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The Ganges Ardh Kumbh Mela TOP015_13

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The Ganges: Ardh Kumbh Mela

In a country that loves its festivals and holy days, the Ardh Kumbh Mela is a special time in India. On this 15 day adventure you’ll not only experience one of the most important Hindu festivals in India, but you’ll become a pro at navigating the worlds largest railway system, visit beautiful temples, go on safari, and enjoy the vibrancy of this spectacular country. Travel from the foothills of the Himalayas to the teeming banks of the Ganges and through the largest delta system on Earth.

This Ardh Kumbh Mela adventure begins in Delhi with the opportunity to visit Birla Temple, the Red Fort, Jamia Masjid mosque, and Bangla Sahib. After the capital, you’ll head straight to the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. In Hindu scripture, Haridwar is referred to as the Gateway to Heaven and for this reason, it’s a major pilgrimage site in India.

You’ll visit the main ghat, Hari-Ki-Pauri, or the footstep of God; you’ll also visit the sacred ‘Sangram,’ the spot where the three holy rivers of Hindu mythology meet: the Yamuna, the Ganga, and the mythical underground river known as Saraswati.

After experiencing the Ardh Kumbh Mela festival, you’ll travel by country boat down the Ganges for two days and two nights. Stopping along the way to visit small villages beside the river, you’ll see fisherman hard at work and, if lucky, a few dolphins. Your destination is Varanasi, a holy city that stands at the centre of Hinduism. Take part in the evening Pooja, get lost in the maze of narrow lanes, explore the temples, and watch the ceremonies that are conducted round the clock. Before leaving the city you’ll have a sunrise view of the thousands of pilgrims who come each morning to immerse themselves in the water in order to receive a blessing.

In Kolkata you’ll visit Kalighat temple. Though it is plain in appearance, it is undoubtedly the city’s most important place of worship. The next day you’ll be in Sundarbans, the worlds largest tiger reserve. There is so much wildlife to see here – including crocodiles, spotted deer, turtles, and exotic bird species.

Incredible India is even more incredible when your adventure takes you to the country’s holiest places. You’ll have the chance to understand not just India, but Hinduism and its ancient traditions.

Highlights:

  • Experience the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Haridwar
  • Sail on the Ganges – the world’s holiest river
  • Take part in an evening Pooja in Varanasi
  • Spot dozens of wildlife species in the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

 

Itinerary

Day 1
Start Delhi; afternoon sightseeing.
The group flight will arrive into Delhi in the morning and we will transfer to our hotel. Those who have made their own flight arrangements will join us at the hotel (rooms may not be available until noon but it is often earlier than this). During the afternoon we will do some sightseeing visiting the Red Fort and Jamia Masjid mosque.

Day 2
Morning sightseeing around Delhi; overnight train to Haridwar.
Today we will do some further sightseeing of Delhi including Birla Temple and Bangla Sahib. The Birla Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Laxminarayan, the entire temple is adorned with carvings depicting the scenes from Hindu mythology. Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is the most prominent Sikh gurdwara, or Sikh house of worship, in Delhi. It is known for its association with the eighth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Krishan, and the pond inside its complex whose water is considered holy by Sikhs and is known as ‘Amrit’. In the evening we transfer to the railway station in order to catch an overnight train to Haridwar.

Day 3
Arrive Haridwar; free afternoon.
In the morning we arrive in Haridwar; the rest of the day is free to explore. We may take a short trip to Rishikesh, one of the most popular pilgrimage places for Hindus and is a magnet for spiritual seekers.

Day 4
Full day in Haridwar; experience Ardh Kumbh Mela
Today we experience one of the most important festival days of the Ardh Kumbh Mela. Haridwar is termed as the gateway to heaven in Hindu scriptures, therefore any Kumbh Mela here is rated as one of the top Indian pilgrimages to attend. Har-Ki-Pauri, the footstep of God, is the town’s main bathing ghat. This ghat is supposed to be at the precise spot where the Ganges leaves the mountains and enters the plains; it is one of the most sacred pilgrim places and is surrounded by shops selling religious artifacts.

Day 5
Free morning; overnight train to Allahabad.
The morning will allow you more time to experience the festival; in the afternoon we transfer to the railway station for our overnight train to Allahabad.

Day 6
Arrive Allahabad; visit Akbar’s Fort and the sacred Sangam.
In the morning we arrive in Allahabad and transfer to our hotel. Today we visit the Sacred ‘Sangam’, literally meaning confluence, this is where three of the holiest rivers in Hindu mythology meet; these are the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical underground river of enlightenment, Saraswati. We also visit the majestic Akbar’s Fort, built by Emperor Akbar in 1583 it stands on the banks of the Yamuna near the confluence of rivers. The evening is free for you to explore the town at your leisure.

Day 7
Travel by boat from Allahabad to Varanasi, camping beside the Ganges, visiting temples and villages en route.
We transfer to the boat jetty for 2 full days, and 2 nights, sailing on the Ganges by country boats. During this time we will get an insight into the riverside way of life, passing through some of the paddy fields, we will get a chance to visit some river side villages to see how they live and work. We should see some fishermen and if we are lucky we may also see some dolphins.

Day 8
Continue journey down the Ganges.
We continue the journey down the Ganges.

