Travel through the Himalayas on an overland journey from India to Bhutan

Experience remote and picturesque parts of India and Bhutan on this incredible overland adventure. From India's cultural capital of Kolkata to the Bhutanese gem of Paro, journey through lush rice paddies, hilltop monasteries and stunning mountainous terrain. Friendly locals, beautiful vistas and character-packed destinations...who knew travelling in a truck could be so much fun? The mighty Himalayas and the Land of the Thunder Dragon are calling.

Start
Kolkata, India
Finish
Paro, Bhutan
Countries
Bhutan,
India
Themes
Overland
Code
HDOP
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4 Max 22
Carbon offset
468kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • This overland adventure is the best way to see India and Bhutan. Travelling by truck, rub shoulders with the locals as you journey across remote landscapes
  • The local guides on this trip are the best in the business. Gain insight into the areas visited as you're joined by various experts with specific knowledge and experience
  • Even though there are lots of included activities packed into the itinerary, you'll have plenty of free time to explore on your own and pursue optional activities
  • Travel through spectacular scenery, from the rolling green rice paddies of Darjeeling to the remote Phobjikha Valley and the Black Mountains
  • Spend a night under the stars camping in the Gangaram Tea Plantation

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2018

Welcome to Kolkata, India. If you're joining in Kolkata, you'll most likely enter India at Kolkata Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport. Please note that you must have a Double-Entry India visa for this trip if leaving in Kathmandu, and a Multi-Entry India visa if continuing beyond Kathmandu. Please see details in the 'Visas' section. There will be an important group meeting at the joining hotel at 10 am. Please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception when you arrive for more details about this meeting. The afternoon is then free to explore Kolkata, before taking an overnight sleeper train from Kolkata to Siliguri tonight.

During your free time, perhaps discover the world's largest tree (The Great Banyan Tree) at the A. J. C. Bose Botanic Gardens, the place where tea was first cultivated in India. Explore the streets of the BBD Bagh, the heart of Kolkata and one of the best areas of British colonial architecture in the world. Possibly visit and support the Usthi Foundation's school and farm for impoverished children in Kolkata, and see the amazing work they do (if available). There's plenty of things to see and do.

Notes: You may need extra time in Kolkata before the trip to have the opportunity to do some of the optional activities. Please contact the Dragoman sales team if you would like help in booking pre-tour accommodation in Kolkata (subject to availability).


Hotel for the night: Niharika Hotel
Hotel for the night: Niharika Hotel
5 A. J. C. Bose Road,
Near Minto Park,
Kolkata
Tel - +91 33 4060 1122
Email - info@hotelniharika.com
Web - www.hotelniharika.com

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:
- Discover the world's largest tree (The Great Banyan Tree) at the A. J. C. Bose Botanic Gardens, the place where tea was first cultivated in India - INR 200
- Explore the streets of the BBD Bagh, the heart of Kolkata and one of the best areas of British colonial architecture in the world
- Visit the Eden Gardens, the most famous and iconic cricket stadium in India
- See the famous Howrah Bridge over the Hooghly River, thought to be the busiest bridge in the world with 150,000 pedestrians and 100,000 vehicles crossing every day
- Discover the incredible array of art and historical artefacts on display at the Indian Museum in Kolkata, the largest and oldest museum in India - INR 200
- Head out on a fantastic photographic tour of Kolkata, exploring the hidden gems, back streets, and photogenic spots of the city with a superb local guide - INR 2000
- Explore the vast fields and parks of the Maidan (the 'lungs of Kolkata') and observe daily life away from the = chaos of the city
- Visit and support the Usthi Foundation's school and farm for impoverished children in Kolkata, and see the amazing work they do (if available) - USD 10
- See the huge white marble Victoria Memorial, built in the early 20th century by the British Viceroy of India and a grandiose reminder of Kolkata's colonial past - INR 200
- Visit the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Centre, a museum illustrating the life and work of the famous and controversial missionary
Arriving into Siliguri early in the morning, take a 4WD vehicle along narrow, steep and winding roads for around two hours to Darjeeling. Situated on a high ridge, linked by a series of steps and winding lanes, surrounded by rice and tea terraces, Darjeeling is a town that is really more a collection of villages. Check in to your comfortable hotel on arrival, with the rest of the day free to explore. The views are amazing from here, so take a walk and get your bearings of the area.

