Tour S/12: 21 Days Sikkim & Darjeeling Hills Grand Tour

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TOUR DETAILS

Featuring: Kurseong, Darjeeling, Rumtek, Gangtok, North Sikkim, Turuk, Samduptse, Kewzing, Pamayangtse, Rinchenpong, Kalimpong, Lava and Samthar.

Sikkim, and the adjoining mountains of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, has the most magnificent range of snow clad mountains in the world, which rise to a maximum elevation of 8859 Meters. In this small area of less than 10000 sq. kms, there is an unbelievable richness of nature, culture, customs heritage, flora and fauna.

This Grand tour offers a panorama of the entire region, going up to altitude of 3543 m by car You will see magnificent snow clad mountains, forests teeming with bio diverse flora, river valleys, alpine lakes, , terraced cultivation, tea gardens, rural hamlets, Buddhist monasteries, exotic bazaars and a fascinating blend of beautiful ethnic people. You have a opportunity to explore the varied cuisine, peep into Himalayan lifestyles, walk and explore the countryside, meet people in their homes and fields, and make friends. We offer memorable eexperiences, with plenty of photo opportunities.

ITENERIES

Day 01: Bagdogra- Kurseong,1458 m

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Arrive at Bagdogra Airport. Met by your car with driver and guide and driven to Kurseong. Check in at your hotel for lunch. In the evening explore the quaint bazaar where the toy train goes through the main street of the town, and visit Eagles Crag is rewarding for its breathtaking sunset and splendid views of the plains and the Teesta Valley.
Overnight at the hotel.

Day 02: Visit Tea Estate at Kurseong and travel by train to Darjeeling

    

Visit a premium Tea Estate, and the Forest Museum. After lunch board the Toy train, and travel from Kurseong to Darjeeling.

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) conferred World Heritage status is a nineteenth century engineering feat. A journey by this “Toy Train” in a memorable experience. You will be traveling through forests, paddy cultivation, vast tea gardens, and tiny hamlets as well as hill towns of the “raj” period. You will see breathtaking views, diverse flora, waterfalls, gurgling mountain streams, and the lovely people. The panorama unfolding at a leisurely pace out side your carriage window enables a peep into life styles of the Darjeeling Hills. You marvel at the builders of this unique railway, as the tiny “B” Type steam locomotive huffs and puffs uphill with just three carriages. The highest point on this line is at Ghoom, at an elevation of 2225 m, where the ascent is achieved through a double loop.

Upon arrival, at Darjeeling, transfer to hotel.

Day 03: Darjeeling, 2134 m

Darjeeling: The town derived its present name from the Tibetan Dorjee-Ling, meaning Place of the thunderbolt. It is located in the state of West Bengal. It has a population of 200 000, comprising an ethnic mix of Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha and some Bengalis. Common language is Nepali.
Until the nineteenth century, it was a part of the kingdom of Sikkim, but was overrun by the Nepalese. The British intervened to broker peace, and in return pressurized the Sikkim raja, to gift Darjeeling, to the British, in 1835. Finally in 1861, after a short war, the British annexed Darjeeling and the adjoining territory upto the Rangit River The British developed Darjeeling, due to its strategic location as a base to develop trade with Tibet. In early 1840’s, tea plantations were developed, extensively, and Nepali labour was imported. This resulted in a change in the demographic balance, with Nepalese ( Gorkhas) gradually gaining ground over others. Recently after a violent agitation, for formation of a Gorkhaland state, the Bengal government granted the Darjeeling District, autonomy, under a Gorkha Hill Council, with limited powers. This was dismantled due to a second agitation, and lead to the formation of the Gorkha Terretorial Authority, which provides for more funds and autonomy under Bengal. Darjeeling retains it colonial flavor, and the region grows the best quality of tea. The fantastic views of the great snow capped ranges, is a major tourist attraction, along with Buddhist monasteries and the exotic bazar.
Early morning visit Tiger Hill for panoramic views at sunrise of the Everest and Khangchendzonga. Latter visit the Ghoom Monastery. Return to hotel for breakfast. Afterwards, Visit Zoological park and Everest Museum. and the botanical gardens. Return to the hotel for lunch. Afternoon and evening free to explore the exotic bazar. Overnight at your hotel.

Day 04: Drive Darjeeling to Rumtek in Sikkim

sikkim-&-Darjeeling-107Drive 58 Kms in 03 hrs through Tea estates to Rangpo in the Teesta valley. Enter Sikkim by Registering at the Sikkim Police Entry Check post. You will need to obtain your Sikkim Entry Permit. Keep 3 x Passport size photos ready, along with photocopies of passport and Visa. Your Gurudongma escort will be at hand to assist.

After border documentation, continue 40 Kms drive to Rumtek, 1650 m, through picture post card countryside of terraced fields and small hamlets. Check in at the the Bamboo Resort – an atmospheric family hotel; in time for lunch.

In the afternoon explore the surroundings and take a tour of the Rumtek Monastery to attend the evening prayers.

Headquarters of the Karamapa branch of the kargyu sect, Rumtek Monastery was rebuilt in 1964, as a replica of the Tsurphu Monastery, which was the original headquarters of the Kargyu Sect in Tibet. The 16th Gyalwa Karamapa, head of the order undertook this, after he fled from Tibet, and settled in Sikkim. Behind the main temple are the Dharma Chakra Center, and the Nalanda Institute of Buddhist Studies. Here monks spend a minimum of nine years, in study, followed by three years of meditation. The gilded chorten or stupa studded with precious stones containing the remains of the Karamapa, as also the main temple, are the main attractions. With its traditional architecture, exquisite paintings, intricate woodwork, housing treasures of manuscripts and icons, Rumtek is a splendid example of Tibetan monastic art.
Return to Bamboo Resort for overnight.

Day 05: Drive Rumtek to Gangtok , 1767 m

      

After breakfast drive 24 Kms to Gangtok – The capital city of Sikkim. Enroute you can visit Botanical gardens, Samsara Gardens, the Research Institute of Tibetology -, with its large collection of Buddhist, icons, religious paintings and literature and the Do-Drul Chorten – built to commemorate the victory of good over evil. check in at your hotel.

Gangtok – the capital of Sikkim, is a modern hill town with ancient monasteries It is located in the shadow of the Chola Range at an altitude of 1767 m. Dating back to mid 19 th centurary, it sprawls down the West side of a massive ridge. It has a rich cultural heritage, bustling modern bazaar, exotic handicrafts, and lovely people. The main attractions are Rumtek Monastery, for its gilded “chorten”, traditional architecture, exquisite paintings, intricate woodwork, treasures of manuscripts and icons, The Tibetology Institute, displaying Buddhist icons, religious paintings, and literature and . The Directorate of Handicrafts, where ancient skills are kept alive.

After lunch you may like to visit the the Govt. Institute of Cottage Industry which is keeping the local handicrafts alive. Here you see skilled teachers and trainees working at various handicrafts.. Continue to the Enchay Monastery. Thereafter, take the kilometer long cable car ride, from Tashiling to Deorali for spectacular view of Gangtok town and surroundings.

In the evening explore bazaar on foot. Gangtok is the only hill town in India, which converts its main street into a walking promenade, with fountains, lights and flowers. MG (Mahatma Gandhi) road is the best place to spend your evening at Gangtok. Tuesday is a closed day Enjoy shopping and strolling along the main street, with its enchanting bazar. Overnight at your hotel.

Day 06: Gangtok- Lachen ( North Sikkim), 2750 m

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Today you have a fascinating drive as you head for North Sikkim- the land of high altitude glaciers, medows, Rhododendrons, fast flowing rivers and yaks. The drive of 126 Kms will take you through rugged terrain , and narrow river valleys to Lachen, 2838 m. The driving time is 05 hrs. Overnight at your hotel.

