Our Small Group Tour and Conference to Nepal and Bhutan tool place in October 2019. Called Kingdoms of the Himalayas, the itinerary saw partpants traveling to the rooftop of the world and was a totally immersive experience – seeing, living and tasting a life truly unfamiliar to their normal existence.
The Himalayas proved themselves no ordinary destination — a wonderfully varied landscape of snow capped mountains, bright blue glacial rivers and verdant valleys with colourful prayer flags spreading goodwill swaying in the breeze. Home to eight out of the ten highest peaks in the world, not to mention the Earth’s highest mountain, the awe-inspiring Kingdoms of the Himalayas tour is something participants will long remember.
The Kingdoms of the Himalayas itineraries — Nepal and Bhutan offered particpants exceptional value for money. The all-inclusive travel packages covered luxury accommodation, touring, all entrance fees as well as many specially arranged activities not available to the general public. We also included all meals and took great care to ensure those with special dietary requirements were looked after.
Expertly curated by our staff, every detail of the itinerary was meticulously crafted to ensure . . . it’s not just a conference, it’s an experience!
Temples, palaces and pilgrimage sites line the Kathmandu Valley, while the capital itself presented participants with an assortment of spice bazaars, shrines and artisan workshops. The Nepalis’ complex blend of religious beliefs and traditions was reflected in the exquisite thangkas, gold-painted stupas and intricate carvings seen at almost every turn.
Further west, by the serene Phewa Tal Lake, was the adventure capital of Pokhara at the foothills of Nepal’s Annapurna range. To the south, on the grass plains of the Terai, is Chitwan National Park, where our participants rode on elephant-back in search of Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinos. The tiny mountain kingdom of Nepal has an almost mythical quality with the ever present Everest ranges forming the backbone of the country.
Our Himalayan adventure began in Nepal’s chaotic capital Kathmandu with 3 nights in at the Dwarika Hotel, a historic complex of palatial buildings considered one of the most exclusive and culturally rich hotels in Kathmandu. A formal welcome from the Australian Amabassor to Nepal kicked off proceedings.
Home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the city also boasts unique cuisine and an intense religious devoutness. Our time in Kathmandu included visits to Pashupatinath Temple — dedicated to the Hindu God of destruction, Boudhanath Stupa, one of the most imposing landmarks of Kathmandu, Durbar Square — surrounded with spectacular architecture and the famous Thamel District with its handicraft and souvenir shops selling a variety of exclusive Nepalese specialties.
We ventured further into the Kathmandu Valley with a visit to the ancient cities of Bhaktapur & Lalitpur Patan. Both cities are architectural masterpieces, filled with pagodas, temples and artisan shops offering pottery and wood carvings.
A spectacular Nepalese degustation dinner was certainly a culinary highlight of our stay.
The exhilarating once in a lifetime transfer between Kathmandu and Chitwan National Park went off ithout a hitch. Participants began by boarding specially chartered helicopters and flew to Mount Everest. Moving up the valleys of the Khimbu region, the helicopters were surrounded by the snow capped Himalayan peaks. They fleww between some of the highest mountains in the world and over Everest Base Camp. Only a privileged few have the opportunity to fly at these dizzying heights and witness such awe inspiring scenery up close. Even fewer are able to access the remote landing areas we were been granted permission to use. As the flights continued, participants were able to enjoy views of the world’s most majestic peaks that are often only available to the best mountaineers.
Our helicopter journey stopped for breakfast — at an altitude of nearly 4000m where we enjoyed uninterrupted views of Mount Everest. After breakfast, we again boarded the helicopters and continued the spectacular journey arriving in style at your jungle accommodation in Chitwan National Park.
Lying at the foothills of the Churia Ranges, Chitwan National Park is a preserved area in the Terai Lowlands of south central Nepal. We spent 2 nights here at Barahi Jungle Lodge as our base. Days were filled with jungle walks, elephant safaris and gentle canoeing along the Rapti River. The dense tropical jungle is teeming with diverse wildlife and exotic birds. We joined expert naturalist as they wemt in search of the endangered one-horned rhino and the Royal Bengal Tiger.
The Nepal adventure continues with a fixed-wing charter flight to Pokhara — the gateway to the Annapurna Range. Also known as the ‘Valley of the Lakes’ this region is known for gorgeous lakes and mountain vistas.
The scenic valley of Pokhara was an enormous sunlit playground surrounded by forested hills, waterfalls and terraced fields. During our 2 nights we enjoyed an evening boat ride on Phewa Lake, an early morning trip to Sarangot for the exceptional sunrise views amidst the mountain peaks. We also trekked to a remote school where we were entertained by the young students and provided them with much needed school and sporting supplies.
Fiercely independent, Bhutan has managed to remain largely untouched by the influencesof the modern world and its powerful neighbours. A deep-rooted belief in Buddhism and adherence to the traditional way of life lie at the very heart of Bhutanese society. Its people are proud to wear national dress every day and the country’s development is measured not in economic terms, but by ‘Gross National Happiness’.
Our Bhutan itinerary begins with 2 nights in Thimpu — Bhutan’s Capital. At an altitude of 2350m, Thimphu lies in a steep valley surrounded by richly-forested mountains whose sides are dotted with ancient monasteries and Lhakhangs or temples. The town is centred around the quaint Clock Tower and is home to many attractions including the National Textile Museum and the Folk Heritage Museum.
While in Thimpu, we visited one of the oldest traditional villages in the valley, a perfect introduction to the Bhutanese way of life. Over the next two days we also experienced a Chipdrel Ceremony and visited Changangkja Lhakang — an old fortress like temple and monastic school. Other highlights of the stay in Thimpu included the prominent landmark Memorial Chorten, the impressive Tashichho Dzong, the National Library of Bhutan, the Buddha Dordenma — the gigantic 51 metre tall statue of Buddha overlooking the entrance of the Thimpu Valley. A specially arranged visit to the National Institute of Traditional Medicine illustrated how this small nation is striving to merge the allopathic and traditional systems of healing.
Next on the itinerary was the valley of Punakha. While transferring to Puakha, you will stop at Dochula Pass for a 360 degree panoramic view of the Himalayan Mountain range. Over the next couple of days we visited Punakha Dzong — the 17th century temple where the embalmed body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal lies in state and Chimi Lhakhang — the famous monastery dedicated to “the Divine Madman”, best known for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism and his use of phallus symbols on walls and housetops. Included in the interary was a leisurely hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, arguably the finest example of Bhutanese architecture and artistic traditions.
The journey continues to Paro where we spent our final three nights. during this time, participants had the opportunity to play a central role in a traditional blessing ceremony at Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the most important Himalayan Buddhist Temples in Bhutan.
A hike to Takstang Monastery, better known as Tiger’s Nest was also included. Perched on the side of a vertical cliff, it is the most famous Buddhist Monastery in Bhutan — and probably the most impressive. A visit to the National Museum and the Paro Dzong are also included.