Compared to their neighbours – China and India – these Himalayan gems are certainly small in size. But everything else in these two, landlocked countries – from the soaring peaks of the world's highest mountain range to the smiles and warmth of welcome you'll receive from the locals – is on a grand scale. This two-week, tailor-made journey begins with Kathmandu's gilded stupas and ancient city squares before a short flight west brings you to the pretty town of Pokhara, a sleepy, lakeside idyll framed by the snow-capped Annapurnas. Then, it's on to Bhutan, where you'll spend nine memorable days exploring the valleys, mountains and sacred temples of this secretive Himalayan kingdom.
Day 1: Depart the UK
Depart UK on an overnight flight to Kathmandu.
Day 2: Kathmandu
Arriving into Nepal, you'll be met on arrival at Kathmandu's international airport and transferred to your hotel in the heart of the city. Then, its time to head out into capital's bustling streets and maze of historic laneways for a guided half-day city tour, visiting its riverside Hindu temples and watching as Buddhist monks spin prayer wheels amid the flag-adorned stupas of Boudhanath and Swayambunath. .
Days 3-4: Pokhara
Fly to Pokhara, whose peaceful lakeside setting is spectacularly framed by the snow-capped peaks of Machhapuchhre and the Annurpurna range. Early the next day you'll head into the foothills of these Himalayan giants to see sun rise from the village of Sarangkot. Then, return to Pokhara to tour of its Bindhyavasani Temple and Old Bazaar before a boat trip on the mirrored waters of Phewa Lake.
Stay: Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge (Superior) Pavilions Himalayas (Deluxe)
Days 5-6: Kathmandu
Retrace your steps back to Kathmandu and spend the rest of the day at leisure. The following morning, you'll have the option of a scenic flight past Mount Everest's storied summit. Then, return to the capital for a guided tour of the ancient cities of Patan and Bhaktapur. Each one is filled with a seemingly endless array of terra cotta and wood-carved monuments, some dating back as far as the 5th century, while gilded rooftops and grand courtyards speak of the cities' position along the ancient trade route between India and Tibet.
Days 7-8: Thimphu
The flight from Nepal to Bhutan is one of the most spectacular in the world, and those lucky enough to bag a seat on the left hand side of the plane will be treated to stunning views of some of the highest Himalayan peaks. On arrival into Paro you'll continue, by road, to Chuzom at the confluence of the Thimphu and Paro rivers. Here, you'll have the chance to stretch your legs before the final leg of your journey to Thimpu. The following day, a guided tour will introduce you to the sights of the Thimphu Valley, including the National Library, Textile and Folk Heritage Museum, the King's Memorial Chorten, Trashichhoedzong Fortress of Glorious Religion and Buddha Point, from where you'll enjoy wonderful panoramic views across the valley and it's spectacular mountain frame. In the evening, perhaps take a stroll through the handicrafts emporium and local crafts bazaar to browse stalls selling everything from hand-woven textiles and thangka paintings to decorative masks, ceramics, wood carvings and jewellery.
Stay: Druk Hotel (Superior) Taj Tashi Thimphu (Deluxe)
Days 9-10: Gangtey
Continue by road to the remote village of Gangtey. Crossing the 3,000-metre-high Dochula pass and the Dang Chhu River, your journey takes you on winding mountain roads through forests of oak, rhododendron and bamboo to the Gangtey Gompa, whose tiered roof and whitewashed pillars look down on the town and valley floor, the winter home of the black-necked crane. Spend the next day exploring the village and its remote, Himalayan setting. At our Deluxe option, activities range from included temple visits, guided walks and cycling tours to traditional archery and darts. Speak to our consultants for a full list of options.
Stay: RKPO Hotel (Standard) Gangtey Lodge (Deluxe)
Days 11-12: Punakha
Returning past the fluttering prayer flags of the Dochula Pass, you'll follow the line of the eastern Himalayas towards Punakha Dzong, the Palace of Great Happiness. Built at the confluence of the Phochu and Mochu rivers in 1637, it once served as both the religious and administrative centre of Bhutan. From here, your route takes you to Chimi Lhakhang – the Temple of Fertility. It's a gentle, half-hour walk through lush paddy fields and rural villages to this auspicious temple, set on a small hill in the centre of a beautiful valley.
Stay: Dhensa Boutique Resort (Standard) Uma by Como, Punakha (Superior)
Days 13-14: Paro
Following the Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu river valleys, you'll arrive into Paro. Along the way you'll visit Simtokha Dzong, a place of profound tantric teaching, which now houses a school dedicated to the study of the Dzongkha language. On arrival in Paro you'll check into your hotel before visiting Ta Dzong; originally built as a watchtower, this grand building now houses the National Museum. Then, in the afternoon, you'll join your guide again for a scenic walk to Rinpung Dzong to discover its intricate wall paintings illustrating ancient Buddhist lore. The following day you'll visit the iconic Taktshang Monastery, or Tiger's Nest. A five-hour return hike along the Paro Valley floor brings you to its precarious cliff-side perch where, according to Buddhist belief, Guru Rinpoche arrived 1,300 years ago on the back of a flying tigress.
Stay: Naksel Boutique Hotel (Standard) Uma by Como, Paro (Superior)
Days 15-16: Paro/UK
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home, arriving in the UK on day 16.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website