23 days, 22 nights
Difficulty Level: 4
Price (US$): From $4,595.00
Months Available: March through May and October through December
This trip allows you to experience the culture and wonders of the Eastern Himalayas: You will trek in Sikkim for up-close views of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, and experience the culture of Bhutan.
Sikkim is sandwiched between Nepal on the west and Bhutan on the east. Formerly an independent nation, Sikkim became the twenty-second state of India on 16 May 1975. Gangtok is Sikkim’s largest city. It served as the royal administrative seat of the Kingdom of Sikkim from 1894 to 1975. Now, as the state capital, it retains a royal character. The Chogyal’s durbar (king’s palace) crowns the ridge, naturally facing Kangchenjunga, and the yellow roof of the Tsuklakhang (Royal Chapel) gleams from far across the valley. On this journey, you will trek in Sikkim to the Goechala pass (16,600 ft.) for up-close views of Mt. Kanchenjunga.
Initially, the British desired to use Darjeeling as a sanatorium, but the efforts of the then Superintendent of Darjeeling, Dr. Campbell, led to its steady growth and economic progress. Today, Darjeeling is a large bustling town with relics from the British Raj intermingled with the local Nepalese and Lepcha culture.
Drive to Paro. Glimpse into the heart of the tranquil kingdom of Bhutan with an experience of the lifestyle that is famously measured as “Gross National Happiness.” Hike to the legendary Taktshang Monastery, also called Tiger’s Nest, on a trail through pine trees festooned with Spanish moss and occasional fluttering prayer flags.
Next, visit the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom, the center for promoting and training rural Sikkimese in traditional handicraft production: a veritable storehouse of exquisite carpets, blankets and shawls in Lepcha weaves.
Then visit Do-Drul Chorten, one of the most important stupas of Sikkim, built by Trulsi Rinpoche, head of the Nyingmapa order. It contains rare mandalas of Dorje Phurpa, sacred manuscripts, and other sacred objects. Surrounding the chorten are 108 prayer wheels.
Proceed to the Research Institute of Tibetology, renowned worldwide for the study of Buddhist philosophy and religion. A treasure house of rare Lepcha, Tibetan and Sanskrit manuscript, thangkas, numerous priceless statues, and prized object of arts.
A stop at the Orchid Sanctuary is also planned, although there will be very few orchids in bloom at the moment. Overnight Hidden Forest Retreat. (All meals)Day 04 - Gangtok to Yuksom Travel seven hours by jeep to Yuksom. Yuksom is just a small, sleepy town now but as the former capital of Sikkim it is the place where the first King was crowned. Overnight Tashigang Hotel, Yuksom. (All meals) Day 05 - Yuksom to Sachen (7,200 ft.) Sikkim trek begins. The trek begins with a long and gentle climb along the Ratang Chu (Chu = river in Tibetan/Bhutanese/Sikkimese). Today's ascent is approximately 3,000 ft. Overnight Camp. (All meals) Day 06 - Sachen to Tshokha (9,800 ft.) Today's three-hour trek climbs steeply through forests of pine, magnolia and rhododendron into the alpine country. Enjoy view of Mt. Pandim. Tshokha is a small Tibetan settlement with a monastery and a holy lake. Overnight Camp. (All meals) Day 07 - Tshokha to Dzongri (13,200 ft.) CToday is a five-hour, 3,200 ft. climb beginning in dense forests and ending in high alpine yak country. At Dzongri, there are two rough, primitive stone sheds for yak herders. Overnight Camp. (All meals) Day 08 - Dzongri An extra day to rest and acclimatize. Overnight Camp. (All meals) Day 09 - Dzongri to Thanshing (12,800 ft.) From Dzongri descend a few hundred feet to Thangshing. Overnight Camp. (All meals) Day 10 - Thansing to Lamini (14,200 ft.) Ascend to Lamini. Overnight Camp. (All meals) Day 11 - Lamini to Samit Lake to Goechala (16,200 ft.) to Lamini Hike to Goechala for views of Kanchenjunga and other mountains. Return to Lamini. Today's hike can take up to 6 hours. Overnight Camp. (All meals) Day 12 - Lamini to Thanshing to Kokchurung Descend to Kokchurung. Overnight Camp. (All meals) Day 13 - Kokchurung to Tsokha Descend to Tsokha. Overnight Camp. (All meals) Day 14 - Tsokha to Yuksom Descend to Yuksom. Trek ends. Overnight Tashigang Hotel. (All meals) Day 15 - Yuksom to Darjeeling Full day of driving to Darjeeling. Stay at the elegant New Elgin or similar. Dinner is at the hotel. (All meals) Day 16 - Darjeeling Morning visit of Happy Valley Tea Gardens to see the cultivation and preparation of famous Darjeeling tea. Onwards to the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre established in 1959 to rehabilitate Tibetan refugees. Here, excellent carpets, wood carvings, wood works, leather works, and more are produced. Then visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) to hear the heroic tales of great Himalayan mountaineering. The Padmaja Naidu Zoological Institute, located in the same hillside as HMI, hosts captive-bred snow leopards and red pandas.
After lunch, walk to the Lloyd Botanic Gardens, which has a large collection of Himalayan plants, flowers, orchids, etc.Stay at elegant New Elgin or similar. (All meals) Day 17 - Darjeeling to Jai gaon Full day of driving to the India-Bhutan border. Overnight Hotel Anand or similar. (All meals) Day 18 - Phuntsoling to Paro Drive to Paro. (6 hours drive). Stroll the streets of Paro in the evening. Overnight at Hotel. (All meals) Day 19 - Paro (Tiger's Nest hike) Begin the day with breakfast before a short drive to Taktshang Monastery. The trail to the monastery climbs through pine trees festooned with Spanish moss and occasional fluttering prayer flags. Hike at your own pace for about two to four hours.
Built in 1600s, the monastery clings to the edge of a sheer-rock cliff that plunges 2,952 feet into the valley below. It is believed that, in the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. Guru Rimpoche is believed to have meditated here for three months. Packed lunch will be served.
Drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, the fortress of the victorious Drukpas. From Drukgyel Dzong, the Tibet border is only a two-day hike away. Overnight at Hotel. (All meals)Day 20 - Paro to Thimpu Depart Paro for Thimphu (two-hour drive) after breakfast. Thimphu, the Bhutanese capital (7,609 feet), is situated in a valley surrounded by terraced rice fields. The main street in Thimphu, Norzim Lam, is lined with shops. Visit Memorial Chorten, built in memory of the third King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Drive to Drubthop Lhakhang, the nunnery temple. Learn more about the culture through visits to the Bhutanese Indigenous Hospital and Traditional Painting School.
Overnight at Hotel. (All meals)Day 21 - Thimpu to Punakha Drive to Punakha after breakfast at the hotel. The road climbs steeply through a scenic forest of pine and cedar trees, to Dochula pass (10,000 feet). The pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges, on the descent to the fertile valley of Punakha (4,430 feet).
Before proceeding further to the town of Punakha, hike about 30 minutes to the Chimi Lhakhang (temple) on a small hilltop. The temple was dedicated to the great Yogi in the 14th century, known as Drukpa Kuenley, as well as the “Divine madman.” He dramatized Buddhist teachings using songs and outrageous sexual humor. Bold phallus symbols and paintings on the houses and temples are a result of his influence. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility.
After lunch, continue to Punakha Dzong (fortress) situated between the two rivers, Pho Chu and Mochu (male and female river). The fortress is now used as the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the spiritual head of Bhutan). The Dzong served as the capital seat of the Kingdom for more than 300 years. The intricate Buddhist paintings inside the monastery are spectacular.
Overnight at hotel. (All meals)Day 22 - Punakha to Paro Enjoy a relaxing breakfast before making the return drive to Paro (approximately five hours). Overnight at hotel. (All meals) Day 23 - Depart for Bangkok Transfer to airport for flight to Bangkok. (Breakfast)
“I wanted to go to Nepal to help rebuild, and it was a challenge for me on many levels. The incredible part is that our guide Sune, and all the porters not to mention the family were there to help us accomplish our goal of doing what we could to help them. To receive the patience, physical assistance, guidance (and the incredible food!) touched me deeply. And as it turned out we did help! A lot of rocks got moved. Wire was woven. Progress was made in deconstructing a house. Plus we had fun! I am still integrating all that I experienced. There is something very intense about being in the vicinity of the Himalayas, the stunning beauty, the vastness, the challenges that reduce the ego and enlarge the heart. I’m glad I answered the call to participate in this adventure.”