Darjeeling & the Last Himalayan Kingdom
Low Deposit £99 pp
On this incredible adventure packed with ancient traditions and treasures, we explore colourful Kolkata, before travelling in to the Himalayan foothills and onwards to Bhutan - the sole surviving Himalayan kingdom, shrouded in mystique, and steeped in history.
We depart from London and fly via Mumbai to Kolkata, one of India's largest and most captivating cities. On arrival on Day 2 we transfer to the 5-Star Oberoi Grand Hotel for a two-night stay. Early on Day 3, 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 colours. 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 Railway Museum. Later we take the circular railway train to Prinsep Ghat where we visit the heritage railway museum here.
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 Siliguri in the foothills of the Himalayas, where we overnight.
Today we coach to Kurseong, where we enjoy lunch at the colonial-style Cochrane Place Hotel. Later we climb almost 7,000ft into the Himalaya as we enjoy an enthralling journey on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. 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 centre 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 colourful 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.
We visit Tiger Hill viewpoint, where we watch the sunrise from behind Kanchenjunga, India's highest mountain. The peak changes colour 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 fi nal resting place of Tensing Norgay.
For centuries Darjeeling has been famed as a tea-growing centre, 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.
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.
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.
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.
On Day 11 we visit the mesmerising 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 10,000ft, 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.
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.
On Day 13 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.
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 centre 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.
On Day 15 we bid India a fond farewell, after a morning of leisure. We transfer to the airport at Kolkata in the afternoon for our scheduled flight to Mumbai to connect with our flight to London, where our tour concludes on arrival on Day 16.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Explore vibrant India and mysterious Bhutan