Kolkata to Darjeeling: trip has an epic sense

Eastern India is often overlooked by the crowds who surge north from Delhi, but the journey through West Bengal to the foothills of 8586m (28,169ft) Mt Khangchendzonga has an epic sense of mission. Start in chaotic, cultured Kolkata, visiting ashrams, temples and architecture reclaimed from the British. Fit in a tour of the tiger-stalked swamps of the Sunderbans before you head for the hills.

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The journey north takes you past little-visited country towns to cultured Shantiniketan, a university town with a long history of dance, theater and poetry. From here, you’ll strike north to reach the emerald-green tea plantations and delightfully dated grand hotels of Darjeeling, where you’ll likely catch your first up-close views of the Himalayas.

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To get intimate with the snow peaks, book onto the Singalila Ridge trek or edge even closer to Mt Khangchendzonga by picking up a permit for Buddhist Sikkim. A route through Kalimpong, Gangtok and Pelling will reveal the kinds of views that make mountaineers itch for their ice axes. To cap it all off, you can get within touching distance of the snows on the trek to the Goecha La from Yuksom.

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