Bhutan 2020 - Trip Itinerary
Please keep in mind that circumstances beyond our control, such as weather, road conditions, or local events, may require us to alter this itinerary. We will do our best to provide a safe, enjoyable, and rewarding experience in keeping with the essence of its concept. Included meals shown by B - breakfast, L - lunch, D - dinner.
Day 1 Oct 24 Meet in Paro Drive 1 hour
Flying into Paro, the view out of the right of the airplane, on a clear day, will be of the stunning Himalayan Mountains. Once on the ground, we will meet our guides and then transfer to our hotel in Thimphu. In the afternoon we’ll tour the town with a visit to the weekend market, popular with everyone from students to the well-heeled, and then the local archery field. Archery is more than just the national sport, it’s an expression of the culture and a family event. In the evening we are free to wander around this, the largest city of Bhutan, yet still the only world capital without any traffic lights. Overnight in Thimphu. L/D
Day 2 Oct 25 Tango Monastery and Thimphu Drive 1 hour Walk 2 miles, 1000 feet
A short drive takes us to our hike to Tango Goempa. Slowly we walk the dirt and gravel road through tall rhododendrons, about 40 minutes steadily up to the monastery, one of the oldest in Bhutan and the seat of an important school for monks. Here we learn to remove our shoes as we enter the sanctuary. After lunch we visit the Buddha Dordenma statue towering above Thimphu. It’s one of the largest Buddhas in the world, 177 feet tall, and houses an astonishing 100,000 smaller statuettes. Then we visit some sites in town including the National Memorial Chorten, one of the iconic monuments of the city. There are always people here circumambulating it, saying their prayers as they spin prayer wheels. Overnight in Thimphu. B/L/D
Day 3 Oct 26 Drive to Punakha Drive 3 hours Walk 1 mile
Our drive today at first follows the Thimphu river. Then the road climbs steeply through forests and over Dochu La (10,004 feet). On the other side of the pass we stop at a village for lunch and a short hike, crossing rice paddies to Chimi Lhakhang temple, dedicated to the great Yogi of the 14th century, Drukpa Kuenley, the “Divine Madman,” and believed to bless women who seek fertility. The village here has a vibrant phallus culture; nearly every house is painted with phalluses and several stores sell carved ones for locals and tourists alike. Overnight in Punakha. B/L/D
Day 4 Oct 27 Chorten Ningpo and Punakha Dzong Drive 1 hour Walk 5 hours
We start with a short drive, then walk up to Chorten Ningpo, a little known destination with a magnificent statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha) and images of the great lamas of the Drukpa lineage. This magical spot was once a dense forest inhabited by evil spirits. A great oak tree outside the monastery is said to have grown from a blazing log that the Divine Madman threw as he chased away the demons. The monastery sponsors an orphanage and school teaching both Buddhism and Western subjects. Afterwards we visit the 16th century Punakha Dzong (Fortress), considered by many to be the most beautiful in Bhutan. Situated at the confluence of two rivers with hills rising behind, it has an imposing presentation. We will tour the complex before going back to our hotel. Overnight in Punakha. B/L/D
Day 5 Oct 28 Phojibkha Drive 3 hours
Today we drive over Pele pass into Phojibkha (9,500 feet), a quiet valley that is the winter home for the majestic black-necked cranes. We’ll visit the Aum Sonam home for an optional, (cost not included), traditional, hot-stone bath. Stones heated in wood fires are placed into the wooden tubs to heat the water for the baths. The locals believe that in this way minerals from the stones are released into the waters, giving them curative powers. Then those who wish can help prepare the Bhutanese dinner which we’ll all enjoy. Overnight in Phojibkha. B/L/D
Day 6 Oct 29 Phojibkha Walk 4 hours
We’ll explore the beautiful, open Phojibkha valley on foot today, walking about four hours total over gentle terrain. With forests and hills surrounding the open meadows and farmlands, we’ll pass through villages, around mani walls, visit weavers at work, see many prayer flags fluttering in the wind, look for the black-necked cranes, and tour the 16th century Gangtey Goempa that sits at the head of the valley. Overnight in Phojibkha. B/L/D
“What I love is how seamless everything is. You walk through a forest and come out in a village; and there’s no difference, no division. You aren’t in nature one minute and in civilization the next. The houses are made out of mud and stone and wood, drawn from the land around. Nothing stands out, nothing jars.” ?Jamie Zeppa
Day 7 Oct 30 Trongsa and Choekhor Drive 5 hours
We continue our drive east into Bumthang, the geographical and spiritual center of Bhutan. Along the way we stop at Trongsa to visit its dzong atop a narrow ridge. The dzong has impressive, massive fortifications and dramatic views as well as intricate architecture. Then we continue on to Choekhor, a small village in the heart of Bumthang. Overnight in Choekhor. B/L/D
Day 8 Oct 31 Tang Valley Drive 1 hour
Bumthang is actually a region comprised of four valleys. Our hotel is in Choekhor; the other valleys are Ura, Chumey, and Tang. Today we visit Tang so we can spend the morning at Pema Choling Nunnery. Here we’ll visit with the some 100 nuns as they study and practice their daily chants. We’ll have chances to talk with them in the stone courtyard between their classrooms and dormitory. Just north of the nunnery is Bezur Chukpo’s mansion. This large family home turned museum has much to offer about medieval Bhutanese culture and lifestyle. It is an archive of the rich history of the people of Tang. After our visit here, we’ll stop by Mebar Tsho, The Burning Lake, a sacred site, and learn about its legend. Overnight in Choekhor. B/L/D
Day 9 Nov 1 Jambay Lhakhang Drup
Jambay temple, built in the 7th century, is the site of the Choekhor festival. We’ll spend the full day at the festival. All the dances are performed by residents of the local villages. They are a joyous expression of Buddhist culture, an opportunity for the people to be immersed in their religion, and an occasion to see and be seen by all. People dress in their finest, wear their best jewelry, and bring their favorite foods to enjoy during their picnics. Overnight in Choekhor. B/L/D
