London - Doha - Kathmandu
You’ll be met at the airport in Kathmandu and taken to a Nepali-style hotel with magnificent gardens and sweeping views across the Kathmandu Valley to the snow-capped Himalayas beyond. While you’re here you’ll walk through Durba Square, Teleju Temple and the old Royal Palace; guarded by a cloak-swathed statue of the monkey god. The world’s oldest shrine – the Monkey Temple – is next, followed by a tour of Patan; the city of arts and architecture founded in 250 AD and famous for its bronze, silver and copper work. You’ll be able to see the Royal Baths, Mahaboudha, Krishna Mandir and the Golden Temple. Not to be missed is the new Patan Museum with a breath-taking collection of metalwork and sculptures tracing Nepal’s cultural history.
Stay: Two nights in a mountain view room at the Summit Hotel.
Today you fly over the mighty Himalayas to Paro. The mountains provide you with stunning panoramas, including Everest and Kanchenjunga, whilst the sacred Chomolhari and Mount Jichu Drake – and the fortresses of Paro Dzong and Ta Dzong – herald your arrival in Bhutan. At Paro International Airport you’ll be met and taken into town. From your hotel you’ll have easy access to the National Museum, housed in an ancient watchtower. You can also walk across a quaint cantilevered bridge to the archery grounds and perhaps watch a contest. Equally fascinating is an evening stroll through Paro’s colourful main shopping district.
The following day sees you trekking upwards to the spectacular Tiger’s Nest Monastery, clinging to the side of a precipice; its white walls and red tiled roofs epitomising the mediaeval Buddhist retreats of Bhutan. The views are as astounding as the feat of building such a picturesque monastery in so inaccessible a spot. Nearby Kyichu Lhakhang – one of the country’s oldest temples has a magic orange tree that fruits all year round.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Gangtey Palace.
Today you drive across the roof of the world to the Punakha-Wangdiphodrang Valley, taking in eye-stretching views of the Eastern Himalayas before reaching the old capital of Bhutan. In Punakha you’ll tour one of the most impressive dzongs in the whole country. It contains the holy book of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage, written in gold and the Rangjung Kharsapani – reputedly a treasure ‘as vast as the sky itself’.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at Damchen Resort.
Now your journey takes you through astounding scenery to the famous cacti of Wangdiphodrang Dzong – the dzong is itself a most striking building – and onwards across the Pele La to Trongsa.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at Yangkhil Resort.
You’ll have time to visit Tongsa Dzong and the absorbing Tower of Trongsa Museum before heading east to the Choekhor Valley and Jakar, the principal town of Bumthang. Here you’ll discover 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, Bumthang Cheese/Dairy Facility and the Bumthang Distillery to explore.
The next day you’ll trek off the beaten track and be rewarded by lhakhangs, monasteries and the museum of Ugen Chhoeling Palace. You’ll also be able to pause for a traditional picnic in jaw-dropping surroundings.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Jakar Village.
Your next road trip is a five and a half hour meander, taking you through a forest of rhododendron and oak to the wild and beautiful Phobjika Valley – winter home to endangered black-necked cranes migrating from the Central Asian Plateau. You’ll be staying overnight in delightful Gangtey.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at Dewachen Hotel.
In the morning you’ll have the opportunity to visit Gangtey Gompa Monastery and venture further into the Phobjika Valley, before heading off to the capital city of Thimphu, about four hours away. Lying in a steep, dramatic valley at an altitude of 2,350m, the town is surrounded by mountains dotted with ancient monasteries and temples. At its centre is a quaint Clock Tower and bustling lanes lined with shops, produce and meat markets and interesting local restaurants. Not to mention myriad sightseeing opportunities, Changlingmethang Market, government buildings and the office of His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
Day 12 brings a trek to two 16th century buildings that house a monastic training school for astrologers, and Cheri Goemba where the first monastic body was founded. The city offers visits to cottage industries ranging from traditional paper making to hand rolled incense, plus a tour of the King’s Memorial Chorten, the radio tower, the Zilukha Nunnery Temple and the Fortress of Thimphu.
Stay: Two nights in a deluxe room at Druk Hotel.
Thimpu - Paro
You’ll probably want to immerse yourself in the fascinating capital city before taking the drive back to Paro.
Stay: One night in a deluxe room at Gangtey Palace (or similar).
Paro – Kathmandu - Doha - London
You’ll fly from Paro to Kathmandu where you’ll have a car and driver for last minute shopping, before flying off to Doha in the evening to meet your international connection back to London.
We were asked 2 or 3 times 'how did you find this place?' which was well off the usual tourist track. Answer: we didn’t, our agent (you) did!- CWW, Chile, 2014