Your first stop should be the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the spiritual home of the Sikh religion in the Punjab. Here you can drive to the Pakistan border and watch the daily Wagah flag lowering ceremony, described by Michael Palin as a display of “carefully choreographed contempt”.
At McLeod Ganj near Dharamshala you will find the home of the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist leader in exile, and the Norburlinka Institute dedicated to preserving Tibetan culture. This region is also home to the fearsome Gurka soldiers – “the bravest of the brave”. Rishikesh on the upper reaches of the Ganges is another holy city, as it is here that the Hindu god Lord Rama did penance for killing Ravana, the demon king of Sri Lanka. Observing the daily aarti prayer ceremony on the riverbank is a truly unforgettable experience.
The tea-producing hill station of Shimla was the summer capital of British India, when it was ruled from Delhi, and is an ideal base for holidays to the beautiful Himalayas. You can also visit the Solang Valley, where you can participate in many adventure activities.
For safari enthusiasts, Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest wildlife sanctuary in Asia and is a major birding hotspot, as well as one of the few places in India where you can see wild Asian elephants.
Kashmir offer another opportunity to enjoy the dramatic beauty of the Himalaya Mountains, with the gateway city of Srinagar being the largest in the Kashmir Valley. Partitioned between India and Pakistan since 1947, this former princely state is one of the most scenic regions in the country, lying in an alpine valley between the Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountains. This region is also famous for its fine Cashmere wool.