Darjeeling & The Last Himalayan Kingdom
Explore Vibrant India and Mysterious Bhutan
On this incredible adventure packed with ancient traditions and treasures, we explore colorful Kolkata, before traveling in to the Himalayan foothills and onwards to Bhutan - the sole surviving Himalayan kingdom, shrouded in mystique, and steeped in history.
Highlights and Inclusions
- Rail travel between Kolkata and Prinsep Ghat and Kolkata and New Jalpaiguri
- Heritage rail excursion on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railroad
- 13 nights’ hotel accommodation
- 34 meals including 13 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 13 dinners
- 2 sightseeing tours of Kolkata, including colonial heritage sites
- Visit Tiger Hill and the Ghum Monastery
- Discover the Darjeeling Mountaineering Institute
- Visits to a Darjeeling tea plantation, and Bhutan's Kharabandi Gompa and Punakha Dzong
- Sightseeing tour of Thimpu
- Discover the traditional Bhutanese village of Grassmore
- Visit to Paro's Rinpung Dzong, the National Museum and Tiger's Nest Monastery
- Visit to the Chimi Lhakhang fertility temple
- Toyota Innova car transfers in Darjeeling
- All motorcoach travel throughout tour, including deluxe air-conditioned coaches in India
- Services of a professional Tour Manager
Day 1 – Welcome to Kolkata
Arrive at Netaji Subhash Chandra International Airport, approximately 10 miles from your base in Kolkata, and transfer on your own to the 5-star Oberoi Grand Hotel. Here you will meet your group and tour manager and settle in for the first of a two-night stay. Overnight Kolkata. (D)
Day 2 – Kolkata
Early this morning, we begin exploring this magnificent metropolis. We enjoy a real treat as we visit Kolkata's lively flower market, where the streets are transformed in an explosion of bright colors. We also see Mother Teresa's house, and the Victoria Memorial, an ornate white marble structure dating back to the early 20th century.
This afternoon, we continue our sightseeing, visiting the Railroad Museum. Later we take the circular railroad train to Prinsep Ghat where we visit the heritage railroad museum here. Overnight Kolkata. (B, D)
Day 3 – Siliguri
Following a free morning, this afternoon we transfer to the station, where we visit the Heritage Rail Museum before joining our train for the journey to New Jalpaiguri. On arrival, we transfer by coach to the foothills of the Himalayas, where we overnight. Overnight Siliguri. (B, L, D)
Day 4 – The Darjeeling Himalayan Railroad
Today we coach to Kurseong, where we enjoy lunch at the colonial-style Cochrane Place Hotel. Later we climb almost 7,000 ft into the Himalaya as we enjoy an enthralling journey on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railroad. Loved and used by locals, the line is also UNESCO listed. We board the narrow-gauge train in the heart of the town; for a while the train runs directly through the noisy center of the street before climbing into the verdant surrounding forest. Numerous vibrant plants and shades of green provide a backdrop as we wind our way around the mountainsides and continue our ascent.
As we climb higher, there is a noticeable change not only in the climate but also the culture as colorful Buddhist prayer flags hang across the streets like bunting. After pausing for lunch at a hill station, we rejoin the train and continue to Darjeeling. Pastel-painted houses are stacked almost on top of each other as we approach the town. Here we spend three nights at the Hotel Windamere. Overnight Darjeeling. (B, L, D)
Day 5 – Tiger Hill and the Mountaineering Institute
We visit Tiger Hill viewpoint, where we watch the sunrise from behind Kanchenjunga, India's highest mountain. The peak changes color with the sunlight, casting orange, red and pink hues on their surroundings.
Later we travel on the steam-hauled Toy Train to Ghum (subject to operation) - the highest hill station in the area - and visit the town's Buddhist monastery. In the afternoon we visit Darjeeling's Mountaineering Institute, which is the final resting place of Tensing Norgay. Overnight Darjeeling. (B, D)
Day 6 – Darjeeling Tea Plantation
For centuries Darjeeling has been famed as a tea-growing center, and today we visit one of the town's authentic tea plantations for a guided tour. We see the lush, sloping hillsides where the tea is grown, before enjoying a tasting in the town's charming bazaar. Overnight Darjeeling. (B, D)
Day 7 – To Bhutan
Today marks our crossing into Bhutan. We start by driving to the town of Chalsa, enjoying lunch before visiting the Grassmore village this afternoon. Later we leave India and enter Bhutan. Perhaps best known for its 'Happiness Index', Bhutan is largely undiscovered by the outside world. Set deep in the Himalaya, Bhutan is free from pollution; more than half the country is protected as a nature reserve and the fresh mountain air is apparent the moment we cross the border. We stop in Phuentsholing near the Bhutan-Indian border for an overnight stay. Overnight Phuentsholing. (B, L, D)
Day 8 – Kharbandi Gompa
Today, we visit Kharbandi Gompa, a monastery surrounded by peaceful gardens of tropical plants. On a clear day, we are able to see the stunning mountains that surround this idyllic monastery. We then continue to Paro, where we stay for two nights at the tranquil Tigers Nest Resort. Overnight Paro. (B, L, D)
Day 9 – The Tiger’s Nest
Today we take in one of Bhutan's most iconic landmarks by enjoying an optional climb to a viewpoint that looks over to the stunning Tiger's Nest monastery. We descend and enjoy lunch at a local farmhouse. Tonight we are treated to traditional Bhutanese entertainment. Overnight Paro. (B, L, D)
Day 10 – Rinpung Dzong
Today we visit the mesmerizing Rinpung Dzong, a fortress monastery and a fantastic example of Bhutanese architecture. We also visit the National Museum, housed in a former watchtower of Rinpung Dzong, before taking the drive through the alluring mountain route to Punakha, where we spend tonight.
