“Land of the Thunder Dragon” is nestled on the slopes of the Himalayas. It is the only
surviving Buddhist kingdom in the region. It is a small country, surrounded by Tibet and India, with a population of just over one million. Its stunning natural scenery, vibrant culture, mystical religion and charming people, makes Bhutan a truly exceptional place.
The Ganges is one of the major rivers of the Indian subcontinent, flowing east through the Gangetic Plain of northern India into Bangladesh. The 2,510 km (1,560 mi) river rises in the western Himalayas in the Uttarakhand state of India and drains into the Sunderbans delta in the Bay of Bengal. It has long been considered a holy river by the Hindus and worshiped as the goddess Ganga in the Hinduism.
Kolkata-the city of Joy and Love, Grandeur and Glory… Kolkata alias Calcutta is full of life and bustle, verging on the chaotic as traditional occupations rub shoulders with ultra modern industries. Kolkata, with a population of 15 million, is India’s third largest city and the capital of West Bengal. Formerly the capital of British India (1772-1912), it is the city with a great deal of charm – its imperial monuments, strong cultural and religious flavor leaves an indelible impression on the visitors. We would also be visiting The Mother Theresa Centre here.
Darjeeling, a town, nestled in the Himalayas at an altitude of 2134 meters. The name of the town has been derived from “Darjeeling” meaning ‘the place of the Dorje‟ – the Mystic. Surrounded by tea plantations, it is home to the famous “Darjeeling Tea”. The Darjeeling Toy Train – declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 is over 100yrs old and still chugs along through jungles, rice paddies, tea gardens and pine forests, making this ”a journey to remember”.
Bhutan or “Land of the Thunder Dragon” is nestled on the slopes of the eastern Himalayas, where mountains reach an altitude of 7000m. It is the only surviving Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayan region. It is a small country, surrounded by Tibet and India, with a population of just over one million. Bhutan remained isolated from the world until 1974 and thus retains its unique tradition, culture, attire, religion and lifestyle. Its stunning natural scenery, vibrant culture, mystical religion and charming people, makes Bhutan a truly exceptional place to visit.
TUESDAY 27 th OCTOBER – FLIGHT TO KOLKATA You fly to “The city of joy” – Calcutta! A colorful, hustling and bustling, friendly, cultural, colonial style, the third largest Metropolis city in India!
Overnight at a centrally located TAJ hotel.
WEDNESDAY 28 th OCTOBER KOLKATA B, L, D We start our day with sightseeing tour of Calcutta and a stroll in the city centre to smell,taste and feel Calcutta. India is the land of contrasts, contrasts in all spheres, and Calcutta is no exception. Most of the highlights are close to each other and thus we save our feet from getting blisters on our first day.
Our first stop will be by the Victoria Memorial, for Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom who also carried the title of Empress of India 1876-1901. It currently serves as a museum and a tourist attraction. The memorial was designed by Sir William Emerson in an architectural style similar to Belfast City Hall. Built between 1906 and 1921, it is a majestic white marble building at the southern end of the Maidan and surrounded by a sprawling garden. A black bronze Angel of Victory, holding a bugle in her hand was placed at the apex of the dome above the Memorial.
The Maidan (literally open field) is the home to the famous cricketing venue of Eden Gardens, several football stadiums and Kolkata Race Course. Maidan is dotted with several statues and pieces of architecture, most notable being the Victoria Memorial. It is the home to the oldest golf club outside the Great Britain – the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. It is called “lungs of Kolkata” and “Central Park of Kolkata”. Maidan is a property of the Indian Army, and hosts the Fort William, the Eastern zone high command of the Indian Army.
B. B. D. Bagh continues to be like the ‘heart’ of Kolkata and many famous buildings,housing important businesses and banks are located here. The Writer’s Building-secretariat of West Bengal government, Royal Exchange (a one-time residence of
Robert Clive and now the office of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry),General Post Office (G.P.O.), Telephone Bhawan and St. John’s Church are all situated around the square. B.B.D. Bagh formerly called Dalhousie Square, is the
shortened version for Benoy-Badal-Dinesh Bag, Indian Freedom Activists.
Overnight at Taj hotel in Kolkata
THURSDAY 29 th OCTOBER KOLKATA (B,L,D) Today we will be visiting the Mother Theresa centre. Mother Teresa (26.08.1910 – 5.09.1997), Albanian born Agnesë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu became a Catholic nun with Indiancitizenship and founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata in 1950. For over 45 years she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity’s expansion, first throughout India and then in other countries.She became internationally known through the documentary and book „Something Beautiful for God‟ by Malcolm Muggeridge. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India), in 1980.
