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Darjeeling, Sikkim and Bhutan


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Group trips Sikkim – Hiking and culture

Tourschwierigkeit

Easy

Anzahl Nächte in festen Unterkünften

20 x

Anzahl der Nächte im Zelt

None

Maximale Höhe

3300m

Data

Group travel dates from/to Zurich

06.04. – 26.04.2024

16.11. – 06.12.2024

We also offer all of our tours as private tours – at your best time and with your desired program.
Contact us – we will be happy to help you.

Short description

We start our tour in Darjeeling. This hill station has retained much of its colonial flair from times gone by. The “Toy Train” was built around 1880 and brought the English colonial masters from the hot plains to the cool mountains. Today, this place is world-famous for its many tea plantations and first-class tea. In the former kingdom of Sikkim, we admire Buddhist monasteries and the diverse nature. During a stay with a host family, we will gain a good insight into the everyday life of the locals. This former kingdom in the Himalayas between Bhutan and Nepal has not yet been discovered by “mass tourism”.

One of the highlights of the tour is our stay in Bhutan. A hike takes us to one of the holiest monasteries in Bhutan, the famous “Tiger’s Nest” in the Paro Valley. This monastery clings spectacularly to a steep rock face, hundreds of meters above the valley floor. We also visit imposing dzongs, ancient monasteries and small villages in Bhutan. This easy round trip is very varied and has many highlights.

Highlights

  • Very varied tour through Sikkim and Bhutan
  • Insights into life in the countryside, away from the usual tourist routes
  • Ride on the Toy Train in Darjeeling
  • Ancient monasteries and sacred lake in Sikkim
  • Buddhist cultural heritage in Sikkim & Bhutan
  • Hike to the holy monastery “Tiger’s Nest” in Bhutan
  • Punakha Dzong, the most beautiful monastery castle (Dzong) in Bhutan

Travel program

(Meals included B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)

1. Day

Flight to Delhi

The direct flight with Swiss (subject to availability) takes us to Delhi, the capital of India, in just over 7 1⁄2 hours.
10.00 a.m. Meeting point with the travel group at Starbucks between Check-In 1 and Check-In 2.
10.15 a.m. Check-In processed by Swissport at Zurich Airport in the Check-In 1 area.
12.40 p.m. Departure from Zurich to Delhi.
23.55 Arrival in Delhi. We spend the night in a hotel in Delhi.
Overnight stay in hotel in Delhi. Flight time 7 1⁄2 hours

2. Day

Flight along the Himalayas

Today we fly along the Himalayas to Bagdogra. In fine weather, we see the 8,000-metre peaks of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, Everest and Kangchendzönga. From Bagdogra we drive on a winding road past wooded hills, small villages and tea plantations to Darjeeling. At the time of the British colonial power in India, Darjeeling was one of the most popular “hill stations” to escape the heat of the lowlands. Even today, you can still sense a lot of colonial flair in this place.
Overnight stay in a hotel in Darjeeling (2100 meters). Flight time 2 hours. Travel time 3 – 4 hours (B,L,D)

3. Day

«Toy Train» and «Darjeeling Tea»

In good weather, we set off early in the morning for Tiger Hill (2590 m). We enjoy a spectacular sunrise and a fantastic view as far as the Kangchendzönga massif. On a clear day you can see as far as Mount Everest.
Afterwards we take the famous “Toy Train”, which was built over 120 years ago. The ride on this narrow-gauge train is an exciting experience.
After lunch we visit a tea plantation for which Darjeeling is so famous. The main harvest time is March to October. Depending on the season, there is less activity in November and no tea is picked during the winter months.
However, we can visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute or the Japanese Peace Pagoda.
Overnight stay in a hotel in Darjeeling (2100 meters). Travel time Toy Train 2 hours Travel time 2 – 3 hours (B,L,D)

