La Vie en Yoga is partnering with Centre de Yoga Parthenay for an unforgettable tour of some of India’s most famous temple cities. The tour of 12 nights, has been designed for a unique exposure to the culture, spirituality, people, and food of India. We will be visiting three of the most sacred cities in the country: Rishikesh, Amritsar and Varanasi, with a train journey to see the celebrated Taj Mahal in Agra. The tour is a middle way between luxury and budget—a chance to experience something of the real India, while maintaining a decent level of comfort, and accompanied every step of the way by experienced guides. Our October 2018 tour, consisting of a group of 10 yoga teachers and yoga practitioners, begins and ends at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
*Please understand that all the below arrangements are subject to change due to availability and other issues.
day one—OCTOBER 21—NEW DELHI
We arrive at Delhi International Airport in the early morning of October 21 (6:20 am), where we will be met by a taxi to take us to our hotel, about one hour drive from the airport. At the hotel, Home@F37, we will have a light breakfast until our rooms are ready for check-in. We will then have a chance to rest from our long flight for a few hours while the tour guides meet with our travel agent. Those who wish to change money can do so with the agent. We will have a buffet lunch at noon. After lunch we will provide a vehicle to take you for a tour of Humayun’s Tomb, one of Delhi’s most renowned monuments and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 16th century tomb, has been recently renovated to bring it back to something of its former glory. It was designed by a Persian architect and was commissioned by the Empress Jai Begum for her late husband, the second Mughal Emperor, Humayun. The building represents a ground-breaking development in Mughal architecture that reached its zenith with the construction of the Taj Mahal some 60 years later. We will use the rest of the day to rest and get oriented. Dinner will be at a popular South India restaurant where we will find Indian families enjoying the delights of South Indian cuisine, including the famous masala dosas.
day two—OCTOBER 22—NEW DELHI to RISHIKESH
After an early breakfast, we will take a taxi to Delhi airport to fly to Dehradun. The flight is only 50 minutes long, and we will arrive at 12:10 pm. At Dehradun airport we will be met by a taxi to take us to the ancient Temple-City of Rishikesh on the sacred River Ganges—approximately 3 hours drive. Rishikesh is full of temples and, in fact, the entire town is considered sacred ground. Rishikesh means “land of the rishis”. A rishi is a spiritual adept, and for thousands of years, Rishikesh has been a place where people have come to meditate and seek liberation on the banks of India’s holiest river. Hence there are certain rules of conduct that apply as they would inside a temple ground. Meat is not served in restaurants. Eggs can be ordered in some places but they are not listed on the menu, since in India eggs are not considered vegetarian food. Alcohol is forbidden. Of course, people do find ways to get around these rules, but in general they are observed. On the other hand, smoking is considered fine! Rishikesh is aptly known as the yoga capital of the world, since there are dozens of yoga studios here, more even than restaurants! We will check into our guesthouse—Yog Niketan and have an hour or so to unwind and settle into our new accommodation. In the early evening, we will have an orientation walk of the Ram Jhula area and chai before dinner at Amrit Ganga Bhojnalaya. Those who wish can opt for an ultra relaxing one hour Aryuvedic massage with its unique oil infusion technique.
day three—OCTOBER 23—RISHIKESH
We will start our 3rd day with breakfast followed by a yoga session with renowned Yoga Teacher, Surinder Singh, at his Ashram, Swasti Yoga. We reach the Ashram by walking about 15 minutes through the fascinating alleys of Ram Jhula. After lunch, around 2 pm we will have an orientation walk through the town, stop at a local chai stall for a cup of traditional Indian tea, and get to experience a ‘Satsang’ (lit: in the company of noble people) – a spiritual discourse – by a Belgium monk, Swami Atmananda Udasin, on the ancient Vedic philosophical “non-dual” view of Advaita Vedanta, at his beautiful ashram—Ajtanananda Ashram—perched on an outcrop above the Ganges River. A donation will be made to the Ashram on behalf of the group for the French translation which has kindly been arranged. The satsang ends at 5:30 pm. We will then take a taxi back to a restaurant in Ram Jhula for dinner. At 7:30 pm at the Yoga Hall of our hotel, we will have the wonderful opportunity to take a 2 hour course in meditation and mantra with Dr. Suresh Thakur, a highly respected naturopath and teacher of meditation.
day four—OCTOBER 24—RISHIKESH
Day 4 will begin, after breakfast at our hotel, with a one hour yoga program with Surinder Singh ji. Time permitting, at 11:30 am those who wish can take a trip to the Vashistha Gufa Cave, about 40 minutes drive from Rishikesh, where yogis throughout the centuries are said to have reached liberation. The Sage Vashista is one of the great sages of Hindu mythology. After the death of his children, he and his wife, Arundhati, meditated at this place for hundreds of years to overcome their grief. Over the years, a small ashram was built near the cave. There is a legend that Jesus also meditated here during his “lost years.” The trip to Vashistha Gufa will take about 2.5 hours. Lunch will be quick, at a local roadside café, depending on the timings. We will aim to be back in Rishikesh by 3:30 pm so that those who wish can join the Ajatananda Ashram “satsang”. In the evening, we will enjoy our farewell to Rishikesh dinner, overlooking the Ganges river and share our experiences of the journey so far.
