Distinctive and remote, Bhutan offers beauty, history and adventure by the bucketload.

Bhutan is the little secret of Asia. Overshadowed and nestled between China and India, it is a relatively new travel spot, with many undiscovered secrets in its natural scenery and quiet townships. The land is dotted with red-clothed monks, ancient Buddhist temples and friendly smiles. It is one calm country, where gross national happiness is more important than money, where chillies are used as a vegetable rather than for spice, and the thunder dragon, Druk, is emblazoned on the national flag, symbolising the people of Bhutan: loyal, patriotic and living with a total sense of belonging within the kingdom.


Start
Kathmandu, Nepal
Finish
Paro, Bhutan
Countries
Bhutan, Nepal
Style
Comfort
Code
HNKBC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Beginning in Kathmandu, there's more than enough time to discover the Nepali capital's staggeringly rich cultural and artistic heritage

  • Whether it's flying, hiking, driving or canoeing, this trip will let you experience Nepal's stunning natural beauty from all angles

  • Witness world-class mountain scenery from heavenly viewpoint, with a breathtaking Everest flight

  • Take a jeep safari and jungle walk with an expert resident naturalist Chitwan National Park, a beauty brimming with exotic bird life and game

  • Get hands-on overview of Nepal's diverse architecture, from the stately Newari dwellings in Bandipur to the hill-perched Buddhist Peace Pagoda in Pokhara

  • The happiest land on earth, Bhutan is a hidden paradise with no traffic lights, laws governing minimum forest coverage and some amazing feats of archery.

  • Only a small number of visitors are allowed into Bhutan each year. Its pretty special.

  • The climb to Tigers nest while tough, is a richly rewarding and sobering experience

Is this trip right for you?

  • The hotel in Bhaktapur is very centrally located, though not quite of the same standard as the other accommodation on this trip.

  • The Nepal section of this trip does not go to high altitude, so acclimatising should be easier. Paro is 2,195 m above sea level.

  • Bhutan is at altitude, a day or two taking it easy makes for a much more comfortable trip. Drink tea and lots of water on arrival and don't do strenuous exercise.

  • Whilst only a small country, there are long travel days in Bhutan, most roads are single lane and travel by vehicle is slow and tiring

  • The trek to Tigers nest is quite vigorous, but its well worth the climb. A good level of fitness is required.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2017 to 31 December 2017. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2018 - 31 December 2018

