Eastern India

India bristles with an eclectic mélange of ethnic groups; an intoxicating cultural cocktail for the traveller.


Emerging from the tempestuous Bay of Bengal in a maze of primeval mangroves, West Bengal stretches across the vast Ganges plain before abruptly rising towards the mighty ramparts of the Himalaya. This long, narrow state is India’s most densely populated and straddles a breadth of society and geography unmatched in the country. Kolkata, has overshadowed the state by popularity and is a daily festival of human existence. As the former capital of British India, Kolkata retains a feast of dramatic colonial architecture, with more than a few fine buildings in photogenic states of semi-collapse.In the World Heritage–listed Sunderbans, the Ganges delta hosts not only the world’s most extensive mangrove forest, but also the greatest population of the elusive Royal Bengal tiger. As the ground starts to rise, the famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway begins its ascent to the cooler climes of former British hill stations. The train switches back and loops its way to Darjeeling, a summer retreat and a quintessential remnant of the Raj. Here, amid Himalayan giants and renowned tea estates, lies a network of mountain trails. Along with the quiet, orchid-growing haven of nearby Kalimpong, once part of Bhutan, these mountain retreats offer a glimpse into the Himalayan cultures of Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet.
Orissa is a captivating state with diverse, vibrant living cultures and an unrivalled architectural legacy. Filled with exquisite temples and extraordinary monuments, home to many thousands of prolific artists and craftsmen; and possessing beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, and natural landscape of often-enchanting beauty, Orissa is a unique and fascinating land. Orissa is a veritable museum of India's sculptural and artistic heritage and has long been famous to scholars and connoisseurs for the magnificent Sun Temple at Konark (the legendary 'Black Pagoda' of European mariners), for the majestic temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri and for the glorious temples of Bhubaneswar. This is where the mighty temple chariots carrying powerful deities are pulled through city streets by a heaving throng of devotees and where serene stone carvings of exceptional beauty continue to be excavated from early Buddhist sites. Orissa is also celebrated for its natural heritage: elephants and tigers crash and prowl through the Eastern Ghats at Similipal National Park, a key tiger reserve. Chilika Lake, Asia’s largest lagoon, hosts the rare Irrawaddy dolphin as well as millions of migratory birds, including pink flamingos. Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary has dolphins, a surfeit of birdlife and monster crocodiles. Orissa is Scenic, Serene and Sublime !
Sikkim is situated in Eastern Himalayas spreading below Mount Kanchenjunga the third highest mountain in the world. The gigantic mountain walls and steep wooded hillsides are drained by torrential rivers such as the Teesta and the Rangit. The lower slopes abound in orchids, sprays of cardamom carpet the forest floor, and the land is rich with apple orchards, orange groves and terraced paddy fields. At higher altitudes, monsoon mists cling to huge tracts of lichen-covered forests, where countless varieties of rhododendron carpet the hillsides and giant magnolia trees punctuate the deep verdant cover. Higher still, approaching the Tibetan plateau, larch and dwarf rhododendron give way to meadows abundant with gentians and potentilla. Sikkim’s forests and wilderness areas are inhabited by a wealth of fauna, including extremely elusive snow leopards, tahr (wild goat on the Tibet plateau), bharal or blue sheep, black bear, flying squirrels and the symbol of Sikkim – the endangered red panda. The main draws for visitors are the state’s off-the-beaten-track trekking and its many monasteries. Pelling in West Sikkim is nestled at an altitude of 7,200 feet is popular for its spectacular view of mighty Himalayas and the Kanchenjanga range. Pelling's attractions include the local monastery, the rock garden and the imposing double-pronged Kanchenjungha Falls, the archaic quaint Singshore Bridge, the Chhange Waterfalls, the Khechuperi Lake holy to Buddhists and ancient Pemyangtse monastery.