Take to the trails of the Himalaya, experiencing timeless cultures and extraordinary vistas as you hike to Bhutan’s iconic temples and the timeless mountain villages of the Annapurna range, encounter wildlife in the wetlands of Chitwan, and explore the World Heritage sites of the Kathmandu Valley.

Activity Level: This is a Moderate Active Journey. Travelers should be reasonably fit and capable of walking or hiking for several hours at a time on roads and trails. Travelers can expect 3 to 7 miles of hiking or walking on most days with some elevation gains.  Day-by-day activity descriptions can be found on the itinerary page at the end of each day.  Read more about Active Journeys activity levels here.

This Active Journey is limited to a maximum of 16 travelers per departure.

 Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, near Paro, Bhutan
 Hiker at Tiger's Nest Monastery
 Prayer wheel at Taktsang Monastery
 Chortens at Dochu La, Bhutan
 Prayer flags at Dochu La pass, Bhutan
 Paro Dzong, Bhutan
 Paro Valley, Bhutan
 Thimphu Dzong, Thimphu, Bhutan
 The Great Buddha Dordenma, near Thimphu, Bhutan
 Punakha Dzong, Bhutan
 Punakha Monastery Buddhist Painting
 Lake Pokhara, Nepal
 Gurung Village, Nepal
 One-horned rhinos in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
 One-horned rhino in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
 Gray Langur in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
 Great Hornbill in flight in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
 Traditional canoe on the waterways of Chitwan National Park, Nepal
 Prayer flags at Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
 Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
 Durbar Square, Kathmandu
 Magical view of Patan, Nepal
 Prayer Wheels in Patan, Nepal
 Hindu ascetics

Nepal and Bhutan: An Active Journey

16 days from $7,799

Take to the trails of the Himalaya, experiencing timeless cultures and extraordinary vistas as you hike to Bhutan’s iconic temples and the timeless mountain villages of the Annapurna range, encounter wildlife in the wetlands of Chitwan, and explore the World Heritage sites of the Kathmandu Valley.

Activity Level: This is a Moderate Active Journey. Travelers should be reasonably fit and capable of walking or hiking for several hours at a time on roads and trails. Travelers can expect 3 to 7 miles of hiking or walking on most days with some elevation gains.  Day-by-day activity descriptions can be found on the itinerary page at the end of each day.  Read more about Active Journeys activity levels here.

This Active Journey is limited to a maximum of 16 travelers per departure.

Overview

Immerse yourself in the beauty and mystique of the Himalaya, hiking in three distinct regions in Bhutan and Nepal and getting acquainted with the timeless communities that call these mountains home. Explore three of Bhutan’s most important cultural centers, on hikes and walks to the fortresses and temples of Thimpu, Paro, and Punakha. Then fly to lakeside Pokhara in Nepal and set off on the trails of the legendary Annapurna, hiking to remote mountain villages. Embark on a safari in the unusual wetlands of Chitwan National Park, and cap off your adventure amid the stunning ancient cities of the Kathmandu Valley.

Highlights Include:

  • Bhutan: Spend five days discovering the rich culture and stunning Himalayan landscapes of Bhutan, with stays in Thimphu, Pukhara, and Paro and hikes to two historic monasteries: Tango and the iconic Tiger’s Nest.

  • Pokhara and the Annapurna Range: Set out from lakeside Pokhara to explore the Annapurna Range, hiking through rice terraces and rhododendron-covered slopes to traditional villages and a renowned mountain lodge.

  • Chitwan National Park: Encounter unusual flora and fauna—including langurs and one-horned rhinos—on a jeep safari in this World Heritage site. Then board an 8-person canoe for a wildlife-watching ride on the Rapti River.

  • Kathmandu Valley: Experience this World Heritage site on visits to iconic temples such as Boudhanath and Pashupatinath and guided walking tours of the Durbar Squares of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.

Itinerary

Days 1–2 — Depart Home / Arrive Kathmandu, Nepal

Arrive in Kathmandu on an overnight flight and transfer to your hotel. Meet the group for an orientation and a walk through the nearby Kalimati Market, a colorful open-air market where locals come to buy fruits and vegetables. Gather for a welcome dinner tonight. (D) 

Walking (Day 2): 1-hour leisurely walk on flat terrain through a busy market

Day 3 — Paro, Bhutan/Thimpu

A morning flight brings to you Paro. After a traditional Bhutanese lunch, travel overland to Thimphu, set at 7,775 feet in an amphitheater of mountains and surrounded by hiking trails. On an afternoon walking tour, get acquainted with this hub of art and culture, which became Bhutan’s official capital in 1962. As you make your way to Clock Tower Square, the city’s heart, discover the beautifully crafted architecture of its temples and homes. Admire the carved clock tower and visit a local market to witness how traditions hold strong in everyday life. (B,L,D) 

