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adventure travel trip to Bhutan
Experience the full color and spiritual drama of Bhutan.
  • Oct 1-12, 2014
  • Sep 16-27, 2015
  • Duration 12 days
    Group Size 4-12
    Land Cost $3,950 Details
    Single Supplement $300
    Lodging 2 stars
    Grade I-II
    Best Time

    Fall Festivals of Bhutan

    Celebrating the harvests of the full moon with traditional dance and pageantry

    Day 1      Arrive Paro

    Fly to Paro from Bangkok, Delhi, or Kathmandu (arrival dates into Paro may vary according to city of origin). During this journey, you will experience breathtaking views of the Himalayan range, including Mt. Jichu Drak and Chomolhari. After your arrival in Paro, you will be welcomed by your guide at the airport and then transferred to your hotel, where you will have a briefing by your guide. You will have the afternoon and evening free to rest or walk around Paro (7,380 ft.) and savor the feeling of a country that seems to exist in an earlier century. From the dress of the people to the traditional architecture, you know you are in a different kind of place than exists anywhere else on earth. You will be amazed at the fresh, clean air, and peaceful environment.

    Meals: Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel

    Your adventure begins on your flight in, with amazing Himalayan views
    Day 2      Paro

    Spend a full day on a guided tour of Paro including the Drugyel Dzong, now in ruins, built to commemorate the victory of war against the Tibetan invasion. Afterward, visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the holiest and oldest temples in Bhutan. This temple, built in the seventh century A.D., dates back to the time of the Tibetan King Songsten Gampo. You also visit the National Museum and the Paro Rimpung Dzong, both very unique and beautiful structures. The museum houses an exceptional collection of art and ceremonial objects. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel

    Bhutanese architecture
    Day 3      Paro/Thimphu

    Enjoy a morning hike to Taktsang, (10,240') the famous "Tiger's Nest" Monastery, a very sacred monastery built in the 17th century in memory of Guru Rimpoche. The monastery was rebuilt after a disastrous fire in April 1998. This is a fairly vigorous hike, and the trail may be a bit muddy. If you are unable to make the hike, we can hire a pony for you to ride, or you can view the monastery from the road below. After lunch, drive about two hours to Thimphu (7,656') for your overnight. Thimphu is a charming town that sits in the heart of the Himalayas. Thimphu's development is strictly monitored and buildings cannot exceed a certain height, nor can they be designed in anything but the traditional Bhutanese style.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel

    Hike up to otherworldly Taktsang (photo by D.J. McLaughlin)
    Day 4      Thimphu Festival

    Enjoy the colorful dances of the Thimphu Tsechu Festival. This is a festival in honor of Guru Rimpoche and is highlighted by 12 events of the Buddha Sakyamuni's life. The dances are performed by monks as well as lay people taking on the aspects of wrathful and compassionate deities, heroes, demons, and animals.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel

    Take in the color and pageantry of the festival
    Day 5      Thimphu/Punakha

    In the morning, visit Thimphu's local sights such as the National Library, established in 1967 to preserve many ancient Dzongkha and Tibetan texts, Tashicho Dzong, the main Secretariat building, and Zelukha Nunnery.  Afterwards, make the estimated three to four hour drive (about 50 mi) to Punakha (3,936'). Blessed with temperate climate and fed by the Pho-chu (male) and Mo-chu (female) rivers, Punakha is the most fertile valley in the country.  Until 1955, Punakha served as the capital and today is the winter seat of Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and central monk body. The Punakha Dzong was built at the confluence of the Pho-chu and Mo-chu Rivers in 1638 by Shabdrung and renovated from 1994-2003 with detailed arts and crafts. Punakha is also home to many different types of Himalayan birds, including the heron, kingfisher, lapwing, ibis bill, shell duck, and cormorant, which all migrate in the winter.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel or lodge

    Take in the Punakha Dzong (photo by Steve Evans)
    Day 6      Punakha/Trongsa

    In the morning, visit Punakha Dzong, the second of Bhutan's dzongs, which served as the seat of the government for many years. Today's drive will be about five and a half hours (85 mi) across the Pele La (10,930') region to Trongsa (7,596'). Along the way you can see many different species of rhododendrons in bloom (April and May only) and many other plants. Trongsa forms the central hub of the nation and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country were launched. It is from here the first monarchy was elected and the crown prince still traditionally takes the position of governor before he takes the seat of the throne. The landscape for many miles around Trongsa is spectacular. This afternoon, visit the Kuenga Rabten village and its waterfall. Just above the king's second palace, there is a nunnery where hundreds of nuns practice Buddhism. Overnight at a hotel in Trongsa.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel or lodge

