November 14-25, 2019

Join me on the ultimate journey to Mother India!

Wonderfully different, there is nothing quite like Mother India!
No matter how much you’ve seen or how many countries you’ve visited, when you first arrive in India it will hit you like a gale force wind; a hurricane of sounds, smells, and colors where nothing is as it seems. Traveling to India reveals a country that is mesmerizing, exotic, exciting, and mystical. Enjoy the culture, food, spice markets and the magnificent beauty of the Taj Mahal at sunrise, the great waters of the River Ganges, Aarti in Rishikesh and daily yoga classes. If you have wanted to experience India but were afraid to go yourself, this is the trip for you. Fully supported and designed to ease you into her magic and beauty, you will find comfort in knowing you are taken care of and also the freedom to venture off on your own. Join me on this magical journey!

What is included

– Yoga Classes ( almost daily)
– Chauffeur driven Air-conditioned cars for all Airport transfers, intercity transfers and sightseeing as per the Itinerary.
– English speaking Government Licensed city expert guides for all tours
– All tour fees
– All three interior flights (inclusive of 20 Kilos check In baggage and 7 Kilos hand baggage)
– 5 star accommodation in Delhi and Agra inclusive of buffet breakfast and taxes
– 4 star boutique hotel accommodation in Varanasi inclusive of buffet breakfast and taxes
– In Rishikesh All meals, consultation with Ayurvedic doctor (Vaidya),  and a 2 hour treatment by two technicians.

Not included: airfare, Indian visa, travelers insurance, personal expenses, room service, telephone calls, tips to driver and guides, spa services, private sessions

Cost

Retreat fee is $4200 double occupancy/$5400 Single

Due to the issue of securing plane reservations, guests must place a 1/3 of their deposit when signing up ($1400/$1800), second payment September 15, and payment in full by October 15th, 2019. 

 

Your retreat fee is payable by cash, check or credit card.
-Credit card payments are processed via PayPal. Click the below link provided.
OR payments are processed via Venmo @Nina-Siemaszko
-Checks can be made out to “Joy is not optional Retreats” at 3940 Laurel Canyon Blvd #773 Studio City, CA 91604
-Guests outside the USA: If you will be using a bank account outside the U.S., please write to nina@joysisnotoptional.com for easy transfer options that will save you money on currency conversion.

Cancellation Policy 

If canceling one month before (October 10th) , 50% cancelation fee.
Two weeks before the tour, no refund.


Your itinerary


Day 01: 

Arrive in Delhi the capital city of India, a sprawling modern metropolis with a stunning backdrop of ancient architecture. Overnight stay at the  5 Star Hotel Imperial, New Delhi.

Day 02:

Old and New Delhi Sightseeing.
Today post breakfast plunge yourself into the enriching experience of Delhi, the most diverse city in India. Start the day with a visit to Old Delhi, locally famed as "Purani Dilli" and with the name of Shahjahanabad, it was once the capital of Mughal India. A ten-minute heritage walk along the Red Fort leads us to the Chandni Chowk, the Bazaar of the Mughal's. Board the Rickshaw and slither into the narrow lanes of Chandni Chowk to witness the famous wholesale markets of beads, silverware, sari, decorative items and the famous spice market of Delhi. Later step into the newer part of the town famed as Lutyen's Delhi. After lunch, 
enjoy a memorable country drive, passing through the Delhi suburbs, vast farms, and villages. Arrive in Agra and visit the astonishing UNESCO World heritage Red Fort. See the Mughal's grandeur with a visit to the Pearl Mosque, Halls of Public and Private audience, Jahangir's Palace, Khaas Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, and Musamman Burj.  Overnight stay at the 5 Star Hotel Radisson (Mansion Grand).

Day 03:  

Sunrise visit to Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahal. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built this monument of Love in 1648 AD in memory of his wife Mumtaj Mahal. 22 years and 20000 skilled laborers, artisans and jewelers were needed for the construction of this grand memorial. The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage". It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India's rich history. Return to hotel for breakfast. Post breakfast we head to Delhi Airport for Varanasi - the oldest living city in the world. Overnight stay at Hotel Benares Haveli OR East view, a delightful 4 star boutique hotel.

Day 04

Varanasi sightseeing. 
After a relaxed breakfast, enjoy temples and a city tour of Varanasi including  Bada Ganesh, Kaal Bhairav, Maha Mritunjay, Durga Temple, Sankat Mochan Temple, and Bharat Mata Temple.  In the evening we will enjoy the grand Aarti ceremony on the sacred Ghats of Ganges.Overnight stay at Hotel Benares Haveli OR East view.

Day 05: 

Sunrise Boat Ride.
We start the day with a sunrise boat ride on the holy river Ganges to experience early sacred rituals and offerings on Ghats. Enjoy some free time to explore the city. Overnight stay at Hotel Benares Haveli OR East view.

