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Day 1: Arrive in Calcutta, India
Upon arrival in Calcutta you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore on your own before meeting with the group for dinner and our orientation meeting.
Day 2: Calcutta - Kalighat Kali Temple
A full day exploring the ancient sights of Calcutta. We visit Kalighat Kali Temple, Victoria Memorial hall and Mother Teresa's Tomb.
Day 3: Fly to Bagdogra, India - Tea Factory
Today, we fly from Calcutta to Bagdogra in India. Our adventure to Darjeeling (West Bengal), Sikkim, and Bhutan begins with a scenic drive to Darjeeling where we will have time to explore and relax. We will visit a tea factory and a Tibetan refugee center. Overnight in Darjeeling.
Day 4: Darjeeling - Mt. Kanchenjunga
This morning we take a trip to Tiger Hill for a view of the sunrise over the mountains in hopes of seeing Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. After breakfast we ride a Raj-era train where we will visit the Railway Museum and then continue on to visit the Ghoom Monastery.
Day 5: Darjeeling - Mountaineering Institute
Today we drive to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The Institute was established in 1954 following the mountaineering success of Hilary and Tenzing. After the museum, we walk through the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park as they protect endangered species, including some of the most unusual animals in the world. Amongst these are Red Pandas, Siberian Tigers, Yaks, Snow Leopards and Himalayan bears.
Day 6: Gangtok, Sikkim
In the morning, we drive and cross the border into Sikkim. After lunch, we continue to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Until 1965, Sikkim was a separate state ruled by a Chogyal (a Sikkim king) whose history dates back to the 16th century. Today, the monarchy has been abolished and Sikkim is part of the Indian union.
Day 7: Gangtok Sites & Institute of Tibetology
We start off our day with a visit to the Ganesh Tok Temple which is also a view point. We then visit the Flower Exhibition Center that was once the Loop Garden in North Sikkim during 1963 and then inaugurated by the Gyalmo Hope Namgyal. The most beautiful Himalayan flowers can be seen here including orchids.
Day 8: Rumtek Monastery, to Kalimpong
Today we drive to Kalimpong, first stopping to visit the Rumtek Monastery. Rumtek Monastery was the seat of the Kagypa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The first monastery was built here in 1717, but crumbled to ruins and the present monastery dates from 1960.
Day 9: Phuentsholing, Bhutan
We have an early start to the morning so we can visit Durpin Dara Monastery also known as Thongsa Monastery. We continue to Phuentsholing, just inside the Bhutan border. Today is a long day so we will have a box lunch to save time. On our first night in Bhutan, we have a short walk through the streets of Phuentsholing and savor being among the few who have traveled to this remote and exotic land.
Day 10: Spectacular Drive to Thimphu
We have a full day drive through the spectacular countryside to Thimphu, the nation's capital. The driving distance today is about 175 kms and will take about 5 - 6 hours. Enroute, we visit Rinchending Monastery also known to some as the Kharbandi Monastery built in 1967 by the great grandmother of the present king of Bhutan. Thimphu is the modern capital of Bhutan with an estimated population of more than 99,000 people. Afterwards, we visit the Thimphu post office where we can make our own stamp and send a post card home with your self made stamp.
Day 11: Thimphu Festival
Today we enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the biggest festivals in the country, the Thimphu Tshechu. The Tshechu is a religious 3 days event celebrated on tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). Enjoy the many colorful mask and folk dances that are performed throughout the city. The dances (most of which are performed by monks) bring blessings to the onlookers as well as teaching them about the Buddhist Dharma. This religious festival pays homage to Guru Rimpoche who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan and other Himalayan regions. The festival draws many spectators from all over Bhutan.
Day 12: Thimphu
Bhutan is the only country whose government is officially Buddhist and as such, a walk through the streets of Thimphu is a walk unlike any other in the world. We visit the National Memorial Chorten built in 1974 in memory of the Third King of Bhutan. Later visit the Mini Zoo to see a real life Takin (a goat-antelope), the national animal of Bhutan.
Day 13: To Wangdi via Dochula Pass, Punakha Dzong
We depart Thimphu and drive over the Dochula Pass which is approximately 10,000 ft/3050 m and walk around the 108 Chortens. On a clear day, one can view the magnificent sights of the Eastern Himalayan Ranges.
Day 14: Wangdi to Trongsa
After breakfast we drive to Trongsa via Phobjikha valley and Phobjikha valley is the winter residence of the black necked crane. If time permits we can explore the Phobjikha valley nature trail about one hour walk. Today the drive will take us up towards the Pele La Pass (3,300m/10,820ft) where there is a great chance of spotting some yaks as we pass the magnificent Stupa of Chendebji enroute. Upon arrival into the Trongsa valley, we see the Trongsa Dzong built in 1646. This is one of the most impressive Dzongs in Bhutan and also the ancient home of the royal family, where the first and second Kings ruled and a true masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture.
Day 15: To Bumthang
This morning we visit the Ta Dzong - perched over the Trongsa Dzong. This fortress was originally built as a watch tower and later converted into a heritage museum. After visiting the Ta Dzong, we proceed towards Bumthang crossing the Yotong La Pass (3,440m/11,285ft) and descend into Chumey valley, the first of the four Bumthang valleys.
Day 16: Bumthang - Jakar Dzong, Jambey Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang
Today we explore the Bumthang valley with visits to Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley built in 1667. We will visit Jambey Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, dating from the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan in 746 AD. Next we stop at Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places, because Guru Rinpoche left his body imprint on the cave when he was meditating.
Day 17: Bumthang - Wangdi
After breakfast, we start our travel day back to Wangdi via Trongsa, passing the Kikila Pass, Yotongla Pass and Pele La Pass. Enroute, we stop for lunch after crossing Trongsa. Our journey today has us passing by beautiful rural areas and landscapes, seeing some of the most unspoiled nature Bhutan has to offer. We pass the magnificent stupa of Chendebji again which is similar to the Boudhnath in Nepal.
Day 18: Wangdi - Paro
Today we head to Paro via the Dochula Pass once more.
Day 19: Hike to Taktsang Monastery
After breakfast we hike up to the famous Taktsang Monastery or Tiger's Nest where we marvel in the history of this holy place and see the holy cave where it is said to be the origin of Bhuddism in Bhutan. This monastery is miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff - 900m above the Paro Valley. It is said that Guru Rimpoche flew to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress believed to be his consort, Yeshey Tshogyel, to subdue the local demon. Guru Rimpoche meditated in a cave for three months.
Day 20: Fly to Calcutta, Farewell Dinner
Today we say goodbye to Bhutan and fly to Calcutta, where we will have a free afternoon before we have our farewell dinner.
Day 21: Depart Calcutta
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your departing flights.
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