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Bhutan and Sikkim Odyssey


15 days 14 nights

Code

Category Bhutan Classic Tours

  • Difficulty Level 3
  • Rating Popular
  • Highest Altitude 2,550 m (8,364 ft.)
  • Trip Starts From Delhi
  • Trip Ends At Paro
  • Type Tours
  • Destination Delhi Darjeeling Gangtok Pelling Kalimpong Jaldapara Thimphu Punakha Paro
Dates & Prices

Overview

An amazing journey through Sikkim and Bhutan in eastern Himalaya! Nestled in the lap of mighty Himalaya, Bhutan and Sikkim are known for Buddhist cultures, pristine nature and great mountain vistas. Sikkim-formerly a kingdom ruled by Buddhist priest king known as the chogyal, became 22nd state of India in 1975. Sikkim is famous for its biodiversity with alpine and subtropical climate and is also home to the Kanchenjunga-the third highest mountain on earth. 

Bhutan is the last surviving Himalayan Kingdom in south-Asia, guided by the principles of Mahayana Buddhism and known for the high happiness index. Bhutan-the only carbon-negative country in the world is truly a land of fresh air, pristine nature and rich culture. 

We first arrive in Delhi and take a flight to Bagdogra airport in the eastern India and join the road odyssey. We travel on the mountainous road through tea-estates and natural forests with snow-capped mountains in the backdrop. We visit the temples, monasteries, tea-estates and etc while we travel to Darjeeling, Gangtok, Pelling and Darjeeling. We embark on jungle safari excursions in Jaldapara National Park to see the Great One Horned Rhinoceros-one of the endangered species of the world, among other wildlife such as bison, elephant etc. 

We cross the border at Phuentsoling and continue the trip with our Bhutanese guide for the next 6 days. In Bhutan, we visit Thimphu, Punakha and Paro and then fly back to Delhi.  The trip features majestic Dzong fortresses with amazing architectures, hiking to the ridge-top monasteries, visiting farm families, arts and craft school, among many other attractions. 

This trip involves some long day drive on mountainous road but we will have numerous stops along the way for photography or refreshment drinks. The accommodations in this trip are decent mid-size hotel, three star by local standard.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01~Arrive in Delhi

Welcome to India! Meet our representative at the arrival gate who will transfer you to the nearby hotel for check-in. The balance of the day is for rest.

Overnight: Lemon Tree Premier Delhi Aerocity
Day 02~By flight to Bagdogra Airport and transfer to Darjeeling

A two-hour long flight brings us to Bagdogra airport in eastern India. Meet your local guide at the airport and proceed for a scenic three and half-hour long drive to Darjeeling (100 km or 65 miles). Enjoy the scenery as the road goes through the coniferous forest and terraced tea gardens.

Darjeeling, situated at an altitude of 2,134 m (or 7,000 ft.) has soothing temperature and so British developed their summer retreat here, to escape the heat of Calcutta. Darjeeling remains timeless, retaining its colonial character until today. On a clear weather day, we can enjoy spectacular views of the Himalayas that includes the third highest mountain on earth- Kanchenjunga- regarded as a guardian deity by the people of Sikkim.

Upon arrival, check into the hotel and balance of the day is at leisure.

Overnight: New Elgin Hotel
Meals : Breakfast, Dinner
Day 03~Explore Darjeeling

Before dawn, we visit Tiger Hill (11km/7 miles) for sunrise and mountain panorama view. Tiger hill (2,590 m or 8, 495 ft) is the highest point in this area and famous for breath-taking sunrise view on Mount Kanchenjunga. On our way back we stop to visit the sacred Ghoom Monastery-that enshrines a 15-ft tall image of Maitreya Buddha and preserves sacred Buddhist manuscripts and murals. Now, we get on the toy-train and enjoy the fantastic views of Kanchenjunga and picturesque surrounding. We have 10 minutes stop in Batista Loop that has a garden and a war memorial built in tribute to Gorkha soldiers of Darjeeling who sacrificed their lives in the battle. 

We return to the hotel for breakfast and after that set out with our guide and driver to explore attractions of Darjeeling that includes: Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (remains closed on Thursdays), Tenzing Rock, Chitrey Tea Garden (outer views), Japanese Temple and the Peace Pagoda.

In the evening, take a stroll in Chowrasta and Mall Road-a favorite place for locals to hang out.

