The Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan
The Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan

Archaeological Tours

Bhutan & Ladakh: The Himalayan Kingdoms

The Himalayas have captured imaginations for decades as an almost supernatural realm imbued with magic and mystery, and inhabited by immortal gods and sorcerers. Such descriptions have their origins in the breathtaking beauty and grandeur of the Himalayan region, as well as the spiritual character of its ancient cultural traditions. The two remote Himalayan Buddhist kingdoms of Bhutan and Ladakh, each possessing their own unique identities, are the best repositories for the distinctive living traditions of the Tibetan cultural area.

Our journey takes us to the Kingdom of Bhutan, which has preserved its singular culture and lifestyle to an amazing degree, from its textiles and diverse folk arts to its distinctive architecture and religious masked dances. In Ladakh, we witness the colorful and exciting festival and visit well-preserved sites that date back to the introduction of Buddhism in the 10th and 11th centuries. This tour is strenuous. It involves travel to altitudes that exceed 15000 feet as well as long but spectacular days. If you have a heart or lung condition, please seek medical advice before booking. Special diets will be difficult to cater for and you need a good level of fitness.

What's included?

  •  Expert scholar & tour manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  A/C coach
  •  Entries & tips
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Flights (excluding airfare from the US)
  •  A study guide, reading list, and other useful tour documentation compiled by your expert scholar and your Archaeological Tours team
  •  A name badge, luggage strap and bag tag
  •  Four lectures from your expert scholar

Led by...

Dr Gregg Hillis

Dr Gregg Hillis Expert Scholar

After receiving his PhD from the University of Virginia, Gregg is now a lecturer at the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he teaches courses on Buddhism, Tibetan and Sanskrit literature.

Full Price
$9,965

Today's Price
$9,765

Saving
$200

Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,280

Tour highlights:

  • Gaze upon stunning panoramic views over the Himalayas
  • Witness a sacred blessing ceremony at a working monastery
  • Take part in an enlightening and centering meditation session
  • A real must-do for any visitor to Bhutan – hike to the incredible Tiger’s Nest in Paro
  • Attend a memorable prayer ceremony in Ladakh
  • Be welcomed into the home of a local Ladakhi family for tea

Tour details

Dates September 3 2020 - September 20 2020
Duration 18 days
Cost
Full Price
$9,965
Today's Price
$9,765
Saving
$200
Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,280 Balance due by June 11 2020
Activity Level
Tour code A20BHU

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

September 3 2020: Itinerary

Upon arrival in Delhi, we will transfer to our hotel.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Novotel New Delhi Aerocity

We meet for the first time as a group this morning and return to Delhi airport, where we board our flight to Paro. Upon arrival, we drive to Thimphu – the ‘soul of Bhutan’ – and check in to our hotel. Major highlights in Thimphu include the Textile Museum, National Library, The National Institute for Zorig Chusum, and Simply Bhutan Museum. In the evening, we walk around Thimphu’s main market area, and then we have an introductory lecture and dinner.

All meals included

Hotel: Novotel New Delhi Aerocity

After breakfast, we visit the weekend market. This is followed by a performance of mask and folk dances by the Royal Dance Troupe at the Royal Academy of Performing Arts. Lunch comes after at a local restaurant and then we pay a visit to the Tashichho Dzong – or “fortress of the glorious religion”. Our touring ends at the Changangkha Monastery, perched on a ridge above town. Here, we are welcomed by a monk and can participate in a blessing ceremony that includes lighting butter candles. We will receive a blessing from the senior monk, who will then show us around the monastery.

All meals included

Hotel: Novotel New Delhi Aerocity

This morning we visit the Tanka Painting School. Here, students are trained in the various art forms of Bhutan with the intent of keeping the centuries-old traditions alive. Next, we visit the Memorial Chorten, built in memory of Bhutan’s third king – His Late Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. From here, we visit Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang), where prayers can be offered to statue – the largest in the country at 54 metres. After lunch, we visit Simtokha Dzong, the place of profound tantric teaching, which now houses a school for the study of the Dzongkha language. Later in the afternoon, we learn to meditate under the guidance of a monk.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Druk, Thimphu

After breakfast, we visit the National Library, which is home to modern academic books and printing blocks for prayer flags. Later, we drive to Punakha via Dochula Pass. In Bhutan, the passes are marked by large Bhutanese chortens and prayer flags. Prayer flags are hoisted for happiness, prosperity, and luck. At the pass, we join a ceremony hanging the prayer flags. Upon arrival in Punakha, we check in to our hotel and visit the Punakha Dzong, a structure built at the junction of two rivers. An afternoon hike takes us to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a monument recently built by the Queen Mother. Our evening is spent exploring Punakha village.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Druk, Thimphu

Our first visit of the day is to the temple and nunnery, Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang, which houses a 14-foot bronze statue of Avalokiteśvara. Other statues here include Guru Padmasambawa, Gautama Buddha, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, and Tsepamay (Buddha of Longevity). The complex is home to a higher learning and meditation center for its nuns. Later, we visit Chimi Lakhang.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Druk, Thimphu

A drive back to Paro awaits this morning. This town has not yet been spoiled by commercialization, and the painted wooden restaurants and characterful shops are the trademark attractions. Later, we visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower and now home to the National Museum. Its extensive collection includes antique Thangka paintings, textiles, armor, and household objects. We also visit Rinpung Dzong – or, ‘Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’. Fine wall paintings that illustrate Buddhist lore can be seen here.

