High in the Himalayas, the spirit is satiated in countless ways. One becomes aware of proportion, the immense massifs making microscopic the objects of human scale. The people of Bhutan live with the mountains and ornament them with elegant temples dedicated to Hindu gods and Buddha alike. Here designs of astonishing beauty and elegance lighten the spirit as at the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal. Walk through parks and reserves that provide sanctuary to diverse populations of wildlife. In Nepal, time honored and honed techniques assist artisans in creating works of great intricacy beneath the shining face of Annapurna. Here, sky meets earth and elevates the senses, especially that of wonder, to new heights.
Very Active. May involve strenuous hikes, severe stair climbing, arduous activities, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
Bhutan has a big altitude range, from subtropical valleys to alpine peaks, which determines when to travel. The ideal time for trekking and for traveling throughout the country is autumn, from late September to late November, when skies are generally clear and the high mountain peaks rise to a vivid blue sky. The monsoon season is from June through September and travel to Bhutan during this time period can be difficult. For our program, optimal time to visit Bhutan is October through April.
Nepal has a typical monsoonal, two season year. The dry season runs from October to May and the wet (monsoon) season from June to September. Autumn (September to November) and spring (March to May) bring almost perfect weather and are definitely the best times to visit Nepal. For our program, optimal time to visit Nepal is late February through April and mid-September through early December.
Winters in Tibet (November to March) are cold; Summers (May to September) have warm days with strong sunshine and cool nights. During spring and autumn one can encounter the four seasons in one day, including the possibility of snowfall. Lhasa should be avoided the first week of May and the first week of October when it swarms with Chinese tourists. Spring, early summer and late autumn are the best times to visit Tibet. For our program, optimal time to visit Tibet is April/May/September/October.
Board your flight to Bhutan, via Bangkok, arriving the next day. Transfer to your luxury hotel in the heart of Thimpu, Bhutan’s capital city. TAJ TASHI. (Meals Aloft)
Begin your foray into Bhutanese culture as you tour the National Institute of Traditional Medicine where allopathic and traditional approaches to healing are taught. Afterward, visit the Folk Heritage Museum for insights into Bhutanese culture. Stop at Dochula Pass for a spectacular 360-degree view of the Himalayas. DENSA BOUTIQUE HOTEL. (B,L,D)
Start the day with a hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal temple, a wonderful example of Bhutanese architecture and artistic traditions, which dominates the upper Punakha Valley and commands views across the Mo Chhu River to the mountainous peaks of Gasa. Move on to the Punakha Dzong, a Buddhist fortress that lies at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers. Be amazed by the intricacies of its architecture and engrossed by Buddhist statues and paintings. DENSA BOUTIQUE HOTEL. (B,L,D)
Today, tour the scenic Taktsang Monastery, a prominent Himalayan Buddhist site and temple complex. Visits on day five include Simtokha Dzong, built in 1629, often said to be the first dzong built in Bhutan and the Paro Dzong. Next day, explore Drukgyel Dzong and finish up with a challenging 2-3 hour trek up to Taktsang Monastery, one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan. ZHIWA LING HOTEL. (B,L,D Daily)
Fly to Kathmandu and then drive to the magnificent temple of Pashupatinath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dedicated to the Hindu God of Destruction, Lord Shiva. Move on to Boudhanath Stupa, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is one of the most imposing landmarks of Kathmandu and a center of Tibetan Buddhism. Your hotel houses an extensive collection of artifacts from the 13th century onwards, and the buildings and courtyards showcase some of Nepal’s finest craftsmanship. DWARIKA’S HOTEL. (B)
Delve deep into Nepalese culture and religious history on today’s tour. Swayambhunath Stupa is a UNESCO WORLD Heritage Site and one of the most sacred Buddhist shrines of Nepal. The area surrounding the stupa is filled with smaller temples, painted images and numerous statues of Tantric and shamanistic deities. Visit the small venerable village o f Khokana and observe as villagers go about their daily life. Learn about their long practiced and unusual mustard-oil harvesting process. Next is the more secluded Bungamati village which remains relatively unaffected by outside influences. Here you will find quite a few craft shops where you can watch as local Newari people busily create intricate designs on wood or stone. End the day in the artisan city of Patan, home to learned craftsmen who use the ancient techniques of repoussé and lost wax process to produce exquisite sculptures. DWARIKA’S HOTEL. (B)
Today’s short flight whisks you to Pokhara, a place of remarkable natural beauty with views of the spectacular Annapurna massif. Highlights include the Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave (one of the longest in Nepal), Devils Fall, and the Tibetan Refugee Camp, where the Tibetan residents keep themselves busy by producing and trading in woolen carpets and other handicraft items. Your stunning lodge is perched 1,000 feet above Pokhara Valley with a spectacular Himalayan backdrop. TIGER MOUNTAIN POKHARA LODGE (B,L,D Daily)
Drive to Chitwan National Park, rich in flora and fauna and an ideal place for nature enthusiasts. The park boasts a variety of wildlife, including various types of deer, monkey, leopard, bear, crocodile, the great Indian one horned rhinoceros, and the elusive royal Bengal tiger. Explore the park through elephant back rides, jungle walks, jeep excursions, canoeing, and bird watching. Situated along the banks of the Rapti River and directly overlooking the Park, your lodge affords you wildlife viewing from the comfort of your own verandah in addition to exceptional service and comfort. BARAHI JUNGLE LODGE. (B,L,D Daily)
Fly back to Kathmandu today where the remainder of your day is at leisure. Next day, you are transferred to the airport for your return flights home. (B; B, Meals Aloft)
Continue on to Tibet to expand your exploration of this unique part of the world. Spend five days in Lhasa, ‘the land of the gods’ and the heart and soul of Tibet. Visit the immense Potala Palace, which has served as the chief residence of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century. Just a short stroll away is Norbulingka (Treasure Park), the biggest man-made garden in Tibet with an abundance of chapels, gardens, fountains, and pools. Tour some of the university monasteries, Buddhist think-tanks where lively debates on Buddhist doctrines are often held, and Samye Monastery, with its sacred mandala design, a popular pilgrimage destination for Tibetan Buddhists, some of whom travel on foot for weeks to reach it.
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