Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Travels Round India

A huge jewel of a country with lots to see and do from the mysterious kingdom of Bhutan to Jodhpur otherwise known as the Blue City or have a restful break enjoying the Kerala backwaters a chain of lakes and lagoons linked by rivers and canals, with a unique eco-system created by the meeting of freshwater with seawater from the Arabian Sea or just revel in the majestic splendour of the Taj Mahal
Saga has a wide range of tours which cover the high points of the incredible country

The Himalayan Trail to Bhutan 17 Nights Saga (Check Availability)

This enchanting tour takes you from the bustling capital of India into the foothills of the Himalayas where you have the chance to explore the picturesque hill stations of Darjeeling and Gangtok before heading into little-visited Bhutan-Travel through breath-taking scenery to discover the spiritual, historical and cultural highlights of this tiny mountain kingdom with visits to quaint towns, magnificent temples and serene monasteries-Please note: Bhutan is a unique and highly rewarding destination, but you will find that the tourism infrastructure and local cuisine can sometimes be basic. We use the best quality hotels available- VIP door-to-door travel service-Travel insurance-Return scheduled flights and transfers-All breakfasts, eight lunches and all dinners including a farewell dinner-Excursions as described-Saga tour manager-Porterage at all hotels-Tourist visa-17 nights from £3,099.00 per person

Days 1-2 UK to Delhi-After taking Saga’s included UK VIP door-to-door travel service to Gatwick, fly overnight to Delhi. You are met at the airport and taken to the Suryaa Hotel for a two-night stay. Enjoy a lecture on Bhutan and the Darjeeling and Sikkim hills.

Day 3 Delhi-See the contrasts of Old and New Delhi with an included morning sightseeing tour. Highlights include seeing the intricate carving on India’s tallest stone tower, the 12th-century Qutab Minar, and visiting the Jama Masjid, the country’s largest mosque. Lunch is included at a local restaurant-In the evening perhaps learn more about India’s capital with an optional sound and light show at the Red Fort which unfolds the history of the city.

Day 4 Delhi to Bagdogra to Darjeeling-Travel to the airport and fly to Bagdogra from where you are driven on a winding road through spectacular scenery to the hill station of Darjeeling. Breath-taking views of the Himalayas and surrounding tea plantations await you around every corner in this charming mountaintop town-Check in to the Mayfair Resort Darjeeling for a two-night stay and spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure.

Day 5 Darjeeling-An optional early morning excursion to Tiger Hill gives you the opportunity to see the sunrise over the Himalayas. On a clear day, it is possible to catch a glimpse of Mount Everest-Later, enjoy an unforgettable steam-train ride on the world-famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to Ghoom and visit a renowned Buddhist monastery- In the afternoon visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute started by Tenzing Norgay, who climbed Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary, the Himalayan Zoological Park and the Tibetan Refugee Centre where you can buy handicrafts.

Day 6 Darjeeling to Gangtok-Leave Darjeeling and travel to Gangtok where you stay for two nights at the Mayfair Resort Gangtok -Later, visit the nearby Rumtek Monastery which is decorated with brightly-coloured frescoes and Tibetan art.

Day 7 Gangtok-The capital of the Sikkim region, Gangtok is another city set on a mountain ridge. You may join an optional excursion visiting the Enchey Monastery and other sites in the area today.

Day 8 Gangtok to Phuntsholing-Your tour continues, crossing the border from India into the Kingdom of Bhutan at Phuntsholing where you stay overnight at the Druk Phuntsholing-Lunch is included en route.

Day 9 Phuntsholing to Thimphu-Today you travel to the capital of Bhutan, home to about a sixth of the 700,000 inhabitants of this mountainous country. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant en route. You stay for the next two nights at the Hotel Kisa or Hotel Migmar

Day 10 Thimphu-Enjoy an included sightseeing tour of the city this morning taking in the extensive collection of Buddhist manuscripts at the National Library, the Zorig Chusum or painting school and the Textile and Folk Heritage Museum- Lunch is included at a local restaurant followed by a visit to Trashichhoedzong, which is the seat of the government, the centre of religion and the site of the monarch’s throne. You also visit the King’s Memorial and a handicraft emporium.