All meals included

Hotel: RKPO, Green Resort, Punākha

For those physically fit enough, today offers us the chance to hike to Taktshang Monastery – or, ‘The Tiger’s Nest’. With an immensely rewarding walk that takes around five hours in total (with part of it possible on horseback), this is one of Bhutan’s most famous monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff over half a mile above the Paro valley floor. On the way back to town, we stop at Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. On the way, we visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by King Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. Later, we watch an archery competition. This is an ancient Bhutanese tradition and the national sport here, which proves popular with both men and women alike. In the evening, a local restaurant welcomes us, and we learn to cook Bhutanese cuisine. We stay for dinner and wear traditional dress.

All meals included

Hotel: RKPO, Green Resort, Punākha

Today we transfer to the airport in Paro, where we board our flight for Delhi. The remainder of our day is spent at leisure.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Naksel Boutique Hotel & SPA, Paro

An early morning transfer to the airport in Delhi is calling and from here we board our flight to Leh. Upon arrival, we have some free time in order to acclimatize to the altitude. This afternoon, we will regroup for a leisurely stroll through the fascinating bazaars of the old town. During our stay, there will be an opportunity to attend the colorful Ladakh Festival, an annual two-week event.

All meals included

Hotel: Naksel Boutique Hotel & SPA, Paro

After breakfast, our touring begins with the museum at Stok Palace, which is around 200 years old and is still occupied by the widow of the last king. We return to Leh for a walking tour, where we pass the dramatic Tsemo Hill, where the remains of the Royal Palace can be seen, and the Maitreya Temple, home to a statue of Maitreya.

All meals included

Hotel: The Grand Dragon Ladakh

This morning we head to Spituk Gompa, a 15th century monastery that tumbles down the sides of a steep knoll to a tight cluster of farmhouses and well-watered fields. The Gompa monastery has three chapels and the highest – the Paldan Lumo temple (Kali Mater) – is the most impressive. We also visit Phyang Monastery, built in 1500 by King Lkra-Shis-Namgyal, founder of the Namgyal dynasty.

All meals included

Hotel: The Grand Dragon Ladakh

Early this morning, we visit the Thiksey Monastery to attend a prayer ceremony and meet with a senior monk who gives us a brief discourse on Buddhism. After, we stop for breakfast and then it’s on to Hemis Monastery, the largest and richest of the Ladakhi gompas. We also visit the palace of Shey. This was once the ancient capital of Ladakh and even after Sengge Namgyal built the more imposing palace at Leh, the kings continued to regard Shey as their real home. The importance attached to it is attested by the enormous number of chorten that can be seen around the village, particularly by the palace complex and on the barren plain to the north of the road.

All meals included

Hotel: The Grand Dragon Ladakh

A drive along the Indus River, stopping for photos at the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar Rivers, gets our day off to a stunning start. We continue on to the fortified monastery of Basgo, which was the capital during the 15th and 17th centuries. Later, we make our way to Likir. The monastery here is no longer a place of active worship, but instead maintains and runs a school for young lamas. Next, we continue towards Uletokpo and visit Alchi Monastery, founded in the 11th century by Rinchen Zangpo the Great Translator, and richly decorated by artists from Kashmir and Tibet.

All meals included

Hotel: The Grand Dragon Ladakh

We have breakfast and then drive to Lamayuru. The 11th century monastery here is one of the earliest seats of lamaistic learning and is also the most picturesque in all of Ladakh. After lunch, we drive back to Uleytokpo, stopping off to visit the Rizong Gompa on the way. Rizoeng is among the few monasteries in Ladakh that houses female monks called “Chomos”. This evening, we are privileged to enjoy a cultural encounter as we accept an invitation to have tea with a Ladakhi family in their home. This is a unique opportunity to talk with the family, to learn how Ladakhi tea is made and to see the interiors of a traditional house.

All meals included

Hotel: The Grand Dragon Ladakh

This morning we drive back to Leh. Upon arrival, there will be some time to relax or do some last-minute shopping before we gather together for our evening meal.

All meals included

Hotel: Ule Ethnic Resort

Today we transfer to the airport in Leh and we board our flight to Delhi. Tonight we have a farewell dinner together in Delhi.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Ule Ethnic Resort

We depart Delhi today and catch our individual flights back home or continue with any onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

September 3 2020: Additional Info

September 3 2020: Accommodation

Adjacent to Aerocity and Indira Gandhi International Airport, this airport hotel is also 11 km from Qutb Minar, a red sandstone tower dating from 1193

This hotel on a street lined with eateries is 3 km from Tashichho Dzong monastery and 6 km from Motithang Takin Preserve.

RKPO Green Resort sits in the heart of the verdant and lush Punakha Valley. Flanked by thick pine forests, it overlooks the Punakha valley and hundreds of paddy fields that stair-step down to the valley floor.

Naksel, a community-based project that is eco friendly and Energy Saver efficient, blends the heritage of traditional Bhutanese architecture and the comfort of modern amenities.

Surrounded by mountains, this grand hotel is 2 km from the 17th-century Leh Palace, 4 km from the Shanti Stupa golden Buddha and 3 km from Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport.

Ule Ethnic Luxury Hotel, Resort is the first fully solar powered tourism project in Ladakh, taking ahead the local sustainable tourism initiative.

September 3 2020: Enquiries

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