Lands of the Lotus
Limited Numbers! Early booking recommended.
Explore the peaceful Himalayan realms of Bhutan and Nepal, and discover stunning landscapes, ancient Hindu temples and serene Buddhist stupas, as well as thrilling religious dances at the colourful Paro Festival.
Start in Nepal, full of ancient Newari temples, shrines and pagodas. Wander through the maze of laneways in Kathmandu and discover ancient Hindu and Buddhist sacred sites. Explore the Kathmandu Valley and visit the royal cities of Bhaktapur and Patan.
Continue to Bhutan, the ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’, with its breathtaking architecture, towering fortress-monasteries, sweeping mountains, fertile valleys and thriving artistic culture. Experience the vibrant living culture of Bhutan during the enchanting Paro Tsechu (dance festival), where monks perform masked sacred dances and rituals in elaborate silk costumes.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Morning departure from Australia on Singapore Airlines (ex-SYD, MEL, BNE) and Silk Air to Kathmandu via Singapore (flight included in tour price). Arrive in Kathmandu in the evening and transfer to the hotel.
After a morning at leisure, in the afternoon join Joyce and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing, followed by a visit to Boudhanath Great Stupa. Located on what was a major trade route between Nepal and Tibet, it has been for centuries an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and local Nepalis. Boudhanath Stupa is the focal point of the district, and the local Tibetan and Sherpa community can be seen each morning and evening making a kora, or round, of the stupa.
In the evening, enjoy a special welcome dinner with Joyce and fellow travellers in a local restaurant.
Enjoy a morning visit to the Royal Palace of Narayanhiti, the former residence and workplace of the country’s monarchs during the Kingdom of Nepal, which ended with the transition to the present republic in 2008.
Continue to the Garden of Dreams for lunch. The garden, once famous as the Garden of Six Seasons, was created by Field Marshal Sir Kaiser Shumsher Rana in early 1920. Created with an ensemble of pavilions, fountains and decorative furniture with European-inspired features such as verandas, pergolas, balustrades, urns and birdhouses, today the garden is smaller in size but still a wonderful oasis in the centre of Kathmandu.
In the afternoon, enjoy a short orientation walk in the commercial streets of the Thamel district with numerous shops and restaurants.
Explore Durbar Square, the central square of Kathmandu and the original capital of the city. Durbar Square was the centre of royal rule of the old kingdom of Kathmandu from the 10th century and remains the cultural and architectural heart of the old town. Enjoy time at leisure to wander through Durbar Square’s markets.
Today, travel to two major historical cities in the Kathmandu Valley. Explore Bhaktapur, the ‘City of Devotees’, an ancient Newari city in the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur was the largest of the three Newari kingdoms (the other two being Kathmandu and Patan) and was the capital of Nepal during the Malla Dynasty until the second half of the 15th century. Bhaktapur is now the third largest city in the Kathmandu Valley and has some of the best-preserved palace courtyards and pagodas in Nepal.
Continue to Pashuputinath north-east of Kathmandu and discover Pashuputinath Temple, dedicated to Pashupati, an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva. This fascinating Hindu temple is considered the most sacred and important Hindu temple in Nepal with daily rituals and cremations taking place on the banks of the Bagmati River.
Depart Kathmandu for a full-day tour to Patan, also known by its original Sanskrit name of Lalitpur, the ‘City of Beauty’. Discover the history of this large Newari kingdom in Patan’s spectacular Durbar Square, one of the finest collection of temples and palaces in the country. After lunch, visit Mulchowk and Sundari Chowk (squares) and the Architecture Galleries. Continue to Patan Museum, which displays Nepalese traditional sacred art.
Return to Kathmandu in the late afternoon, before an evening at leisure.
In the morning, transfer to Kathmandu International Airport for a flight to Paro in Bhutan with Druk Air flight (included in tour price).
Upon arrival, travel to Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, an exciting blend of tradition and modernity. After lunch, visit Tashichho Dzong, an impressive fortress-monastery that now houses the secretariat building, the throne room of HM King Khesar, the 5th Dragon King of Bhutan, as well as various government offices.
Tonight, enjoy dinner and a traditional Bhutanese cultural performance at the hotel.
After a morning talk by Joyce, visit the Institute for Zorig Chusum. Commonly known as the Painting School, the institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
Before lunch, explore the National Folk Heritage Museum, giving a good introduction to Bhutanese culture and way of life. In a restored mid-19th century traditional farmhouse, different collections of typical household objects, tools and equipment are displayed, presenting rural traditions and customs.
Continue to the National Library, which holds a vast collection of Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years.
Discover Nado Poizokhang Incense Factory where Bhutan’s finest incense is produced from juniper and other natural ingredients.
In the morning, visit the National Textile Museum which showcases Bhutan’s achievements in fabric arts and continue to the National Memorial Chorten, where many Thimphu residents come each day to pay their respects.
Drive to the Buddha Dordenma, known as the ‘Big Buddha’. The enormous 52-metre statue is on top of a hill which affords a good view over the Thimphu Valley.
Finish the day at Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory, to see how the paper traditionally used for scriptures, lampshades and other handicrafts is created.
