Alpine Explore Nepal
Himalayan of Nepal

Three Kingdoms of the Asian Himalaya:

Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet
19-day Cultural Tour

Throughout history, great explorers have been drawn to Asia by the tradition of magical Himalayan kingdoms. While many dreamed of Lhasa, Kathmandu, and the Dragon Kingdom, not many made it. Now, you can do what only a few have done before: Visit all three Himalayan kingdoms in one trip. We begin by flying into the pastoral and historic town of Paro, gateway to Bhutan — the Dragon Kingdom. Next we move to Punakha, nestled in a semi-tropical river valley then we visit Thimphu, filled with stunning monuments and colorful markets. We walk up to Taktsang, a remote monastery clinging to a sheer cliff face. By starting our journey in Bhutan, we can acclimatize gently in preparation for the highest-altitude reaches of the world. We wing our way to Nepal amid breathtaking mountain vistas, including Everest. In Kathmandu we visit a famous Buddhist shrine —- the great stupa of baudhanath, whose base, dome, spire, umbrella, and pinnacle symbolize the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. We also explore the Hindu holy site of Pashupatinath. After two nights in Nepal, we fly to the ‘Roof of the World,’ Tibet. En route, we marvel at stunning aerial views of the world’s highest peaks as our flight passes near the summit of legendary Mount Everest. Upon our arrival in Lhasa we spend an unforgettable week absorbing the rich history and Buddhist spirituality of Tibet. We visit the Dalai Lamas’ former summer palace, Norbulingka, and the former winter residence from 1645 to 1959 — the great Potala Palace — full of shrines, great halls and statues. Low chanting and dim lights greet us at the Jokhang Temple, Tibet’s holiest site and home to a golden Buddha more than 13 centuries old. Among our Tibetan destinations is Tashilumpo, Tibet’s largest monastic city, vibrant with devotional activity and artistic ornaments.

Highlights:
Breathtaking Himalayan peaks, Vibrant Buddhist traditions in ancient monasteries, Landmarks of Tibet, History and verdant landscape of the Dragon Kingdom, Bhutan, The exotic exuberance of Kathmandu, Great shopping in lively marketplaces

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Day 01: Arrive in Bangkok Thailand / Delhi India
Day 02: Fly to Paro (7,400 ft)
Day 03: Drive to Punakha (5,500 ft)
Day 04: Sightseeing in Punakha
Day 05: Drive to Thimphu (7,550 ft)
Day 06: Drive to Paro
Day 07: Taktsang Monastery (8,850 ft)
Day 08: Fly to Kathmandu (4,400 ft)
Day 09: Kathmandu
Day 10: Fly to Gonkar / Drive to Lhasa (11,700 ft) Jokhang Temple, Barkhor Market
Day 11: Potala / Norbulingka Palace
Day 12: Drepung and Sera monasteries
Day 13: Day trip to Ganden
Day 14: Drive to Gyantse / Khumbum and Phalkor Monastery
Day 15: Drive to Shigatse / Tashilumpo Monastery
Day 16: Drive back to Lhasa
Day 17: Fly to Kathmandu
Day 18: Free day in Kathmandu
Day 19: Depart from Nepal

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01 Arrive in Bangkok or Delhi. Transfer to Hotel.

Day 02
Our flight to Paro on Druk Air, Bhutan’s national carrier is a befitting introduction to the country’s spectacular beauty. In clear weather, we see the world’s highest peaks beyond the lush, green Paro Valley. In the afternoon we visit Paro’s Rinpung Dzong. The name means “the fortress of the heap of jewels” and houses the administrative and religious headquarters of the Paro district. After the Dzong, we drive though the beautiful Paro Valley to see the ruins of the Druygel Dzong, “fortress of the victorious drukpas”. We will have the rest of the afternoon to acclimatize to the high elevation.

