Exploring Bhutan & Nepal

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Summary

Bhutan or the “Land of the Peaceful Dragon” is a country of sprawling forests, venerated monasteries, overpowering fortresses; lush green valley’s fed by bountiful rivers and age-old practices. Bhutan's alpine pastures, peaks, forests, lakes and flowers make it a paradise.

Nepal boasts eight of the world's tallest mountains and the world's oldest Hindu and Buddhist sites. Nepal is also known as the Land of ‘Mount Everest’, is a land of magnificent scenery, and has one of the world’s best and archeologically very important temples. Although modernization has set in, the quintessence of ancient Nepal remains amongst its people.

Photo by Taj Tashi

Itinerary

Day 1 - 2
Excursion starts:

Fly to Paro. On arriving at the Paro International Airport, you will be met and transffered to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. The drive takes you through the winding road with lots of beautiful hamlets. On the way, visit Simtokha Dzong, which was built in 1629 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. It is often said to be the first dzong built in Bhutan and is a gateway to Thimphu Valley. It is the first structure that incorporated both monastic and administrative facilities. The Dzong’s antique murals are renowned for their historic and artistic value and the frescoes and images are among the finest in the country.

Accommodation: Taj Tashi

Day 2 - 3
Excursion starts:

After breakfast, visit the following places in Thimphu:

Memorial Chorten. It is a four-storey tall white building, containing statues and iconography of deities from complex tantric teachings and serves as an important place of worship for Thimphu residents, as well as devotees from other parts of the country.

Traditional Medicine Institute. The National Institute of Traditional Medicine was established in 1988 with the concept to merge the allopathic and traditional systems of healing. The Institution produces traditional Bhutanese medicine towards the needs of the public. There is a day-care facility and clinic where doctors diagnose patients and prescribe appropriate medicines or treatments. A small museum and a gift shop (where the famous herbal tea -Tsheringma- is produced) are also present in its compounds. After the closing of the Institute the visitors can walk along the compound to view it from the outside.

The Folk Heritage Museum. This outdoor museum gives an insight into rural life.

Tashichho Dzong. This dzong is an impressive building also known as ‘the fortress of the Dharma Raja’. It has traditionally been the seat of the Druk Desi, the head of Bhutan’s civil government.

In the evening, meet with an Astrologer who will do a reading of an astrological chart based on your birth date and place of birth. The readings will last about 10 -12 minutes for each guest.

Accommodation: Taj Tashi

Day 3 - 4
Excursion starts:

After breakfast you will begin your drive towards Punakha. En route visit Dochula Pass. At 3050m, the pass offers charming views of the entire northern Himalayas during a clear day.

In Punakha, visit Punakha Dzong. The majestic Punakha Dzong is also known as ‘the palace of great happiness or bliss’ and is the second largest dzong in Bhutan.

Chimi Lhakhang, flanked with hundreds of prayer flags, sits on a round hillock near Punakha. The monastery, built in 1499, is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kinley, also known as ‘the Divine Madman’ or the ‘Mad Saint”.

Accommodation: Amankora

Day 4 - 5
Excursion starts:

After early breakfast, drive to Paro, where you will visit Paro Dzong, also known as Ringpung Dzong meaning ‘Fortress on a heap of jewels’. This impressive dzong is the finest example of Bhutanese architecture and is one of the most popular and well known dzongs in Bhutan.

Paro is also home to the National Museum. The museum is set in Paro Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower that now displays hundreds of ancient Bhutanese artifacts and artwork including traditional costumes, armor, weaponry and handcrafted implements for daily life. The collection at the National Museum preserves a snap-shot of the rich cultural traditions of the country.

Accommodation: Uma by COMO

Day 5 - 6
Excursion starts:

Perched on the side of a vertical cliff at 3000 m altitude north of Paro, the beautiful Taktsang Monastery also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’ is the most famous and an unofficial symbol of Bhutan. Paro Taktsang is the best known of the thirteen caves in which Guru Padmasambhava meditated.

In the afternoon, visit Dungtse Lhakhang. Dungtse Lhakhang was constructed by the great bridge-builder Thangtong Gyelpo in 1433. It is said to have been built on the head of a demoness who was causing illness to the inhabitants. The building was restored in 1841 and is a unique repository of Kagyu lineage arts. You may or may not be permitted inside but can walk around this three-story Chorten-type building.

Later visit the Kyichu Monastery. Located close to the Paro Airport, the Kyichu Lhakhang is an important Himalayan Buddhist Temple. It is one of Bhutan’s oldest religious sites built in the seventh century.

Accommodation: Uma by COMO

Day 6 - 7
Excursion starts:

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Kathmandu. Upon reaching Kathmandu, check in at the hotel and rest of the day is free for relaxation.

A welcome dinner is served in the evening.

