Stride climate

Trip Type : Small Group Tour
Inside the Hidden Kingdoms tour

Inside the Hidden Kingdoms

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4.6 . Excellent
93%
Travel Style: For those looking to maximize their sight seeing time. You thrive on a packed day’s schedule from 8 am to 6pm, with some (but limited) free time. Most activities and meals included. Full on
Physical Level: Full day hiking or trekking over medium to long distances. Moderate expectation of physical fitness. Strenuous
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
23 days
From: $ 4,560 $ 198 / day
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Overview

Highlights

  • The Sundarbans - Take a cruise through the UNESCO World Heritage landscapes of one of the world's largest mangrove forests
  • Darjeeling - Take a ride on the 'Toy Train' in this famous hill station
  • Gangtok - Soak up the atmosphere in the colourful Sikkimese capital
  • Thimpu - Spend time in the most relaxed capital city in the world
  • Punakha - Visit the stunning Dzong, located at the confluence of two rivers

Short Description

Travel from bustling Kolkata and the nearby mangrove area of the Sundarbans, through Eastern India and into the fascinating Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. With the backdrop of the dramatic Himalayan Mountain range, discover relics of the Raj, ruined monasteries and ancient temples.

North East India- Travel through lush scenery and learn about the influence of Buddhism in this region of India
Bhutan- Learn all about the land which measures its success in 'Gross Domestic Happiness'
Kathmandu- End your trip in the chaotic yet intriguing capital of Nepal, home to Durbar Square and Pashupatinath temple

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
Spend most of the time outdoors. Common trip themes and activities include cycling, hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting.
Itinerary Focus Active
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport N/A
Start City Kolkata
End City Kathmandu
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Itinerary

Day 1 Join trip in Kolkata (Calcutta)

Our trip begins this evening in Kolkata (Calcutta). Once the capital of British India, Kolkata has had a turbulent past. It was central to the struggle for Indian independence and thousands of Bengali refugees came here at the start of the 1900's. It is a city of striking contrasts and can be overwhelming initially, but the unusual sights, pungent smells and the chaotic sounds of the country's second largest city are an experience unique to India. Flights to Kolkata often arrive in the middle of the night, so while the trip begins today we will expect some of the group to arrive in the early hours of day two.

Meals Provided : None

Day 2 Explore Kolkata's temples and historic buildings

Today we intend to explore this most interesting of cities, with a tour of some of its major sites. We plan to visit St John's Church and the many historic Raj buildings around Dalhousie Square, the Jain and Kali temples and the magnificent marble dome of the Victoria memorial, where the sumptuous grandeur of European and Mughal influences come together in a blaze of white marble. We also visit the clay modeller's village of Kumartuli where the potters spend all year creating a wealth of images and idols for the annual festivals and, as the time approaches for the models to be prepared for the coming pujas, the streets are filled with an overwhelming display of brightly coloured and richly attired idols.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 3 Discover more of Kolkata; visit to Belur Math and Dakshineswar Kali Temple

We will pay an early morning visit to the colourful flower market where tons of brightly coloured marigolds are sold by traders, before driving to Belur Math on the banks of the sacred Ganges. A place of pilgrimage for people all over the world, the site is famous for its tranquil setting and the architecture of its buildings, in particular the Ramakrishna temple which is designed to celebrate the diversity of Indian Religions and resembles a temple, a mosque, a church when viewed from different vantage points. After exploring Belur Math we'll take a short boat ride across the river to the Dakshineswar Kali Temple. Constructed in the 19th century by wealthy widow Rani Rasmani, it is said that the goddess Kali appeared to her in a dream promising to manifest herself at the site if a temple was constructed in her honour.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 4 Search for wildlife in the Sundarbans

After breakfast this morning we leave Kolkata for the unique landscapes of the Sundarbans. Translating as the 'beautiful jungle', this UNESCO World Heritage setting is home to one of the largest mangrove forests on the planet. Set amongst a vast delta that is fed by the waters of the Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers, the area is a haven for Bengal tigers, crocodiles and a remarkable diversity of birds. A short cruise takes us to the Sundarban Tiger Camp, our base for the next two nights. We'll have lunch before heading out by boat again to the Sajnekhali Tiger project area. There is a small museum and a watch tower for spotting tigers and other wildlife, and a crocodile enclosure and a turtle hatchery which helps preserve these endangered animals. The nearby heron sanctuary is a beautiful spot, and Egrets are common visitors to this part of the jungle and are likely to be spotted.

