Explore the three kingdoms of the Himalaya with the adventure travel pioneers since 1969
The goliath proportions of the Himalaya cannot help but cast an air of mysticism and adventure over its diverse landscape, into its remote monasteries, and in its irresistibly kind people. Seeing all three kingdoms of this magnificent range—Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet—on the same journey is a rare feat. Today, reliable air travel coupled with Mountain Travel Sobek’s four decades of expertise in the Himalaya has put a formerly arduous odyssey easily within reach. This exclusive itinerary showcases these unspoiled Buddhist cultures in all their glory through 16 approachable days of touring and moderate day hiking. Come discover Bhutan, one of the most tradition-rich lands in the world, and its beautiful folk art. Explore exotic Kathmandu, home to elaborate Hindu temples, Buddhist stupas (reliquaries), and lively bazaars. Hike in Nepal’s magical middle hills, the beautiful Pokhara Valley, and enjoy spectacular views of the Annapurna Range. Visit Tibet’s monasteries and the long-closed city of Lhasa, and meet Tibetans in their rapidly-changing homeland. It’s an incredible line-up of each kingdom’s must-see destinations that you won’t want to miss!
Book Early for all trips including Bhutan!
Flights between Bangkok and Paro on Druk Air, Bhutan’s national airline, sell out four to six months in advance. If your trip includes Bhutan, we recommend you reserve your trip as early as possible, so we can secure these flights for you.
Moderate touring and day hikes (some at higher elevations - maximum 11,800')
- Experience the three great kingdoms of the Himalayas—Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet—and their unique cultures and traditions on this rare itinerary with the Himalayan experts!
- Discover Bhutan, one of the most tradition-rich lands in the world, and its beautiful folk art
- Explore exotic Kathmandu, home to elaborate Hindu temples, Buddhist stupas (reliquaries), and lively bazaars
- Hike in Nepal’s magical middle hills, the beautiful Pokhara Valley, and enjoy spectacular views of the Annapurna Range
- Visit Tibet’s monasteries and the long-forbidden closed city of Lhasa, and meet Tibetans in their rapidly-changing homeland
Duration: 16 days Start Location: Bangkok End Location: ChengduDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Bangkok
Arrive in Bangkok (most flights arrive in the evening). Take a complimentary shuttle to the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, a 5-minute ride from the airport. The hotel operates 24-hour free shuttle bus service between the terminal and the hotel, and runs every 10-15 minutes.
NOTE: Most airlines arrive late at night into Bangkok, and our flight from Bangkok to Paro departs very early the next morning. If your flight into Bangkok is delayed by even just a few hours, it would be easy to miss the group departure flight to Paro. We therefore encourage you to arrive a day or two early in Bangkok to explore this fascinating city, or to help overcome jet lag before the tour actually starts. There are many sightseeing possibilities. We’d be happy to make additional hotel reservations if requested. Additional costs will be reflected on your invoice.
Day 2 : Paro (7,500') – Thimphu (7,600'), Bhutan
Today we will fly to Paro (7,500'), Bhutan, on Druk Air, the national airline of Bhutan. If the weather cooperates, you might have spectacular views of four of the ten highest peaks in the world—Everest, Cho Oyu, Makalu, and Kanchenjunga—plus peaks in Bhutan such as Chomolhari, Jichu Drakye, and Tsering Kang. After meeting the Mountain Travel Sobek trip leader at the Paro airport, we'll drive into town for lunch. We then drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, where we check into our hotel. In the afternoon we will visit some of the sites in town. These may include the Memorial Chorten, a shrine built in the memory of the late king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk; Tashichho Dzong, seat of Bhutan's administrative and religious center; the Traditional Hospital of Herbal Medicine; and a school that trains students to paint, sculpt, and carve religious artwork.
Day 3 : Thimphu (7,600')
After breakfast, drive to Thimphu and then to our trailhead where we set out on our hike: a steep, hour-long climb to Tango Goemba, a Buddhist institute originally founded in the 12th century (the present building was constructed in the 15th century). It is now a Buddhist institute for higher learning. We have lunch, then drive back to Thimphu and up to Wangdi Tse for a peaceful one hour loop hike where we can enjoy wonderful views of Thimphu, but see few others on the trail. Return to Thimphu for dinner and overnight. (3-4 hours moderate hiking)
Day 4 : Punakha (4,100'), Bhutan
In the morning we will drive across the Dochu La pass at 10,000 feet, where we might view the snow-covered peaks of the eastern Himalaya (weather permitting). The pass is marked by hundreds of colorful fluttering prayer flags and is an awesome sight. We then continue to Punakha, winter seat of the highest lama in Bhutan until the 1950s. We will visit the ancient Punakha Dzong dating back to the 17th century, which is spectacularly situated at the confluence of the Mo and Phu Rivers.
