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This 12 Day tour will lead you on walking trails through scenic countryside and historic towns, visiting significant sights and with a stay along the way at a family homestay, allowing you to interact with your host family, to know their livelihood and many traditions.
Discover and explore the stunning scenery and natural beauty of the inner landscapes of Darjeeling and Sikkim during village walks, a tea gardens trek, rural cycling and a Himalayan train ride. Engage with locals during authentic stays, a village experience, cooking class or school visit. Explore an old Monastery and visit the most famous Tea Estate in the area, all at your own pace.
As this itinerary is tailor made, it can be customised to meet your particular interests and level of fitness. This area is also ideal and rewarding for Bird Watchers.
Day 1 Kurseong
Upon arrival at Bagdogra Airport you will be welcomed in the traditional Sikkimese way and then introduced to your guide and driver who will be accompanying you throughout your stay.
Start your journey to the Hills through a lovely sea of green tea bushes along the slopes.
The name ‘Kurseong’ comes from the Lepcha word Kharsang, which literally means “The Land of the White Orchids” as these amazing little white orchids used to dot the valleys. Kurseong is home to the costliest teas in the world. Some renowned tea gardens like Castleton, Ambotia and Makaibari produce the most expensive and delicate orthodox teas for the tea lovers around the world.
During your stay in Kurseong take a guided tea garden tour, walk to remote village in the valleys, meet the local people, taste various blends of tea, enjoy green tea massage or bamboo massage, picnic lunch by a stream, ride a heritage steam train, take photographs and just relax in the natural surroundings.
Subject to time go for a short walk to the Eagle’s Crag Viewpoint near Kurseong railway station for sweeping views of the surrounding mountain, hills, hamlets and slopes
Day 2 Kurseong
Wake up with the finest aroma of tea. Go for a guided tea garden tour in the most famous tea estate in the area followed by a daylong nature hike with a picnic lunch in a valley.
Visit the renowned organic and biodynamic Ambootia Tea Factory – home to some of the most innovative, exclusive and expensive teas in the world. Walk through the undulating lush tea bushes, meet the garden workers and during harvesting you can pluck tea with them. Visit a tea factory and learn tea making process and take part in a tea testing session.
Tea factory tours are seasonal – mostly between March and November and closed during holidays and each Monday. If the factory is closed continue with the remaining activities.
Continue walking through villages and see the daily activities of rural life or partake in the same. See the unique cultivation practices and varied range of crops and medicinal plants. Walk down the valley through stunning countryside. There is a small but very important natural pond that shelters one of the rarest species of salamanders (Himalayan Newt) – a species under threat of extinction. A picnic lunch is served alongside a spring. This afternoon return to your hotel by car. Relax before a special Indian Tandoor
5 to 6hrs walk | total 12 to 15Km | max elevation 1400M with max 250m to 300M up and downhill
Start at 8AM| Return at Kurseong at 4PM
Day 3 Darjeeling
Rise early for departure to Kurseong Rail Station for a romantic ride on the Heritage Himalayan Train that has been operating on narrow gauge for 150 years. Leaving Kurseong the train passes through the bazaar and goes on its journey. The sight of colorful Tibetan prayer flags gives you the first feeling of being in the mountains. On its journey the train crisscrosses main Darjeeling Road and passes through forests of pine, maple, chestnut, small stations and beautiful country side before reaching Ghoom – the highest station in India at 2250M. Leaving Ghoom the train descends towards Darjeeling. On the way the train passes through Batasia Loop with its memorial to the Gorkha soldiers. Enjoy a spectacular view of Darjeeling town with Mt Kanchenjunga range in the back-drop. Finally the train enters Darjeeling Station, the final destination of the journey.
Darjeeling, one of the oldest hill stations in India is bathed in hues of every shade. Flaming rhododendrons, sparkling magnolias, miles of undulating slopes covered with green tea bushes, a bustling town and sleepy villages, old Buddhist monasteries, churches and temples – all under the blanket of a brilliant azure sky dappled with specks of clouds compellingly describes Darjeeling as the Queen of Hill Stations. The crest of Kanchenjunga shining in the first dawn light truly supports the title.
After Lunch walk to Mahakal Temple. The oldest temple of Lord Shiva, locally known as Mahakal Temple is located on the observatory hill above Darjeeling Mall. It takes about 15 minutes uphill walk to the temple from the mall and you can see the coexistence of Buddhist and Hindu religion.
After take a stroll on the Mall or Chowrasta in the heart of Darjeeling town. It is a must visit to get a feel of the city. The place has many old book and curio shops and some of them are more than 100 years old. Walk around the shady wooded pedestrian road and enjoy the mist and sunshine.
35kms in 3.5hrs| Start 1t 7AM from Kurseong Station| Reach Darjeeling Hotel at 11 AM
Day 4 Pelling
Rise very early this morning to commence the Tiger Hill tour. Depart your hotel at 04.00am for the opportunity of a fascinating Sun Rise over the Highest Himalayan Mountain Peaks, Tiger Hill on top of the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary. Brave a chilly morning and wake up at 3.30AM to drive to Tiger Hill, around a 45minute drive. If the weather is clear, see the magical display of colours on the snow ridges at dawn. Return to your hotel for breakfast and then commence the drive to Pelling in West Sikkim. It’s a journey of around 5 hours along the Tista and Rangit River.
Enroute take a short walk of around 3 kms to the Rubduntse Ruins, with a maximum altitude – 2000M, no climb.
Surrounded by a dense forest on top of a hill overlooking a large valley and mountains, lays a palace which dates back more than 300 years. Rabduntse – the second capital under the Chogyals of Sikkim built during 1670 is now in ruins and is protected and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. The top of the hill provides a fabulous view of the surrounding valleys and Kunchenjungha Snow ridges including the Pemayangtse Monastery on the left corner.
Arrive at Pelling, a small peaceful village turned into a bustling tourist destination in West Sikkim for incredible close view of highest peaks of the Greater Himalayas with beautiful countryside, old monasteries, sacred lakes, waterfalls with myths and legends.
Your evening is at leisure or perhaps go for a short visit to Pemayangtse Monastery to see the evening prayer. Pemayangtse Monastery is the most important and widely discussed monastery in Sikkim. Built more than 300 years ago by one of the most revered saints from Tibet Lama Lathsun Chempo belonging to the Nyingmapa Sect of Buddhism, Pemayangtse Monastery is regarded as a premium monastery in Sikkim.
Day 5 Darap
The oldest among all Sikkimese monasteries is The Sangachoeling Monastery, literally “the place of secret spell”, in Pelling is a prime pilgrimage center for the Buddhist and is about 4kms from the main center in Pelling.
This morning set out on a trek of 15kms, around 6 hours. Walk through thick pine forests which are also a good birding area. On reaching the Top of the hill you will be greeted by a small and colorful monastery building surrounded by fluttering prayer flags and sacred Stupas. The area being far from the city influences is a very peaceful destination and is ideal for meditation in the natural surroundings. The top of the hill offers wonderful view of the mountains and forested valleys far below.
A narrow trail leading from the monastery premises continues through the forests and takes you to a sacred site called Rani Dunga. This is a beautiful trail that runs along the ridge for about 3 hours and offers great view of the mountains along with the scope for bird watching. Rani Dunga or the Queen Stone is a huge fixed stone which is considered sacred by the locals who believe this stone was created by Lord Buddha. Most of the time the trail remains uninhabited and it offers a good chance to observe birds and other wild animals.
From here trek for about an hour, down through scattered village houses to Darap, a small settlement of Limboo community. Check in at a local homestay where the host family will welcome you with a hot traditional lunch. There is an opportunity to interact with the villagers, see their routine daily life – like farming, milking cow, learning cooking and tasting the local beer. Observe the rural and simple Sikkimese life.
15kms trek in approx 6hrs| Max Altitude 2400M| Uphill 400M down 800m.
Star at 7.30AM in Pelling| End at 2PM at Darap
Day 6 Yuksom
Wake up early with a rooster crowing as life in the village starts before sunrise. The women go to the field to harvest, milk cows and prepare food in the wood fire. Experience first-hand their daily lives before breakfast.
Drive to Khecheopalri Lake, which is about 20kms from Darap and takes around an hour.
Khecheo-palri, which literally means in Tibetan Language ‘A Palace of Flying Meditating (female) Deities’, is the holiest lake in West Sikkim with many myths, legends and folklore associated to it. Set amidst a dense broadleaf forested hill at an altitude of 1700m, this small lake has a very powerful presence in the mythology of Sikkim and also in the social lives of the local villagers. The lake with a shape of a foot, which is believed to be of Lord Buddha, has been an integral part of the most important Buddhist pilgrim circuit in West Sikkim.
Spend time at the lake watching some morning activities of monks and nuns who come to offer prayer at the lake. Start the 3 to 4-hour hike from here to Yuksom through temperate forests rich with bird life and some remote Sikkim hamlets. Your car will wait near Yuksom with luggage and take you to your hotel.
With a deep underlying history of more than 300 years, Yuksom holds a very important place in the Kingdom of Sikkim. The first capital and the center of the Buddhist pilgrims Yuksom became the seat of power in 1642 when three most learned monks from Tibet assembled in this small village to propagate and establish Buddhist religion and they crowned the first Chogyal of Sikkim at a place called Norbugang, a prime attraction in Yulksom. Under the beautiful snow peaked Mt Pandim, Yuksom at an altitude of 1700 meters, is a small village and a market with a few shops and lodges, thick forests and agricultural fields. Check into your hotel. After Lunch explore the local market and visit the historical coronation Throne at Norbugang just 2kms away from the hotel.
Car drive 1hr and trek 8kms in 3hrs|| Max Alt- 1700M ||Up Hill 250M Down 250M
Start from Darap at 8.30AM|| Reach Yuksom at 1.30PM
Day 7 Kewzing
This morning drive through the unspoilt countryside of West Sikkim. Stop at Tashiding Monastery. Walk from the main road to this Gompa for about 40 minutes and return in about 25 minutes.
Built during the 1640s, Tashiding Monastery is considered the most sacred monastery in Sikkim. This monastery belongs to the Nyingma sect or the Red Hat of Tibetan Buddhism. A pathway from the main road guarded by colourful prayer flags, prayer wheels and sacred golden chortens (Stupas) leads to the main monastery, which holds many valuable artifacts, relics, scroll paintings and old statues of Lord Buddha. From Tashiding continue the drive to Kewzing and check in at your village Homestay.
After lunch you have the opportunity of a village and nature walk through cardamom plantation and terraced farmland for about 1.5 hours and visit a school on weekdays to meet the students. If interested you can also participate in a football match especially arranged. This evening there is a special gathering with some leaders of KTDC who explain their sustainable village tourism initiative and how this is helping the villagers of Kewzing.
Drive for 3hrs| Walk to monastery- total 1hr| Max Alt 1850M| Up Hill 300M| Down Hill 300m
Stat from Yuksom at 8.30| Reach Kewzing at 1PM
Day 8 Kewzing
A full day hike to one of the finest nature trails in Sikkim, the Maenam La Sanctuary Nature hike.
Drive around 5 kms to start the trek starts at Rabangla. The trail to Maenam La top goes through verdant forests of Oak, birch, Rhododendron, Magnolia, Pine and offers a splendid view of the vast snowy Himalayan Ranges including Mt Kunchenjungha, Mt Karbu, Mt Pandim and many important peaks. Maenam-la meaning “Treasury of Medicines” boasts a rich collection of medicinal plants. This small sanctuary is also a bird lover’s paradise for its luxurious collection of more than 150 species of birds which includes rare Tragopan, Partridge, laughing thrush as well as it is a natural habitat of red panda.
The trail has some sharp climbs so best to carry a walking stick. A packed lunch will be served at a small Buddhist monastery at the top of the hill. Return to Kewzing in the late afternoon. You may opt for a Hot Stone traditional bath with medicated herbs which will certainly help you to rejuvenate.
