Day 2: In Delhi. After breakfast, enjoy a half day tour of New Delhi — India's capital and a bustling gateway city. Visit Lutyens' Delhi, passing the President's Palace, known as Rashtrapati Bhavan, before arriving at India Gate, a World War I memorial. Lutyens' City is characterized by wide, tree-lined avenues, parks and palaces built for important Indian Princes. Visit Humayun's Tomb, built in the mid-16th century by Haji Begum, the Persian-born senior wife of Humayaun, the second Mughal emperor.
Day 3: Delhi-Dehradun-Mussoorie. Depart your hotel for a transfer to the railway station to board the Shatabdi Express to Dehradun. Breakfast will be served on the train. You will be met at the Dehradun train station on arrival for a 45 minute drive to Mussoorie and to your guest house.
Day 4: Mussoorie. Mussoorie is a historic hill station offering your first glimpse of the surrounding snow-capped peaks. We will enjoy a short day hike to visit the historic homes at Clouds End and Everest House to help us with acclimatization to higher altitudes. Return to town to prepare our trekking gear and bags for tomorrow's departure.
Day 5: Mussoorie-Ghat. Following breakfast, drive to Ghat via Devprayag, Rudraprayag, Karnprayag and Nandprayag. Ghat, the most famous confluence of Garhwal Himalayas, is a large village with schools, government offices and vibrant markets visited by many people from nearby villages.
Day 6: Ghat-Selu Bagar-Ghunni. After breakfast, we begin our transition with a thirty-minute drive to Selu Bagar, a small hub with a handful of village shops. It is also our starting point for the trek — meet your ponies and trek staff — prepare yourself to begin a high Himalayan adventure.
The trail is distinctive with continuous switch backs, winding up to the ridgetop and the small settlements of Ramni and Ghunni (1,900 meters, 6,234 feet). We tread past small, colorful Himalayan villages where we reach an open plateau above Ghunni — here is our campsite!
Day 7: Ghunni-Vinayak Pass-Jhinjholi Village. Today requires a very-early breakfast and start — not only to negotiate the long day's walk, but also to have the time to appreciate beautiful Himalayan views along the way. Our trail first winds up to the ridgecrest, towering high above the Ghunni campsite. Traversing the ridge, we arrive at an open meadow with jaw-dropping views of the Himalaya's greatest jewels — the peaks of Nanda Ghunti, Chaukhamba — set against awesome views of Ramni and Ghunni, now appearing lower in the valley.
The trail rises with moderate switchbacks leading to an open meadow with gorgeous views of Nanda Ghunti Peak. Continue gently climbing to reach to Vinayak Pass (3,352 meters, 10,997 feet). The pass is highlighted with prayer flags and a Ganesha Temple with Kuari Pass in the distance. From Vinayak Pass, the trail gently descends (but at times steeply, passing through Sem Kharak) to the village of Jhinjholi.
Day 8: Jhinjholi-Pana. We awake this morning in the midst of the mountain lifestyle and culture of Jhinjholi Village (2,043 meters, 6,703 feet). After breakfast, our route descends through the village, eventually arriving at the valley floor. We soon cross a high suspension bridge over Birahi Ganga River.
We begin a climb which switchbacks steeply, passing several plateaus, leading us to the ridge with another stunning panorama of the Himalaya. Our path returns to a gradual rise, passing through a beautiful Rhododendron forest, passing Kaliagad Village (2,700 meters, 8,858 feet), to arrive at Pana. A final-push (just one-half mile!) brings us to our campsite perch above Pana.
Day 9: Pana-Dakhwani. Today's trail leads above the campsite, rising first through Rhododendrons, then reaching several plateaus, but continuing upward to the ridge. We hike through the forest, reaching an open meadow near the village of Sartoli (3,048 meters, 10,000 feet) — a campsite with summer pasture for sheep and cattle. This is an ideal spot to view Kuari Pass which dominates the horizon. The trail from Sartoli descends gradually at first for a few miles but later, descends steeply on a canyon side with loose rock, following a stream. Reaching the bottom, we cross the stream to begin a steep ascent of the opposite side — a series of switchbacks leads to the ridge top. Reaching the top, the trail eases, with gentle ups and downs, finally leading past another stream just below Dalehwani. It's only one-half mile up to our campsite at Dalehwani (3,353 meters/10,824 feet).
