Eastern India has traditionally been considered the cultural epicentre of India. Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, has been the bastion of Bengali theatre, poetry and culture for millennia and was chosen by the British to be their capital. The region also offers beautiful, scenic locations and a plethora of religious monuments, each a spectacular gem. Beyond Kolkata, and West Bengal, lie the north-eastern states of India, a pristine region of verdant undulating hills, tea-estates, mountain ranges and a plethora of flora and fauna. Nestled in these hilly reaches lie remote mountain villages and beautiful Buddhist monasteries, waiting to be discovered.

Sample Itinerary
Kolkata (Calcutta)

Kolkata (Calcutta)

  • Microcosm of India
  • Victoria Memorial & Howrah Bridge

Kolkata is an extraordinarily vibrant city, known for the passionate and inspired outlook of its people. Widely regarded as its intellectual and cultural capital, Kolkata is essentially a microcosm of India. The city was the capital of the British Raj for over 140 years, a fact that is evident in its character. Kolkata owes many of its splendid buildings to the British, like the Victoria Memorial, built by Lord Curzon and alternately described as “Curzon’s folly” and “The British Taj Mahal”, depending on who you talk to. The Howrah Bridge is another great structure, spanning the Hoogly river, one of the largest cantilever bridges in the world. Cox & Kings recommends a minimum stay of 3 days at Kolkata to fully enjoy this delightful city.

Read MoreView Less
Darjeeling & Beyond

Darjeeling & beyond

  • Colonial heritage
  • Delightful tea plantations

Darjeeling, known as the Queen of the Hills, was originally named Dorje Ling, ‘Place of the Thunderbolt’, in honour of the lama who founded a monastery here. Darjeeling became extremely popular with the British as a summer getaway, and retains many of the colonial influences of its past. Visitors must definitely take a ride on the quaint Darjeeling Hill Railway, a World Heritage site, as well as visit the fine Old Planters’ Club and Observatory Hill, the latter being the perfect spot from which to view Mount Kanchenjunga. Visit or stay at a functioning tea estate, exploring the plantations, interacting with the tea pickers and even try your hand at picking ‘two leaves and a bud’ and tea blending.

Read MoreView Less
 
Kalimpong

Kalimpong

  • Tibetan monasteries & manuscripts
  • Stunning mountain views

Kalimpong is a small, delightful town perched on the mountains in northern West Bengal. Set at an altitude of 1250 meters, Kalimpong used to be an important staging post along the trade routes that wound their way into Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal, but is now most famous for its horticulture and numerous nurseries grow and export roses, dahlias, gladioli, cacti, amaryllises, gerberas and orchids all across the world. There are many historic monasteries in Kalimpong; the Thonga Gompa, the oldest of the region; the Tharpa Choling which is home to many Buddhist thangkas (silk paintings) and ancient manuscripts, and the Brang monastery in Durpin Dara, the highest point in Kalimpong that offers spectacular all round views. The Brang monastery, consecrated by the Dalai Lama, is singular in that it is the only monastery outside of Tibet to retain a special lamaistic order and houses a collection of rare Buddhist documents that were brought by the Dalai Lama from Tibet.

Read MoreView Less
Gangtok

Gangtok

  • Rich Tibetan Buddhist culture
  • Village walks visiting monasteries

Gangtok, ‘Lofty Hill’, is the capital of the tiny Himalayan state of Sikkim. At a height of about 1675 meters, Gangtok occupies a series of hills, and offers the most brilliant views of the Kanchenjunga mountain range. Located close to Tibet, Gangtok, like all of Sikkim, has been deeply influenced by Buddhist culture and there are several monuments of note here. The Enchey monastery is a significant seat of the Nyingma order, built at a site consecrated by a lama known for his tantric and flying prowess. The Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is a museum of rare Tibetan scriptures and artefacts. Walking through Gangtok is a joy in itself as you discover other monuments and monasteries, as well as learn about the Lepchas, the aborigines of Sikkim.

Read MoreView Less
 
Pelling & Surrounds

Pelling

  • View the Kanchenjunga range
  • Ruins & elaborate monasteries

Pelling is situated at a height of about 2150 meters, and offers the best views of the mighty Kanchenjunga up close. Many ancient Buddhist sites are to be found in Pelling, most dedicated to Guru Rinpoche, or Padmasambhava, who is credited with having brought Buddhism to Sikkim. The Pemayangtse monastery at Pelling is the largest in Sikkim, with beautiful delicately painted walls and ceilings and contains a spectacular collection of Buddhist art. Near the monastery are the crumbling remains of Rabdentse, which was the royal capital of Sikkim in the 17th & 18th centuries. The Tashiding monastery, a major pilgrimage spot for Buddhists is also easily reachable from Pelling.

