Unearth the highlights of East India and Bhutan with on this tailor-made tour. In Kolkata, discover British Raj-era buildings and age old traditions while in the hills of Sikkim, delightful views of the Kanchenjunga mountain and verdant tea fields await. Feast on delicious food and tea amid the picturesque mountainside and escape to the magical kingdom of Bhutan, where friendly faces, incredible cultural experiences and beautiful monasteries will take your breath away. This East India and Bhutan tour offers the perfect blend of a serene escape amid the majestic Himalayas and authentic local experiences.
Kolkata was once the epicenter of the British Raj and a major trading post of the East India Company.
Highlights of Kolkata Explore Dalhousie Square with landmarks like St.John’s Church, the imposing High Court, the Governor’s House surrounded by vast gardens, General Post Office and Writer’s Building which is the seat of the state government. Visit the iconic Victoria Memorial, on top of which a charming one-winged fairy is perched forever, and St. Paul’s Cathedral that offers an oasis of calm amidst the bustle. Visit Mother Teresa’s House, where many devotees pay respects at this most-revered nun’s tomb. Examine the Indian Museum with its many objet-d’-arts. Embrace Bengali high art at the famous Tagore House where the late Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore composed some of his many great works. (Full Day, Private Activity & Transfer; Fitness Level: Easy; Mother Teresa House closed On Thursdays & National holidays, Victoria Memorial & Indian Museum closed On Mondays & National holidays.)
Day Trip to Diamond Harbor Visit a popular picnic spot due to its proximity to Kolkata (50kms/2hrs) – Diamond Harbor, where this small city stands on the banks of the Hooghly River on the delta region near where the River Ganges turns south, before meeting the Bay of Bengal. Explore the ruins of Chingrikhali fort…once a stronghold of Portuguese pirates; visit the Pilgrim centre…Sharisha Ramakrishna Mission Ashram, view an old lighthouse…a local attraction; picnic here amid scenic environs.
Darjeeling is known as East India’s Queen of the Hills.
Highlights of Darjeeling Allow your spirit to soar as you venture for a morning tour to the 2,500 meter high Tiger Hill, not far from the town center. On a clear day at dawn you can view the world’s third highest mountain – Kanchenjunga, and the peaks of Mount Everest and K2. With a quaint toy train ride up the mountain as prayer flags flutter in the breeze, you can visit Yiga Choeling Gompa, known provincially as Ghoom (Ghum) Monastery. Built in the 19th century, the monastery is considered one of the world’s holiest as it was personally blessed by the renowned Tibetan lama, Tomo Geshe Rinpoche. It’s also home to a 15 foot statue of the Maitreya Buddha (a Buddha who will appear in the future). In the afternoon, you can visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI), and the local zoo. (Full Day, Private Activity & Transfer; Fitness Level: Moderate (Guests with heart related ailments or asthma are requested not to visit Tiger Hill due to the climbing required), HMI & Zoo closed on Thursdays)
Pelling is made of majestic mountains and swirling clouds. It is a fast-growing yet idyllic town with breathtaking views of the snowcapped Kanchenjunga, thick Alpine forests and an abundance of history and nature.
Highlights of Pelling Experience the stunning views of the famous snowcapped Kanchenjunga Mountain Range, with the third highest peak in the world. Head to the marvel of Pemayangtse Monastery, a 17th century Buddhist monastery built by Lhatsun Chenpo, and one of the oldest in Sikkim. This exclusive monastery is solely for ta-tshang, or pure monks, which means those who are celibate, without any physical abnormality and from a direct Tibetan lineage. Head onwards to Rabdentse, the former second capital of the kingdom of Sikkim. The town is now in ruins after being destroyed by an invading Gurkha army, but provides an insight into its palatial past and offers marvellous views. (Full Day, Private Activity & Transfer; Fitness Level: Easy)
Gangtok is a popular Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage site and capital of the alpine-laden state of Sikkim.
Highlights of Gangtok Delve into the major delights near Gangtok, starting with the Three Point View of Ridge Park, which boasts an amazing vantage point. The two storey 1930s White Memorial Hall built in British colonial style, is just a little distance away. Visit the Enchey Monastery and Rumtek Monastery. Enjoy enchanting views of the Kanchendzonga peak from Hanuman Tok, before discovering a wealth of natural beauty at the Flower Show Hall. The significant Do-Drul Chorten (stupa), houses 108 Mani-lhakor (prayer wheels) that are regularly turned by devout monks as they invoke Bodhisattva (Lord Buddha). (Full Day, Private Activity & Transfer; Fitness Level: Easy)
Kalimpong: A marking imprint in your memorabilia! The striking peace and serenity that pervades Kalimpong is heightened by the presence of monasteries and churches in harmonious tandem with its bustling bazaars.
Highlights of Kalminpong Kalimpong, a small hill station engulfed by mountains in the Mahabharat Range of West Bengal, is situated at an average elevation of 1,250m/4,101ft. As per the Lepchas, Kalimpong means ‘ridge where we play’, and is located just 67km from Siliguri. If you are a flower lover, then a visit to the flower nurseries is a must. Famous as a flower growing hub, see flowers like amaryllis, lilies, anthuriums, roses, gerbera, dahlias, gladiolas, trchids and vacti. Visit Dr Graham’s Home (formerly St. Andrew’s Colonial Homes), founded by Dr. Graham who was a missionary of the Church of Scotland and who settled in Kalimpong. Enjoy a tea tour to Glenburn Tea Estate.
Sheer entrancement! A fascinating frontier town where different ethnic groups mingle prominently, this is a thriving commercial center, situated directly at the base of Himalayan foothills with stunning mountain views, immense scenic beauty, unique culture and lifestyles and ancient wooden monasteries.
Highlights of Phuentsholing Visit the many ancient monasteries that line the quaint town. See Zangtho Pelri Lhakhang, a small temple representing the heaven of Guru Rinpoche. Explore Kharbandi Goemba, a beautiful monastery containing paintings on the life of Buddha, statues of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and Guru Rinpoche. Browse the intriguing markets and pick up some unusual local handicrafts and fabrics to take home.
Hidden realm of wonders! The only world capital without traffic lights, Thimphu is a regal yet bustling town amid glorious hills and home to the revered Bhutanese Royal family.
Giving Back to the Community Experience the joy of playing a meaningful part in the life of the youth of Bhutan. Visit ‘Simply Bhutan’, which is a living museum and studio run by the local NGO, Youth Development Fund (YDF). The proceeds from your activities and souvenir shopping at this cultural center will go to the development of youth in the area. Get yourself photographed in local Bhutanese costumes and pamper your taste buds with local tea and other delectable nibbles. Marvel at the display of the traditional arts and crafts that helps to differentiate Bhutan. The highlight of your visit will be a religious ceremony (puja) at the local shrine. The funds generated through ‘Simply Bhutan’ are utilized for the many youth development programmes aimed at making the lives of vulnerable and disadvantages youth better. Give back a little to the community!
Dinner and Dance at the Taj Spend an enjoyable dining experience at the Taj Tashi, accompanied by traditional Bhutanese dance performances. The dances are performed by accomplished artists in the full traditional regalia of ornate costumes and masks. Each aspect of the dance has a symbolic meaning. All Bhutanese art, dance, and music can trace their roots to Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy. Traditional Bhutanese music includes a spectrum of sub-genres, ranging from folk to religious renditions. The Taj Tashi organizes cultural programs on a daily basis at hotel’s sprawling courtyard.
