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BEST OF INDIA

Available tour dates:
14 - 27 November, 2021 (available)
3 - 16 November, 2022 (available)
We've travelled much in India, but we never came across a tour that pays justice to India's incredible diversity and heritage. The Golden Triangle, Agra, Jaipur and Delhi are fascinating, but they are just a small part of India.

We decided to plan our own tour, and we are incredibly excited about it! We explore Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist culture; Mughal, British and modernist heritage; vibrant cities, diverse towns and the glorious Himalayan countryside.

We travel across the best of northern India: diverse, bustling Kolkata (former Calcutta); Darjeeling, the quintessential Indian hill station; Varanasi, the holiest of all Hindu towns, for Dev Diwali, when the Ganges ghats really come to life; Chandigarh's curious modernism; Amritsar's Golden Temple and Sikh culture; Srinagar's Sufi Muslim heritage; Leh's Buddhist heritage; and Delhi's many faces. We offer an optional extension to Agra and the Taj Mahal at the end of the tour.

14 days, 13 nights

KOLKATA/1 night - DARJEELING/2 nightS - VARANASI/2 nights - DELHI/2 nights - CHANDIGARH/1 night - AMRITSAR/1 night - SRINAGAR/2 nights - LEH/1 night - DELHI/1 or 2 nights - Optional 1 day extension to AGRA and the TAJ MAHAL
Day 1, Sunday
Welcome to India!

If this is your first visit, we want you to experience the sheer chaos of Calcutta first. We believe this is a great city. We love the architecture and the spirit here. We are only spend-ing one night. There is much in Calcutta to explore, and the city grows slowly on you. But in the spirit of this tour, we want to dive you deep in an array of sights of experiences, and then continue along our trail - the best of India.

Transfer from airport to hotel - it should take around an hour in traffic to get you to central Calcutta. Calcutta is sheer madness, and this is the beauty of it. We will stay at the centrally located Oberoi Grand. Some time to rest, before we set off to explore a few of the curious faces of Calcutta: first a metro ride (this is India's first subway system, and it is still very Soviet in spirit!) to Victoria Memorial and St Paul's Cathedral. Then a tram ride (another icon of Calcutta) to BBD Bagh square in the heart of the city, the former China-town. We will explore Mother Theresa's heritage to the city, idol makers and visit local wrestlers - all fascinating sides to this historic metropolis. Expect a busy afternoon. Lunch and dinner in two of Calcutta's iconic restaurants.

Overnight in Kolkata, one night, Oberoi Grand. (Lunch, dinner.)
Day 2, Monday
An early breakfast and we are off to the airport. We will take a short domestic flight to Pakyong airport in the Himalayan state of Sikkim - the airport is a newly opened wonder of engineering. Pakyong does not always operate flights, however. Most flights land in Bagdogra, West Bengal. We will know at which airport we are landing closer to the departure of the tour. From Pakyong or Bagdogra we will drive to Kalimpong, a wonderfully lush hill station on the border between Sikkim and West Bengal (this is where Yuri was writing his Masters thesis for a few weeks back in 2012). We will have our lunch in Kalimpong, in the historic hotel where many of the Tibet and Everest expeditions were launched from. Then we have a short drive to our Glenburn Tea Estate, where we will stay two nights. Free time to rest or wan-der around the tea gardens - with some stunning views of hills and peaks around. Glenburn is also the place where Wes Anderson got inspiration to make his Darjeeling Express movie. Dinner at the Estate. Glenburn is a little bit lower than Darjeeling - which makes for a milder, more pleasant climate, and easier breathing.

Overnight in Darjeeling, two nights, Glenburn Tea Estate. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)
Day 3, Tuesday
We will enjoy a splendid breakfast on the veranda, and then head to nearby Darjeeling for a walk to explore some of the British and Nepalese heritage in town. Darjeeling is the most interesting and beautiful of Indian and Asian colonial hill station. We will have lunch in town, and then head back to our plantation. A tour of the tea factory, which makes the finest Darjeeling teas. Some free time to rest or en-joy spectacular nature. Dinner at our lodge.