Read MoreView Less
Jorhat

Jorhat

  • Major tea centre
  • Archaeological sites & ruins
  • Close to Majuli & its monasteries

The city of Jorhat in Assam was the last capital of the Ahom dynasty and is today a thriving tea centre of the state. With many historical and ancient archaeological sites in and around it, Jorhat also houses the Tocklai tea research station, the oldest and largest of its kind the world over. In addition there is the Gymkhana Club, with the third oldest golf course in the world. From Jorhat visitors can travel to the neighbouring cities of Sibsagar and Majauli. Sibsagar was the ancient capital of the Ahom kings, its ruins ample evidence of a once mighty empire. Majauli is actually a riverine island, the largest inhabited in the world, dotted with ancient Vaishnava monasteries. Cox & Kings recommends a minimum stay of 3 nights to enjoy all the history on offer.

Read MoreView Less
 
Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park

  • One-horned rhinoceroses
  • Bengal tigers, wild elephants & buffaloes

Kaziranga became a national wildlife reserve in 1905, after the wife of Lord Curzon visited the area in 1904, which was famous for the one-horned rhinoceros, and failed to spot a single one! Located along the banks of the Brahmaputra river, Kaziranga today has a healthy population of the rhinoceros in addition to Bengal tigers, wild buffaloes, elephants and the barasingha. The park has a mixed topography of marshes, grassland and tall elephant grass with rattan cane interspersed with tropical evergreen forest. The park is also home to several bird species, notably black-necked storks and grey pelicans. Visitors can enjoy elephant-back safaris into the park or ride in open-top 4x4s.

Read MoreView Less
Shillong & Beyond

Shillong & beyond

  • Living root bridges
  • ‘Scottish’ countryside

Shillong, in Meghalaya, is a hill station that became popular in British times. Set amid verdant hills, with pine trees and pineapple shrubs, the climate of Shillong is similar to that of the Scottish Highlands, and with its beautiful lakes and waterfalls, the town is aptly called the ‘Scotland of the East’. Liberally dotted with historical churches, Shillong is the ideal stop on the way to the towns of Mawsynram and Cherrapunjee, now called Sohra, the wettest spot on the planet. The Khasi village of Mawlynnong is a perfect base for setting out on treks to visit ancient living bridges, made from the roots of the rubber tree. The Khasi tribes build and maintain these bridges, which take over 10 years to be completed.

Read MoreView Less
 
Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar

  • Home to 500 temples
  • Rock edicts of Dhauli

Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, was the capital city of the mighty Kalinga empire, over 2000 years ago. Famous across the world for its magnificent architecture, there were over 7000 temples around the Bindu Sagar Lake region which was also called ‘Temple Town’. Only about 500 of these exquisite structures now survive, of which more than a dozen are considered epochal. Though these temples were mainly built between the 8th and 13th centuries, the neighbouring areas of Sisuphal Garh, now the relic of a moat city, and the rock edicts of Dhauli, which were instrumental in the spread of Buddhism, reveal the antiquity of the region, going back almost two millennia. Cox & Kings suggests a stay of 2 nights here, as well as a visit to the Jain caves of Khandagiri and Udaygiri.

Read MoreView Less
Puri & Konark

Puri & Konark

  • Holy Hindu site
  • Jagannath Temple & Sun Temple

Located just south of Bhubaneshwar is the city of Puri, one the holiest pilgrimage sites of the Hindus’ and famous for the Jagannath Temple, a 12th century edifice. Also called the White Pagoda, the temple can only be visited by Hindus, but a few buildings in the vicinity offer excellent views of the temple to other visitors. Close to Puri is the town of Konark, site of the fabulous Sun Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Built in the 13th century from black sandstone, the Sun Temple depicts the chariot of Surya, the Sun God, and is drenched with exquisite carvings. Called the Black Pagoda, this imposing structure is famous for its perfect proportions and is entirely covered in carvings that depict deities, animals, court life, musicians and war scenes.

Read MoreView Less
 
Chilka Lake

Chilka Lake

  • Wetland habitat for migratory birds
  • Abundance of wildlife

Chilka Lake is actually a brackish water lagoon, located in the Puri district of Odisha, the largest in Asia. Categorised as a Ramsar wetland of immense importance, this shallow water body sees the arrival of over 2 million birds of over 200 species, every year from November to January, making it the largest receiver of migratory waterfowl in India. Flying in from regions as far as Siberia, Mongolia, Iran and the highest Himalayas, the arrival of these birds makes Chilka lake a bird-watcher’s delight. Located in the middle of the lagoon is Nalaban Island, which is the best spot to view this vast variety of incoming avian species. Visitors will also spot other endangered and rare aquatic species here, such as the Irrawaddy dolphins, spoon-billed sandpipers, fishing cats, green sea turtles, blackbucks and dugongs.

Read MoreView Less