A touring experience of the highest order. This adventure carries you from the majestic holy places of Tibet to the bustling bazaars and historic sites of Nepal and to the sacred peaks of Bhutan. Take the ancient trade route of Tibet over high passes and along the stunning turquoise waters of Yamdrok Lake. Visit the sublime Kumbum chörten of Gyantse, a multi-storied chapel of shrines, blessed throughout with a plethora of amazing Buddhist murals, frescoes and statuary. Admire the immense and beautiful Potala Palace, the historic winter home for generations of Dalai Lamas. Tour the incomparable bazaars of Kathmandu, staying at the iconic Yak & Yeti Hotel, and view Mount Everest at dawn by private aircraft as a Sherpa Climber details its peaks and climbing routes as you fly above. Hike to the top of the World Peace Pagoda for a blissful panoramic view of Pokhara on Phewa Lake, ringed in the distance by the Himalaya. Visit the past and present capitals of Bhutan, Thimpu and Panakha, explore such cultural institutions as the Painting School, where students follow a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan. See the Wangduephodrang Dzong (fortress) atop a hill at the confluence of the Punakha Chu and Tang Chu rivers. Visit the area’s monasteries and behold the iconic Taksang or “Tiger’s Nest” monastery perched atop a sheer rock cliff. This spectacular 20-day journey unlocks the mysteries of all three of these unforgettable destinations.
LAND PRICE INCLUDES: • All accommodation in hotels listed in the above itinerary based on double occupancy and inclusive of all taxes;
• China/Tibet: Airport transfers in Chengdu using A/C private vehicles; All ground transportation using non-air conditioned vehicles in Tibet; All sightseeing excursions as listed in itinerary; All meals after arrival in Tibet; All entrance fees to all monuments, monasteries, park service, etc; Services of full time Tibetan Tour Manger and Guide from arrival in Tibet to departure from Tibet; All fees associated with obtaining the ‘Tibet Travel Permit;
• Nepal: Mountain flight airfare; Everest summiteer guide during mountain flight; Round-trip airfare between Kathmandu and Pokhara; Domestic airport departure taxes; All ground transportation using air-conditioned vehicles in Kathmandu; Services of full time Nepalese Tour Manger and Guide from arrival in Nepal to departure from Nepal; All sightseeing as noted in the itinerary; All entry fees at all temples, museums and monuments on sight seeing excursions; Govt. Service Taxes as applicable;
• Bhutan: All meals in Bhutan; All ground transportation using nonair conditioned vehicles in Bhutan; Services of full time Bhutanese Tour Manger and Guide from arrival in Bhutan to departure from Bhutan; All entry fees at all temples, museums and monuments on sightseeing excursions; Bhutan Visa Fee; Bhutan Tourism Fee; All Govt. Service Fees & Taxes.
LAND PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:
• International airfare; Internal Asia Airfare is quoted separately and is subject to change by airlines;
• Lunches and dinners unless listed in the itinerary;
• En route stop-overs and hotels;
• Excess baggage charges (on flights) and airport taxes;
• Items of a personal nature such as alcoholic beverages, laundry, mail, phone calls, faxes, etc.;
• Tips/gratuity to all local staff, including drivers, guides etc.;
• Trip cancellation, travel delays, or baggage insurance;
• Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Nomadic Expeditions.
"The trip was extraordinary in every way, and I am grateful to everyone who contributed to making this experience happen."
Michelle G., CA
Our trip was a dream and we have pictures to remember a journey of not only beautiful Himalayan mountains or Thai beaches, but incredible connections to new friends met in magical places. Loved loved loved our journey to Bhutan, Thailand and Cambodia. We are very grateful for your help!”
Patrick V., PA
Tsering is simply one of the best guides I've had on any trip and gave one a true feeling of not only the Tibetan land but the feelings of its people and the difficult political situation Tibet has with China.
After flying east across multiple time zones, you will arrive late in the evening and will be met by our Chengdu staff who will transfer you to your hotel.
