21103
Tibet/Nepal/Bhutan/Thailand
The Best of the Mountain Kingdoms: Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan
Sacred temples, hidden monasteries, magnificent palaces and ancient cities — learn about these and other enduring cultural treasures from the people who call the Himalayas their home.
Rating (4.82)
Program No. 21103RJ
Length
19 days
Starts at
7,174
Special Offer
Flights start at
FREE
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19 days
18 nights
49 meals
17 B 17 L 15 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Beijing, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Beijing
B,L,D
Radisson Blu Hotel Beijing

Activity note: Early morning arrival in Beijing. The stopover in Beijing for one night is required to give you a chance to rest and get your Tibet permit before your early morning fight into Lhasa tomorrow. The Tibet Group Entry Permit has been pre-arranged, and will be discussed at the Orientation today. Walking in Beijing today, up to 1/2 mile in the Hutong area and 1 mile in the Summer Palace on flat, paved terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a meal with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Morning: After breakfast, we will join our Group Leader for the program orientation. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. In Tibet, with an elevation of around 12,000 ft, you might feel shortness of breath and a pounding of your heart. Headache, extreme tiredness, nausea, and loss of appetite are standard symptoms. Please drink lots of water, rest, and avoid alcohol. If you continue to feel week, faint, or have any symptoms that concern you, talk to your Group Leader. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. After orientation, we will depart in the late morning by pedicab to explore the Hutongs of Old Beijing and the Summer Palace to learn about their story and meet a local family. We will return to the hotel in the late afternoon

Lunch: We will enjoy a family-style lunch in a local family’s hutong home, with water and tea.

Afternoon: We will explore the Summer Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an exquisite example of imperial garden design. Its pavilions, reception halls, and living quarters overlooking lily ponds, lakes, and arching bridges once comprised the summer retreat of Qing Emperors.

Dinner: At an authentic Chinese restaurant, we will enjoy a family-style welcome dinner plus tea, water, soft drinks; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Flight to Tibet, Lhasa, Norbulingka
Lhasa
B,L,D
Kyichu Hotel Lhasa

Activity note: Once landed in Tibet, the drive from the airport to the Lhasa program hotel is 40 miles. Motorcoach drive to Norbulingka is 15 minutes from the hotel and once there, walking mainly on flat ground with no stairs; walking up to 1/2 mile. Note that although Tibet uses Beijing time, it is actually about 2 hours later than Beijing. Our itinerary adjusts for this difference.

Breakfast: If the group flight to Lhasa is in the early morning, we will take a box breakfast to the airport. If the group flight to Lhasa is mid-morning, we will enjoy a breakfast buffet at the hotel, with coffee, water, tea; additional beverages available for purchase.

Morning: We will depart for the airport for our flight to Lhasa, the ancient capital of Tibet.

Lunch: If the group flight is early morning, we will have a family-style buffet lunch upon arrival at the hotel in Lhasa, with tea, water, soft drinks included; additional beverages available for purchase. If a mid-morning flight, a light lunch will be served in flight.

Afternoon: We will arrive at the “rooftop of the world” and transfer to our program hotel in Lhasa, where you are we will be welcomed with a Tibetan ceremony. Later, we will depart for Norbulingka by motorcoach, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama, which contains his residential quarters.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will enjoy a family-style meal plus tea, water, soft drinks; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Jokhang Temple, Bokhor Bazaar, Tibetan Medicine
Lhasa
B,L,D
Kyichu Hotel Lhasa

Activity note: Walking up to 1/2 mile at Jokhang Temple, mostly indoor; 20-30 steps to the second floor by regular steps with railings (people may choose not to climb up). There are places to sit. Walking up to 1/4 mile from restaurant at lunch to the Tibetan Medicine Hospital. Lecture will be on the third floor, stairs with railings.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a breakfast buffet, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Morning: We will explore the heart of Lhasa by motorcoach, first visiting Jokhang Temple, built in the 7th century. This is the most revered temple in Tibet, and the destination of pilgrims who journey by any means, even on foot, to worship here. Surrounding the temple, the Bokhor Bazaar offers an exciting array of Tibetan goods both old and new: Tools, cloth, thangkas, jewelry and yak hides.

