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Sikkim Bhutan Trek Holiday Package
This is an exhilarating schedule combining a spectacular trek in Sikkim with a journey to the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan. An introductory trek follows trails through magnificent rhododendron forest, in full bloom in May, to verdant yak grazing pastures where you camp beneath the magnificent backdrop of Kanchenjunga. In between you visit the renowned hill station of Darjeeling, the thriving capital of Gangtok and the legendary town of Kalimpong. Travelling to Bhutan you have opportunities for day walks to visit the ancient dzongs (forts) and Buddhist monasteries in the Paro and Thimphu valleys, to appreciate the rich cultural heritage of the kingdom on the Sikkim-Bhutan Trek Holiday Package!
Arrive at Kathmandu and take a short break around the town. Start your visual feast with the Durbar square enclosing there is the Royal Palace and many temples built in the traditional Newari pagoda style. The Narayanhiti Palace Musuem is a walled palace at the northern end of Durbar Marg and was opened as a people’s museum a few years ago. Full of chintzy meeting rooms and ancient glamour, the palace interior is rather opulent with the highlights of an impressive throne and banquet halls, embracing modest royal bedrooms, adorning the great armchair with built-in speakers. It would be ideal to visit the Boudhnath Stupa, one of the largest Buddhist shrines in the world where they would come across several Buddhist monks in prayer in the monasteries surrounding the Stupa. Known as Bhadgaon or the city of the devotees, Bhaktapur is a unique old town and since time immemorial lay on the trade route between Tibet, China and India. This position on the main caravan route made the town rich and prosperous, which in turn fed the cultural life of the city, which today is a living gem of Hindu temples, pagodas, palaces and monuments, many dating back to the 16th century. Swayambhunath is the most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in the Kathmandu valley, and worth a visit! Make a quick trip to Swayambhunath, which has an interesting path leading towards the shrine, through climbing steep steps that lead up the hill from a collection of brightly painted Buddha statues at the bottom of the hill, passing a series of chaityas and bas-reliefs, including a stone showing the birth of the Buddha, with his mother Maya Devi grasping a tree branch.
It would be advisable to carry your trek kit bag, sleeping bag and down a fibrefill jacket.
Transfer for a short flight to Bhadrapu,, and then drive to Darjeeling. As the road climbs up, you gain impressive views back down to the Indian plains. On arrival in this hill station, you could savour the cool mountain air and your first glimpse of the snow-capped Himalaya, and indulge in some sight-seeing pleasures!
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 sightseeing can be organized to the Tibetan Refugee Centre and also to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. You may also visit one of the famous tea plantations, explore the local bazaars and appreciate the rich variety of people tribes including the Sherpas, Tibetans and Bengalis who have made this hill station 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 the Everest.
You may wrap yourself with mufflers and proceed towards Tiger Hill in this highest mountain in the area. Near Tiger Hill is the Yiga Choeling Tibetan Monastery of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect, also called the Ghoom Monastery which has a tall sculpture of Maitreya Buddha, with beautiful thangkas pasted on the walls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Mahakal Temple is worth a view and is based on the original site of the Bhutia Basti monastery! The Lloyd Botanical Gardens harbour Himalayan and alpine plant varieties, including flowers and the hothouse has a fantastic collection of orchids. You can visit the Dhirdham Temple, built pagoda-style, the Ava Art Gallery displaying exquisite embroidery, and the pristine Japanese Peace Pagoda. The Gangamaiya Falls are a short drive from main Darjeeling and are ideal for boating during season with rows of restaurants selling snacks and meals, and on the same route lies the popular Rock Garden, to frolic around on the Sikkim-Bhutan Trek Holiday Package!
A drive from Siliguri through a road which has been built into a steep gorge, takes you to Kalimpong, overlooking the river Teesta as it tumbles and slides, a crystal icy green, through the foothills and on to the plains. This bustling bazaar town sprawls along a ridge and within sight of Kangchendzonga, and boasts of Himalayan views, Buddhist monasteries, colonial architecture and a fascinating nursery industry, all linked by some fine hikes. The town’s early development as a major Himalayan trading centre focussed on the wool trade with Tibet, across the Jelep La Pass, and like Darjeeling, Kalimpong once belonged to the chogyals of Sikkim. The town still evokes strong memories of the Raj, evident in its colonial bungalows and old hotels. You must visit the St. Theresa Church, built by craftsmen to resemble a gompa, having woodcarvings on the walls that depict biblical scenes, though the sculpted figures resemble Buddhist monks. On the Deolo hIll, you find the Statue of Buddha, set amidst rocks and lush green teas, with a small gompa behind. Then there is the Sherpa Taar offering a mega view of the hills rolling up to meet the mountains .The views are bewildering from both the Durga Mandir and the site gallery here. Near the Durga Mandir is the Hanuman Park, with a 30-foot high statue of Hanuman. The Durpin Dara Hill is on the southern edge of the town and is another excellent vantage point. Amongst the monasteries dotted along the verdant confines, the Thongsha Gompa or the Bhutanese monastery has the prayer room adorned with wall paintings and there is a rare three-dimensional mandala upstairs. Those interested in adventure sports may go for river rafting on the Teesta River. Some distance from Kalimpong, there sits Pedong with green woods past blooming rhododendrons which bring you to the ruins of the old Bhutanese fort of Dumsong, and another site called Lava, which translates as `Heavenly Abode of the Gods’ in Bhutanese. It is definitely a heavenly paradise of mist-wrapped dhupi trees, cradled by mountains and a tiny hamlet, providing a perfect base for trekkers with stupendous views of the mountains.
Leaving Darjeeling, drive to the border of southern Sikkim and the delightful drive through the foothills to the former capital of Yuksom!
From Yuksom, you engage either porters or yak herder's to carry your loads on the trail. Before doing so, you may spend some time at leisure doing some sight-seeing in this capital, as there are some important locations such as the Dub-di monastery or the hermit’s cell, the coronation throne of Norbugang, and the tiny Katok Lake nearby. The Khecheopalri Lake is a `wishing lake’ and is situated in a bowl-like declivity. The chief attraction of the Tashiding Monastery is its holy chorten, a monolith shaped like a sarcophagus and the most common religious symbol in the region, called Thong-Wa-Rang-Dol, the very view of which is supposed to wash away of sins. You may take a diversion to Gangtok just for a short visit to the Tibetan Buddhism’s most important centres, the magnificent Rumtek Monastery, a repository of countless invaluable artefacts , precious metal statues, gem-studded cenotaphs, exotic ritualistic paraphernalia), stacked within its cavernous portals. The official – though currently vacant – seat of the revered Karmapa Lama, the monastery is especially attractive during the Mahakala Dance in February, when giant figurines of protector deities raise hell in the courtyard and fight off evil demons. Revel in this epitome of adventure on the Bhutan-Sikkim Trek Holiday Package!
The trek to Bakhim can take several hours so for the first day a packed lunch may be the order of the day. You may 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. En route there are plenty of opportunities for bathing and some rest as 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, where a single Lepcha family lives, these being the original inhabitants of Sikkim who moved to the remote regions when large numbers of Tibetans migrated to Sikkim in the century. The Lepcha Heritage Museum has an offbeat collection of Lepcha treasures and is best likened to rummaging through the attic of a grandfather’s house, if he were their tribal elder. A guide will explain Lepcha creation myths, while pointing out the religious texts, sacred porcupine quill hat and several old pangolin skins. Although there is a Rest House in Bakhim, you normally camp in the forest immediately below the village.
From Bakhim, you ascend the meadows above before reaching the village of Tsoska. Tibetans 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 forests to the grazing meadow at Pethang, and enjoys the cold and calm weather enwrapping yourselves in the bliss of nature’s sparkling environs! A short stage, but necessary for acclimatisation before continuing to Dzongri. After some rest, an early start is imperative, the trail ascends steeply for an hour before you gain your first uninterrupted views of the peak of Kangchenjunga and Pandim . From the vantage point it is a further two to three kilometers, across the open meadows to the camp at Dzongri. Here you gain views of the main peaks of Khangchendzonga for sunrise views along the Singali Ridge, the impressive divide between Nepal and Sikkim. The panorama includes Kokthang , Rathong and Kabru. A more strenuous option is to descend on down to the Rathong Valley and from there complete a circular trek!
Moving on this Sikkim-Bhutan Trek Holiday Package, spend some time in the charming town of Paro in Bhutan, which lies on the banks of the Paro (or Pa) Chhu, just a short distance northwest of the imposing Paro Dzong. The main street is lined with colourfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants and the Paro Valley extends west all the way to the peaks on the Tibetan border, though the road only goes as far as Sharna Zampa, near the scenery and some of Bhutan’s sights. The Paro Dzong is one of Bhutan's most impressive and well-known dzongs, and perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture to view. The massive buttressed walls that tower over the town are visible throughout the valley. The foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche. The fort was used on numerous occasions to defend the Paro valley from invasions by Tibet. It was formerly the meeting hall for the National Assembly and now, like most dzongs, houses both the monastic body and district government offices, including the local courts. It is built on a steep hillside, and the front courtyard of the administrative section is higher than the courtyard of the monastic portion. The road to the National Museum branches down to the dzong's northeastern entrance, which leads into the dochey (courtyard) on the third storey. At the top of the hill above Paro Dzong is an old watchtower that was renovated to house the National Museum. The unusual round building is said to be in the shape of a conch shell. and was originally the ta dzong (watchtower) of Paro Dzong, which lies undefended below. The richly carved wood, painted in gold, black and ochres, and the towering whitewashed walls reinforce the sense of established power and wealth.
Move on to the capital, one of the world's most intriguing destinations, Thimphu, which has all but shrugged off the friendly village tag. The city buzzes with a commercial exuberance that constantly challenges the country's natural conservatism and Shangri La image. Punakha Dzong, view of the Tashichho Dzong, was the second dzong to be built in Bhutan and is served as the capital and seat of government until Thimphu was promoted to the top. Drive down to the National Library, Memorial Chorten and the Institute for Zorig Chusum, an Arts and Craft School where visitors can watch students working with paints, clay, woodwork and other traditional arts. There are options for shopping at the art school and throughout the Capital, and be sure to visit the post office to have personalized stamps made with your picture.
In Kathmandu, for shopping, there are centres and shops for homeware and furnishings with exquisite carpets from the Nepali origin and plenty of outlets supporting the craft of cooperatives and handicapped women, such as handmade paper products, photo albums, paper lamps, batik and woollens. There is ashowhouse with treasures of dhaka weavings, ceramics, block prints, pashminas, woodcrafts, jewellery, knitwear, statues, masks, wood carvings, curios and souvenirs, made of brass and copper with a gold polish or gold plated. The outbuildings surrounding the old Rana complex have been redeveloped to house a warren of chic clothes shops, designer galleries, handicrafts shops, including some restaurants and cafes. Sleeping bags, knitwear and carpets are found in abundance at negotiable prices, a variety of Indian and Internationally branded gear and other innumerable items to motivate the buyer!
In Darjeeling shopping would entail picking up the famous hand-carved wood tables, carpets, blankets, shawls, prayer rugs, thangkas, vividly coloured mugs and tea cups, yak-bone ornaments and some delicious food preserves, like chutneys and pickles. There are many eateries serving, Chinese, North and South Indian, and Bengali food with a huge array of snacks and fast food, both sweet and savoury! Sikkimese Chhaang, or the home-brewed demanded hot local beer, is available in tea stalls and also in the hotels, a nouvelle culinary experience!
In Sikkim, stores are stocked with famous hand-carved wood choktse tables, carpets, blankets, shawls and prayer rugs. A vast variety of thangkas, curios and souvenirs, vividly coloured mugs and teacups embraced by dragons and floral patterns, yak-bone ornaments, statuettes made of metal, stones, bronze, copper, brass and those with a silver and gold-polished finish, and yummy local pickles, are an unavoidable indulgence!
In Bhutan, for shopping, the best buys are bamboo boxes,carpets, metal ewers, horse saddles,and monastic trumpets, and archery shops selling hoyt brand bows. Shops are abode with handwoven textiles and cloth and ready -made garments as there are places where the tourists can watch the weavers at work. There are outlets displaying souvenir sheets of Bhutanese stamps,and art galleries selling works containing Buddhist themes such as prayer flags and mandala motifs in the form of abstract art as well as contemporary paintings, handicrafts and art supplies. The Bhutanese dress kira and gho is available in a variety of sizes, patterns and quality, along with water bottles, socks and gaiters plus hiking shoes.
In Kathmandu, for food, you could try the best bookstore which is strong with antiquarian travelogues including a tempting tea house and a vegetarian restaurant behind. There are bright, buzzy and popular restaurants selling Middle Eastern dishes, eateries with a dramatic and regal Victorian setting embedded with crystal and linen, catering food to Royal taste. There is a Bhanchha Ghar and Bhojan Griha for pure traditional and vegetarian food, in contrast to the Korean, Italian, French and Tibetan food being served elsewhere in the city. If moving around the former Rana Palace, you could share your dining space with the ambassadors and ministers in a top-end restaurant around a charming ambience. Of course, there are spots, selling American and European style breakfast, snacks and brunch and Italian bistros selling cheese, spinach and walnut ravioli, sinfully rich chocolate torte, gelato and the ever sparkling wines and liqueurs for that romantically drunken effect! The legally pronounced casinos are there for an exploration and an after-dinner snacks, beverages and perhaps, even an ice-cream!
For the gastronomical fare, Darjeeling has restaurants serving simple food like noodles, vegetables, dal, rice, roti, tandoori food and snacks. You would also find fast food spots selling éclairs, cookies, ice-creams, sundaes, cakes, pastries, croissants, pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, muffins, pancakes, milk shake, cold coffee, hot tea and coffee. Excellent Chinese, Japanese and Korean food is served in some outlets. Piping hot momos and ubiquitous little shops selling a rice-and-pork preparation would be an interesting experience. Ofcourse, multi-cuisine fare consisting of Indian, Chinese,Tibetan and International food along with khasi specialities is also available
You could find typical Sikkimese meals that include dishes made form stinging nettles and Alpine fiddlehead fern, along with the local speciality of the famed cherry brandy. Most restaurants serve regular Indian and Chinese food from chowmein and momos to dishes such as shakbaley or deep-fried meat bread. There are eateries selling Chinese, South Indian and Bengali food, including a blend of Continental, Italian, Tibetan and a variety of Indian cuisine!
For food, there are restaurants serving Bhutanese cuisine in a spacious and warm setting that features a traditional seating and standout kitchens, outlets serving American dining with a Bhutanese flavoured twist, and most of the cooking being adapted to foreign taste, delicious and reliable, to cater to its prestige customers. Cosy cafes are enclosed with every conceivable version, iced or frapped of good espresso, homemade cakes, pancakes, grilled sandwiches and wraps, with lunch and dinner specials. There are eateries which serve Bhutanese, Chinese, and Italian menu plus juicy barbecued non-vegetarian fare. There are places where you can sit to shoot out the breeze and have a quick snack as well as cafes offering decent espresso coffee with free Wi-Fi, sit-down snacks and substantial meals consisting of pizzas and pastas. There are restaurants serving authentic Indian food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian.