West Bengal and Sikkim
Trip Code: AITWBS
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Starting in history laden Kolkata and winding your way by train through tea plantations up to Darjeeling, and then beyond to Sikkim and the Himalayan range, this trip will give you a little bit of heritage, some altitude, and many beautiful vistas.
This two week exploration of West Bengal and the remote kingdom of Sikkim – home to spectacular scenery, remarkable religious monuments and vibrant cultures – offers some outstanding experiences which will live long in your memory.
The best times to undertake this trip are October to early December, or February to April.
Day 1 Kolkata
You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel. Multicultural, cosmopolitan Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal and India’s second largest city. Spend the afternoon relaxing or exploring some of its sights; you may enjoy a stroll in the Maidan or wander the old area of the city with its bustling, narrow lanes and century-old buildings. [image: Mckaysavage]
Day 2 Kolkata
A day of sightseeing in Kolkata. Places of interest include the splendid Victoria Memorial; the atmospheric Park Street Cemetery with its grand mausoleums; the vast Marble Palace; Paresnath, a Jain temple with exquisite marble inlay work and mirrored hallways; and Kalighat, the temple dedicated to Kali (patron goddess of Kolkata) on the banks of the Hooghly River.
Day 3 Darjeeling
Depart Kolkata at night by train in air-conditioned sleeper class, arriving at New Jaipalguri around 0800. Transfer to the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, affectionately known as the ‘Toy Train’ for the all day journey to Darjeeling – surely the most romantic way to approach the majestic and mysterious Himalayas. This trip totals around 18 hours of train travel.
Day 4 Darjeeling
Take a morning sightseeing tour of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the Zoological Gardens, the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre, and visit a tea estate. Later, enjoy wandering the streets of Darjeeling, and sipping tea at one of the many tea shops – likely to convert even the most seasoned coffee drinker to at least an understanding of tea!
Day 5 Pelling
After an early breakfast drive 130km to Pelling. The journey affords opportunities to stop and admire – and photograph – magnificent scenery, including misty pine forests, tea gardens, river valleys, waterfalls, and of course the snow capped mountains of Khangchendzonga. The pleasant little town of Pelling is the base from where trekkers set out for treks into West Sikkim.
Day 6 Pelling
This morning visit two of Sikkim’s most revered monasteries. The oldest, Sangachoeling Monastery, was founded around 1697. The second oldest, the awe-inspiring Pemayangtse (‘Perfect Sublime Lotus’) Monastery, founded in 1705, houses a good collection of wall paintings and sculptures. Also visit the sacred Khecheopalri Lake, upon which leaf lamps are floated during evening prayers.
Day 7 Yuksom
Drive 42km from Pelling to Yuksom, the first capital of Sikkim. Situated at an altitude of 1780m, it is the starting point for mountaineering expeditions and treks to higher Khangchendzonga ranges. You may like to visit the Dhubdi Monastery, located on a hilltop about an hour’s trek from Yuksom. Built in the 17th century, its name means ‘the retreat’.
Day 8 Ravangla
Ravangla is popular for its breathtaking views of the Himalayas and for its tranquility. You may like to simply relax and enjoy the scenery here, or you may prefer to trek through the surrounding forests of oak, pine, chestnut, magnolia and rhododendron trees. Alternatively, you could take a ride along a winding road to the beautifully located Temi Tea Garden.
Day 9 Gangtok
This morning drive 65 km to Gangtok – stopping off on the way to visit Singtam and its major attraction, the Bermoik Monastery. Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, is known for its extravagant scenic beauty and is famous for its monasteries. Check into your hotel with free time in the afternoon to explore the fascinating bazaar on MG Road.
Day 10 Gangtok
Rise early to view sunrise over the Kanchenjunga range from Tashi View Point. After breakfast take in the sights around Gangtok, including Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, and the Institute of Tibetology. Later visit the serene monastery at Rumtek. The contrast between the bustle of busy Gangtok and the quiet of the monasteries and gompas at Rumtek, is striking.
Day 11 Gangtok
An excursion today to Tsongo Lake, set in an area of spectacular scenic beauty. This is the closest point that westerners can access to the Tibetan border, some 20km further on. While there you can walk or ride a yak around the lake. Yaks may not be the most comfortable animals to ride but this is an unmissable opportunity!
Day 12 Kalimpong
Leaving Sikkim, make the 80 km journey to Kalimpong, known for its horticulture (particularly its wide array of orchids and gladioli) and spectacular views. In the afternoon take in some of the highlights of this picturesque town including the Dello Hills, Dr Graham’s Childrens’ Home, a small factory making paper by traditional methods, and flower nurseries.
Day 13 Kalimpong
An excursion today to Gurumara National Park. Located in the Terai region of the Himalayan foothills, this medium-sized wildlife sanctuary of grasslands and forests, is primarily known for its population of Indian Rhinoceros. The best way to view wildlife is from the numerous well-located watchtowers. You may also like to visit some of the local villages which encircle the park.
Day 14 Kolkata
After breakfast, drive to Bagdogra airport to board your flight to Kolkata. On arrival you’ll be met and assisted with transfer to the city, or direct to your international flight home.
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