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Adventure Tours   >   Asia Adventure Tours   >  Journeys: Wonders of Bhutan

Journeys: Wonders of Bhutan Adventure Tour

Asia

  • Bhutan

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.


Transport  

Private vehicle, walking, hiking.


Accommodation  

Hotel/lodges (9 nts).


Packing List  

Cold Weather:
• Long-sleeved shirts or sweater
• Scarf
• Warm gloves
• Warm hat
• Warm layers
• Warm waterproof jacket

Conservative Dress:
• Modest clothing that covers knees and shoulders (Long pants, long skirts, shirts that cover shoulders)
• Shawl or scarf (for temple visits)

Documents:
• Flight info (required) (Printouts of e-tickets may be required at the border)
• Insurance info (required) (With photocopies)
• Passport (required) (With photocopies)
• Vouchers and pre-departure information (required)
• Visas or vaccination certificates (With photocopies)

Essentials:
• Toiletries (required) (Shampoo, bodywash, soap, etc.)
• Binoculars (optional)
• Camera (With extra memory cards and batteries)
• Cash, credit and debit cards
• Day pack (Used for daily excursions or short overnights)
• Ear plugs
• First-aid kit (should contain lip balm with sunscreen, sunscreen, whistle, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, bandaids/plasters, tape, anti-histamines, antibacterial gel/wipes, antiseptic cream, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, rehydration powder, water purification tablets or drops, insect repellent, sewing kit, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)
• Flashlight/torch (Headlamps are ideal)
• Fleece top/sweater
• Footwear
• Hat
• Locks for bags
• Long pants/jeans
• Moneybelt
• Outlet adapter
• Personal entertainment (Reading and writing materials, cards, music player, etc.)
• Reusable water bottle
• Shirts/t-shirts
• Sleepwear
• Small travel towel
• Sunglasses
• Swimwear
• Watch and alarm clock
• Waterproof backpack cover
• Windproof rain jacket

Health & Safety:
• Hand sanitizer (required)
• Face masks (Clients will be only be required to wear a face mask where it is mandated by local regulations.)
• Pen (Please bring your own pen for filling out documents.)
• Quick Covid Test/Antigen Test (optional)

Light Hiking:
• Hiking boots/sturdy walking shoes
• Hiking pants (Convertible/Zip-off and quick dry recommended)
• Sleeping bag liner/sleep sheet

Smart Dress:
• Smart outfit (For evenings out)

Warm Weather:
• Sandals/flip-flops
• Shorts/skirts (Longer shorts/skirts are recommended)
• Sturdy water shoes/sandals
• Sun hat/bandana
• Swimwear

Note: During the colder months (Oct-Apr) the mountains can be very cold, so please make sure you pack warm clothes.


Planeterra Foundation - the non-profit partner of G Adventures  

Planeterra International Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to turning travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. Planeterra connects underserved local communities to the benefits of tourism by developing and supporting small community-owned businesses. These businesses support Indigenous people, empower women, grant youth access to employment opportunities, and protect the environment. Planeterra also works to ensure these businesses have a thriving customer base by integrating their projects into G Adventures' itineraries globally.
G Adventures is Planeterra's largest corporate donor, covering all operating costs, so 100% of your donation will bring opportunity to people in need.

G Adventures Dollar-a-day Program - Make Every Day Count - Turn your travel into impact with Planeterra Foundation.

Did you know? Most communities around the world do not benefit from tourism. Give back to the places you visit on your travels by creating opportunities for local people to earn an income, and protect the environment.

Make every day count by donating $1/day for the length of your trip, and join us in empowering the communities you will visit when you travel. 100% of your donation goes directly to Planeterra projects.


Local Dress  

Many Bhutanese people still wear traditional clothes and dress modestly.


Group Size Notes  

Max 15, Avg 10.


Visas and Entry Requirements  

All countries require a valid passport (with a minimum 6 months validity). Contact your local embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date visa requirements, or see your travel agent. It is your own responsibility to have the correct travel documentation. Visa requirements for your trip will vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. We keep the following information up to date as far as possible, but rules do change and sometimes without warning. While we provide the following information in good faith, it is vital that you check the information yourself and understand that you are fully responsible for your own visa requirements.

Visa information specific to your destination and nationality can be found in our Important Pre-Departure Information page here

For Bhutan, National Geographic Journeys will arrange the visa for you. The cost of the visa is included in the tour price. The Bhutanese visa is issued to your passport on arrival, on submission of 2 passport sized photographs.

