Darjeeling, Sikkim & the Singalila Ridge

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Moderate
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Trip code: 
TBS
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Point-to-point Trips
Min age:
16
Group size:
4–16

A classic trek from the tea hills of Darjeeling to the highest mountain range on Earth

The rarely visited land of Sikkim has in recent years become more accessible to those looking to explore its unique beauty. Journey through tea plantations to Darjeeling, which with its colonial hill station and famous ‘toy train’ is an iconic destination. Trekking along the Singalila Ridge through thick forests of rhododendron, we are rewarded with views of the great Himalayan peaks, Kanchenjunga dominates the horizon, and on a clear day Makalu, Lhotse and Everest can all be seen.

Highlights

  • Beautiful drive from Bagdogra, through jungles and tea plantations to Darjeeling
  • Classic camping trek along the Singalila Ridge
  • See four of the five highest peaks on earth; Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu
  • Visit Rumtek Monastery

Key information

  • 7 nights hotels, all en suite, 1 night lodge, 1 night sleeper train, 5 nights full-service camping
  • 6 days point-to-point walking with full porterage
  • Group normally 4 to 16, plus leader and staff. Min age 16 yrs
  • Altitude maximum 3660m, average 3300m
  • Between 4 and 7 hours walking per day on average

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 7 lunches and 8 dinners
  • All accommodation 
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Sikkim permit

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request), excludes sleeper train
  • Visas or vaccinations

6

Pace:

Between 4 and 7 hours walking per day on average

Terrain:

Good trails, some walking on dirt roads. 

Day by day breakdown
Day 47.0km/4.0miles
Day 516.0km/9.0miles
Day 67.0km/4.0miles
Day 713.0km/8.0miles
Day 823.0km/14.0miles
Day 914.0km/8.0miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

London
to
London
  • Day 1

    Depart London.

    Flights usually depart London in the evening.

  • Day 2

    Arrive Delhi.

    The group flight will arrive into Delhi in the morning and we will transfer to our hotel. Those who have made their own flight arrangements will join us at the hotel during the day. You are free today to explore Delhi or rest after your flight; rooms may not be available until noon but it is often earlier than this.
    Comfortable Hotel

  • Day 3

    Fly to Bagdogra; transfer to Darjeeling.

    Transfer to the domestic airport terminal for the flight to Bagdogra. On arrival at Bagdogra we join our vehicles, and take a beautiful 4 hour drive from the heat of the plains through jungle, tea estates and pleasant hillside villages to the coolness of Darjeeling. The road winds its way up into the hills through Kurseong. At 1,458m it is the little sister of Darjeeling. The word Kurseong comes from the Lepcha word for a small white orchid which grows prolifically in this area. Surrounded by tea estates it is the southern terminus for the steam powered trains of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and the last 32km follows the route of the famous Toy Train, once the normal mode of transport to the famous hill station. We should arrive by late afternoon and there may be time for a wander round Chowrasta, the main square of Darjeeling. (Approx 4 hours drive).
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Opportunity to ride the 'toy train'; travel by jeep to Dhodrey; trek to Tonglu.

    On a clear day its worth getting up early for the beautiful sunrise views of Kanchenjunga from the roof of the hotel. At 2,134m and spread over a steep mountain ridge surrounded by tea plantations with a backdrop of the jagged white Himalayan peaks, Darjeeling is the archetypal hill station. Originally the site of a small monastery called Dorje Ling it was discovered by the British and established as a sanatorium for the troops in the mid 1800’s. The British soon recognised the potential of the place and built their colonial bungalows and planted tea. These days people come here to escape the heat of the north Indian plains and you will find yourself surrounded by mountain people from all over the eastern Himalaya who have come to work and trade - Mother Theresa spent her early years here as a nun.

    After breakfast we drive to the railway station and have a 40 minute train ride on the famous Toy Train to Ghoom (as long as the railway is working). The train chugs its way out of Darjeeling, stopping on the way to take on water and to allow passengers to take photos at the famous Batasia Loop. Here we meet our cars and drive for about 2 - 3 hours to Dhodrey, the trailhead of our trek. The traditional place from which the trek to the Singalila ridge starts from is the border town of Manaybhanjyang. However, this involves an unrelenting steep climb of 3000ft- not a great way to start a trek! Instead we drive further to Dhodrey, a picturesque village from where we follow a gentler path uphill through magnificent rhododendron forests (a blaze of reds in spring), passing meadows and meeting villagers along the trail. Almost as soon as you reach the crest of the ridge you’ll find yourself at the small settlement of Tonglu (3,100m), where we spend the first night under canvas.

    Full-service Camping

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Trek to Kalapokhari, enjoying views of Kanchenjunga (third highest mountain in the world).

