This is an essential experience of two great Kingdoms snuggled inside the Himalayas.
Feel the graceful vibe of Punakha, ascend to the stunning Tiger’s Nest monastery, wander inside ancient Buddhist temples and be welcomed by delightful smiles from the locals. Bhutan is a country where quality of life is measured in terms of Gross National Happiness.
Explore Nepal’s cultural center the Durbar Square, gaze at the historic temples and stupas while you sink into the wilderness at the Bardia National Park. Holding the world’s highest mountain, a scenic flight over it is a dream come true.
This tour is a blend of the brilliant hues of Nepal and the distinctiveness of Bhutan. A sojourn here will surely move your soul.
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.
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.
You’ll discover Thimpu with a morning tour starting at the National Memorial Chorten (stupa), which dominates the skyline, and is dedicated to the third King of Bhutan, who reigned from 1952-1972.
We’ll also visit Takin Preserve Centre, the national animal of Bhutan. The takin are docile creatures whose unique appearance attract special attention. While originally a mini-zoo, the area was converted into a eight acre preserve when it was discovered that the animals did not inhabit the surrounding forest area, even when set free.
Later we’ll visit Wangsisi, a private nunnery of over 150 nuns who reside here. We will visit the nunnery and if the nuns are at recess, we will have an opportunity to chat with them and learn about their lifestyle.
Next we will stop to see the Tashichhodzong. The “fortress of the glorious religion,” initially erected in 1641 and rebuilt by King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s. Tashichhodzong houses ministries, His Majesty’s secretariat, and the central monk-body.
Finally, stroll along Thimphu’s main street, visiting shops and markets.
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.
Enroute, 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.
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.
This morning, your guide leads you on a hike to the enchanting ʺTiger’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.
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 persons cremated are sprinkled into the waters of the Bagmati, eventually to be carried to the sacred Ganges.
Early this morning, enjoy the thrill on an exhilarating one-hour mountain flight journey to view the dramatic Himalayas and glorious Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth.
This morning, depart Kathmandu for Bhaktapur City, one of the three medieval principalities of Kathmandu Valley. Visit the Durbar Square with Golden Gates, Palace of the 55 Windows, Royal Bath and a number of other temples with intricate woodcarving and fabulous stone works.
Continue to 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.
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.
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.
Drive to Bardia National Park (2 hrs drive)
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 Bardiya this afternoon.
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.
Fly Nepalgunj - Kathmandu (1 hrs)
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.
Today you are transferred to Kathmandu airport for your flight back home.