Day 06: 

Today we travel to Rishikesh. From Varanasi Airport we board our flight to Dehradun. From Dehradun a quick ride to Rishikesh. Overnight stay at Ayurveda Sadan.

Day 06:  to 12:

Rishikesh. 

Enjoy Ayurvedic treatments at the Ayurveda Sadan.
Ayurveda is a 5000 year Indian way of medical system and is widely practiced in India. The word Ayurveda is a combination of Ayus (Life) + Veda (Knowledge) and as the name indicates, Ayurveda is more than India's ancient art of healing; it is the knowledge about life itself and assumes the fundamental sameness of self and nature. Ayurveda believes in three bodily essences Vata (Air Principle), Pitta (Fire Principle and Kapha (Water Principle). These principles need to be kept in balance for a healthy body and mind. Unlike the allopathic medicines of the West, which perform on finding out what's ailing and then killing it, the system of Ayurveda looks at the whole patient and disease is regarded as a symptom of imbalance. Once identified, it's the imbalance that's treated not the disease.

Activities in Rishikesh
-Sunrise Visit to Mother Divine Temple
-See the Kunjapuri Devi Temple, located around 15 km away from Rishikesh. This temple is dedicated to one of the thirteen most important goddesses of Shivalik range. The temple is well-known among the travelers as it gives a beautiful view of the sunrise and the sunset from the greater Himalayan peaks. Snow ranges and peaks of Garhwali Himalayas like Swarga Rohini, Gangotri, Banderpunch and Chaukhamba can also be seen from this temple.
-Excursion to Vasistha Gufa
Visit the Vasistha Gufa cave, where the great philosopher and writer of Hindu Epic Ramayana meditated.
-Maharishi Ashram
Enjoy a visit to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, also known as the Beatles Ashram. The ashram gained prominence in 1968 when The Beatles came to learn transcendental meditation. Through meditation, Maharishi Yogi imbibed a new vision of life in the Beatles. Their visit to this ashram suddenly brought Rishikesh in the limelight and made it a popular tourist destination. Their visit also changed the world's opinion about Indian spirituality, yoga, and meditation.
-Hike tour up to Neer Gaddu Waterfalls OR Jhil Mil Gufa to meet the Sadhus.

Day 12: 
After breakfast, transfer to Dehradun Airport to board your flight to Delhi and home.

Your passport must be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip, and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section). Here is a link to apply for your passport. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/how-to-apply.html

You will need to arrange an Indian visa before you arrive.

The e-Tourist visa is good for 60 days in India and 2 entries (so, for example, if you were to take a side trip to Nepal or Bhutan, you can use the same visa to re-enter India).
Go to https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html  to familiarize yourself with the process. To fill out the application you’ll need information from your passport, your itinerary, a passport photo to upload, a scan of your passport to upload, and a local Indian reference name, address, and phone number (which we will provide). For this visa, you will NOT need to send your passport anywhere.

If you plan on staying in India longer than 60 days, there are many reputable places to go to to help you with the process. I have used Travisa and Arista Passport and Visa Services

On this retreat, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. It’s a relatively small expense and affords peace of mind.
We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip.

Barbara Watson of Travelstore can assist you with both.
Her email address is:
barbara.w@travelstore.com

InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.
World Nomads provides medical coverage and trip cancellation for guests under 70.

Carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.

Clothing

Although more and more Indians are adopting Western wear, traditional clothing is prevalent and modesty is the name of the game particularly around temples and holy sites. We recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing and layers. Temperatures vary from warmer to cooler. Pack light and leave room in your luggage for the things you may pick up!

-undergarments
-pants or long skirts.
-Leggings to wear under your long skirts or tunics
-cotton t-shirts, blouses, or long sleeve shirts.
-A light sweater and windbreaker/jacket
-Socks and a thicker pair for the ashram
-Sleeping attire
-Comfortable walking shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
-A hat with a brim
-Yoga Clothing.

Accessories

-Yoga Mat. Manduka makes an awesome travel mat. I have traveled the globe with mine and have put some serious mileage on it. It's my absolute favorite.
-Any other yoga accessory you think you may need, balls, strap etc.
-Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better and recover from jet lag more quickly.
-Sunscreen
-Daypack . I am partial to my Osprey, as it has a removable daypack that is not too big.
-Toiletries
-Wet wipes or hand sanitizer to keep on you for public restrooms.
-Any necessary hygiene products.
-Plug adaptor for electronics: you’ll need a 2 pin adaptor common across Europe. Check out this article for options.
-A print out of your RETURN airline ticket itinerary; you’ll need this to enter the airport to get home. You can also have a copy (we recommend a screenshot) on your phone.
-Photocopy of your passport and your visa.
-A small travel umbrella is a must. It can work for rain OR as a parasol
-A small apothecary with any prescription drugs you need, band-aids, etc. We recommend Imodium (anti-diarrheal), a probiotic (I am a BIG fan of Jarrodophilus EPS), as well as melatonin and Benadryl for jet lag purposes. (I also recommend a visit to your doc for some heavy duty antibiotics for JUST IN CASE.)
-Smartphone or tablet. We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave. Leave your computer at home if you can. Since we will be moving from place to place, keeping it as light as possible will be an asset.