    If the weather is clear we are greeted by wonderful views of Kanchenjunga. At 8,586m Kanchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world. It is made up of five peaks, four of them over 8,450m and its name means Five Treasures of Snow. First climbed in 1955 by Joe Brown and George Band its impressive south face is with us for most of our trek. After breakfast we leave Tonglu on an easy, broad track down to Tumling. Here we cross into Nepal to the small border village of Jaubari, a Nepali settlement. We are following the ridgeline and the views across both India and Nepal are astounding. We continue descending to the village of Gairibas at 2,538m. From here we start to climb gently to Kanyakatta and further on to Kalapokhari.

    Full-service Camping

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Trek through bamboo glades and rhododendron forests to the crest of the Singalila Ridge.

    A short day today to help with acclimatisation. As we leave camp we can see the whole of today’s walk ahead of us. We start with a gradual ascent to Bikhebhanjyang. We are walking through forests of rhododendron and magnolia – particularly spectacular in spring. Sandakhphu is the high point of our trek at 3,636m and is the end of an old jeep track that serves some of the villages in this area. Our camp is 30 minutes beyond the tea houses at Sandhakhphu. The views from here are truly amazing – the towering slopes of Kanchenjunga lie ahead and Everest, Lhotse and Makalu now come into view.

    Full-service Camping

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 7

    Sunrise view over Kanchenjunga; trek along the ridge to Sabargam.

    A short day to enjoy the views. We are now on the Singalila Ridge, the border between Nepal and India. At times we are walking in Nepal and at others in India. The trail undulates following the ridge through chestnut, oak and silver fir with commanding panoramic views of the Himalaya all day. Dwarf rhododendrons and primulas colour the landscape in spring. Tonight we have a spectacular wild camp at Sabargam. The views from here are stupendous and we should see a magnificent sunset and sunrise over Kanchenjunga, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu and a whole host of other Himalayan peaks. Today there is plenty of time to enjoy the views and take in the scenery.

    Full-service Camping

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 8

    Trek along the ridge to Phalut with views of Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Kanchenjunga; descend to Samaden.

    A longer day today as we trek to the end of the ridge at Phalut and then descend to Samaden. The trail to Phalut undulates further along the Singalila Ridge. The breathtaking mountain vistas of the Everest and Kanchenjunga ranges are laid out before us in all their glory. Phalut is at 3,600m and just behind the single lodge there is a ten minute walk up to a viewpoint where we are surrounded by Himalayan giants. From here we descend to Samaden. The trail is glorious and takes us through forests of oak, conifers, pine and rhododendrons, an explosion of colour in spring. We camp tonight in the village of Samaden (2,480m), a beautiful spot in a small settlement with excellent views.

    Full-service Camping

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 9

    Descend through forest to Rimbik.

    Our trail today winds through a collection of small settlements inhabited by Rais, Sherpas and Tamangs to Ramman, where terraced fields and villages dot the landscape. We descend along a jeep track to the Sirikhola for lunch after which we cross a suspension bridge and continue for another 2.5 hours along a road, passing through more villages en route to Rimbik (2,286m), a large Sherpa village set amongst the forest landscapes of the Singalila National Park. We stay in a basic lodge with great views across the valley.

    Basic Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch
  • Day 10

    Drive to Darjeeling.

    It’s quite a long drive to Darjeeling (4-5 hours) but with an early start we should arrive by lunchtime. The road winds up and down ridges climbing finally to Darjeeling. The rest of the day is free to explore one of the most famous hill stations of British India. It originally belonged to the Chogyals (Kings) of Sikkim until the late 1700’s, when it was annexed by the Gurkhas. In the early 1800’s the British East India Company gained control of the region and gave the land back to Sikkim. In 1828 two British officers stumbled across Dorje Ling Monastery, situated on a quiet, forested ridge. They thought it would make a nice place for a sanatorium. The King of Sikkim happily leased the uninhabited land to the East India Company and a hill station was born. The population increased and forests made way for colonial houses and tea plantations. It has always possessed one incomparable asset: the stunning view of Kanchenjunga, surely one of the finest mountain views in the world. Today, more than fifty years after independence, the town still has a late Victorian air. One change which has taken place, however, is the arrival of large numbers of Tibetan refugees, considerably strengthening the Buddhist influence in the town.

    Darjeeling has a busy bustling market and there are plenty of good restaurants and little eating stalls to tempt you.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 11

    Visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute; drive to Gangtok, stopping to walk through tea gardens en route.

    Before we leave Darjeeling we visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute founded by Tenzing Norgay and where many of the famous Sherpa climbers have been trained in mountaineering skills. We then drive to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim and the second part of our journey. We drive past many tea gardens and villages. After a cup of tea in the village of Lamahatta, with a thousand of prayer flags blowing in the wind, we can walk through the village and down past tea gardens. Our cars will pick us up and we then drive to Rangpo, the border between west Bengal & Sikkim, where we stop for lunch. Spectacularly situated on a ridge that flanks the Ranipool River, the town has magnificent views across the entire Kanchenjunga Range.

