Mountains are blanketed with evergreen forests and dotted with Buddhist temples, valleys are sliced by glacial rivers and the piney air is delicious and clean. Bhutan’s luxury hotels and lodges are divine, but it is the Bhutanese people that make Bhutan Holidays so special – they are extremely quick to laugh, and they’ve even been ranked number one in the world for Gross National Happiness!
The first democratic elections were in 2008, and Bhutan travel has been growing steadily and carefully over the past three decades. The best time to visit Bhutan is from October to December, as the air is clear and fresh with sunny skies. January and February are cooler months, and until April the climate remains dry and pleasant. In late spring the famous rhododendrons bloom spectacularly, flooding the valleys with color.
Bhutan is perhaps the most fascinating of the Himalayan kingdoms as travel entry was forbidden to visitors until 1974, and even after that numbers were still minimal. Landlocked by the mighty Himalayan peaks, Bhutan has been doubly protected from external influences, and as a result, the traditional way of life has survived largely intact. Deep rooted Bhutanese culture means that archery is still the national sport, and the gracious, gentle people continue to wear traditional dress: elegant wraparound skirts or “kira” for the women and checked, floor-length belted robes or “Gho” for the men. Bhutan’s scenery is magnificent; monasteries hang over precipitous drops, often wreathed in mist, and there are pristine pine forests, fertile valleys, and high rugged mountain passes – all of which make a varied and exhilarating destination for Bhutan trekking or an active holiday.
- 9 night guided vacation
- 9 nights in 3-4 star accommodations
- 26 meals: 9 breakfasts, 8 lunches and 9 dinners
- Private English-speaking local guide
- Return transfers airport / hotel / airport
- Visits as per itinerary with private vehicle
- Visa and Tourism Fee
- Two bottles of mineral water, per passenger, per day in the vehicle (500 ml each)
|August 1 – 31
|September 1 – November 30
|December 1 – 31
|Single Supplement(if travelling with others): add from $650 more
Rates are per person.
Minimum 2 passengers for trip date to run.
Not included: International airfare – Gratuities to hotel personnel, guides and drivers – Beverages – Optional excursions.
DAY 1 ARRIVAL – PARO -THIMPHU (56KM/1 ½ HOURS) (D)
Your adventure begins with the most spectacular of all mountain flights. You will fly over the southern hills, known as ‘dwars’, or gateways into the Himalayas as they rise from the plains until they meet the great snow-capped peaks of the inner Himalayas that rise up to the sky. The decent into Paro valley takes you through a narrow valley between the mountains and past villages and houses that appear to be a little too close and makes you wonder if this is normal. Then the valley suddenly opens up to reveal a wider valley with rice fields, villages and the airstrip located along a river. Paro airport is the only airport in the world where the altitude exceeds the length of the airstrip. Although the flight and landing at Paro may sound unnerving, you are in good hands as the pilots are specially trained to fly and land here. Many have described the flight to Paro as breath taking.
Welcome to Bhutan! On arrival at Paro airport and after completion of airport formalities, you will be met by your local guide. Drive from Paro to Thimphu, the modern capital town of Bhutan and an exciting blend of tradition and modernity.
Thimphu- Thimphu is the capital city of the Kingdom of Bhutan, and reflects a happy harmony of traditional and modern ways of life. It is the home of the Royal family and the nerve centre of Bhutan’s administrative, religious, and commercial activities. It is also the most modern city in the Kingdom and it is dotted with cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping centres.
Rest of the day at leisure or free time to explore the capital town.
Accommodation : Thimphu for 2 nights
DAY 2 THIMPHU (B/L/D)
Thimphu, perhaps the most unusual capital city in the world, is the seat of government. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, the civil service, and foreign missions with representation in Bhutan. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects.
Today’s full day of sightseeing in Thimphu valley includes visits to:
- Buddha Dordenma statue sitting on top of a hill overlooking Thimphu.
- National Memorial Chorten- the building of this landmark was originally envisaged by Bhutan’s third king,
- Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre
- Zorig Chosum, (also known as the painting school) offers a six year course in the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
- National Library, which holds a vast collection of Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion.
- Traditional Handmade Paper Factory, witness the process of paper making from start to finish.
DAY 3 THIMPHU-PUNAKHA (75KM/3 HOURS) (B/L/D)
After breakfast, drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088m) stopping briefly here to take in the view and admire the 108 chortens/stupas, Mani walls, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the high Himalayan peaks towards the northeast will be revealed in all their glory. Continue to Punakha, a low-lying subtropical valley, served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955, and is still the winter residence of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and central monk body.
In the afternoon, visit Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, has played prominent role in civil and religious life of the kingdom. Damaged by fire, flood and earthquake over the centuries, it has now been fully restored in its original splendor. (Open 11am-1pm & 3pm-5pm).
Accommodation : Punakha for 1 night
DAY 4 PUNAKHA-BUMTHANG (222KM/8 HOURS) (B/L/D)
Today, the drive takes you across the Black Mountain Range that divides western and central Bhutan. You will drive up winding mountain roads through oak and rhododendron forest and across the Pele-la pass (3,300m), the traditional boundary between east and west. The pass is marked by a large white chorten and prayer flags. There is an abrupt change in vegetation at this point, with mountain forest replaced by high altitude dwarf bamboo.
Stop en route at Chendebji Chorten, patterned on Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa, with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. It was built in the 18th century by Lama Shida from Tibet, to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was subdued at this spot.