Day 11 Thimphu to Punakha-Along with Thimphu and Paro, Punakha is one of Bhutan’s three most important sites collectively known as the ‘golden triangle’-Today you travel to this region with a stop at Dochula Pass to admire the views and the colourful prayer flags. Punakha is the former capital of the kingdom at the confluence of two rivers-After an included lunch, visit the ornate Punakha Dzong, which is the centre of administration for the district. Stay two nights at the Damchen Resort or Punatsangchhu Cottages

Day 12 Punakha-Visit a market, see the temple of Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten and visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang, a nunnery overlooking the Punakha and Wangdue valleys. Return to Punakha for lunch and see Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple.

Day 13 Punakha to Paro-Visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress in Bhutan, which dates back to 1627, on the way to Paro. Lunch is included today-In the afternoon you visit Dungtse Lhakhang, Pana Lhakhang and Rinpung Dzong which was built by Bhutan’s first spiritual leader in 1646-Stay two nights at the Hotel Olathang  or Tashi Namgay Resort

Day 14 Paro-Learn more about Bhutanese history and culture on today’s included excursion. See the area’s most important sites including the ruined fortress, Drukgyel Dzong, and Bhutan’s most famous monastery at Taktsang as well as a Bhutanese farm house. Lunch is included.

Day 15 Paro to Kolkata-Leave Bhutan today and fly to Kolkata where you stay two nights at the Oberoi Grand Hotel

Day 16 Kolkata-Join an included tour of Kolkata's main sights, including the Grand Victoria Memorial and Gardens and St Paul's Cathedral.

Days 17-18 Kolkata to UK-Travel to the airport for your overnight flight, arriving the following morning for your included UK VIP door-to-door travel service home.

Rajasthan: The Princely State 15 Nights Saga (Check Availability)

Ruled for centuries by the elite maharajas and warrior Rajputs, the desert state of Rajasthan is crowned with majestic palaces, temples and hilltop forts. From the romantic lakeside city of Udaipur to the Pink City of Jaipur, you can discover its most fabulous sights on this two-week tour-Also experience the luxurious Rajasthani lifestyle with two-night stays in a trio of unique hotels which have been awarded heritage status- VIP door-to-door travel service-Travel insurance and additional cancellation cover-Return flights and transfers-Half board-Excursions as described-Saga tour manager-Porterage at all hotels-Tourist visa-15 nights from £2,499.00 per person

Day 1-2 UK to Delhi-After taking Saga's UK door-to-door travel service to the airport and fly overnight to Delhi. Upon arrival, travel to the Hyatt Regency Hotel

Day 3 Delhi-Discover both aspects of Delhi on an included full-day tour to see such sights as busy Chandni Chowk, Humayun’s 16th-century Mughal tomb and India Gate.

Day 4 Delhi to Udaipur to Delwara-Travel back to the airport and fly to Udaipur from where you'll then travel to Delwara for a two-night stay at the heritage hotel Devigarh by Lebua a converted 17th-century fort.

Day 5 Udaipur-Discover the restored palaces in Udaipur's historic heart and see the Jagdish Temple's delicate carved columns on an included morning city tour. Afterwards, perhaps join an optional boat trip on Lake Pichola.

Day 6 Udaipur to Ranakpur to Rohet-Travel to Rohet, pausing at the magnificent 15th-century Jain temple of Ranakpur which encompasses 27 halls and 1,444 etched pillars. Continue to the heritage hotel Rohet Garh (4Q), where you are invited to share the Singh fanily's ancestral home for the next two nights.

Day 7 Jodhpur-The Marwar kingdom’s capital for five centuries, Jodhpur's formidable walled exterior conceals three beautiful palaces which you can see on an included morning tour. Also visit the Jaswant Thada royal cenotaphs before the chance to tour a tribal village on an optional excursion.

