Tour #1
October 22-November 7, 2005

3 nights in Delhi, 13 nights in Dharamsala

Add Ons: (Please inquire for rates):

  1. Agra to see Taj Mahal and surrounding historical/archeological sites (two additional days)
  2. Kashmir to stay on houseboats on Dal Lake (four additional days)
  3. Bandhagarvh Tiger Preserve (four additional days)


The proposed activities are based on providing you with a Once in A Lifetime experience and always reflect, to the greatest extent possible, the interests of both the individuals and the group.  Our goal is to provide you with a series of high impact close-up adventures, in a relaxing and informal setting-a real opportunity to spend real time with fascinating people in a beautiful environment.

We will pick and choose as individuals and as a group what we want to do.  Let us know what people and events most appeal to you!  All activities are, of course, based on availability of the key individuals during the time we are in Delhi and Dharamsala.

In New Delhi -

In New Delhi, we will begin and end our journey. At the start, it will give us a few days to get over jet lag and gather as a group before we begin our journey to the north to Dharamsala

Possible Inspiring People to Meet in New Delhi

·       Rajmohan Gandhi – Grandson of Mohandas Gandhi and a leader in the international field of training in non-violent conflict resolution

·       Naresh Mathur – Buddhist philosopher and Supreme Court lawyer; has been acting as an advocate for the Tibetan Exile Government for many years

·       Mrs. Nair at the Salaam Balaak Trust – Mrs. Nair (the mother of the woman who directed and produced Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala and Monsoon Wedding) facilitates an educational safe house for runaway street children in Delhi

·       Renuka Singh – An internationally recognized author (Women and Spirituality in India) and biographer for His Holiness the Dalai Lama; She is a sociology professor at the Nehru university in New Delhi

·       Surinder Kaur – Working on a tiger preserve project at Bandhagarvh Tiger Preserve that is creating village cooperatives to increase local income and stop tiger poaching

Possible Sights/Activities in New Delhi

·       Astronomy Park – an outdoor site with several story high ramps and enclosures built centuries ago to view the stars and celestial phenomenon.

·       Charity Bird Hospital – A charming and wonderful bird hospital in the Old City of Delhi where injured birds are taken to recuperate.

·       Cottage Emporiums – Shopping for Indian textiles (saris, bedspreads, pillows, wall hangings) as well as items of wood and bamboo and ceramic tile; Every state of India has a cottage emporium where the goods are varied and wonderful and the prices are right.

·       Humayun temple – Considered a jewel of practical ecology where the ancient Mogul science of landscaping beautifully synchronizes natural elements of the environment with geometric structures.

·       India Arts and Crafts – shopping for Indian furniture at a warehouse that specializes in shipping overseas; replica antique Indian chests, painted benches, chairs, glass-doored bookcases, library tables, etc.. ·       Charity Bird Hospital – A charming and wonderful bird hospital in the Old City of Delhi where injured birds are taken to recuperate.

·       Lotus Temple – An extraordinary complex of the Bahai religion that is dedicated to bringing together all religions of the world.

·       Mahatma Gandhi Museum – The museum contains original photos and documents about the life of Gandhi and his impact on India and the world. It is based at Birla House, the residence of Gandhi where he was assassinated in 1948. We can walk in the gardens, on the very path that Gandhi strode for his last teaching.

·       Old Delhi – Blocks and blocks of winding streets that take you to the musical instrument stalls, the ribbon and braid dealers, the gold jewelry dealers, specialty papers, etc. Each product has its own area. This area was originally the gold market for the wives and daughters of the Maharajah.

·       Red Fort – A centuries old, enormous fort built by Shah Jahan.

In Dharamsala (McLeod Ganj) –

Possible Inspiring People to Meet in Dharamsala

·       His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama The schedule of His Holiness is full, and he travels extensively in the West teaching and speaking out for awareness of the Tibet situation, but we will do everything we can to arrange for a private audience for our group while we are in Dharamsala.