Day 5 : Paro (7,500')
Morning drive to Paro. In the afternoon, we’ll visit the National Museum, housed in an old watchtower above the Paro Dzong. The museum’s collections include displays of spectacular thangkas (religious scroll paintings), bronze statues, Bhutan’s beautiful stamps, and the Tshogshing Lhakhang ("Temple of the Tree of Wisdom"), with its carvings depicting the history of Buddhism. Time permitting, we will also visit the Paro Dzong, built in 1644 by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Day 6 : Hike to Taktsang Monastery (10,300')
Today we’ll take a steep, 1-hour hike to a teahouse, where we enjoy a great view of Taktsang Monastery (its name means “tiger’s nest”), perched on a cliff 2,700 feet above the floor of the Paro Valley. Our hike follows a steep switchback trail through the forest. After a break with tea and cookies, you have the option to sit outside the tea house and admire the monastery and its beautiful surroundings or, if you feel energetic, continue another hour to a closer viewpoint. Much of Taktsang was destroyed by a fire in April 1998, but it is now completely rebuilt. We’ll have some time in the afternoon to explore Paro on our own.
Day 7 : Kathmandu (4,500') – Pokhara (2,800'), Nepal
Transfer to the airport and fly to Kathmandu and connect with your flight to Pokhara (3,000'), a lively town set beside Phewa Lake with fantastic views of the Annapurna Range. Rest of the afternoon free to rest or wander around this beautiful valley. You might want to explore the lakeside with its array of Tibetan shops and restaurants or take a canoe out on the lake.
Day 8 : Pokhara (2,800'), Nepal
Today, we’ll take a short hike around Pokhara, in the magical foothills of Annapurna and Lamjung Himal. Walks in this region provide memorable opportunities to meet the people of Nepal’s middle hills and take in the Pokhara Valley’s astounding Himalayan views. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon.
Day 9 : Kathmandu (4,500'), Nepal
Early morning flight to Kathmandu. We’ll tour the temples and monuments of the Kathmandu Valley, including the remarkable Buddhist stupas of Bodhnath (largest in Nepal) and the Hindu temple of Pashupati on the banks of the Bagmati River. We’ll also visit Bhaktapur, a nearby city in the Kathmandu Valley that has preserved its ancient character and does a wonderful job of displaying medieval Nepalese town life. A highlight is Durbar Square, with its many temples, remains of an ancient palace, and intricate Sun Dhoka (“Golden Gate”), a gilded copper gate crafted in 1753. Return to Kathmandu and there will be time to stroll Kathmandu’s busy streets and shop in the bazaars in the afternoon. You will have lunch and dinner on your own.
Day 10 : Kathmandu to Tsedang (10,200')
We will transfer to the airport and take a flight reminiscent of the famed novel, "Lost Horizons" to the Gongkar airport, located about 75 miles from Lhasa. After arrival, we will drive 48 miles to Tsedang (11,152') in the Yarlung Valley, which sheltered the ancient kingdom of Yarlung, the cradle of Tibetan civilization. Tsedang is the capital of this modern administrative region, and together with the adjacent town of Nedong, is a green oasis in the middle of the high altitude desert.
Day 11 : Samye Monastery (12,100')
Drive west about 20 miles, then take a ferry across the Yarlung River to Samye, the first monastery to be built in Tibet (775 AD). The river crossing is one of just a few in Tibet and requires careful navigation to avoid the sandbanks. The monastery was founded as a school to train monks during the reign of King Thrisong Detsen and has the unusual affiliation with all three sects of Tibetan Buddhism: Nyingmapa, Sakyapa, and Gelugpa. We will tour the extensive buildings and then return to Tsedang for the evening.
Days 12 - 14 : Lhasa (12,000')
Drive four hours to Lhasa (11,800'), the “Forbidden City,” and check into our charming Tibetan hotel. We will have three full days to explore the major sites, including excursions to the following places. We will also wander the age-worn streets of the Barkhor bazaar, mingling with pilgrims, monks, traders and nomads.
The Jokhang is the principal and holiest Buddhist temple in Lhasa, as well as all of Tibet. It is the focus of devotion of hundreds of Tibetans from near and far who circle it to gain spiritual merit. The Jokhang was first constructed in the 7th century and has a large gold image of Sakyamuni Buddha.
Sera and Drepung Sera, founded in 1419, is a monastery of the Gelugpa order. Its many white buildings sit at the base of a rocky hill. Gilded, bell-shaped gyamtschens grace the roofs of many of the larger buildings. Drepung used to have 8,000 monks who were taught in the traditions of Vajrayana, Mahayana, and Sutrayana, the three vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism. While at Drepung, we will hike the kora (sacred circuit) for acclimatization. (1½ hours hiking)
Potala Palace The 13-story Potala Palace is reputed to contain 1,000 rooms and hundreds upon hundreds of brilliant thangkas, frescoes, and images built in an era when religious art was created anonymously as a means of gaining merit for future lives. It’s one of the world's most extraordinary buildings and completely covers the mountain it stands upon. When remarkable late 19th- and early 20th-century explorer Alexandra David-Neel saw the Potala, she remarked, “…even the best photograph will fail to convey a true idea of its imposing appearance, as it stands, a red palace capped with gold roofs, uplifted high in the blue sky, on a shining pedestal of dazzling white buildings.”
