Sikkim-Darjeeling Cultural Tour

Sikkim-Darjeeling Cultural Tour

Duration: 13 days


Day 01: Bagdogra – Darjeeling:
Upon arrival at Bagdogra Airport, you are met by our local representative and you are driven towards Darjeeling. At a moderate altitude of 4860 feet, you come to Kurseong, the place of the white orchids. Kurseong offers the first view of the mountain range in the north behind the Ghoom ridge. The climb continues to Toong, Sonada and Ghoom, the highest rail road station in the world at 7400 feet, and then descends to Darjeeling. The bright colors of flowers that grow beautifully and effortlessly and everywhere will warm even the coldest of hearts as will the sight of chubby cheeked children walking to and from schools in the middle of nowhere. Check in hotel and take rest for the day. (Drive 3 hrs).Overnight at Darjeeling

Day 02: Darjeeling:
Early in the morning excursion to Tiger Hill. On the way back visit Yiga Choling Monastery at Ghoom. The monastery houses the statue of Maitrya Buddha. Later in the day visit Padmaja Zoological Park, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and Tibetan Welfare Centre. Evening free to visit the Chowrasta Mall. Overnight at Darjeeling. Tiger Hill is about 12km from Darjeeling and is famous for sunrise and view of the mountains. You have to get up at 4am to make it there in time for sunrise. Mount Kanchanjunga sparks brilliantly as the first rays of sun kisses it. The mountain changes color in what is a pretty darn amazing sight. It is the third highest mountain in the world and Everest is viewable in the distance.

Yiga Choling Monastery (Ghoom Monastery) is located in Ghoom near Darjeeling town. The Yiga-Choeling monastery belongs to the yellow Sect of Buddhists who worships a 15 feet statue of the 'coming Buddha', Maitreya, built in 1875 by Lama Sherab Gyamtso. No visit to Darjeeling is complete without a visit to Ghoom, which is six kilometers away from the main town. Padmaja Zoological Park: Even if you don't believe in keeping animals in captivity, Darjeeling Zoo is worth visiting because 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.

The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute: The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was set up following the successful ascent of the Mount Everest-the highest peak in the world by the local hero Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary on 28 May 1953. The institute has an interesting Everest Museum and also offers some mountaineering and adventure courses. Situated on the Jawahar Parvat, the institute is famous for its unique collection of mountaineering equipment and findings. Tibetan Welfare Centre: The Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre was started on October 2, 1959, following the dramatic escape of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, thousands of Tibetans fled into the neighboring countries to live as free human beings. The production of handicrafts continues to be our main activity. Tibetans in the Center are engaged in production of rugs and other handicrafts. Chowrasta: Chowrasta, a wide promenade atop a ridge lined with shops and restaurants is taken to be the heart of the town. Here people gather to chat, spend time basking in the sun or just to snatch a moment of peace. The Brabourne Park is attached to the Chowrasta and now features a musical fountain. This place is an open place and free from vehicular movements from where one can watch the scenic beauty of the mountain range and take charm of walking at the Darjeeling Mall. Chowrasta is the central place of the Mall Road.

Day 03: Darjeeling – Pelling:
After breakfast drive about 5 hours to Pelling and check in to the hotel. Later visit Pemayangtse monastery. Overnight at Pelling.

Pelling: Pelling is perched on a narrow ridge at an altitude of 2,150m, with spectacular and close-up views of Mt Khangchendzonga. It is also the base from where trekkers undertake treks in West Sikkim. It therefore sees more tourists and there is quite a few hotels here. Two wonderful monasteries of Pemayangtse and Sangacholing stand at the opposite ends of the village.

Pemayangtse Monastery: Pemayangtse Monastery is 120 km from Gangtok at the altitude of 7000ft. The monastery sublime lotus is the premier monastery in Sikkim. It is the oldest monastery here and houses priceless thankas, icons, Buddhist texts, paintings and frescos. Built on the 18th century AD, this monastery follows the Nyingmapa sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. On the top floor of the temple, there lays the Architectural Design of Heaven called the Sangdokphalri. It's a masterpiece art crafted single handedly out of wood by the late Dungzim Rimponche and photography is prohibited. The walls of this area are hundreds of years old and are original and on vegetable paintings.