Day 2 - FLY TO TIBET | TSEDANG
Depart early this morning for your flight to Tibet. If the weather is clear, the flight from Chengdu to Lhasa will offer spectacular panoramic views of the eastern ramparts of the Himalayas. China’s highest mountain peaks, the 24,783’ Minya Konka, and the mighty Namche Barwa (25,439 ft.) loom majestically on the horizon, surrounded by countless snow-capped peaks and high alpine valleys, climbing vertiginously upwards to the high-altitude Tibetan plateau.
Your guide will meet you at the airport for the drive (1.5 hours) across the Yarlung Valley to Tsedang (11,152 ft.). On your way, enjoy the exquisite beauty of the mighty Brahmaputra River, known as the Yarlung Tsangpo in this part of Tibet. The Yarlung Valley is certainly one of the most beautiful parts of Tibet, and the historic town of Tsedang will be your day’s destination. You spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the sights in Tsedang, nestled beneath the slopes of the sacred Gangpo Ri.
Tsedang was at the crux of Tibetan civilization until Lhasa emerged as the preeminent center of Tibetan society in the 7th century. InTsedang you will have the opportunity to visit the monasteries of Ganden Chökhorling and Ngachö, and the ancient castle of Yumbu Lakang, the oldest building in Tibet.
As this is your first day at a higher elevation, physical exertion is recommended to allow your bodies to acclimate to the altitude. Take a late afternoon walk through the bazaar, if you’re feeling up for it.
(Tsedang Hotel; B, L, D)
Day 3 - YARLUNG VALLEY & SAMYE MONASTERY
Begin your day with a drive through the stunningly beautiful Yarlung Tsangpo Valley as you head toward the important monastery of Samye. Aside from its tremendous scenic beauty, the Yarlung Valley is also famed for its place of honor in the Tibetan mythological canon. According to tradition, it was in the Yarlung Valley that Tibetan civilization came into being. At Gangpo Ri, it is said that Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, descended to earth in the guise of a monkey, and together with an incarnation of the goddess Tara, was the progenitor of the Tibetan race.
To reach Samye, you must cross the mighty Tsangpo River by ferry to reach Surkhar on the river’s north bank. From here it is a short drive to Samye, Tibet’s first monastic institution, founded in the 8th Century CE by the fabled King Trisong Detsen. This monastery is closely associated with the legendary Padmasambhava, aka Guru Rinpoche, who established the Buddhist faith in this region of Tibet. Due to its close connection with Guru Rinpoche, Samye was originally tied to the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, though it later came to be associated with the Sakyapa school. Samye is distinctive in that it is laid out as a mandala of theBuddhist cosmological vision. In its center rises the pivotal structure, the Ütse, which symbolizes Mt. Meru, the center of the Buddhist universe. Samye’s many temples, chapels, and chörtens are laid out around the Ütse in a circular pattern, signifying the oceans and continents of the Buddhist cosmos. After thoroughly exploring Samye, you will return through the Yarlung Valley to Tsedang.
(Tsedang Hotel; B, L, D)
Day 4 - TSEDANG TO GYANTSE
Take the old trade route over high passes and along the turquoise waters of Yamdrok Lake to Gyantse (13,050 ft.) Nomadic shepherds may be in this area and you may have the opportunity to visit them.
Yamdrok is known as the “scorpion lake,” due to its twisting shoreline, which, as the moniker suggestions, resembles a scorpion. Yamdrok is one of the four sacred lakes of Tibet and is a major pilgrimage site in its own right, with a kora path ringing its shores. The lake will be your companion for a good portion of your drive to Gyantse. From the rushing waters of the Tsangpo to the high mountain passes of Kamba-la and Karo-la, festooned with prayer flags, the drive from Tsedang to Gyantse is a breathtaking and photogenic journey.