In order to arrange the Bhutan visa, please click on the following link for information and application form

These details need to be submitted to us 35-40 days before departure.

We will then arrange the Bhutanese visa for you. The visa letter will be forwarded to you 2-5 business days before departure. We cannot get the visa letter issued any sooner, as it is issued by the Bhutanese government. Please print out the visa letter, you will be required to show this before boarding your flight to Paro.

Important: If you are planning to extend your stay in Bhutan, pre- and post-tour accommodation must be booked through National Geographic Journeys in order for us to issue a valid visa for the duration of your stay.

If arriving and departing Paro from India, please note that the Indian government has recently made some changes to visa regulation due to misuse of the Tourist visa. We encourage all passengers to contact the Indian consulate or embassy in their home country to get up to date information on entry requirements. This is especially important for those that are planning on entering India multiple times in a two month period.

Foreigners holding an Indian Tourist Visa, who after initial entry into India plan to visit neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan or Sri Lanka and then re-enter into India within 2 months need to get special authorization.

You must have at least two blank passport pages available for each country you will visit on your tour. These are required for entry & exit stamps.


Spending Money  

Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.


About Accommodation  

Hotels/Lodges and guest houses are used in Bhutan - these can vary in terms of service and efficiency, but offer quaint, local charm and flavour. In many instances they might not be like what you are used to back home. Accommodation is generally located in rural areas or outside town centres - they are traditional in architecture, style and its services to the guest. Electricity, wifi and water can often be sporadic and in some locations, wood stoves may be used.


Arrival Complications  

We don't expect any problems, and nor should you, but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, as soon as possible please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your CEO. If this is unsuccessful, please refer to our Emergency Contact. If your included airport transfer has not arrived within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, please make contact with our representative. We then recommend that you make your own way to the Starting Point hotel, following the Joining Instructions. Please contact your travel agent on your return for a refund of the transfer cost if this occurs.


Money Exchange  

Bhutan is essentially a cash-based economy, so you will need ngultrum (local currency) for any expenses (drinks, souvenirs, optional activities, etc.). You should not rely on using your ATM card or credit cards in Bhutan. Bring additional cash (USD is best) and exchange that at the airport so you have local currency from the beginning, as it is not always possible to find an ATM or exchange. The local currency is valueless outside of Bhutan so make sure that you change back all excess Bhutanese currency before you leave.


Itinerary Disclaimer  

While it is our intention to adhere to the route described below, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary, or desirable to make alterations. The itinerary is brief, as we never know exactly where our journey will take us. Due to our style of travel and the regions we visit, travel can be unpredictable. The Trip Details document is a general guide to the tour and region and any mention of specific destinations or wildlife is by no means a guarantee that they will be visited or encountered. Aboard expedition trips visits to research stations depend on final permission.

Additionally, any travel times listed are approximations only and subject to vary due to local circumstances.


Meals  

Most meals in Bhutan are included in the cost of the trip - some are in the accommodation where it is the best quality/availability option. Most meals are served buffet-style with a selection of traditional Bhutanese food, some western-style (often pasta) as well as some Chinese. Fresh local vegetables are in abundance and while Bhutan is almost mostly vegetarian, there usually is one meat dish available (on some occasions, there can be shortages, as all meat is imported from India).


Tipping  

It is customary in Asia to tip service providers such as waiters, at approximately 10%, depending on the service. Tipping is expected - though not compulsory - and shows an expression of satisfaction with the people who have assisted you on your tour. Although it may not be customary to you, it is of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels. There are several times during the trip where there is opportunity to tip the local guides or drivers we use. You may do this individually, or your CEO will offer to collect the money and tip as a group. Recommendations for tipping drivers and local guides would range from USD1-2 per person per day depending on the quality and length of the service; ask your CEO for specific recommendations based on the circumstances and culture. Also at the end of each trip if you felt your G Adventures CEO did an outstanding job, tipping is appreciated. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline USD20-30 per person, per week can be used.


International Flights  

Check-in times and baggage allowances/restrictions vary by airline and can change at any time. For the most up-to-date information for your flight, please contact your airline. We recommend checking in online in advance to avoid potential delays at the airport.


Solo Travellers  

We believe single travellers should not have to pay more to travel so our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and do not involve a single supplement. Single travellers joining group trips are paired in twin or multi-share accommodation with someone of the same sex for the duration of the trip. Some of our Independent trips are designed differently and single travellers on these itineraries must pay the single trip price.


Emergency Contact  

Should you need to contact us during a situation of dire need, it is best to first call either the G Adventures Local Representative (if one is listed below) or our G Adventures Local Office. If for any reason you do not receive an immediate answer, please leave a detailed message and contact information, so they may return your call and assist you as soon as possible.

AIRPORT TRANSFER 
If you have purchased an arrival through G Adventures or if an arrival transfer is included in the cost of your tour, please note that:

Your arrival transfer has been arranged based on flight information provided to us. If you are advised of a flight schedule change or flight cancellation within 48 hours of your scheduled arrival time, please call the emergency contact number to advise of your new arrival flight information. If you do not, we will not be able to rearrange your arrival transfer and you will need to make your own way to the starting hotel at your own expense. If your arrival transfer does not arrive within 30 minutes after you have exited the arrivals area please take a taxi to your start point hotel. 

EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS

G Adventures Local Representative (Bhutan):

Ms Wangchuk Dem
Phone: +975 17 74 74 28

Secondary
Mr Rajju Maskey
Phone: +977 9802014444

G Adventures Local Office (Delhi)
G Adventures South Asia Manager, Sorab Jassawalla (Delhi, India)
>From outside of India: +91 9223226888
>From within Delhi: 9223226888
>From within India, but outside Delhi: 0 9223226888

G Adventures Office Bangkok, Thailand
During Office hours (Weekdays, 9am-5pm Local Time): +66-02-3815574

If you are unable for any reason to contact our local office, please call the numbers listed below which will connect you directly with our Sales team who will happily assist you. Hours of operation by region can be found here.

Toll-free, North America only: 1 888 800 4100
Calls from UK: 0344 272 0000
Calls from Germany: 0800 365 1000
Calls from Australia: 1 300 796 618
Calls from New Zealand: 0800 333 307
Outside North America, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the UK: +1 416 260 0999


Newsletter  

Our adventure travel e-newsletter is full of travel news, trip information, interesting stories and contests. To avoid missing out on special offers and updates from G Adventures, subscribe at www.gadventures.com/newsletters/

Stay current on how our company invests in our global community through our foundation - Planeterra. Sign up for Planeterra's monthly news to learn more about how to give back and support the people and places we love to visit.


What to Take  

We suggest that you pack as lightly as possible as your are expected to carry your own luggage. As a rule we try not to have to walk more than 15-20 mintues with your bags which is why we recommend keeping the weight of your bags between 10-15kg/22-30lb. Most travellers carry a backpack or rolling bag of small to medium size (no XXL ones please!). You will also need a day pack/bag to carry water, cameras and other electronics like ipods and mobile phones.


Safety and Security  

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travellers' cheques, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. When travelling on a group trip, please note that your CEO has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Your CEO will accompany you on all included activities. During your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your CEO will assist you with options available in a given location please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and we offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgment when selecting an activity in your free time. Although the cities visited on tour are generally safe during the day, there can be risks to wandering throughout any major city at night. It is our recommendation to stay in small groups and to take taxis to and from restaurants, or during night time excursions.

Protests and Demonstrations- Protests and demonstrations, even those that are well intended, have the potential to turn violent with no warning. Counter protests can also turn violent. Action by security forces to disperse demonstrators and protesters may occur at any time. If you are in an area where demonstrators or protesters are gathering, avoid the temptation of staying for a good photo opportunity and leave the area immediately.

Water based activities have an element of danger and excitement built into them. We recommend only participating in water based activities when accompanied by a guide(s). We make every reasonable effort to ensure the fun and adventurous element of any water based activities (in countries with varying degrees of operating standards) have a balanced approach to safety. It is our policy not to allow our CEOs to make arrangements on your behalf for water based activities that are not accompanied by guide(s).

Swimming, including snorkeling, is always at your own risk.

We take all prudent measures in relation to your safety. For ways to further enhance your personal safety while traveling, please visit:


www.gadventures.com/travel-resources/safety/


A Couple of Rules  

Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on any trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for our travellers. Our philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter, and in particular the local people who make the world the special place it is. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our CEOs have the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.


Highlights  

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"


Important Notes  

1. CAMERAS
Please note there may be times during your visit to Bhutan when the use of video and/or still cameras may be inappropriate. Local people may consider that filming is too intrusive and in these circumstances we will request that you do not film. At all times be aware and sensitive to the impact of photography and seek permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse.

2. HIKING AND WALKING
Please note that there is a lot of walking and light hiking on this trip and some of it at higher altitudes. Please ensure you are in decent physical condition and able to walk for extended periods of time.