Day 07: Lachen, 2750 m

Explore the Lachen Valley lying under the shadow of 5856 m high Lama Angden. Visit the Lachen Monastery; dating back to 1858, and the handicraft centre. Take a short trek or just relax and enjoy this pastoral ambience.

Day 08: Lachen to Lachung 2838 m

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Retrace your steps back down the scenic Teesta Valley to Chungthang, 26 Kms Continue up the Lachung River Valley to the village of Lachung, 21 Kms. Explore Lachung and visit the monastery. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 09: Lachung, 2838 m- Yamthang Valley, 3543 m- Lachung

Take a day trip up the lachung valley to Yumthang. Drive 24 Kms through the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary. The road runs through picture postcard landscape. Climbing steadily upto 3543 m. It is nature at its best. Fast flowing glacial river, banks of forests, upland meadows with grazing yaks, and snow clad ridges enclosing the narrow valley on three sides. During the season ( Apr- may); 24 species of Rhododendrons bloom, creating a nature paradise. Walk around Yumthang valley. After a picnic lunch drive back to Lachung, for overnight at your hotel.

Day 10: Lachung- Turuk, 1400 m

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Drive to Turuk via Dikchu and Damthang in 6 hrs Check in at the atmospheric Heritage house for overnight.

Day 11: Turuk Exploration

A day to relax and take quite walks to visit local homesteads, and experience life in a small sikimese village. Wonder at the diverse flora, learn some sikkimese recipes from your hostess and take a walk along the razor sharp edge of humongous cliff called Taray Bhir – with panoramic views . Overnight at Turuk heritage house.

Day 12: Turuk,1400 m- Pamayangtse, 2200 m via Samduptse- Rabang la, 2200 m and Kewzing, 1700 m

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An hours drive to Samduptse; famous for the largest statue of Guru Padmasambhava in the world, and the Namchi Rock Garden.. Continue to Rabang la and Doling monaster in another hour. Visit the monastery and take a nature walk along a lovely forest trail downhill to Kewzing village, located amidst pristine forests at elevation of 1700 m. Drive down to the Rangit River at Legship, and continue up the winding road to Pamayangtse , in 02 hrs
Check in at your hotel for overnight.

Day 13: Pamayangtse

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Pamayangtse is the heart of Western Sikkim; known as the the cradle of Buddhism in Sikkim. The legendary installation of the Namgyal dynasty, by three monks in 1642, introduced Buddhism in Sikkim. They came together at Yoksom, and as it had been prophesied, in sacred texts, they searched, and found Phuntsog Namgyal; anointed him with holy water, gave him the title of “chogyal” – meaning king of religion, and urged him to spread Buddhism, amongst the ethnic Lepchas. At that time the local people were animist worshipping nature spirits.

On various hill tops inter- visible to each other, are located a string of holy sites. Pamayangtse – the sublime perfect lotus, was built in 1705. It is the paramount of the Nyingmapa monasteries of Sikkim, and regarded the most prestigious. Sangacholing Monastery-the place of secret spells was founded in 1697. Clay statues dating back to the 17th Century are amongst the oldest in Sikkim. Both monasteries have splendid views of the snows and river valleys.

Wake up early to view close-up, the sunrise on the great peaks of the Khangchendzonga group. It is an unforgettable sight as the great mountain, changes various colors and hues Latter Visit the Sangacholing Monastery. In the late afternoon visit the Rabdentse Ruins. this was the second capital of the erstwhile Kingdom after Yuksom, and till the year 1814 AD, the King of Sikkim ruled from this place. Today, the ruins lie hidden from the main road. A short walk along a neatly laid out footpath leads to it. Latter visit the Pamayangtse Monastery, see the sunset on the great ranges and attend evening prayers. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 14: Pamayangtse, 2200 m- Rinchenpong, 1500 m

    

A 41 kms scenic drive in 02 hrs. to Rinchenpomg. Check in at Yangsum heritage farm built in 1833 and remodeled in 1966. The host family, manage a 44 Acre mountain farm, consisting of open mixed forest of Pine, Himalayan Alder, Schima, Chestnut, Magnolia, Rhododendrons, cherry, and others. It grows cardamom, avocados, oranges, banana, pears, apricots, and mangoes. Cultivated agriculture yields maize, paddy, millet, potatoes, ginger, turmeric, and sweet potatoes.

