Trekking to the Tiger’s Nest - 15 day trip
After landing in Kolkata, you'll be met and taken to your Deluxe Room at your hotel, The Lalit. Spend the next day exploring this fast-paced city as you please – try some Kathi rolls, visit a bustling market or stroll through one of the city parks.
Activity and Adventure
It's on to Bhutan, with an early morning flight to Paro. If it's a clear day, look out of the plane windows and you might be able to spot some of the major Himalayan peaks, such as Everest, Kanchenjunga and Makalu. As you make the final approach, Bhutan’s snowy peaks come into view. At the airport, you'll meet your guide and your driver will transfer you from Paro to Punakha, which served as Bhutan’s capital until 1955, where you'll stay at a friendly local guest house.
The next day begins with an invigorating hike up through fields of rice and along the scenic riverbanks to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, an impressive monument. After lunch, head to the splendid Punakha Dzong and learn how it played a major role in the civil and religious life of the kingdom after it was built in 1637. Subject to multiple fires, a flood and even an earthquake, it has since been restored to its former glory.
Activity and Adventure
Start with a morning hike to a temple devoted to the Divine Madman, a 16th-century monk famous for his eccentric teachings and folklore tales. From here it's back to Paro, stopping at the scenic Dochu-la Pass along the way for views of the Himalayan peaks and prayer flags. You’ll also stop at the 15th-century Tachogang Temple, before arriving in the city where you'll check into your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Stroll through the craft and textile shops and pick up an authentic souvenir or two.
The next day promises to be a highlight of your holiday, when you take an excursion to Taktsang Goemba, known as Tiger’s Nest Monastery. It’s an incredible temple that clings to the mountainside. You’ll embark on a three or four-hour walk to reach it, but the journey is worth it to see this incredible spectacle. The name comes from the belief that Guru Rinpoche, the founding father of the Bhutanese form of Mahayana Buddhism, arrived here on a tigress and meditated here. Time your visit right to see the hoisting of the prayer flags. Each colour represents an element and each cloth has mantras written on it. When they blow in the wind it is said that the blessings are activated.
The next day is a blend of culture and history. Start at Ta Dzong, the National Museum, housed in a former watchtower, and peruse the excellent collection of ancient art and various historical artefacts. Head on to Rinpung Dzong that offers a commanding view of the Paro valley. Next, it's on to the 7th-century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. This is a special place, not least because it marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. In the evening you'll visit a farmhouse, where you'll take part in a Bhutanese cooking demonstration of Ema Datshi and sample butter tea. It's a great opportunity to learn more about the culture and find out more about why it’s said that the Bhutanese are so happy.
Druk Path Trek
Activity and Adventure
It's time for an extraordinary trek through alpine scenery that will take three days. In the morning, meet your trekking crew and horses as you set up for your hike along the Druk Path. The pace picks immediately with a steep ascent before dropping down into camp. The trail winds through blue pine forests, past apple orchards and farmhouses and at the top you'll enjoy an enchanting view over the Paro Valley. As you settle down at camp, you may be able to hear the monks nearby during their prayer sessions.
The next day you'll visit the Jele Dzong Gidakom and pass several lakes. As you climb to an altitude of 3,750 metres, the views across the valley are quite something. The following day, you and the horses will take a route that allows you to see over snowy peaks to the north and valley views to the south. As you climb to 4,070 metres, you'll enjoy views of Jimilang Tsho and other lakes and shelters for yak herders. Your campsite is on the east side of the lake, and you’ll watch locals fishing for trout with bamboo spears before turning in for the night.
The following morning you'll walk around the lake, and split from the pack animals. Today is a day of steep climbing through bushes, but later you’re rewarded when the views open up. You'll come across two lakes, Dungtsho Tsho and Dungtsho Sama, regarded as male and female. Locals believe that the female lake has a powerful spirit who conjures up bad weather if anything dirty gets near the lake. Camp tonight is by a stone ruin.
The final day of your hike offers up views aplenty, but first there’s some climbing to do. It's worth it to finally look down to the Phajoding monastery and the town of Thimphu. You might even pass a few monks along the way, who often head to a nearby lake to meditate. As you climb, you'll see the Bhutan Himalayas. Enjoy the euphoric feeling as you finish your ascent.
Back in Thimphu, you may want some time to recover from your hike. But if you’re feeling spritely, there is a lot to see in this city. Meet nuns at Thangtong Dewachen Nunnery orl earn more at Folk Heritage Museum and the National Library. You might prefer to visit a farmer’s market or if your legs can manage it, go on a bike ride out to the gigantic Buddha Dordenma statue. For a dose of more culture, you could visit the National Memorial Chorten, Tashichho Dzong or the Institute for Zorig Chusum.
It’s back to where it all started, with a brief stop in Kolkata. Spend your time here as you please, perhaps with a spot of last-minute sightseeing or trawl the markets for your last tasty street food dish.