Cultural Highlights of Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet
- 15 Days
- Kathmandu - Paro - Thimphu - Phnakha - Thimphu - Paro - Kathmandu - Lhasa
- Tour Type:
- Private Tour
The 15 Days Cultural Highlights of Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet will provide you an in-depth advanture. Bhutan and Tibet Both share the Buddhist culture but the natural scenery in Bhutan and Tibet is quite different. In Bhutan, you will visit the impressive Taktsang Monastery (the Tiger’s Nest) in Paro, and the magnificent riverside dzong at Punakha. In Nepal, you will visit Kathmandu Valley, which is a good place to see the historical architecture of Nepal’s temples and palaces. In Tibet, your tour guide will show you around the most classic spots, like Potala Palace, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Jokhang Temple, Tashilhunpo Monastery, etc.
Daily ItineraryCollapse Expand
Our Nepali guide will greet you at Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport holding your name board, then transfer you to hotel in downtown Kathmandu.
Today you will start to explore Kathmandu with our experienced Nepali guide.
Firstly, you will go to Swyambhunath Temple to see the stupa there. Swyambhunath was built 2000 years ago, even older than Kathmandu city! It’s one of the World Cultural Heritages in Nepal. And it’s also called “Monkey Temple” as there are hundreds of wild monkeys live around it. The Swyambhunath Stupa is the second largest stupa in Nepal. The Buddha's eyes were painted on the four sides of the stupa, means Buddha is watching you. The paint makes it so sacred that many pilgrims come to worship.
Then you will go to see the largest stupa in Nepal, as well as in the world. Boudhanath Stupa is located in the eastern of Kathmandu. 90% of Nepalese are Hindu devotees. you can see Lord Shiva everywhere. But here, Boudhanath is a holy place of Tibetan Buddhism as it’s located in the main trading pass between Nepal and Tibet. So, every morning, there are many Tibetan Buddhist doing kora here, which is really an impressive scene.
In the end, we are heading to Pashupatinath Temple, the largest Hindu temple in Nepal. The god of destruction—Shiva is enshrined in it. “Pashu” means “all living creatures”, “Patinath” means “the lord”. This temple is also known as “corpse cremation temple” because it’s the place where Hindu devotees cremate the dead bodies in public.
Stay overnight in Kathmandu
Today we are going to visit Bhaktapur Durbar Square first.
“Durbar” means “Palace” in Nepalese language. There are three famous Durbar Squares in Nepal, one is in Kathmandu, one is in Bhaktapur, and the last in Patan. After the 6th. King of Malla Dynasty died, all his three sons wanted to be the new king, so they controlled three different places and fight each other. These three Durbar Squares were built during that time.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is bigger than the other two squares. There are many temples, statues and palace over 500years history there, thus it’s called “The Treasure of Medieval Nepalese Art” and “Outdoor Museum” as well.
After lunch, we are going to Nagarkot, 35km from Kathmandu. It’s called the “Viewing Deck of Himalaya” because it’s the best place to see the overall perspective of Himalaya. It used to be the secluded place of the Nepalese rulers, but since 70’s it became the most popular place to enjoy the sunrise and sunset. The tour peak season is Oct. to Mar. every year.
Stay overnight in Nagarkot village
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square
- Nagarkot Village
After enjoying the great sunrise of Himalaya in Nagarkot, today we are going to another Durbar Square---Patan Durbar Square. It’s also one of the world's cultural heritages in Nepal. The biggest difference compared with the other two squares is the Newari classical architecture here.
In the afternoon, we are going to the Patan Museum. It may be the best museum in the South Asian Sub-Continent. It’s a complex of modern and ancient architecture art. The specialty seeing is those bronze statues, which are gods of Hindu and Buddhism. There are three showrooms of Hindu while 2 of Buddhism.
We will go back to Kathmandu in the late afternoon.
Stay overnight in Kathmandu
- Patan Durbar Square
- Patan Museum
Today you will be taken to the airport, for the flight from Kathmandu to Paro, and you will get to see the breathtaking views of the Himalayas from the plane, including the sacred Mt. Jumolhari, known as the “bridge of Kanchenjunga”, and its companion mountain, Mt. Jichu Drake, in Bhutan. On arrival at Paro International Airport, your guide will transfer you to the hotel. You still have lots of time to wander around the town of Paro. You could appreciate the famous Queen Mother’s Winter Palace and get a view of the Dzong architectures.
