2 WEEKS IN EASTERN INDIA
Day 1: Arrival at Kolkata
Fly in at Kolkata International Airport. We receive you on your arrival and take you to the hotel.
Kolkata, on the bank of Holy Ganges (Hooghly River), flowered as the capital of British India during the nineteenth century, the heyday of the Raj. Long known as the cultural capital of India and home to the Bengal Renaissance, Kolkata continues to spawn generations of poets, writers and film directors. Kolkata is not just like any other city to visit and click photos; you have to soak your senses in it to realize the actual charm of this city.
During your stay we will assist you to explore the city in the best manner possible. Go for a city tour, take a cruise in Ganges, visit temple and church, take a walking tour, taste local food, shop and move around with the locals.
Day 2: A walk & tram ride through the street foods & the heritage eateries
Kolkata is a collage of images and moods. To truly appreciate Kolkata, one needs to feel the city. To an outsider, Kolkata might seem to be overwhelming and full of contradictions.
Today we take you for a half day city walking tour in Kolkata. The city will slowly reveal itself as you walk along its road with our master story teller.
Day 3: Kolkata to Sundarbans – cruise in the Mangroves Stay 2 nights
Today we leave for Sundarbans after breakfast
Sunderbans is mysterious, unpredictable, instilling, vast and untameable - perhaps, the last true wild frontier remaining on our planet. At the tip of the Ganges is a mystic mangrove forest on the myriad of islands. Impenetrable mangrove forests, winding rivers, Lush Sundari trees, water changing its colour at every creek from muddy river to emerald blue sea, narrow creeks to several miles wide rivers, where the man and man eaters eat fish to survive, crabs climb the tree, tiger swim long distances and mighty crocodile bask in the sun.
Drive to Sonakhali jetty through beautiful countryside’s, rural bazaar with stopovers at Local Tea shop and Fishermen’s' villages; Arrive at Sonakhali; Transfer of luggage and persons to our motorized boat.
Briefing and interpretation by our local guide cum naturalist over Tea/Coffee/Welcome drink followed by 2 hours spectacular cruise through river Hogol, Gomor, Durgaduani and Gumdi. You have an optional stopover at Gosaba - one of the earliest human settlements of Sunderbans, to visit the house of Sir Danniel Hamilton-a Scottish banker who initiated the first co-operative movement of India here. Hot lunch followed by 3 hours birding and game cruise to Sudhanyakhali watch tower through creeks and canals.
Come back to camp by evening. Infotainment by our poacher-turned-guides over tea and snacks followed by dinner
Day 4: Full day cruise in Sundarbans
The second day involves a full day cruise through the rivers and narrow creeks of the Sundarbans National Park and a lovely birding experience. Food would be prepared and served on the launch itself. Start after bed tea and visit the various watch towers of Sudhanyakhali, Neti Dhopani (Subject to weather and tide permitting).
The sweet water pond at Neti Dhopani attracts a lot of wild animals and offers you the chance to view them from close quarters. Neti Dhopani also has the ruins of a 400 year old temple.
Evening experience the local rural theatre (Bonobibi Yatra) performed by the villagers. The theatre tells interesting story about the Tiger Lord, Forest God and Goddess, fishermen and honey collectors with lot of songs and dances.
Day 5: Morning tour in Sundarnans and back to Kolkata
Guided Village Walk in which participants are encouraged to have a close interaction and interesting encounters with the local villagers and their lifestyle, Local craft and cuisines, Indigenous farming and household equipments used by the villagers.
Guided adventures cruise by manually oared country boat followed by a short cruise to DoBanki watchtower to enjoy a small canopy walk.
Back to camp. Lunch and proceed to Sonakhali. Arrive at Sonakhali and transfer to Kolkata by car in 2hrs. Transfer to Hotel and evening free.
Day 6: Fly to Bagdogra airport and drive to Kurseong
Today we fly from Kolkata Airport to Bagdogra in North Bengal in 1hr. Reception at the airport by our representative and then drive to Kurseong in 1.5hr.
