INDIA - BHUTAN - NEPAL

BCK: Camels and Kingdoms (17 days)

CKM: Camels, Kingdoms & Mystical Splendor and CWV (22 days)

CWV: Camels, Kingdoms, Mystical Splendor, Wildlife & Villages (28 days)

India - Experience the best of India on this discovery journey through Rajasthan, the country's northern region and its most culturally significant, including an unforgettable visit to the Pushkar Fair, a vibrant annual cattle and camel sale where a kaleidoscope of cultures comes together. Explore the diverse landscapes and capture its beauty in the Rajasthani cities of Jaipur and Pushkar.

Bhutan - This Journey opens a window into the kingdom’s unparalleled natural beauty, the spiritual generosity of its people and it's proud, vibrant culture. As we venture across Bhutan, we gain an appreciation for the country’s stunning topography, its unique culture, and its inhabitants’ fervent desire to preserve both. We explore villages, visit with local farmers and artisans, and ponder majestic hillside dzongs. And, weather permitting; we lift our gaze to grand views of the Himalaya, rising like permanent white clouds floating above densely forested foothills. After our leisure days of exploring, we’ll relish in the western style comfort, flawless service, and scrumptious meals that our Bhutanese hotels provide. And of course we include the usual BOA touches: school visits, prayer-flag ceremonies, local dances, traditional tea ceremonies and more.

Darjeeling/Sikkim - Darjeeling was a summer retreat for the English and wealthy Indians. Some of the worlds oldest tea plantations are found in the area, as is the finest teas in the worlds. Breathtaking views are afforded from this hill station, Kanchenjunga being the jewel in the crown. The shrill whistle of the legendary Toy Train bounces from hill to hill until the echo disappears completely into the wonders of the Himalaya.

Nestled into the heart of the eastern Himalaya and bordered by Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, Sikkim offers some of the most breathtaking views in India. Beyond the allure of its scenery and fabled mountain, Kangchenjunga, this erstwhile Buddhist Kingdom entices the traveler with its arresting cultural beauty, warm people, and tranquil atmosphere. It is a wonderfully diverse region where ethnic Nepalis, Bhutias (descendants of Tibetans), and Lepchas, Sikkim’s aboriginal inhabitants, live in harmony. And as a former Buddhist kingdom, Sikkim is linked to Tibet by more than just an ancient trade route, with over two hundred monasteries of the Nyingma and Kagyu sects dotting its hillsides.

This trip envelops us in superb scenery of magnificent mountains, forests and rivers, giving us time in Gangtok and Darjeeling.  As we travel between these two Himalayan icons, we'll be visiting active Buddhist temples and monasteries and soaking up a serene, little-known culture.

Nepal - Locked between India and Tibet, tiny Nepal is a country full of diversity and fascination. Despite making up only 0.1 percent of the planet, Nepal contains over 600 indigenous plant families, 319 different species of orchids, and 8 percent of the world’s population of birds. It contains the world’s highest peaks. Nepal is nature in its most spectacular form… a melting pot of different cultures, languages and religions. Its capital, Kathmandu, is home to seven World Heritage Sites and is world famous for the rich art and architecture of a civilization going back centuries. From the snow capped peaks of the high Himalayas to the teeming wildlife of the Terai jungles. There is no place on earth like Nepal.


Itinerary - BCK: Camels and Kingdoms

Our scheduled drive times include lunch, photo and toilet stops but please remember that this is genuine adventure travel, so while we endeavour to follow the itinerary, it will not always be possible and it should be used as a guide only. You will need to remain open-minded and flexible in order to get the most out of your trip. 

Day 01: Delhi. Namaste and welcome to India. You will be personally greeted by our staff at the Indira Ghandi International Airport and driven to the five star Claridges Hotel; just a few minutes walk from Connaught Place in central New Delhi. 

New Delhi is the capital of India and arguably the second largest city in the country; it is also the industrial hub of North India. The city is spacious and open with beautiful government buildings and embassies, many designed by Edward Lutyens. Old Delhi’s monuments, mosques and forts show its long and varied history. It is a major travel gateway and is one of the busiest entry points for overseas travellers. Overnight New Delhi – The Claridges. 

Day 02: Pushkar. Early, early start! Depart on the Ajmer Shatabdi Express (train) to Ajmer at 06:05 hours arriving in Pushkar 12:40. From Ajmer a private vehicle will deliver you to Pushkar mid-afternoon after winding our way through the Aravali hills. Pushkar is a holy city, so alcohol, meat and eggs are banned. It sits on the banks of Pushkar Lake and is a very important pilgrimage centre. Pushkar translates to ‘born due to a flower’. Hindus believe the gods released a swan with a lotus in its beak and let it fall on earth where Brahma would perform a grand yagna. The place where the lotus fell was called Pushkar. Overnight Pushkar – Pushkar Palace.

