- Sikkim: Tibetan shrines and monasteries in the Himalayan foothills
- Stunning scenery: giant rhododendrons, flamboyant orchids and fertile slopes planted with tea bushes.
- Cooking lessons, visit an organic tea plantation, lunch on the farm - all included in the itinerary
- Private tours, driver & private guides, local Concierge
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DARJEELING & SIKKIM
YOUR TRIPIt starts with a tour of Delhi's Tibetan Quarter, followed by lunch with a Tibetan Buddhist expert, who will remind you of its history and principles - red hats, yellow hats, tantras, ascetics and yoga. After a night trip through Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi, you'll leave Delhi for Darjeeling. Included in the itinerary: sunrise over Kangchenjunga (the world's third highest mountain), puja (prayers) at the temple, walking around the city, visiting monasteries perched high and a visit to a Tibetan refugee centre. Not forgetting an experience to learn about growing the most famous black tea in the world, from a small certified organic producer. You then head to Sikkim, where you'll visit the Pemayangtse and Sanga Choeling monasteries. Enjoy a morning at the Spa, to admire the Himalayan peaks, followed by a cookery class in the home of a local, to learn how to make traditional Tibetan dishes. In Gangtok, you'll visit the monasteries of Rumtek, Phodang and Labrang and the Institute of Tibetology. In Kalimpong you will discover the ancient Thongsa Gompa before hiking to the surrounding villages. On the logistics side, you'll be transferred by plane to Darjeeling; other trips are made by private car with a driver. All of the tours are private and accompanied by guides. We have selected your accommodation for their excellent locations, their atmosphere and the quality of the hospitality they offer their guests. And throughout your trip, you have the contact details of our local Concierge, who can be reached at any time and knows the region like the back of their hand.
FLIGHT TO DELHI
You'll be welcomed at the airport, with a private transfer and two-night stay in a well-known hotel. The luxury on show is staggering, including its lounges, huge corridors, vast dining rooms, and in the suites themselves. It was here that the English hosted royalty, and negotiated Pakistan's independence. It is now one of the most iconic hotels in India. The hotel's colonial art collections are the country's largest and are available for guests to view.
Included in the itinerary - Start your journey over lunch with a specialist in Tibetan Buddhism, who will talk to you about its history and principles. The introduction of Buddhism to Tibet dates from the seventh century. There are four Buddhist schools in Tibet: the Nyingma School, or Red Hat sect, relies on tantra teaching and yoga practice. The Kagyu School, founded by the poet, hermit, and Tibetan magician Milarepa (1040-1123), advocates meditation and asceticism. Sakya School is renowned for the quality of the scholarship of its members. Finally, the Gelug school, to which the Dalai Lama belongs, is that of the yellow hats, whose followers submit to strict monastic discipline. A private visit to the Tibetan quarter - head to the north-east of the capital, where a few thousand Tibetan refugees have taken up residence in the district of Majnu Ka Tila, which is distinguished by the calm of its small alleyways, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Colourful prayer flags fly above the houses. After visiting a temple and monastery, where you will meet Mr. Sonam Gyatso, who is in charge of the premises, you can stroll around the market, between street vendors of momos (dumplings) and textiles made of yak hair. In the evening, you have an appointment for a night visit to Chandni Chowk. At night, you'll discover a completely different atmosphere, from Sikh temples to mosques and from confectionery to chai cafes, lose yourself in the alleys of the big bazaar, whose shops are open until the early hours of the morning. The walk ends in front of the Jama Masjid Mosque, the largest in the country.
DELHI - DARJEELING
Private transfer to the airport and flight to Bagdogra. Pick up your car, with a private driver, and drive to Darjeeling (three hours) along green hills, planted with tea bushes. Spend three nights at your hotel in the heart of the city, with spacious rooms overlooking the mountains and Kangchenjunga Mountains.
Included in the itinerary - walking tour of Darjeeling. With India's highest peak at 28,169ft towering over it, Darjeeling was once the summer resort of choice for British residents, who used to decamp to its summer quarters to escape the hot plains. Dotted with flamboyant rhododendrons and white magnolias, surrounded by endless rolling hills, emerald green tea bushes and coniferous forests, it retains traces of the British presence: cottages, grand houses, and 'British' churches.
Included in the itinerary - Sunrise over Kangchenjunga. The third highest summit in the world, Kangchenjunga towers over the border region with Nepal. You'll take the road at dawn to Tiger Hill, at an altitude of 8,500ft, to watch the sunrise on the Himalayan mountains. It's an experience you'll share with a host of locals who are as enthralled as the tourists. On the way, you'll stop at the Hindu temple for the puja (prayer) ceremony - before heading back to the hotel for breakfast. You'll then board the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a steam train commissioned by the British in 1878 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which climbs from 397 to 6,811ft above sea level. Between Darjeeling and Ghoom, the train climbs the curves through tea plantations at six mph. In Ghoom, visit the tiny railway museum, before reaching the Yiga Choeling Monastery - at 7,300ft above sea level, it is the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery, built in 1875, affiliated to the yellow hat sect. Here you can see a tall Buddha statue, Buddhist texts, and objects representing Tibetan art.
Optional - A meditation session at the monastery, accompanied by a monk.
