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JTW 2019 – Nepal & Bhutan

14 February 2019 – 2 March 2019

Discover the best of Nepal & Bhutan on this incredible journey. Experience the natural beauty, history, culture and landscapes. Nepal is a tiny Himalayan country where Sherpas still trudge the mountain paths and prayer flags crisscross the sky, their fluttering Buddhist mantras snatched on the breeze. Despite their close proximity, Bhutan is vastly different from Nepal and the two make a great combination. Bhutan is a little secret of Asia, and no ordinary place! It is one calm country, where gross national happiness is more important than money… where chillies are used as vegetable rather than spice! The calm country is spotted with red-clothed monks and offers one of the last pristine pockets in the entire Himalaya. Combine two beautiful Himalayan Kingdoms in one magical tour.

// Receive a blessing from a lama, as you watch people come to the Stupa to light butter lamps
// Go to the “Heart of the Jungle” Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage Listed reserve
// Witness the Prayer Flag hoisting at Dochu La
// Visit Punakha Dzong the Palace of Great Happiness
// See the mural of King Gesar of Ling, the popular Tibet warrior king, whose epic poem is said to be the worlds’ longest
// Watch a traditional Aarti ceremony, where you will see the lighting of lamps in devotion

Day One // 14th February 2019
Today you will be transferred to Sydney, for an overnight stay at an airport hotel. Due to our early departure, this avoids an early start from Newcastle.

Day Two // 15th February 2019
After an included breakfast at the airport hotel, we will walk across to the terminal to check in for your flight to Nepal. We will arrive late in the evening to Kathmandu. Once luggage is collected, we will be transferred to our accommodation.
Meals: Breakfast, In flight

Day Three // 16th February 2019
This morning you will have at leisure. Some may need time to adjust to the altitude, and others may be feeling adventurous. Kathmandu is an incredibly diverse historic city with breathtaking Newari architecture and centuries old Hindu and Buddhist religious sites. Step into Kathmandu and experience a world that everybody should experience at least once in their lifetime. After lunch, we will start to explore Kathmandu. Visit Hanuma Dhoka, the historic palace of the kings of Nepal; Swayambunath, which is said to be 2000 years old and one of the world’s oldest Buddhist chaityas; and the Residence of the living Goddess with profusely carved wooden balconies and windows.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Day Four // 17th February 2019
This morning you will start the day by exploring Bhaktapur Dubar Square, with a leisurely heritage walk through its medieval alleys. The third largest of the medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur was always described as the best preserved. Situated 13km to the East of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur translates to ‘a place of devotees’. It is a very old and fascinating place, rich in history and Buddhist symbolism. Walk further South to reach Pottery Square where will can admire the beautiful handicrafts made by hand. You can also give it a try and see how good you are at spinning a clay pot for yourself! Afterwards we enjoy a local experience at a family’s home, to gain an insight into their lifestyle. We will receive a Newari traditional welcome and a Pyala (clay cup) of Rakshi (a local spirit made rice). Today’s experiences will also include a visit the Boudhanath Stupa. The Boudhanath Stupa has stood as a beacon of Buddhist belief, towering over the surrounding town as a giant mandala of peace and beauty. You will receive a blessing from a Lama as you watch people come to the Stupa to light butter lamps and sing mantras. This is sure to be a truly magical start to the evening. Tonight, we will also see the Pashupatinath Temple and interaction with Sadhu, a Hindu holy man. We finish our evening with a traditional Aarti Ceremony, where we will see the lighting of lamps in devotion.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day Five // 18th February 2019
Manakamana. From the tiny hamlet of Cheres, an Austrian-engineered cable car soars up an almost impossibly steep hillside to the ancient Manakamana Temple, one of the most important temples in the Middle Hills. Hindus believe that the goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati, has the power to grant wishes. As we take the cable car, rising more than 1000m above, we will experience magnificent views of Trishull River and of the village with its colourful, flowery hills. This afternoon we make our way to Chitwan, the “Heart of the Jungle”. Chitwan National Park is one of the premier drawcards in Nepal. The World Heritage–listed reserve protects over 932 square km of forests, marshland and rippling grassland, and is home to sizeable wildlife populations such as one-horned rhino’s, crocodiles, elephants, monkeys, pythons and deer. If you are lucky you may also spot the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day Six // 19th February 2019
Today, enjoy Jungle activities at Chitwan National Park. Even though it is a dense jungle, and that many of the animals keep nocturnal hours – hopefully we will spot plenty of the creatures who call the Chitwan National Park ‘home’. Adventure out and participate in bird watching, a nature walk and if you wish, canoeing! We will also walk through the forests with naturalists and watch the Native folk dances of the Terai.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day Seven // 20th February 2019
Today we say good-bye to Chitwan and continue with our journey to Pokhara, via Bandipur. Bandipur is situated on a ridge above the highway town of Dumre and is a beautiful small village showcasing the old Newari culture. Its winding lanes are lined with traditional Newari houses. Time seems to have stood still here, although it has taken a lot of effort to preserve the magic while developing the town as a destination. Take a stroll through this living museum and admire the impressive architecture, beautiful caves and unspoiled landscapes. We continue onto Pokhara, a nature’s gem and one of Nepal’s most spectacular locations. Pokhara seduces with its amazing mountainous surroundings and the charming Lake Phewa. A boat ride on the Lake allows us to take in even more of the spectacular scenery of the surrounding Himalayas.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day Eight // 21st February 2019
Start your day with an optional two hour hike to Kalabang Village. Sitting 1500m above sea level, this village rests upon a hilltop. The village is a place of full serenity and peace as it offers stunning panorama of the snow-capped mountain ranges, lush vegetation, shimmering water of Lake Phewa and beautiful Pokhara valley. When you reach the village of Kalanbang you will be warmly greeted by the locals! The village is mainly inhabited by Gurungs, Brahmins and Dalit – with whom you can interact with and catch a glimpse of their ancient culture and traditions.  After lunch, we will return to Pokhara for an afternoon at leisure.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day Nine // 22nd February 2019
The early bird catches the worm! And if you are willing to start the morning early, we will travel to watch the sunrise from Sarangkot. Watch the colors dance over the top of the mountains, showcasing nature in its truest form. As the first rays of the sun gradually dissipate darkness in the lower plains of Pokhara valley, the scenery will simply astound you. For another incredible view, look south! You will be able to see view of the city Pokhara and its lake on the north-western outskirts of the city. We then return to the hotel for breakfast. Today you will take a flight to return to Kathmandu before travelling to Thamel. Explore the city in a rickshaw’s, driving through the bustling and colourful bazaars to reach Thamel. In Thamel you will feel the vibrant pulse of Kathmandu and have time to explore the many shops, bars and restaurants.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day Ten // 23rd February 2019
Our adventures today take us to Paro, just a short flight from Kathmandu. The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular in entire Himalayas and an unparalleled experience. Flying along the Himalayan range, the journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into ‘the Kingdom’. Upon landing into Paro, you will continue to Thimphu – the capital of Bhutan. Thimphu combines a natural small-town feel with a new, commercial exuberance that constantly challenges the country’s natural conservatism and ‘Shangri La’ image. But it’s this juxtapositions of old and new that remains part of Thimpu’s charm.