Meals Provided : Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 5 Cruise through narrow creeks to Dobanke wildlife viewing platform

Starting early we continue our exploration of the Sundarbans, cruising along winding creeks and through dense mangrove forest in search of the wildlife the area is famous for. If we are in luck we may spot Royal Bengal tigers relaxing on the mudflats next to the rivers and creeks. Other wildlife we can see includes Fishing cats, Leopard cats, Macaques, Wild boar, Indian grey mongoose, Pangolin, and Chital, as well as an abundance of birdlife. We'll make a stop at Dobanke Watch Tower where we'll enjoy a canopy walk to view the animal and bird life at the tree tops, and visit the spotted deer rehabilitation centre. In the afternoon we pay a visit to some of the local villages where we'll get an insight in to local culture and life, including the challenges of living with Bengal Tigers as neighbours.

Meals Provided : Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 6 Return to Kolkata. Overnight train and drive to Darjeeling

After a final cruise in the Sundarbans, a visit to Sudhanyakhali Watch tower and lunch at the Tiger Camp, we'll leave for Kolkata. There'll be time for an evening meal in the city before boarding the Darjeeling Mail overnight sleeper train.

Meals Provided : Breakfast & Lunch

Day 7 Continue to Darjeeling and enjoy an orientation walk of the town

Our train in scheduled to arrive in to New Jalpaiguri station at 08.00 and we'll stop for breakfast before continuing by road to the hill station of Darjeeling. In the days of the Raj the Bengal government escaped from the Calcutta heat to take up its official summer residence here and today's city dwellers still do likewise with Darjeeling being a popular holiday spot. At 2134m, the town is beautifully situated on a mountain ridge; the near vertical streets are crowded with a colourful mixture of Hindus and hill tribes - Lepchas, Bhutias and Tibetans among them. On a clear day the views over the mountains to the snowy Himalayan peaks are magnificent. There'll be time to relax after the train journey before enjoying an afternoon orientation walk of the town.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 8 Watch the sunrise across the Himalaya at Tiger Hill

Tiger Hill is the area's highest viewpoint (2590m), some 8 miles from Darjeeling and weather permitting, we plan to make a dawn excursion here to contemplate the sunrise and the beauty of the world's third highest mountain Kanchenjunga (8586m) and other eastern Himalayan peaks. If the morning is very clear it may also be possible to see Mt Everest (8848m). There are many things to see in the town including the Mountaineering Institute with its Everest Museum or you may wish to visit the Tibetan Refugee centre where Tibetan craft work is on sale. This afternoon will be left free for you to explore Darjeeling and take some of the other smaller walks around town.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 9 Ride on the Toy Train to Ghoom Monastery

Ghoom Gompa (monastery) is about 8km south of Darjeeling and well worth a visit.The journey there is taken on the Toy Train line, a narrow gauge railway running between New Jaipaiguri and Darjeeling. Whilst we endeavour to book the traditional steam trains many of the trains servicing this route are now diesel. There will also be plenty of time to make short walks in the surrounding area or alternatively you could visit the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway museum. There will be an option to walk back to Darjeeling along the scenic ridge track via Allobari village (weather permitting) approximately 2hrs walk.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 10 Drive to Pelling. Evening walk to Sanga Choling Monastery

Today we have a long drive to Pelling (approximately 8 hours) and this afternoon we cross into the former Kingdom of Sikkim, annexed by India in 1975 to become the 22nd Indian state. On arrival in the town there will be the opportunity to take an optional walk to the Sanga Choling monastery, approximately one hour each way.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 11 Walk on the shores of Kecheopelri Lake; visit Pemayangtse Monastery

Today we visit Kecheopelri or the Wishing Lake, considered to be the holiest lake in Sikkim. It is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus alike. We will have a picnic lunch at the lake and then return to Pelling. This afternoon we will visit Pemayangste Monastery. This great monastery is the second oldest and one of the 60 still active, and is home to an exceptional collection of religious artworks. Established in the 8th century by the famous Indian teacher Padmasambhava, its members are devotees of a mystical type of Tantric Buddhism, characterised by the red caps they wear. Their religion is derived from Tibetan Lamaism, a curious mixture of Mahayana Buddhism, mythology and magic.

