Culture

Darjeeling and the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan

14 to 29 November
India, Bhutan

India is a fascinating country whose people, culture and cuisine are diverse. 

The bustling town of Kolkata, Capital of West Bengal State, was founded as an East India Company trading post and remained India’s capital under the British Raj from 1773 to 1911.  Colonial architecture, art galleries and festivals give Kolkata its special character.

Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalaya, was once a summer retreat for the elite of the British Raj. The black tea plantations and steam railway, for which Darjeeling is famous, are set against the backdrop of Mt Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain.

The Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is characterised by monasteries, fortresses (dzongs) and dramatic landscapes.

Highlights

  • Kolkata
  • Darjeeling
  • The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan
  • Railway Museums
  • Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Zoological Park
  • The regular service of India Railways
  • The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
  • Great, often historic, hotels
  • Half board – all breakfasts and dinner included

From: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow

Tour Manager: Jenny   jenny@ptg.co.uk

Itinerary

Day 1 Saturday 14 November 2020  Flight departures with Emirates via Dubai from Heathrow (13:40), Gatwick (13:35), Stansted (13:50), Birmingham (13:30), Manchester (13:10) and Glasgow (13:00) to Dubai, where the group meet up for the same onward flight to Kolkata. Flights by other airlines are available.

Day 2 Sunday 15 November (D) We arrive into Kolkata airport and transfer to our hotel. Rest of the day is free for your own relaxation. In the evening we all meet up for our welcome dinner. We are staying at the 5* Grand Oberoi Hotel. Referred to as the ‘Grande Dame of Chowringhee’ this heritage hotel’s neo-classical facade and grand pillared entrance mark a successful fusion of classical Victorian and traditional Indian style and reflect the city’s colonial history.

Day 3 Monday 16 November (B,D) Our morning sightseeing tour includes a visit to the flower market where entire streets are transformed into a profusion of colour and scent.   At the Mother House, dedicated to Mother Teresa at the time of her death, we will see her humble room in stark contrast with her elaborate tomb, and learn something of her life and work.  In the afternoon we visit the Railway Museum adjacent to Howrah Station.  As well as highlighting the history and heritage of the railways in the eastern part of the country, displays include old drawings, documents and a collection of stamps.  150-Year old steam locomotives, carriages and saloon cars can be seen here.  We continue by Circular Railway to Prinsep Ghat, home of the Heritage Railway Museum of Kolkata.

Day 4 Tuesday 17 November (B,D) We have the morning at leisure before catching the train to New Jalpaiguri where we transfer by road to Siliguri, in the Indian state of West Bengal, for the night. Known as the gateway of Northeast India, Siliguri is popular for three T’s i.e. tea, timber and tourism. We will be staying at Sinclairs Hotel, situated in Pradhan Nagar, at the heart of the city, Sinclairs Siliguri is a luxury hotel equipped with modern amenities. One of the most renowned hotels in the region.

Day 5 Wednesday 18 November (B,L,D)  After breakfast we drive to Kurseong and the Makaibari Tea Garden and Factory.   Proceeding to the Eagle’s Crag we enjoy panoramic views over the surrounding plains and hills, including, on a clear day, views of Kanchenjunga.  We will visit poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore’s Museum for an introduction to his life and work before moving on to the Darjeeling Railway Museum.  This afternoon we board the world famous The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to Darjeeling. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the DHR or the Toy Train, is a 2 ft (610 mm) gauge railway that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal. Built between 1879 and 1881, it is about 88 km (55 mi) long. It climbs from about 100 m (328 ft) above sea level at New Jalpaiguri to about 2,200 m (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling, using six zig zags and five loops to gain altitude. On 2 December 1999, UNESCO declared the DHR a World Heritage Site.

Darjeeling, West Bengal, India on December 31,2016.The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the Toy Train ,is a 2 ft narrow gauge railway

In Darjeeling we stay at the (British) Hotel New Elgin. The Elgin is the oldest hotel in Darjeeling. Built in 1887, it is now a luxury heritage hotel completely restored to its former grandeur. Originally owned by the the royal family of Cooch Behar, the property was leased and run by a succession of British families, the last being Madame Nancy Oakley.

