Discover the colourful world of Nepal and distinctive, remote Bhutan.

Journey into the heart of Nepal and experience the colourful sights and culture of this enchanting region. Mingle with local villagers and craftspeople, visit tranquil temples and sacred Buddhist sites, travel the cobbled streets of tiny mountain towns and search for unique wildlife. From the whirlwind of Kathmandu to the lush jungle of Chitwan National Park - with plenty of delightful hidden gems in between - take an unforgettable tour of Nepal, brimming with culture, history and natural beauty. 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
Destinations
Bhutan, Nepal
Style
Comfort
Code
HNKBC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

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

  • This is the perfect trip for those who want a cultural insight into Nepal without strenuous trekking, with plenty of inclusions, as well as free time and comfortable accommodation in each destination.

  • Whether it's flying, hiking, driving or by canoe, 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 included Everest scenic flight.

  • Take a jeep safari with a local guide in Chitwan National Park, a beauty brimming with exotic bird life and game - you may be lucky enough to spot rhinos or elusive leopards and tigers.

  • Get hands-on overview of Nepal's diverse architecture, from the stately Newari dwellings in Bandipur to the hill-perched Buddhist Peace Pagoda in laid back 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. It's pretty special.

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

  • Here's just some of what our past travellers have learned from their travels to Bhutan: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/bhutan-tour-learnings/

Is this trip right for you?

  • While on a map we aren't travelling particularly far, reality of road travel in Nepal is that things always take longer than you expect. Some roads will be bumpy, dusty, or even unexpectedly blocked requiring reroutes and plenty of patience. We fly the farthest distances to make the most of our time together.

  • Hotels in some destinations may vary in standard and facilities, and on occasion hot water may be limited. There will be times when the location of our accommodation will mean it is practical to eat at the hotel restaurant rather than heading out for optional meals.

  • You will have some up close and personal encounters with wildlife on this trip, including seeing the small fish eating gharial crocodiles while on the canoe trip on the Rapti river.

  • While there will be opportunities to spot many different kinds of wildlife, sightings cannot be guaranteed as this is a national park where animals are free to roam rather than a zoo or wildlife park.

  • You will see tour operators offering elephant riding activities and many tourists taking part in them during your time in Chitwan. Intrepid Travel has a strong elephant welfare policy and as such we discourage travellers from riding elephants in Nepal or anywhere around the world. See the Responsible Travel section of this information for more.

  • Despite Bhutan being a small country, you'll experience long travel days as most roads are single lane.

  • The trek to Tiger's Nest is quite vigorous but well worth the climb.

  • Bhutan is a high-altitude destination, so taking it easy for a day or two makes for a much more comfortable trip. Drinking tea and water and avoiding strenuous exercise will help you acclimatise after arriving.

  • Please be aware that hot water is limited in some places. Speaking of all things heated, the Bhutanese love chilli and the food can be a touch spicy.

  • 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.

  • All meals are included due to the nature of travelling in Bhutan. This means there may be limited choices on some days.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2019 to 31 December 2019. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Kathmandu - Rickshaw Night Explorer Urban Adventure - USD68
  • Kathmandu - In Focus: Cook in Kathmandu Urban Adventure - USD93
  • Kathmandu - Kathmandu by Bike Urban Adventure - USD100
  • Kathmandu - Kathmandu Living Urban Adventure - USD66
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Whether permitting, take a Mount Everest scenic flight this morning. 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Kathmandu - Everest Scenic Flight
  • Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple
  • Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pokhara - Phewa Tal Lake boat trip
  • Pokhara - Peace Pagoda
  • Pokhara - International Mountain Museum
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
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.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
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.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
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 - Canoe safari, Bird Watching walk or Jeep safari
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 - Canoe safari, Bird Watching walk or Jeep safari
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 fly to Kathmandu and drive to Bhaktapur - 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.
Accommodation
  • Guesthouse (1 night)
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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bhaktapur - Guided walk
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Your trip officially comes to an end after breakfast today. Your tour leader will be on hand to advise and assist with your onward travel arrangements.
Optional Activities
  • Kathmandu - In Focus: Handmade Kathmandu - USD93
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
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 Himalayas. 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 lunch we may visit Nado Poizokhang Incense Factory, Bhutan’s famous traditional incense maker and the colorful Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre. Once everyone has arrived, we'll have a joining meeting and dinner before we wander and explore the fascinating streets of Thimphu, the world’s only capital city without a traffic light!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Thimphu - Choki Traditional Art School
Meals Included
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Please note the flight from Kathmandu to Paro will be unescorted.

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 National 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 Drubthob Nunnery, and then the Choki Traditional Art School 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 National Textile Museum. Some shopping time if you wish is available at the National Handicrafts 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
  • Thimphu - National Memorial Chorten
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 Valley - Chimi Lhakhang
  • Punakha - Punakha Dzong
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 bridge spanning the river. After lunch undertake a hike (approx. 1 hour) to visit the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. 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 home-cooked meals and a friendly atmosphere in a local home before staying overnight in our hotel.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
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 - Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery hike
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.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Due to group visa requirements, all travellers are required to leave Bhutan on the same day.

Meals

16 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 6 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Plane

Accommodation

Hotel (15 nights), Jungle Resort (2 nights)

Included activities

  • Kathmandu - Everest Scenic Flight
  • Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple
  • Kathmandu - Bodhnath Stupa
  • Pokhara - Phewa Tal Lake boat trip
  • Pokhara - Peace Pagoda
  • Pokhara - International Mountain Museum
  • Chitwan - Canoe safari, Bird Watching walk or Jeep safari
  • Bhaktapur - Guided walk
  • Thimphu - Choki Traditional Art School
  • Thimphu - National Memorial Chorten
  • Punakha Valley - Chimi Lhakhang
  • Punakha - Punakha Dzong
  • Paro - Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery hike

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. Airport arrival and departure transfers are included in Nepal and Bhutan.
2. 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.
3. Please advise all international flight details at least 60 days prior to departure.
4. Please be aware that Bhutan's airlines are renowned for last minute changes to flight timetables into and out of Bhutan. Please allow a min of 6-8 hours transit time between your international flight and flight into Bhutan. Timetables are available on the Druk Airlines and Air Bhutan websites.
5. All travellers must arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 7 to be eligible for a group visa.
6. A single supplement to have your own room is available on this trip and is applicable for all nights on tour.
7. All meals are included during your time in Bhutan.
8. The transfers and flight between Kathmandu and Paro is included on Day 12. This flight is unaccompanied.
9. As this is a combination trip, the composition of your group, as well as your group leader, will change on Day 12.
10. The weight limit for your internal flights is 20kg for checked luggage and 5kg for your carry on luggage.

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.