Please note all times are based on current timetables at May 2016, and are subject to change.
We’ll check in (we can offer a choice of regional airports) for our flights to…
….Kolkata. After clearing immigration you will meet your Tour Manager and board the coach for the transfer through the city suburbs to our hotel in the centre of Kolkata for two nights.
In the morning we’ll take a ride on one of Kolkata’s remaining trams – it’s an excellent way of seeing the city in relative peace whilst still being close to the action. In the afternoon, we’ll take a gentle stroll through the teeming streets to see some of the city’s historic buildings, a couple of steam locomotives, the famous Howrah Bridge and Howrah station. Just down the road is Kolkata’s wonderful Railway Museum, well worth a visit.
We’ll take the 0710 international train from Kolkata up to the Bangladeshi border at Gede where we pass (probably slowly) through both Indian and Bangladeshi immigration and customs. The train then continues along the path of the 1940’s Darjeeling Mail to Poradaha, where we diverge to the east to spend a couple of days in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The train is due to arrive at 1800
Today we will sample Bangladesh’s major transport system of the south – the rivers. Amazingly, some of the paddle steamers built in the early 1900’s still survive. They are known as ‘rocket boats’ for the fast (for their time) journeys between Kolkata and Dhaka. We will have a charter boat to take us down some of the waterways south of Dhaka for a few hours, with lunch served on board
Today is a rest day for those who would like it. For the more energetic, there is the whole city to explore
Our train leaves Dhaka at 1000 and we return to the route of the Darjeeling mail and head north from Poradaha over the Ganges by an amazing long road and rail bridge. The track north is still semaphore signalled and (if you are brave) you might sample a curry from the kitchen car. We continue north through fertile lands, and we are due to arrive at Dinajpur at 1945 for our night’s rest
We will arrange a visit to Prabatipur Works, where Bangladeshi Railways maintain and rebuild their diesel locomotive fleet. This is an immensely well organised and effieicient works, and you will be impressed by the tidiness and cleanliness unusual in locomotive works! Outside the works, Prabatipur is a typical north Bangladeshi town, and we can spend an hour or two seeing how the local population live – most of the economy is based around agriculture.
Time to move on. We’ll take the train for the 50 mile journey north to the new border between Chilhati and Haldibari where we will complete another set of border facilities, and then continue another 40 miles to Siliguri, the original southern terminus of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
(+) There should be a broad gauge steam locomotive available at Siliguri Junction, so we will charter it for a trip 35 miles east across the Teesta River and through the tea gardens to Chalsa, returning to Siliguri in the afternoon.
(+) There should also be a metre gauge steam locomotive available. We will use it for a charter over the short but interesting length of mixed-gauge track up to Bagdogra. Last time we did this, the local crowd turning out to watch us was estimated at one lakh (that’s one hundred thousand!!). This will be followed by one of our exclusive ‘dining trains’, with a full three course dinner served on the train as it climbs through the forest to Rangtong.
We’ll start the day with a steam charter over the rarely-travelled bottom section of line, from New Jalpaiguri to Siliguri Junction. After a short break, we will continue from Siliguri Junction to Tindharia and pay a visit to the railway’s workshops there, where the whole of the railway’s fleet of rolling stock is maintained. As road and rail run together, a coach will accompany the train for those who wish to take photographs, and there are regular opportunities to change between coach and train.
We will have a second steam charter running between Tindharia and Darjeeling. Again, a coach will run alongside for the photographers. There will be a short break at Kurseong, where Bengal’s best samosas are made. Our hotel for the next two nights is the iconic Windamere, Darjeeling’s premier hotel for the last 200 years!
In the morning, we’ll take the ‘joy train’ from Darjeeling up to Ghum to visit the Railway’s excellent mueum, and share a cup of ‘chai’ with the train crew. If we’re lucky with the weather, there will be stunning views of Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, and we’ll have the opportunity to photograph the train with the mountain in the background. Fabulous! The rest of the day is free to explore Darjeeling – there’s plenty to do. Don’t miss Das Studio’s albums of historic photos, fancy cakes at Glernary’s, and buy some tea from Keventers to take home. There is also the Planters Club, the Mountaineering Institute, the Zoo and The Tibetan Self-Help Centre. Or just chase trains…. In the evening, the ‘Railway Club’, with its library of DHR items wil be open, with service from the bar.
If you can stand being up for six-thirty and the weather is kind, the view of Kanchenjunga and the Himalayas from Observation Point (200 yards from the Hotel’s back door) is nothing short of stunning, and not to be missed. The rest of the morning is free for train-chasing and sightseeing. In the afternoon, the coaches will take us back down the hill to Siliguri for one night, if train services permit, we can arrange for train travel back to
Siliguri Junction for those who wish, but we do need to know before 30 September if you wish to take the train option.
For our final morning, we will pay a visit to one of the many tea estates around Siliguri to see how tea is grown and turned into the tea bags that we use every day. From Bagdogra, we’ll take an afternoon flight to Kolkata, where we will connect into our international flight for the journey back…..
….to the UK
Economy class flights to/from India, breakfast and dinner (*) daily, accommodation in 3-4 star hotels (or best available locally), all transport, charter trains and excursions as set out in the itinerary and the services of a Darjeeling Tours Limited Tour Manager. All tips throughout the tour (except for the Tour Manager) are included and will be dealt with on your behalf. Personal and incidental expenses are not included.
(+) This is included based on current availability information from Indian Railways, but we cannot guarantee its availability
(*) Dinner is not included in Kolkata, where there is plenty of choice, both in and out of the hotel. Food is not expensive, and this allows considerable individual flexibility.
Please note that you will need a full Indian visa (not an e-visa) for this tour, plus a Bangladeshi visa-on-arrival. We will circulate full details of how this works with booking confirmations.
The walking tour of Kolkata
This tour involves a walking tour of Kolkata, the only practical way of seeing the city’s highlights, and covers about 3km (2 miles) at a reasonably gentle pace, taking around three hours.
Fully inclusive price from London: £ 3,950 based on two people sharing
Ground only price (international flights excluded) £ 3,350
Single supplement: £ 595