Best of Bengal & Sikkim

India

Culture

Colonial Kolkata, Darjeeling toy train & Buddhism

Dates & Prices

Intro

Unravel the colonial history of Bengal on a walking tour of Kolkata and watch tea trading at an auction house. Travel north and take the ‘toy train’ in Darjeeling gazing out at its cliff-hanging tea estates. Cross the border into the tiny Buddhist kingdom of Sikkim and wander through its alpine forests, catching a glimpse of Kanchenjunga, India’s highest peak. Witness monks pouring over ancient Buddhist scripts in monasteries, before returning to Bengal and end your trip cruising the waterways of the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangroves.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Discover the rich history of Kolkata
  • Toy train ride in Darjeeling
  • Stunning Himalayan scenery
  • Buddhist culture in Sikkim

Places Visited

Kolkata - Darjeeling - Pelling - Gangtok - Sunderbans

What's Included

Airport transfers
Domestic flights
Ground transport
Accommodation
Drivers and guides
Some meals (refer to itinerary for meal plan)
Entrance fees to sites & parks (one-time entry)
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Arrival

Arrive in Kolkata, where you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and transferred to your hotel. After check in, the rest of the day is free to enjoy at your leisure. Overnight in Kolkata.

Meal plan: n/a

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Day 2 : Kolkata

Enjoy a full day sightseeing tour of Kolkata, visiting many of the city's most impressive temples and churches. Overnight in Kolkata.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Often labelled the  "Cultural City of India", Kolkata is India's second biggest city and one of its major ports, located on the east bank  of the Hooghly River. Previously named 'Calcutta', it was the former capital of the British Indian Empire until 1911 and originally designed in the style of a grand European capital. As a result, Western influences can be seen throughout the city within its colonial-era architecture: Raj Bhavan, the state governor's residence, imitates Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, the Indian Museum is built in the Italian style, while the Victoria Memorial Hall attempts to combine classical Western and Mughal architecture. Kolkata was also the centre of the Indian independence movement, and to this day still plays an important role in contemporary state politics.

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Day 3 : Kolkata

After breakfast, explore the 'Black Town' in the north of Kolkata. Visit the Jain Temple Complex and Marble Palace. Overnight in Kolkata.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 4 : Kolkata - Bagdogra - Darjeeling

Enjoy some free time before being transferred to the airport to connect with your flight to Bagdogra. On arrival you will be transferred to Darjeeling. Overnight in Darjeeling.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Now a town in the state of West Bengal, Darjeeling was once part of Nepal but was annexed to India by the British. It is most famous for its tea industry, especially its delicious black tea. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway connects the town with the plantations and has one of the few steam trains still operating in India. Full of beautiful colonial architecture, the town’s British-style public schools attract students from all over India and neighbouring countries. It is also regarded as a centre for music and playing instruments is a popular pastime amongst residents.

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Day 5 : Darjeeling

Early morning visit to Tiger Hill to watch the sunrise over Kangchenjunga Peak. On the way back visit Ghoom monastery. After breakfast, proceed on a local sightseeing tour. Spend the evening exploring the markets. Overnight in Darjeeling.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Kangchenjunga, located on the boundary of Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim, is the third highest mountain in the world, reaching an elevation of 8,586m. Originally thought to be the world’s highest mountain, it was first climbed in 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band, as part of a British expedition. Following a promise they had given to the Maharaja of Sikkim, they stopped just short of the summit itself. This tradition has been continued by every climber or climbing group since.

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Day 6 : Darjeeling

Today you will visit the Tukvar Tea Estate, the very first tea estate in Darjeeling, Observatory Hill and Bhutia Basti Monastery. Overnight in Darjeeling.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 7 : Darjeeling - Pelling

After breakfast, drive to Pelling. The evening is free to enjoy at your leisure. Overnight in Pelling.

Meal plan: Breakfast

With stunning landscapes, Pelling is known for its perfect views over the Himalayas and the Kangchenjunga, the third tallest mountain in the world. The town is surrounded by untouched alpine vegetation and waterfalls, including the majestic double-pronged Kanchenjunga falls and the Khechuperi Lake, which is sacred to Buddhists.

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Day 8 : Pelling

After breakfast you will spend the day visiting Khangchendzonga waterfalls, Sewaro rock garden, Rimbi waterfalls and Khachoedpalri lake. Later, explore Pemayangtse monastery, one of the oldest and most important monasteries in Sikkim. Overnight in Pelling.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 9 : Pelling - Gangtok

You will be transferred to Gangtok. Upon arrival, the rest of the day is free to enjoy at your leisure. Overnight in Gangtok. 

