Toy Train on the Himalayan Railway, Darjeeling, India
On this unforgettable adventure, you’ll spend three weeks exploring some of India and Bhutan’s highlights, including vibrant cities and spellbindingly beautiful countryside. You’ll immerse yourself in the culture, learn about the history and witness the spirituality of these incredible destinations.
You’ll start by exploring the vivacious city of Kolkata, before heading on to Kalimpong to see the oldest monastery in this hill town. In Pelling, hike to the Sangacholing Monastery and spend time at a Buddhist lake, before heading on to Darjeeling to ride the World’s Heritage Toy Train and meet red pandas. In Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, you’ll meet nuns, see giant statues and peruse Buddhist texts. Then it’s on to Gangtey to be mesmerized by the scenery of the high Himalayan peaks and hike through the pine and bamboo valley. The crowning highlight is a trip to the world-famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery on the last day of your discovery.
Take an early morning stroll around the flower market of Kolkata
Visit monasteries old and new across India and Bhutan
Spend time at a holy Buddhist lake in Pelling
Ride the World’s Heritage Toy Train in Darjeeling and sample the famous tea
Tour the sights of Thimphu, including huge statues and traditional arts
Look for endangered cranes and hike through the Gangtey Valley
Journey through Bhutan's famous mountain passes, draped in prayer flags
Hike to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery
From the first conversation until you arrive home from your vacation, you’ll be looked after by one of our Travel Designers who has traveled extensively in the region and will give advice from their personal experience on how to make the most out of your trip. All of our trips are entirely custom-made and we will continually refine your itinerary until it’s perfect.
When you land in Kolkata, you’ll be met by a guide and transferred to your deluxe room at The Lalit Hotel. The next morning you're off early to the oldest flower market under the Howrah and Belur Math, a significant place of pilgrimage and home to the Ramakrishna Movement. After breakfast, it's back into the city to visit a traditional potter's quarter in the Kumar Tuli area. The day wraps up with a visit to the Victoria Memorial and Mother Teresa House.
Gear up for a transit day. You'll catch a flight to Bagdogra, then head to your hotel, Silver Oaks, in Kalimpong, a bazaar town perched on a mountain ridge with sweeping views of the Himalayas. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you like.
The first half of day five will be spent exploring Kalimpong. First up? Visit the renowned Kalimpong nurseries which, thanks to the excellent climate here, can grow exotic plants such as orchids, dahlias and amaryllis lilies. From here it's on to Zang Dog Palri Fo-Brang Monastery, a new monastery that boasts panoramic views of the town and surrounding area. You'll finish up at Thongsa Gompa, which built in 1692 makes it the oldest monastery of its kind in Kalimpong.
In the afternoon, head on to Gangtok where the rest of the day is yours to explore. Your base in Gangtok will be the Norkill Hotel. The following day you'll head out for a full day of sightseeing including a trip to the Rumtek Monastery, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Do Drul Chorten. Later in the day it's on to the Cottage Industry and Enchey Monastery.
After making the journey to Pelling and your hotel, Mount Pandim, take a 45-minute walk to Sanga Choeling Monastery to stretch your legs and soak up some of the local history. The next day you'll visit Khecheopalri Lake, considered holy by Buddhists but popular with everyone. The afternoon will be spent at Pemayangtse Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in the state, and the Rabdantse Ruins which boast a fabulous view over the Himalayan Foothills.
In need of an excellent cup of tea? Today you're off to Darjeeling where upon arrival, you'll head to the Glenburn Tea Estate to do just that. The next day take a trip from Darjeeling to Ghoom on World’s Heritage Toy Train! You'll arrive in Ghoom, the highest train station in India, and head to the Ghoom Monastery. Back in Darjeeling, you'll have time for lunch before heading off on a sightseeing tour. You'll see the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and meet red pandas. The afternoon will wrap up with a walking tour to St. Andrews Church.
Today is a travel day. Get up early to catch a blazing sunrise over Kanchenjunga, India’s highest mountain, before driving on to Siliguri and your hotel, Sinclair's.
In the morning you'll fly on to Paro. If it's a clear day, you'll enjoy views of some of the major Himalayan peaks like Everest. On arrival, you'll meet a guide and driver who will accompany you for the rest of your time Bhutan. After driving to Thimphu and checking into your hotel, (Riverview or Phuntsho Pelri or Khamsum Inn or Seryna or similar hotels), you’ll visit the Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery, the only nunnery in the capital. You’ll have the opportunity to speak to some of the 60 or so nuns who have dedicated their lives to Buddhism and learn more about their fascinating lives.
The next day enjoy a full sightseeing tour of Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital and biggest town. You'll start at the National Memorial Chorten, a landmark building that serves as both a memorial to Bhutan's third king and a monument to peace. From here it's on to the Butter Lamp Offering and then you’ll check out the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan at the Institute for Zorig Chusum. Learn more about material culture at the Folk Heritage Museum and peruse the vast collection of Buddhist texts at the National Library. You'll meet Takins, the national animal of Bhutan, and then head on to the weekend Farmers Market to behold the sights and smells. Check out the 51.5-metre-high statue of Buddha at the Buddha Dordenma.
Activity and Adventure
After an early breakfast, leave for Phobjikha. As you drive up to Dochula pass, take in the gorgeous views and admire the prayer flags that line the road. On a clear day, you'll be able to see the high Himalayan peaks. From here it's a long and winding descent into the Wangdue Phodrang valley some 1,700 meters below the pass. When you arrive, you'll visit the Black Necked Crane Center and spend time in their nearby hide.
The next day will be spent exploring the Gangtey Valley in all its scenic glory. You'll walk a nature trail through pine and bamboo forest and in the winter, you may be able to spot the endangered bird species. After your walk, visit Gangtey Goempa Monastery, the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan.
Today you're off to Punakha, a low-lying subtropical valley which served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. In the afternoon you'll visit Punakha Dzong, one of Bhutan’s most iconic and beautiful buildings. Built in 1637 it has played a significant role in the civil and religious life of the kingdom. Having been subject to fires, flooding and even an earthquake over the centuries, it has since been restored to its original splendor. The next day it’s on to Talo Village, a charming spot boasting glorious views across the valley. Finish up your time in Punakha with a visit to the Nalanda Buddhist Institute.
Activity and Adventure
Today you'll drive to Paro and on the way, stop at Dochu-la Pass, where you can take in the view and admire the chortens, mani walls and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If the skies are clear you may glimpse the Himalayan peaks.
Once you arrive in Paro, it’s off to Paro Dzong, a former watchtower and now the National Museum. Peruse its fine collection of ancient Bhutanese art and artefacts, weapons, coins and stamps. It even houses a small natural history collection. Afterwards head on to Rinpung Dzong, built in 1646, this Dzong now houses the district Monastic Body. From here it's on to the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. You'll finish up at the 15th century Dungtse temple.
The next day you're in for another early start as you drive to the highest pass of Bhutan, Chele-la Pass. It's a steep climb in the car through a blue pine and rhododendron forest. At the top on a clear day, you can enjoy a superb view of mountains Chomolhari and Jichu Drake. If you wish you can take some time here, to hike around the pass.
Wake up bright and early for an unforgettable trip out to Taktsang Goemba Monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest and one of the most remarkable places in the world, clinging to the cliffside. Here, you might be fortunate enough to see the hoisting of the Prayer flags. Each color represents an element and prayers and mantras are written on the cloth. They are pulled high into the winds, which is considered an expression of mental energy and the movement caused by the wind is said to activate the blessing.