Travel through the Himalayas on an overland journey from India to Nepal via 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 and only Kathmandu, 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
Kathmandu, Nepal
Countries
Bhutan, India, Nepal
Style
Basix
Theme
Overland
Code
HDOP
Physical rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 4, Max 22

Why we love this trip

  • 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

  • Finish with a flight to Kathmandu

Is this trip right for you?

  • There will be some long days on this adventure - up to nine hours in some cases. The scenery more than makes up for this. It's also a great way to get to know your fellow travellers.

  • On the first night of the trip, you'll take an overnight sleeper train from Kolkata to Siliguri. While conditions are basic, this a typically authentic Indian experience and the perfect opportunity to rub shoulders with the locals.

  • This trip requires a decent level of fitness, as there's a lot of hiking and walking involved. In some instances you may be hiking for up to six hours in a day. Please remember to bring sturdy walking shoes and drink plenty of water during your trek.

  • Due to the high altitude of many of the places we visit, the air is thinner and some people can suffer altitude sickness. Some people aren’t affected at all, but if you are, be sure to drink plenty of water and don’t push yourself too hard. Please see the ‘Health’ section of the trip notes for more important information about altitude sickness.

Itinerary

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


Border Information: If you are joining in Kolkata, you will most likely enter India at Kolkata Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (IATA code: CCU).

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 - see details below. There will be an important group meeting at the joining hotel at 10:00am. 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 free to explore Kolkata.

Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Kolkata before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Kolkata. We will meet in the evening to board an overnight sleeper train from Kolkata to Siliguri - accommodation will be aboard the train tonight, where there are bunk beds with sheets provided.
Hotel for the night: Niharika Hotel
Niharika Hotel
5 A.J.C. Bose Road
Near Minto Park
Kolkata
India
Tel - +91 33 4060 1122

Activity Approximate Cost
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
Freely explore the streets of the BBD Bagh, the heart of Kolkata and one of the best areas of British colonial architecture in the world Free
Visit the Eden Gardens, the most famous and iconic cricket stadium in India Free
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 Free
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 Free
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 Free 
Experience a local overnight train from Kolkata to Siliguri Included in Kitty 

About Kolkata:
Kolkata was originally a British settlement, built by the East India Company in the 17th Century during their trading and colonising expansion along the boast of Bengal - it also became the capital of the British colonial government until 1911 when this was moved to Delhi. The city is now India's third largest, and is
regarded by many as the country's intellectual and cultural capital. At first you are assaulted by the noise and chaos of this bustling metropolis, but take the time to explore and you'll discover some impressive colonial architecture, some of the best restaurants in India and a thriving arts scene. Bengali theatre, dance, poetry, art, music and film are all showcased here, and there's usually plenty to choose from on at the city's many venues. An interesting relic of the colonial era is the Victoria Memorial - a beautiful domed white marble edifice set in tranquil gardens, the monument was built to commemorate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. Kolkata is also home to the Sister's of Charity Motherhouse, the mission where Mother Teresa did much of her work. Finally, if all the hustle and bustle is getting too much for you, you can explore the vast green fields of the Maidan or take refuge in the beautiful botanic gardens along the banks of the Hooghly River. 
Accommodation
  • Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
We will arrive into Siliguri at around 9:00am this morning, meeting our jeeps
and drivers at the station for our onward journey through the narrow winding
roads to Darjeeling. The town of Darjeeling is really more a collection of
villages situated on a high ridge, linked by a series of steps and winding lanes and surrounded by rice and tea terraces.

Jeeps are used in this region rather than our overland truck as they are perfect
for the narrow, steep and winding roads of the area. We will continue with the
jeeps until the trip returns to Siliguri.

Estimated Drive Time (in jeeps) - 3-4 hours (please note that all drive times
given here are the approximate number of hours that the truck will be in
motion only, and does not include any time taken for coffee or lunch stops,
border crossings, photo stops, activities en route, comfort breaks, shopping
stops, toilet stops, etc. The times given are approximate estimates only and
whilst given with the best of intentions, the drive times are heavily dependent
on traffic, road conditions, weather, police roadblocks, and many other factors
- flexibility is essential on any overland trip!).

In Darjeeling we will stay in a local hotel.

About Darjeeling:
Situated on a high ridge and surrounded by terraces of rice, tea, quinine and
fruit trees, Darjeeling is a collection of villages linked by steps and lanes so
steep that they appear to almost be built on top of each other.

The views are fantastic from here, looking down over the rivers below with
Mount Kanchenjunga in the background (the world's third highest mountain, and
the highest in India) - and on a very clear day even Mount Everest can be seen
in the far distance. For the very best view, take a pre-dawn excursion to Tiger
Hill, where on a clear day you can see the magnificent sunrise over the
Himalayas, which is definitely worth the early start.

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.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today is a free day in Darjeeling to relax, enjoy the surrounding area and take part in some optional activities.

Activity  Approximate Cost
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 Free
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Border Information: Exit India at Jaigaon, enter Bhutan at Phuntsholing.

This morning we will drive in locally-chartered jeeps from Darjeeling to the
Bhutanese border at Phuntsholing, where our local Bhutanese guide will be
waiting to receive us at the border gate. Your tour leader will collect all the
group's passports to get the visa process underway in order to save time in the morning.

In Phuntsholing we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (in jeeps and locally charted bus).

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
This morning we will finalise our visas and then start our journey into Bhutan
with a drive in a locally-chartered bus from the warmer climes of Phuntsholing
up to the capital of Thimphu, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas.

We will have time in the evening to take a stroll around Thimphu and start to
take in the atmosphere and culture of this beautiful country and its gentle way
of life.

In Thimphu we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-8 hours (in locally-chartered bus)

About Thimphu:
Thimphu is Bhutan's atmospheric and serene capital, wonderfully located in a lush valley surrounded by towering mountains. One of the world's smallest
capitals, it was only a loose collection of separate villages as recently as 1960, when it was decided by the King Jigme Darje Wangchuk to move the political base there from the ancient capital Punakha - its diminutive size gives it a unique charm and atmosphere, and it claims to be the only capital in the world that does not have traffic lights!

There are several highlights for visitors to this unique city - the stunning Changangkha Temple looms above the city and is traditionally a place
where new parents come to recieve the names for their new-borns from the
deity Tamdrin; the Memorial Chorten in the city centre, built to commemorate
king Jigme Wangchuk, is the most recognisable religious building in the country, and the spectacular bronze Buddha Dordenma statue in the hills near Thimphu is one of the most beautiful and ornate Buddha statues in the world.

The nearby Moitithang Takin Preserve is a wonderful natural conservation area for the rare takin mammal, endemic to this region of Bhutan.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Today we will have a day in Thimphu for sightseeing. We will have an included
city tour from our local guides, including the Changangkha Temple, Memorial
Chorten and the Takin Reserve, and there will also be plenty of time for free
exploration and visiting the Thimphu markets.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
In the morning we will drive to the old capital Punakha, via the Dochu La Pass
at 3050m, where we will stop for a hot drink and to enjoy spectacular
panoramic views of the Eastern Himalaya ranges. We will notice the change of
climate and vegetation as we approach the low-lying Punakha at
1250m altitude.

This afternoon we will visit the imposing Punakha Dzong (Palace of Great
Happiness). Built in 1637 CE, it is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Po Chu and the Mo Chu. After this, we will take a pleasant walk for an hour or so across the terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility) built in the 15th century by the ‘Divine Madman’ (Lama Drukpa Kuenley).

In Punakha we will stay in a local farmhouse, where we will experience a
genuine slice of Bhutanese life and hospitality. The facilities here will be rather basic, but the accommodation is exactly how a typical Bhutanse family live, and the food is in no way adapted for tourists.

Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (in locally-chartered bus).

About Punakha:
Punakha is the old historical capital of Bhutan and was the site of the
coronation of the first king of unified independent Bhutan in 1907, Ugyen Wangchuk. It sits in a warm valley famous in Bhutan for its white and red rice cultivation.

Punakha is the site of the historic Punakha Dzong - known as the "Palace of
Great Happiness", the fortress was built in 1637 CE, making it the country's
second oldest and second largest dzong. Jacaranda trees grow around the
dzong, blooming with mauve flowers in the spring, and there is a unique
reconstructed cantilever bridge to enter the buiding.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today we drive to Trongsa, the gateway to central Bhutan at 2180m. Set amidst spectacular scenery, Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family, commands the eye from miles away. We can also visit Ta Dzong - the newly opened museum in the watchtower is dedicated to the Wangchuk dynasty, tells the stories of the Dzong and the valley, and features personal belongings of the kings and queens of Bhutan.

We then continue through some of Bhutan’s most beautiful landscapes to
Bumthang, an area of high valleys at 2580-3100m.

In Bumthang we will stay again in a local farmhouse with basic facilities.

Estimated Drive Time - 6-7 hours (in locally-chartered bus).

About Bumthang:
The Bumthang region of eastern Bhutan is a lush, tree-covered valley, famous for its brightly-coloured woolen handicrafts called yethra. The culture of eastern Bhutan is quite distinctive, and contains its own set of languages and cultures. The town of Bumthang is dominated by the colossal Jakar Dzong that sits on a ridge overlooking the valley - with a circumference of 1,500 metres, Jakar is thought to be the largest in Bhutan. The name Jakar means "white bird", which refers to the myth that a roosting white bird signaled the location to found the monastery back in 1549 CE.


Accommodation
  • Farmhouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
We will spend today sightseeing in Bumthang, 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.

