This 16-day tour in West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam offers some outstanding experiences which will live long in your memory. The tour begins in India's second largest city - Calcutta, which despite its reputation for squalor and poverty is actually the most diverse and cultured of India's mega cities. The Sunderbans region will be a chance to take in a tiger safari or some bird watching. From the lush tea-clad hills around Darjeeling to the mighty rivers, valleys and mountains of the eastern Himalaya and through into mysterious Assam and Kaziranga National Park (famous for its rhinoceros population), the scenery alone is worth the trip. But add to this the people and the culture of the region, who have traditions and religious practices quite unlike those in other parts of India, and you have the recipe for a truly magical journey.
Day 1: Arrive Calcutta. Arrive in international flight, where you will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel in the city. Afternoon to explore the main sights of ‘old’ Calcutta, which are predominately located around Sudder Street, in particular the Victoria Memorial, museums, Park Street cemetery and the bustling Newmarket area. Overnight in Calcutta.
Day 2: Calcutta. Main sightseeing day in Calcutta visiting the many and varied highlights of India’s most diverse and cultured city. Slowly freeing itself from the effects of years of negative press, Calcutta is finally gaining recognition for its architecture, culture and the more positive aspects of its history. Overnight Calcutta.
Day 3: Calcutta - Sunderbans. After breakfast, drive 2-3 hours to Sunderbans region. From here you can take a boat trip into the mangrove forests although it’s a very difficult place to see tigers. Overnight Sunderbans.
Day 4: Sunderbans – Calcutta Full day at the Lodge with a visit to Project Tiger, boat safari and bird watching etc and then return to Calcutta in the late afternoon. Overnight in Calcutta
Day 5: Calcutta- BagdograDarjeeling Transfer to Calcutta airport for a morning flight to Bagdogra. After lunch at a nearby hotel, depart Bagdogra and drive 3-4 hours to Darjeeling. Overnight in Darjeeling
Day 6: Darjeeling.Full day around Darjeeling- sightseeing tour of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the zoological gardens (sadly the only place you are remotely likely to see a snow leopard), and visit a tea estate. In the afternoon, while away some time wandering the streets and sipping tea at one of the many tea shops. Overnight at the Elgin.
Day 7: Darjeeling - Rumtek. Arise early (around 5am depending on the time of year) for sunrise viewing from Tiger Hill. Return to the hotel and after breakfast, proceed to Rumtek in Sikkim.Overnight Rumtek.
Day 8: Rumtek - Gangtok.Day of sightseeing around Rumtek visiting the monasteries in the valley, followed by afternoon in Gangtok. Return to Rumtek, overnight Rumtek.
Day 9: Tsongo Lake Excursion. Day excursion to Tsongo Lake - this is the closest foreigners are allowed to the Tibetan border. The drive is spectacular through dizzying mountain scenery. Once you reach the lake at a height of nearly 4000 metres, you can ride a yak around the lake’s edge and soak up the clear, crisp mountain air and the serenity of the setting.Return to Rumtek.
Day 10: Rumtek - Kalimpong. Drive to Kalimpong and relax, the perfect place to relax and do very little for a while. Overnight Kamilpong.
Day 11: Kalimpong. Day in and around Kalimpong, known for its horticulture and spectacular views, as well as sightseeing and visits to Dr Grahams Childrens’ Home, operational since 1910, and a small factory making paper by traditional methods. Overnight Kalimpong.
Day 12: Kalimpong - Bagdogra - Guwahati - Kaziranga. Drive to Bagdograand lunchtime flight to Guwahati, and proceed to Kaziranga National Park (5 hour drive).
Day 13 & 14: Kaziranga. Morning and evening safaris by elephant and/or jeep in the park in search of tigers and the magnificent Indian one-horned rhinoceros, and overnight in Kaziranga.
Day 15: Kaziranga- Guwahati- Calcutta. After a final morning safari, return drive to Guwahati and fly to Calcutta. You will be met on arrival and transferred into the city. Overnight Calcutta.
Day 16: Departure from Calcutta by international flight