Arriving in Gyantse, situated in the fertile and agriculturally productive Nyang-chu Valley with the impressive Gyantse Dzong (fort) sitting stolidly atop its lofty perch, you check in to your hotel and take in some sites in Gyantse. The highlight of your time in Gyantse will be a visit to the city’s most famous site, the sublime Kumbum chörten, located at the Pelkor Chöde Monastery. At one time, both the Gelugs and Sakya sects had monasteries at Pelkor Chöde.
As with most of Tibet’s great monastic institutions, Pelkor Chöde suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution, but is nevertheless enjoying a period of revival. The Kumbum (which means “100,000 images” in Tibetan) is blessed with a plethora of amazing Buddhist murals, frescoes and statuary. You will also see many devout pilgrims completing the short kora around the Kumbum, spinning prayer wheels as they circumambulate themystical Gyantse Kumbum protected by the ever-watchful eyes of the Lord Buddha.
(Gyantse Hotel; B, L, D)
Day 5 - GYANTSE TO SHIGATSE
Traveling on the modern road that traverses the fertile green fields and dun-colored hills of the Nyang-chu Valley, you arrive in Shigatse (12,800 ft.), Tibet’s second largest city, and home to the monastery of Tashilhunpo, residence of the Panchen Lamas.
En route you have the option of stopping at Shalu Monastery and the small agricultural communities.
After checking in at the hotel, embark on a visit to Tashilhunpo. Founded in 1447 by another disciple of the great Tsongkhapa, Tashilhunpo was the resting place of the 1st Dalai Lama.Nevertheless, the institution has come to be identified with the Panchen Lamas, the second most important spiritual reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism (after the Dalai Lamas). Although the original manifestation of the Panchen Lama was identified by the “Great Fifth” Dalai Lama, a rivalry between the two great figures developed over the course of the following centuries.
Tashilhunpo is an intriguing place to visit. It is a very large complex and, like Drepung, rewards the visitor who takes the time to explore the wander the monastery’s byways. Tashilhunpo is an active monastery with a fairly sizeable contingent of monks in residence. The highlight of a visit to the monastery is the massive, 75-foot-plus gilded statue of Maitreya.
(Tashi Chuta Hotel; B, L, D)
Day 6 - LHASA
Drive along the powerful Tsangpo (meaning The River) as you make your way through the beautiful countryside of Ü, the historically rich province of Central Tibet. Winding your way through the stunningly austere Tibetan landscape, you finally enter the environs of Lhasa, Tibet’s most populous city. There before you, standing imposingly upon its lofty precipice, is the staggeringly beautiful and instantly recognizable Potala Palace, its regal red and white façade and glittering golden gables towering over the Kyi-chu Valley.
The “forbidden city” of Lhasa will reveal its unique character and enchanting mystique as you visit many of its most significant historical and cultural sites.
(Shangri-La Hotel; B, L, D)
Days 7-8 - EXPLORE LHASA
Spend the next two days exploring the city’s most important sites.
Drepung Monastery, beautifully situated in the unpopulated hills west of Lhasa, is a remarkable place. At one time Drepung was home to 10,000 monks, establishing it as the largest monastic institution in the world. Drepung is a large establishment and it is worth the time to explore in depth. Drepung was founded in 1416, just prior to the establishment of Sera. Notably, Drepung’s Ganden Palace was home to the Dalai Lamas until the construction of the Potala by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama in the 17th century. Drepung’s many colleges, halls and temples extend up the hillside towards the peak of Gephel Ri, encouraging the visitor to wander the many byways that meander through the compound’s whitewashed structures. One of Drepung’s many attractions is the massive, two-story statue of Maitreya, the Future Buddha, which attracts pilgrims from throughout Tibet. Drepung’s dramatic location offers splendid views of the Kyi-chu Valley below, including the monastery of Nechung nestled at the foot of the hill below Drepung.