Day 8 Rohet to Jaisalmer-Spend today travelling across the Thar Desert for a two-night stay at the Suryagarh a modern hotel which resembles a medieval fort.

Day 9 Jaisalmer-Explore an impressive 12th-century citadel, admire elegant sandstone havelis and visit centuries old Jain temples on an included sightseeing tour this morning. This afternoon, an included camel ride culminates with watching the sun set over the desert.

Day 10 Jaisalmer to Gajner-Travel across the northern reaches of the Thar Desert for your two-night stay at the Gajner Palace  a former maharaja’s palace which is now a Grand Heritage hotel.

Day 11 Bikaner-Visit Bikaner's impressive Junagarh Fort, which conceals elaborate palace rooms of mosaics and murals, on an included morning excursion.

Day 12 Gajner to Samode-Travel to Samode for a two-night stay at the 250-year-old Samode Bagh which was once the private sanctuary of the Samode royal family. You'll stay in a tented cottage with its own small outdoor seating area.

Day 13 The Amber Fort and Jaipur-An included morning excursion will reveal the royal palace and temples behind the 16th-century walls of the Amber Fort, the former Rajput capital. Tour its replacement, the Pink City of Jaipur, this afternoon where highlights include City Palace, Jantar Mantar observatory and the famous Palace of the Winds.

Day 14 Samode to Fatehpur Sikri to Agra-Visit the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri, a beautiful 16th-century city which was capital of the Mughal empire for just 14 years, en route to Agra. Spend two nights at The Gateway Perhaps join an optional excurison to Mahtab Bagh, the former site of a Mughal pleasure garden which has been replanted and offers a glimpse of the Taj Mahal across the river.

Day 15 Agra-An early start will be rewarded with viewing the Taj Mahal at dawn. Return to the hotel for breakfast and the rest of the morning at leisure before an included afternoon excursion to the Agra Fort and the exquisite tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah. Enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel tonight.

Day 16 Agra to Delhi to UK-After an early breakfast, transfers to the airport for your return flight, arriving this evening for your included UK door-to-door travel service home.

Soul of Kerala 12 Nights Saga (Check Availability)

Step back in time on this exciting new tour of Kerala which will reveal the enduring allure of its enchanting backwaters and wildlife-rich forests, as well as verdant tea and spice plantations, before concluding on the Malabar coast-With stays aboard a cruiser and a selection of comfortable and unique resorts, you can experience the Keralan way-of-life at a relaxed pace-This tour includes one night aboard aircraft-VIP door-to-door travel service-Travel insurance-Return scheduled flights and transfers-All breakfasts, three lunches and all dinners including a farewell dinner-Excursions as described-Saga tour manager-Porterage at all accommodation-Tourist visa-12 nights from £2,199.00 per person

Days 1-2 UK to Cochin-After taking Saga's included VIP door-to-door travel service to Gatwick, depart for your overnight flight to Cochin-Spread out across several islands, an included sightseeing tour will reveal this cosmopolitan city's main sights including Fort Cochin's mix of Dutch and Portugese architectural styles, and the elaborate Chinese fishing nets that line the shore-This evening, a traditional Kathakali dance performance will engage you with colourful scenes from ancient Hindu legend. Stay overnight at the Holiday Inn Cochin

Day 3 Cochin to Alleppey to Backwaters-Leave Cochin behind as you head to Alleppey, gateway to Kerala's romantic backwaters, a tropical maze edged by coconut groves, banana palms and rice fields interspersed with thatched houses, whitewashed churches and Hindu temples-Step aboard MV Apsara, which will become your home-from-home for the next three nights. Enjoy lunch on board as you cruise to Vembanad Lake, Asia's largest freshwater lake and the heart of the Keralan backwaters.

Day 4 Backwaters-Enjoy breakfast on board as you sail to Kanjipadam village where you board a traditional rice boat for a scenic journey through the narrow channels to Chambakulam. Stroll the lanes of this traditional village and visit St Mary Florence Church which was built in 1870-Return to MV Apsara in time for lunch before sailing along the Pamba River this afternoon.