    Approx. 5/6 hrs driving.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 12

    Short morning walk; afternoon sightseeing in Gangtok.

    We spend the whole day in Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim and a friendly hill station perched on a ridge between 1,400m and 1,700m. The name means ‘hilltop’ and the town is steeply tiered along a precipitous mountain ridge. If clear the views are inspiring with Kanchenjunga soaring above the horizon. Now part of India, Sikkim was once an independent kingdom inhabited by Lepchas. Over the years Tibetans migrated over the border for trade but it was not until 1642 that Sikkim became an independent kingdom with its own Chogyal (King). Over the centuries Sikkim was invaded by Nepalis, Bhutanese and Tibetans but it always managed to preserve its independence. The British East India Company saw Sikkim as a gateway to trade with Tibet and in 1888 it came under British rule and the capital was shifted to Gangtok. Sovereignty was returned in 1895 and in 1947 after Indian independence the Prime Minister, Nehru agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. However after Nehru’s death his daughter Indira Gandhi had little patience for maintaining Sikkim and its monarchy (the Raja had married an American who was now queen of Sikkim) and in 1975 Sikkim became the 22nd state of India. Populated by Lepchas, Nepalis and Bhutias, most who follow Tibetan Buddhism the culture here is more akin to Tibet than India.

    We have the whole day in and around Ganngtok and in the morning we take a packed lunch and drive a short way from Gangtok to Pangthang, from where we start walking through alpine vegetation, passing through villages and farms. We walk for about 3 hours to Tumin village. After a packed lunch we drive back to Gangtok (1 hour), visiting Enchey Monastery enroute. The afternoon is free to explore the bustling markets of this friendly hill station. The market is colourful and close to the hotel. If the orchids are in bloom the Flower Show is worth a visit.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 13

    Drive to Kalimpong, visiting Rumtek Monastery en route.

    After breakfast we set off for the drive to Kalimpong, visiting Rumtek Monastery en route. Rumtek is 24km from Gangtok and is the largest and most famous monastery in Sikkim. Founded in the 16th century, Rumtek served as the main seat of the Karma Kargyu lineage in Sikkim. The Karma Kargyu is one of the sects of Tibetan Buddhism and the Karmapa Lama is the head of this sect. When the 16th Karmapa arrived in Sikkim in 1959 after fleeing from Tibet, he found the monastery in ruins. As the place is auspicious he had the monastery rebuilt and it became the main seat in exile of the Karmapa Lamas. When the 16th Karmapa died a new reincarnation was found in Rumtek. However, in 1999 the Tibetan Karmapa escaped from Tsurpu in Tibet and fled over the Himalaya to Dharamsala. Since then Rumtek has become embroiled in controversy as to who is the ‘real’ 17th Karmapa and armed guards now patrol the monastery. It has some excellent Buddhist paintings and relics, and a good view towards Gangtok. From Rumtek we drive through the wild Teesta Valley to Kalimpong. If there is time this evening we can drive to the Dorpin Dara Monastery, where we may catch the evening prayer ceremony.

    Approx. 5/6 hours driving.
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 14

    To Siliguri; overnight train to Calcutta.

    We have the morning to explore Kalimpong. We can visit the main Hindu Temple in the town and the bazaar. Mid-afternoon (around 3pm) we set off for the drive to Siliguru (2-3 hrs) where we board the overnight train to Calcutta (Kolkata). Train times in India change regularly, although it usually departs at around 8pm or 9pm.
    Overnight Sleeper Train

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 15

    Arrive Calcutta; free time to explore.

    We arrive in Calcutta (Kolkata) in the early hours of the morning and have the day to explore this fascinating city. Once the capital of British India, Calcutta has had a turbulent past. It was central to the struggle for Indian independence and thousands of Bengalis refugees came here at the start of the 1900’s. It is a city of striking contrasts and the unusual sights, pungent smells and the cacophony of sounds of the country’s second largest city are an experience unique to India.

    If you would rather not navigate Calcutta alone, your leader can usually arrange a short (1/2hr) guided city tour for you (pay locally).
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 16

    Fly to London.

    Those on the flight inclusive package will depart for London this morning for the daytime flight back to London; Land Only arrangements will finish after check-out from the hotel.

