B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
Saturday, 30 Sep 2017: Arrive Katmandu; Fly as a group to Bhutan; Evening Monastery visit (D)
Schedule your flight into Kathmandu no later than 11:00am. You will need to collect your bags and hang out at the airport until it is time to check in as a group for our flight to Bhutan. Connect with other arriving travelers and grab a bite to eat.
Note: Nepal offers visa on arrival. You need to have a valid passport and one passport-size photo with a light background. Visa can be obtained only through payment of cash. The cost for a 15 day visa is USD 25 per person.
We fly together to Bhutan early this afternoon. On a clear day, the flight offers breathtaking views of major snow-capped Himalayan peaks, including Mount Everest. Upon arrival we will travel to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. This evening we'll explore Changangkha Monastery. This monastery was built in the 15th Century on a hill overlooking the Thimphu valley. Many parents bring their new born babies here to be blessed by the high lama. Later we have dinner together to get better acquainted. Overnight Thimphu - 3 nights
Sunday, 1 Oct 2017: Festival Day in Thimphu (B,L,D)
After breakfast we are witness to one of the largest color-filled celebrations in the country, Thimphu Tshechu. This Tshechu is witnessed by thousands of people many of whom travel from neighboring Dzongkhags (districts) to attend the festivities. Apart from a time to wear beautiful fineries, eat good food and socialize, the tsechus imparts religious values. It is believed that the mask dances in the tsechu is also guidance to the people on earth about after life. For many Buddhist it is very important to witness every event of the festival. A local monk will be at hand to facilitate and explain events in detail.
Monday, 2 Oct 2017: Tour of Thimphu; Evening Interaction with local Women (B,L,D)
Thimphu's charm comes not only from its wealth of museums and places of historic interest but also from the strong national character of its architecture. Today we'll tour Thimphu and take in stellar views from the bronze statue of Sakyamuni Buddha. Visit the Zorig Chosum, a painting school offering instruction in the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan, tour the Textile Museum where you can try your hand at weaving, and stop at Simply Bhutan, a living museum depicting the ancient Bhutanese way of life. We'll also tour a traditional hand-made paper factory and watch the process from start to finish. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. Relax at the hotel, stroll around or visit the handicraft shops in town. This evening we'll have the delightful opportunity to meet many Bhutanese women and gain an insight into the status of women in society.
Tuesday, 3 Oct 2017: Travel to Punakha via the Dochula Pass; Meet with a Monk (B,L,D)
Today's drive will offer extraordinary views as we head out into the countryside on our way to Punakha, situated in a sub-tropical valley. The road climbs up to Dochula Pass at 10,000 feet where we will see 108 special stupas (sacred Buddhist monuments) surrounded by thousands of prayer flags dedicated to the Kingdom's Peace and Gross National Happiness. We'll stop in the village of Lobesa to hike to Chimmi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to a 14-century yogi who is a favorite saint of the Bhutanese people. Later we'll visit Punakha Dzong, one of the most beautiful fortresses in Bhutan, and meet a monk to learn more about Buddhism and spirituality of the Bhutanese people. Overnight Punakha - 2 nights
Wednesday, 4 Oct 2017: Farmhouse Visit; Scenic Hike; Raft the Mo Chu River (B,L,D)
We'll set off this morning for a nearby village and spend a half-day visiting a farmhouse and experiencing first-hand the lives of women in rural Bhutan. We'll meet the owner of the farmhouse and learn about her plans for today's lunch, and take part in the preparation of a typical Bhutanese lunch. From here, we'll take a leisurely 30-40 minute hike through rice paddies and forest to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a monument located on a hill with stunning views of the Mo Chu Valley. Afterward, we'll walk back down to the suspension bridge at Hebisa for a scenic rafting adventure on the river passing fields and summer palaces. This is an easy rafting excursion and is perfect for all, regardless of whether you have prior rafting experience.
Thursday, 5 Oct 2017: Travel to Paro; Cooking Demonstration (B,L,D)
Today we travel to Paro. En route, we'll stop at the legendary 300-year-old-farmhouse of Sisina and join the family for a cooking demonstration. The family chef will showcase secrets of traditional mouth-watering delicacies and the magical world of Indian spices. Enjoy a delicious lunch with fresh yak-butter tea and home-brewed liquor. Once we arrive in Paro we will visit the National Museum which houses ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts. The lovely landscape surrounding Paro makes it the perfect walking community. Overnight Paro - 3 nights
Friday, 6 Oct 2017: Hike to "Tiger's Nest" Monastery; Relax with Hot Stone Bath (B,L,D)
This morning we begin with a hike to the "abode of gods", Tiger's Nest Monastery, situated spectacularly upon the side of a cliff 900 meters above the valley floor. Legend says that the 8th-century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to meditate in a cave here. The present structure has been fully restored after a damaging 1998 fire. This is a 2-3 hour uphill excursion; however, we will be rewarded with breath-taking views of the valley below and memories to last a lifetime. After our hike, we'll enjoy a much appreciated (and needed!) traditional hot stone bath as we relax and recount the day's exciting excursion.
Saturday, 7 Oct 2017: Nunnery Visit; Free Afternoon in Paro (B,L,D)
Today we'll drive the steep road that climbs to Chelela Pass through blue pine and rhododendron forest. On a clear day there is a superb view of the mountains. We'll take a walk through the forest to one of Bhutan's seven nunneries, the serene home of Buddhist nuns who have dedicated their lives to spiritual fulfillment. These nunneries also provide food, shelter, protection and support for orphans and less fortunate women, providing a means of empowering and educating women and girls. Afterward, we'll walk down to the road-head to meet our vehicle and return to Paro where the remainder of the afternoon is free to continue exploring this quaint town. This evening we will have our farewell dinner.
Sunday, 8 Oct 2017: Return Home (B)
Sadly, it's time to leave this "Land of the Thunder Dragon." After a free morning we will travel to the airport and fly as a group back to Kathmandu, Nepal. Schedule your departure from Kathmandu no earlier than 5:00pm.