Darjeeling & Sikkim – High on History

Darjeeling & Sikkim – High on History

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Colonial hill stations, steam train rides, remote valleys, monasteries and views to the high, high Himalaya – and that’s before we start on the motorcycling! This tour combines the usual Blazing Trails back-up and support, carefully considered overnight stays and happy-rider routing with an adventurous edge and some surprises thrown in.

A highlight of the journey is colonial Darjeeling, with its bustling markets, the oldest railway in India and a blend of mountain cultures and religions. But it is the wild remoteness of Sikkim and views of the mighty peaks that will really stir the soul. With a landscape less visited, India’s least populated state has quiet roads, running through still forests and although road surfaces vary, meaning in some places the riding can be challenging, no trip through beautiful North East India is ever going to be dull.

On joining this adventure you will fly to Delhi and transfer to the domestic airport for your internal, two-hour, leg to Bagdogra in West Bengal. Here your Blazing team will meet you for the short drive to our overnight stop in the fresh-aired mountain foothills.

Next day a tea factory visit sets us up for lunch and in the afternoon we’ll ride the narrow gauge railway up to Darjeeling, where you will be introduced to ‘your’ 500cc Royal Enfield and the full tour staff, including professional medic, mechanics and a support vehicle with driver.

And then we’re off, cruising through the tea plantations, heading for the hills and mountains of Sikkim and the adventures and surprises they hold.


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Darjeeling, although situated within the Indian State of West Bengal, enjoys a degree of autonomy from the rest of the largely lowland Bengali state, due to large cultural and racial differences. Set at 2000m above the salty stuff, this hill station evolved from a British colonial settlement, formally established by the British East India Company in 1835 on land leased from the Buddhist Chogyals, rulers of the Kingdom of Sikkim, in whose territory the land precariously existed. It wasn’t long before the ridge-top strip of land containing Dorje Ling Monastery evolved into the town of Darjeeling.

In return for the deal, the colonial power was also expected to keep the Gorkhas, who were previously constantly at the point of invading the area, at bay, British forces having defeated the Gorkhas in the Anglo-Gorkha war two decades previously. By means of various political shenanigans, the area comprising Darjeeling – and much of the surrounding area – was soon in the administrative grip of the British Empire and in 1848, with a road now reaching from Calcutta, a sanitorium for British troops was established.

The size and importance of the town as a regional centre for trade and administration mushroomed and soon Darjeeling became the summer base of the Raj’s West Bengal administration. As Shimla was to Delhi, Darjeeling was to Calcutta. Development was further hastened by the commissioning of the India’s first railway, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in 1881. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Politically hemmed in on three sides by Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan – and geographically by the Great Himalaya – the former Kingdom of Sikkim was founded in 1641 by three wandering Tibetan Buddhist monks. The teaching of Buddhism in the area is, however, said to stretch back to the eighth-century following a visit by the saint Padmasambhava.

Subsequent to 1641, the Sikkim royalty formed alliances with many bordering states as other neighbours, most commonly those in what is now Nepal, threatened their security. The state also underwent periods as both British and Indian protectorates before finally becoming a fully-fledged Indian state in 1975, having dissolved its monarchy, and despite the rejecting of Indian statehood by popular vote in 1947.

Sikkim’s status as India’s least populous state (some 650,000 souls of various callings) is reflected by both the lack of heavy road traffic and the unchecked development that is now blighting much of India.

Nepali is the most widely spoken language in this area, with Sikkimese and Lepcha dialects popular in some areas. English and Hindi are now also widely spoken. Due to a huge influx of Nepalis over the past century, Hinduism is now Sikkim’s most popular religion, around 60 per cent of the state adhering to that faith. Some 35 per cent follow Buddhism, with the remainder either Christian, or following India’s smaller codes.

However, with many gompas (Buddhist temples), prayer flags and giant Buddha statues complimenting the region’s natural beauty, pre-Hindu Sikimese culture is at the fore, the state making for a beautiful and interesting history lesson.