Welcome to Nepal On arrival in Kathmandu, you’ll be met at the airport by our representative and transferred to your hotel. After you settle in there will be a group briefing with your tour leader in the late afternoon. They’ll discuss the trip details and co-ordinate any last minute arrangements. The evening is free to explore the streets of Kathmandu, whose mixture of ancient architecture and modern development, and rich artistic and cultural heritage, means it remains the legendary destination it has been for decades. Crowded markets and bazaars are the centre of Nepali life and the narrow streets are home to holy men, monks, bicycles, incense, goats and sacred cows. Your leader will usually organise an optional dinner at one of Kathmandu’s fine Nepali restaurants.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
In the early morning you will make an attempt at the Mount Everest scenic flight. This amazing experience will take you over Sagamartha National Park, through a crescendo of the highest peaks in the world, climaxing by getting up close to Mount Everest. Later in the morning you will explore Kathmandu on an organised sightseeing tour. You will visit Bodhnath Stupa, one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in the world, where you can observe Buddhist monks in prayer in the monasteries surrounding the stupa. You will also visit Pashupatinath, the most famous Hindu temple in the country, located on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. Here you will see Hindu holy men (sadhus) meditating, pilgrims bathing, and occasionally funeral pyres burning on the ghats. The rest of your afternoon in Kathmandu is free for further sightseeing and exploration. Perhaps head out into Durbar Square, in front of the old royal palace and home to numerous beautiful temples, and browse the stalls of merchant's wares.
Included Activities
  • Kathmandu - Everest Scenic Flight
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you will have an early departure from the hotel for your transfer to the domestic terminal at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan Airport. From here you will fly to Pokhara, with a flight time of about 30 minutes. There are often spectacular views of the main Himalayan chain to the north on this flight. On arrival you will take a boat ride across the lake (Phewa Tal), which is the second largest in Nepal. Visit the Peace Pagoda, where spectacular views of the mountains await. You can see the Annapurnas from here, and the famous fishtail peak, Machhapuchhare, and back across to Pokhara. You will also visit the fascinating International Mountain Museum to learn some amazing tales of past climbing expeditions – some ending in triumph, some ending in tragedy.
Included Activities
  • Pokhara - Fewa Lake boat trip
  • Pokhara - Peace Pagoda
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a free day for further exploration in the peaceful surroundings of Pokhara. Your leader can advise you of sightseeing opportunities. It is worth taking a boat for a row out on the lake, especially if the weather's fine. The lakeside area has great shopping opportunities and internet cafes. Pokhara has an interesting old area as well as an elaborate Hindu temple and a Buddhist monastery.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
In the morning you will drive to beautiful Bandipur (approximately 2 hours). You will fully explore this incredible settlement and take the many opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture of Nepal as it once was. Enjoy the spectacular views, the incredibly maintained architecture and nice walking trails. This traditional Nepalese settlement is a natural treasure and one of the country's true hidden gems.
Included Activities
  • Bandipur - Guided walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a day of free time to further explore Bandipur. The surrounding hills are ideal for hiking along trails that will take you through tribal villages, verdant forests, 'power places', and hilltop shrines that once doubled as fortresses. As you explore the area you may feel as though you're stepping back in time; though development increases, the aura of this place has been beautifully preserved. As tourism in Nepal developed along the main roads and airports, for over 30 years there simply was no road linking Bandipur to the main infrastructure, leaving it almost untouched by touristic influence. The village is saddled on a high ridge above Dumre, 700 metres beyond the Marsyangdi River Valley, making for an exceptional view of the Himalayan panorama.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
After breakfast you will be picked up and driven to Chitwan National Park (approximately 4 hours). After arriving and settling in, you will be introduced to the camp staff and resident naturalists who will discuss the program. There is some flexibility, and activities may vary depending on the time of the year, and on wildlife movements. A late-afternoon safari will take you through forests and across grasslands to observe the varied and exciting wildlife in the park. In the early evening the local Tharu dance troupe may perform a cultural program. You will then enjoy dinner and afterwards you will be free to relax in the bar and discuss the day’s sightings or listen to the exotic sounds of the jungle at night.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chitwan NP - Jeep safari
  • Chitwan NP - Jungle walk
  • Chitwan NP - Village tour
Optional Activities
  • Chitwan NP - Bird watching tour - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Embark on an early-morning excursion. This could include either another safari to different parts of the park (in search of the great Indian rhino, deer, and exotic bird life) or joining one of the other activities available in the park. Tiger sightings are rare these days, but these magnificent animals do inhabit the park. After breakfast you will leave the lodge and go on a dugout canoe adventure on the Rapti River. This is an exciting trip with chances to view marsh mugger crocodiles and various birds that inhabit the riverbanks. A program will be organised for the rest of the day, and may include further excursions by jeep or a visit to one of the nearby villages.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chitwan NP - Jeep safari
  • Chitwan NP - Jungle walk
  • Chitwan NP - Village tour
Optional Activities
  • Chitwan NP - Bird watching tour - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
If you are an avid wildlife lover, there is an optional early-morning birdwatching safari available today – a worthwhile addition to your trip. After breakfast you will drive on to Bhaktapur (approximately 4 hours), which was once the capital of Nepal and the Great Malla Kingdom during the 15th century. Its rich heritage, inspiring temples and artisanal history played a big part in Bhaktapur being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy an evening of exploration on your own, soak up the lovely atmosphere in one of the local cafes, or simply relax in your hotel.
Included Activities
  • Bhaktapur - Walking tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Spend the day exploring Bhaktapur’s famous temples, starting at Durbar Square, which is reputed to be the most beautiful piece of art in Nepal. Durbar Square is home to the majestic Lion Gate and Golden Gate. You will also visit the Pashupati Temple, a replica of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu. This will be an enlightening morning of discovery and enrichment, as you delve into all Bhaktapur has to offer. In the afternoon, drive to Kathmandu (approximately 2 hours). The evening will then be free, however the group leader will usually organise an optional evening meal at another of Kathmandu’s great restaurants.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a free day today in Kathmandu. Check out the great range of optional Urban Adventures or just wander through the buzzing streets of Thamel.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kathmandu - In Focus: Cook in Kathmandu Urban Adventure - USD93
  • Kathmandu - Kathmandu by Bike Urban Adventure - USD89
  • Kathmandu - Rickshaw Night Explorer Urban Adventure - USD68
  • Kathmandu - Kathmandu Living Urban Adventure - USD80
  • Kathmandu - In Focus: Handmade Kathmandu - USD93
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Get up early and fly to Bhutan.
This morning board the short flight to Bhutan. Ask to sit on the left hand side of the plane for the best views of the Himalaya's.