Overnight in Darjeeling, second night, Glenburn Tea Estate. (Breakfast, dinner.)
Day 4, Wednesday
Today we are off early, just before sunrise. We will drive to a nearby hill from where we will watch the sunrise over some of the highest peaks in the Himalaya: Kanchenjunga (third highest in the world) and Mount Everest (highest). Mornings in November are clear, and we want to take advantage of this. Afterwards we will take the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to Kurseong station - a ride of just two hours, passing the highest station on the Indian Subcontinent, Ghum, at 2258 metres or 7407 feet, spectacu-lar scenery and the market of Kurseong - with sellers removing their stalls just before the train passes. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a stunningly beautiful ride. From Kurseong we will hop back to our minibus for a 1.30 hours ride to New Jalpaiguri station (the toy train ride takes more than five hours!). In the afternoon we will take the Rajdhani, India's premier sleeper train, to Varanasi. We will be accommodated in first class sleeping carriages. Packed lunch and dinner onboard the train. Rajdhani trains include meals. The food is safe, but may not always look too appealing. We will have our own offering of meals. If you have any food left, we will give it to people in need in Varanasi. We don't throw food away! We will arrive rather late in Varanasi. Rest while onboard the train, take a nap, and enjoy India through the window. We are staying at the cosiest and most comfortable zotel in Varanasi, with stun-ning views through the window to the holy Ganges river.

Overnight in Varanasi, two nights. BrijRama. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)
Day 5, Thursday
We will spend the day exploring Varanasi and its ghats, stairs on the Holy Ganges river. Today is Dev Diwali, the Festival of the Lights of the Gods. In the evening, a million lights will be lit in honour of the goddess Ganga. This is the most special day in Varanasi, the holiest Hindu city. Lunch and dinner at our hotel, which enjoys a spectacular position over the river. Events and experiences during the day to be confirmed.

Overnight in Varanasi, second night. BrijRama. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)
Day 6, Friday
In the morning we set off to Varanasi airport, for a short flight to Delhi. We will stop at the Qutab Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site not far from Delhi airport. We will pass through the India Gate in New Delhi, the ceremonial heart of India. Check in at our Imperial Hotel, and a light lunch at the hotel. Some time to rest. In the afternoon we will have a walk in New Delhi, stopping to see the Jantar Mantar observatory, and Connaught Circle, the commercial hub of New Delhi, exploring some of its secrets. Dinner in a good local restaurant.

Overnight in Delhi, two nights, Imperial Hotel. (Breakfast, lunch.)
Day 7, Saturday
In the morning we will head to see the Delhi Red Fort, the Mughal Dynasty stronghold and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then we will have a walk through the fascinating and utterly crowded old town of Delhi, stopping at the huge Jama Masjid, Friday Mosque. Lunch in the old town, and then back to our hotel for a free afternoon. There is much to see and experience in Delhi - or you can just rest. Those who want can join for a trip to the Lotus Baha'i temple in Delhi - the most popular and iconic building in India after the Taj Mahal. Dinner on your own in the hotel or nearby restaurant.

Overnight in Delhi, second night, Imperial Hotel. (Breakfast.)
Day 8, Sunday
After an early breakfast, we are off to nearby New Delhi Station. Our suitcases will continue to Chandigarh by road, while we will take the faster and more comfortable and safer Shatabdi express train to Chandigarh. It will take approximately three hours to Chandigarh, the modernist planned capital of Punjab and Haryana. Chandigarh is the only planned city in India after the World War and Partition with Pakistan. Today it is the most affluent city in India. It's also the only city without traffic problems. Roads are wide, and the city is spread out. Transfer from the station to our Taj Hotel in Sector 17, downtown Chandigarh. Buffet lunch in the hotel, and some time to freshen up. In the afternoon we will explore the three most interesting sights in Chandigarh: the University, with its famous Ghandi Bhawan pavillion, the Capitol Complex - Secretariat, High Court and Assembly - designed by Le Corbusier, and today UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And lastly, Nek Chand's Rock Garden, one of the most curious sights in India - a park created solely using industrial waste left from the building of Chandigarh. We will pass many of the standardised housing in Chandigarh. We will have dinner in a local restaurant, and try Chandigarh's famous sweets. It's a unique city, and I hope to spark your curiosity in brutalist architecture adapted to Indian climate and society.

Overnight in Chandigarh, one night, Taj Chandigarh. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner.)
Day 9, Monday
After an early breakfast we start our drive across Punjab, to Amritsar. We will be driving on the Grand Trunk road in the less busy section after Chandigarh. Amritsar is close to the border with Pakistan. We will arrive around noon, checking in at our Ramada Amritsar hotel, the only comfortable hotel located inside the old town of Amritsar. At 1 pm we will walk to the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the holiest site for Sikhs. It is a spectacular and enchanting place. We will have our light lunch at the temple - together with tens of thousands of other people, from all walks of life, millionaires to homeless. Food is served for free at the temple every day and night. We can leave a donation or even help clean up or cook after we are done with our meal. A bit of free time in Amritsar and we leave for the nearby Waggah-Attari border crossing (one of two open border posts with Pakistan), for the evening closing ceremony. It's an absurdly lavish show, with border troops of both countries marching in full ceremonial attire as they lower their countries' flags for the night. Back to Amritsar for dinner and overnight.