The cool climate and slow pace of life here are an abrupt contrast to the rest of India. It's a pleasant place to explore, with monasteries and tea plantations to visit and Tibetan craft shops and markets to browse through.
Today is a free day in Darjeeling to relax or explore more of the surrounding area. The views are fantastic from here, looking down onto the rivers below with Mount Kanchenjunga in the background - and on a clear day even Mount Everest can be seen in the distance. For the very best view, perhaps take a pre-dawn jeep excursion to Tiger Hill, where you can see the magnificent sunrise over the Himalayas. If you'd like to stay on the move, take a scenic ride on the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway up to Ghoom - the highest train station in India.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:
- Take a scenic ride on the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway up to Ghoom, the highest train station in India - INR 470
- Visit the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre near Darjeeling, a home, hospital, and craft centre for Tibetans who have fled persecution and taken sanctuary in India
- Visit the huge and colourful Dali Monastery near Darjeeling, the residence of the supreme head of the Kargyupa sect of Buddhism
- Visit the Japanese Peace Pagoda in Darjeeling, one of a series of stupas built worldwide to promote world peace and non-violence
- Explore the Happy Valley Tea Estate, the oldest tea plantations in Darjeeling, and learn all about the tea industry for which the area is famous - USD 5
- See the museum at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, containing many exhibits from mountaineering history and the grave of Tenzing Norgay, one of the first men to summit Mount Everest - INR 100
- Take an early jeep trip to Tiger Hill, where you can get an incredible sunrise view of Kangchenjunda, the 3rd highest mountain in the world - INR 250
Retrace your steps back to Siliguri today, which should around two hours. On arrival, the group will jump aboard the overland truck for the first time and head to Gangaram Tea Plantation. The rest of your afternoon is free to explore the area, before settling down in your camp for the night.
This morning, drive from Siliguri to the border at Jaigaon where you'll exit India and enter Bhutan at Phuentsholing. The group's Bhutanese guide will be waiting to receive you at the border gate. Your tour leader will collect all of the group's passports to get the visa process underway, in order to save time in the morning. Drive time will take around six hours today and you'll stay a local hotel in Phuentsholing.
This morning, enjoy a leisurely breakfast while the visa process is underway. Once officially inside Bhutan, drive from the warmer climates of Phuntsholing up to the Bhutanese capital of Thimphu, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. Use free time in the evening to take a stroll around Thimphu, and begin to soak in the relaxed atmosphere and laid back way of life of this picturesque country. Recharge your batteries tonight after a long day of travel in your hotel in Thimphu. Today's driving time will take around eight to nine hours.
Today you have a full day in Thimphu for sightseeing. In the morning, venture out for an included city tour with your local guide, paying visits to the iconic National Memorial Chorten (a stupa built in 1974 to commemorate the third King of Bhutan), the main outdoor market of Thimphu and the 17th-century Buddhist fortress of Tashichho Dzong. You'll also have plenty of time explore Thimphu on your own, so get ready to comb the markets for produce and handicrafts.

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES:
- Explore the wonderful sights, sounds, and smells of the evocative main outdoor market of Thimphu
- See Thimphu's iconic National Memorial Chorten, a stupa built in 1974 to commemorate the 3rd King of Bhutan
- Visit the Tashichho Dzong in the capital of Thimphu, a beautiful 17th-century Buddhist fortress that serves as the current seat of the Bhutanese government
In the morning, drive to Bhutan's old capital Punakha via the Dochula pass at 3,050 metres. Stop on the pass for a hot drink and to enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges. You'll probably notice the change of climate and vegetation as we approach the low-lying Punakha at 1,250 metres altitude. On arrival to Punakha this afternoon, visit the strategically placed Punakha Dzong (Palace of Great Happiness) at the confluence of the Po Chu and the Mo Chu rivers. Afterwards, take a pleasant walk for an about hour or so across the terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility). Tonight, spend the night in a traditional farmhouse and relax before another day of travel. Today's driving time will take around three hours.

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES:
- See the incredible 52m-tall golden Buddha Dordenma statue in the hills above Thimphu, the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world
- Explore the imposing Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by Ngawang Namgyal, the first leader of a united Bhutan

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES:
- Visit the Changangkha Lhakhang in the hills above Thimphu, a busy temple where parents come to recieve the names for their new-borns from the deity Tamdrin
- Visit the National Folk Museum, a living museum to see a slice of traditional Bhutanese life as it would have been a century ago - BTN 150
- Visit the Motithang Takin Preserve near Thimphu, a natural conservation area for the curious yak-like Himalayan Takin
Drive to Trongsa today, which is the gateway to central Bhutan at 2,180 metres. Set amid spectacular scenery, Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family, commands the eye from miles away. You'll also be able to visit Ta Dzong, which is the newly opened museum in the watchtower. Dedicated to the Wangchuk dynasty, it tells the stories of the Dzong and the valley, featuring personal belongings of the kings and queens of Bhutan. Continue through some of Bhutan’s most idyllic landscapes to Bumthang, an area of high valleys that sits between 2,580 - 3,100 metres.

Once in Bumthang, stay in a local farmhouse where you'll experience a genuine slice of Bhutanese life and hospitality. The facilities here are quite basic, but the accommodation is exactly how a typical Bhutanse family live; and the food is in no way adapted for tourists. Today's drive time will take around nine hours, including a two hour visit to Trongsa.
Spend today sightseeing in the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. With its many legendary monasteries, temples and palaces, Bumthang is the collective name for an area of 4 valleys - Chokhor, Tang, Ura and Chhume. Your guide will take you on a fascinating walking and/or driving tour of a variety of sacred sites, including Jamba Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamshing Lhakhang, followed by a visit to Membar Tsho (Burning Lake), one of Bhutan’s most important pilgrimage sites. You can also visit Bhutan’s largest Dzong, Jakar, with its picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor Valley.

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES:
- Visit the incredible Trongsa Dzong, the largest Buddhist fortress in Bhutan set against the stunning backdrop of the Black Mountains
- Take a beautiful 6-hour hike into the hills above Bumthang to visit the peaceful and remote Padtshaling Monastery
Drive to Gangtey today, which is set at 2,900 metres above sea level. On arrival, enjoy the immense views of the remote Phobjikha Valley and the Black Mountains. Move onto visit Gangtey Gonpa (one of Bhutan’s oldest and recently renovated monasteries) and explore the valley where the villagers continue to live a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle. This is the site where black-necked cranes visit in their hundreds in November of each year, after spending the summer in Tibet. Later in the afternoon, head to your campsite in Gangtey where you'll spend the night. Drive time will be approximately six hours today.

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES:
- Explore the colourful, recently-restored Gangtey Gompa, a monastic college famous for its annual festival to welcome the migration of black-necked cranes
This morning, venture out on a day walk in the valley known as the Shasi La Nature Trail. The trail is used by the people of Sha Ngawang and Chitokha to migrate between their summer and winter homes in Gangtey. It was also an important trail used by the Gangtey Truelku and his followers in the past, when migrating between his winter residence in Sha Chitokha and Gangtey Gompa. The walk takes around six hours for casual trekkers to reach Kheylaykha from Phobjikha, and is especially great for bird lovers as there's an abundance of wildlife in the area. This evening, relax back at camp after a long day's hike.
If the group has time this morning, take a trek up to the hilltop village of Rinchengang and learn about its interesting history. Afterwards, continue your adventure by driving to Paro, where you'll have an included visit to the impressive Paro Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. Your evening is then free to do as you wish. The drive time today will take between four to five hours, and you'll be staying in a local hotel tonight in Paro.

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES:
- Trek up to the village of Rinchengang, picturesquely situated on a steep ridge near Wangdi
- Visit the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture
Take a day walk to the ‘Tiger's Nest’ today, the sacred Taktshang monastery, which clings to the rock face 900 metres above the valley floor. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress, and subsequently meditated here for three months. This is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan, but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries. Enjoy lunch at the Taktshang cafeteria and take in the spectacular views of the monastery.

In the afternoon, visit the ruined Drukgyel Dzong (Fortress of Victory), constructed to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644, and destroyed by a butter lamp fire in 1951. You'll also get the chance to visit the nearby 7th-century Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan. In the evening, you have free time to explore the area and relax in the hotel.

INCLUDED ACTIVITIES:
- Trek up to the iconic 'Tiger's Nest', the sacred Taktsang monastery which clings to the rock face 900m above the valley floor - the most famous symbol of Bhutan
Your Kolkata to Paro adventure ends this morning. There are no more activities planned and you're free to leave the accommodation at any time. If you're finishing your trip in Paro then you'll most likely exit Bhutan at Paro International Airport. Please note that if you're leaving the trip in Paro, there is no accommodation included tonight. If you'd like to book a couple of extra nights of accommodation, our agents will be happy to help (subject to availability).
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
10 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 9 dinners
Accommodation
Camping (with facilities) (3 nights), Farmstay (2 nights), Hotel (8 nights), Overnight sleeper train (1 night)

Dates

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Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

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