Lunch: At a restaurant overlooking the bazaar, we will enjoy a family-style lunch featuring Tibetan and international cuisine, plus tea, water, soft drinks; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will walk to the nearby traditional Tibetan Medicine Hospital for an introductory talk from a local doctor, who explains the precepts of Tibetan medicine and treatments, as we enjoy the hospital's colorful array of medical thangkas. After the lecture, we will walk back to the hotel through interesting alleys, where local people live and run small businesses. We will then return to the hotel.

Dinner: Family-style hotel meal.

Evening: We will join an informal discussion with our local Tibetan guide, regarding Tibetan culture and religion.

DAY
5
Tibetan Village, Nunnery Visit
Lhasa
B,L
Kyichu Hotel Lhasa

Activity note: Before breakfast, we will meet in the hotel courtyard to learn gorshay, an exuberant circle dance. The drive to the countryside today is about 75 miles, approximately 1½ hours. Approximately 20 steps up nunnery to gain access.

Breakfast: Hotel breakfast buffet.

Morning: Before breakfast, we will meet in the hotel courtyard to learn gorshay, an exuberant circle dance. After breakfast, we will board the motorcoach and head out into the countryside beyond Lhasa to grasslands where pastoral families raise yak, sheep, goats, and horses. During grazing season, we will visit with pastoral nomadic families. In a nearby small village, we’ll learn about and observe rural life.

Lunch: We will enjoy a picnic-style buffet lunch on a knoll beside the village, which includes soup, salads, rice, vegetables and other dishes, with bottled water and tea.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will drive to a nearby herdsmen's village to learn firsthand about their daily life in rural Tibet. Following our visit, we take a short walk to a modest nunnery where we may encounter its residents chanting or studying scripture. The nuns are welcoming and enjoy sharing the precepts of their life and Tibetan Buddhism.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
Potala Palace, Thangka Painting, Sera Monastery
Lhasa
B,L,D
Kyichu Hotel Lhasa

Activity note: The palace has 458 steps up and down. Walking shoes are necessary and walking sticks might be helpful. Sera Monastery is 2 miles away from city center and up to 1 mile of walking. The climb up to Potala Palace is a one-way trip; the entrance is in the front and the exit is in the back. Our Group Leader will set a final meeting time and place. If some of our group decide to go halfway or walk around at the base of the palace on their own, they can meet our group at the designated meeting place.

Breakfast: Hotel breakfast buffet.

Morning: This morning, we will take a short motorcoach ride to explore the Potala Palace, seat of the Dalai Lama and one of the most awe-inspiring princely residences and palaces in the world. Our local Tibetan expert will lead those who want to climb and the Group Leader will take those who don't want to climb for a walk at the base of the palace, where there is a nice park.

Lunch: At a Tibetan restaurant, featuring Lhasa cuisine, we will enjoy a family-style meal, with water, tea, soft drinks included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch, we depart by motorcoach to an artist’s studio to learn about painting traditional thangkas, or religious scrolls, through a talk and demonstration from a master of the craft. Afterwards, we may choose to return to the hotel by motorcoach or continue to the edge of town to Sera Monastery, one of Tibet's three great monasteries and famed for the debating style of its resident monks. The motorcoach will return to the monastery for those who choose to visit.

Dinner: Family-style hotel meal.

Evening: At the hotel, we will enjoy a private farewell party featuring Tibetan dance and singing.

DAY
7
Fly to Kathmandu, Transfer to Bhaktapur & Dhulikel
Dhulikhel
B,L,D
Dhulikhel Mountain Resort

Activity note: Kathmandu is 2 hours and 45 minutes behind Lhasa (Beijing) time. Departing from Lhasa, the airport is 40 miles away; approximately a 1 hour drive. Once our flight arrives in Kathmandu, a private bus will transfer our group 10 miles to Bhaktapur. After lunch, the drive to Dhulikel is 20 miles past Bhaktapur.

Breakfast: Hotel breakfast buffet.

