Discover two of the most mysterious countries in the world with this spellbinding 11-day tour of Nepal and Bhutan. Located high in the Himalayas, their remoteness has helped preserved their heritage, cultures and independence. Explore Nepal’s priceless architectural treasures and breathtaking landscapes for the first leg of the adventure and then immerse yourself in the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan, where time seems to have stood still. Visit the most enchanting palaces and temples, and crisscross the verdant valleys and majestic mountains of the fabled ‘land of the thunder dragon’ before returning to Nepal for one final day in the gateway to heaven.
Sadhus: These dreadlocked holy men with painted faces exude ethereality as they squat passively outside Hindu temples
Thimphu: Savour Bhutanese favourite ema datshi, a fiery dish made from chili peppers and cheese served with rice
Paro: Relax in a traditional hot stone bath in a wooden tub – the alchemy between wood and stone has a therapeutic effect
A wide range of optional excursions and pre and post-programme extensions are available on request. Please ask tour designer Gaurav Awasthi for rates and conditions
Kathmandu: Visit the top cultural and historical sites in the capital, including the Pashupatinath Temple and the stupa of Boudhanath
Bhaktapur: Admire the stunning Durbar Square, home to architectural gems such as the Palace of 55 Windows
Pokhara: This picturesque lakeside city nestling at the foothills of the Himalayas offers magnificent panoramic views of the Annapurna peaks and a wonderful base from which to visit nearby attractions such as Devi’s Fall, the Guoteshwor Cave and the Bindhyabasini temple
Thimphu: Explore the Bhutanese capital with visits to the National Library, the Institute of Zorig Chusum and the Simply Bhutan museum as well as attractions such as the Pangri Zampa monastery, the Motithang Takin Preserve and the Tashichho dzong palace
Punakha: Marvel at the city’s majestic dzong and enjoy a scenic hike to visit the Chimi Lhakhang temple
Paro: Visit the National Museum, admire the Buddhist art at Rinpung dzong and hike to the spellbinding Tiger’s Nest monastery
Patan: Behold the city’s beautiful Durbar Square, which boasts four temples and a palace, before visiting a handicraft centre
Arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport, meet and greet by a Le Passage to India representative and transfer to your hotel in Kathmandu. Enjoy lunch at the hotel before an afternoon tour of Bhaktapur, an ancient city 15km east of the capital. The city’s historic core is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the well-preserved palaces and temples from the medieval Newar kingdoms. Bhaktapur’s key position on the trade routes between Tibet and India brought it great prosperity and glory, which can today be appreciated in its architectural heritage. Admire the 18th century Palace of 55 Windows, which houses the National Art Gallery, and the glittering golden gate leading to it and the dozen temples dotted throughout the square.
Head northwest to Pokhara in the foothills of the Himalayas, passing through lush landscapes in the shadow of magnificent mountain ranges. Lunch at hotel on arrival with the remainder of the afternoon and evening free for you to either relax at the hotel or maybe explore Pokhara. Perhaps stroll over to the shoreline of Lake Phewa for a glance at the picturesque Taal Barahi temple, which is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Durga and occupies a tiny tree-covered islet about 200 metres from the waterfront.
Start the day on a high in every sense of the word by witnessing sunrise from Sarangkot, a 1,600-metre-high mountain in the northern shore of Lake Phewa. (This segment is subject to weather conditions.) In the flickering light of early morning, watch as the eight snowcapped peaks of the Annapurna range are bathed in a kaleidoscope of golden-hued shades – a truly awe-inspiring natural phenomenon. Breakfast is after the sunrise experience. Once replenished, enjoy a morning sightseeing tour of Pokhara city, heading to attractions such as the Mahendra Pool to view the milky white waters of the wild River Seti slalom through a gorge and the Bindabasini Bhagwati temple. Afterwards, explore Pokhara’s old town to get a sense of the city’s history and atmosphere. Lunch in the hotel. In the afternoon, head to the dramatic Devi’s Fall and the adjacent Gupteshwor Cave, which is sacred for Hindus. Continue to the old bazaar to admire the redbrick Newar-style shops and their wares. The bazaar is also home to one of Pokhara’s most important shrines, the Bindhyabasini Mandira, which is dedicated to the goddess Bhagawati.
Breakfast at the hotel followed by departure at about 08:00 to Kathmandu for an afternoon of sightseeing. Stop for lunch on the way to the capital. Upon arrival, transfer to hotel and after check-in, proceed to visit the Pashupatinath temple. Located on the banks of the holy River Bagmati, the Pashupatinath is dedicated to the Lord Shiva and is one of the most sacred Hindu shrines in the world. There are many eye-catching elements such as the large, gilded triple-roofed temple but there is so much going on around you, with the throngs of faithful and pilgrims, that the din of hustle and bustle becomes an attraction in itself. Continue to the beautiful Buddhist Boudhanath stupa, which traces its origins to King Mana Dev in the fifth century. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the world’s leading centres of Tibetan Buddhism and is bedecked with traditional prayer rolls and Tibetan prayer flags.