The name ‘Kurseong’ comes from the Lepcha word, Kharsang - “Land of the White Orchids”, chosen by the first settlers, the Lepcha people, to describe their new home because of the little white orchids dotting the valleys. Kurseong is home to the costliest teas in the world. World famous Castleton, Ambotia and Makaibari tea gardens produce the most delicate aromas of all black teas known to mankind.
During your stay in Kurseong you can go for guided tea garden tour, walk in the valleys with picnic lunch down the stream, meet the local people, taste various blends of tea in the unique tea bar at Cochrane, take green tea massage or bamboo massage, ride heritage steam train, shop, take photograph and just relax in the nature.
Check in at Cochrane Place and based on available time you can go for a short walk to the Eagle"s Crag Viewpoint is near Kurseong railway station. Have a sweeping view of the surrounding mountain, hill, hamlets and slopes from here. It has a cafeteria, a watch tower and a flower garden.
In the evening you can pamper yourself with the hotel’s in-house traditional spa and wellness center with various unique options of spa including herbal tea pack, bamboo stick massage and many more. Or try the cosy tea bar at the hotel with different blends of delicate Darjeeling tea.
Day 7: Full day in Kurseong – Tea garden – village - valley
Wake up with the finest aroma of tea. You have an option of taking a Yoga / meditation in the hotel on prior request.
Today after breakfast you have option for a guided tea garden tour in the most famous tea estate in the area or a day long nature hiking with a picnic lunch in a valley.
Visit the renowned organic and biodynamic Ambootia Tea Factory- home to some of the most innovative, exclusive and expensive teas in the world. Also, visit the scenic Shiv Mandir on the tea estate set under a magnificent banyan, Rudraksh berry and orange grove. Packed Tea Lunch can be served at Ambootia Gardens. The tea tour is accompanied either by a guide or audio guided tour that takes you through the estate and explains the tea making process, Tea Sampling session- try a variety of Darjeeling, Assam and our own blends at our award winning café Chai Country. Visit tea factory and even pluck tea with the garden worker.
(Tea garden tours are seasonal – mostly between March and November and are also closed in holidays and each Monday)
You can also take a village walk and see the daily activities of the rural life or partake in the same. See the unique cultivation practises and varied range of crops planted by the farmers of villages. Walk down the valley through a stunning countryside. In the past, it used to be a favourite place for the British for boating and people from the neighbouring towns used to hang out here frequently. There is a beautiful green-tinged lake that shelters the rarest and most endangered species of salamanders – a species under threat of extinction.
Back to hotel by afternoon and relax at the spa with traditional herbal tea massage or take a dip in to a Jacuzzi followed by a special Indian Tandoor Dinner.
Day 8: Morning visit around Kurseong and post lunch train to Darjeeling
Today visit the Churches in Kurseong – St Mary Church. The tranquil and beautiful hilly forests of St. Mary s Hill amidst which is the Church and the Grotto evoke a deep sense of piousness and reverence. It s a place visited by Christians as well as people of other faiths who visit to pay respects or to worship in Church.
St. Mary s Grotto is a stone-cave which houses the statue of Mother Mary where devotees and visitors light candles in honour of Lord Jesus Christ and Mother Mary.
Also visit Chimney Meadow and Bagora Hill to get a view of the plains far below stretching to the horizon like a great carpet lay out at the feet of the mountains. During the season just before the monsoon, it is a pleasure to watch rain clouds cling to the blue-green slopes and accumulate at the top the mountain ranges. From there, meandering through the evergreen forests, the sixteen kilometres long Old Military Road leads to charming high altitude settlements like Chimney and Bagora.
Ride in Toy train to Darjeeling in 3hrs
Back to Hotel for lunch and then go to Kurseong station to take a romantic ride in the heritage steam train. Leaving Kurseong the train passes through Kurseong bazaar and goes on in its journey. The sight of Tibetan prayer flags as the train passes over Hussel (whistle) khola (stream) makes the traveller feel that he is now truly in the mountains. The train passes through small forests of pine, maple, chestnut, pear, cherry, and cardamom fields. On its journey the train passes through many small station and beautiful country side – Toong, Sonada, Jorebungalow and then Ghoom – the highest station in India at 7500ft.
