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India & China; Past, Present & Future

20 days from £11,880 for 2023 per person

This itinerary is one of Ampersand's Top 10 Cultural Holidays.

India and China; two of earth’s largest countries and home to the oldest living civilisations. Often seen as polar opposites, we believe that there are a surprising number of similarities between these great nations; both home to examples of the world’s finest temples, largest historical empires, exciting cuisines, greatest cities, spectacular landscapes, oldest religions, diversity of experience and from the Western perspective, the personification of the exotic, the unfamiliar, the enchanting and the beguiling. Combined, they immerse travellers with an unparalleled richness of experience.

This itinerary traces both countries’ histories; their ancient capitals, holiest sites and modern metropolises. Although just scratching the surface, this epic journey will give an insight into the past, present and future of these two important nations. Shanghai and Mumbai possess rich heritages, including British and Jewish, but are also pioneers in global finance, international art markets and Michelin-starred restaurants. Delhi and Beijing both combine the ancient and the contemporary; home to multiple bygone empires and a collection of simply incredible historic sites. In China visit the former capitals of Hangzhou and Xi’an; Xi’an renowned for the world-famous Terracotta Army, and the beautiful lake city of Hangzhou celebrated in Marco Polo’s travelogues. India and China are also home to the birthplaces of major religions. This itinerary will take you to a range of sacred centres and to where the countries’ most beautiful religious art is preserved; Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges River is considered the holiest place on earth by Hindus, and nearby Sarnath is a major art centre where Buddha preached his first sermon. In Mumbai the exquisite Elephanta Caves, and the spectacular Ellora and Ajanta Caves near Aurangabad, are known for their Buddhist murals and Hindu carvings. China’s Dunhuang Caves display their own examples of ancient Buddhist murals, and provide a fascinating glimpse into archaic Chinese art and history.

The hotels we have suggested provide a culturally relevant and luxurious base to this incredible tour. All are either the most charming, or the best in their location, and often both. Your first stop will be a stay at Mumbai’s Grand Dame, the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, built in 1911 to welcome King George and Queen Mary. Part of the family-run Tata brand, the Palace was supposedly built after Jamsetji Tata was refused entry to Watson’s Hotel in 1903. Delhi’s first luxury hotel The Imperial, built in 1931 by an associate of Edward Lutyens, provides the perfect setting for a taste of Raj-era opulence. Patiala Peg, the hotel’s bar, was also the location of the historical meeting between Nehru, Gandhi, Jinnah and Lord Mountbatten to discuss partition. Aman Summer Palace in Beijing is the only hotel in China built within a historical palace complex, making any stay here a memorable experience. Atmospheric rooms are located within traditional Ming Dynasty inspired courtyards and a secret passage way leads directly into the Summer Palace complex. The Sofitel Legend in Xi’an opened as a state-run guesthouse in 1953, but now is the city’s best luxury hotel. Located within Xi’an’s historical walls, both the modern city and historic sites, such as the Bell and Drum Towers and the Muslim Street, are within walking distance. The world-famous Peninsula Hotels Group presents the Peninsula Shanghai, located on the historic ‘Bund’ with jaw-dropping views over Shanghai’s iconic Pudong financial district.

As with all our itineraries, this is purely a suggestion and can be amended in any way to your preferences. If you'd like to see similar trips, take a look at our Epic Journey and Family Holiday collections; as well as our favourite Ultimate LuxuryActive and Multi-Country itineraries.