Morning: We will transfer to the airport for the flight to Kathmandu. Upon arrival, we will transfer to Bhaktapur by motorcoach and stop for lunch at a local restaurant.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy a plated and served lunch, with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will walk around Bhaktapur with the Group Leader and explore what was once the capital of Nepal during the Malla Kingdom, until the second half of the 15th century. It is listed as a UNSECO World Heritage Site for its rich culture and temples, its wood metal, and stone artwork Next we will continue to Dhulikhel to check into our hotel and rest before dinner. Dhulikhel was once a main trading hub between Kathmandu, Tibet and India. Historically, Dhulikhel is a Newar settlement, one of the major ethnic tribes in the Kathmandu valley as well as one of the oldest, with a culture strongly based on religion and festivals.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will enjoy dinner with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Himalayas Sunrise & Hike, Dhulikhel Town, School Visit
Dhulikhel
B,L,D
Dhulikhel Mountain Resort

Activity note: Morning hike is 1½ hours hours over uneven terrain. Comfortable walking shoes, and if needed a walking stick, will be helpful. The walk around Dhulikhel is less than 1/2 mile; paved roads with occasional uphill and downhill.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a breakfast buffet, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: For those interested, waking up early provides an incredible view of the sunrise over the Himalayas. After breakfast, we will enjoy a short hike in the hills around Dhulikhel to traditional Brahmin and Tamang villages, with a view of the landscape and Panchkhal Valley and the Himalayas to the north. The Tamang villagers still closely follow traditional lifestyles and beliefs. Back at the hotel we'll participate in a presentation on Nepalese Culture from our Group Leader. After the presentation we will transfer by motorcoach with our Group Leader to the old town of Dhulikhel and fall in love with the cobblestone alleys, wood carvings, temples, and markets.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy a lunch buffet, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: This afternoon, we’ll visit a local school by foot and learn a little bit about the Nepalese educational system with our Group Leader.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Durbar Square, Swoyambhunath Stupa, Tea with Students
Kathmandu
B,L,D
Crowne Plaza Kathmandu Soaltee

Activity note: Private motorcoach to Kathmandu is 20 miles; approximately 45 minutes. In Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, walking up to 1 mile; standing up to 2 hours indoors and out; mainly flat surfaces. At Swoyambhunath Stupa, there are around 130 steps.

Breakfast: Hotel breakfast buffet.

Morning: We will check out of our hotel to transfer by motorcoach to Kathmandu where we will explore Durbar Square. Highlights include Taleju Temple, built by King MahendraMalla in A.D. 1549; the Temple of KalBhairav, the god of destruction; Nautalle Durbar; Coronation Nasal Chowk; the GaddiBaithak; the statue of King Pratap Mallal and the Jagannath Temple.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy a plated and served meal, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After check-in at our next hotel, we will travel by motorcoach to Swayambhunath (also known as the Monkey Temple) the oldest Buddhist stupa – a place of meditation – established more than 2,500 years ago and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perched high on a hilltop, it commands a superb view of the entire Kathmandu Valley. Then we will participate in a presentation at the hotel conference room on contemporary issues in Nepal, led by a local expert.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a buffet dinner, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

DAY
10
Pashupatinath Temple & Boudhanath Stupa, Free Time
Kathmandu
B,L
Crowne Plaza Kathmandu Soaltee

Activity note: Walking is mainly on level ground. In Pashupatinath there may be smoke from cremations.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a breakfast buffet, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Morning: This morning, we will ride by motorcoach with our Group Leader to Pashupatinath, one of the most sacred Hindu temples in the world. During Shivaratri, an annual pilgrimage, thousands of devotees of Lord Shiva from all the Hindu communities of the world, pay their homage here.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy lunch with coffee, tea, water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will explore Boudhanath, the largest Buddhist stupa in the world, situated just beyond the Pashupatinath temple, and which houses 108 Buddha images and 147 prayer wheel insets. The settlement of Boudhanath has the largest community of Tibetans – twelve thousand in all. We will have the remainder of the afternoon free to explore.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Patan Square, Free Afternoon, Home-Hosted Dinner
Kathmandu
B,L,D
Crowne Plaza Kathmandu Soaltee

Activity note: Walking up to 3 miles, mostly on paved roads, but some uneven spots.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will ride by motorcoach to Patan Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a compression of marvelous monuments. Patan Museum showcases Nepal’s long cultural history and rare objects, most in bronze and copper, still important within the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of the area.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated and served, with coffee, tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: We will enjoy a family-hosted dinner with bottled water, coffee and tea included.