Day 03 & 04: Pushkar. Pushkar Fair, also known as Pushkar Ka Mela, is an annual camel and livestock fair. This event has become famous and is also a huge tourist attraction. Not only is it an animal market, there are festivals, holy men, pilgrims, stalls, competitions and the highly potent… bang lassi! A great time and place to mix, mingle, get lost, observe and participate in the festivities. Two days that will remain with one forever. Overnights Pushkar – Pushkar Palace.

Day 05: Jaipur. We hit Jaipur in time for lunch before driving 11 kms north of the city, past the Jal Mahal (Water Palace) sitting in the middle of Man Sagar Lake, to take an elephant ride up to the imposing and fabulous Amber Fort and Palace. Construction of the fort began in 1592 and it is well known for its unique style, blending both Hindu and Mughal features. The fort/palace used to be the ancient citadel of the ruling Kachhawha clan of Amber, before the capital moved to what is now Jaipur. It borders Maota Lake, which had been bone dry for a number of years but is now fully replenished thanks to the seasonal monsoons. We will have time to wander around this magnificent structure before heading back to Jaipur. Overnight Jaipur – Jai Mahal Palace.

Day 06: Jaipur. Jaipur is known as the pink city after Maharaja Ram Singh had the old walled city painted pink in 1876 to welcome the Prince of Wales. We enter through one of the wall's seven gates and through the wide avenues on a grid, which divides the city into rectangles.

An important landmark is Iswari Minar Swarga Sal (Heaven Piercing Minaret), and close by is the iconic Hawa Mahal (the Palace of the Winds), a pink facade five stories high, built in 1799 to enable the women of the Royal household to watch everyday life and processions in the main thoroughfare of the old city. The City Palace is close by and is a large complex of beautiful Mughal and Rajasthani buildings, courtyards and gardens. The son of the last Maharaja still lives in part of the palace with his family.

Jai Singh II built five Jantar Mantar astronomical observatories. The Jaipur Jantar Mantar in Jaipur was built in 1728 and it is the best preserved of them all. The huge structures look extraordinary - the Samrat Yantra (sun dial) is 27 metres high - but it remains amazingly accurate and absolutely fascinating! Overnight Jaipur – Jai Mahal Palace.

Day 07: Paro. From Jaipur fly direct to the Indira Ghandi International Airport and then an international flight of almost 3 hours to Paro – Bhutan. The countries international airport is located in Paro, not Thimphu as there is not enough flat land around Thimphu for a jet to touch down! Welcome to the land of the Thunder Dragon… a land that rarely fails to capture ones heart. We also meet up with our local guide Bhupen in Paro, he accompanies us throughout Bhutan. Overnight Paro - Tenzinling or Namseychholing Hotels. 

Day 08: Paro. Drive fifteen kilometres to Ramthangkha, from here it’s a one to two hour hike to a viewpoint of the Taktshang Goemba, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’, a pony can also be taken to the viewpoint. From there, its another one to two-hour hike to the monastery itself, the ponies can’t be taken beyond the view point. Built in the 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900m into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. After ‘Tiger’s Nest’ there is free time to stroll around the very picturesque Paro; perhaps visit Ta Dzong (an ancient watchtower, which now houses the National Museum) or Rinpung Dzong. Drive time one hour. Overnight Paro - Tenzinling or Namseychholing Hotels. 

Day 09: Thimphu. Thimphu is the modern capital of Bhutan. We will arrive here from Paro mid-morning taking in a city tour… including the absolutely fascinating Textile Museum, cultural museum and Motithang Takin Preserve. The town is made up of just three lines of shops and is the only capital in the world without traffic lights. There is also a wonderful outdoor market in Thimphu, the stalls offer many colourful local items such as yak tail dusters, butter teacups, turquoise from Nepal and Tibet as well as musical instruments.

Bhutan now has a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy and Thimphu is the headquarters for the government. "Gross National Happiness" is one of the defined objectives the government is aiming to achieve in Bhutan! Altitude 2,350m. Drive time two to three hours. Overnight Thimphu - Jumolhari or Galingkha Hotel.

