on an incline. Ranging from 3-4 hours a day to even a full day of walking on Day 3 and 12.
day wise itinerary
Warm welcome at the airport by the representative and transfer to aero city hotel.
Fly to Dharamsala, home of the 14th Dalai Lama. Check into the hotel where each room is decorated with appliquéd fabrics, hand-knotted carpets, carved wooden furniture and beautiful murals dedicated to a unique Tibetan theme. In the afternoon, visit the Dalai Lama Monastery and do a Kora in silence. A Kora is a Tibetan Buddhist ritual of walking around a sacred site in a clockwise direction. End the day with a leisurely walk around the Mcleodganj market with its many colourful shops.
Head out early in the morning for a long day walk to Triund. Triund is an alpine meadow situated atop a flat ridge with fine views of the Dhauladhar range on one side and the Kangra valley on the other.
Spend a relaxed morning in the hotel. Later in the day, explore the Norbulingka Institute – a beautiful tranquil space with neat winding stone paths. Visit its many workshops dedicated to Tibetan art and craft. Norbulingka means Treasure Garden in the Tibetan language. The original Norbulingka is in Lhasa, Tibet and is the world’s highest, and largest man-made horticultural garden.
Drive to Palampur. En route visit the Kangra Fort, one of India’s oldest forts, built 3500 years ago and the largest in the Himalayas. From the time the fort was first mentioned in Alexander the Great’s war records to the British Army, who occupied it till 1905, the Kangra Fort has changed hands several times, with each conqueror adding to it. Later, spend time in a tea factory to know more about the local Kangra Tea (subject to permission). Tea cultivation was introduced in and around the Palampur foothills in the mid-19th century. Check into the hotel built on fifteen acres of camphor forest and tea gardens in the foothills of the Dhauladhar mountain range. Spend a relaxed afternoon in the hotel.
Bir is one of finest spots for paragliding in the world and hosted the Paragliding World Cup in 2015. From Bir, walk to the Sherabling Monastery with great views of the Dhauladhar ranges. Spend time at the monastery which has a calm, rejuvenating and welcoming vibe, with its gleaming polished wooden floors, beautiful paintings and neat arrangements for monks to sit and meditate. On the way back, stop at the 12th century Baijnath Temple to witness the spiritual traditions of the locals and travellers stopping by. Spend a relaxed afternoon in the hotel.
Drive to Karjan, a quiet village located 20 minutes away from busy Manali. Check into the hotel which is a contemporary take on traditional architecture of Himachal Pradesh and a wonderful mix of stone, mud and wood. Spend a relaxed afternoon in the hotel.
Drive to Soel village and walk to the beautifully located Haripur stream. From here, follow a forest trail on foot till Dashal village. Walk around Dashal village with its Kath Khuni houses – great examples of the fast disappearing indigenous Himachali architecture with its small windows, sloping roofs and deep balconies. Also visit a 11th century Shiva temple.
Walk through apple orchards on the way to Dhamsu village. From here, walk to Sajla village and visit a local temple. Continue walking further, through the forest, to a small waterfall which is the source of drinking water for the villages of Sajla, Dhamsu and Karjan.
Drive to Shimla, the erstwhile summer capital of Colonial India built on seven hills, like Rome, and Bhopal in central India. Check into the 130-year-old colonial hotel. Spend a relaxed afternoon in the hotel.
Go for an easy paced walk around one of the seven hills – the Elysium Hill, which is tantalizingly close to the busy Mall Road, yet surprisingly peaceful and quiet.
Explore the Heritage Zone of Shimla on foot, listening to wonderful stories of its many colonial buildings as you slowly make your way to the Viceregal Lodge over the entire day.
Start early to go on a nature hike starting from the house where Rudyard Kipling wrote “Kim” and “Plain Tales from The Hills”, past a haunted hill, villages, brooks, meadows, grasslands and forests to arrive at the art gallery of a Shimla painter. Lunch at the art gallery.
Take the toy-train ride from Shimla to Kalka enjoying the picturesque scenery and listening to wonderful stories on the way. Opened for traffic in 1903, this 96kms railway track is now listed amongst the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Continue to Delhi by train. On arrival, transfer to the international terminal for the onward flight.
The long, winding, pedestrian-only Ridge, or more popularly the Mall Road, in Shimla is a continental divide. From the north side of the Ridge, the rain water drains into the Sutlej river and flows into the Arabian Sea, whereas the south side drains into the Yamuna and makes the long journey to the Bay of Bengal.
The festival of Kullu Dussehra held during the month of October in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh is dedicated to Rama – the central figure of the Hindu epic Ramayana. During the seven-day festival, nearly 200 village deities worshipped in the various temples of the Kullu valley arrive in decorated palanquins to pay respect to Rama. The idol of Rama arrives on a beautifully designed chariot pulled by his devotees. On the last day of the festival, a mass of wood grass is burned on the banks of river Beas, symbolic of the burning of Lanka as depicted in the Ramayana. All deities then bid goodbye and are carried back to their respective temples with the promise to return next year.
north India from the journal
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