    Meals included: Breakfast

Extend Your Trip

Golden Triangle extension

Code: XBS

A visit to the incredible Taj Mahal and other great Moghul cities close to Delhi is an excellent way to begin or end a visit to Northern India. The five-day Golden Triangle extension can be booked before or after your main itinerary. The Taj Mahal in Agra was built by the Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631, and is one of the most beautiful sights on earth. Close by is the imposing Red Fort of Akbar with its beautiful courtyards and palaces and let's not forget the deserted royal city of Fatehpur Sikri. The extension also visits the Pink City of Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, which is one of the most attractive and colourful cities in India.

Essential Info

Visas

Visas are required if you are British and for most other nationalities. Visa information changes regularly for India; for the latest information on applying for a visa please see here: http://www.exodus.co.uk/assets/travelink/India-visa-information.pdf

It is best not to mention that your trip goesto Sikkim on your Indian visa application. This can sometimes slow down or even cause the embassy to reject your visa.

If your flight arrives into Delhi Airport and you have an e-visa, please follow the overhead signs to the e-visa booth at the back of the immigration hall. You will need to fill out an additional form at the booth. Please make sure that you have the details of your start hotel ready. These details can be found on your Final Joining Instructions.

Please note that although we trek along the border between Nepal and India you only need to obtain an Indian visa - a Nepalese visa is NOT required for this tour. 

A permit is required to enter Sikkim. As per the current regulations we can obtain this upon entry into Sikkim or in Darjeeling. Please take a standard passport-sized photo with you.

Vaccinations

India

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. The risk of malaria is slight but you may wish to consult your GP or travel health clinic for further advice. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Some of our India trips spend time at altitude. In regions over approx. 2000m, there is low to no risk of mosquito-borne diseases. For trips going to altitudes of over 3000m there is a risk of being affected by Acute Mountain Sickness. Our itineraries are designed to enable everyone to acclimatise to these altitudes, but you should be aware that it is still possible for you to be affected. Please see the TRIP NOTES for further information.

Eating and Drinking

Breakfast is included throughout plus 7 lunches and 8 dinners.

You should allow around INR5000 (approx. £60/US$75) for the additional meals and drinks. Mineral water, soft and alcoholic drinks are not included and are widely available. Soft drinks are generally cheap, but beers can approach Western prices.

Whilst camping we have a cook and assistants who will prepare simple but plentiful nutritious food. Breakfasts will be porridge, cereals, eggs and toast with plenty of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. Lunches will usually be a picnic lunch with soup, various kinds of local breads, cheese, eggs, tinned fish and meat and fruit where available. There will be afternoon tea and biscuits on arrival at camp followed later by dinner which is usually soup, a pasta, rice or potato based main course with fresh vegetables, followed by dessert, tea, coffee or hot chocolate. You will be provided with safe boiled drinking water whilst on trek.

Weather

As Sikkim has a pretty wet climate, even by Himalayan standards, our departures are carefully timed to take advantage of the likely best weather conditions. Delhi will be hot in the daytime, especially on spring departures, and reasonably warm at night (cool on the October departure). Darjeeling and Gangtok will be warm during the day with cool to cold night time temperatures. Weather on trek will vary with the altitude, but will in general be comfortable for walking during the day (it can be really quite hot when the sun is out, particularly on the spring departure). At night on trek it can get very cold with temperatures down to as low as -5° Celsius. In late October please bring warm clothes for the evenings. Frost must be expected at night above about 3,000m on spring departures, and above about 2,000m on October departures.

Although the departures are timed to coincide when the weather is normally good, you should remember that in any mountain area the weather is never wholly predictable and you should be prepared and equipped to deal with any differences in weather beyond the conditions described above. The Singalila Ridge is quite exposed and strong wind and rain cannot be discounted at any time of year.

Darjeeling, India

Darjeeling, India

Is this trip for you?

This is a Moderate (Activity Level 3) trek with 3-7 hours walking per day and 6 days fully supported camping. Some previous experience of hill walking is beneficial although walks should be within the capabilities of those who lead a normal active life. The maximum altitude will be 3,660m, with an average of 3,300m.

You may find our Fitness Training Guide a useful reference: http://www.exodus.co.uk/assets/pdf/Exodus_WT_Fitness_Training_Guide.pdf

Walking distances and hours stated within the itinerary are given as approximates only and will vary depending on the pace of your group. Driving times given are approximations of actual driving times and do not include stops for photos, lunch, toilets etc.

Accommodation

Hotel, Camping, Lodge & Sleeper Train

We use good tourist class hotels in Delhi, Darjeeling, Gangtok, Kalimpong and Calcutta (Kolkata). In Rimbik we stay in a simple but clean Lodge with a common bathroom and toilets. In Gangtok we usually stay at the Netuk House Hotel, a traditional Sikkimese family house, now run as a small hotel with splendid food and traditional service.