    See explosions of rhododendron blooms in the spring
    Day 7      Trongsa/Bumthang (Jakar)

    After breakfast, visit Ta-Dzong, the most impressive dzong in the kingdom and possibly one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture. Afterwards, you will drive to Jakar, the major trading center of this region. If you have time, you may wish to walk along the road in the beautiful surroundings for part of the way. This estimated three-hour drive will be across the Yotong-La Pass at an altitude of 11,685 feet and down the Chumey valley until you finally arrive in Jakar (9,184'). In the afternoon, visit the Jakar Dzong, built in 1667. The dzong itself may not be as impressive as other dzongs throughout Bhutan as there are few carvings or paintings, but the views overlooking the Chokhor Valley are spectacular. There are plenty of hiking opportunities while in Bumthang. Overnight at a Bhutanese-style lodge.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel or lodge

    Admire traditional Bhutanese architecture
    Day 8      Bumthang

    After breakfast you will visit the sites around Bumthang, including the Namkhe Nyingpo Goemba Monastery, built in the 1970s with over 300 monks residing there. In the Chokhor Valley, there are opportunities for hiking and visits to interesting sites and monasteries, including the monastic school of Sey Lhakhang, which holds about 25 students; Jampey Lhakhang, though to have been built in 659 by the Tibetan king Songsten Gampo in order to subdue a Tibetan demoness; Charkhar Lhakang (Iron Castle), originally a palace made of iron in the eighth century; Kurjey Lhakhang, a large and important temple complex containing the preserved body of Guru Rinpoche; the yellow-roofed Thangbi Goemba, founded in 1470; Ngang Lhakhang, which is several hours walk up the Chokhor Chhu and contains some impressive statues and paintings; Tamshing Goemba, the most important Nyingma goemba in the country; and Konchogsum Lhakhang, built in the sixth or seventh century but renovated in 1995, making it appear new. At Tang Valley, the most remote valley in the Bumthang region where sheep and yaks are raised, you can visit Membartsho (Burning Lake), a picturesque pool and a relaxing place to spend some time meditating. There is also Kunzangdrak Goemba, which is a difficult, one-hour hike uphill if you enjoy the challenge. The Ogyen Chholing Palace is another 45-minute climb uphill, but has an interesting collection of studies and research offering insight into the lifestyle of a Bhutanese noble family. Alternatively, you can make the 1.5-hour drive to Ura, the highest valley in Bumthang, and probably one of the most interesting villages in Bhutan. Here you will enjoy seeing the closely-packed houses along cobblestone streets, which give this town its medieval atmosphere.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel or lodge

    Explore monasteries, villages, and valleys on this activity-filled day
    Day 9      Bumthang Festival

    You spend the day witnessing the Bumthang Festival at Tamshing Monastery. The festival is celebrated in honor of Pema Lingpa, and you will have the rare opportunity to watch the mask dances performed by the monks of the monastery. This is a much smaller monastery and festival than the one you saw in Thimphu, but the monk-dancers are spirited and the setting is wonderful. During your stay, you may also be able to see a Thangkha unveiling at another monastery.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel or lodge

    Take in the color and excitement of the Bumthang Festival
    Day 10      Bumthang/Gangtey

    In the morning you depart for Gangtey (approx. 6 hr drive - 9,845'), a beautiful valley located near Phobjikha Valley, winter home to the black-neck cranes that migrate here. This area is particularly a great place to take a walk. Overnight in Gangtey.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel or lodge

    See small towns on your drive to Trongsa
    Day 11      Gangtey/Paro

    After breakfast, visit Gangtey Gompa, a monastery that dates back to the 17th century and overlooks the Phobjika Valley. Its complex includes monks' quarters, meditation centers, a school, and a small hotel. Afterwards, return to Paro for your overnight (approx. 6 hr drive). The rest of the day is free to do some last minute shopping or exploring places you want to see again.

    Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging: Bhutanese style hotel

    Explore Paro on your last night in Bhutan
    Day 12      Paro/Onward

    Transfer to the airport for your flight back to Bangkok.

    Meals: Breakfast
    Lodging: None

    Bid farewell to this enchanting land

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