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Himalayas of Darjeeling & Sikkim with the Buddha’s Footstep…

For someone for the west, India provides an authentic adventure - stimulating, absorbing, daunting, sometimes moving and shocking. Here is one of the world's great dramas; an ancient, vast and crowded land committed to the most formidably challenging exercise in mass democracy. It is a spectacle in which hope, pride, paradox and uncertainty mingle and struggle. It is conducted on the whole, and to India's credit in the open. The lasting memories of the land are hospitality, kindness, good humor and generosity. Here is a society of over a 1000 million people, growing by a million a month, divided and united by language, caste, religion and regional loyalties. It has often been described as a functioning anarchy; and it is in many ways an amiable one, of marvelous fluidity and tolerance. Indeed, the true Indian motif is not the Tajmahal, the elephant or the patient peasant behind the ox drawn plough. It is the crowd, the ocean of faces in the land of multitudes, endlessly stirring, pushing and moving. It is in this human circulation that one sees India's colour, variety, busyness, and, senses also its power, vitality and grandeur.

 Namaste!  - We welcome you with folded hands

 Day 01: Arrival / Delhi

Late night arrival. Meeting and assistance upon arrival as our representatives welcome you and escort you to your car.

Whilst the room keys and check-in is organized, our representative would introduce the tour to you and hand over the documents to you.

Welcome to India, or as we say ‘atithi devo bhava’ (the guest is an incarnation of God). Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you!

Overnight at The Connaught – a 4* Downtown Hotel (Standard Room)

Day 02: Delhi / Bagdogra (9W 602 – 1010 / 1215 Hrs)
Bagdogra / Darjeeling (Drive)

After breakfast transfer to the airport to board your flight to Bagdogra Meeting & assistance upon arrival and drive to Darjeeling. Enroute we stop at the Kurseong Tourist Centre for a refreshing cup of the famous Darjeeling tea.

This evening is at leisure. Darjeeling offers plenty of options for walking. Of special mention is the circular  walk around the Observatory Hill for breathtaking scenes of natural beauty of the Himalayas and the city below. The shopping options of Darjeeling are revealed once you visit some of the curio shops along Nehru Road. All things Himalayan are sold here—‘thankas’ (paintings), brass statues, religious objects, jewellery, woodcarvings, woven fabrics, carpets etc. However, bargaining is the order of the day, so be prepare to jostle with the shopkeepers. 

Overnight at Windamere Hotel

Day 03: Darjeeling

An early morning drive to Tiger Hill for a breathtaking dawn view over Kanchanjunga and other eastern Himalayan peaks is a fantastic experience. On your way back you may visit the Ghoom monastery, which is the oldest and the most famous monastery in Darjeeling. It enshrines an image of the Maitreya Buddha (the coming Buddha).

We would have an opportunity to ride on the exquisite Toy train from Ghoom to Darjeeling – a truly fascinating experience as the train clinges on to the hills We return to our hotel; for breakfast following which we tour the city. Darjeeling has some very fascinating places of interest. The Botanical Gardens that contain a representative collection of Himalayan plants, flower and orchids. The hot houses are very interesting. The Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre established in 1959 to help rehabilitate Tibetan refugees who fled from Tibet produces superb carpets, woolens, wood carvings and leather work. You could walk through the workshops and observe the work in progress. The weaving and dyeing shops and the woodcarving shop are particularly interesting and the workers, very friendly - the women have very beautiful and expressive features. The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute set up to train mountaineers, also has a museum containing an interesting collection of historic mountaineering equipment, specimens of Himalayan flora and fauna and relief model of the Himalayas. Another must in Darjeeling is a visit to the Happy Valley Tea garden. Here tea is still produced by the ‘ orthodox’ method as opposed to the ‘curling, tearing and crushing’ (CTC) method adopted in the plains. The process is a fascinating one to observe with possibilities of lots of good pictures

Overnight at Windamere Hotel

Day 04: Darjeeling / Pemayangtse 

After breakfast we drive to Pemayangtse with packed lunches. One reaches Pemayangtse only through one of the most incredibly beautiful journies in the world. The views afforded by the journey itself is worth the effort.  We would have opportunities to stop a few times, walk through the countryside, enjoy the enchanting beauty of the place and interact with the natives through our guide.

Overnight at Hotel Norbu Gang Resort

Day 05: Pemayangtse

The views of snow capped Himalayan range is unbelievable. One has to just draw the curtains of one’s bedroom and lo behold! You could almost touch the range. Even the shadows of the great peaks are clearly visible. Sunrise here is soul stirring! The reflections of the rising Sun on the snow capped peaks is magical and cannot be duplicated in words. We also visit the Pemayangtse monastery, which is the second oldest monastery in Sikkim and belongs to the Tantric –Nyingma—Pa sect established by an Indian teacher. The sects monasteries are characterised by a prominent image of the teacher along with two female consorts, and this monastery is the head of all others in Sikkim. The sect followers wear red caps. We would also visit the peaceful and tranquil Khechipalri Lake.

