Essential India & Sri Lanka

India | Sri Lanka

Culture

India's Golden Triangle & the best of Sri Lanka.

16 days £3,495 pp This is the price per person for a private tour (based on 2 people travelling) excluding international flights. Contact us for pricing for other group sizes including individuals.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Begin your journey in India, at the heart of the historic city of Delhi. Walk the lively streets of Mumbai, visit the iconic Taj Mahal and explore the sights of Jaipur. Continue your voyage on to experience the rich culture of Sri Lanka. Visit the sacred Temple of the Tooth in Kandy and get a taste for Sri Lankan tea in Hatton before you take a step back in time, climbing the UNESCO-listed Sigirya Rock Fortress and exploring the ancient royal kingdom of Polonnaruwa.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Explore the heritage sights of Old and New Delhi
  • Visit the magnificent Taj Mahal
  • Beautiful Rajputana architecture of the Amber Fort
  • Explore Mumbai, India's most populous city
  • Sigirya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Ancient Royal Kingdom of Polonnaruwa
  • Home of ancient Sri Lankan kings at Kandy
  • Golden Temple Complex in Dambulla

Places Visited

Delhi - Agra - Fatehpur Sikri - Jaipur - Mumbai - Negombo - Colombo - Sigirya Rock Fortress - Polonnaruwa - Kandy - Dambulla Rock Temple - Hatton - Galle

What's Included

Arrival & departure transfers
Ground transport with driver
Domestic flights
Accommodation
Meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
English-speaking guides
Entrance fees to sites & parks
Itinerary
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Day 1 : Arrival into Delhi

Arrival into Delhi, where you will be met by a Travel the Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Delhi. 

Meal plan: Dinner

India’s capital and a major gateway to the country, contemporary Delhi is a bustling metropolis, which successfully combines the ancient with the modern. Amidst the vast spiraling skyscrapers, the remnants of a bygone era in the form of its many monuments, stand as silent reminders of the region’s ancient legacy. The first impression for any visitor travelling in from the airport is of a specious, garden city, tree-lined with a number of beautiful parks.

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Day 2 : Delhi

Spend the day visiting the sights of Old and New Delhi. Overnight in Delhi. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The walled city of Old Delhi, which includes the Lal Qila or Red Fort of Delhi, was established in 1650 AD by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. The Spice Bazaar, or Khari Baoli, is a street in Old Delhi known for its wholesale grocery and is one of Asia’s largest wholesale spice markets selling all kinds of spices, nuts and herbs. Operating since the 17th century, the market is situated close to the historic Delhi Red Fort. Learn about the spices on sale and smell their aromas. One of Delhi's most interesting buildings is the Jama Masjid (mosque), which is surrounded by traditional businesses that showcase centuries’ old arts and crafts. There is also a marvellous old-fashioned shop where you can test Indian perfume from cut-glass bottles. You will saunter through the main bridal street of Old Delhi, Kinari Bazaar, with its dazzling display of embroidered silk wedding saris.
 


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Day 3 : Delhi - Agra

Depart Delhi and take the train to Agra. On arrival in Agra, you will be transferred to your hotel. Spend the afternoon visiting the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Overnight in Agra. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

​The Taj Mahal is an immense mausoleum of white marble, built for Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The construction of the tomb began in 1632 and employed more than 20,000 workers. Situated on the right bank of the Yamuna in a vast Mogul garden, this funerary monument, bounded by four isolated minarets, reigns with its octagonal structure capped by a bulbous dome through the criss-cross of open perspectives offered by alleys or basins of water. The materials were brought in from all over India and central Asia and white Makrana marble from Jodhpur. Precious stones for the inlay came from Baghdad, Punjab, Egypt, Russia, Golconda, China, Afghanistan, Ceylon, Indian Ocean and Persia. The unique Mughal style combines elements and styles of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architecture.

Situated on the bank of the river Yamuna, the UNESCO World Heritage Agra Fort is an enormous, grand structure. The special feature of this fort is the 2.5km long and 21 metre-high circuitous wall of solid red sand stone in which each of the stones are closely bound by iron rings. The fort is surrounded by a deep moat. Some of the important buildings inside the fort are the Jahangiri Mahal, the Moti Masjid and Mena Bazaars.

Built in the early 16th century and formerly the capital of the mighty Mughals, Agra is famous for its beautiful medieval monuments. The city was pampered by the Mughals for more than two centuries, adorned with their beautiful artworks and striking architectural styles.The crowning jewel of Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal (World Heritage Site) is one of the world’s most beautiful and beloved structures. 

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Day 4 : Agra - Jaipur

Drive to Jaipur, stopping en route at Farehpur Sikri, along with the Stepwells of Abhaneri. On arrival in Jaipur, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Jaipur. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

The Stepwells of Abhaneri, also known as 'Chand Baori', is an ancient landmark that was once used to conserve water in the arid state of Rajasthan. The stepwell was built by King Chanda during the Nikumbh dynasty (between 800 and 900 CE) and dedicated to Hashat Mata - the Goddess of Joy and Happiness - upon its completion.

Fatehpur Sikri was built by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in the 16th century to serve as the capital of his vast empire. Although Akbar had many wives, he did not have an heir, which led him to many holy men and finally to the renowned Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chisti, who lived in an isolated cave near Sikri. The saint blessed Akbar and soon a son was born to him. The grateful emperor named his son Salim after the saint, erected the grand Jami Mosque near the saint's dwelling and vowed to build a great city in that place. Thus emerged the great city of Fatehpur Sikri, a citadel of grand courts, palaces, mosques and gardens that rivalled the splendours of Delhi and Agra. However, destiny had other things in store for the city. Shortage of water and unrest in the north-west made Akbar abandon the city only 13 years later. Today, even after the passage of 400 years, the magnificence of this royal city has not faded and remains immaculately preserved.
 


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Day 5 : Jaipur

Spend the day visiting the sights of Jaipur, including Amber Fort, City Palace and the Jantar Mantar Observatory. Overnight in Jaipur. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Set in rugged, picturesque hills, the Amber Fort is a fascinating piece of Rajputana architecture. Constructed by Raja Man and completed by Sawai Jai Singh I, the fort is made from red sandstone and white marble. The rugged, forbidding exterior encloses an inner sanctuary with some spectacular art and architectural styles. The interior wall of the palace depicts expressive painting scenes with carvings, precious stones and mirror settings.

Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is one of the five astronomical observatories built by Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur in the 18th century. These observatories incorporate many unique building styles, each with a specialised function for astronomical measurement. These structures, with their striking combinations of large scale geometric forms, have captivated the attention of architects, artists, and art historians worldwide.

City Palace has been home to the rulers of Jaipur since the first half of the 18th century. The sprawling complex is a superb blend of Rajput and Mughal architecture with open, airy Mughal-style public buildings leading to private apartments. Today, part of the complex is open to the public as the City Palace Museum houses numerous medieval treasures including miniature paintings.

The capital and largest city in Rajasthan, Jaipur was planned and named by the Great warrior astronomer Maharaja Jai Singh II (1699–1744 AD). The buildings are constructed in pink sandstone after the whole city was painted pink to welcome the Prince of Wales and Queen Victoria in 1876 during their tour of India, with pink symbolising hospitality. Many of the avenues remain pink, giving Jaipur its popular name of the “Pink City”.

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Day 6 : Jaipur - Mumbai

Travel to the airport, where you will fly on to Mumbai. On arrival in Mumbai, you will be transferred to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Mumbai. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 7 : Mumbai

Spend the morning touring the city of Mumbai. The afternoon will be free for you to spend at your leisure. Overnight in Mumbai. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Mumbai is the most populous city in India, the economical and commercial centre of the country and the home of Bollywood, the Hindi film industry. Mumbai's most famous site is the Gateway of India, a 26-metre-high arch built to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary in India in 1911. Other important landmarks include the Marine Drive boulevard, known as the 'Queen's Necklace' due to its resemblance to a pearl necklace when viewed at night from above; Dhobi Ghat, the world’s largest open air laundry; Crawford Market, the largest market in Mumbai,  named after  the first Municipal Commissioner of the city, Arthur Crawford; and the Victoria Terminus railway station, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The latter is famous for its blend of Gothic Revival and traditional Mughal architectural styles, and was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. In 1996 it was renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, after the founder of the Maratha Empire.

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Day 8 : Mumbai - Colombo - Negombo

The day will be free for you to spend at your leisure, before an evening flight to Colombo. On arrival, you will be transferred to Negombo. Overnight stay in Negombo. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Negombo is a quiet beach town on the western coast of Sri Lanka. It was under Dutch control for the majority of the 18th Century, becoming one of their most important sources of cinnamon, before being acquired by the British in 1796. Negombo is a great introduction to Sri Lanka with a friendly local community and restaurants to suit all tastes. It has an interesting old quarter as well as a 100km-long canal that was used during the town’s Dutch era. It also boasts a number of Catholic churches, boutiques and interesting stalls.
 


Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, is a vibrant city with a rich and diverse history. Its landmark colonial and modern architecture take influence from its Portuguese, Dutch, British, Islamic, Indian and Buddhist dwellers; and is most visible in the city's Fort district. Other interesting sights in Colombo include the Galle Face Green, Viharamahadevi Park, Old Parliament Building and the Independence Hall.
 


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Day 9 : Negombo - Sigiriya

The morning will be spent travelling to Sigiriya. On arrival, check in to your hotel, before visiting Sigirya Rock Fortress. Overnight in Sigiriya. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Negombo is a quiet beach town on the western coast of Sri Lanka. It was under Dutch control for the majority of the 18th Century, becoming one of their most important sources of cinnamon, before being acquired by the British in 1796. Negombo is a great introduction to Sri Lanka with a friendly local community and restaurants to suit all tastes. It has an interesting old quarter as well as a 100km-long canal that was used during the town’s Dutch era. It also boasts a number of Catholic churches, boutiques and interesting stalls.
 


The Sigirya Rock Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the wonders of the ancient world. It is located in the middle of a plain and consists of a 200m-tall central rock and two rectangular precincts that stand on the east and the west. The fortress is surrounded by wide moats that used to be full of crocodiles. Sigirya was built under the orders of King Kasyapa and was used as both a palace and a fortress. 

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Day 10 : Sigiriya

Begin the day with a visit to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Spend the afternoon at your leisure. Overnight in Sigiriya. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Between the 11th and 13th centuries, Polonnaruwa was a Royal Kingdom and served as Sri Lanka's second largest kingdom.. Once a military city, where King Vijayabahu defeated the Chola invaders from South India (in 1070 AD), Polonnaruwa is also home to many sacred monasteries and Buddhist remains, including the remarkable 12th Century 'Rock Temple', Gal Vihara. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it also boasts pristine and perfectly preserved sculptures and carvings.

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Day 11 : Sigiriya - Kandy

Travel to Kandy, stopping en route at Dambulla Rock Temple. Following your arrival in Kandy, spend the afternoon exploring the city, including a visit to the Temple of the Tooth. Overnight in Kandy. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka. Capital of the Central Province, Kandy is both a commercial and religious city; the latter being the predominant reason why the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Surrounded by mist clinging hills, Kandy is prone to soft drizzle and grey skies. However, its wet climate only illuminates the rich colours of its colonial houses and intricate silk saris worn by local women. The picturesque region of Kandy is also home to The Esala Perahera, one of the oldest and grandest Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka to commemorate the first teaching given by the Buddha, and the longest river in the country, the Mahaweli River.

The UNESCO-site Dambulla Rock Temple was built by King Walagambahu in the first century. Also known as the Golden Temple Complex, it is one of Sri Lanka’s most impressive cave temples, containing over 2000 sq metres of painted walls and ceilings. In fact it is thought to be the largest collection of paintings in the world, with over 150 images of the Buddha spread between the five caves, the largest being 14 metres tall.

The Temple of the Tooth, also known as Sri Dalada, is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy. Home to Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha – it has played a central role in local politics. For centuries it has been believed that whoever held the tooth would also hold governance of the country, hence why Kandy is the country’s sacred city.

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Day 12 : Kandy - Hatton

Depart Kandy and travel on to Hatton. The afternoon will be free to spend at your leisure. Overnight in Hatton. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Founded during British colonial times, Hatton's tea estates produce some of the finest tea in the world. The colonial influence is evident throughout; the name 'Hatton' derives from a village in Aberdeenshire, whilst a number of surrounding tea estates are also named after Scottish villages. The landscape is a kaleidoscope of colour, with tea pluckers wearing bright sarees dotting the vast estates covering the rolling hills.

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Day 13 : Hatton

Spend the day on tour of a tea plantation and factory in Hatton. Overnight in Hatton. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 14 : Hatton - Galle

Travel to Galle. On arrival, check in to your hotel before spending the rest of the day at your leisure. Overnight in Galle. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

From 1505 to 1640 the Portuguese governed Galle, ruling for 135 years before being defeated by the Dutch, who constructed the UNESCO-listed Galle Fort. When the British acquired the city in 1796 they turned the fort and city into their administrative centre. However, after the country became a formal British colony in 1815, Galle declined in importance as the British developed Colombo as their capital and main port. Despite being heavily damaged in the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, the city operates a booming tourist trade and local economy; complete with schools and colleges, administrative offices and courts. 
 


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Day 15 : Galle

Enjoy a free day in Galle, where you can relax and explore Galle Fort. Overnight in Galle. 

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

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Day 16 : Galle - Colombo Airport

Transfer to Colombo Airport for your departure flight. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Extensions

Kolkata & Sunderbans (6 days)

Discover colonial Kolkata and the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve

Hill Stations & Mountains

Escape the city and unwind among some of the most breathtaking mountain and hill scapes the world has to offer.

City Extensions (1-4 days)

Visit the must-see sights and the hidden depths of India's most vibrant cities.

Beaches (1-7 days)

After exploring the busy cities, there's no better place to relax than one of India's paradisiacal beaches

Treks & Walks (1-12 days)

Himalayan treks, village walks and more

The Golden Triangle (5 days)

Marvel at India's most incredible forts and palaces

Himalayan Extension: Ladakh to Kashmir (5 days)

Travel across the spectacular Himalayan Highway

Kolkata & Darjeeling Snapshot (7 days)

Ideal extension to Bhutan

Wildlife of Madagascar, India & Borneo (29 days)

Spot lemurs, tigers & orangutans

Indian Odyssey (29 days)

Experience the best of North and South India

Highlights of the Subcontinent (22 days)

Discover iconic sights of India, Nepal & Bhutan

Wildlife of India & Borneo (21 days)

Get under the skin of Asia's two best wildlife spots.

Monks, Tribes & Rhinos (20 days)

Himalayan mountains, unseen tribes & amazing wildlife

Hill stations to the Himalayas (20 days)

Travel through the Himalayan foothills via Shimla & Amritsar to Ladakh

Classic Bhutan & Assam Cruise (18 days)

Experience Bhutan's rich culture, colonial Kolkata and rural life in Assam

Essential India & China (17 days)

Visit the two most populous countries on Earth.

Glimpse of India & Nepal (16 days)

Golden Triangle and the Himalayas

Essential India & Sri Lanka (16 days)

India's Golden Triangle & the best of Sri Lanka.

Textiles & Artisans of Gujarat & Rajasthan (16 days)

Nomadic tribes, traditional textiles, crafts & Mewar Festival

Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters (15 days)

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival (15 days)

Wildlife, tribes & rural life in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur

Taste of South India (15 days)

Experience the flavours and exotic spices of South India

Kerala Calling (15 days)

Tropical mountains, tea & spice plantations, and backwaters

Rajasthan Explorer & Pushkar Camel Fair (15 days)

Fort cities, rural villages & camel fair

Big Six of India (15 days)

Spot tigers, lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino & elephants

Tribal Orissa & Chhattisgarh (14 days)

Distinct tribal cultures, unique temples & traditional textiles

Spirit of South India (14 days)

Temple towns of Tamil Nadu to backwaters of Kerala

Kerala & Karnataka Explorer (14 days)

Idyllic backwaters, tropical forests & ancient temple towns

Taj, Tigers & Temples (14 days)

Perfect mix of classic sights and off-beat places for first-timers to India

Hampi and Beyond (14 days)

Discover Karnataka's stone temples, wildlife and coffee farms

Tribes of North East India (14 days)

Remote tribal cultures in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam & Nagaland

Sacred India (14 days)

Uncover the religious diversity of India

Delicacies of North India (14 days)

Discover the huge diversity of North India's cuisine

Big Cats of India (14 days)

Experience the thrill of the Indian jungle ...

Best of Bengal & Sikkim (14 days)

Colonial Kolkata, Darjeeling toy train & Buddhism

Wildlife of North East India (14 days)

Diverse wildlife in Assam and the Sunderbans

Heart of India (14 days)

Lucknow, Varanasi & the wonders of Madhya Pradesh

Kashmir, Ladakh & The Hemis Festival (14 days)

Experience dramatic Himalayan scenery, Islamic & Buddhist cultures

Kerala - Trekking the Western Ghats (13 days)

Explore this UNESCO biodiversity hotspot on foot

Markha Valley Trek (12 days)

Set foot in Ladakh's hidden Himalayan valleys

Treasures of Gujarat (12 days)

Villages, temples, salt flats & the world's last Asiatic lions

Glimpse of India (11 days)

Golden Triangle, tigers & exotic Goa

Classic Kerala (10 days)

Tea, spices, backwaters & beaches

Essential Rajasthan (10 days)

Discover the forts, palaces, villages and desert of Rajasthan

Living Bridges of Meghalaya (7 days)

Waterfalls, hills and living bridges in North East India

Reviews

A really well planned trip. We experienced life in Northeast India in just the way we wanted to. We loved the game reserves and saw a rock python which thrilled our guides as it is even rarer than the tiger! We visited villages and were able to interact with local people and loved the busy markets in Delhi and Calcutta. A special highlight was the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland; shown to us by our very own Naga guide Kezo. Kezo accompanied us for 15 days of our trip and ensured that we had many very special experiences - even taking us to the home of one of his Aunts where we spent a couple of hours sitting by the bonfire chatting.

Ann Holgate , Tailormade India

Thank you for organising our holiday in Kerala. I certainly wouldn`t have had the time or the knowledge to put together such a trip. Munnar was my favourite and the accommodation throughout was excellent.

Vik , Kerala Calling, India

What an excellent service! Rahul adapted, extended and improved our trip so many times without a qualm and we ended up with the trip of a lifetime. The destinations are unusual and interesting but everything has been checked out by the team and works brilliantly. I can`t wait to do another trip.

Penelope Smith , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

The tour was an amazing experience for our first visit to India. The country, its people and its cuisine were friendly,delightful, colourful and exceeded all our expectations. Travel the Unknown have put together a superb unique package that we have no hesitation in recommending to anyone with an interest in food and culture.

Elaine & Neil Smith , Delicacies of North India, India

I`m sure I could not have found a better operator for the type of complicated Indian tour I wanted to undertake on a limited budget. India is an intimidating country to visit, and I suspect that some operators look down on the first time visitor, or disparage their requirements. Travel the Unknown, by contrast, helped me all the way, and their local guides were superb.

Andrew Martin , Tailormade North East India

This was a very varied and interesting trip to a forgotten part of India. If you like off the beaten track travel it is definitely worth the effort but go with an open mind and keep a smile on your face.

Richard Williams , Monks, Tribes & Rhinos, India

This was my first experience of using Travel the Unknown having enjoyed small group adventure holidays for many years. I was attracted to the company because it seeks out the more unusual and lesser known areas of a country and I was not disappointed by my visit to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. There is a clear contrast between the people and the scenery of these two regions and we saw very few western tourists particularly in Arunachal Pradesh. The tour was well organised with plenty to see and do.

Keith Lewis , Monks, Tribes & Rhinos, India

A fantastic trip to Arunachal Pradesh. Very well organised exactly to our requirements. Superb local guide. Would recommend this trip. Hazel and James.

Hazel Frost , Tailormade North East India

Another great trip from Travel the Unknown. I would recommend this company to anyone who wants to move outside the boundaries of the usual tourist itinerary.

Catherine Crawford , Kashmir & Ladakh Explorer, India

This trip was very well put together and ticked all the boxes that we had requested. The accommodation throughout the tour was of a high standard and our experiences in the national parks was wonderful spotting many different animals including tigers, leopards, sloth bears, lions, jungle cat plus countless number of birds. Thank you Rahul for tailoring this trip to our requirements.

Nigel & Margaret Turner , Tailormade India Wildlife & Birding tour

We went on the Spirit of South India Tour and had a great time on our honeymoon. There was a good variety of places visited and the hotels, drivers and guides were all very good. We would definitely recommend this tour.

Rachel , Spirit of South India, India

I would highly recommend Travel the Unknown to anyone visiting India. The service we received both prior to, during and following our travels was always timely and excellent. We were able to customize our trip to our liking and to enjoy a wide variety of activities. The guides in every location were outstanding! Honestly. Having travelled through much of the world I can truly say that we have never been more impressed with the quality of the guides arranged for us in each location, as well as the service we received. Similarly, the hotels were excellent and allowed us to live very comfortably while, at the same time, enjoy an authentic Indian experience. If you haven`t already booked your trip with Travel the Unknown, then either do so now....or at least give them a chance to show you what they can offer.

Tracey & Gary , Tailormade India
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