Palace Tours takes you on a wonderful 6-day tour of the charming city of Kolkata and the beautiful hill station of Darjeeling. Kolkata is a fascinating blend of all things Indian, rich in culture, history, art, education, recreation and legend. A modern city, Kolkata is home to many scholars, politicians and Nobel laureates and was the capital of British India until 1912. It is also quite firmly rooted in the traditions of West Bengal, for it is here that you find fantastic cathedrals side by side with sacred temples and terrific structures like bridges and palaces near quaint flower markets and potters studios.
Escape to Darjeeling and enjoy an unforgettable ride on the famous Toy Train, the opportunity to watch the sunrise over Mt. Kanchendzonga, and an overnight stay at a Tea Estate to gain insight into the production of the tea for which Darjeeling is renowned.
You are welcomed upon arrival in Kolkata and transferred to your hotel. The evening is yours at leisure to relax at the hotel or take a walk around the city to appreciate the new culture that surrounds you. Kolkata is the city of joy, contrast and culture; your visit here presents you with a combination of 300 years of cultural heritage mixed with vibrant modern life.
This morning after breakfast, embark on a guided city tour with an introduction to the glory of Bengal in connection with Indian life and lore. Your first stop is the Flower Market, a unique wholesale market of flowers which is situated on the banks of the river Ganges near the famous Howrah Bridge. Drive by the heritage buildings of Dalhousie Square, followed by Victoria Memorial and St. Paul's Cathedral. Hop on to a charming local tram and travel to the famous Kali Temple, where you are taken on a hand-pulled Rixo ride and transferred to the hotel around lunchtime.
Later this afternoon, visit Dakshineswar Kali Temple which was built by Rani Rashmoni starting in 1847. Famous for its association with Ramkrishna who achieved spiritual vision there, the 9-spired temple with its enormous courtyard is surrounded by 12 other temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Experience the river cruise across the River Ganges by motorized boat from Dakshineswar Temple to Bellur Math, and catch a glimpse of the vibrant modern life and cultures along the river banks. Your tour ends at Mother Teresa’s House, the headquarters of the Missionaries of Charity. Return to your hotel after your busy day and stay overnight. (B)
After breakfast you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Bagdora and be met by our representative who transfers you to Darjeeling (95 kms/2.5 hrs). Darjeeling, first discovered by the British Captain Lloyd in 1829, and its name is derived from Dorje, the mystic thunderbolt of the Lama religion. Surrounded by tea gardens and towering peaks, Darjeeling is a land of infinite variety and charm, which delivers a mixed experience of lively nature and charming Himalayan people. Check in to your hotel and then walk around town at leisure to appreciate the new culture you are in. Stay overnight at the hotel. (B,D)
After breakfast at the hotel, embark on a half-day local sightseeing tour which covers Padmaja N. Zoological Garden (closed on Thursdays), the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (closed on Thursdays) and the Tibetan Refugee Self-help Center (closed on Sundays). You might also experience the famous Toy Train Joy Ride (subject to availability). This unique mountain railway project began in 1878 by the initiative of Sir Assly Eden and is now a World Heritage Site. The evening is free for shopping and individual activity followed by an overnight stay at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Get an early morning start for Tiger Hill to watch the spectacular sunrise and its amazing effects on Mt. Kanchendzonga, the world's third highest peak. Visit Ghoom Monastery and Batashia Loop War Memorial en route back to the hotel, where breakfast awaits. This afternoon, transfer to Chamong Chiabari Tea Estate (25 kms/1.5 hrs). The tea country is a vast parkland of man-made landscape, with slim silver-barked trees evenly spaced to throw their shade over the tea bushes. The region's history of tea farming dates back to 1835, when it was put in place through the initiative of British Governor General Lord Bentinck. Today, Darjeeling tea is famous worldwide for its flavor and is known as "the champagne of teas." The view from your private bungalow of the tea gardens set against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains and foothill forests of the Eastern Himalayas is simply enchanting. Enjoy a tour of the tea garden and factory where you may discover the charming character, rich culture and history of the friendly people of this region. (B,L,D)
This morning after an early breakfast, visit the Tea Factory and the Plantation to understand the lifestyle of the tea industry. Later this afternoon, transfer to Bagdogra Airport (106 kms/2 hrs) to connect to your departure flight home or to your next exotic destination. (B)
What are the passport/visa requirements for travel to India?