Itinerary details

20 days from £11,880 for 2023 per person

  • Day 1 - Taj Mahal Palace - Mumbai
    Arrive in Mumbai and transfer to your hotel. Afternoon colonial walking tour (St Thomas's, PoW Museum, Horniman Circle etc).
  • Day 2 - Taj Mahal Palace - Mumbai
    Morning city tour - Ghandi's Home, Dhobi Ghat & Parsi sites. Afternoon Elephanta Caves. Dinner at Golden Dragon.
  • Day 3 - Vivanta Aurangabad - Aurangabad
    Fly to Aurangabad. Afternoon visit to Ellora Caves & Daulatabad Fort.
  • Day 4 - Nadesar Palace - Varanasi
    Morning visit to Ajanta Caves. Fly to Varanasi via Delhi.
  • Day 5 - Nadesar Palace - Varanasi
    Morning City Tour. Afternoon visit to Sarnath. Experience evening aarti at ghats.
  • Day 6 - The Imperial Hotel - Delhi
    Morning boat ride on Ganges. Fly to Delhi. Afternoon visit to Qutub Minar. Dinner at Bukhara or Dum Pukht.
  • Day 7 - The Imperial Hotel - Delhi
    Full day visit to Jama Masjid, Old Delhi & Humayun's Tomb with lunch at Karim's. Dinner at Indian Accent.
  • Day 8 - The Imperial Hotel - Delhi
    Visit to Lutyen's Delhi & Parliament Buildings. Afternoon tour of Hauz Khas Village. Fly to Beijing overnight.
  • Day 9 - Aman Summer Palace - Beijing
    Morning at leisure. Afternoon tour of Summer Palace & Calligraphy Class.
  • Day 10 - Aman Summer Palace - Beijing
    Full day Beijing city tour - Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Hutong District & Peking Duck dinner.
  • Day 11 - Aman Summer Palace - Beijing
    Full day trip to Great Wall of China with picnic lunch.
  • Day 12 - Silk Road Hotel - Dunhuang
    Fly to Dunhuang. Afternoon visit to caves. Sunset desert barbeque.
  • Day 13 - Sofitel Legend Peoples Grand Hotel Xi’an - Xi'an
    Morning visit to Caves. Fly to Xi'an. Afternoon tour of Muslim Quarter. Dinner at Indian Restaurant.
  • Day 14 - Sofitel Legend Peoples Grand Hotel Xi’an - Xi'an
    Morning visit to Terracotta Army & Historical Museum. Afternoon at leisure or visit to Giant Wild Goose Pagoda.
  • Day 15 - Four Seasons Hangzhou - Hangzhou
    Fly to Hangzhou. Afternoon boat ride on West Lake. Evening Impression Show. Dinner at Steam House at Amanfayun.
  • Day 16 - Four Seasons Hangzhou - Hangzhou
    Dawn visit to Faxi & Lingyin Temples. Morning City Tour & Pharmacy visit. Afternoon visit to Dragon Well Tea Plantation with Tea Ceremony.
  • Day 17 - The Peninsula Shanghai - Shanghai
    Fly to Shanghai. Afternoon visit to Shanghai Museum and/or Jewish Heritage Tour.
  • Day 18 - The Peninsula Shanghai - Shanghai
    Morning walking tour of The Bund & French Concession. Afternoon at leisure for shopping. Special dinner at the Bell Tower.
  • Day 19 - The Peninsula Shanghai - Shanghai
    Full day visit to ancient trading capital of Suzhou, including Youyicun Garden. Cocktails & dinner at Sir Elly's.
  • Day 20 - In transit.
    Transfer to Shanghai airport for your flight home.
NORTH INDIA - Ganges, Varanasi NORTH INDIA - Ganges, Varanasi
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Elephanta Caves Mumbai North India Elephanta Caves Mumbai North India
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Varanasi, North India (1).jpg Varanasi, North India (1).jpg
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India To China 12 India To China 12
CHINA - Tiananmen square, Beijing CHINA - Tiananmen square, Beijing
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CHINA - Aman Summer Palace, Beijing 2 (1) CHINA - Aman Summer Palace, Beijing 2 (1)
CHINA - Aman at Summer Palace - Cultural Room CHINA - Aman at Summer Palace - Cultural Room
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CHINA - The Forbidden City, Beijing 2 CHINA - The Forbidden City, Beijing 2
India To China 3 India To China 3
CHINA - The Great Wall, warriors CHINA - The Great Wall, warriors
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India To China 18 India To China 18
CHINA Small Recontructions Of The Teracotta Army In Xian China CHINA Small Recontructions Of The Teracotta Army In Xian China
CHINA - Xian, terracotta army CHINA - Xian, terracotta army
CHINA - Hangzhou, monks CHINA - Hangzhou, monks
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CHINA Peninsula Shanghai Sir Elly Terrace CHINA Peninsula Shanghai Sir Elly Terrace
CHINA - Park Hyatt, Shanghai CHINA - Park Hyatt, Shanghai
I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.
Bill Bryson

Client Testimonials

I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
Ampersand provided a bespoke and flexible holiday, tailored to my every whim. Their highly professional staff had only one goal which was to arrange an exceptional holiday and some unforgettable experiences in India. I have no hesitation in fully recommending them and they will be the first company I approach in the future - 10/10
- Anonymous, India

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