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The northeast corner of India is a land of mystic peaks, lush jungles and great cultures. Enjoy by cruise and safari.
Darjeeling, set among the stunning backdrop of the snow-clad Himalayan mountains is surely one of the countries most exotic hill resorts and made better when one combines it with Sikkim and a cruise along the mighty Bhramaputra River.
In Sikkim, Buddhist monasteries and stunning scenery await. Flowing under the shadows of the eastern Himalayas is the mighty Brahmaputra River as it descends from the Tibetan highlands into Assam. Here one-horned rhinoceros and herds of elephants frollic with deer and wild buffaloes. Some 800 bird species migrate and nest in close proximity and as many as 40 distinct tribal groups and cultures inhabit the banks of the river. The trip is ideal for discerning Nature enthusiasts.
Darjeeling, Sikkim & M/V Mahabahu River Cruise departs each SUNDAY from October to JuneTour Cost: $ 4,520 USD per person (includes domestic airfare)
DAY 1 ARRIVE DELHI OR KOLKATAAfter clearing immigration and customs, step into the receiving area where we will be met by our representative and transferred to the hotel. Time permitting, an afternoon city tour. DAY 2 FLIGHT TO BAGDOGRA-DARJEELING (B,L,D)After breakfast, we will be driven to the airport by our representative to board the flight for Bagdogra. On arrival, we will be met by our representative, and driven to Darjeeling (80 kms/50 mi/3 hrs) through beautiful tea gardens. On arrival, check-in to the New Elgin Hotel or similar. Rest of the day is at leisure.DAY 3 DARJEELING (B,L,D)Set against the stunning backdrop of the snow-clad Himalayan Mountains, Darjeeling is the most important hill resort in Eastern India. It exudes old world colonial charm, and has a reputation for producing the "champagne of the west", better known as Darjeeling tea. Well before dawn (4:30 am to 7:30 am is the best time) we will approach the Tiger Hill to view sunrise over Kanchenjunga. The highest spot in the area at 9678.5 ft, Tiger Hill is near Ghoom, about 7 miles from Darjeeling. The hill is famous for its magnificent views over Kanchenjunga and other eastern Himalayan peaks. On the way back, visit the Ghoom Monastery. More correctly known as Yogachoeling Gompa, this is probably the most famous monastery in Darjeeling. It enshrines an image of the Maitreya Buddha. As Ghoom is frequently swathed in mists, and the monastery is old and dark, it is often affectionately called Gloom monastery. Return to the hotel for breakfast.Later, visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI). It runs courses to train mountaineers, and maintains a couple of interesting museums. The Mountaineering Museum contains a collection of historic mountaineering equipment, specimens of Himalayan flora and fauna and a relief model of the Himalaya. Adjacent to it is the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park. It is a high altitude wildlife park and a home for the Siberian Tiger, Himalayan Black Deer, Panda and birds.DAY 4 DARJEELING - GANGTOK (B,L,D)After Breakfast, drive to Gangtok (60 miles) through the beautiful landscaped tea gardens of Darjeeling & Teesta valley. On arrival, check-in to the Norkhill Hotel. Evening is at leisure to explore the markets of Gangtok, the historical & important city on the ancient trade route between Lhasa & India.DAY 5 GANGTOK (B,LD)This morning after breakfast explore the famous monastery of Rumtek. This huge monastic complex was the official seat of the Gyalwa Karmapa - the head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism. The current Karmapa, the 17th, was born in Tibet, and identified from the description of the 16th Karmapa in 1992. In 2000, he made a dramatic escape to India, and now lives with the HH Dalai Lama in Dharmasala. The monastery enshrines all that is best in traditional Tibet monastic architecture. After lunch, visit the Tibetan Institute & orchid museum. Rest of the day is at leisure.DAY 6 GANGTOK - PEMAYANGTSE (B,L,D)Today after breakfast, we drive to Pemayangtse (about 2hrs drive). On arrival in Pemayangtse check in to the Mount Panim Hotel. Pemayangtse means the sublime perfect lotus. Although Dubdi monastery in west Sikkim is considered the oldest monastery having been built in 1705, it is the Pemayangste monastery (about 118 kms from Gangtok) in West Sikkim which is held in highest regard.It is believed that with the establishing of Dubdi monastery, three more were constructed over spots consecrated by Guru Rinpoche in West Sikkim. These were the ones at Tashiding, Pemayantse and Sangachoeling. While the monasteries at Tashiding and Sangachoeling were open to all monks, Pemayantse was special because it was one meant only for "ta-sang" lamas (pure monks). Believed to have been conceptualized and designed by the pioneer of Buddhism in Sikkim, Lhatsun Chhembo, Pemayangste soon became the nuclei of monasteries in Sikkim. To date, it is referred to as the "premier monastery" of the State.