Overnight at Hotel Norbu Gang Resort

Day 06: Pemayangtse / Martham Village Resort

Morning, a spectacular journey, mostly down hill on undulating roads with hair pin bends caressing the mighty Himalayas, through tremendous landscapes of terraced fields on the slopes of the Himalayas, swiftly flowing Teesta river down the valley and wild banana plantations as well as through quaint Sikkimese villages bring us to Martham

Upon arrival, check into the Martam Village Resort. Described as 'paradise on earth', a holiday in Martam Village Resort is a unique experience. Situated in the breathtaking and tranquil countryside of East Sikkim in the foot hills of the mighty Himalayas, the resort overlooks a beautiful valley of rice terraced fields, bounded by forest covered hills. The accommodation is ethnic in seven thatched cottages built in traditional Sikkimese style to blend with the surrounding villages. The cottages have twin bedded rooms with large picture window framing the countryside. Each room has attached bath room with all modern western facilities.. The attractive and excellent restaurant has a cosy dinning hall and bar serving delicious cuisines, including local Sikkimese food and drinks. One can also experience the traditional herbal bath, watch folk dances of Sikkim and visit the witch doctor. Being next to nowhere, but for nature, Martam Village Resort is the perfect location for visitors who love nature or adventure and for those seeking peace and relaxation. It would be a wonderful idea to visit some ethnic Sikkimese villages untouched by civilisation and enjoy the fabled Sikkimese hospitality.

Evening at leisure for nature walks or visits to nearby Himalayan villages untouched by modern times. Overnight at Martham Village Resort

 Day 07: Martham / Rumtek / Martham

Today, we visit the world famous Rumtek The original monastery was built by a ruler of Sikkim. However, a new monastery replicating the former one was built in the 16th century. Thus, though the monastery is new, it enshrines all that is best in traditional Tibetan monastic architecture. When seen in the clear light of Sikkim, this magnificent building with its red pillars, brilliantly painted fretwork and superbly glowing murals glitters like a jewel set in the green hills.Overnight at Martham Village Resort

Day 08: Martham/ Gangtok / Martham

A leisurely breakfast and then a full day excursion of Gangtok. The 24 km drive is in itself a fantastic drive through paradise. Changing vistas of mountains unfold at every bend and there are delighted vignettes of the hamlets and fields of the people of rural Sikkim.

The capital of the Sikkim State, Gangtok occupies the West Side of a long ridge flanking the Ranipool River. The scenery is spectacular and there are excellent views of the entire Kanchanjunga range from many points in the vicinity. We first visit the Tsuk- la -Khang chapel. It is the Buddhist principal place of worship and assembly and the repository of a large collection of scriptures. It is a beautiful and impressive building, its interior covered with murals. Lavishly decorated altars hold images of the Buddha, bodhisattavas, and tantric deities. There are also several interesting wooden carvings. The Namgyalk Institute of Tibetology. Established in the 1958 this unique monastery built in a traditional style promotes research on the language and traditions of Tibet, as well as on Mahayana Buddhism. Next week we visit the Orchid Sanctuary close to the Institute. Enclosed by a peaceful forest, the orchid sanctuary has a majority of 454 species of orchids found in Sikkim a kilometre away is a huge white chorten with a golden apex. Next to it is a monastery for young lamas with a shrine containing a huge image of an Indian teacher of Buddhism in Tibet. The Institute of Cottage Industries specialises in producing hand-woven carpets, blankets, shawls, Leapcha weaves, patterned decorative paper and Choktse tables, exquisitely carved in relief. Overnight at Martham Village Resort

 Day 09: Martham / New Jalpaiguri
New Jalpaiguri / Varanasi (North Eastern Express – 2000/ 0700* Hrs)

Morning is at leisure for your independent activities.