3. EARPLUGS
Bhutan, being a Buddhist country believes in ahimsa so the barking of dogs (and there are a lot of them) at night can be annoying. It's advisable to bring earplugs. If you are able to travel with a lot of patience and a good sense of humour, then we know that you - like all of us - will be captivated by what Bhutan has to offer.

4. CLOTHING
The prime requirement for clothes you bring on Bhutan trip is that they are comfortable and appropriate to the weather conditions that you are likely to meet. For protection against cold, particularly at night, a number of relatively thin layers is better than a few thick ones. Thermal underclothes, being small and light, can be very useful. Bhutan is very conservative and you should dress accordingly. As a general guideline, shoulders and knees should be covered at all times. The wearing of shorts is not allowed as it will restrict your entry into buildings of a religious nature and family homes. A water and windproof jacket, a hat and sunscreen are essential.

5. FLIGHT
Your arrival and departure flights into/out of Paro, Bhutan, must be booked by you online. Please visit the following airline websites to do so:

Druk Air
http://www.drukair.com.bt/

Bhutan Airlines
http://www.bhutanairlines.bt/

Flights can be booked from: Bangkok, Kathmandu, Delhi or Kolkata (please check Visa requirements if flying via India). Once your flights are booked, contact your G Adventures agent, who will be happy to assist in booking your International connections.

6. EXTRA NIGHTS
If you are planning to extend your stay in Bhutan, pre or post-tour accommodation MUST be booked through G Adventures in order for us to issue a valid visa for the duration of your stay. These extra nights will include a guide and meals in addition to the accommodation.

7. LUGGAGE
Please note that if you have extra luggage or bags you do not wish to bring along for the entire trip you will be able to leave them at the joining hotel and retrieve them at the finishing hotel when the trip ends.

8. ACCOMMODATION NOTE:
Please be aware that properties we stay in with only two stories may not have elevators installed and climbing the stairs with your luggage will be necessary.


Dossier Disclaimer  

The information in this trip details document has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However it is subject to change, and does not form part of the contract between the client and the operator. The itinerary featured is correct at time of printing. It may differ slightly to the one in the brochure. Occasionally our itineraries change as we make improvements that stem from past travellers, comments and our own research. Sometimes it can be a small change like adding an extra meal along the itinerary. Sometimes the change may result in us altering the tour for the coming year. Ultimately, our goal is to provide you with the most rewarding experience. Please note that our brochure is usually released in November each year. If you have booked from the previous brochure you may find there have been some changes to the itinerary.

VERY IMPORTANT: Please ensure that you print a final copy of your Trip Details to review a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans.


Travel Insurance  

Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is compulsory in order to participate on any of our trips. When travelling on a group trip, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance has been sighted by your CEO, who will take note of your insurance details. When selecting a travel insurance policy please bear in mind that all clients must have medical coverage and that we require a minimum coverage of USD 200,000 for repatriation and emergency rescue. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. If you have credit card insurance we require proof of purchase of the trip (a receipt of credit card statement) with a credit card in your name. Contact your bank for details of their participating insurer, the level of coverage and emergency contact telephone number.


Minimum Age  

You must be 18 to travel unaccompanied on a G Adventures tour. For minors travelling with a guardian over 21 years old, the minimum age is 12.


Group Leader  

CEO (Chief Experience Officer) throughout, local guides.


Max Pax  

Max 15, avg 10


Group Leader Description  

All G Adventures group trips are accompanied by one of our Chief Experience Officers (CEO). The aim of the CEO is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. They will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the countries visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. We also use local guides where we think more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting - we think it's the best of both worlds.


My Own Room  

Please note that if you have booked the "My Own Room" option for this tour, you will receive your own single room for all night stops


Joining Instructions  

For details of your joining hotel please refer to your tour voucher, G Account, the G Adventures App or contact your travel agent.

An arrival transfer is included when you arrive on Day 1, or if you arrive up to three days prior provided that you have booked your pre-accommodation through National Geographic Journeys in our joining hotel. Due to customer experience and quality considerations, all services related to the tour must be continuous.

Our driver will be waiting for you with a National Geographic Journeys sign with your name on it, and they will be waiting for you outside the luggage hall. There most likely will be many signs, so please check carefully for your name.

Please note that day 1 is an arrival day and no activities have been planned on this day.