Day 03
This morning we set off to Punakha. Our road ascends through a series of hairpin bends over Dochu La Pass (10,007’), which offers panoramic views of the Himalayan ranges. From the summit, we descend steeply through a pine-and-cedar forest festooned with hanging lichen. In the village of Lobesa, we see Chimmi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, who was a favorite saint of the Bhutanese people affectionatelly known as “the Divine Madman”.

Day 04
This morning we stroll through the small town of Punakha and visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness”, winter seat of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan) and the ancient capital of Bhutan, remarkably located between the Mochu (Female) and Phochu (Male) rivers. The zong (monastic fortress) is open to visitors only in the summer when the Je Khenpo and the monk body are in Thimphu. After the visit to the Dzong we have the option to take a hike to Khamsum Yuley Lhakhan, through paddy fields and past traditional farmhouses.

Day 05
After breakfast we drive to Thimphu, the only capital city in the world with no traffic lights. Our Afternoon sightseeing begins at the National Memorial Chorten, built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, and Dupthop Lhakhang - one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan. We visit the National Library, stocked with ancient manuscripts, and the painting school where tradition is kept alive through instruction in the art of painting thangkas, sacred Buddhist religious scrolls. Other highlights include a visit to the summer residence of the Je Khenpo and the Tashichho Dzong, seat of the national government and Central Monastic Body. The Tashichho Dzong is open to visitors only in winter when the Je Khenpo and the Monastic body move to Punakha, the ancient winter capital of Bhutan. Thimphu hosts an annual tsechu, a grand festival of mask dances and religious performances animating the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.

Day 06
After breakfast we traverse the beautiful valley to visit the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. Built in the 17th century by the great Shabdrung Ngwang Namgyel, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the dzong was destroyed by an accidental fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. We explore the ramparts and, on a clear day, experience an unforgettable view of sacred Mount Chomolhari (23,997’). We also visit Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower which now houses the National Museum.

Day 07
After lunch, we make an excursion to view spectacular Taktsang Monastery. A short drive takes us to Satsam Chorten, where we begin our walk up to the Taktsang viewpoint. Our trail climbs through a beautiful pine forest festooned with Spanish moss and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We stop to rest and enjoy light refreshments at the Taktsang cafeteria. From here it’s only a short distance to view the Cliffside monastery. The “Tiger’s Nest” is truly a labor of devotion and faith. Built in the 1600s, this incredible structure clings to the edge of a sheer rock wall that plunges 2,952 feet into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery, flying tigers don’t seem so impossible after all!

Day 08
We fly to Kathmandu, Nepal, enjoying stunning views of Mount Everest from the air if the weather is clear.

Day 09
A half-day guided sightseeing tour of Nepal’s exotic capital enables us to get our bearings in this bustling city. We visit the Hindu holy site of Pashupatinath, and the massive Buddhist stupa of baudhanath, whose painted eyes survey the countryside. The 13 stages toward enlightenment, the five elements, and royal power all find symbolic expression in the structural elements of this great three-dimensional mandala. Buddhist pilgrims from as far as Tibet, Ladakh and Bhutan flock to the great ancient shrine surrounded by gompas (monasteries).

Day 10
Today, our flight into Tibet — “The Roof of the World” — affords more marvelous views of the world’s highest mountains, passing virtually over the top of Everest. We land at Gongkar airport and drive to Lhasa. During the afternoon, we visit the Jokhang, the holiest temple in all of greater Tibet. Successive temples have stood on this site since the 7th century; the present temple houses a gold Buddha, a gift from the Chinese princess Wencheng in 641 A.D. This statue, called jowo, is the temple’s namesake; Jokhang means “hall of the Jowo Buddha.” Pilgrims, many of whom have walked hundreds of miles to be here, prostrate themselves full-length in front of the temple doors in religious devotion. It is a truly moving experience to join them in these dark hallways filled with the sound of low chanting and lit only by butter lamps. We continue outside to Lhasa’s main business district, the Barkhor, and experience the lively market and bazaar. The Barkhor has been the center of the Tibetan capital’s trade for centuries. When the Silk Road was at its zenith, one could find caravans from as far west as the Balkans; from as far north as  arkand, Kashgar, Samarkand and Bukhara; from as far south as Kathmandu and India; and from as far east as Shanghai, Xi'an and Beijing. Night and day, Tibetans walk clockwise around this ring-shaped marketplace, earning religious merit as they shop, peoplewatch and chat with friends. The Barkhor is also on the pilgrimage route for the devout who continually prostrate themselves on their way to the Jokhang.

