Kolkata & Darjeeling Snapshot

India | Bhutan

Culture

Ideal extension to Bhutan

7 days £1,345 pp This is the price per person for a private tour (based on 2 people travelling) excluding international flights. Contact us for pricing for other group sizes including individuals.
Intro, Dates & Prices

Intro

This tour is a great way to enter Bhutan by land from India. Starting in Kolkata, stroll through Dalhousie Square on a heritage walking tour, visit the city's iconic sights including Victoria Memorial. Finish the day on board a private boat cruising along the Hooghly river. Fly to Bagdogra and drive into the hills of Darjeeling where you will take the toy train to Ghoom Monastery and enjoy views of India's highest peak (Kanchenjunga) from Tiger Hill at sunrise. Spend the evening with a local family enjoying some traditional food. Start the journey by road to Bhutan stopping off at the border town of Phuentsholing before venturing higher into Bhutan's Himalayas to Paro.

This trip works perfectly with our Bhutan tours starting in Paro or Thimphu, and can be done in reverse if exiting from Paro or Thimphu (e.g. our Best of Bhutan tour).

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Discover the rich history of Kolkata
  • Toy train ride in Darjeeling

Places Visited

Kolkata - Darjeeling - Phuentsholing - Paro

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)

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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.

Overnight in Astor Hotel, 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. Start your day with a walking tour of Dalhousie Square. Later visit St Paul's Church, Victoria Memorial (closed on Mondays) and end at Kalighat Temple.  In the evening take a private boat cruise on the Hooghly River. Overnight in Kolkata.

Overnight in Astor Hotel, Kolkata

Meal plan: Breakfast

Col. Mark Wood's Map: Dalhousie Square Walk
Retrace the steps of Lt. Col. Mark Wood's detailed map of European settlement in Kolkata, made in 1784. Explore streets and buildings while learning about Kolkata's history between 1757 to 1807, when it emerged as the 'Second City of the British Empire'. Beginning at the General Post Office, the 2.5 hours walk will end at popular food joint, Kaka Tea, where you can enjoy tea and snacks.


The Victoria Memorial is possibly the most grand reminder of the British Raj in Kolkata. A large marble building, made from Makrana  marbles  from  Rajasthan, it holds 25 galleries, including rare collections of antiquarian books from the likes of William Shakespeare. The architectural design of the memorial is also of particular interest. Comprised of a great dome, clustered with four subsidiary octagonal domed chhatris, high portals, terraces and domed corner towers, it eminates a splendid, rich design fit to commemorate a queen.

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 - Bagdogra - Darjeeling

Transfer to airport for flight to Bagdogra. On arrival you will be transferred to the hills of Darjeeling. Evening free at leisure. Overnight in Darjeeling.

Overnight in The Elgin, 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 4 : Darjeeling

Early morning visit Tiger Hill. Witness the magnificent sunrise, it also offers panoramic views of Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga (subject to clear weather). Take the famous toy train to Ghoom Monastery and spend 30 minutes meditating with a monk (optional and subject to monk being available). Also visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute which was started by Tenzing Norgay following his ascent of Everest to impart training in mountaineering and other adventure sports related to mountaineering. Also visit the Tibetan Refugee Centre (closed on Sundays) - established in 1959, it comprises a home for the elderly, an orphanage, school, clinic and craft workshops. Return to Darjeeling and enjoy a Nepali dinner with a local family.

Overnight in The Elgin, 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 5 : Darjeeling

Day free at your leisure. Optional activities which you could do include: a visit to one of Darjeeling's famous tea estates, stroll down Mall Road in central Darjeeling, visit the Mahakali temple and the shrine of Bhutia Basti monastery, important for both Hindus and Buddhists. Overnight in Darjeeling.

Overnight in The Elgin, Darjeeling

Meal plan: Breakfast

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Day 6 : Darjeeling - Phuentsholing

After breakfast set off from Darjeeling to Phuentsoling, on the Bhutan border. Your guide will take care of visa formalities at the border. Rest of day at leisure.

Overnight in Hotel Druk, Phuentsholing

Meal plan: Breakfast & dinner

Phuentsholing is a border town in southern Bhutan  which adjoins the Indian town of Jaigaon in west Bengal. The border clearly separates two very different peoples and cultures. Jaigaon in West Bengal (India) is typical of many large Indian cities, which are large, bustling and loud, and is popular with Bhutanese traders and shoppers. Phuentsholing is uniquely more urban than other Bhutanese towns as it is the Bhutan financial, industrial and trading capital. It has been influenced a little by its louder neighbour, but is still distinctly quieter and more orderly. 

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Day 7 : Phuentsholing - Paro

After breakfast drive to Paro, gradually ascending into Bhutan's Himalayas. There will be plenty of opportunities to stop off for photos and breaks. Enjoy a Bhutanese lunch en-route. On arrival check into hotel and rest of day at leisure.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Paro is the second largest town in Bhutan although small in size and population. Its main street is lined with buildings richly decorated in traditional architecture that house a scattering of shops and restaurants. Paro is an ideal base for exploring the surrounding attractions, such as Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest). After Bumthang, the valley is amongst the most beautiful in Bhutan. Altitude: 2,280m.

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Accommodation

Accommodation

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

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Astor Hotel

Kolkata (2 nights)

A newly-refurbished heritage house just a short walk away from Victoria Memorial, Astor Hotel is a blend of old-world charm and boutique luxury, showcasing traditional colonial architecture from 1900. Rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, free WiFi and modern amenities, and guests are welcome to enjoy the range of Indian and continental cuisine served in the onsite restaurant, Kebab-e-Que.

Visit hotel's site
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The Elgin

Darjeeling (3 nights)

The Elgin Hotel in Darjeeling is situated in the heart of Darjeeling. The luxury heritage hotel oozes colonial charm with over 125 years of history and was once the summer residence of the Maharaja of Cooch Behar, The hotel's classically elegant interiors with wood panelling, pillars and chandeliers date back to the Raj era. The hotel has 25 tastefully decorated rooms all laid with Burmese teak wood. Most of the rooms have views across the valley and the Himalayas.

Visit hotel's site
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Hotel Druk

Phuentsholing (1 night)

Situated at the gateway of Bhutan, Hotel Druk is a comfortable and modern hotel in Phuentsholing. It offers 32 well-appointed rooms including 2 junior suites and 1 presidential suite. There are a range of decent dining options in the restaurant. The hotel is also located close to the main city and shopping area.

Visit hotel's site
Extensions

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Kolkata & Sunderbans (6 days)

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Highlights of the Subcontinent (22 days)

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Journey through the Indian Himalayas (20 days)

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Monks, Tribes & Rhinos (20 days)

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Experience Bhutan's rich culture, colonial Kolkata and rural life in Assam

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Glimpse of India & Nepal (16 days)

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Kerala Calling (15 days)

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Nagaland: Festival of the Headhunters (15 days)

Aoling Festival, wildlife in Assam & natural beauty of Manipur

Assam & Nagaland Hornbill Festival (15 days)

Wildlife, tribes & rural life in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur

Taste of South India (15 days)

Experience the flavours and exotic spices of South India

Big Six of India (15 days)

Spot tigers, lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino & elephants

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Tribes of North East India (14 days)

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Reviews

A really well planned trip. We experienced life in Northeast India in just the way we wanted to. We loved the game reserves and saw a rock python which thrilled our guides as it is even rarer than the tiger! We visited villages and were able to interact with local people and loved the busy markets in Delhi and Calcutta. A special highlight was the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland; shown to us by our very own Naga guide Kezo. Kezo accompanied us for 15 days of our trip and ensured that we had many very special experiences - even taking us to the home of one of his Aunts where we spent a couple of hours sitting by the bonfire chatting.

Ann Holgate , Tailormade India

Thank you for organising our holiday in Kerala. I certainly wouldn`t have had the time or the knowledge to put together such a trip. Munnar was my favourite and the accommodation throughout was excellent.

Vik , Kerala Calling, 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

The tour was an amazing experience for our first visit to India. The country, its people and its cuisine were friendly,delightful, colourful and exceeded all our expectations. Travel the Unknown have put together a superb unique package that we have no hesitation in recommending to anyone with an interest in food and culture.

Elaine & Neil Smith , Delicacies of North India, India

I`m sure I could not have found a better operator for the type of complicated Indian tour I wanted to undertake on a limited budget. India is an intimidating country to visit, and I suspect that some operators look down on the first time visitor, or disparage their requirements. Travel the Unknown, by contrast, helped me all the way, and their local guides were superb.

Andrew Martin , Tailormade North East India

This was a very varied and interesting trip to a forgotten part of India. If you like off the beaten track travel it is definitely worth the effort but go with an open mind and keep a smile on your face.

Richard Williams , Monks, Tribes & Rhinos, India

This was my first experience of using Travel the Unknown having enjoyed small group adventure holidays for many years. I was attracted to the company because it seeks out the more unusual and lesser known areas of a country and I was not disappointed by my visit to Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. There is a clear contrast between the people and the scenery of these two regions and we saw very few western tourists particularly in Arunachal Pradesh. The tour was well organised with plenty to see and do.

Keith Lewis , Monks, Tribes & Rhinos, India

A fantastic trip to Arunachal Pradesh. Very well organised exactly to our requirements. Superb local guide. Would recommend this trip. Hazel and James.

Hazel Frost , Tailormade North East India

Another great trip from Travel the Unknown. I would recommend this company to anyone who wants to move outside the boundaries of the usual tourist itinerary.

Catherine Crawford , Kashmir & Ladakh Explorer, India

This trip was very well put together and ticked all the boxes that we had requested. The accommodation throughout the tour was of a high standard and our experiences in the national parks was wonderful spotting many different animals including tigers, leopards, sloth bears, lions, jungle cat plus countless number of birds. Thank you Rahul for tailoring this trip to our requirements.

Nigel & Margaret Turner , Tailormade India Wildlife & Birding tour

We went on the Spirit of South India Tour and had a great time on our honeymoon. There was a good variety of places visited and the hotels, drivers and guides were all very good. We would definitely recommend this tour.

Rachel , Spirit of South India, 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
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