Backpacking Through Eastern Himalayas Made Easy With This 15 day Travel Itinerary
India is undoubtedly a culturally, historically and geographically diverse country and is quite famous for backpackers around the world. While backpackers mostly look at Rajasthan to experience the royal history of India or Himachal or Uttarakhand in the Northern parts to experience the life in the Himalayas, the Eastern Himalayas spread over the states of Sikkim and West Bengal are often overlooked.
The Eastern Himalayas are spread over northern part of West Bengal, Sikkim and then stretches over to Nepal, North East India and further till Tibet Autonomous region of China and Myanmar. This entire region is culturally vibrant and is home to countless beautiful destinations for all kinds of travellers. But when it comes to the thrill of backpacking, it is even better because there are many destinations in these regions which are situated in remote locations and it requires a bit of madness and adrenaline rush to push yourselves reach there.
In this blog, I intend to pen down a detailed guide for backpackers who wish to embark upon a journey to the Eastern Himalayas in India. How this is different from any other travel guides is the fact that I’d list out recommendations of comfortable hostels, backpacker friendly cafes where you can meet people from all around the globe and tricks and tips on how to get the best deals while not compromising with safety and comfort.
- 15 day Detailed Travel Itinerary for Backpacking through Eastern Himalayas
- Day 1 : Bagdogra to Darjeeling
- Day 2 : Explore Darjeeling
- Day 3 : Darjeeling to Chatakpur
- Day 4 : Chatakpur to Darjeeling | Darjeeling to Kalimpong
- Day 5 : Explore Kalimpong
- Day 6 : Kalimpong to Pedong
- Day 7 : Explore Pedong and nearby villages
- Day 8 : Pedong to Kalimpong and Kalimpong to Gangtok
- Day 9 : Explore Gangtok
- Day 10 : Gangtok to Lachen
- Day 11 : Visit Gurudongmar Lake and back to Gangtok
- Day 12 : Gangtok to Pelling
- Day 13 : Explore Pelling
- Day 14 : Pelling to Siliguri
- Day 15 : Fly Out from Bagdogra
- 15 Day Eastern Himalayas Travel Itinerary – Summary
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Know your base
To travel to the destinations in the Eastern Himalayas, you should book your tickets to Bagdogra Airport or New Jalpaiguri Railway Station. Many articles may direct you to reach Siliguri first so do not get confused on this. These are all the same place – Siliguri is the town, the airport is in the outskirts i.e. Bagdogra and the Railway Station is in another part of the city and goes by the name New Jalpaiguri Railway Station.
Siliguri is also known as the chicken neck of India as it is the gateway to the North East and the hills of Darjeeling, Sikkim. Three international borders of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh can also be accessed through Siliguri. After you finish your trip to the Himalayan regions, you can come back to Siliguri and commence your journey towards Nepal or Bhutan.
15 day Detailed Travel Itinerary for Backpacking through Eastern Himalayas
Here below is a 15 day Itinerary that takes you through a bunch of exciting places in the Eastern Himalayan region of India.
Day 1 : Bagdogra to Darjeeling
How to reach Darjeeling?
- As stated earlier, you need to fly to Bagdogra, which is the nearest airport from Darjeeling.
- From Bagdogra Airport, you can find cabs on reserved basis which would cost you around 3000 INR. This works fine for groups but may not be the best option for solo travellers.
- Solo travellers can opt to book a seat in Wizzride. It is an online cab service that lets you pre book your journey on a preferred time and choose a seat of your own choice. It is much more comfortable than running to the taxi stand in town and getting onto a shared Sumo as their starting point is the airport itself.
- It roughly takes about 3 hours to reach Darjeeling from Bagdogra. Could be little more at peak seasons due to traffic.
After a beautiful journey through winding roads, you’d find yourself walking amidst mist and clouds in the majestic town of Darjeeling. You are sure to fall in love with the serene landscapes, old world charm and hospitality of the people. As you walk around the town, you will encounter traces of colonial architecture adding a prominent character to Darjeeling.
The evening can be spent by taking a stroll around the Mall Road, locally known as Chowrasta. Enjoy a dinner at Glenary’s, an iconic restaurant and confectionary running for more than 100 years in the heart of Darjeeling.
Where to stay in Darjeeling?
