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Itinerary

Book With Flexibility

  • Peace of Mind
    Book by December 31, 2021 for travel through December 31, 2022, and you may change or rebook up to 14 days before your trip.
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Tour Itinerary

Visit one of the most remote countries in the world, enjoy a meeting and lecture with a monk about Buddhist culture in Bhutan, learn how to cook ema datshi (chili cheese) with a local farm family, hike along peaceful nature trails and thrilling cliffs, experience the pristine and peaceful nature of the "Dragon Kingdom"

Countries Visited

Bhutan

Cities Visited

Gangtey , Haa , Paro , Punakha , Thimphu

  1. Day 1
    Paro/Thimphu
    Arrive at any time and transfer to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital. Time permitting, take a guided walk around town.
    Transport: Board a private vehicle and transfer from Paro to Thimphu.
    Activity: The adventure begins tonight. Feel free to explore before your welcome meeting, but make sure you're back in time to meet the group. Check for the meeting time on the welcome note at the hotel. After introductions, your CEO will review the details of your tour. Please note that normal check-in times apply at our start hotels, but you can usually store your luggage for the day if you arrive early.
    Accommodation: Namgay Heritage Hotel (or similar)

    Meals:   Dinner
  2. Day 2
    THIMPHU/PUNAKHA
    This morning, meet a Buddhist monk and scholar to discuss Buddhist beliefs and ways of life in Bhutan. Then drive to scenic Punakha, crossing the lofty Dochu La pass and enjoying stunning views of the Himalaya through flickering prayer flags. Settle into your hotel and drive to Lobesa after lunch. From here, hike up to Chimi Lhakhang, a 15th-century monastery dedicated to the Buddhist saint Drukpa Kunley, known as the "Divine Madman." Learn about his colourful, eccentric life, and witness women devotees who visit the monastery to receive blessings of fertility.
    Transport: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.
    Activity: Take a short hike to Chime Lhakhang, temple of the "Divine Madman." Built in 1499, it is mainly visited today by women as it is known as the temple of fertility.
    Activity: Meet with a Buddhist monk and scholar in the scenic capital city of Thimphu. Hear him talk about his daily life and Buddhism in general, and gain insight into this tiny kingdom where happiness is the common goal.
    Accommodation: Hotel Lobesa (or similar)

    Meals:   Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner
  3. Day 3
    PUNAKHA
    Enjoy a full day of exploration in Punakha, the old capital of Bhutan. Visit the magnificent Punakha Dzong, or fortress, situated at the confluence of two important rivers. Hike to the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup nunnery, a meditation and training center for Buddhist nuns. Then drive to Wangdue Phodrang to discover the town's dzong. In the afternoon, weave your way through rice terraces and pine forests to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a cheerful temple perched on a picturesque mountain ridge overlooking the Punakha Valley.
    Transport: Enjoy the scenery of you private vehicle towards Pelela, where you will rejoin the Trans Bhutan Trail to hike the rest of the way to Chendebi.
    Activity: Visit Punakha Dzong, the winter seat of the Je Khenpo and the Monk Body, remarkably located between the rivers of the Mo (female) Chu and Pho (male) Chu. It is the second oldest and second largest dzong (fortress) in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures, housing many sacred relics. It is also the winter capital of the Je Khenpo (chief abbot). Built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in around 1637. Arguably, it is the most beautiful Dzong in the country. The Dzong guards Bhutan's most treasured relic, the Rangjung Kharsapani, an image of Chenresig kept away from the public in the utse (tower). It has survived Tibetan invasions, numerous fires, floods and a glacial lake burst. The Dzong served as the capital and seat of the Bhutanese Government until the early 1950s; and the coronation of the His Majesty the First Druk, Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, took place here.
    Activity: Enjoy a hike and visit to the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery and Temple complex. Perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking the 3 Valleys of Toebesa, Punakha and Wangdi Phodrang, the complex is a meditation and traditional arts training center for nuns. Enjoy the peace and quiet and learn about the nunnery which was established by the Royal Grandfather.
    Activity: Visit Wangdue, one of the major towns and district headquarters of Western Bhutan. We make a short stop here and visit the Wangdue Phodrang dzong.
    Activity: Cross the suspension bridge and then hike to Khamsum Yueley Chorten. Enjoy hike through rice terraces, farms, and deep pine forest until we reach the stupa, which was consecrated in December 1999. Take a moment to breathe and admire the view, it's superb.
    Accommodation: Hotel Lobesa (or similar)