Jokhang is Lhasa’s sacred religious temple. While the Potala Palace played host to Tibet’s affairs of state, Lhasa’s second great historic site, the Jokhang temple, is the religious heart and soul of Tibetan Buddhism. The Jokhang, arguably Tibet’s holiest religious shrine, was constructed in the 7th Century CE under the guidance of the indomitable King Songtsen Gampo. As legend has it, Songtsen Gampo’s Chinese and Nepalese brides brought the Dharma to Tibet, as well as the holiest Buddhist relic in Tibet, the “Jowo Rinpoche.” This golden, bejeweled statue of the Buddha Shakyamuni is the highlight of any visit to the Jokhang. The roof of the Jokhang, with its wonderful golden gables and carvings, offers a magnificent view of the Potala and the busy Barkhor markets below.
The Barkhor, the maze-like warren of shops and stalls that surrounds the Jokhang, will beckon you to join the Tibetans who travel here to pay homage to the Jokhang as they circumambulate the sacred shrine.
Pilgrims journey from throughout Tibet to make prostrations and to complete this ritual kora. Join with these amazing pilgrims as they make their way around this venerable site, and lose yourself amongst the vibrant sites, fantastic smells, and distinctive sounds of the bazaars of the Barkhor.
Looming over Lhasa and the Kyi-chu Valley is the monumental Potala Palace. A visit to this amazing historical site is certainly a highlight of any trip to Tibet. Explore the many chapels, halls and tombs of the Red Palace. Based on the mythical Potala in South India, this more tangible incarnation of the palace was the home of Tibet’s god-kings, the Dalai Lamas. Begun by the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th century, the Potala was the winter residence of the Tibetan spiritual leader from the time of “The Great Fifth” until the current and 14th Dalai Lama, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, occupied it. Now a museum, the Potala is a treasure trove of Tibetan history, its dark and mysterious chapels luring the visitor to discover its many secrets.
Visit Sera Monastery, located to the north of Lhasa, which is perhaps most famous for the always lively sessions that take place in the Debating Courtyard.
Sera was founded in 1419 by a student of the legendary Tsongkhapa and was once home to several thousand Gelugs monks. Although the monastery is populated by far fewer monks these days, Sera, like many other Tibetan monasteries, is reemerging as a prominent center ofTibetan Buddhist studies. After exploring the Main Assembly Hall and many colleges, it is arguably the highlight of any visit to Sera to relax beneath the shady canopy of the Debating Courtyard’s many trees and revel in the sights and sounds as Sera’s monks energetically argue the finer points of Buddhist philosophy.
(Shangri-La Hotel; B, L, D)
Day 9 - KATHMANDU
Early this morning transfer to Lhasa Airport for your flight to Kathmandu. As Nepal is 2 hours 45 minutes behind Tibet time (all of China/Tibet is on Beijing time, some three time zones to the east), you actually gain time upon arriving Kathmandu.
The legendary locale of Kathmandu conjures images of the ultimate mysterious and exotic travel destination. Located in Central Nepal, the Kathmandu Valley is the center of Nepali cultural and political life. Indeed, the Kathmandu Valley has been a hub of civilization for over two millennia. Kathmandu is living history, where the modern and ancient continue to mingle. It is an unforgettable experience to wander the mysterious bazaars of old Kathmandu, and this afternoon you can take a walking tour of locales such as the Durbar Square, Hanuman Dhoka, theancient palace of the Gorkha Kings and, of course, Kathmandu’s incomparable bazaars. While in Kathmandu, you will be staying at the iconic Yak & Yeti Hotel, in the heart of Kathmandu. The hotel is built around the All Durbar, the old palace of the Rana Dynasty. Through the years it has been the place to stay for royalty, heads of state, Hollywood celebrities and many mountaineering expeditions bound for Everest and the high Himalaya.
