You will be met by a World Expeditions representative on arrival and transferred to the Radisson hotel. In the afternoon there is a half day sightseeing tour of Kathmandu (including Pashupatinath and Bouddhanath). Evening drinks are held in the hotel for all World Expeditions clients arriving today. Drinks and snacks will generally be served from 6:30 pm until 7:15 pm, and this is a great opportunity to get acquainted with your fellow group members before heading out to dinner.
Early transfer to the airport for our flight to Bhadrapur. On arrival we will meet our Indian guide and then transfer to our chartered bus for the drive to Darjeeling.As the road climbs up to Darjeeling we gain impressive views back down to the Indian plains.On arrival in Darjeeling we savour the cool mountain air and our first glimpse of the snow capped Himalaya.This evening a pre-trip briefing will be given.
Darjeeling is set on the top of a wooded ridge commanding views both to the plains and to the high mountains including Kangchenjunga. During the day we will organise sightseeing to the Tibetan Refugee Centre and also to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. We also visit one of the famous tea plantations that were established in the middle of last century. Later we explore the local bazaars and appreciate the rich variety of peoples including Sherpas, Tibetans and Bengalis who have made Darjeeling their home. A visit to the Tea Planters Club is also recommended, for it was here that the British inter-war expeditions stayed before assembling their Sherpa crews that would accompany them on the long march through Sikkim and across Tibet to the base of Everest.
This spectacular drive winds through the rice paddies and pine forests of the Sikkim foothills. The drive to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim taking around five to six hours. Overnight Norkhill Hotel.
Gangtok has been the capital of Sikkim since the 19th century. On a clear day it affords excellent views up the Zemu Valley to Kangchenjunga. We have scheduled visits to the Cottage Industries Emporium with its fine array of traditional crafts including hand woven carpets, shawls and hand carved furniture. We also visit the Tibetan Institute where many valuable manuscripts are stored after they were brought to Sikkim in 1959.
En route we visit Rumtek Monastery, 24 km from Gangtok. The Monastery is affiliated with one of the important Tibetan Buddhist sects - the Kargyapa sect. When the leader of this sect escaped from Tibet in 1959 he was invited to settle in Sikkim. With an influx of funds the monastery was restored to its traditional Tibetan architectural lines in the 1960's - the original monastery having being destroyed by an earthquake. From Rumtek the drive to Kalimpong takes a further four hours, with time that afternoon to visit the bazaar and appreciate the time when the town was an important trading post between India and Tibet.
We drive back down to the Indian Plains and the Indian-Bhutan border. After clearing Indian immigration and customs we drive to an impressive archway that marks the formal entry to the Kingdom of Bhutan. Here you will be met by our Bhutan guides who will accompany you to the nearby hotel in Phuentsholing for your briefing and overnight stay.
The drive to Thimphu winds up from the Indian plains to the Thimphu Valley. On arrival in Thimphu we transfer to our hotel for overnight accommodation. Thimphu has been the capital since 1960 (the previous being Punakha). This afternoon we will pay a visit to the main Secretariat building - the Tashichho Dzong is the most prominent building consisting of the main Secretariat, the National Assembly Hall, the Office of the King and the Throne Room. Its remarkable construction is in traditional Bhutanese style without the use of nails or metal of any kind. We also visit the large Stupa dedicated to the late King HM. Jimge Dorji Wangchuk, regarded as the founder of modern day Bhutan.
We spend the morning enjoying the charm of Thimpu. The town is by no means large and easily explored on foot. There are some interesting markets and bazaars, and the Handicraft Emporium with famous weaving, woodcarvings and paintings and the Post Office sells Bhutan's world renowned stamps. before we drive for about three hours to Wangduephodrang (locally known as "Wangdi"), changing climatic zones from mountainous to tropical. On the way, we cross over Dochu La, a 3150-metre-high pass marked by prayer flags and a chorten and, if the weather is fine, a view of the eastern Himalaya including the highest mountain in Bhutan, Mt Gangar Punsum (7520m). We drive through forests of rhododrendron and magnolia, before the road descends into the warmer lowlands around Punakha. Overnight Wangdi Kyichu Resort.
*On the 24th June 2012, the beautiful Wangduephodrang Dzong was completely destroyed by fire. It was one of the oldest and most substantial dzongs in Bhutan built in 1638. Renovations were underway when the fire started and so most of the historic relics had been put into storage and were saved from the devastation of the fire. Re-building is already underway to restore the dzong to its former glory.
This morning we visit the Punakha Dzong, which once served as the old capital of Bhutan. This remarkable fortress was built in 1637 between two rivers and has survived many glacial floods and fire. Every February there is a procession known as the Punakha Serda to commemorate the victory over the Tibetans. No journey in Bhutan is complete without a visit to this fascinating and visually stunning Dzong.
Transfer to Paro, approx, 5 hrs.
Our sightseeing program in Paro includes visits to the Paro Dzong and the even older Ta Dzong that now houses the National Museum of Bhutan. While we are not permitted inside the monastery at the Dzong we can take a look around inside this impressive building which is the monastic and administrative centre for South-West Bhutan. Ta Dzong is the original fort and has been carefully transformed into a museum with excellent displays of all facets of Bhutan's rich cultural history. Old costumes and battle dress, together with priceless jewellery and specimens of the kingdoms unique flora and fauna are included within the museum.
We drive to the foot of the Taktsang Monastery - the famous Tigers Nest Monastery said to have been one of the divine resting places of the Guru Ringpoche. However, although much of the building was once destroyed by fire it is now restored and it is still worthwhile to ascend the walking trail to appreciate the monasteries breathtaking location on a cliff edge about 800 metres above the valley floor. The rest of the day is free to complete sightseeing and purchases before our early morning departure the following day.
Early morning transfer to the airport and onward arrangements.