Views, Valleys, and Visions

The nature and legends of Buddhist Bhutan
Overview

overview

Experience the scenery and cultural majesty of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. This non-trekking Bhutan tour will take you deep into the kingdom, from Paro to the remote  Phobjika Valley. You’ll appreciate Bhutan’s remarkable location deep within the Himalayan Range. You will get to know your guide well and appreciate his Buddhist hospitality, knowledge of his country and strong Buddhist ideals.  Visit famous Tiger's Nest Monastery built into a sheer mountain face 3,000 feet above Paro and the fabled Punakha Valley, home of the Khumsum Yuele Chorten Temple.  This trip is the closest thing to a secret path that takes you well beyond the sites on shorter tours and reveals Bhutan's exceptional scenic, cultural, and mythological character. It is the easiest way to go back in time without requiring arduous hiking or camping.

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrive Paro/Drive to Thimphu
    Savor the imposing Himalayas on your flight to Paro

    Fly into Paro, enjoying extraordinary views of the Himalayas (arrival dates into Paro may vary according to city of origin). The landing in Paro is dramatic, on the single runway at the bottom of a long valley with snowy peaks on either side. Drive about an hour to Thimphu and savor the serenity of Bhutan and the opportunity to converse with your guide. The afternoon and evening are free to rest or walk around Thimphu (7,656’). This is the world’s only capital city without traffic lights. In sports fields, men and women love to practice archery, the national sport. Note the traditional dress: kiras, long wrap-around dresses, for women, and ghos, knee-length robes, for men. Here, the modern meets the medieval. There are automobiles and storefronts, but a few blocks from the main street, farmers are still plowing with oxen, and bright red chili peppers are drying on rooftops. Roads quickly become footpaths as they lead up steep mountainsides.

    Lodging: Bhutanese style lodge. Expect modern Western style bath and toilet, hot water, electricity, and colorful tantric Buddhist-themed decor. Possible internet access in lobby. Upgrades to luxury accommodations in Bhutan are available for about $300-$1000 more per room/per night.

     

    Meals
    Dinner
    Lodging
    Bhutanese style lodge
    Show on a map
  • Day 2: Thimpu
    Explore the Thimphu Valley

    There are many choices of activities today. Thimphu is the site of many national institutions which preserve history and perpetuate the pursuit of Gross National Happiness as a national goal. You may want to visit the Folk Heritage Museum, National Library of Ancient Texts, National Textile Museum, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Royal Academy of Performing Arts, or one of several traditional artist-training programs.

    Visit Tashichho Dzong, built in 1216 and completely renovated between 1962 and 1969 without the use of nails or written plans. Also visit Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Bliss), an active monastery with 500 monks. Earn a fantastic view at Changangkha Lhakhang, an old fortress temple and monastic school perched on a ridge above Thimphu.

    Not far from Thimphu, there are numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Depending on your fitness and ambition, you can choose some combination of auto and hiking to visit one or more of them and possibly observe some ceremonial activity.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Bhutanese style lodge
    Show on a map
  • Day 3: Thimphu/Punakha
    Punakha Monastery

    Today’s estimated three hour drive takes you to Punakha. 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 is even today 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, kingfishers, lapwing, ibis, shell duck, and cormorant, which all migrate in the winter. The rest of your day is free to relax.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Bhutanese style lodge
    Show on a map
  • Day 4: Punakaha/Trongsa
    Hike through colorful rhododendron forests

    In the morning, visit the Punakha Dzong, followed by the Khe-mi Lhakhang, built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley in the 15th century. The legend says that the lama subdued an evil spirit that appeared half human and half dog. Khe means dog and Mi means human. The temple is a short hike from the road through paddy fields and villages. You also visit the newly-built temple of Khumsum Yuele Chorten, built for the crown prince by the queen mother. The temple is built on a ridge of a mountain overlooking the Punakha valley, reached on a one-hour gradual uphill hike through fields and pine forests. Afterward, drive about five and a half hours across the Pele La region. Along the way you can see many different species of rhododendrons in bloom (April and May only) and many other plants. Trongsa (7,596') 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 still traditionally, the crown prince has to take the position of governor before he takes the seat of the throne. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular for miles. This afternoon, visit the Kuenga Rabten village where you can visit the waterfall. Just above the king's second palace is a nunnery where hundreds of nuns practice Buddhism.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Bhutanese style lodge
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: Trongsa/Jakar (Bumthang)
    Bumthang Valley

