Day 01: Arrival in Kathmandu
Arrive Kathmandu, the beautiful capital city of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Upon clearing airport formalities, transfer to your hotel, take some rest and freshen up. Free and evening briefing about Bhutan tour. Dinner at hotel and overnight.
Day 02: Full day Sightseeing tour in Kathmandu.
Pashupatinath: Located on the banks of Bagmati River is the sacred Pashupati Temple. Pashupati is a manifestation of Shiva and means ‘The Lord of Animal’. This temple has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. The temple premise consists of temples, ashrams, idols, and inscription added over centuries. The temple is the ultimate destination for devotees during the Maha Shivaratri Festival, where a crowd of thousands gathers to pay homage to Lord Shiva. The main temple within the complex is of pagoda shape with golden roof and silver doors on all the four sides of the temple. Inside the temple is a Shiva linga with four faces of Shiva, with four different names and significance. Pashupati area is regarded as one of the most important places of pilgrimages for Hindus. Thousands of devotees from all around the world come to Pashupatinath every day. The temple is barred to non-Hindus, but one can get a good view of the temple from the opposite bank of the river. Every evening aarti (light offering) to Lord Shiva is performed which can be observed from across the river. The view of Arya Ghat (cremation ground only for Hindu) is also possible from the spot.
Boudhanath: On the outskirt of Kathmandu lies one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. This ancient stupa of Boudhanath, on top of a massive mandala, probably is one of the largest in the world. There are over 50 monasteries around it and it was included on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It is built on the ages old trade route from Tibet to enter the Kathmandu Valley. Under the wise eyes of Buddha gazing out from the gilded central tower seems to be watching over thousands of pilgrims gather daily to make a kora (ritual circumnavigation) of the dome. In the evening the whole place lights up with butter lamps and the wafting smell of sage gives a calming effect. The stupa is surrounded by building and monasteries. The plaza surrounding the stupa is open for people of all religion. Tibetan monks, elderly, along with other devotees can be seen spinning prayer wheels, chanting mantras, or just strolling in silence around the monument. The Stupa was damaged during the earthquake but has already been reconstructed and open for tourists from November 2016.
Swyambhunath Stupa: Perched on top of a conical hill is a white dome with glittering golden spire is visible from all sides of the valley for many miles. This most ancient and enigmatic of all the holy shrines in Kathmandu Valley, Swayambhunath Stupa, is also known as the Monkey Temple. According to the historical records, the stupa is over 2,500 years old. The name of Swoyambhunath has been derived from Sanskrit word, Swayam (self), making Swoyambhunath the ‘Self-Created One’. The surrounding of the stupa consists a variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period. The stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on each side and nose is made out as the number one in Devanagari script. The main stupa can be reached from two access points; a long steep stairway with 365 steps (leading directly to the main platform), and a car road leading to a longer way from the southwest entrance. This stupa too has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites list. This place offers an excellent view of the Valley. Though the temples around the stupa had some minor destruction and one of the temples beside the stupa collapsed during the 2016 earthquake, the process of reconstruction is ongoing.
Kathmandu Durbar Square: Durbar, which means palace, is where the kings were once crowned and where they ruled from. Kathmandu has its Durbar Square at its heart; here charm of old town blends well with traditional architecture in a rich cultural backdrop. The entire square was designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The massive complex consists of three main squares, which is home to palaces, temples, and courtyard. South of Basantapur square is a former Royal elephant stable, which today has souvenir stalls and leads to Freak Street (the lane still lives in the former glory of being the ultimate Hippie destination during the Flower Power era). The temple of Living Goddess, Kumari, is also on the southern end. Kumari is a young Shakya girl from Newar community, chosen through an ancient and mystical selection to become the human incarnation of Hindu Goddess, Taleju. If you are lucky, you might get to get a glimpse of Kumari peaking out of an elaborately carved wooden window. The main Durbar Square is the most affected area by the 2015 earthquake. Three main temples of the area, Kasthamandap, Narayan temple, Trilokya Mohan, and Krishna Temple has been completely destroyed, while other have been partially damaged. On the Northeast side, the square consists of Hanuman Dhoka, the main entrance to the old royal palace. The Taleju Bhawani’s temple, the oldest of all the temples is situated in this area. Even though the old royal palace has been partially damaged, restoration process is going on. The Square is slowly making progress to yet again revive its old mystic and glory of being a living museum with finest traditional architectures in the world.
