1. Himalayas and The Golden Temple (Mountains and Spirituality)
Route: Amritsar – Dharmashala – Mirage by Andretta – Manali – Shoja – Kotgarh – Shimla – Kasauli – Chandigarh
This route is ideal for people wanting to experience a little bit of spirituality. You can witness the majestic mountains of the Himalayan range in India.
Start your trip off in Amritsar, easily accessible by flight, train and road. Visit the Golden Temple and immerse yourself in the most giving of all the world’s religions. Bask in the architecture and tank up on the humble but delicious Langaar. Backpackers can catch a night’s rest at the amazingly fun Jugaad Hostels or Akaal Residency for some privacy.
If you have a fatter wallet you can opt for the Country Inn and Suites. If you’re positively rolling in money, the Svasa is for you. From here on you can either catch a bus to save money. Or rent a chauffeur-driven car at INR 4000 for pretty much all your connections in the hills.
We’d strongly recommend hiring someone to drive you, both because the roads are tricky for those unfamiliar with them, and also so you’re free to let yourself go in the view. Next you move up into Dharamshala, home of the Dalai Lama and the adjacent Mcleodganj.
Backpackers can hole up at the Pink House, those looking for a little more comfort can try Chonor House. There’s a rare treat here for the artistically inclined, in the form of Mirage, a home-stay that doubles as an artist’s retreat, replete with pottery wheel and everything.
Next stop, Manali. Blow off some steam hippie style and then satiate your munchies at any of the little town’s adorable cafes. Stay options would be Old Rock Inn for the backpackers, Johnson’s Café for the comfort category and the Himalayan for the luxury seekers. Catch a bus to Shoja, a national park that cradles a small village that makes a perfect base camp as you trek into its leafy recesses.
All class differences are erased here, since there’s only one decent hotel available—Bajara Camps. Kotgarh, your next stop, is tiny and would be absolutely underwhelming if not for the gorgeous stay at Seetalvan Orchards.
Come back to civilization in the charming resort town of Delhi. Head straight to Sunnymead bed and breakfast for a warm meal and great conversation, or Wildflower Hall for plush carpets and endless breakfasts. Wrap up the trip in Kasauli, free of cars, pollution and all the associated bad vibes. Hunker down in HPTDC’s Ross Commons or the elegant Seven Pines.
Delhi – Bagdodra – Pelling – Gangtok – Darjeeling – New Jagalpuri – Guwhati – Shillong – Kaziranga – Guwhati – Varanasi
Make a leap from Delhi to Bagdodra and Bagdodra to Pelling in a single day, by air and road respectively. There, take some time to allow the village to envelop you, preferably from the comforts of Daragaon Village Retreat.
From Pelling take a 5-hour scenic drive to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim full of icily languid lakes and soaring mountaintops. You can stay at the lovely Hotel Pandim while you’re there, before shifting base to Darjeeling. Spend a few days learning the delicate art of tea picking and processing from the simple town that knows best, and then head back to the shining wood floors and gaping bay windows of Hotel Shangri La for the night.
From here you can hire a car to drop you to New Jagalpuri 5 hours away, from where you can catch a train to Guwahati. When you’ve had your fill of the burgeoning wildlife and ancient temples, you can make the quick 4-hour drive to Shillong, where we’d recommend you drop your bags off at the White Orchid Guest House before heading out to explore the manicured gardens and gushing falls.
When you’re hungry for a little more wildlife, have a car drop you 6 hours away to Kaziranga, where you can stay at Nature Hunt Eco Camp. Finally, take another car down to Guwahati and catch a flight out to Varanasi.
Delhi – Leh – Tso Pangong – Nubra Valley – Leh – Delhi
Wrapped up neatly in flights to and from Delhi, this is the perfect for someone who feels the pull of the mountains but isn’t really into the grinding life of the backpacker.
Once you land in Leh, make sure to give yourself some time to adjust to the drastic change in altitude, the only downside of a quick flight.
Once you’ve had your fill of the palaces and stupas, get into a jeep and take a drive through Chang-La Pass, the third-highest motorable road in the world. Come out the other end onto one of the world’s most breath-taking sights—the endless stillness of Tso Pangong.
The next day, you can set your sights 1010ft higher at the world’s highest motorable pass—Khardung La Pass, which will take you into Nubra Valley. Break through the fog and onto the smooth vistas of snow, take a camel ride, a million photos and a quick dip in the hot sulphur springs at Panamik before heading back the way you came.