Meals Provided : Breakfast & Lunch

Day 12 Explore Sikkim's former capital. Drive to Gangtok

On our 8 hour drive along the mountain roads today we pay a short visit to Rabdentse, the former capital of Sikkim in the 16th century before continuing on through semi tropical forests, cardamom plantations and small villages to Gangtok the present day capital of Sikkim, spectacularly set on a long ridge flanking the Ranipul River and offering many fine vantage points of the entire Kanchenjunga range.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 13 Visit a Tibetan craft centre. Free time to relax

Today we explore Gangtok including the Drodul Chorten. Built to commemorate the victory of good over evil, it contains a complete set of holy books and is surrounded by 108 prayer wheels. We also pay a visit to the Institute of Tibetology whose collection of rare books and manuscripts will interest students of Buddhism. Here there are numerous priceless religious paintings, statues and other religious artwork. Finally we spend some time at the Tashi Handicraft Centre, a small centre established to help Tibetan refugee women find work. There are many items of tapestry, knitting and embroidery in traditional ornate designs. The rest of the day is free to relax and soak up Gangtok's relaxed atmosphere.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 14 Drive to Kalimpong stopping at Rumtek Monastery

We drive today to the other side of the Ranipul Valley to the Gompa at Rumtek. The headquarters of the Kagyupa sect of Tibetan Buddhism was built in the 1960s as a replica of the Tsurpu's monastery in Tibet. The religious murals are still being added to today. We then continue to the little bazaar town of Kalimpong. The town was formerly an important trading post for wool merchants coming from Tibet and the local bazaar is still the place to meet people of a dozen different cultures and religions.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 15 Pass through vast tea estates and enter Bhutan

Departing for the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing we drive for approximately 7 hours through the vast tea estates of the Gangetic plains of Bengal. Approximately one quarter of India's tea is grown in West Bengal state. On arrival in Phuentsholing we will meet our Bhutanese local guide and there will be time for a wander in the town.

Meals Provided : Breakfast & Dinner

Day 16 Discover Thimpu's Tashichho Dzong

We drive towards Thimpu along winding roads, passing paddy fields, apple orchards, pine forests and small hamlets, protected by sculptures of the eight auspicious signs of the Tashi Tagye. The Bhutanese capital lies in a fertile valley formed by the Wang Chu River, and has expanded rapidly over the last couple of decades. On arrival in Thimpu we will have a sightseeing tour to see the Tashichho Dzong - the religious and political centre of Bhutan.

Meals Provided : Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 17 Cross the Dochu La Pass en route to Punakha

On the road to Punakha we climb up through oak, pine and rhododendron forest to reach Dochu La Pass (3050m). If the weather permits, magnificent views pan out across the mountains towards Gangar Pensum at 7541m, the tallest mountain in Bhutan. Dropping down into the valley, Punakha's benign climate allows orange and banana groves to flourish within sight of the snow capped Himalayan Mountains. Our accommodation tonight is set 8 kilometres from the centre of Punakha on the banks of the Mo Chu River. We camp in two man walk in tents with thick mattresses, all bedding and towels. Toilet tents are provided with flush toilets. There are shower tents with hot water available as well as the chance to try out a traditional hot stone bath. There is a central area with space to relax around a camp fire and the cook team will create traditional Bhutanese meals to be served in the dining tent. Electricity is supplied in the dining and toilet tents and the walk ways are lit by small lamps but you will find a torch useful.

Meals Provided : Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 18 Visit the riverside dzong before driving to Paro

In the morning we pay a visit to Punakha Dzong. Built in 1637 on a sand bank at the confluence of the rivers Mochu and Phochu, this sacred dzong was the seat of the Bhutanese government until 1960 and is a fine example of Bhutanese monastic architecture with squat rectangular buildings made up of two or more tiered levels crowned by a tower and small golden spire above. Returning westwards we take an afternoon drive to Paro. (Approx. 5 hours.)

Meals Provided : Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 19 Hike to the Tiger's Nest Monastery

This morning there is an opportunity to climb up to visit the Taktsang or Tiger's Nest Monastery. The monastery clings precariously to a cliff face, and local legend recounts that Guru Rinpoche, who founded the Drukpa Sect and brought Buddhism to Bhutan, flew here on the back of a tigress to start the first monastery. In the afternoon we'll visit a local farm and have the chance to sample some yak butter tea and have a group talk with the farm host. Paro is also home to Kyichu, Bhutan's oldest temple or lhakhang as it is also known.