Overnight: New Elgin Hotel
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 04~Gangtok-the capital of Sikkim

After breakfast, check out hotel as we move on to our next destination-Gangtok-the capital city of Sikkim. It's a whirly and adventurous drive on the winding roads, with the captivating beauty of the terraced tea estates and soaring Himalayan peaks. We will have a short tea-break in Lopchu-a famous Lover's Point that offers views of the confluence of Teesta River and Rangit River.

A few miles before Gangtok, we take a side excursion of Rumtek Monastery which is 12 km (or 7.5 miles) from the main road. Rumtek Monastery -built by the 16th Karmapa Lama- the supreme head of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism is the largest monastery of this sect outside Tibet. The 16th Karmapa, along with his followers, fled Tibet in 1959 after Chinese takeover of Tibet and built this monastery with the help of Sikkim’s Chogyal (king) Tashi Namgyal to preserve the wealth of his lineage and portable spiritual treasures & relics. Also, visit the Karma Nalanda Institute for higher Buddhist studies. 

We arrive in Gangtok by mid-afternoon. Check into your hotel and balance of the day is for rest. If you wish, you can take a stroll in and around MG Road and get the feel of Gangtok’s local life.

Overnight: Denzong Regency
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 05~Explore Gangtok

Today, we visit the unique Research Institute of Tibetology on a hilltop which was established in 1958 to promote research on Tibet and Mahayana Buddhism. Here, we will see the biggest collection of Tibetan scripts and an excellent collection of rare Thangka, bronze and cult objects. We also visit the Orchid Sanctuary in the south of the institute. This sanctuary contains over 450 indigenous species. Sikkim is considered a paradise for orchid lovers. 

Next, visit the Tsuk-la-Khang, the royal chapel which is standing on a high bridge. It is a significant place of worship and has a large and impressive collection of scriptures. We visit the Institute of Cottage Industries which is an attraction as it produces a wide range of local Lepcha handicrafts. Finally, visit the Enchey monastery- which is believed to be 200 years old. The monks of this monastery belong to Mahayana Buddhism.

Overnight: Denzong Residency
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 06~Pelling

We have a long day today. So we leave after early morning breakfast. We travel via Ravangla (43 miles, 3-hours) and stop to visit the 118 feet tall statue of Guru Padmasambhava-who is known as Guru Rinpoche by locals. Our hotel in Pelling is further 28 miles, a 2-hours scenic drive on the winding roads.

We will have time to settle into our room and after lunch, visit the Pemayantse Monastery- an ancient and one of the most exceptional monasteries of Sikkim. The monastery has an impressive and exquisite architecture and houses an unusual Sangdok Palri "Temple of Heaven" which contains a wooden figure that took seven years to carve single-handedly by the late Dugzom. The monastery is the principal seat of ancient Nyingmapa sect and controls all other Nyingmapa monasteries of Sikkim.

Based on available time, you may visit other attractions of Pelling.

Overnight: The Elgin Mount Pandim Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 07~Kalimpong

A scenic three hours drive, 65 km or 41 miles brings us to Kalimpong-another British developed hill resort town. Set amongst the rolling foothills and deep valleys of the Himalayas, Kalimpong is a  relatively small but bustling and rapidly growing town. Here, the culture and lifestyle of people reflect the influences of neighboring Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.

Check in to your hotel and after some rest, proceed for the exploration of Kalimpong. Begin from Dr. Graham's Home, started in 1900 by a Scottish missionary, Dr. John Anderson Graham, who along with his wife, dedicated their lives in building up this beautiful complex for the education & care of orphans & other underprivileged children. Continue visits of Thapa Choling monastery- which houses a library of Tibetan manuscripts and Thangkas. We will also visit the Thongsa monastery and Durbin Dara the highest point in Kalimpong with superb views over the plains rolling down to Siliguri.

Overnight: Elgin Silver Oaks
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 08~Jaldapara National Park

After breakfast, we leave on a scenic drive to Jaldapara National Park ( 90 miles, 4 hours)-one of the prominent wildlife sanctuaries in the eastern Himalaya. The park is home to exotic wildlife that includes Royal Bengal Tiger, Gaur, Leopard, Sambar, Chital, Hog Deer, Barking deer, Great one horned Rhinoceros, Bisons, elephants, etc. It's also a haven for bird watchers - Bengal Florican, Horn Bill, Racket-tailed Drongo, Paradise Flycatcher, etc. can be spotted here.

