Active Adventures |  Snow Leopard -  Nepal and Bhutan Explorer

You’ll still get the breathtaking Himalaya views, without the breathtaking altitude! Over the course of this eye-opening twelve day adventure we’ll get to know the beautiful and generous Tamang people of rural Nepal, then cross over into Bhutan and hear the native tongue for the majority of the west side of the country - Dzonghka.We’ll take the stunning hike to Tiger’s Nest monastery, perched high on the cliffside some 900m (almost 3000ft) off the valley floor, and explore numerous other sacred sites of significance to the Buddhist religion. Your guides will take you on some of the most rewarding and beautiful hikes anywhere in the Himalayan foothills, this is comfort, culture, and incredible scenery unlike anywhere else on earth.

  • Highlights

    Experience Tamang culture 

    Explore the famous kingdoms of Patan & Bhaktapur

    Fly to Bhutan

    Hike Gangte Nature Trail

    Hike Tiger’s Nest

    Village trekking

    Visit Changangkha Lhakhang & Chimi Lhakhang Temples

    Visit the National Museum & Rinpung Dzong

    Vistas of the Himalaya 

  • What's Included

    All accommodations
    Modern, luxurious hotels with incredible views.

    All activities
    Trekking, historic site visits, local markets.

    All domestic transport
    Airport transfers.
    International return flights Kathmandu to Paro.
    Jeep ground transport.

    All guiding services
    Two experienced guides per trip. Each season we send over a team of experienced Active Adventures guides from New Zealand. One of these guides will lead your trip alongside our incredible local Nepalese & Bhutanese guides. You won't find a better combination!

    All meals
    Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rest assured you'll be well fed and well hydrated.

    Hiking Poles

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  • Itinerary

    DAY 1 - ARRIVE KATHMANDU

    Your trip starts in the lively and bustling city of Kathmandu. You’ll be met at Kathmandu Airport by a friendly face from Active Adventures Himalayas who will accompany you to our hotel. If you arrive early, you can head out to explore the city’s labyrinth of back street courtyards, colourful market stalls and ancient temples on your own for your first taste of Nepal’s culture and friendly people. This afternoon, your guide will meet you at our hotel and run through what to expect from the days ahead. Tonight, we’ll take you out for dinner at a local restaurant, for your first experience of Nepalese dining - a culinary crossroad between the influences of China, India and Europe which makes for some really delicious flavour combinations.Marriott Hotel, Kathmandu (All Meals)Elevation: Kathmandu - 1400 metres (4600 feet)

     

    DAY 2 - VISIT LOCAL SCHOOL, EXPLORE SHIVAPURI NAGARJUN NATIONAL PARK

    Today you’ll see Kathmandu from a new perspective as we wind our way up out of the valley that defines the capital city. There’s an option here to visit a local school, where children are always happy to greet us and show us their environment. After a tea break we’ll enter the Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, in the foothills on the northern fringe of the Kathmandu Valley - at this altitude the vegetation transitions from subtropical to temperate and the park is home to a diverse range of wildlife. After our hike, we’ll journey onto Bouldhanath Stupa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which sits on the ancient trade route from Tibet. For many centuries Tibetan merchants have rested here and offered prayers. Later, we’ll head back to the Marriott Hotel and out for another delicious meal nearby.Marriott Hotel, Kathmandu (All Meals)Hiking Distance: 7 kilometres (4.3 miles), 2-3 hoursElevation Gain: 115 metres (380 feet)Elevation Loss: 310 metres (1020 feet)Elevation: Kathmandu - 1400 metres (4600 feet)

     

    DAY 3 - JOURNEY TO PATAN KINGDOM AND ONTO NAGARKOT

    Patan (or Lalitpur, ‘city of beauty’), now a part of greater Kathmandu, was once the capital of a powerful independent kingdom. You’ll notice as we explore this area, a calmer vibe - the craftspeople here, many of whom are Buddhist, have created exquisite temples and other works of art which give the area a distinct artisan feel. After lunch we’ll ascend on a classic Nepali road northeast to Nagarkot. It’s refreshing to once again leave the bustling Kathmandu Valley behind as we begin our hike among terraced fields on our way to Mystic Mountain Resort. We’ll have plenty of time this afternoon to check in to our rooms and relax next to the pool, with views of the Himalaya.Mystic Mt Resort, Nagarkot (All Meals)Hiking Distance: Up to 5 kilometres (3 miles) 1 hourElevation Gain: 24 metres (80 feet)Elevation Loss: 45 metres (150 feet)Elevation: Nagarkot - 2195 metres (7200 feet)

