ORCHIDS OF DARJEELING AND SIKKIM
A Tour for the Alpine Garden Society
Nestling between the vaunted peaks of Nepal and secretive Bhutan, the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim, and the Darjeeling Himalayan Region, is a land dominated by the colossal bulk of Kanchenjunga the world's third highest peak at nearly 28,000 feet.
A fabulous landscape of knife-edge ridges and plunging valleys nurtures an astonishing flora which first drew the West's attention after a visit by the Victorian explorer-botanist Sir Joseph Hooker. We are indebted to Hooker for his introduction of so many plants including some of the world's most beautiful Orchids and finest Rhododendrons. The amazingly varied forests harbour an astounding variety of Orchids, Sikkim alone has more than five hundred species, but it is the sheer beauty of some of the species that just takes the breath away. There’s Paphiopedilum venustum whose amazing multi-hued blooms look they ought to be able to fly. We’ll seek the lovely Cymbidium hookerianum, a large-flowered species with vibrant green sepals and a white and orange lip. Our local guide is orchid expert and horticulturist Sailesh Pradhan, the son of Keshab C Pradhan who in 1963 discovered the glory that is Paphiopedilum fairraeinum in southern Sikkim. Well visit one of the only two known habitats for this extraordinary plant, each bloom like a blackberry ripple patterned sci-fi throne! With less than fifty plants left in the wild this species is on the verge of extinction. Fabulous clumps of Pleione praecox are an amazing sight and we’ll see other members of this choice genus such as Pleione hookeriana decorating mossy boulders and shadey grottos.
The sheer variety of form of some the blooms is unbelievable. The lip ornamentation of the brilliant orange-yellow Dendrobium hookerianum is extraordinary while Bulbophyllum leopardianum has clusters of cute little flowers that look like they’ve contracted scarlet fever! Aerides odoratum has curved wands covered in lovely pink, white and yellow blooms, Spathoglottis ixioides large flowers of buttercup-yellow, and we’ll walk in forests decorated with the long tasselled inflorescences of Pholidota imbricata. Goodyera hemsleyana has the most marvellous netted leaves whilst Odontochilus grandiflorus has flowers that are almost impossible to describe though something from an opera might give an idea! And we cannot miss Sikkim's state flower - Dendrobium nobile. We’ll spend much of our time visiting natural habitats for these species however we’ll also spend some time visiting CITES registered orchid nurseries which cultivate many of these choice species.
But it’s not all orchids. We’ll see swarms of multicoloured Primulas while Cobra-Lilies are represented by several species whose magical mix of mysterious shapes and pattern verges on the bizarre. A week or two later there is an incomparable display of magnificent blooms of Rhododendrons, among them big-leaved hodgsonii, clear yellow campylocarpum, epiphytic white dalhousiae, and lavender-pink niveum, but even now we’ll see a goodly number. Bharal graze amidst the floral magnificence and birdlife includes enigmatic Ibisbill, beautiful Blood Pheasant, the brilliant hues of the Fire-tailed Sunbird, and a whole gaggle of laughingthrush species!
Sikkim's buddhist heritage will not be forgotten. We'll visit picturesque old monasteries as well as meeting the friendly mountain peoples, a mix of Nepalese, Lepchas, Bhutias and Limbus, whose language gave the state its name "sukh-im" meaning 'happy homeland'
Orchids. Also other Flora, especially Rhododendrons, Arisaemas and Primulas. Landscapes and Butterflies.
Sailesh Pradhan, Oron Peri
We will be ambling no more than three or four couple of miles in any one day, and always slowly!
Included in the Price
All flights. All transport, accommodation and meals in India. Entrance fees to reserves and natural parks. Services of your leaders. Please note: items of a personal nature such as travel insurance, drinks and tips, are not included.
Minimum is 4 and the maximum is 12.
This tour features some very fine small hotels throughout the tour. After a night in Delhi's comfortable Ashok Country Resort we travel to Gangtok in Sikkim and spend three nights at the lovely wooden-built Orchid Glade. In Dzongu we’ve two nights at the homely Munlom Nature Resort. In Lachung we’ve two nights at the exquisite Yarlam Resort, a very fine hotel. Next is a single night at Ravangla at the Buddha Retreat, before we go on to Yuksam and Hotel Tashi Gang where we’ll have two nights in their very comfortable rooms. We’ve one night in the Norbu Gang Resort in Pelling before we visit Kalimpong for a two night stay at the Orchid Retreat. This fine resort has lovely rooms, fine food, and the mostlovely gardens. The final night of the tour is back in the Ashok Country Resort close by Delhi’s airport. All rooms on this tour have en suite facilities.
UK return flights are from London Heathrow to Bagdogra via Delhi. Indirect routes from regional UK Airports* are available.
*These routes may incur a supplement.
Very pleasant. Mornings are cool and days pleasantly warm. We can expect occasional rain, usually as afternoon showers, in all areas.
How to Book
Contact us to check there is availability for the number of places you require. Download a booking form or contact us and we will send one to you. Complete and send to us. You will receive confirmation of your place and then a detailed information pack will be dispatched to you about twelve weeks before departure. This will contain up-to-date health information. Flower, butterfly and bird checklists are available.