day five—OCTOBER 25—RISHIKESH to AMRITSAR
We will have a very early start on this morning. The drive from Rishikesh to Amritsar takes 12 hours, so we will leave Rishikesh by 8 am. Along the way, we will experience the buzz and chaos of India’s roadways. We will stop for lunch at a dhaba, a traditional roadside café, and a couple more times for at a chai stall for India’s specialty tea. We will plan to arrive in Amritsar in time for dinner at our hotel—Hotel Sarovar Regency—and an early night!
day six—OCTOBER 26—AMRITSAR
We will start the day with a yoga session at our hotel yoga hall followed by breakfast. We will then visit the famous Golden Temple, one of the holiest temples in all of India, especially to followers of the Sikh religion. There, we will have the opportunity to volunteer in the kitchen or ‘langar’, which typically feeds around 40,000 people a day—for free. This incredible feat is made possible through donations and a small army of volunteers. Of course, we will have our lunch with them too! In the evening, we will get to experience some more of the famous traditional dishes of Amritsar.
day seven—OCTOBER 27—AMRITSAR
In the company of a highly experienced friendly local guide, we will visit a traditional family farm and get to experience the local way of life, with delicious fresh local food and warm hospitality. We can take bull cart rides, learn to cook some local food, enjoy traditional singing and dancing and even take some turban dressing lessons!
day eight—OCTOBER 28—AMRITSAR to VARANASI
An early breakfast and drive to the airport from where we fly—via New Delhi—to the ancient city of Varanasi, also on the banks of the River Ganges. From the airport, our taxi will take us directly to the River Ganges from where we will enter the city the best way possible—by boat, passing by the ‘ghats’—the neighbourhoods along the River bank, separated by staircases. We will go directly to the famous Ganga Aarti, the beautiful millennium-old offering ceremony conducted by Brahmin priests that takes place at sunset every evening. We will then book into our guesthouse—Ganpati Guesthouse—situated with river city views from the balconies. Dinner on the rooftop of our guesthouse.
day nine—OCTOBER 29—VARANASI
Those who wish can take a sunrise boat ride on the river Ganges, and experience the ancient tranquility of the spiritual rites that have been performed for centuries in this holy city, as the city wakes connecting with the energy of the sun. This will be followed by yoga and meditation before breakfast. We will leave by 8:30 am to take a taxi to Sarnath. Here, at Deer Park, the Buddha gave his very first teaching to a group of five disciples, 2500 years ago. The site is now a museum where stupas and monuments have been constructed, and a pilgrimage place for Buddhists from the world over. After exploring the site, we can do a silent meditation together in this special holy place. We will then take a 20 minute taxi ride to the Central Institute for Tibetan Studies, a higher university for Tibetan refugees and young men and women from the Himalayan regions. There, we will have a personalized tour of the Tibetan library with its impressive collection of ancient Buddhist texts by the Vice Chancellor, Geshe Ngawang Samten, a learned scholar of Sanskrit and Buddhism, and a passionate educationalist. After tea and discussion with Geshe la will will share lunch together in the university grounds. We will return to the ghats in the afternoon, with the rest of the day free so that the group members can enjoy some personal time. Dinner will be on our rooftop restaurant.
day ten—OCTOBER 30—VARANASI to AGRA
Those who did not go the day before can take a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges. Yoga is offered before breakfast as well as in the evening before dinner for those who wish to participate. We will check out of our hotel by 10 am and leave our bags in the lobby, since we will be leaving that same evening for Agra. There is a 2 hour walking tour of the city to visit a Hindu temple, a traditional maker of essential oils, and a textile shop, since Varanasi is famous for its silks. During the tour you will get to taste the delicious lassis – yoghurt drinks – of Varanasi at the renowned Blue Lassi shop. There is a grand surprise for the whole group which we try our best to keep a secret until noon on this day! In the evening, we will take a taxi to the train station at Mughal Sarai for our Indian First Class overnight train journey to Agra, the famed city of the Taj Mahal.
day eleven—OCTOBER 31—AGRA
After checking into Hotel Amar Yatri Niwas we will take a few hours to rest and then we will take a taxi to a recommended local restaurant for lunch at noon. At 2 pm, we will drive 50 minutes to the extraordinary fort-city of Fatehpur Sikri that served as the capital of the Mughal empire in the 1600s.Within its walls is the shrine of the celebrated Sufi saint, and chief religious advisor to Emperor Akbar the Great, Sheikh Salim Chisti. Akbar received instruction from scribes of all the main religions and even invented a religion of his own that combined elements of all of them. When he gave a private audience in the Diwan-i-Khas he sat atop a pillar inscribed with symbols of all the world’s faiths to remind him that he was the leader of a religiously diverse nation. We will return to Agra to rest for an hour at our hotel and then dinner to enjoy the local cuisine.
day twelve—NOVEMBER 1—AGRA to NEW DELHI
After breakfast, we will visit the Agra Fort and take the audio guide to learn about the fascinating history of the Mughal emperors and how the Taj Mahal came to be built. Afterwards, we will take a tour of the Taj Mahal, one of the architectural wonders of the world. After lunch, we will check out of our hotel and take the five hour chair car train to Nizammudin, New Delhi. We will then visit Dilli Haat, a wonderful outdoor market with stalls selling arts and crafts from almost every one of the 29 states of India. Dilli Haat also offers food stalls with delicacies from all over the country, so we will enjoy our dinner here in the market atmosphere and return to our hotel to pack for our return to Paris the following morning.
Day twelve—NOVEMBER 2—DELHI to PARIS
Early breakfast at 6:30 am and check out of hotel at 7:30 am go to airport to board flight to Paris.