2nd March: Departure
Meet at Malta International Airport for our flight to Dubai and then to Kathmandu. According to the current flight schedule we are expected to depart Malta at 14.45hrs, transit in Dubai for 7.5hrs, arriving in Kathmandu the next day at 14.00hrs.
3rd March: Kathmandu (D=Dinner)
Stepping into Kathmandu is like stepping into another world. Kathmandu is like a living museum where your senses come alive!!! Upon arrival, we will transfer to the centre of Kathmandu, check in our 4* hotel, freshen up and start our adventure. They say, when in Nepal, do as the Nepalese do. We will start off with a Nepalese dinner, which is more than just indulging in the local cuisine. Our guide will teach us the Nepali Cultural Dance. Will we be the next Malta’s Got Talent?
4th March: Kathmandu Sightseeing (B)
Today we will visit a number of UNESCO Heritage sites around Kathmandu valley. We will spend a full day exploring;
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square: Being the royal palace of the old Bhaktapur Kingdom, this site has many temples and major attractions including the palace of fifty-five windows, the Golden Gate, and spectacular architecture which showcases the skills of the Newari artists and craftsmen.
- Nagarkot Hill Station: A totally different sight! Known for its beautiful views of the mystic mountains and sunset views over the Himalayas, here we will go on a pleasant walking trail in the lush green countryside that will take us to stunning mountain views, serene pine forests, and peaceful villages Later in the day we will head back to the heart of the city as we get lost in Thamel Street, a social hub that truly awakens at night. It is the biggest entertainment district in Kathmandu and pubs are in every little corner. Lots and lots of trekking gear and electronics sell at crazy prices here as there is no sales tax or duty on such products. So get ready to shop till you drop ☺
5th – 6th March: Thimpu (B, L, D)
After breakfast we will head to the airport for our flight to Paro, Bhutan. This is one of the most spectacular mountain flights as it offers beautiful views of Mount Everest and the surrounding landscape. The scenic flight to Paro Valley takes 45 minutes and on our way we will continue to enjoy views of monasteries, flat-roofed houses and temples. On arrival and after visa formalities we will start our picturesque journey to Thimphu (65 Kms), the capital of Bhutan and the 5th highest capital city in the world, where we will be spending our next two days. Set in a beautiful valley and lined with dzongs and monasteries, Thimphu is unlike any other capital in the world. Thimphu will get us in touch with the Bhutanese distinct way of life. We will walk around Buddhist shrines witnessing monks in their daily worship, follow a trail to Changangkha Lhakhang, a monastic school perched on a ridge overlooking the valley where locals meet daily to meditate, and explore Thimpu’s wildlife reserve to encounter Bhutan’s national animal, the Takin – with horns like that of a wildebeest and the body of a buffaloe.
We will also enjoy an exhilarating hike amidst the beauty of the lush green Thimphu valley, visit the Heritage Museum to gain insight into the Bhutanese lifestyle, and visit the National Library which has one of the largest holdings of Buddhist Literature in the entire world. We will end the day by lighting a candle and making a wish at the impressive Zilukha Nunnery.
7th March: Gangtey Valley (B, L, D)
After breakfast we start our 5 hour journey to Gangtey through the rural but beautiful countryside of Bhutan. Gangtey is one of the most beautiful and remote spots in Bhutan, also known as the valley of the black necked crane. It boasts various nature trails and important Buddhist sites. We will spend the next two days exploring this valley. The journey to Gangtey winds through the Dochu La Mountain Pass, one of the most hallowed and sacred in the nation located more than ten thousand feet above sea level. The pass is home to meditation caves painted in colourful detail with Buddhist symbolism. To explore these hidden gems we will take a 10- minute climb into a forest. Once we reach them we will enjoy magnificent views of the Himalayan peaks. Monks and nuns come here for three days, three months or three years to achieve enlightenment. During this time one may not speak with, or cast eyes on another person. Once they make it through the three days, then it’s time to take on the three months and eventually the three years.
We will stop for lunch and then continue to Gangtey. On our way we will make a quick stop at the Crane Observatory to watch these elegant birds aided with a telescope. We are expected to arrive in Gangtey late in the afternoon. After we check-in our hotel we will meet our guide and join him for a walk along the surrounding ancient villages where villagers live a traditional Bhutanese rural lifestyle. And for those who wish to take this a step further, we can join monks in their Evening Prayer before retiring to their rooms.
8th March: Hike in Phobjikha Valley (B, L, D)
Buddhists believe that in the early morning the body and the mind are the most pure. Draw upon your inner self and join us for a tranquil meditation class at sunrise. Today we will explore Phobjikha valley leisurely on foot. We will walk through the village and continue to Gangtey Gompa. We will spend our first part of the day exploring Gangtey Gompa Monastery, a masterpiece of Buddhist architecture. This monastery consists of monk’s quarters and meditation centres where the serenity and beauty of nature can be appreciated in undisturbed silence. Here we will be invited to meet monks and discuss any topics we wish with them. We can offer our prayers, enjoy the warm aura of the people, and feel at one with this peaceful and glorious temple. We will then walk along the amazing Gangtey Nature Trail through the forest of Blue Pine trees to Semchubara Village. We will continue through beautiful forests and into the open valley. Get ready to cross the river over wooden bridges till we reach Kilkhorthang Village. On our way we will visit some houses, farms and hamlets to meet families.
