The Flora of Gardens, Lakes, National
Parks, Meadows and Valleys
Delhi to Shimla, Amritsar and then to Kashmir
A small group tour led by Nicky Nicoll
Saturday 22 June - Sunday 7 July, 2019
Allan Octavian Hume (1829-1912) was the grandson of a Director of the East India Company, so it is perhaps inevitable that though born and educated in the UK, he would make his career in India. Hume joined the Bengal Civil Service and rose through the ranks to become Director-General of Agriculture, pushing for reform and ultimately founding the Indian National Congress (INC). Allan Octavian Hume made Shimla his home in India. In later life when he returned to England he took up the study of botany.
Throughout his life, Hume was a passionate and an accomplished naturalist. He travelled extensively within India studying and identifying birds. His huge collection of bird specimens, originally kept at his home in Shimla, is now a treasured possession of the London Natural History Museum. When he retired, Hume became interested in plants and in 1910 founded the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI).
Perveen Nicoll BA (Honours)
The tour is led by Perveen Nicoll (Nicky), born in London with a degree in Art History. She has also studied Ecology and Conservation and has an RHS Certificate in Horticulture.
A passion for plants, Nicky has worked at Rothamsted Research, an agricultural research institution on the farm and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the herbarium. She now works part-time within museums mounting dried pressed plants. These specimens are used to help understand the world’s flora and help preserve plant biodiversity for the future, safeguarding them against extinction.
Nicky also helps to look after a local Physic Garden in Hertfordshire and is a co-author of a book, The Physic Garden in Hitchin, An illustrated Guide, on the garden’s plants.
As a South London Botanical Institute member for many years, Nicky has led workshops teaching herbarium techniques of plant mounting.
Nicky has travelled extensively across the breath-taking foothills of the Himalayas from India to Nepal to Bhutan. She will share her enthusiasm by helping people learn about the plants in their spectacular landscape fashioned by geology, from the tropical to alpine zones and about the plants uses such as for food, medicine, clothing, dyes, household and building materials.
Life follows seasons up and down the mountains, and the people and their culture, animals and temples will all make a lasting impression. When you return home, you will never be the same as you were before.
London • Delhi • Shimla • Amritsar • Srinagar • Gulmarg • Delhi • London
(Meals: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner)
Saturday, 22 June
Fly direct from London to New Delhi onboard British airways flight BA257* departing from London Heathrow at 19:30. Departures from regional UK airports are available on request.
Sunday, 23 June
Arrive in Delhi at 08:20 and transfer to Hotel, Shangri-La Eros, to check in. You will then have a few hours to rest and freshen up before an afternoon visit to the Lodhi Gardens in Old Delhi. These gardens were laid out in the 15th century to surround the tombs of Delhi’s Lodhi rulers. The tombs are of great architectural interest and have been sensitively restored in recent years.
Today’s welcome dinner will be served at the hotel, and you will then retire for a good night’s sleep.
Monday 24 June
Your morning sightseeing tour will focus on the historic and architectural highlights of New and Old Delhi. There have been seven cities on this site, so the archaeological heritage is exceptionally rich. Highlights of the sightseeing programme will include India Gate and the parliament building, both of which were designed by Edwin Lutyens, the Red Fort and Jama Masjid, and the Tomb Gardens of Humayun. Humayun (1508-56) was the founder of the Mughal dynasty and his dome tomb is considered to be an architectural prototype for the Taj Mahal. We will also visit Sunder Nursery, a 16th Century Heritage Park complex. This nursery was renovated in 2007 and reopened to the public in February 2018. The nursery has about 300 different types of trees.
Afternoon is at leisure.
Tuesday 25 June
The railways are arguably the greatest legacy of the British in India. You will leave early for New Delhi railway station to board Shatabdi Express train to Kalka. The last part of the journey, the narrow-gauge mountain railway from Kalka to Shimla, is incredibly scenic and an engineering masterpiece, protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In Shimla you will stay at Clark’s Hotel for four nights.