    Meals:   Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner
  4. Day 4
    PUNAKHA/GANGTEY
    Travel to the Gangtey Valley—also called Phobjikha Valley—the winter habitat of rare black-necked cranes. If your trip falls between October and February, you'll have a chance to visit the information center of the Royal So­ciety for Protection of Nature (RSPN) to learn about these graceful, vulnerable birds, which migrate from Tibet to Bhutan every year.
    Transport: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.
    Activity: Visit the Royal So­ciety for Protection of Nature's (RSPN) Black-Necked Crane Centre. Learn more about these birds and their environment. Please note that this activity is available only during the migration season, between October and February.
    Accommodation: Hotel Dewachen (or similar)

    Meals:   Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner
  5. Day 5
    GANGTEY
    Set out to discover the stunning Gangtey Goempa, one of the oldest Nyingma monasteries in Bhutan. This 17th-century temple recently underwent an elaborate renovation. Afterward, we'll walk across Phobjikha Valley to Khewa Valley, stopping at an old temple on the way to make an offering. This evening, explore Khewa village and enjoy a cooking demonstration and delicious home-cooked dinner at a family farmhouse.
    Transport: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.
    Activity: Enjoy a visit to the monastery of Gangtey Goempa, built in the 16th century and renovated and consecrated in 2008. Be sure to check out the amazing relics inside -- they're said to be the most sacred in all of Bhutan. The architectural design is impressive, too.
    Activity: Enjoy a walk across Phobjikha Valley and into the Khewa Valley, where we visit an old temple and offer a (compulsory) donation - a necessity to keep the monastery running.
    Activity: Enjoy a short visit to the rural village of Khewa, where their main production is potato farming and dairy products. Get a taste of Bhutanese village life.
    Activity: Visit a family farmhouse in Gangtey Valley for a cooking demonstration and traditional meal. As Bhutanese food is usually hot and spicy, we learn how to make ama datshi (chili cheese), one of the most popular dishes in Bhutanese cooking. Enjoy this simple but tasty meal and conversation with local people, who are always happy to welcome visitors.
    Accommodation: Hotel Dewachen (or similar)

    Meals:   Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner
  6. Day 6
    GANGTEY/THIMPHU
    Return to Thimpu and take in the golden splendour of the Buddha Dordenma, a massive Buddha statue that graces a hill overlooking the city. Visit the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, an arts and crafts school where we can watch students practicing traditional arts such as woodworking, painting, and ceramics. Later, enjoy a talk on Gross National Happiness, an index used by the Bhutanese to measure the nation's progress.
    Transport: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.
    Activity: Buddha Point is home to Thimphu's most recognized landmark, the Buddha Dordenma. Guarding the entry to the Thimphu valley, this 51-meter (167ft) gilded bronze statue is filled with 125,000 miniature statues and sits atop a three-storey base housing a chapel and thousands of donated statuettes. The statue was commissioned to mark His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck's 60th birthday and was originally made in China before being transported to Thimphu in pieces. The massive Buddha statue in Thimphu made of bronze and gold. Take lots of pictures - it's beautiful!
    Activity: Enjoy a visit to the Institute for Zorig Chusum, an arts and craft school that's a highlight for those interested in Asian art. The institute was established in 1971 to ensure the continuity of Bhutanese traditional arts. Students study here for 4-6 yrs in various mediums. Explore the institute opt to purchase arts and crafts from the shop.
    Activity: Listen to one of the division heads or senior researchers at the government organization, Center for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, give a lecture about the measurement that seeks a balanced approach to development, harmonizing material and non-material values.
    Accommodation: Namgay Heritage Hotel (or similar)

    Meals:   Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner
  7. Day 7
    THIMPHU/HAA
    This morning, visit the National Memorial Chorten, one of Thimpu's most recognizable landmarks and a focal point of daily spiritual life. Then venture off the beaten path towards the remote Haa Valley, stopping for a night in charming Haa town. Explore Lhakhang Nagpo, the "black temple," and Lhakhang Karpo, the "white temple"—two ancient Buddhist shrines which are said to be among the 108 temples built in one day by the seventh century Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo.
    Transport: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.
    Activity: Explore beautiful Bhutanese temples and shrines in Haa town including, the Lhakhang Nakpo (Black temple) and Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple).
    Activity: The chorten is one of the most prominent religious structures in Thimphu, and for local Bhutanese it is a popular part of their daily prayers. Watch locals walk around the Chorten, spinning the prayer wheels and meditating in this lovely and peaceful spot.
    Accommodation: Rigsum Resort (or similar)

    Meals:   Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner
  8. Day 8
    HAA/PARO
    Drive into picturesque Haa Valley by way of the dramatic Chele La pass, one of the highest mountain roads in Bhutan. Hike through thick pine forests to the Kila nunnery, which clings to a rocky cliff. Later, return to Paro and visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the country's oldest and most beautiful temples. Then head to a local archery ground to watch locals practice Bhutan's national sport.
    Transport: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.
    Activity: Hike through the deep forest of pine trees and rhododendrons to Kila Goempa nunnery (approx 2.5 hrs). It seems to cling to a rocky cliff and houses around 60-70 nuns. This is a moderate level hike through stunningly beautiful scenery.
    Activity: Enjoy a visit to one of Bhutan's oldest and most beautiful temples. Built in the 7th century, Kyichu Lhakhang Temple boasts stunning art work inside and throughout the courtyards.
    Activity: As Bhutan's national sport, a visit to a local archery ground is a must. Watch locals practice or compete with unbelievable accuracy and precision as they hit distant targets.
    Accommodation: Hotel Olathang (or similar)

    Meals:   Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner
  9. Day 9
    Paro
    Today, we embark on a vigorous hike to Bhutan's most iconic and revered site: the Taktsang Lhakhang or Tiger's Nest Monastery, perched high above the Paro Valley. Visible from afar, this architectural masterpiece straddles a vertical granite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor. Later, drive the winding road to Drukgyal Dzong, a ruined fortress that once defended Paro Valley from Tibetan invasions.
    Transport: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.
    Activity: Hike up to the Taktsang monastery (Tiger's Nest); containing 13 holy relics, it's considered one of the most venerated pilgrim sites of the Himalayan world. It is also where Guru Padmasambhava is said to have landed on the back of a tigress in the 8th century. Take in the stunning views en route and the incredible vista from this monastery, which clings to the rock towering 2,953m above the valley. The group will hike from 2400m elevation and reach 3100m at the Taktsang Monastery before returning back to 2400m in the same day. The climb should take around 6 hours for a total distance of 7 km.
    Activity: Drive the winding road to Drukgyal Dzong, a ruined fortress that once defended this valley from Tibetan invasions. In the early 1950s, Drukgyal Dzong was almost completely destroyed by fire.
    Accommodation: Hotel Olathang (or similar)

    Meals:   Breakfast   Lunch   Dinner
  10. Day 10
    Paro
    Depart at any time. Airport transfer is included.
    Transport: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.

    Meals:   Breakfast

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Inclusions

Meals:
9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners

Transportation:
Private vehicle, walking, hiking.

