In Darjeeling, you will make visits to tea plantations, organic farms, some outstanding ecological sites and interact with the local community. While your visit to Shantineketan will enrich you with the art and culture of India. Shantiniketan is the vision of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who created a university town (Visva-Bharati University ) that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Stay at Shantiniketan gives you insights into the lifestyle of a Bengali family, villages and the contribution of Shantiniketan to the richness of Indian art and culture. The Sunderbans is the deltaic region where the Hooghly and many other rivers meet the Bay of Bengal. The Sunderbans is spread over 150 islands, with close to a third still uninhabited and considered a reserve forest for the royal bengal tiger and estuarine crocodile. Be a part of an experiential holiday at Sunderbans while you indulge in activities like birding tour, village visits, cultural performances, canopy walk through dense forests and country boat rides.
Route: Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri - Darjeeling - Tinchuley - Ghoom - Tinchuley - Kalimpong - Neora National Park - Bagdogra - Shantiniketan - Kolkata
Activities: Cultural performances, heritage tour, arts and crafts, jungle camping, boat cruise, birding walk, forest walk, fishing
Duration: 13 days
Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling : Bagdogra/New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling: You arrive at Bagdogra and transfer by car to Darjeeling (3 hours). Darjeeling, a hill station, is a town which is the hub for tea plantations, which is the main source of livelihood in the region. The plantations are dotted with heritage colonial bungalows set amidst acres of tea gardens and forests. The bungalows were once used by British tea estate officers and therefore come with a heavy colonial feel which includes fireplaces, bay windows and huge rooms.
Darjeeling: After breakfast we proceed to visit tea gardens around Darjeeling. There is nothing like an early morning walk through the crisp mountain air amidst the greenery of the tea gardens. We visit Tungsum, considered one of the best organic tea gardens in the region. You will also visit their tea factory to understand more about the cultivation and processing of organic tea. We visit more local communities and gardens, through the day.
Tinchuley Eco Village: From Tungsum we will take a short drive to Tinchuley for a farm tour. Tinchuley, which means three chulas (ovens) is a model village and a community tourism initiative of Help Tourism, local villagers and WWF-India (West Bengal State Office) in the Darjeeling Hills. You will be hosted by one of the oldest and largest joint families of the Darjeeling hills (about 22 family members) in their guest house. We visit organic farms and orchards to understand the livelihood processes of the local villagers, metre-square gardening process and vermi composting. We also visit the local market in Takdah.
Tinchuley Eco Village: We set out early to visit the main points of attraction around Darjeeling - Tiger Hill, Ghoom Monastery, Batasia Loop Zoological Garden, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Ropeway, Tensing - Gumbo Rock, Tibetan Refugee Self Help Canter, Lebong Race Course, Peace Pagoda & Rock Garden - Gangamaya Park. Later we embark on the Himalayan Railway, a narrow gauge train service to Darjeeling, and also visit the home of the legendary mountaineer Tenzing Norgay who ascended Mt. Everest along with Sir Edmund Hillary. Darjeeling has since 1954 housed the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute where he trained a generation of mountaineers. The earliest Everest expeditions started their journey from here.
Tinchuley - Kolakham – Neora: We drive early to the Neora Valley Eco Resort, which has a view to the snow-capped mountains. Nearly 35 kms from Kalimpong town and adjacent to the Neora Valley National Park that is home to a wildlife species such as the Red Panda, Barking Deer, Himalayan Black Bear, Blue Sheep, Bengal Tiger and more than 200 species of birds including many rare ones. Take a walk around Kalimpong, a heritage town, meet the villagers and trek through the lush greenery.
Neora Valley National Park: We spend the morning trekking through Neora Valley National Park and return to the Neora Valley Eco Resort.
New Jalpaiguri: We check out after breakfast and transfer by car to New Jalpaiguri (4 hours) and board the overnight train from New Jalpaiguri to Shantiniketan.
