Darjeeling is better known as the Queen of Hills. Set against a panoramic backdrop accentuated by a sparkling white crown of Himalayan peaks, Darjeeling epitomizes the opulence of nature. The breathtaking proximity of the awe inspiring mountains spurs the imaginations to delve deeper into its creation. The commanding vantages of its splendid locales offer super views of the most magnificent peaks in the world. The towering summit of Mt.Everest silhouetted against a majestic apparition of Mt.Kanchenjunga displaying the full dimensions of its tantalizing regal splendor is a phenomenal attraction that Darjeeling can truly claim to be its own.
The scenic hills around Darjeeling abound in an assortment of delightful vistas. Steep pine and fir covered mountains, deep gorges and ridge upon ridge of rolling landscape that harbors an astounding array of flora, fauna and avifauna. Lush tea plantations, sprawled all over the countryside add a touch of liveliness to the overall verdure of the place. The tea gardens of Darjeeling are world famous for producing fine blends of tea prized all over the world for its exotic flavor and rich aroma.
Darjeeling is equally for its unique railway (a world heritage site). This railway built by British colonials was commissioned into service in 1869. Meticulously preserved steam locomotives that are original relics of that time can still be seen negotiating its way around a series of loops and meandering turns as it traverses the hilly terrain. Considered to be a marvel of engineering, it never ceases to enrapture its passengers and viewers alike who are bewitched by the magnitude of an exciting sojourn full of ensnaring sights and sounds. This journey begins in the plains of Bengal near sea level and ends in Darjeeling which lies at an elevation of 8000 ft.
For the service oriented people of Darjeeling, life is centered around Tea, Tourism and numerous educational institutions. The population comprises of settlers from as diverse a background as any. Apart from the Himalayan tribes from Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet and a some of Chinese ancestry, who form the bulk of the native population, significant numbers of plains people engaged in various trades and businesses have also made remarkable contributions to the colorful kaleidoscope of its rich and vibrant cultural heritage steeped in nostalgic reminisces of its glorious colonial past.
Best of Darjeeling with Sikkim & Bhutan
Day 01: Delhi – Paro (Bhutan) by Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines
Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bhutan; window seat in the aircraft allows you wonderful view of Himalayan scenery. Flying along the Himalayan range, it is a breathtaking journey, culminating in an exciting descent past forested hills into the kingdom.You will be received by the representative of TLF Holidays at the airport; completion of visa/immigration and customs formalities, transfer to the hotel. Evening visit a Bhutanese traditional Farm House and stroll in Paro town. Overnight Hotel
Day 02: Day hike to Takshang Monastery
An excursion to view & visit the spectacular Takshang Monastery. “Takshang” literally means Tiger’s Nest. The Monastery is believed to have been built in 1684 on the spot where Guru Rimpoche (founder of Buddhism in Bhutan) flew on the back of a Tigress and meditated to subdue the demons in Paro valley. The trail to the Monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. This incredible Monastery clings vertically to the edge of a granite rock cliff that plunges 900 meters above the valley floor. Lunch at Takshang Cafeteria; visit Taa Dzong, the national museum of Bhutan & Rimpong Dzong. Later drive to Thimphu & evening at leisure in town;dinner and overnight at Hotel
Day 03 – Thimphu-Punakha
Early breakfast and drive to Punakha across Dochula Pass (Alt.3050 M). If weather is clear, you can have spectacular view of the snowcapped Himalayan mountain peaks from the pass. Continue drive to Punakha and stop at Missina to take a short walk to visit Chimmi Lhakhang, a monastery of fertility which is regarded as a pilgrimage site for barren couple. After lunch visit Punakha Dzong; a historic Dzong that looks like a ship between two rivers Pho Chu and Mo Chu. Later visit the new Khuru township and stroll around at leisure. Dinner & overnight Hotel
