The Beauty of Sikkim

n-sikkim

Day 01: As scheduled from primary departure nation.

Tour Commences from meeting at Bagdogra Airport

Day 02 –New Delhi to Bagdogra and on to Gangtok

The group will land at Bagdogra International Airport where members will be met by their guides and a fleet of luxury cars (Toyota Innova) for the five-hour drive to Gangtok, Sikkim, following the lush Teesta River Valley. As you wind your way up from the airport at sea-level through the sub-tropical jungle of West Bengal, you leave behind the heat of the plains for the cool climate of the Himalayan foothills.

Lunch Break / Permit Processing (en-route)
The group will stop at the Rangpo Tourist Lodge for a one-hour lunch break while inner line permit formalities are completed. From Rangpo, it’s a one-hour drive to Gangtok.

Arrive at Norkhill Hotel, originally constructed as the State Guesthouse for the wedding of Chogyal PT Namgyal to Miss Hope Cooke.

1. Tour Details / Q & A
2. Overview of Sikkim Culture, Religion and History

Hope Leezum Namgyal – daughter of Hope Cooke and Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal of Sikkim.

Pintso Gyatso – experienced tour leader, from and old and well respected Sikkimese family, well-versed in Sikkimese culture, religion and history.

Evening interaction at the hotel followed by dinner where the question /answer session can continue

Day 03 –Gangtok

Breakfast at the hotel between 8:00 – 9:00 am

ETD 9:15 am for morning tour of Gangtok

We will walk up to the Palace Ridge Road via the Cottage Industries School where we can view traditional wood carving, carpet and textile weaving, then move on to the Flower Exhibition, renowned for its cymbidium orchids.

We will visit Tsuklakhang Royal Chapel in the Palace Compound, now home to over 100 young monks preparing for their higher education in Nyingma Buddhist studies. The Tsuklakhang Trust, which was created by Chogyal Wangchuk Namgyal, sponsors all of these boys, many of whom come from poor families, giving them not only a place to live and a traditional monastic education, but also sending them for Sheda or college studies. Upon their graduation, they go on to other monasteries as monks and teachers. The Tsuklakhang Trust is today one of the most dedicated and highly regarded charitable organisations for preserving and promoting a traditional monastic education in Sikkim.

Return to the hotel for lunch at 1:00 pm

Afternoon Tour of the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Dro-Drul Chorten
ETD 2:15 pm

Visit to the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology

Founded by Chogyal Tashi Namgyal in 1957, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology promotes research in Mahayana Buddhism and the language and traditions of Tibet. It has one of the world’s largest collections of rare books and manuscripts on Mahayana Buddhism.

Originally dedicated to Tibetan Buddhist studies, the institute houses a world-famous collection of Buddhist manuscripts and thangkas. Today the institute’s focus is on the documentation and presentation of Sikkimese cultural and religious heritage.

Walk to Deorali Drol-Drul Chorten and Monastery

(Evening talk to be decided according to the group’s interests. Some previous groups have requested talks by experts on the birds and flowers of Sikkim and the shamanist traditions of pre-Buddhist Bon practice in Sikkim)

Day 04 –Gangtok

Breakfast at the hotel between 8:00 – 9:00 am

Depart for a magnificent view of the Khangchendzonga Range from the Tashi View Point. Here there are stunning vistas of the most sacred of Sikkim’s mountains from a lovely hilltop tower built specifically for this purpose at an altitude of 6,000ft.

Carry on to Bulbuley Zoological Park where we will take a guided walk led by a Himalayan fauna specialist and/or the zoo’s head veterinarian, through the open-plan zoo to see the snow leopard, red panda and Tibetan wolf among others, all in a natural habitat.

Return to the hotel for lunch.

Afternoon – Free and easy for shopping and roaming the main bazaar of Gangtok

Visit the shops specialising in local handicrafts: handmade carpets, Sikkimese woven fabrics, hollow wooden ‘beer’ pipes inlaid with silver and so much more.

Dinner at the hotel.

DAY 5 –Gangtok-Dzongu

Breakfast at hotel Denzong Regency between 8:00 – 9:00 am.
ETD 9:15 to Dzongu

Drive to Dzongu via the historically significant site of Kabi Longtsok about 20 km from Gangtok, where the blood brotherhood pact between the Bhutias and Lepchas was sworn. Kabi Longtsok embodies the tie between the Lepchas and Bhutias which is the cornerstone of Sikkimese culture today.

Carry on to picturesque Sangkalang amidst the pristine green forests of the Lepcha reserve. This area has only very recently been opened to the rest of the world for tourism and maintains its traditional village charm. Process permits at Mangan and carry onto Dzongu, North Sikkim.

Dzongu is a Lepcha reserve created by Chogyal Tashi Namgyal to preserve and protect the indigenious peoples of Sikkim. Land in Dzongu can be owned only by the indigenous people and until today even locals needed a special permit to visit the area.