     

    DAY 4 - HIKE TO NALA, EXPLORE BHAKTAPUR

    By now you’ll be nicely adjusted to Nepal time, making an early wake up for an epic mountain sunrise all the more appealing. Add coffee and an excellent breakfast and it doesn’t get any better! Full of energy, we’ll hike a stunning ridgeline and jungle path to Nala. Mostly descending, we’ll pass typical Tamang villages learning about subsistence living and the challenges these people face - you wouldn’t know it though, as we’re greeted with beaming smiles around every corner. We’ll stop at a local home to share some masala tea and show you what a typical Tamang home interior looks like. It’s a short drive onwards to Bhaktapur for lunch, and a chance to explore another of the medieval city-states of the Kathmandu Valley. You’ll see here in the ‘City of Culture’ some of the devastating damage caused by the 2015 earthquake. But there’s plenty still standing including many pagodas, shrines, carved wood columns and temples. After dinner your trip leader will brief you on the Bhutan adventure to come.Marriott Hotel, Kathmandu (All Meals)Hiking Distance: 7 kilometres (4.3 miles), 2-3 hoursElevation Gain: 115 metres (380 feet)Elevation Loss: 310 metres (1020 feet)Elevation: Kathmandu - 1400 metres (4600 feet)

     

    DAY 5 - FLY TO PARO, BHUTAN, VISIT TASHICHHO DZONG

    Prepare to shift gears as we leave the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and fly east to the Kingdom of Bhutan. This is a country, situated on the silk road, that has endured independence for centuries and never been colonized! Bhutan is the least populous nation in South Asia, ranking first in economic freedom, ease of doing business and peace. After driving from Paro to Thimphu, we’ll visit Tashichho Dzong, a Buddhist monastery and fortress on the northern edge of the city. Next it’s onto the Tarkin wildlife reserve, the Weaving Centre and the School of Thirteen Arts and Crafts. Over dinner this evening at a local Bhutanese restaurant you’ll have a chance to soak in your first culturally-immersive day in Bhutan.Tashi Yoedling Hotel, Thimphu (All Meals)Hiking Distance: Up to 2 kilometres (1.2 miles)Elevation: Thimphu - 2334 metres (7657 feet)

     

    DAY 6 - JOURNEY TO BUDDHA DORDENMA, HIKE TO CHANGANGKHA LHAKHANG TEMPLE

    Making the most of our day, we’ll take an early breakfast before departing for Buddha Dordenma, overlooking Thimphu valley. Dating back to the 8th century A.D, this statue is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world! Afterwards we’ll hike a forest trail down to Changangkha Lhakhang, a temple perched like a fortress above central Thimphu. Give the resident astrologer your birth date and he’ll consult divination charts to decide which kind of protective prayer flags will benefit you. After lunch we’ll journey down to the lush district of Punakha, known for the Punakha Dzong, a 17th century fortress. We’ll take some time to explore this majestic fortress, which is the administrative centre of Punakha District.Vara Hotel, Punakha (All Meals)Hiking Distance: Up to 5 kilometres (3 miles), 2 hoursElevation: Punakha - 1242 metres (4075 feet)

     

    DAY 7 - HIKE TO CHIMI LHAKHANG TEMPLE

    We’ll stretch our legs after breakfast with a short hike through picturesque terraced fields to Chimi Lhakhang, the Fertility Temple. This Buddhist temple is renowned throughout Bhutan as a fertility inducing magnet - thousands make the pilgrimage each year in the hopes of having a child, as well as receiving a blessing from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’. After some divine intervention, we’ll take a short drive to another trail leading up to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a stupa built to protect Bhutan from evil forces and help bring peace to the world. Your ascent will be rewarded with incredible views overlooking the Punakha Valley. There’ll be time this evening to relax and enjoy the campfire and stargaze.Vara Hotel, Punakha (All Meals)Hiking Distance To Chimi Lhakhang: 1.5 kilometres (1 miles), 1 hourElevation Gain: 30 metres (100 feet)Elevation Loss: 120 metres (400 feet)Hiking Distance To Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten: 3.4 kilometres (2.1 miles), 1-2 hoursElevation Gain: 200 metres (656 feet)Elevation Loss: 200 metres (656 feet)Elevation: Punakha - 1242 metres (4075 feet)

