Bagdogra - Darjeeling. Arrive at Bagdogra Airport before 3pm, where you will be met and transferred to Darjeeling, the erstwhile summer retreat of the Englishmen in the Himalayas. Darjeeling was immortalized by the first Everest Summiteers Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary and was the base of all earlier Everest expeditions. Lying under the shadow of mighty Mount Kanchenjunga and the rugged Himalayas and surrounded by lush tea plantations, Darjeeling is incredibly scenic and steeped in history and culture.
Overnight: Darjeeling | Dinner
We enjoy an excursion to Ghoom Monastery today and then take a scenic joy ride on the famous Toy Train from Ghoom to Darjeeling. Darjeeling is world renowned for its tea and this afternoon we take a guided tour of the Happy Valley Tea Estate, one of the oldest Orthodox tea plantations in the Darjeeling hills.
In 2003 Happy Valley Tea Estate celebrated its centenary despite it being officially established in 1854 by an Englishman, David Wilson, who lent it his name sake - Wilson Tea Estate. It was in 1903 that it was taken over by Tarapada Banerjee an Indian aristocrat who merged the estate with his neighboring estate in 1929 and named it Happy Valley. Happy Valley is the closest tea garden to Darjeeling set in the picturesque hillside and starts at an altitude as high as 6,300 feet. Owing to its high perch the garden is able to utilize the mountain mist which has a unique effect on the pollen of the plants and lends to the unique flavor of Darjeeling tea, Happy Valley tea is considered of supreme quality and sits with pride of place on the shelves of Harrods.
After visiting the gardens, we visit the tea factory.
Overnight: Darjeeling | Breakfast, Dinner
We spend the morning exploring the Tukvar Tea Estate and learning more about tea production. Tukvar Tea Estate is a conscientious supplier of tea and employer, over 3,000 people live and work on the massive estate and it is ensured that all workers are provided with housing, schooling, medical and dental facilities. The estate has also taken an environmental and ecological stance and for many years has adopted bio diversity techniques from growing leguminous crops, small shrubs and larger trees in fallow land, boundaries or vacant patches of land. The estate also has a large vermicomposting plant to utilize the wasted organic matter created. They also manufacture their own liquid fertilizers from local herbs that are non-damaging to the environment.
After lunch we visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute which Tenzing Norgay was instrumental in setting up and the Everest Museum which has some interesting exhibits. There is also time for a trip to the zoo! Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park is famed for its successful conservation projects on Red Pandas, Snow Leopard and other endangered Himalayan mammals.
Overnight: Darjeeling | Breakfast, Lunch
It’s tea time again today as we head to Tumsong Tea Estate (or Selimbong/Singtam if Tumsong is closed. Established in 1867 the Tumsong Estate was planted keeping the sentiments of the indigenous people in mind. The estate is planted around a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Tamsa Devi on a steep slope rising from 2,700 feet to 5,500 feet and offering fantastic views of surrounding Kanchenjunga, considered to be the third highest mountain peak in the world. The local population is given easy access to their deity in order to worship and the goddess Tamsa presides over the serene and surreal landscape filling the atmosphere with harmony, it is due to this mood that the garden is also referred to as the Garden of Happy Hearts. Tumsong Estate is 100% bio-organic and is planted with one of the highest percentages of rare pure china bushes, the source of some of the world’s finest tea.
After lunch we’ll attend an afternoon talk and presentations by a tea expert followed by a tea tasting session at Nathmull's Sunset Lounge or at Golden Tips tea shop at Darjeeling.
Overnight: Darjeeling | Breakfast, Lunch
Darjeeling - Chalsa. It’s a very early start today as we take a memorable excursion to the summit of Tiger Hill to experience the sublime sunrise over the snowy peaks of Kanchenjunga - the world’s third highest mountain. After breakfast back at the hotel we check out and transfer to Makaibari Tea Estate, where we enjoy a guided tour followed by a sumptuous lunch at Cochrane Place Tea Retreat.
One of the world’s oldest tea estates, Makaibari Estate was founded in 1859 and is still run by its fourth generation of those original founders. Embracing bio-dynamic practices the plantation is a wholly different experience to many of the other tea estates dotting the region of Darjeeling. Using a permaculture approach - the relationship found between natural ecologies, the practise is a sustainable land use design based on the patterns and unity found between native flora and fauna to help promote a healthy ecosystem. In the case of Makaibari Tea Estate the tea bush is part of a multi-tier system in which trees and plants of a typical sub-tropical rainforest are grown together, due to this technique 70% of the entire plantation is under forest cover. This encourages diversity in the wildlife living in the estate with endangered panthers, tigers, birds, butterflies, snakes, spiders and many more have been spotted.
After lunch we drive to Chalsa, a small village in Western Dooars, near Gorumara National Park.
Overnight: Chalsa | Breakfast, Lunch
We explore the gardens of the Zurrantee Tea Estate today and later enjoy lunch at the bungalow. Dating back to 1890, this charming estate is set on a hilltop surrounded by lush tea plantations with majestic mountains in the distance.
Later in the afternoon we take a game drive in Gorumra National Park which is home to a wide array of wildlife such as Indian rhinos, elephants, gaurs and several species of birds and reptiles.
Overnight: Chalsa | Breakfast, Lunch
Sunday - Chalsa - Bagdogra. After breakfast transfer to Bagdogra Airport for your connecting flight. Please note: flights departing from Bagdogra should be booked after 1pm. Flights between Bagdogra and Calcutta or Delhi can be arranged and additional hotel accommodation is available should you require.
For all our tours and tailor-made holidays we provide you with a clear categorisation of all hotels we use. The REGIONAL CATEGORY indicates the local rating of each hotel in each respective country. We have also rated each hotel using OUR CATEGORY, which will be in line with generally accepted western hotel grading standards.
Basic hotels and simple accommodation is a no frills option with an adventurous authentic feel.
Standard accommodation equates to a Western 3-star standard, always featuring en-suite rooms and usually a restaurant.
Superior accommodation equates to a Western 4-star standard, featuring en-suite rooms and usually a restaurant and often a swimming pool and/or a fitness centre.
Deluxe accommodation equates to a Western 5-star standard, usually featuring spacious, en-suite rooms, a restaurant, swimming pool and fitness centre and an array of amenities, excellent service and customer care.
Lavish accommodation equates to a Western 5-star plus standard - the creme de la creme. Featuring spacious, en-suite rooms, a restaurant, swimming pool and fitness centre and an array of amenities, this accommodation is a cut above the rest. Sheer opulence!
The boutique hotel, is located high above the main town, nestling amidst groves of evergreen trees in serene environs. The view is without a doubt one of the most memorable in the world. Extensive hand crafted woodwork adorns the interiors, adding, warmth and a touch of Traditional elegance.
Spread over 20 acres with 12 premier rooms, the Riverwood Forest is a peaceful retreat, overlooking the Gorumara National Park and Murti River, with views of the Himalayan Range. This property is an ideal base for exploring the natural attractions of the Dooars. The well appointed guest rooms are spacious and equipped with balconies and modern amenities.
Visiting the Tea Plantations was so much more than finding out about tea production. It was also finding out about a whole lifestyle from the time the plantations began. In addition each tea plantation taught us something different. Our whole thinking about tea has changed in the course of the tour and we are more aware of the whole 'tea' taste.
The wide variety of other visits in the tour ensured there was a balance of fun, historical content and an increase in knowledge. the inspiration of the Everest Museum, the beauty of the sunrise from Tiger Hill, the incredibility of the engineering behind the toy train alongside the sheer wonder of the animals in the Garumara National Park fed our thirst for enjoyment and knowledge.
Everyone along the way was friendly and helpful. Our driver Kumar was excellent and between him and Gurmay ensured we had a holiday we could only have dreamed of.
Thank you to all.”