With altitudes ranging from 280m-8856m, Sikkim boasts 80 glaciers and an impressive array of flora, fauna and wildlife including 550-plus species of bird, 695 species of butterfly and 515 species of rare orchid. The world’s third highest mountain – Khangchendzonga (or Kanchenjunga) – also has a foot on the soil of Sikkim. Many mammals also roam the hills and mountains, including snow leopard, cloud leopard, black bear and red panda. The latter is the ‘state animal’ and can be viewed in the zoo at Darjeeling.

The climate is temperate, with summer temperatures rarely reaching 30ºC. Sikkim is prone to heavy monsoons and the best times to visit are spring, autumn and early winter.

A largely agrarian-based economy produces rice, maize, millet, wheat, barley, oranges, tea and more cardamom than any other Indian state – largely grown on spectacularly carved terracing. Tourism is becoming an ever-increasing source of revenue, but is generally low impact out of the high seasons, which correlate with the Indian holiday seasons (not when we go).


Darjeeling & Sikkim - Itinerary


DAY 1: FLY overnight TO DELHI

Following an overnight flight to Delhi we will transfer to the domestic terminal for your onward flight.flight-inclusive





Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 2: Fly Delhi to Kurseong 

Fly Delhi to Bagdogra. On landing, you will be whisked away by road to your eccentric accommodation 1000m above the plains, where a cold beer and your first glimpse of the Himalaya await.


Darjeeling & Sikkim

DAY 3: kurseong to DARJEELING 

After breakfast, a tea plantation visit will precede lunch and a tour briefing, before we head off to the railway station. Despite no longer being steam powered (that will come later) India’s original hill railway retains much of its charm as it rides parallel to and criss-crosses the main road to Darjeeling, the adjacent wooden buildings glowing warm under the setting sun. We’ll arrive in Darjeeling in time for a shower, dinner and a cold beer.


Darjeeling & SikkimDay 4: darjeeling to gangtok

Having crossed the Teesta River we’ll leave Darjeeling and West Bengal to enter the former Kingdom of Sikkim where we’ll finish the day in the state capital of Gangtok, a centre of Tibetan Bhuddhist learning. The ride of around five hours will be a gentle introduction to your Bullet’s idiosyncrasies. The route leaves the main highway, to ride quiet, narrow roads through spectacular terracing and includes views of Rumtek Monastery.

Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 5: gangtok to lachen

Prayer flags flutter and waterfalls flow as we enter remote North Sikkim and head for the village of Lachen where the traditional form of local democracy under the pipon (headman) system still holds sway. The steep valley sides are striped with the scars of landslides, the damage they have caused to the road surfaces often delivers some unpredictable riding!

Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 6: lachen to lachung, via thanggu

Just 15km from Chinese-occupied Tibet, Thanggu is the end of the road for non-locals, so after a view and a brew we’ll follow our tracks back to Chungthang, turning north-east to Lachung, high above the river of the same name in a very different looking valley. 

Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 7: lachung to yumthang and back

Up the swithcbacks and into the Shingba Rhododendron Sanctuary; gateway to the Yumthang Valley at the head of which awaits a magnificent 360° Himalayan view and a chance to gaze across the Tibetan Plateau. On the return to our hotel, we will visit the Laching Gompa (Buddhist monastery).

Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 8: lachung to rabongla

Our longest day distance wise but it will come easy after the previous three days in the mountains. We’ll follow the Teesta River all the way south to Singtam where we finally find a bridge allowing us to turn west. Rabongla promises some of the best mountain views in the region, not to mention the rather surprising ‘Buddha Park’ which overlooks the town.

Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 9: rabongla to yuksum

The first of two short days takes us first to the little village of Tashiding and the ancient monastery (est 1641) of the same name. Five religious buildings, numerous stupas and engraved stones adorn the top of a conical hill affording impressive views of the surrounding valleys. 

Yuksum is where it all began when, in 1641, three Tibetan holy men met, chose and crowned the first king of Sikkim. Dubdi Gompa sits atop a hill overlooking the village and is said to be Sikkim’s oldest.

Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 10: yuksum to pelling

The second of our short days takes us to Pelling and one of the best views of India’s highest (the world's third-highest) peak – Khangchendzonga. A short walk away the history lesson continues with the ruins of Rabdentse, the former royal capital of Sikkim.

Above our hotel, Pemayangtse Gompa contains some remarkable models from Buddhist mythology.


Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 11: pelling to namchi

Following a short detour to twice cross Asia’s second-highest bridge (the café’s on the far side!) we’ll follow first the north and then the south sides of the valley high above the Kalet River, before turning south to Soreng and plummeting down a steep series of hairpins to lunch alongside the Great Rangit River. The afternoon is no less twisty as we cross the river and climb the ‘back route’ to Namchi, where we’ll pay our regards to Guru Padmasambhava before checking into our hotel.

Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 12: namchi to darjeeling

Up early for a ride up to Solophuk to visit the 33 metre high statue of Shiva that dominates the hillside. Back at the hotel we’ll eat a late breakfast before plummeting down a chain of unfeasibly twisty switchbacks to once again cross the Teesta river before climbing through tea plantations on a ‘back route’ to Darjeeling.

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Day 13: in darjeeling

There’s plenty to see and do in the hill station town. The steam powered ‘Toy Train,' a UNESCO World Heritage Site,  runs to/from Ghoon, the zoo also houses the fascinating Everest Museum and for the (very) keen you can always get up at 0400hrs and take a jeep up to Tiger Hill to witness sunrise along a 250km strip of Himalayan peaks (that contains Everest and Khangchendzonga). Of course, no trip to Darjeeling is complete without sipping its famed tea in the institution that is Glenary’s Café.

Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 14: darjeeling to bagdogra

A late start will allow for any last minute shopping before we commence our descent westwards through the forest towards the Nepalese border, which we follow south to Merik. Following lunch, a ridgeline traverse affording a 270° panorama of the surrounding tea plantations marks the start of the descent of the second of the day's vertical kilometres.

Darjeeling & Sikkim

Day 15: bagdogra to Delhi to home

After two weeks of mountainous adventure it is time to depart. An internal flight takes us back to Delhi to meet up with our international flights.



  • International Flights
  • Bike with Mechanical Back-up, Spares & Repairs
  • Medical & Luggage-carrying Support
  • All Internal Transfers 
  • First Tank of Fuel
  • Accommodation on a Bed & Breakfast Basis


  • Most Lunches & Evening Meals
  • Entry Fees
  • Fuel Subsequent to First Tankful

Darjeeling & Sikkim - USEFUL INFORMATION


You will need a passport with valid visa, appropriate travel insurance and an international driving permit. 


You should be able to get by on around £300 spending money if you don't do a lot of shopping. You may want to change a little money (about £30) at the airport, but check the rate before changing a large amount. Cash and travellers' cheques are easily changed in Darjeeling or Delhi (where there are also ATMs), but nowhere else on the route. 


The Lower Himalaya can be surprisingly warm in autumn. But nothing can be taken for granted and although rain is rare there is always the chance of wet weather. When overcast, things could get a little chilly at night. The maximum temperature is likely to be around 20°C; the minimum (at night) 4°C.


We advise riders to consider their kit in terms of layers. Good quality gear can also prevent a minor spill causing a trip-ruining injury, so we require that you ride with no exposed skin (except your face). Please find more information on bike kit here.


While your main luggage will be carried in a support vehicle, you may wish to bring a small rucksack or tankbag in which to carry articles you need on the road. Your main bag must be 'soft' and not a suitcase.


While you don't have to be an athlete to join us on this adventure, we would not recommend this tour to those who cannot, for instance, climb a flight of stairs without puffing and blowing. Please note that there are some long days in the saddle. We reach some great altitudes on this tour, so if you have any existing medical condition, please consult your doctor and Blazing Trails before booking.