Overnight at Munlom Nature Resort where you will be greeted by your local hosts in a traditional Lepcha ceremony and welcomed into their home and way of life. The evening will be spent experiencing traditional millet beer and local delicacies by the kitchen hearth and cultural programme of Lepcha song, dance and stories to learn about the beliefs and traditions of the “Rong-Kup”. Rong-Kup is how the Lepchas refer to themselves and translates to “children of the forest”; peoples so peaceful they do not have a word for war in their language.

Day 6: Dzongu

Breakfast at the lodge – Country breakfast served in the garden between 8:00 – 9:00 am

After breakfast day hike to Upper Dzongu through cardamom fields and tiny hamlets, the route follows an old pilgrim road leading to Thollung Monastery. This is one of the best birding walks in the Himalayas to catch glimpses of the Crested Goshawk, Rufous—bellied Niltava and Himalayan Golden eagle.

A stopover at a Sulphur hot spring where we can take time off to dip into the steaming hot waters known world over for their medicinal/health benefits.

Traditional lunch will be served at the site which is perfect for ending off the days activities. Try the Himalayan buckwheat bread and cottage cheese specialty.

Evening interaction with the “bongthing” a traditional Lepcha shaman and healer. Bongthings are responsible for the health and well-being of their village, serve as oracles and priests to divine the will of the local deities and have helped their heritage live through the transition into the modern world.

These sessions are kept as a more friendly interaction as we prefer not to make them a ‘Tourist attraction’ in these remote and fast dwindling aboriginal reserves.

Day 7: Dzongu-Lachung

A comfortable relaxed breakfast and onward further North to the Bhutia Village of Lachung. Located at an Altitude of approx.. 9100 ft above sea level, the climes are much cooler here and snowy depending on the season.

Post Lunch, a village walk around the hamlet to get oneself a bit acclimatized and familiar.
There are some beautiful walks/short drives around the place with wonderful views overlooking the high valley dotted with Rhododendron wild flowers

Rest for the evening drinks and interaction around a bonfire

Day 8: Lachung – Yumthang – Lachung

Morning post breakfast departure for the high valley of ‘Yumthang’ by 8:00 am
Yumthang is a 2 hour comfortable drive from Lachen and is located at an altitude of approx. 12,500 ft. above sea level.

Often popularly referred to as ‘the valley of flowers’, Yumthang boasts of an incredible diverse array of wild ‘Rhododendron’ flowers ,where out of the 40 odd species found in Sikkim, this region has more than half of them in its valley floor!
The seasons of Spring (March-May) showcase the full splendor of their blossoms and is a must visit.

Various long stretches of hiking trails meander through the rhododendron sanctuary providing the enthusiastic hiker an unforgettable experience!

Return by Evening to Lachung for the Night.

Day 9: Lachung return to Gangtok.

This is an easy day of travelling back to Gangtok for a night halt after the extensive excursions up Northern Sikkim!

Post breakfast a relax drive back of approx. 3 hours and check in to the hotel.
Afternoon free for strolls to the market and any last minutes shopping for souvenirs or trinkets!

Day 10–Gangtok – Gyalshing/Pelling

Breakfast at the hotel served between 8:00-9:00 am
ETD 9:15am for Gyalshing/Pelling: Approximately a 5 hour drive that will take us past some of the most dazzling waterfalls in Sikkim.

The drive will be also past the small but wonderful ‘Temi Tea Estate’, which is Sikkims finest Organic Tea Garden and boasts of quality comparable to the best in the world!

Check in at the Mount Pandim hotel, then there will be a post-lunch departure for Pemayangtse Monastery and the Rabdentse Palace ruins.
ETD: 1:30pm

Pemayangtse means ‘the Lotus Born Seat’. It is one of the premier monastic institutes in Sikkim and also the seat of Nyingma Buddhism, one of the four main schools of Mahayana Buddhism. The monks of Pemayangtse are chosen only from certain lineage-holding families and have been the royal family’s lamas for 300 years. The monastery was built in 1705 and sits atop the highest point of Gyalshing, West Sikkim. Gyalshing means ‘Kings’ Fields’ because its soil is the richest in Sikkim, annually providing three separate crop yields.
Walk to the Rabdentse Palace Ruins: A few kilometres away from the hotel are the magnificent ruins of Rabdentse. This was the early 18th century capital of the chogyals, abandoned towards the end of the 18th century when it came under threat from the Gorkhas of neighbouring Nepal. The Archaeological Survey of India is engaged in excavations and restoration at this site.

Evening drinks and snacks at the hotel: Reflections on the sites visited and relaxing around a bonfire. Dinner at the hotel.

DAY 11 – Pelling

Pelling is the sister township of Gyalshing and are located adjacent to each other. Hence we mention these two names sometimes inter-changingly

After breakfast we will walk to Sikkim’s oldest COMPLETED monastery Sangachoeling, located on a hilltop in Pelling. Its date of construction is still debated, but is widely believed to be around 1697. This 17th century gompa (monastery), was established by Lhatsun Chempo, one of the three regents who crowned the first chogyal of Sikkim.

After lunch we will drive to Khecheolpalri lake.

Considered highly sacred by the local people, the lake itself lies at the base of Khecheopalri Hill and is believed to have been visited by Guru Padmasambhava. Commonly believed to be a wish-fulfilling lake, pilgrims visit the site and offer silk scarves called khatas as well as prayers, after the cardamom harvest season in October. An interesting fact about the lake is that no leaves ever collect on its surface because as soon as they fall, birds immediately begin collecting them.

Day 12 –Darjeeling

Breakfast at the hotel between 8:00 – 9:00 am

Day excursion to visit the local sights and sounds of Darjeeling. First a morning trip to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Museum to view Tenzing Norgay’s collection of the gear used for the ascent of Mount Everest, which he donated. There is also a wide inventory of climbing memorabilia. We will move on to the Himalayan Zoological Park and learn about the snow leopard breeding programme.

Although there is an option to drive to these places, it is recommended that we walk from the Windamere along a route that is closed to vehicular traffic and which, on a clear day, boasts spectacular views of the Himalayas.

Back to the hotel for lunch and a well-deserved afternoon of shopping or rest and evening cocktails.

DAY 13 –Darjeeling

Breakfast at the hotel between 8:00 – 9:00 am

A full-day excursion to a Tea Garden has been organised. Our visit and tour of the estate includes lunch. We will learn how tea makes its way from the garden to the table. You will have an opportunity to try your hand at leaf-picking. This itinerary will be fleshed out when we hear back from a tea expert friend, Sebastian Beckwith, who travels the world buying tea for his import company.

DAY 14 –Darjeeling/Bagdogra/New Delhi

We will have an early departure from Darjeeling in order to reach Bagdogra in time for our afternoon flight back to New Delhi.

TOUR COST

All prices are PLUS the Acceptance Fee of £200 per person
Cost per person on twin share basis with breakfast as per itinerary

3 to 4 Star Hotels – OR Best available
Per Person US$2800 Includes Acceptance Payment/Deposit of £200
No Domestic airfares are included in above cost.

Payment.
1.On acceptance – £200 per person, Acceptance Payment/Deposit (non refundable) by International Bank Transfer to UK Bank Account “S W & M Miller”

Your Contract for all tour arrangements is directly with Greenwheels, Gangtok, India to whom payment for the tour is made

2. You pay, IN FULL, 12 weeks prior to arrival in India, or on Acceptance if booking is less than 12 weeks before arrival – by International Bank Transfer, direct to Greenwheels, Gangtok, India,

OR by our NEW Currency Transfer Payment system (commercial rate and no bank charges)

Cancellation Charges
Before 60 Days: Full Refund.
60 – 46 Days: 25% of the Tour Cost.
45 – 31 Days: 50% of the Tour Cost.
30 – 16 Days: 75% of the Tour Cost.
15 days to Day of Departure: 100 % of the Tour Cost or No Refund.
Acceptance Payment non refundable

SPECIAL NOTE:

• Check in / check out time at the Hotels is 1200 Noon except few hotels / cities.
• For International flight check-in time is 03 hours before the departure time.
• For Domestic flight check-in time is 01 hour before the departure time.
• Flight schedule and air fare quoted is subject to change as per the airlines notice from time to time.
• Prices are subject to change with any increase in the cost.
• Any additional expense incurred due to a change in the Government of India and Reserve Bank of India regulations pertaining to taxes, fuel hikes, air-fares and transport and any force majeure situation due to political conditions, we reserve the right to change the cost.
• In case of any increase in the accommodation cost and other services by the service providers will be applicable and levied on the above advised cost.
• Any increase in rate of exchange leading to an increase in surface transportation and land arrangements, which may come into effect prior to departure.
• Please be advised that we have not blocked any accommodation for this tour at the time of quotation. Once we receive your acceptance of the same will proceed ahead with the bookings. In case of non availability of original Hotels as envisaged will book alternate Hotels of similar standards.

Included in the Cost

• Accommodation on a twin sharing basis in the hotels mentioned above or equivalent – subject to availability, Any single room subject to supplement.
• Room and breakfast basis – or meals as indicated in the itinerary (B), (L) and (D)
• Full board at Wildlife Park if applicable.
• All transfers, sightseeing and excursions by appropriate suitable for terrain and roads. This may be air conditioned if appropriate.
• Services of an English speaking local guide (or a naturalist in National Parks)
• Entrance fees at monuments and parks where applicable
• Basic porterage at airports, rail stations and hotels (not tips).
• All currently applicable taxes.
• Where US$ are quoted the UK pounds price shown is for comparison only and is subject to change.

Excluded from the Cost

• Expenses of a personal nature table drinks, laundry, telephone calls Internet charges, mineral water, tips, shopping etc.
• Any other meals or services not mentioned in the itinerary or ‘includes’ list.
• Any international airfares to India and Asia
• Domestic economy airfares, indicated in the itinerary, are subject to change.
• Any airport taxes where applicable in each country
• Any subsequent increase in airfares, fuel costs, monuments/sightseeing fees.
• Any other taxes subsequently introduced by Government, State or Tourist Ministry.
• Travel Insurance
• Visa Fees, if applicable, in any country
• Any Christmas, New Year and Gala Dinners