·       Ani Tenzin Palmo An afternoon with Ani Tenzin Palmo, the author of Cave in the Snow. Ani Tenzin Palmo is an English born Tibetan Buddhist nun who spent fourteen years in retreat in a cave in Northern India and is now establishing a nunnery for Tibetan nuns in a small settlement outside of Dharamsala.

·       Ani Tenzin Sangmo Ani Tenzin Sangmo is a Dutch Buddhist nun who is the leader in a project to create a nunnery/institute in Dharamsala to answer the spiritual training needs of Westerners who have become ordained as Buddhist nuns.

·       Bagdro Bagdro is a Buddhist monk who escaped from Tibet in the early 1990’s after years of torture in a Chinese prison for participating in demonstrations for Tibetan independence. He is an engaging speaker, and the author of Hell on Earth, an autobiography that deals with his experiences in Tibet.

·       John Vincent Bellezza Author of several books on Tibetan antiquities, he has been traveling in Tibet for three decades to areas that have previously been unknown to students of Tibetan history; fascinating view of Tibetan history and archaeology.

·       Elizabeth Napper The force behind Dolma Ling Nunnery, where over 300 Tibetan nuns reside.

·       17th Karmapa The Karmapa is in residence at Gyuto Monastery, living in exile after a dramatic escape from Tibet in 2000. The young Karmapa gives teachings four times per week. We will try to arrange for a private audience and short teaching for our group.

·       Pu-Druk An ex-political prisoner in Tibet; was imprisoned for fourteen years for leading peaceful demonstrations in eastern Tibet. Escaped from Tibet to Dharamsala in May, 2005.

·       Professor Samdhong Rinpoche Professor S. Rinpoche is the Prime Minister of the Tibetan exile Government. As a monk, teacher and politician, he is highly revered as a Tibetan leader and speaks out clearly for Tibetan independence through non-violent resistance.

Possible Sights/Activities in Dharamsala

·       Amnye Machen Institute Set up to continue the tradition of excellent Tibetan literature as well as encourage ongoing dialogue on issues of Tibet.

·       The Dogga Adult Education Center An opportunity to teach a class for adult learners at The Dogga - English classes a any level; a great experience you won’t forget; our group may prepare a lesson and then have lunch with the students afterwards

·       Dolma Ling Nunnery The nunnery begun with the support of Elizabeth Napper;  home to over 300 Tibetan Buddhist nuns who have escaped from Tibet over the last two decades.

·       Gu-Chu-Sum The home of the Ex-Political Prisoner’s Movement; they run a Japanese Restaurant and also a fine tailoring school where students who are ex-political prisoners create fine silk items for export;  we will have an evening presentation by one of the Gu-Chu-Sum members and dinner at the Lung Ta Restaurant.

·       Library of Tibetan Works and Archives World’s largest repository of texts/research on Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism.

·       Lower Dharamsala Lower Dharamsala is ten miles down the mountain from McLeod Ganj, and a beehive of activity- Indian food stalls, textile shops, and stores where Indians and Tibetans buy the daily stuff of life

·       Men Tsee Khang a presentation for our group on Tibetan medicine;  a visit to the Men Tsee Khang Museum which has a variety of herbs and centuries-old tools used in Tibetan traditional medicine.

·       Naddi A half day hike to Naddi, a picturesque village above McLeod Ganj; we will spend the night and take short hikes outside the village the next day.

·       Namgyal Monastery The monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama- sight of two main temples wit exquisite paintings and statues; at night we will go there to watch the Tibetan monks and nuns practice debating, the centuries-old method for learning in the monastic centers.

·       Nechung Oracle’s Monastery The Nechung Oracle is the state oracle of the Tibetan Exile Government, helping Tibetan leaders make decisions for the last many centuries;  we will try to have a private audience with the Nechung Oracle for our group; may be possible to see the Oracle in trance.

·       Norbulingka Arts and Crafts Center The premier Tibetan arts and crafts center where 350 people live and work to preserve Tibetan culture through traditional training of young Tibetans by master craftsmen who have escaped from Tibet over the last forty years (includes studios for Tibetan traditional wood carving, thangka painting, carpet weaving, metal sculpture);  visit with Mrs. Kim Yeshi, the founder of Norbulingka.