The trek itself is on a full-service camping basis, meaning that our camp staff will erect and dismantle the tents for you, cook, and do all of the camp chores for you. You need only carry your day pack. Most of the camping on this trek is wild camping. We stay in two-person tents which have enough room inside for your kitbags. If weather conditions are particularly unfavourable, on occasion your leader may find a lodge for the night instead of camping. Camping on the Singalila Ridge can be exposed so expect some windy conditions. Sleeping mats and bags are not provided – please see the packing section.

We also have a dining tent complete with table and folding chairs, and at least one toilet tent (usually two) for use during the evenings. No running water is available whilst camping. You will be camping close to a river or stream and the camp staff will provide bowls of warm water (to wash with) whilst trekking.

Overnight Train Journeys - The overnight train will be booked in 2-Tier or 3-Tier sleeper A/C. Although there are many excellent trains in India, the standard of seating and sleeping is not in line with European standards. All seats are pre-allocated at the time the tickets are issued, meaning that we are not able to guarantee the whole group are together on the train, your leader will manage this as best as possible and will always check on you during the journey. Indian trains are safe to travel on however we would recommend that you keep any valuables with you at all times. Snacks are often offered on board (at an additional cost) but you may wish to purchase your own food prior to the journey. Whilst some trains have western-style facilities, the majority of services are equipped with squat toilets. Please note trains sometimes get delayed for numerous reasons, which is obviously beyond our control, however we endeavour to minimise the impact of these delays on the overall itinerary.

Single rooms and tents are available for a supplement: the price may depend on the season you are travelling. Please advise the sales team at the time of booking if you wish to add this to your booking and they will confirm the price for you. Please note this does not include the overnight sleeper train journey.

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  • Reviewed November 2016
    Melanie B

    Freezing but worth it

    Having completed the Annapurna circuit two years ago I was looking for more Himalayan trekking but somewhere different. The views of Kanchenjunga in the sunrise and sunset are breathtaking and (weather permitting) you see Everest too! An excellent trip with a good mix between trekking and cultural exploration

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Waking up at dawn, in a frost covered tent, before getting to see the sun rise on the mountains.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sonam was brilliant fun to be with. He took good acre of all of us and made sure that any backmarkers on the trek part were supported. He was kind and engaging and had a wicked sense of humour. He also brought the best cook ever to cook for us on the trek.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This trek is less strenuous than Annapurna but it's still at altitude and the fitter you are the more you will enjoy it. It got really cold in the tents and the ground was harder than you think! I'd suggest getting the thickest, warmest inflatable mattress you can afford and making sure you pack good quality merino and a really decent sleeping bag.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Bring earplugs if coming at Diwali. They like their fireworks loud.
  • Reviewed November 2016
    Paul Bulstrode

    Superb from start to finish

    This was truly a wonderful 2 weeks. From Delhi to Calcutta, the ridge, the people and those others on the trek made this a trip to remember.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The views of the Himalayas, walking along the ridge between India and Nepal and the great food we had to eat

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sonam was superb, full of knowledge and always smiling. A great character that made us laugh but lead the group well.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    In autumn (mid October) it was very cold on the mountain (at night). Be ready for it. Otherwise no issues, even on the train. Make sure you get up early for the best views of the mountains (although evenings were also great). Relax, forget the world and enjoy! When it says dont take photos, dont take photos (army check points on trek)

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Even with the weak STG, it was still cheap there.
  • Reviewed May 2016
    John Mckenzie

    Sikkim and Singalina Ridge

    I'd never been trekking before, and in many ways I wasn't looking forward to this holiday much, but I absolutely loved it, especially the trekking. What really surprised me was the quality of the support from the pony men, guides, and especially the cook, or cooks. The quality of the food was very impressive even when it was being carried about a campsite in a hail storm. I would recommend this trip to everyone.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    When he second in charge leapt down a nearly perpendicular slope to retrieve my daysack which had fallen down and then snagged about fifteen feet below the edge.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I don't think Chouspel could have done a better job. He was constantly helpful and pleasant despite one or two awkward customers and the huge responsibilities lying on his shoulders. Top guy.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take the waterproof trousers.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Both the guides were the key to a successful trip. But the cooking was exceptional!
  • Reviewed April 2016
    Sara Harrop

