Pilgrimage to Sikkim

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specialNestled in India’s northeast corner in the foothills of the great Himalayas bordering Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan are the small jewels of Darjeeling and Sikkim. Buddhist monasteries, Hindu temples, some of the world’s finest tea and the origin of many legends and religious beliefs make this part of the region mystical and magical and not to be missed. Visit Bokar Rinpoche’s monastery in Mirik, the many gonpas and temples in Darjeeling along with a ride on India’s highest railway before driving the windy hills to the fabled kingdom of Sikkim. Learn about Sikkim’s rich religious history and its vibrant kingdom before it was a state of India. Visit Tsongmo Lake near the Tibetan border and explore palace ruins in west Sikkim. See panoramic views from Tashiding and the oldest gonpa in Sikkim at Yuksom. Pilgrimage to Sikkim is a spiritual journey into the “land of the thunderbolt” and the “valley of the rice”.

Day 1 – Bagdogra/Mirik
Arrive in Bagdogra where you will be met and driven to your hotel in Mirik. The remainder of the day is free to explore as you wish.

Day 2 – Mirik
Early morning sunrise from Rameetay Dara before heading to Devi Sthan for morning prayer service. This temple of Singha Devi is located on the west bank of Sumendu Lake. Temples for the worship of Hanuman, Shiva and Kali Mata are on the other sides of the lake. Visit Bokar Gonpa, a Tibetan monastery which was built by Bokar Rinpoche before brunch. Mirik is in the center of some of the best tea gardens of this state. In the afternoon, tour Thurbo Tea Garden & Factory to see how tea is grown and processed. Enjoy a tea tasting. Watch the sunset from Kawlay Dara where all of the Mirik area can be seen.

Day 3 – Mirik/Darjeeling
Drive to Darjeeling and check into your hotel. Visit Observatory Hill to see fabulous views of snow-clad Himalayan peaks, including Mt. Kanchenjunga. See the Mahakala Temple. Hike down the hill to the Bhutia Busty monastery, the oldest monastery in Darjeeling, which was first located on Observatory Hill. Built in 1765 by Lama Dorje-Rinzing, it was destroyed by a 1934 earthquake and owes its present existence to the Raja of Sikkim. The name Darjeeling is believed to have originated when monks of the Bhutia Busty monastery referred to the region as “Dorje-ling”, meaning the land of the thunderbolt.

Day 4 – Darjeeling
Early morning visit to Tiger Hill, famous for watching the sunrise over Mt. Kanchenjunga, Ghoom monastery and Sonada, the home of Kalu Rinpoche. Afternoon hike 3 kilometers down the Tenzin Norgay Road to Aloobari known for its pristine red and white gonpa and many religious stories about its magical cemetery frequented by nagpas, wandering Tibetan ascetics. The rest of the day is free for you to shop or explore as you wish.

Day 5 – Darjeeling
Toy train ride at 10AM from Darjeeling to Ghoom, India’s highest railway station. The Darjeeling Himalayan railway or Toy Train was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 53 mi long. It runs from New Jalpaiguri or the India plains to about 7,218 feet at Darjeeling. The train was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. After lunch visit the mountaineering Institute.

Day 6 – Darjeeling/Gangtok
Drive to Gangtok and check into your hotel. Mid- afternoon explore the old Palace grounds and the Palace Gonpa and learn the history of this once Buddhist monarchy.

Day 7 – Gangtok
Today you tour Sikkim’s capital city. Morning visit Dodrul Chorten, the Institute of Tibetology and the Handicraft Emporium. In the afternoon drive to Rumtek, the main monastery or gonpa for the red hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the Kagyupa. Drive to Enchey monastery, a 200 year old gonpa which belongs to the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Day 7 – Gangtok/Phodang/Gangtok
Drive to Phodang where you will check in to your hotel. Visit the Phodang monastery which houses old mural paintings and shelters around 260 monks. Quite similar to Rumtek, the main annual Puja is performed at Phodang Monastery Sikkim on the 28th & 29th days of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar, the time when the religious dances are performed. Tour Tumlong Palace ruins, once the capital of Sikkim.

Day 8 – Gangtok/Tsongmo Lake/Gangtok
After breakfast drive the Nathala highway East to Tsongmo Lake. This road used to be part of the old trade route from India to China and is near to the Tibetan border.. Enjoy the spectacular views en route. Tsongmo Lake is only 400 kilometers to Lhasa, Tibet. This picturesque lake is sacred to the Sikkimese people. The lake is so clear that trees and any other forms of nature reflect itself in the lake.

Day 9 – Gangtok/Gyalshing
After breakfast drive to West Sikkim. The headquarters of the West district of Sikkim is Gyalshing, which means the King’s Garden, 10 kilometers from Pelling. This town is believed to have once been the royal gardens attached to the Palace at Rabdentse, Sikkim’s capital till the late 18th century. Today it is a bustling town and the main transit point to various destinations of this region. Visit The palace ruins of Rabdentse and one of Sikkim’s oldest monasteries, Pemayangste. Opposite Gyalshing is the longest and believed to be the holiest, Mendang or Holy Wall, constructed by the third king, Chogyal Chador Namgyal.

Day 10 – Gyalshing/Tashiding
Drive to Tashiding. The gonpa of Tashiding is situated on a hill rising between the Rathong River and the Rangit River and provides amazing views of the landscape below. The Tashiding gonpa was built in 1717, which coincided with the reign of third Chogyal Chakdor Namgyal. It is located on the site blessed by the great Tibetan teacher, Guru Padmasambhava. Legend says that Padmasambhava drew an arrow in the air to choose the place where it would sit down to meditate. The place where the arrow fell became the site of the monastery of Tashiding. People believe that a visit to Tashiding purifies one of past transgressions. Visit Khandozangphu to the south whuich is one of four sacred caves (one cave is located to each direction) where Tibetan saints are said to have meditated.

Day 11 – Tashiding/Yuksom/Kecheopalri
Drive to Yuksom and visit Dubdi gonpa, the first monastery established by Chogyal Namgyal (King) in 1701. Three monks who consecrated the first Chogyal of Sikkim at Yuksam is said to have seen an unusual divine phenomenon of bright light shining on top of Kanchenjunga (the highest peak of the Himalayas in Sikkim) and reflected to a site near the place where the present Tashiding Monastery has been built. Drive onward to Khecheopalri Lake, a sacred Lake for both Buddhists and Hindus and believed to be the wish fulfilling lake in religious scriptures . Return to Tashiding.

Day 12 – Depart Tashiding/Bagdogra
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

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