Bhutan: Nature & Culture for the Independent Traveller (8 - 21 Days)
Tours of Exploration has organizes journeys to Bhutan for 20 years. Let us customize your adventure to the Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom for culture, nature, spiritual, birding, or trekking.
Bhutan is a land filled with snow-capped peaks, glaciers, sparkling lakes, raging rivers, green terraced fields and flower-strewn valleys. Restrictions on the numbers of tourists help to preserve the country's natural assets and a way of life that has remained fiercely authentic for millennium. Visitors will see monasteries perched at the tops of mountain peaks, ancient Buddhist art and sculpture, dense forests and spectacular valleys in addition to community interactions in the land of Gross National Happiness.
2016 - 2017 Departure Dates and Costs
DAILY YEAR ROUND - SEE ALSO FESTIVAL TOURS
Tourism Bhutan's mandatory per diem fee US$ 250 per person per night for groups of 3 or more persons
This fee includes:
Road transportation in comfortable vans or micro-buses
Travel with a licensed professional guide
Singtseeing tours with entrance fees
Camping equipment and haulage for treks
Royalty paid to support educational and social programs
SAVE $ 50 per person per night for departures during December, January, February, June, July & August
$ 40 USD Visa fee additional
AIRFARE from Bangkok or Delhi approx $ 825 USD. Air also available from Singapore and Kolkata.
Extensions in Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkhim, India and Thailand are available and will be handled on an individual basis.
Suggested 10 day Itinerary
DAY 1 BANGKOK/PARO/THIMPU (L,D)
Morning flight into Paro, Bhutan from Bangkok or Delhi. On this flight, you can see breathtaking views of the Great Himalayas. Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be welcomed to the Kingdom by your guide. Lunch served in Paro. After lunch drive to Thimphu 2 - 3 hours. The drive from Paro to Thimphu is spectacularly scenic. Magnificent monasteries and stupas in the valleys and mountaintops. Overnight Thimphu Hotel Pedling located in the center of town. Orientation talk and introduction video show on Bhutan with tea and snacks.
DAY 2 THIMPU (B,L,D)
Full day of sightseeing. Some of the highlights of Thimphu include:
- Visit the weekly Thimphu market
- Change money at the Bhutan National Bank
- Purchase world's most beautiful postage stamps
- Visit the arts and crafts school and the Traditional Medicine Institute
- Visit Memorial Chorten to honor memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied stupa that will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism.
- Observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia
- Visit Botanical garden (Zoo) where one can see Yak and Takin, the National wild animal of Bhutan
- Drive up to viewpoint and take a hike beyond to see the clear picture of Thimphu Valley
- Downtown Thimphu on foot visiting Handicrafts Emporium and other Arts & Crafts stores. Buy stunning kiras which can be used and bed covers or wall decoration, jewelry's and many more
DAY 3 THIMPU/WANGDI (B,L,D)
Morning sightseeing in Thimphu. Lunch and a 3-hour drive will take you across Dochula Pass (10,500 feet) to the valley of Wangdi Phodrang. Check in at Gangtey hotel located in a beautiful spot overlooking the whole Paro Valley.