DAY 7 PEMAYANGTSE - KALIMPONG (B,L,D)Today after breakfast drive to Kalimpong (about 2hrs drive). On arrival at Kalimpong, check in to the hotel. On the border between West Bengal and Sikkim, Kalimpong is a tranquil hill station at an altitude of 1250m, located on top of a ridge east of the River Tista. It has stunning mountain scenery surrounded by oak forests and an abundance of orchids, roses and dahlias. Kalimpong was once a stopping point on the trade route through the "three closed lands" of Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. The Buddhist monasteries in Kalimpong are bright and intriguing, housing a number of Tibetan manuscriptsAfter wash and change, we embark on the sightseeing of Kalimpong. Visit the Durpin Dara which is the highest point in Kalimpong accessible by car. It offers a breath-taking view of the plains and the mighty Teesta. Zong Dog Palri Fo-Brang Monastery This is a fairly new monastery located in Durpin Dara. One can get a panoramic view of the town and surroundings from this monastery. Flower Nurseries Kalimpong is famous for its nurseries which export exotic flowers like Amaryllis Lilies, Roses, Gerbera, dahlias, gladiolas as well as Orchids and Cacti. Visit to Kalimpong won't be complete unless we explore the Kalimpong bazar. It is a unique experience to see villagers turning up in their local costume at the bazaars on weekly market days to sell their farm products.DAY 8 KALIMPONG - BAGDOGRA - GUWAHATI - M.V MAHABAHU (B,L,D)After breakfast, drive to Bagdogra airport to board flight to Guwahati. We will be met at the Guwahati and transferred to the banks of the Brahmaputra River to board the M.V. Mahabahu. This afternoon set out for Sualkuchi- the Weavers village. Walk through Sualkuchi to visit weaving workshops and see the whole process of silk manufacture, from cocoon to spinning to dyeing and finally to hand weaving into exquisite saris and dress lengths. Here you have the opportunity to interact with the weavers and try your hand in the looms. Return to the M.V. Mahabahu Set Sail. DAY 9 ON CRUISE ORANG NATIONAL PARK (B,L,D)After an early breakfast, we transfer to small boats for a cruise up a side stream into the Orang National Park. The Orang National Park, popularly known as mini-Kaziranga, is located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra River. Orang National Park is also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park. Here, in this rarely visited park, we mount elephants and ride through forest and grassland citing for rhinos, deer and other wildlife. We also visit a local village before lunch at one of the Forest rest houses located inside the Park. After lunch, there is more time to explore the Park, where we may watch migratory & local birds and one-horned Rhinos.DAY 10 ON CRUISE POBITORA (B,L,D)Situated in the Morigaon district, Pobitora is one of the major wildlife sanctuaries of Assam. Covering an area of 38.8 Sq. km / 24.1 Sq miles, Pobitora is mainly famous for its Great Indian One-horned Rhinoceros. Other animals such as the Asiatic Buffalo, Leopard, Wild Bear, and Civet Cat etc. are also found here. More than 200 varieties of birds and various reptiles are found in this sanctuary. Return to the M.V. Mahabahu for lunch. This afternoon, we cruise on the giant Brahmaputra River with a chance to enjoy the rich bird life and look out for Gangetic Dolphins. Time permitting, we will pause at an isolated village, which we shall explore on foot with our guides.DAY 11 ON CRUISE TEZPUR - KAZIRANGA (B,L,D)Breakfast onboard. We cruise on this morning to Tezpur, and drive out to the 6th century Da Parbatia Temple ruins with a beautifully carved portal. Later, we explore the town by cycle rickshaw, stopping at Cole Park with medieval stone carvings saved from sites all over the region and perhaps visiting the bungalow