Darjeeling, Sikkim and Bhutan overland tour

From the lush green valleys of Darjeeling’s tea gardens, travel overland to marvel at Sikkim’s superb landscapes and a spectacular view of the Himalayas. Visit the exquisite nurseries featuring up to 600 species of orchids in Kalimpong before crossing into Bhutan’s southern border at Phuntsholing. Head north to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, to begin an in-depth immersion into the culture and traditions of this remote Himalayan kingdom. Bhutan is truly a magical country and to anyone looking for an inspiration for a holiday, I would say “do it".

Best time for this itinerary: Mar / Apr / May / Oct / Nov

Touring style: with private guide and driver

Prices are seasonal, include hotels, breakfast in India and full board in Bhutan, professional touring and transfers. Starts from:
GBP 2755 per person sharing a twin room, Standard Class Hotels

Airfares are extra..

Darjeeling, Sikkim and  Bhutan overland tour at a glance
  • Day 1: Arrival in Darjeeling
  • Day 2: A tour of Darjeeling
  • Day 3: Drive overland to Sikkim, arriving into Pelling
  • Day 4: Pelling and the spectacular views of the Himalayas
  • Day 5: Drive to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim
  • Day 6: Gangtok to Kalimpong
  • Day 7: Cross the border to Bhutan to arrive at Puntsholing
  • Day 8: An exciting drive along winding roads to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital
  • Day 9: A tour of Thimphu
  • Day 10: Drive to Punakha, the old capital
  • Day 11: Drive to Gangtey Monastery
  • Day 12: Trace your journey back to Paro
  • Day 13: A spectacularly trek to Tiger's Nest Monastery
  • Day 14: Deparure
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Day 1: Arrival Darjeeling

Standing high in the Himalayas at an altitude of 2134m, ‘Dorje Ling’, or place of the Thunderbolt, offers breath-taking views of snow-capped mountain peaks, with the Kanchendzonga rising higher than all the others. Often referred to as the “Queen of the Hills”, it remains just as alluring with its tiny waterfalls, little villages and a narrow gauge railway track. Surrounded by world famous tea gardens and snow-capped mountains, Darjeeling remains one of the most exotic destinations.

Overnight at your chosen hotel.

Distance and journey time: 61 km, 3 hrs

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Day 2: A day in Darjeeling

Early morning visit Tiger Hill, Ghoom Monastery, and Dali Monastery.
Return to your hotel for breakfast before enjoying a Toy Train Ride from Darjeeling to Ghoom and back on the World Heritage Toy Train.
The spectacular landscape unfolds as the 2-foot gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, opened in 1881, labours at about 10 mph crisscrossing the road. It has tiny 4-wheel locomotives, some over 100 years old. You can experience the sound, smell, and romance of a bygone era.
Afternoon visit to a Tea Estate, Himalayan the Mountaineering Institute and Refugee Centre.

Overnight at your hotel.

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Day 3: Darjeeling across to Sikkim, Pelling

Pelling is a serene mountain village which lies in the western districts of Sikkim. This village is situated at an altitude of 2000 metres and commands a spectacular view of Mt. Kanchenjunga.

Overnight at hotel.

Distance and journey time: 125 km, 5 hrs

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Day 4: A day in Pelling

Visit Pemayangste Monastery and Rabtense Ruins and take an excursion to Khechipalri Lake and Rimbi Falls.

Overnight at hotel.

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Day 5: Pelling to Gangtok, capital of Sikkim

Drive to Gangtok and proceed for full day sightseeing in Gangtok.
Visit Rumtek Monastery and The Enchey Monastery: Perched on a ridge above Gangtok, the Enchey Monastery is nestled within lush woods with a spectacular view of Gangtok town. Afternoon visit the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology to see the two exquisite stupas, the Do Drul Chorten, built to commemorate the victory of good over evil and the Jhang Chub Chorten, built in the memory of Thrukshik Rinpoche, an ardent devotee, a great spiritualist and interpreter of Buddhism.

Overnight in Gangtok.

Distance and journey time: 132 km, 5 hrs

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Day 6: Gangtok to Kalimpong

Drive to Kalimpong. At an altitude of 1250m, Kalimpong’s location is ideal for a pleasant, relaxed getaway. Kalimpong is famous for its nurseries which export exotic flowers like Amaryllis Lilies, Anthuriums, Roses Gerberas, Dahlias, Gladiola's as well as Orchids and Cacti.
Visit the Zang Dog Palri Fo-Brang Monastery, a fairly new monastery located in Durpin Dara for a panoramic view of the town and surroundings. The prayer room inside the monastery is adorned with wall paintings.

Overnight at your hotel.

Distance and journey time: 77 km, 3 hrs

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Day 7: Cross over to Bhutan arriving into Phuntsoling

Phuntsoling, the “gateway to Bhutan” in the south-west of Bhutan, is the only land border which grants access to the country. 90% of trade in Bhutan is with India and is conducted through this town. Phuntsoling being the border town has an Indian character and taste, even though it tries to maintain Bhutanese way of living. Arrive in Phuntsoling. (Altitude: 2280m/ 7524ft above sea level)

Overnight in Phuntsoling.

Distance and journey time: 175 km, 4-5 hrs

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Day 8: Drive to Thimphu

Thimphu is a bustling town on the banks of the Thimphu Chhu and set gloriously in the hills of the Thimphu valley. It is home to the Bhutanese Royal Family, the Royal Government, and several foreign missions. Thimphu is the only capital city in the world that has no MacDonald, Starbucks, billboards and traffic lights. 

Overnight in Thimphu.

Distance and journey time: 165 km, 5 hrs

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Day 9: A day in Thimphu

After an early breakfast, take a drive to the base of the Tango Monastery where your hike will begin
Located at the farthest region north of Thimphu, It is roughly 14 kilometres away from Thimphu town. Following the trail, the walk uphill takes about 40 minutes to reach the monastery. The word Tango literally means ‘horse head’ and is derived from the deity Tandin (Hayagriva) that features the head of a horse. The revered place of Hayagriva was first recognised by Guru Rinpoche in the eighth century. It is now the Buddhist College in Bhutan.

Return to Thimphu for an afternoon sightseeing tour.

Visit the Traditional Hand Made Paper Factory. The handmade paper-making craft in Bhutan stemmed from the age-old tradition originated in the 8th century of Bhutanese history. It began as a domestic ancient activity which is still in practice in remote areas.

Memorial Chorten
Chortens are memorial structures designed to evoke the same perfect symmetry and elegance of the Buddha himself, and it is traditionally good luck to pass them on the left. This particular Chorten was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of the country, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. People from all walks of life come and worship for the sentient beings.

Kuenschholing View Point (Largest sitting Buddha)
A place from where you can get a good overview of the Thimphu valley is from the Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang). It is again a short drive from the town. You can pay your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.

Tashichho Dzong (Fortress)
The names mean Fortress of Glorious Religion. It was built in 1641 and was reconstructed into its present structure in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body. You can be part of the ceremonial national flag recess parade, performed every evening at 5 pm by the Royal Bhutan Police guards in its traditional finest grandeur. Sometimes if luck favours you could see the King coming out of his office on his way to his palace.

Overnight in Thimphu.

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Day 10: Thimphu to Punakha

After breakfast drive to Punakha, over the Dochu La pass offering stunning views of all the Eastern Himalayas. This Pass at 3,048m/10,000ft is marked by 108 Chortens. The pass is a popular location as it offers a stunning 360-degree panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range. The view is especially scenic on clear, winter days with snowcapped mountains forming a majestic backdrop to the tranquillity of the 108 Chortens gracing the mountain pass.

Punakha served as the capital of the country from 1637 to 1907 and the first national assembly was hosted here in 1953. It has the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of the most majestic structures in the country. On October 13, 2011, the wedding of the 5th King of Bhutan was held at the Punakha Dzong.

Walk through the rice paddies to visit the Chimi Lhakhang, a delightful small temple built by Drukpa Kunley. Known as The Divine Madman', Drukpa Kunley was a 15th-century Bhutanese lama and is Bhutan's most popular saint and one of the most important figures in Bhutanese folklore. His style of teaching was thought shocking, insulting and including obscene behaviour. His outrageous actions and sexual antics were a deliberate method of provoking people to discard preconceptions. In the temple, you will receive a blessing from his wooden phallus. Wooden phalluses are often found hanging in the four corners of the houses and also phalluses are painted on the walls of houses. It is the common belief that this helps in driving away evil spirits.

Visit the fabulous Punakha Dzong, one of the most spectacular and important Fortress in the kingdom. Built in 1637 this majestic fortress is built in-between two rivers. Until the time of the second King, it served as a seat of the king. Now it is the winter capital of the central monk body. Every year in the month of February or March the Punakha Festival is held in this fortress.

Longest Suspension Bridge - Located close to the fortress, the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan connects a village to the paved road. The walk through the bridge will provide a scenic view of the river and the valley.

Overnight in Punakha.

Distance and journey time: 86 km, 4 hrs

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Day 11: Drive to Gangtey Monastery

Visit Gangtey Monastery and take a hike through the Gangtey Nature Trail & Crane information centre.
The valley of Gangtey/Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the black-necked cranes. Bhutan is home to around six hundred black-necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from the Tibetan plateau. These elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to the end of March. Overlooking the Phobjikha valley is the Gangtey Goenpa, an old monastery that dates back to the 17th century.

Overnight at Gangtey.

Distance and journey time: 74 km, 3 hrs

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Day 12: Drive from Gangtey to Paro

Depart for Paro. This beautiful valley is home to many Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and temples. The valley is also home to Mount Jumolhari (7,300m/24090ft) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley.

Sightseeing in Paro. Visit the National Museum to see some of Bhutan’s cultural treasures, Rimpung Dzong, Kichu Lhakhang, Drukgyal Dzong and in the evening take a stroll in Paro town.

Overnight in Paro.

Distance and journey time: 169 km, 6 hrs

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Day 13: The spectacular trek to Tiger's Nest Monastery

Taktsang Goemba or the Tiger’s Nest Monastery Trek.
This is Bhutan’s most recognisable cultural icon perched 800m/2640ft up a seemingly sheer cliff. Although it was tragically and mysteriously consumed by fire in April 1998 it has now been restored to its former glory. It is believed that in the 8th century, the great tantric master Guru Rinpoche/ Padmasambhava (2nd Buddha) flew on the back of a tigress to the site where the monastery now stands. The hike takes approximately one hour to reach the cafeteria and another hour to reach the heart of the monastery. Most of the route is through wonderfully cool and sheltered oak forests. There is a tea house half way for a break. After the tea-house, the path is slightly steeper and open with one area of exposed steps. It is a route that anybody of reasonable fitness can make but those who suffer from vertigo might prefer to wait at the tea house.

Start early to avoid the hot sun and remember to bring a hat.

Farm House: Picturesque farm houses dot the valley amongst fields and hillsides. We welcome you to enjoy the hospitality of the Paro farmers. Thrill yourself as the farmers welcome you to their homes with genuine smiles. The two to three-storied Bhutanese farm houses are handsome in appearance, with colourfully decorated outer walls and lintels, and are traditionally built. A visit to a farm house gives an interesting glimpse into the lifestyle of a farming family. You can cook, eat and take a hot-stone bath in the farm house.

Overnight in Paro.

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Say 14: Departure

Drive to Paro Airport for departure with Drukair flight. Possible extension to Thailand for your beach holiday or continue your adventure in Assam.

Distance and journey time: 10 km, 30 mins

Not quite right or still need some more inspiration? Please get in touch. We welcome your questions. We're here to help!

Highlights

Darjeeling in the Himalayan foothills

Darjeeling is a former hill station of the British East India Company, celebrated for its refreshing mountain air, and perfect climate for the cultivation of tea.

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Gangtey and Phobjikha Valley: Home of the Black Necked Crane

Set upon a hill rising from the valley floor, almost 10000ft above sea level, the monastery of Gangtey, much modified and rebuilt through 400 years of history stands today in the form of a magnificent 17th Century dzong, or fortress.

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Gangtok gateway to Sikkim

Set dramatically on a 5000ft ridge overlooking the dramatic and awe-inspiring Mt Kanchenjunga, Gangtok is a fascinating mix of religion and culture, age-old tradition and natural charm. It is also the capital of Sikkim State.

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Kalimpong picturesque hill station

Located 4000ft above sea level, this former British colonial hill station is set on a ridge enjoying stunning Himalayan Mountain views across the tumbling Teesta River.

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Paro: base to trek the Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest monastery.

Paro is also home to the Rinpung Dzong, an imposing 17th Century fortress, and is your base to trek the Taktshang, or Tiger’s Nest monastery.

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Pelling for magnificent views of the snow-capped Kanchenjunga range

The monastery at Pemayangtse is located at an altitude of 7000ft between Gangtok and Pelling, with spectacular views to Kanchenjunga.

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Punakha: setting for the magnificent Punakha Dzong

Drive through idyllic pastoral scenes to the picturesque confluence of two mountain rivers, the setting for the magnificent Punakha Dzong, the country’s second most ancient but arguably finest and most imposing fortress monastery

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Thimphu: cultural capital of Bhutan

Thimphu lies in a broad river valley between 7375 and 8688 ft above sea level, one hour by road from Paro International Airport. It is also the seat of government, and Bhutan’s capital.

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Accommodation

Gangtey, Boutique Class
Gangtey Goenpa Lodge

Located in an idyllic spot high in the eastern Himalayan range, this delightful boutique property enjoys spectacular sweeping views down the breathtakingly beautiful Gangtey Valley.