Day 10: Dakhwani-Kuari Pass. This day requires an early start to enjoy the best views at the pass during the day and still reach our next camp at a good hour. The trail from Dakhwani climbs through the forest until we reach treeline. Here, the path snakes to the left of the valley, just below the pass with a series of switchbacks up to the pass. Reaching the pass, stunning views of the Himalaya are admired — relax, photograph and soak-in the spectacular vista. The trail now leads up a small knoll for an excellent view of Dronagiri Peak. From here, the trail descends to Tapovan and we continue on this trail to Tali (near a ridge festooned with prayer flags and a temple). Soon the great Nanda Devi Peak bursts into view. The trail first reaches pasture land and then the forest — finally leading to our campsite at Tali (3,800 meters/12,467 feet).
Day 11: Tali-Auli-Joshimath. This morning should be a more-relaxed start, before hiking begins. The trail from Tali is a gradual climb across a ridge. Though not difficult, this part of the trail is narrow, so be alert until you reach Gorson Meadows. From here, it's "Himalayas all around." Nanda Devi peak dominates the scene. Crossing Gorson Meadow is an enjoyable section of our day's hike. In the distance, buildings mark the village of Auli (2550 meters/8364 feet) and the climax of our trek with thanks to the ponies and trek staff. We hop a jeep for a ride to town of Joshimath (15 kilometers, 9 miles, 1 hour). Joshimath (1,890 meters, 6,200 feet) is a colorful marketplace, supplying goods to many nearby villages.
Day 12: Joshimath-Rishikesh. Today we arise early for breakfast and enjoy a scenic drive to Rishikesh (about eight hours) — beautiful, with excellent views down the valleys. Arrive in Rishikesh and check in for our overnight stay.
Day 13: Rishikesh. Rishikesh is an ancient pilgrimage center nestled on the banks of the Ganges River, in the foothills of the Garhwal Himalayas. Millions of devout Hindus gather every year, cleansing themselves of their sins by bathing in the Holy Ganges — waters which have supported the civilization of the north Indian plains for centuries. Visit Muni Ki Reti and Lakshman Jhula. This evening, attend Arrti (prayers) on the banks of Ganges by Parmarth Niketan.
Day 14: Rishikesh-Delhi. This morning, drive to Delhi in approximately 6-7 hours. Check-in to your hotel and enjoy the evening.
Day 15: Delhi. Check out from your hotel at the appropriate hour and transfer to the airport for your departure flight home.
Note: The program ends here for those not taking the optional extension tour to Agra, below.
[Optional Agra Extension:]
Delhi-Agra. Drive to Agra in about four hours and check-in to your hotel. This afternoon, visit Agra Fort. Composed of the massive red sandstone, Agra Fort (along the banks of the Yamuna River) was constructed by Emperor Akbar in 1565. The fort's colossal double walls rise over 20 meters (66 feet) in height and measure an amazing 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) in circumference. [We have the option to visit the Taj Mahal this evening or the following morning. Our tour includes one entrance fee only.]
Day 16: Agra-Delhi. Visit the Taj Mahal. Described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love, it was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his second wife Mumtaz Mahal. The temple was described by the Indian classical poet Tagore as a "tear on the face of eternity." Return to Delhi, visiting Fatehpur Sikri on the way, in about six hours. Once the capital city of Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri was built in 1569. Though the unusual placement of its buildings seems whimsical, in fact they were planned purposefully for an atmosphere of playful brilliance. Back in Delhi, transfer directly to the airport for your flight home.
Detailed itinerary available on request.
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