You will be met by a World Expeditions representative on arrival and transferred to the Radisson hotel.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 7:15pm, 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 the short 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-trek briefing will be given where arrangements will be made for the distribution of your kit bag, sleeping bag and down/fibrefill jacket.
Darjeeling is set on the top of a wooded ridge commanding views both to the plains and to the high mountains including Kanchenjunga. 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.
Leaving Darjeeling we drive to the border of southern Sikkim and the delightful drive through the foothills to the former capital of Yuksam (1760m).
From Yuksam we engage either porters or yak herder's to carry our loads on the trail. This can take several hours so for the first day a packed lunch may be the order of the day. We follow a well marked forest trail that winds high above the Rathong river. The trail winds through forests of conifer and oaks, mosses and ferns and past frequent side streams that tumble down the hillside. On route there are plenty of opportunities for bathing although you must remember to pack you're insect repellent as midges are a problem on this section, particularly during the pre monsoon walk. After four to five hours the trail crosses a substantial bridge just upstream of the confluence of the Rathong River and the Prek River. From the bridge it is a further one hour ascent to the small settlement of Bakhim (2750m), where a single Lepcha family live. The Lepchas, the original inhabitants of Sikkim were forced to move to the remote regions when large numbers of Tibetans migrated to Sikkim in the 17th century. Although there is a Rest House in Bakhim, we normally camp in the forest immediately below the village.
From Bakhim we ascend the meadows above Bakhim before reaching the village of Tsoska. Tibetan refugees who were granted this tract of land by the Sikkim government founded the village about a generation ago. From Tsoska the trail ascends steeply through magnificent rhododendron forest to the grazing meadow at Pethang (3700m). A short stage but necessary for acclimatisation before continuing to Dzongri.
From Pethang an early start is imperative. The trail ascends steeply for one hour before we gain our first uninterrupted views of the peak of Kangchenjunga (8586m) and Pandim (6691m). From the vantage point it is a further two to three km across the open meadows to the camp at Dzongri (4020m). Here we gain views of the main peaks along the Singali Ridge- the impressive divide between Nepal and Sikkim. The panorama includes Kokthang (6147m), Rathong (6679m), Kabru Sth. (7317m) and Kabru Nth (7338m).
In the early morning we climb the nearby Dzongri hill for sunrise views over Kangchenjunga. Returning to camp we trek for 1-1/2 to two hours to the Dzongri La (4550m) with views towards Kokthang, Rathong and Kabru. A more strenuous option is to descend on down to the Rathong Valley and from there complete a circular trek on back to Dzongri. This option takes a further four to five hours back to camp.
From Dzongri the trek heads towards Pandim and the Prek valley. After crossing the meadows the trail descends steeply though the rhododendron forests to the Prek river, before a short tiring ascent up through the river boulders to the wooden bridge. From here it is a further one hour up valley to the camp at Thansing (3930m). We can undertake the option to trek further up the valley including the glacial Samite Lake where we gain views up the Onglakthang glacier to Forked Peak (6108m) and to Gcha Peak (6127m) below the towering East Ridge of Kangchenjunga.
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.
Thimphu has been the capital since 1960 (the previous being Punakha). The town is by no means large and easily explored on foot. 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. It's 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. Then there is the Handicraft Emporium with famous weaving, woodcarvings and paintings while the Post Office sells Bhutan's world renowned stamps.
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.
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 your Indian guide will no longer accompany you, and you will be met by our Bhutan guide who will transfer you to the nearby hotel in Phuentsholing for your briefing and overnight stay.
From Thansing we trek back to the Prek River and then divert along a remote trail that leads direct to Pethang meadow. En route we can spend time appreciating the variety of rhododendrons - one of the finest rhododendron forests in the Eastern Himalaya. From Pethang we can continue on down to Tsoska village (3050 m) for overnight.
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.
The drive is spectacular across the Sikkim foothills until reaching the confluence of the Ranjit and Testa rivers and the town of Singtam. From here the road diverts up-valley to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Overnight hotel.
Our final days trek is an easy one as we descend past Bakhim en route to Yuksam. Here we camp overnight.
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 destroyed by fire a few seasons ago 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.
En route we visit Rumtek Monastery, 24 km from Gangtok. The Monastery is affiliated with one of the important Tibetan Buddhist sects - the Kargya pa 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.
Trip concludes after breakfast with a transfer to the airport.