Afternoon transfer to New Jalpaiguri train station to board your overnight train to Varanasi Overnight: Two Tier Air-Conditioned Sleeper Accommodation

  Day 10: Arrival / Varanasi

Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to your Rashmi Guest house

VNS Varanasi or Benares - Hindu pilgrims taking a bath in the Ganges river at dawn 3008x2000Varanasi is quite possibly the world’s oldest living city. Religious artifacts link it to the sixth century B.C. Said to be founded by Shiva, Varanasi’s Vedic affiliation goes back to the beginning of time. It is also a city of many names. The present name, Varanasi (derived from the names of two nearby rivers) is mentioned in the Mahabharata. The ancient name is Kashi, the City of Light. To the devout it is also called Kashika, the shining one, referring to the light of Shiva. Many others prefer the anglicized Benares. Revered by Hindus, Buddhists and Jain alike, Varanasi is considered the holiest city in all of India. It is presided over by Shiva in his manifestation as Vishwanatha, Lord of the Universe. Buddha delivered a sermon in nearby Sarnath and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, lived in Varanasi. As a result, more Indians will make a pilgrimage to Varanasi in their lifetime than any other place.

After wash & change we will visit several temples and the Hindu University at Benares. First stop would be the Bharat Mata (temple of Mother India). Inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi, it features a huge marble map of India on the ground floor. Next up, the Durga Temple. Known for its bright red color and the playful, if sometimes aggressive, monkeys that run amok there, the Durga Temple is one of the most imposing architectural monuments in Varanasi.

The university, which occupies a large piece of land at the southern end of town, is also home to the New Vishwanatha Temple. The New Temple is  modern in design and open to Hindus and non-Hindus alike. Surrounded by palm trees, it is a splendid white marble structure that shines in the afternoon sun against a pale blue sky. Inside, the temple is spacious and airy. The interior walls are covered with Vedic art above inscriptions from the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. In the center of the first floor is the Shiva linga.

Evening, we visit the ghats of Varanasi to witness the performance of Ganges Aarti. We enjoy a special evening cruise on the Ganges. See the Hindu devotees performing the "Puja" with lighted lamps. The view is very mesmerizing and the ambience is spectacular in the backdrop of the beating of cymbals and bells as well as the incessant chantings. Later return to the hotel .

Overnight at Rashmi Guest House (Deluxe River View Room)

Day 11:  Varanasi

At dawn we visit the sacred Ganges for a boat ride. Every morning at dawn hundreds of worshippers can be seen bathing in the sacred waters. The great river banks are lined with an endless chain of stone steps—the ghats—that stretch from one end of the city to the other. The Ghats form an impressive part of the religious landscape of the city. Proceeding downstream at a leisurely pace,you would be pointed out the significant temples and buildings  as well as the changing architectural style. Life and death go hand in hand in Varanasi. While young people seek prosperity and protection from harmful influences, the older generation comes to Varanasi to cleanse their souls in the forgiving waters in preparation for their ultimate dissolution. Believing that anyone who dies in the river of life in Varanasi gains freedom from the cycle of birth and death, the City of Light has become a haven for the sick and aged waiting out their final days. The smoke that billows from the crematoriums on the edge of the river gives testimony to their final release from life’s earthly confines. We would docked our boat at Manikarnika (Cremation) Ghat. On any given day, anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred corpses are cremated here, The ghat is assiduous with activity as the cremated bodies threw up smoke and fire.

Following the boat ride we set off on foot to explore the inner city. Through a twisted maze of narrow alleys, home to numerous shrines and pilgrim shops, we walk back a few centuries. Life here has stood still for years. The homes, the shops and even the cattle have not changed over the centuries. It is a brilliant nostalgic experience of timelessness.

Later we will visit the bustling Gadolia bazaar. You would never have seen so many cycle rickshaws and heard the cacophony of so many cycle rickshaw bells! It is an amazing spectacle of colour and lifestyles as you need to watch out for the pavement shops – especially the pavement dentist with a laughing set of dentures!!

This evening we take a short trip to the Buddhist city of Sarnath .It is here that the Buddha preached his first sermons after attaining enlightenment. The highlight of this tour would be a participation in the evening prayer service (aarti) of the main Buddhist temple here - the synchronized chanting of himns to the accompaniment of traditional temple music is a sole stirring experience.

Overnight at Rashmi Guest House (Deluxe River View Room)

Day 12: Varanasi / Bodhgaya

This morning we will drive to Bodhgaya. Upon arrival check in to Royal Residency

Bodhgaya - As the place of the Buddha's Enlightenment, Bodhgaya is the spiritual home of Buhddhists. Bodhgaya situated near the river Niranjana, is one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage centres since it was here that Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Later visit Mahabodhi Temple, Niranjana River, Sujata Village.

Overnight at Hotel Royal Residency (Best in Town)

Day 13: Bodhgaya / Rajgir / Nalanda / Patna

After breakfast drive to Patna enroute we visit Nalanda & Rajgir.