After arrival at Paro airport and sailing through immigration and custom formalities, you will be greeted by your guide and driver and warmly welcomed to the enchanting Land of the Thunder Dragon. Drive for two hours alongside mountains, rivers, and fields of red rice to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital city. After lunchl visit Nado, Bhutan’s famous traditional incense maker and the colorful Gagyel Lhendup weaving center. Later in the evening, you may wander and explore the fascinating streets of Thimphu, the world’s only capital city without a traffic light!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Thimpu - Traditional Arts School
  • Thimpu - National Library
Meals Included
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Bhutan Visas & Additional Accommodation
Travel in Bhutan is strictly controlled and to do any independent travel outside of a group tour is extremely difficult and expensive to arrange. We provide a group visa for travellers on our tours in Bhutan, which stipulates that all travellers must arrive and depart on the same days that our tour program starts and finishes. For this reason we are generally not able to provide additional accommodation outside of our tour dates and advise all travellers to book flights in and out of Bhutan that correspond with the start and finish day of the tour. In the rare case that no flights are available and you need to arrive earlier or depart later we are only able to book additional accommodation for you in conjunction with a special individual visa which can add around AUD1000 to the cost of your tour, to be paid at the time of booking.
Today begins with a pleasant rural walk that meanders gently up the valley through paddy fields, pristine woodlands and a Tibetan village. We’ll walk along a trail to Pangri Zampa Gompa. Spot Bhutanese chortens on the riverside route and pass through the villages of Choku and Begana.
Cross a cantilevered bridge, and climb uphill for around an hour uphill to the monastery. Cheri Dorji Dhen was built in 1620 by Shabdrung, the first ruler of Bhutan, who also established the first order of monks here. At the bottom of the hill, a picnic lunch will be waiting for us along the riverside.
Drive back to Thimphu for an afternoon of sightseeing. There is much to see! We will visit the Memorial Chorten, a shrine built in the memory of the 3rd King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. Many Thimphu residents consider this to be the heart and soul of Thimphu and gather here every day to pray and walk clockwise around the chorten. Afterwards, visit Dubthob nunnery, and then the School of Arts and Crafts where students follow an eight-year program in traditional arts, such as drawing, painting, woodcarving, and sculpture. No tour of Thimphu is complete without a visit to the incredible Textile Museum. Some shopping time if you wish is available at the Thimphu Handicraft Emporium which offers high quality traditional goods, and a small family-run enterprise which manufactures paper and paper products using traditional methods.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Thimpu - Folk & Heritage Museum
  • Thimpu - National Chorten
  • Thimpu - Takin Reserve
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Leave Thimpu this morning and drive to Punakha (approx. 4 hours) the ancient winter capital of Bhutan. En-route stop at Dochu-La pass (10,000ft/3,048m) for a breathtaking view the eastern Himalayas, including Bhutan's highest mountain, the majestic Gangkar Punsum (24,770ft/7,550m.) The road descends through varied and ever-changing forest, emerging into the highly cultivated Punakha valley. Take a short walk to visit Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple built in 1499 by lama Drukpa Kunley (charmingly known as “The Divine Madman.”) On this site, The Divine Madman subdued the Demoness of the Dochu-La using his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom,” (also known as “his phallus.”) A wooden effigy of the Lama’s “thunderbolt” is preserved in the Lhakhang. Traditionally, childless women have visited this temple to receive a wang (blessing) from the saint. Our trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana. There are few young monks at the temple, which is surrounded by a row of prayer wheels and some very beautiful slate carvings.
In Punakha, we’ll visit the impressive Punakha Dzong. With its three towers, and wonderful location at the confluence of two rivers, it is considered by many to be the most beautiful of Bhutan’s 21 Dzongs.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Punakha - Chimmi Lhakhang
  • Punakha - Dzong tour
Optional Activities
  • Punakha - Punakha Dzong - Free
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After breakfast, Explore this small town with your leader on an orientation walk. Head down to the convergence of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu Rivers, two of the main rivers of Bhutan. There are lovely views of the majestic Punakha Dzong. This fine Dzong was constructed around 1639 and due to its location the Dzong has flooded several times in its history and also partially destroyed by fire in the 1980's. Be sure to keep an eye out for the cantilever brdige spanning the river.
After lunch undertake an optional hike (approx. 1 hour) to visit the Khamsum Yulley Monastery. Its an uphill climb but the views from the top make it worthwhile. As with many monasteries in Bhutan, our leader will need to hunt around for the caretaker with the keys to have a look inside.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
This morning head back over the Dochu-La and continue to Thimphu. (approx. 4 hrs) This is a good chance to relax and refresh. The roads in Bhutan are narrow and whilst the distances are not great, due to the nature of the roads and the many valleys they pass through travelling can take some time. After lunch in Thimpu, continue by vehicle into the Paro Valley. Its a long day of driving. This evening experience a local homestay in Paro with home cooked meals and a friendly local atmosphere.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Paro - Tadzong Museum & Trongsa Dzong
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After an early breakfast we drive up to the starting point and prepare for our hike to the legendary Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) - a magnificent monastery, clinging on a rock cliff 900 meters above the valley floor.

