Arrive at the Kathmandui airport, where you will be greeted by a Brand g representative, who will transfer you to the Hotel Hyatt Regency for check-in. Kathmandu, is the capital of the Nepal, and one of the world’s oldest cities. Meet your fellow guests at a welcome reception at approximately 5:30pm today.
Dinner is include tonight at the hotel. (D)
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-thirds 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)
Following breakfast, 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.
Thereafter we visit Swayambhunath, situated at a hill overlooking Kathmandu city, said to be over two thousand years old, is one the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world. Beneath the high spire and gilt copper pinnacle and on all four sides, the all-seeing 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 loosely linked to Buddhism. Visitors have dubbed Swayambhunath the “Monkey Temple” as a large group of monkeys resides in the vicinity. (B/D)
Optional 1-hr Mountain Flight (subject to weather conditions):
Mountain flight is all about the view of various mountains in Nepal from Langtang Range to Kanchanjunga range but the main focus is to view MOUNT EVEREST. 5:30 am pick-up from the hotel. Mountain Flight will depart at 6:30 am. Every guest has a window seat to ensure maximum visibility. The duration of flight will be one hour. (Additional cost of $325 per person)
This morning, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Pasupatinath, Nepal’s most sacred Hindu temple and pilgrimage destination. Afternoon is at leisure. (B)
Optional – cooking lesson of a momo followed by Tibetan Gyakok dinner. (Additional cost $45 per person)
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 Le Meridien hotel. The remainder of the day is free to relax before dinner tonight at the hotel. (B/D)
Today sightseeing includes the major sites of the city. In the morning visit an Arts and 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.
After lunch in a local restaurant, visit Memorial Chorten (from outside), which dominates the skyline of Thimphu. It was built in 1974 to honor 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 the 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. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until the 1960’s, and still retains the serene atmosphere of a place with a regal past. 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.
Following lunch in a local restaurant we check into our hotel, the Dhensa Resort.
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. The dzong serves as the winter home of the monastic body. (B/L/D)
Today, we visit Nezigang, which is the starting point for a hike through cultivated fields and small villages, with a gradual climb to the Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten, a shrine recently built by the royal family. It is an amazingly elaborate structure with a rainbow of Guru Rimpoche images and superb views of the Punakha Valley. Hike back down and follow ancient riverside trails and see the longest suspension bridge.
Following lunch in a local restaurant, we drive to Nobgang village. On the way we visit the Shechen Lhendup Dorji Lakhang (nunnery) and visit the Nobgang village (walk around the village and visit a farmhouse. (B/L/D)
Punakha / Paro
Following breakfast, we drive to Paro (approx 4-hrs). Upon arrival we’ll have lunch at a local restaurant and check into the Zhiwaling 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.
This afternoon we’ll 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”, which was built in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal on a hill above the township. Walk over the old Cantilever bridge and enjoy some 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 at a teahouse midway with fantastic views of the monastery. (B/L/D)
Paro (Departure Day)
After breakfast at the hotel, you are transferred to the airport for your journey home on onward to a new destination.
Or, you may choose to join our Splendors of India program. Contact us for details. (B)