Wander the Kingdoms of Kathmandu, learn about the ancient cultures of Nepal and experience the intimate spirit of Buddhism in Bhutan on our 12-day Nepal and Bhutan Explorer tour. Starting in Kathmandu, you’ll visit local schools, explore Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park in the foothills of Kathmandu, get to know the beautiful and generous Tamang people of rural Nepal and hike amongst terraced fields on your way to Mystic Mountain Resort. After taking one of the most scenic flights in the world, from Kathmandu to Paro in the Kingdom of Bhutan, you’ll immediately notice a change in scenery and culture. Your Kiwi and local guide work in parallel to bring you on an incredible journey through Bhutan’s most fascinating landscapes and temples. You’ll take the stunning hike to Tiger’s Nest monastery, perched high on the cliffside some 900m (almost 3000ft) off the valley floor, and explore numerous other sacred sites of significance to the Buddhist religion. This trip exploring Nepal and Bhutan is comfort, culture, and incredible scenery unlike anywhere else on earth.
Duration: 12 days
Travel style: Comfort Focused
Activity Level: 1-2
Trip Start: Kathmandu
Trip Ends: Kathmandu
Your trip starts in the lively and bustling city of Kathmandu. You’ll be met at Kathmandu Airport by a friendly face from Active Adventures Himalayas who will accompany you to our hotel. If you arrive early, you can head out to explore the city’s labyrinth of back street courtyards, colourful market stalls and ancient temples on your own for your first taste of Nepal’s culture and friendly people. This afternoon, your guide will meet you at our hotel and run through what to expect from the days ahead. Tonight, we’ll take you out for dinner at a local restaurant, for your first experience of Nepalese dining – a culinary crossroad between the influences of China, India and Europe which makes for some really delicious flavour combinations.
Visit local school, explore Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park
Today you’ll see Kathmandu from a new perspective as we wind our way up out of the valley that defines the capital city. There’s an option here to visit a local school, where children are always happy to greet us and show us their environment. After a tea break we’ll enter the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, in the foothills on the northern fringe of the Kathmandu Valley – at this altitude the vegetation transitions from subtropical to temperate and the park is home to a diverse range of wildlife. After our hike, we’ll journey onto Bouldhanath Stupa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which sits on the ancient trade route from Tibet. For many centuries Tibetan merchants have rested here and offered prayers. Later, we’ll head back to the Marriott Hotel and out for another delicious meal nearby.
Journey to Patan Kingdom and onto Nagarkot
Patan (or Lalitpur, ‘city of beauty’), now a part of greater Kathmandu, was once the capital of a powerful independent kingdom. You’ll notice as we explore this area, a calmer vibe – the craftspeople here, many of whom are Buddhist, have created exquisite temples and other works of art which give the area a distinct artisan feel. After lunch we’ll ascend on a classic Nepali road northeast to Nagarkot. It’s refreshing to once again leave the bustling Kathmandu Valley behind as we begin our hike among terraced fields on our way to Mystic Mountain Resort. We’ll have plenty of time this afternoon to check in to our rooms and relax next to the pool, with views of the Himalaya.
Hike to Nala, explore Bhaktapur
By now you’ll be nicely adjusted to Nepal time, making an early wake up for an epic mountain sunrise all the more appealing. Add coffee and an excellent breakfast and it doesn’t get any better! Full of energy, we’ll hike a stunning ridgeline and jungle path to Nala. Mostly descending, we’ll pass typical Tamang villages learning about subsistence living and the challenges these people face – you wouldn’t know it though, as we’re greeted with beaming smiles around every corner. We’ll stop at a local home to share some masala tea and show you what a typical Tamang home interior looks like. It’s a short drive onwards to Bhaktapur for lunch, and a chance to explore another of the medieval city-states of the Kathmandu Valley. You’ll see here in the ‘City of Culture’ some of the devastating damage caused by the 2015 earthquake. But there’s plenty still standing including many pagodas, shrines, carved wood columns and temples. After dinner your trip leader will brief you on the Bhutan adventure to come.
Fly to Paro, Bhutan, Visit Tashichho Dzong
Prepare to shift gears as we leave the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and fly east to the Kingdom of Bhutan. This is a country, situated on the silk road, that has endured independence for centuries and never been colonized! Bhutan is the least populous nation in South Asia, ranking first in economic freedom, ease of doing business and peace. After driving from Paro to Thimphu, we’ll visit Tashichho Dzong, a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the city. Next it’s onto the Tarkin wildlife reserve, the Weaving Centre and the School of Thirteen Arts and Crafts. Over dinner this evening at a local Bhutanese restaurant you’ll have a chance to soak in your first culturally-immersive day in Bhutan.
