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Kanchenjunga, the Guardian Deity of Sikkim, in the local language means: the large mountain of five treasures. This is the third highest peak in the world and the highest in India, but forms one of the richest biodiversity areas of the East Himalaya. Of the major flora content, one of the target species is Rhododendron, and a sanctuary has been dedicated to this species in the Kanchenjunga landscape called the Barshey Rhododendron Sanctuary. Situated in the south-west corner of West Sikkim with a protected area of roughly 105 sq km across the ridge of the Singhalila range, Barshey Rhododendron Sanctuary creates a natural trans-border boundary with Nepal.
These trails were also the favourite stamping ground of the man who systematically explored the land and documented the flora and fauna of East Himalaya. After Joseph Dalton Hooker obtained his MD from Glasgow University in 1839, young Hooker traveled extensively for most of his life, going off on Botanical expeditions to all corners of the world. He came to Sikkim for the first time in 1848, and his yearlong travels resulted in an amazing record of animal and plant life, many of which turned out to be new discoveries. Numerous species of Rhododendrons, Ferns and Orchids(like the spectacular Golden Yellow Dendobrium Hookeriana) are named after Hooker. He published Rhododendrons of Sikkim in 1849, considered even today to be the authoritative text on the subject.
From Delhi you will arrive by flight at Bagdogra, and embark upon a spectacular 3 hour long journey to Darjeeling - the most renowned British summer retreat of India in the Himalayas. Home of the late Tenzing Norgay, co-mountaineer of 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. In the afternoon you will take a gentle walk to the Japanese Peace Pagoda followed by a visit to the Manjushri Centre of Tibetan Culture and History. You will stay at The Swiss Hotel- a quaint and charming small colonial style hotel with lot of characters, wonderful location and spectacular view of Mount Kanchenjunga.
The highlights of your next day will be an early morning sunrise tour to the Tiger Hill ridge; visit to the Darjeeling Himalayan Zoo - one of the finest centres for conservation of endangered Himalayan wildlife, Himalayan Mountaineering Institute & Everest Museum; a heritage steam-tour by DHR (Darjeeling Himalayan Railway - An UNESCO World Heritage Site) and a Buddhist experience in the famous Ghoom monastery. your stay at The Swiss Hotel- a quaint and charming small colonial style hotel with lot of characters, wonderful location and spectacular view of Mount Kanchenjunnga.
After breafast the next day, depart from Darjeeling. The road meanders down the Rangeet valley and again climbs up gradually from the north bank of the river. The total time to reach Hee is between three to four hours. Welcome with traditional lunch and local dance. Overnight at Barsey Jungle Camp, an authentic Limboo Home stay.
Spend all of next day in a village visiting Srijanga temple and Shiva temple offering Puja (worship) in the traditional Limbo way. Also visit the sacred Phengdorjee water falls. Spend time in the Heritage village exploring the rich traditions. Overnight at Barsey Jungle Camp.
Next morning begins with an early breakfast and transfer to Hilley – the gateway to Barse Rhododendron sanctuary. Trek about 6 km to reach Brse summit from where one can enjoy a jaw-dropping view of Mt.Kanchenjunga and its associate peaks. Overnight at Trekkers’ Hut or camping.
The next day is to continue in Barshey and trekking to the Taal, the area where the Rhododendrons bloom in abundance. Return for late lunch and rest.
On the following morning, trek down to Hilley, where a car awaits to take you to your next destination Pemayangtse - the nearest motorable view point of Mount Kanchenjunga and the most important centre of Tibetan Tantrik Buddhist culture. Overnight at Hotel Elgin Mount Pandim.
The next day you will visit some of the oldest Royal monasteries of Sikkim, a sacred lake whose water is believed to have the magical power to keep the flying dry leaves of the surrounding trees away, cascading water falls, one of the highest gorge bridges of Asia, a local craft centre and an orphanage. You may wish to attend a Buddhist meditation session and meet the wonderful, ever-smiling mountain communities of the village.
Begin the next day with a 4 hour drive to Kalimpong heritage town, famous for its Orchids and Himalayan plants, Tibetan art and craft, Missionary Institutions and boarding schools. Due its mid-altitude and perfect weather year round, Kalimpong is a well known retreat in the Himalayas which used to be a major trading centre along the ancient Silk Route connecting Lhasa in Tibet via Jelepla and Nathula passes and finally crossing over the mystical Chumbi valley. After lunch visit the private Orchid Sanctuary owned by the family-run lodge named The Orchid Retreat where you will rest for the night.
Early next morning, drive 3 hours via Kalimpong to Neora Valley, a pristine habitat at the tri-junction of Sikkim, West Bengal and Bhutan, and is one of the best birding sites in Eastern Himalaya. Check in at Neora Valley Jungle Camp, an excellent Eco resort which has stunning location that confirms a jaw-dropping view of the lush valleys and most expansive view of Mount Kanchenjunga on a clear day. You have the rest of the day at your leisure.
Neora Valley is one of the last remaining pristine ecosystems of the Eastern Himalayas with its amazing Bio-diversity, and is home to many rare and endangered plants, animals and birds. It exhibits a rich variety of habitat as the area comprises the catchments and watershed of the Neora River with its tributaries. The Park with its dense forests is located on the tri-junction of Bhutan, Sikkim and West-Bengal, and its boundary extends from 30 m of altitude up to 3200 m on an area of only 88 square km. Though this sounds rather small, it has to be considered that due to the topographical features the surface of the Park is much larger.
The whole of next day will be spent in exploring the Neora Valley, enjoying the nippy mountain air. A visit to the beautiful Kolakham village provides excellent opportunity to experience the local life and culture of the indigenous Rai community. Overnight at Neora Valley Jungle Camp.
On the last day, make the 4 hour drive to Bagdogra airport for onward journey.
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