Day 11
We start our day at the Potala Palace, the Dalai Lamas’ former winter residence. More than 1,000 rooms are supported by its 15,000 columns. The palace includes chapels, assembly halls, meditation halls, mausoleums, 10,000 shrines and 200,000 statues. Thirteen stories high, the palace rises almost 400 feet and is built entirely of wood, earth and stone. Its most splendid feature is the crypt of the 5th Dalai Lama, 48 feet high and adorned with almost four tons of gold, diamonds and turquoise. Constructed in 1645 by the 6th Dalai Lama, the Potala Palace remained the throne of the god-king until 1959, when the current Dalai Lama, Tenzing Gyatso, fled Tibet for exile in India. In the afternoon we visit the Norbulingka Palace, the summer home of the Dalai Lamas for two centuries. Located four miles west of the city center in a peaceful setting of fields and forest, the Norbulingka complex features palaces, pavilions, ponds and gardens. Opera, horse racing and kite flying were among the entertainments formerly enjoyed here. Although the 7th Dalai Lama began Norbulingka's original construction in the 1700s, most of the palace buildings of the “Jewel Park” were constructed during this century by the 13th and 14th Dalai Lamas. The complex was completed in 1926, but many rooms of the palace have never been used since it was from here that the 14th Dalai Lama fled for India in March 1959, never to return. His quarters have been kept as he left them over 40 years ago. Also on the day’s itinerary is Men-Tsee-Khang Hospital of Traditional Medicine and Ramoche, a monastery that Princess Wencheng established over 1300 years ago to honor the king of the Paradise of the Water Divinities. Since then rebuilt in the Tibetan style, Ramoche Temple, like the Jokhang, houses a sacred Jowo statue.

Day 12
Sera and Drepung Monasteries were centers of learning and monastic training until the Chinese occupation. They dominated Tibetan religious, secular, and cultural life for more than a  illennium. Today, 300 monks live at Sera in the principal buildings which remained or were rebuilt after the Cultural Revolution. Drepung Monastery was built in 1416 by a pupil of Tsongkhapa. For 500 years, Drepung was a major pillar of the theocratic state as the main political headquarters for the Gelukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Drepung was also the residence of the Dalai Lamas until the Potala Palace was constructed in 1645. Before 1959, Drepung housed more than 10,000 monks. Numerous prayer halls are decorated with ornate thangkas — iconographic painted scrolls.

Day 13
Today we take a day trip to Ganden Monastery, located about 45 miles east of Lhasa. Once the largest among the "Great Six" Gelukpa, or Yellow Hat, monasteries, today it is a crumbling ruin due to damage sustained during the Cultural Revolution. In 1959, 3,000 monks lived here. Their numbers were reduced to 300 due to clampdowns imposed by the central government. The monastery was founded in 1409 and the Assembly Hall (or Tsokschen) was built in 1415. Located in a natural bowl, Ganden is in the process of being reconstructed. Since 1995, more then US $3 million has been spent rebuilding and restoring many of the buildings - including the regilding of roofs. The most spectacular is perhaps Gome Khang with its 1,000 images of Tsongkhapa.

Day 14
Departing Lhasa early, we drive past the turquoise blue Yamdrok Tso en route to the old trading center of Gyantse. The sacred lake is revered as a talisman, supporting the life-spirit of the Tibetan nation. It is said that if its waters dry up, Tibet will become uninhabitable. The southern Route to Gyantse is very rough these days, but well worth it to get a glimpse of Tibet’s largest lake.

