The tour starts in PARO, the only town in Bhutan with an international airport. You will be greeted in a traditional Bhutanese fashion by the local tour operator who will then direct you to a waiting Toyota mini-bus. After a drive through the spectacular landscape of the Paro Valley, the tour will stop for lunch and a view of the Himalayas at the 9498-foot Dochu-La (pass).
After lunch, the tour will visit the town of WANGDUE with its Dzong (monastery-fortress), and then head for PUNAKHA, the old capital of Bhutan and final destination of the day. Dinner and lodging will be at the Hotel Zangtho-Perli, the best in the area.
After breakfast at the hotel, you will visit the most impressive Dzong in Bhutan, situated on a spur of land where two rivers, the "Father" and "Mother," merge to form the Punakha river.
After lunch the tour will return to the Dochu La (pass) for another glimpse of the imposing Himalayan peaks, the highest in Bhutan measuring 24,596 feet.
The final destination of the day will be the capital city of THIMPHU where you will lodge and dine at the new Hotel Jomolhari, recently built with the comforts of a modern hotel, but also with the ambience of the Land of the Dragon.
After breakfast, and with a break for lunch, you will be visiting the main sights of the capital city of THIMPHU, including the Zelucka nunnery, the National Library, the Handicrafts Emporium and Choki Handicrafts (a good place to shop for traditional crafts), the Painting School, the Traditional Medicine Institute and the Memorial Chorten, a stupa built in memory of the third king of Bhutan. Dinner and lodging will be at the Hotel Jomolhari.
After breakfast you will leave for PARO, where you will be able to attend the famous "tschechu" festival that takes place at the local Dzong. You will also have the opportunity to do shopping on the grounds of the Dzong, where, on this occasion, people from all parts of the country converge with handicrafts, textiles, jewelry, brass, statues, etc., which are often sold at bargain prices.
All meals and lodgings will be at the Hotel Olathang.
This is the day when the most interesting ceremony of the Paro festival, the Shugdel, takes place. The ceremony consists of the unfurling of the Thongroel (a huge cloth) in the darkness of early morning. After the end of the ceremony you will visit the National Museum of Bhutan, rated one of the best natural history museums of Asia.
After lunch you will get a glimpse of the famous Taktshang Monastery, the "Tiger nest" from where Buddhism was introduced to the Paro Valley and the rest of the country by the Tibetan Guru Rimpoche. You will then visit a typical Bhutanese farmer's house near the Dukgyel Dzong (the "victory dzong") at the north-western end of the Paro Valley.
A "farewell to Bhutan" dinner is then held at the Hotel.
After breakfast the tour will head for PHUENTSHOLING, the border town with India. There will be a lunch at the Druk Hotel before the tour crosses into India heading for the DOOARS plain. Final destination of the day will be the Sinclairs Retreat Dooars, a resort spread over 20 acres of lush green terrain, situated at the top of Chalsa Hill among a striking variety of flowering plants, trees and gardens. Before or after dinner at the resort you may want to utilize the numerous amenities of the resort which include a gymnasium with herbal massage, mud baths, sauna, steam baths, etc.
You may want to spend the day relaxing at the resort's swimming pool, tennis court, and billiards room. Or, you may elect to go on one of the many optional trips to nearby natural attractions, such as the wild life sanctuaries of the area.
After breakfast the tour will head north on a road that follows the turbulent Teesta River, offering spectacular views of the river and valley. The destination of the day will be the town of KALIMPONG. Sightseeing will take place before and after lunch, and will include, among other sights, the "Universal Flower Nursery" and the Arts and Craft Center. Later in the day there will be an all-string concert by about 50 very young students of the Gandhi Ashram School. Dinner and lodging will be at the Silver Oaks Hotel.
After breakfast the tour will cross into SIKKIM and climb to GANGTOK (6,135 feet), its fairytale capital that hangs in the clouds and is precariously situated on steep mountain slopes. The group will check-in and dine at the Nor-Khill Hotel. Sightseeing in Gangtok will include the Lal Bazaar, The Institute of Tibetology and the Rumtek Monastery, which houses some of the most unique religious art objects in the world.
Most of the day will be spent at the TSOMGO LAKE (12,000 feet), near the border with Tibet. This serene lake is considered sacred by the local people. Dinner and overnight will be again at the Nor-Khill Hotel.
DAY 11,12, and 13
After breakfast the tour will head for the West Bengal town of DARJEELING (7,000 feet), once a popular hill station during the British administration. The group will lodge for three nights at the Windamere Hotel, a "Heritage Hotel" that was described by a celebrated writer as "one of the three jewels of the Raj". Kings and viceroys were guests of the hotel at one time, along with famous personalities such as Diane and Duff Cooper, Sir Edmund Hillary (the "conqueror of the Everest") and Henrich Harrier (immortalized in the Seven Years in Tibet). It was at the Windamere that the New York socialite Hope Cooper met the Chogyal of Sikkim and was engaged to him in a ceremony hosted by the hotel owner, Tenduf-La. The Windamere offers an exquisite hospitality with its Victorian atmosphere and unique ambiance and charm. The food is substantial, fresh and healthy; a tea with sandwiches and cookies is also served between 4 and 5pm. A spacious patio offers a mystical view of the majestic Kangchenjunga, at 28,208 feet the third highest mountain in the world.
Activities during the stay in Darjeeling include a visit to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the Himalayan Zoological Garden, the Goom Gompa and the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center, where Tibetan craftsmen can be seen at work and where excellent carpets, woolens, leather work and Tibetan art works can be purchased at very reasonable prices.
Other activities include the spectacle of sunrise over the Himalayas, attendance at a Tibetan folklore show or the Moghul Court Music by the Ghazals, and shopping on the main street of town, particularly for Darjeeling tea and kashmir / pashmina shawls.
On this day the tour will descend from the height of Darjeeling to the West Bengal plain at Siliguri. Barring strikes or unforeseeable mechanical problems, the 55 miles distance will be covered by the so-called "TOY TRAIN" at the speed of 6 miles per hour. The train, which has been operating daily since 1881, is an engineering feat of the 19th century, and was entered in the UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE LIST in 1999. The slow journey on the spur of the Himalayan foothills is a unique, exhilarating experience with its dazzling, breathtaking views.
In SILIGURI the group will dine and lodge at the Sinclairs Hotel.
After breakfast the group will head for the BAGDOGRA airport, where the tour will officially end.