Extraordinary Nepal & Bhutan
October 21st - November 3rd, 2023 (Sold Out, Request Waitlist)
The journey begins in extraordinary Nepal, a landlocked wonder most famous for being the primary home of the tallest mountain range in the world: the Himalayas! But the country is so much more than the staggering beauty of earth's highest-reaching limbs. A densely packed culture has been formed here over the millennia with powerful kingdoms, dedicated spiritual seekers & institutions, amazing food, and real-life epics that no one could believe if they weren't actually true! Many don't even realize, but Nepal is also home to a sub-tropical jungle home to tigers, rhinoceros, & 68 other majestic mammal species! We'll visit this corner of the country because our cameras won't allow us to move on until we do!
Just to the east, separated only by a thin state in India, is what the locals claim is the happiest country on earth, Bhutan. It would be a sin to come all the way to this planet's dramatic eastern lands and not hop across the border to the magic that is Bhutan. This Buddhist nation lies on the Himalayas' eastern edge and is chock full of stunning mountains, towering monasteries, & foreboding fortresses. "Shangri-la like" valleys rest below the country's high peaks creating heaven on earth, higher and lower. Join us and meet these joyful people and perhaps we'll learn how to enjoy life back home a little more after taking a hint or two from this incredibly mindful country.
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"Filled with extraordinary wildlife, people and, of course, the highest mountain range on earth; bizarre snub-nosed monkeys live in frozen forests; Tibetan monks perform ancient rituals high in the mountains whilst snow leopards prowl the mountain sides. These mountains, referred to as the Third Pole, are the source of some of Asia’s major rivers and also help to regulate our planet’s climate. For centuries people here have developed a unique culture that weaves nature and people together into the same fabric of life. The region is the birthplace of the Buddha and is full of sacred natural sites such as secret valleys and high mountain lakes that predate ancient Hinduism. The Himalayas stretch across the northeastern portion of India, covers approximately 1,500 miles, and passes through the nations of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Bhutan, and Nepal." Let us start in Nepal... - From PBS & WWF
Nepal (7 Nights/8 Days)
A mountain lovers' paradise, Nepal combines Himalayan views, golden temples, charming hill villages and jungle wildlife watching to offer one of the world's great travel destinations. Admire the peaks over a sunset gin and tonic from a Himalayan viewpoint, stroll through the medieval city squares of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, and join Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims on a spiritual stroll around centuries-old stupas and monasteries. Even after the 2015 earthquake, Nepal remains the cultural powerhouse of the Himalaya; the Kathmandu Valley in particular offers an unrivaled collection of world-class palaces, hidden backstreet shrines and sublime temple art. - Lonely Planet
* Perfect combination of culture, photography, food, & adventure!
* We truly maximize our time to see the incredible diversity throughout Nepal which most groups don't even know exists!
* Great time of year to explore AFTER the monsoon has passed but before the tourist crowds take over!
For many, stepping off a plane into Kathmandu is a pupil-dilating experience, a riot of sights, sounds and smells that can quickly lead to sensory overload. Whether you’re barreling through the traffic-jammed alleyways of the old town in a rickshaw, marveling at the medieval temples or dodging trekking touts in the backpacker district of Thamel, Kathmandu can be intoxicating & amazing - Lonely Planet
Highlights of the Kathmandu Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site
* Kathmandu City: Highlights include the temple of the Living Goddess & Durbar Square with it’s array of temples overlooked by the Hanuman Dhoka Palace, the ancient residence of the Nepalese Royalty.
* Swayambhunath: Just outside the city proper is a hill with a mosaic of small Chaityas (shrines) and Pagodas temples. This is where this iconic 2000 year old Buddhist Stupa resides! Painted on the four-sided base of the spire are the all-seeing eyes of Lord Buddha overlooking the holy hill. Awesome images everywhere we look!
* Patan: Historically known as Yala and located on the southern banks of the Bagmati River, this is one of the three main cities in Kathmandu Valley. It is believed to be the first settlement in the Valley and was established by the Kirat dynasty who ruled for more than 1200 years from the 3rd century BC! We'll explore the cities amazing collection of fantastically carved temples, palace courtyards, water spouts, public baths and houses with their equally elaborate wood, stone and metal carvings under the patronages of the Kirat, Lichivi and Malla kings.
Experience Nepal's #1 adventure destination with us. With spectacular scenery, adventure activities, accommodation, & food choices galore, lakeside Pokhara is the perfect place to recharge. The scene is a chilled-out version of Kathmandu's Thamel neighborhood, stretching along the shore of a tranquil lake with bobbing paddle boats. From the lake, and possibly even from your hotel bed, you can enjoy a clear view of the snow-capped mountains, just 15 or so miles away. - Lonely Planet
* Pokhara City Adventure: Discover the best of this "Shangri-La" Valley epicenter!