Shantiniketan: Upon reaching we will check into a homestay run by a Bengali family at Purba Pally, a quaint little locality. In the afternoon go we for a cultural visit.
Shantiniketan: After breakfast we will step out to soak in the cultural and village experience of Shantiniketan. We will visit the picturesque Ballavpur Danga, a rural self-help group project. The visit includes a village trail, rickshaw ride, museum, arts & crafts centre and a traditional local lunch at the Ballavpur Danga tribal village. In the afternoon you will visit a local craft market and textile emporium.
Kolkata: The morning is free for shopping or you can visit Subarnarekha - a book cum music store, famous for its expansive collection of books and music. We have an early lunch and transfer to Bolepur station from where you will board the train back to Kolkata. In the evening you can explore Kolkata's city life and taste famous Bengali sweets and the local cuisine.
Kolkata/Sunderbans National Park: You land at Kolkata and transfer by car to the Sunderbans National Park (3 hours). You then embark on a two-hour cruise on a motor boat with our local guide cum naturalist through the rivers Hogol, Gomor, Durgaduani and Gumdi. You optionally stopover at Gosaba, one of the earliest human settlements in the Sunderbans to visit the house of Sir Daniel Hamilton (Scottish banker who initiated the first co-operative movement in India). By evening you arrive arrive at Bali Island and check into Sunderbans Jungle Camp.
Sunderbans National Park: We go on a full day cruise through the mangrove jungle. We stop for birding at the Netidhopani watchtower (weather permitting) and do some crab catching and fishing. Lunch will be served on board the boat. The evening is spent with the villagers as part of the cultural experience listening to legends of the tiger lord, forest gods and goddesses, which told with lots of song and dance.
Sunderbans Jungle Camp: We go on a guided village walk in which participants are encouraged to interact with the local villagers to understand their lifestyle, agriculture practices, craft and cuisine. We take a short boat cruise in an oared country boat to the Do Banki watchtower and enjoy a canopy walk. We head back to Kolkata post lunch.
How your travel makes a difference to the local community & environment:
- The Sunderbans Jungle Camp on Bali island is a participatory community tourism demonstration project for the rehabilitation of the poachers-turned-conservationists, sustainable development of the local community and conservation of the wildlife and flora of this unique eco-system. Sunderbans Jungle Camp is small low-impact accommodation which is environmentally-sensitive and liked by those who have the interest to explore the infinite bio-diversity and uniqueness of the ecosystem of Sunderbans through a participatory, authentic, knowledgeable, meaningful, intimate, mutually-educative and responsible encounters with the local people, their culture and livelihood. Your visits are our support and contribute to a great extent to this small initiative to support the sustainable development of the local community and the conservation of the forest and the great cats. In order to assist the local community to have a better quality of life, a host of social development projects such as - free medical camps, a night school, tailoring training and various other initiatives are arranged on need basis. These activities are supported by our local partners, and institutional patrons and agencies such as WWF-India, WPSI, SHIS and Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. They are co-ordinated by our NGO ACT (Association for Conservation and Tourism) and Bali Nature and Wildlife Conservation Society.
- Tinchuley Village is a model village and a community tourism initiative in the Darjeeling hills. You will be hosted by one of the oldest and largest joint families in the Darjeeling hills (about 22 family members), who have put together a guest house with 04 double bedded and 04 four-bedded rooms with a private toilet cum bath in one building.
- The Neora Valley Eco Resort is run by trained local community people. They take care of all services and activities.
Shadows of the Himalaya
We head into the foothills of the Kanchenjunga range to take you on a spectacular journey where you will be spellbound by the sheer beauty of nature and the richness of the culture.
In this trip, you will witness two different shades of West Bengal.
Mount Kanchenjunga, permanently snow-capped and towering at 28,156 feet, the third highest mountain in the world.
Glimpse of West Bengal
Gives you insights into the lifestyle of a Bengali family, villages and the contribution of Shantiniketan to the richness of Indian art and culture.