Welcome to the Indian Panorama Newsletter for April 2009. Our aim is to keep you up to date with news and places of interest and other information to help you when the time comes to plan your next trip to India.
In our second instalment for this year, we're focusing on the regions of India to visit over the coming months. You'll find information and some suggested itineraries for Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Kashmir/Ladakh. While most people prefer to visit this region in spring and summer, most places remain accessible year round, and winter in the mountains is, of course, a very picturesque time of year.
We have now said farewell to winter temperatures throughout India and much of the country is very hot and humid. And yet the vast size and huge range ofclimatic conditions across India mean that there is always somewhere in the country where the weather is perfect for travelling. In a month or so, the first monsoonal showers will sweep up the west coast of India and by July, just about everywhere in the west, north and north-east will be getting wet. The coming months are not usually a time that most people consider ideal for coming to India - this month's newsletter will give you some ideas about when and where to go in the mountains north of Delhi.
Elsewhere we have updated the pages covering our fully escorted group tours - the dates and prices for the 2009-10 departures are now on our site here: These tours are a great way to experience India in the company of other travellers and we offer a mix of styles and destinations.
We have continued to add images to our Photo Gallery where you will find some special photos, taken during our travels around India. These now include photos of Kashmir, Rishikesh-Haridwar (Uttarakhand) and Manali-Shimla (Himachal Pradesh). These pages will be regularly updated from our extensive library of photographs, so keep checking back for updates.
Also this month we have added some specials photos from a travel photographer Susan Schermer. Susan travelled with Indian Panorama and has kindly allowed us to use some of her photos.
The state of Himachal Pradesh encompasses a wide range of terrain from the lowland plains adjacent to the Punjab, the Himalayan foothills and some of India's most beautiful forests.
A small state, Himachal offers spiritual retreats, trekking to high mountain valleys and a taste of the Raj in its old hill stations. While it may look compact on the map, travel in this part of India is best taken at a slow pace - roads are often twisty and steep and it is better to appreciate this part of India slowly.
The best known towns of Himachal are Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj, home to the Tibetan Government in Exile, and the hill stations of Manali and Shimla. But there are many other fantastic places to explore in this region.
Another state which changed its name not so many years ago, the former Uttaranchal retains a greater degree of forest cover than any other part of India - over 80% of Uttarakhand is forested.
Two wildly contrasting towns on the banks of the Ganges, Rishikesh and Haridwar, are among the best known destinations here. Rishikesh was put on the map by the Beatles visit in 1967 when they studied with the Maharishi there. The town maintains a pull for westerners as a place for spiritual enquiry, yoga and (quite unrelated) white-water rafting.
It is to nearby Haridwar, a much bigger and busier place that the vast majority of Hindu pilgrims come to bathe in the sacred waters and to participate in the nightly Aarti ceremony.
Uttarakhand is famous for trekking and, in Jim Corbett National Park it has one of India's best known tiger sanctuaries.
In the far north of India, these mountainous regions are dominated by glaciers, high plateaus, dizzying roads through some of the highest alpine passes on Earth, permanently snow-capped peaks and valleys which come to life in the warm summer months.
These lush, fertile areas are the lifeblood of this region as in winter very little grows, but in spring and summer Kashmir produces a bounty of fruit, nuts and world famous saffron from these prolific agricultural pockets.
Kashmir in summer attracts tourists in droves, some coming by road over the Rothang Pass from Manali in Himachal Pradesh (not for the faint-hearted, this is one of the world's epic overland journeys), or by air into Leh or Srinagar from Delhi.
The rice bowl of Northern India, the rich agricultural state of Punjab attracts surprisingly few tourists other than to its main city, Amritsar, and the nearby India/Pakistan border post at Wagah.
Amritsar is best known for the Golden Temple, the holiest place in the Sikh religion and a place of great beauty. The city is well serviced by domestic flights and is easily reached by luxury train from Delhi.
At Wagah the daily closing ceremony is a famous event which attracts tourists both domestic and foreign to watch as opposing groups of guardsmen from the two countries face off, stomp up and down and lower their respective flags in a display which is pure theatre. From Amritsar it is just a few hours drive to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh and the scenic and cultural wonders beyond.
Through our travels in this region and our extensive network of partners and contacts we are able to offer innovative itineraries covering all of the above activities and places (and more). We welcome you to contact us to discuss a trip to this wonderful part of India.
If you're planning a trip over the coming Indian summer we look forward to welcoming you back soon. Our next newsletter will be with you in a couple of months - until then we convey our warmest wishes on behalf of all at Indian Panorama.