Sikkim And Darjeeling
Sikkim certainly qualifies as a mythical Shangri-La. It”s steep slopes are striped with rice terraces, tea plantations and cardamom. Temples and fairytale towns are tacked onto the faces of sheer cliffs throughout a craggy kingdom running up and down magnificent ridges. And the people are as colorful a mix as the terrain: Nepalese, Tibetan, Bhutanese, Hindi and numerous hill tribes. Here, near the top of the world, visitors cannot help but feel special. Everest is visible just beyond Sikkim”s own Mount Khangchendzonga, surrounded by snow-capped peaks including the third highest in the world. In the clear, mountain air, Tibet seems so close you can smell the Yak butter tea. Bhutan is just miles away. But Sikkim offers one thing its celebrated neighbors cannot: free and easy access.
Darjeeling the champagne of teas. Apart from being the Queen of Hill stations in the Indian Sub-continent, Darjeeling’s worldwide fame actually comes from just two leaves and a bud, in other words Tea. The reputation is well deserved as Darjeeling produces the world’s most aromatic variety of tea. The unusual mixture of soil, sltitude, sunshine, rainfall and the character of its people help produce the most fragrant of teas known and admired the world over as the champagne of teas. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) is the first, and still the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway. It was inscribed on the list of World Heritage sites. Only two railways have this status, the Semmering Railway in Austria being the other.
Day 01: Arrival in Delhi. Meet and Greet and transfer to your hotel.
Day 02: Delhi
Morning rest after the long flight. Afternoon sightseeing of Old & New Delhi including Red Fort, India Gate, Qutab Minar & riksha ride through the Chandni Chowk Market in Old Delhi.
Day 03: Fly to Bagdogra and drive to Darjeeling (90 km / 3hrs)
Transfer to airport for flight 9W602 dep. 1010 hr/ arr. 1215 hr to Bagdogra. You will be met on arrival at the Bagdogra airport. Drive to Darjeeling. Overnight at your Hotel.
Day 04: Darjeeling
Before sunrise drive to Tiger Hill to enjoy sunrise over the third highest peak in the world Mt. Kanchenjunga (28169 Ft). Return hotel for breakfast. Afterwards ride the Toy Train one way (2 hrs) to Ghoom. It is a treat to arrive at the train station sometime before the departure and watch them prepare the vintage steam engine for the journey. Only about four bogies and a vintage 1st class chair car are attached to this engine which still needs to stop mid way to fill up its tank with water and wait till it heats up enough to make steam. One can climb up the engine for a close inspection, take photos with it and with the driver and the train supervisor.
The car will meet you at Ghoom train station and drive app.3 km (20 min) to the Monastery at Ghoom. Known as Aloobari Monastery, it is the oldest monastery in the region and quite interesting. Return to Darjeeling by car (45 min).
Afternoon visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (established in 1954 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary who first climbed the Mt Everest in 1953). The Everest museum here has photographic and archival record of all attempts ever made to scale the world’s highest peak. Also visit the Tibetan refugee self help center, the Bhutia Monastery which houses the original text of the Buddhist Book of the Dead and the Rail Museum to learn about the toy train which UNESCO recognizes as the World Heritage Railway.
Day 05: Darjeeling – Pemyangtse (112 km / 4hrs)
A drive along the Tista Valley takes you to the Sikkim border at Melli and then you travel through the Rangit Valley up to Pemyangtse. From here one can view Mt. Khangchen Dzonga (8,588 m /
25,169 ft), Pandim (6,693 mt/21,953 ft), Siniolchu (6,889 mt/22,597ft) and other ranges. Situated on a hillock is Pemyangtse Monastery, belonging to the Nyingmapa sect. This Monastery is the head of all other monasteries of this sect in Sikkim. Your journey to Pemayangtse takes you past Rabdanste, which was the second capital of Sikkim and was established in the late 17th century by the second Chogyal of Sikkim. It was abandoned towards the end of the 18th century because
of the threat posed by the Nepalis. Overnight at the lovely Norbugang Resort.