Enjoy the surroundings and views, explore local hamlets, Try out home cooked Sikkimese food. Overnight at Yangsum Farm.

Day 15: Rinchenpong exploration and drive to Kalimpong, 1400 m

    

In the morning take a short guided trek to Rinchinpong Monastery, Reshung Gompa, and Lepcha village. After lunch drive to Kalimpong via the Rangit Valley. 55 Kms in 3 hrs. Overnight at hotel / Homestay.

Kalimpong, is an exotic town of beautiful people, mystical and enchanting? Ruled by Bhutan for 155 years, and annexed by the British in 1865, it was developed as a center of the wool trade with Tibet. This trade flourished until the Chinese took control of Tibet, in the 1950’s. Here Buddhism rubs shoulders with Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Gumpas, churches, temples, monasteries, monks and missionaries; all coexist in a jovial and tolerant society. Flower and orchid nurseries, colonial bungalows, churches of the “Raj”, and Buddhist monasteries are there to explore. A quaint bustling bazaar, is a Pandora’s box of surprises.

Day 16: Kalimpong exploration

Take a guided tour of Kalimpong,. You will see. Churches and Colonial buildings, of the British period, view points, Buddhist monastery, flower nursery, hand made paper factory, and the exotic bazaar. Above all the lovely ethnic mix of people. Overnight at your hotel/home stay.

Day 17: Drive cum trek- Kalimpong, 1400- Lave 2100 m- Samthar, 1400 m

   

Take a guided 80 Kms fascinating journey by jeep with two trek options enroute- each of 2-3 hrs. Enroute you get to visit Lava Monastery Virgin forests, bio diverse flora, terraced cultivation, ethnic villages and more. Guests not inclined to walking can go all the way by car in 4.30 hrs.

Scenic and remote, The Samthar Valley, at an elevation of 1500 Meters, is surrounded by river valleys, terraced cultivation and forests. The inhabitants are a blend of various ethnic groups-Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepali. The original Lepcha tribals were woodsman, and utilized the forest resources to live off the land. Knowing no religion, they worshiped nature spirits. When the Bhutanese ruled this land, many were converted to Buddhism. Latter the British rulers brought in Christian missionaries, who converted some of them to Christianity. Hinduism arrived with the Nepalese settlers, who also taught the Lepchas to farm the land. Today the ethnic groups are fused together in harmony. It is an ideal place to peep into lifestyles of this fascinating hill community. It also has diverse flora, well-developed mountain agriculture, forests, and river valleys, and offers breathtaking views of the Panorama of snows. The Samthar Farmhouse is an old Lepcha house built of stone and timber, converted for comfortable living, whilst maintaining its ambience. It has a lovely nature garden with good views. Income generated from guests goes to run the Awake & Shine Primary School.
Overnight at the Samthar Farm house.

Day 18: Samthar Valley Nature & Culture walk and vist to the Awake & Shine Primary School

Get up at sunrise to see the views. Weather permitting, you see the entire panorama of snows – Khangchenganga group of peaks, and the peaks named; Simvo, Siniolchu, Lama Anden, Chomoyomo, and Paunhari, and then in an easterly arc the passes of Chola, Natula, and Jalepla, leading into Tibet.