4. Day

Remote west of Sikkim

Today we have a varied journey ahead of us in the remote west of Sikkim. On the valley floor, we cross the Rangit River and follow it until a pass road leads up to Rinchenpong. On a clear day, we can see Kangchendzönga in the distance. Here we are guests in a typical Sikkimese farmhouse lodge.
Overnight stay in an easy farmhouse lodge in Rinchenpong (1600 meters). Travel time 4 – 5 hours (B,L,D)

5. Day

Hike to remote temples

Today we discover the rural surroundings of Rinchenpong on foot. We first hike through an oak forest to a nearby hill where there is a lonely monastery and, if we are lucky with the weather, enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the Kangchendzönga massif with the mountain giants Pandim, Kabru and Narsing at 1900 meters. Later, we discover the lonely hamlets with their traditional Lepcha houses and experience the rural, natural way of life of the small farmers. In the evening, we have the opportunity to attend the evening ceremonies and evening prayers in the village monastery.
Overnight stay in an easy farmhouse lodge in Rinchenpong (1600 meters). Hike 4 – 6 hours (B,L,D)

6. Day

Rice fields, ruins, temples and large statues

Through a varied landscape with terraced rice fields, rushing waterfalls and remote settlements, we drive to Pelling.
Just before the mountain ridge of Pelling, we hike to the ruins of Rabdentse, the former royal fortress. In Pelling, we pay a visit to the famous 18th century Pemayangtse Monastery with its uniquely carved wooden sculpture. The monastery was involved in the royal government during the kingdom and played an important role. The Pemayangtse Monastery is also called the “Perfect Sublime Lotus”, which means “the all-encompassing, perfect lotus”.
We also climb up to the Nyingma monastery of Sanga Chöling. The latter is situated on a hill above Pelling. From there, we enjoy a fabulously beautiful view of Kangchendzönga and other snow-capped mountain peaks. There is a meditative atmosphere at this place, especially in the morning and evening hours. Today, around 20 monks live in the monastery. The numerous chortens on a terrace next to the main temple are very old, sacred burial sites of important lamas and are reminiscent of the Buddhist teachings. From the monastery, we walk to the Chenrezig statue, which was completed in fall 2018. The newly built complex also includes a skywalk and a gallery inside the statue. At a height of 41 meters, it is the tallest of the three large statues in Sikkim.
Depending on the weather, we may not undertake the hike to Sanga Chöling until the next morning. We stay in a Sikkimese guesthouse below Pelling.
Overnight stay in the guesthouse below Pelling (1700 meters). Travel time 3 hours. Hike 2 – 3 hours (B,L,D)

7. Day

Sacred wishing lake Khecheopalri

On our way to Yuksom, we visit the sacred, wish-fulfilling Khecheopalri Lake. The original name of the lake was Kha-Chot-Palri, which translates as the “Heaven of Guru Padmasambhava”. The small, legendary lake is sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus.
We start at the lake and set off on a beautiful hike past small villages, terraced fields and forests with cardamom plantations. The hike is mostly downhill and takes about 3 hours. From the end point at the Rathong River, we continue to Yuksom, where we will spend the night.
Overnight stay at the guesthouse in Yuksom (1750 meters). Travel time 3 – 4 hours. Hike 3 hours (B,L,D)

8. Day

Former capital Yuksom

Yuksom is now just a village, but was once the capital of Sikkim. The most popular trek in Sikkim starts from here, leading up to the almost 5,000-metre-high Goecha La pass near the 8,000-metre-high Kangchendzönga. Although we don’t hike quite as far, we make our way to the coronation site of the first king of Sikkim. A small temple and a huge stupa announce the place where the empire was founded. We reach the Norbugang Chörten, the sacred place where the coronation of the first king took place in 1642. Under a gigantic cedar (Cypressus cashmeriana) stands the stone throne on which Chogyal Phuntsok Namgyal was crowned King of Sikkim by three lamas. We then hike uphill to Dubdi. Here is the oldest monastery in Sikkim, which was built in 1701.
Overnight stay at the guesthouse in Yuksom (1750 meters). Hike 3 – 4 hours (B,L,D)

