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Following Buddha

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Price is based on double or twin hotel room occupancy and includes accommodation, transfers, car/driver, English-speaking guide, activities and entrance fees, and daily breakfasts. Flights and optional special activities will be quoted separately. Most personal expenses, including lunch & dinners, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and gratuities can be paid on the spot while traveling. Prices may vary depending on season, choice of accommodation and other factors.

FROM $15,600 PER PERSON
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DURATION

19 days | 18 nights

DESTINATIONS

India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan

INTERESTS

Spirituality

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HIGHLIGHTS

    •    Explore religiously significant Parinirvana Temple and Parinirvana Stupa
    •    Meet with a famous Indian Vedic astrologer
    •    Cruise along the Ganges River
    •    Hike to the legendary Tiger’s Nest Temple
    •    Meet with a Kumari Goddess

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A spiritual journey of breathtaking beauty lies in wait. You’ll get the chance to hike to remote locales to view famous and stunning temples, secret hidden monk villages and experience some of the most incredible scenery on the Indian subcontinent. Learn about the intriguing religious ceremonies in these diverse countries, from the funeral rites along the shores of the Ganges to the living embodiment of divine energy in Nepal. Meditate with gurus as the sun sets, sip masala chai tea, and indulge in traditional hot-stone baths after exploring ancient temples and stupas.

DAY-TO-DAY

DAY 1: Rishikesh

Arrive in Delhi, fly one hour from Delhi to Rishikesh and enjoy the evening at your leisure. You can watch an Aarti (devotional ritual) that takes place every sunset, or enjoy a masala chai or ayurvedic tea at one of the many dhabas (traditional food stalls) or visit one of the cafes dotted around the Holy city.

DAY 2: Rishikesh

First, watch the sunrise at Kunjapuri Devi Temple, then spend you will spend the day exploring sites such as the Raghunath Temple (one of the largest temples in North India) and the ancient Rishikund holy pond - filled with sacred water - before traversing the suspension bridges of Lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula.

DAY 3: Kushinagar

Fly one hour back to Delhi then two hours on to Kushinagar where you will visit the famous Parinirvana Temple and Parinirvana Stupa, said to be the death place of Gautama Buddha (the founder of Buddhism) that houses a six-meter m long reclining golden Buddha statue. The Sanskrit word “Parinirvana” translates as Nirvana, the Buddhist heaven/enlightenment.

DAY 4: Kushinagar

Explore the Mahaparinirvana Temple in this pilgrimage town with its well preserved fifth-century reclining Buddha that was unearthed in 1876 and is cloaked in a saffron robe every evening by the monks. You will then peruse archeological excavations and various exhibits at the Kushinagar Museum, followed by a walk through the ancient stupa park.

DAY 5: Varanasi

Journey six hours by car from Kushinagar to Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India. In the afternoon, you will take a two-hour cruise along the sacred Ganges River - home to the endangered Ganges river dolphin - and where religious ceremonies and funeral rites are held. In the evening relax and watch the Ganges Aarti being performed.

DAY 6: Varanasi

Today take the opportunity to visit four of the most famous and most sacred temples in all of Varanasi - Annapurna, Vishwanath, Sankat Mochan, and Durga (also known as the “Monkey Temple”). In the afternoon you’ll meet with an Indian Vedic astrologer, then explore the ancient city of Sarnath where Gautama Buddha first taught his Dharma (teachings).

DAY 7: Gaya

Rise early to take an early morning sunrise cruise along the Ganges to see the river in another light; from the boat you can watch the locals gather on the steps to bathe in the sacred waters. Drive six hours from Varanasi to the historical city of Gaya, stopping en route so that you can view the exhibits at the Bodhgaya Archaeological Museum.

DAY 8: Gaya

Start your day at the Mahabodhi Temple complex where it is said that Buddha obtained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree; marvel at the 25-meter tall Great Buddha statue that’s located within a garden that has been there for over 100 years and the sacred Muchalinda lake. Explore the ancient temples of Vishnupad Mandir and Dungeshwari and end your day with a blissful sunset meditation with a guru.

