Name of Program: Sikkim – Darjeeling – Bhutan
No of Days: 20N / 21D
Best Time: Mid Feb – March – April – May & Oct – Nov – mid Dec
Arrival & Dep. city: Kolkata or New Delhi
Minimum Pax: 2
Maximum Pax: 30
Places to Cover:- Kolkata or Delhi – Bagdogra – Darjeeling – Rinchenpong – Pelling – Yuksom – Kewzing – Rumtak – Gangtok – Phuentsholing – Thimphu – Punakha – Paro – Tiger Nest – Kolkata or Delhi.
We start our journey in Darjeeling. This “Hill Station” has retained much of the colonial flair of bygone times. The “Toy Train” was built around 1880 and brought the English colonial rulers from the hot plains to the cool mountains. Today this place is world famous for the many tea plantations and the first-class tea. In the former kingdom of Sikkim we admire Buddhist monasteries and the diverse nature. During the stay with a host family we get a good insight into the everyday life of the Sikkimese. This former kingdom in the Himalayas between Bhutan and Nepal has not yet been discovered by “mass tourism”.
In Bhutan we visit imposing dzongs, ancient monasteries and small villages. A hike takes us to one of the holiest monasteries in Bhutan, the famous “Tiger’s Nest” in the Paro Valley. The monastery spectacularly clings to a sheer rock face hundreds of meters above the valley floor. This simple round trip is very varied and has many highlights. The program only includes shorter hikes of 1 to 3 hours, which can also be omitted.
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Siikim-Darjeeling-Bhutan Tour cover the great Himalayan region. This tour plan provide the best way to visit Buddhist region, you will explore the toy train ride at Darjeeling, tea plantation, some famous monasteries from Sikkim. Bhutan “the last Shagrila” is GNH “Gross National Happiness” all the population very satisfy with king of Bhutan. You will explore some major Dzong and Taktsang the highlight of nation. Punakha dzong, Dochula pass & some more famous places of Bhutan.
Upon arrival at Kolkata or New Delhi International airport, met and greet by our representative. Transfer to the hotel near by airport. For rest of the night at hotel.
After an early breakfast transfer to domestic airport & board flight to Bagdogra. If the weather is nice, we will see the 8000m peaks Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Everest and Kangchenjunga. From Bagdogra we drive to Darjeeling on a winding road past wooded hills, small villages and tea plantations. At the time of the English colonial power in India, Darjeeling was one of the most popular “hill stations” to escape the heat of the lowlands. Even today you can still feel a lot of colonial flair in this place. Overnight at hotel in Darjeeling (2100 meters).
If the weather is clear, we will set off early in the morning to «Tiger Hill» (2590 m). We enjoy a spectacular sunrise and a fantastic view to the Kangchenjunga massif. When the weather is clear, you can see as far as Mount Everest. We then take the famous «Toy Train», which was built over 120 years ago. The journey on this narrow-gauge railway is an exciting experience. After lunch we visit a tea plantation for which Darjeeling is so famous. The main harvest time is from March to October. Depending on that, there is still reduced operation in November, and no tea is picked during the winter months. But we can visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute or the Japanese Peace Pagoda. Overnight at hotel in Darjeeling
Today we have a varied journey to the remote west of Sikkim ahead of us. We cross the Rangit river on the valley floor and follow it until a pass road leads up to Rinchenpong. On a clear day we can see Kangchenjunga in the distance. Here we are guests in a typical Sikkimese farmhouse lodge. Overnight in a simple farmhouse lodge in Rinchenpong (1600 meters)
Today we discover the rural surroundings of Rinchenpong. We hike through an oak forest to a nearby hill where there is a lonely monastery and, with a bit of luck with the weather, enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the Kangchenjunga massif with the mountain giants Pandim, Kabru and Narsing at 1900 meters. In the afternoon we discover the lonely hamlets with their traditional Lepcha houses and experience the rural, natural way of life of the small farmers. In the evening we have the opportunity to attend the evening ceremonies and evening prayers in the village monastery.
Note: The hike in the morning is optional and can also be omitted.
