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London – Doha – Kathmandu
London Heathrow to Kathmandu via Doha. Upon arrival in the afternoon, you will be met and transferred to your beautiful heritage hotel whose traditional design echoes the style of a bygone era.
A private guided tour of the Kathmandu Valley, whose history dates back to the 14th century, will show you temples, monasteries and elaborate courtyards. The tour includes the Hindu temple at Pashupatinath, and although you can’t enter you can peer through the entrance doors to see the gold Nandi statue within. This is followed by the Boudhanath Stupa and, in the afternoon, the medieval town of Bhaktapur which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artwork.
Stay: Two nights in a heritage room at Dwarika’s Hotel – bed and breakfast
Today you’ll board a short but spectacular flight over the Himalayas into Paro. The journey will afford you stunning mountain panoramas of icons like Everest, Makalu, Kanchenjunga and – across the border – the sacred Chomolhari and Jichu Drake. Upon arrival, you’ll continue to the capital of Thimphu, where you’ll be welcomed by a myriad of interesting attractions. These include the buzzing Changlimithang Market, the Changangkha Monastery and the Radio Tower which offers a superb view of the Thimphu Dzong and surrounding valley.
Other highlights include the National Library with its ancient manuscripts, the School of Arts and Crafts and the National Institute of Traditional Medicine. For an insight into Bhutan’s living traditions, pay a visit to the Textile and Folk Heritage museum. The afternoon will be spent exploring the north end of the valley and the striking Trashi Chhoe Dzong – the seat of Bhutan’s government.
Stay: One night in a Duluxe Room at Taj Tashi Hotel – including breakfast and dinner; lunch included in a local restaurant
Today you drive across the Dochula Pass to the old capital of Bhutan, taking in exceptional panoramas of the Eastern Himalayas en route. Once in Punakha, you will visit the mighty Punakha Dzong which ranks amongst the most beautiful fortresses in the country. The winter residence of the monastic body, the dzong has survived multiple fires, floods and earthquakes over the years. It also houses 21 temples, the holy book of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage and the Rangjung Kharsapani – a treasure considered as ‘vast as the sky’ itself. You will have the whole of the next day free to explore. Why not pay a visit to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, an elaborate shrine recently established by the royal family.
Stay: Two nights in a Valley View Room at Uma Resort – including breakfast and dinner, lunch included at a local restaurant
Your next road trip is a three-and-a-half-hour meander through a forest of bamboo and oak to the wild and remote Phobjikha Valley – winter home of the endangered black-necked crane who migrate here from the Central Asian Plateau. Whether on foot or by mountain bike, exploring this pristine valley is an extremely rewarding experience. We recommend the Tongphu Shing Trail, a leisurely two-hour walk that will take you through picturesque pine forest, farmland and villages.
Stay: Two nights in a Suite Room at Gangtey Goenpa Lodge – full board
Your journey now continues to Bumthang, via the Pele La and Yutong La. If time permits, you’ll make a stop to visit what is arguably the most impressive dzong in all of Bhutan – the magnificent Trongsa Dzong. Upon arrival in Bumthang, you will discover the Wangdichholing Palace, home to the second king, with ancient and auspicious prayer wheels nearby. Further along the valley is Kurjey Lhakhang – once the resting place of Guru Rimpoche – and Jambay Lhakhang, famous for its early winter festivals. At Bumthang Chhu, there’s a ‘sin alleviating’ Tamshing Monastery, brewery and cheese/dairy facility to explore.
The next day you’ll trek off the beaten path to the little-visited but stunning Tang Valley, where you will be rewarded by lhakhangs, temples, monasteries and the museum of the Ogyen Choling Palace. You’ll also stop for a traditional picnic in jaw-dropping surroundings.
Stay: Two nights in a Suite Room at Amankora Resort Bumthang – full board
The final stop on your Bhutan adventure is Paro, known for its astonishing natural beauty, rich culture and incredible monasteries.
The afternoon will be spent exploring the fertile Paro Valley accompanied by a guide who will show you the national museum (housed inside a watchtower), the 7th-century Kyichu Lhakhang temple and large Rinpung Dzong, the centre of civil and religious authority in the valley. Plus, a traditional cantilevered bridge, ancient archery grounds and Paro’s colourful shopping district.
No visit to Paro would be truly complete without a trek up the spectacular Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Defying logic, the monastery clings to the side of a precipice 900 metres above the valley floor, its white walls and red-tiled roofs epitomising the medieval Buddhist retreats of old Bhutan. Legend tells us that this is the site where Guru Rinpoche landed on the back of a flying tigress and brought Buddhism to Bhutan. The climb is steep in places but can be taken at a slow pace. If you feel you can’t manage the walk, there are horses that will take you to an excellent viewpoint at around the halfway point. On the way back down to Paro, you will visit one of the country’s oldest temples and its magic orange tree that bears fruit all year round.
Stay: Three nights in a Lodge Suite at Six Senses Paro – breakfast and dinner included; lunch included at a local restaurant
Paro – Kathmandu – Doha – London
Today you’ll fly back to Kathmandu where you’ll have time for last-minute shopping in Patan, before flying off to Doha in the evening to meet your international connection back to London.
I am unable to express sufficiently my thanks and admiration for the constant care and organisation you put into this journey.- DH, Argentina