Our journey takes us over the winding Dochula Pass. At 10,000 ft, the pass offers unrivalled panoramas of the Himalayas, as well as 108 temples scattered across the hillsides. Here we see the memorial to those who lost their lives in the Chinese conflicts. Overnight Punakha. (B, L, D)
Day 11 – Chimi Lhakhang Temple and Punakha Dzong
Today we visit Chimi Lhakhang, a temple and monastery dedicated to the fertility rites of the tantric tradition. Later we enjoy a visit to the exceptional Punakha Dzong en-route to Thimphu, where we take an exploratory walk this evening. Overnight Punakha. (B, L, D)
Day 12 – Thimphu
Today we enjoy a tour of Thimphu. Among the highlights we see are the majestic Memorial Stupa, built for the monarchy. We visit the Folk Heritage Museum. We then proceed to Buddha Point, where an enormous Golden Buddha stands proudly on a hillside. Our final visit is to Thimphu's mighty 17th century Dzong, a striking fortress, and the seat of the government of Bhutan since the 1960s. Overnight Thimphu. (B, L, D)
Day 13 – Return to Kolkata
Today we transfer to Paro for our flight to Kolkata, where we take a tour on arrival, exploring the city's highlights further. Here, we see the beautiful Dalhousie Square, an area created as the center of the British East India Company's trading post. We also take in the Jain Temple and South Park Street Cemetery and visit Tagore's House, a mansion from the 18th century that once served as the home of one of India's best-loved poets. Overnight Kolkata. (B, D)
Day 14 – Tour Conclusion
After breakfast this morning, we bid India a fond farewell as the tour concludes. (B)
Train and Hotel Accommodations
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Dating back to the 19th century, the delightful Darjeeling Himalayan Railroad uses innovative engineering to make its steep ascent into the Himalayas. The railroad's imaginative design features six zigzag reverses and three loops across 54 miles of incredible narrow-gauge track, some of which we experience on our journey from Kurseong to Darjeeling.
Climbing to India's highest railroad station, Ghum, which stands at a staggering elevation of 7,218ft, a ride on the affectionately-nicknamed 'Toy Train' offers stunning views of cloud-topped green valleys, rushing waterfalls and the region's famous tea fields. End your journey with a breathtaking panorama of the Kanchenjunga mountain range.
Oberoi Grand Hotel, Kolkata
The 5-Star Oberoi Grand Hotel is situated in the heart of Calcutta, and is a landmark of the city, housed in a distinctive neo-classical colonial building. Among the hotel's many facilities is an outdoor swimming pool, as well as a spa and a fitness center.
Sinclairs Hotel, Siliguri
Set in lush greenery, the Sinclairs Hotel enjoys a location in the heart of Siliguri. It benefits from a host of facilities such as a lounge bar, a spa, and an outdoor swimming pool with open air terrace.
Hotel Windamere, Darjeeling
The Windamere is a beautiful heritage hotel, and one of Darjeeling's best-loved landmarks - offering views of the famous tea plantations and Kanchenjunga, one of the world's highest mountain peaks. Originally opened as a boarding house for British workers, it is also known as one of the places where Vivien Leigh spent some years of her early childhood. The hotel has been carefully restored with many flourishes reflecting its history, and offers many facilities including a popular restaurant serving Indian and international cuisine. There is also a spa offering many different treatments.
Lhaki Hotel, Phuentsholing
The Lhaki Hotel resides in a small town in Bhutan, just a stone's throw away from the border with India. This comfortable hotel comes well equipped with a bar, a laundry service (payable locally), a spa, and fitness facilities.
Tigers Nest Resort, Paro
With a location overlooking the famous Taktsang Monastery, the Tiger's Nest Resort is one of the most tranquil locations in Paro. The hotel is decorated in a traditional Bhutanese style, and boasts a restaurant and bar. The food here is traditional vegetarian Bhutanese cuisine, using fruits and vegetables from the farms that surround the hotel.
RKPO Green Resort, Bhutan
The stunning, and aptly named, RKPO Green Resort is our base in Punakha. This hotel is very traditional in its decoration of intricate wood carvings and its vibrant painted exterior. The traditional aspect of the RKPO Green Resort is continued in its entertainment, offering cultural experiences such as Bhutanese dancing and bonfires, as well as providing guests with delicious local cuisine served in the restaurant. There is also a bar with a garden, offering beautiful views of the surrounding scenery.
Druk Hotel, Thimphu
The distinctive Druk Hotel enjoys a fantastic location in the center of Thimphu, close to all the attractions of the Bhutanese capital. The hotel has a spa and health club which offers a range of treatments.
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