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Day 1: Arrive in Calcutta, India
Upon arrival in Calcutta you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore on your own before meeting with the group for dinner and our orientation meeting.
Day 2: Calcutta - Kalighat Kali Temple
A full day exploring the ancient sights of Calcutta. We visit Kalighat Kali Temple, Victoria Memorial hall, Mother Teresa's Tomb and Indian Museum one of the most significant, and the first museum to be founded in India.
Day 3: Fly to Bagdogra, India - Tea Factory
Today, we fly from Calcutta to Bagdogra in India. Our adventure to Darjeeling (West Bengal), Sikkim, and Bhutan begins with a scenic drive to Darjeeling, where we will have a time to explore and relax. We will visit a tea factory and a Tibetan refugee center.
Day 4: Darjeeling - Mt. Kanchenjunga
This morning we take a trip to Tiger Hill for a view of the sunrise over the mountains in hopes to see Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. After breakfast we ride a Raj-era train where we will visit the Railway Museum and then continue on to visit the Ghoom Monastery.
Day 5: Darjeeling - Mountaineering Institute
Today we drive to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The Institute was established in 1954 following the mountaineering success of Hilary and Tenzing. After the museum, we walk through the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park as they protect endangered species, including some of the most unusual animals in the world. Amongst these are red pandas, Siberian tigers, yaks, snow leopards and Himalayan bears.
Day 6: Gangtok, Sikkim
In the morning, we drive and cross the border into Sikkim where we will then continue on after lunch to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Until 1965, Sikkim was a separate state ruled by a Chogyal (a Sikkim king) whose history dates back to the 16th century. Today, the monarchy has been abolished and Sikkim is part of the Indian union.
Day 7: Gangtok - Institute of Tibetology
We start off our day with a visit to the Ganesh Tok temple, which is also a view point. We then visit the Flower Exhibition Center that was once the Loop Garden in North Sikkim during 1963 and then inaugurated by the Gyalmo Hope Namgyal. The most beautiful Himalayan flowers can be seen here, including orchids.
Day 8: Rumtek Monastery - Kalimpong, India
Today we drive to Kalimpong, first stopping to visit the Rumtek Monastery. Rumtek Monastery was the seat of the Kagypa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The first monastery was built here in 1717, but crumbled to ruins and the present monastery dates from 1960.
Day 9: Phuntsholing, Bhutan
We have an early start to the morning so we can visit Durpin Dara Monastery also known as Thongsa Monastery. We continue to Phuntsholing, just inside the Bhutan border. Today is a long day so we will have a box lunch enroute. On our first night in Bhutan, we have a short walk through the streets of Phuntsholing and savor being among the few who have traveled to this exotic land.
Day 10: Spectacular Drive to Thimphu
We have a full day drive through the spectacular countryside to Thimphu, the nation's capital. The driving distance today is about 175 kms and will take about 5 - 6 hours. Enroute, we visit Rinchending Monastery, also known to some as the Kharbandi Monastery, built in 1967 by the great-grandmother of the present king of Bhutan. Thimphu is the modern capital of Bhutan with an estimated population of more than 95,000 people. Afterwards, we visit the Thimphu post office where we can make our own stamp and send a post card home with your self made stamp.
Day 11: Sites of Thimphu
Bhutan is the only country whose government is officially Buddhist and as such, a walk through the streets of Thimphu is a walk unlike any other in the world. We visit the National Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of the third king of Bhutan. Later, we visit the Mini Zoo to see a real life takin (a goat-antelope), the national animal of Bhutan.
Day 12: To Wangdi via Dochula Pass, Punakha Dzong
We depart Thimphu and drive over the Dochula Pass which is approximately 3100m / 10,170ft and walk around the Chortens of the fallen soldiers and get lost in the prayer flags that cover this high pass. On a clear day, one can view the magnificent sights of the Eastern Himalayan Ranges.
Day 13: To Bumthang
After breakfast, we begin our journey to Bumthang, crossing 3 passes. Bumthang valley is the cultural heartland of the country. The route is along a spectacular winding road, crossing 3,300m / 10,820 ft high Pele La pass, and at certain times of year it's possible to see yaks. One will pass the magnificent stupa of Chendebji, which is similar to the Boudhnath in Nepal.
Day 14: Bumthang - Jakar Dzong, Jambey Lhakhang, Tamshing Lhakhang
Today we explore the Bumthang valley with visits to Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley, built in 1667. We will visit Jambey Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, dating from the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan in 746 AD. Next we stop at Kurjey Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places, because Guru Rinpoche left his body imprint on the cave when he was meditating.
Day 15: Trongsa
After breakfast, we return to Trongsa, where we have lunch.
Day 16: Thimpu via Dochula Pass
We have an early start to the morning, which will once again take us over the Pele La and Dochula passes, before we drive back to Thimpu. On our drive we will see the Simtokha Fort, with its impressive views of the surrounding countryside.
Day 17: To Paro
Today we begin with a short drive to Paro, visiting the Simtokha Dzong enroute. The dzong is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan, built in 1629. At present, it is the home of the Institute for Language and Cultural Studies.
Day 18: Paro Festival
This special departure was planned around one of Bhutan's biggest and most popular festivals, the Paro Tsechu or Paro Festival. Every spring people from all over Bhutan come to Paro to partake in the festivities. Festival goers and monks alike dress in brilliant costumes and wear masks representing Buddhist deities. Here they dance and re-enact Bhutanese legends.
Day 19: Hike to Taktsang Monastery
We spend the morning sightseeing in Paro with visits to Drukgyel Dzong. The Drukgyel Dzong was built in the 16th century to commemorate a victory over the invading Tibetan forces. The fortress today lies in ruins, due to corrosion from elements and a fire in the 1950s which have taken a toll on the site. This afternoon, we hike up to the famous Taktsang Monastery, or Tiger's Nest, where we marvel in the history of this holy place and see the holy cave where it is said to be the origin of Buddhism in Bhutan. This monastery is miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the Paro Valley. It is said that Guru Rinpoche flew to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress believed to be his consort - Yeshey Tshogyel, to subdue the local demon. Guru Rinpoche meditated in the cave for three months.
Day 20: Fly to Calcutta, Farewell Dinner
Today we say goodbye to Bhutan and fly to Calcutta, where we will have a free afternoon before we have our farewell dinner.
Day 21: Depart Calcutta
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your departing flights.
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