This evening you can enjoy stunning views of the Thimphu Valley from the Changbandu hill, where a 14m Buddha statue peacefully sits. Reflect on an amazing day and your arrival into Bhutan.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day Eleven // 24th February 2019
Today we will be exploring the main attractions of Thimpu. We will stop at the Textile Museum, National Library, the Institute for Zorig Chusum (Zangthopelrl Lhakhang) and the Memorial Chorten. Travelling a short distance from the city centre, we will also visit Buddha point (Kuensel Phodrang) for views over the Thimphu Valley.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day Twelve // 25th February 2019
After breakfast this morning, enjoy a dramatic drive over the high mountain pass of Dochu La. Here we witness the Prayer flag hoisting at Dochu La, a highly reserved site. According to legend, prayer flags started from the battle flags used by the Gautama Buddha against the evil asuras. The five flag colors represent the five elements: blue for the sky and space, white for air and wind, red for fire, green for water, and yellow for the earth. The ever-present prayer flags, the chorten and stupa dotted around the countryside, and the prayer texts; all around Bhutan there are reminders to honour Buddhist practice.

We will be travelling to Gangtey, passing through dense forest of oak and rhododendron trees. Continue climbing through the dense forest of oak, bamboo and rhododendron trees, to the valley of Gangtey. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valley’s are tightly enclosed. This evening, walk to a family home to get a rare glimpse of the daily life and lifestyle of the villagers.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day Thirteen // 26th February 2019
Today we will journey to Punakha across Dochula pass. In Bhutan, the passes are marked by a large Bhutanese Chorten and prayer flag. Dochula pass offers the most spectacular view over the high peaks of the eastern Himalayas on a clear day. This afternoon visit Punakha Dzong the palace of Great Happiness, which was built at the junction of the Phochu and Mochu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namg’yal. The majestic dzong served as both the religious and the administrative center of Bhutan. If your fitness allows, this afternoon you will visit Khamsum Yuelley Nagmgyal Chorten. This was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day Fourteen // 27th February 2019
This morning take a leisurely walk through paddy fields and villages to Chimi Lhakhag – the Temple of Fertility, which is situated on a hillock in the centre of the valley. To this day, the monastery safeguards the original wooden phallus symbol, imbedded with a silver handle (from Tibet) that is used to bless visitors and pilgrims.

Afterwards, we will make our way back to Paro descending back down from Dochu La. Proceed to visit Ta Dzong, originally built as Watchtower, which now houses National Museum. Displays include an impressive collection of thangkas, both ancient and modern, depicting Bhutan’s important saints and teachers, as well as fearsome festival masks grouped according to their tsechu dances, antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armory. Our day will also include a visit to Rinpung Dzong. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard of Rinpung Dzong are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount, Sumeru and other cosmis Mandala.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day Fifteen // 28th February 2019
This morning we will take a short drive to Satsam Chorten, with a stop enroute at the 7th century Kyichu. Kyichu Lhakhang is one of Bhutan’s oldest and most beautiful temples, known for its magical orange tree that bears fruit all year round.  Elderly pilgrims constantly shuffle around the temple spinning its many prayer wheels, making this one of the most charming spots in the valley. As you enter the intimate inner courtyard you’ll see a mural to the right of the doorway of King Gesar of Ling, the popular Tibetan warrior-king, whose epic poem is said to be the world’s longest. Depending on the weather, an optional hiking tour of Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) is available. This hike can be difficult and take up to 5 hours to complete. You do need a certain level of fitness to achieve this.

The Tiger’s nest is considered one of the most famous monasteries in Bhutan; perched on a side of a 900m cliff above the Paro valley. This site has been recognised as a most sacred place and is now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. 
On the way back, stop at the Drukgyel Dzong. This is a ruined fortress, where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. The snowy dome of sacred Chomolhari can be seen in all her glory from the approach road to the Dzong. Today we will also visit the 7th century Kyiche Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by the Tibeten King, Songtsen Campo.
The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.

This afternoon is free to explore the market area of Paro.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day Sixteen // 1st March 2019
Today you will start your journey home, via Kathmandu.
Meals: Breakfast, In flight

Day Seventeen // 2nd March 2019
On arrival in Sydney, you will be transferred back to your home address.

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