    In the morning, visit the imposing Trongsa Dzong (exterior only), ancestral home of Bhutan's royal family and an impressive work of traditional Bhutanese architecture. It was built in 1648 by Chhoyje Minjur Temple, a well-trusted follower of Shabdrung. You then visit Ta Dzong from where there are wonderful views. After lunch, drive to Jakar (approx. 3 hr drive - 9,184'), the major trading center of the region. Overnight at a local lodge.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Bhutanese style lodge
    Show on a map
  • Day 6: Jakar (Bumthang)

    After breakfast, visit a few of the local sites such as the Jakar Dzong, said to be the largest in Bhutan overlooking the Choskhor Valley, and Lamey Goemba, a large palace and monastery built as a residence for King Ugyen Wangchuk. If you are interested, you may want to stop to see the Vegetable Dye Project, which produces traditional vegetable dyes for use in cotton thread and raw silk production. Continue on to Ura, the highest of Bumthang's valleys and considered to be one of the holiest valleys in Bhutan. Here you will enjoy seeing the closely-packed houses along cobblestone streets which give this town its medieval atmosphere. Return to Jakar for your overnight.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Bhutanese style lodge
    Show on a map
  • Day 7: Jakar/Phobjika Valley
    Dewachen Lodge

    Today's drive is about six hours to the Phobjika Valley (9,800'), a designated conservation area and one of the most important wildlife preserves in Bhutan. Some of the wildlife you might see are barking deer, wild boars, Himalayan black bears, and even leopards if you are lucky enough to spot one. You stop at Gangtey Village and visit the Gangtey Gompa, a monastery that dates back to the 17th century. This Gompa overlooks the Phobjika Valley, and its complex includes monk quarters, medition centers, a school, and small hotel. The Phobjika Valley provides some wonderful short hiking and exploration opportunities. It is also the perfect place to relax and enjoy the scenery. Overnight at the beautiful Dewachen Resort (pending availability).

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Dewachen Resort or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: Phobjika Valley/Paro
    Explore the small town of Paro

    After a leisure breakfast, make the estimated six hour drive to Paro.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Bhutanese style lodge
    Show on a map
  • Day 9: Paro
    Make the hike up to Tatksang Monastery

    There are a variety of options for today. If you want to learn more about Buddhism, archaeology, and history consider touring Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the most impressive dzongs in all Bhutan, a large Drukpa Kagyu Buddhist Monastery and fortress housing the monastic body and government offices. From here, there are famous views of the wooden covered bridge known as Nyamai Zam. Enjoy the fantastic architecture of Ugyen Pelri Thang Palace (the residence of the Queen Mother) from the outside and fine temples including Druk Choeding, built in 1525, and Dumtse Lhakhang, built in 1433. Ta Dzong, in the shape of a conch shell, contains a superb collection of ancient and modern religious Thangka paintings. The most classic half-day hike in Bhutan is the climb to famous Tiger’s Nest (Tatksang) Monastery on the side of a cliff almost 2,500 feet above the Paro valley. You can make the estimated two to three hour hike up to the monastery, ride a pony most of the way up, or view the site from the road. From Tiger’s Nest, drive to the ruins of Drugyel Dzong for spectacular views of Mount Chomolhari. You might also stop at Kyichu Lhakang, one of the oldest and most beautiful temples in Bhutan, thought to have been built in 659 by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet.

    If your schedule allows you to spend another day in Bhutan, we recommend visiting the ancient Haa Valley. Occupied since before the sixth century, but first opened to foreigners in 2002, this area remains largely undeveloped and infrequently visited by tourists. Visit the Haa Dzong and the surrounding monasteries. This is an especially good option if the weather is clear; the ridge you cross between Paro and Haahas offers some of the best mountain views in this part of Bhutan.

     

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Dewachen Resort or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 10: Paro/Onward

    In the morning, transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    None
    Show on a map
Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Apr 14-23, 2015
Oct 13-22, 2015
Or Privately on Request
Land Cost:
$3,450
- $3,850
Group size 2-3 cost: $3850 Group size 4+ cost: $3450 Druk Air fares to/from Paro add $550-1,000 (estimate)
Single Supplement:
$300
The single supplement is applicable if a roommate is not available or if single accommodation is specifically requested. While single accommodation is not available on all trips, we will try and honor this request whenever possible.
Need to Know

Need to Know

Druk Air operates on a “daylight restricted” basis only and is totally dependent on weather. Therefore, flights can sometimes be delayed. It is highly recommended that passenger’s allow at least 24 hours transit time for connecting flights from Bangkok, Kathmandu, or Delhi. It is also recommended that you travel on non-restricted tickets so that if a connection is missed, it can be rerouted or endorsed onto another carrier.

This itinerary may require amending due to Druk Air schedules, which are subject to change.