Our guide will take us on a fascinating walking and/or driving tour of a variety of sacred sites including Jamba Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamshing Lhakhang. We can also visit Bhutan’s largest Dzong, Jakar, with its picturesque location overlooking the Chokhor valley.
Accommodation
  • Farmhouse (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today we drive to Gangtey at 2900m. On arrival we can enjoy the views of the immense and remote Phobjikha valley and the black mountain ranges.
We will visit Gangtey Gompa (one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries which has
recently been extensively renovated) 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 each year after spending the summer in Tibet.

In Gangtey we will stay in a local hotel.

Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours (in locally-chartered bus).

About Gangtey:
Gangtey is a stunning area of Bhutan surrounded by the Black Mountain range and the glacial Phobjika Valley. The Gangtey Monastery is an important centre for the Nyingma branch of Buddhism, the oldest form of Tibetan Buddhism based on the very first translations of Buddha's teachings from Sanskrit into Old Tibetan in the 8th Century CE - interestingly, written Tibetan was created specifically for this purpose!

The monastery is also the site of a remarkable migration of black-necked
cranes, which arrive from Tibet to roost during October before returning in
early spring - on their arrival and return they are commonly observed to circle the monastery three times. Their arrival is marked with a special festival at the monastery.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today we will head out for a day walk in the valley known as the Shasila 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 while migrating between his winter residence in Sha Chitokha and Gangtey Gompa. The walk takes approximately 6 hours for casual trekkers to reach Kheylaykha from Phobjikha. This trail is especially recommended for bird lovers. Our transport will meet us at the road and take us back to Gangtey for the night.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today we take a day walk to the ‘Tiger's Nest’, the sacred Taktsang monastery which clings to the rock face 900m above the valley floor. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress, and subsequently meditated here for 3 months. It is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries. We can have lunch at the Taktshang cafeteria, from where we get a spectacular view of the monastery.

In the afternoon we will visit the ruined Drukgyel Dzong (Fortress of Victory),
constructed to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644 CE, and destroyed by a butter lamp fire in 1951. Nearby we will also visit the 7thCentury Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today we take a day walk to the ‘Tiger's Nest’, the sacred Taktsang monastery which clings to the rock face 900m above the valley floor. Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown to the site riding on a tigress, and subsequently meditated here for 3 months. It is one of Bhutan’s most holy sites and draws pilgrims not only from Bhutan but also from neighbouring Buddhist countries. We can have lunch at the Taktshang cafeteria, from where we get a spectacular view of the monastery.


In the afternoon we will visit the ruined Drukgyel Dzong (Fortress of Victory),
constructed to commemorate the victory over Tibetan invaders in 1644 CE, and destroyed by a butter lamp fire in 1951. Nearby we will also visit the 7thCentury Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Border Information: Exit Bhutan at Paro, enter Nepal at Kathmandu.

Today we will take a short flight from Paro to Kathmandu in Nepal. On arrival
we will have free time to explore the incredible city, soak up its atmosphere, and visit its historical sites. Please note: The flights between Bhutan and Nepal will be with Druk Air or Bhutan Airines - both airlines sometimes change their schedules at short notice. If this happens we will inform you of any itinerary changes as soon as possible.

About Kathmandu:
Kathmandu is the magnificent and evocative capital of Nepal - situated on the shores of the Bagmati river, it's a lively, bustling place where ancient collides with modern to create an exhilarating melting pot of sights, sounds and smells. Today's modern jumble of concrete buildings and busy streets has built up around the medieval old town, where wandering through the winding alleyways is like taking a step back in time. The heart of the old city is the magnificent Durbar Square, where Nepalese Royalty used to be crowned, and today it's a good spot to sit and watch the world go by. The buildings here date from the 17th and 18th Centuries, although many of the original structures were even older and many suffered from earthquake damage over the last few centuries. Other sights worth visiting are the Temple of the Living Goddess, the Royal Palace, the Pashupatinath Hindu temple, Boudhanath Buddhist stupa and Swayambunath (the Monkey Temple), all of which are set against the magnificent Himalayan backdrop. When all the sightseeing gets a bit too much, you can kick back and relax in the numerous cafes and bars around the tourist areas of Thamel and ‘Freak Street'.

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Border Information: If you are finishing your trip in Kathmandu, you will most
likely exit Nepal at Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (IATA code:
KTM). Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Kathmandu. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact the Dragoman Sales team if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

11 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners

Transport

4x4, Private bus, Train

Accommodation

Hotels, Homestays, Overnight Train

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.
2. In order to confirm your place on this trip we will need a scanned copy of your passport, passport photo and your Indian visa as soon as possible after booking.
3. Please note this trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides 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.

Reviews

Our Kolkata to Kathmandu (via Bhutan) Overland trips score an average of 5 out of 5 based on 1 review in the last year.

Kolkata to Paro Overland, February 2017

Mary Mangat