Meals Provided : Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Day 20 Fly to Kathmandu. Walk through Durbar Square

Today we fly the short distance to Kathmandu, the bustling Nepalese capital. On arrival we take a walking tour visiting the bazaar and the Durbar Square area, the centre of old Kathmandu. Much of the day to day life of Kathmandu takes place in the bazaar: a fascinating mixture of people selling fruit, vegetables and spices; potters spinning their wheels to produce small household bowls and containers for temple offerings; devotees visiting their favourite gods at temples and small shrines dotted along the sides of alleyways; rickshaw wallahs honking their horns and the ever present sacred cow wandering amongst it all. In the afternoon we plan to visit the Temple of Pashupatinath on the banks of the Bagmati River, the holiest Hindu shrine in Nepal. Please note: Our flight between Bhutan and Nepal is with Druk Air. Druk Air sometimes changes their flight schedule at short notice - if this happens, then we will inform you of any itinerary change as soon as possible.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Day 21 Tour ends in Kathmandu

Our tour ends this morning after breakfast.

Meals Provided : Breakfast

Availability

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Price From $ 4,560
Price Per Day: $ 198 per day
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Start DateFinish DateBase PriceDeparture GuaranteedAvailability 
Sep-22-2019Oct-14-2019$ 5,530Yes3 Spaces Left Reserve
Oct-12-2019Nov-01-2019$ 4,680Yes2 Spaces Left Reserve
Nov-02-2019Nov-22-2019$ 4,560YesSold Out Reserve
Mar-20-2020Apr-10-2020$ 5,080Yes8 Spaces Left Reserve
Sep-11-2020Oct-03-2020$ 5,400No16 Spaces Left Reserve
Oct-10-2020Oct-30-2020$ 4,660Yes13 Spaces Left Reserve
Oct-31-2020Nov-20-2020$ 4,680No16 Spaces Left Reserve

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Stride Featured in

Stride Feature In

30 Explore! Travel Reviews & Ratings

93%
4.6 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 24
Great 3
Average 1
Disappointing 1
Terrible 1
Value
4.6
Guide
4.6
Activities
4.6
Lodging
4.5
Transportation
4.6
Meals
4.5

Inside the Hidden Kingdoms

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Trip of a lifetime seeing the Arctic in a week

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
I travelled as a solo traveller and was relieved to find that about half the boat was also solo travellers. It was a great adventure - on a ferry board for a week with the most amazing panoramic views around us every day. We were regularly out on smaller boats to see the bird cliffs up close, or to go onto land to walk around. We saw lots of amazing wildlife including walrus, blue whales, beluga whales, endless species of birds, and of course Polar Bears! The week went by too quickly. It was a great mix of wildlife and landscapes. Each day there was a different guide giving a presentation of everything from the biology of a polar bear, to the fauna found in the arctic circle. You could join in for as little or as much as you wanted. Definitely recommended.
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Super good tour guide, but the itinerary was rushed

5.0
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Value4.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation4.0
Meals4.0
Junk on Halong Bay, Homestay in Mekong Delta. Hoi An Our tour guide, Long, was excellent and did a super job of mixing history and political context with what we were seeing. He went out of his way to add to the tour, actually taking us to favorite restaurant on his night off. The children loved him and we enjoyed his professionalism and his personal narrative of Vietnam. I felt that the itinerary was very rushed for a family tour. I understand the non family tour is longer and actually that would have been better for the family too. In particular a very busy day in Hue followed a mostly sleepless night on the train. We could have done with more time in Hue, or different activities. Hue was a bad day as the kite making was dull, crowded, and hot, then we didn't get to fly kites as we had not made them. In the end we had little time at the Citadel as we had to transfer into a small bus to navigate the streets.
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Excellent

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging4.0
Transportation4.0
Meals4.0
Mohammed was excellent!

Enjoy the trip

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
The highlight of this trip was seeing Machu Picchu, which I loved it.

Great Tour Leader will come back in 2017

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
A great tour leader - friendly, personable, approachable, knowledgeable of the local area, sights and people. We plan to come back and cycle with Andrew again in 2017.
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Pleasant surprise experience

5.0
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Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation4.0
Meals5.0
It is hard to say because each outing was a pleasant surprise. The best experience was a workshop on feltmaking in Kazbegi town Georgia) where, as a group, we made the felt from scratch and created our own design. A great opportunity to discover a local craft. It is also an excellent example how this diverse group got along like a house on fire. In Armenia my fqvourite outing was the walk along the Garni river gorge with a local guide. The scenery was breathtaking.
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Details

Guides

Explore Tour Leader, Driver(s), Local Guide(s)

Age Notes

Min. Age: 14

Trip ID#:

explore_new-BH

Meals Included:

  • Breakfast : 20
  • Dinner : 7
  • Lunch : 8
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