Day 10 Nov 2 Prakhar Drive 2 hours
Swiss “Gouda” in Bhutan? Yes, courtesy of an expat from Switzerland who has opened a cheese factory and brewery in Prakhar in Chumey Valley. We’ll tour the facility and sample their products. Having our fill, we luckily only have to walk ten minutes to Prakhar village perched on a small plateau at a curve of the river. Composed of only seven large stone houses, we are now in the heart of the valley and the whole community is assembling to attend another, very local festival. This is a private festival, sponsored by a local family and held to celebrate the anniversary of the death of Thugse Dawa Gyeltshen, the nobleman who originally built the village. Overnight in Choekhor. B/L/D
Day 11 Nov 3 Paro
To save the days long drive back to Paro, we fly back from the new airport, opened in 2012. Upon arrival we’ll settle into our hotel and use the rest of the day to explore the small town of Paro. Purposeless loitering will give you a good opportunity to partake in the local lifestyle and extra time to check out the shops and markets. On the south side of town is the dzong, built as many at the confluence of two streams, a strategic advantage, and also visually appealing. Overnight in Paro. B/L/D
Day 12 Nov 4 Haa Valley Drive 3 hours
One of the least visited areas of Bhutan, Haa Valley is a three hour drive along the river north from Paro. This smallest district of Bhutan has only 20,000 inhabitants and sits at some 9,700 feet above sea level. Penlop Agay Haap’s farmhouse has been passed down over the generations and converted into a beautiful bed and breakfast. While here we will also visit Aup Ugyen’s home for a cooking class and traditional Bhutanese meal. Overnight in Haa. B/L/D
The way the arrow is targeted is more essential than the way it is shot; the way you listen is more essential than the way you talk. –Bhutanese proverb
Day 13 Nov 5 Kung Karpo La Drive 3 hours Walk 3 miles, 1000 feet
We leave for an early drive to Chele La, at 12,500 feet the highest road pass in Bhutan. On a clear day the pass offers views of Jhomolhari, 24,035 feet, Bhutan’s second highest peak. If weather permits and the group is strong, we have the option of a side hike up a ridge to a small stone hut, Kung Karpo La, a site for both meditation and sky burials. The views from here are amazing, including Kachenjunga (28,162’ – third highest mountain on Earth), Gangtar Puensum (24,830’ – highest mountain in Bhutan and highest unclimbed mountain on Earth), Jhomolhari, and many other peaks. Continue on to Paro. B/L/D
Day 14 Nov 6 Taktsang Goempa Drive 1 hour Walk 4.5 miles, 2100 feet
No trip to Bhutan is complete without a visit to Taktsang Goempa – Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Perched incredibly on the edge of a cliff one wonders how it got there, until you learn that it’s where the tiger flew to, so obviously it was where the monastery had to go. We start early to avoid the crowds and afternoon heat. The walk up is steep at times, and there are some drop offs to the side. It’s possible to rent a horse for a ride part way up, but not back down. Despite the long climb, many who are not hikers make the ascent; we just take our time. From the top, after touring the monastery, we eat lunch and can then either explore the smaller temples behind and up the hill or return early to Paro. B/L/D
Day 15 Nov 7 Depart
Alas, all good things must come to an end and our time in Bhutan is over. After breakfast we transfer to the airport for our departure flight. We hope you have enjoyed your visit, have found it rewarding, and leave with new found understanding. Tashi Delek! B
The trip leader will provide 4 trip bulletins prior to departure with more detailed and specific information to help you prepare for your adventure.
All flights to Bhutan are on either Druk Airlines, the national airline, or the private Bhutan Airlines. Your best routing will be Druk’s Bangkok-Paro route. Booking on Druk is only through Asian ticketing agencies. To help you, we have reserved a block of seats on this flight for the group. The cost is not included in the trip price. The flight will leave Bangkok on the morning of October 24 and return there from Paro on November 7. The exact cost and schedule has not yet been published but the cost should not exceed the amount referenced. Additional details (and hopefully savings) will be sent to trip members once available. Benefits to being on this flight are that you will be met at the airport by our bus and should the flight be delayed you will be part of our group and it will be easier for us to deal with the problem.
Remember in your planning, that flights crossing the Pacific from the US cross the International Date Line, so it takes three calendar days to get to Bangkok. For example, if you leave California on the evening of October 21 on an overnight flight, you will skip the 22nd instantly as you cross the date line, thus arriving in Bangkok on the evening of October 23. Then you can make our flight to Paro on the morning of the 24th. On the return, even though your flight is 12 hours long, because you cross the date line again you may well land earlier than your departure time! You are strongly encouraged to arrive in Bangkok a day or two early to enjoy the city and help overcome jet lag before our trip begins and especially to allow for any flight delays or lost baggage.
Trip Price $5,800 per person Deposit $1,450 per person
Plus: International flight Bangkok-Paro-Bangkok: $1,000* pp | Deposit: $300 payable by December 21, 2019
*Provisional RT airfare price is dependent on the actual price to be published by Druk Airlines. Actual cost should not exceed this amount. Option to purchase return group air ticket is guaranteed until December 21, 2019. A nonrefundable deposit of $300 will secure your space on this return flight and is payable by Dec 21, 2019. After this date availability can not be guaranteed.
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- Pay your trip deposit - click on the yellow Buy Now button below.
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