* Davis Fall's: Witness a unique waterfall 2 Km from central Pokhara City. It is believed that this deadly waterfall took the life of a tourist named Davis, who fell down into the canal and was never found, hence named in his memory by the people of Pokhara.
* Gupteswor Mahadev Cave: One of the longest caves in Nepal, inside is a massive stalagmite worshipped as a Shiva lingam making it a venerable place for hundreds of years. On the way to the "temple" cave, there are shining stones all around us & rocks that resemble bee hives!
* Fewa (Phewa) Lake: A mile long & second largest in Nepal, Fewa offers an excellent view of the mountains and their reflections on glass like water! In addition to the amazing photos we'll get, enjoy a calming boat ride on her serene waters.
Chitwan National Park, wild beasts in subtropical Nepal
This World Heritage–listed reserve protects more than 360 sq miles of forests, marshland, and grassland containing healthy animal populations, making it one of the best national parks for viewing wildlife in Asia. You'll have an excellent chance of spotting one-horned rhinos, deer, monkeys and some of the more than 500 species of birds. If you’re extremely lucky, you may spot a leopard, wild elephant or sloth bear – though it’s the once-in-a-lifetime chance to spot a majestic royal Bengal tiger that is the premier attraction. - Lonely Planet
* In Search of Tigers, Rhinos, & Sloth Bears: That's right, our time here will be spent on safari, exploring the gorgeous park to witness & photograph the beautiful Royal Bengal Tigers, One Horned Rhinos, AND, if we are lucky, even a sloth bear! Not to mention, endless other unique creatures & birds only found in this part of the world.
Bhutan (6 Nights/7 Days)
This "is no ordinary place. It is the last great Himalayan kingdom, shrouded in mystery and magic, where a traditional Buddhist culture carefully embraces global developments." "Lanced by deep ravines and coated with thick woods, Bhutan has no traffic lights. Smoking as well as tobacco products are illegal, as are hunting and fishing (except for catch and release). It is forbidden to climb high peaks (where spirits dwell), and employees must wear traditional clothing—a gho robe for men and kira dress for women—during work hours. Years ago, Gross National Happiness was identified by the nation as being more important than Gross National Product (GNP)!" - Excerpts from Lonely Planet & Forbes
* 7 days throughout the last real Himalayan Kingdom!
* Monasteries—often massive and awe-inspiring—are everywhere; monks, when not in meditation or doing chores, can be photographed playing games, sharing tales, simply laughing, or all three!
* Low Volume, High-Value Tourism: Perhaps the most sustainable approach to tourism in the world!
At an elevation of 7600 feet above sea level, the capital of Bhutan is a blend of the traditional and modern and is the only capital in the world without stoplights, relying instead on the elegant gestures of traffic policemen. The city combines a natural small-town feel with a new commercial exuberance that constantly challenges the country's natural conservatism and Shangri La image. Finding a balance between the esoteric and espresso – the old and the new – is the key to getting the most out of this charming city - Lonely Planet
* Thimpu City Adventure: All the best of the new and old...
* National Memorial Chorten: Envisaged by the third king of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, this landmark monument to world peace and prosperity is the beating heart of Thimphu. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (“the Father of modern Bhutan”) and a monument to world peace.
* Indigenous Hospital: Explore the fascinating healthcare space specializing in herbal medicine discovered over thousands of years!
* Traditional Paper Factory: 1500 times a day, one by one, and all by hand, a wooden frame with a bamboo screen filter is dipped into a vat of pulp and starch mixture, is swished around to allow a thin layer of the mixture to spread out evenly over the screen, and is transferred to a table where the screen is carefully removed to result in a single sheet of Bhutanese paper. A fascinating process to witness and photograph!
* School of Fine Arts: Here, young students learn the traditional arts and crafts known as Zo Rig Chusum (the thirteen crafts).
The former capital "sits in a sultry, fertile and beautiful valley at the junction of the Mo Chhu (Mother River) and Pho Chhu (Father River). Commanding the river junction is the gorgeous Punakha Dzong, perhaps Bhutan's most impressive building." A regal yet peaceful aura still surrounds the small city "& the low altitude of the valley allows two rice crops a year, while oranges and bananas are in abundance". - Lonely Planet
* The Palace of Great Happiness: Punakha Dzong's (palace) inspiring translation is arguably the country's most beautiful building, especially in spring when the lilac-colored jacaranda trees bring a lush sensuality to the dzong's characteristically towering whitewashed walls. What's more, all of Bhutan's kings have been crowned here making it a sacred place for the royal lineage.
"The charming town of Paro, "gateway" to the last Himalayan Kingdom, lies on the banks of the Paro (or Pa) Chhu, just a short distance northwest of the imposing Paro Dzong. The main street, only built in 1985, is lined with colorfully painted wooden shop fronts and restaurants, though these appear under threat as the town grows and multistory concrete buildings continue to propagate. For now Paro remains one of the best Bhutanese towns to explore on foot " - Lonely Planet / OH! did we mention Paro valley is home to the country's most iconic landmark...