·       Tashi Jong Settlement A Tibetan settlement a few hours from Dharamsala; location of Ani Tenzin Palmo’s nunnery, a beautiful temple, a wood carving ship where elderly draftsmen are carving wooden printing stamps.

·       Thangde Gatsal Thangka Studio A training center for Tibetan thangka painters; the studio has received several high commissions in recent months and will provide a presentation on thangka painting techniques and symbolism. Master painters, this studio would be an excellent place to order a Medicine Buddha thangka on commission, that would be later sent to you at home.

·       Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy The government department where researchers and writers compile data about the current state of human rights in Tibet and release documents world-wide to draw attention to the ongoing oppression and human rights violations that continue to occur.

·       Tibetan Children’s Village – Centerpiece of the educational system for Tibetan refugee children; we will meet with Director, Jetsun Pema, sister to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and mentor for a generation of Tibetan educators.

·       Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts – The home of the Tibetan opera in exile; A chance to see the performing arts school and possibly attend performances; young and old Tibetans are dancing, playing and learning Tibetan traditional musical instruments and dance.

·       Tibetan Reception Center where new arrivals (men, women and children) who have recently escaped from Tibet are given food, clothing and shelter as they face the hard decisions about what their new life outside of Tibet will bring;  our group will deliver toys to the children, as all come from Tibet with only the clothes on their back.

·       Tibetan Transit School Here over 700 young Tibetan men and women are studying and planning for their future, either within Tibet or in exile.

·       Tibet National Museum Wonderful collection of oral histories and photographic exhibits of life in Tibet pre and post 1959 (the official year of the Chinese Communist takeover of Tibet).

·       Tibetan Women’s Association – Non-profit organization advocating for reproductive and human rights of women within Tibet.

Additional Activities of Interest:

·       Art Classes at Thangde Gatsal – The thangka painting training studio will provide half day hands-on art class for our group in the unique shading techniques of Tibetan traditional painting (clouds, water, flowers)

·      Birding ExcursionsFor birding enthusiasts we will arrange field trips with local naturalist Jan Willem den Besten, author of Birds of the Kangra Valley.

·      Buddhist Teachings at the Tibetan Library – those who wish to participate in Buddhist teachings will be able to do so at the a) Tibetan Library (classes at 9:00AM and 11:00AM everyday except Sunday), b) Gyuto Monastery, home of the 17th Karmapa; c) Tushita Meditation Center

·      Cinema Night – Here is a strange and wonderful experience, attending a film showing at one of the local theaters (we use the term “theater” loosely);  join in with the locals and the foreigners in town to see Western, Hindi or Tibetan films -- all with subtitles; many films on life in Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai lama and Tibetan teachings on death and dying are shown everyday

·      Cooking ClassesTibetan and Indian cooking classes can be arranged for as few as three people.

·      Indian Classical MusicIf we’re lucky, we’ll be able to go to see Indian classical musicians playing the sitar, tabla and other Indian instruments. All in an intimate environment.

·      Massage – There are several excellent masseuses and masseurs for travel weary bodies in Dharamsala and the price is right!

·      Medical Consultations with Dr. Yeshi DhondenDr. Yeshi Dhonden is the former physician of His Holiness the Dalai Lama; those who wish can arrange for a private consultation with him on a specific health problem or a general consultation on well-being.

·      Meditation Classes – Meditation classes of all types abound in Dharamsala, ranging from Zen to Tibetan insight meditation; we can arrange for private classes or a group class with local teachers

·      Meditation Walks – Join hundreds of Tibetans as they carry their prayer beads on morning or evening walks and circle the Dalai Lama’s temple; a great way to start or finish every day in Dharamsala

·      Prayer Pujas by the Monks of Gyudmed MonasteryThe monks of Gyudmed are known for their special prayer ceremonies for health, removal of negativity in all aspects of one’s life and general welfare. Those who wish may request a special prayer ceremony and attend during the prayers. You may request a puja for yourself or others.

·      Reiki Initiations/AttunementsIt is possible to take a three day Reiki I or II workshop from a well-known local Reiki Master

·      Rotary ClubRotary Club members from other countries are invited to attend the Saturday night meeting of the Dharamsala Rotary Club.

·      Shopping – We would never want to downplay the opportunity to shop for colorful, unique gifts for you and friends and family. There are many fine tailoring shops with Tibetan and Western-style clothing, as well as purses, jewelry, book covers, wall hangings and much more. You may find Tibetan antiquities on the streets of McLeod Ganj featuring the work of both Tibetan and Indian artisans. You may buy amulets or statues dedicated with special prayers by Buddhist monks. There are also opportunities (through Thangde Gatsal Thangka Studio) to commission a Tibetan thangka (spiritual painting) made especially for you by the finest thangka craftspeople in exile. There are many good bookstores with hundreds of excellent texts on India, the Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhism.

·      Tibetan Astrology ReadingsLobsang Wangchuk, a Tibetan astrologer trained in Tibet will do personal readings for those in our tour who are interested.

·      Triund – Triund is a mountain area several hours above Dharamsala;  it is a medium-intensity hike, and can be arranged for those who wish to travel out into the hills to look back at the spectacular views of Dharamsala as well as the views east over the Himalayas.

·      Yoga ClassesThere are a number of master yoga teachers in Dharamsala; we can arrange for private or group classes for one day or several for those who are interested.


  Dianne Aigaki is an artist, grant writer and advocate for the Tibetan culture in exile. She has lived in Dharamsala for eight years, working as a volunteer for various non-profit organizations and Tibetan exile government departments, training individuals and groups to write solid plans and fund-raising proposals and helping to develop adult education and community garden projects. She was Coordinator of the Gyudmed Tantric Monastery Compassion Tours in the United States, traveling with the Gyudmed monks while they are in the States in 2000 and 2001. In 2004, she spent six weeks traveling in the nomad country of Tibet painting scientific botanical illustrations of the wild flowers growing between 11,000-17,000 feet.



Because so many people have varied travel options (including upgrades, free miles, special travel agencies and contacts), our journey will begin upon your arrival in New Delhi, India. If you are a bargain shopper, try contacting local Indian restaurant and stores ion your area in a major city nearby and asking them what travel agency or airline they recommend. They will know the cheapest and best way to get to India, as thousands of Indian citizens travel back and forth daily from the United States.

Many major airlines fly from western cities to India, including American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, China Airlines, Korean Air, Northwest Orient, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and United Airlines. All of these have mileage partnership agreements with US–based Airlines. Star Alliance has several partners flying here.


As with all travel, we recommend travel insurance with an emergency evacuation rider. Although there are excellent medical facilities in India, with oftentimes Western-trained physicians on duty, there is always the possibility of emergencies. Travel insurance is considered to be one of the bargains in travel and will cover not only your health requirements, but will usually cover lost or stolen property along the way and emergency cancellations you may have to make. Please check with your travel agency, usual insurance provider or on the Internet to find out about travel insurance that will work for you.


For information to guide your personal decision on inoculations and vaccinations, we recommend that you contact:

·       Your primary physician

·       Local county health department

·       Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia

Do check with your physician early if you think you will want to get vaccinations/inoculations, as some require a booster a few weeks apart.


Each international passenger is allowed to bring one carry-on bag plus a purse (camera bag, etc), plus two check in bags that weigh 70 pounds. Most people find that they can buy everything they need in India, (including favorite toothpastes and shampoos), as well as clothing of all sorts. We certainly suggest bringing a good camera (film is available in Dharamsala), plus batteries for your camera--India, and Dharamsala especially, is one of the most photogenic locations on earth.