You can get almost anything in India, but if you have specific products you can't live without bringing them with you will give you peace of mind.

Food

Vegetarians should have no problem anywhere on our travels. In fact, please note that the Ashram in Rishikesh only serves vegetarian food. Being a vegan in India is more difficult. Although meat is entirely avoidable, India is the world’s largest consumer of butter, and it is almost unavoidable in most of their curries, stews, and even breads. Many vegans that I have known who travel through India adopt what is locally referred to as a “pure veg” diet: no meat, no eggs, but it allows for dairy consumption. (It is worth noting that the reasons for avoiding dairy consumption in the west are mitigated here, as there are less factory farming and antibiotic use in livestock.) Milk can be avoided by not consuming creamy dishes or milk tea.

Gluten is also avoidable in India by choosing rice over chapatis and other local bread. Celiactravel.com has GREAT printable cards in local languages to present to restaurants and hotels about your intolerance of gluten.  If you have multiple dietary needs, it may be worth your while to check out these specialty cards. When you register for a trip, you will answer a set of questions, including a question about food allergies. We’ll take a look at your answers and let you know if we have any suggestions or concerns!

From experience, I have stuck to a couple simple rules while traveling in India. Only eat cooked food, nothing fresh (even garnishes!) except for things that have thick skins (oranges, bananas). Any fresh produce needs to be triple washed with filtered water.  Chai anywhere and everywhere. And no meat in India even at the big hotels. Save your meat eating for home.

Wifi?

YES! Every hotel we are at has free wifi. 

Can I drink the water?

NO. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it. Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water as well. When taking a shower, avoid opening your mouth. We provide one bottled water per traveler/per day on the trip. Filtered water is also readily available at the hotels. Plastic is a big problem in India and they are getting better about accommodating tourists and being mindful about the trash with filtered water systems. BUT Always ask and if they seem unsure BOTTLED.

What vaccines do I need?

None are required to enter India, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you. You can read the CDC’s recommendations here   . If you love animals and have a tendency to meet and greet all you come across,  get a rabies shot before you travel. They are good for 10 years. 

What about malaria?

Malaria is not a risk at this time of year however but we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices.

How about animals? The cows, dogs, monkeys?

India has changed a lot in the past years in relation to the animals that cohabitate with humans. Cows garner great reverence and respect and are treated very well. Dogs once considered lowly have moved up the totem pole. Most dogs that live in the streets have owners, are fed and have very good lives without leashes. Its a different culture that has slowly started to embrace a little bit of the west ( spay and neutering clinics) but still allowing the dogs to remain dogs that live and breathe in packs.  Be mindful of the animals in the streets and as with anything be cautious and deliberate. You will make friends.  The monkeys in Rishikesh and Varanasi are to be avoided. Do not look them in the eye for they view it as a threat and by no means carry food in your hands. They will steal it! 

What about the air quality?

 I recommend buying a breathing mask for safety.  You will need one for Delhi, Agra and Varanasi. Rishikesh is the best air quality as it is farther north. 

How much money should I bring?

That is entirely up to you! You just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras!

How do I get the local currency?

You can either exchange cash in India or use a local ATM (which we prefer). Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in India, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world. We recommend using the AIRPORT ATM upon arrival in Delhi (just after customs, before you leave the airport).

What kind of hotels will we be staying at?

Your first few nights will be spent at the 5-star iconic hotel, The Imperial, in New Delhi. After a long journey, you will land in familiar creature comforts, wifi, room service, and sheets with a high thread count. All hotels will have familiar creature comforts. Our final stop in Varanasi will be the most simple in presentation yet pristine and warm.

Will I be able to charge my electronics (phone, iPad, etc)?

Yes, just be sure to bring along a 2-pin European style converter. Better yet, grab a Universal Travel Adaptor that can go with you anywhere in the world!

How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?

Yes. All hotels we are staying at have phone service and wifi.

Do you recommend a phone service?

T-Mobile works in India. If you are with another provider I suggest finding out what is the best option for you. Our experience is that most International calling plans are expensive and that the best plan of action is wifi via Whatsapp, Skype and Facebook.

AFTER ALL THIS,  WHY INDIA?

There is nothing like her.  She is modern, traditional, vexing, joyful and deep.  You will leave her with a new perspective and a greater understanding of yourself and others. You will forever be changed.  


P.s I absolutely loved this article about things people wished they'd known before traveling to India. Check it out.


Seva is to the orphans of Varanasi and Rishikesh.


If you would like to donate but can’t make the trip, contact me directly nina@joyisnotoptional.com