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we have created a special range of sightseeing that includes the well known highlights of the dzongs or fortress-cum monasteries, and the great temples, as well as more unusual and rewarding visits - such as to a school, a traditional farmhouse, and gentle walks past fields and villages - that give the visitor an opportunity to enjoy the scenery at close quarters, and give a rare glimpse into a far-away world.
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Grand Tour of Bhutan
Fly from London Heathrow to Kathmandu via Delhi with Jet Airways at around 2045.
Arrive in Kathmandu and stay overnight at the Kantipur Temple House Hotel, very close to the lively Thamel district, packed with cafes and shops.
In the morning we visit the picturesque village of Bungamati perched on a hilltop among shady trees and stands of bamboo, and renowned for traditional crafts like wood-carving and weaving. Crossing the Bagmati River we arrive at Patan, known as the City of Beauty, where the great dynasty of the Malla kings has left a rich architectural legacy that includes scores of ancient temples, all still very much a part of the daily life of the town. Lunch is taken in a courtyard of the old Royal Palace, then continue to visit Pashupatinath and Boudhanath. Dinner is at Thamel House, a traditional Newari building, and afterwards, rickshaws will take us back to the hotel via a typical market. (BLD)
Enjoy one of the most scenic flights in the world this morning between Kathmandu and Paro, travelling eastwards along the southern flank of the Himalayas into Bhutan. A few moments drive from the airport and you are in a wide, fertile valley dotted with picturesque farms and willow trees. Drive to the capital, Thimpu, and stay at the Riverview Hotel. The journey is spectacular, travelling through the deep gorges cut by the Paro Chu and Thimpu Chu rivers and with pine, oak and maple-clad mountains on either side, dotted with isolated farmhouses decorated in the traditional style with stylised phalluses and mythical beasts. On arrival in Thimpu, enjoy some time at leisure, then later on drive to Kuensel Phodrang to admire fine views over the city. (BLD)
Explore this quaint town – visit the Post Office to admire its world-renowned stamps, the Painting School where apprentices learn traditional crafts such as woodcarving, sculpture and embroidery as well as painting. Also see the revered Memorial Chorten and the impressive fortress-cum-monastery-cum-palace, Tashichho Dzong. (BLD)
A long but immensely scenic drive eastwards, across the misty Dochu La (10,223ft) and Pele La (11,122 ft) passes, climbing through forests of blue pine, rhododendron, cypress, fir and bamboo, following the fast-flowing river as it cuts through the mountains and passing chortens and prayer flags to Trongsa. Arrive at the hidden Phobjikha Valley and stay overnight at simple accommodation in the quaint Gangtey village. Stroll through the village and visit Gangtey Gompa (monastery), the only Nyingmapa monastery in western Bhutan. (BLD)
Today’s journey to Jakar is perhaps long, but certainly memorable with dramatic landscapes of terraced farmland, deep river valleys and precariously perched farmhouses viewed from the road that has been ingeniously carved into the mountain face. Upon arrival at Trongsa, explore the village and visit Trongsa Dzong and Ta Dzong, the watchtower built to defend it. The onward drive to Bumthang takes you over the picturesque Yotong La pass and down into the wool-producing Chhume Valley, home of Bhutan’s Yatra weaving. Spend 2 nights in Bumthang at the Yugharling Hotel. (BLD)
Explore the nearby Choekhor Valley and the Wangdichoeling Palace and the auspicious prayer wheels next door. Further up the valley visit the Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in Bhutan. Continue to Jambey Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. After lunch visit Tamshing Lhakhang with its interesting ancient Buddhist wall paintings, Jakar Dzong and the local market. (BLD)
Morning visit to Trongsa Museum then depart on our long but rewarding drive to Punakha. Stay at the Hotel Lobesa for 2 nights. (BLD)
Morning hike through rice fields and along the banks of the Mo Chhu to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by order of the Queens of Bhutan. Continue to the impressive Punakha Dzong built in 1637 to serve as the religious and administrative centre of the region. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the Punak Chuu with stunning views of the Dzong and the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu Rivers. After lunch visit the quaint Chimi Lhakang Temple, devoted to the popular saint, the Divine Madam who used his phallus to ward off evil spirits and increase fertility. His temple is reached by an easy 30-minute walk across fields and a village. (BLD)
After an early breakfast, set off for Paro. After lunch visit the National Museum in the old watchtower, with its collection of ancient Bhutanese art and artefacts, weapons, coins and stamps. Walk down a hillside trail to visit Paro Dzong, situated at a commanding height overlooking Paro Valley. Continue to the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang. Evening visit to a traditional farmhouse for an opportunity to interact with a local family and learn about their lifestyle. Stay 2 nights at the Olathang Hotel. (BLD)
Today is for many the highlight of their tour – a climb to the magical Tiger’s Nest Monastery that clings to a sheer rock-face hundreds of feet above the valley floor. The climb is steep and uneven in parts, but you are well rewarded with an endless series of superb views on the one-and-a-half hour walk to a tea shop where you can relax. From here you can either return downhill, or continue up for another 45 minutes to another, closer viewpoint. An exhilarating day! (BLD)
Return scenic flight with Druk Air to Kathmandu and stay at the Kantupur Temple House Hotel. (B)
Return flight to London via Delhi with Jet Airways, arriving at around 1830 the same day. (B)
Located in peaceful blue pine woods on the southern slopes of Paro valley, the Hotel Olathang was built in the 1970s in unmistakable Bhutanese style with lots of brightly painted woodwork inside and out. Some rooms are in the main building, which also has the restaurant, a cosy bar and the internet room, and others are in little cottages scattered through the grounds. Also in the grounds is a special hut where you can take a traditional hot stone bath, a super way to soothe tired muscles! Rooms are dated and furnishings old fashioned, but all have radiators and private bathroom.
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