- Breakfast is included throughout plus 7 lunches and 8 dinners. You should allow around INR5000 (approx. GBP60/USD75) for the additional meals and drinks. Mineral water, soft and alcoholic drinks are not included and are widely available. Soft drinks are generally cheap, but beers can approach Western prices.
- Guided Group
- All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 8 dinners are included. You should allow around GBP60 (approx. USD90) for the additional meals and drinks. Mineral water, soft and alcoholic drinks are not included and are widely available. Soft drinks are generally cheap, but beers can approach Western prices.
- Adult Group
- Accom: hotel/lodge
- Trek: point-to-point
- Culture & Discovery
- Festival departures
- Breakfast is included throughout plus 6 lunches and 8 dinners. You should allow around INR5000 (approx. GBP60/USD80) for the additional meals and drinks. Mineral water, soft and alcoholic drinks are not included and are widely available. Soft drinks are generally cheap, but beers can approach Western prices.
The tour starts at our hotel in Delhi for those not travelling on the group flights. You are free today to explore Delhi or rest after your flight; rooms may not be available until noon but it is often earlier than this.
Fly to Bagdogra; transfer to Darjeeling.
Transfer to the domestic airport terminal for the flight to Bagdogra. On arrival at Bagdogra we join our vehicles, and take a beautiful 4 hour drive from the heat of the plains through jungle, tea estates and pleasant hillside villages to the coolness of Darjeeling. The road winds its way up into the hills through Kurseong. At 1,458m it is the little sister of Darjeeling. The word Kurseong comes from the Lepcha word for a small white orchid which grows prolifically in this area. Surrounded by tea estates it is the southern terminus for the steam powered trains of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the last 32km follows the route of the famous Toy Train, once the normal mode of transport to the famous hill station. We should arrive by late afternoon and there may be time for a wander round Chowrasta, the main square of Darjeeling. (Approx 4 hours drive).
Ride the 'toy train'; travel by jeep to Dhodrey; trek to Tonglu.
On a clear day its worth getting up early for the beautiful sunrise views of Kanchenjunga from the roof of the hotel. At 2,134m and spread over a steep mountain ridge surrounded by tea plantations with a backdrop of the jagged white Himalayan peaks, Darjeeling is the archetypal hill station. Originally the site of a small monastery called Dorje Ling it was discovered by the British and established as a sanatorium for the troops in the mid 1800's. The British soon recognised the potential of the place and built their colonial bungalows and planted tea. These days people come here to escape the heat of the north Indian plains and you will find yourself surrounded by mountain people from all over the eastern Himalaya who have come to work and trade - Mother Theresa spent her early years here as a nun. After breakfast we drive to the railway station and have a 40 minute train ride on the famous Toy Train to Ghoom (as long as the railway is working). The train chugs its way out of Darjeeling, stopping on the way to take on water and to allow passengers to take photos at the famous Batasia Loop. Here we meet our cars and drive for about 2 - 3 hours to Dhodrey, the trailhead of our trek. The traditional place from which the trek to the Singalila ridge starts from is the border town of Manaybhanjyang. However, this involves an unrelenting steep climb of 3000ft- not a great way to start a trek! Instead we drive further to Dhodrey, a picturesque village from where we follow a gentler path uphill through magnificent rhododendron forests (a blaze of reds in spring), passing meadows and meeting villagers along the trail. Almost as soon as you reach the crest of the ridge you'll find yourself at the small settlement of Tonglu (3,100m), where we spend the first night under canvas.
Trek to Kalapokhari, enjoying views of Kanchenjunga (third highest mountain in the world).
If the weather is clear we are greeted by wonderful views of Kanchenjunga. At 8,586m Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world. It is made up of five peaks, four of them over 8,450m and its name means Five Treasures of Snow. First climbed in 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band its impressive south face is with us for most of our trek. After breakfast we leave Tonglu on an easy, broad track down to Tumling. Here we cross into Nepal to the small border village of Jaubari, a Nepali settlement. We are following the ridgeline and the views across both India and Nepal are astounding. We continue descending to the village of Gairibas at 2,538m. From here we start to climb gently to Kanyakatta and further on to Kalapokhari.
Pass bamboo glades and rhododendron forests to the crest of the Singalila Ridge at Sandakphu.