In the morning, travel to Punakha, the old winter capital of Bhutan. Weather permitting, enjoy panoramic views of the eastern Himalayas, including Bhutan’s highest mountain, Gangkar Punsum (7,570m). The road then drops down through lush and varied forest, finally emerging into the highly-cultivated Punakha Valley. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1955 when the seat of government was moved to Thimphu under the modernising reforms of the 3rd Dragon King.
After arriving in the early afternoon, explore the great Punakha Dzong. Dzongs are large fortress-monasteries which dominate every major town in Bhutan. They are the administrative and religious centres of the district and were once the mainstay of that districts’ defences against invading Tibetans. Situated at the confluence of two major Himalayan rivers, Punakha Dzong is one of the most magical sights of Bhutan and is the resting place of Bhutan’s first ruler, the 17th century lama Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, who unified the country 250 years before the rise of the present Dragon Kings.
Depart early this morning for Paro, Bhutan’s second largest town. Stop en route and take the opportunity to walk to Chimi Lhakhang Temple on a small hilltop (optional; about 30 minutes). The temple was dedicated in the 14th century to the great yogi known as Drukpa Kuenley, the ‘Divine Madman’, for his unconventional Buddhist teachings.
Arrive in Paro in the late afternoon and enjoy time at leisure before dinner at the hotel.
Following a talk by Joyce, discover Paro town and visit the National Museum where an impressive collection of artefacts and thangkas (religious scroll paintings) provide a wonderful display of the kingdom’s rich culture and heritage.
In the late afternoon, visit the auspicious Kyichu Lhakhang, a sacred monument said to pin down the left foot of a treacherous ogress. This is one of the oldest temples in Bhutan dating back to the 7th century.
Depart Paro for a full-day journey to the green valley of Haa. This picturesque and culturally preserved valley was closed to tourism until 2002 and remains one of the least visited areas of the country. Cross Chele La pass, the highest road pass in the country, and travel through rhododendron, cypress and fir forests. Stop at Chhundu Lhakang temple dedicated to Ha Valley’s protective deity and continue to the large Lhakhang Karpo, the ‘White Chapel’. Between primaeval forest above 3000m, farmers and yak herders cultivate high altitude wheat, potatoes and millet fields. Experience Bhutanese traditional living and visit quaint hillside villages before returning to Paro.
Today, experience one of the most popular dance festivals in Bhutan, the thrilling annual Paro Tsechu. Tsechu commemorates the birth of Guru Rimpoche who came to Bhutan around the 8th century and brought Buddhism to the country. For five days, monks and laymen perform masked sacred dances, and rituals in elaborate silk costumes. Dances and costumes have survived unchanged as any changes in dance or ritual would be considered a sacrilege. The Paro Festival is performed in the wonderful Paro Dzong, under sounds of trumpets, cymbals and flutes. Devotees travel from across the country to witness these colourful masked dances, receive blessings and celebrate. Tsechu is also an annual social gathering for the Bhutanese and a special occasion to wear their most refined costume.
Paro Festival program
Paro Festival program will be released a few weeks prior to the event. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the visits to sites in Paro as published, the order of visits is subject to change.
Today, spend a second day at the Paro Festival or, if you wish, enjoy a pleasant hike up to one of Bhutan’s most revered monuments, Taktsang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. This optional four-hour trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on a cliff face 900m above the valley floor.
This evening celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Joyce and fellow travellers.
After breakfast, transfer to Paro Airport for an early morning flight to Singapore with Druk Air flight (included in tour price). Arrive in Singapore in the afternoon and transfer to an airport hotel. Overnight in Singapore.
In the morning, depart Singapore to Australia with Singapore Airlines flight (included in tour price).
Tour arrangements conclude upon arrival in Australia.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
04 January 2019
This tour is a small group tour and is limited to 14 travellers.
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders require visas to visit both Nepal and Bhutan. Renaissance Tours will co-ordinate and assist with your Bhutan visa application prior to departure. Nepal visa on arrival.
Singapore Airlines / Silk Air and Druk Air
Tour price includes
- Return Economy Class flights on Singapore Airlines / Silk Air ex-SYD, MEL or BNE
- Economy Class flights on Druk Air from Kathmandu (Nepal) to Paro (Bhutan) and Paro to Singapore (20kg luggage allowance)
- Accommodation in comfortable centrally located 4 and 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner) – all meals included in Bhutan
- Coaster bus for touring
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure if travelling on included flights
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Lectures and talks with your tour leader, Joyce Morgan
- Visa for Bhutan
- Bhutan government royalties and taxes (approx. USD 250 per day)
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure if not travelling on included flights
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone calls, laundry, mini-bar, taxi etc.
- Visa for Nepal (issued on arrival approx. USD 25 per person)
- Airport porterage
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Although improving rapidly, Bhutan still has a limited tourism infrastructure, and there are occasionally challenges. Luxury accommodation is limited in some remote valleys. Basic infrastructure of Bhutan’s roads means they are constantly being upgraded. You will encounter areas of degraded roads that require slow vehicle speeds that may result in some delays.
Kathmandu – Tibet International Hotel****
Thimphu – Druk Hotel****
Punakha – RKPO Green Hotel****
Paro – Zhiwa Ling Hotel *****
Singapore – Crowne Plaza Changi Airport*****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted