Arrival New Delhi
Arrive at the New Delhi airport, where you will be greeted by a Brand g representative, who will transfer you to the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel.
New Delhi / Kathmandu
Early this morning you are transferred to the airport to board flight to Kathmandu. On arrival in Kathmandu you are transferred to hotel for check-in. Kathmandu, capital of the Nepal, and one of the world’s oldest cities. Following check-in, begina sightseeing tour of Pasupatinath, Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple and pilgrimage destination. Continue touring with a visit to the city of Boudhanath. Bouddhanath is an important venue for Buddhist rituals and festivals at various important times of the year when Buddhists from all over Nepal and parts of India gather.
This morning sightseeing tour of Patan City, the oldest settlement in the valley. This venerable city of artists began to be built around 299 AD and located on the southern bank of the Bagmati River five kilometers south-east of Kathmandu City, perhaps has more Buddhist and Hindu temples than Kathmandu itself. Two-third of the people here are Buddhists. Local claim that the bronze and wooden gateways and windows, statues of deities, wood carving and metal works demonstrate Patan’s superiority in craftsmanship and stone architecture. This could be true when one visits the small but exquisite Golden Temple tucked away in a small by-way and the Krishna Temple in the Patan Durbar Square.
Following lunch at a local restaurant, we proceed to visit Bhaktpur, literally meaning “City of Devotees”, calling it the “living Museum” is more apt. Founded in 889 AD, with the Khasa Khusung and Hanumante Rivers on either side, Bhaktapur boasts of an immense palace complex in the center surrounded by numerous other temples which reflects the supreme craftsmanship of the city’s artisans. In the middle of the Durbar Square stands the magnificent “pachpan jhyaley mahal” (Palace of 55 Windows), residence of the former kings. Other “must see’s are the Big Bell, the stunningly exquisite Golden Gate, the five-tiered Nyatapola Temple, the Bhairab Temple and the wood carving and metal work museums in Dattaraya Square. (B/L/D)
This morning we visit the Kathmandu Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where one sees the old residence of Nepalese royalty, Hanuman Dhoka (The Monkey God’s Gate) Palace which also houses a museum. Hanuman Dhoka is surrounded by a plethora of temples dedicated to Shiva the Destroyer, Vishnu the Preserver, Kali the Avenging Consort of Shiva, Indra the God of Rain and the magnificent four-storied Temple of Goddess Taleju, Protectors of the Valley, which is opened to the public only on one day of the year during Nepal’s most important festival, Dashain. Here also one finds the temple of the Kumari, the Virgin Living Goddess who, several times a day will gracefully deign to come to her ornate first floor window to give audience to visitors. Nearby is the Kashtamandap temple, dedicated to Shiva and his son Ganesh (the God with the elephant head), and said to have been built from the wood of one single tree. The modern name Kathmandu is derived from Kashtamandap, meaning “House of Wood”.
Thereafter we visit Swayambhunath, situated at a hill overlooking Kathmandu city, said to be over two thousand years, is one the oldest Buddhist stupa)in the world. Beneath the high spire and gilt copper pinnacle and on all four sides, the allseeing eyes of the Buddha gaze out at the world. The temple also represents the hybrid religion of Buddhism-Hinduism practiced by many inhabitants of the valley. Inside and outside the Temple area are many superbly crafted images of the Buddha and other entities losely linked to Buddism. Visitors have dubbed Swayambhunath the “Monkey Temple” as a large group of monkeys resides in the vicinity. (B/D)
Kathmandu / Paro / Thimphu
Late morning transfer to airport for flight to Paro.
On arrival at Paro airport drive to Thimphu (approx 1-hr), the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the nation’s largest city. Check into hotel. Day free for rest. (B/D)
Today sightseeing of the majors places of the city. In the morning visit an Arts & Crafts School, the Folk Heritage Museum, a traditional house that showcases rural life. Exhibits and cultural shows are held in the museum compound; and the Changangkha Lhakhang: constructed in the 15th century, is one of the oldest temples in the Thimphu Valley, and is dedicated to Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist emanation of compassion. The temple affords wonderful views over the entire valley. Lunch in the local restaurant. In the afternoon, visit Memorial Chorten (from outside), which dominates the skyline of Thimphu. It was built in 1974 to honour the 3rd King of Bhutan. This prominent landmark in the city has golden spires and bells; the Motithang Takin Preserve, a wildlife reserve area for Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Native to Bhutan, India, and China, the Takin are docile creatures whose unique appearance attract special attention. Local legends attribute the creation of these animals in Bhutan by a 15th century saint name Drukpa Kunley, popularly known as the Divine Madman; the giant Statue of Sakyamuni Buddha, sitting on top of Kuensel Phodrang hill is a 51.5m bronze statue of the founder of Buddhism. The site also offers unobstructed views over the Thimphu Valley – especially stunning at sunset. and Takin Preservation Center. (B/L/D)
Thimphu / Punakha
Breakfast at the hotel. Later drive to Punakha (approx. 3 hrs) crossing over the Dochu-La Pass. Weather permitting enjoy the beautiful views of the mountains from the pass. Visit the 108 memorial stupas known as Druk Wangyal Chortens that were built by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the eldest Queen Mother. We descend into Punakha Valley and visit the ChimiLakhang, the fertility temple dedicated to famous Buddhist Lama Drukpa Kunley.
Lunch in the local restaurant and check into hotel. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until the 1960’s, and still retains the serene atmosphere of a place with a regal past.
In the afternoon, visit the Punakha Dzong (fortress) majestically standing on an island between the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers, the city’s dzong is one of the most photogenic of all Bhutan’s ancient fortresses. The dzong is joined to the mainland by an arched wooden bridge, and contains many precious relics from the days when successive kings reigned the kingdom from this valley. (B/L/D)
Punakha / Paro
Breakfast at the hotel. Thereafter drive to Paro (approx 4-hrs). Lunch at a local restaurant and check into hotel. Paro is a historic town with many sacred sites and historical buildings scattered through the area. The Paro Valley is wide and verdant and is recognized a one of the most beautiful in all Bhutan. Afternoon visit the National Museum (Ta dzong), which has a fascinating collection of arts relics, religious Thangkha paintings and a national history collection; and the Paro Dzong Rinpung Dzong, the “fortress of the heap of Jewels” was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal on a hill above the township. Walk over the old Cantilever bridge and free time in Paro town. (B/L/D)
Following breakfast, enjoy a hike to the striking monastic retreat of Paro Taktsang, the “Tiger’s Nest” (3120m), built into a sheer cliff face above the forested Paro Valley. This is the most famous temple in Bhutan and one of the venerated pilgrim sites of the Himalayan world. Padmasambhava, the great 8th century Buddhist saint and teacher, is thought to have landed at this spot after flying over the mountains from Tibet on the back of a tigress, thus bringing the teachings of Buddhism to Bhutan. The primary temple was built around Padmasambhava’s meditation cave in 1684. Enjoy lunch en route at a teahouse midway with fantastic views of the monastery. (B/L/D)
After breakfast at the hotel, you are transferred to the airport to board the included flight to Delhi. From here, plan you own international departure flight, join our optional two-night Delhi program, or join our complete Splendors of India and the Ganges River” tour. (B)