Journey to Buddha Dordenma, hike to Changangkha Lhakhang Temple
Making the most of our day, we’ll take an early breakfast before departing for Buddha Dordenma, overlooking Thimphu valley. Dating back to the 8th century A.D, this statue is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world! Afterwards we’ll hike a forest trail down to Changangkha Lhakhang, a temple perched like a fortress above central Thimphu. Give the resident astrologer your birth date and he’ll consult divination charts to decide which kind of protective prayer flags will benefit you. After lunch we’ll journey down to the lush district of Punakha, known for the Punakha Dzong, a 17th century fortress. We’ll take some time to explore this majestic fortress, which is the administrative centre of Punakha District.
Hike to Chimi Lhakhang Temple
We’ll stretch our legs after breakfast with a short hike through picturesque terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang, the Fertility Temple. This Buddhist temple is renowned throughout Bhutan as a fertility inducing magnet – thousands make the pilgrimage each year in the hopes of having a child, as well as receiving a blessing from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’. After some divine intervention, we’ll take a short drive to another trail leading up to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a stupa built to protect Bhutan from evil forces and help bring peace to the world. Your ascent will be rewarded with incredible views overlooking the Punakha Valley. There’ll be time this evening to relax and enjoy the campfire and stargaze.
Hike the Gangte Nature Trail
This morning we’ll journey east to Phobjikha. The walk we’ll take here, along the Gangte Nature Trail, is spectacular! We’ll pass through flowering meadows, lush forest and a small village. At the end of our hike we’ll arrive at Khewang Lhakhang, a 15th century Buddhist Temple with statues of the past, present and future Buddhas. This area has some wonderful valley viewpoints, where there are opportunities to see Black-necked cranes, or ‘Thrung Thrung Karmo’, the subject of many Bhutanese songs and folklore. Our hotel tonight offers another fine example of the local hospitality you’ll experience on this trip, with outstanding service and exotic food… And did we mention the views!?
Journey to Thimphu, visit the National Museum, onto Paro
After breakfast we’ll depart for the journey back to Paro, taking lunch at Dochula pass. When the weather is nice, this pass (3,100 m / 10,300 ft) offers tremendous views of the eastern Himalaya ranges. Along the pass there are an astonishing 108 memorial chortens and nearby is the country’s very first Royal Botanical Park. Before we reach Paro, we’ll stop once more in Thimphu to visit the National Museum, a fascinating place not to miss. In Paro you’ll have the option to take a guided tour of Rinpung Dzong, though if you’d prefer to relax, you’ll also have views of this Buddhist monastery from your hotel, as it’s lit up in the evening.
Hike to Tiger’s Nest
A trip to Bhutan is not complete until you’ve visited Paro Taktsang, Tiger’s Nest. We’ll take an early breakfast so that we can begin hiking whilst the trail is quiet – the trek is challenging – and thankfully this is what protects this extraordinary attraction from overcrowding. Once you’ve cleared the trees you’ll get your first glimpse of the Tiger’s Nest, somehow perched on the cliff high above the valley floor. Once at the monastery you’ll take a fascinating tour of the buildings, with plenty of time to find a quiet spot and soak it all in. You’ll be in awe, wondering how the buddhists established this area, first as a meditation cave in the 8th century and later as a monastery in the 17th century. Amazing! Because of our early start, beating the crowds, we’ll be back in Paro in time for lunch. This afternoon we’ll savour our time in Bhutan with a visit to the Jowo Temple of Kyichu and then to the ‘Farmhouse’ for a Bhutanese Cultural performance and wait for it… Some hot stone baths!
Fly to Kathmandu, free afternoon
We’ll take a morning flight back to Nepal, so with any luck we’ll be treated to more spectacular Himalaya views out of the right-hand side of the plane. For those who are keen after lunch, we’ll walk to Durbar Square, the place where Nepal’s kings were crowned in past times. The square is in the centre of old town Kathmandu, and is the city’s greatest example of traditional architecture, so much so that it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Tonight we’ll meet at a local restaurant for our final dinner together to celebrate our achievements and adventures in the Himalayas.
Today is the final day of your Nepal and Bhutan cultural exploration. If you have extra time after your trip, we’re happy to give suggestions on how to make the most of it. On the other hand, if you’re on your way home today, we’ll send you back refreshed and invigorated from the great hiking and adventures you’ve had with us!
The accommodation varies from trip to trip and day-to-day – you’ll stay in a variety of places from jungle lodges to mountain huts, local motels and friendly lodges. Active Adventures focuses on getting you out into amazing places in the most stunning parts of the world, so this isn’t a tour of the world’s fanciest hotels! Another focus of Active Adventures is having a good place to rest and rejuvenate at the end of a busy day, and to make sure you are fully charged for the next day’s activities, so you’ll always find yourself in a clean, comfortable room, quite often with a spectacular view.
