Restrictions on the numbers of tourists allowed to visit Bhutan have helped preserve the country's natural assets and a way of life that has remained unchanged for millennia. Visitors will see monasteries perched at the tops of mountain peaks, ancient Buddhist art and sculpture, dense forests and spectacular valleys. Much of Bhutan remains unexplored. Bhutan is a land filled with snow-capped peaks, glaciers, sparkling lakes, raging rivers, green terraced fields and flower-strewn valleys.
Our past trip participants have expressed an overwhelming pleasure from their journey to what is perhaps the world's most exclusive tourist destination – Bhutan. The Royal Government's policy of environmental preservation has left a country unspoiled and pristine. Its severe restrictions on inbound visitors coupled with the honour of never being colonized has kept ancient lifestyle and traditions intact. The Bhutanese emit an inward and exterior peace that make visitors feel warm and welcome.
2021 Departure Dates and Costs
Nature, Culture and Birding - a signature trip with company owner Catherine Evans and local escort Duptho Rinzin and Bhutanese sites guides
March 20 - April 4, 2021* date might be adjusted slightly (travelling overland from Paro to Samdrop Jongkar)
Tour Cost: $4,100 USD per person (16 days)
Early bookings essential - 2 spaces remaining
Single Supplement $ 45 per night if single room is requested.
$ 40 Visa fee additional
2022 Departure Dates and Costs - tba
For 30 years, Catherine Evans has applied a mission of “enriching lives through nature & cultural travel” achieving this by linking conscientious travelers to like-minded hosts in remote destinations on all seven continents. She has been involved with many innovative projects that earned recognition including an Ecoliteracy Field School; a multi-disciplined arts retreat in the wilderness; volunteerism projects with whale researchers in both the Atlantic and Pacific waters; and an ecotourism project with three communities in rural Costa Rica. In 1998 CBC’s Marketplace awarded the company “10/10” for their “Ecotourism practices”. Catherine Evans is Associate Faculty member at Royal Roads University in the Tourism & Hospitality Department for programs in Graduate and Undergraduate studies. This will be her fourth journey to Bhutan.
Duptho Rinzin - Tours & Trekking Guiding. Duptho served as In-flight manager for 8 years with Royal Bhutan Airlines before starting Shangri-La Bhutan Tours in 1996. He has been guiding Cultural Tours and Trekking Groups ever since. In addition to his National tourism expertise, Duptho has travelled to more than 25 countries showcasing Bhutan to the outside world. Duptho has had the privilege of serving as Political Advisor to the previous ruling government and currently, serves as a member of the King's "Guardian of Peace" program. Duptho is also the founder and member of the original Lions Club in Bhutan as well as other social volunteerism. His sense of humour and exceptional customer service have made our past groups with him above and beyond.
Day 1 : Arrive Guwahati & transfer to Samdrop Jongkar, Bhutan (B)
We will transfer into Bhutan’s South Eastern border from Guwahati, India which is located along with the border with India. Overnight in this frontier town with it's small shops. Overnight Menjong Hotel.
Day 2: Samdrop Jongkar - Trashigang (B,L,D)
Enjoy the scenery along the Eastern highway. Lunch en-route at Wamrong. Arrive in the town of Trashigang with it's classic Bhutanese architecture and atmosphere. 3 nights Lingkar Lodge
Day 3: Trashigang (B,L,D)
Many different cultural and ethnic groups meet in this pleasant town. The mountains surrounding Trashigang are dotted with little villages. Full day excursion visiting the villages of Rangjung and Changmey. These traditional villages showcase an array of handi-crafts, agriculture as well as home to several small monasteries and temples. Lunch at Changmey Retreat Centre. Some free time to stroll through town and visit the quaint shops.
Day 4: Trashigang (B,L,D)
A full day hike is planned for the day. After breakfast at the lodge, our morning hike will take us up to the Rangshikhar Village Retreat Centre. Lunch at the Centre and some time to enjoy the vistas before beginning our downwards hike back to our lodge. Enroute we will be stopping at some farmhouses, and traditional houses. An option will be provided for those interested in a less active nature & cultural day.
Day 5: Trashigang - Mongar (B,L,D)
Early morning birdwalk and departure towards the town of Mongar. The route is via a gorge filled with lush vegetation & wildlife (with time to observe the monkeys and birds). A stop at Dametsi Monastery, the biggest and most important in Eastern Bhutan will be included. Arrive in Mongar and visit the Mongar Dzong.
Day 6: Mongar - Sengor (B,L,D)
Early morning nature walk and departure towards the bird rich region of Sengor. We will stay 2 nights at Trogran Lodge strategically situated at the centre of this birdrich region. Afternoon birding along the forested roadway.
Day 7: Sengor (B,L,D)
Early morning bird walk. Breakfast and a full day of nature exploration along the Limenthang Road.
Day 8: Sengor - Bumthang (B,L,D)
Early morning nature walk and departure towards the town of Bumthang in Central Bhutan. Our drive follows the road that has served as an ancient caravan route for centuries. Our 3 hour drive will take much longer as we stop many times along this scenic road. The forests that line the route are filled with interesting birds – a pair of binoculars will come in handy. Arrive in Bumthang. This valley is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the country. View the Jakar Dzong "The Castle of White Bird”
Day 9: Bumthang (B,L,D)
Full day sightseeing in and around Bumthang and Shingkhar Valleys visiting temples and farm houses with time to mingle with local farmers. Our cultural sightseeing includes the numerous and important Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites.
Day 10: Bumthang - Trongsa (B,L,D)
Early morning bird and wildlife viewing along the Ura road. Then drive to Trongsa via the Chumey Valley where one can see girls weaving Yatha the traditional woollen weavings. Arrive in Trongsa, the ancestral home of the royal family.
Day 11: Trongsa - Punakha (B,L,D)
Early morning nature walk along a spectacular forested side road. Breakfast. Then we will visit Tongsa Dzong (fort), one of the largest in the country. It was first built is 1648 by Chogyel Minjur Tempa, the Third Desi, 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 (the trail actually runs through the Dzong), the Tongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of eastern region very effectively for many centuries. It is presently the administrative seat of the district and home of the monastic school. Built at split-levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong spans a huge area. Views from here are extensive creating a truly strategic location of this Dzong. Drive to Punakha, the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. The town is located at the confluence of two rivers. Afternoon hike through the fields to the temple of the Divine Madman.
Day 12: Punakha - Dochula Pass – Thimpu (B,L,D)
Morning visit to the spectacular Punakha Dzong. Then transfer to Bhutan's largest city - Thimpu. The route will travel via the Dochula Pass. Enjoy great views of the Bhutanese Himalayas and 108 Buddhist stupas at the high pass. 2 nights at Gyelsa Boutique Inn. Orientation to the town.
Some of the highlights are a visit to the postal station to see the world’s most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards. Arts and Crafts school where one can see young children at work. Visit Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honour the memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied stupa will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism. Observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub to the finished product and purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory. Visit the Giant Buddha.
Day 13: Thimpu (Jigme Dorji National Park) (B,L,D)
Early morning visit the Takin Reserve (Bhutan's National Animal) and visit the entrance to Jigme Dorji National Park for bird watching and a nature hike.
Day 14: Thimpu - Paro Valley (B,L,D)
Drive to Paro (2 hours). Paro’s sightseeing is full of gems such as the 200-year-old Watch Tower, which has been renovated and converted into National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of national costumes and fabrics, gallery of thangkas, an impressive stamp gallery with three-dimensional stamps issued as early as 1960. Visit Drugyel Dzong, although mostly now in ruins. Visit Drugyel High School and Kychu Lhakhang, the oldest monastery in the valley built in 7th Century. Take a look at the shops in Paro town. Meet with the locals and make friends. Great opportunity for those who like to take pictures. 3 nights Tashi Namgay resort.
