The eerie chanting of maroon-robed monks in brightly painted monasteries, snow plumes trailing from high peaks, the smiles of Buddhist pilgrims at their ancient temples—this is the Himalaya! Our journey weaves together three of its realms: Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan, bringing you inside these lands to experience the immense power of places like Tibet’s exquisite 8th century Samye Monastery, enchanting Nepal, a medieval world unto itself, and the flourishing kingdom of Bhutan, where the Buddhist faith is a part of everyday life. Our cultural adventure will have you walking alongside pilgrims on sacred koras and sampling momos in Tibet, traveling by cyclo-rickshaw through Kathmandu’s narrow lanes, and hiking to a cliffside monastery in Bhutan.
The trip leader was very enthusiastic about the areas we visited and had a good rapport with the people in all areas we visited.
— Karen B.
Lhasa / Yarlung Valley / Samye, Tibet
A day of exploring major sites of the holy city of Lhasa sets the stage for our introduction to the ancient cultural heritage of Tibet. We visit the massive Potala Palace, walk the Barkhor kora (sacred circuit), and visit Ganden Monastery, where the present Dalai Lama studied as a youth. In the hauntingly beautiful Yarlung Valley, we see spectacular 8th century Samye Monastery, built in the shape of a mandala to symbolize the structure of the Buddhist universe, and Yumbu Lhakhang, perched on a crag like a medieval European castle. From its lofty ridge, we toss “wind horses” (tiny colorful prayer papers) into the high winds.
In this ancient city where Hindu and Buddhist worlds intertwine, our explorations bring you to the riverside Hindu ghats at Pashupatinath and the thriving Buddhist center at Bodhnath, where new monasteries have risen to serve Tibetans in exile.
Thimphu / Punakha Valley / Paro, Bhutan
Gold-roofed monasteries, emerald valleys, deep, rustling forests—Bhutan’s landscape is so enchanting it seems taken from the pages of a storybook. In this tiny kingdom, the presence of Tibetan Buddhism is everywhere, from fluttering prayer flags dotting the countryside to exquisite hilltop lhakhangs (temples). You’ll explore the capital city of Thimphu, stop at a lively weekend market, visit the Punakha Dzong, Bhutan’s winter capital for 300 years, see the remarkable Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, a 17th century fortress-dzong perched on a spur above a river, and hike to the ancient hermitage of Taktsang Monastery. Depart on Day 15 via Paro.