Starts any day. January; April to December17 days from $7645.00
Arrive Paro & Thimphu, Bhutan
Welcome to Bhutan! The Dragon Kingdom of Bhutan is the last of the Buddhist kingdoms that once occupied a vast area of the Himalayas. You are met upon arrival at the Paro airport by your driver and guide.
Travel through spectacular mountain scenery and serene countryside to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. Sandwiched in the heart of the Himalayas, Thimphu is a small, charming city, with all the buildings constructed and painted in the traditional Bhutanese style. Arrive in Thimphu by late afternoon. (D)
Today, wind your way through one of Bhutan’s loveliest valleys, viewing pristine landscapes, crystal clear mountain views, idyllic farmhouses, and small monasteries. The great fortresses, known as dzongs, are among the most striking examples of Bhutanese architecture. Rising proudly at strategic places—at the entrance to a valley, at the summit of a hill or at the confluence of two rivers—dzongs are built on a grand scale without the help of any drawings and are held together without a single nail. (B,L,D)
Thimphu to Punakha
This morning, take a close look today at the Bhutanese art forms that continue to flourish in everyday life - weavings, woodcarvings and the traditional art of painting Thangkhas (sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). Explore the folk heritage museum and National Textile Museum before departing for the drive to Punakha. En route, traverse Dochula Pass (10,500 ft.) and see one of Bhutan's most breathtaking views – a plethora of colorful rhododendron blossoms and soft green wild herbs and forest trees dot a canvas of alpine snow. Enjoy panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges, and the fertile valley of Punakha (4,430 feet).
Late afternoon arrive in Punakha, formerly established as Bhutan’s winter capital because of its more temperate valley climate. Enjoy an excursion to Chimi Lhakhang, also known as the temple of fertility, situated on a hillock in the center of the valley. It is widely believed that couples who do not have children should pray at this temple, and are usually blessed with a child very soon. (B,L,D)
Punakha to Paro
This morning, take a short morning drive through the valley, then a trek up to the majestic Khamsung Yuely Namgyel Temple. Enjoy the grand views of the Mo Chu River Valley, before your meandering walk down through terraced rice fields and small villages.
Next, your guide drives you to the Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 as both the religious and the administrative center of the country. From this spectacular setting you can look back to see the Khamsung Yuely Namgyel Temple perched on the hillside far in the distance.
Then depart Punakha for the scenic drive to Paro, arriving at your hotel in the afternoon. Later in the day, visit Rinpung Dzong, meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore. (B,L,D)
Paro & Tiger’s Nest
This morning, your guide leads you on a hike to the enchanting "Tiger's Nest,” the Taktsang Monastery viewpoint. Built around a cave where the Guru Rinpoche meditated, this monastery impossibly seems to cling to a cliff of rock 3,000 feet above the valley floor.
The Taktsang Monastery is one of the most venerated pilgrim sites of the Himalayan world, containing 13 holy places. Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Lair”, gets its name from the Bhutanese legend - In the 8th century, Guru Rinpoche came to Taktsang in a miraculous manner, flying on the back of a tigress from Khenpajong in the region of Kurteop.
The hike takes about 5 hours roundtrip, and is challenging, but unforgettably thrilling and mystical. (Transport by pony is available on the ascent, if you do not wish to hike. Walking is mandatory on the descent.)
Afternoon visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique Thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts. (B,L,D)
Paro to Kathmandu, Nepal
You are transferred to the airport this morning for the flight to Kathmandu in Nepal. It is said that there is a temple or idol for every soul living in the city. Kathmandu is a treasure house, with its ancient temples, wild looking holy men and fascinating melting pot of Indian and Tibetan cultures.
This afternoon, visit the 1500 year-old stupa of Boudhanath, one of the largest in the world. It stands on an octagonal base inset with prayer wheels and ringed by houses of lamas. It was built by King Manadeva on the advice on the goddess Mani Jogini. Next, see the temple of Pashupatinath. The cremation ground is near the temple and the ashes of the cremated are sprinkled into the waters of the Bagmati, eventually carried to the sacred Ganges. (B,D)
Early this morning, thrill to an exhilarating one hour mountain flightseeing journey to view the dramatic Himalayas and glorious Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth (weather permitting).
Back on the ground, spend the rest of the day touring the valley and the royal city Patan, built in 3rd century by Emperor Ashoka, and enclosed within four stupas. Explore this city filled with wood and stone carvings, metal statues, over 1200 monuments, and ornate architecture, including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples. This ‘City of Fine Arts’ is also known for its rich tradition of arts and handicrafts - watch hand carpet-weaving at the Handicraft Center. (B,L)
Kathmandu to Pokhara
Today take a scenic 30 minute flight to Pokhara City, in the picturesque Pokhara Valley. Upon arrival you are met, and escorted to your hotel.
After a chance to rest, spend the afternoon exploring Pokhara. Enjoy a boat excursion on deep-blue Phewa Lake, the second largest lake in Nepal. Visit Barahi Temple. The most important monument in Pokhara, this two-story pagoda is dedicated to the boar manifestation of Ajima. See Davis Falls, and Gupteshwar Cave, almost 2 miles long, the cave has large rooms and is home to a valued Hindu symbol of Lord Shiva. Next, visit a Tibetan Refugee camp before returning to your hotel. (B,L)
Arise early this morning to experience sunrise from Sarangkot Hill (5220 ft.), and the magnificent Himalayan panorama view. On a clear day, you can see spectacular views of the snowcapped mountains that include Mount Annapurna, Mount Fishtail, and Mount Dhaulagiri.
On the way back to the city, stop at Bindhebasini Temple, the center of religious activities in Pokhara. Then wander the old market for the feel of a true Nepalese bazaar. (B)
Pokhara to Bardia National Park
Today, fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj airport, and then drive through fascinating Tharu villages to the edge of Bardia National Park, the largest and most undisturbed wilderness area in Nepal.
Arrive at your “Tiger Tops” lodge in Bardia this afternoon. (B,L,D)
Bardia National Park
This morning explore Bardia National Park on a Jeep Safari. Experience the beauty of this region full of wildlife, including deer, chital, sambar, wild boar, monkeys, elephant, tigers, leopards, crocodiles and 300 species of birds. Visit the Tharu museum to learn more about the local people, and the crocodile breeding center to observe the Gharial and Marsh Mugger Crocodiles being bred for eventual release into the park.
Return to the lodge for lunch, before heading out on an evening expert-guided elephant safari. Visit the Elephant Stable to learn about the Asian elephant, before beginning your memorable guided trek to a local village. (B,L,D)
Bardia National Park to Kathmandu
This morning you are driven back to Nepalgunj airport for your flight to Kathmandu.
Upon arrival enjoy an excursion east of the city to the simple farming village of Nagarkot. Located at 7,000 feet, the village is renowned for its sunrise and sunset views of the Himalaya including Mount Everest, as well as a panoramic view of the Kathmandu Valley. After admiring the glorious sunset, drive back to your Kathmandu hotel. (B)
Kathmandu to Lhasa, Tibet
Board a morning flight to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Lhasa was built around the sacred Jokhang Temple, where yak-butter lamps, lama chants, horns, bells and devout pilgrims provide a dramatic setting to observe close up the resurgence of the ancient Tibetan Buddhist religion in modern day Tibet.
Arrive at your hotel by late afternoon. (B,L)
Direct flights between Kathmandu and Lhasa change from time to time and may require an extra day in Kathmandu or one less day in Lhasa. At the time of confirmation we will adjust the routing accordingly.
Spend these two days exploring the rich cultural history of Lhasa and Tibet.
The Old City of Lhass was built around the Jokhang, which is the most sacred temple in Tibet. It was established in the 7th century, when Buddhism was first introduced into Tibet and, since its founding, has been considerably enlarged, particularly during the reign of the Great 5th Dalai Lama. Within the Jokhang, there are a series of temples situated on the ground and the upper floors. After the Cultural Revolution, these temples were left in various states of repair. Visit this area full of temples, pilgrims praying and traditional markets. At the main entrance see pilgrims prostrating themselves as they conduct their prayers before continuing on their ritual circuit around the temple. Explore the Barkor Bazaar, with its multitude of stalls selling anything from ceremonial scarves to Chinese thermos flasks.
Drive on a breathtaking ascent to the iconic and lofty Potala Palace, formerly the winter residence of the Dalai Lama. This majestic palace seems to grow out of the rocks into the crisp dry air above. Built in the 17th century, it contains hundreds of rooms, labyrinthine corridors, and lavish decorations provide insight into the glory that was the Tibetan kingdom. Visit the White and Red Palaces, containing the Dalai Lama’s former living quarters, the Great West Hall, and the splendid West Chapel. See the eight gold stupas, which were the tombs of the Dalai Lamas.
Your tour of Lhasa also includes Norbulingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. Built on the banks of the Kyichu River in 1755, the palace grounds cover more than 100 acres of jewel-like parks, immaculate gardens, wild forests, and stately pavilions. The massive palace has 374 rooms. (2B,2L)
Yamdrok Tsho Lake Excursion
Embark on the drive of a lifetime along the Lhasa-Kathmandu Southern Highway that runs parallel to the Himalayas. After you cross the Yarlungdzangbo River, the road gradually climbs to Kamba La (15,820 ft.), where you have your first view of brilliant turquoise blue Yamdrok Tso Lake. This is one of the four holiest lakes of Tibet and the home of wrathful deities. Along with the lake, the view in the distance massif of Mt. Nojin Kangtsang (23,586 ft.) can be seen.