Check into your hotel. After wash up and change, we proceed for the afternoon safari in the park (3:00 PM-4:30 PM). Most commonly spotted animals are Great One Horned Rhinoceros, Bisons and elephants.

Overnight: West Bengal Tourist Lodge
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 09~Jungle safari excursions

After an early morning cup of tea or coffee, we go for an elephant safari. The elephants are primarily for the use of forest guards for patrolling the park, and so they are subject to availability. In case elephants are occupied, we will take the alternative jeep safari. The elephant takes us through dense jungles with patches of marshy and grassy lands and water holes. Most commonly spotted animals are Great One Horned Rhinoceros, bison and elephants. 

We return to the hotel for breakfast, and we have free time until afternoon jeep safari which starts around 3 p.m Or you can go for a village walk or visit the Tiger Rehabilitation Center.

Overnight: West Bengal Tourist Lodge
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10~Cross the border into Bhutan and travel to Thimphu

Leisurely morning breakfast and transfer to Phuentsoling-the frontier town of Bhutan where we switch to Bhutanese car and guide. After completing border formalities, we travel to Thimphu (110 miles, six or seven hours). It's a scenic journey through the spectacular landscape with waterfalls, small villages and with continually changing vegetation.

We arrive in Thimphu late afternoon. Check into your hotel for well-deserved rest. In the evening, your guide will take you for a stroll in the town to get the feel of the city.

Overnight: Khang Residency
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 11~Explore Thimphu

We have a busy day today! After breakfast, we are off for an exploration of Thimphu. On the weekend, it's worth visiting the weekend market. In the nearby stadium, we can also watch archery matches. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. 

Next, visit the National Institute Zorig Chusum that offers a six years course on Bhutan's traditional arts and crafts that include painting, wood carving, embroidery, and statue making. Then, visit the Simply Bhutan Museum, a living museum of Bhutan, resembling a typical village that promotes the cultural heritage and local lifestyle. Here, you will have a chance to wear traditional Bhutanese costumes and pose for photographs, if you wish.  

Next stop – the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, dispensary of traditional Bhutanese herbal and other medicines. Other attraction, if time permits and if you wish is the textile academy that preserves the centuries-old living art of Bhutan. Thimphu's latest addition is Buddha Dordenma, a gigantic 177 ft tall Buddha statue on a ridge overlooking the valley.

Late afternoon, take a short 10-minute hike through the forest to visit the Takin Sanctuary. Takin– a kind of sheep by way of antelope, is the National animal of Bhutan and believed to exist only in Bhutan Himalaya. On the way back to our hotel, we’ll stop at the Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba, home to 40-60 Buddhist nuns.

Finally, we visit the Trasichoe Dzong that houses the Royal Throne, National Assembly, and the seat of Chief Abbot of the central monastic body.

Hiking option: Hiking enthusiasts keen to experience a monastic lifestyle away from the crowds of town can take a half-day hike to Tango Goemba monastery. You’ll miss some sights listed above though. Tango Goebma Monastery is Bhutan's highest learning center for Buddhist studies. All Je Khenpo, the religious head of Bhutan, must complete a nine-year program here and a three-year, three-month, three-day in mediation at the nearby Cheri Goemba Monastery! With luck, the monks will be in recess, and we can join them for tea.

If you are interested, and with a booking, you can visit Pangri Zampa Temple for Buddhist astrology consultation. More than a hundred monks study astrology in this center, and they welcome the public for astrology consultation if anyone is interested.

Overnight: Khang Residency
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch
Day 12~Across Dhochula pass to Punakha

(77 km/ 48 miles, 3 hrs.)

Following breakfast, we begin a scenic drive to Punakha, the former winter capital of Bhutan. As we leave Thimphu behind, the road gradually winds up through villages and pine forests to Dochula Pass (3100m/10168 ft.), marked by 108 Buddhist shrines, flickering with sacred prayers flags offered by the Buddhist devotees. On a clear day, the pass offers a superb panorama of the snow-capped mountains and the valleys.

From Dhochula Pass, the road drops slowly through the changing vegetation to the sub-tropical lowlands of the Punakha and Wangdue Valleys, and we arrive at our hotel in about two hours. 

Settled into our room and re-energized after lunch, we will go hiking to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten-situated atop a beautiful hillock overlooking the valley. Built by the Queen Mother, the temple is an example of Bhutan's most excellent traditional architecture. Total trip from the parking should take about one hour.