Below is a sample of some of the amazing places you’ll stay in:
Perched on the mountain slopes above the airport and opposite the important Paro Dzong and historical Taa Dzong (the National museum). This location therefore offers all our guests a magnificent view of the Paro valley from the comfort of their bedroom or private veranda. Experience traditional Bhutanese hospitality along with modern amenities
Vara caters high quality service for travelers exploring the wonders of Punakha and Wangdue surrounded by mountains and oasis of tranquility and peacefulness.
Hotel Vara was crafted with originality of traditional Bhutanese architect befitted with morden technology for comfort and conveniences. The hotel has an elegant dining room, a lounge and a saperate bar connected with Wi-Fi.
All prices are per person twin share and unless otherwise stated, are in Australian dollars, are correct at the time of publication and subject to change without notice.
Please contact us for available dates.
Walking: 2-3 hours per day on gentle-gradient trails.
Other activities: On these trips, you’ll be taking part in a range of other activities that focus less on building up a sweat and more on enjoying the finer things in life.
Walking: 2-4 hours per day on gentle to moderate gradient trails. No multi-day hikes.
Biking: 1-3 hours, cruisy rides achievable by anyone, even first-timers
Kayaking: 1-3 hours, entry-level sea kayaking with specialist guides and stable boats
Other activities (e.g. snorkelling): Always optional and very little exertion required. A highlight for many!
Hiking: Typically 3-6 hours per day on well-formed back country trails. Expect some significant gradient inclines and declines.
Altitude: Your trip may include some moderate altitude areas, though these don’t form the focus of the trip and are generally manageable.
Biking: 1-3 hours, cruisy rides achievable by anyone, even first-timers
Kayaking: 1-3 hours, entry-level sea kayaking with specialist guides and stable boats
Other activities (ie caving): Always optional and very little exertion required. A highlight for many!
Hiking / Trekking:This is an Active trip with a capital ‘A’. Most of our signature adventures are a level 4. Typically 4-6 hour hikes with options for more, sometimes with limited or no vehicle support and nearly always with ascents and descents.
Altitude: Some trips at this level will reach a significant altitude. We are here to help you manage that and make your experience one to cherish for a lifetime.
Biking & Kayaking: If one, or both, of these activities are ‘your thing’ There are trip options in this range to specialise, allowing you to be on two wheels or with a paddle in your hand for most of the day.
Trekking & Altitude: This is classic trekking, at altitude. Some might even call it ‘expedition-style’. We’ve had folks from all walks of life achieve their dreams on our grade 5 trips, so if you’re in for a challenge get in touch to find out if this is for you.
In the event you need to cancel your trip, the following cancellation charges will apply:
Any deposits not transferred to future trips are non-refundable and will be forfeited. All refunds are less any non-refundable expenses incurred by Active Adventures.
Requested changes to your trip and/or date must be made prior to 90 days before your departure. In the event you need to change your trip and/or date, the following will apply:
A cancellation or postponement will take effect from the date which Active Adventures receives written notification of the cancellation or postponement. This cancellation policy includes voluntary or involuntary early departure from a trip. No refunds will be given for missed or unused services such as accommodation, activities or meals. We strongly recommend travel insurance which covers cancellation fees at the time of booking.
*Cancellation and postponement terms and conditions may differ for certain group trips, as well as Cruises, Private Journeys, and Extensions. These exceptions are clearly indicated in the detailed itineraries for each of these trips.
We occasionally may have to cancel any trip at any time before departure for commercial reasons beyond our control, including if the minimum numbers required to operate the trip are not reached. If we do have to cancel your trip, you can transfer the fare to an alternate departure date for no additional fee or alternatively opt for a refund, including your deposit.
In circumstances where the cancellation is due to any conditions or event outside our control, including but not limited to natural disasters, pandemics, border restrictions, terrorism or political instability, Active Adventures will re-book you on an alternative trip or will offer you a future trip credit valid for 24 months.
If you’re re-booked to a new departure, as a result of your booking being cancelled by us or force majeure, the cancellation terms in effect on the date when your booking was changed will apply for your new booking.
All credits and refunds resulting from cancellations for any reason will be less any non-refundable expenses incurred by Active Adventures. Active Adventures is not responsible for any additional expenses you may have incurred as a result of your booking, including but not limited to visas, vaccinations, medical expenses, clothing, equipment, testing, quarantine, travel insurance excess or non-refundable flights.