All holidays to Bhutan need to take in another country as well, and this Nepal & Bhutan tour starts and finishes with some time in the Kathmandu Valley. Extensions to the time in Nepal are possible to visit one of the wildlife parks, do some trekking, rafting, or further cultural sightseeing. In Bhutan the tour features 8-days/7-nights covering cultural and scenic sites in the Paro, Thimphu and Punakha Valley regions of this spectacular and unique country.
We start in Kathmandu, a fascinating city at the foot of the Himalayas full of Hindu temples, Buddhist stupas, and busy narrow streets which are great fun and interesting to explore. Our first tour starts by exploring some of the old city streets on foot before reaching the temples, stupas and Royal Palace at Durbar Square. We then drive up to the mighty Swayambunath Stupa overlooking the city.
The flight from Kathmandu to Paro in Bhutan can be spectacular if the weather is good, with fabulous views to the left of the plane of the Himalayan range, including the peaks of Everest and Kanchenjunga. After descending through steep valleys and hills, your first taste of Bhutan is Paro's beautiful airport building, built in the traditional Bhutanese architecture you'll see throughout the country. While in Paro we visit the extensive but quirky national museum (Ta Dzong) which gives your guide a great opportunity to start his explanations about Bhutanese history and culture. You'll also visit Paro Dzong and learn about the combined monastery and civic functions of these beautiful buildings.
Keen bird-watchers have a chance of an early pre-breakfast drive up to the Chele La Pass to look for the colourful Blood Grouse and Himalayan Monal, before we take the beautiful winding forested road up over the Dochu La Pass and down into the Punakha Valley. Here we enjoy some easy valley walks through fields full of chillie, bean & wheat crops and along forested riverbanks to get a feel for the Bhutanese countryside and see how the local people and farmers live and grow their crops. We also visit the huge Punakha Dzong and the colourful hilltop Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten. Other stops in the valley include Chimi Lhakhang temple, built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley or the Divine Madman which is renowned for blessing barren women with fertility, and Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, whose unrestored state really gives a feel for how long these ancient buildings have run things in Bhutan.
Our next stop is the capital Thimphu, where we have a wide range of visits including the Memorial Chorten, Folk Heritage Museum, Arts & Crafts School and the Takin preserve where you can see these strange goat/cow like animals and get great views over Thimphu and the surrounding valley.
We also time our departures to ensure that you are in Thimphu during the huge weekend market, which draws farmers and traders from all over the country. The craft market here is also a great place to pick up some souvenirs. With a bit of luck there will also be some archery competitions in the national stadium which are fascinating and fun to watch.
Our time in Bhutan finishes with a walk up to the spectacularly located Taktshang Monastery, which is built on the side of a high cliff in a valley outside Paro.
After flying back to Nepal, we visit the ancient centre of Bhaktapur, and spend a night at the hilltop village of Nagarkot, located on the rim of the Kathmandu Valley. You can get some great mountain views from here at sunrise, before we take an easy downhill walk through forests and terraced farmland to the crumbling Changu Narayan temple. Our last visits in Kathmandu are then to the contrasting Hindu temple of Pasupatinath, and the huge Buddhist Boudhanath stupa. Both are very important pilgrimage sites.
Accommodation on the tour is based on mid-range hotels, with local style and character wherever possible. Extensions are available in Nepal to visit Chitwan or Bardia National Parks, to do some trekking or white-water rafting, or further cultural sightseeing.
You can also join this tour just for the Bhutan section, flying into Paro from Delhi, Calcutta or Bangkok or from Kathmandu after alternative plans in Nepal.
A brief history of this small, culturally fascinating himalayan country.
Bhutan's cuisine is surprisingly varied, though watch out for the local's favourite dish of Ema Datshi - hot chillies and cheese sauce.
This small, attractive town boasts traditional Bhutanese architecture set amongst beautiful green hills and mountains.
Spectacular river valleys and mountain forests provide a perfect setting for those who appreciate unspoilt, natural beauty.
Capital city of Bhutan and perhaps the oldest capital city in the world.
"Service and trek was excellent. Our guide Govinder was excellent and worked hard to give us a great trek."
Nevin Sood (Help the Heroes Everest Base Camp)
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