Bhutan - Land of the peaceful dragon

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Day 1: Arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal

Upon arrival in Kathmandu you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore on your own before meeting with the group for dinner and our orientation meeting. Overnight in Kathmandu.


Day 2: Kathmandu - Pashupatinath, Boudhanath, Swayambhunath

A full day exploring the ancient sights of Kathmandu. We visit Pashupatinath, the site of the sacred Golden Temple located on the Bagmati River. Nearby, Tibetan pilgrims and monks can be seen circling the base of the massive Stupa at Boudhanath. We visit the ancient wooden temples of Durbar Square and travel to Swayambhunath, to see the temples and massive Stupa, sacred to Buddhists and Hindus alike. Overnight in Kathmandu.


Day 3: Fly to Bhadrapur and Mirik, India

Today, we fly from Kathmandu to Bhadrapur in eastern Nepal. Our adventure to Darjeeling (West Bengal), Sikkim, and Bhutan begins with a scenic drive to Mirik, India. Overnight in Mirik, India.


Day 4: Darjeeling - Mt. Kanchenjunga

Today after breakfast we will have a nature walk around the lake in Mirik before our journey to Darjeeling. We visit a tea factory and a Tibetan refugee center. Overnight in Darjeeling.


Day 5: Darjeeling - Mountaineering Institute

This morning we take a trip to Tiger Hill for a view of the sunrise over the mountains in hopes to see Mt. Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. After breakfast we ride a Raj-era train where we will visit the Railway Museum and then continue on to visit the Ghoom Monastery.

After lunch we drive to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. The Institute was established in 1954 following the mountaineering success of Hilary and Tenzing. After the museum we will walk through the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park as they protect endangered species, including some of the most unusual animals in the world. Amongst these are Red Pandas, Siberian Tigers, Yaks, Snow Leopards and Himalayan bears. Overnight in Darjeeling.


Day 6: Gangtok, Sikkim

In the morning, we drive and cross the boarder into Sikkim where we will then continue on after lunch to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Until 1965, Sikkim was a separate state ruled by a Chogyal (a Sikkim king) whose history dates back to the 16th century. Today, the monarchy has been abolished and Sikkim is part of the Indian union.

We will visit a handicraft center to see the beautiful fabrics of this land. Overnight in Gangtok.


Day 7: Gangtok - Rumtek Monastery

We start off our day with a visit to the Ganesh Tok temple which is also a view point. We then visit the Flower Exhibition Center that was once the Loop Garden in North Sikkim during 1963 and then inaugurated by the Gyalmo Hope Namgyal. The most beautiful Himalayan flowers can be seen here including Orchids.

After lunch we will visit the Institute of Tibetology. The Institute was established in 1958 to promote research on the language, culture, and religion of Tibet. It houses an impressive collection of over 3,000 books, containing some of the earliest translations of Buddha's teachings. In the evening we will walk through the Lal Bazzar Market, the main attraction for the locals in Gangtok town. Overnight in Gangtok.


Day 8: Rumtek Monastery - Kalimpong, India

Today we drive to Kalimpong first stopping to visit the Rumtek Monastery. Rumtek Monastery was the seat of the Kagypa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The first monastery was built here in 1717, but crumbled to ruins and the present monastery dates from 1960.

We return back to the Sikkim boarder to drive to Kalimpong. Overnight in Kalimpong.


Day 9: Phuntsoling, Bhutan

An early start to the morning so we can visit Durpin Dara Monastery also known as Thongsa Monastery. We continue to Phuntsoling, just inside the Bhutan border. Today is a long day so we will have a box lunch to save time. On our first night in Bhutan, we have a short walk through the streets of Phuntsoling and savour being among the few who have traveled to this remote and exotic land. Overnight in Phuntsoling.


Day 10: Thimphu

We have a full day drive through the spectacular countryside to Thimphu, the nation's capital. Enroute, we visit Chime Lhakhang Monastery also known to some as the Kharbandi Monastery. It is widely known today that most of the thousands of people who visit the Lhakhang do so to pray for children. We will have lunch at the start of the 15 minute walk that leads up to this mystical monastery. We visit the Thimphu post office where we can make our own stamp and send a post card home with your own made stamp. Overnight in Thimphu.