Inclusions
Your Journeys Highlight Moment: Meet a Buddhist Monk, Thimphu Your Journeys Highlight Moment: Family Farm Meal, Gangtey Gonpa Your Journeys Highlight Moment: Lecture on Gross National Happiness, Thimphu. Arrival and departure transfer. Visit the Rimpung Dzong. Hike to Punakha Dzong monastery and fertility shrine. Visit the town of Wangdue and walk to Khamsum Yueley Chorten shrine. Visit the village of Khewa. Black-Necked Crane Centre visit. Hike to the monastery of Gangtey Goempa. Walk across Phobjikha and Khewa valleys. Visit the National Library, the Institute for Zorig Chusum (arts and crafts) and the Thimphu Chorten. Hike to Kila Goempa nunnery. Explore shrines and temples of the Haa Valley. Visit the fortress of Drukgyal Dzong and hike to Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest). Visit Kyichu Lhakhang Temple. All transport between destinations and to/from included activities.

Health and Safety Protocols for National Geographic Tours

Travel with Confidence

Your safety, as well as the safety of employees and partners, has always been G Adventures top priority, which is why new physical distancing and cleaning measures have been put in place on all of the tours. New Travel with Confidence policy features new health and safety procedures from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, without taking away from having the time of your life. The policy will evolve as time goes on and as G Adventures continues to monitor local public health recommendations, but what won't change is the commitment to keeping you safe as you explore big, beautiful world.


Before you join us

Global Connection Officers

GCOs (the people who answer when you call us) are available 24/7 to help with any questions you have prior to your trip, so you can feel confident and safe before leaving. No matter what time of day, they're there to respond to you — even at 3AM. They'll be up to date on local regulations and restrictions and can guide you through your travel process as smoothly as possible. And if you don't feel well before travelling, there's the Book with Confidence policy that helps you reschedule your trip for when you do, which they can help you with too (terms & conditions apply). If you book flights with us and there are any changes, rest assured that the team will support you by making new arrangements on your behalf.

Smaller groups

Groups have always been small. This offers security, access, camaraderie, and a connection with your destination you won't get by travelling on bus tours or on your own. The average group size is 12, ensuring travellers can engage with each other without being squeezed together like sardines — and that was before physical distancing became a reality. Plus, if you have 8 or more friends you'd like to adventure with, you can reserve the entire trip!

My own room

If you're joining one of the small group tours on your own, good on ya! If you are a solo traveller sharing a room with someone, G Adventures will do their best to ensure they will be your roommate for the entire journey to support distancing efforts. G Adventures has 'My Own Rooms' available as an extra option for tours (pending availability), and they'll be offering more of these at more affordable prices to make it even easier to have a bit more space.


When you arrive

Chief Experience Officers

CEOs are responsible for ensuring you have the time of your life while keeping you as safe as possible. Here's how they're ready to do that:

  • They're trained in First Aid, CPR, and other safety protocols
  • They're supported 24/7 by the field staff in offices around the world who are well-equipped to handle emergencies
  • They can help you find local clinics if you're feeling sick
  • They'll receive new training to ensure they are up to date on all health and safety policies during these evolving times
  • They have extensive local knowledge to proactively help you navigate wherever you're travelling
  • Their local knowledge allows for greater flexibility when it comes to knowing the best time to visit certain highlights to avoid crowds whenever possible and suggesting the restaurants with the strictest hygiene practices or those where you can reserve your own table or room in advance
  • They'll wear face masks when necessary based on local guidelines and recommendations

You & your fellow travellers

Travellers' safety and wellbeing is G Adventures biggest concern. If you're not feeling well before your departure, G Adventures has a Book with Confidence policy that provides you with flexibility and freedom to delay leaving until you're back to 100% healthy (terms & conditions apply). If you have a fever or any other symptoms on tour, you may be required to have a doctor clear you before rejoining us. All travellers are requested to bring face coverings, whether they're buffs, face masks or bandanas (extra style points encouraged). G Adventures makes every effort to have hand sanitizer available, but recommend bringing your own.