Day 10: Overnight Wangdue. After more time to explore Thimphu in the morning, the road climbs steeply to Dochula pass (3050m). There are 108 Buddhist Stupas overlooking the Himalaya at the pass. Here we stop and take in the views before heading down the valley for Punakha (district). We then continue to the Wangdue and our evenings lodgings where one may relax in a hot stone bath. A hot stone bath is a very traditional Bhutanese custom, a centuries old local delight which is exactly as it is named… a hot stone bath! Altitude 1,310m. Drive time four to five hours. Overnight Wangdue OR Punakha - Damchen or Meri Phuensum Hotels in Punakha, alternate will be Punatsangchhu in Wangdue.

Day 11: Overnight Wangdue. After breakfast a short drive will get us to the Punakha Dzong, the royal wedding took place here in October last year! The dzong is the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and ancient capital of Bhutan. After lunch, it takes around fifteen minutes to walk to Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of the Divine Madman located near a small village between Wangdue and Punakha! The reason penises statues, carvings and drawings are scattered around Bhutan is because of this guy! Overnight Wangdue OR Punakha - Damchen or Meri Phuensum Hotels in Punakha, alternate will be Punatsangchhu in Wangdue.

Day 12: Trongsa. Our next destination is Trongsa which is the capital of the Trongsa District in Central Bhutan. The first temple was built in 1543 by the Drukpa Kagyu Lama Ngagi Wangchuk who was the great grandfather of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the person who unified Bhutan. Trongsa Dzong (Chokhor Raptentse Dzong) is the largest dzong fortress in Bhutan and used to be the seat of power for the Wangchuck Dynasty before they became rulers of Bhutan in 1907. Traditionally the King of Bhutan first becomes the Penlop (governor) of Trongsa before becoming King. Built on a mountain spur, the Dzong controlled east-west trade for centuries. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan passed through the courtyard of the dzong, at the command of the Penlop the massive doors could be shut, dividing the country in two. The dzong is also a major monastic complex with two hundred or so monks. Altitude 2,200m. Drive time four to six hours. Overnight Trongsa - Yangkhil or Tashi Ninjey Hotels.

Day 13: Enduchholing. The morning will give us enough time to thoroughly explore the Museum Of Monarchy in the Tower of Trongsa perched high above the dzong. The museum is home to the royal collection, and tells the history of Trongsa as the seat of the royal families. The museum is also unique in the fact that even those who don’t usually make a habit of visiting museums leave this one enthralled and buzzing with chatter at the sights and sounds they have just spent at least a couple of hours walking through. The museum is well planned, informative, and above all interesting enough to keep just about everybody’s attention. We leave Trongsa after an early lunch for Enduchholing.

The Enduchholing community is well off the tourist path and only a handful of visitors have been there. We are presented with a cultural night with mask dances performed by the monks, cultural folk dances performed by local women and even masked clowns armed with large wooden phalluses! We will not be the only spectators; scores of children, parents and grandparents will be there for the event… even the village dogs.

Endochhuling Dzong is perched on a hillside overlooking the Mangde Chhu River 50 km south of Trongsa. It was the winter palace for Sir Ugen Wangchuk. The dzong still houses a small monastic school that teaches its students Buddhism and the art of local mask dances. We camp in the palace grounds for the night because there are no hotels in the area. Altitude 1,300m. Drive time four to six hours. Overnight Enduchholing – Enduchholing Dzong.

Day 14: Zhemgang. In the morning take a village walk through the local Enduchholing community, visiting the school, farms and the local co-operative weaving centre where the local women turn stinging nettle into beautiful floor rugs, table clothes and place mats. After lunch our overnight

destination is Zhemgang, a small village overlooking a beautiful and picturesque valley with views for literally miles and miles. Accommodation in Zhemgang is quite basic as the only foreigners who travel through here are usually NGOs. We have one night in Zhemgang to allow for an easy driving day to Gelephu the following day. Drive time four to five hours. Overnight Zhemgang - Dangkhar Traditional Lodge or Bajay Guest House.

Day 15: Gelephu. Our last drive day in Bhutan is 130kms of the usual winding roads with spectacular views and typical Bhutanese life unfolding around us, similar to when we entered Bhutan, but this time we are slowly making our way down to the Indian Plains to the border at Gelephu. At Gelephu, Bhupen will complete our exit formalities, though we spend one more night in Bhutan before exiting back into India, into the state of Assam. Gelephu is located on the edge of the plains of India. The accommodation in Gelephu is also quite basic, same as Zhemgang, virtually no foreigners travel through the town or border. Drive time six to eight hours. Overnight Gelephu - Lhazeen Guest House or Tshendhen Hotel or Kuku Hotel.

Day 16: Paro. Drive back to Paro with Bhupen (our local Bhutanese guide). From Gelephu hop aboard chartered vehicles and take a shorter route back to Paro via Wangdue. Drive time eight to nine hours. Overnight Paro (or Thimphu) – same hotel.