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Paro, Deluxe Class
Uma by COMO, Paro

Uma by COMO, Paro, is an intimate, 29-room resort featuring the most exclusive private villas in Bhutan with an enviable location in the Paro Valley.

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Paro, Deluxe Class
Zhiwa Ling Resort

Zhiwa Ling, meaning Place of Peace is a luxury boutique property, conceived and created faithful to Bhutanese tradition within the stunning Paro Valley.

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Paro, Superior Boutique
Nak Sel Boutique Hotel and Spa

Located on a pine clad slope above Paro, on the edge of the National Forest, this absolutely delightful hotel looks out across the valley to the fabled Tiger’s Nest monastery.

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Paro, Superior Class
Haven Resort

Set among gardens and apple orchards in the tranquil Dop Shari Valley, this luxury boutique resort enjoys sweeping views of the surrounding Himalayan peaks.

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Paro, Standard Class
Tenzinling Resort

Set within a small hillside village among rice fields and apple orchards, the property commands sweeping views across the Paro Valley to the spectacular Paro Dzong, and Himalayan peaks beyond.

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Phuntsholing, Standard Class
Tashi Namgay Grand

Phuntsholing’s best hotel, the property’s blend of Bhutanese architecture and décor with every modern convenience reflects the bustling border town’s sense of tradition, while at the same time looking out to India, through the ornate Phuntsholing Gate, and the wider world.

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Phobjikha, Superior Class
Hotel Dewachen

Located within a pine forest in the hidden valley of Phobjikha, 10000ft above sea level, the boutique property is designed in traditional Bhutanese style, and occupies a tranquil and beautiful setting.

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Punakha, Deluxe Class
Uma by COMO Punakha

Set upon a Himalayan hillside, this intimate, luxury lodge overlooks the idyllic Punakha Valley.

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Punakha, Superior Class
Dhensa Boutique Resort Punakha

Set among fragrant pine woods, and looking out over the terraced rice fields of green and fertile Punakha Valley, the Dhensa Boutique Resort’s clean, contemporary architecture combines the best of Modernity with traditional Bhutanese design motifs.

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Punakha, Standard Class
Meri Puensum Resort

Located 5km from Punakha village, the property enjoys sweeping views of rice field, river and valley.

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Punakha, Standard Class
Drubchhu Resort

Located amid the ruins of a 19th Century royal granary, on the site of a natural spring believed to possess miraculous healing powers, the resort enjoys idyllic views across rice fields and farm buildings.

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Thimphu, Deluxe Class
Taj Tashi

A fine example of traditional Bhutanese architecture on the grand scale, this imposing property occupies an idyllic setting overlooking the city.

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Thimphu, Superior Class
Terma Linca Resort & Spa

Located at the edge of the capital on a bend of the tumbling, glacial Wangshu River, the hotel’s traditional Bhutanese architecture, and idyllic valley setting, is framed by its own flower-filled riverside gardens, and soaring Himalayan peaks beyond.

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Thimphu, Superior Class
Hotel Druk Thimphu

Set within the very heart of Thimphu, this elegant and distinctive property is a short walk from the capital’s main attractions. The traditional Bhutanese exterior conceals a chic and eclectic interior, the hotel’s unique sense of style complemented by a thoughtful approach to comfort and well-being.

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Thimphu, Standard Class
Jumolhari Hotel Thimphu

Located conveniently for Thimphu’s main attractions, this boutique hotel combines authentic Bhutanese architecture and décor with 21st Century standards of convenience.

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Darjeeling, Deluxe Class
The Elgin

Formerly the summer residence of the Maharajah Cooch Behar, this Victorian-era property in the heart of Darjeeling has been re-purposed - lovingly restored to its full colonial splendour as a stunning luxury heritage hotel.

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Gangtok, Superior Class
Norkhill Hotel

This stunning luxury heritage property was formerly a mansion of the Chogyal, or King of Sikkim, and is set within beautiful gardens in the heart of Gangtok, looking out over dramatic Himalayan valleys to the saw-tooth ridge of Kanchenjunga.

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Kalimpong, Superior Class
Elgin Silver Oaks

Formerly the mansion of the celebrated architect Frederick Desraj, famous for the construction of the Teesta Bridge, this heritage property has been repurposed as a stunning Himalayan boutique hotel.

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Pemayangtse (Pelling), Superior Class
The Elgin Mount Pandim

Set within primary Himalayan forest within stunning landscaped gardens, this former mountain retreat of Sikkim royalty enjoys fabulous views over the neighbouring Pemayangtse Monastery to the soaring peaks of the Singalila Range.

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