Overnight in Amritsar, one night, Ramada hotel. (Breakfast, lunch.)
Day 10, Tuesday
Buffet breakfast at the hotel, and morning on your own to wander around Amritsar's old town, Golden Temple, or perhaps visit Jallianwala Bagh, the site of the 1919 massacre, when British troops fired on unarmed civilins - killing between 400 and 1000. At 11 am we will set off to the nearby Amritsar airport, for our short lunch flight to Srinagar, capital of Kashmir. We will have a light lunch pack to eat at the airport or during the flight. In Srinagar we will check in at our Sukoon houseboat on Dal lake - an ab-solute wonder! Free time to rest, and a little walk before dinner.

Overnight in Srinagar, two nights, Sukoon houseboat. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 11, Wednesday
After a hearty breakfast we will have a walk in the old town, appreciating and learning more about Srinagar's Sufi culture, including the Khanqah Shahi-Hamadan wooden mosque. Srinagar is unique for its Islamic culture - many Sufi scholars left Central Asia and settled in Srinagar to escape religious persecution. A home cooked Kashmiri lunch. Afternoon on your own leisure - wander the old town, or enjoy more of Dal Lake. Dinner at our houseboat.

Overnight in Srinagar, second night, Sukoon houseboat. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 12, Thursday
After lunch we set for the airport for our short but spectacular flight to Leh, capital of Ladakh. Leh is located at high altitude, about 3500 metres or 11,500 feet. When we walk, we will walk slow. We recommend pills, and will have oxygen available. We will stay about 24 hours only, so we do not expect altitude sickness symptoms to set in until the last hours of our stay. From the airport we will head to nearby Thiksey Gumpa and Chemrey Gumpa, the most picturesque Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh. We will have a home cooked lunch near one of the monasteries. In the afternoon we set off to Leh, checking in at our cen-tral Grand Dragon hotel. Time to rest. Those who want to have a walk, Leh's central market is nearby, and so is the Leh palace - but walk slow! Dinner in Leh.

Overnight in Leh, one night, Grand Dragon hotel. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 13, Friday
After breakfast we will have a bit of free time - we can explore more of Leh or rest. A short flight to Delhi - another utterly spectacular flight across the heart of the Himalaya mountains. We will have a light packed lunch at the airport or flight. In Delhi we will drive to our hotel, Lodhi or Oberoi (adjacent), and on the way stop to see the Tomb of Mughal ruler Humayun (son of Babur, founder of the dynasty) and the shrine of Nizamuddin, one of the most unique sights of Delhi. Farewell dinner in a local restaurant, perhaps nearby Masala House.

Overnight in Delhi, Lodhi or Oberoi Hotel, one night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 14, Saturday
Day 14, Saturday: End of tour. Breakfast and transfers to Delhi airport.

Breakfast.
Day 15, Sunday
There is an optional day trip extension to Agra and the Taj Mahal. We start in the morning at 8.10 am, taking the fast Gatiman train from nearby Nizamuddin station. We expect to arrive in Agra at 9.50 am, and from there straight to the Taj Mahal. We will see it, then go for a good lunch, with a view, in Agra. In the afternoon we will see Agra Fort (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) and then go back to the station in time for our 17.50 pm train to Delhi. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Delhi included.
€4760 per person, sharing double or twin room, €740 single supplement.
The number of travelers is limited to 12.

The Agra and Taj Mahal extension costs €270 per person.
It includes tickets for the fast Gatiman express train to and from Agra-Delhi and transfer to the railway station, transport in and around Agra, all inclusive tickets for the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, and a delicious lunch with view in Agra. The price also includes an extra night at the Lodhi or Oberoi hotel in Delhi, and dinner at the hotel.

Price includes
  • Accommodation in carefully selected hotels in Kolkata, Darjeeling, Varanasi, Delhi, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Srinagar, Leh. Yes, we've stayed at all these hotels, and we love them.
  • All meals according to program (tips for the waiters included, alcohol mostly not included).
  • Transportation with an air-conditioned minibus, with all border and toll taxes and bribes, parking fees, daily allowance and accommodation for the driver.
  • English speaking guide throughout the tour, including guide-accommodation and daily allowance.
  • Tickets for all museums and sights according to the itinerary.
  • Mineral water on the bus.
  • A welcome pack including maps, brochures, gifts, etc.
Price does not include
  • Personal medical/travel insurance.
  • Tips for driver and guide.
  • Any other additional personal costs: laundry, phone calls, etc.
  • Independent meals according to the itinerary.
  • Flights in and out of the region.
Important information and booking conditions
Reservations and payment
Please fill in the Reservation Form with all details needed and send it to office@lyuba.tours or yuri@lyuba-.tours. A deposit, upon booking, at the amount of €500 per person is required to assure your place. The final payment is to be made no later than three months before the start of the tour.

Extra nights in Calcutta, Delhi, and transfers
If you want to spend an extra night or two or more prior or after the tour, we can make a reservation for you or you can make a direct arrangement with the hotel. We can also recommend a nearby hotel which may be cheaper. Please note that we have included transfers in the price - advice us of your arrival and departure times. Which brings us to...

... flights
We love arranging flights, but in this case, we won't. You are responsible for booking your flight ticket. We can always help you with an advice.

Tour information
Once we get your deposit, us folks at Lyuba Tours will immediately send a confirmation of space by e-mail. We will also send reading materials, music and more information about the country: what to bring, what to expect, money, weather, food and other wise. We will send all this by snail mail or email.

About a month before the tour, we will send you hotel and rooming lists, emergency numbers and any last-minute notes. We will be happy if you meet payment and document submittal deadlines to insure we have time to post your materials. Upon arrival in India, you will find even more stuff awaiting you: maps, phrase-books, postcards, and more.

Customs and entry requirements
For this trip you require a passport with at least six months validity following the last day of the tour. That passport should have a blank page for a stamp.

Visas are required for U.S., Canadian and most western citizens traveling to India. You can apply for an
e-visa online on: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in.
If you don't happen to be a U.S. citizen, please make sure you have whatever documents are necessary to en-ter (and exit) India. We can help with this as well. Regulations are subject to change, and we will try to in-form you of the latest changes.

Travel insurance
We strongly advise you to have a travel insurance for the trip. Situations may arise, voluntarily or involun-tarily, in which the traveler cancels. We can recommend a comprehensive travel insurance plan, if you don't have one already. Insurance should cover trip cancellation, lost or damaged baggage, medical needs, and cer-tain travel-related accidents. We highly recommend trip-cancellation insurance. Although please do read the insurance company's fine print, especially the section on 'pre-existing conditions'.

Ground transportation
We will travel across India in a comfortable, air-conditioned private minibus. Smoking is NOT permitted on the vehicle. We will also use some local means of transport, including air-conditioned, safe trains and flights.

Health regulations
Please see the CDC's website for recommended inoculations: www.cdc.gov. We suggest you check with your doctor for medical advice regarding the trip and your health. It is also suggested you discuss updating your tetanus and diphtheria booster.

Health considerations
To get the most out of a tour, a traveler should be in good physical and mental health, able and willing to walk, climb steps, and participate in group events. This trip requires moderate walking, sometimes over un-even or cobbled streets or paths. If assistance is needed, a participant should travel with a companion. You must also be able to carry your own hand luggage, so please go light! Any physical or mental disability re-quiring special help or assistance must be noted in writing on the reservation form.

Opportunities for adventure
This tour is designed for those interested in learning everything about India. We will present you with all sorts of perspectives, and you will see many shades of this fascinating part of the world.

Also, this is a moderately active program ('soft' adventure). Since some of the travel will be in remote areas,
travel participants need to be flexible concerning time schedules, food and weather. Roads may be bumpy. Don't expect to find things exactly as they are at home! If that were the case, why travel? Occasionally, we may experience delays, alterations in the plans, some discomforts and inconveniences. But we will also expe-rience a different culture and our minds and souls will be expanded! A spirit of adventure and tolerance is absolutely fundamental to participation in any of our tours.

Wandering Policy
We encourage everyone to partake in all the sightseeing and special activities. We've spent months research-ing and preparing a full and exciting program. However, if you would like to venture out on your own, or take personal time for rest or shopping, you may do so. This is your trip! We only ask that you alert our group leader and guide when you will be separating and rejoining the group. Please take extra security pre-cautions with your belongings and yourself.