9. Tag

Tashiding Kloster und typisches Bhutia-Dorf

Wir besuchen auf der Fahrt nach Kewzing das auf einem kegelförmigen Berg stehende Tashiding Kloster. Neben dem Kloster stehen mehrere Chörten. Man sagt, dass schon allein das Sehen dieser Chörten alle Sünden reinigt. Probieren können wir dies ja! Schön sind auch die Gebetsmauern mit den kunstvoll in Stein gemeisselten Mantras. Der Steinmetz, der all die Kunstwerke erarbeitet hat, ist leider vor ein paar Jahren verstorben.
Am späteren Nachmittag erreichen wir Kewzing, ein typisches Bhutia-Dorf. Hier sind wir zu Gast im Hause einer Familie und tauchen ein in die Kultur der ursprünglich aus Tibet stammenden Bhutia-Sikkimesen.
Zu Fuss machen wir einen kleinen Dorfrundgang. Den Abend lassen wir mit einem traditionellen Bhutia-Abendessen in der einfachen Küche unserer Gastfamilie und anschliessend am Lagerfeuer bei einer kleinen kulturellen Darbietung ausklingen. Natürlich darf dabei ein «Chang», ein selbstgebrautes Bier aus Hirse nicht fehlen.
Übernachtung im einfachen Familienhaus in Kewzing (1550 Meter). Fahrzeit 3 Std. Wanderung 2 Std. (F,M,A)

10. Day

Buddha Park, Temi tea garden and Rumtek monasteries

Today’s varied drive takes us to the town of Ravangla, where we stroll through the town past tiny pubs and corner stores. We take a detour and visit the Buddha Park with its gigantic Buddha statue, which was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in March 2013.
We drive along the mountain ridge with its spectacular panorama to the largest tea garden in Sikkim. The Temi tea garden is known for its excellent, organically grown tea and is an insider tip among connoisseurs. We continue to the town of Singtam on the valley floor and head north to the Rumtek region.
Following the road lined with prayer flags, you come to the original old monastery of Rumtek dating back to 1734. It exudes a wonderful sense of tranquillity and is situated on a mountain ridge with fantastic views of the hills and fields of Martam. A small shrine in an adjoining room is dedicated to the protector of the Kagyu school, Mahakala. However, the figure is covered because of its powerful effect.
His Holiness, the 16th Karmapa, head of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism, lived here from 1959 to 1981. After fleeing to Sikkim due to the Chinese invasion of Tibet, he received asylum, land and support from the King of Sikkim to build the new monastery of Rumtek. His home monastery in Tsurphu in Tibet served as a model. During the 16th Karmapa’s lifetime, the monastery was an important pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists. The 16th Karmapa is one of the most important reincarnations in the Tibetan Buddhist world and the head of the Karma Kagyu school. The Karma Kagyu school is one of the four main branches of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama is the head of the Gelugpa (Yellow Caps) school.
Overnight stay in a hotel in Rumtek (1350 meters). Travel time 4 – 5 hours. Hike 1 – 2 hours (B,L,D)

11. Day

Sikkim’s indigenous people and shaman ceremony

After breakfast, we take a hike on narrow paths across terraced rice fields to a small indigenous settlement. We walk through the village and gain an insight into village and rural life. We are invited to visit the village shaman in a house built on stilts. Here we are allowed to witness a ceremony and enjoy a cup of tea together.
We then visit the Lingdum Zurman Kharwang monastery. Inside the colorful complex, the murals tell of important events in the life of the Buddha. The cosmopolitan monastery also has an active monks’ school. The young monks can often be found memorizing the Tibetan alphabet or reciting mantras (powerful prayers).
Overnight stay at the hotel in Rumtek (1350 meters). Travel time 1 – 2 hours. Hike 1 – 3 hours (B,L,D)

12. Day

Gangtok – capital of Sikkim

Today we drive to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. We set off on foot to the Gangtok bazaar. We enjoy the hustle and bustle and maybe even make a deal or two. The Institute of Tibetology has one of the finest collections of Buddhist literature, as well as a large number of thangkas, bronze figures and cult objects. From there we continue to the Do-Drul Chörten.
Traditional crafts are taught at the Cottage Industries Institute. Traditional wood carvings, textiles and bamboo items are also available here.
Overnight stay at the hotel in Gangtok (1650 meters). Travel time 1 1⁄2 – 2 hours. Hike 1 – 2 hours (B,L,D)

13. Day

Off to Bhutan today

A long drive takes us through the “flatlands” of India and on to the border with Bhutan, which we cross at Phuentsholing. We will also spend the night in this border town. Here we say goodbye to our Indian guide and our driver. From here on, we will be traveling with a Bhutanese guide and driver.
Overnight stay at the hotel in Phuentsholing (300 meters). Travel time 6 – 7 hours (B,L,D)

14. Day

Trip to Thimphu

Our first day in Bhutan takes us on a long but varied drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. If we feel like it, we take our first stroll through the town. Towards evening we drive up to the “Buddha Viewpoint”, where an almost 50 m high Buddha figure has been built high above Thimphu. From the top, we have a beautiful view over Thimphu and the surrounding area.
Overnight stay in a hotel in Thimphu (2320 meters). Travel time 6 – 7 hours (B,L,D)

15. Day

Hike to the Tango Monastery and Weekend Market

After breakfast, we drive to the starting point of our hike, which takes us to Tango Monastery. Tango was founded in the 12th century and is now a monastic university and a place where monks retreat for many months. This is a beautiful hike to one of the most exciting places in Bhutan. After the hike, we visit the famous weekend market in Thimphu. Products and food from local farmers are sold here. You can see large quantities of chili everywhere, which is very important in Bhutanese cuisine. Depending on the season, you can also find more “exclusive” foods such as ferns or leather. These foods also have their place in Bhutanese cuisine, although leather was mainly eaten in the past.
After the market, we visit a small manufactory where handmade paper is produced. At the “Institute for Zorig Chusum” (Institute of 13 Crafts), we admire some of Bhutan’s crafts, including thangka painting, clay sculpture and wood carving. It is exciting to be able to look over the backs of the teachers and students during their training.
Overnight stay in a hotel in Thimphu (2320 meters). Travel time 1 1⁄2 hours. Hike 2 – 3 hours (B,L,D)

16. Day

Hike and mountain panorama

We drive to Trashigang, a rarely visited village with a small monastery. From here we continue on foot. Always slightly uphill, we hike along a secluded path through beautiful forests to Lungchuzekha. This place is considered one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the area and in good weather we can see several of the 6000 and 7000 m peaks in Bhutan, such as Jomolhari (7314 m), Kang Bum (6500 m), Gangchenta (“Great Tiger Mountain” 6840 m), Masang Gang (7165 m) and many other peaks. We also see Gangkhar Puensum. At 7541 meters, this is not only the highest mountain in Bhutan, but also the highest unclimbed peak in the world.
After a leisurely picnic and taking in the view, we walk to the Dochula Pass. This is very photogenic with the 108 stupas at the top of the pass and also offers a very beautiful view. From here we drive into the valley of Punakha, which is 2000 meters lower.
Overnight stay in a hotel in Punakha (1250 meters). Travel time 2 – 3 hours. Hike 3 – 4 hours (B,L,D)

17. Day

Most beautiful dzong, school and family life

This morning we visit the Punakha Dzong, the most architecturally beautiful dzong in the whole of Bhutan. Built in 1638, it was the second dzong in Bhutan. Punakha was the capital and administrative center of Bhutan until 60 years ago, when the capital was moved to Thimphu.
A short hike takes us to a river, which we cross on the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan. In the village on the other side, we pay a visit to the village school. Here we are invited to lunch with a local family and learn a lot about village and family life in the countryside. In the afternoon we drive on to Phobjikha.
Overnight stay in a guesthouse in the Phobjikha valley (2800 meters). Travel time 3 – 4 hours. Hike 1 hour (B,L,D)

18. Day

Beautiful Phobjikha Valley

The Phobjikha Valley is one of the most beautiful mountain valleys in Bhutan. In winter, several hundred of the very rare black-necked cranes spend the coldest season here. Depending on the course of the winter, these large birds arrive from mid-November and leave the valley again from mid-February to make their way to their summer breeding grounds. We enjoy the beautiful landscape, take a lovely walk through the valley and visit small villages. Depending on our mood, we can also visit the Gangtey monastery and may even be invited to have tea with a family.
Overnight stay in a guesthouse in the Phobjikha valley (2800 meters). Travel time short hike 3 hours (B,L,D)

19. Day

Drive to Paro

Today we drive back to Paro. At the top of Dochula we stop again for the beautiful view. After the pass, we visit the Simthoka Dzong. Then the drive takes us to Paro.
Overnight stay at the hotel in Paro (2280 meters). Travel time 6 – 7 hours (B,L,D)

20. Day

Famous tiger’s nest

The most famous monastery in Bhutan, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, owes its name to the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, the greatest tantric master in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. He landed here in the 8th century on the back of a tigress on his flight from Tibet. The monastery has an extremely spectacular location in a steep rock face.
After breakfast, we drive to the parking lot below the monastery. From here, a partly steep path leads us to a small restaurant that belongs to the monastery. We enjoy the breathtaking view of the monastery while having a snack. We then continue on our way up to the Tiger’s Nest. If we feel like it, we can stop at Kyichu Lhakhang on the way back. This is considered to be the oldest temple in Bhutan and was built in 659 by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo.
Afterwards we have free time in Paro. This small, pretty town is ideal for strolling through the streets, having a cup of tea in one of the small restaurants or doing some last-minute shopping.
Overnight stay at the hotel in Paro (2280 meters). Travel time 1 hour. Hike 3 1⁄2 – 4 hours (B,L,D)

21. Tag

Flug von Paro nach Delhi

Transfer zum Flughafen in Paro und Rückflug nach Delhi.
Hinweis: Die Bhutanflüge werden teils kurzfristig abgesagt oder verschoben. In so einem Fall fliegen wir eventuell über Kalkutta oder eine andere Destination nach Delhi.
Wir werden am Flughafen abgeholt und zu einem schönen Hotel mit Swimmingpool gebracht. Hier haben wir bis am Abend ein Zimmer zur Verfügung und können die Reise geruhsam ausklingen lassen.
Wer möchte, kann auf einer halbtägigen Sightseeing-Tour einige der Sehenswürdigkeiten von Delhi zusammen mit einem lokalen Führer besuchen. Dies ist nicht inbegriffen und muss im Voraus gebucht werden (CHF 80 pro Person inkl. lokaler englischsprechender Führer, Taxi mit Fahrer und Eintritte).
Hinweis: Viele unserer Himalaya Reisenden empfinden den grossen Gegensatz der Millionenstadt Delhi zu den Eindrücken ihrer Reise als wahren Kulturschock. Zudem verbringt man oftmals lange Zeit im Auto in den vollgestopften Strassen Delhis. Entscheiden Sie selbst, wie Sie den letzten Tag Ihrer Reise verbringen möchten.
Am Abend fahren wir zum Flughafen, wo wir das Check-In für unseren Rückflug in die Schweiz erledigen. Tageszimmer in Hotel in Delhi. Fahrzeit 1⁄2 Std. Flugzeit 2 1⁄2 Std. (F,M,A)

22. Day

Back to Switzerland

After midnight departure to Switzerland, where we land in Zurich early in the morning.
01.15 departure from Delhi with Swiss LX147 to Zurich.
06.20 hrs arrival in Zurich.
We are back with many impressions and experiences in our luggage. Flight time 8 1⁄2 hours

Ihr Abenteuer

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Group travel dates from/to Zurich

06.04. – 26.04.2024

16.11. – 06.12.2024

The times given are generally pure driving or walking times. Breaks, stops etc. are also included. The times given are average values based on experience, but may vary depending on road, trail and weather conditions, the fitness of the participants or for other reasons.
The altitude data (for trekking tours) are based on satellite data. These may vary due to walking alternative routes, climbing additional viewpoints, detours due to weather or trail conditions, etc.
We expressly reserve the right to make changes to the program (due to road, trail and weather conditions, flight delays, instructions from the authorities, water levels or occurrence on the trekking route, etc.)!

Further information

  • Tour guide

    This tour is led by a local English-speaking guide. He knows the country, its people and customs and will also translate for us if we come into contact with locals along the way. They often don’t speak English.

  • Requirements

    • An easy tour with day hikes of 1 – 4 hours (optional extension 1 – 6 hours). All hikes are optional and can also be omitted
    • .
    • The hikes are easy to moderately difficult (analogous to red and white marked mountain trails), in bad weather it can also be slippery, good hiking boots are recommended.
    • We carry our own daypacks on the hikes
    • .
    • Overland trips of 1 – 5 hours, 1 full-day stage.
    • Empathy, flexibility and no fear of contact in easy conditions.
  • Accommodation

    In Delhi, Rumtek and Gangtok, we spend the night in a good guesthouse or mid-range hotel. In other places in Sikkim, the accommodation is much easier. We stay in small hotels or easy guesthouses. WC and shower are usually in the room (in exceptional cases on the floor).
    During some nights we stay in very easy lodges or family houses. Here we can expect no comfort, but a lot of authentic life.

  • Overnight stay with local families

    When staying with local families, we should not expect luxury. The bed is easy, the toilet is outside the room and there is only a stove for heating in the kitchen. Meals are prepared by the local family and we have the opportunity to enjoy truly local food.
    Our standards of comfort should be rather modest, but in return we have an insight into the life of a local family that most travelers are unfortunately denied.
  • Food and drinks

    In the hotels and restaurants we have various vegetarian dishes and often also dishes with meat to choose from. During the hikes, lunch is usually taken as a cold lunch.
    Drinks in the hotels and restaurants are not included (except breakfast drinks). For the hikes, boiled water or tea can sometimes be bottled for a fee.
  • Services included

    • Flights Zurich-Delhi return in economy class
    • Flights Delhi-Bagdogra return in economy class
    • Airport taxes and fuel surcharge
    • All overland travel and transfers
    • 9 nights in a hotel/guesthouse in a double room in India/Sikkim
    • 5 nights in a very easy family house in Sikkim
    • 1 day room in Delhi on the return journey
    • Breakfast, lunch and dinner during the tour, in Delhi only breakfast
    • Entrance fees for sightseeing as per program
    • Special permit for Sikkim
    • Local English speaking tour guide
    • Extensive emergency first-aid kit
    • Pulse oximeter for measuring oxygen in the blood
    • 24h-SOS telephone from Himalaya Tours in Switzerland and our local partner on site
    • E-visa for India plus obtaining
    • Completion of all formalities for India
    • Preparation meeting
    • Map of Sikkim
    • Platypus bag to be used as bed and drink bottle
    • Hot bed bottle on cold nights
  • Services not included

    • Drinks (CHF 80 – 120 per person, depending on the number of participants, possibly slightly higher for small groups)
    • Lunch and dinner in Delhi
    • Drinks in restaurants, hotels and guesthouses

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