(Yak & Yeti Hotel; B)
Day 10 - EXPLORE KATHMANDU
Enjoy a dawn Mt. Everest-view flight guided by a Sherpa Climber. These turbo-prop pressurized aircraft have been specially outfitted with large viewing windows (every passenger has a window seat) and follow a flight path that parallels the high Himalaya all the way to Everest and back. Your Sherpa guide will keep you informed of all the names and climbing routes of the peaks as you fly by them. On return to your hotel, have breakfast with the Sherpa Guide and get all your questions on climbing Everest answered.
Although Nepal is the world’s only Hindu kingdom, the Buddhist faith is prevalent throughout the country. Indeed, some of Kathmandu’s most renowned sites are Buddhist. The eyes of the Lord Buddha gaze serenely upon the Kathmandu Valley from atop the photogenic stupa at Swayambhunath, also known as the Monkey Temple, for reasons that will become apparent when you visit. Swayambhunath is steeped in mythology, linked to the bodhissatva Manjushri, with historical links back to the 5th century. You can climb the stupa’s 365 steps with Buddhist pilgrims and join them in their ritual circumambulation. Views of the Kathmandu Valley from Swayambhunath are spectacular.
The large Buddhist stupa at Bodnath, a World Heritage Site, is equally renowned. The stupa is one of the world’s largest, dating back to the 6th century. Located on the old trade route from Nepal to Tibet, Bodnath is also home to a sizeable Tibetan community and is a wonderful place to witness traditional Buddhist ritual, as well as to shop for Tibetan arts and crafts.
Kathmandu is also home to the great Hindu temple atPashupatinath, located on the banks of the Bagmati River. This is a major pilgrimage site for the followers of Shiva, drawing Hindu faithful from around the world. Although the temple is off-limits to non-Hindus, travelers can still visit the temple precincts and view the temple from the opposite bank of the Bagmati. From here, one can see the temple’s cremation ghats and witness firsthand the Hindu cycle of life.
(Yak & Yeti Hotel; B)
Day 11 - POKHARA
Fly to Pokhara this morning. Nestled in the Pokhara Valley, the city of Pokhara is surrounded by the towering Himalaya, including several of the range’s legendary peaks – Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, the iconic fish-tail peak of Machhapucchare, and of course, the redoubtable Annapurnas. Spend the remainder of the day exploring Pokhara and walking around the bazaar.
(Fishtail Lodge; B)
Day 12 - EXPLORE POKHARA
Revel in the glory of the mighty Himalaya as you visit sites and go on hikes around Pokhara; your guide can discuss specific options with you. Early morning, row across the lake and then hike up to the World Peace Pagoda giving you a bird’s eye-view of Pokhara City and the Valley. A short (1- to 1.5-hour) strenuous hike, almost all of it straight uphill. There are a hundred Peace Pagodas built around the world and this one in Nepal was actually the 71st Pagoda that was constructed. This project initiated soon after World War II by Nichidatsu Fujii, a Japanese monk, who was greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, to inspire World Peace. There are three Pagodas built in the U.S. – San Francisco; Grafton, NY; and Leverett, MA. On the way back across the lake stop at the very active Parahi temple, built on a small island in the middle of the lake.
(Fishtail Lodge; B)
Day 13 - RETURN TO KATHMANDU
Return to Kathmandu. Delve deeper into the history of the Kathmandu Valley, visiting the ancient temple city of Bhaktapur and nearby Patan, including the rug-weaving center of Refugee Tibetans. The evening is at your leisure.
(Yak & Yeti Hotel; B)
Day 14 - FLY TO BHUTAN
Your flight to Bhutan is parallel to the Himalayan range and one can see Everest, Makalu, and Kanchenjunga if the weather is clear. As you enter the Paro Valley, you will sweep past forested hills with the silvery Pa Chu (Paro River) meandering down the valley below. Paro Dzong (fortress) and Ta Dzong (watchtower) on the hills above the town will be a fine sight. Your guide will meet you at Paro airport and will transfer you to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, an exciting blend of tradition and modernity. The afternoon is at your leisure.
