Day 1 UK - Delhi
Today you'll depart on your flight to Delhi, India's largest city.
Day 2 Delhi
On arrival, we'll transfer you to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Delhi is a fascinating place – together, the walled city of Old Delhi and the more modern sector, New Delhi, exemplify the colours and contrasts of all India. This is a city of fine sights – including the majestic architecture of Edwin Lutyens, the seat of power at Parliament House and India Gate, the 42-metre high War Memorial Arch. Today, you're free to explore at your leisure. This evening, get to know your travelling companions over a welcome dinner and drink.
Day 3 Delhi - Kolkata
Our destination today is Kolkata, and we'll fly here this morning. Formerly known as Calcutta, this trading post of the East India Company was the country's capital under the British Raj. Nowadays, it is the capital of India's West Bengal state, and is known for its grand colonial architecture, elegant gardens, art galleries and cultural festivals. Soak up the atmosphere of Kolkata's faded grandeur, and maybe take a rickshaw ride this evening to one of the many restaurants serving mouth-watering Bengali cuisine.Meals included: B
Day 4 Kolkata
We start the day with an authentic Kolkata experience – a visit to the famous flower market located on the banks of the River Hoogly. Many of the workers at this captivating, colourful place bathe in the river and live close to the market, while in the mornings, local wrestlers practise their art nearby.
After our visit, we'll return to the hotel for a buffet breakfast, before heading off on a city sightseeing tour. Together with your travelling companions, you'll explore the rich colonial heritage of Kolkata on a visit to the Victoria Memorial, built by the British in 1921 and now a treasure trove of Raj relics including paintings, statues and the famed Rosewood piano played by Queen Victoria herself.
St Paul's Cathedral, close to the Victoria Memorial, is a Gothic treat not to be missed, with its Renaissance-style frescoes and tower modelled on that of Canterbury Cathedral. We'll also visit Mother House, the Catholic religious order established by Mother Teresa in 1950, before culminating our tour at the Indian Museum. One of the finest museums in Asia, what you'll find here is an excellent collection of art, fossils and meteorites. A highlight of your tour will be the chance to try some traditional foods. Mishti Doi is a classic Bengali sweet made from boiling milk sweetened with jaggery, a sugar made from the sap of the date palm. You will also have the chance to sample Rasgulla, an Indian dessert originating from West Bengal.
Day 5 Kolkata - Gangtok
India is a county of great contrasts, as we'll discover today when we fly to Gangtok. The capital of the mountainous Himalayan northern Indian state of Sikkim, Gangtok was established as a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the 1840s. Today, this enticing hilltop city remains a Tibetan Buddhist centre, and offers superb views of the world's third-highest mountain – and India's highest – Mount Kangchenjunga, which towers to 28,169 ft.
On arrival, we'll check into our hotel, then enjoy some time at leisure.
Day 6 Gangtok
After breakfast at the hotel, join your travelling companions for a visit to the Rumtek Monastery, a gompa – or Buddhist seat of learning – for the Buddhist Kargyu sect, which originated in the 12th century in Tibet. Enjoy the fascinating tiered architecture of the building, which also houses rare Buddhist wall murals and intricate, hand-painted scrolls.
Later, we visit the Enchey Monastery, perched on a ridge above Gangtok, offering spectacular views of the city. Built in 1910 on the site of the hermitage of the great tantric saint, Lama Drutob Karpo, who was renowned for his powers of levitation, this monastery houses the monks of the Nyingmapa Order.
We'll also get an intimate glimpse into Buddhism at the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. Here, we'll learn more about the charismatic traditions of Mahayana Buddhists and Tibetans.
This evening, there's a chance to explore local life in Gangtok in more detail. Take a walk with your guide through the pedestrianised streets and bustling markets of this pleasant, sub-tropical city.
Day 7 Gangtok - Darjeeling
We drive to the town of Darjeeling today, in the Himalayan foothills, to explore this former colonial hill station. It's here where India's only operating steam trains can be found, travelling from Darjeeling to the town of Ghoom above.
Darjeeling is also famous for its distinctive black tea plantations, dotted across the slopes that surround the town. The backdrop to it all is the impressive jagged peaks of the snow-capped Himalayas.
On arrival today, we'll check into the hotel before taking a trip to the local markets, famed for their textiles. Enjoy people-watching at the pretty Mall, where four roads meet in the centre of the town, or climb Observatory Hill to the Mahakal Temple, built on the site of a Buddhist monastery.
Day 8 Darjeeling
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which opened in 1881, is a hill railway like no other. These 'toy trains', operating on narrow-gauge tracks, with small steam engines pulling mini coaches up the hills, are a special sight to behold. So much so, they've been granted UNESCO World Heritage status.
We'll take breakfast at the hotel before enjoying a ride on one of these famous trains to Ghoom monastery. Absorb the magnificent beauty of the mountains as we overcome impossible-looking curves and gradients to navigate this tough terrain. Watch local schoolchildren hop on and off as the train moves at a snail's pace up the mountain. You might even see the attendant sprinkling sand on the tracks to prevent the engine from skidding. Either way, the journey to the top is a triumph of engineering.
Ghoom Monastery is the first-ever Tibetan Buddhist monastery to be built in the Darjeeling region, in 1850. Sitting at an elevation of 8,000ft, you'll enjoy sweeping, breathtaking views of the snow-capped Himalayas, plus an impressive 15ft statue of Lord Buddha flanked by two huge, perpetually-burning, oil lamps.
Next we'll walk to the nearby Happy Valley tea estate, taking in fantastic views of Mount Kanchenjunga along the way. The estate, which stretches for miles, is one of the oldest and most renowned in the area, producing world-class Darjeeling tea. Find out how tea is cultivated, learn about its history and enjoy a cuppa during a tasting session before we venture down the mountain!
Day 9 Darjeeling - Delhi
After breakfast, we'll transfer to the airport for our flight back to Delhi. Spend some time at leisure in this magnificent city – perhaps you'll visit the iconic 17th-century Red Fort, a marvel of Mughal architecture with its red sandstone walls and evening sound and light shows. Or stroll through the beautifully landscaped Nehru Park to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life for a while.Meals included: B
Day 10 Delhi - UK
Today we'll transfer you to the airport for your flight back to the UK.
Additional InformationPlease note: During this tour you will travel to altitudes of over 8,000ft where altitude sickness can occur. If you suffer from heart or respiratory conditions, or have any other concerns, please consult your doctor.
Due to the nature of these holidays, other travellers will join or leave the tour at different times.