Day 9
Arrive in Varanasi; evening watch Puja ceremony.
We arrive in Varanasi today by boat and will return to the river in the evening for the Pooja ceremony on the ghats. Varanasi is one of the most holy cities in India and stands at the centre of the Hindu Universe. As such, the city lives and breathes Hinduism: there are thousands of pilgrims, wandering holy men (Sadhus), religious elders and casual visitors. It is a city to get immersed in by exploring its maze of narrow lanes, the many temples and watch the Hindu ceremonies that occur around the clock. There is time to explore the emporiums specialising in silks and brocades or maybe take a massage by the banks of the Ganges.

Day 10
Sunrise boat trip on the Ganges; free time to explore or optional visit to Sarnath; night train to Calcutta.
Just before dawn, we take a boat out on the Ganges to witness the extraordinary spectacle on the ghats, the steps leading down to the river. Every day thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to these three miles of riverbank to immerse themselves in the waters. The rest of the day is free to continue exploring the city, relax at the hotel or go on optional sightseeing excursions. In the late afternoon we board the overnight train to Calcutta.

Day 11
Arrive Calcutta, afternoon sightseeing.
We arrive in Calcutta during the morning and will transfer to our hotel. During the afternoon we will do some sightseeing including the dramatic white marble Victoria Memorial with its formal gardens and water features, it is this city’s greatest colonial monument. We will also visit Kalighat temple which is dedicated to Kali and although plain in style is the city’s most important temple.

Day 12
To Sundarbans National Park.
In the morning we drive for approximately 3 hours to get to the jetty where we meet the boat that takes us into Sundarbans National Park.

Day 13
Explore the mangrove forest delta by boat and on foot.
This is the largest tiger reserve in the world with a wide range of other wildlife including salt water crocodiles, dolphins, Spotted deer, Fishing cats, Wild boars, Olive Ridley turtles, otters, Monitor lizards and a whole host of birds. There are tigers in the national park but due to the large area and vegetation this is very unlikely. We will explore some of this huge mangrove forest delta on a cruise down the numerous creeks.

Day 14
Return to Calcutta.
We will travel back to Calcutta today, the rest of the day is free for some last minute sightseeing or shopping.

Day 15
End Calcutta.
Those on the flight inclusive package will depart for London this morning for the daytime flight back to London; Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.

More Details

Guided Group
This is a small group guided holiday. The group is usually between 4 and 16 in size, with an average of 12 like-minded clients booking individually, in a couple or as friends together.

Activity level
You are reasonably fit, enjoy the outdoors and are looking for some exercise. Some previous experience is preferable for activity based trips.

Hotels, Lodges, Sleeper Trains & Camping
During your trip along the holy Ganges you will spend 7 nights in hotels, 2 nights in lodges, 3 nights on a sleeper trains and 2 nights of fully serviced camping. All the hotel and lodge facilities are en – suite. The camping section of this trip will be on the banks of the Ganges, a mattress and blankets will be provided, but we recommend you bring a sleeping bag or sheet.

Vaccinations and Visa
Visas are required if you are British and for most other nationalities. For UK residents full details of the visa process can be found on the tour operator’s website; other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies.

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten.

Holiday style
Although this is not a demanding tour, it is a busy and active itinerary with lots to see, and includes 2 nights camping. You should come armed for an experience: India can be hard work and the heat and the bustle of some of the cities can be a little overwhelming. That said, there are places where you can find peace and there are few places in the world where you will return armed with great stories and memories to last a lifetime.

Eating & drinking
Breakfast, 4 lunches and 4 dinners are included throughout the trip. You should allow at least 13-15 GBP (approx. 21 USD – 24 USD) per day for lunch and dinner (when these are not included). You can eat out very cheaply in India, but if you go to the more expensive restaurants most of the time, you will spend more than the suggested amount.

In most of the towns there is a good choice of restaurants and a choice between Indian and Western style food. If you are a vegetarian, India is probably one of the best destinations to travel to. Tea and soft drinks are very cheap. A (large!) bottle of beer is approx. 3 GBP (approx. 4.80 USD). Mineral water is widely available. Please note that service in restaurants can be quite slow.

India is famous for its food and there is ample chance to try various curries such as the familiar tandoori, Biriyani and Rogan Josh. But there are other specialities and Western dishes available too. In addition there are wonderful deserts and excellent beers, soft drinks and Indian specialities such as lassi, a refreshing yoghurt drink.

lease note that Haridwar and Rishikesh are considered as very holy places for Hindus, therefore, any kind of alcohol and Non vegetarian food are not available.  

   

Dates & Rates

Dates: 05 – 19 March 2016

Rates: 1,825 EUR (excluding international flights)

WHAT IS INCLUDED

  • All breakfasts, 4 lunches and 4 dinners
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request) excludes sleeper trains and Sundarbans
  • Visas or vaccinations

Operator

If you’re looking for a company with experience you can’t beat these guys. This operator started life in February 1974 when two friends got together to provide an overland truck to travel to the Minaret of Jam, deep in the heart of the Hindu Kush, the most inaccessible of the world’s great monuments.

For the company, and people who work for them “it’s all about adventure” which is what they were founded on and what they are still about today. Their trips take place all around the world where they help travelers to delve into local traditions, cultures, cuisine, lifestyles – anything that contributes to a country’ unique identity.

We love that their groups and guides travel courteously and respectfully, in smaller groups to minimise the impact, to ensure that every holiday is a beneficial experience for everyone involved.  

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