Day 5 Backwaters-Cruise through the rice bowl of Kerala today, a region of mud-walled dykes created to reclaim land from the backwaters. Look out for kingfishers and flying fish as you sail past coconut plantations and paddy fields, Chinese fishing nets and palm toddy tappers on a traditional shikara boat ride-Enjoy lunch back on board MV Apsara. You'll also have the opportunity to shop for local handicraft and food
specialities at a floating market.

Day 6 Backwaters to Thekkady-Disembark MV Apsara and travel to Thekkady, a region of immense wild beauty synonymous with elephants, rolling hills and spice plantations-Stay two nights at the Spice Village which is set amid eight acres of forest, high in the Western Ghats and just one kilometre from the world-famous Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Day 7 Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary-Explore the dense forests and marshy grasslands of one of India's premier wildlife sanctuaries on an included guided nature walk this morning. Among the different wildlife species you may spot are elephants and sloth bears. Also look out for the great Malabar grey hornbill and other exotic birdlife-This afternoon, enjoy a scenic journey taking in the miles of spice plantations which infuse the air with the scent of pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg.

Day 8 Periyar to Munnar
Travel across the Western Ghat mountains today as your tour continues to Munnar, a historic hill station. Once a favoured summer retreat with British colonists, it is famous for its tea plantations and rolling hills-Spend two nights at the charming Windermere Estate which is set in a 60-acre cardamom plantation surrounded by tea-clad hills and lush rainforests.

Day 9 Munnar-Explore the beautiful hill country of Munnar while unravelling its fascinating history which is irrevocably entwined with India's tea legacy during a visit to the Tea Museum and a tour of a tea plantation. If you are lucky, you may even see tea pickers in action while your guide explains the history of tea in the area.

Day 10 Munnar to Mararikullam-Head back towards the Malabar coast for your final three nights at the Marari Beach Resort a picturesque resort set on an idyllic beach amid palm groves and lotus ponds-Here you can enjoy complete relaxation with daily yoga, meditation or just lazing in a hammock and enjoying the sounds of the surrounding nature. Perhaps unwind with an Ayurvedic massage (extra charge) - after all, Kerala is renowned for the practice of Ayurveda.

Day 11-12 Mararikullam-Enjoy two days at leisure enjoying the facilities on offer. Perhaps join guided environmental tours, take part in interactive cooking sessions or visit the resort's butterfly garden. You can even take a stroll down to the local fisherman's village where, if you rise early enough, you may see the morning's catch being hauled in.

Day 13 Mararikullam to Cochin to UK-Travel to the airport for your daytime flight, arriving in the evening for your included VIP door-to-door travel service.

Mughals and Palaces 14 Nights Saga (Check Availability)

From the ancient attractions of Delhi to the romantic lure of Agra and regal palaces of Rajasthan, this new tour of India will reveal many of the country’s glittering treasures-Travel by train, see the Taj Mahal at sunrise and perhaps embark on a tour of Delhi– there really is no better way to see the highlights of India’s Golden Triangle and cities of princely Rajasthan-This holiday includes one night aboard aircraft- VIP door-to-door travel service-Travel insurance-Return scheduled flights and transfers-All breakfasts, two lunches and all dinners-Excursions as described-Saga tour manager-Porterage at all hotels-Tourist visa-14 nights from £1,899.00 per person

Days 1-2 UK-Delhi-After taking Saga’s UK VIP door-to-door travel service to the airport, depart in the evening for your overnight flight to Delhi. Upon arrival, travel to The Suryaa Hotel  your base for the next three nights-This afternoon there will be a brief talk on India at the hotel with a presentation on a project supported by the Saga Charitable Trust.

Day 3 Delhi-An included half-day excursion visits a Sikh Gurudwara - Bangla Sahib, the Bahai Lotus temple and the Hindu Birla temple-You will also drive past Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament House and India Gate-This afternoon, an optional excursion visits the National Museum and the Rail Transport Museum.