Back down, we ride to the stunning Punakha Dzong, probably the most impressive of all the Dzong (fortress) architectures of Bhutan. It has served as the winter capital of Bhutan, and even today the chief abbot moves there from his base at Trassichoe Dzong of Thimphu.

Rafting opportunity: If you wish, you can experience a short rafting trip down Mochu River. The rafting put-in point is just below the suspension bridge, and the take-out point is near the Punakha Dzong.  It's grade II or III river, with Himalayan white waters and demands no previous experience. Cost: $150 for a group of six people.

Overnight: Drubchu Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 13~Travel to Paro

(142 km/89 miles, 4.5-5 hrs)

After breakfast, we will take a short and pleasant hike through paddy fields and villages to the legendary temple of Chime Lakhang (a.ka. Fertility Temple) associated with the Lama Drukpa Kuenley who is famously known as the Divine Madman! The houses in the village have some funny paintings of phallic symbols, and you may even come across phallus shaped door handles or crafts! Ask your guide. Why?

Now, we retrace our drive across Dhochula Pass to Paro. Shortly before the pass, we can stop at Lamperi Botanical Garden that preserves the rich fauna including Rhododendron flowers. After a lunch stop in the Dhochula pass-another opportunity to view the panorama, we will continue to Paro.

Check into your accommodations and the rest of the day is for rest.

Overnight: Khangkhu Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 14~Hike the ultimate Taktsang Monastery

A special day, with an early start. After breakfast, we’ll hike to the famous Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, a highlight of any trip to Bhutan. It is dramatically perched on the edge of a 4000-foot cliff above the valley floor; making it an unbelievable sight. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, known as Guru Rinpoche by Tibetans and Bhutanese, flew on a tigress from Tibet and landed at the monastery’s site. Guru meditated in a cave here, it is said, and subdued the local demons and established the supremacy of Buddhism in Bhutan. Therefore, the monastery is a significant pilgrimage destination for Bhutanese people.

The hike up is less than three hours and return trip down takes about half of that time. With a prior arrangement, ponies can take you two-thirds of the way up, but no further and not on the return trip down. On the way back to the town, we will the ancient Kyichu Lakhang Temple, notable as one 108 temples that King Songsten Gampo of Tibet built miraculously over a single night in the 7th century in order to subdue a demon!

Late afternoon, visit a typical Bhutanese farm family and their colorful farmhouse, made up of wood without the use of a single nail! With prior arrangement, we can share a traditional meal with the family.

Experience Traditional Hot Stone Bath (Optional): 
After such an active day, we recommend a traditional Bhutanese Hot stone bath, an ancient Bhutanese method of curing skin ailments, joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders, arthritis, and many other diseases. Your guide needs one day advance notice to arrange the hot stone bath and it can be taken at some hotel or a private farm house. Estimated cost is $25 per person.

Overnight: Khangkhu Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 15~Depart Paro

Your two weeks long Bhutan and Sikkim Odyssey conclude today. You have the option to fly to Delhi or Kathmandu or Bangkok. We can book the flight for you and bill you separately.

Meals : Breakfast

Trip Map

Trip Info

Trip Includes

  • Accommodation on twin or double sharing basis in 3* hotels (by local standard)
  • Three meals a day as indicated in the itinerary (Lunch pack will be provided for road trip)
  • All transfers and tour by a private vehicle.
  • English speaking local guides.
  • Sightseeing admission fees.
  • Sikkim permits.
  • Bhutan visa and royalty

Trip Does Not Include

  • Drinks, tipping, and other personal expenses
  • International and internal airfares (Delhi-Bagdgora and Paro-Delhi)
  • India visa (You need to obtain Indian visa beforehand)
  • Extra expenses or loss due to nature and unforeseen events such as flight cancellation, delay, illness, civil unrest, inclement weather etc.
  • Travel Insurance.

Indian Visa and Sikkim Permits

Except Nepalese and Bhutanese nationals, travelers from foreign countries require passport and visa to travel to India. Please, make sure that the remaining validity of your passport is minimum 6 months beyond your return date. As India does not grant visa upon arrival, you need to obtain visa in advance.

You can obtain traditional Indian visa via Cox & King Global Services-the only authorized service provider for the Embassy of India and its Consulates across the USA. You can also obtain eVisa online. Beside Indian visa, you will require inner line permit (ILP) to enter Sikkim which we will locally obtain for you.

We will also take care of your Bhutan visa and will email you visa copy two or three weeks prior your trip date.

Best time for this trip.

Eastern Himalayan areas experiences cold winters between November to February and monsoon affects Darjeeling from  May to the middle of September.The best season to take this trip will be Spring ( March & April) and Fall (October and November). Spring is the time rhododendron and orchids come in bloom and abundant sunshine. During the fall, we have clear weather and better visibility. 

Accommodation

There are limited choices for accommodation in Darjeeling and Sikkim area. The top end properties in Darjeeling and Sikkim are 3 star equivalent hotels with private bathroom with running hot and cold water. Our preferred hotels in Sikkim are locally managed Elgin group of hotels and government tourist lodge in Jaldapara. In Bhutan also, our preferred properties are mid-range three star hotels which are comfortable, locally owned and managed properties. They are small properties with 25-30 rooms. You will have private bathroom with running hot water. 

Food

This trip features 3 meals a day. We will eat our breakfast and dinner at our hotels where as for the day meal, we are provided with cold lunch box. Hotels in the cities offer varieties that include Indian, Nepali and western style dishes but as we travel in the Western and North Sikkim, we may have limited choices. You may want to bring with you some energy bars, dry fruits and vitamin systems to maintain calorie level and keep the body system ticking.

Transportation

We provide you with SUVs or Jeeps for entire transfers and tours which are in good conditioned and well maintained. Being the mountainous road, the road condition may not be in the best form due to monsoon rain and landslides and mechanical breakdowns and flat tires are unpredictable but our drivers are experienced; prepared for all kinds of challenges. Rerouting of the itinerary due to landslides or road blockade is not an uncommon if you are traveling during summer and early autumn.

Guide

You will be accompanied by experienced and knowledgeable English speaking local guides throughout the tour. Guide changes when you travel from Sikkim to Bhutan.Our guides are college graduate, trained and certified by the local government authorities and most importantly, they are flexible and friendly. They will share their knowledge; guide you on the path and show the wonders of the areas that you would never discover on your own. Your guide will carry all the necessary vouchers and permits and deal with the local bureaucracies for you and coordinate with the local office and crews and make sure that your tour goes smoothly without a hitch.

Health Issues

There is no mandatory vaccination required for travel to India and Sikkim. Yet, you may consider vaccination against rabies and Hep A. Please consult with your physician before you decide to take any vaccinations. We don’t attain any significant altitude in this trip and so we don’t need to worry about any altitude related illness. This trip requires some soft hikes and so some level of physical fitness is desired.

Our hotels do maintain highest level of hygiene standard yet; we need to be cautious when we order food. Refrain from eating raw foods like with green salads which might be washed with untreated water. Avoid buying foods with the street vendors and drink only the bottled water and where bottled water is not available, please make sure that the water supplied is properly boiled and medicated.

International and internal travel, pre-trip and post trips

The trip cost does not include the airfare. The trip involves two in-tour airfare Delhi to Bagdogra and Paro to Delhi that we will book for you and bill separately. You need to buy your return international airfare to Delhi. After the trip in Bhutan, you have also option to fly to Kathmandu, Nepal or Bangkok, Thailand. You can book your international airfare on your own or we are ready to assist you with the reservation.

Booking and Cancellation

When you are sure you are traveling, please don't delay in booking. Timely made booking helps to secure reservation in preferred hotels and flights. A deposit of US$300 is requested along with complete trip application form and passport copies.

Balance payment is due 90 days prior to your departure. Depending on the number of applicants, we may set an early payment date. Credit card payment attracts additional fee.

Cancellation fee

  • 90 days prior departure: Administrative fee US$ 150 per person.
  • 60-89 day's prior departure: US$ 250 or 25% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • 45 days to 59 days prior departure: US$ 450 or 50% of the land cost whichever is higher
  • 30 days to 44 days prior departure: US$ 600 or 75% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • Less than 30 days: 100%.

Travel Protection Plan

While we plan and do our best to make your trip smooth and seamless, there may be chances of unforeseen events and conditions such as illness, accident, inclement weather, and flight cancellation or missed connection or loss of baggage etc. that may cause interruption or delay or total cancellation of your trip putting your hard earned travel investment in jeopardy. It’s also possible that you may need medical assistance, emergency evacuation or medical transportation when you get ill or involve in an accident when you are traveling in remote areas. Far & High’s Tour cost does not cover any of these expenses or losses and so we strongly recommend you that you should protect yourself and your travel investment against those unfavorable conditions.

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