Changes in itinerary
Every effort will be made to operate this tour in accordance with the itinerary shown, including all activities as advertised. Museums and features are subject to scheduling. Occasionally, changes are made to improve an itinerary or enhance a certain feature. Unforeseen local conditions beyond our control may prevent the completion of an itinerary or require alterations in an itinerary. These local conditions can include inclement weather, seasonal variations in climate, changes in airline schedules and equipment, government appropriation of hotel space, and other events beyond our control that would jeopardize the traveler's comfort, safety, health, or enjoyment. In these cases, the right is reserved to substitute hotels, and to alter the itinerary for the comfort and safety of the travelers. The right is also reserved to cancel the tour prior to departure.

Cancellations and refunds
Should Lyuba Tours cancel a departure for the reason of insufficient number of participants to operate the tour with no increase in cost, a full refund of all monies paid will be made.

On the participant's part, cancellation or change of date will result in a per person cancellation fee of €500, irrespective of reason up to 90 days before the tour. Cancellation made 89 days to 30 days before the tour will result in a cancellation fee of €750. From 29 days before the tour, the cancellation fee will be at the amount of the tour. Should your cancellation cause the number of participants to fall below the required number to operate the trip, and a replacement member cannot be found, the full portion of the trip will be forfeited. If a person requests a room share to avoid the single supplement and then cancels after final payment is made and a roommate has been assigned, then the person canceling forfeits the single supplement if a share cannot be found.

Should a person cancel a trip voluntarily, and if payment was made by a bank wire, the amount of bank wire expense charged to Lyuba Tours will be deducted from the refund amount.

Once the tour begins, no refund may be claimed for all or any part of the tour fee. Unused or changed hotel accommodations, transportation, or other services or features of the tour are neither refundable nor ex-changeable.
Cancellations will only be accepted via e-mail, at office@lyuba.tours or info@lyubatours.com.

Sponsorship
A large part of what we make goes back to the community. We support disadvantaged kids and isolated, ru-ral communities. We plan to invest even more time, effort and money on this. We also have plans to support, each year, one artist, in return for artwork we can use in our work. And not least, one day, hopefully soon, open a school for disadvanted kids.
Questions and answers
Why not Bhutan?
Bhutan is the type of place that you need to explore slowly, therefore we recommend taking a separate Bhutan tour. Also, Bhutan is much more expensive. And we think the neighbouring Himalayan destinations, Darjeeling and Ladakh, which we have included on our Best of India tour, to be much more rewarding culturally and historically.

Why not Jaipur and the Golden Triangle?
Jaipur, part of the Golden Triangle of Indian tourism, is the easy destination promoted by numerous tour operators. It is by far not the best of India! India is a diverse country with numerous ethnic and religious communities. The Golden Triangle simply does not pay homage to the India we love.

Is India safe?
Yes. The places we visit are safe. We pay careful attention to food, water, basic sanitation, transport. We avoid busy places where many tourists gather, and which attract pickpockets and petty criminals. Terrorism-wise, India is not more dangerous than any other country in the world.

All your best sights are in northern India. Why not South India?
Most of the best and most famous sites of India are located in the north. Climate-wise, it also makes sense to focus on just one "half" of India. But we are considering a southern India tour in the future. Running, possibly, from Chennai to Mumbai, via Pondicherry, Kanyakumari, Kerala, Ooty, Hampi, Goa, and maybe even Gujarat. Stay tuned!

Our tour goes to Leh, Ladakh. Do we risk getting altitude sickness in Ladakh?
Let is at 3500-m, or 11,500 feet. However, we spend less than 24 hours there. Whenever we walk, we will walk slowly. We do recommend taking altitude sickness pills, a day before we reach Leh. We will also provide oxygen. We expect that by the time you get altitude sickness symptoms, we will leave Ladakh.

What clothes should we pack? What will the weather be like?
Weather will be dry, and ranging from cool to warm. Please be prepared for cool, windy nights in Srinagar and Darjeeling. And almost freezing weather in Leh, Ladakh. We recommend dressing in layers, including a windproof outer shell, a warm sweater, and a hat.
Meet your guide
YURI BOYANIN
Yuri is Lyuba's son. Travel is in his blood. He's been on the road since 28 days old. Ever since, he's visited 130 countries on all continents. He is enormously passionate about the world, about art, architecture and history. He is eager to show you some of the Caucasus' and Central Asia's most splendid and least known corners, which he has explored for years. Yuri has a PhD in History.
PHOTO GALLERY
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