Walking: 1-hour walking tour on busy, mostly paved city streets with slight gradients and some uneven terrain

Day 4 — Thimpu

Your first Himalaya hike is an easy ascent through rhododendron-covered slopes to Tango Monastery, an institute for higher learning that was founded in the 13th century. The current structure, built in the 1600s, remains a working religious university and an important Buddhist site. Learn the legends behind the monastery, or goemba, before returning to Thimphu for lunch. This afternoon, tour some of Thimphu’s main sites, including the National Memorial Chorten and the Buddha Dordenma, a 167-foot golden Buddha statue overlooking Thimphu Valley. Learn about rural life in Bhutan at the Folk Heritage Museum and look for native wildlife in Motithang Takin Preserve. Enjoy dinner together at a restaurant in town tonight. (B,L,D) 

Hiking: 1–2 miles on a paved and dirt trail, with an initial uphill climb and an elevation gain of about 900 feet

Walking: 1 mile total with stops to visit various temples and museums

Day 5 — Punakha

Awaken early to begin the drive to Dochu La, a mountain pass at 10,171 feet where more than 100 picturesque chortens perch on the slopes. Take a walk among the chortens, and, weather permitting, take in extraordinary views of the surrounding Himalaya peaks. Pause for tea before continuing your journey to Chimi Lhakang temple. A short hike through paddies brings you to the temple and a nearby restaurant for lunch. Arrive in Punakha mid-afternoon and explore the town, including its impressive dzong, located at the confluence of the Mo (mother) and Pho (father) rivers. (B,L,D) 

Walking: 3 hours on mostly flat terrain and rice fields, with steps at the temple and dzong.

Walking: Half mile around Punakha town.

Day 6 — Paro

Return to Paro today, arriving in time for lunch. On a guided tour, visit the Paro Dzong, a fine example of Bhutanese architecture that houses government offices and a monastery. In a watchtower up the hill from the dzong is the National Museum, where you’ll have time to browse a collection of thangkas (scroll paintings), bronze statues, and intricate stamps. (B,L,D) 

Walking: 2-hour city walking tour on paved roads and undulating terrain, with visits to temples and museum

Day 7 — Paro and Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Set out on a vigorous morning hike to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery, or Takstang, which clings to the cliff side some 2,700 feet above the valley floor. The trail zigzags uphill through forests to scenic viewpoints, including a teahouse perched on the slopes across from this beautiful pilgrimage site—a great spot for photography.  Choose to stop your hike here and enjoy the vista, or continue the trek to the monastery. After the hike, take advantage of free time in Paro to relax or explore on your own. (B L,D) 

Hiking: 6 miles, 6-7 hours roundtrip to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, with extended uphill hiking on an uneven, often muddy track, including steps with railings and a total elevation gain of almost 3,000 feet. Travelers may choose to stop at the teahouse, roughly the halfway point, or remain in Paro for a day at leisure.

Day 8 — Pokhara, Nepal

Board a morning flight back to Kathmandu and transfer to the domestic airport to fly to the lovely lakeside town of Pokhara. Join your guide on an orientation walk along the shores of Phewa Lake, lined with boutiques and cafés, and take in views of the surrounding peaks of the Annapurna range. Stop for dinner at a waterfront restaurant. (B,D) 

Walking: 1-2 miles on mostly flat, paved paths along the lakeside

Day 9 — Lumle to Tomijong Village

Drive to the mountain community of Lumle and head into the fabled Annapurna on foot, hiking amid rice terraces and forests, with the snow-glazed peaks around every bend in the trail. Your destination is a charming stone lodge in the village of Tomijong, your home for the night. After lunch at the lodge, take a walk into the village, a traditional settlement of slate-roofed stone houses known for its beekeeping. Meet with community members who keep bees in log hives hanging from the eaves of their houses, and get acquainted with rural life in the Annapurna. If you wish, learn more about traditional apiculture methods. Enjoy a leisurely evening playing lawn games or relaxing at the lodge. (B,L,D)

Hiking: 3-4 miles on dirt trails with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet

Walking: Approximately 1 hour for village visit

Day 10 — Tomijong to Kande/Pokhara

Today, you’ll have the option to embark on a full-day hike or transfer to Pokhara by vehicle and visit the local market. Hikers will follow the trail from Tomijong south along the slopes, passing through dense rhododendrons and bamboo groves.  Ascend gradually to Australian Camp, poised at 6,500 feet and affording panoramic views of the Annapurna peaks. Stop for lunch here before descending toward Kande, emerging from thick forests into meadows and terraced rice fields where local farmers tend to their crops.  Meet up in the afternoon at your lodge, perched in the mountains outside of the town with views of the Himalaya.  Those who wish may a take a short evening walking tour of the neighboring village. (B,L,D) 

Optional Hiking:  8 miles on forest trails, with a gradual elevation gain of approximately 2,000 feet, reaching an elevation of 7,000 feet

Optional Walking:   1 mile evening village walk on hilly terrain

Day 11 — Gurung Village

Today’s hike traces the ridgeline east from the lodge, passing through the village of Kaliksthan on the way to Thuloswara, a community of indigenous Gurung people. Learn about this unique culture, known especially for their service as Gurkha soldiers in the British and Indian armies, and linger here for a picnic lunch. In the afternoon, your hike continues down to the Bijaypur River, where transport awaits to bring you back to the lodge. Those who seek a less challenging hike may join a leisurely walk through forests, farmland, and local communities of different castes. Along the way, keep an eye out for the many bird species that can be found here, as well as interesting butterflies and plant life. (B,L,D) 

Hiking Option 1: 4–5 miles, 3–4 hours on up-and-down mountain trails with some steep ascents and descents

Hiking Option 2: 2–3 miles over dirt and gravel trails over undulating terrain with minimal elevation gain

Day 12 — Chitwan National Park

After breakfast, travel out of the mountains to the lush plains of Chitwan, gazing at an ever-changing vista of stunning landscapes and rural life in Nepal. Stop for lunch along the way, and reach Jagatpur, a gateway to Chitwan National Park, in the late afternoon. Stretch your legs with a bike ride along the Rapti River, watching for birds and other wildlife on the banks and enjoying a sundowner as the sun sets. (B,L,D) 

Biking:  45 minutes biking on flat, paved or dirt roads along the river with village visits en route (2 hours total)

Day 13 — Chitwan National Park

A local naturalist joins you on a morning safari in Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage site of marshlands and forested hills that harbors unusual flora and fauna, including one-horned rhinos, langurs, rhesus macaques, and some 500 bird species. The park is also a refuge of several elusive species, including the Bengal tiger, wild elephants, leopards, and sloth bears. After lunch back at the lodge, board a traditional canoe and glide down the Rapti River, watching for wildlife such as mugger and gharial crocodiles and rare birds. This evening, enjoy a performance of traditional dance and singing of the Tharu people, native to this region. (B,L,D) 

Canoeing:  Leisurely ride in canoes manned and steered by local guides, with up to 8 persons per canoe.

Day 14 — Kathmandu

Board a morning flight back to Kathmandu and check in to the hotel. You’ll have free time for lunch before meeting in the mid-afternoon for a tour of the city’s most famous site: Boudhanath. Revered by Tibetan Buddhists, this white-domed stupa painted with all-seeing eyes draws a constant stream of pilgrims who circumambulate the sacred site. Continue to the temple of Pashupatinath, dedicated to Hindu deity Shiva. Discover the symbolism and artistry of the complex on a guided tour, and see some of sadhu ascetics who come from all over the world to meditate here. Witness the evening ritual of lighting oil lamps at the ghats along the sacred Bagmati River, then head to dinner at a popular vegetarian restaurant. (B,D)

Walking: 2–3 hour city walking tour over mostly flat stone paths with some steps and ascents

Day 15 — Kathmandu Valley

If you wish, rise early to take in views of Mt. Everest on a scenic flight (additional cost). Then set out to discover the Kathmandu Valley, a World Heritage site that encompasses the temples and ancient royal cities of Patan and Bhaktapur as well as Kathmandu. Learn about the sophisticated craftsmanship and vibrant cultural heritage of the local Newar people, who built these sites. Begin with a tour of Patan, where hundreds of temples and stupas represent an array of architectural styles. In the afternoon, travel to nearby Bhaktapur, a powerful capital city from the 14th to 16th centuries. Venture into its narrow alleyways, lined with medieval homes and temples, and learn about its vibrant pottery tradition. Celebrate your Himalayan adventure at a farewell dinner tonight. (B,L,D)

Walking - 1 mile on paved and stone paths during the visit to Patan.

Walking – 2 miles on stone and brick paths in Bhaktapur

Day 16 — Departure

After breakfast, transfer to the airport to catch your flight home. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

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