Rajgir -The picturesque Rajgir, or Rajagriha as it was known in the past (literally, the abode of kings) is surrounded by the meandering river Banganga and 5 hills. During the lifetime of the Buddha this was the capital of the powerful Magadhan kingdom, ruled by the virtuous King Bimbisara. The hills and caves surrounding Rajagriha were home to spiritual teachers, ranging from the materialism of the early Charavaka school to the metaphysics of Upanishadic philosophers. Like many others in search of truth, Prince Siddhartha, after he renounced his royal heritage came to this city to seek the path of vation. Nalanda -Nalanda was the most renowned university in ancient India. It derived its name from Na-alam-da, meaning Insatiable in Giving, one of the names by which the Lord Buddha was known. From here we continue our drive to Patna.

Upon arrival in Patna check in to hotel Maurya Patna Overnight at Maurya Patna (Best in Town)

Day 14: Patna / Vaishali / Kushinagar

After breakfast drive to Kushinagar where the Buddha finally attained Mahaparmirvana. Amongst the ruins are the Mukutbandhan Stupa and a beautiful statue of the reclining Buddha enroute visiting Vaishali. Upon arrival in Kushinagar check in to hotel Royal Residency

Overnight at Royal Residency (Best in Town)

Day 15: Kushinagar / Lumbini

After breakfast visit the Mahaparinirvana Temple & Stupas.We drive to Lumbini upon arrival check in to Hokke hotel. Lumbini - the birthplace of the Buddha, was located in 1890 after being untraced for 1,500 years. Evening sightseeing tour of Lumbini including a visit to the birth Place of Lord Buddha.Overnight at Hokke Lumbini (Best in Town)

Day 16: Lumbini / Kapilvastu / Sravasti

 After breakfast drive to Sravasti enroute visiting Kapilvastu - the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala, has the honour for sheltering Buddha for 24 rainy seasons in the Jetvana Gardens. The city believed to be founded by the mythological king Sravast, has age-old stupas, majestic monasteries and several temples. Buddha is said to have performed some miracles here. In Sravasti visit Saheth - Maheth & Jetvan.

Upon arrival check in to hotel Lotus Nikko. Overnight at Lotus Nikko (Best In Town)

Day 17: Sravasti / Lucknow

After breakfast we will proceed to the tour of Saravasti.
After the tour we will drive to Lucknow
Lucknow is known all over the world for the courteous behavior of its people. It is a rare city. Few places in the world are endowed with such rich cultural traditions, as is this romantic city of the nawabs. Whether it is history, architecture, music, dance, handicrafts, etiquette, or sports, Lucknow has its own story to tell.

Upon arrival check in to Hotel La Palace Park Inn

After rest and relaxation we will proceed to explore Lucknow. It has a number of sites to go shopping. Blended in history, these shopping places also are used as the popular means of passing time and lazy strolling. Hazrat Gunj (named after Begum Hazrat Mahal) is a fashionable shopping plaza overflowing with shops and restaurants. Strolling leisurely in Hazrat Gunj and stopping for a bit of window-shopping or meeting friends at your favorite corner is a popular pastime here. Aminabad is among the busiest markets in the city where one can pick up all kinds of things. But it is primarily known for jewelry and pickle shops. Shopping in the Chowk, an old locality of Lucknow, is also a delightful experience. While doing the rounds of the shops, a visit to Nakhas, the Sunday market, is obligatory. A colorful, noisy pavement bazaar, it is a veritable storehouse of antiques and curios. The visitor can pick up old, beautifully carved paandans (boxes in which the various ingredients that make up a paan are kept), khaasdans (pretty little containers in which the paans are served), and all kinds of other such charming objets d’art. Nakhas also has a bird market. And pottery lovers should make a beeline for Chinhat, located just a few kilometers away from Lucknow. There are pottery factories here that churn out attractive planters, bowls, tea sets, mugs, vases, and dinner sets-all available at very reasonable prices.

Overnight at La Palace Park Inn

Day 18: Lucknow / Delhi (9W 3320 – 1025 / 1150 Hours)

Morning transfer to the airport to board your flight to Delhi

Meeting and assistance upon arrival and transfer to hotel The Connaught

Rest of the day is at leisure for your independent activities Delhi today is truly the melting pot of India, and the main gateway to one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Your Hotel in Delhi is a Downtown Hotel - The Connaught Place is the heart and pulse of New Delhi. This Hotel will give you an opportunity to view the busy streets and bazaars of the capital of India. In other words, you will 'feel' India.

Home Visit & a Farewell Dinner with an Indian Family: This evening, we would visit an Indian family for an Indian home experience. The evening is designed to give you a ‘feel’ and insight into Indian family life as well as experience typical Indian hospitality and home made Indian food.

Overnight at The Connaught – a 4* Downtown Hotel (Standard Room)

Day 19: Delhi / Departure

Transfer to the International airport to board your flight back home

 

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