While we insist those joining us have a full motorcycle licence, and recommend a minimum of two year's riding experience, time in the saddle and miles ridden are of more relevance to an adventure like this. Riding in India is very different from Europe and although the speeds at which we travel are relatively low, demands on planning and observation are high. Other factors making demands on riders are the heat (and possibly cold), conditions of the road - including sections of unpaved dirt - and getting used to the bikes' reversed foot controls


Although there is always the chance of getting a 'holiday tummy', following a few simple guidelines keeps the chances of this to a minimum. The tour will be accompanied by a medic with extensive kit to deal with any problem. If you have any pre-existing medical condition, it is essential that you consult both Blazing Trails and your physician before booking.


To check out our suggested packing list.

Frequently Asked Questions - India


Yes, (if you are booking from the UK) all flights, international and domestic are included in the price of your tour.



Yes. If you are booking from outside the UK, please check the 'Schedules Page' of this site and click on the 'Exclude Flight Price' link. Any problems: contact us.



You can. Please contact us for details.


How do I book?

The tours can be booked online, by email, or over the phone on: +44 (0)5603 666788. To secure a place you will be asked to put down a deposit of 700.00 and payment can be made by card, cheque, or bank transfer.



Yes, you need travel insurance to cover you for the period of the tour. This insurance must cover you to ride a bike of the capacity offered on your tour. Recommended by past guests are The Post Office and Tesco, both of whom do reasonably priced policies with the requisite cover. The bikes are insured, so bike insurance need not concern you.


How & Where do I get a visa?

To visit India you will need a passport (valid for six months from date of entry) and a valid tourist visa. For visits of up to a month's duration it is possible for British citizens (and those of many other countries) to obtain an 'E Tourist Visa' online, HERE. You will need to provide a PDF scan of your passport's first page with a file size between 10 and 300kb. You will also need to provide a scan of a passport picture (as a J-Peg, 10kb-1mb). This picture must be square, on a plain, light-coloured background and without borders. Applicants must submit online between 30 and four days before travelling and the visa will be issued on arrival - on production of an emailed confirmation document. The visa will be valid for 30 days from entry. The fee for an E Tourist visa is currently USD $80 (which is GBP 0).


If visiting India for more than 30 days, your passport must also have at least six months validity remaining at time of application. Visas are obtained from the VFS Global (the official agent of the Indian High Commission) offices in either London, Hayes, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Glasgow, or Edinburgh. All current information on longer Indian visa applications is available on the web at: http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk/. It is possible to apply over-the-counter, or by post. We would recommend the latter and suggest you apply in plenty of time. A tourist visa is usually valid for a maximum of six months from date of issue.


Visas for entry to Nepal are available at borders, at a cost of $30 (which is GBP 0), or at the Nepali Consulate in London prior to travelling.


The visa application asks for two Indian addresses, what should I put?

1. Overland Escape, 251,252, Vardaman Crown Mall, Sector 19, Dwarka, New Delhi -110075

2. Hotel Iceland, Solang Valley Village, Solang, PO Palchan Manali, Himachal Pradesh - 175103


What other paperwork do I need?

You will need a valid certificate of travel insurance and an International Driving Permit.


Where do I get an International Driving Permit?

Obtain one through the Post Office service, at major branches. All you need is your UK Driving Licence and some six of Her Imperial Majesty's Pounds.


Where should I change money?

We would advise that you have some idea of the Rupee exchange rate before you leave, to avoid getting ripped-off at airports. Sites like this should help. In many major towns, there are cash-points that will accept major credit and debit cards. Arrivals in Cochin for the Kerala Tour will be able to change money in town if the airport rate is not competitive. Goa Airport is rapidly getting a reputation as a den of rip-off merchants and we would advise you not to change money there at present. Money can easily be changed at banks, agencies and be withdrawn from cash-points close to your hotel before we set off. Further advice to this will be given in the tour briefing. Generally if arriving at Delhi, for Himalayan and Rajasthani tours, airport rates should be reasonable and we would advise you to change at least 50. Money can be easily changed in Manali and Leh on the Himalayan tours.


Can a lady with a wooden leg change a pound note?

No, she's only got half a knicker.


How much spending money will I need?

About 250 should cover food, drink, petrol and sundries.


Will I have to share a room?