Accommodation: Dwarika's Hotel

Day 7 - 8
Excursion starts:

Kathmandu, the largest city of Nepal, is the political as well as the cultural capital of the country. Like any big city, Kathmandu has seen rapid expansion in the last decade, but despite the hustle and bustle so typical of metropolitan cities, its people remain as refreshingly friendly as ever.

Much of the heritage sites have been damaged by the April 2015 earthquake. Restoration is under process.
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You will visit the vegetable & spice market in Ason, and see its many courtyards and bustling bazaars. From here you can take the local rickshaw (tricycle) ride to Thamel, a happening tourist hub of Kathmandu.

After lunch you will visit Swayambhunath Stupa. Also known as the Monkey Temple, Swayambhunath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It rests on a hillock and is one of the most important and sacred Buddhist shrines of Nepal. Legend has it that when Kathmandu Valley was a lake 2000 years ago, a single lotus flower grew at the center of the lake. When Saint Manjushree, the Bodhisatva drained the lake with a single slash of his sword, the lotus settled on top of a hill and magically turned into a stupa. Thus, Swayambhunath is also known as a Self-Created Stupa. This stupa is the most ancient and perhaps the most enigmatic of all holy shrines in Kathmandu. The area surrounding the stupa is filled with smaller chaityas, temples, painted images of deities and numerous other religious objects.

The April 2015 earthquake caused major damage to this Heritage Site and reconstruction is currently taking place.

Later go to Patan, the city of architectural interior. Patan, also known as Lalitpur, is the city of artisans and full of rich cultural heritage. It is home to the valley’s finest craftsmen who have preserved such ancient techniques as the repoussé and lost wax process used to produce exquisite sculptures. The city retains much of its old charm with its narrow streets, brick houses and multitude of well-preserved Hindu temples, Buddhist monasteries (vihars) and monuments. In the heart of Patan, amidst the Patan marketplace lays the Patan Durbar Square, an area filled with ancient palaces, pagoda temples, stone baths, Hindu and Buddhist statues, engravings and bronze cravings. Patan Durbar Square is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also located in the square is the Patan Museum, formerly a Malla palace, which houses bronze statues and religious objects, some dating back to the 11th century.

Due to the April 2015 earthquake, many of the temples here have been damaged and reconstruction is in process.

Accommodation: Dwarika's Hotel

Day 8 - 9
Excursion starts:

Today, early in the morning, you will begin your drive to Pokhara. Pokhara’s bewitching beauty has been the subject of many travel writers. Lunch will be provided on the way. Once you arrive in Pokhara, you will be transferred to the hotel. In the evening, enjoy the serenity of Pokhara and later enjoy boating at the Phewa Taal, the second largest lake in Nepal.

Also visit Barahi Temple – the island temple situated in a small island in the Phewa Lake surrounded by marvelous views.

Transfer to the hotel after the sightseeing where you will be greeted with a welcome dinner.

Accommodation: The Pavilions Himalayas

Day 9 - 10
Excursion starts:

Early in the morning drive to Sarangkot for an amazing sunrise view. After that you will return to the hotel for breakfast and later head out for sightseeing in Pokhara valley. You will have lunch at a selected local restaurant during sightseeing.

Sarangkot is a beautiful village located on a mountainside ridge at an altitude of 1600m with panoramic Himalayan views, from Dhaulagiri in the far west and Pokhara city in the south with the Phewa Lake on the north-western outskirts of the city. Visit the following sites:

Bindebashini Temple. This is one of the oldest temples in Pokhara. Legend says that when Pokhara was a part of Kaski Kingdom, the main deity of the temple, Goddess Durga, was brought from India. Apart from the peace and tranquility that can be felt in this region, the premises of the temple offers a good view of the Himalaya on a clear day. The temple is in the area of the Bazaar; hence, a journey of the old bazaar can be combined with a visit to the temple.

Devis Fall. The Devis Fall is a lovely waterfall that marks the point where a stream from Phewa Lake vanishes underground through a natural tunnel. The site is named after a Swiss tourist who was unexpectedly swept away while swimming at the Phewa Lake in 1961. The body of the tourist was never recovered.

Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave. Gupteshwor Mahadev Cave is across the Devis Fall. The cave contains a huge stalagmite worshiped as a Shiva lingam.

Tibetan Refugee Camp. There are two Tibetan villages in the vicinity of Pokhara. One is called Tashiling and the other by the name of Tashi Palkhel. The Tibetan people living in these villages keep themselves busy by producing and trading in woolen carpets and other handicraft items. They also run souvenir shops around the lakeside.

International Mountain Museum. The International Mountain Museum is dedicated to the mountains of Nepal and the mountaineers who have climbed them. The museum displays the history, culture, geology, flora and fauna of the Himalayas.

Accommodation: The Pavilions Himalayas

Day 10 - 11
Excursion starts:

After breakfast, drive to Chitwan and upon arrival, transfer to the hotel.