Upon arrival to your Joining Hotel (note that check-in time will be in the afternoon), look for a note or bulletin board in the reception with a note from your CEO. This note will give the details of your Welcome Meeting on day 1 (usually between 5pm and 7pm), where you will get a chance to meet your CEO and other travellers, as well as learn more about how the tour will run. If you don't see a note, please ask reception for details!

If you are arriving later and will miss the Welcome Meeting, your CEO will leave a note at reception for you with any information you may need, and with morning instructions for the next day.


Emergency Fund  

Please also make sure you have access to at least an additional USD $200 (or equivalent) as an 'emergency' fund, to be used when circumstances outside our control (ex. a natural disaster) require a change to our planned route. This is a rare occurrence!


Optional Activities  

No optional activities


Meals Included  

9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 9 dinners


Laundry  

Laundry facilities are offered by some of our hotels for a charge. There will be times when you may want to or have to do your own laundry so we suggest you bring non-polluting/biodegradable soap.


Feedback  

After your travels, we want to hear from you! Your feedback information is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next G Adventures trip if your feedback is completed on-line within 30 days of finishing your trip. Your tour evaluation will be e-mailed to you 24 hours after the conclusion of your trip. If you do not receive the tour evaluation link in the days after your tour has finished, please drop us a line at [email protected] and we will send it on to you.


About our Transportation  

Traveling by road in Bhutan is certainly not what people are used to in Western countries. The roads in the mountains might not be the best but our drivers always keep the safety of the passengers first. Most roads consist of a series of switchbacks going up and back down mountain passes and can be quite bumpy. If you do suffer from motion sickness, we recommend you bring medication for the drives.


Health  

Please note inoculations may be required for the country visited. It is your responsibility to consult with your travel doctor for up to date medical travel information well before departure.

You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information well before departure. We recommend that you carry a First Aid kit and hand sanitizers / antibacterial wipes as well as any personal medical requirements. Please be aware that sometimes we are in remote areas and away from medical facilities, and for legal reasons our leaders are prohibited from administering any type of drug including headache tablets, antibiotics, etc. In Asia pharmacies tend to stock the same western drugs as you get at home but they are usually produced locally so please bring the full drug name with you when trying to purchase a prescription drug. When selecting your trip please carefully read the brochure and itinerary and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please refer to the Physical and Culture Shock ratings for trip specific information. G Adventures reserves the right to exclude any traveller from all or part of a trip without refund if in the reasonable opinion of our CEO they are unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group.


What's Included  

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. Sustainable Development Fees. 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.


Itinerary Notes  

There are new Health & Safety Protocols for National Geographic Journeys tours. Please see here for full details and up-to-date requirements as they may change.

Day 1 Paro/Thimphu

Arrive at any time and transfer to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital. Time permitting, take a guided walk around town.

In clear weather, the flight over the Himalayas offers magnificent views of the world's highest peaks as they give way to the lush green Paro valley. The first gift from Bhutan will be the cool, clean fresh air as you step off the plane. After clearing customs and visa control, an arrival transfer will take you to Thimphu, where we'll be met by our local CEO who will conduct a welcome meeting and orientation.

Approximate Altitude: Paro 2,300m

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.

After breakfast, drive through dense forests of blue pine, oak, and rhododendrons and enjoy views of the Himalayan range and the valley beyond. After a lunch stop, the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass at 3,050m (10,007 ft). After stopping here for tea and panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range, we descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha.

Approx. Altitude: Punakha Valley 1,300m

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. Drive 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.

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.

Approx. Altitude: Gangtey Valley 2,900m

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.

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.

Please note that on occasion the Institute for Zorig Chusum art school is closed due to school breaks and holidays. If it is not open on the day of your visit, another activity will be arranged.

Approx. Altitude: Thimpu 2,300m

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.

Approx. Altitude: Haa Valley 2,600m

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.

Approx. Altitude: Paro 701m (2,300 ft)

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.

Due to the altitude, this climb can be tough. Be prepared to spend about 5 1/2 hours to get up and down with stops, including lunch. Remember to stay hydrated and take your time.

The hike is gradually uphill and takes about 2 hrs to reach the first stop at the cafeteria, where you can enjoy views of the monastery. If you choose, you can stop here and wait for the group who choose to continue up to the Monastery.

Day 10 Paro

Depart at any time. Airport transfer is included.

Details

Prices from: €3327.20

Duration: 10 Days

Service Level: Upgraded

Travel Style: National Geographic Journeys

Physical Grading: 3 - Average

Trip Type: Small Group



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