Bhutan & Sikkim

Experience the magic and beauty of the Himalayan foothills, its unique cultures, distinctive architecture and spectacular scenery. This trip is a photographer’s delight!

Bhutan  

The Last Shangri-la

One of the true homes of Tibetan Buddhism, the Kingdom of Bhutan, lies along the Himalayan chain, tucked between China and India.  Long isolated from the rest of the World,  Bhutan only opened its doors to tourism in 1974, allowing 287 tourists to enter. Today, although numbers are very much higher they remain strictly controlled so that they don't impact negatively on the facilites, culture and life style of the country.  Consequently, with a history of active Government policy fostering the well being and happiness of the people, the Bhutanese culture has been able to retain its traditional  heritage, its architectural style and national dress, which is still commonly worn by both men and women.  

The scenery is awesome, with steep forested hillsides, deep ravines and as the country is home to six Himalayan giants over 7,000m, there is very often a skyline of snowy peaks.  

A highlight of the trip will be the opportunity to attend at least one of Bhutan's colourful annual festivals, most likely the "Festival of the Black Cranes" in Central Bhutan. 

Bhutan really is the Last Shangri-la

Sikkim & Darjeeling

India’s least populous state, Sikkim is a land of amazing geographical diversity, rising in altitude from a mere 290m to the towering peaks of the Himalayas. Mighty Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest peak (8,598m), overlooks a timeless landscape of lush green hillsides with groves of flowering rhododendrons and rice terraces. The vermilion  coloured Tibetan-styled  monasteries and rows of multi-coloured prayer flags adding splashes of colour to the idyllic scene.  

The richness of Sikkim’s flora and fauna is truly impressive; 450 varieties of orchids, over 600 species of butterflies and 500 species of birds,  along with red pandas, snow leopards and other animals. Gardeners and nature lovers alike will find much of interest and walkers will relish the opportunity of some countryside delightful walks in a landscape backdropped by the majestic Himalayas.   No wonder, Sikkim has become such a popular sightseeing and day-walking destination. 

Darjeeling : Often referred to as the “Queen of the Hills”, Darjeeling is alluring with a Himalayan landscape that features numerous waterfalls and tiny villages,  Tibetan monasteries, tea plantation and a narrow gauge scenic railway. Surrounded by world famous tea gardens and snow-capped mountains, Darjeeling remains a most exotic destination.

Draft Itinerary Outline  -  (subject to change)   

Day 1. Auckland to Kolkata – depart Auckland early afternoon, arrive Kolkata late evening.

Day 2. Kurseong - fly to Bagdogra, and drive 2hrs to Kurseong, the "land of the white orchid"

Day 3.  Darjeeling -visit the sights of Kurseong before taking the "toy" train to Darjeeling, the Queen of the hill stations. 

Day 4. Darjeeling - visits and short walks in and around Darjeeling 

Day 5. Pelling - stunning views of Mt Kangchenjunga, just 26 km from Pelling.

Day 6. Pelling - visits and walks in the Pelling area, including the sacred lake of Khecheopalri.

Day 7. Gangtok - Sikkim's charming Capital City

Day 8. Gangtok - visits will include the inspiring Rumtek Monastery and a wildlife Sanctuary.

Day 9. Kalimpong - drive to Kalimpong, world famous for its flower nurseries

Day 10. Kalimpong - excursion to Durpin Dara lookout for a wonderful view of the mountains. An afternoon countryside walk.

Day 11. Phuntsoling (Bhutan) - enter Bhutan.

Day 12. Paro - drive deeper into Bhutan to stay in the country's largest city, Paro 

Day 13. Paro - Hike/horse ride to Tiger's Nest Monastery, visit the impressive Drukgyel Dzong monastery

Day 14. Thimpu - morning drive to Bhutan's Capital city

Day 15. Thimpu- visits to historic and cultural sights, such as the Handicraft Emporium and Folk Heritage Museum

Day 16. Punakha - cross the Dochu-la pass (3,088m), visit the impressive Punakha Dzong monastery, built in 1637

Day 17. Trongsar - attend the Festival of the Black Cranes (subject to date confirmation).

Day 18. Bumthang - drive east into Central Bhutan

Day 19/20. Bumthang -  visit Lake Mebartsho, some walking. Another colourful Festival is a stong possibility today.

Day 21. Mongar Valley - continue east over Bhutan's highest pass, the Thrumsing-la Pass (4,000m), spectacular views.

Day 22. Trashigang - now deep into Eastern Bhutan, a morning drive down the famous zigzag road to Transhigang.

Day 23. Samdrup Jongkhar - travel towards the Indian border for our final night in Bhutan.

Day 24. Cross the border and drive to the airport in the Indian town of Guwahati, fly to Kolkatta and on to Singapore

Day 25. Flight - arr. Singapore and take the morning flight to Auckland, arriving mid evening.

 

 Trip Data

Transport: Private bus or 4WDs as road conditions require. Two domestic flights and one excursion on a local scenic railway.

Meals: Most meals included, except for meals at airports. Some meals will be picnics / packed lunches. Please note that drinking water or drinks at meals are not included.

Accommodation: 2-Star and 3-Star, twin-share or double rooms the norm.
A supplement of approx. NZ$1,600 (to be confirmed) if a single room is requested or if making a late booking that creates the need for a single room. 

Walks: Graded easy to moderate, most of the walks will be short, some less than 1hr others up to  2+ hours. Participation in the walks is always optional. We recommended that your walking shoes have sturdy non-slip soles and those who normally use walking poles should bring them.

Weather: This trip will take place in the autumn, when skies are generally clear and temperatures are moderate. However, be aware that this region can experience rain at any time of year, so a raincoat and umbrella should be included.

Criteria for participation: The trip is open to active people of all ages, single travellers are most welcome. If you are willing to cope with the unusual and the unpredictable and some cultural differences you will be rewarded with a very memorable holiday experience. Please be aware that this journey involves a number of steep winding mountainous roads.

Price Includes: Return airfare Auckland to Auckland in the budgeted economy class, transport, a basic driver/guide  tip fund is included, with a supplement of US$50 being collected on tour. All accommodations, activities/entries,  meals as will be listed in the final itinerary are included, except for those which are taken at airports. Bhutan visa, plus the services of  English speaking local guides and a Grassroots leader are included. 

Price does not include: personal spending, travel insurance, Indian online visa (approx US$81) and any other documentation that you may require. All costs incurred by travel disruption or delay and any personal services, activities or meals not included in the final itinerary.

FACT FILE

 

Trip Codes: BS 201 

 Trip Date: Late Oct., early Nov 2020.

Duration: 25/26 days - flight dependent

Party: 12 to 15 + leader

Price Guide Range: $12,000 - $12,500, price is currently being calculated

Current Status: Keep Me Posted List