Day 1: Depart U.S. for Kathmandu, Nepal
Day 2: Arrive Kathmandu We reach the Nepalese capital tonight and transfer to our hotel.
Day 3: Kathmandu This morning we meet our fellow travelers and Odysseys Tour Director for a briefing about the journey ahead. Then we get our first look at this landlocked Himalayan nation in Durbar Square, a jumble of ancient temples, palaces, courtyards, and streets. Next we visit hilltop Swayambhunath, the iconic Buddhist temple dating to about 500 CE. A 365-step climb brings us to the sacred UNESCO stupa, with its white dome, gilded spire, and all-seeing “eyes” of the Buddha. This afternoon we travel through Kathmandu Valley to Patan, known for its rich culture and artistic tradition. On a walking tour through the UNESCO site of Patan Durbar Square, we see some of the city’s many Buddhist monuments and Hindu temples. Late afternoon we return to our hotel, where tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner. B,D
Day 4: Kathmandu Today we see different aspects of Nepali life up close. First, we travel through the beautiful Kathmandu Valley to hilltop Kopan Monastery, home to 360 monks and lamas. With majestic views of the valley below, the monastery and associated nunnery welcome seekers and visitors to study, meditate, and learn about the Mahayana Buddhism practiced here. After our visit we enjoy a small group highlight as we share lunch with a local family in their home. Later we visit Shechen Clinic and Hospice, a humanitarian project that provides sustainable medical services to local residents; then tour Boudhanath, one of the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage sites. B,L,D
Day 5: Kathmandu/Nagarkot Leaving Kathmandu today, we stop at Nepal’s oldest and holiest Hindu shrine, ornate Pashupatinath Temple. Here we see sadhus and sages who, in following the lifestyle of Lord Shiva, wear loincloths and cover themselves with ashes. We also may witness cremation ceremonies along the river banks; displaying appropriate respect to the mourners is requested of all visitors. We travel on to Bhaktapur, the least developed of the valley’s three cities. Virtually a living open-air museum with its unspoiled ancient square and warrens of medieval streets, Bhaktapur is known for its fine artisans and many temples. We have time to explore then continue the scenic drive to Nagarkot, a hilltop village commanding a spectacular vista of Nepal’s major Himalayan peaks. B,L
Day 6: Nagarkot Early this morning we have an opportunity for an unforgettable experience: watching the sun rise over the fabled Himalaya from the hotel’s rooftop observatory. Later, we embark on an easy walk around the village, where we have the chance to meet local people. The remainder of the day is at leisure amid the stunning Himalayan scenery. B,D
Day 7: Nagarkot/Kathmandu/Thimphu, Bhutan We have another chance to see the sun rise over the peaks sacred in both Buddhism and Hinduism. Then we return to Kathmandu for the flight to Bhutan. Upon arrival in the Dragon Kingdom, we travel to the capital of Thimphu and our hotel, where we dine tonight. B,D
Day 8: Thimphu Today’s excursion begins at a local factory where paper is made by hand in the traditional way, followed by the Textile Museum, housing exquisite weavings from the 16th century to modern times. Later we visit Tashichho Dzong, the historic fortress and monastery that today houses temples and government offices, including those of the king; then Memorial Chorten, one of Bhutan’s best-loved religious landmarks. Tonight we attend a Bhutanese cultural performance then dine in the home of a local family. B,L,D
Day 9: Thimphu/Punakha En route to Punakha today, we visit Kunselphodrang, the recently built Buddha Point where one of the world’s largest sitting Buddhas presides over the Thimphu valley. Then we set out for Punakha via Dochula Pass (alt. 10,000 feet), which offers views of snow-topped Himalayan peaks and where we follow the sacred tradition of raising prayer flags in the name of peace and compassion. We eat lunch here then continue on our way, stopping to visit a local rice farming village. Next: an easy amble through rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang, the temple built by the “Divine Madman” in 1499, now a pilgrimage site for couples struggling with infertility. Late this afternoon we reach Punakha, which sits at the confluence of the Mo Chu (“Mother”) and Pho Chu (“Father”) rivers in a sub-tropical valley. B,L,D
Day 10: Punakha We embark this morning on an exhilarating rafting trip on the Mo Chu River. This afternoon we visit Punakha Dzong, winter home of the central monastic community and one of the country’s most attractive fortress monasteries, set on a spit of land where the rivers meet. B,L,D
Day 11: Punakha/Thimphu/Paro We set out early to see more of Thimphu, including the National Library, with an immense collection of Buddhist manuscripts; and the Painting School, where students learn traditional Bhutanese arts. Late afternoon we depart for Paro, nestled in the center of a valley dotted with rice paddies, wheat fields, and scattered settlements. B,L,D
Day 12: Paro We begin our tour of this historic town at Ta-Dzong, the national museum showcasing Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage dating from at least 2000 BCE to the present day. Built in 1648 as a watchtower, the cylindrical-shaped museum houses a fine collection of Bhutanese art and artifacts. We also visit Rinpung Dzong, a superb example of Bhutanese architecture. After lunch we call on the sacred 7th-century pilgrimage temple of Kyichu Lhakhang. We dine together tonight at our hotel. B,L,D
Day 13: Paro/Tiger’s Nest Monastery Today we embark on a highlight of any trip to Bhutan: a visit to Paro Taktsang, the sacred Tiger’s Nest monastery and temple complex perched on a cliff some 3,000 feet above the upper Paro Valley – itself at an altitude of 10,200 feet. We embark on our scenic uphill hike early this morning (rental horses are available to take visitors about two-thirds of the way). Those not wishing to climb all the way up can enjoy excellent views of Tiger’s Nest from a way-station cafeteria. Late afternoon we return to our hotel; tonight we celebrate our Himalayan adventure over a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. B,L,D
Day 14: Paro/Kathmandu, Nepal/Depart for U.S. We fly this morning to Kathmandu, where we have day rooms and opportunities for exploring on our own. We then depart for the airport and our overnight flights to the U.S. B,L
Day 15: Arrive U.S. We arrive in the U.S. and connect with our flights home.
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking uphill and on uneven terrain. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to the fullest. While elevations are not severe, the relatively high altitude of Nagarkot (7,000 feet) and Thimphu and Paro (both 7,500 feet) could pose problems for travelers with certain health conditions. You should consult your physician if you have concerns.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included