Hostels : Hideout Backpacker’s Hostel
Where to eat in Darjeeling?
- Head to Glenary’s for a dinner or check the Buzz – a pub in the basement floor of Glenary’s where you can get an experience the local music scene.
- Tom and Jerry for lip-smacking burgers and mulled wine.
- Himalayan Coffee for coffee and desserts.
- Machan for tea and quick bites.
- Dumpling Hub for Momos, Thukpa and Korean cuisine.
Day 2 : Explore Darjeeling
Start your day with a sumptuous breakfast at Keventer’s, popular among tourists for its breakfast platters. Post breakfast head out to take a tour of the town. Now it depends on your choice if you’d want to take one of those touristy sightseeing packages or would want to explore the city on your own. You can check with your hostel management if they can arrange for a sightseeing tour for you or look for one yourself. Usually, there are plenty of booking counters lined up across the town from where you can book a 7-point or a 9-point tour. Alternatively, you can rent a MTB from Hideout or any other rental services and explore Darjeeling on your own. The places you should visit in Darjeeling are listed below:
DARJEELING HIMALAYAN RAILWAYS
Visit this UNESCO World Heritage site, The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, more famously known as the toy train. One of the major tourist attractions in Darjeeling at present, the old steam engines still run on specific days to give the visitors an exhilarating experience. Check this blog on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways if you wish to know more about this 140 year old wonder.
HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINEERING INSTITUTE (HMI)
HMI is one of the most celebrated mountaineering institutes in India. The institute was established in 1957 to facilitate educational activities associated with mountaineering, preserve Himalayan art and culture and educate people about the flora and fauna of the Himalayas. HMI has a museum adorned with models, paintings, sculptures, photographs, manuscripts, books, monographs, artefacts and equipment related to mountaineering and is a must visit.
PADMAJA NAIDU HIMALAYAN ZOOLOGICAL PARK
If you have visited HMI, you will not miss the Padmaja Naidu Zoological Park. They are located in the same complex. This place is internationally known for its conservation breeding programmes of Red Panda, Snow Leopards, Tibetan Wolf and other endangered species of Eastern Himalayas. You will be able to spot all of these animals as you walk down the zoo.
BATASIA LOOP AND WAR MEMORIAL
Batasia Loop is located a little far from the centre of the town. It is basically a garden on an elevated land where the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway makes a sharp loop like bend around the garden. The garden also houses a war memorial dedicated to the soldiers who belonged to Darjeeling and lost their lives in several wars. This iconic spot is a must visit.
Located about 7 kms away from Darjeeling, the Samten Choling Monastery, also known as Ghoom Monastery is a great place to experience the prominence of Buddhism in Darjeeling. Subject to current restrictions and regulations you might not be able to enter the monastery, but you sure can go around and explore the place. If you’re lucky and the restrictions are lifted, you might as well get a chance to interact with the monks look through the collection of Buddhist books and manuscripts that is treasured in this monastery.
JAPANESE TEMPLE AND PEACE PAGODA
Situated at the slopes of Jalapahar Hill, the Japanese Peace Padoga is just about a 10 minute’s drive away from Darjeeling Town. The divine atmosphere along with unparalleled views of the mountains will surely leave you in awe upon your visit.
To have a more detailed idea on how to plan your stay, more places to visit in Darjeeling and alternative accommodation options, check this Darjeeling Travel Guide.
Day 3 : Darjeeling to Chatakpur
Most of the travel guides you find online will not have Chatakpur included in a conventional itinerary. Chatakpur is one of the many offbeat Himalayan Destinations in West Bengal. Located amidst the Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary, Chatakpur is a remote village which has fortunately stayed out of the reach of commercialisation.
How to reach Chatakpur?
- There is no shared cab service to Chatakpur and the travel can get a bit expensive for solo travelers.
- A reserved vehicle all the way to Chatakpur from Darjeeling would cost about 2500-3000 INR. Make sure you negotiate well on this.
- The second option is to take a shared cab till Sonada which would cost you about 100 INR and from Sonada, take a reserved cab to Chatakpur that’d cost about 1000 INR. Even if it is more time consuming, it will help you save more than a thousand bucks.
If you start early, you’d be in Chatakpur by 9am. The journey takes an hour and a half at the most.
Where to stay in Chatakpur?
In Chatakpur, the only options for accommodation are family run Home-stays and I can guarantee that staying at a homestay is the best way to experience the local culture and food. I’d highly recommend Sunrise Homestay (+91 8116969563) in Upper Chatakpur, run by Mr. Angchu Sherpa. The best part of this homestay is its location. It is located at the topmost point of the village from where you can witness a gorgeous sunrise.
In case this place is occupied, you can check the listings of Home-stays on Humro Home.
Most of these home-stays charge on the basis of number of people. The stay along with 3 meals and evening snacks (and unlimited tea) would cost you between 1200-1500 INR for a day.
What to do in Chatakpur?
- Enjoy unobstructed views of the Kanchenjunga. Make sure you do not miss to catch the sunrise, which is the major highlight of this destination.
- Take a walk to the view point to witness a beautiful sunset and enjoy a 360 degree view of the entire place. But the watch tower at this view point usually stays crowded so it would be better to not risk it and find an alternative spot to witness the sunrise.
- Take a walk to the forests of Senchal Wildlife Sanctuary. There is a small pond in the middle of the forest where you can walk to. But make sure you return before it gets dark because it is located right inside the deep forests and the animals come here to drink water.
- The forests in Chatakpur are a home to species like the Barking Deer, Great Himalayan Black Beer, Leopard and Antelopes. You may even spot a Red Panda if you happen to be lucky.
Day 4 : Chatakpur to Darjeeling | Darjeeling to Kalimpong
Wake up to witness a magical sunrise in Chatakpur. The golden sun rays falling over snow covered peaks of Kanchenjunga is splendid sight to look at. Enjoy a homely breakfast in the outdoors and head back to Darjeeling following the same route. Try to ask your homestay owners if there are other groups heading back to Siliguri or Darjeeling. You can join their group to come down till Sonada from where you can hop onto a shared taxi to reach Darjeeling.
How to reach Kalimpong?
From Darjeeling taxi stand, take a shared vehicle to Kalimpong. These would be Tata Sumos and 10 people are made to sit in one Sumo. If you don’t want to compromise on your comfort, you can choose to book two front seats and travel comfortably. Each seat in these vehicles cost around 250 INR.
It generally takes about 3 hours to reach Kalimpong from Darjeeling.
Take rest for this evening upon reaching. You could probably indulge in some conversations with your hosts or learn how to make momos.
Where to stay in Kalimpong?
Where to eat in Kalimpong?
- Hit Cafe Kalimpong for the best Ting Momos, Jhol Momos, desserts and best beverages in town.
- Art cafe for local delicacies.
- The Noodle House to try on some Chinese and Korean cuisines.
- Grab some drinks at The Warehouse.
Day 5 : Explore Kalimpong
Kalimpong is a tiny town nestled in the northern part of Darjeeling district. It is comparatively less touristy than Darjeeling but happens to be as charming as Darjeeling, minus the crowd. With serene views of Kanchenjunga, vibrant monasteries, old churches and abundance of natural beauty, Kalimpong is a perfect destination for nature lovers. Dedicate your 5th day of this 15 Day Eastern Himalayas Travel Itinerary, to explore this beautiful town, Kalimpong.
Deolo Hill happens to be the highest point of Kalimpong. It is located about 10 kms away from the centre of the town. Situated at a height of approximately 5500 ft, Deolo Hill offers breathtaking views of the entire Kalimpong town, snow capped peaks of Kanchenjunga and river valleys. There is a recreational park at the top of the hill and you could also give a try to the paragliding experience offered in this place.
DR. GRAHAM’S HOMES
You can stop over to take a tour of Dr. Graham’s Homes while returning from Deolo Hill. It is located in the slopes of Deolo Hill. The entire campus of this institute is spread across 550 acres. The institution was established in the 1900s by Sir Anderson Graham, a Scottish Missionary. Apart from running a school, the institute offers number of vocational trainings. Dr. Graham’s Homes made significant contributions in the history of education in Kalimpong town. This place is open for visitors between 9am to 6pm.
Morgan House is a colonial cottage built in the 1930s. There are several stories that go around about Morgan House being haunted. Even if you don’t get to stay here and experience the spookiness, you should definitely visit Morgan House to admire the colonial architecture. Surrounded by beautiful landscapes full of greens, Morgan House looks like a frame straight out of an old movie.
Formerly known as Zong Dog Palri , the Durpin Monastery was consecrated by Dalai Lama in 1975. Located on top of Durpin Hill, the monastery is an important centre for followers of Buddhism. Various ancient paintings, sculptures and mandalas adorn the monastery which makes this place worth a visit. If your time of visit aligns, you may be able to join the evening prayers offered in the prayer hall in this monastery.
KALIMPONG CACTUS NURSERY
Kalimpong is well known for its beautiful flowers all across the town and there are many nurseries all across the town. But the Cactus Nursery is indeed a unique one where various species of exotic cactus, plants and flowers are conserved. It is a great place to learn about these plants and have a look at them.
Day 6 : Kalimpong to Pedong
Pedong is a quaint little hamlet near Kalimpong. It is merely 20 kms from Kalimpong town. Conventionally, Pedong is not a very touristy town and that is what makes it special. Untrodden paths, vistas of pine trees and clear blue skies is what I find most appealing.
How to reach Pedong?
- You might find shared cabs running towards Pedong from Kalimpong. The costs would be about 250 INR.
- A reserved cab would cost you about 2000 INR for a drop off.
- As this is not a route frequented by many tourists, the taxis would generally be lesser in number and hence it is advisable to start early.
Where to stay in Pedong?
A perfect abode for backpackers, Wheeler’s Hostel is where you should put up in Pedong where you would meet like minded travellers and amazing hosts.
Day 7 : Explore Pedong and nearby villages
In Pedong, there is no checklists to be followed. You can have this day to relax at the hostel or visit the nearby villages like Sillery Gaon. There is a beautiful location called Silent Valley just about 4 kms from Wheeler’s Hostel. You can hike to this place and spend some time amidst the woods. While returning, pay a visit to Sangchen Dorjee Monastery and its old premises located close to the hostel.
Day 8 : Pedong to Kalimpong and Kalimpong to Gangtok
Head back to Kalimpong from Pedong through the same route. You might have to walk up to Pedong market from where you will be able to find a vehicle for Kalimpong. From Kalimpong, your journey towards Gangtok begins.
How to reach Gangtok?
- Take a shared vehicle (Tata Sumos) from Kalimpong to Gangtok. It will cost you around 250-300 INR.
- Alternatively, a reserved taxi (a hatchback car) from Kalimpong to Gangtok would cost you about 3000 INR.
- You could also check Wizzride for shared cab services on this route.
- Keep a check on the website of Sikkim Tourism to know the travel protocols .
Where to stay in Gangtok?
Where to eat in Gangtok?
- Try the amazing range of all day breakfast platters at Baker’s Cafe and The Coffee Shop.
- Experience authentic Nepalese cuisines at Nimtho.
- Sass and Guff for Thai and Tibetian delicacies.
- Visit The Local Cafe to try out some great desserts.
- Attend a live gig at Cafe Live and Loud and do not miss out on their pizzas and cocktails.
Ideally, you could skip going out on this day after the long hour of being on the roads and chill at your backpacker’s hostel and interact with other travellers.
Day 9 : Explore Gangtok
Out of all other towns you will cover on this 15 Day Eastern Himalayas Itinerary, Gangtok is the largest and most organised one. Being the capital city of Sikkim, Gangtok has many places to explore – monasteries, view points, waterfalls and lots of cafes. Here too, you have the discretion to choose how you’d want to explore the city. Guided tours are offered by plenty of travel agents, the offices of which are lined up around MG Marg, the main tourist hub of Gangtok. Alternatively you can take a MTB on rent and explore the city on your own. Hub Outdoor is one such rental company with great customer service.
A few places of interest in Gangtok are:
Rumtek Monastery, also known as the Dharmachakra centre is one of the most noteworthy monasteries in Gangtok. Located about 25 kms from Gangtok, Rumtek Monastery is set amidst beautiful landscapes. The three stories of the monastery showcase thanka paintings, beautiful artefacts, Buddhist texts, silk compositions and statues. A visit to this monastery would help you gain profound knowledge of the Tibetan sect of Buddhism.
