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Kolkata to Paro

Asia is the continent where overlanding all started, and Dragoman has been the leading operator there since our first trucks went through in the 1980s - take advantage of our years of experience and come with us as we include all the must-see attractions as well as heading into the wilds, well away from the usual tourist trail. This epic trip takes you right the way across West Bengal and into the mystical kingdom of Bhutan. From the bustling streets of Kolkata to the cool, tea-growing hills of Darjeeling, you will experience India from its most chaotic to its most serene. From there, you'll overland through the foothills of the Himalayas to the extraordinary mountain kingdom of Bhutan, often described as the last Shangri-La. You will climb up to the iconic Tigers' Nest Monastery, stroll around the charming town of Paro, visit markets and see traditional artisans at work in Bhutan's capital, Thimphu. You'll visit impressive dzongs, enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges, hike through the lush green valleys and discover the unique Buddhist culture of this enchanting land, all in an accessible timeframe and for a much better price than is possible from other operators. Join Dragoman on this wonderful and unforgettable overlanding experience!

  • Duration: 15 Days
  • Guaranteed Departure: Yes
  • For lovers of: Trekking, Hiking, Local Culture & Cuisine, Historical Sites
  • Physical rating: Average
  • Accommodation standard:   Budget%
  • Traveller Tour Rating: 0%  
  • Your Guide: English speaking
  • Tour code: 158348
  • Starts: Kolkata, India
  • Finishes: Paro, Bhutan
You will Visit
  • Kolkata
  • Overnight train to Siliguri
  • Darjeeling
  • Siliguri
  • Phuntsholing
  • Thimphu
  • Punakha
  • Bumthang
  • Gangtey
  • Paro

Itinerary

01

Day 1: Kolkata

Border Information: If you are joining in Kolkata, you will most likely enter India at Kolkata Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (IATA code: CCU).

Please note that you must have a Double-Entry India visa for this trip if leaving in Kathmandu, and a Multi-Entry India visa if continuing beyond Kathmandu - see details below.

There will be an important group meeting at the joining hotel at 10:00am. Please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception when you arrive for more details about this meeting. The afternoon is free to explore Kolkata.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Kolkata before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Kolkata.

We will meet in the evening to board an overnight sleeper train from Kolkata to Siliguri - accommodation will be aboard the train tonight, where there are bunk beds with sheets provided.

02

Day 2: Darjeeling

We will arrive into Siliguri at around 9:00am this morning, meeting our jeeps and drivers at the station for our onward journey through the narrow winding roads to Darjeeling. The town of Darjeeling is really more a collection of villages situated on a high ridge, linked by a series of steps and winding lanes and surrounded by rice and tea terraces.

Jeeps are used in this region rather than our overland truck as they are perfect for the narrow, steep and winding roads of the area. We will continue with the jeeps until the trip returns to Siliguri.

Estimated Drive Time (in jeeps) - 3-4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops, border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors - flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

In Darjeeling we will stay in a local hotel.

03

Day 3: Darjeeling

Today is a free day in Darjeeling to relax, enjoy the surrounding area and take part in some optional activities.

04

Day 4: Siliguri

Today we will have another free morning in Darjeeling before retracing our steps in the jeeps to Siliguri.

Estimated Drive Time (in jeeps) - 3-4 hours.

In Siliguri we will stay in a basic local hotel.

05

Day 5: Phuntsholing

Border Information: Exit India at Jaigaon, enter Bhutan at Phuntsholing.

This morning we will drive in locally-chartered jeeps from Siliguri to the Bhutanese border at Phuntsholing, where our local Bhutanese guide will be waiting to receive us at the border gate. Your tour leader will collect all the group's passports to get the visa process underway in order to save time in the morning.

In Phuntsholing we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (in jeeps and locally charted bus).

06

Day 6: Thimphu

This morning we will finalise our visas and then start our journey into Bhutan with a drive in a locally-chartered bus from the warmer climes of Phuntsholing up to the capital of Thimphu, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas.

We will have time in the evening to take a stroll around Thimphu and start to take in the atmosphere and culture of this beautiful country and its gentle way of life.

In Thimphu we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours (in locally-chartered bus).

07

Day 7: Thimphu

Today we will have a day in Thimphu for sightseeing. We will have an included city tour from our local guides, including the Changangkha Temple, Memorial Chorten and the Takin Reserve, and there will also be plenty of time for free exploration and visiting the Thimphu markets.

08

Day 8: Punakha

In the morning we will drive to the old capital Punakha, via the Dochu La Pass at 3050m, where we will stop for a hot drink and to enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges. We will notice the change of climate and vegetation as we approach the low-lying Punakha at 1250m altitude. 

This afternoon we will visit the imposing Punakha Dzong (Palace of Great Happiness). Built in 1637 CE, it is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Po Chu and the Mo Chu. After this, we will take a pleasant walk for an hour or so across the terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in the 15th century by the ‘Divine Madman’ (Lama Drukpa Kuenley).

In Punakha we will stay in a local farmhouse, where we will experience a genuine slice of Bhutanese life and hospitality. The facilities here will be rather basic, but the accommodation is exactly how a typical Bhutanse family live, and the food is in no way adapted for tourists. 

