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KOLKATA & DARJEELING TEA

Popular with those having past links with the region and those s eeking the solitude of the Himalaya, the tour offers spectacular mountain vistas, rolling hills, lush rainforests, exotic orchids and tea plantations. Darjeeling and Kolkata evoke fond memories of the Raj, while Sikkim's unique topography, which includes the world's third highest mountain peak, cradles a Tibetan-Buddhist culture. The hotels are comfortable but simple, with a well-known period hotel in Darjeeling and another in Kolkata. A ride on the World Heritage railway in Darjeeling, seeing arguably the most spectacular sunrise in the world from the Tiger Hill, savouring an authentic Bengali meal in a traditional "thali", make the experience that much more special.

Days 1 to 3 Kolkata
Arrive into Kolkata, stay at the Fairlawn Hotel or The Grand; visit the sights including Daniels' collection of Indian paintings at the Victoria Memorial, Kumartully or the Potter's Lane where durga idols are made, enjoy a coffee at the Coffee House on College Street; visit Tagore's home at Jorasanko; enjoy traditional food in a thali at Aaheli, take a boat on the Hooghly from Belur Math to Dakhineshwar, join a local family for a cooking session, visit Trincas for some golden oldies....

Day 4 Kalimpong
A short flight to Bagdogra, drive to Kalimpong; stay at the Silveroaks Hotel. Visit the orchid nurseries, the Tharpa Choling Monastery, the Arts and Crafts Centre and Dr Graham's Homes Campus.

Days 5 & 6 Gangtok
Drive to Gangtok; stay at Denzong Regency or Norkhill Hotel for two nights; visit the Enchey Monastery, the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology and Lal Bazaar; option to visit the beautiful Chomgo Lake, at 12000 ft, an hour's drive away.

Day 7 Yuksum
Visit the Rumtek Monastery in the morning, and drive on to Yuksum, stay at Tashi Gang Hotel; at leisure.

Day 8 Pelling
Visit the Dubdi Monastery early in the morning, perched on a hill. Later visit Tashiding, where the first Chogyal of Sikkim was crowned; also visit the Khechupelri Lake and the famous Pemayangtse Monastery; there is the option of walking another hour to the Rabdentse Palace ruins; stay the night at Mt Pandim or at Chumbi Mountain Retreat in Pelling. There is a fair amount of walking involved today; you have the option of skipping some sights and walking less.

Days 9 to 11 Darjeeling
Drive to Darjeeling for three nights at the colonial Windamere Hotel. Witness the spectacular sunrise from Tiger Hill, visit Ghoom Monastery and the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute; take the toy train to Ghoom or Kurseong; sip your Darjeeling tea at Glenary's, a short walk from your hotel. There is the option to visit a tea factory and learn the difference between first and second flush.

Day 12 Return
Fly back from Bagdogra to Kolkata or Delhi.

Price indication: $1200 to $1500 per person for a private tour for two.

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