Himalayan Three Jewels – Darjeeling, Kalimpong & Sikkim

Rice fields Sikkim

specialJourney to India’s Eastern Himalayan foothills and explore where some of the world’s finest tea is grown. In Darjeeling see tea plantations rolling down Himalayan foothills and visit a tea factory to learn how the tea leaves are processed. Visit Chakpori and learn about Tibetan medicine. Explore the surrounding area on the Toy Train. Journey onward to Kalimpong and hike nature trails in Neora National Park. Explore Sikkim, known for its outstanding vistas of Kanchenjunga and Buddhist monasteries. Visit Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary and see migratory birds making their way from Siberia to India for winter. Himalayan Three Jewels takes you to an often overlooked region of India.

Day 1 – Bagdogra/Darjeeling
Arrive in Bagdogra where you will be met and driven to your lovely accommodations in the once British Raj hill station of Darjeeling. Your afternoon is free for you to stroll around the Mall.

Day 2 – Darjeeling
The history of Darjeeling blends with that of Sikkim, Nepal and Bengal. In the early 19th century, the hilly area around Darjeeling was controlled by the kingdom of Sikkim, while the plains around Siliguri were intermittently occupied by the kingdom of Nepal. In 1828, a delegation of the British East India Company officials on its way to Nepal-Sikkim border stayed in Darjeeling and decided that the region was a suitable site for a respite for British soldiers. During the British Raj Darjeeling’s temperate climate led to its full- fledged development as a hill station for British residents seeking to escape the summer heat and humidity of the Indian plains. Wealthy families from Bengal also frequented Darjeeling for the same reason. Darjeeling is located at an elevation of 6,710 feet in the foothills of the Himalaya and are nestled within the higher snow-clad peaks that tower over the town. Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest peak, 28,209 feet high, is the most prominent mountain visible. On a clear day, Mt. Everest in Nepal (29,035 feet) can be seen.

This morning visit Observatory Hill and Bhutia Busty. Rising abruptly from the Chowrasta, or the Mall (town square) is Observatory Hill. At the very top of the hill is is the ancient Mahakal temple of Lord Shiva. There is a cave sacred to worshippers in the temple. The word “Durjay Ling”, means “Shiva of invincible prowess, who rules the Himalayas” in sanskrit. There is a suggestion that the name Darjeeling could have emanated from this name. Hear the morning prayer bells and chanting of priests and devotees who make daily offerings. Walk a short distance to the Tibetan monastery of Bhutia busty, which once stood atop Observatory hill before being destroyed in an earthquake and built in its present location.

After lunch see the prestigious Gymkana and Planters Club, two of the oldest buildings in Darjeeling. A mid- afternoon trip to Happy Valley Tea Estate lets you sample the famous Darjeeling tea and teaches you how tea leaves are processed.

Day 3 – Darjeeling
Early morning drive to Tiger Hill, famous for viewing spectacular sunrises over the Himalayas. Tiger Hill is the highest hill in the immediate surroundings at 8,500 feet. Pinkish light rays turn to orange as the sun peeps out behind Kanchenjunga. After breakfast, visit Chakpori Medical Institute and learn about how Tibetan medicine is made. Drive to Sonada, the monastery of Kalu Rinpoche and Sumendu Lake in Mirik, Early evening walk through Toong Soong, the Tibetan community, to Aloobari Gonpa, a grand monastery painted bright red and white. Aloobari Gonba is along Tenzing Norgay Road.

Day 4 – Darjeeling/Kalimpong
At 10:00AM ride the Toy Train to Ghoom passed the many tea plantations which blanket the area’s surrounding hills. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, nicknamed the “Toy Train”, is a 2 foot narrow gauge railway from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling and is operated by the Indian Railways. Daily tourist trains from Darjeeling to Ghoom (India’s highest railway station) are handled by vintage British-built B Class steam locomotives. Since 1999 the train has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After lunch drive to Kalimpong and transfer to your hotel.

Day 5 – Kalimpong
Kalimpong is located on a ridge overlooking the Teesta River and is frequented by tourists due to its temperate climate and proximity to other popular tourist locations in the region. Horticulture is also an important industry in Kalimpong. The town is well known for its flower market with a wide array of orchids and its nurseries, which export Himalayan grown flower bulbs, tubers and rhizomes. Kalimpong is the closest Indian town to Bhutan’s western border. Buddhism is the peoples main religious belief system exhibited by its many monasteries in the area.

Early morning visit to the Buddhist monastery of Tharpa Choling for the monks daily morning chants. Once there were monks here from Mongolia, Ladakh, Kinnaur, Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh besides Sherpa, Tamang and Gurung monks. Today, there are 55 resident monks of Tibetan, Monpa, Sherpa, Tamang and Gurung origin. This monastery operates under the strict supervision of Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Governmanet in exile due to its vulnerable border location.

In the afternoon, visit Deolo Hill, the highest hill in Kalimpong at 5,590 feet for a spectacular view of the surrounding region. There are many short walks around this area.

Day 6 – Kalimpong
This morning see Gouripur House (now the Co-operative Training Institute), one of the favorite haunts of the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. He stayed there on his many visits to Kalimpong. Also you can enjoy a marvelous view of the Himalayas from this area of Doorbindra and Jhandibra. After lunch, attend a workshop at the Gangjong Paper Factory. Kalimpong is famous for its handmade paper.

Day 7 – Kalimpong
A full day excursion to Lava (on trade route to Bhutan and 35 km from Kalimpong) to hike the nature trails of Neora National Park while enjoying views from Rachela Pass. Lush forests are an ideal spot for picnicking, trekking and bird-watching. Untouched by modern life, its inhabitants are still living as they have for centuries. Wild animals such as the Barking deer and Himalayan Black bear are found here. There is also a Buddhist monastery on one of the hills of Lava Watch the sun setting on your evening return.

Day 8 – Kalimpong/Gangtok (Sikkim)
Drive to Gangtok and transfer to your hotel. The afternoon is free to explore the markets.

Day 9 – Gangtok
Gangtok is the largest city and capital if the Himalayan state of Sikkim. Gangtok rose to prominence as a popular Buddhist pilgrimage site after the construction of Enchey monastery in 1840. Located on the trade route between Lhasa, Tibet, and Kolkata (then Calcutta), in British India. Gangtok became a major stopover spot. After India won its independence from Britain in 1947, Sikkim chose to remain an independent monarchy until 1975 after India annexed the country into its union of states. The meaning of Gangtok means “hilltop” and rests at an elevation of 4,790 feet. Today, Gangtok is a center of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning, with the presence of several monasteries, religious educational institutions, and Institute of Tibetology.

Early morning visit to Dodrupchen Monastery, a large monastery in the Nyingma tradition famous for its large chorten. When in residence, Dodrupchen Rinpoche receives devotees to offer blessings from 8AM to 9:30AM. You will then have a chance to see the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. Since its establishment in 1958, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology has sponsored and promoted research on the religion, history, language, art and culture of the people of the Tibetan cultural area which includes Sikkim. Its library holds one of the largest collection of Tibetan works in the world outside Tibet and a museum of Tibetan iconography and religious art.

After lunch, drive to Enchey monastery and Ganesh Tok for beautiful views of the surrounding hills and the town itself, dominated by Kanchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain. Enchey Monastery is a two hundred year old monastery in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Day 10 – Gangtok/Tsomgo Lake/Gangtok
Drive to Tsomgo Lake (Changu 3750 meters near Tibetan border) and visit Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary en route (May-Aug migratory birds making their way from Siberia to India for winter. Tsomgo Lake is a glacial lake. The road to Nathu La, one of the three trading border posts between China and India, passes the lake on north side. The Chinese border crossing is only 3.1 miles away.

Day 11 – Gangtok/Pelling
Drive to Pelling in western Sikkim. Tour Rabdentse Palace (17th century capital of Sikkim) & Pemayangtse. Rabdentse was the second capital of the former kingdom of Sikkim from 1670 to 1814 but was destroyed by Nepalese armies. Now only the ruins of the palace and the chortens remain. Pemayangtse Monastery, one of the oldest monasteries in Sikkim, is close to the ruins. The Rabdentse ruins and Pemayangtse are both on a Buddhist pilgrimage circuit.

Day 12 – Pelling/Gangtok
Morning drive to Tashiding Monastery which locals say that one glimpse of the gonpa will “cleanse the soul”. From there you will enjoy a leisurely drive back to Gangtok. The rest of your day is free to explore or shop as you wish.

Day 13 – Depart Gangtok
Transfer to Bagdogra for your departure flight onward.

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Assam Extension

Day 1 – Gangtok/ Bagdogra/Guwahati (Assam)
Drive to Bagdogra and fly to Guwahati. Transfer to your hotel. Tour the Kamakhya Temple and Pan Bazaar. Assam produces nearly 55 percent of the tea crop in India and 20% of the world’s tea!

Day 2 to Day 5 – Guwahati/Kaziranga
Drive to Kaziranga (one of India’s top 5 places to view wildlife) to board on your 4 day river cruise down the Brahmaputra on an Assam Bengal Navigations Ship.

Day 5 – Depart Guwahati
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

CALL NOW for more details 415-331-3791