Day 04: Pelling – Yuksom :
Today after breakfast, you will have about 2½ hours drive to Yuksom. En rout visit Khechophalri Lake and check in to the hotel. Later visit to Dubdi Monastery. Overnight at Yuksom.

Yuksom: Yuksom (Yuksam) is 40 km from Pemayangtse at the altitude of 1780m. The hamlet of Yuksom is set amidst pristine hills and lakes, where according to the historical records and it was here in 1641 AD the first Chogyal (King) Phuntsok Namgyal of Sikkim was consecrated by the three wise lamas. Yuksam literally means the meeting place of the three learned monks. This was the first capital of Sikkim. The Norbugang Chorten and the Coronation throne are the silent witnesses to the event of 1641. Khecheopalri Lake: Khecheopalri is a small tranquil Lake, surrounded by prayers flags and forested hill. It is about 27kms away from Pelling. For those trekking up here can shave off half the distance by taking short-cuts. It is a serene place and revered by Sikkimese Buddhists. According to the legend, birds remove any leaves that fall onto the lake’s surface and hence the lake remains clean. There is a small Lepcha community near the lake and also a tourists hut. There is also a temple for those hiking further uphill for about few hours.

Day 05: Yuksom – Rabangla:
After breakfast today you will have a drive about 3½ hours to Rabangla, en route visit Tashiding Monastery and later check in to the hotel. Overnight at Rabangla.

Tashiding: This tiny village is home to Tashiding Gompa monastery, founded in 1641 Ngadak Sempa Chempo, one of the three lamas who performed the consecration ceremony of the first Chogyal or the king of Sikkim. The main monastery is perched majestically atop a heart shaped hill, accessed by walking steep uphill. The monastery is said to have been constructed on the site blessed and mediated by Guru Padmasambha in 8th century. The mural work inside are very spellbinding. Behind the monastery, there are dozens of chortens (stupa), including the Thong-Wa-rang-Dol literally meaning wash away the sins by mere sight. The Bumchu festival, one of the most important traditional Sikkimese festival is held here is held here in on 14th and 15th day of the first lunar month (usually in February or early March).Lamas open a sacred pot of water and make the predictions about the coming year. Many devotees come get the blessing of the holy water.

Rabangla: Also spelt Rabangla has a spectacular setting on the road between Gangtok and Pelling. There are stupendous views across western Sikkim, with views of Ralang, Tashiding, Pemayangtse and Sangacholing monasteries, against the back-drop of snowcapped peaks. The town itself is fairly small with road workers and some Tibetan settlements. However, due to its location, Rabangla is usually clouded and misty and views are difficult to see. About 13 kms downhill is a peaceful Old Ralang monastery, established in 1768. The monastery belongs to Karma Kadgupa order of Tibetan Buddhism. Slightly above that is the new Ralang monastery built in 1995 with lots of monks.

Day 06: Rabangla – Gangtok:
Today after visit to Ralang Gompa later drive about 3 hours to Gangtok and check in to hotel. Overnight at Gangtok. Ralang Gompa : Ralang Gompa (monastery) is situated in the southern part of Sikkim. It lies at a distance of approximately 6 km from Ravangla. There is a story attached to the construction of the monastery. After the fourth Chogyal came back from his pilgrimage, the Karmapa performed the Rabney (blessing). As per the ceremony, he threw grains from the Tsurphu Monastery in Tibet (the main seat of Karmapa). The ground where the grains fell, eventually, became the site for the Ralang Monastery. The monastery belongs to the Kagyupa order. One of the most significant as well as the most blessed monasteries in Sikkim, Ralang also serves as the residence of approximately one hundred monks. The period of 1975-1981 saw reconstruction work being carried out in the monastery. Then, in 1995, a new monastery, known as Palchen Choeling Monastic Institute", was built. Constructed by the 12th Gyaltsab Rimpoche, the monastery still retains the genuine Tibetan architecture. One of the major attractions of the Ralang Gompa of India is its amazing collection of paintings.

