Durga Puja is the most awaited holiday of the Bengalis or you may say that all the people residing in the city of Kolkata rise up to revel during this time. The city shining like a queen with the designer lights on every single street, the rhythmic sound of dhaaks (drums) and mantras (chanting) resonating from every nook and corner, people thronging the roads with vibrant clothes on – make it an event of classic splendour. This is the time when people from different parts of the state and other places too come to Kolkata to witness the grand exhibition of festivity. Goddess Durga popularly referred to as “Durgatinashini”, which means the power (feminine) that destroys ill will is a combination of ferocious rage and motherly compassion.
Durga Puja’ is celebrated for five days. It is believed that during this time ‘Durga’ comes to visit her natal home on earth with her children. The last day of the Puja known as the ‘Bijayadashami’ is the day when the Goddess is all set to return to her heavenly abode Kailash, house of her husband Lord Shiva. The festival finally concludes by bidding adieu to the daughter, who wouldn’t arrive anytime sooner than a year, a tearful event for everybody of course.
We receive you at Kolkata International Airport and take you to the city hotel.
Kolkata, on the bank of the Holy Ganges (Hooghly River), flowered as the capital of British India during the nineteenth century, the heyday of the Raj. Long known as the cultural capital of India and home to the Bengal Renaissance, Kolkata continues to spawn generations of poets, writers and film directors. Kolkata is not just like any other city to visit and click photos; you have to soak your senses in it to realize the actual charm of this city.
During your stay, walk through the lanes and by-lanes in Kolkata during the festival with our special guide who will describe every aspect and rituals of this festival. You will also experience the special food prepared during this time.
Today we will have a full day to soak in the festive ambience in Kolkata. Indian mythology celebrates a united power that combines ‘Purush’ (the masculine authority) with ‘Prakriti’ (the natural or feminine influence). And most of the popular deities like Durga, Kali, Jagatdhhatri, are the incarnations of this dual power that appears to control the evil and to establish the supremacy of cosmic force. Among all these divine beings Goddess Durga has been Kolkata’s favorite. Durga Puja is the most awaited holiday of the Bengalis or you may say that all the people residing in the city rise up to revel during this time. The city shining like a queen with the designer lights on every single street, the rhythmic sound of dhaaks and mantras resonating from every nook and corner, people thronging the roads with vibrant clothes on – make it an event of classic splendor. This is the time when people from different parts of the state and from other places too come to Kolkata to witness the grand exhibition of festivity.
The festival basically inaugurates on the sixth day of the waxing moon which is referred to as “Mahasashti” in Bengali. It continues for three consecutive days and the Devi (The Goddess) at this time is worshiped with different Mantras, Aarti, Shlokas and offerings. The rituals are extensive and complicated. Our expert will explain this to you in the best manner possible.
Today our tour to Sundarbans begins. Sundarbans is mysterious, unpredictable, instilling, vast and untameable – perhaps, the last true wild frontier remaining on our planet Earth. Here the land meets the sea at the southern tip of West Bengal lies the Indian Sunderbans, a stretch of impenetrable mangrove forest of great size and bio-diversity. It consists of 10,200 sq km of mangrove forest, spread over India (4200 sq km of Reserved Forest) and Bangladesh (6000 sq km approx of Reserved Forest ) and is also the largest mangrove forest in the world.
We start from our city Hotel after breakfast and transfer to Gadkhali jetty by car through the beautiful countryside’s, rural bazaar with stopovers at Local Tea shop and Fishermen’s’ villages.
Arrive at Gadkhali. Transfer of luggage and persons to our motorized boat.
Briefing and interpretation by our local guide cum naturalist over Tea/Coffee/Welcome drink followed by 2 hours spectacular cruise through river Hogol, Gomor, Durgaduani and Gumdi. You have an optional stopover at Gosaba – one of the earliest human settlements of Sundarbans, to visit the house of Sir Daniel Hamilton-a Scottish banker who initiated the first cooperative movement of India here.
Arrive at our Island and check in to a Nature Camp.
Hot lunch followed by 3 hours birding and game cruise to Sudhanyakhali watch tower through creeks and canals.
Back to camp by evening. Infotainment by our poacher-turned-guides over tea and snacks. Dinner and overnight halt.
The second day involves a full day cruise through the rivers and narrow creeks of the Sundarbans National Park and a lovely birding experience. Food would be prepared and served on the launch itself. Start after bed tea and visit the various watchtowers of Sudhanyakhali, Neti Dhopani (Subject to weather and tide permitting).
The sweet water pond at Neti Dhopani attracts a lot of wild animals and offers you the chance to view them from close quarters. Neti Dhopani also has the ruins of a 400-year-old temple.
Back to Camp. Evening experience the local Rural theatre (Bonobibi Yatra) performed by the villagers. The theatre tells an interesting story about the Tiger Lord, Forest God and Goddess, fishermen and honey collectors with a lot of songs and dances.
Today we leave Sundarbans after breakfast and proceed to Gadkhali Port by boat. From hear we take our car and drive to Kolkata and reach by lunch time.
Today the Durga Puja festival finally concludes by bidding adieu to the daughter, who wouldn’t arrive anytime sooner than a year, a tearful event for everybody of course. Leaving of the Goddess is also celebrated with epic grandeur and it is a grand send off. She is offered sweets and is caressed with betel leaf by every woman before leaving. Lastly, the images are carried for immersion in procession where everybody hits the road to rejoice, as the Goddess while departure promises to come back again next year.
In the evening we will take part in the immersion ceremony of the festival from a River boat.
Today we take you for a half-day city walking tour in Kolkata. Kolkata is a collage of images and moods. The city will slowly reveal itself as you walk along its road with our master storyteller.
For Bengalis, eating is a serious business. You talk to anybody in Kolkata, and he would convince you that it is also (kind of) an aesthetic experience. He would assure you that having tender coconut sherbet at Paramount in summer or a taalsaans Sandesh at Nakur’s in winter makes you philosophical! So does savouring Kalika’s fried onion chop with muri while listening to the pitter-patter of falling rains! Each season has its food. And each food becomes very much ‘Calcuttan’ in Kolkata, the city which has also seen the development of what is probably the first example of ‘fusion food’ in the world. This tour introduces you to the Bengal/Kolkata culture through its street foods and heritage eateries. Accompanied by our specialist guide you would walk and ride a tram to the specialized eating joints famous for certain recipes. Along with this gastronomical adventure, we will fill you up with interesting facts from history, stories and anecdotes about the food culture of the city which will give you a completely different perspective of this multi-layered, multi-ethnic and multi-racial entity which we call Kolkata.
After lunch we will visit some of the prominent land mark in Kolkata including
The Victoria Memorial was built as a memorial to Queen Victoria, queen of the United Kingdom and Empress of India, and also as a tribute to the success of the British Empire in India. It was designed by Sir William Emerson, who incorporated Mughal elements into the plan, and was constructed between 1906 and The Prince of Wales formally inaugurated it in 1921. It contains a museum and art gallery containing artefacts and paintings relating to the reign of Queen Victoria and the British Raj in India.
Mother Teresa’s House:
Nirmal Hriday (the place of the pure heart): Mother Teresa was born to Albanian parents, mother came to Kolkata in 1931 as a teacher of geography, on seeing the sufferings of the destitute and homeless on the streets of Kolkata, she started the “Missionaries of Charity” in 1950. The mission has 285 homes and charitable foundations in India and abroad.
St. John’s Church:
St. John’s Church is located on Council House Street beside B.B.D. Bagh (Dalhousie). The carpet of the church is done with stones obtained from different places. Its architecture represents Greek design. The Church contains an impressive organ (perhaps the largest in India), and an original Zoffany painting. It also houses the famous round table on which the Charter of Calcutta was signed (When Robert Clive took Calcutta back from the Bengali nawab after the famous Battle of Plassey in 1757). The graveyard contains the tombs of important colonists, most significantly, that of Job Charnock himself (the founder of Calcutta) and his daughter.
Check out from Kolkata after breakfast and transfer to Airport to take a flight to Bagdogra. On arrival we meet with our guide and transfer to Chamong Tea Garden – 65kms in 2.5hrs.
High up in the Eastern Himalayas, nestled next to the Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain peak in the world, Darjeeling is about more than a brand of tea or a holiday in a hill town: it’s an experience best savoured when the tea and holiday come together – in a Chiabari Tea Retreat. This unique region, located at the northern tip of the state of West Bengal in India, is famous throughout the world for the teas produced in the 80 odd gardens here. Some 5000 feet above sea level, the landscape turns magical. The pure air, the crisp breeze, and the soft, misting rain all come together in a wonderland where the tea grows with a finer flavour than anywhere else in the world.
We check in at the planters bungalow and tea resort. Rest of the day is free to enjoy the nature.
No visit to a Chiabari retreat is complete without our famous Tea Tour: consisting of a visit to the tea factory and an exquisite tea-tasting session. You can plant your tea bush to mark your visit.
As the sun sets behind the majestic Himalayas, gather around the open fireplace in your room with your companions. Dip into our stock of board games or cuddle up with a book from our well-stocked library.
The tea tour is accompanied either by a guide that takes you through the Tea Estate and explains the tea making process.
Tea Sampling session- try a variety of Darjeeling, Assam and our blends at our award-winning café Chai Country.
Enjoy a scrumptious dinner meal featuring recipes from the British Raj or Enjoy a delicious Indian Tandoori meal.
Total distance 100 kms | journey time 4 to 5 hrs + break
Today we have a very early breakfast at Chamong (6.30 AM recommended) and then drive to Singalila National Park – a beautiful hiking route in the highest part of Bengal, lying between Nepal and India. Singalila National Park is known for a vibrant Rhododendron Valley with a sweeping view of a 360degree panorama of Greater Himalayan Range, which includes highest mountain peaks of the world Mt Everest and Mt Kanchenjunga. The bumpy ride over the steep gravel road, which is accessed mainly by foot or few old fashioned 4-wheel jeep is challenging but the discomfort is overcome by the mesmerizing view on your way.
From Manebhanjang we change our vehicle to a 4-wheel drive and ride to Tonglu. At 3000m or 10000ft above sea level Tonglu – known as a trekkers’ paradise, is an excellent camping area in the higher Darjeeling Hills. The vast panorama of the greater Himalayan Ranges which includes Kunchenjungha Range in Sikkim, Mt Everest in Nepal, Chola Range in Bhutan is visible over the layers of valleys. We have ample opportunity to walk in the beautiful trails to Kalepokhri as the jeep follows. We drive to Sandakphu – the highest part of Singalila at 3600M. Spend some time at the top watching the mesmerizing view of the greater Himalayan range in clear weather. You have ample opportunity to hike and also, we give you tea and lunch break in some of the Homestays along the way. In the afternoon we return to Darjeeling by jeep. Have a relaxed evening at your hotel
Darjeeling is one of the oldest hill stations in India and has plenty of options, both for those seeking a lazy getaway from the hot plains, as well as nature enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies. Apart from sights within the town, there are plenty of trek options along the Himalayan ridges on the Indo-Nepal border near Darjeeling. The most popular one is the Singhalia Ridge Trail giving you a scope to see an incredible panorama of the greater Himalayas.
The heritage walk is a rare offering in Darjeeling that very few know about. The regular tours do not cover such guided walking tours that can let you explore the rich heritage and history of Darjeeling Hills. There are centuries-old buildings and houses in Darjeeling that still reflect traditional British architecture. Added to this, the churches, monasteries, monuments, the people & culture, unique flora & fauna, majestic mountains & valleys, toy train, tea garden, old shopping places and food joints, and many other great old & modern attractions constitute the rich heritage of Darjeeling. Our guided walk will attempt to give you a glimpse of all this.
Toy Train (DHR)
Today you will have an opportunity to ride on the Steam train of Darjeeling. The ride takes you to Ghoom – the highest Station in India in 45min. The toy train on the Darjeeling Himalayan section is not merely a source of delight for the young and old, it also represents the engineering skills of the highest order. The ride also includes free entry to the DHR museum at Ghum Station.
Also called Sakya Monastery, this monastery in Ghoom is located 8 km from Darjeeling. Sakya monastery is a historic and significant monastery of the Shakya Order. The original monastery was built during the early twentieth century.
The monastery can accommodate around sixty monks. The statue of Maitreya Buddha which is 4.57 meters high, in this monastery is of interest here. The monastery also preserves some of the rarest Buddhist manuscripts.
Chowrasta & Mall:
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 snatch a moment of peace. The Brabourne Park is attached to the Chowrasta and now features a musical fountain. This place is an open space and free from vehicular movements from where one can enjoy the scenic beauty of the mountain range and take a charming stroll at the Darjeeling Mall. Chowrasta is the central place of Mall Road.
The Himalayan Mountaineering Institute was set up following the successful ascent of Mount Everest-the highest peak in the world by the local hero Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary on 28 May 1953. The oldest mountaineering institute in the country carries out various mountaineering courses every year.
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park
Adjacent to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, it is a high altitude wildlife park and the new home for Siberian Tiger, Himalayan Black Bear, Deer, Red Panda, Snow Leopard and Birds. The Snow Leopard breeding centre was started in 1986 to breed Snow Leopards in captivity with the help of the International Snow Leopard captive breeding project.
Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre:
Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre was established on 1st October 1959 to rehabilitate displaced Tibetians who had followed His Holiness, The Dalai Lama to India in early 1959. This centre produces excellent carpets, woollen goods, woodwork, leatherwork etc. The Tibetan craftsmen can be seen at work at the centre. It is closed on Sundays.
St. Andrew’s Church
St. Andrew’s is an old Anglican church and the early worshippers of the church included many Scottish soldiers and tea planters living in the Darjeeling Hill area. The foundation stone of the church was laid on November 30, 1843. The church was badly damaged by an earthquake and had to be rebuilt in the year 1873.
Old Cemetery of Darjeeling is also referred to as the English Cemetery and has a definite reason to visit.
This is the resting place of those early British settlers who turned the densely forested mountains here into the world’s most renowned tea producing estates and created this beautiful gem of a hill town. So if you take interest in recalling the British Raj memories of Darjeeling, then this is the place to go.
Glenary’s Restaurant & Bar has been a landmark of Darjeeling for many years. This two-storied white building located on Nehru Road and just a minute’s walk from the Mall is special and close to the heart of many Darjeeling lovers. The restaurant is over 100 years old and was established during the British colonial days. It serves excellent Chinese, Continental and Indian cuisines.