Overnight in a simple farmhouse lodge in Rinchenpong
We drive to Pelling through a varied landscape with terraced rice fields, rushing waterfalls and remote settlements. In Pelling, we pay a visit to the well-known 18th-century Pemayangtse Monastery with its uniquely carved wooden sculpture. The monastery was involved in royal government during Kingdom times and played an important role. Pemayangtse Monastery is also called “Perfect Sublime Lotus”, which means “the all-encompassing, perfect lotus”. We also ascend to Nyingma Monastery Sanga Chöling. The latter is on a hill above Pelling. From there we enjoy an incredibly beautiful view of the Kangchenjunga and other snow-capped mountain peaks. There is a meditative atmosphere in this place, especially in the morning and evening hours. Today about 20 monks live in the monastery. The numerous chortens on a terrace next to the main temple are ancient sacred burial sites of important lamas and are reminiscent of Buddhist teachings. From the monastery, we can walk to the Chenrezig statue, which was completed in autumn 2018. The newly built complex further includes a skywalk and a gallery inside the statue. With a height of 41 meters it is the tallest of the three large statues in Sikkim. Depending on the weather we do the hike to Sanga Chöling in the morning of the next day. Overnight stay in Pelling (1700 meters).
After breakfast commnece journey to Yuksom. On our way to Yuksom we visit the sacred, wish-fulfilling Khecheopalri Lake. The lake’s original name was Kha-Chot-Palri, which translates to “Heaven of Guru Padmasambhava”. The small, legendary lake is sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus. We start at the lake and make a nice hike past small villages, terraced fields and forests with cardamom plantations. The hike is mostly downhill and takes about 3 hours. From the terminus at Rathong River we continue to Yuksom where we will spend the night.
Note: The trek from Khecheopalri Lake to Rathong River is optional, the route can also be traveled by vehicle.
Overnight in guest house in Yuksom (1750 m).
Yuksom is now just a village but was once the capital of Sikkim. From here started the most popular trekking of Sikkim, which leads to the fast 5000 meter high pass Goecha La near the 8000 meter Kangchenjunga. We don’t hike that far, but we make our way to the coronation site of the first king of Sikkim. A small temple and a huge stupa announce the place where the empire was founded. We get to the Norbugang Chorten, the sacred place where the coronation of the 1st King took place in 1642. Under a gigantic cedar (Cypressus cashmeriana) stands the stone throne on which Chogyal Phuntsok Namgyal was crowned king of Sikkim by three lamas. Finally, we make our way uphill to Dubdi by vehicle or on foot. Here is the oldest monastery of Sikkim, which was built in 1701.
Overnight in guest house in Yuksom
On the way to Kewzing we visit the Tashiding monastery standing on a cone-shaped hill. Next to the monastery are several chortens. It is said that just seeing these chortens purifies all sins. We can try this! The prayer walls with mantras carved in stone are also beautiful. The stonemason who created all the works of art unfortunately passed away a few years ago. In the late afternoon we reach Kewzing, a typical Bhutia village. Here we are guests in a family’s house and immerse ourselves in the culture of the Bhutia Sikkimese, originally from Tibet. We do a little tour of the village on foot. We end the evening with a traditional Bhutia dinner in the simple kitchen of our host family and finally with a small cultural performance around the campfire. Of course, a “Chang”, a home-brewed beer made from millet, should not be missing.
Overnight in a simple family house in Kewzing (1550 meters).
Breakfast & later drive to Rumtak Monastery. The daily varied drive takes us to the town of Ravangla where we stroll through the town past tiny pubs and corner shops. We make a detour and visit the Buddha Park with the gigantic Buddha statue, which was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in March 2013. Along the mountain ridge with a spectacular panorama we drive to the largest tea garden in Sikkim. The Temi tea garden is known for its excellent, organically grown tea and is considered an insider tip among connoisseurs. Continue to the town of Singtam in the valley floor and head north to the Rumtek region. Following the street lined with prayer flags, one comes to the original old monastery of Rumtek, dating back to 1734. It exudes a wonderful tranquility and is situated on a ridge with a fantastic view of the hills and fields of Martam. A small shrine in an adjoining room is dedicated to the protector of the Kagyu school, the Mahakala. However, because of its powerful effect, the figure is veiled.