Wednesday 26 June
Shimla was the summer playground of the British, who came here in the Himalayan foothills to escape the heat of the plains. Today you’ll have time to explore the wider attractions of Shimla, accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide. The Mall will be familiar to readers of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, and the architectural attractions include Gaiety Theatre, Christ Church, and Viceroy Lodge. Once the main part of the tour is complete, you’ll have ample time to wander in the bazaar, shopping for souvenirs and soaking up the atmosphere of the town.
Afternoon will be at leisure to rest and relax.
Thursday 27 June
Allan Octavian Hume (1829-1912) made Shimla his home in a 19th century mansion called Rothney Castle. Whilst he was living here, he collected the world’s largest collection of South Asian bird specimens, which he later donated to the Natural History Museum in London.
The house was built in 1880 and includes the extensive glass houses where Hume employed gardeners to raise plants. The house is now rather decayed, sadly, and the gardens somewhat wild, but many of the plants Hume collected are still thriving in the grounds.
We will visit Rothney Castle in the morning and enjoy a free afternoon at leisure.
Friday 28 June
It was Shimla’s pleasant climate and the stunning Himalayan landscapes which attracted the British to Shimla. You can appreciate it best by heading out onto the hills, walking in Hume’s footsteps through the meadows and forests. On today’s guided walk you’ll breathe in the cool, fresh mountain air and the fragrance of the grasses and pine trees. You’ll also visit a local village, getting a glimpse of rural life in Himachal Pradesh. Home cooked Lunch will be served in a local Royal Village Home.
Saturday 29 June
It is a little over 300 km from Shimla to Amritsar and it will be a long day with a scenic drive stopping enroute for rest and refreshments. You will depart from Clarkes Hotel Shimla after breakfast and travel in a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle. You will reach Hyatt Hotel in Amritsar around evening time to check in for two nights.
Sunday 30 June
Amritsar is the holy city of India’s Sikhs; the Golden Temple (also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib -- The Abode of God) is their most sacred site. Founded in 1577, it’s a truly magnificent structure, with 750 kg of gold decorating the upper floors. Some 100,000 people come here each day to worship and to eat in the community kitchen.
You will visit the historic sites of Jallian Wala Bagh in the city, followed by a visit to Golden Temple. You will dine alongside the pilgrims, which will be an amazing experience: everyone is expected to sit side by side, regardless of their religion, sex, or economic status, as equality is a central tenet of Sikhism.
Afternoon at leisure.
Monday, 1 July
It is time to head north into the lush Kashmir Valley. You will board Air India flight AI454 from Amritsar at 06:50, arrive Delhi at 07:55 and connect Air India AI825 at 10:15 to arrive Srinagar at 11:45. You will be transferred to houseboats in Nagin Lake in time for lunch.
In Srinagar you will not be staying in a hotel but instead on board a houseboat, a floating palace on Nagin Lake. The British introduced the hand carved cedar wood houseboats to get around restrictions on foreigners owning land, and they are still one of the most iconic sites in Kashmir.
You will reach your houseboat by shikara, a small gondola like boat. The boatman will paddle you gently across the lake, pointing out the various species of aqua flora and quite possibly making you a garland of water lilies or lotus flowers. The lotus is the national flower of India. Various floating merchants will visit you at your houseboat, including the flower sellers with their rainbow coloured cut flowers and seeds.(Please refrain from buying seeds as It is illegal to bring plants and seeds back into the country).
You will have a relaxing Shikara ride on Nagin Lake in the later afternoon.
Tuesday, 2 July
India’s Mughal emperors were so enamoured with Kashmir that they called it a paradise on Earth. In and around Srinagar they built multiple formal gardens in the Persian style, and you’ll have the opportunity to visit three of them.
The Shalimar Garden is on the northern shore of Dal Lake, and it is laid out as a traditional char bagh (a garden in four parts). Marble pavilions flank the water channels, and the terraces are lined with chinar trees.
Nishat Bagh cascades in a succession of 12 terraces; its name means “Garden of Delight”. The char bagh design has been adapted to suit the hilly topography, and the architectural features include fountains, pavilions, and pools. Nishat Bagh is renowned for its Persian lilacs and pansies.
Towards the end of the day you’ll visit Pari Mahal, the Fairy Palace. There’s no better place in Srinagar to watch the sun set over Dal Lake. The gardens were built in the mid 17th century, and there’s a wonderful collection of roses.