    On top of the world

    A fantastic trip which left our group under India's spell and eager to return for more. This was despite disappointing weather. We experienced mega thunder storms, gales, a hail storm and far more than our fair share of mist and fog. The toilet tent blew down one night in a gale. It could have been a disaster, yet all of our group managed to leave with entirely positive impressions. This was down to a) One day of clear bright sunshine when all the mountains appeared as if by magic; b) a fantastic sense of camaraderie between group members, the guides, cooks and pony men, c) delicious food, d) friendly local people and a great introduction to the culture; e) lovely characterful hotels that felt palatial after sleeping in a cold, damp tent for a week. A lot of people seem to think a trip to India is as good as a crash diet - but not if you go on this trip! Anyone would have thought that the delicious, varied, piping hot and beautifully presented meals had been prepared in a plush kitchen rather than a windswept tent in the middle of nowhere! They even managed a perfectly iced birthday cake baked over a camping stove at 3500m. Exodus seems to have chosen the accommodation particularly well on this trip. The Himalayan Hotel in Kalimpong was a firm favourite, but the Netuk House in Gangtok was also gorgeous and the Sherpa Lodge in Rimbik at the end of the trek (described as basic in the trip notes) is a delightful place in flower filled gardens with comfy rooms with pretty quilts on the beds, en-suite bathrooms and real toilets. The Hilton could not have felt finer. The walking is not too difficult and the paths are good with plenty of interesting flowers and bird life even if you can't see the mountains. The altitude is not too bad. It's a good combination of feeling that you've done something without feeling too stretched and exhausted.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The day the fog cleared and the mountains appeared. We saw Kanchenjunga and Makalu, Lhotse and Everest. Our campsite above Sandakphu was spectacular. At sunset, the clouds sank far below and a panorama of pink-tinged snow-capped mountains appeared all round. Team awestruck! We also loved our unscheduled visit to the beautiful village of Siri Khola when bad weather higher up forced us to head down. We ended up camping in one of the pony men's garden and visiting the cook's home. Everyone felt this was one of the highlights of the trip.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rajeev is a rising star. He had to cope with some difficult climactic conditions and a lot of questions. He was very helpful towards a slightly slower walker in the group, thus ensuring that we all kept together and safe. The local guides were excellent too and Rajeev had a good relationship with them and with team of cooks and pony men, showing respect and sensitivity to them at all times.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to expect the unexpected and adapt. The hardships make the good times even better. Nights were long and cold in the tent so a good sleeping bag and lots of layers are essential. Filling a metal bottle with boiled water at night keeps you warm and provides you with safe frost-free drinking water the next day. Take plenty of hand sanitiser. A pack of cards is good for after dinner entertainment for in the mess tent as is a good repertoire of anecdotes and a sense of humour.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    None of our group much liked Gangtok, though the hotel there was lovely and Rumtek monastery interesting. Gangtok was quite car-clogged, concrete covered and westernised. On the other hand, we loved Kalimpong. There's a colourful food market, interesting local shops, temples and monasteries, and it's a laid-back friendly sort of place with none of the hassle some people sometimes associate with India. To sum up: this trip was great value for money, perfect for people who like a good mixture of adventure and comfort and I feel as if I have made a load of really good friends.
  • Reviewed April 2016
    Nicholas Hayhurst

    Star Trek

    A fabulous introduction to northern India with a great combination of trekking and sightseeing. The Trek was on good paths through delightful countryside along the border between Nepal and India; many of the trees were in blossom. We had amazing views of the Himalayan range from Sandakphu, the highest point of the trip, although visibility on other days was more limited. Supported by a fantastic team with the best chef in India - yummy! We stayed in a variety of interesting and lovely places throughout the trip with the Himalayan Hotel in Kalimpong being one of the highlights. The sleeper train was a great experience, and Calcutta was an exciting and interesting city in which to end the trip. A brilliant holiday with a lovely group of people - highly recommended

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Amazing views of the Himalayan massif, but also camping at and visiting the mountain village of Shri Khola.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rajeev was lovely; very helpful and patient, and sorting us all out. He quickly recognised our need for lots of tea stops! He made it all seem effortless.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We had severe overnight storms and needed all our warm gear on - would certainly recommend a good quality 4 season sleeping bag and good mat. Metal water bottles to use as hot water bottles were useful. The guidance says hand sanitizer is optional, but think it is probably essential for this trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Loved the trip but Gantok was a little disappointing - it is a very busy modern city. However the drive to it was interesting, and Calcutta exceeded expectation. Our experience on the trip was enhanced by the tourist guides for the part of the trip after the trek, and in Calcutta. Finally would like to applaud our excellent drivers, who negotiated the roads smoothly and carefully. This was our first trip to India but it wont be our last.
  • Reviewed May 2015
    Arran Ellis