Rise early for one of the most breathtaking journeys imaginable. Head to Kathmandu Airport after breakfast for the 08:25 plane to Paro in Bhutan. The flight is just over an hour long but it feels like a journey to another world, as you leave behind mainly Hindu Nepal for predominately Buddhist Bhutan. Flying over the snowcapped Himalayas is an awe-inspiring experience that brings home the sheer majesty of Mother Nature, one which is reinforced when landing in the clean, fresh mountain air of the sparsely populated Kingdom of Bhutan. Meet and greet by a Le Passage to India representative after immigration procedures and transfer to your hotel in Thimphu, stopping en route at Chhuzom to see the famous three stupas at the confluence of the Paro and Wong rivers. One stupa is in the Tibetan style, one is Nepalese in design and the other has a local Bhutanese appearance. In the afternoon, visit the Thimphu Craft Bazaar to admire genuine locally made products. A special welcome dinner will be hosted by a local family at their home, where you can learn about Bhutan’s culture while savouring its cuisine.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a day devoted to exploring the capital. Thimphu is more like a large town rather than a small city, with traditional Bhutanese architecture dominating the cityscape. The end of every street is usually framed by green hills, which stand in contrast to the whitewashed low rise buildings decorated with intricate window frames and cornices. The first visit of the day is to the National Library, which houses a priceless collection of rare Buddhist manuscripts. Continue the cultural immersion at the Institute for Zorig Chusum, which is Bhutan’s most prestigious art college. A visit to the Royal Textile Academy follows before dropping by the Simply Bhutan museum, where you can learn about ancient techniques for wood carving, weaving, sculpting, rice roasting and much more as well as partake in popular pastimes such as archery. Break for lunch at a local restaurant before heading to the outskirts to visit the 16th century Pangri Zampa monastery, where Buddhist monks study Lamaism and astrology. Head to Motithang Takin Preserve to meet this unusual species of goat-antelope, which is Bhutan’s national animal. The takin has a legendary status in Bhutanese culture, with fantastical tales relating to its origins. The last visit of the day is to the Tashichho dzong, the ‘fortress of the glorious religion’, which is the epicentre of Bhutanese religious and civil life. This vast palace is the seat of both the king of Bhutan and the chief abbot. There is some free time in the early evening to explore Thimphu at your own pace before enjoying a Bhutanese cookery demonstration in a local restaurant followed by a traditional dinner.
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Punakha cutting through the famous Dochu La pass at 3,080 metres above sea level. On clear days, the Dochu La offers spectacular views of the eastern Himalayas such as the 7,000-metre-plus peaks of Masagang, Terigang, Jejegangphugang, Kangphugang, Zongphugang and Gangkar Puensum (at 7,497 metres, the highest in Bhutan). After a brief stop at the top of the pass to contemplate the rooftop of the world, continue through orchards, alpine forests and remote hamlets before arriving in Punakha, the capital of Bhutan until 1955. Visit the 17th century Punakha dzong, a beautiful palace lying at the junction of two rivers and framed by forested hills. Enjoy a 90-minute hike to and from Chimi Lhakhang temple, where couples who have been unable to have children come to pray for a baby. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, affording rare glimpses of the daily lives and lifestyles of the villagers. Lunch is served at open air restaurant right on the bank of a river with the backdrop of the lush greenery of the Punakha valley.
Bid farewell to Punakha after breakfast at the hotel, returning to Paro via the Dochu La, towards the north of the valley. Stop en route to visit Simtokha dzong, the oldest dzong in the country. It now houses an institute dedicated to the study of the Dzongkha language. Check-in on arrival at Paro, which stands in the middle of a rice-producing valley dominated by the 7,314-metre Mount Chomolhari. After some free time, proceed to visit Ta dzong, originally a watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. Its extensive collection includes antique Tibetan Buddhist paintings, textiles, weapons and armour, and a rich assortment of natural and historic artefacts. Stroll to Rinpung dzong (‘fortress of the heap of jewels’) to wander along the wooden cloister illustrated with images from Buddhist lore. Later in the afternoon, head to a nearby village for a farmhouse excursion. Bhutanese farmhouses are very colourful and decorative, and are traditionally built without the use of single nail. Perhaps chat to the villagers over a cup of suja (salt and butter tea) or locally brewed ara rice wine. The rest of the evening is free to explore Paro at your own leisure.
Today will take your breath away as you hike up the Paro valley to the magnificent Tiger’s Nest monastery. After breakfast at the hotel, take a brief drive to the Satsam Chorten, stopping en route at Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by seventh century Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marked the introduction of Buddhism to Bhutan and there are many important religious and royal relics inside. Continue to the trailhead to start the hike to the monastery of Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest). Perched on the side of a cliff 900 metres above the valley floor, legend has it that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at a cave here. The monastery is the country’s most sacred site and is visited by Bhutanese Buddhists at least once in their lifetime. Explore the monastery’s four temples before enjoying lunch is at the Taktsang cafeteria, which boasts spellbinding views of the monastery hanging on to the face of the cliff. Return to Paro with the rest of the afternoon free at leisure. In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner accompanied by a local band playing traditional music.
Early breakfast at the hotel is followed by transfer to the airport to catch the flight to Kathmandu for meet and greet by an Le Passage to India representative and transfer to Patan to explore its Durbar Square. This historic city just a few kilometres south of central Kathmandu is a traditionally Buddhist bastion boasting a fascinating architectural landscape in the Newar style. The square’s centrepiece is the palace of the Malla monarchs, who ruled Nepal for six centuries. Wander this stunning complex, which features a series of beautiful courtyards with ornamented windows and colonnaded arcades, temples and shrines, all noted for their exquisite carvings. Contemplate the square’s Krishna Temple and Rudra Varna Mahavihar Buddhist monastery.
Breakfast at the hotel followed by transfer to Kathmandu Airport to board onward flight.