Wednesday, 3 July
To appreciate the diversity of Kashmir’s indigenous plant species, you have to go beyond the manmade gardens and venture into the pristine wilderness that is Dachigam National Park. Dachigam has been a protected area since 1910, and the landscape is dominated by coniferous forest, though there are also extensive areas of alpine meadow and scrub. Walking along the forest trails you’ll see all manner of birds -- this was what attracted Hume and other enthusiastic ornithologists here -- and, if you’re fortunate, also leopard cat, Kashmir grey langur, and long-tailed marmot.
In the afternoon you’ll return to Srinagar for a fascinating heritage tour. The Jama Masjid can hold 33,333 worshippers at prayer time and has an unusual architectural style; you’ll also see temples, shrines, and medieval markets of Srinagar city..
Thursday, 4 July
Your journey into the Himalayan mountains continues with a drive to Gulmarg, the Meadow of Flowers. The town rests on the slopes of the Pir Panjal Range, and the area has been famed for its wild flowers since the time of Emperor Jahangir (1569-1627), who made his garden here. There’s a small temple and a church in the town, and you can ride by gondola up into the surrounding hills.
You will also stop at the village of Kanhima to see the traditional art of Kani Shawl weaving. This craft has been practiced in the valley since the time of Mughals.
In Gulmarg you will stay at Hotel Highlands Park.
Friday, 5 July
Today your tour is focused on the Gulmarg Biosphere Reserve, which is well known for its rich vegetation. Conifers possibly account for 90% of the forest; look out for Cedrus deodara, Pinus griffithii, Abies pindrow, and Aesculus indica, but also shrubs such as Indigofera heterantha, Sorbaria tomentosa, and a range of herbaceous plants. You will also take a walk in Strawberry Valley, where both wild and domesticated strawberry species flourish.
Saturday, 6 July
It’s time to leave Kashmir and its striking mountain vistas behind. You will fly from Srinagar to Delhi on Go air G8149, departing at 15:40 and arriving at 17:20. You will stay overnight at the conveniently located Pullman Aerocity near the airport.
Sunday, 7 July
You will fly home from Delhi to London on direct British airways flight BA256at 10:20 , and arrive back at Heathrow at 15:20.
The SLBI is promoting this tour for its members and other interested individuals. The tour is operated by Indus Tours & Travel Ltd under their ATOL Licence 4586.
All arrangements for transport, accommodations and services are made based on the booking conditions of Indus Tours and Travel Ltd - the contract is solely between the booker and Indus Tours and Travel Ltd. The SLBI shall not be liable for any direct, indirect consequential or incidental damage, injury, loss, accident, delay or irregularity of any kind occasioned by reason of any act or omission arising from this tour.
If you wish to become a member of SLBI please see details here
- How to Book this Tour
- Travel Insurance
- International air fare on direct British Airways flight inclusive all taxes in economy class. World Traveller Plus and Business class supplements are available on request.
- Internal flights in economy class inclusive all taxes.
- Accommodation in sharing twin, double or single rooms with private facilities.
- Meal Plan: Breakfast and dinner at all hotels, stay at Houseboats in Srinagar is on full board. One lunch in Shimla on the day of village walk is included.
- All transfers and sightseeing arrangements by coach in Delhi, Shimla and Amritsar and by private cars in Kashmir.
- Entry fee for all monuments and places of interest.
- Services of a local English speaking guide for sightseeing as per itinerary.
- Services of Perveen Nicoll ( Nicky) as trip leader.
- Services of our representative for all arrival and departure transfers.
- Mineral water while travelling and on sightseeing.
Indus Experiences will make a contribution on each booking to South London Botanical Institute.
Cost does not include:
- Visa fee for India. E-Tourist visa is now available for India. On booking we will send you a step by step guide how to apply for E-Tourist visa on line.
Travel Insurance. You can obtain a competitive price for travel insurance from
Travel & General see link to Travel Insurance
Any expenses of a personal nature.
- Tips and Gratuities.
- To book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £500.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.
- If you wish to join the tour and fly from any country other than United Kingdom please contact us for land only arrangements.
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
- It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
- It covers you for all activities.
- Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
- If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.