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Darjeeling and the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan

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Adventures in vibrant India and spiritual Bhutan

You are viewing the 2023 itinerary. Select your departure year
20222023
16 days From £3,495 per person

2023 Tour code: CDJ23

About the tour

An incredible adventure packed with ancient traditions and treasures, explore colourful Kolkata before travelling into the Himalayan foothills and onwards to Bhutan. The sole surviving Himalayan Kingdom, this is a destination shrouded in mystery and steeped in history.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - London to Kolkata

After meeting at the airport, we fly from London Heathrow to Kolkata via Dubai.

Day 2 - Kolkata

Landing today, we transfer to our hotel for two nights. The rest of your day is free to settle in, rest or begin exploring.

Day 3 - Discovering Kolkata

We set out on a guided city tour, beginning at Kolkata's aromatic flower market. The largest in India, hundreds of vendors gather here every morning to sell wreaths and bouquets of seasonal flowers. We continue to see Mother's House, the orphanage set up by Mother Teresa, before making our way to the Victoria Memorial - a beautiful white marble structure boasting sprawling gardens. Next up is the fascinating potter's colony, where artists sculpt idols of Hindu deities out of clay and straw before painting them in vibrant colours. Later, we take the circular railway to the memorial of James Prinsep, an English scholar who specialised in ancient Indian scripts and coins

Day 4 - Siliguri

After some free time this morning, we travel by rail to New Jalpaiguri. On arrival, we transfer by Jeep to Siliguri, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where we stay for the night.

Day 5 - Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

Travelling by Jeep to Kurseong, we enjoy lunch at the colonial-style Cochrane Place Hotel before climbing almost 7,000 feet into the Himalayas on an enthralling journey aboard a UNESCO-listed Toy Train also known as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. We board this steam-hauled, narrow-gauge train in the heart of the town, and for a while it runs directly through the bustling centre before climbing into the surrounding jungle-like forests of towering sal and oak trees. We arrive in Darjeeling for three nights late in the afternoon, taking in the panoramic views of pastel-painted houses stacked almost on top of each other and set against a backdrop of the mighty Himalayan mountain range.

Day 6 - Tiger Hill Viewpoint and Ghum

We visit Tiger Hill viewpoint early this morning, watching the sun rise from behind Kanchenjunga, India's highest mountain. The sun projects pink hues across the snow-capped peaks and, as the last remains of darkness vanishes, each jagged summit is bathed in golden light. Later, we travel on the steam-hauled Toy Train to Ghum, the highest hill station in the area. Here, we take a tour of the Darjeeling's Mountaineering Institute, the final resting place of Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali Sherpa mountaineer who was one of the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Day 7 - Time for tea

Darjeeling is famous for its tea, and we are immersed in this aromatic world today, visiting the Golden Tips stall at the local market and the local planter's club to hear about how tea bushes are grown and how the leaves require the use of deft plucking techniques to maximise their flavour. After learning about how one of the world's most popular teas gets from field to cup, we're treated to a tasting of iconic Darjeeling, which can come in both green and black varieties and is known for its floral aroma and fruity apricot flavour.

Day 8 - Chalsa and Bhutan

We drive to the town of Chalsa for lunch before crossing the border into Bhutan, a country that's been largely undiscovered by the outside world as it was closed off to most visitors until 2018, on our way to Phuntsholing for the night.

Day 9 – Paro

Leaving Phuntsholing, we continue to Paro by coach for a two-night stay. After checking into our hotel, we set out on a guided tour of this a historic town, home to many ancient sacred sites, including the oldest Buddhist temple in the country, followed by a visit to a nearby farmhouse for a traditional Bhutanese dinner. Rice is a staple of all meals here, with other popular local ingredients such as cheese and chillies taking centre stage. Lastly, we swing by a the Namgay Artisinal Brewery for a guided tour and beer tasting session, a perfectly refreshing end to our day.