9th March: Temple Road Trail (B, L, D)
Punakha valley is a nature lover’s paradise, and the scenic views of the Himalayas are simply breathtaking. Today we will depart to this part of the country and we will spend our day soaking up the serene beauty of this gorgeous valley. Before reaching Punakha we will visit Chimi Lhakhang by walking the temple road through a small clustered village. We cross rice fields, a tiny stream and finally a short climb will lead us to the temple. Situated on a small hill, Chimi Lhakhang is a place of worship, of unusual rituals and colourful legends. Upon arrival in Punakha, we will visit the town and hike to Punakha Dzong through the valley as we breathe in the freshest of air. Punakha Dzong is said to be the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan and it is one of the top 3 sites in Bhutan following Tiger’s Nest and the Dochula Pass – we will experience all 3!
Ready for an exhilarating experience??
The crystal clear rivers of Bhutan are one of the kingdom’s best kept open secrets, and one of the hidden gems of Punakha is white water rafting on the Mo and Pho Chhu river!!!! We will walk to the base and raft down the river on class III and class IV rapids. Currents vary between gentle flows to raging torrents, and this adventurous activity will surely provide a unique opportunity to explore Bhutan’s beautiful wilderness. Our evening will be spent exploring Punakha Village on the riverbank with villagers sipping yak-butter tea and eating chili pancakes.
10th March: Paro (B, L, D)
Our destination today is Paro, the heart of Bhutan. This picturesque region is covered in fertile rice fields and has a beautiful, crystalline river meandering down the valley. Paro also consists of various iconic landmarks which preserve a snap-shot of the rich cultural traditions of the country and its people. Upon arrival we will take a stroll around Paro town visiting famous sites including the unmissable Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the Kingdom built in 1627 which now houses the School for Buddhist Studies, and Kichu Temple, the oldest temples in the country dating back to the 6th century. Before we leave for our hotel, we will walk around Paro town and enjoy a good evening coffee in one of the tastiest coffee stalls.
11th March: Taktsang Monastery Tiger Nest (B, L, D)
The region of Paro contains one of Bhutan’s most iconic landmark, Taktsang Monastery, also know as Tiger’s Nest. This awe-inspiring temple was constructed upon a sheer cliff face, above forests of oak and rhododendrons. To reach the monastery we will drive to the base of Takstang and start our uphill hike through villages and pine forests. It should take us around three hours to reach the top of the cliff, from where we will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Takstang is a pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese to visit once in their life time! The monastery clings to a huge granite cliff 800 meters from the Paro valley. It is believed that the great saint Padmasambhava came in the 7th century on a flying tigress and meditated in a cave for 3 months. The demons were trying to stop the spread of Buddhism and converted the Paro valley into Buddhism. During the end of the 17th century a monastery was built on the spot where the saint mediated.
After a wonderful hike, we will reward ourselves with an ancient traditional hot stone bath to rejuvenate our body and soul. The process of a traditional Bhutanese hot stone bath is unique. It uses Menchu (medicinal water) which is fresh river water mixed with Artemisia leaves. The water is heated using river stones that are roasted on fire till they are glowing red. Hot stone bath is a
traditional healing process which has been in practice for ages in Bhutan and we cannot leave here without experiencing one. For our last night in the land of thunder dragon, we will be taking part in a
traditional cultural night. Dinner will be prepared, and then get ready for some Bhutanese fun!!
12th March: Kathmandu (Packed Breakfast)
An early wake up call as we will head to the airport for our flight to Kathmandu. Upon arrival, we will check-in our hotel then we will fully immerse ourselves in Kathmandu as we explore hidden alleyways and backroads where locals hang out. Highlights we will be visiting today include; Swayambhunath Monkey Temple: resting on a hillock west of Kathmandu, Swayambhu is one of the holiest Buddhist stupas in Nepal. Monkeys are everywhere, but there’s more to this site especially the view of Kathmandu from here.
- Pashupatinath: a sacred temple complex on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. Here monkeys run up and down the burning ghats, and sadhus, or holy men, draped in burnt-orange and yellow, sit serenely meditating.
- Boudhanath: In the midst of traditional gompas, and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, Boudhanath attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the stupa This evening we will share farewell drinks together. As we raise our glass and make a toast to a good life, we will take in this Experience and feel our heart smiling!
13th – 14th March: Kathmandu and Back Home (B)
Breakfast will be served and this will be followed by a visit to Patan Durbar Square, the most staggering example of Nepalese engineering in an urban context. Crowded with fascinating Hindu temples and Buddhist monuments of stunning beauty, it is a perfect getaway to get to know more of the rich cultural diversity in Nepali society.
The rest of the day will be free so you can take all the time you need to explore any area which struck you most, soothe yourself to a shiatsu massage, get lost in this vibrant city or just sit back by the flowing river watching locals plan their day. We will meet again later in the afternoon to head to the hotel for our flight back home. Leaving Kathmandu at 19.00hours, we are expected to arrive in Malta the next day at 13.05hours.
Our adventure has come to an end!
We ultimately hope to Experience all of this with you ☺