The Hooghly River or Hugli or the Bhagirathi-Hooghly, is approximately 260 km (160mi) long distributary of the Ganges River in West Bengal. Originally called The Howrah Bridge, built over Hugli River and was renamed on as Rabindra Setu, after
Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate poet of India. However it is still popularly known as the Howrah Bridge and is a famous symbol of Kolkata and West Bengal. It successfully bears the weight of a daily traffic of approximately 80,000 vehicles and possibly, more than 1,000,000 pedestrians. It is the sixth longest bridge of its type in the world.
After dinner at the hotel, the evening is free to venture through the neighborhood or along the Hugli promenade.
FRIDAY 30 th OCTOBER SERAMPORE AND CHANDRANAGORE (B,L,D) We cruise north of Kolkata on a small boat, through the river Hugli and our first stop will be at Belur Math on the west side, which is the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, founded by Swami Vivekananda, a chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. The temple is notable for its architecture that fuses Hindu, Christian and Islamic motifs as a symbol of unity of all religions.
Our next stop is at Serampore, also called Frederiksnagore and was a part of Danish India from 1755 to 1845. The St.Olav‟s church, the Danish Graveyard and the old University are reminiscence of this golden period and under the eminent governance of the Norwegian Ole Bie from Trondheim. On the other side lies Barrackpore, which derived its name from the English word barracks. It was the site of the first major military base of the British East India Company.
Around 35km north of Howarh lies Chandranagore, a crescent shaped former French colony. It still bears traces of its colonial masters, who left in 1949 (officially in 1952).Crumbling buildings along its grand riverside promenade, formerly the Quai Dupleix and now the Strand includes what was once the Hotel de Paris, while the Eglise duCoeur, set back from the river, houses an image of Joan of Arc. We can also find the Sacré Coeur-church from1800. It can recreate the nostalgia of a south European promenade- very much similar to how it was several decades ago. We return to Kolkata for the night after an eventful and rich day of learning.
SATURDAY 31 th OCTOBER KOLKATA – DARJEELING (B,L,D)
After breakfast, transfer to Kolkata Airport from where we fly to Bagdogra at Siliguri.We fly from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU), formerly known as Dum Dum Airport, the fifth busiest airport in the country after Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore respectively. The airport we arrive at is located in the town of Bagdogra,about 16 km from the city of Siliguri in the Darjeeling district, northern West Bengal.From here we continue our journey in jeeps through the hairpin windings of the laced roads plunged amidst lush green nature. Darjeeling, a town in West Bengal, is internationally famous for its tea industry and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the headquarters of Darjeeling district, located in the Mahabharat Range or Lesser Himalaya at an average elevation of 2,050 m.Development of the town dates back to the mid-19th century, when the British set up a sanatorium and a military depot.
After we arrive at our hotel in Darjeeling and made ourselves comfortable, we will gather for dinner.
SUNDAY 1 th NOVEMBER DARJEELING (B,L,D) We take an early morning tour to Tiger hill, to see the virgin rays of the sun at Mount Kanchenjunga, (the third highest mountain peak 8586m altitude) in twilight colors.Kanchenjunga translated means “The Five Treasures of Snows”, as it contains five peaks, four of them over 8,450 meters. The treasures represent the five repositories of God, which are gold, silver, gems, grain, and holy books. Kanchenjunga is called
Sewalungma in the local Limbu language, translates as ‘Mountain that we offer Greetings to’.
Ghum or Ghoom Monastery is the popular name of the Sampten Choling Monastery or Yiga Choeling Monastery. located at Ghum at an elevation of 2400m, 8 km from Darjeeling. The monastery follows the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. There is a 15-feet high statue of “Coming Buddha” (Maitreya Buddha). From here we mount on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway or nicknamed the “Toy Train”, is a 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge railway from Siliguri to Darjeeling. It was built between 1879 and 1881 and is about 86 kilometers (53 mi) long. The elevation level is from about 100 m (328 ft) at Siliguri to about 2,200 meters (7,218 ft) at Darjeeling, approx. 2hrs. It is still powered by steam locomotives. Modern diesel engines are used for Darjeeling‟s mail train. Since 1999 the train has been a World Heritage Site as listed by UNESCO. The day comes to
an end with our visit to a tea plantation, renowned for the “Darjeeling Tea” and the Himalayan Mountain Institute, founded by Nepalese Tensing Norgay without whose help Sir Edmond Hillary would never have made it to the top of Mount Everest as the first. After a long day we retire to our cozy hotel.
Overnight at Darjeeling.
MONDAY 2 nd NOVEMBER DARJEELING – BHUTAN (B,L,D)
Early this morning we leave Darjeeling to traverse, further west in Bhutan to Phuntsoling, further west and near the southern border. It is a drive of around 180km,with several stops on the way to fill our stomach and stretch our legs. The drive is a fantastic way to experience what Bhutan has to offer with the Himalayas ranging in the background. The last part of the tour is a climb all the way to Phuntsoling. After our arrival at the hotel, the rest of the evening is free for you to explore Phuntsoling on your own.