Day 17: Fly out of Paro to Delhi via Kathmandu and connect with your flight home in either Kathmandu or Delhi.

Crew: One permanent western leader, one local driver plus local guides for our time spent in India and Bhutan.

To find out what is included on our trips, please go to the 'TRAVEL THE BOA WAY' tab and click on 'what is provided'.

  • Please note this trip does not utilise Best Of Asia Overlands Mercedes Benz all-terrain coach style vehicle.

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Itinerary - CKM: Camels, Kingdoms and Mystical Splendour

Trip as above (BCK) plus the following:

Day 16: Siliguri. Enter India from Bhutan travelling south for 25 miles (about two hours) on extremely potholed road to the NH31C, then turning right and heading west. We journey through Assam and West Bengal… through rural farms and communities on a mixture of modern expressways and potholed rural roads before arriving in Siliguri late afternoon. Drive time eight to ten hours. Overnight Siliguri – Cindrela Hotel.

Day 17: Darjeeling. When we depart Siliguri for Darjeeling, we transfer into jeeps before continuing into the hills of Darjeeling. We leave our BOA vehicle and transfer to jeeps because the drive time in our big vehicle is very slow as the road becomes very steep, narrow and windy with many switchbacks all the way to Darjeeling and throughout Sikkim, we cut hours off the trip when we go by smaller vehicle, in fact if we used our BOA vehicle, we would need another two days on the itinerary.

Mid-afternoon we board the famous Toy Train at Kurseong and chug into Darjeeling where we will meet vehicles to transfer us to our hotel.

A highlight for us in Darjeeling is our hotel. The Windamere Hotel is an old Colonial Hotel dating back to the 1800’s and the times of the British Raj Tea Planters. Its main house is ‘Ada Villa’, formerly a British Raj boarding house for bachelor planters away from home. The rooms are exactly the same as they were back then, with roaring coal fires, hot water bottles in the beds, huge closets and, best of all, a personal and warm service from the staff that is second to none. The rest of the hotel is made up of various “heritage houses”, nestled in wonderfully blooming gardens and peeking out from behind picket fences and climbing roses. It is the only building that is situated on ‘Observatory Hill’ with phenomenal views of the surrounding valleys. The food is legendary with both Continental and Indian menus. Altitude 2,130m. Toy train to Darjeeling is approximately three hours. Overnight Darjeeling – Windamere Hotel.

Day 18: Darjeeling. The name Darjeeling is synonymous with tea...  and quite rightly so as tea from this district is found all over the world. Many Tibetans reside here and a large proportion of the population have Nepali, Bhutanese and Sikkimese origins. Free day today, there is plenty to do! If the weather is fine it’s definitely worth getting up before sunrise for a breathtaking view of Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain. After breakfast visit the Himalayan Zoological Park and Snow Leopard Breeding Centre, also the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, enjoy Lloyds Botanical Garden, shop at the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre, wander through the shops and cafes of Darjeeling … or just relax and be pampered at the Windamere, lapping up the views and hospitality. Overnight Darjeeling – Windamere Hotel.

Day 19: Gangtok. After breakfast we hop aboard jeeps again and head for Gangtok in Sikkim. Sikkim is one of the more affluent states of India and is known as the Himalayan Shangri-La, the locals are regarded as amongst the friendliest in India. The mountainous air is refreshingly clean and no plastic bags are to be found… they have been banned! Altitude 1,430m. Drive time, four to five to hours. Overnight Gangtok - Denzong Regency.

Day 20: Gangtok. Gangtok is the capital and largest town in Sikkim. Gangtok means ‘hill top’. Today, Gangtok is a centre of Tibetan Buddhist culture and learning, with several monasteries, religious educational institutions and centres for Tibetology. In the morning, we will have a tour of Gangtok’s attractions, which will include. Rumtek Gompa. In the afternoon there will be free time to explore this easy going, modern and quite ‘hip’ city. Photos do very little justice to the mountain views from Gangtok! Overnight Gangtok – Denzong Regency.

Day 21: Delhi. The drive from Gangtok to Bagdogra will take approximately six hours. We wind along the road, heading down and following the Teesta River all the way from Gangtok to Siliguri! Bagdogra is only about 10 miles from Siliguri From Bagdogra take a local flight to Delhi where you will be picked up from the airport in Delhi and escorted to Claridges Hotel, where you will spend the last night of your trip. Overnight Delhi – The Claridges.

Day 22: We personally bid you farewell and get you safely to the airport. 

Crew: One permanent western leader, one local driver plus local guides for our time spent in India and Bhutan.

