Darjeeling & the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan CDJ21

Resort: Darjeeling & the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan CDJ21
Operator: Great Rail Journeys
Destination: Asia
Price From: £3895.00

Overview

Spend a fortnight in the lap of the Himalayas, exploring
Darjeeling, famed for its tea, and the surrounding hill stations.
Travel to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, whose Happiness Index is
high and pollution rate low. Discover the tranquillity of
monasteries, and experience the sunrise over the snowcapped peaks
of some of the highest mountains in the world.

Discover the metropolis of Kolkata that was once a favourite
with the British, and which retains some of its colonial heritage
to this day.

Highlights

  • Travel on the UNESCO-listed Toy Train
  • Visit Tiger Hill viewpoint and watch the sun rise
  • Experience the town of Darjeeling
  • Take a guided tour to a local tea plantation
  • See Takin, the national animal of Bhutan
  • Explore traditional Bhutanese art at Zorig Chusum
  • Enjoy a tea tasting session with Buddhist nuns at the Zilukha Nunnery

whats Included

  • 3-5* Accommodation
  • 13 Nights’ Hotel Accommodation
  • 3 nights at the 5-Star Oberoi Grand Hotel in Kolkata, 1 night at the 3-Star Hotel Sinclair in Siliguri, 3 nights at the 4-Star Mayfair Darjeeling in Darjeeling, 1 night at the 4-Star Hotel Lhaki in Phuntsholing, 2 nights at the 3-Star Tiger’s Nest Resort in Paro, 1 night at the 4-Star RKPO Green Resort in Punakha, and 2 nights at the 4-Star Hotel Druk in Thimphu
  • Flights from London Heathrow to Kolkata, via Dubai, and Kolkata to London Heathrow, via Dubai
  • Internal flights from Paro to Kolkata
  • All rail and coach transfers, including deluxe air-conditioned coaches in India
  • Toyota Innova car transfers in Darjeeling
  • UK Tour Manager from start to finish

Itinerary

Days 1-3 – London to Kolkata

We depart from London Heathrow and fly to Kolkata via Dubai. On
arrival on Day 2, we transfer to the Oberoi Grand
Hotel for a 2 night stay. On Day 3, we explore
this magnificent metropolis on a guided tour. We begin by exploring
the city’s flower market, the largest in India, where hundreds of
vendors gather every morning with wreaths and bouquets of seasonal
flowers. We move on to see Mother’s House, the orphanage set up by
Mother Teresa, whose philanthropic activities put the city on the
global map, before heading towards Victoria Memorial. We explore
the fascinating potter’s colony, where artists sculpt idols of
Hindu deities out of clay and straw before painting them with
vibrant colours. Later we take the circular railway train to see
the memorial of James Prinsep, an English scholar who specialised
in ancient Indian scripts and numismatics.

Days 4-5 – Siliguri and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

This afternoon we join our train for the journey to New
Jalpaiguri. On arrival, we transfer by Jeep to Siliguri in the
foothills of the Himalayas, where we stay for the night. On
Day 5, we travel by Jeep to Kurseong, enjoying
lunch at the colonial-style Cochrane Place Hotel, before climbing
almost 7,000 feet into the Himalayas as we enjoy an enthralling
journey on the UNESCO-listed Toy Train (subject to operation). We
board the narrow-gauge train in the heart of the town; for a while
the train runs directly through the bustling town centre before
climbing into the forests of towering sal and oak trees. We arrive
in Darjeeling late afternoon, taking in the panoramic views of
pastel-painted houses stacked almost on top of each other against a
backdrop of the mighty Himalayan ranges.

Day 6 – Tiger Hill and the Mountaineering Institute

We visit Tiger Hill viewpoint this morning, watching the sun
rise from behind Kanchenjunga, India’s highest mountain. The sun
adds pink hues to the snow-capped peaks, which then slowly turn
orange. As the last bit of darkness vanishes, the peaks are bathed
in golden light. Later we travel on the steam-hauled Toy Train to
Ghum (subject to operation), the highest hill station in the area.
In the afternoon, we take a tour of the Darjeeling’s Mountaineering
Institute, which is the final resting place of Tenzing Norgay, a
Nepali Sherpa mountaineer who was one of the first 2 people to
reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Days 7-8 – Darjeeling tea plantation, Chalsa, and Bhutan

Darjeeling is famous for its tea plantations and we tour one on
Day 7. Tea bushes are planted on the slopes of
mountains to avoid water stagnation, and the leaves need deft
plucking. On Day 8, we drive to the town of
Chalsa, enjoying lunch before visiting Grassmore village. 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 Himalayas, more than half of the country is protected
as a nature reserve and the fresh mountain air confirms that
pollution here is minimal. We stop in Phuntsholing for the
night.

Days 9-11 – Paro, The Tigers Nest, and Punakha

Today, we visit Kharbandi Gompa, a monastery boasting sprawling
gardens of tropical plants and surrounded by mountains. We then
continue to Paro by coach, where we stay for 2 nights at the
Tiger’s Nest Resort. We explore Paro, a historic town with many
ancient sacred sites, before visiting a farmhouse for a traditional
dinner.

On Day 10, we take in one of Bhutan’s most
iconic landmarks, climbing to a viewpoint that overlooks the
stunning Tiger’s Nest monastery. We enjoy lunch at a local
restaurant afterwards. On the way back to Paro, we explore Kyichu
Lhakhang, a beautiful Buddhist temple.

On Day 11, we discover the mesmerising Rinpung
Dzong, a fortress monastery and a fantastic example of Bhutanese
architecture, and the National Museum, housed in a former
watchtower of Rinpung Dzong. Later, we drive via Dochula Pass, home
to 108 memorial chortens or stupas, to Punakha, where we spend the
night.

Days 12-13 – Punakha Dzong and Thimpu

We visit 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 the way to
Thimphu for 2 nights. On arrival, we take an exploratory walk of
the city centre, before heading towards Thimphu’s mighty
17th-century Tashichhoedzong, a striking fortress monastery and
seat of the government of Bhutan since the 1960s.

On Day 13, we enjoy a full-day tour of Thimphu.
Among the highlights we see are the Memorial Chorten, Buddha Point,
and Takin Preserve, a wildlife reserve that celebrates Takin, the
national animal of Bhutan and a member of the bovine family. We
have lunch at the Simply Bhutan Museum, an interactive museum where
we also indulge in local rice wine tasting and witness local women
sing while working. In the afternoon we visit Zorig Chusum to see
students learning different forms of traditional Bhutanese art,
before proceeding to Zilukha Nunnery. Here we interact with the
resident nuns and join them for a tea session. In the evening we
dress up in traditional Bhutanese attire and indulge in a cultural
performance at the hotel.

Days 14-16 – Kolkata and London

We transfer to Paro for our flight to Kolkata. On arrival, we
take a tour of the city’s historic centre Dalhousie Square, now
known as BBD Bagh. We see Tagore’s House, an 18th-century mansion
that was once home to poet Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian to
be honoured with a Nobel Prize for his contribution to literature,
before taking a tram to South Park Street Cemetery.

On Day 15, we transfer to the airport for our
flight to Dubai. Here we board our flight to London Heathrow, where
our holiday concludes on Day 16.

Please note

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

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