The Travellers' Club - Holidays for discerning travellers Halnaker Park Cottage, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0QH
Telephone 01243 773597

AMRITSAR & KASHMIR

8-19 March 2012

with Richard Hunt

To book this tour, click here

PROVISIONAL COST: including direct flights to Delhi, all transport, accommodation at the Imperial Hotel Delhi (5* Grande Luxe) 2 nights B&B; at Ranjit’s Svaasa in Amritsar (an interesting small boutique hotel) 2 nights B&B; De luxe House boat in Srinagar (6 nights half board); entrance fees, guided visits: £1985

EXTRAS: Insurance; visa (currently £30); other meals and incidentals (about £8/£10 per day); single room supplement (much regretted) £575. As we try to use smaller hotels (except The Imperial), single rooms are in very short supply.

When the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, saw Kashmir he is supposed to have exclaimed poetically “If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this”. More likely it was a Persian poet – Jami - who wrote the couplet, which is inscribed on the black pavilion in the Shalimar Garden in Kashmir. The garden was built by Jahangir for his wife Nur Jahan in 1619 on the site of a much earlier lake-side-garden. Shalimar in Sanskrit means ‘abode of love’ and the garden has been the pleasure palace of successive Hindu, Moslem & Sikh rulers, and of British visitors during the Raj. More ‘Mughal’ gardens were added and today, as public parks, are open for all to see. We plan to visit the gardens by shikara – the traditional boats used on the lakes – as part of our stay in Kashmir. We will spend a week staying on luxurious houseboats moored on a tranquil lake surrounded by mountains, visiting several other gardens and beauty spots in and around Srinagar. Sadly, the famed beauty and tranquility of Kashmir is only a part of its history, for as we all know too well, the region has a long history of conflict which extends to recent times.  

Out tour begins and ends in Delhi, visiting the centre of the Sikh religion at Amritsar, with its famous Golden Temple and other places of interest, before driving on to Jammu to fly to Srinagar, capital of Kashmir

William Simpson, A Shawl Factory, Srinagar 1867 and Lidder River at Phalgam,
Kashmir Valley

DELHI: Our direct flight departs around 10.pm on 8 March and arrives in Delhi at 11.30 on 9 March. We will not have time for much sightseeing, but will make the best use of our time. DELHI was not always the capital, but has played a vital role in Indian history over the past 5000 years. Successive waves of invaders have conquered and rebuilt the city; others just pillaged!  There are the remains of seven cities in the environs: they were built by Hindu rulers; successive Muslim conquerors who swept in from Turkey, Persia and Afghanistan; and the British, who declared Delhi capital once more in 1911 and soon began the building of New Delhi. The result is an enormous variety of monuments: the Q'Tub Minar complex (Tower of victory 1193) celebrated an Afghan invasion, but used much older Hindu temple stone; Moghul masterpieces include the tomb of Emperor Humayun, Shah Jehan's Red Fort & marble palaces & his huge mosque, the Jama Masjid. The British built the modern Imperial city of Sir Edwin Lutyens. There is much else to see: a superb crafts museum and village where crafts from India are practised; narrow streets and bazaars of the old city; the National Museum; the shops!!! Several members of our group will have visited Delhi before! We must pick our itinerary with care!
1 night at the Imperial Hotel at the start of our tour, another at the end. Centrally located in New Delhi, it was built in the ‘30s as the fashionable colonial hotel & has been recently beautifully renovated. There is a wonderful collection of 18th and 19th prints and drawings (we hope the art curator will take us on a private tour), a charming garden (breakfast, lunches and tea are served on the terrace) & large swimming pool. An excellent place to start & end our tour!

AMRITSAR From Delhi we fly to Amritsar in the Punjab, just 24 kms from the Pakistan border. The city was founded in 1577 by the 4th Sikh Guru at a place where a cripple had been miraculously cured by bathing in a pool. The original temple was built by his successor, Arjun Singh. It was later sacked by Afghans and became known as the ‘Golden Temple’ after being rebuilt with a gilded copper roof in 1764 by the Maharajah Ranjit Singh. It is for Sikhs the equivalent of Mecca for Muslims.  It stands in the middle of the ‘Pool of Immortality-giving Nectar’ - Amrit, which gives its name to the city. We will have ample time to explore this fascinating place with its golden domes, beautifully carved marble & exquisitely decorated interior.  In the sanctum of the templea huge copy of the Adi Granth, the Holy Book of the Sikhs, stands on a throne beneath a jewelled canopy while Granthis continuously read from the text and musicians play. But the temple has a violent recent history. In 1984 it was under siege by the Indian Army seeking to expel Sikh extremists. The Sikhs heavily fortified the temple, but the army, after pleading with the occupiers to surrender, shelled the temple from the Jallianwala Bagh – itself the scene of an infamous Massacre. In 1919, the British General Dyer, who had banned all meetings due to mounting disorder, ordered troops to fire on unarmed pilgrims, who ignored or were unaware of his ban, gathering to attend a holy day of the Sikh calendar. The gardens are now a memorial to the victims. From Amritsar we plan to attend the changing of the guard ceremony at the Indo-Pakistan border.

2 nights at Hotel Ranjit’s Svaasa. With just 12 rooms, this 250 year old Haveli offers comfortable rooms, antique furniture and is centrally located on The Mall.

KASHMIR From Amritsar we drive to Jammu to catch a flight to Srinagar in Kashmir, where we stay on house- boats on Nagin Lake for a 6 night stay. Srinagar and the Kashmir Valley comprise probably the most beautiful region in India – lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Despite its far distance, it has always been a place of refuge from the heat of the plains for India’s rulers: the Mughul Emperors came here in the summer months and built the famous Moghul Gardens; the British followed suit, but as they were not allowed to erect buildings by the Princely ruler, they developed the elaborate and beautiful house boats on the lakes for their summer holidays. Kashmir remained a Princely State (under overall British control) until Independence in 1947, when the Sikh Maharajah, ruling over an overwhelming Muslim majority, had to decide whether to join Kashmir to Pakistan or India. While he prevaricated, the Pakistan army invaded and the Maharajah fled with his treasure, giving the state to India, but leaving his country to face the first Indo-Pakistan war. As we all know, the area has been disputed ever since, with Pakistan ruling about one third, and India the rest, with yet another group claiming independence. After years of conflict which grew worse in the 1990’s, there has been relative calm and tourists have been returning in increasing numbers for several years.
Our tour will explore the famous gardens and other monuments of Srinagar and include visits out to the beauty spots  in the foothills at Gulmarg and Phalgam. There will be all-too-much opportunity to see the handicrafts that have made Kashmir so famous – carpets and textiles, embroidery, wood carving and papier-maché work.
WARNING: Kashmiri salemen are also famous

From Srinagar we take an afternoon flight back to Delhi for a comfortable last night and sumptuous breakfast before our flight to London next day, leaving around 13.00 and arriving Heathrow around 18.00.

The Nishat Bagh – another Moghul Garden at the Dal Lake, Srinagar and The Sikh
Golden Temple at Amritsar