Yes, unless you pay a supplement. Even then, single rooms may not be available at some stops as the hotels we use are popular, or in some cases small, and we have to book our accommodation some time in advance.


What standard is the accommodation?

It varies widely, but is always clean and the best we can find in the area for a reasonable price. In some places you may be staying in comfortable tented camps, in others luxury huts or hotel rooms. In Kerala and Rajasthan the accommodation is of a higher standard. There may be nights on the beach or under the desert stars in more remote areas - it's all part of the adventure experience.


Will we have electricity?

It can't be guaranteed. In some places there's no power; in all power cuts are possible. Thus, if it's vital you need electrical power every night, please speak to us before booking. Don't forget a travel adaptor if you need to recharge your electricals.


what is the difference between tarka dhal and regular dhal?

They are very similar, but Tarka dhal is a bit 'otter.


How much riding experience do I need?

We would recommend only booking a tour with us if you have a full licence (compulsory) and have at least two years' recent riding experience. The main criterion, however, is confidence. If you're happy to zip through a London rush hour, then you'll be capable of dealing with road life in India.


Is riding in India dangerous?

Riding anywhere carries with it a degree of risk, as does Indian riding. For more information on the riding side of things see 'Riding' in the 'About India ' section of this site. If any rider joining us rides in a manner we suspect will endanger themselves, or others, or indeed displays antisocial behaviour, they will receive one warning. If they continue to display a threat to the safety or enjoyment of others on the tour, they will be excluded from the remainder (with no refund given, see terms and conditions).


How fast will we be riding?

Due to road conditions and other traffic, vehicles tend to move a lot slower in India than they do in the West. We will do likewise. There are also constraints on speed enforced by the bikes. These are not high-revving sports bikes and so we will lead the tour at a maximum speed of around 70kph.


Can I use the bike in the evenings?

No, you can't ride independently of the tour group, sorry.


How fit do I need to be?

Reasonably so, especially for the Himalayas, where roads can be very rough and there is also the matter of altitude to deal with. What's 'reasonably fit'? If you can't jog up stairs without panting, then Indian bike tours probably aren't for you. 


Can I take a pillion?

Yes , but please be sure they know what they're letting themselves in for: some long days in the saddle, bumpy roads and, in the mountains, some pretty shocking drop-offs. We have limited space in our support vehicles, so pillions may not be able to hop off on a whim. Likewise, if riders have any doubt over handling the extra weight, then we'd advise they ride solo. It is possible to book a place in a support vehicle for those who want to join the tour, but not to ride or travel as a pillion passenger.


How much luggage can I bring?

You are limited to 20kg by most airlines. However, we suggest you pack as lightly and in as compact a form as possible. As support vehicle space is tight, we insist you bring soft luggage if you turn up with a suitcase we will ask you to buy a soft bag and repack.


How much luggage should I bring?

Keep it minimal. One set of riding kit for the tour and a couple of sets of clothes for the evening. You can always pick up cheap clothing locally. 


Isn't India full of snakes?

Yes it's full of snakes. Don't bring any snakes. It's full.


Do I need a towel?

If you're wet, yes. One small travel towel for Goa, Nepal and the Himalayas only. Although most of our hotels provide towels, there may be the occasional night you need your own.


Is food included in the price?

Only breakfast. You will pay for lunch and dinner, because we prefer that you make your own choices on where you eat and you will find Indian food substantially cheaper than meals at home.


I don't like curry, what can I eat?

We would firstly suggest that you avoid too much curry, purely on the grounds that you don't like it. Indian cuisine has much more to offer than what we in the West are offered in most 'Indian' restaurants. In many destinations, Western-style food is available and where it is not, less spicy food can be arranged. As an alternative, it is possible to bring your own pre-packed camping meals and add hot water. 


Is it possible to milk shrews in order to make shrew's cheese?

Yes, but it's a very tricky procedure requiring specialist equipment and best left to the experts.


Are laundry facilities available on-tour?

They are, but not every night. Check the itineraries of Tours you will be able to get clothes cleaned at two-night stops, so consider this when packing.