    3 Amazing weeks in India \ Nepal

    3 weeks packed with so much to do and see. I have no idea how Exodus can make any profit from this trip. True value for money! In summary if you do the trip and the excursion it works out to be 3 holidays in 1. 1st week, the wonders of Delhi, Agra & Japur. Our driver Amir was brilliant and took us wherever we wanted. We also met 3 very knowledgeable guides who provided guidance while visiting the Taj Mahal, Agra, The Amber Fort and Japur. Our hotels during this part of the trip where excellent. The 2nd part of our trip was Darjeeling & the Singalila Ridge, where we met our new treking friends. The trek was led by Jospal & Suntos a local guide from Darjeeling. What these two did not know about the the mountains and local community was not worth knowing. We had some wet and windy weather but I always felt they had our best intrests in mind. We did get views of Kanchenjunga which was the icing on the cake for me. The tents we used where adiquate and the trek chef never let the side down and produced some of the nicest food I have ever tasted whilst on a trek not to mention a few restaurants I have visited. The days varied in length and variety. I was one of the youngest on the trek at 42 and found the undulating ridge fine. Our oldest member of the trek was 70 and like me plodded with the odd steep section slowing us down. If your relatively fit and healthy you'll be fine. No need to start running marathons to sign up. And certainly do not let age get in the way. The pace was always slow and steady to enjoy the views, banter, and rhododendrons. I chose to do this trip in April \ May to get the best advantage of catching the various colours of plant life. As it turned out it was by chance Budda's Birthday and a full moon during the trek, so whilst staying in small villages from time to time there was always some festivity happening. The 3rd and final part of our experience was what I would call the Jeep Rural Safari. We left Darjeeling after visiting the Mountaineering Intitute where climbers and sherpa's train to climb mountains such as Everest and lead treks and plumited down in altitude driving past massive tea plantations. Where we stopped and visited the tea pickers and farmers. Then onto Sikkim, different from the Darjeeling Region. More Westernised in my opinion, industrial along the river and lots of schools and universities. We stayed in Gangtok and visited a wonderful monestry and had some time to look around ourselves. The drive to Kalingpong took us back out Sikkim and back into the Dajeeling Region where we climed in our jeeps to see wonderful views of the local foothills of the Himilaya. We stayed at the Himalayan Hotel. The same hotel Malory, Irvine, Hillary and Tenzing stayed in prior to going to Everest. This was by far my favourite hotel of the whole trip! Ooozing with character and history. A wee drive to the train station then an overnight train to Calcutta, where we said goodbye to the jeeps and Santos. Calcutta was amazing! We had time to do a whistle stop tour of the city in time for some of us to go to a 20/20 Cricket match to see the Calcutta Night Riders v The Punjab Kings. Such an experience. The stadium was packed with 60-70,000 supporters. This was our last day, so we went to a rooftop restaurant which was a special place to say goodbye to our new friends before parting our ways and going home. I know this was to be a summary but there was too much to tell.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing Kanchenjunga in all its splendor once the clouds moved on, on our final morning on the ridge. Magical.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jospal & Santos where truely amazing! Very very helpful, approachable, flexable. There English was better than mine! You want these guys on your trek!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Prepare for some wet days depending on the time of year you go. Dont skimp on decent waterproofs. Some of the team had Poncho's which seemed to provide the best solution to staying dry. I went April \ May and a 3 season sleeping bag wearing thermals where fine. Drinking water whilst treking can get boreing. Take energy tablets or condensed juce pods to add to your bottles in the morning. Some of the team had metal bottles which proved useful at night to stick in you sleeping back as a makeshift hot water bottle. Bring an open mind and a sense of humour!!!!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Book today! You wont regret it!
  • Reviewed May 2015
    Michelle Madrigga

    Wonderful mix of nature and culture!

    I went on this trip in April/May 2015, which is the best time for viewing the rhododendrons but may not be the best time for views of the mountains. We were, however, lucky enough to get some great views of the mountains at the highest camp! The trek was not overly difficult or too strenuous but the first couple of days did have some rain so make sure to bring quick drying clothes and enough warm items to wear in the camps in the evenings as clothes may not dry before the next day. Trekking poles came in handy on some of the downhill sections but were not essential. The nights did get quite cool so a three season sleeping bag is ideal. The cook and camp staff were fantastic and always made sure there was plenty of food and hot beverages. I really enjoyed the hot juices at the end of the day's trek - a great way to warm up! The second half of the trip to Sikkim was equally excellent and the jeep rides were a great way to see the countryside. I did not think the time on the road was too long compared to other trips I have done. I think the longest day was about 4 or 5 hours. The jeep drivers were excellent and I never felt unsafe at any point, despite the rather narrow roads and signs of past landslides. Gangtok was a beautiful town, which was clean and quite green. The hotel was excellent and a welcome retreat after the trek. The overnight train from Siliguri to Calcutta was a pleasant experience, despite a bit of a fistfight in the section next to ours. I was not expecting much from Calcutta but was also pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness of the streets and friendliness of the people. Prior to the trip I did the Kashmir extension, which was a great way to adjust to the time zone and relax for a few days before the more hectic pace of the trip. The people were very friendly and Lake Dal was beautiful. The houseboat we stayed on was first rate and the guide and boat staff were fantastic. An amazing trip all around!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Having 4 of the 5 tallest mountains revealed to us through the mist and fog at the last opportunity during the trek. Definitely a mood changer for the group after a few days of rain, cold and mist. Being pleasantly surprised with Gangtok and Calcutta. The friendliness of the people we encountered on the trip and the chance to learn more about the many different religions, regions and foods of northern India.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Chosphel was excellent - always well organized and pleasant. The Nepal earthquake occurred during our trip and we even encountered a small aftershock in Darjeeling. Despite this, Chosphel ensured our trip ran smoothly and remained positive throughout. During the trek he arranged for us to spend one night in a lodge after a day of non-stop rain, which had made the planned campsite a muddy mess. Santos led us on the trek and he was always upbeat, positive and made sure the group was doing okay. He provided great local insight to the region. The cooks, pony boys and jeep drivers were all excellent and friendly.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Definitely bring a warm sleeping bag and plenty of rain gear as well as enough warm clothes to keep you comfortable at night. Also ensure to bring large plastic bags to seal your clothes and sleeping bag during the trek as, if there are heavy rains, stuff may get wet during the pony transport.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A great trip and a wonderful introduction to India. I am already planning another trip!
  • Reviewed December 2014
    Barry Barry

    Darjeeling, Sikkim and Singalila Ridge

    This trip consisted of six days trekking and six days touring Sikkim and Northern India finishing in Calcutta and gave superb views of the Himalayan Range.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Undoubtadly, the most inspirational moment of the trek was to wake up and go out of the tent to see the Himalayan Range from Kanchenjunga and Everest and beyond a view that I will never forget. I was scheduled to do this trek in October 2013 but had a cycling accident in Lithuania on another Exodus trip and had to cancel at the last moment following a relapse. I am pleased that I cancelled that trek for they had bad weather throughout and the superb views which we enjoyed in October 2014 would have been missed. The area is not haevily visited so you do not have to deal with crowds of other trekkers and in fact we only saw about three other very small groups. This is an unspoiled area and if you want to see the Himalayas in their full glory then I can think of no better trek.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Chospal was excellent. I had difficuly with the altitude but Chospal was always there to support me. He was an excellent leader and Exodus should be proud to have him as an employee.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The Trek is graded as moderate whereas the next trip I did, India Grand Tour was graded moderate to challenging. I would suggest that the trek should be similarly graded as their are steep inclines at a high altitude. The nights can be very cold so a four season sleeping bag is a necessity.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is an excellent way to see some of the World's finest mountains and to experience the contrast of Sikkim with its strong Tibetan influences and Calcutta the teeming heart of India.
  • Reviewed December 2014
    Robert Pearson

    Singalila Ridge & Sikkim - A well organised trek and tour

    Amazing sunrises and sunsets. We were lucky to have good weather on trek. Tour drives were mostly pretty rough rutted post-monsoon mountain roads, but exciting, skillfully navigated by good drivers, and comfortable in large cars. Drives were often fairly long - but with tea breaks! Hotels: the hotel in Darjeeling was perhaps the least comfortable, the basic tea house at the end of the trek the most comfortable surprise, and the hotel in Gangtok the most beautiful and hospitable. Camping was very well supported. Camp meals were very good, varied and plentiful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On one misty morning, on the ridge, the sun cast our shadows as Brocken Spectres on the mist below, with Lohtse, Everest & Makalu beyond.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Tour leader Dilip was excellent, keeping a watchful eye on folk, leading from the back marker position! Excellent skills organising varied transport, tea stops, support team and the group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We travelled from Manchester, arrived early and had chance to grab a taxi at the hotel and explore Qutb minar, Humayun's tomb and Lodi Gardens (entertained by Grey Kites divebombing Picnics). Impressive and diverse islamic architecture at all three sites. Do go for good four seasons or arctic sleeping bag plus silk and fleece liners - the nights were cold in November. Would add to pack list - face masks for some sections of the drives & ear plugs for the Ghoom train (can be heard from 40 miles away) (or better still just skip the short train trip and travel in the cars).
  • Reviewed December 2014
    Sallie Hage

    Darjeeling, Sikkim and the Singalila Ridge

    This was a wonderful trek and very well guided by Mr Dilip and his team. We were a larger than usual group (17 in all) but there was much support all round and we all enjoyed the amazing Himalayan panorama that was always very evident during the days of trekking.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspirational moment of the trip was watching the sun come up over four of the highest mountains in the world. It was 5.30 am, the temperature was -5 degree and we were all out on the mountainside watching the spectacle.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader Mr Dilip was excellent. He was kind, supportive and encouraging and always there when needed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Get fit! Be ready for very low temperatures at night in November and lots of laughs.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was a strenuous trek (although graded Moderate) at a reasonably high altitude but the older members of the group were well prepared to keep up with the youngsters!!

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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