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Wonders of Bhutan

Wonders of Bhutan


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Itinerary

Countries Visited

Bhutan

Cities Visited

Gangtey, Haa, Paro, Punakha, Thimphu

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"

Set out on an adventure through the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the only country in the world that measures its progress in terms of happiness. Explore timeless mountain villages, spectacular fortresses, and ornate shrines as you travel across this bastion of Buddhist culture, and meet local people from different walks of life to gain insights into the secrets of Bhutan's wellbeing.

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)
Meal(s): Dinner

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.
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.
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.
Accommodation: Hotel Lobesa (or similar)
Meal(s): Breakfast Lunch Dinner

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: Settle in and scan the scenery from the convenience of a private vehicle.
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).
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)
Meal(s): Breakfast Lunch Dinner

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)
Meal(s): Breakfast Lunch Dinner

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)
Meal(s): Breakfast Lunch Dinner

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: Known as the "Buddha Point," the Buddha Dordenma is a 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)
Meal(s): Breakfast Lunch Dinner

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)
Meal(s): Breakfast Lunch Dinner

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)
Meal(s): Breakfast Lunch Dinner

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.
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)
Meal(s): Breakfast Lunch Dinner

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.
Meal(s): Breakfast

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Inclusions

Meals Included
9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners

Transport
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.

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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
4.2
Accommodations
3.6
Itinerary
4.4
Professional Staff
4.8
Repeat with Operator
4.2
Value for Money
3.9

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Ratings based off 42 reviews about National Geographic Tours - currently showing 2 reviews with comments only

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