From 1959 to 1981, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism, lived here. After fleeing to Sikkim due to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, he received asylum, land and support from the King of Sikkim in the construction of the new monastery of Rumtek. His home monastery in Tsurphu in Tibet served as a template. The monastery was an important place of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists during the lifetime of the 16th Karmapa. Karmapa is one of the most important reincarnations in the Tibetan Buddhist world and head of the Karma Kagyu school. The Karma Kagyu school is one of the four main branches of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the head of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) movement.
Overnight at the hotel in Rumtek (1350 meters).
After breakfast we trek on narrow trails across terraced paddy fields to a small aboriginal settlement. We walk through the village and get an insight into village and country life. We are invited to the village shaman in a house built on stilts. Here we can witness a ceremony and enjoy drinking tea together. Then we visit the monastery «Lingdum Zurman Kharwang». Inside the colorful complex, the murals tell of important events in the life of the Buddha. The cosmopolitan monastery also maintains an active monastic school. The young monks can often be found memorizing the Tibetan alphabet or reciting mantras.
Overnight at the hotel in Rumtek (1350 meters).
Today we drive to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. We walk to Gangtok Bazaar. We enjoy the hustle and bustle and maybe even make a deal or two. The Institute of Tibetology has one of the finest collections of Buddhist literature, as well as a large number of thangkas, bronze figures and cult objects. From there it goes on to the Do-Drul Chorten. Traditional crafts are taught at the Cottage Industries Institute. Traditional wood carvings, textiles and bamboo items are also available here.
Overnight at hotel in Gangtok (1650 meters).
Early breakfast & commence a longer day drive takes us through the “flatlands” of India and further to the border to Bhutan, which we cross at Phuentsholing. We will also stay overnight in this border town. Here we say goodbye to our Indian guide and our driver. From here we will be with a Bhutanese guide and driver.
Note: Not only we are traveling from India to Bhutan today, but our local crew is also changing. In India we were accompanied by Indians, in Bhutan it is now a Bhutanese guide plus driver. We may notice that the Bhutanese employees are more reserved than we have experienced with our crew in Sikkim over the past few days. This has to do with the life and culture in Bhutan, where respect and hierarchies play a very important role. As a rule, however, the crew “thaws out quickly”, especially when we behave openly and actively seek dialogue. And such changes are part of the attraction of this trip, we experience two different cultures in the same trip.
Overnight at the hotel in Phuntsholing (300 meters).
Our first day in Bhutan brings us to Thimphu, the main town of Bhutan, during a long but varied drive. If we feel like it, we’ll do a first stroll through the city. In the evening we drive up to the «Buddha Viewpoint», where an almost 50 meter high Buddha figure was built high above Thimphu. From the top we have a beautiful view of Thimphu and the surrounding area. Overnight at hotel in Thimphu (2320 meters).
After a leisurely breakfast we explore the famous weekend market in Thimphu. Products and groceries from local farmers are sold here. Everywhere you see large amounts of Chili, which is very important in Bhutanese cuisine. Depending on the season, you can also find more “exclusive” foods such as ferns or leather. These foods also have their place in Bhutanese cuisine, with leather being eaten in earlier times. At the Institute for Zorig Chusum (Institute of 13 Crafts), we admire some of Bhutan’s crafts, including thangka painting, clay sculpture making and wood carving. It is exciting to be able to look over the backs of the teachers and students during their training.
Afterwards we visit the very beautiful Textile Museum and get a good insight into the textile art of Bhutan. On festival days, many women wear elaborate, hand-woven kiras, which take up to 6 months to produce. Maybe we’re lucky and can watch the women weaving. Above Thimphu at the “Buddha Viewpoint” stands the largest Buddha statue in Bhutan. This is filled with 100,000 small Buddha statues and the creators dream that this imposing structure will be used on the «8th Wonder of the World». Wonder of the world or not, it is definitely worth a visit and the view over Thimphu is also rewarding. But we can also go out on our own, do some shopping, watch the hustle and bustle on the street or have a cup of tea in one of the restaurants.