Day 15: Paro / Tiger's Nest Hike (B,L,D)
Morning hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery and sightseeing in and around Paro. “Tiger's nest,” built around a cave in whichGuru Rimpoche (Padmasambhawa) meditated, 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. A teahouse walk brings visitors to a midpoint overlooking the monastery. Hikers who wish to walk further should be in excellent physical condition
Day 16: Paro departure (B)
Morning departure flight from Paro.
Extension in Bhutan and other areas of Asia are possible. Please ask us for details. A deposit of $ 800 is required to secure this trip.
Your tour cost includes:
Road transportation in comfortable vans or micro-buses
Travel with a licensed professional guide
Sightseeing tours with entrance fees
Royalty paid to support educational and social programs
Airfare to Guwahati, and departing flight from Paro additional.
Ask about International airfare from your home city!
Optional extensions available (Wildlife India, Bangkok, Singapore, Delhi, Kolkata or Kathmandu)
What our clients say...
“ You were right. It does all seem like a dream, a good one! We can’t thank you enough for the great job you did making the tour so enjoyable. It was everything we anticipated and more. The breathtaking beauty of the country and the welcome shown to us by the people, particularly the children, was what impressed us the most. ... A time away, just the four of us, will probably never happen again and I think we all four will remember is as a very special time.” - The Kirwan family, Ontario Canada
“ I felt well looked after… the food was better than i expected, I particularly liked the wonderful vegetable variety. This is unique country for anyone interested in visiting the Himalayas and learning how this small country enters the modern world and still retains it’s identity and the process.” - P. Charles, Vancouver, BC
“ All guides and drivers went above and beyond in making our stay a memorable one.....Tours of Exploration has done a wonderful job during our trip. After seeing the National History Museum in Paro I realized that we had first hand seeing with our own eyes most of the billboards on display. We did amazing things saw culture, nature, music, religion and most of the country from one end to the next. Everything was taken care of.” - M and B. Chesnik, Windsor, ON
“ The experience of this tour was due to the guides and drivers. The six of them all contributed to an amazing trip. The entire trip was an experience of a lifetime, thank you.” - P. Macdonald, San Francisco, CA
“ After our 1st day of looking down, I knew we were in good hands.” K. Basher, Lancaster, NY
“ This trip was far above my expectations, I highly recommend Tours of Exploration to my friends.” - T. MacIntosh, Peterborough, ON
“ There was a good mix of cultural and sight seeing activities... Perhaps the food was a little too good, great that there were so many veggie options... You really look after us and all of your behind the scenes work is greatly appreciated. “ - K. Dawkins, Toronto, ON
“ I greatly appreciated having two buses so everyone could have a window seat. Felt it was a treasure to come here, and especially to visit eastern Bhutan.” - C. Longfield, Toronto, ON
” I appreciated the driving skills that were apparent of those challenging roads, the bus was always clean and well taken care of mechanically.” - M. Leuschen
“ We first heard of Bhutan about ten years ago and it has been on our list of places to visit ever since...The people are all so friendly and curious... We did not experience the begging and peddlers so common in many of the other areas of Asia we have visited... The mountains are ablaze with colour, the red and whites are incredibly intense...At higher elevations we saw yaks and on occasion a pair of barking deer in the road.” – C. and E. Jensen
“ Our guide was very good with respect to his language skills, knowledge and organizational ability... our schedule was packed from dawn till dusk with sightseeing!.. it was most stimulating and very interesting.” - J. Arnold, Christchurch, NZ
“ Thank you again for providing wonderful photo experiences in Bhutan it is a beautiful, friendly destination.” - D and B. Wolf, Louisville, KY
“ Carmen, It was a delight to get to know you and to have you as a guiding light on our Bhutan trip, I loved it! Even though I was not a real photo buff I did get hundreds of good shots, I have put them into an eleven minute show with music zooming and panning... My post trips to Cambodia and northern Thailand went well too.” - J. Johnson, Redondo Beach, CA