Meal plan: Breakfast

Sikkim’s capital, Gangtok has been a centre of pilgrimage since the Enchey Monastery was built in 1840. Built in the Baroque style, the 200 year old monastery houses images of gods and goddesses and is the oldest monastery in the city. Rumtek Monastery is considered to be one of Buddhism’s most sacred buildings because it holds some of the world’s most rare Tibetan Buddhist scriptures and religious artefacts in its reliquary.

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Day 10 : Gangtok

After breakfast enjoy a guided tour of Gangtok. Sites include Ranka, Encha and Namgyal monasteries, Jakhri Falls and the Institute of Tibetology. Overnight in Gangtok.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 11 : Gangtok - Bagdogra - Kolkata

Drive to Bagdogra and transfer to the airport to connect with your flight to Kolkata. The rest of the day is free to enjoy at your leisure. Overnight in Kolkata.

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 12 : Kolkata - Sunderbans

In the morning you will be transferred to Sunderbans. The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy at your leisure. Overnight in Sunderbans. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sunderbans is a National Park, a Tiger Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve. It is home to one of the world's largest areas of halophytic mangroves and is also a hotspot for Royal Bengal tigers, boasting one of the highest Bengal tiger populations in India. Situated in Bangledesh, two-thirds of the park fall into the district of West Bengal. The name 'Sunderbans' literally means 'beautiful forest', and the reserve is very scenic, intersected by a series of waterways, tidal islands and mudflats, and boasting a diverse range of endemic plant species. There is also a significant Watch Tower which offers panoramic views of the area.

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Day 13 : Sunderbans

Board a cruise boat towards the Dobanke Watch Tower, passing through creeks and dense forests. Breakfast will be served on board. Experience the thrill of the Canopy Walk, which provides 360 degree views of the forest. Visit the spotted deer rehabilitation centre before returning to Sunderbans Tiger Camp for lunch. In the afternoon, walk through the village of Dayapur, observing local life. End the day with dinner at the reserve. Overnight in Sunderbans.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 14 : Sunderbans - Kolkata - Departure

Morning cruise through the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve in search of the elusive tiger. Breakfast will be served on board. After an early lunch you will be transferred to Kolkata to connect to your onward flight.

Meal plan: Breakfast & lunch

Accommodation

Accommodation

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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The Corner Courtyard

The Corner Courtyard is a boutique hotel situated near to the centre of Kolkata, and near to the famous sights of the Victoria Memorial and Indian Museum. The hotel hosts 7 individually-themed rooms, which are traditionally Bhutanese in style and feature authentic antique furniture. The cultural heritage displayed in Corner Courtyard is combined with modern comforts, including air-conditioned rooms and access to wifi in communal areas. 

Visit hotel's site
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Windamere Hotel

Windamere Hotel was established in the 19th century as a boarding house for British tea planters - it has since become a comfortable, colonial-styled hotel for visitors exploring the Darjeeling region. The hotel is located on 'Observatory Hill', which provides it with spectacular views across the Himalayas. The hotel bar and restaurant serves both continental and Indian cuisine to guests, who can also relax in the communal lounge spaces several lounge areas, or choose to browse in the hotel's boutique store.

Visit hotel's site
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Elgin Mount Pandim Hotel

Mount Pandim is a peaceful mountain retreat, set in 8 acres of stunning gardens and lush forest. It is a great location for rare bird watching and has mountain bikes available to rent. All rooms have stunning views over the Singalila range and modern facilities including wireless internet access, LCD televisions and an electronic safety deposit box. 

Visit hotel's site
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Elgin Nor Khill Hotel

The Elgin Nor Khill Hotel is situated amongst the beautiful mountainous scenery of the Himalayas in Gangtok. Surrounded by gardens and valleys, the hotel is the perfect spot to relax after a day of exploring. Its elegant decor and furnishings are influenced by the region's rich heritage. The bedrooms are decorated in a typical Sikkimese style, providing guests with modern comforts, along with scenic views across the Himalayas. The hotel restaurant serves a variety of local, Indian or Continental dishes - also offering the chance to enjoy high tea in the gardens.