once lived in by Alexander Bruce, pioneer of the tea industry. Return to the ship for lunch.We continue upstream, passing below a seemingly endless new bridge across the vast width of the river bed and a lovely beach backed by jungle-covered hills. This afternoon, we drive to Kaziranga's Western Range for a jeep safari and to scan the wilderness from an observation tower. Kaziranga is a World Heritage site and with a population of well over 1000 rhinoceros is the best place in the world to see these beasts. There are also good populations of tigers, wild elephants, sambar, swamp deer, hog deer, wild pigs and many other species. A talk with Park Rangers on the conservation efforts and prevention of poaching.DAY 12 ON CRUISE KAZIRANGA (B,L,D)Disembark (pre-dawn) and drive to Kaziranga's Central Range for an early morning elephant ride, the best way to get really close to the rhinos and other animals. After breakfast at a lodge, we walk through terraced tea gardens and past a Karbi tribal village and then drive to a Mising tribal village, with their distinctive houses raised on piles. After lunch take a jeep safari in the little visited Eastern Range. Before returning to the boat, visit a delightful Assamese village nearby and walk along a path alive with butterflies to a solitary temple on the river bank. In the late afternoon, return to the M.V. Mahabahu. Join an Anthropologist onboard for a talk on the local tribes, way of life, etc. DAY 13 ON CRUISE - MAJAULI ISLAND (B,L,D)After breakfast, we cruise to Majauli Island. Majauli Island possesses unique Hindu monasteries famous for their dance drama performances - the whole island is now short listed for future UNESCO World Heritage status. Lunch at a local restaurant. We will visit a monastery around Kamalabari, and the Tribal Museum at Auniati before re-embarking and cruising downstream for about 4 hours.DAY 14 ON CRUISE SIBSAGAR (B,L,D)Breakfast onboard. On this day, we visit Sibsagar, the one-time capital of the Kings of Assam. Shan by origin, but converted to Hinduism, they ruled Assam for some 700 years until the 1820's. Their culture and architecture is a strange and delightful amalgam of Indian and S.E. Asian. We shall see temples with stupa-like profiles, and palaces of distinctive form - note the crocodiles and caryatids that adorn the roof of the Rang Mahal. For the record book, the temple tank here is believed to be the world's largest hand-excavated reservoir. Later, we visit the Tocklai Tea Research Station to learn about the different processes of growing, picking and processing tea. We will have a Tea Party to taste the flavors of it. Returning to the ship we spend our last night onboard. Farewell Dinner OnboardDAY 15 CRUISE / DIBRUGARH / FLY TO KOLKATA OR DELHI (B)Breakfast onboard. Arrive at Dibrugarh, a typical colonial town and major American base in World War II. Here we will visit some local Tea Gardens and enjoy tea & cookies with the Tea garden employees. Transfer to the airport to connect for our flight to Kolkata or Delhi. Overnight at the Hotel.DAY 16 DEPARTURE (B)Early this morning transfer to the international airport.
EXTENSIONS ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS
"Birgit and I want to that you for all the dreaming and development and drudgery you did to make our India and Rajasthan trip such a wonderful success. On this trip, and the other two we spent with you, we have been amazed and pleased not only by your ability to get the nitty-gritty done in good order but with your pleasing, gentle yet strong personality. You have a great combination of flexibility and firmness and seem to accomplish what at first seems impossible. Although the tiger was the "cherry on top", it was still a great trip without it." Robert & Birgit Bateman, British Columbia
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