Do I require a pollution mask?

Not specifically. Pollution is not a problem except in the major cities, but some roads are dusty so a facemask, snood, or scarf can be useful.


Do I need waterproofs?

Yes. If your riding kit isn't waterproof, then bring some light waterproofs.


Do I need to bring a sleeping bag?

For the Himalayan tours a light, compact bag will add to your comfort.


What medication should I bring & what inoculations are required?

Consult your GP/travel clinic for immunisation and malaria advice. Bring enough of any prescribed medication you take regularly. A basic first aid kit is useful (plasters, antiseptic cream, bite/sting relief, plus insect repellent). Any serious medical problems will be dealt with by the tour medic.


Should I bring a seat pad?

Gel or air pads add comfort on long days in the saddle, but are not necessary.


Should I bring a sports bra?

If you like. We don't really know you that well yet and so consider your underwear requirements to be your own business.


Should I bring a water carrier?

As air-fares are so high these days, better to hire one locally, or carry your own water. Packaged drinking water is readily available throughout our routes, which you may wish to transfer into a CamelBak, or similar device.


Do I need gloves?

Proper bike gloves are essential. Check this site's information on Clothing Advice for a comprehensive guide to what you'll need.


I've read that on your southern tours there will be the opportunity to spot wild 'bison'. Surely the only bison sub-species reside in European and North American populations. Are we being taken for fools?

Yes, unfortunately guidebooks and indeed most guides themselves can be short on taxonomical understanding. The 'Indian bison' is properly known as a 'gaur' and is the largest bovine (cow) species.


How do I tell the difference between a buffalo and a bison?

You can't wash your hands in a buffalo.


Should I bring anything else out from England?

Oh yes, there are cravings we struggle to meet. We overworked staff, bereft of the comforts of our native environs, have predilections for fine wines and tawny port. To accompany the above we require, nay beg the solace of, fine French cheeses and cured meats, possibly including saucisson (or Italian/Spanish near-equivalents). Actually we're really not that fussy and any decent booze will do, for off-duty amusements only, you understand. Bring such treats and you will be treated as a minor deity (being elevated to a god-like status is not compulsory; omnipotence subject to germs and contritions).

How To Make A Booking

Holiday bookings can be made by phone, via email, or over the internet.

Contact us by any of the means above.

Upon deciding to book, please pay a deposit of £700.00 into our bonded account (or the full balance if within two months of the departure date). This can be done by credit/debit card through our website or over the phone, by bank transfer, by over-the-counter payment, or by sending a cheque to our UK representative.

Having booked with Blazing Trails, you will be sent all the necessary information on timings and meeting points. You may also like to use our website, or Facebook group, to liaise with others.

PLEASE NOTE: A maximum of one week (seven days) will be allowed for your deposit payment to reach and clear in our bonded account. Should this not happen, we can suspend your booking and may have to give your place on tour to somebody else.



Touring Map

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Tour Overview

In ten words

Mighty mountains, culture, history, twistery, trains, plantations and hill stations.

Riding Level

Mainly twisty tarmac with some steep climbs and descents. Two days have some dirt roads and tight switchbacks. In the Himalaya conditions vary from year-to-year pending rain & snow damage.

Tarmac: 99%; dirt 1%.

The Adventure

Overall: approx' 1000km

Shortest day: 45km

Longest day: 170km

3 days travelling

10 days riding

2 off-bike days

Pillion Rating

Generally decent but twisty tarmac and potholes will make the going a little slower than for solo riders. Two days have sections where pillions may need to ride in the support vehicle.

Accommodation & Meals

From the eccentric to the opulent, with few ‘normal’ nights in between. To say it offers the best accommodation in the Himalaya doesn’t do it justice.


Late afternoon journey on the Himalayan Railway to the Colonial Hill Station of Darjeeling; ride the UNESCO listed steam service to Ghoom, uninterrupted views of Kanchenjunga (worlds third-highest mountain) and the Tibetan Plateau; discovering the history of the former Kingdom, Buddhist culture and monasteries.

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