Visit Kumari Ghar: Kumari – The Living Goddess: Not only does Nepal have many gods, goddess, deities, Bodhisattvas (near Buddhas), avatars and manifestations, which are worshipped and revered as statues, images, paintings and symbols, but it also has a real living goddess. The Kumari is a young girl who lives in the building known as the Kumari Ghar, right beside Kathmandu’s Durbar Square.
From time immemorial the practice of worshipping an ordinary pre-pubescent girl as a source of supreme power has been an integral part of both Hinduism and Buddhism, a tradition which continues even to this day virtually in every household. They call this girl Kumari Devi and worship her on all the religious occasions.
The predominance of the Kumari cult is more distinctly evident among the Newar community inside the Kathmandu Valley as she has become an inevitable feature of their worship almost in every Vihar and Bahal and including the nooks and corners of Newari settlements. However, it was the Vajrayana sect of Mahayana Buddhism that was responsible for establishing the tradition of worshipping a girl from the Sakya community as the royal Living Goddess.
The selection of the Living Goddess is a highly elaborate tantric ritual. Upon passing the preliminary test, this is merely concerned with their 32 attributes of perfection, including the colour of her eyes, the shape of her teeth and the sound of her voice. Her horoscope must also be appropriate. The 4 to 7 year poor girls from the Sakya community are made to confront a goddess in the darkened room. The sight of the Buffalo heads scattered around, the demon- like masked dancers, the terrifying noises they encounter scare some of these innocent babies. The real goddess is unlikely to be frightened, so the one who is calm and collected throughout the tests is the only girl who is entitled to sit on the pedestal for worship as the Living Goddess. Then as a final test similar to that of the Dalai Lama, the Kumari then chooses items of clothing and decoration worn by her predecessor.
Goddess Kumari Ghar is a store-house of magnificent intricate carvings where the Living Goddess performs her daily rituals. During her tenure in the god-house, Guthi Sansthan, the government trust fund bears her entire expenses including that of her caretakers. Under normal circumstances, her days in the god-house come to an end with her first menstruation, but if she turns out to be unlucky, as they say, even a minor scratch on her body that bleeds can make her invalid for worship. She then changes back to the status of normal mortal and the search of a new Kumari begins. It is said to be unlucky to marry an ex-Kumari.
Experience the Local Rickshaw Ride to Thamel and you can enjoy the local market in Indra Chwok & Asan
Check In to Hotel in Kathmandu. Rest Day Free at Leisure with own independent Activities
Overnight at Hotel in Kathmandu
Day 03: Fly to Paro, – Thimphu (Distance: 54 km, estimated travel time: 1 hrs.) (B, L, D)
Breakfast at Hotel, check out and transfer to Airport for the flight to Paro. In clear weather, as the flight to Bhutan provides a wonderful view of Himalayan scenery. Whether flying along the Himalayan range from Kathmandu or over the foothills from Kolkata, it is a breathtaking journey, culminating in an exciting descent past forested hills into the kingdom. On arrival at Paro airport and after completing your Bhutan visa formalities, you will be met by a representative from Bhutan then travel to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan.
On arrival at Thimphu check into your hotel and after lunch visit to Takin Preserve, which houses the national animal the Takin that is only found in Bhutan. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds.
Centenary Farmers’ market (if your tour coincides with Thu-Sun) where farmers would be selling their wide range of farm produces (vegetables from farms and wild ferns or bamboo shoots collected from forest, flour, rice, roasted rice, rice flakes, spices, yams both cultivated and wild ones collected from forests, fruits, etc.) and livestock products (mainly cheese and butter).
Tashichhoe Dzong, a fortress of the glorious religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wang chuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
Craft Bazaar where craftsmen and artisans from across the country display and sell their handicrafts. In the evening you may visit local handicraft stores. Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu.
