Golden Temple and the Himalaya

Situated in the middle of a man-made lake the shimmering Golden Temple, guarded by towering lance-bearing men with flowing beards, is the most important pilgrimage centre for Sikhs. The daily "retreat" at the border with Pakistan, with competing parade by uniformed men from both sides, is worth witnessing. After the robust lifestyle of the Panjab the scene shifts to the mountains. McLeodgunj, the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has beautiful monasteries and a government in exile; the Kangra Valley houses some delightful heritage properties; Shimla, the summer capital of the "Raj", has pleasant days and nippy evenings; finally to Haridwar, on the banks of the Holy Ganges, staying in the charming "haveli" of the royal family of Pilibhit. The varied accommodation is a delightful mix of deluxe and mid-range properties, including a luxury period hotel in Shimla.

Days 1 to 3 Amritsar
Arrive into Amritsar and transfer to the Ranjit Swaasa or Holiday Inn for three nights; visit the Golden Temple in the morning, maybe again in the evening for the palki ceremony; visit Wagah for the retreat; enjoy a culinary tour walking through the streets, maybe with a meal at Kesar da dhaba. Drive out to the countryside to see Panjabi village life at close quarters, enjoying fresh local food in a thali, with a healthy topping of butter.

Days 4 & 5 Dharamsala
Drive to Dharamsala, stay at the Eagle's Nest, tucked away in a shaded forest in Dharamkot or the more central Chonor House Visit Mcleodgunj, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile, and the Norbulingka Institute. The Belgian waffle at the Illeterati Cafe is worth a try.

Days 6 & 7 Pragpur
Drive down to Pragpur in the foothills, with the chance of a ride on the Kangra Railway on the way; stay at the colonial Judge's Court. Explore the heritage village with cobblestone streets and slate-roofed houses; enjoy the sumptuous meals prepared by the resident chef.

Days 8 & 9 Shimla
A long and picturesque drive up the Shivalik Hills to Shimla; stay at The Clarks Hotel (or The Cecil); explore The Mall on foot with the option of a ride on the mountain railway to Kandaghat.

Day 10 Vishranti near Dehradun
Commence your drive to Haridwar, halting for the night at the Vishranti Resort, tucked away in the wilderness, just short of Dehradun. Their bar is studded with cricket memorabilia.

Day 11 to 13 Haridwar
Drive on to Haridwar, stay at the elegant Haveli Hari Ganga, an old merchant's home overlooking the Ganges. See the aarti ceremonies in Haridwar and Rishikesh, spend a day in Rajaji National Park seeking wild elephants, the leopard and a variety of birds; a picnic lunch accompanies you.

Day 14 Delhi
Take a train back to Delhi; transfer to your place of residence or the airport.

Price indication: $1600 to $1900 per person for a private tour for two.