If you feel adventurous and want to cover Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan at once, this is a perfect trip for you.
Starting from Chengdu, China, you'll fly to the eastern Himalayas to the mystical Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The first three days are spent sightseeing in and around Lhasa. Then, we will begin our overland journey to Kathmandu via Gyangtse, Xigatse, Tingri, Nyalam and Zhangmu. The distance covered is nearly 621 miles / 1000 km. We travel in all wheel drive vehicles.
In Kathmandu, just in the vicinity of the Kathmandu valley alone, there are seven UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites, within a 13-mile radius. The heritage sites and museums, stunning mountain scenery and model conservation and preservation efforts all go to make Nepal one of the most exciting destinations in the world.
Next you fly from Kathmandu to Paro, Bhutan. Enjoy the stunning views of the eastern Himalayan range. Mt. Everest (29028 ft / 8848 m), Mt,Makalu (27815 ft./ 8478 m), Mt. Kanchejunga (28160 ft / 8585 m) and a host of other mighty Himalayan peaks. You leave the multitudes behind and enter the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Bhutan offers the experience of the Buddhist tradition in a setting of unique architecture and breathtaking Himalayan landscape. The friendly people of Bhutan share their traditional lifestyle untouched by outside influence. It is a unique opportunity to experience Himalayan Buddhist culture not influenced by the outside world.
Day 01 Arrive Chengdu (1740 ft.)
Upon arrival in Chengdu, you’ll be met and transferred to the hotel.
Day 02 Fly Chengdu - Lhasa (11450 ft.)
Breakfast at hotel. If time permits, you can take an optional tour of Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Center which is located just 10 KM (6 miles) from the city.
Transfer to airport and fly to Lhasa, the exciting capital of Tibet. You will be met at the airport by your local Tibetan guide and transferred to the hotel. Afternoon is at leisure for acclimatization & rest or just take a leisurely walk around the Barkhor Bazar.
Day 03 Tour Lhasa
Today will be spent exploring palaces.
First on the list will be the Potala Palace. The palace of the Dalai Lama, a treasure of Tibetan culture, was until 1965, the seat of both religion and politics in Tibet and quite possibly, the singularly most important building in all of Tibet. It was built in the seventh century by Tsongtsen Gampo as a fort and later renovated by the fifth Dalai Lama in the seventeenth century to its present specifications.
The next stop will be Norbulingkha. the winter palace of the Dalai Lama which was built in the eighteenth century.
Day 04 Tour Lhasa
Today we visit the Drepung monastery. This is the largest monastery in the world and once housed 10,000 monks and nuns. It was built in 1419, and the second, third and fourth Dalai Lamas lived and were entombed here. If we are lucky, we may have a chance to see the monks mixing the butter tea in a washing machine. This happens when there is a special ceremony and large numbers of monks are present.
Our next stop will be the Jokhang Temple. This is the holiest shrine in Tibet and houses a golden statue of the Buddha which was brought to Tibet by the Chinese princess “Wen Chen”. Then we stop off at Barkhor Bazaar outside the Jokhang monastery. This is a bustling flea market and is, generally, the place to buy souvenirs.
The next three driving days are long but we will be stopping often in little towns and villages and to walk a bit and photograph the exquisite scenery. If we would fly from Lhasa to Kathmandu we would miss all the flavor and rural life in Tibet.
Day 05 Overland Lhasa – Gyangtse - Shigatse (12500 ft.)
An early morning start from Lhasa and a 259 km drive will get us to Gyantse via two passes Khamba La (15750 ft.) and Karo La (16270 ft.). En route enjoy the spectacular views of Yamdrok Tso (“Turquoise Lake”), Karo La Glacier and Nyching Kangsang Snow Peak (22100 ft.) Arrive in Gyangtse (13000 ft.) and sightseeing tour of Pelkhor Chode (Kumbum), known as 'monastery with praying wheel’.
The short drive of 95 km takes us to Xigatse at an elevation of (12500 ft). Xigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and the capital of the province of Tsang. The rulers of this province had dominion over all of Tibet prior to 1642 AD.
At Xigatse, we'll visit Tashilunpo Monastery which is the seat of the Panchen Lama who is second in spiritual importance only to the Dalai Lama. The monastery was built in 1447 by Gendun Drup and once housed upward of 3400 monks. Of particular interest at Tashilunpo is a nine story gilded statue of Maitreya - the “Future Buddha”.
Day 06 Overland Shigatse – Old Tingri (14100 ft.)
From Xigatse you will drive to Xegar via Sakya Monastery. The Monastery is 143 km south of Xigatse and was built in the thirteenth century by Konchok Gyalpo and houses some 30,000 volumes of ancient Buddhist scriptures or Sutras. The total distance between Xigatse and Xegar is 245 km.From Xegar (New Tingri), take a short drive to Old Tingri. Enjoy the beautiful views of Mt. Everest on a clear day.
Go to bed early and have a good sleep. You will have to wake up and drive early the next day as it’s going to be a long drive.
Overnight Old Tingri.
Day 07 Overland Old Tingri – Bhaktapur (4450 ft.)
We leave Old Tingri and drive through Lalung La Pass (16100 ft.) to Nylam, enjoying the views of the Shisapangma Peak. Nylam is an old trading village between Tibet and Nepal.
Continue to Zhangmu which is a bustling trading town near the Nepalese border, go through Chinese immigration, and drive further down to Kodari, border between Tibet and Nepal.
This place could be confusing becasue of the trading point between Tibet and Nepal. But don't worry, someone will be there to take care of the thigns and transfer you to right place.