Day 4 Delhi-Perhaps embark on a full day tour of Delhi-The morning excursion will take you on a sightseeing trip around old Delhi and the Red Fort. Built in the 17th century, it is famous for its gardens, palaces and royal baths-You will also see Jumma Masjid – India’s largest mosque, which was built by Emperor Shahjahan in 1650 AD and is renowned for its symmetry and astounding architectural harmony. Before stopping for lunch you visit Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi's mortal remains were cremated-This afternoon, continue to the sights of new Delhi, including Qutub Minar, the world’s tallest brick minaret, and Humayun’s Tomb – a predecessor to the Taj Mahal.

Day 5 Delhi-Agra-Rail travel in India is a fascinating experience and you can expect this to be a real highlight of your tour-After an early start, you will arrive in Agra in the morning where you may wish to join an optional excursion to the Mehtab Bagh. Its name means ‘moonlight garden’ and it was intended to give the perfect view of the Taj Mahal-This evening, an included excursion visits an Indian home where you can see a magic show-You spend the next two nights at the Jaypee Palace Hotel

Day 6 Agra-An early start makes it possible to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise – the most beautiful time to visit. You will then return to the hotel for breakfast-An optional excursion visits Sikandra where you can see the tomb of Emperor Akbar the Great and the white marble Dayal Bagh Temple-In the afternoon there is a second optional excursion to Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal at sunset.

Day 7 Agra-Jaipur-Visit the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri en route to Jaipur-Built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar in 1571, Fatehpur Sikri was the Mughal capital for 14 years before it was abandoned. Its buildings are made from red sandstone and combine influences from both Hindu and Mughal architecture-Stop for lunch at a local restaurant before proceeding to Jaipur and the comfort of Le Meridian Jaipur which will be your base for the next three nights.

Day 8 Jaipur-This morning an included excursion visits the Amber Fort-The City of Amber was once the capital of Rajputs before it moved to modern-day Jaipur and the fort’s unique artistic style blends both Hindu and Mughal elements. The excursion includes a jeep ride-This afternoon, an optional sightseeing tour of Jaipur reveals the City Palace, a 17th-century observatory, the Palace of the Winds and more.

Day 9 Jaipur-An optional excursion visits the Birla Temple during the Hindu ritual of Arati and includes lunch at Samode Palace. The afternoon is at leisure-In the evening you are invited to see a Rajastani folk dance performance and puppet show at the hotel.

Day 10 Jaipur-Jodhpur-Travel to Jodhpur by road arriving at the Taj Gateway Hotel , Jodphur in the afternoon-You will stay here for the next two nights.

Day 11 Jodhpur-This morning, an included sightseeing tour of Jodhpur visits the 15th century Mehrangarh Fort and white marble Jaswant Thada Memorial-An optional jeep safari visits neighbouring villages.

Day 12 Jodhpur-Udaipur-Leave the hotel in the morning for Udaipur via Ranakpur, where you will stop for an included lunch-Ranakpur is a 15th century shrine and one of the five most sacred sites of the Jains-You will arrive at the Sheraton Palace Resort & Spa in the afternoon, where you stay for the next three nights-The afternoon is at leisure.

Day 13 Udaipur-A morning tour of Udaipur will introduce you to the many sights of the City of Lakes including the City Palace, the picturesque garden Sahelion-Ki-Bari and Jagdish Temple. You will also drive around the Fateh Sagar Lake-This afternoon you can enjoy an optional boat ride on Lake Pichola and visit Jag Mandir palace in the centre of the lake. You also have the chance to visit Crystal gallery and sunset terrace at the City Palace Complex.

Day 14 Udaipur-Perhaps join an optional full-day excursion to Chittorgarh, the capital of the former Rajput state Mewar to see its formidable fort and temples-Farewell dinner is at the hotel tonight.

Day 15 Udaipur-Mumbai or Delhi-UK-After an early breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight back to the UK via Mumbai or Delhi, arriving in the early evening for your included UK VIP door-to-door travel service home.

