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India: By Steam to the Hill Stations
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India: By Steam to the Hill Stations

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 17 day(s)
Group Size: 15 - 25 people
Destination(s): India  
Specialty Categories: Railway Trips  
Season: November
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: No
Minimum Per Person Price: 4745 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 5970 US Dollar (USD)

This tour includes a streetcar tour of Calcutta, cruise on the River Hooghly, overnight trains, visit to the Taj Mahal at sunset and — of course, numerous steam rides to India’s hill stations, including a trip on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Ride the many "Toy Trains" of India. Led by Peter Jordan of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society. Optional Palace on Wheels extension.

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: Calcutta. Meet your tour leader, Peter Jordan, and fellow passengers this afternoon in Calcutta. Enjoy dinner together and overnight at the Oberoi Hotel. Meals included: (D).

Day 2: Calcutta tour. Today we see the "black hole of Calcutta" — where British soldiers were imprisoned during a 1756 battle—and some of the remains of the British Raj era. We’ll take a ride on a chartered streetcar to explore Calcutta’s magical system. Meals included: (B), (L), (D).

Day 3: River Hooghly Cruise; Darjeeling Mail train. We cruise up the River Hooghly today, followed by visits to the Howrah Railway Station, several temples and a traditional market. In the early evening, we will transfer to Sealdah station to catch the overnight Darjeeling Mail. Meals included: (B), (D).

Day 4: Siliguri. Chartered steam train. This morning, we arrive in New Jalpaiguri, at the foot of the world-famous two-foot gauge Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Transfer to our hotel and then tour the town of Siliguri, including the locomotive depot. Later we’ll board our chartered steam train for a ride in the jungle, enjoying dinner on board. If we are really lucky, we may spot a wild elephant! Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 5: Day trip to Kalimpong. A day trip by road up the steep-sided Teesta valley, then up the hill to the bazaar town known as the "Gateway to Sikkim." The views are stunning. Kalimpong is famous for the cultivation of orchids. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 6: Chartered steam train to Tindharia. Today is our first significant steam charter train day. We ride from New Jalpaiguri, over the Mahanadi River, cruise alongside the tea estates to Sukna, then climb through the jungle to arrive at Tindharia—the engineering center of the Darjeeling line. Here, we’ll have an exclusive tour of the workshop, then return by road to Siliguri. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 7: Chartered steam train to Darjeeling. We continue our steam-hauled charter train to Agony Point loop before arriving at Kurseong for a short lunch break. Then we follow the hillside up through Sonada to Ghum, the summit, before descending around the amazing Batasia Loop to Darjeeling. We should get our first glimpse of Kanchenjunga—the third highest mountain in the world at 27,000 feet—which dominates this mountain town. Spend the night at the legendary Windamere, a period hotel where the pace and style is still set in the 1930s. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 8: Darjeeling. Day at leisure in Darjeeling. If you can make an early start, take the trip to Tiger Hill to watch the sunrise on Kanchenjunga—and, if it’s really clear, Everest. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 9: Steam charter to Batasia Loop for photography. The morning is free, and this afternoon we’ll enjoy a special steam charter back up to Ghum, stopping at Batasia Loop for photography. With luck we’ll be able to get shots of the train with Kanchenjunga in the background. At Ghum, we will visit the small but fascinating Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Museum, then steam back to Darjeeling. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 10: Rajdhani Express to Delhi. Travel by coach back down the Hill Cart Road to New Jalpaiguri, where we catch the lunchtime Rajdhani Express for the 20-hour journey across northern India. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 11: Delhi, National Railway Museum. Morning arrival in Delhi and time to freshen up at our hotel, the Imperial (one of the best heritage hotels, right in the center of the city). Later, we’ll visit the National Railway Museum, home to the world’s oldest operating steam locomotive, the "Fairy Queen." Also of interest is the unique steam-hauled Patiala State Monorail train, dating to 1907. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 12: Shimla. Early-morning departure to Kalka for the 2’6"-gauge diesel train up to Shimla at 7,200 ft., in the Himalayan foothills. In British days, the government seat of India moved here from Delhi during the heat of the Indian summer. It’s called "The Queen of the Hill Stations." Overnight at the Oberoi in Shimla. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 13: Steam charter train to Kathleeghat. We have the morning to explore Shimla, strolling along the traffic-free Mall to Christ Church, typically English in architecture. We will spend the afternoon with a steam charter train from Shimla to Kathleeghat, with a stop on one of the line’s distinctive viaducts for pictures. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 14: Shimla. Free day in Shimla. We will take the late-afternoon narrow-gauge train from Shimla down to Kalka, enjoying dinner on the train. We will catch the overnight train to Tundla. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 15: Sunset at Taj Mahal. Breakfast will be served on the train. Coach transfer to the hotel, followed by a visit to the Taj Mahal for viewing sunset over this magnificent structure. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 16: Agra. A free day to see the Taj Mahal at sunrise, visit the magnificent Red Fort and maybe watch the local artisans producing the delicate marble inlay work for which Agra is world-famous. We’ll take a late train back to Delhi and spend our last night at the Imperial Hotel. Meals included: (B), (L,) (D).

Day 17: Return home. Prepare to fly home, or extend with a week on the luxury Palace on Wheels train for a tour of regal Rajasthan. Meals included: (B).

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Details:
- Package includes first-class India rail pass.
- Options: For those who would prefer to avoid overnight rail travel on the main program, we can offer the following options for additional cost:
* On Day 3 - spend the night in Calcutta, and take a flight the following day to Bagdogra (Siliguri's airport), and rejoin the main tour at the locomotive sheds
* On Day 10 - fly direct to Delhi from Bagdogra, and stay at the Imperial. The morning of day 11 will be free to wander into Connaught Circus (only some 400 yards away) to see the shops. Rejoin the tour at the Imperial at lunchtime.
- Optional extension: Palace on Wheels for 9-day luxury train tour of Rajasthan.

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