Take a guided walk along village paths for a exploration of the valley, with its mixed Christian Lepcha and Hindu Nepali hamlets walk through forests, terraced cultivation and homesteads.. Meet people in their homes and fields, and get a glimpse of rural Himalayan lifestyles. Visit the Awake & Shine Primary School which is bringing quality education to the local community.

The Awake & shine Integrated village tourism model, seeks to generate earnings by developing tour circuits based on home stay holidays, It also provides for empowering the future generations by teaching spoken English, Started in Feb 2007, Awake & Shine has built model infrastructure for Village home stay holidays, set up interesting village tours, and started a path breaking rural English medium Primary School. All earnings go directly to host families, other community members, and to support the Awake & Shine Primary School. Additional income comes from tourists sponsoring individual children.

Overnight at The samthar Farm House.

Day 19: Samthar Nature & Culture trek

   

       

Nature & Culture trek with guide through forests, terraced cultivation, and homesteads, visiting people in their homes and farms, Peep into local lifestyles and See basket and mat making, blacksmith, shaman and more . Overnight at the Samthar farm house.

Day 20: Trek Samthar to Teesta Dam and drive to Siliguri

Today you will exit the Samthar Valley by trekking down to the Rilli Valley. It is a nature trail, passing through forests, river valley and isolated hamlets. It descends steeply from 1400 m to 300 m in 04 hrs to reach the confluence of the Rilli and Teesta rivers, to cross the Teesta River over a bridge on a newly constructed dam. Transfer to car and drive to siliguri in 02 hrs. Overnight at hotel.

Day 21: Transfer to Bagdogra for departure

A 30 minutes transfer to Bagdogra airfield to board your departure flight.

TOUR ENDS.

We specialize in customizing tours to your requirements . Scroll below to read what sue and David had to say about these customized tour with us
Thank you very much for arranging such a wonderful tour for us. We very much enjoyed the whole trip and although, before we left, I wondered whether three weeks in the hills would be too long we had absolutely no regrets and were sad to leave when the time came. Everyday brought new experiences and encounters and unexpected surprises and we have come home with so many memories and a feeling that we have at least begun to understand something of the geography, history and culture of your part of India. We received a lovely welcome from all our hosts and were looked after so well. Our guides were excellent, and our drivers and all the arrangements went smoothly. Please share our thanks with Catherine who I know works hard to make sure everything is in place.
It is hard to say which were the highlights of the tour but for me our time at Samthar, both in the little house near the school and at the Farmhouse, was special. It is such a beautiful place and we felt very comfortable there in the village. We were especially interested in the school and very much enjoyed spending time there. We were impressed by the standard of the children’s work and their obvious enjoyment and engagement in their lessons. They were delightful and it was great fun talking with them at the Children’s Day event. We also enjoyed meeting Maureen and having her company while we were there. It was very interesting to talk with her and learn more about the school and the village. Pushpa and Gori looked after us very well while we were staying near the school and provided lovely meals. Our walks with Pushpa gave us wonderful opportunities to meet more people in the village and learn about their homes and their work.
Our two nights at Samthar farmhouse were very comfortable and we particularly enjoyed our conversations with you and Maureen and our meals in the lovely garden. The food was delicious and it was great to have a chance to spend time in the kitchen learning a little about how the food is prepared. Tara and Pushpa are good teachers.
Sawan our guide for much of our trip was excellent. He took our safety and comfort very seriously and looked after us well. He was patient and considerate, recognising when we needed to walk slowly or take a rest and rearranging plans if he sensed we were tired or would be interested in a particular activity. He was a mine of information and we learned a great deal from him about the history and the politics of the area as well as its culture. He also helped me to begin to understand Buddhism, a religion about which I previously knew very little. Sixteen days could have been a long time to spend with one person had we not been comfortable with them but we enjoyed Sawan’s company and were very happy to trust him to plan the days for us. We would like him to know how well we thought he did his job.
Once again, thank you for helping us to have such a good experience.”

With best wishes
Sue and David Grief
Suffolk, UK

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