Day 04: Punakha – Thimphu
Early breakfast and sightseeing- Visit Punakha Dzong, Khuru town, Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten, Chhimi Lhakhang (a pilgrimage site for barren couple), Wangdiphodrang Dzong. Lunch at a local restaurant in Wangdiphodrang and drive back to Thimphu
Day 05: Thimphu Sightseeing
Full day sightseeing: visit Memorial Chorten, Changangkha Monastery, Zilukha Nunnery, National Library, Folk Heritage Museum, Zorig Chosum (Painting School) and Buddha’s point for view of Thimphu valley.Lunch at Bhutan Kitchen and continue sightseeing – visit Handicraft Emporium & Bhutanese Hand Made Paper factory.Evening visit Tashichhodzong, the central secretariat building that houses the office & thrown room of the King and leisure time in town. Dinner & overnight at Hotel
Day 06: Thimphu – Phuentsholing (176 km, 6 hours)
Early breakfast and drive to Phuentsholing en route visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the Kingdom built in 1627, which now houses the School for Buddhist studies. Drive today is pretty long appx.6 hours and is pleasant with numerous scenic spots for photography. Visit Kharbandi Gompa, which is just before arriving Phuentsholing. This beautiful monastery situated in a garden of tropical plants and flowers, was built by Royal Grandmother, Ashi Phuntsho Choden in 1967. You will have a grand view of Phuentsholing town and the continuation of Jaigaon town, a border town of the Indian state of West Bengal.
Day 07: Phuentsholing-Kalimpong
Early breakfast and drive to Kalimpong. (appx.110 kms, 4 hrs drive). First part of the journey passes through the plains, a large range of foothill forests crawling with wildlife, farm houses, tea gardens, transparent rivers interspersed with quiet villages and small townships of vibrant local culture then begins gradual climbing to the hill station. Check into the Hotel. After lunch local sightseeing – visit Durpin Monastery, Flower Nursery and local Bazaar. Evening at leisure. Overnight Hotel.
Day 08: Kalimpong-Gangtok (Sikkim)
After breakfast stroll around in town and a brief tour of the historic Dr Graham’s home. The extensive boarding and day school facility was established over a century ago. Visit an Anglican church built with fine stained glass windows nearby and you can also visit one of the flower nurseries for which Kalimpong is well known across India. Later drive to Gangtok. Evening stroll around the local bazaar. Overnight Hotel.
Day 09: Gangtok Sightseeing
Morning excursion to Phodong Monastery. Afternoon local sightseeing – visit Cottage industry, Enchey Monastery, Institute of Tibetlogy and the local bazaar. We will also tour the permanent ‘Flower Show’ that exhibits a number of native Sikkimese orchid and flower species. Later we recommend a visit to the busy vegetable and spice market. Overnight Hotel
Day 10: Gangtok-Darjeeling
A brief drive to Rumtek Monastery on the opposite side of the valley from Gangtok. Rumtek is the seat of the Tibetan Kagyugpa sect of monks and a major centre for Tibetan religious studies. The 16th Gwalpa Karmapa, the head of the Kagyugpa sect, took refuge in Rumtek after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 1950’s; he and his followers escaped with whatever statues, ‘thangka’ paintings and scriptures they could and built Rumtek monastery as a replica of the Chhofuk monastery that they had left behind in Tibet. Drive to Darjeeling; Mark Twain quoted Darjeeling “The one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once-by even a glimpse would not give that glimpse for the shows of the rest of the world combined”. Afternoon local sightseeing – Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Zoological Park, Panda Breeding Center, and the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center. Overnight Hotel
Day 11: Darjeeling Sightseeing
Early morning excursion to Tiger Hill (11 km) to view the sunrise over Mt.Kunchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. En route visit Yigacholing Ghoom Monastery. Day excursion to Happy Valley Tea Estate; afternoon fun ride in the famous Toy train, which has received a place in the world heritage site lately. Overnight Hotel
Day 12: Darjeeling-Bagdogra-Delhi
After breakfast, drive gradual climbing down hill, following the route of the toy train you reach Bagdogra airport for onward flight to Delhi.