Day 07: Gangtok:
Today you will have a full day sightseeing tour in Gangtok that includes a famous Rumtek Monastery, Institute of Tibetology which has a collection of rare Buddhist manuscripts and artifacts from Tibet, Dodrul Chorten, Tsuklakhang (Royal Chapel), Cottage Industries, flower exhibition. Overnight at Gangtok.

Rumtek: Rumtek (Alt. 1500m) is located 24km away and on the hill, opposite of Gangtok. The monastery is currently the largest in Sikkim. It is home to the community of monks that practice Karma Kagyu lineage. The original building was first built by 9th Karmapa in 16th century. It was later reconstructed by the 16th Karmapa and inaugurated in 1966. The sacred items and relics were brought from Tsurphu, Karmapa's seat in Tibet, and installed here. A Golden Stupa contains the relics of the 16th Karmapa. Opposite that building is a college for Higher Buddhist Studies. Surrounding Rumtek Dharma Chakra Center is the stupa walkway, where monks, pilgrims, and visitors alike perform kora. Rumtek was at the center of the Karmapa controversy with a lengthy battle being played out in the Indian courts. Two rival organizations, both supporting different candidates for the 17th Karmapa claimed stewardship of the monastery and its contents.

Institute of Cottage Industry: Also known as the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms, the institute was started during the time of the Chogyals of Sikkim, as a venture to preserve, protect and propagate the authentic Sikkimese arts, handicrafts and skills of local and village artisans, it has become one of the major attractions for people visiting Sikkim where beautiful souvenirs like carpets, hand carved tables (choktses), traditional handcrafts, furniture, handlooms carpets and other products are produced and exhibited for sale. Note: (Closed on Sundays, all government declared holidays, second Saturdays and the odd unforeseen holidays)

Institute of Tibetology: This internationally acclaimed center of Tibetan Studies & Research houses a vast collection of rare Buddhist books, manuscripts and over 200 Buddhist icons. About a kilometer downhill from the main market of Gangtok, amidst a small forest of oak, magnolia and birch trees stands the Institute of Tibetology. The building accommodating the Institute is an example of Tibetan architecture. It is world-renowned and is one of the few of its kind. It has one of the world's largest collections of books and rare manuscripts on the subject of Mahayana Buddhism plus many religious works of art and incredible finely executed silk embroidered Thankas.

Do-Drul Chorten: Do-Drul Chorten (Stupa) encircled by 108 prayer wheels built by late Trulsi Rimpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism in 1945-46. This is one of the most important and the biggest stupa found in Sikkim. Inside this stupa, there are complete mandala sets of Dorjee Phurba (Bajra Kilaya), a set of Kan-gyur relics(Holy Books), complete 'Zung' (mantras) and other religious objects. Around this Chorten, there are 10 Mani-Lhakor (prayer wheels). These prayer wheels are turned by the devout Buddhist while chanting "Hail to the jewel in the Lotus", to invoke the Buddhisattva. The Chorten is surrounded by Chorten Lakhang, where there are two huge statues of Guru Rimpoche (Guru Padmasambhava).

Day 08: Gangtok – Lachen:
Today, after breakfast you will have a bit long drive about 6½ to Lachen, en-route visit Kabi Lontsok, Phensang Monastery, Phodong and Labrang Monastery and check in to lodge. Phensang Monastery and check in to the hotel. Overnight at Gangtok. Kabi Longtsok :The 134 km drive from Gangtok to Yumthang takes you through Kabi Longtsok, where Sikkimese history began in the 13th century. It was here that the treaty of blood brotherhood between the Lepcha chieftain, Tetong Tek and the Tibetan chief Khye Burnsa was sworn and signed. Amidst the shadows of tall trees and cardamom fields, a memorial stone and a place of worship mark the historical spot for those who pass by. Slightly ahead is a small monastery.

Phensang Monastery: Phensang Monastery is situated in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, on the gentle slope that spreads from Kabi to Phodong. This monastery dates back to the year 1721, the time of Jigme Pawo. It belongs to Nyingmapa Order and serves as the residence of approximately three hundred monks belonging to the same order. However, the journey of the monastery from the 18th century to the present times has not been totally pleasurable. In 1957, Phensang Gompa of India witnessed a devastating fire that engulfed it entirely. Sacred dance festival is held here annually on 28th and 29th day of the tenth lunar month (usually December).Overnight at Lachen. Phodong: Phodong is one of the historic monasteries established by Kagyu sect in 1740. There is a large statue of 9th Karmapa and mural work is quite exquisite. Kagyed masked dance is held here few days before the Sikkimese traditional new year. It is located around 38km north of Gangtok. Labrang Monastery: Labrang Monastery is located 4kms beyond Phodong. This beautiful stone Gompa was built in 1844 by Nyingma sect

Day 09: Lachen - Lachung:
Visit Lachen monastery and drive to Lachung, and check in to Lodge.Overnight in Lachung. Lachung: Most visitors to Yumthang stay in pretty little town of Lachung, which is approximately 25km before and at a lower altitude of approx. 3000m. Yumthang provides a good base for short walks to view points, valley or waterfalls. It is around 125km north of Gangtok. The word Lachung means Small Mountain. Before the annexation of Tibet, Lachung was a trading post between Sikkim and Tibet. Most of Lachung's inhabitants are of Lepcha and Tibetan stock. Lachen monastery: Lachen is situated at an altitude of 2750 m / approximately 6 hrs drive from Gangtok. The Lachen Monastery Located on top of the village commands a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and countryside. This monastery in North Sikkim was built in 1806 and follows the Nyingma sec of Buddhism

Day 10: Lachung - Yumthang:
After an hour drive to Yumthang Valley and later visit to Lachung Monastery. Overnight in Lachung Yumthang Valley is a grazing pasture surrounded by the Himalayan mountains in North Sikkim, with an average elevation of 3,550m and around 150km north of Gangtok. The valley is surrounded by forested hills of mainly rhododendron trees, snow capped peaks, and treeless Tibetan plateau stretching far off into the distance. It is also home to the Singba Rhododendron Sanctuary, with over twenty-four species of the rhododendron. A tributary of the river Teesta flows throughthe valley and through the town of Lachung, the nearest inhabited centre. In the spring, rhododendrons and primulas bloom carpet the whole area in a surreal shade. And there are a few sulfur hot springs that is believed to have healing powers. Overnight at Lachung.

Day 11: Lachung – Gangtok:
After breakfast drive to Gangtok about 6 hours. Transfer to hotel. Evening free to visit the local market. Overnight at Gangtok.

Day 12: Gangtok- Kalimpong:
Today, drive about 3 hours to Kalimpong. Later visit Tongsa Gompa and Sangdokphalri Monastery. Overnight at Kalimpong. Kalimpong: Abutting the state of Sikkim, Kalimpong is set in the foothills of the majestic Himalayas at an altitude of 1250 meters above sea level. The most fascinating aspect of Kalimpong is its calm ambience with magnificent views of the towering snow-crested mountain ranges. The Buddhist monasteries, the churches and the temples, all combined, give rise to an exceptional religious aura which is truly commendable. The town is an ethnic mix of hill people and maintains the age-old tradition of hospitality. The Nepalis are the predominating community in the town. The other ethnic groups are Lepchas, Bhutias, Pradhans, Sherpas, Rais, Yamloos, Damais, Kamais and the Limbus. We visit the Tongsa Gompa, or Bhutanese Monastery, is the oldest monastery in the area and dates back to 1692.

Sangdokphalri Monastery was built in the mid-70s at Durpin Dara Hill and was consecrated by the Dalai Lama. The gompa is worth a visit for its impressive wall paintings in the prayer room, and a rare three-dimensional mandala upstairs. The mountain views are amazing from Durpin Dara Hill.

Day 13: Kalimpong - Bagdogra / Phuentsoling/ Bhadrapur:
After breakfast drive to the Bagdogra airport/ Phuentsoling/ Bhadrapur in time for onward journey...