London - Doha - Kathmandu
Depart on an evening flight from London Heathrow to Doha for your connecting flight to Kathmandu.
You’ll be met at the airport in Kathmandu and taken to one of the only heritage hotels in Nepal’s capital, where you’ll experience the atmosphere of a bygone age thanks to the hotel’s eclectic collection of ancient buildings, its intricately carved woodwork, terracotta tiles, windows dating back to the 16th century and private courtyards decorated with Buddhist symbols.
Stay: One night in a heritage room at The Dwarilkas.
Prepare yourself for what must be one of the world’s most visually appealing air trips. You’ll be flying over the awe-inspiring Himalayas to Paro – a route that presents you with stunning panoramic vistas of Everest, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. As you near Bhutan you’ll be dazzled by the sacred Chomolhari, Mount Jichu Drake and the fortresses of Paro Dzong and Ta Dzong.
From Paro International Airport you’ll be driven your hotel, ready for your tour of the National Museum housed in an ancient watchtower, plus an interesting cantilevered bridge and ancient archery grounds where contests are still held. Not to mention a walk through Paro’s colourful main shopping district.
Next day you’ll trek to the spectacular Tiger’s Nest Monastery. This ancient structure offers you an iconic photo opportunity as it clings to a cliff face above a giddy precipice; its white walls and red tiled roofs epitomising the medieval Buddhist retreats of Bhutan. The engineering feat of building a monastery in so inaccessible a spot is as awesome as the views. Meanwhile close by you’ll find Kyichu Lhakhang – one of the country’s oldest temples – featuring a magic orange tree that bears fruit all year round.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Gangtey Palace.
Druk Path Trek
Now you’ll embark on a series of treks across one of the most inaccessible and beautiful regions of the world. On Day One you’ll start from Ta Dzong museum and hike past working farms, before climbing through forests of blue pine and fir to Damche Gom. Walking up to the ridge below Jele Dzong will bring you to your campsite for the night. Pack horses will carry your bags into camp whilst you admire views across the Paro Valley to Mount Jumolhari and the snow-capped peaks of the Bhutanese Himalayas.
Day Two is a trek towards Mount Jumolhar, through dense alpine and rhododendron forests. Along the way you may meet yak herders camping in their traditional woven yak hair tents.
Day Three continues the theme of outstanding mountain and valley views with the imposing summit of Jichu Drake (6,989m) in the background. You’ll pitch camp at an altitude of almost 4,000 metres, close to Jimilang Tsho Lake, home of giant trout.
Day Four takes you past dwarf rhododendron trees and Janetso Lake, whilst meeting yak herders will give you a rare insight into their ancient, nomadic way of life. You’ll camp at 4,110 metres, close to Simkotra Tsho Lake.
Stay: Four nights in luxury tents.
After a gradual climb to Phume La to admire the views of Mount Gangkhar Puensum – at 7,541m the highest mountain in Bhutan – and the Thimphu Valley below, you’ll descend through blue pine forests to Thimphu – the starting point of your drive to Punakha. Here you’ll be able to visit the City Dzong, which straddles the confluence of the Mo and Pho Rivers. If you like temples you’ll find this area delightful – there are 21 in the dzong’s third courtyard alone, the largest being the monks’ Great Assembly Hall with its 100 pillars.
A tour of the region will show you the scenic Punakha Valley (warm enough to grow bananas and oranges) and the white-washed homesteads and farmland that leads to Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten, a shrine built recently by the royal family. Next comes Punakha Dzong, a 17th century fortress monastery overlooking the Po and Mo Rivers that is now home to 1000 monks. Your tour finishes at Chimmi Lhakhang, a fertility temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley – the Divine Madman.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room at Meri Puensum Hotel.
A three hour journey takes you to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital city, where a tour will show you the bustling Changlingmithang Market, the King’s Memorial Chorten, Changgangkha Monastery and the Radio Tower with its stupendous views of Thimphu Dzong and the surrounding valley. You’ll discover ancient manuscripts in the National Library and visit the School of Arts and Crafts and the National Institute of Traditional Medicine. But if you want a real insight into Bhutan’s living traditions you should call in to the Textile and Folk Heritage Museums.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Druk Hotel.
Paro – Kathmandu - Doha - London
You’ll fly from Paro to Kathmandu where you’ll have time to visit the medieval town of Bhaktapur – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the third largest town in the Kathmandu Valley – before flying off to Doha where you’ll meet your connecting flight to London.
Above and beyond expectations, Jo was a real star. Prompt responses, a real pleasure to deal with.- EP, Italy, 2013