This short foray into the hills north of Calcutta is a great way to visit this part of India, perhaps as an add-on to another voyage in Rajasthan, or elsewhere in north-India. You’ll visit the compelling city of Calcutta, the iconic hill station of Darjeeling and, in Sikkim, get a glimpse of an entirely different culture altogether. The best time to undertake this trip is in October/early December, or from February through to April.
Day 1: You’ll be met on arrival in Calcutta, and then fly to Bagdogra in the afternoon. Here you will be met and introduced to your guide and driver, before making the 3 hour drive to Darjeeling. In the evening you can walk in the markets and soak up the atmosphere of this historic town. Overnight in Darjeeling.
Day 2: Full day of sightseeing around Darjeeling including Batasia Loop - a marvel of railway engineering, Tea Estates, the Himalayan Mountaineering Training Institute and the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre. If you want to buy a carpet anywhere in India, this may be the most worthy place of all to do so- beautiful carpets are handmade to order by the refugee population here. Later take the short trip on the mountain railway to Ghoom and visit the monastery there. Another ‘must’ in Darjeeling is a session of tea-tasting, likely to convert even the most seasoned coffee drinker to at least an understanding of tea! Return to Darjeeling for overnight stay.
Day 3: An early start to drive to Tiger Hill for the stunning sunrise over the eastern Himalaya, including views of Khanchendzonga, the 3rd highest mountain on earth. Return to your hotel for breakfast and a rest, before departing Darjeeling for the short drive to Kalimpong; in the afternoon take in some of the highlights of this picturesque town including Dello Hills, Dr Graham's Home for orphans, and Flower Nurseries. Enjoy a relaxing evening on the terrace of your hotel with expansive views of the surrounding hills, overnight in Kalimpong.
Day 4: After breakfast, drive 4 hours to Gangtok in Sikkim state- in an area known for its extravagant scenic beauty, this drive is among the most rewarding. Check into your hotel with free time in the afternoon to explore the fascinating bazaar on MG Road,overnight in Gangtok.
Day 5: A full day around Gangtok and nearby Rumtek with sightseeing highlights including Tashiview Point, Ganesh Tok, Hanuman Tok, the Institute of Tibetology, and the serene and tranquil monastery at Rumtek. There is a striking contrast between the quiet of the monastand eries and gompas on the Rumtek side and the bustle of busy Gangtok on the opposite side of the valley. Return to Gangtok where, in season, you can sample such quirky Sikkimese cuisine as nettle-shoot stew at a local restaurant. Overnight in Gangtok.
Day 6: An excursion today to Tsongo Lake, reached by means of a military-maintained road which at times defies belief as it climbs and climbs into the soaring mountains. Finally at a height of 3720 metres above sea level you will reach Tsongo, an alpine 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 you are at Tsongo 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! Return to Gangtok with free time in the later afternoon, overnight in Gangtok.
Day 7: After breakfast, drive to Bagdogra for mid-afternoon flight to Delhi. You’ll be met on arrival in India’s capital and transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 8: As a contrast to the high mountains of Sikkim and Bengal with their space and lack of crowds, Delhi could not be more complete. Your day of sightseeing will cover both Old and New Delhi including grand colonial buildings, the Gandhi memorial at Raj Ghat, Humayun’s tomb and Jama Masjid- India’s grandest mosque. For many people the highlight is a cycle-rickshaw ride around the lanes and alleyways of Chandni Chowk- Old Delhi’s historic market area. Later in the day transfer to the airport for your connecting flight.