Ganden Monastery is about 25 miles outside of Lhasa. Ganden was almost completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but is now being painstakingly restored. It was founded in 1409 by Tsongkhapa, the founder of the yellow hat sect (Gelugpa); it was the first Gelugpa monastery and is still considered the main seat of this major Buddhist order (Dalai Lama’s sect). The views here are spectacular; we will hike the two-hour kora and have stunning views of the whole Kyichu Valley. Along the way we’ll light juniper and hang prayer flags and then enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the monastery. Return to Lhasa in the afternoon, with time to rest, shop, or explore on your own.
Day 15 : Lhasa to Chengdu
Transfer to the airport for your direct flight to Chengdu. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel. Then enjoy an excursion to Chengdu's Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center about 45 minutes outside the city. The Center is beautifully laid out in a large green area and it is an excellent place to view the elusive giant pandas. The Center has successfully bred pandas in captivity and their next step is to release those born in captivity into the wild. Return to the hotel.
Day 16 : Fly home
Transfer to the airport for your international or onward flight.
DATES: Best time to go: April, October Departures: Oct 5 - 20, 2014 Apr 5 - 20, 2015 Oct 4 - 19, 2015
$5,995 (10-15 members)
$1,830 internal airfare – Bangkok/Paro/Kathmandu/Pokhara/Kathmandu/Lhasa/Chengdu - subject to change
$6,195 (10-15 members)
$1,800 internal airfare – Bangkok/Paro/Kathmandu/Pokhara/Kathmandu/Lhasa/Chengdu - subject to change
Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport HotelBangkok
The Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport is a 4 star hotel located 10 min walk from Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Boasting 612 comfortable and contemporary rooms, the hotel also offers 2 bars and 4 restaurants. With a 24 hr airport shuttle every 10 min from Gate 4 Level 2 and parking available, there is no better place to stay.
Druk HotelThimphu, Bhutan
Experience the unique and legendary hospitality of the Bhutanese people at this fine accommodation in the midst of the Himalayas. Located in the heart of the capital city, the hotel is close to shopping, culture, and the bubbling Thimphu River.Thim
Hotel ZangthopelriPunakha, Bhutan
Named after the heaven of Guru Rimpoche and situated majestically on a hillock, this hotel features spacious, well-designed rooms in small cottages and a main building. Guests will enjoy fascinating views of the rice terraces and the Punakha river and valley below.
Zhiwa Ling HotelParo, Bhutan
The Zhiwa Ling combines the sensibilities of a fine Bhutanese guesthouse with the best of modern comforts. Guests can enjoy a traditional outdoor hot-stone bath, a Tea House, a Meditation House, and two restaurants specializing in both contemporary international and classic Bhutanese cuisine.
Kyichu HotelLhasa, Tibet
This hotel is named after the Kyichu River, which in Tibetan is known as "the river of happiness". This family-run establishment in the ancient, traditional quarter of Lhasa, prides itself on personalized service and individual attention. Like its namesake river, the Kyichu Hotel will also bring you happiness and an unforgettable stay while in Tibet.
Yak & Yeti HotelKathmandu, Nepal
A 5-star deluxe oasis in the heart of Kathmandu, the Yak & Yeti is the perfect blend of contemporary international standards and time-honored Nepali tradition. Guests will find refuge among antique fountains, gilded temples and emerald gardens, while enjoying a state-of-the-art gymnasium, spa, shopping arcade, atrium, tennis courts and swimming pools.
Located in the heart of Tsedang, this hotel serves as the ideal base for exploring Tibet's third largest city. Nestled between majestic mountains and the beautiful Yarlung River, surrounded by ancient temples and monasteries, the Tsedang Hotel offers the perfect accommodation for enjoying this stunning setting.
Hotel Shangri-La VillagePokhara, Nepal
Every room has a view, and for guests at the Shangri-La Village, the Himalayas get up close and personal. Private balconies off each guest room face the mighty Annapurna range, and spacious landscaped gardens complete the scene. Guests will enjoy every comfort in a beautiful and serene setting.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Sanjay Nepal has been working as a tour guide & trip leader since September 1999 in Nepal, India, Bhutan & Tibet & uses a lot of unusual anecdotes, humor & patience while working. He holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu & has EMBA (Executive MBA) in General Management from University of Ljubljana, Slovenia apart from Senior Diploma in French from French Cultural Center in Kathmandu. He has a sound knowledge on religion and culture of the sub-continent as he himself practiced it for 12 long years (1985-1997) during which he associated with several high profile lamas & religious personalities. He speaks Nepali, Hindi, Urdu, English and French fluently. He has traveled extensively in Europe (Slovenia, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic) for seminars and lecture tours on Buddhism & Hinduism as well as Palmistry & Chinese Face Reading. He has been practicing it professionally since 1991 and has given consultations to several hundreds of people since then. He has also published several articles in English journals in Nepal. His other passion is poetry which can be sampled at www.poetry.com. Beside that his other interests include music, movies, driving, books & traveling.