India’s festival of lights, Diwali is considered one of the most auspicious times of the year. For devotees, the festivities of Diwali embodies an abundant and vibrant way of being. Diwali also marks one of the best times of the year to travel to the Himalayan foothills of northern India for some of the best hiking and Himalayan vistas but also bird-watching.
Our partner award-winning, women-run, home-stay initiative offers travelers a unique opportunity to stay with a local family. Learn about ancient traditional practices, connecting to a land that also lends itself to exceptional hiking. The grand-finale of this journey is a birds-eye view of some of the tallest mountain ranges in the world at the edge of the Kedarnath Wildlife sanctuary. Home to endangered species like the Musk deer and the Monal pheasant. These Himalayan foothills are also blessed with some of the most auspicious and ancient Hindu temples.
Most evenings allow downtime for reflection and journaling. Finally ending your journey by floating a light down the Ganges river in Rishikesh, part of the auspicious Aarti ceremony that takes places on the banks of the Ganges every evening.
Our featured set-date departure is available for November 2020. One of the best times of the year to visit Northern India.
11 nights and 12 days in India starting from
Day 1 – You are met by a representative at the airport (New Delhi, IGI). Chauffeured to your centrally located B&B and even given you a short tour of the busy streets of India’s political capital, New Delhi before calling it a day.
Day 2 – Your host Poonam Rawat accompanies you on a train-journey to Hardwar before setting-out by car (3 hrs) following the Ganges river breaking your journey en-route to Gopeshwar.
Overnight Stop: Amritara Raga on the Ganges. Located 1hr 30 min. from Rishikesh your overnight stay is complimented by deluxe amenities, surround by Himalayan foothills and a view of the Ganges river as it flows away from the Himalayas. This stretch of the Ganges River also offers some of India’s most exciting and safe, white-water rafting. Pool-and-drop white-water of up to class-4 lends itself to a fun-filled afternoon and a refreshing dip in the Ganges. While river-rafting is not included within the price of this package. It can always be custom-tailored into your itinerary, provided it is reserved least 3-months prior to departure.
Day 3 – After a 5-hr drive, arrive at your award-winning home-stay. Settle-in and explore the town of Gopeshwar if you feel up to it. Located just over 5,000 ft. above sea-level, Gopeshwar is surrounded by forested foothills carved with centuries-old terraced farming practices. These foothills are also dotted with self-sustained communities of indigenous settlements blending into this magical back-drop beautifully with their organic slate-roofed and dry-stack architecture. A short-hike up-to one of these settlements is also likely to connect you to views of Garhwal’s Himalayan vistas. Especially early in the mornings.
Day 4 – Hike to the Dungri Village after breakfast with your generous hosts. Your hosts are quick to introduce you to aspects of village life, sustainable-practices and even organic, terraced farming. Mornings are a busy time of the day in a Himalayan village just like they are anyplace else. While the village primary local schools rolls it’s doors open; school usually begins with prayers and the national anthem. Primary and secondary education in rural India is hugely encouraged and subsidized. While ladies mostly run chores that are associated to just about anything supporting a fairly self-sufficient way of being. They are involved with sourcing fodder from the forests, cutting fire-wood, grazing cattle, milking-cattle, cooking, cleaning and even farming. Women are the driving force of these remote communities and share a very positive outlook to their way of being – colorful and inspiring.
Most days in November are also blessed with crispy clear mornings making more magical memories due to unexpected sights and in-sights found in this vibrant part of India. As the day moves-on settle into one of the village homes that caters for a much awaited lunch. Prepared with love and served generously, by Sunita, your local village host. Rural Garhwali lunches are mostly vegetarian, organic and often, home-grown. Served with freshly made bread and rice it is followed by a cup of piping-hot and delicious Chai. It’s always easy striking an insightful conversation to learn about life in the Himalayan foothills from one of the village elders.
Day 5 – Push your boundaries beyond your ordinary morning. Follow your hosts up the Mandal valley, hiking up to the Ansuiya temple. Ascend through a rich forest canopy before rewarding yourself with a refreshing dip in a waterfall. Most hikes in these forest reward you with bird-sighting. A diverse and specie rich region. Bird-sightings on these mountain trials can range anywhere from large birds-of-pray as you come around a ridge-line. Himalayan Griffon have a huge wing-span. Uttarakand’s most handsome pheasants family, like the Monal and the Kalij pheasants are also easily spotted. So are a striking array of kingfishers that also bless these river-valleys.