The impressive Trongsa dzong (fortress) stretched along a ridge above a ravine first comes into view about an hour before the winding road suddenly leads you into the town. From here it is about a 3 hour drive to Bumthang over the picturesque Yotong-la Pass (3,400m). The road winds steeply up to the pass, then runs down through coniferous forest into a wide, open, cultivated valley known as the Chumey valley and down into the Chhume Valley, home of Bhutan’s famous Yatra weaving. Here you will have a chance to browse the traditional textiles and perhaps see the weavers create their intricate handiwork. There will be occasional breaks along the journey to stretch your legs and take pictures. Rest of the day at leisure.
Accommodation : Bumthang for 3 nights
DAY 5 BUMTHANG (B/L/D)
Bumthang is the general name given to a group of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura, with altitudes varying from 2,600 to 4,000m (8,530-13,125ft). This area is home to many ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries.
Three Temples-Valley Walk: Start at Jambay Lhakhang which was built in the 7th century by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. It is one of 108 monasteries which he built to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Then continue to Kurjey Lhakhang, heading further into the valley through farmlands for half an hour. Kurjey Lhakhang comprises three temples. The one on the right was built in 1652 against the rock face where Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th century. The middle temple is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of the Guru’s body, and is therefore considered to be the most holy. Both Jambay and Kurjey Lhakhang are located on the left banks of Chamkhar Chhu (river). Continue the valley walk from Kurjey Lhakhang across a suspension bridge through small villages and farmlands.
Enjoy a traditional lunch at a farmhouse. You will be served a combination of the local Bumthap cuisine consisting of items made from buck wheat (which is widely grown in this region) and other Bhutanese dishes.
Continue walking towards Tamshing Lhakhang located across the river from Kurjey Lhakhang. This temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a re-incarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. There are very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple, which was restored at the end of the 19th century.
End the day with a visit to the Red Panda Beer Brewery and the Cheese Factory (Closed Sun & Govt. Holidays).
DAY 6 BUMTHANG (B/L/D)
Today you will further explore the Bumthang region with an excursion to the stunningly beautiful Tang Valley. The initial drive along the national highway takes you past beautiful meadows and pastures where you can spot sheep grazing. We then leave the highway and continue on a farm road up towards Tang valley. Although the farm road can be rough at times but this seldom visited valley offers a treat in revealing some off the beaten track monasteries and quaint villages. A short hike takes you up to Ogyencholing Manor, an ancient noble family home that has now been turned into a museum. A visit to this museum gives you a glimpse of the bygone way of life of the aristocrats.
On the way back, just below the main road junction visit Mebartsho (Burning lake), where the Terton Pema Lingpa, the reincarnation of Padmasambhava, is supposed to have discovered religious treasure in the 12th century. This lake is very sacred and is visited by many Bhutanese during auspicious days to offer butter lamps. The important of the site is indicated by the extensive array of prayer flags and is considered as one of the most holy places for Buddhist pilgrimage. Return to the hotel.
DAY 7 BUMTHANG- PUNAKHA (222KM/8 HOURS) (B/L/D
We will then drive on through the mountains and down to Punakha back tracking on the same highway travelled earlier. Enroute in Trongsa, visit Royal Heritage Museum on the hillside above the town, built as a watchtower to guard Trongsa. You will enjoy the trip as you work your way around this quaint watchtower and discover the history of the Monarchs through the numerous artifacts displayed here. (Closed Sat, Sun, Govt. Holidays)
Continue to Punakha. There will be occasional breaks along the journey to stretch your legs and take pictures. On arrival, to stretch your legs from the long journey, we will take a walk to Chimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to the “Divine Madman”, an eccentric monk from the 16th century famous for many his many amusing, Rabelaisian folklore stories. Check-in at the hotel.
Accommodation : Punakha for 1 night
DAY 8 PUNAKHA-PARO (130KM/4 HOURS) (B/L/D)
Morning, drive to Paro once again crossing over Dochu-la pass (3,088m).
Upon reaching Paro, visit the National Museum which showcases ancient Bhutanese art and artifacts, weapons, coins, stamps and a small natural history collection. (Closed on Govt. Holidays).
Rest of the day at leisure or stroll around Paro town to check out browse through the numerous handicraft and textile shops.
Accommodation : Paro for 2 nights
DAY 9 PARO (B/L/D)
Tiger’s Nest” monastery, most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, is spectacularly located on the side of a cliff 900m above the valley floor. It is said that in the 8th century Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress from eastern Bhutan to this place and meditated in a cave here for 3 months, hence its name, “Tiger’s Nest”. The principal temple of the present monastic complex dates from 1692. The main structure was severely damaged by fire in 1998, but after many years of painstaking restoration work, the complex has now been fully restored to its former glory. A pilgrimage to Taktsang is the dream of a lifetime for the devout.
DAY 10 DEPARTURE (B)
Breakfast at the hotel (depending on flight), then drive to the airport for flight to onward destination.
Notes: Please note that some of the sights/itinerary may change due to season, weather, national holidays, and special events. We maintain the rights to alter the itinerary since tours are made in advance and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve your overall travel experience in Bhutan. The driving and hiking times mentioned are approximate times and do not include breaks in the journey for sightseeing, photo/tea/meal/rest stops. During the treks/hikes, there may be delays or diversion of hiking trails due to trail conditions, inclement weather and other unforeseen circumstances.
HOTEL OPTIONS OR SIMILAR
Price based on one of the following accommodation or similar. Hotels will be confirmed at time of booking.
Tiger Nest Resort 3*
Peaceful residency 3*
River Valley 3*
Mountain Lodge (rustic mountain resort comparable to a 3*)
Samyae resort (Guest house)
Tsela Lodge (Guest house)
Rema Resort 3*