Day 15
This morning we tour the remarkable Pelkhor Chode with its towering Kumbum Pagoda. The complex, which has survived since its construction in the 14th century, is one of the most amazing architectural works in Tibet, with over 70 interlocking chapels and some 100,000 religious images. Its fortress or dzong dominates the landscape for miles. After lunch, we drive to Shigatse, a three-hour trip. Shigatse, with a population of 50,000, is Tibet’s secondlargest city. We visit Tashilumpo Monastery, founded in 1447 by a pupil of Tsongkhapa. Nearly 4,000 monks used to live here, but the population has shrunk to just 600. The most important building in the complex is the red stone Maitreya Chapel, which houses the 86-foot Maitreya statue of Buddha — the “Buddha of the Future” — which was constructed in 1914 by the 9th Panchen Lama.

Day 16:
We return to Lhasa on the Friendship Highway, a road which stretches from Shanghai to Kathmandu, and have the rest of the day to shop, sightsee, and enjoy our last day in Tibet.

Day 17:
Bidding the austere heights of the Tibetan Plateau farewell, we fly back to the subtropical verdancy of Kathmandu.

Day 18:
The day is free to shop for the many treasures that can be found in the markets of this amazing city, or to explore the landmarks and back streets on our own. We’ll meet up in the evening for a farewell dinner with our fellow adventurers.

Day 19: We depart from Nepal for home or other destinations.

 The following information will allow you to better plan your budget for tours or treks. A range of costs is given. These costs are dependant on:
  • The mix of Touring and/or general Trekking,
  • The remoteness of the areas visited,
  • The number of guides or porters required,
  • The standard of accommodation required (if there is a choice), 
  • The type of ground transport used,
  • The length of your visit, and
  • The size of your group.

Depending on group size the costs of treks and tours range from:
1 to 3 pax     US$ 88 to 163  P/p per night.
4 to 8 pax     US$ 78 to 148  P/p per night
9 to 14 pax.  US$ 75 to 135 P/p per night.
15 to 20 and above US$ 60 to 110 P/p per night
Single supplement US$ 40 to 70 per night.

Note: The itinerary and cost for Peak climbing, Mountaineering, Tibet, Bhutan and India tours and trek are conditional apply.

Notwithstanding the costs shown above, we can tailor tours to suit almost any budget. Feel free to email us for more information.
 
Note: One tour leader will be free of cost for tours with 15 or more paying guests only. 

Children's bellow three years is free if sharing with their parents. And need to pay if they are participating on the trekking, and above three to nine year children half of the price.

Cost Includes: Accommodation in 3 to 4 star hotels in the cites as your choice, basic accommodation in a lodge or tea house or camping (depending on your itinerary and choice) during treks, guides and porters on treks, all land transfers by private vehicle, 3 meals a day on treks, all jungle safaris, all sightseeing tours as per itinerary and all necessary entry fees, permits and airport transfers.
 
Cost Excludes: Personal expenses, domestic air tickets, airport tax, drinks (soft drink, mineral water and alcoholic beverages and hot-shower on the trek), personal insurance, and extra cost due to natural calamities or accidents outside of our control.

Remarks: The cost of the trip determines with the services included during the trip so that it might be varies with the services, hotel and transfer of your wish.

Please note that our guides speak the following English languages and if required we will provide your language spiking guide on extra cost.

Note: Please contact exploretrek@wlink.com.np for more information and prices.

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Contact Information:

Alpine Explore Nepal
P.O. Box: 4546, Kathmandu, Nepal
+977 1 4700714 / 4700175 / 4701974
Fax: +977 -1 - 4700970
Email: alpinetravel@wlink.com.np
          exploretrek@wlink.com.np
Skype Address: explore.alpine
MSN Messanger: explorealpine
Yahoo Messanger:explorealpine

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Our Guest Says

SteveAnyon-Smith
18 April 2000

This was my third trek in Nepal, having visited the Annapurna Region in 1995 and with Bharat and Dave in the beautiful and wildlife-filled Langstang Valley in1998. Bharat's company "Explore Alpine Adventure"....
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