Before setting off back to your home-stay, your hosts connect you to the Ansuiya village for lunch in one of the local homes. A short drive back is followed by an evening at total leisure. Soaking-in your day’s connections and insights.
Day 6 – In an inspiring and authentic exchange, learn from an under-privileged community of truly-gifted local artisans. While hiking up to the Naini village can take up to two-hours. It is followed by connecting to the community and an engaging afternoon learning about traditional basket-weaving and other sustainable ways of being. Practicing your Hindi greetings before heading back-home for an evening of leisure in excitement of your upcoming 2-night Himalayan hiking adventure.
Day 7 – After packing for your 2-night adventure to the diversely rich, high-altitude, Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. One of the largest protected areas of the western Himalayas. Journey via Koteshwar valley where permaculture and sustainable farming practices by your hosts will also inspire some fresh insights. Drive-up to the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary and settle into your forest-home that is host to your 2-night, high-altitude exploration as you acclimatize to an altitude of 8,500 ft asl. Welcome to the Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary.
Witness the sun-set overlooking the Himalayas from the edge of the Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary as you fancy your chances of sighting the endangered but also the large and rather, good-looking pheasant, the Himalayan Monal. End your action-packed day back in the comfort of your forest-cabins that provide a hot-meal and a comfortable night’s rest for the day ahead.
Day 8 – Trek to one of the Himalayan-highlands that sits just above the tree-line, past the ancient and legendary Tungnath temple. The 13,000 ft Chandrashila summit overlooks the sanctuary’s highest point, the Chaukhamba peak (just over 23,000 ft). Manifesting Uttarakhand’s most impressive Himalayan vistas. The ascend to the Chandrashila peak is certainly not for the faint-hearted; but perfectly timed in your itinerary acclimatizing you for this high-altitude exploration, if you wish to do so.
Alternatively, less physically challenging hiking-explorations within this sanctuary, also offer good views especially during November. The trail to Deoriatal lake that sits within the tree-line, leads you to the auspicious Okhimat temple that is also worth a visit.
Day 9 – As you journey back to your home-stay during one of the most auspicious times of the year in India. The festivities peak to welcome new beginnings with Diwali celebrations around every corner. Consuming you with new connections as your hosts prepare a final night’s dinner before a lesson in cooking local cuisine.
Celebrate India’s festival of lights in the foothills of the Himalayas. The evening is lit-up with Diwali festivities, colorful dresses and even fire-crackers commemorating one of the most significant festivals of India. Join your hosts for a farewell dinner as your prepare for the final-leg of your adventure.
Day 10 – The journey back to Rishikesh can takes over seven-hours from Gopeshwar. Following the Ganges back to the holy but also culturally rich town of Rishikesh. The centrally located Yog Niketan overlooking the Ganges is home for the next two-nights. It caters to familiar amenities that are welcome at the end of a long day’s journey.
Day 11 – Start the day with a lesson in Hatha-Yoga before venturing out with your guides to visit the sights of Rishikesh. End the day with a visit to the evening Aarti ceremony on the banks of the Ganges and float a lamp down the Ganges to end your Transformative Travel adventure in the Himalayas.
Day 12 – You will be chauffeured to the Jolly Grant/Dehradun (DED) airport to board your flight back to New Delhi (IGI) in order to connect to your onward flight back home.
***Please note that accommodation or any services in New Delhi are not included on this day.
Poonam Rawat is the vision behind award winning, Peaches & Pears home-stay. A passionate traveler – Poonam empowers her local communities by teaming-up with young widows. In an effort to uplift her community using eco-tourism as a tool to also promote sustainable practices in Uttarakhand. She’s an expert at designing inspiring, hand-crafted village experiences that she personally hosts. Hence sharing authentic and potent aspects through her connections in Uttarakhand’s Garhwal region. Her efforts are sparking a growing interest among travelers and also a recent award by the Adventure Travel Trade Association for her initiatives in the field.
While most meals are included, they are served buffet style by your hosts. Guided activities involve meals served in local village homes or packed and served picnic style.
Early starts are usually in order to make the most for clear Himalayan vistas. Bird-watching and sometimes even wildlife. Most days end early with plenty of downtime for reflection and journaling.