A short day today to help with acclimatisation. As we leave camp we can see the whole of today's walk ahead of us. We start with a gradual ascent to Bikhebhanjyang. We are walking through forests of rhododendron and magnolia - particularly spectacular in spring. Sandakhphu is the high point of our trek at 3,636m and is the end of an old jeep track that serves some of the villages in this area. Our camp is 30 minutes beyond the tea houses at Sandhakhphu. The views from here are truly amazing - the towering slopes of Kanchenjunga lie ahead and Everest, Lhotse and Makalu now come into view.
Sunrise view over the high peaks including Kanchenjunga; spectacular easy trek along the ridge to Sabargam.
A short day to enjoy the views. We are now on the Singalila Ridge, the border between Nepal and India. At times we are walking in Nepal and at others in India. The trail undulates following the ridge through chestnut, oak and silver fir with commanding panoramic views of the Himalaya all day. Dwarf rhododendrons and primulas colour the landscape in spring. Tonight we have a spectacular wild camp at Sabargam. The views from here are stupendous and we should see a magnificent sunset and sunrise over Kanchenjunga, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu and a whole host of other Himalayan peaks. Today there is plenty of time to enjoy the views and take in the scenery.
Trek along the ridge to Phalut with views of Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga; descend to the pretty village of Samaden.
A longer day today as we trek to the end of the ridge at Phalut and then descend to Samaden. The trail to Phalut undulates further along the Singalila Ridge. The breathtaking mountain vistas of the Everest and Kanchenjunga ranges are laid out before us in all their glory. Phalut is at 3,600m and just behind the single lodge there is a ten minute walk up to a viewpoint where we are surrounded by Himalayan giants. From here we descend to Samaden. The trail is glorious and takes us through forests of oak, conifers, pine and rhododendrons, an explosion of colour in spring. We camp tonight in the village of Samaden (2,480m), a beautiful spot in a small settlement with excellent views.
Descend through forested hillsides to Rimbik.
Our trail today winds through a collection of small settlements inhabited by Rais, Sherpas and Tamangs to Ramman, where terraced fields and villages dot the landscape. We descend along a jeep track to the Sirikhola for lunch after which we cross a suspension bridge and continue for another 2.5 hours along a road, passing through more villages en route to Rimbik (2,286m), a large Sherpa village set amongst the forest landscapes of the Singalila National Park. We stay in a basic lodge with great views across the valley.
Drive to Darjeeling.
It's quite a long drive to Darjeeling (4-5 hours) but with an early start we should arrive by lunchtime. The road winds up and down ridges climbing finally to Darjeeling. The rest of the day is free to explore one of the most famous hill stations of British India. It originally belonged to the Chogyals (Kings) of Sikkim until the late 1700's, when it was annexed by the Gurkhas. In the early 1800's the British East India Company gained control of the region and gave the land back to Sikkim. In 1828 two British officers stumbled across Dorje Ling Monastery, situated on a quiet, forested ridge. They thought it would make a nice place for a sanatorium. The King of Sikkim happily leased the uninhabited land to the East India Company and a hill station was born. The population increased and forests made way for colonial houses and tea plantations. It has always possessed one incomparable asset: the stunning view of Kanchenjunga, surely one of the finest mountain views in the world. Today, more than fifty years after independence, the town still has a late Victorian air. One change which has taken place, however, is the arrival of large numbers of Tibetan refugees, considerably strengthening the Buddhist influence in the town. Darjeeling has a busy bustling market and there are plenty of good restaurants and little eating stalls to tempt you. To end the day a pre-dinner pink gin at the Windamere Hotel is highly recommended.
Visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute; drive to Gangtok, stopping to walk through tea gardens en route.
Before we leave Darjeeling we visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute founded by Tenzing Norgay and where many of the famous Sherpa climbers have been trained in mountaineering skills. We then drive to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim and the second part of our journey. We drive past many tea gardens and villages. After a cup of tea in the village of Lamahatta, with a thousand of prayer flags blowing in the wind, we can walk through the village and down past tea gardens. Our cars will pick us up and we then drive to Rangpo, the border between west Bengal & Sikkim, where we stop for lunch. Spectacularly situated on a ridge that flanks the Ranipool River, the town has magnificent views across the entire Kanchenjunga Range. Approx. 5/6 hrs driving.
Short morning walk; afternoon sightseeing in Gangtok.