While on tour

Planes, trains, automobiles and more

Small private transport vehicles

  • Every surface in G Adventures well-kept fleet of private vehicles will get at least one daily deep cleaning
  • Each traveller will have a daily assigned seat
  • Hand-sanitizer will be required every time you board the vehicle
  • Facial coverings will be recommended while on-board
Boats
  • Every surface will get at least one daily deep cleaning
  • High-traffic areas will receive more frequent cleaning
  • Hand-sanitizer or hand washing will be required every time you board the boat, as well as before and after meals
  • To support physical distancing, meals may have assigned seating and there will be assigned slots for activities and rooming
  • Facial coverings will be recommended and welcomed on-board
  • Your crew is trained in health and safety measures (including food handling) and all cooking staff will follow up-to-date advice from health authorities
Local transportation
  • Use of local transportation will be limited wherever possible. Please reference the Trip Details for each individual tour for specifics
  • If local transportation is used, precautions will be followed in adherence to local health and safety regulations to keep travellers safe and sound.

Where you'll be staying safe

G Adventures has always carefully selected accommodation partners for high standards and local roots. Travelling in small groups means that the stay is in smaller hotels too, with fewer guests — which means less daily contact with others outside your group in public spaces. Now G Adventures is working with accommodation partners to optimize their health, safety and cleanliness procedures, as well as creating additional measures for physical distancing. Here are some of the things G Adventures is working on to help keep you safe:

  • Daily deep cleaning and disinfecting of all surface areas inside your room with extra cleaning on light switches, door handles, TV remotes, and thermostats
  • No hotel staff will enter your room after it has been cleaned
  • Increased frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of all public restrooms and all surfaces in public areas. This might include the closure of public spaces such as gyms, bars, restaurants, and meeting rooms for periods throughout the day
  • Wherever possible, groups will stay on the lower floors to limit elevator use
  • Hotels will implement social distancing protocols in line with local regulations
This is just the beginning of commitments to keeping you sleeping safe and sound. G Adventures will continue to evolve and roll-out these and additional policies as needed.

A good & safe place to eat

G Adventures has always carefully selected food service partners and worked closely with them to ensure they are meeting health, safety, and cleanliness standards with their facilities, staff training, and food preparation and delivery. Wherever possible, G Adventures will reserve separate tables or private rooms at the restaurants visited on the trip, opt for more "al fresco" opportunities when it is possible (gotta love that fresh air!), and ensure breakfasts can be "grab and go" boxes, while avoiding family style or self-serve buffets for meals. G Adventures wants you to feel comfortable and safe as you savour every last bite.

Activities

You've always had freedom and flexibility to do your own thing on tours with optional activities and experiences. Now, you'll still have those options with added measures to keep you healthy and safe. All equipment for activities on tour, including hiking poles, camping supplies, life jackets, snorkels, etc., will be cleaned thoroughly at least once a day and disinfected between use. When travellers are responsible for putting up their own tents on camping itineraries, you will be given the supplies required to disinfect your gear. G Adventures will also do their best to make activities and highlights stops happen during non-peak hours, so you can have fun and feel safe no matter what you're doing.


Before you leave

A healthy goodbye

If you're not feeling well at the end of your tour for any reason, let your CEO know and they can help get you access to medical care and support. Because we want you to head home after a life-changing experience feeling just as good (let's be honest, way better) than when you left.

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Accommodations

Hotel/lodges (9 nts).

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Questions & Answers

Question: How many suitcases can I take with me on my trip?

Each person is allowed one "check-in," and one "carry-on." Remember to take all valuables with you as "carry-on", because electronic equipment, cameras, laptops, jewelry, business documents and money are not covered by the airlines' liability, so always carry them aboard with you.

Question: Is Airfare Included in the Price?

Airfare from your point of origin to and from the trip is not included in the land price.

National Geographic Tours Customer Reviews

Overall Rating
4.1
Accommodations
3.5
Itinerary
4.3
Professional Staff
4.7
Repeat with Operator
4.1
Value for Money
3.8

Ratings based off 46 reviews about National Geographic Tours - currently showing 2 reviews with comments only

Outstanding trip and tours with plenty of opportunities for planned and unplanned adventures. Knowledgeable, friendly, and capable guides who kept us moving while allowing adequate free time for exploring on one's own.

Affordable Tours was helpful, answered all questions, booked tour and all flights for us. Great experience! We will definitely book through AT again.

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