The Best time for this trek is between Late October to early April while December to February can be very cold and snowy.
Total Hike 10 + 10 Km | Max Alt – 3250M| Up Hill 1100M| Down Hill 1100M| 4.5Hr up & 2.5hr down
Start from Kewzing at 8AM| Back to Kewzing at 3PM
Day 9 Rumtek
This morning drive to Rumtek the most important pilgrimage and meditation centre for Buddhists with the biggest monastery in Sikkim – the seat of Rinpoche and an institute for Higher Buddhist study; also a niche East Sikkim country side close to the Capital town Gangtok with refreshing village walks and great climate.
The journey of around 3 hours continues through stunning countryside with mostly agricultural fields on the hill slopes, small villages and forests. Enroute cross a scenic tea garden Temi, which is the only tea garden in Sikkim. Visit the Rumtek Monastery and continue to your farm house accommodation for lunch.
The remainder of the day is at leisure. Perhaps visit the farm garden from where your food will come and laze around in the scenic atmosphere looking at the vast valley and the illuminated Gangtok town at twilight.
Day 10 Rumtek
The serene surrounds in Rumtek are ideal for cycling through the countryside. You will be provided with a bicycle and a local guide who will lead you on a memorable ride through rural areas. Meet villagers and school children, bike through stunning agricultural land with great views of valleys and mountains, see the villagers working in the fields in the traditional way. You can stop at a local shop to have a cup of tea. Return to your farm house around noon.
This afternoon join in on an activity with a specialist from the local village. This will give you an authentic insight into the traditional way the Sikkimese people live. You have an option of taking part in a bamboo basket making workshop, traditional painting workshop, preparing a Sikkimese dish or teaching math to a group of children. There may be several other possibilities according to your interests. This evening a special barbeque dinner will be arranged with a bonfire and local drinks.
Total distance – 20kms| approx 2 to 3hrs | Max Alt 1700M | Up Hill 250M | Down Hill 250M
Start from Rumtek at 8.30Am| Back by 11.30AM
Day 11 Rumtek
This morning drive to Gangtok. The journey is around an hour. Upon arrival commence a Walking tour of the City, the duration is around 4 hours.
The walk starts from the main Market. Walk on Tibet road and reach Neheru Point just below the White Hall. Just beside the hall is the popular Orchid center where the most exotic flowers of the Himalayas are displayed. From here walk towards the TV tower of Gangtok – one of the highest points of the city. The road is quieter as the buildings disappear and are replaced by the tall pine trees. Enjoy a great view of the town and then walk to Enchey Monastery – an old monastery and an important Buddhist center surrounded by thick forests. Spend some time in the Monastery and walk towards Ganesh Tok – a view point and a temple on the outskirts of the city.
Enjoy a magnificent view of the Kunchenjungha range on a clear day and the Gangtok town below. Have a coffee break before walking to the Himalayan Zoological Park – a semi natural forest for wild animals. From here walk down to the White Hall and walk down to the city through the Ridge Park – a pedestrian delight decorated with trees and lovely view of the surroundings. A walk of 10 minutes over the ridge takes you to Tsuklakhang Monastery and Palace – a historical place in Sikkim where the Royal Chogyals of Sikkim had its seat of power. See the Sikkim Legislative Assembly – an imposing building and the present seat of power. Walk down to Deorali taking a footpath through the typical residential area of Gangtok or by a cable car in 15minutes. Visit the Institute of Tibetology – an important Buddhism learning center and a museum with priceless collection of antiques and relics. Walk another 2kms on the main road to reach Gangtok Market. Spend the rest of the day in busy M G Marg for shopping or watching the common city dwellers or go to Lal Bazaar the traditional market for the local people. You can also walk to the Center for Handicraft and Cottage Industry for some authentic shopping of traditional handicrafts and see how they are being made. Return to Rumtek by car late afternoon.
Total walking distance approx 10kms takes about 4hrs.
Start from Rumtek at 9AM and return by 5PM
Day 12 Bagdogra
This morning transfer to Bagdogra Airport. The journey is around 5 hours.
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