Day 6 Thursday 19 November (B,L,D) An early morning drive to Tiger Hill to watch the sun rise over Kanchenjunga before returning to our hotel for breakfast.  If we are lucky, we may also glimpse Mount Everest. After breakfast we board the DHR train again for the journey to Ghoom, and the famous Batasia Loop, followed by a visit to the ‘Ghoom Monastery’.  The Yogi Choling Monastery was established in 1850 by the famous Mongolian astrologer and monk Sokpo Sherab Gyatso.   The 15-foot-high image of the great Maitreya Buddha stands just inside the main monastery building.  We return to Darjeeling by road for lunch after which we visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, established in 1954 to encourage mountaineering as an organized sport in India.  The Institute is the final resting place of Sherpa Norgay Tenzing, who, together with Sir Edmund Hillary, made the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953.  A leisurely walk through the Zoological park introduces us to some of the indigenous species of the Himalaya.

Day 7 Friday 20 November (B,L,D) After breakfast we visit the Takvar Tea Garden and the Tibetan Refugee Self-help Centre where we will see craft articles in the process of being made and have an opportunity to purchase items. We will then take the old British hiking trail below Birch Hill offering views of the Singalila range, West and South Sikkim, the mountains of Nepal, the entire Kanchenjunga range, as well as neighbouring peaks. The afternoon is at leisure to stroll around Darjeeling and absorb the atmosphere of this special place with its history of the Raj. Or just sit and watch the DHR trains.

Day 8 Saturday 21 November (B,L,D) An early morning departure for the 5-hour drive to the Jaldapara Tourist Lodge where we spend the night.  In the afternoon we’ll take a jeep safari deep into the Jaldapara National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, home to the largest population of the endangered Indian one-horned rhinoceros, as well as to herds of elephant.

Day 9 Sunday 22 November (B,L,D) After an early breakfast we drive to Phuntsholing, the border town between India and Bhutan and said to be the place Bhuddism was established in Bhutan.  After completing immigration formalities, we visit the Kharbandi Monastery, founded in 1967 by the Royal Grandmother, Ashi Phuntsho Choedron.  We continue by road to Bhutan’s capital city Thimpu where we spend the night at the Hotel Druk – a luxury four-star hotel where each floor, differently inspired, explores a subtle palette drawn from water, air, earth, fire and sky.

Punakha Dzong or monastery, Punakha, Bhutan

Day 10 Monday 23 November (B,L,D) Our sightseeing tour of Thimpu today will include the Memorial Chorten, the Art Museum, Tashi Tschhodzong, seat of the government since 1952 which presently houses the throne room and offices of the king, and the statue of Buddha . In the afternoon Takin zoo, a wildlife reserve gives us an opportunity to observe the takin, national animal of Bhutan.

Day 11 Tuesday 24 November (B,L,D) This morning we drive over the Dochula Pass (3,100 m).  The 108 temples, scattered across the hillside, honour those Bhutanese soldiers who gave their lives in the December 2003 battle against Assamese insurgents from India. We stay at the fine RKPO Green Resort (for two nights) in the heart of the verdant and lush Punakha Valley. Flanked by thick pine forests, it overlooks the Punakha valley and hundreds of paddy fields that stair-step down to the valley floor.

Day 12 Wednesday 25 November (B,L,D)  This morning we visit Chimi Lhakhang, a temple and monastery dedicated to the fertility rites of the tantric tradition.  Before continuing our drive to Paro, we have time to visit the Punakha Dzong, the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures. We stay for 2 nights at the PARO Drukchen Resort.

Day 13 Thursday 26 November (B,L,D)  We have the option this morning to hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest).  After lunch we visit Ta Dzong, former watch tower which has now been converted into the National Museum of Bhutan with its wealth of information about the history of, and life within, Bhutan.

Day 14 Friday 27 November (B,D) Transfer to the airport for our flight to Kolkata.  Upon arrival, a sight-seeing tour will include Dalhousie Square with its iconic, colonial era architectural landmarks, the Park Street Cemetery, Jain Temple and Rabindranath Tagore’s House. We again stay at the Grand Oberoi.

Day 15 Saturday 28 November (B) Depart for the airport for our flights back to the UK. Arriving back in UK on Sunday 29 November.

Place(s) available

Prices (per person)

  • From London Heathrow: £3,650
  • From Gatwick: £3,650
  • From Stansted: £3,650
  • From Birmingham: £3,650
  • From Manchester: £3,650
  • From Glasgow: £3,650
  • From Kolkata: £2,995

Options

  • Single room supplement: £750

Deposit

  • £1,250 with flights or £600 from Kolkata

Price includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted.
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