Highlights of Thimphu Discover the King’s Memorial Chorten, which is continuously circled by people murmuring mantras and spinning prayer wheels. Explore Tashichhoe dzong (fortress of the glorious religion), the administrative center for government and religion. Browse the various government-run handicrafts emporium and local craft shops showcasing Bhutan’s fine traditional arts, including handwoven textiles, thangkha paintings, masks, jewelry, ceramics, slate and wood carvings. Explore Zorig Chusum (the Painting School), Thanka Art School and the Institution of Traditional Medicine. Visit the National Library, housing an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts and modern academic books on Himalayan culture and religion. You can also visit a handmade paper factory, the Mini Zoo, and Thimphu’s weekend market. Enjoy scenic treks and nature walks with views of the famous Himalayan range.
Indellible impressions of surprising beauty! One of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan, surprises the unsuspecting visitor with its wide flat valley sans any trees, after a hard climb through dense forests, augmented by an impression of vast space – an extremely rare experience where most of the valley’s are tightly enclosed.
Bhutanese Cooking Class in Gangtey Take up this unique opportunity of learning how to cook delicious Bhutanese cuisine. Participate in this special cooking session held at local restaurant, where a team of master chefs demonstrate the art of cooking up a storm. Watch them prepare local Bhutanese delicacies, while you try out your own culinary skills as well. Have fun cooking local Bhutanese delicacies like the delectable and fiery ‘Emma Datshi’ made with chilies and local Bhutanese cheese, which also is the national dish of Bhutan!
Highlights of Gangtey Escape to the great 17th century Wangduephodrang Dzongkhag (monastery) of Gangtey, which is revealed on the slopes of the fabulous mountains surrounding the town of Wangdue Phodrang. From the center, you can trek to Phobjikha Valley, where you will find Gangtey Goenpa perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor. This is one of Bhutan’s most beautiful spots and it’s surrounded by a large village inhabited by the families of 140 gomchens (priests) who care for the monastery. Home to the main seat of the famous saint who founded the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, this is the biggest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. Breathe in the stunning scenery of Black Mountain National Park.
Mountain rapture An erstwhile capital, it now makes for a magical stay with splendid views of the distant, heavenly Himalayas at Dorchula Pass with a soothing climate and relaxing ambience.
Highlights of Punakha Take a tranquil, beautiful hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. Dominating upper Punakha Valley, the chorten affords commanding views of Mo Chhu and the mountainous peaks of Gasa. Visit Punakha Dzong, strategically built at the confluence of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored by the present king. In the afternoon, visit Chimi Lakhang, situated on a hillock and dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley (the Divine Madman). Also known as the temple of fertility, barren couples wishing to have children pray here as it is believed they are usually blessed with a child soon after. Walk across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, meaning field. Visit Limbukha, famous for Bhutan’s infamous medicinal red rice.
Gateway to the Kingdom’s treasures! Known as the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon,’ the charming town of Paro is home to Mt. Chumolhari and some of the oldest monasteries and temples in the region.
Highlights of Paro Throw yourself into the city’s cultural gems! Begin at Rinpung Dzong, a 17th century Buddhist monastery and fortress built by Tibetan Buddhist lama Ngawang Namgyal. Visit the National Museum, housed in a former watchtower over several floors and brimming with Bhutanese relics, and the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong, and enjoy scenic valley treks that boast views of Mount Chomolhari and Kyichu Lhakhang, a 7th century sacred shrine. Discover the spectacular cliffside Taktshang Lhakhang Monastery, otherwise known as Tiger’s Nest, where it is believed Guru Rinpoche arrived on the back of a tigress. Stay in Paro more than three nights and you can also visit Kila Goemba, home of Buddhist nuns, Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple), Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple) and Rig Sum Goenpa (three giant hills) in Haa Valley.
Farm House Visit Discover the rustic beauty of Bhutan, embellished by a cluster of quaint farm houses. Get an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle of Bhutan’s village folk on this farm visit. Bhutanese farm houses are very colourful and decorative. They are traditionally built with mud and stones, without the use of a single nail! All houses follow the same architectural pattern. Visit a traditional farm house and interact with local farming folk as they go about their daily lives. Enjoy the simple hospitality of your local hosts over a simple, but infinitely warm tea party!