Evening: During dinner, we will learn about the role of women in Nepal through a presentation from a local expert on women's issues. We will then return to hotel after dinner for an evening at leisure.

DAY
12
Kathmandu, Fly to Paro, Drive to Thimphu
Thimphu
B,L,D
Hotel Pedling

Activity note: The flight to Paro, Bhutan is approximately 1½ hours. Visas are pre-arranged in advance by our vendor in Bhutan. Once in Bhutan, our group will depart by private motorcoach from Paro to Thimphu, approximately 43 miles, or around 1 1/2 hours. The elevation over the next 3 days will be about 7,700 ft.

Breakfast: Hotel breakfast buffet.

Morning: Late morning departure to the airport to board our flight to Bhutan.

Lunch: Upon arrival at the airport, we will enjoy a light lunch of sandwiches, muffins, fruit, juice, and water.

Afternoon: After lunch, we’ll transfer by motorcoach to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. After checking in, we will go over the brief program orientation with the Group Leader.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will enjoy a buffet meal, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
13
Thimphu, Cultures & Traditions, Political History
Thimphu
B,L,D
Hotel Pedling

Activity note: Walking around 3 miles total today.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a breakfast buffet, with coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: We’ll join an ex-parliamentarian at the hotel for a talk to learn about Bhutan and its political history. This morning lecture also includes introduction to Bhutan. We’ll then begin the day, as many locals do, with a morning walk, 15 minutes from the hotel, to the National Memorial Stupa, built in 1974 in memory of the late third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. This place is popular among the pious, young and old alike, who make it part of their daily ritual to visit. We’ll continue by motorcoach to the National Institute of Traditional Arts and Crafts. En route, we’ll enjoy a presentation led by the group leader about this Arts and Crafts school, where thirteen different forms of Bhutanese traditional Arts and Crafts are taught to young and enthusiastic students. It is the trained students who keep these age-old Bhutanese traditions alive, passing on the valuable ancient knowledge and skills to the next generation of Bhutanese.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will enjoy a lunch buffet with coffee, tea, water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: This afternoon, we’ll take a field trip by motorcoach to the National Textile Museum with our Group Leader. A brief documentary introduces us to textile weaving in Bhutan. The museum displays will walk us through different styles of Bhutanese weaving. The weaving styles of Bhutan are distinctly recognizable, and weaving is considered a national art form. We’ll then return to the hotel for dinner.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
14
Gross National Happiness & Thimphu Dzong
Thimphu
B,L,D
Hotel Pedling

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach for short drives under an hour; minimal walking.

Breakfast: Hotel breakfast buffet.

Morning: At the hotel, we will join in a discussion on Gross National Happiness with the senior official from Gross National Happiness Commission office. The discussion will touch upon the work of the organization, quantifying GNH and other areas of study. We’ll then take a field trip by motorcoach to the Tashicho Dzong, or fortress, the administrative headquarters of the government of Bhutan. While the northern half of the fortress houses monks, the southern half houses the office of the king, the prime minister's office, the Ministry of Finance, the Home Ministry, and the Office of Gross National Happiness Commission. In the face of increased globalization, there has been a growing need for Bhutan to preserve its culture, including its national language, Dzongkha. The center of these preservations attempts is here at the fortress.

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Thimphu, we will enjoy a buffet meal with coffee, tea, water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch, we will drive to the site of the world’s largest sitting Buddha, under construction and nearing completion on a ridge overlooking the capital city. Once in front of the giant Buddha, our local expert will discuss the origin and details of the project. We will then return to the hotel for dinner.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
Archery, Farmer’s Market, National Museum in Paro
Paro
B,L,D
Tashi Namgay Resort

Activity note: Drive from Thimphu to Paro, approximately 43 miles, around 1½ hours.

Breakfast: Hotel breakfast buffet.

Morning: We will take a motorcoach to explore the country’s biggest farmer’s market, where farmers from the neighboring valleys come to sell their produce. Later, we’ll witness a game of archery, Bhutan’s national game, and hear about its role and significance in the Bhutanese society from our group leader.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy lunched served buffet-style with coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch we will transfer to Paro by motorcoach to visit the National Museum, now housed in a new location next to the ancient watch tower, which visually introduces Bhutan’s history and culture. The museum provides a good introduction to the Kingdom’s rich culture and heritage. Later after checking into the hotel, we will get a debriefing about tomorrow’s hike to the Tiger's nest monastery from our Group Leader.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will enjoy a dinner buffet, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
16
Tiger's Nest Hike
Paro
B,L,D
Tashi Namgay Resort

Activity note: This is an all day hike involving steep climbs and drops, with an elevation gain of 1,900 ft. under 3 hours. The hike is strenuous and one must be physically fit to complete it. There is an option to hike half way, to a view point that has a café, for those that choose to not climb the entire way.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a breakfast buffet, plus coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Morning: After early breakfast, we will start on a strenuous but a rewarding hike to view the spectacular and famous Taktsang monastery, or Tiger's Nest. The trail climbs through a beautiful pine forest, with Spanish moss clinging to many trees. We will continue at a leisurely pace—those who choose can stop mid-way at the cafeteria for rest and refreshment.

Lunch: Halfway to the Tiger’s Nest, we will enjoy lunch at a tea house, served buffet-style with coffee, tea, water. For any participants that choose to not climb today, lunch will be at a local restaurant.

Afternoon: We will continue our hike further up until the imposing Taktsang monastery, considered one of the most sacred places for Buddhists and dating back to the 17th century, appears before us perched on a sheer 900-meter cliff. Legend tells of the tantric mystic Guru Rimpoche landing here on a flying tigress to battle a demon, and then meditating on this spot for three months, in the 8th century. Over the centuries, numerous Buddhist Masters have meditated here as well. After our long hike, we will return to the hotel for dinner.

Dinner: Hotel buffet.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
17
Fly to Bangkok, Free Time
Bangkok
B,L,D
Ramada Plaza Bangkok Menam Riverside Hotel

Activity note: Flight may be morning or afternoon flight depending on seasonal schedule out of Bhutan. Flight schedule subject to change.

Breakfast: Hotel breakfast buffet.

Morning: Transfer to the Paro airport by motorcoach for our flight to Bangkok.

Lunch: Light lunch in flight.

Afternoon: Upon arrival in Bangkok, check-in and relax until time for dinner. Free time today to also explore Bangkok independently.

Dinner: Hotel buffet with bottled water, coffee/tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
18
Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Free Time, Program Concludes
In Flight
B,L,D

Activity note: Getting in/out of a riverboat to transfer from the hotel to the Grand Palace. Walking approximately 1 1/2 miles. Wat Pho is a sacred site. Dress conservatively (no shorts); shoes must be removed to enter the temple, wear socks; photography not permitted. Evening departures home. The hotel is booked for the entire night for those leaving tomorrow.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we will enjoy a breakfast buffet with coffee, tea, water included.

Morning: An early morning rivercruise from the hotel to the Wat Pho area will get us in early to experience the monks’ early morning chanting ritual. We will then walk ten minutes to continue to the Grand Palace. Built in 1782, it has been the home of the Thai king for the last 150 years and serves as the royal court and the administrative seat of government. Last, we will discover the mysterious Emerald Buddha at Wat Phra Kaew, the most revered Buddha image in Thailand and located within the same complex grounds.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with coffee, tea, water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time in Bangkok for you to explore on your own.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will enjoy a farewell dinner, with coffee, tea, water included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: In the late evening we will check out and transfer by motorcoach to the Bangkok airport for return flights home. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. The hotel is booked for the entire night, for those leaving the next day. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!

DAY
19
In Transit from Program
In Flight

Activity note: Early morning departures (around 1:00 a.m.) for flights home. Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon for independent travelers departing today.






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