Himalayan Heritage Trail 10 Nights Saga (CheckAvailability)

Experience the hustle and bustle of Amritsar, marvel at the beauty of Shimla and savour the electric atmosphere of the old bazaar in Delhi. As well as stays in high-class hotels, included excursions will reveal the lasting legacy of the Raj and the importance of religion in India's fascinating culture- VIP door-to-door travel service-Travel insurance-Return flights and transfers-All breakfasts and dinners-Seven excursions-Saga tour manager-Porterage at all hotels-Tourist visa-10 nights from £1,799.00 per person.

Days 1-2 UK to Amritsar-After taking your included UK door-to-door travel service to the airport, you'll fly overnight to Amritsar arriving on the morning of day two-You'll stay the next two nights at the Hyatt Hotel, Amritsar which is situated in the heart of the city, approximately 10 minutes from the Golden Temple-A sightseeing tour on day two visits Jallianwalah Bagh and the Durgiana Hindu temple, which is sometimes referred to as the 'Silver Temple'. You'll also visit the Golden Temple and the community kitchen nearby which provides free meals for up to 10,000 pilgrims and visitors every day!

Day 3 Amritsar-With the morning at leisure, you may have the opportunity to join an optional visit to a Nihang community – a semi-nomadic people trained in horsemanship and swordsmanship-This afternoon, you'll travel to the border town of Wagah to see a changing of the guard ceremony – a military ceremony
involving troops from both India and Pakistan which has taken place every evening at sunset since 1955.

Day 4 Amritsar to Chandigarh-A long but rewarding journey this morning takes you to Chandigarh - the hub of northern India-An afternoon included sightseeing tour takes you past the main buildings here, including the Punjab University Campus buildings and High Court. You may be able to visit the Rock Garden, an open-air exhibition in 20 acres of woodland that has been created with industrial scrap. You will also pass the Governor's Residence, Sukhna Lake and Sector 17 – the main commercial centre of the city-You'll stay overnight at the stylish Taj Chandigarh which enjoys a central location in the heart of Sector 17.

Day 5 Chandigarh to Shimla-Travel to Shimla, a town nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas-You'll spend the next four nights at The Oberoi Cecil, Shimla a locally rated 5-star hotel which boasts an excellent setting and features elegant interiors that recall the days of the Raj.

Day 6 Shimla sightseeing-A morning sightseeing tour visits the Mall – Shimla's bustling commercial area. During your tour you'll see many reminders of the Raj and you'll head to Observatory Hill to see the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies. You'll also see Scandal Point, which is believed to be where the daughter of a British Viceroy eloped with the then Maharaja of Patiala in the 19th century. Lastly, you'll see the Christ Church – the second oldest church in Northern India-The afternoon is free for a little independent exploring.

Day 7 Himalayan Queen Express-Step aboard the Himalayan Queen Express for an unforgettable train journey along the UNESCO-protected Kalka-Shimla railway. You'll travel through spectacular scenery as the train winds its way through the lower Himalayas-You'll continue by road up to the Tara Devi temple where you can enjoy incredible panoramic views.

Day 8 Shimla-You can recharge your batteries during this day at leisure, but if you're feeling energetic, you can join an exhilarating guided walking tour up to Jakhoo temple-The walk will cover a total of five kilometres with some steep uphill stretches.

Day 9 Shimla to Delhi-Leave Shimla and travel to Kalka Railway station to board the Shatabdi Express for the four-hour journey to Delhi-You spend the last two nights of your tour at The Suryaa, New Delhi which is located in the centre of New Delhi, close to shopping malls and historic monuments.

Day 10 Delhi-Uncover the highlights of Old and New Delhi on an included sightseeing tour, visiting the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, and the lively oriental bazaar. You'll also see the 12th century Qutab Minar – Delhi's oldest monument which features a mysterious iron pillar which has not rusted even after 1500 years!

Day 11 Delhi to UK-Travel to the airport for your return flight and included UK door-to-door travel service home.

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