* Paro Town Adventure: Home to the "Tiger's Nest" and so much more...
* The Old Watchtower: Originally built to defend Rinpung Dzong during inter-valley wars of the 17th century, we'll visit Ta Dzong, inaugurated as Bhutan's National Museum in 1968. It holds fascinating collections of art, relics, religious thangkha paintings, and Bhutan's exquisite postage stamps.
* Rinpung Dzong: With a long and fascinating history beginning with it's construction in 1646 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the first spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, the Dzong houses the monastic body of Paro, the office of the Dzongda (district administrative head) and Thrimpon (judge) of Paro district. This architectural wonder and the life around it are not to be missed and a must to photograph!
* Taktsang Monastery (Tigers Nest): This incredible feat of human architecture and pure will has a name to match and is deservedly one of the most venerated and famous of Bhutan's monasteries. Located on the face of a 3000 ft sheer cliff, it is an unmissable masterpiece. During the walk (or mule ride!) to the great "nest", savor the views and snap some shots of the monastery over a well-deserved cup of tea and biscuits before arriving at the high observation point (10,300 ft above seal level!), to capture the ultimate image; then relax while overlooking the love affair between humans & nature that came to be so many years ago. Once inside the monastery, shrines are everywhere but only with a few resident monks tending to them. We'll enjoy the peace and serenity of this remarkable place before heading back outside to the stunning landscapes all around.
* PhotoFly Travel Club adventures are laid back when it comes to photography. They are not workshop-style based tours and you do not need to be an avid photographer to join. All are welcome!
* 4 domestic flights INCLUDED (1000 USD Value!)
* International Airfare is not included. We are happy to help you find a good flight as always!
* Flying into & out of Kathmandu International Airport (KTM)
* Specific arrival/departure times needed will be sent directly to the group.
* Roommate Pairing to save money as always!
* All Taxes, Fees, & Transfers Included
Single Supplement: $595.00 *LIMITED Single Supplements Available
When Bhutan reopened to tourists in the fall of 2022, it restructured its tourism industry and the associated fees required to visit this beautiful country. Unfortunately, these fees are very high which increases the cost to visit substantially (200 USD tax per day, per person).
The good news:
1. "In exchange for opening their mountain home to high-value, low-impact tourism, the Bhutanese have achieved a high standard of living by regional standards. Compared to neighboring Nepal, Bhutan spends nearly 40% more on education, with half the unemployment rate and half as many people living under the poverty line. Impressively, almost 100% of the population has access to electricity and clean water." - Lonely Planet
2. "With the higher daily fees, the experience will be more expensive BUT more exclusive, than ever. Bhutan was always a once-in-a-lifetime, save-up-for-years kind of destination, so all that has really changed is the need to save up for longer before coming. The wonders that you’ll see on arrival – the eye-stretching mountains, the magnificently ornamented monasteries, the deeply traditional Buddhist culture – haven’t changed at all." - Lonely Planet
3. "Our positive take for the future? With the sustainable development fee funding new projects from increased hydropower to the electrification of public transport, that famously clean mountain air may be even cleaner and fragranced even more keenly with the scent of glacial meltwater and blue pines." - Lonely Planet
Related Articles: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/bhutan-daily-tourist-fee-increase & https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/19/how-much-does-it-cost-to-visit-bhutan-200-a-day-plus-travel-costs-.html
Cancellation Policy & Refunds
*There is a $100.00 administrative fee for all cancellations. Cancellations made 120 days (June 23rd, 2023) or more prior to trip departure date are fully refundable except for the $100 fee. Cancellations less than 120 days (June 24th, 2023) prior to the trip departure date will receive no refund of the full amount due. No refunds on unused portions of the tour. Credit card fees and paypal processing fees cannot be refunded. After airline tickets are issued, airline cancellations are per the airline’s policy and are usually non-refundable and changeable with a fee plus new ticket price. Travel insurance strongly encouraged (ask us about policy options). *Hotels subject to change based on availability
COVID Cancellation Policy – Local Planet Travel Services OR Guest may cancel this reservation if the USA or country(s) we are visiting mandates a country-wide closure due to COVID. If this happens, you would receive a full refund. If guest chooses, the funds can remain on file and be applied for any future tour with PhotoFly Travel Club. *Please note bank merchant service fees when using a credit card are non-refundable.
MANDATORY VACCINE REQUIREMENT: The safety of all our guests is a top priority regardless of where our adventures take us. All travelers are required to have an approved COVID-19 vaccination to participate in this tour. Travelers that meet this mandatory requirement can join our adventures after 14 days have elapsed since their final dose. Proof of vaccination must be provided by emailing a copy of the participant's COVID-19 vaccination card to email@example.com upon sign-up. *Guests who are not vaccinated for medical reasons are exempt from this mandatory vaccine policy with proof from a certified medical professional.
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