Duration:
10 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost.
Comfort Level:
2
Bhutanese style hotels
Group Size:
2-12
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
2
Rough mountain roads

Terms & Conditions: 

Standard

Included in costs: Meals as noted, each night in double occupancy accommodations, land transfers between components, English speaking guides, park or site entry fees, surface transport, equipment other than personal gear, government tax, airport transfer assistance, in-country ticket reconfirmation and check-in assistance (where permitted), complete pre-departure packet, toll-free pre-departure phone assistance.

Not included in costs: Meals not noted as included, gratuities, beverages (except tea or coffee at meals), international or domestic airfare unless specified, airport departure taxes not included with air tickets, visas, itinerary changes after confirmation, any services not included in itinerary, any costs incurred due to canceled or delayed flights, acts of nature or other happenings beyond our control, or other costs as are more fully described in JOURNEYS Terms & Conditions.

Deposit and payment schedule: $500 per person per trip or the applicable amount based on the trip and the proximity of the departure date. A second deposit of $800 per person is due four months prior to departure, and final payment for land arrangements is due 60 days prior to departure.  Any applicable permit fees required in advance are non-refundable as well.  Airlines require full payment when tickets are issued. The deposit may be made by Visa, Master Card, American Express, or check, and the Reservation Form may be submitted by fax, mail, or via our website. Full payment schedule and cancellation penalties are described in our Terms and Conditions as noted in our Global Expedition Catalog, on our website, and elsewhere. Please request these if you do not have them before advancing a deposit.

Air fares: JOURNEYS can make complete air arrangements applicable to your trip as noted in this itinerary. If you wish to redeem frequent flyer mileage or arrange flights directly with the airline, you may do so on your own at no penalty. If you do, please consult with us on exact arrival and departure dates and times before having your tickets issued to avoid errors.

Insurance: When you make your application, we strongly recommend the purchase of comprehensive travel insurance in case of emergency situations. Please contact us for a recommended policy.

Itinerary Change Fee: There will be a $40 fee for changes once an itinerary has been confirmed and approved. Additional cancellation penalties or change fees may apply as per our terms and conditions. The passenger is responsible for such fees.

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

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Dhulikhel Lodge Visit

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Lovely lodge with traditional architecture, private gardens and panoramic views; village and short treks nearby.

Bangkok Hospitality

Duration: 3 days

If you are passing through Bangkok and want more than a transit stop, ask for our three day/two night Bangkok Hospitality Extension. We meet you at the airport and transfer you to an attractive centrally located hotel. This extension also includes y... read more

Phuket

Duration: 4 days

Phuket is the largest of Thailand's islands. It is incredibly varied with rocky beaches, long broad sandy beaches, forested hills, and clear waters great for snorkeling and relaxing. There is no better way to end a trip!

Kathmandu Hospitality

Duration: 3 days

2 hotel nights with breakfast, 2 airport transfers, Kathmandu sight-seeing, ticket reconfirmation and assistance with any necessary trekking permits.

Angkor Wat 3-Day Odyssey

Duration: 3 days

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Angkor Wat 5-Day Odyssey

Duration: 5 days

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Delhi Hospitality Package

Duration: 3 days

Visit Delhi before or after any Journeys Asia tour.

Chitwan National Park

Duration: 3 days

Chitwan National Park is probably the world’s best habitat for the rare Bengal Tiger and the One-horned Rhinoceros. Ride elephants in search of these animals and the hundreds of other animals and birds found here. Almost 700 sq. miles of lush rive... read more

Bangkok Exploration

Duration: 1 days

Accompanied by your personal guide you will meet exotic, ancient, enigmatic Bangkok head-on. After completing this multi-transport, mobile cultural immersion seminar, you should be able to go anywhere in Bangkok by train, ferry, sky-train, taxi or tu... read more

River Kwai & Erawan National Park

Duration: 4 days

This extension gives you a mixed variety of history and nature. You begin by exploring along the River Kwai stopping at important historical sites. You then travel to Erawan National Park, a unique and rugged landscape of high elevation plateau and s... read more

Ko Samui

Duration: 4 days

Relax and explore the beautiful island of Ko Samui. A perfect extension to any Asia tour.

Thimphu- Paro Cultural

Duration: 4 days

This trip extends for an additional four days of extraordinary sightseeing in these two largest towns of Bhutan. Walk around Paro and savor the feeling of a country that seems to be existing in an earlier century. From the dress of the people to the... read more

Nepal Chitwan and Everest

Duration: 6 days

Fly to Kathmandu for a quick taste of the high Himalayas and the fabulous Chitwan National Park where we will take elephant back safaris into the most famous tiger reserve in Nepal. We will also get a close up look at Mt Everest from a special flight... read more

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