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Book early to ensure space during the peak festival season! 

As an avid APA traveler aptly said, “Bhutan is inarguably the most beautiful country on planet earth!” Be amongst the privileged few to experience Bhutan’s still pristine environment where the Bhutanese embrace modernization on their own terms. Revel in the colorful festivals and age-old traditions and photograph the women in their colorful kiras (national dress). Immerse in the deep spirituality of this remote mountain kingdom with beautiful rugged topography where happiness comes before profit. Walk the tiny streets in historic Paro surrounded by massive Himalayan peaks and peppered with brightly painted wooden shop houses. Hike up to the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Explore Thimphu’s markets, museums and monuments with the best dining and shopping. Arrive in the golden green Punakha Valley with its famous dzong, visit sacred sites and a small beautiful village nearby. Drive along the narrow national highway over a 10,000-foot pass festooned with multicolored prayer flags. Relax in the magic of this slow-paced country where the king decides most things including having a parliamentary democracy.  Learn about Tantric Buddhism introduced in the 8th Century by Guru Padmasambhava.  Admire museum quality hand-woven textiles at the textile museum. Fortunately weaving still remains an intrinsic part of the Bhutanese culture. Observe young students learn the painstaking process of painting thangkas (Buddhist religious painting) often used for meditation.

Tibetan Colony, Bodhnath, Kathmandu – Steven Werner

Fly into medieval Kathmandu with its ancient squares sprinkled with intricately carved temples.  Walk through old villages where life stands still and amble along cobbled alleyways from Freak Street to the old palace complex to Thamel overflowing with joint houses now turned into shops, galleries, and restaurants.  Take in the medieval art and architecture of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.  Go on a spellbinding hour-long Everest viewing flight.  Visit a private home and enjoy dinner with your hosts.  Arrive in the beautiful Pokhara Valley in the foothills of the Annapurna Himalaya.  Stay at a lovely resort on a working farm and take village walks or hike up to a temple to view the rural scenery.  Indulge in Ayurvedic massages, swimming, yoga, and meditation while enjoying fresh healthy farm to table meals.   Photograph ethnic folk dancers and musicians in pretty floral costumes at a private photo shoot and join them in the lively dances.

Fishtail Mountain, Pokhara, Nepal

Mysticism and spiritualism merge in the intensely Buddhist culture of Tibet.  Marvel at the legendary capital of Tibet on everyone’s bucket list.  Visit a smaller monastery and meet the monks.  Observe young monks vigorously debating in living monasteries.  Explore the 1000 room Potala Palace and amble through the peaceful Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama set in park-like grounds.  Meet the devout Tibetans at Jokhang Temple, the holiest center of Tibet.  Stroll through lively Barkhor Bazaar with its flashy stalls, prostrating pilgrims, and the ever-present yak-butter lamps.  Admire the artwork and architecture at impressive monasteries that survived the Cultural Revolution.

Chengdu is known for its spicy Sichuan cuisine and its’ adorable panda bears.  Experience its rich diversity and ancient tea culture.  Chengdu offers a vibrant nightlife at trendy clubs, craft bars and restaurants serving outstanding food.  Spend time at the Panda Research & Breeding Center that now has 120 giant and 76 red pandas that are no longer endangered.  Visit the forested bamboo park with black swans and koi carp to see the animals eating, napping, and playing.  Explore an ancient town to get a glimpse of Old China – vastly different from modern Chengdu!  Walk along a street filled with food stalls and restaurants that serve the best hotpot meal!  Chengdu was named UNESCO’s first-ever City of Gastronomy!

ACCOMMODATIONS:  Stay in an eclectic mix of accommodations ranging from deluxe, upscale boutique with traditional architecture and décor, to well-appointed modern superior and eco resorts, all offering modern amenities and a variety of delectable cuisine.

One Night in Nepal – LA Times
Few Americans have tasted Nepali food, and certainly not the sort that Preeti Singh cooks. Born into an aristocratic family, Singh specializes in the subtle, refined royal cuisine.

AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCES:  Benefit from our almost 40 years of experience and family connections to participate in one on one experiences on our trips to enhance your understanding of these remote cultures and get a true feel for the country and its people.  Whenever possible we include visits to a farmhouse, a private home, perhaps attend a family wedding, teach kids at a school or photograph royalty or artists at a private photo shoot to closely interact with the people and observe their traditions and daily lifestyle first-hand.  

CUSTOMIZING A GROUP TOUR:  We are happy to customize group tours to accommodate your dates, interests, and budget.   We can include special ceremonies, street food tours, cooking classes, art walks to name a few!  Hotels can be upgraded to include luxury palaces, traditional architectural gems, or upscale boutique hotels to enhance your trip experience.    

TRIBAL & LOCAL FESTIVALS:  In the early 80s we pioneered ethnic minority festival and study trips for UCLA Extension to Guizhou & Yunnan, China.  Since then, festivals are featured on almost all our study, photo, and adventure trips.  Festivals are not only fun to attend but are perfect for avid photographers and adventurers alike.  

Rhododendron Festival:  Celebrates the spring season much like the Cherry Blossom season in Japan.  Join the local people and walk around the food stalls, check out the flower exhibition, view the arts and crafts and participate in the traditional games.  Photograph the cute kids in traditional costumes perform at the cultural programs.  Spring is perhaps the best times to drive through Bhutan’s gorgeous countryside to view the vibrant green rice terraces and the hillsides ablaze with blooming rhododendrons.  Take a guided walk in the Botanical Garden where the festival is held and see at least 29 out of 46 recorded species of rhododendron in full bloom in their natural habitat.  This casual garden is strewn with rock sculptures, water features, ornamental beds and greenhouses filled with tropical plants.  Enjoy the views of the Thimphu valley and meet the local folks who love to picnic here on weekends. 

Buddhist Mask Dance Festival:  The monasteries burst into life during these intensely colorful festivals that celebrate Buddhism in Bhutan.  These festivals continue for days and are held in the sweeping inner courtyards of the dzongs in town or in picturesque small villages, on land purified by lamas.   The villagers flock from the surrounding valleys to be blessed and to socialize in these auspicious events dedicated to powerful protective deities.  Marvel at the monks donned in masks and silk robes twirl and leap in the air in ritual dance dramas.  Get immersed in the legends, myths, and history of the Bhutanese at one of the most significant religious and social events of the year.  Festivals in Bhutan are not staged for tourists but are genuine manifestations of religious traditions.  Meet entire families proudly attired in their gorgeous hand-woven national dress and photograph the flamboyant mask dancers and atsaras (clowns) amidst a fanfare of drums and cymbals, against a backdrop of mountains and monastery – a photographer’s dream come true!

 

Young Monk in Tibet – Gina L.Rodgers

Happy Panda – Stephen Dem

Destinations

Paro * Thimpu * Punakha * Kathmandu * Pokhara * Chengdu * Lhasa

Trip Details

21 Days

Tour Dates

April 11 - May 1, 2021 (Rhododendron Festival, Bhutan)

October 10 - 30, 2021 (Mask Dance Festival, Bhutan)

March - April 2022 TBA

October - November 2022 TBA

Tour Price

2021 Land & Internal Air: $15,720 per person (6+ members)

2021 Single Supplement: $4590

Trip Grading

Moderate / strenuous. Elevation over 10,500 ft. Special local festival

Suggested Custom Tours

Add pre or post tour extensions to this group tour anywhere in Asia!

Asia a-la-carte tours

Combine any of our a-la-carte tours throughout Asia with a group tour.
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