The rest of the day is for you to stroll around the town or take a rest in the hotel.
Stay overnight in Paro/Thimphu.
- Mt. Jumolhari
- Mt. Jichu Drake
In the morning you will trek from the bottom of Paro Valley to the Taktsang Monastery, perched on the side of the mountain. Taktsang (commonly known as Tiger's Nest) is one of the most sacred sites in Bhutan and one of the most challenging monasteries to get to. Located at an elevation of 3120 meters, Taktsang is the birthplace of Bhutanese Buddhism. Guru Rinpoche flew here from Tibet on the back of a tigress, which was the manifestation of his divine consort Yeshe Tsogyal.
You can ride a horse or walk to Tiger’s Nest. It is a challenging trek so you will gain merit with every step. The view from the Paro Valley to the monastery is worth your climb. The hike starts from a gentle forest with some prayer flags. After passing a creek and some water-powered prayer wheels, the trail starts getting steeper.
On the halfway up the monastery, there is a nice teahouse with great views of Tiger's Nest that makes a welcome stopping point. You can get some tea and take a break here. You can continue climbing to the viewpoint, where is the best place to take photos of Taktsang. From here, you will walk down a series of steep stairs to a waterfall to achieve your final ascent to the entrance. Here you will be required to leave your backpacks, cameras, and phones.
After visiting Tiger's Nest, then we will go on exploring the Paro valley. We will drive to the end of the valley to visit the damaged monastery/fortress of Drugyel Dzong. This was burnt down at the beginning of the last century when a monk accidentally overturned a yellow oil lamp. You may get a view of Mount Chomolhari to the north from Drugyel Dzong if the weather is clear. Back in the valley, you can visit the ancient temple of Kyichu Lhakhang and have time to see the treasures of the Bhutan National Museum. After the 2011 earthquake, the museum was closed for restoration. Many of the artworks are placed in the nearby building during the restoration.
Stay overnight in Paro.
- Taktsang Monastery
- Kyichu Lhakhang
- National Museum
Today, we will leave for Punakha. You'll pass the 3,150-meter Dochula Pass, a famous pass on the way from the capital of Bhutan- Thimphu, to the ancient capital of Bhutan - Phunaka. If the weather is good, you can enjoy the magnificent scenery of the Himalayas here. At the same time, you can see the "108 memorial Chortens" located here, also known as Druk Wangyal Chortens. It's to commemorate those who lost their lives in the suppression of the Assamese rebels in southern Bhutan and to pray for world peace. Then you'll visit the Chimi Lhakhang Temple, which is named the fertility temple and is associated with its mythical power to help couples with pregnancy problems. If time permits, you can appreciate the historical Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. Legend has it that when people were choosing the site, they saw four crows flying in four directions, showing auspicious signs of Buddhism spreading far and wide, so they decided to build a temple here.
Stay overnight in Punakha.
- Dochula Pass
- Chimi Lhakhang Temple
- Wangdue Phodrang Dzong
After breakfast, drive to the north of Punakha to visit the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten. It is the only pagoda in Bhutan that enshrines all kinds of protector gods, and its various levels are dedicated to different protector gods. This is unique in the world. Then visit Punakha Dzong, the second castle in Bhutan, located at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers in the Punakha–Wangdue valley. It was still the seat of the national government until 1950. Punakha Dzong is recognized as the most beautiful Dzong in Bhutan, especially in spring, when the blue-purple jacarandas surrounding the Dzong are in full bloom. Then drive to Thimphu and check into the hotel to rest.
Stay overnight in Thimphu
- Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten
- Punakha Dzong
In the morning, you will go to visit Trashi Chhoe Dzong, a majestic and grand castle on the west bank of the Wangchu River. This is the office of the current king and the seat of the internal affairs and finance departments. It is also the summer residence of religious leaders and central religious institutions. After the visit, go north to Takin Zoo, where is exclusively built for Bhutan's national animal - takin. Takin is a creature with a sheep head and cow body which is only living in Bhutan.