We spend the whole day in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim and a friendly hill station perched on a ridge between 1,400m and 1,700m. The name means ‘hilltop’ and the town is steeply tiered along a precipitous mountain ridge. If clear the views are inspiring with Kanchenjunga soaring above the horizon. Now part of India, Sikkim was once an independent kingdom inhabited by Lepchas. Over the years Tibetans migrated over the border for trade but it was not until 1642 that Sikkim became an independent kingdom with its own Chogyal (King). Over the centuries Sikkim was invaded by Nepalis, Bhutanese and Tibetans but it always managed to preserve its independence. The British East India Company saw Sikkim as a gateway to trade with Tibet and in 1888 it came under British rule and the capital was shifted to Gangtok. Sovereignty was returned in 1895 and in 1947 after Indian independence the Prime Minister, Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. However after Nehru’s death his daughter Indira Gandhi had little patience for maintaining Sikkim and its monarchy (the Raja had married an American who was now queen of Sikkim) and in 1975 Sikkim became the 22nd state of India. Populated by Lepchas, Nepalis and Bhutias, most who follow Tibetan Buddhism the culture here is more akin to Tibet than India. We have the whole day in and around Ganngtok and in the morning we take a packed lunch and drive a short way from Gangtok to Pangthang, from where we start walking through alpine vegetation, passing through villages and farms. We walk for about 3 hours to Tumin village. After a packed lunch we drive back to Gangtok (1 hour), visiting Enchey Monastery enroute. The afternoon is free to explore the bustling markets of this friendly hill station. The market is colourful and close to the hotel. If the orchids are in bloom the Flower Show is worth a visit.
Drive to Kalimpong, visiting Rumtek Monastery en route.
After breakfast we set off for the drive to Kalimpong, visiting Rumtek Monastery en route. Rumtek is 24km from Gangtok and is the largest and most famous monastery in Sikkim. Founded in the 16th century, Rumtek served as the main seat of the Karma Kargyu lineage in Sikkim. The Karma Kargyu is one of the sects of Tibetan Buddhism and the Karmapa Lama is the head of this sect. When the 16th Karmapa arrived in Sikkim in 1959 after fleeing from Tibet, he found the monastery in ruins. As the place is auspicious he had the monastery rebuilt and it became the main seat in exile of the Karmapa Lamas. When the 16th Karmapa died a new reincarnation was found in Rumtek. However, in 1999 the Tibetan Karmapa escaped from Tsurpu in Tibet and fled over the Himalaya to Dharamsala. Since then Rumtek has become embroiled in controversy as to who is the ‘real’ 17th Karmapa and armed guards now patrol the monastery. It has some excellent Buddhist paintings and relics, and a good view towards Gangtok. From Rumtek we drive through the wild Teesta Valley to Kalimpong, where we stay in the Himalayan Hotel. In the early days of the last century the hotel was the family home of David MacDonald, who was the British trade agent in Gyantse for 20 years. After he retired he turned the family home into an hotel and it has remained in the family ever since. Although a bit faded at the edges now, it still retains its charm and character. It has been home to Everest expeditions from the days of Mallory and Irvine and Hillary and Tenzing were frequent visitors. Alexandra David Neel and Heinrich Harrer are just some of the famous travellers who have stayed here. If there is time this evening we can drive to the Dorpin Dara monastery, where we may catch the evening prayer ceremony. Approx. 5/6 hours driving.
To Siliguri; overnight train to Calcutta.
We have the morning to explore Kalimpong. We can visit the main Hindu Temple in the town and the bazaar. Mid-afternoon (around 3pm) we set off for the drive to Siliguru (2-3 hrs) where we board the overnight train to Calcutta (Kolkata). Train times in India change regularly, although it usually departs at around 8pm or 9pm.
Arrive Calcutta; free to explore.
We arrive in Calcutta (Kolkata) in the early hours of the morning and have the day to explore this fascinating city. Once the capital of British India, Calcutta has had a turbulent past. It was central to the struggle for Indian independence and thousands of Bengalis refugees came here at the start of the 1900's. It is a city of striking contrasts and the unusual sights, pungent smells and the cacophony of sounds of the country's second largest city are an experience unique to India. If you would rather not navigate Calcutta alone, your leader can usually arrange a short (1/2hr) guided city tour for you (pay locally).
The tour ends at our hotel in Calcutta after breakfast. Those travelling on the group flights will be transferred to the arport for their flight back to London.