My wife and I travel a considerable amount of our retired time and almost never go on group tours as we prefer the flexibility of self-guided and self-planned travel. We very much wished to visit Bhutan and selected Champaca Journeys to facilitate the adventure. It was extraordinary, We knew John Leupold, the owner/operator slightly through my wife’s sister and he could not have been a more professional and wonderful travel host. His knowledge of the country and the people (he has dozens of Bhutanese friends) is comprehensive and meeting and spending quality time with many Bhutanese was the highlight of the trip. He was extremely organized and the excursions were well paced and universally interesting. We would unhesitatingly travel with Champaca Journeys again.
FAXON B. SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
Bhutan is one of the most magical places I've ever visited. Period. And to truly experience the beauty and eloquence of this kingdom country and its people, you'll want to travel with the best hosts. I couldn't recommend Champaca Journeys and John Leupold enough to give you an experience to remember for a lifetime. Of course, you'll want what I call the "basics" to be seamless - logistics, communication, transportation, quality hotels, cultural sites, pacing, attention to detail, etc. They were flawless for our trip. However, what makes journeying with them so special is their passion, deep knowledge, experience and love that both John and his local guide, Dorji have for Bhutan. They are communicated and expressed in every conversation and encounter. As such, you will be on the fast-track to truly "get" Bhutan. Through his 20 trips and by learning the language, John has developed this unique capability to culturally interpret for you the magic, mysticism and beauty of Bhutan. Finally, no cultural trip is complete without an opportunity to meet fun, interesting, engaging people and you'll meet some of the most amazing people John has befriended over his many years hosting trips.
PAUL F, OAKLAND, CA
Bhutan is the most fascinating and wonderful place I have ever traveled and my introduction to it was enhanced every step of the way by John Leupold and Dorji Khandu of Champaca Journeys. This is a tour like no other. The trip leaders have a depth of knowledge and a passion about Bhutan that is unsurpassed. They are eager to share their knowledge and for you to “get” the culture and uniqueness of this country. What you will notice is that participants on other tours gradually move within earshot of Dorji because he is offering so much more information and clarity than their own guide; that every logistical detail is taken care of by John and the experience is smooth and seamless; and both have selected exquisite places to see and stay that truly depict the character and spirit of the country. And you will get to meet locals who contribute to a well-rounded Bhutanese experience. This was a trip of a lifetime made special by the guides we traveled with and their personal connection to this wonderful country. I learned so much and felt personally fulfilled. I heartily recommend Champaca Journeys if you want an authentic Bhutanese experience.
JANET K, BERKELEY, CA
Eleven years ago, I travelled with John Leupold to Bhutan. It was the first trip there for both of us and John fell in love! In order to make his dream of returning a reality, he founded Champaca Journeys and began making friends and then clients to this country that so impressed him. My dream was to return someday, and I knew that John, having travelled there 35 times would show me a different country than the first go-around.
And so it was… this time a totally immersive experience. We still visited incredible historical sites, the dzongs and temples; we still travelled through the awesome Himalayan scenery, saw the wildflowers, steep fern-hanging hillsides, waterfalls and raging rivers. We still did some hiking. And we still had the fabulous Dorji as our Bhutanese guide.
But what is different now and why I highly recommend you experience Bhutan with Champaca Journeys is the depth that John’s passion brings to the trip. He clearly loves this country, the architecture, the scenery, the flora, and the friendliness of its people. So he also brings you his friends. And that is what made this trip so fabulous! We met so many local Bhutanese…. artists, journalists, engineers, musicians, members of the Royal Family, John’s fascinating friends, all bright intelligent English-speaking conversationalists!
And he brings you all of this with flawless logistics, lovely atmospheric hotels, safe driving in comfortable vehicles, charming restaurant choices, and a leisurely itinerary that doesn’t rush.
Bhutan still retains the authentic magical culture that moved me eleven years ago, something I have found rarely in my travels. Go now and go with John and Champaca Journeys.
ORREL A. SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA
After the first trip with John and Champaca Journeys we did not hesitate to go on with him to Laos. It was a fantastic and memorable trip. Laos itself is beautiful, low-key and interesting. The trip had a good balance of adventures, free time and explorations of interesting sites. Serd, the Laos guide, is knowledgeable, gracious and a wonderful person. One of the high points of the trip was the Mekong River cruise - it was relaxing, a lovely way to see the countryside get off the boat to explore smaller villages.
John works hard behind the scenes to make the trip seem seamless; he has just the right balance of taking care of details, packing a lot in and giving clients time to explore on their own. John’s groups are relatively small making the travel easy to negotiate as well as accommodating individual interests.
KEN W. EL CERRITO, CA
Thanks Champaca Journeys for the wonderful trip. Our tour manager, John, seemed to know everyone interesting in Bhutan and our local guide, Dorji, seemed to know everyone essential. Ad hoc cooking lessons, building site inspections, festival rehearsals, demonstrations on how to put on a gho (much more complicated than one might expect), and rafting trips went as smoothly as long-planned activities. Local celebrity dining companions were unfailingly interesting and quite varied. For someone with my interest level in Bhutan, the timing, activities and logistics were just right. My normal travel modus operandi is to do my own planning and execution. It was very pleasant to have someone else take care of everything, lead me around by the nose, and pamper me for several days. The trip scratched a long-time travel itch.