Leaving Ghoom the train descends towards Darjeeling. On the way the train passes through Batasia Loop with its memorial to the Gorkha soldiers. From the Batasia Loop you can get a spectacular view of Darjeeling town with the Kanchenjunga and other snowy mountains in the back-drop. From now onwards up till Darjeeling, the snowy peaks are in full view for the travellers' eyes. Finally the train enters the Darjeeling Station in twilight, the destination of the journey.
We help you to check in at your hotel. Freshen up and have a lovely Indian dinner at the hotel.
Darjeeling is one of the oldest hill stations in India, and has plenty of options, both for those seeking a lazy getaway from the hot plains, as well as nature enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies.
This heavenly retreat is bathed in hues of every shade. Flaming red rhododendrons, sparkling white magnolias, miles of undulating hillsides covered with emerald green tea bushes, the exotic forests of silver fir - all under the blanket of a brilliant azure sky dappled with specks of clouds, compellingly confounds Darjeeling as the QUEEN OF HILL STATIONS. The crest of Kanchenjunga shining in the first dawn light truly supports the title.
Day 9: Full day in Darjeeling – tour and walk around
Today after breakfast we will go for a guided heritage walk in Darjeeling for 2 to 3 hrs
The heritage walk is a rare offering in Darjeeling that very few know about. The regular tours do not cover such guided walking tours that can let you explore the rich heritage and history of Darjeeling Hills. There are centuries old buildings and houses in Darjeeling that still reflect the traditional British architecture. Added to this, the churches, monasteries, monuments, the people & culture, unique flora & fauna, majestic mountains & valleys, toy train, tea garden, old shopping places and food joints, and many other great old & modern attractions constitute the rich heritage of Darjeeling. Our guided walk will attempt to give you a glimpse of all this.
After lunch in a local restaurant visit Lloyd Botanical Garden - the oldest Botanical Garden in Darjeeling, famous for two living fossils.
Then we visit to some of the popular places in Darjeeling covering the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute - The oldest mountaineering institute in the country set up following the successful ascent of the Mount Everest-the highest peak in the world by the local hero Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edumund Hillary on 28 May 1953. Then to Himalayan Zoological Park, a high altitude wildlife park and new home for Siberian Tiger, Himalayan Black Bear, Red Panda, Snow Leopard and many exotic Himalayan species. Drive to Tibetan refugee Self Help Centre - established on 1st October 1959 to rehabilitate displaced Tibetians who had followed His Holiness, The Dalai Lama to India in early 1959. The Tibetan craftsmen can be seen at work at the centre. Also visit some of the prime tea gardens on the way.
Spend the rest o the day in and around the Mall And Observatory Hill and experience the local life.
Day 10: Tiger Hill visit and then drive for Pelling in Sikkim
Get up early in the morning for a visit to Tiger Hill. Situated at an altitude of 2590 metres (8482 ft.) and 13 kms from the town, this spot has earned international fame for the magnificent view of the sunrise over "Kanchenjunga" and the great Eastern Himalayan Mountains. Even Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, is also visible from here. Enroute visit Ghoom Monastery. Also called Sakya Monastery, this monastery in Ghoom is located 8 km from Darjeeling. Sakya monastery is a historic and significant monastery of the Shakya Order. The original monastery was built during the early twentieth century.
Back to Hotel for Breakfast. Now we take you to Pelling in West Sikkim in an exciting 4 to 5hrs journey.
Pelling in West Sikkim is famous for it's magnificent views of the snow-capped mountains of Kanchenjunga and its ranges it has a rich history, nature environment and local culture. Situated at an altitude of 1,900 m (6,250 ft), Pelling is as close as you can get to Kanchenjunga without leaving the material comfort of good hotels
During your stay in Pelling we will offer you several exciting activities – like nature walk, visiting old monastery, meet Monks and little Lamas, take you to some picturesque villages, tell you story about the history and myths of these places.
Check in at your hotel and time permitting you can go for a visit to the famous Pemayangtse Monastery or take an afternoon stroll through a lonely pine forest and get awesome view of the mountains.