Day 06: Pemyangtse.
Today visit the premier monastery of Pemyangtse (Perfect Sublime Lotus). Latsun Chembo first built as a small temple in the late 17th century. Later Jigme Pawo, who was the third reincarnate of Latsun Chembo, extended and rebuilt the structure in the form of a big monastery. The monastery contains numerous antique idols and objects of worship, most of which are priceless because of their antiquity. On the top floor is a seven tiered painted wooden sculpture portraying the Mahaguru’s Heavenly Palace ‘Sangthokpalri’ which was completed in a span of five years, single handedly by the late Dungzin Rinpoche. Annual Chaam dance is held on the 28th and 29th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar, normally corresponding to the month of February.
A 2 km walk from the main road near Pemyangtse Monastery through a thick forest will take you to Rabdanste Palace. The Palace is in ruins, however, the chortens around it have withstood the elements of nature. The ruins are now being preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India and have been declared a monument. Overnight at the hotel.
Day 07: Pemyangtse – Gangtok (160 km / 6hrs)
Drive to Gangtok enroute visiting Rumtek Monastery, which is perched on a hilltop facing the city of Gangtok. The original Monastery was built in 1730 by the ninth Karmapa but was destroyed due to a fire and His Holiness, the sixteenth Karmapa in 1960, then constructed the present one. It is certainly the largest monastery in Sikkim and is a fine example of Tibetan architecture. The prayer hall in the main monastery is intricately decorated with statues, wall paintings, thangkas and tubular silk banners. A flight of stairs from just outside the Main Monastery complex takes you to the Nalanda Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies. 15 minutes walk downhill from the Main Monastery takes one to the Old Rumtek Monastery.
After your visit a short drive takes you to Gangtok, the “Lofty Hill,” which is the capital of Sikkim. The Ranipool River flows to its west. Gangtok has a very spectacular setting and offers excellent views of the entire Khangchen Dzonga range from various points in its vicinity. It is a city, which, till one sees it, one would believe exists only in picture-story books. In the mystery-laden mists prayer flags whip the breeze and wheels spin in the hands of lamas mumbling invocations to God. In the distance are the snows, on the streets amidst brightly painted pagoda roofed houses, lined with friendly smiling people are silver, silk, spice and jewelery to gladden a maiden’s heart.
Day 08: Gangtok
In Gangtok visit Enchey Monastery, Lama Druptob Karpo is supposed to have built a small hermitage at this spot after he flew here from Maenam Hill more than two hundred years ago. During the reign of Sidkeong Tulku, a monastery was built here in 1901 in the form of a Chinese Pagoda. The monastery follows the Nyingma Order.
Other places of interest during your day in Gangtok are: Government Institute of Cottage Industries: This center offers the opportunity to observe local artisans at work. The institute’s salesroom is well stocked with local handicraft and handloom products. Do-Drul Chorten: One of the most important Stupas of Sikkim built by the late Venerable Trulsi Rimpoche in 1945-46, it contains a mandala of Dorji-Phurpa, holy texts, mantras and is encircled by 108 prayer wheels. Research Institute of Tibetology: Situated close to the Chorten this institute is a repository of the largest collection of Tibetan artifacts outside Tibet. Also renowned worldwide for the study of Buddhist philosophy and religion, it is a treasure house of rare thangkas, Buddhist iconography and objects of art.
Day 09: Gangtok – Kalimpong (72 km / 3hrs)
Morning drive to Kalimpong, which is nestled in the foothills of the Himalaya. Kalimpong in local dialect means “black spur.” As per Lepchas, Kalimpong means “the ridge where we play.” It is
said that these local tribesmen used to organize field sports when not engaged in agricultural pursuits. It is also home to the most exotic species of flora and fauna.
Day 10: Kalimpong – Bagdogra – Delhi (90 km / 3 km)
Drive to Bagdogra airport for flight 9W601 dep. 1445 hr/ arr. 1650 hr to Delhi. On arrival in Delhi transfer to airporthotel for wash and change. Late night transfer to International airport for flight to home.