A tour officer from local travel company will meet you at Kodari, on the Nepalese side of the border across the Friendship Bridge. Go to immigration and get your Nepal visa which is available on arrival.
You will board the waiting vehicle and drive the 96 km to Bhaktapur, the city of devotee.
Day 08 Tour Bhaktapur & Patan
Morning tour of Bhaktapur, also know as Bhadgaon. The tour visits: Durbar Square, the main palace square of the city containing many temples and other architectural showpieces, including the Golden Gate, described as the finest piece of art in the Kingdom. Nyatapola Temple, The five-storied pagoda style temple built in 1708 AD. the largest and the most famous example of Nepalese pagoda architecture. Dattatraya Temple, a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva built in 1427 AD. Nearby is the monastery with exquisitely carved windows, which now serves as the National Works Museum.
Your next stop is Patan, which is also known as Lalitpur.“Lalitpur” literally the city of fine arts is perhaps a living museum as she still retains her medieval air of the ancient times and almost half the inner city residents are craftsmen in their own right. Patan was one of the major Buddhist cities in Asia by the 7th century as pilgrims, scholars and monks from India, Tibet and China visited the city. It is said that at one stage the entire population of Patan city was comprised of monks and craftsmen only. The city is full of Hindu Temples, Buddhist monuments and structures with bronze gateways, guardian deities and wonderful Metal and wood carvings
Day 09 Half day tour Pashupati & Bodhnath
Today you have the half day tour of Pashupati & Bodhnath.
Situated near the banks of sacred Bagmati River the temple of lord Siva-Pasupatinath with two tiered golden roof and silver doors is famous for its superb Newari architecture.
Baudhanath : This colossal and ancient Stupa, one of Nepal’s most unique monument and said to be the world biggest, attracts Nepalese pilgrimage of Tibetan stock from as far as Dolpo and Mugu as well as Tibet, Ladhak in India and Bhutan.
Afternoon at leisure or just walk around Thamel, a tourist hub in Kathmandu, with colorful souvinier shops, restaurants, pubs, book stores and cyber cafes.
Day 10 Fly Kathmandu - Paro (7480 ft.), transfer to Thimpu ( 7700 ft.)
Transfer to airport and fly to Paro in Kingdom of Bhutan from Kathmandu. Enjoy the breathtaking views of the Great Himalayas from the flight.
Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be welcomed to the Kingdom by your guide. If time permits, sightseeing tour of 200-year-old Watch Tower that has been renovated and converted into National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of national costumes and fabrics, gallery of Thangkas, an impressive stamp gallery with three dimensional and CD stamps issued as early as 1960 that are remarkable, and other galleries showcasing armor and silverware with the handsome Royal teapots. On the top floor there is a four-sided temple complex depicting the history of Buddhism and its propagation. Then visit the Dungtse Lakang on the same route.
Drive to Thimpu through the Paro Valley. The drive from Paro to Thimphu is spectacularly scenic.
Day 11 Thimpu - Punakah (4420 ft.)
Thimphu is the only Capital City in the world without traffic lights. Enjoy magnificent monasteries and Stupas in the valleys and mountain tops. Experience the "Last Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom" on Earth.
Visit to the Memorial Chorten built in honor of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, Dupthop Lhakhang ( Monastery for the nuns), National Library and the painting school where traditional art is still kept alive through instructions in the art of painting Thangkhas ( sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). Visit the traditional Medicine institute where medicines are prepared according to ancient practices.
After lunch, you will visit Lungtenzampa to observe the Royal traditional silver smiths and Bhutanese traditional paper factory.
Drive south and visit Simtokha Dzong, the first Dzong built by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal. It is now used as the Institute for study of traditional teachings.
Afternoon drive to the ancient capital of Punakha, through Dochula Pass (10170 ft.) for 3-4 hours to the ancient. The journey is beautiful, as the fragrant air blows from the pink cherry trees and splashes of pink color through the orange, red and dark green forests.
Sightseeing of Punakha, which was the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. Punakha Dzong which dominates the whole area was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, and established the central monastic body with 600 monks. Today, Punakha is still the home for Je Khempo (Chief Abbot) and the central monastic body.
Day 12 Punakha - Wangdi (4430 ft.) - Paro
Morning drive to Wangdi Phodrang valley for sightseeing. Visit the only Dzong with wooden roof maintained in its ancient style. Walk around Wangdi town and have lunch.
After lunch, drive to Thimphu. En-route, visit Simtokha Dzong, the first Dzong built in Bhutan by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel in 1629. Since 1961, it has been the institute for religious and classical studies.
Drive back to Paro and overnight.
Day 13 Excursion to Taksang Monastery (9850 ft.)
After brekfast, your guide will take you to the starting point of the hike to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s lair). The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags.
Stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments and continue the hike for short while until you see, clearly and seemingly within reach, the remains of Taktsang monastery. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. The history states 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 doesn’t seem so impossible after all.
In Paro, visit Drugyel Dzong, although mostly now in ruins. Built in 1647 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel to commemorate the victory over Tibetan Invaders, which indicates by the name of the Dzong meaning Victorious Bhutanese Fort. Visit Drugyel High School and Kychu Lhakhang, the oldest monastery in the valley built in 7th. century. From this point we see the spectacular views of Mt. Jhomolhari which is considered sacred.
Day 14 Paro-U.S. or an extension
After breakfast, transfer to airport and fly back home or extend your trip to Myanmar /India/Siikim & Darjeeling.