Bhutan: Journey Through a Himalayan Kingdom

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Tour Description

Bhutan adventure travel is the experience of a lifetime. In a country where they’ve adopted the concept of Gross National Happiness and where snowcapped peaks are set off by ornate temples and colorful houses, we journey where few travelers have gone before. Your Himalayas expedition includes nature hikes, interactions with local people, and wildlife viewing—glimpse the Himalayan black bear and the black-necked cranes from Tibet. This is a pilgrimage back in time to places where determined people live close to the heavens and keep their traditions alive.

Bhutan and Himalayas Expedition Highlights:

  • Visit Tiger’s Nest in the Paro Valley; this is the site of the most famous of the country’s monasteries and a must on any Himalayan tour.
  • A hallmark of Himalayan adventure travel, a hike through Phobjikha Valley to see muntjak (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, and more.
  • Spend a full day in Timphu, the main residence of the king, including the National Library, Textile and Folk Heritage Museum, and Takin Nature Preserve.
  • Meet the hearty local people who preserve the age-old traditions of Bhutanese life.
  • Time at the beginning and end of your Bhutan tour to explore Bangkok and its many treasures.

When you travel with Zegrahm Expeditions virtually everything is included in the cost of your Bhutan tour:

  • All accommodations and meals with the group
  • Daily activity options, from nature hikes to temple visits
  • All gratuities, from porters to tour guides
  • Company of an experienced expedition leader throughout
  • All transfers on the group arrival and departure days
  • Welcome briefing to get acquainted and get a good sense of what’s to come
  • All park fees and permits
  • Comprehensive pre-departure packet to prepare you for your trip, with everything from currency information and weather to local customs and a packing list to prepare you for your Himalayas expedition
  • Medical and emergency evacuation insurance
  • Dedicated program manager and air coordinator to answer all of your questions

Itinerary

Day 1-2

Depart USA / Bangkok, Thailand

Depart on your independent flight to Bangkok. Arrive late the next day and transfer to the Peninsula Hotel for two nights.

Day 3

Bangkok

After breakfast and a short orientation, explore Bangkok at your leisure and enjoy lunch and dinner on your own.

Day 4

Bangkok / Thimphu, Bhutan

Depart this morning on your flight to Paro and then drive to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital and largest city. After lunch we get a good sense of Bhutanese politics and religion as we tour the Thimphu Dzong. If time permits, we visit the handicraft emporium where we have the opportunity to shop for masks, jewelry, and hand-woven textiles and carpets. Dinner and overnight at Namgay Heritage Hotel.

Day 5

Thimphu / Punakha Valley

After a scenic drive over Dochu-la Pass to the Punakha Valley, we check into the Zangto Pelri Hoteland enjoy lunch. This afternoon we visit the Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness,” and a masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. Hikers may opt to walk to Chimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to fertility and built by Lama Drupka Kunley. One of Bhutan’s favorite saints, he’s nicknamed “The Divine Madman,” for his eccentric behavior (and uncharacteristic sexual exploits). Childless women make pilgrimages to the temple to be blessed by a symbolic phallus; these can also be seen adorning Bhutanese homes to protect them from evil spirits and to promote fertility. Dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Day 6

Punakha Valley / Chussomza

After breakfast we have a choice of activities—a short hike to Khamsung Yuely Namgyal Temple, or a visit to the local school and farmhouses for intimate one-on-one experiences with the locals. A perfect example of Bhutan’s fine architectural and artistic traditions, the Khamsung Yuely Namgyal Temple is devoted to the well-being of the kingdom (and also affords the best views of the Punakha Valley). We recharge over lunch which could consist of the delicious Ema-Datse (chili-cheese) and red rice—a famous Bhutanese specialty found throughout the country. After lunch, continue to the Chussomza Valley, stopping en route to visit the local market and photograph the beautiful Wangdiphodrang Dzong. Overnight at the Kyichu Resort.

Day 7

Chussomza / Phobjika Valley

This morning we depart for the glacial-carved Phobjika Valley, making a stop at Gangtey Goemba, an impressive Buddhist monastery overlooking the verdant valley below. Following check-in and lunch at the Dewachen Lodge, we walk to the Crane Information Center to learn about the black-necked cranes that migrate to the valley from Tibet in the winter. We also explore a nearby village, all the while indulging in the dramatic scenery and fresh mountain air.

Day 8

Phobjika Valley / Chussomza

At nearly 11,000 feet, Pelila Pass is a breathtaking starting point from which to begin our descent into the Phobjika Valley. For those who are interested in stretching their legs, we embark on a downhill six-mile hike which gives us a chance to view this designated conservation area’s vast array of wildlife. In addition to the black-neck cranes, it is home to muntjak (barking deer), wild boar, sambar, Himalayan black bear, leopard, and red fox. Alternatively, you may wish to expand your knowledge of the history and culture by paying a visit to resident families, learning more about the customs and traditions of the Bhutanese. After lunch we make our way back to Chussomza.

Day 9

Chussomza / Thimphu

After breakfast we depart for Thimphu. En route we stop for a stroll at the Royal Botanical Garden near Dochu-la. Keep an eye out for resident birds as we wander colorful trails lined with numerous species of rhododendron. After lunch we continue over Dochu-la Pass to Thimphu and check in to the Namgay Heritage Hotel. Tour Bhutan’s capital this afternoon.

Day 10

Thimphu

Today we have a full day to explore Thimphu, the main residence of the king, and its environs. Among today’s highlights are the Changangkha Lhakhang temple and monastic school established in the 12th century, and the Zilukha nunnery, one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan. A short drive to the Takin Nature Preserve allows us to gaze at the intriguing national animal which is a cross between a goat and antelope. Other cultural attractions include the National Library, Folk Heritage Museum, and Institute of Traditional Medicine, where traditional medicines are prepared according to ancient practices. At the Changzamto Weaving Center we have the opportunity to witness some of the best weavers in the country practice their craft.

Day 11

Thimphu / Paro

For those who are up to the challenge, we set out for a full-day trek to Tiger’s Nest. Perched on a cliff above the Paro Valley, it is the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries. This is the site where Guru Padmasambhava, who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan, meditated in a cave for three months in the 8th century. A wonderful hike, coupled with dramatic scenery and the melodic murmur of chanting monks, is an expedition highlight. Less strenuous options for this day include strolling the town of Paro, exploring the art galleries, handicraft shops, tea houses, and temples, or simply relaxing at our hotel and spa. Dinner and overnight at Zhiwa Ling Hotel, a stunning guesthouse that combines authentic Bhutanese architecture with 21st-century amenities.

Day 12

Paro

Our last full day in Bhutan includes a short walk to the ruins of the Drukyul Dzong, which once defended this valley from Tibetan invasions. We visit Ta Dzog, the watchtower of the Paro Dzong that houses the National Museum; Rinpung Dzong; and Kycihu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of Bhutan built in the 7th century. We make our way over to the base of the dzong, to one of the innumerable archery grounds. If we are lucky we may catch a match in action. We conclude our day with a farewell dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Day 13

Paro / Bangkok, Thailand

Depart this morning on your flight from Paro to Bangkok. Upon arrival we transfer to our hotel. Enjoy lunch on your own and afternoon at leisure, followed by dinner and overnight at the Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Day 14

Bangkok / USA

After breakfast at our hotel, depart for the airport for your independent flights homeward.

Departures

Pricing Information

Land-based Accommodations

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Tour Notes

Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers.