Travel

Monumental Journeys: Nepal & Bhutan

Kathmandu, Paro, Jakar Bumthang Valley, Thimphu Valley

Kathmandu Valley

World Monuments Fund has undertaken several projects in Bhutan and Nepal ranging from small historic temples to large fortress-monasteries—both before and after the devastating earthquake of 2015. We will be visiting nearly a dozen WMF sites on this trip and will witness up close the profound impact of our work on the built environment and the communities who steward these sites.

Standing at the “Roof of the World,” in Nepal we will have the opportunity to see diverse Hindu and Buddhist temples, shrines, and relic stupas that populate and overlook the Kathmandu Valley. In Bhutan we will visit stunning monasteries perched on high cliffs, living temples, and massive palaces, learning how a resilient nation thrived by preserving their environment and cultural heritage in a communal effort to promote “Gross National Happiness.” Along the way we will be joined by WMF partners, expert guides, political figures, historians, local artisans, and friends of WMF. We welcome you on this Monumental Journey.

Trip cost:
$13,750 per person, double-occupancy
$16,850 per person, single-occupancy

What's included:
• All hotel accommodation
• Meals as indicated
• Services of B&R-trained local Nepali and Bhutanese guide
• Western B&R guide
• All special events, gratuities and private tours
• All transportation from rendezvous to drop-off
• Visa to Nepal and Bhutan
• Economy class flights inside Nepal and Bhutan

What's not included:
• International flights
• Cancellation insurance
• Items of a personal nature (for example hotel extras)

Please note that we require a group size of 14 travellers or more to operate this trip at the cost listed. Should the group size be under 14, Butterfield and Robinson reserves the right to increase the per person cost of the trip.

  • Day 1 - Arrival in Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Day 2 - Explore Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Day 3 - Day Trip to Patan, Nepal
  • Day 4 - Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Day 5 - Travel to Thimphu, Bhutan
  • Day 6 - Explore Bumthang, Bhutan
  • Day 7 - Bumthang, Bhutan
  • Day 8 - Paro, Bhutan
  • Day 9 - Transfer to Kathmandu, Nepal

Welcome to Kathmandu! You will be met by a representative at the airport and transferred to our hotel, the legendary Dwarika’s. This evening will feature an orientation session with our expert guides followed by cocktails and a welcome dinner where we will be joined by Nepali heritage authorities and local conservation specialists. 

Meals: Dinner
Hotel: The Dwarika’s Hotel

After breakfast we will tour the major sites of Kathmandu, the largest city in Nepal and its political and cultural capital. WMF partners from the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT) will guide us through project sites where WMF has provided both critical technical expertise and financial aid both before and 
following the 2015 earthquake, including: the 2002 and 2012 Watch Site Itum Baha Monastery, one of 83 remaining Buddhist monasteries in Nepal whose foundations are thought to date from the Licchavi Period (300–879); the 17th-century Maha Vishnu Temple, which laid largely in ruins following the great earthquake of 1934 until WMF developed a comprehensive restoration program in the early 2000s; as well as the city’s historic heart, Durbar Square, a symbolic intersection of Nepal’s multiple religious traditions expressed in architecture, where WMF helped develop an on-the-job training program for Nepalese professionals and artisans to learn international standards for architectural documentation, research and conservation.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hotel: The Dwarika’s Hotel

Today we visit Patan, the center of Newari Buddhism, a city composed of hundreds of small courtyards that are laid out as an urban mandala. We will visit several architectural restoration projects executed led by WMF in collaboration with KVPT including the 12thcentury Sulima Ratnesvara Temple, the oldest shrine in the Kathmandu Valley; Char Narayan Temple, a major 16th century temple that collapsed in the 2015 earthquake and has been painstakingly rebuilt and reinforced to limit future damage; and the Kulima Temple, which features exceptionally delicate carvings that are considered the pinnacle of vernacular architectural tradition. Afterward we will visit the Patan Museum, housed in a restored royal palace and developed in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institute. Museum leadership will join us for a lunch in the museum’s garden and guide us through the exhibitions. We will also have the opportunity today to meet a Kumari, or living Hindu goddess, an embodiment of divine female energy or devi.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hotel: The Dwarika’s Hotel

 

In the morning we will visit the magnificent 15th-century Pashupatinath Temple, the most sacred Hindu shrine in Nepal, situated amidst a lush green natural setting on the bank of the sacred Bagmati River. Dedicated to a form of the god Shiva, the entrance to the inner temple precinct is forbidden to non-Hindus, but visitors can still glimpse elements of the interior. Ghats, or cremation platforms, line the banks of the river, where ashes are swept into the River Bagmati that eventually joins the Holy Ganges. We will then visit Boudhanath Stupa, one of the most imposing landmarks of Kathmandu, a center of Tibetan Buddhism, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stupa is built on a massive three level mandala style platform and is 36 meters (118 feet) high. The base is adorned with 108 small images of the Dhyani Amitabha Buddha and inset with prayer wheels. Thousands of pilgrims visit each day, and it is said that each spin of a prayer wheel is the equivalent of reciting the mantra. Travelers will have the opportunity to light a butter lamp and offer a prayer. 

Our dinner tonight will take place in the private courtyards of the Taragoun Museum, an exquisite example of postmodern architecture that documents heritage conservation efforts of foreign artists, photographers, architects, and anthropologists in the Kathmandu Valley during the second half of the 20th century. We will be joined by leadership from the museum, friends of WMF, and musicians playing traditional music and offering us a tika blessing on the forehead. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The Dwarika’s Hotel

This morning we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Bhutan. The flight will depart from the sprawling city of Kathmandu and drop us into the remote wilderness of Bhutan, providing incredible views of the Himalayas along the way. Shining, snow-covered peaks loom over 7,000 meters above sea level, with expanses of forest and silver river-ways flowing to the Indian Ocean. 

After a 45-minute drive to the capital city of Thimphu, we will enjoy lunch and freshen up before venturing out to explore the many creative cottage industries of Bhutan and visit with local artisans in their workshops. Visits may include metalworking, papermaking, weaving, silverwork, coral and turquoise beadmaking, or prayer flag production. We will also visit the National Textile Museum, which preserves and promotes living art under the patronage of the Queen Mother of Bhutan, where we will enjoy a private tour with a curator. This evening we will dine with local dignitaries, including politicians, teachers, researchers, conservationists, doctors, and incarnate monks who have lived their lives practicing Buddhism. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Flight: KB205 Depart at 09:10am & Arrive at 10:30am
Hotel: Amankora, Thimphu

Today we take a short flight to the remote mountain town of Bumthang, where we will take part in the Tharpaling Thongdrol Festival, an annual celebration centered around the display of giant Thangkha (brilliant silk work appliqued with Buddhist images). The sacred festival is animated by prayers, chanting, and various ceremonies. We will then explore the stunning 13thcentury Tharpaling Monastery where Longchen Rabjampa, a teacher in the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, composed his major work, the Seven Treasures. This evening we have the opportunity to learn and practice local archery and dart games before a leisurely dinner at the hotel and time to enjoy the hotel’s world class spa facilities. 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hotel: Amankora, Bumthang

Today we drive to Pema Choling, an ancient Buddhist nunnery still in use by 130 nuns, where we will participate in a powerful drum, chanting, and meditation ceremony called a chod. We will have the opportunity to engage in meditation while listening to the chants and afterwards speak with some of the Anglophone nuns about their lives.

We then drive further into the Tang Valley, traditionally a buckwheat-growing and sheep-rearing community, to visit Wangdichholing Palace, an architectural masterpiece and perhaps the finest representation of 19th-century Bhutanese architecture. Constructed as a private residence in 1857, the palace has experienced significant neglect since it was abandoned in 1950. In 2012 it was listed on the World Monuments Watch and WMF worked to restore the site and adapt it into a museum. Program officers from the Ministry of Culture will provide a tour of the restoration work, after which we will have the opportunity to shop at local artisan workshops and purchase wish-fulfilling prayer flags to hang in a tree or along a ridge.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hotel: Amankora, Bumthang

Today we return to Paro via an early morning flight, after which we freshen up and head out to visit Ta Dzong, a circular fortress featuring sweeping views of the valley below that Tibetan invasion. It now houses Bhutan’s National Museum that since 1968 has been home to the country’s most cherished relics. We will enjoy a private tour of the museum with its curator before having the afternoon free to either take advantage of the hotel’s spa facilities or participate in a tsa-tsa-making ceremony with a Buddhist monk. Within the sutra tradition, making tsatsa (miniature stupa formed from clay) can be one of the daily practices of generosity and is considered a method of accumulating merit. This evening we dine with the local invited guests, including friends involved in WMF projects.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Hotel: Amankora, Paro

 

After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport for international departures from Kathmandu. You will need at least five hours to make transfers for international flights home. Paro to Kathmandu flights in economy are included. Upgrades are available upon request and availability.