Overnight in Phuntsoling, Bhutan.
TUESDAY 3 rd NOVEMBER PHUNTSOLING – THIMPU (B,L,D) After an early breakfast, we leave Phuntsoling and take the first road in Bhutan, which leads us, deeper into the beautiful country. To cover this distance of 172km, it took
10days prior to 1962 and today it takes us only less than half a day, should traffic be in our favor. Around midways by Wang-Chu valley, we will find a waterfall on the river Raidak, where there is a hydroelectric station. This is Bhutan‟s major energy source, where water flows through 7 tunnels placed in the mountain containing turbines. We pass through several valleys and mountains, forests, paddy fields, apple orchards etc etc. We stop for lunch in one of the villages on our way to Thimpu. Once we reach our Hotel, we will have some rest before we have our dinner. Overnight at Thimpu
WEDNESDAY 4 th NOVEMBER THIMPU, BHUTAN (B, L, D)
Thimpu Art School, Traditional Medicine, Textile Museum
Today we will have sightseeing in Thimphu with a population of 100,000, became the capital in 1961 where old and new mix in a harmonious way. Thimbu could be one of the only capitals without a Traffic signal; instead there are white gloved police who control traffic. Our hotel is next to a “Chort” from 1974, in the memory of the 3 King.According to tradition to go around the “Chorten” before they start their day, brings good luck. After gathering some luck we will proceed to the Art School, where we can watch students learning the craft of ancient art f.eg. Thangka paintings = a Tibetan silk painting with embroidery, usually depicting a Buddhist deity. Thereafter we will be visiting the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Acupuncture and other Tibetan traditional practices. After lunch, we will proceed to the Changgang Kha temple from
1100AD. Drubthob Nunnery and the National Textile Museum come next on the agenda. The last stop today is at Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the main seat of the King and serves as the religious, military, administrative, and social centers of their district.Bhutanese dzong architecture reached its zenith in the 1600s under the leadership of the great lama Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.Overnight in Thimpu
THURSDAY 5 th NOVEMBER DAY TRIP TO PUNAKHA (B, L, D) Today we visit to Punakha, the administrative center of Punakha dzongkhag, one of the 20 districts of Bhutan. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan and the seat of government until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu.
On the way we will stop at The Dochulla Palace at an altitude of 3140m, an awe inspiring sight with its festoons and flags fluttering in the wind and the 108 miniature chortens adore the top. On a clear day we can see the crowns of Himalaya adore the horizon. Driving the slopes down, we reach Punakha Valley, where we visit the winter residence of the Bhutanese religious leader. The Monastery Fort of Pungtang Dechen Photrang Dzonga at Punakha is at the confluence of the Mo Chhu (The Manly) and Pho Chhu (The Feminine) rivers. The rivers surround the dzong on three sides, providing protection from attack. We wander from here along the rice fields and lanes to the hamlet of Lobesa, where we find the fertility monastery. The monk who built this monastery called “The Divine Mad Man”, was renowned for his unconventional and almost scandalous methods, which enabled him to attain several heights of orgasms from neighbor‟s wives. He used humor and song to interpret religious doctrine and teachings to the common people and he meant that the rigidity and tradition stood often in the way embracing true Buddhism. Onwards we proceed to Wangdiphodrang, where we visit he majestic Wangdiphodrang Dzong from 1638. The Monastery Fort has a spectacular view over the two river valleys. In the evening we drive back to
Thimbu. Overnight in Thimpu
FRIDAY 6 th NOVEMBER THIMPU – PARO (B,L,D)
The tour to Paro takes around 3-4hrs and takes us through several towns and villages of west Bhutan. Paro is the name of a district (dzongkhag), valley, river and town (population 20,000) in the Kingdom of Bhutan. It is one of the most historic valleys in Bhutan. Both trade goods and invading Tibetans came over the pass at the head of the valley, giving Paro the closest cultural connection with Tibet of any Bhutanese district.
Here we check into our hotel and thereafter visit the National museum. It is a distinctive Bhutanese, where both religion and history go entwined. The artifacts thus show history of Buddhism, Thangkaer – Buddhist silk Paintings, historical artifacts, the Royal Bhutanese Stamp Collection etc. The construction was initially a watch tower belonging to the impressive Paro Dzong, which lies next to and we have a spectacular view point over the valley from here. Paro Dzong today is a Monastery Fort and houses a school of Buddhist studies for aspiring monks. The rest of the day is free at your disposal.Overnight in Paro
SATURDAY 7 th NOVEMBER PARO – KOLKATA – HOME
We have a flight at 13.00 arriving in Kolkata at 13.50. We will have a farewell dinner before check in at the airport.