Chitwan literally means “Heart of the jungle”. The Chitwan National Park is located in the lush valley of the Chitwan District, 75 miles south west of Kathmandu, in the foothills of the Churia Ranges. It was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Natural) in 1984.

The Chitwan National Park is rich in flora and fauna with different species of birds, mammals, butterflies etc. and is an ideal place for nature lovers. The park is renowned for its variety of wildlife like various types of deer, monkeys, leopards, bear, crocodiles and particularly the Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros and the elusive Royal Bengal Tiger. Exploring the park is made easy through several jungle activities like elephant back rides, jungle walks, jeep safari, canoeing, bird watching etc. which provides a great opportunity to get closer to the diverse ecosystem of the forests of Nepal. 

Accommodation: Meghauli Serai, A Taj Safari Lodge

Day 11 - 12
Excursion starts:

Full day jungle activities such as elephant safari, jungle walks, canoe ride, Tharu village visit etc.

Accommodation: Meghauli Serai, A Taj Safari Lodge

Day 12 - 13
Excursion starts:

Today you will be transferred to the Bharatpur Airport for your flight back to Kathmandu. Upon arrival in Kathmandu you will be transferred to the hotel. Rest of the day is free for leisure.

Accommodation: Dwarika's Hotel

Day 13 - 14
Excursion starts:

Today you will visit the Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa and Bhaktapur City.

The magnificent temple of Pashupatinath with its astonishing architectural beauty is situated amidst a lush green natural setting on the bank of the sacred Bagmati River. The temple built in pagoda style has gilded roof and richly carved silver doors. Dedicated to the Hindu God of Destruction, Lord Shiva, this temple is regarded as the most sacred temple of all Lord Shiva temples. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pashupatinath is also Nepal's most renowned Hindu cremation site. In the Hindu Culture, after a person is dead, his/her body is wrapped in cloth, placed on bamboo litters and brought to the cremation site where the eldest son in the family burns the body. The ashes from the dead body are collected and swept into the River Bagmati that eventually joins the Holy Ganges. Non-Hindu visitors are strictly prohibited to enter the temple; however, they are permitted to view the temple from the east banks of the River Bagmati.

Boudhanath Stupa is one of the most imposing landmarks of Kathmandu and is a center of Tibetan Buddhism. The stupa is built on a massive three level mandala style platform and is 36 meters (118 feet) in height. The base of the stupa is adorned with 108 small images of the Dhyani Amitabha Buddha and inset with prayer wheels. Thousands of pilgrims circle the stupa in a clockwise direction each day spinning the prayer wheels. It is said that each spin of a prayer wheel is the equivalent of reciting the mantra. The stupa’s massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. The ancient stupa is one of the largest in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The top portion of the Stupa was slightly damaged by the April 2015 earthquake. Currently renovation is under process.

Have lunch at a selected local restaurant. After lunch head towards Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur or Bhadgaon, literally the ‘City of Devotees’ is a major tourist destination that takes visitors back in time. Bhaktapur lies on the Arniko Highway that connects Kathmandu to the Chinese border. Bhaktapur is still untouched by rapid urbanization and has managed to retain its brick paved roads, charming red brick houses and a way of life that goes back to medieval times. This ancient city is also famous for pottery and woodcarving amply displayed on the squares and windows respectively. The extraordinary Bhaktapur Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its monuments reflect the glory days of the Malla Dynasty when art and architecture thrived in the three cities of the valley. In Bhaktapur Durbar Square, visit the Nyatapola Temple, the unique temple that literally means ‘five storied’ and rises above the city’s landscape as a remarkable landmark. Bhairavnath Temple, dedicated to Bhairav, the God of Terror, is a three-storied temple noted for its artistic grandeur and stands adjacent to the famous five-storied Nyatapola Temple. The Golden Gate is the entrance to the 15th century Palace of 55 Carved Windows. The golden gate is a masterpiece in repousse art, which has added splendor to this palace square that consists of buildings dating from the 13th century to the 18th century. You can also stroll around Taumadhi Tole, a short street lined with tourist shops.

Bhaktapur was one of the most affected areas of the April 2015 earthquake. Renovation is currently under process.

You can experience the art of pottery making in Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur is renowned for its traditional pottery industry. At the Pottery Square, under the shady open verandahs or tin-roofed sheds, potters spin their wheels and throw countless types of pots - pots for storing water, charcoal- burning yogurt-making etc. Thousands unfinished pots sit out in the sun to dry as more are made by the seconds. The potters of Bhaktapur are always busy shaping the natural clay into numerous unimaginable shapes using traditional techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Accommodation: Dwarika's Hotel

Day 14 -
Excursion starts:

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your final departure.

- This is a guide itinerary and can be modified to suit. It is subject to availability and price at the time of booking. Other conditions may apply -

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