Included in the itinerary - A visit to the Mountain Museum. Founded in 1954, The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute is steeped in history. A training camp for mountaineers, the Institute is also a museum that traces the different Himalayan expeditions through press clippings, photos, and samples of equipment used for climbing over the years, including expeditions to Everest. Also planned: visit the plantation of a small tea producer, certified organic. There are almost 90 tea plantations in the region, covering an area of 200-1,235 acres. Darjeeling tea is one of the most prestigious in the world and the most popular of black teas, for its light body, floral aromas, bitterness and spicy notes. After visiting the plantation, accompanied by a member of the farm, you'll have lunch on the farm. In the afternoon, you visit the Tibetan refugee centre, created in 1959 by Gyalo Thondup, sister-in-law of the Dalai Lama. This refugee centre has enabled many exiled Tibetans to live with respect for their culture. Today there is a school, a hospital and a gompa. Self-sufficient, the centre sells crafts. You'll visit carpeting workshops, where unique pieces, mainly intended for export, are made with antique machines.
DARJEELING - PELLING
Journey to Sikkim (four hours), on the eastern foothills of the Himalayas. Two nights' accommodation in your hotel, whose spacious rooms and terrace offer stunning views of Kangchenjunga.
Included in the itinerary - A visit to Pemayangtse monastery, belonging to the Sikkim Red Hats sect, founded in the 18th century. At an altitude of over 6,500ft, the 'sanctuary of the sublime and perfect lotus' preserves wall paintings and a three-hundred-year-old library, which bears witness to an artistic past of exceptional richness. It was once the prerogative of the monks of Pemayangtse to perform the royal ceremonies. Sanga Choeling Monastery, the oldest in the country, is poised on a ridge top overlooking the city of Pelling - you walk an hour to reach it, with a breathtaking view over Kangchenjunga.
Included in the itinerary - A morning at the spa. Ayurvedic treatments, hydrotherapies, massages, and health-restoring body treatments, as you look out over Himalayan peaks. Then, cooking classes and lunch in the home of a local. The momo, or mok-mok, traditional Tibetan cuisine, is ravioli stuffed with yak, pork or beef meat, steamed and accompanied by a spicy sauce.
PELLING - GANGTOK
Journey to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, along a road lined with lush jungle and wild gorges lined with cardamom fields. A two-night stay in your hotel in the heart of Gangtok, surrounded by greenery. This establishment, dating back to 1932, has recently been restored but still retains its old-fashioned charm.
Included in the itinerary - A visit to Rumtek Monastery. The Rumtek monastery lies a few miles west of the city and dates back to the 15th century. It's home to the great Lama of Tibet in exile in India. It is the largest monastery in the Eastern Himalayas, and the main training centre for monks of the Kagyu lineage. It houses a golden stupa containing the ashes of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa (the head of the Karma Kagyu, the largest sub-sect of the Kagyu), a library and a prayer room.
Included in the itinerary - At dawn, you'll watch the sunrise over the Kangchenjunga mountains. You continue with a visit to The Institute of Tibetology, the largest in the country. Renowned around the world, it specialises in research into Tibetan traditions, language and religion. It has amassed valuable collections of manuscripts, pieces of art, thangkas and statues. In the Institute's gardens you can also admire some beautiful varieties of orchids. You'll then visit the Phodang Monastery, inhabited by 300 monks, and renowned for its 18th-century frescoes which, from floor to ceiling, illustrate the different stages of Buddhist teaching. A little further up the hill, the Labrang Chapel is a gem of Himalayan art, restored in the 1990s by artisans from Bhutan.
GANGTOK - KALIMPONG
Included in the itinerary - A visit to the ancient Thongsa Gompa, the city's oldest monastery, built in 1692. Discovering crafts - down from the main street, where there are many shops, the morning market is joyfully colourful. Sitting on the floor, the merchants wait for customers, while sipping from a teacup. Wooden huts overflow with silk saris and large naturally woven shawls.
Road to Kalimpong and two nights' accommodation in your hotel, just a few miles from the city - six bungalows immersed in nature. We love the verandah, which offers an exceptional view of the Himalayan chain.
Included in the itinerary - A walk in the village of Hee Bermiok. Along giant rhododendron and pine forests, you head to Hee Bermiok village. The walk through the village allows you to meet locals and observe their way of life. The walk concludes with lunch at the home of a local.
KALIMPONG - BAGDOGRA - DELHI - RETURN FLIGHT
Journey to the airport, flight to Delhi, then an international flight back home. Overnight flight, arriving the next day.
A la carte
WITH A FEW EXTRA DAYS
Head to the flower market under the Howrah bridge at dawn to see merchants preparing their wares - hibiscus lotus, jasmine and much more. Take a tram for a longer tour - visit the seat of the government of East Bengal; admire the architecture - Art Nouveau, marble and wooden buildings; see Jain temples; explore the huge Maidan Park; and admire the colourful stained glass windows of St. Paul's Cathedral. In the 'black city', you'll see Corinthian columns, balconies adorned with Greek statues on the ancient homes of the Babus - Bengali merchants who acquired their wealth in the time of the British Indies show the glorious past of the empire. At the Crafts Council of West Bengal, you can admire the wonders of Orissa Aboriginal craftsmanship - pottery, fabrics, and jewellery. Spend the end of the afternoon at the Coffee House on College Street - a legendary place where generations of students, poets, and intellectuals have gathered for decades.
Bhutan, a haven for Lamaic Buddhism, cultivates its thousand-year-old rituals and traditions on the slopes of the high Himalayan summits, far from the bustle and clamour of the world. Bhutan has remained reluctant to enter the modern world and remains a medieval universe where monks perpetuate unchanged ancient rituals. From rhododendron forests to rivers and glaciers, from shrines to fortified monasteries, visiting Bhutan is like a journey through a time capsule of preserved tradition.
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