DAY 9: Thimphu

This morning, fly one-and-a-half hours from Gaya to Paro and then drive one hour to Bhutan’s capital - Thimphu. Here you will spend the day exploring Buddhist monastery and fortress Thimphu Dzong. You’ll learn about medicinal plants from remote corners of the Bhutanese Himalaya in the National Institute of Traditional Medicine. Peruse ancient and modern art at the Thangka galleries and end your day viewing the gigantic Gautama Buddha at Buddha Point. Optionally have a history and culture expert accompany you today to provide insight to this remote kingdom in the mountains. 

DAY 10: Thimphu

In the morning, you will walk the Wangdi Tse Loop hike trail up to a temple nestled in the hill side (Choekhortse Goemba) for spectacular views of the surrounding scenery; then visit an astrology school for a reading, followed by the Zilukha Nunnery. Later in the afternoon you will participate in meditation at a monastery with a monk or high lama. If you wish, enjoy dinner with the Bhutanese ambassador and discuss Gross National Happiness, a concept created by the former King. Bhutan measures prosperity by gauging its citizens' happiness levels, not the GDP.

DAY 11: Paro

Take another morning hike to the hidden monk village of Dodedrak and savor lunch with the monks that reside there. A private transfer will take you one hour away to Paro. There, you can stroll through the town, visit the monastery fortress of Paro Dzong, and then hike to the Drukgyal Dzong ruins for a stunning sunset view with light refreshments.

DAY 12: Paro

Hike to the famous and incredibly beautiful Tiger’s Nest Monastery, a legendary complex perched on the side of a cliff, before enjoying a picnic lunch and a special blessing by the senior lama. Take the afternoon at leisure, perhaps enjoy a traditional hot-stone bath and massage to soothe your post-hike muscles.

DAY 13: Kathmandu

Fly one hour from Paro to Nepal’s capital - Kathmandu. Start your day visiting the famous Swayambhunath Stupa which overlooks the valley. Walk around Durbar Square opposite the old Royal Palaces, and explore its array of temples, courtyards, and monuments. Get on a rickshaw for a ride down Thamel, a lively neighborhood of narrow streets lined with boutiques selling snacks, clothes, carpets, and handicrafts.

DAY 14: Kathmandu

In the morning, meet with a traditional Tantric Guru, a spiritual teacher who can advise Tantra techniques, which in Vajrayana Buddhism are techniques used to attain Buddhahood. Stop at Boudhanath, one of the oldest and biggest Buddhist monuments ever built in Nepal. Built on an octagonal base inset with 108 prayer wheels, the shrine is ringed by the settlement especially of the Tibetan refugees who entered Nepal in the 1950s. They have developed the place into a ‘Mini Tibet’ ever since. Drive out to the ancient town of Bhaktapur and visit the ancient buildings and temples there.

DAY 15: Lumbini

Fly one hour from Kathmandu to Lumbini, where you view the ancient Ashokan Pillars, believed to be erected by the great King Ashoka and supposedly marking the birthplace of the Buddha. Next you’ll head to the unique World Peace Stupa and finish the day by browsing the Lumbini Museum dedicated to the life of Buddha.

DAY 16: Kathmandu

From Lumbini, return to Kathmandu -- this day is important to allow enough time to receive the Tibet visa. In Kathmandu, take an excursion to the city of Patan, an ancient and UNESCO-designated site. If available, you may have the special opportunity to meet with the Kumari (living Goddess) of Patan - a young girl considered the manifestation of the divine female energy Devi. As the day draws to a close, watch the sunset from Pashupatinath Temple and witness the Ashtha Chiranjeevi Puja ceremony. One of the odlest temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath Temple is a two-storey pagoda with gilded roof and richly carved silver doors, and houses the sacred linga of Lord Shiva.

DAY 17: Lhasa

Fly onward to Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. You will visit the popular pilgrimage site of Barkhor Square where devotees follow the circumambulation route in a clockwise direction. Visit the Jokhang Temple, considered by Tibetans to be the most important and sacred temple in Tibet.

DAY 18: Lhasa

Visit the Potala Palace, once the residence of the Dalai Lama prior to his exile, then the Norbulingka Institute dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture. Stroll around the Old town, you will then explore the Drepung Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Gephel, and marvel at the Maitreya statue.

DAY 19: Departure

Wrap up your spiritual pilgrimage with a private transfer to the airport for your onwards flight to your next destination.

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