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (in locally-chartered bus).

09

Day 9: Bumthang

Today we drive to Trongsa, the gateway to central Bhutan at 2180m. Set amidst spectacular scenery, Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family, commands the eye from miles away. We can also visit Ta Dzong - the newly opened museum in the watchtower is dedicated to the Wangchuk dynasty, tells the stories of the Dzong and the valley, and features personal belongings of the kings and queens of Bhutan.

We then continue through some of Bhutan’s most beautiful landscapes to Bumthang, an area of high valleys at 2580-3100m.

In Bumthang we will stay again in a local farmhouse with basic facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours (in locally-chartered bus).

10

Day 10: Bumthang

We will spend today sightseeing in Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan, with its many legendary monasteries, temples and palaces. Bumthang is the collective name for an area of 4 valleys - Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume.

Our guide will take us on a fascinating walking and/or driving tour of a variety of sacred sites including Jamba Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamshing Lhakhang. We can also visit Bhutan’s largest Dzong, Jakar, with its picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor valley.

11

Day 11: Gangtey

Today we drive to Gangtey at 2900m. On arrival we can enjoy the views of the immense and remote Phobjikha valley and the black mountain ranges. 

We will visit Gangtey Gompa (one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries which has recently been extensively renovated) and explore the valley where the villagers continue to live a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle. This is the site where black-necked cranes visit in their hundreds in November each year after spending the summer in Tibet.

In Gangtey we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (in locally-chartered bus).

12

Day 12: Gangtey

Today we will head out for a day walk in the valley known as the Shasila Trail. The trail is used by the people of Sha Ngawang and Chitokha to migrate between their summer and winter homes in Gangtey. It was also an important trail used by the Gangtey Truelku and his followers in the past while migrating between his winter residence in Sha Chitokha and Gangtey Gompa.

The walk takes approximately 6 hours for casual trekkers to reach Kheylaykha from Phobjikha. This trail is especially recommended for bird lovers. Our transport will meet us at the road and take us back to Gangtey for the night.

13

Day 13: Paro

This morning we will take a trek up to the hill-top village of Rinchengang and learn about its interesting history. After this we will continue our drive to Paro, where we will have an included visit to the impressive Paro Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture.

In Paro we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours (in locally-chartered bus).

14

Day 14: Paro

Today we take a day walk to the ‘Tiger's Nest’, the sacred Taktsang monastery which clings to the rock face 900m above the valley floor. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress, and subsequently meditated here for 3 months. It is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries. We can have lunch at the Taktshang cafeteria, from where we get a spectacular view of the monastery.  

In the afternoon we will visit the ruined Drukgyel Dzong (Fortress of Victory), constructed to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644 CE, and destroyed by a butter lamp fire in 1951. Nearby we will also visit the 7th-Century Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan.

15

Day 15: Paro

Border Information: If you are finishing your trip in Paro, you will most likely exit Bhutan at Paro International Airport (IATA code: PBH).

Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Paro. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - if you are leaving in Paro, please make sure your flight out of Bhutan is booked for this day. Bhutanese immigration rules are very strict and your group visa that Dragoman applies for will only be valid up until this day. If you wish to spend an extra night in Paro before departing, please contact your sales consultant to discuss possible options for extending your visa - this can be looked at on a case-by-case basis, however please note that this will incur costs starting at GBP 250 per person per day, regardless of who you might book with, as legally you will still need accommodation at a government-approved hotel, a guide and a driver!

Inclusions:
    Activities
    • Experience a local overnight train from Kolkata to Siliguri
    • Explore the wonderful sights, sounds, and smells of the evocative main outdoor market of Thimphu
    • See Thimphu's iconic National Memorial Chorten, a stupa built in 1974 to commemorate the 3rd King of Bhutan
    • Visit the Tashichho Dzong in the capital of Thimphu, a beautiful 17th-century Buddhist fortress that serves as the current seat of the Bhutanese government
    • See the incredible 52m-tall golden Buddha Dordenma statue in the hills above Thimphu, the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world
    • Explore the imposing Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by Ngawang Namgyal, the first leader of a united Bhutan
    • Stay for 2 nights in a rural farmhouse near Bumthang to enjoy a slice of genuine Bhutanese life, food, and hospitality
    • Visit the incredible Trongsa Dzong, the largest Buddhist fortress in Bhutan set against the stunning backdrop of the Black Mountains
    • Take a beautiful 6-hour hike into the hills above Bumthang to visit the peaceful and remote Padtshaling Monastery
    • Explore the colourful, recently-restored Gangtey Gompa, a monastic college famous for its annual festival to welcome the migration of black-necked cranes
    • Trek up to the village of Rinchengang, picturesquely situated on a steep ridge near Wangdi
    • Visit the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture
    • Trek up to the iconic 'Tiger's Nest', the sacred Taktsang monastery which clings to the rock face 900m above the valley floor - the most famous symbol of Bhutan
    Accomodation
    • 15% Camping - 85% Hotels
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Tour Highlights:
  • Hiking & Trekking
  • History & Culture
  • Overland Journey