Explore this beautiful lake and learn about its nature and history before you return to Lhasa by the late afternoon. (B)
Today you are transferred to the Lhasa airport for your flight home or onto your next destination. (B)
Taj Tashi, Thimphu
Set in the heart of the Thimphu Valley, the Taj Tashi, is a blend of Bhutan's Dzong architecture and modern design. While enjoying breathtaking views of the mountains that rise above the Thimphu valley, guests can sample Bhutan's fiery cuisine, and gaze at the mesmerizing prayer wheels through its panoramic windows. Other warm and invigorating features at the hotel include an indoor heated swimming pool, fitness center and the elaborate Taj Spa, with its special Bhutanese Hot Stone Bath Adorned with classical hand-drawn Buddhist murals, the 66 elegant guestrooms are adorned with swirls of hand-painted murals of clouds (a recurring motif in Bhutanese art), and take in sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. Elegant, expansive and luxuriously appointed, these spacious rooms with large bathrooms afford guests tantalizing views of the pine-topped mountains. Accompanying bathrooms feature fine fittings and amenities like floor warmers and bath-towel heaters.
Uma by COMO, Punakha
Uma by COMO, Punakha, only the second hotel in Bhutan, is an intimate, luxury lodge located at the far western end of the lush Punakha Valley. From our picturesque base overlooking a snake-like bend in the Mo Chu river, Uma Punakha is ideally located for those who wish to explore this remote Himalayan Kingdom. Those seeking more than just luxury accommodation in Bhutan will not be disappointed by Uma by COMO, Punakha. The property is part of the landscape, nestled on a hillside at a bend in the Mo Chu river. This means every room commands sweeping views of the Punakha Valley and the Mo Chu as it winds its way through the rice fields and orchards. Two villas - a two-bedroom COMO Villa ideal for families and a One-Bedroom Villa perfect for couples - provide not just privacy but soul-stirring views of the forest, mountains and the surrounding valley. Our eight deluxe Valley View rooms, some with private terraces, share similar breathtaking views and come with king-size beds or twins and spacious bathrooms. The result is a luxury escape that feels sleek yet connected to its context.
Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Paro
The 45-room Zhiwa Ling hotel combines the sensibilities of a fine Bhutanese guesthouse with the best of 21st century technology. Envisioned and created by a local Bhutanese company, the hotel’s elaborate hand-carved wooden cornices and masterful stonework coexist beautifully with cutting-edge telecommunication systems and Swedish under-floor heating. Honoring the spiritual heritage of this ancient Buddhist kingdom, a temple has been built into the second floor of the hotel, made with 450-year-old timbers from the famous Gangtey Monastery, the crowning glory of this new cultural landmark.
Dwarika's Hotel, Kathmandu
The magnificence of Dwarika's is its buildings of intricate carved wood and terracotta work that must have taken 10 million hours of the best craftsmen in Nepal. Every brick is handmade and every piece of wood work a centuries old original. But Dwarika's is also about intimate luxury and the spirit and hospitality of the Nepali people.
Shangri-La Village Resort, Pokhara
The Shangri-La Village Pokhara is your ideal Pokhara accommodation choice offering fabulous mountain views, spacious hotel rooms,luxury spa and of course, first class service. Experience for yourself our exceptional facilities and including one of the best restaurant and bar venues.
Tiger Tops Karnali Lodge, Bardia
With nine newly decorated rooms Karnali Lodge is the epitome of comfort. The rooms, designed to minimize their impact on the environment, are adorned in soft natural colors and fabrics. As part of its commitment to responsible tourism, Karnali Lodge runs almost entirely on solar energy. For ten years Karnali has been cultivating its own organic vegetable farm. Today the Lodge is close to self-sufficient, providing an abundant array of fresh fruit and vegetables for guests to enjoy. Unwind in a sunny spot at the Lodge garden, curl up with a good book and cool drink, and idle the day away. An area of extraordinary beauty and abundant wildlife, a visit to Karnali Lodge is a journey of adventure.
Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa
You arrive at the luxury urban resort of Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa to find a copy of Lost Horizon by James Hilton in your elegant and spacious room. This is the legendary story of Shangri-La, a paradise for travellers high among the Himalayas – and the inspiration for the hotel's brand. There are several relaxing retreats that you can enjoy, perhaps a cup of tea while reading the book on the cool patio of the Lodgers Lounge, overlooking the city and majestic mountains or as the temperature drops in the peaceful night, you marvel at your experience in Lhasa so far. You have found your way to the original Shangri-La. Guests can enjoy stunning views of Potala Palace or the breathtaking mountains and relax among traditional Tibetan architecture and interior design.