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Planning January in Sikkim - all help much appreciated

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Well, I've begun to plan our January trip to Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kolkata. Kolkata and Darjeeling will be a breeze to plan myself but Sikkim - not so much.

Here's the deal. My husband and I fly into Kolkata from Los Angeles, arriving January 5th at 1:50AM!!! I'm tempted to get a room near the airport and take the earliest flight out to Bagdogra. From Bagdogra, up to Darjeeling first, then Sikkim. I know from reading Kathie's trip report to Darjeeling and Sikkim that it might be wiser to hit Sikkim after Darjeeling, thus avoiding a big letdown in Darjeeling.

Are two nights in Darjeeling enough?

Are nine nights in Sikkim too many? I haven't decided on an itinerary yet for Sikkim - any advice?

Then Kolkata for two nights?

Maybe seven nights in Sikkim are enough, adding a night to both Darjeeling and Kolkata?

I know it will be very cold in Sikkim so our hotels must have heating of some sort in our room. I don't care about the hallways or common areas, but a good night's sleep is where it's at.

I have contacted three travel operators in Sikkim (Yak n Yeti, Dikcha and Blue Sky Tours) for air from/to Kolkata, hotels and transportation in Sikkim. First of all I hope one or more gets back to me. Secondly, I know they will all try to shackle me with a tour guide, which I usually hate. Does anyone think a guide is necessary for Sikkim? I'd rather just hire someone in one or more cities or towns if I feel we need one.

I love art, history, culture and meeting and talking to local folks. Short hikes are always something we not only enjoy but NEED, especially after a few hours pounding our way along North Indian roads. There is a harvest festival January 14thm Magh Sankantri, and I'm wondering if there is any particular place where that celebration will be more festive? I know it is called by a couple of different names, but I think it might be fun to celebrate.

Well, that's it for now. I will keep you up to date on any decisions I make or questions I have and welcome any comments. Thanks all of you...this will be an exciting adventure.

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