This 14 day tour to Bhutan, Sikkim & Darjeeling and North India offers unique travel opportunity in the Himalayas. Geographical contrasts abound with a rich mixture of ecosystems ranging from sub tropical to the high mountain ranges, which hold a wide variety of endangered species, a wealth of flora and fauna, and the unique cultures and traditions of the people in the region.
As one of the rarest and most unique of travel destinations, Bhutan offers the experience of the Buddhist tradition in a setting of unique architecture, and breathtaking Himalayan landscape and friendly people.
Sikkim, a former Himalayan kingdom, now a state in India, is richly endowed with a prominently Buddhist culture dating back to the 7th century AD.
Darjeeling-“The Queen of the Himalayas” is a bustling tourist town renowned for its tea gardens and the sunrise over the Himalayas from the Tiger Hill and imprints of the British Raj.
The other principle attractions of the tour is the Imperial monuments of India’s busy capital Delhi, the Royal Palaces, the ‘Pink’ city of Jaipur and the overwhelmingly beautiful Taj Mahal at Agra
Day 01 Arrive Paro, transfer to Thimpu.
Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be welcomed to the Kingdom by your guide. If time permits, sightseeing tour of 200-year-old Watch Tower that has been renovated and converted into National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of national costumes and fabrics, gallery of Thangkas, an impressive stamp gallery with three dimensional and CD stamps issued as early as 1960 that are remarkable, and other galleries showcasing armor and silverware with the handsome Royal teapots. On the top floor there is a four-sided temple complex depicting the history of Buddhism and its propagation. Then visit the Dungtse Lakang on the same route.
Drive to Thimpu through the Paro Valley. The drive from Paro to Thimphu is spectacularly scenic.
Day 02 Tour Thimpu, overland to Punakha
Thimphu is the only Capital City in the world without traffic lights. Magnificent monasteries and Stupas in the valleys and mountain tops. Experience the "Last Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom" on Earth.
Visit to the Memorial Chorten built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, Dupthop Lhakhang ( Monastery for the nuns), National Library and the painting school where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of painting Thangkhas ( sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). Visit the traditional Medicine institute where medicines are prepared according to ancient practices. After lunch you will visit Lungtenzampa to observe the Royal traditional silver smiths and Bhutanese traditional paper factory.
Drive south and visit Simtokha Dzong, the first Dzong built by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal. It is now used as the Institute for study of traditional teachings.
Afternoon drive to Punakha, through Dochula Pass (10170 ft.). After crossing Dochula Pass, you can take a walk along the trails for about an hour or two watching birds and animals in the thick jungles. Great views of the himalayan peaks from this point. The journey is beautiful, as the fragrant air blows from the pink cherry trees and splashes of pink color through the orange, red and dark green forests.
Sightseeing of Punakha, which was the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. Punakha Dzong which dominates the whole area was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, and established the central monastic body with 600 monks.
Today, Punakha is still the home for Je Khempo (Chief Abbot) and the central monastic body.
Day 03 Tour Wangdi, drive back to Paro.
Morning drive to Wangdi Phodrang valley for sightseeing. Visit the only Dzong with wooden roof maintained in its ancient style. Walk around Wangdi town and have lunch.
After lunch, drive to Thimphu. En-route, visit Simtokha Dzong, the first Dzong built in Bhutan by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel in 1629. Since 1961, it has been the institute for religious and classical studies.
Drive back to Paro and overnight.
Day 04 Hike to Taksang Monastery
After breakfast, your guide will take you to the starting point of the hike to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair). 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.
Stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue the hike for short while until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the remains of Taktsang monastery. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery flying tigers doesn’t seem so impossible after all.
After brekfast, Visit Drugyel Dzong, although mostly now in ruins. Built in 1647 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel to commemorate the victory over Tibetan Invaders, which indicates by the name of the Dzong meaning Victorious Bhutanese Fort. Visit Drugyel High School and Kychu Lhakhang, the oldest monastery in the valley built in 7th. century. From this point we see the spectacular views of Mt. Jhomolhari which is considered sacred.
Day 05 Overland Paro -Phunsoling
After breakfast you will start your journey down south to Phuntsholing. It is about 180 Kilometers of scenic drive that takes you from the alpine forest of pines and junipers to lianas, orchid and bananas. Within 6 hours of drive, the altitude will drop approximately 6,500 feet.
On your way, you will have several stops for great photograph opportunities and will also visit Kharbandi Temple.
Phuntsholing town is a bustling trading frontier for Indians, Bangladeshis and other business people who visit here to trade commodities with their Bhutanese counterparts.
Evening stroll the Bazaar and visit Zangto Pelri Temple located in the middle of the town.
Day 06 Phunsoling-Darjeeling
This morning you will be met by your guide, who has come from Sikkim, then drive 7 hours through the Indian plains and gradually climbing uphill towards Darjeeling. (2134 m / 7000 feet).
Evening free to explore the markets.
Day 07 Tour Darjeeling
After breakfast, a unique train ride on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway – “Toy Train” to Ghoom and back. The DHR established by the British in 1881, an outstanding engineering feat of the era, is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
Visit The Himalayan Zoo which houses the Himalayan fauna like the Red Panda, black bear, yaks, tigers, snow leopard etc. in their natural habitat, and the adjacent Himalayan Mountaineering Institute - a premier training centre for mountaineers and a museum detailing the ascent of the Mt. Everest by Tenzing Sherpa & Sir Edmund Hillary and numerous other expeditions.
Also visit Tibetan Self Help Centre, a centre of training young people in the intricate art of Tibetan handicrafts and handlooms.
Day 08 Overland Darjeeling -Gantok, Sikkim
Early morning drive to Tiger Hill to for a singular experience of the first rays of the sun bathing the Himalayas. On the return visit the Ghoom Monastery. Built in 1875 the monastery which follows the Gelugpa sect, houses one of the largest statue of the Maitreya Buddha-“the future Buddha”.
After breakfast drive to Rumtek, Sikkim, to visit the Rumtek Monastery, a magnificent Buddhist monastery established by the late Gyalwa Karmapa, the head of the Kagyupa sect. Built as an exact replica of the original Kagyu monastery in Tibet it is also the international headquarters of the Karma Kagyu centres.
Continue to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Overnight Gantok.
Day 09 Day excursion to Tsomgo Lake.
Located east of Gangtok at an altitude of 11970 ft/ 3650 m, the Tsomgo Lake is a typically beautiful mountain lake. The journey to the lake offers a magnificent view of Mt. Khangchendzongna and other peaks of Sikkim Himalayas.
Afternoon free to explore the markets.
Day 10 Trasnfer to airport in Bagdogra, fly to Delhi
Transfer to airport in Bagdogra, and fly to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi, you will be met and transferred to hotel.
Evening at leisure. Overnight in Delhi.
Day 11 Tour Delhi, and drive to Agra
Breakfast. Half day tour of New Delhi. New Delhi: India’s capital and an important gateway into the country. Visit Lutyen’s Delhi-drive past President’s palace and also known as Rashtrapati Bhawan, India gate, a World War I memorial. Lutyen’s city is characterized by wide, tree-lined avenues, parks and palaces built for important Indian Princes.
Visit Humayuns Tomb, built in the mid-16th century by Haji Begum, the Persian born senior wife of Humayaun, the second Mughal emperor, this is wonderful early example of Mughal architecture.
Drive to Agra and overnight.
Day 12 Visit Taj Mahal, drive to Abhaneri.
Morning visit Taj Mahal: - Described as the most extravagant monument ever built for love. It was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his second wife Mumtaz Mahal- described by the Indian classical poet Tagore as a “tear on the face of eternity”.
Visit Agra Fort: - Constructed of the massive red sandstone Agra Fort on the bank of River Yamuna, was begun by Emperor Akbar in 1565. The auricular fort’s colossal double walls rise over 20 m in height and measure 2.5 km in circumference.
Drive to Abhaneri . On the way, tour of Fatehpur Sikri en-route. Once the capital city of Akbar after the childless Mughal was blessed with a son with the blessings of the Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chisti, who lived here. The new capital came up in 1569. Though the juxtaposition of the buildings seems whimsical, they are thoughtfully planned, imparting and atmosphere of playful brilliance.
Arrive Abhaneri & check-in to Deluxe tent and overnight.
Day 13 Tour Abhaneri, drive to Jaipur
Breakfast. Walk around village. Take a short camel cart ride and visit nearby Stepwells (baoris)- Chand Baoli is a famous step well. It is located opposite Harshat Mata Temple and is one of the deepest and largest step wells in India. It was built in 9th century and has 3500 narrow steps and 13 stories and is 100 feet deep.
Drive to Jaipur. Explore the city starting from the Pink City Palace which now houses a museum containing rare manuscript, painting and an armory; visit the Palace of Winds-a Landmark of Jaipur made of pink sandstone and of unique design. Also visit Jantar Mantar-Observatory (Astronomical instrument).
Next to city palace built by Jaisingh in 1728. Jai Singh’s passion for astronomy was even more notable than his prowess as a warrior. Each construction has a specific purpose, such as calculating eclipses. The most striking instrument is the sundial, with its 27m-high gnomon; the shadow this casts moves up to 4m per hour.
Day 14 Tour Jaipur, drive to Delhi, fly to U.S. or an extension
Breakfast at hotel, visit Amber fort built in the 17th Century; the palace is a distinguished specimen of Rajput architecture. Take a joy ride on an elephant back at Amber Fort. Set in a picturesque location, Amer is fascinating blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. Built in the 16th century by Raja Man Singh, it sprawls on the hillside. Built in red sandstone and white marble, the palace complex has some very interesting apartments, the likes of which are not to be found anywhere else in the country.
Drive to Delhi, transfer to airport and fly back home or extend your trip to Nepal, or Sri Lanka.