DAY 4 EXCURSION TO GANGTEY & PHOBJIKHA VALLEY (B,L,D)
After breakfast drive to Gangtey and Phobjikha valley. Phobjikha valley has been declared as the first eco-tourism destination of Bhutan by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN). The valley falls under the Black Mountain Natural Park. Phobjikha valley is the winter home to rare and endangered black necked cranes (grus nigricllis), which migrate, in large flocks to Bhutan from Tibet & Sikang, Yunnan and Tonkin in eastern China. For centuries the cranes have captured the human imagination with their intelligence, poise, sociality, beauty and freedom, which have given rise to several myths, legends, folktales and songs. In 1998 there were about 250 cranes and the numbers are increasing. Although the cranes fly back to their summer homes in mid - late February, there may be a couple of birds that have not yet flown to their summer homes in Tibet and China. There are lots of other wild animals in the surrounding valleys like wild boar, barking deer, Himalayan black bear, red fox, leopard and many species of birds. Also included are visits to the Nature Education center, the carpet factory and the Sacred Gangtey Monastery, which dominates the valley. Overnight
DAY 5 TO TRONGSA (B,L,D)
Tongsa is the ancestral home of Bhutan's Royal Family. Both the First and Second King ruled the Kingdom from this ancient seat. All the Kings of Bhutan has to become Tongsa Penlop (Honorary post of Governor) prior to being crowned as the Druk Gyalpo (King of Bhutan). Tongsa Dzong (fort), one of the largest in the country was first built is 1648 and later enlarged many times. Because of being situated on a highly commanding position on the only connecting route between the eastern and western sectors (where trail actually runs through the Dzong), the Tongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of eastern region very effectively for many centuries. Visit the ancient watch tower (Ta Dzong), which is situated just above the town. A half-day drive down of the town to till Kuenga Rabten, the Winter Palace of Second King, Jigme Wangchuck. The Palace is under the care of Special Commission for Cultural Affairs and it gives an intimate insight into the early days of Bhutanese Monarchy. Alongside the road are beautiful terraces of rice. We will continue south into the tropical area to watch for birds and some other wild animals like Golden Langurs. Overnight Trongsa
DAY 6 TRONGSA/BUMTHANG (JAKAR) (B,L,D)
The drive to Bumthang takes 2-3 hrs. Tales of the great Guru Padmasambhava dominates this holy valley. View the Jakar Dzong "The Castle of White Bird". A stop will be made on the way in the Chumey Valley where one can see girls weaving Yatha the traditional woollen material used for different purpose on a traditional handloom. The finished products are all displayed in a shop and outside in open for sale. Lunch at the hotel. Overnight Jakar Village Lodge.
DAY 7 BUMTHANG (B,L,D)
Different from all the other valleys in Bhutan, Bumthang is very spacious and open ranging in altitude from 2,600m to 4,000m. Bumthang is a heaven for hikers and trekkers, not to mention the numerous beautiful and important Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites, making it the Cultural and Historic center of Bhutan. One could spend months exploring this fascinating valley. Almost every little valley or hill has a background of interesting myths and legends about Kings, Buddhist masters and Serpents. Bumthang is combined of four main valleys, Chumey, Tang, Ura and Choskhor (Jakar). Commonly known as Jakar valley where you can see a little bit of modern touch with Swiss Influences. Visits to the important cultural and historic sites in the special valley.
DAY 8 BUMTHANG/PUNAKHA (B,L,D)
Drive to Punakha. Overnight Zangdopelri Hotel.
DAY 9 PUNAKHA/PARO (B,L,D)
Punakha was the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. Punakha Dzong, which dominates the whole area, was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, and established the central monastic body with 600 monks. Today, Punakha is still the home for Je Khempo (Chief Abbot) and the central monastic body. Punakha Dzong is undergoing major re-construction after it was destroyed by fire in 1986. You can see the craftsman at work. It is one of the most impressive Dzongs in the country. Also drive through the Wangdi Valley to look for langurs, birds and other wildlife. In the afternoon drive to Paro. Overnight at Kychu Resort.
DAY 10 PARO (B)
Morning optional trip to Taktsang Monastery viewpoint. Taktsang, meaning "Tiger's nest," is built around a cave in which Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhawa) mediated, clings seemingly impossible to a cliff of rock at 3,000 feet above the valley floor. For the local people it is a place of pilgrimage, but for a tourist, a hike up to the viewpoint opposite the monastery is exhausting, thrilling and mystical. The legend has it that Guru Rimpoche is said to have flown to the site of the monastery on the back of a tigress from Tibet and meditated in the cave there for three months. Although the main building of the temple was destroyed by fire on 19 April 1998, the hike up to the viewpoint is still worth a visit once in a lifetime. The reconstruction work is nearly complete. Options for walking or travel by horses is included. In the afternoon transfer to the airport for the departure flight.
EXTENSIONS IN BHUTAN, NEPAL, TIBET, SIKKIM & THAILAND ARE AVAILABLE ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS
A deposit of $ 800 is required to secure this trip. The balance is due 60 days prior to departure.
ACCESS TO BHUTAN: Druk Air, the national carrier, flies into Paro from Bangkok (daily), Delhi (2 flights a week), Kolkata (4 flights a week), Singapore (2 flights a week). We will provide the air tickets on Druk Air as well as the arrangements for the necessary Pre-Visa requirements.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Any individual or group visiting Bhutan must obtain a Visa. Visa fee $ 40. It is necessary to submit the visa application two months in advance. Tours of Exploration will make the necessary arrangements to obtain your visa. Independent travel in Bhutan is forbidden.