This trip takes you right the way across West Bengal, Nepal and 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.
We journey through the foothills of the Himalayas to the mountain kingdom of Bhutan a country of incomparable charm and calm and a welcome relief after the chaos of Kolkata. Bhutan has a culture based on Gross National Happiness combined with Buddhism. The spectacular Zhongs and temples illustrate the countries heritage as do the people who daily wear their national dress.
Leaving Bhutan, we fly across the vastness of the Himalayas past the great mountains of Everest and Kanchenjunga and arrive at Kathmandu with time to explore the history of this beautiful city.
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).
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.
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.
Estimated Drive Time (in jeeps) - 3-4 hours (please note that all drive times given here are the approximate number of hours that the vehicle 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.
Today is a free day in Darjeeling to relax, enjoy the surrounding area and take part in some optional activities.
Border Information: Exit India at Jaigaon, enter Bhutan at Phuntsholing.
This morning we will drive in locally-chartered jeeps from Darjeeling 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).
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).
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.
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).
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).
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.
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).
Today we will head out for a day hike in the beautiful Phobjikha Valley. We will first visit the information Centre which has lots of information on the valley famous for its migrating birds. From here we will walk through local villages and forests of blue pine trees covered with lichen ( know as old mans beard ) and follow the nature trail to Kingathan Village. Here we will visit a temple built by the Queen Mother before making our way back to the hotel.
The walk takes approximately 6 - 7 hours for casual trekkers. This trail is especially recommended for bird lovers.
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).
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.
Border Information: Exit Bhutan at Paro, enter Nepal at Kathmandu.
Today we will take a short flight from Paro to Kathmandu in Nepal. On arrival we will have free time to explore the incredible city, soak up its atmosphere, and visit its historical sites.
Please note: The flights between Bhutan and Nepal will be with Druk Air or Bhutan Airines - both airlines sometimes change their schedules at short notice. If this happens we will inform you of any itinerary changes as soon as possible.
Border Information: If you are finishing your trip in Kathmandu, you will most likely exit Nepal at Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (IATA code: KTM).
Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Kathmandu. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Sales Team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.
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Trip Name: Bengal & Bhutan Explored
Duration: 15 Days
From Price: $6,650
Supplier Tour ID: ZKK1/206651
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