NAMGYAL INSTITUTE OF TIBETOLOGY
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is an institute and centre of research for Tibetan Buddhism. Religious and cultural artefacts and scriptures are carefully preserved in the museum and library of Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. Over 60,000 books are present in this library which includes the early teachings of Lord Buddha. History enthusiasts should definitely not miss out on this place.
TASHI VIEW POINT
Tashi Viewpoint offers picturesque views of Kanchenjunga. Head here at sunrise hours and experience a beautiful sunrise overlooking the city of Gangtok.
BAN JHAKRI FALLS
Ban Jhakri Falls is a natural waterfall located in the outskirts of Gangtok Town. The source of the waterfall is high altitude glaciers. It is a popular recreational spot for the locals as well as famous among tourists. You need to pay a nominal entry fee to enter the main park where the waterfall is located.
If time permits, pay a visit to the Flower Exhibition Centre, Do Drul Chorten, Enchhey Monastery or take a cable car ride from Deorali to capture some drone like videos of the bustling Gangtok city.
Day 10 : Gangtok to Lachen
Points to note before travelling to Lachen
- Lachen falls under North Sikkim district, which is a Protected Area due to its proximity with Indo-China border.
- Travelling to North Sikkim can get a bit tricky since you do not have the liberty to plan the trip on your own. The only option available is to book a package through a travel company/agent which is inclusive of vehicle charges, food and accommodation.
- Two kinds of packages are popular – a 1N/2D package, which I suggest you to take on this itinerary. The second is a 2N/3D package, which you can choose too if you have enough time to extend the itinerary.
- There are plenty of travel companies in Gangtok, the offices of which are lined up around MG Marg. Walk in to one of these offices and ask for a 1N/2D package to Lachen and Gurudongmar Lake. This should ideally cost you about 2000 INR for one person.
- Once you pay the advance, you will be required to submit photocopies of Identity Proof (carry your passport or Voter’s ID) and passport size photographs for the permits.
- Please note that you require a Travel Permit to enter North Sikkim and Foreign Nationals are not allowed to go to North Sikkim at all.
- It is advisable that you sort this out on your first day after you arrive in Gangtok so that you do not have to hurry in the last moment.
- To know more about tips and recommendations about traveling to North Sikkim, check this North Sikkim Travel Guide.
How to reach Lachen?
- As your permits have been made and you are assigned with a group, you will be ready to leave for Lachen by 9am.
- Though map shows much lesser time, it generally taken about 7-8 hours to reach Lachen from Gangtok, including the halts for lunch.
- Once you reach Lachen, you will be assigned a homestay by evening which is included in your package.
Make sure you get to bed early on this day as the next day involves long hours on the road.
Day 11 : Visit Gurudongmar Lake and back to Gangtok
On this day you will be required to wake up as early as 3am. The 60km drive to Gurudongmar Lake starts at 4am. It takes about 2 hours to reach Gurudongmar Lake, the major attraction why you are spending literally more than 20 hours on the roads in total.
But as you approach the lake and finally get a glimpse of the crystal clear waters, surrounded by prayer flags and snow clad peaks of the Eastern Himalayas, you will realise that all the pain was worth the experience.
After spending about 30 minutes by the lake, you will be asked to get back to your vehicle and to start the journey back. The breakfast would be provided in Lachen and post breakfast, the journey back to Gangtok begins. As you reach back to Gangtok by evening, check in to your hostel and relax for the remaining hours of the day.
Day 12 : Gangtok to Pelling
How to reach Pelling?
- Traveling from Gangtok to Pelling is quite an easy task. There are multiple options to cover this distance of 120 kms. It generally takes about 5 hours to reach Pelling.
- You can take a shared taxi to Pelling which would cost you about 300 INR. Again, you have the option to book two seats for the sake of convenience.
- If you do not manage to get a direct taxi to Pelling, hop onto one which is going to Jorethang. From Jorethang, you can take another taxi towards Pelling.
Where to stay in Pelling?
After checking in to your hostel, engage in conversations with your host to know more about the places of interest in Pelling. You can ask them to arrange for a tour for you or you may as well join the other groups if plans align.