Overnight at hotel in Thimphu (2350 meters).
Today’s drive takes us from Thimphu to the Dochula Pass. This is very photogenic with the 108 stupas at the top of the pass and when the weather is nice we have a fantastic view of the mountain peaks of Bhutan. From the top of the pass we hike down an old path through a subtropical mountain forest to the «Royal Botanical Garden». Depending on the course of spring, a sea of blooming rhododendrons can be seen from mid-March until well into May. From here the drive takes us on a winding road to Punakha, which is almost 2000 meters below. Overnight at hotel in Punakha (1250 meters).
This morning we visit the Punakha Dzong, the architecturally most beautiful dzong in all of Bhutan. Built in 1638, it was the second dzong in Bhutan. Punakha was the capital and administrative center of Bhutan until 60 years ago when the capital was moved to Thimphu. A short hike brings us to a river, which we cross on the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. In the village on the other side we pay a visit to the village school. Here we are invited to lunch with a local family and learn a lot about village and family life in the country. In the afternoon we continue to Phobjikha. Overnight at guest house in Phobjikha valley (2800 meters).
The Phobjikha Valley is one of the most beautiful mountain valleys in Bhutan. Several hundred of the rare black-necked cranes spend the winter in the sheltered high valley. The large birds usually arrive in early November and depending on how the winter goes, they leave the valley by mid-February to make their way to their summer breeding grounds. But even without black-necked cranes, Phobjikha is more than worth a visit. In Gangtey we visit the small monastery. Afterwards you can hike through the beautiful Phobjikha Valley on the “Gangtey Nature Trail”. It is possible to continue walking afterwards in one of the mountain villages above the valley. Overnight at guest house in Phobjikha valley (2800 meters).
Today we drive back to Paro. At the top of the Dochula we stop again for the beautiful view. After the pass we will visit the Simthoka Dzong. Afterwards the drive takes us to Paro. In Paro we visit the Drakarpo Lhakhang, little known to tourists. Depending on our mood, we walk from the small town of Shaba up to the temple in about an hour, or we drive the vehicle on the jeep road to the parking lot below the temple. The temple, which is impressively stuck to the rock, is considered one of the holiest places in Bhutan. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche meditated here in the 8th century. He broke vertical rocks out of the cliff face. The removed rocks created the platform on which the temple was later built. So the name Drakarpo means something like “split (or white) rock”. There is a small cave just below the temple. The “sinless” can try to squeeze through the narrow cave. All over the rocks are hand, foot and other prints of Guru Rinpoche and other saints who are said to have meditated here. Overnight at the hotel in Paro (2280 meters).
The most famous monastery of Bhutan is the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. It owes its name to the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, the greatest tantric master in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. He flew from Tibet to Bhutan on the back of a tigress in the 8th century and landed here. The monastery is extremely spectacular in a steep rock face. After breakfast we drive to the parking lot below the monastery. From here, a partly steep path leads us to a small restaurant. From here you have a breathtaking view of the monastery. In 1998 the complex burned down completely, only the cave with the statue of Guru Padmasambhava was not damaged. The system was later completely rebuilt and only those in the know will notice that the system is only a good 20 years old. Taktshang Goemba is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Bhutan. If we feel like it, we can stop at Kyichu Lhakhang on the way back. This is believed to be the oldest temple in Bhutan and was built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in 659. Afterwards we have free time in Paro. This small, pretty place is ideal for strolling through the streets, drinking tea in one of the small restaurants or doing the last few shopping. Overnight at the hotel in Paro (2280 meters).
Transfer to Paro airport and flight back to Kolkata or New Delhi. We will be picked up at the airport and taken to a nice hotel with a swimming pool. Here we have a room available until the evening and can let the trip end peacefully. Those who wish can visit some of Delhi’s attractions on a half-day sightseeing tour along with a local guide. This is not included and must be booked in advance