A passport with validity at least six months beyond your departure from India is required. Also, visas must be obtained prior to arrival in India. If you are a US citizen, please follow this link for details on obtaining an Indian Visa: https://www.indian-visa.com/. If you are not a US citizen, Please visit www.mea.gov.in, click on “Welcome” and then under "MEA Links" at the right, click on "Missions and Posts Abroad" and then click "Consulate Generals". You can then select your appropriate Consulate General office and link directly to its website, where detailed visa information and application forms can be found.
Important note: All foreign nationals need to obtain a Sikkim Inner Line Permit to enter the state of Sikkim. The same can be obtained from the Indian embassies of the respective countries at the time of obtaining the visa or upon arrival at the West Bengal Sikkim border, and in such cases, we need to have the copy of your passport and visa before arrival. For the permit, please carry 6 copies of your passport-sized photo.
What is the best time of year to visit East India?
The best time of year to visit is September to March. The Sunderbans region has a tropical climate with hot summers and cold winters. Maximum and minimum temperatures during the summer are 42°C and 37°C respectively. In winters, the maximum and minimum temperatures are 29°C and 9.2°C respectively. It can get quite cold in Sikkim and Darjeeling (Winter 0-12°C and Summer 10-25°C) and comfortable to warm in Kolkata (Winter 10-20°C and Summer 30-40°C).
What kinds of clothing are recommended?
During the winter season for tours in Bengal (December, January and February) light woolens are required during the night. For the rest of the year, casual cotton outfits would be the most comfortable. For colder regions around Darjeeling and Sikkim, we recommend bringing heavy woolens as well. Try to wear outfits in neutral colors if you are undertaking a trip which includes visits to Sunderbans or Jaldapara, so as not to startle the animals. Fully covered shoes with good traction are advisable.
What other items should I bring?
Remember to carry sunscreen, a hat, small flashlight, binoculars, mosquito repellent, and don’t forget your camera and film!
What health precautions should I take while traveling in East India?
Drink only purified water or bottled water, which is provided complimentary for your convenience. Also do not forget to carry your personal medicines if you are on medication. If you have a medical condition that might put you at risk, discuss it with your doctor and inform us at the time of booking. And, whenever you travel, check to see what your health insurance covers. We do have some professionals to handle emergency situations and can arrange immediate medical facilities.
What is the recommended currency?
The local currency is the Indian rupee. We recommend that you utilize currency exchange facilities in Kolkata before your tour, as some of the smaller towns may not be able to accommodate an exchange.
If I have a specific diet restriction or preference, will you be able to accommodate my request?
All efforts are made to accommodate reasonable diet preferences. We communicate the requests to the hotels and restaurants where you would be eating and your request should generally be honored and ready. However, it is always better to re-coordinate the requirements with our escort / attendant who will be able to ensure the establishments know about your requirements. We also request you to re-inform the establishment about your requirement at the time you go for meals to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.
Can you provide a wheelchair if I need assistance on the sightseeing tours?
Wheelchairs and attendants are available but the arrangements must be made well in advance. Please do let us know and we will be happy to arrange for this. If there is an additional charge, it will be communicated to you depending on your exact requirements. Please be aware that sightseeing vehicles and many monuments are not fully wheelchair accessible. Therefore, it will be beneficial if the party can stand and walk at least a few steps with assistance for entering/exiting vehicles and maneuvering within certain monuments.
What kinds of hotels are used?
We use the best properties available in each location which give you good value, the best security and hygiene conditions, and excellent service. Please note that the tourism infrastructure in several of the less developed cities such as Jaldapara is not very advanced and therefore the accommodation in these cities is standard in nature. Please see the “accommodation” tab for hotel details and amenities.
What airlines are used for domestic flights?
Airfare is not included in the tour price; however you may choose to book your domestic airfare from Kolkata to Bagdogra through Palace Tours at an additional cost. We use Jet Airways, Jet Lite, Kingfisher and at times (if needed for big groups) we use chartered aircraft.
What is the recommended gratuity?
Gratuities are solely at your discretion, and should reflect your enjoyment of the journey and your satisfaction with the quality of service provided. As a general guideline, per day, a tip of $10 for the driver and $5-$10 for the guide is appropriate.
Unfortunately, we don't offer Visa assistance but we can provide you with all the information that you need for getting a visa to India
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