Day 13 : Explore Pelling
Pelling is another quiet mountain town in Sikkim with great historical, cultural and spiritual significance. There are century old monasteries, engineering marvels and ruins of 19th century palace which make Pelling an important tourism hub in Sikkim. You can visit few of these places on a day long tour around the city.
This 300 years old Monastery in Pelling houses a large collection of Buddhist art, murals and scriptures. This monastery is a part of the Buddhist pilgrimage circuit in Sikkim that starts from Dubdi Monastery in Yuksom. Pemayangtse Monastery is one of the must visit places in Pelling.
Rabdentse Ruins was the palace of the King of Sikkim till 19th Century. Surrounded by deciduous and chestnut forests, the ruins still have remnants of the ancient stones which was the King’s seat. A visit to Rabdentse Ruins would be a strong encounter with Sikkim’s glorious history.
Perched atop a hill in Pelling, the skywalk is a first of its kind in India. The skywalk is a long bridge like structure made of glass. You can walk on this bridge to reach the 137 feet high statue of Chenregiz. The walk over this glass structure is a thrilling one as you can see through the glass as you walk along.
You could also drop in at the 16th century Sanga Choeling Monastery, located near the skywalk.
End this day early and head back to your hostel to prepare to leave the next day.
Day 14 : Pelling to Siliguri
Many people head back to Siliguri on the same day that they have their flights on. But that becomes highly risky if your flight is scheduled in the afternoon and practically impossible if it is scheduled in the first half of the day. It takes a little less than 5 hours to reach reach Siliguri from Pelling. But if you choose to travel by a shared vehicle, then it night as well take more than 5 hours.
If you do not find a direct shared cab to Siliguri, take one to Jorethang, which is a junction. From Jorethang, you will easily find another cab to Siliguri. Breaking the journey at Jorethang would also give you some time to have some tea or grab some momos.
Spend the night in Siliguri.
Where to stay in Siliguri?
Apart from these, you will also find dozens of mid-ranged and budget hotels near the Taxi stand in Siliguri Junction where you can walk in and book your stay.
Where to eat in Siliguri?
- Berlin Kaffehaus, King’s Savor, The Wood Apple are few of the best cafes of the city.
- Find the best Biryani of the town at Zauq.
- Head to The Tribe, Half Full, Hi Spirits for a lively evening.
Day 15 : Fly Out from Bagdogra
On your final and last day of backpacking across the Eastern Himalayas, fly out with a truckload of memories and a hope to return back one day to explore the remaining places.
15 Day Eastern Himalayas Travel Itinerary – Summary
Bagdogra – Darjeeling – Kalimpong – Pedong – Gangtok – Lachen – Gurudogmar Lake – Pelling – Bagdogra
Day 1 – Bagdogra to Darjeeling
Day 2 – Explore Darjeeling
Day 3 – Darjeeling to Chatakpur
Day 4 – Chatakpur to Darjeeling | Darjeeling to Kalimpong
Day 5 – Explore Kalimpong
Day 6 – Kalimpong to Pedong
Day 7 – Explore Pedong
Day 8 – Pedong to Kalimpong | Kalimpong to Gangtok
Day 9 – Explore Gangtok
Day 10 – Gangtok to Lachen
Day 11 – Gurudongmar Lake | Lachen to Gangtok
Day 12 – Gangtok to Pelling
Day 13 – Explore Pelling
Day 14 – Pelling to Bagdogra
Day 15 – Fly Out from Bagdogra
If you wish to travel further to the Eastern Himalayan regions in and beyond India, these blogs listed below will help you gain a better idea on which places should be in your list and how to plan your trip.
- 7 Day Arunachal Pradesh Itinerary
- A Comprehensive Travel Guide for Nepal
- A Guide for spending 2 days in Pokhara
- A 7-Day Travel Itinerary for Bhutan
- Thimpu City Guide
- 10 Offbeat Himalayan Destinations in West Bengal
- Sikkim Travel Guide
- North Sikkim 7 Day Itinerary and Guide
- 7 Day Meghalaya Travel Itinerary
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Hailing from the foothill town of Siliguri, Michelle takes keen interest in storytelling, through words and photographs. Having a home so close to the mountains is what she considers a gift. A law student and freelance content writer at present, she often takes time out to travel to the mountains and pen down her experiences. She believes in giving back to the community through volunteering in local projects and strongly supports community tourism.