Day 10 - Tiger's Nest monastery

We visit one of Bhutan's most iconic landmarks today, climbing to a viewpoint that overlooks the stunning Tiger's Nest Monastery. Built into the opposite cliffside in the heart of the Paro Valley, we enjoy fantastic views of this red, gold and white pagoda-style building that dates back to the 17th century. Legend has it that the monastery got its name when Padmasambhava, the 'Second Buddha', meditated here for three months after bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. He's said to have arrived on a flying tiger, an understandable arrangement when you see how many steps it would take to reach the Tiger's Nest itself. Afterwards, lunch is served at a local restaurant. On the way back to Paro, we explore Kyichu Lhakhang, another beautiful Buddhist temple.

Day 11 – Punakha

Our day begins with some time to look around Rinpung Dzong, a fortress monastery and a fantastic example of Bhutanese architecture, as well as the National Museum, housed in a former watchtower of Rinpung Dzong. Here, we're lucky enough to walk amongst over 3,000 examples of Bhutanese art, covering more than 1,500 years of the country's rich heritage. Later, we drive along the Dochula Pass, a snow-covered route through the Himalayas home to 108 memorial chortens or stupas, to Punakha, where we spend the night. This Himalayan town set within a lush valley is known for its riverside fortress, which dates back to the 1800s.

Day 12 - Thimphu

Our first stop today is Chimi Lhakhang, a temple and monastery dedicated to the fertility rites of the tantric tradition. Later, we continue to Punakha Dzong, or the Palace of Great Happiness, on our way to Thimphu, the capital city, for two nights. Here, we take an exploratory walk of the city centre before making our way to the mighty, 17th-century Tashichhoedzong - a striking fortress monastery and the seat of Bhutan's government since the 1960s. We also visit a local craft bazaar*, made up of a line of bamboo huts that stretch along the main street of Thimphu city, here you can buy a collection of local handicrafts and souvenirs which embody the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. We enjoy time to browse the different wares on sale, which include prayer beads, brass Buddha statues, wooden bowls and an assortment of textile products and paintings.

Day 13 - Exploring Thimphu

We enjoy a full-day tour of Thimphu. Among the many attractions of the city, we see the Memorial Chorten, Buddha Point and the takin preserve, a wildlife reserve that celebrates the takin - the national animal of Bhutan and a member of the bovine family. We enjoy lunch at the Simply Bhutan Museum, followed by a local rice wine tasting and folk performance. Next up is the Zorig Chusum, where we meet local students learning different forms of traditional Bhutanese art, before we visit the Zilukha Nunnery. Here, we take part in a unique experience, joining the nuns for an intimate tea tasting session. This evening, we get the chance to dress in traditional Bhutanese attire as we attend a cultural performance at our hotel.

Day 14 - Kolkata

We return to Paro for our flight to Kolkata. On arrival, we take a guided tour of the city's historic Dalhousie Square, now known as BBD Bagh. Set on the banks of the Hooghly River, the area is home to some beautiful landmarks, including the Town Hall, Writers' Building and iconic Eden Gardens - one of the world's largest cricket grounds. Continuing to a Jain temple, we learn more about this ancient and unique religion before boarding a tram to South Park Street Cemetery, a tranquil burial ground for British colonists that's slowly being reclaimed by the jungle which surrounds it.

Day 15 - Return to the UK

After a final breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our flight back to London Heathrow, travelling via Dubai.

Day 16 - London

We touch down in the English capital and our adventurous holiday comes to an end.

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Departure times

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.

Visa requirements
Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Hotel Mayfair, Darjeeling

Hotel Mayfair, Darjeeling

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The Oberoi Grand Hotel, Kolkata

The Oberoi Grand Hotel, Kolkata

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Tiger Nest Resort

Tiger Nest Resort, Paro

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Lhaki Hotel, Phuentsholing

Lhaki Hotel, Phuentsholing

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RKPO Green Resort

RKPO Green Resort, Bhutan

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Druk Hotel, Thimphu

Druk Hotel, Thimphu

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Lemon Tree Hotel, Siliguri

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Train

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

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Upgrades

Flight upgrades
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Extend your holiday

Goa
Kerala
Mumbai
Shimla

Reviews

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Mrs P Davies

5 stars

Submitted 23 Apr 2018

Bhutan was amazing. Fabulous views especially of the Himalayas. Very interesting monasteries and monuments like the Golden Buddha.

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Darjeeling and the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan

Adventures in vibrant India and spiritual Bhutan

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