This 2 week exploration of West Bengal, Sikkim and Assam offers some outstanding experiences which will live long in your memory. 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 the famous Kaziranga National Park, 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.Upon arrival in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), you will be met and transferred to your hotel in the heart of ‘old Calcutta’. Depending on your arrival time you may want to have this as a free day with no programme. If not then please consider ‘Day 2’ which follows as the programme for this day. Overnight Calcutta.
Day 2: Calcutta Sightseeing. After breakfast, your guide will meet you at your hotel and escort you on your sightseeing day of Calcutta. Places of interest in the city include The edifice in marble which is the Victoria Memorial- commissioned for the English queen’s 1901 diamond jubilee and completed some 20 years later, Park Street cemetery which is a warren of grand mausoleums and lush undergrowth, the Marble Palace which somehow manages to make all of Calcutta’s other grand structures seem staid and under-stated, Jain Temples in North Calcutta which combine marble inlay work (a-la the Taj Mahal), mirrored hallways, statues and a constant stream of worshippers and temples dedicated to the goddess Kali on the banks of the Hooghly River- your guide will be able to advise whether there are likely to be goat sacrifices taking place at the time of your visit. The choice of where to be when this ‘act of devotion’ takes place is then up to you! This is a wonderful day of many highlights and your guide will help you to get a feel for Calcutta and its fabulous history. Return to the hotel in Calcutta.
Day 3: Calcutta to Bagdogra (flight), Bagdogra to Darjeeling (car). In the morning, transfer to Calcutta domestic airport for flight to Bagdogra around midday. You will be met on arrival and driven 3 hours to Darjeeling. In the evening soak up the atmosphere of this historic town., O/N Darjeeling Hotel Mayfair
Day 4: Sightseeing of Darjeeling includes a visit to Ghoom Monastery, Batasia Loop (a marvel of railway engineering), Tea Gardens, Himalayan Mountaineering Training Institute, the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre and the Zoological Gardens. There is plenty to see and enjoy around Darjeeling and much of the town can be explored on foot.Overnight in Darjeeling.
Day 5: Tiger Hill, Darjeeling to Rumtek.A very early start this morning but the reward is a panoramic view of the Himalaya mountain range from the top of nearby Tiger Hill as the dawn breaks and the first rays of the rising sun illuminate this incredible scene. Return to the hotel for breakfast and later in the morning check out and drive 4 hours to Sikkim, stopping on the way for lunch and reaching Rumtek by mid afternoon. Surrounded by emerald green rice paddies and on the opposite side of the valley to the busy capital of Sikkim, Gangtok, Rumtek is a quiet and relaxing place to stay. Overnight Rumtek.
Day 6: Rumtek and Gangtok Sightseeing.A full day to see the many interesting places around this beautiful valley, starting in Rumtek and visiting the extensive Tibetan Buddhist complex, and then heading to Gangtok later in the morning. The sights of Gangtok include scenic Ganesh Tok, the Institute of Tibetology, lovely Botanical Gardens and fascinating cottage industries. Return to Rumtek for a late afternoon walk among the rice paddies to a nearby village. Overnight Rumtek.Day 7: Excursion to Tsongo Lake.Nestled high in the mountains and only around 20km from the India/Tibet border is the picturesque Tsongo Lake. The road is steep but well maintained and requires a special permit to visit due to its proximity to the sensitive border area. Your visit here can include a ride around the lake on a yak! Return to Rumtek and enjoy the remainder of your time here at leisure. Overnight at Rumtek.
Day 8: Rumtek to Kalimpong.Leaving Sikkim, make the 3 hour drive to Kalimpong and in the afternoon visit Dello Hills, Dr Graham's Childrens’ Home, Flower Nurseries, and handmade paper factory. Your accommodation here will be in the historic Hotel Himalaya, which was the original departure point for many of the pioneering mountaineering parties which ventured into the high mountains around here in the early part of the 20th century. Overnight in Kalimpong.
Day 9: Kalimpong to Bagdogra/ Bagdogra to Guwahati (flight). Drive 3 hours to Bagdogra to board a flight to Guwahati (flight times vary depending on the day of the week) where you will be met on arrival and driven 5 hours to Kaziranga National Park. Check into the resort, overnight in Kaziranga.
Day 10 & 11: Kaziranga. Home to the largest extant population of Indian Rhinoceros on earth, the wide grassy plains of Kaziranga are one of the premier wildlife destinations in India. A total of 4 safaris in the Park (with 2 by jeep and 2 on elephant back) will give you an excellent opportunity to sight these majestic animals, as well as tigers, wild elephants and a host of other mammals and birds. Overnight in Kaziranga.
Day 12: Kaziranga to Shillong. After breakfast this morning you’ll drive to Shillong in the state of Meghalaya where you visit a tribal market (the Khasi tribal people are a significant group here) and enjoy the atmosphere of Shillong. Overnight in Shillong.
Day 13: Shillong. Excursion to Cherrapunjee. Today you can make a day excursion to Cherrapunjee – reportedly the place with the heaviest rainfall in the world! The drive is spectacular with views of deep gorges and rolling hills whose tropical vegetation includes an immense variety of ferns, mosses and orchids. At Cherrapunjee you can explore the cave systems carved through limestone rocks and later return to Shillong.
Day 14: Shillong. This is a full day to enjoy and explore Shillong including a drive to Shillong Peak overlooking the town and visits to Elephant falls and the Wards Lake and free time in the afternoon. Afternoon will be at your leisure and overnight in Shillong.
Day 15: Shillong to Guwahati/ Guwahati to Calcutta. After early breakfast this morning you’ll depart Shillong and drive to the airport at Guwahati to board flight for Calcutta. On arrival in Calcutta you’ll be met and assisted with transfer to the city, or direct to your international flight home.