  • Please note this trip does not utilise Best Of Asia Overlands Mercedes Benz all-terrain coach style vehicle.

To find out what is included on our trips, please go to the 'TRAVEL THE BOA WAY' tab and click on 'what is provided'.

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Itinerary - CWV: Camels, Kingdoms, Mystical Splendour, Wildlife and Villages 

Trip as above (BCK and CKM) plus the following:

Day 21: Pokhara. The drive in private vehicles from Gangtok to Bagdogra will take approximately six hours. We wind along the road, heading down and following the Teesta River all the way from Gangtok to Siliguri! From Siliguri we will continue through to the Indian/Nepali border (Panitanki/Kakarvitta) and once Nepali formalities are finished, drive a short distance to the Bhadrapur Airport for our flight to Pokhara, via Kathmandu.

We stay at Tiger Mountain Lodge located about half an hour east of Pokhara for two nights. This superb lodge is situated on a spectacular hilltop ridge a thousand feet above the Pokhara Valley, it has panoramic mountain views of Macchapucchare, and three of the world's 8,000m peaks, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu. Overnight Pokhara area – Tiger Mountain.

Day 22: Pokhara. Drive into Pokhara for a wander through this laid back city, take a boat ride on beautiful Lake Phewa, soar through the skies in an ultra-light (option) soaking up the mountainous views… or stay put at Tiger Mountain. Relax, hike, swim, enjoy the views or take a fascinating village/cultural/ bird-watching walk. Overnight Pokhara area – Tiger Mountain.

Day 23: Chitwan National Park. After breakfast drive into Pokhara, board an aircraft and fly to Meghauly, located in the Terai of (flat lands), on the edge of Chitwan National Park.

We spend two nights and one full day at Chitwan National Park, utilising the Tiger Tops jungle camp. ‘For the ultimate in jungle retreats, the tented camp is hard to beat: an authentic camping under canvas experience in a remote and beautiful location’. Overnight inside Chitwan National Park – Tiger Tops.

Day 24: Chitwan National Park. Participate in a canoe ride on the Rapti River, jungle walk; actively participate in elephant washing and an elephant jungle safari (game viewing from the back of an elephant). There are opportunities to spot wildlife from the many species of deer to the one horned Indian rhino. There are also many types of birds including kingfishers to hornbills. However, you will need a lot of jungle magic to spot the elusive tiger, so if you do, consider yourself as being very fortunate!! Overnight inside Chitwan National Park – Tiger Tops.

Day 25: Kathmandu. After lunch, fly back to Kathmandu from Meghauly, arriving at Dwarikas mid-afternoon. Dwarikas Hotel is a living museum, where you will be made to feel very welcome with the wonderful and friendly service; in fact there is no hotel quite like it in Asia The food is a treat here and the setting very peaceful and relaxing. Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing in this magnificent retreat. Overnight Kathmandu – Dwarikas Hotel.

Day 26: Kathmandu. Members of the group who would like to participate in an optional Mount Everest scenic mountain flight will kick off the day with an early start! You will be picked up around 05:45hrs and whisked off to the airport for a scenic Everest mountain flight. Flying close to the mountains you are rewarded with awe-inspiring views of 14 mountains over 6,000m, culminating in Everest, which gleams in the rising sun. Much has been written about Everest, but to witness it from a sightseeing flight is absolutely amazing; it remains an enigma - the highest spot on Earth! 

After the mountain flight, return for a delicious Dwarikas breakfast. After which, take in the sites of Kathmandu with a city tour, which includes visits to Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple), Pashpathinath, Durbar Square (Kathmandu) and Bodhnath. Finish the day with a nine course Nepali meal at the unforgettable Krishnapan Restaurant at Dwarikas. Overnight Kathmandu – Dwarikas Hotel.

Day 27: Kathmandu. We also offer a second tour of Kathmandu, this time we check out Patan and Bhaktapur. Patan used to be a separate city but is now part of Kathmandu; Bhaktapur was also a separate city and still is, but is only a short drive from Kathmandu. 

Lets have a final group meal at the Kaiser Café Restaurant in the beautiful Garden of Dreams in the centre of Kathmandu. Overnight Kathmandu – Dwarikas Hotel. 

Day 28: We personally bid you farewell and get you safely to the airport.

Crew: One permanent western leader, one local driver plus local guides for our time spent in India and Bhutan.

  • Please note this trip does not utilise Best Of Asia Overlands Mercedes Benz all-terrain coach style vehicle.

To find out what is included on our trips, please go to the 'TRAVEL THE BOA WAY' tab and click on 'what is provided'.


 

 


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