Then, proceed to Thimphu Valley. There's National Memorial Chorten built to commemorate the King of Bhutan III and a holy place for the people of Bhutan to pray for peace. Afterward, go to the Postal Office of Bhutan and the National Bank of Bhutan. The guide will also take you to visit Bhutan's National Academy of Painting and Folklore Museum, where you can have an intuitive experience of Bhutan's culture and art.
In the late afternoon, you will return to Paro. On the way, you will see Ta Dzong, the watchtower of Paro Dzong, now the National Museum. It is a cultural relic.
Stay overnight in Paro
- Trashi Chhoe Dzong
- National Memorial Chorten
- Postal Office
- National Museum
Today you will be taken to the airport in Paro in the morning, for the flight to Kathmandu in the morning. You will get breathtaking views of the Himalayas from the plane, including the sacred Mt. Jumolhari, known as the "bridge of Kanchenjunga", and its companion mountain, Mt. Jichu Drake.
In the noon, you can board the plane from Kathmandu to Lhasa. If possible, please choose a seat on the right hand, therefore you can see Mt. Everest when your plane passes by.
Our tour guide and driver will pick you up from the airport. After transferred to hotel, the rest of the day you will be free to wander around the city on your own but try not to overtax yourself. The first day's well-rest is crucial to acclimatize the high altitude. Remember to drink lots of water, eat light, and not to take a shower if you can help it.
After breakfast, our tour guide will first take you to visit Drepung Monastery which is the world's largest monastery that housed for over 10,000 monks; it was the resident of the Dalai Lama. After lunch, you will continue to visit the Sera Monastery which was founded in 1419 by Tsongkapa's disciple Jamchen Choeje. The most attractive thing of Sera Monastery is the Buddhist Scriptures debating held in the courtyard between 15:00 - 17:00 from Monday to Saturday.
Stay overnight in Lhasa
In the morning your guide will meet you in the hotel lobby and first take you to visit the famous Potala Palace, the cardinal landmark of Tibet and the masterpiece of Tibetan architecture. It was first built by 33rd King - Songtsen Gangpo in the 7th century and rebuilt later by the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th century. Now it is a museum and world heritage site.
In the afternoon, we will go to visit Jokhang Temple in the center of the Lhasa old town. Jokhang Temple is one of the most sacred temples all over Tibet and it is always bustling with earnest local pilgrims since the early days. After that, you will take a walk around the Barkhor Street which is one of the most devotional circuits as well as a crowded central market of Lhasa. Barkhor Street is a very ancient round street surrounding the Jokhang Temple and the locals are always proud of it. As a symbol of Lhasa, it is also a must-see place for visitors.
Stay overnight in Lhasa
We will pass by Gampala pass (4794m) on the way from Lhasa to Shigatse and visit Yamdrok Lake, it is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet, it’s around 70km long. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams.
Later we will pass and enjoy the Karola Glacier on the roadside, it is about 300m from the main highway with easy access on your way to Gyantse.
Then visit Pelkor Chode Monastery is the main monastery in Gyantse. Pelkhor Choede in Gyantse town is located about 230km to the south of Lhasa and 100km to the east of Shigatse. The monastery is a short walk from the heart of the town. The Friendship Highway that connects Kathmandu, Nepal to Lhasa passes through Gyantse.
Stay overnight in Shigatse
Today we will go back to Lhasa; on the way, we will visit the home of Panchen Lama - Tashilunpo Monastery, it was founded by the 1st Dalai Lama in 1447, and is a historic and culturally important monastery in Tibet. It located on a hill in the center of the city, the full name in Tibetan of the monastery means "all fortune and happiness gathered here" or "heap of glory". For the trip back to Lhasa in the later afternoon, we will provide you two solutions which will be decided by Great Tibet Tour.
After that, we will go to visit Yungdrungling Monastery; it is a typical Buddhist monastery. The monks here are very friendly to visitors. Some of them can even speak English. If you are lucky to meet the key holder, he can show you the large Dukhang(the assembly hall). Inside the house, there are the impressive thrones of the monastery's two resident Shiromo along the walls-look for the deity's characteristic swastika mace. There are also a couple of more behind the main hall that you can pay a visit to. Those chapels' include the Namjya Lhakhang. Keep in mind that you should visit those chapels in an anticlockwise direction.
Stay overnight in Lhasa