     

    DAY 8 - HIKE THE GANGTE NATURE TRAIL

    This morning we’ll journey east to Phobjikha. The walk we’ll take here, along the Gangte Nature Trail, is spectacular! We’ll pass through flowering meadows, lush forest and a small village. At the end of our hike we’ll arrive at Khewang Lhakhang, a 15th century Buddhist Temple with statues of the past, present and future Buddhas. This area has some wonderful valley viewpoints, where there are opportunities to see Black-necked cranes, or ‘Thrung Thrung Karmo’, the subject of many Bhutanese songs and folklore. Our hotel tonight offers another fine example of the local hospitality you’ll experience on this trip, with outstanding service and exotic food... And did we mention the views!?Odiyana Hotel, Phobjikha (All Meals)Hiking Distance: 7.5 kilometres (4.6 miles), 2-3 hoursElevation Gain: 115 metres (380 feet)Elevation Loss: 310 metres (1020 feet)Elevation: Phobjikha - 3000 metres (9842 feet)

     

    DAY 9 - JOURNEY TO THIMPHU, VISIT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM, ONTO PARO

    After breakfast we’ll depart for the journey back to Paro, taking lunch at Dochula pass. When the weather is nice, this pass (3,100 m / 10,300 ft) offers tremendous views of the eastern Himalaya ranges. Along the pass there are an astonishing 108 memorial chortens and nearby is the country’s very first Royal Botanical Park. Before we reach Paro, we’ll stop once more in Thimphu to visit the National Museum, a fascinating place not to miss. In Paro you’ll have the option to take a guided tour of Rinpung Dzong, though if you’d prefer to relax, you’ll also have views of this Buddhist monastery from your hotel, as it’s lit up in the evening.Khangku Hotel, Paro (All Meals)Hiking Distance: Up to 2 kilometres (1.2 miles)Elevation: Paro - 2200 metres (7218 feet)

     

    DAY 10 - HIKE TO TIGER'S NEST

    A trip to Bhutan is not complete until you’ve visited Paro Taktsang, Tiger’s Nest. We’ll take an early breakfast so that we can begin hiking whilst the trail is quiet - the trek is challenging - and thankfully this is what protects this extraordinary attraction from overcrowding. Once you’ve cleared the trees you’ll get your first glimpse of the Tiger’s Nest, somehow perched on the cliff high above the valley floor. Once at the monastery you’ll take a fascinating tour of the buildings, with plenty of time to find a quiet spot and soak it all in. You’ll be in awe, wondering how the buddhists established this area, first as a meditation cave in the 8th century and later as a monastery in the 17th century. Amazing!  Because of our early start, beating the crowds, we’ll be back in Paro in time for lunch. This afternoon we’ll savour our time in Bhutan with a visit to the Jowo Temple of Kyichu and then to the ‘Farmhouse’ for a Bhutanese Cultural performance and wait for it... Some hot stone baths! Khangku Hotel, Paro (All Meals)Hiking Distance: Up to 6.5 kilometres (4 miles), 5 hoursElevation Gain: 518 metres (1700 feet)Elevation Loss: 518 metres (1700 feet)Elevation: Paro - 2200 metres (7218 feet)

     

    DAY 11 - FLY TO KATHMANDU, FREE AFTERNOON

    We’ll take a morning flight back to Nepal, so with any luck we’ll be treated to more spectacular Himalaya views out of the right-hand side of the plane. For those who are keen after lunch, we’ll walk to Durbar Square, the place where Nepal’s kings were crowned in past times. The square is in the centre of old town Kathmandu, and is the city’s greatest example of traditional architecture, so much so that it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Tonight we’ll meet at a local restaurant for our final dinner together to celebrate our achievements and adventures in the Himalayas.Marriott Hotel, Kathmandu (All Meals)Elevation: Kathmandu - 1400 metres (4600 feet)

     

    DAY 12 - DEPART

    Today is the final day of your Nepal and Bhutan cultural exploration. If you have extra time after your trip, we’re happy to give suggestions on how to make the most of it. On the other hand, if you’re on your way home today, we’ll send you back refreshed and invigorated from the great hiking and adventures you’ve had with us!(Breakfast)

 

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