Day 11: Full day walk and tour in Pelling and then to Yuksom
Today we go for a soft trek to Sangachoeling Monastery, the 2nd oldest monastery in Sikkim. Built in 1697, is also known as the place of secret spells and mostly used by the lamas for retreat and meditation. From Pelling village walk for one hour through the Pelling playing field cum helipad and then follow the trail on the southern side of the field. On a clear day the Darjeeling ridge can be seen to the south. To the north is visible all the peaks of the Kangchendzonga range as well as some of the most important monasteries in west Sikkim perched on the hill tops to the north and east, including Khechuperri, Pemayangtse and Dubdi.
If you are enjoying this hike you can continue for another 2 to 3hrs onward trek through a dense forest to Ranidunga – a ridge top to get a magnificent view of the mountains. This is a popular pilgrim place for the locals. From here you descend to a lovely village called Darap, where we will arrange a traditional lunch in a local village house and then we continue drive to Yuksom.
Enroute we will visit some lovely waterfalls and also take a detour to the famous legendary lake called Khecheopalri. This lake was also identified as the footprints of Goddess Tara, as from a high vantage point the contours of the lake appear like a footprint. t. The lake because of its high religious significance has been declared a protected lake by the Govt. of Sikkim. The legend goes that there is not a single leaf can be seen floating in the lake albeit surrounded by dense forests. The local believe that the birds take away the leaves and keep the lake clean.
We reach Yuksom in the afternoon.
Yuksom was the first capital of Sikkim established in 1642 AD by Phuntsog Namgyal who was the first Chogyal (temporal and religious king) of Sikkim. The coronation site of the first monarch of Sikkim is known as the "Throne of Norbugang". A small village surrounded by mountain ranges, located at the head of the Khangchendzonga National Park, it is the gateway to Mt. Khangchendzonga. The popular mountaineering trek to high altitude Pass and Peaks starts from Yuksom.
Check in at hotel and have a relaxed evening followed by a traditional Sikkimese dinner.
Day 12: Walk to Dubdi Monastery and drive to Gangtok
After breakfast we walk to another oldest monastery of Sikkim known as Dubdi Monastery, also known as the Hermit’s Cell, the monastery belongs to the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Located on top of a hill and about an hour's walk from Yuksom, this small but beautiful monastery offers nice views of the town and the mountains beyond. From the monastery you can walk about one hour to a small village, called Tsong and drink cup of tea with friendly locals. We will also visit the Coronation Throne of the first king of Sikkim. Here, you can still see the ruins of Norbu Ghang, which is the throne of the first Dharma King (Chogyal) coroneted by the three learned monks, who came from Tibet in 1641 AD.
Back to Yuksom by 11Am and then drive to Gangtok – the modern capital of Sikkim. Enroute we will visit Tashiding Monastery, which is considered one of the holiest places on earth by the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The journey continues through the stunning rural landscape of South Sikkim and we will pass beautiful villages on way with a backdrop of snow peaks. Hot lunch will be arranged on the way in a village or a nature resort and continue driving to Gangtok. We will reach the town in the afternoon and help you check in at your hotel. Enjoy a special Indian Dinner at the hotel.
Day 13: Full day in Gangtok –
Explore the city by car and also by walking with our guide, who will explain the history and local culture of the area.
Wreathed in clouds, Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim is located on a ridge at a height of 5500 feet. With a spectacular view of the Khangchendzonga, the town provides the perfect base for travel through the state. Once an important transit point for traders traveling between Tibet and India, it is today a busy administrative and business centre and presents an interesting mix of cultures and communities.
Today we will visit some of the most important tourist places in the city covering Namgyal Research Institute of Tibetology, the most prestigious research institute of its kind in the world; NIT is a treasure of vast collection of rare Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscripts, statues and rare Thankas (colourful tapestries used in Buddhist liturgy).
Government Institute of Cottage Industry [GICI] - Set up in 1957 as a centre for both preservation and development of the traditional arts and crafts of Sikkim, the institute sells an array of local traditional items, which are very popular with tourists. You can see the students making different local handicraft products in the center.
The Ridge Park and flower show- The Ridge, a small stretch of flat land above Gangtok town is one of the most attractive places here and is a favourite haunt for both tourists and locals. A special glass house, known as Orchid House, displays the rich floral heritage of Sikkim, beginning with the Orchid Show in March and continuing all year round with display of many varieties of flowers and rare Himalayan orchids.
Enchey Monastery - An important seat of the Nyingmapa order, the Enchey Monastery is built on the Site Blessed by Lama Druptok Karpo, a tantric master known for his power of flying. This 200 years old monastery has in its premises images of gods, goddesses and other religious objects.
Tashi view Point - Situated along the North Sikkim Highway, this place offers a breath taking view of Mt. Khangchendzonga, one of the most graceful peaks in the world. An Observatory Tower, Cafeteria and Public amenities have also been recently added.
Optional Helicopter ride in Gangtok (subject to clear weather)
There are several mountain flights of different duration. Each of the flight gives majestic view of the Himalayan peaks from close up like never before. These mountain flights gave you a never to forget opportunity to feast your eyes on the majesty and grandeur of the Great Mount Khangchendzonga, the third highest peak in the world and the symmetrical beauty of the Mount Siniolchu, considered by many as the most beautiful peak in the entire Himalayan range. You can also take a flight over Gangtok and get a comprehensive view of the layout of the town with its many winding roads and alleys.
Afternoon Stroll in M G Marg
MG Marg, the main street of Gangtok town is a great place to chill out. The country’s first litter and spit free zone, no vehicular traffic is allowed into the marg. You can sit at the Titanic Park or at the various benches stretched across the mall and take in the carnival like atmosphere, especially during the tourist season.
Day 14: Drive via Rumtek monastery to Kalimpong
Today we check out from Gangtok after breakfast and first drive to Rumtek – the most important and the biggest monastery in Sikkim. Situated around 23 kms from Gangtok, in the hill facing Gangtok is Rumtek, the seat of His Holiness, The Gyalwa Karmapa of the Kargyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The monastery houses some of the rarest Buddhist religious art objects found in the world and is also a world renowned centre for Kargyu teachings.
The drive to Rumtek snakes through typical Sikkimese villages and many paddy fields. The paddy fields resemble a green carpet from July to September and later in October-November, the entire place is a sight to behold with golden paddy swaying in the breeze.
After visiting the monastery we continue driving to Kalimpong. Our journey follows the course of beautiful Tista River, the largest river system in Sikkim and North Bengal. After a journey of 3hrs we reach Kalimpong.
Nestling in the lush green mid ranges of the Himalayas, this hill station of "the Raj", has an incredible stunning backdrop of towering snow capped peaks. This exotic town of beautiful people, mystical and enchanting, with a rare ethnic blend of hill people, has a tradition of hospitality from the days of the mule caravans to Tibet.
We check in at hotel and have lunch. We now have a short tour in Kalimpong town covering some unique places in the city. Visit Grahams Home built by Dr. J.A. Graham, one of the pioneers of the development of Kalimpong. It was through him that Kalimpong gained popularity throughout Europe. A walking tour of the school is a fascinating experience, as one gets over-awed by the sheer beauty of the place and the charm of a glorious old European Architecture.
Also visit the famous handmade paper factory in Kalimpong, followed by a visit to Lepcha Museum. Situated about a kilometre from town, this museum has various articles of interest for those who want to know about the Lepcha culture and heritage.
In the afternoon go for a stroll in the The Haat Bazaar. If you wish to see the true culture of Kalimpong, then a visit to the Haat bazaar is a must! Almost closing in on 80 years of existence, the Haat bazaar is a vibrant and an interesting showcase of people from different backgrounds, cultures all with the sole intention of making the maximum sales.
Day 15: Kalimpong to Bagdogra airport by car in 2hrs
Today we will leave Kalimpong after breakfast and drive to Bagdogra Airport to take the flight back to Kolkata and New Delhi. A fascinating journey for these 2 weeks with many colourful experiences will end at the airport with a warm farewell.
Price per person sharing: GBP (subject to change and availability)