If you are a light traveler, we suggest packing your carry-on bag with your personal items, and then filling the two remaining suitcases with things to give away in India:

  • Medical Supplies (medicines, bandages, etc);  We will be happy to give you a list of needed supplies from the local hospitals.  You can then contact your physician or other medical care professionals, and see is they have supplies they can donate. 
  • Toys for children - especially small stuffed animals to be given away to newly arrived refugee children and also to children on the streets
  • Books in English - Adult literature books, books for children and teenagers; English As A Second Language study books
  • Books on Tape - These are good for English learners, especially if you can also locate a used version of the book itself to go along with the tapes. These sets will be used by hundreds of students at the adult school for years to come.
  • Clothing - In general, clothing is quite inexpensive here in India, so baby clothes seem to be the best bargain for transport to India.
  • Seeds for the McLeod Ganj Community Garden Project - Vegetables and flower seeds are much appreciated and can often be donated in bulk by local growers in your area


In Exile in the Land of the Snows - Richard Avedon
An interview with His Holiness by psychologist Howard Cutler, looks at a simple but broad-based view on what brings happiness.

Cave in the Snow - Ani Tenzin Palmo
Biography of Ani Tenzin Palmo, an English woman who became a Tibetan Buddhist nun and spent years in retreat in a cave in Northern India. She presently lives in Dharamsala.

The Art of Happiness - His Holiness the Dalai Lama
An interview with His Holiness by psychologist Howard Cutler, looks at a simple but broad-based view on what brings happiness.

Ethics for the New Millennium - His Holiness the Dalai Lama
A best-selling book about how business and individuals can use a compassion-based, ethical approach to daily lives.

The World’s Religions - Huston Smith
Huston Smith, a well-known scholar on world religions gives an insightful overview of the primary religions, including Tibetan Buddhism.

Fire Under the Snow - Palden Gyatso
Biography of monk Palden Gyatso, recounting his years of torture in Chinese prisons and his world view since escaping from Tibet. Monk Palden Gyatso has become one of the most outspoken Tibetan ex-prisoners of war in terms of World awareness on human rights violations within Tibet.



$2,900 includes all ground transportation within the country of India (we will travel by private bus, jeeps, and by train, choosing the most effective and efficient mode of travel between locations), all meals and hotels, admission to museums, stipends for speakers and presenters when required plus a $500 tax-deductible donation to community projects. We will be staying at clean mid-range hotels in both Delhi and Dharamsala. Throughout the trip, it is possible for travelers to choose vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals with no problem. Cost is based on double occupancy. Those desiring single accommodations, please add $500 to the Tour Package.

If there is an official United States Embassy Travel Warning that precludes the trip to India, we will refund 100% of your Deposit and Tour Fee.

Additional Cities/Activites

Additional individual activities, which are not covered in the Tour Package, include such extras as astrology readings, massage sessions, medical consultations and donations for prayer pujas.

Additional cities such as travel to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and to Bandagarvh Tiger Preserve may be arranged through Once in a Life Time, but will not be covered as part of the Once in a Life Time Tour Package. Please let us know if you would like to extend the end or beginning portion of your trip by two days to visit the Taj Mahal (a four-hour train ride south of Delhi) or Bandagarvh (4 extra days) or Kashmir (4 extra days) and we will do our best to make advance arrangements and partner you with like-minded travelers


Fall Journey-2005
A $500 non-refundable deposit is due by September 1, 2005 to reserve your place on the Journey to the Land of Wisdom and Culture to Dharamsala, India. Balance of $2,400 is due by September 22, 2005.

Spring Journey-2006
A $500 non-refundable deposit is due by February 15, 2006 to reserve your place on the Journey to the Land of Wisdom and Culture to Dharamsala, India. Balance of $2,400 is due by March 1, 2006.


Want to know more? Please contact Dianne Aigaki at


The United States government routinely advises its citizens about travel to various countries in the world, based on the current world conditions. Since July, 2002, with the reduction in hostilities on the India-Pakistan border area of Kashmir, they no longer have travel warnings to India. The United States embassy employees and their families are in residence in New Delhi. There continue to be skirmishes on the Pakistan/India border, as there have been since 1948, at the time of Partition. To our knowledge, these skirmishes have never been a factor in the daily life of the residents of Dharamsala.

© 2005 Dianne Aigaki ö All Rights Reserved