(Zhiwaling Ascent; B, L, D)
Day 15 - EXPLORE THIMPU
Your full day of sightseeing starts of with a visit to the market, where everyone goes to buy fruits and vegetables, rice, grains, chilies and other fresh foods. The crowded stalls offer many colorful local items such as yak tail dusters, butter teacups, turquoise from Tibet and musical instruments.
Visit the Institute for Zorig Chusum (commonly known as Painting School), where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan, and continue onto the Textile and Folk Heritage Museums. These museums, both of which opened in 2001, provide fascinating insights into Bhutanese material culture and way of life.
The third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, as a monument to world peace and prosperity, envisaged the construction of the National Memorial Chorten. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the Father of Modern Bhutan”) and a monument to world peace. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
(Zhiwaling Ascent; B, L, D)
Day 16 - PUNAKHA
Begin your drive to Punakha via Wangduephodrang. You will drive by what remains of the Wangduephodrang (or Wandgi) Dzong, sitting atop a hill at the confluence of the Punakha Chu and Tang Chu rivers. It was the town’s most visible feature and suffered great damage in a fire in June 2012. You arrive Punakha early afternoon, and will visit Punakha Dzong, a massive structure built at the junction of two rivers. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1955, and still serves as the winter residence of the monk body. The first King, Ugyen Wangchuck, was crowned here in 1907. The fortress has withstood several damages from fire, earthquake and flood. The latest flood of October 1994 caused great damages to the fortress but miraculously spared the statue of Buddha Jojampa.
(Dhensa Resort; B, L, D)
Day 17 - EXPLORE PUNAKHA
After breakfast, you embark on a walking excursion to Chimi Lhakhang, situated on a hillock in the center of the valley, which is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who in the late 15th century used humor, songs, and outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings. Due to this, he is also known as the “Divine Madman.” This temple is also known as the temple of fertility. It is widely believed that couples that do not have children are usually blessed with a child soon after praying at the temple. It is a 30-minute walk across a field from the road to the temple. The trail leads across rice fields to the tiny settlement of Pana, which translates as “field.” The trail then follows a tiny stream downhill to Yoaka and across more fields before making a short climb to Chimi Lhakhang.
In the afternoon you take a beautiful hike to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgel Chorten, which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world. The Chorten dominates the upper Punakha Valley with commanding views across the Mo Chu and up towards themountainous peaks of Gasa and beyond.
(Dhensa Resort; B, L, D)
Day 18 - PARO
After an early breakfast, you drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088 meters/10,130 feet) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall and prayer flags that decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158 meters), Tsendagang (6,960 meters), Terigang (7,060 meters), Jejegangphugang (7,158 meters), Kangphugang (7,170 meters), Zongphugang (7,060 meters), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana, and, finally, Gangkar Puensum (7,497 meters), the highest peak in Bhutan.
After checking in to your hotel (which offers a view of Taksang Monastery), you leave to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangka paintings, textiles, weapons and armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts. Walking down the trail, you will come to Rinpung Dzong (“Fortress of the Heap of Jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount Sumeru and other cosmic mandalas.
(Zhiwaling Heritage; B, L, D)
Day 19 - EXPLORE PARO VALLEY
Experience the wonders of the Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. The Dzong was destroyed by accidental fire in 1951 and left in ruins.
Explore the dzong and surrounding village, and on a clear day experience the spectacular view of the majestic Mt. Chomolhari (7,314 meters/23,990 feet). The snowy dome of sacred Chomolhari, the “mountain goddess,” is best seen in all her glory from the approach road to the Dzong. Along the way you will see the 7th-century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marked the introduction of Buddhism to Bhutan.
You will also take an excursion to Taktsang, the most famous of Bhutanese monasteries. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery, hence its moniker of the “Tiger’s Nest.” The hiking excursion to themonastery’s viewpoint takes about five to six hours round trip.
(Zhiwaling Heritage; B, L, D)
Day 20 - DEPARTURE
Transfer to Paro Airport for your flight to Bangkok and your flight home.