Day 11: Thimphu

Sightseeing of the nation's capital. Bhutan is the only country whose government is officially Buddhist and as such, a walk through the streets of Thimphu is a walk unlike any other in the world. We visit the Chorten Memorial Temple before we see a real life Takin, the national animal of Bhutan.

We also have the opportunity to visit a painting school and several handicraft emporiums. We end a very busy day with a visit to the nunnery perched high on the hill overlooking the Thimphu valley before a relaxing evening. Overnight in Thimphu.


Day 12: To Wangdi via Duchola Pass , Punakha Dzong

We depart Thimphu and drive over the Duchola Pass which is approximately 10,170 ft/3100 m and walk around the Chortens of the fallen solders and get lost in the prayer flags that cover this high pass.

Our first stop is the monastery that over looks the ruins of the Wangduephodrang Dzong which was a peaceful monastery set on top of the hill overlooking the Wangdi river. The Dzong, which was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in 1638, the third oldest Dzong in Bhutan was burned down on June 24, 2012. We will see the new temple they created, all by hand, in a month to house the relics and learn more about the Dzong, the monastery and the monks with in it.

After lunch we will drive to Punakha and visit the Punakha Dzong, which serves as an old capitol of Bhutan. This remarkable fortress is built between two rivers and has survived many glacial floods as well as fire. Overnight in Wangdi.


Day 13: To Paro via Duchola Pass

Today we travel to Paro crossing the Duchola Pass once again. On our drive you will see the Simotka Fort, with its impressive views of the surrounding countryside, and stop at Kichukhakang Museum to further our knowledge of Bhutan's culture and customs. We arrive in Paro and have a short walk through Paro town before a relaxing evening. Overnight in Paro Valley.


Day 14: Hike to Taktsang Monastery

We spend the morning sightseeing in Paro with visits to Drukgyel Dzong and Ta-Dzong. The Drukgyel Dzong was built in the 16th century to commemorate a victory over the invading Tibetan forces. The fortress today lies in ruins, the elements and a fire in the 1950s having taken a toll on the site. In the afternoon for those who want to we will hike up to the famous Taktsang Monastery or Tiger's Nest. Marvel in the history of this holy place and see the holy cave where it is said to be the origin of Bhuddism in Bhutan. The views over the Paro Valley will take your breath away. Overnight in Paro Valley.


Day 15: Paro Festival

This special departure was planned around one of Bhutan�s biggest and most popular festivals, The Paro Tsechu or Paro Festival. Every spring people from all over Bhutan come to Paro to partake in the festivities. Festival goers and monks alike dress in brilliant costumes and wear masks representing Buddhist deities. Here they dance and re-enact Bhutanese legends.

Today we will wake before sunrise, approximately 3am (optional but recommended), to see the morning rituals of the Unfurling of Thongdril (Giant Holy Thanka Of Shri Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche). We can mingle with the pilgrims from far and wide and march in the procession to witness this holy festival.

We will return back to the hotel for a breakfast and rest before we start our day with more of the closing ceremonies of the festival and participate in the mask dance ceremony. Overnight in Paro Valley.


Day 16: Fly to Kathmandu, To Bhaktapur

An early morning transfer to the Paro Airport for our flight to Kathmandu. On arrival we transfer to Bhaktapur and have lunch at the square and enjoy the afternoon exploring this walled city of Bhaktapur, an ancient city that has been lovingly restored to its authentic style. Overnight in Bhaktapur.


Day 17: Patan, Bhaktapur

Today we travel to the city of Patan and visit its lesser known, but equally impressive Durbar Square. The second largest city in the valley, Patan is also known as the city of arts. We will also have some free time to explore on your own as this is a photographers dream. Overnight in Bhaktapur.


Day 18: Depart Kathmandu

After breakfast you will be transferred for your flight onward.

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