Visit hotel's site
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Sunderban Tiger Camp

Sunderban Tiger Camp is a delightful lodge, nestled in stunning surroundings close to the Sunderbans mangroves forest - one of the largest such forests in the world. The interior of the cottages have been delicately hand painted by a local artist, which provides guests with an insight into authentic rural Bengal. The camp is also fitted with modern amenities to provide guests with a comfortable stay. 

Visit hotel's site
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Reviews

I have been on 3 tailor made trips with Travel The Unknown and have found them to be knowledgeable and reliable. We`ve stayed in some wonderful places and have had some unusual and satisfying experiences that go beyond the standard tours.

Joan Edmunds (USA) , Tailormade India

I would highly recommend Travel the Unknown to anyone visiting India. The service we received both prior to, during and following our travels was always timely and excellent. We were able to customize our trip to our liking and to enjoy a wide variety of activities. The guides in every location were outstanding! Honestly. Having travelled through much of the world I can truly say that we have never been more impressed with the quality of the guides arranged for us in each location, as well as the service we received. Similarly, the hotels were excellent and allowed us to live very comfortably while, at the same time, enjoy an authentic Indian experience. If you haven`t already booked your trip with Travel the Unknown, then either do so now....or at least give them a chance to show you what they can offer.

Tracey & Gary , Tailormade India

What an excellent service! Rahul adapted, extended and improved our trip so many times without a qualm and we ended up with the trip of a lifetime. The destinations are unusual and interesting but everything has been checked out by the team and works brilliantly. I can`t wait to do another trip.

Penelope Smith , Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival, India

Travel the Unknown put together an Itinerary in North East India - Living Root Bridges for me and a travelling companion. The accommodations, transportation, promptness of drivers, and knowledge of our guide was excellent. Easy booking from office and good pre trip information. Thanks TTU!

Christina Taft , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

I thoroughly enjoyed my tailor made tour of northwestern and central India. Guides and accommodations were excellent and we saw as much of the area as could be packed into two weeks. I look forward to another tour with Travel the Unknown.

Mary Trubek (USA) , Tailormade India

This is our second fabulous trip with Travel The Unknown and we were not disappointed. Rajasthan's vibrant colours of turbans and saris, the noise, the spicy aromas, the silence in the hot air balloon over rural Jaipur, the majestic forts and palaces of ancient times, sighting leopards in the wild, all far exceeded our expectations and the heritage homes and hotels we stayed in, whilst being of high standard in every way, still had a friendly family touch. Thanks so much to Rahul and the team for such a memorable trip. Six weeks on and we still can't stop talking about it. I can't wait for the next one!

John & Christine Gregory , Tailormade India

Wow, India is incredible and Travel The Unknown put together a trip that really showed the diverse nature of the country and cultures, from the busy capital Delhi to the splendour of the Taj Mahal and then off the main tourist trek with an overnight sleeper train to Varanasi on the Ganges, the Hindu religious capital with bathing , washing and cremations alongside the river - an astonishing experience. We then moved to the forgotten North East corner where there is a tribal culture in an area seemingly cut off from the rest of India. Our destination was the Living Root Bridges which are unique and remote. Just want to go back to India for more...

Ken Sankey , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

Another fantastic trip with this company. WE really managed to get off the beaten track and have seen some amazing sights. Well put together. We will travel again with Travel the Unknown

Hazel & James Frost , Tailormade India

The Living Root Bridges trip was our first time with Travel the Unknown and we would have no hesitation from booking with them again.

Andria & John Palmer , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

I had been studying the Apatani Tribe for quite some time… I’m talking roughly 7 years! Travel The Unknown made my dreams come entirely true. They organized every aspect of my experience in the most minute detail. I have never felt such confidence in an agency nor worked with one more knowledgeable about their destination. Because of them and their kind efforts, I will continue to travel with Travel The Unknown for all future expeditions to this or similar regions. Thanks, Travel The Unknown, for everything!

Christian Noni , Tailormade North East India

Gotta say thanks to Travel The Unknown for organising my fascinating trip to a little-known area of the world. The scenery was fantastic, food was amazing, the guide was great and the living bridges were inspiring. An India not many get to see. Thanks again.

Stephen , Living Bridges of Meghalaya, India

As always Travel The Unknown were exceptional in organising my trip to India. The guides for Meghalaya and the Golden Triangle were friendly, extremely helpful and very informative. The tour was busy but never felt rushed; the combination of Meghalaya and Golden Triangle giving quite a varied perspective of India.

Terry Cooper , Living Bridges of Meghalaya
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