The legend dating back to 747 AD has it that the Great Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhawa) flew here from northeast Bhutan on the back of a tigress to subdue the demons of Paro Valley. The guru then meditated in the holy cave that is the site of the Pelphug Lhakhang today. According to Tantric Buddhist mythology, the vanquished local deities became the protectors of the dharma and one of them, Singey Samdrup, is recognised today as the guardian deity of Taktsang. Guru Rinpoche is also believed to have concealed among the rocks of Taktsang various forms of Dharma treasures known as Ters, which were destined to be discovered later by Tertons (treasure discoverers) for the propagation of Dharma.

Taktsang was severely damaged by fire on Sunday 19th April 1998. The king commanded its immediate restoration soon after the fire. The royal command dictated that the original aura, authenticity and architectural splendor must be preserved at all costs. This project has been widely seen as an act of devotion involving all sections of Bhutanese society and as homage to the nation's cultural heritage. It also proved to be an opportunity for Bhutan's traditional artists and craftsmen to hone the skills inherited from their forefathers down the ages. In order to facilitate the restoration work, a road was built to the base of the mountain facing the temple.

We drive to the end of this road and begin our hike up the mountain for a closer view of the temple. After approximately an hour walking uphill, we reach a small teahouse that has a wonderful panoramic view of the temple. Its the ideal place to enjoy lunch. For those interested, it is possible to get a closer view by hiking another 45 minutes to an hour (each direction) to reach the small chorten directly across from the temple. Anyone not interested in hiking any further can relax at the teahouse and enjoy the view. It total it will about 5 to 6 hours to get back to the car including all stops if you choose to walk the full way.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Paro - Tiger's Nest Monastery
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Todays hike is quite challenging and good quality, comfortable shoes/sneakers are required. Please remember to drink lots of water and wear layers as it gets quite cold. Don't forget a sunhat. Remember you are at 3120 metres above sea level so take your time.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at your hotel before a departure transfer to Paro airport for your flight out of Bhutan.
Due to group visa requirements, all travellers are required to leave Bhutan on the same day.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

16 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 6 dinners

Transport

Boat, Minibus, Plane, Private Bus

Accommodation

Guesthouse (3 nights), Hotel (11 nights), Lodge (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Kathmandu - Everest Scenic Flight
  • Pokhara - Fewa Lake boat trip
  • Pokhara - Peace Pagoda
  • Bandipur - Guided walk
  • Chitwan NP - Jeep safari
  • Chitwan NP - Jungle walk
  • Chitwan NP - Village tour
  • Bhaktapur - Walking tour
  • Thimpu - Traditional Arts School
  • Thimpu - National Library
  • Thimpu - Folk & Heritage Museum
  • Thimpu - National Chorten
  • Thimpu - Takin Reserve
  • Punakha - Chimmi Lhakhang
  • Punakha - Dzong tour
  • Paro - Tadzong Museum & Trongsa Dzong
  • Paro - Tiger's Nest Monastery

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. The flight between Kathmandu and Paro is included on day 12
2. An airport arrival and departure transfer is included in both Nepal and Bhutan
3. Please provide Intrepid or your booking agent with a scanned colour copy of the personal details page from your passport at time of booking. Failure to do this delays group visa for Bhutan.
4. Please advise all international flight details at least 60 days prior to departure.
5. Please be aware that Bhutan's airlines are renowned for last minute changes to flight timetables into and out of Bhutan. Please allow a longer (8 hrs) transit time between your international flight and flight into Bhutan. Timetables are available on the Druk Airlines and Air Bhutan websites.
6. All travellers must depart on Day 18 to be eligible for a Bhutan group visa. See Trip Notes for more details.
7. A single supplement is available on this trip and is valid for all nights on tour. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information..

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.