The snowy Himalayas and the Champagne of teas ...
Is Tea & Temples the trip for you?
The trip is designed for those with an interest in history, food and culture, and it offers some of the most stunning scenery in India.
The trip mixes the colourful chaos of India's former Raj-era capital, Calcutta, with the serenity of Sikkim and refinement of living on a 150-year-old tea estate.
Hours spent in the car on the winding mountain roads are interspersed with days of staying put in charming private hotels, with plenty of opportunities for walking through tea fields and forests. Walks can be anything from an hour's stroll to an all-day hike taking in local temples, waterfalls and bird watching.
How long is the trip?
Two weeks, but this can be extended or shortened as required. Skip Calcutta, Gangtok or Darjeeling if you're tight on time. Please get in touch with us about how we can tailor the trip for you.
When to go
October & November – the weather is ideal and there's more chance of seeing Kanchenjunga, the world's third-highest peak. Hotels, in particular the wonderful Glenburn Tea Estate, book out months in advance. September, and December to April, are also good months to visit. If you can, time your trip with the exciting Bengali festival of Durga Puja in Calcutta, usually in late September or early October.
Where we go
Calcutta, Glenburn Tea Estate, Kalimpong, Gangtok, Rinchenpong, and Darjeeling
Burrows&Bird trip highlight
Darjeeling tea is known as the Champagne of teas; pick and process your own to take home with you at Glenburn Tea Estate.
For lovers of ...
HISTORY Anyone with a soft spot for the faded glory of yesteryear will love the stately old buildings of Calcutta and the romance of the hill stations. A ride on Darjeeling's Unesco World Heritage-listed "Toy Train" can be included in the itinerary.
CULTURE From the rich literary and artistic traditions of Calcutta to the alluring philosophies of Buddhism and Hinduism, there's plenty to keep the mind invigorated. The brightly decorated temples of Sikkim, backed by the white peaks of the Himalayas, are a sight to behold.
FOOD You'll get to sample the fascinating local cuisines, including Bengali, Nepalese and Sikkimese. Food is one of our passions at B&B, and we take great pleasure in arranging cooking classes and talks by food experts on request.
NATURE & SCENERY Leopards, pangolins and deer still roam the emerald green, orchid-studded forests of the Himalayan foothills. This spectacular region is also famous for its birds, butterflies, and bugs. Once you're up in the hills, the magnificent Himalayas will be visible most of the time – weather gods permitting.
Day 1 – 2 Calcutta
There's no other city quite like Calcutta, with its lovely old buildings and air of long-passed glory. There's plenty to see, from the bright and bustling Malik Ghat Flower Market along Calcutta's vast Hooghly River, to the grand Victoria Memorial, Mother Teresa's house, Hindu and Jain temples, and the madly decorated private mansions. The Glenburn Calcutta team offer excellent city tours that may include a traditional Bengali lunch in the exquisitely decorated home of a renowned local art collector.
Day 3 – 5 Glenburn Tea Estate
Visitors regularly describe Glenburn as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The sun rises over the Himalayas in full, glorious view of the bungalows, spreading golden light onto snowy Kanchenjunga and the green tea fields and forests below. Time feels almost as if it has stopped here on this privately owned tea estate, leaving you in a dreamy yesteryear of four-poster beds, vintage porcelain, chintz fabrics, and chaise longues.
Days start with a pot of Glenburn's award-winning tea and freshly baked biscuits brought to your room, while lunch and breakfast is served under the pomelo tree, heavy with fruit. The excellent multi-course dinners are served around a giant oval table in the fuschia-pink dining room.
Burn off the calories on a walk through the tea fields to the Glenburn camp for a barbecue followed by a swim in the Rangeet river, and hop in one of the estate 4x4s for the very bumpy ride back up. There are plenty of other walks, as well as bird-watching, momo-making classes, day trips to local towns, and, depending on the season, there's also fishing. Glenburn has picked up awards for the World's Best Tea, so a tour of the tea factory is a must.
You won't ever want to leave!
Day 6 –9 Kalimpong & GANGTOK
The relatively quiet hill station of Kalimpong used to be a major trading gateway between Tibet and India. Like many of the towns in the mountain regions of West Bengal, it's now home largely to ethic Nepalis and indigenous Lepchas. The area is known for its horticulture, especially orchids and flower bulbs.
Views of the Himalayas are even more stunning from the elevated town of Gangtok. There are many temples to visit, both Hindu and Buddhist, with many in splendid locations with a snowy mountain backdrop. Both the Enchey and Rumtek Monasteries are important Buddhist temples, while Hanuman Tok, dedicated to the Hindu monkey god, is in a particularly unforgettable location on a hilltop that is accessed via a winding drive and short walk uphill. The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is housed in a gorgeous building in traditional Tibetan style and contains precious religious artefacts.
Day 10 – 12 Rinchenpong
This remote village is home to one of India's most special places to stay, Yangsum Heritage Farm. This rustic organic farm and guesthouse is run by the charming Thendup Tashi and his family. Simple wood and stone chalets nestle among groves of bamboo and cherry, mango and rhododenron trees.
It's all about relaxing here, enjoying the quiet, the lush greenery, and the gentleness of the local Buddhist culture. Walk to local temples, read a book on the verandah, and indulge in the wonderful, hearty Sikkimese cuisine cooked up in Thendup's bucolic kitchen. Depending on the season, you may be served the local delicacies of fiddlehead fern, pancakes stuffed with delicate Sikkimese cheese, or gundruk, a traditional dish of fermented greens.
Day 13 – Darjeeling
Darjeeling is, unfortunately, much more crowded and less charming than it once was, so we recommend only a short stay here. Rail aficionados can take a short ride on the Unesco-listed Toy Train, a steam-powered engine running on narrow-gauge tracks that's one of world's highest rail journeys, while climbers can wander through the zoo to the quirky Himalayan Mountaineering Institute museum dedicated to the major Himalayan expeditions. Darjeeling also has some important Buddhist temples, including the Bhutia Busty Monastery; foreigners rarely visit this temple despite its prized possession: one of the original sections of the Book of the Dead.
Day 14 – HOMEWARD BOUND
Your Tea & Temples trip finishes with the very winding descent back onto the plains and a flight from Bagdogra Airport.