Day 04: Thimphu – Punakha & Wangduephodrang (B, L, D)
Distance: 71 km, estimated travel time: 2 1/2 hrs.
After breakfast, travel to Punakha through Dochula Pass (3,088m/10,130ft). In the clear spring sky; enjoy the panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountain ranges. Then pass by the beautiful 108 chortens built on a hillock by Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo (Queen Mother of Bhutan) for the security and wellbeing of His Majesty, the King of Bhutan. You may visit Druk Wangyal Lhakhang .The Druk Wangyal Lhakhang (temple) was built to honor His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The past and future appear to merge in the details of the Lhakhang (temple) that tells the story of a supreme warrior figure whose vision pierces the distant future.
Take light refreshment at Dochula Resort and then drive onto Wangdue and on the way visit the Divine Madman’s Monastery-Chhimi Lhakhang, famously known for its fertility shrine, where one can receive a special fertility blessing.
After lunch visit the Punakha Dzong, located on the island of the Pho Chu (Male River) and the Mo Chu (Female River). The dzong was built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative seat of the region. It was here that the dual system of government was introduced in the 17th century and in 1907, enthroned the first King Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the dzong has been fully restored in the recent years by the 4th King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. At the dzong you can see the highest standards in woodwork. Also visit the massive Kuenray, the Coronation Hall of all Bhutanese kings, the Dzongchung at the entrance to the dzong and the cantilever bridge over the Mochu that has been recently renovated. In the evening visit local markets in Punakha. Overnight at hotel in Wangdue/Punakha.
Day 05: Punakha / Wangduephodrang –Paro (B, L, D)
Distance: 125 km, estimated travel time: 3 1/2 hrs, after breakfast travel to Paro via Dochula pass and southern part of Thimphu. On arrival at Paro, check into your hotel in Paro and after lunch visit the following:
National Museum, housed in the Ta Dzong (watchtower). Here an intriguing collection of artifacts provide a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom.
Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese historic architecture. It is also known as the Rinpung Dzong which means a “fortress that sits on a heap of jewels”. This imposing dzong located above the Paro River is a fine example of Bhutanese architecture with its inward sloping walls that rise to an impressive height. The dzong was built in the 16th century on the foundation of a monastery built by Guru Rinpoche (who is regarded as the “second Buddha.”) .From the dzong, walk further down to Nyamai Zampa, an oldest traditional cantilever bridge in Bhutan.
In the evening stroll through the Paro town and visit local handicraft stores. Overnight at hotel in Paro.
Day 06: A Day Hike to Paro Taktsang Gompa (Tiger’s Nest Monastery) (B, L, D)
After breakfast, hike up to Taktsang Monastery, also known as ‘Tiger’s Nest’. The climb up to the viewpoint will take around 1 ½ hours and from there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the monastery clinging to the side of the cliff. Stop for refreshment at the View Point Cafeteria. Then walk further up to the monastery which will take about 1 hour. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months.
After visiting the monastery, walk back down to the road on the way stop for lunch at the view point cafeteria and then walk further down to the road point. Then drive back to hotel.
On the way visit Kichu temple, one of the 108 temples built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. The story goes that a giant demon lay across the whole area of Tibet and the Himalayas and was preventing the spread of Buddhism. To overcome her, King Songtsen Gampo decided to build 108 temples, which would be placed on all the points of her body. Of these 108 temples, 12 were built in accordance with precise plans. Thus, it happened that in about the year AD 638 the temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was built over the very heart of the demon. In the evening relax and overnight at hotel in Paro.
Day 07: Fly back to Kathmandu. (D)
After breakfast, our guide will drop to you at Paro Airport for your flight to Kathmandu. Arrive Kathmandu, meet and transfer to Hotel.
Evening fare well dinner at Nepali restaurant well cultural dance. Overnight in Kathmandu
Day 08: Departure from Kathmandu. (B)
Breakfast; free until departure transfer to airport for the flight to next destination.
**END OF TOUR**