The magic and mystery of the Himalayas
Join us for a unique small group tour to one of the most remote corners of the world. Spend a week in the tiny but enchanting country of Bhutan, where success is measured in Gross National Happiness instead of GDP; explore Kolkata, the friendly, thriving city that was once the headquarters of the British Raj; and relax in the calm, cool surroundings of the famous colonial hill station of Darjeeling.
Darjeeling and Bhutan Himalayan Tour Itinerary
Fly to Kolkata via Mumbai.
Day One: Overnight flight from the UK to India
You'll land in Kolkata in the mid afternoon. Our Tour Manager will meet you at the airport, and you'll be transferred to your first five-star hotel, the Oberoi Grand, for the chance to rest after your flight. Later, enjoy a leisurely evening and dinner at your hotel.
Day Two: Arrive in Kolkata
Today's tour will introduce the city, known as Calcutta throughout its time as the headquarters of the British Raj. See the majestic domed General Post Office, the Marble Palace, the Victoria Memorial beside the green expanse of the Maidan, and other grand imperial buildings around Dalhousie Square. Cross Howrah Bridge (one of the world's longest cantilever bridges) and explore the vast bustle of the Malik Ghat flower market just beyond, and the Mother House - final resting place of Saint Teresa.
Day Three: Included guided tour of Kolkata
Landing in Paro, Bhutan's only international airport, you'll enter a landscape unlike any you've experienced before. Brightly coloured prayer flags flutter on the hillsides, temples and white-walled dzong fortresses rise from the slopes, and the people around you wear colourful robes, embroidered jackets and long, sash-like scarves whose colour denotes social standing. Your Bhutanese Tour Manager will meet you at the airport and you'll follow the valley roads to Thimphu, the nation's capital.
Day Four: Fly to Bhutan and travel to Thimphu
Relax or explore the city, then join your guide for a sunset drive to 'Buddha Point' in Kuensel Phodrang Nature Park above the city, where a serene 51-metre-high Golden Buddha sits overlooking the southern approach to Thimphu.
Uncover the rhythms and rituals of daily life in Bhutan on your first full day in Thimphu. Visit a weaving centre, a handicrafts emporium and the hilltop Zilukha Nunnery. See the golden-spired Memorial Chorten (which commemorates the life of Bhutan's third Dragon King ruler) and the monumental Tashichho Dzong, the country's seat of government since 1968.
Day Five: Included tour of Thimphu
Leaving Thimphu behind, today we'll travel up and over Dochula Pass to Bhutan's ancient capital, Punakha. Pray for clear weather at the head of the pass (10,000 feet above sea level) because the views of the surrounding Himalayan mountains are simply unforgettable.
Day Six: Travel through the Himalaya to Punakha
Along the way, we'll stop to take a short hike to Chimi Lhakhang, a 15th-century Buddhist monastery dedicated by Bhutan's "Divine Madman" Lama Kunley. The monastery and the nearby village are famous for their vivid (even graphic) decorations and unique fertility blessings.
Today takes us back through the breathtaking Himalayan scenery to the Paro Valley. We'll spend two nights here, exploring a landscape dotted with temples, dzongs and elegant wooden houses. Enjoy guided tours of the National Museum of Bhutan, which is housed in an ancient watchtower, the fascinating Rinpung Dzong and the Seventh Century Kyichu Lhakhang monastery - one of the oldest temples in Bhutan.
Day Seven: Through the Himalaya to the Paro Valley
Clinging impossibly to the cliffs, 900 metres above the forested valley, Paro Taktsang is Bhutan's most iconic sacred landmark. Today we'll hike through the pine forest for a magical view of this astonishing monastery, built on the spot where the Guru Padmasambhava (usually known as Guru Rinpoche) is said to have meditated after arriving on the back of a flying tigress.
Day Eight: Climb to the Tiger's Nest
As we descend back into the valley you'll stop at one of the nearby farms for the chance to take traditional butter tea with a Bhutanese family.
Spend another day travelling through Bhutan's verdant, mountainous countryside. We'll stop for lunch before continuing south to Phuntsholing, where the ornately carved and coloured Bhutan Gate marks the border between the mountain kingdom and India.
Day Nine: Travel to Southern Bhutan
Crossing back into India, we'll wind our way through the foothills of the Lesser Himalaya to Darjeeling, where the green patchwork of tea-plantations unrolls below the distant vastness of some of the world's highest mountains.
Day 10: Coach travel to Darjeeling
One of the most popular hill stations during the British Raj, this elegant, genteel, Victorian watering hole continues to welcome visitors from across the globe. Check in to your hotel, then perhaps take a stroll around Chowrasta, Darjeeling's traffic-free mall, before dinner.
Weather permitting, you'll have the chance to take an early morning trip to Ghum this morning, to round of your tour of the Himalayas with the astonishing sight of the sun rising above distant Everest, Lhotse and Kanchenjunga from Tiger Hill.
Day 11: Ride the Toy Train to Ghum
After breakfast, we'll board the Toy Train and ride through the forested slopes to Ghum's ancient monastery, before returning to Darjeeling for the afternoon. Why not finish your time here by paying your respects to the grave of Sherpa Tenzing at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, or shop for local handicrafts at the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre?
Today we'll head to Bagdogra Airport and fly west across India to Delhi where we'll spend our final night in a comfortable overnight hotel close to the airport.
Day 12: Fly to Delhi
Late this evening we'll end our Himalayan tour and touch down in the UK after a day-time flight home from Delhi.
Day 13: Fly back to the UK