London – Doha – Kathmandu
Check in to London Heathrow for your flight 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 Dwarikas Hotel – bed & breakfast
Today you 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. As you descend towards the Paro Valley, the imposing fortress of Paro Dzong and the ancient Ta Dzong watchtower come into view. The afternoon will be spent exploring the treasures of the Paro Valley accompanied by a guide. Don’t miss out on the national museum – housed inside the watchtower – and the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang temple.
It’s an early start the following day for a drive to Haa via the Chele-la pass. The drive will take you through beautiful blue pine and rhododendron forests, before reaching the Chele-la pass where you will have a fantastic view of Mount Chomolhari & Jichu Drakey. At your destination in Haa you will have time to explore and visit the sites such as the Haa Dzong, the famous Monastery Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple). Drive back to Paro in the late afternoon.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe suite at Amankora Paro Lodge – full board
Next up is Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, where you will find a myriad of interesting attractions including the buzzing Changlingmithang Market, Changgangkha 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 visiting the north end of the valley and the striking Trashi Chhoe Dzong – the seat of Bhutan’s government.
Stay: One night 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 enroute. 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 houses twenty-one temples, the holy book of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage and the Rangjung Kharaspani – a treasure considered as ‘vast as the sky’ itself. You will have the whole of the next day free to explore. Why not walk through the white-washed homesteads and farmlands to see the Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten – an elaborate shrine recently established by the royal family.
Stay: Two nights 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 Phobjika Valley – winter home to endangered black-necked cranes migrating from the Central Asian Plateau. Whether on foot or by mountain bike, exploring this pristine valley is extremely rewarding. We recommend the Tongphu Shing Trail, a leisurely two-hour walk that will take you through pine forest, farmland and villages.
Stay: Two nights at Gangtey Goenpa Lodge – full board
Your journey 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 Tongsa Dzong. Upon arrival in Bumthang, you will discover the Wangdichhoeling Palace, home to the 2nd 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 and cottage industries like the Red Panda Brewery and Bumthang 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, monasteries and the museum of the Ugen Chhoeling Palace. You’ll also stop for a traditional picnic in jaw-dropping surroundings.
Stay: Two nights at Amankora Resort Bumthang – full board
Paro (Tiger’s Nest Hike)
Your Bhutan adventure finishes with a trek up to the spectacular Tiger’s Nest. Defying logic, reason and gravity, the monastery clings to the side of a precipice high above the valley floor. 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 very 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: Two nights in Uma Resort – breakfast and dinner included, lunch included at a local restaurant
Paro – Kathmandu – Doha – London
You’ll fly from Paro 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, 2012