This heritage tour of Bhutan, staying in Bhutan's 5 star+ luxury and boutique hotels, was especially created for Kamzang Journeys.
Blessed with an unspoiled landscape, a unique and ancient culture with lives its Tibetan Buddhist faith, traditional architecture, friendly inhabitants, abundant happiness and some of the best hotels on the planet, Bhutan promises an extraordinary adventure filled journey to every visitor. A few highlights of the trip are a hike to the Tiger's Nest, or Takstang Monastery, precariously perched in the pine-covered cliffs, one of Bhutan's most photographed sites, a visit to remote Haa valley and wandering through Punakha Dzong.
While staying at Bhutan's premier hotels, pamper yourself at sensual spas, wine and dine at unique restaurants, shop at quaint boutiques for world renown Bhutanese crafts, and visit Bhutan's cultural sites, its Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and its 'dzongs'. You will have a qualified, English speaking guide with you throughout the trip to show you the 'insider' Bhutan. Discover the traditional Bhutanese way of life in style and comfort!
The 5 star+ and heritage hotels featured in this luxury trip in Bhutan are the Le Meridien in Thimpu, Zhiwa Ling or Uma Resort in Paro, Aman or Uma Resort in Punakha, Dewachen Resort in Phobjikha and the Lechuna Heritage Lodge in Haa, all decorated in traditional Bhutanese style.
Almost all feature opulent spas with traditional Bhutanese treatments.
Truly living it up on the sky in Bhutan!
Enjoy this exclusive journey through Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon ...
We can also run this tour using traditional Bhutanese hotels.
Day 1 - Arrive Paro. Drive Thimpu (Le Meridien)
Day 2 - Thimphu | Sightseeing
Day 3 - Drive Punakha | Sightseeing Punakha Dzong (Aman or Uma)
Day 4 - Punakha | Hike, Raft or Bike (Aman or Uma)
Day 5 - Drive Phobjikha (Dewachen)
Day 6 - Phobjikha | Day Hike (Winter Viewing of Black Necked Cranes)
Day 7 - Drive Paro (Uma or Zhiwaling)
Day 8 - Paro | Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) Hike
Day 9 - Paro | Sightseeing
Day 10 - Depart
+ We can also run this tour using traditional Bhutanese hotels.
+ The trip starts and finishes in Paro, Bhutan. Flights to and from Bhutan are available from Delhi, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Calcutta + a few other destinations. You can book your own flights, or our agent can book the flights for you.
Trip Advisor Reviews
Read More Testimonials
- Bhutan's Luxury Hotels
- Boutique Hotel in Haa
- Sightseeing in Thiphu, Punakha, Haa & Paro
- Bhutanese Drukpa Buddhist Monasteries
- Drukgyal Dzong
- Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery Hike
- Punakha Dzong + Paro Dzong
- Remote Haa Valley
- The Phobjikha Valley
- Black Necked Cranes in the Winter Season
- Bhutan's Incredible Cuisine!
Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography
Himalayan Wildlife Photos
Himalayan Bird Photos
Himalayan Flowers Photos
Online Articles on Bhutan
Soaking in a Unique Bath Culture - BBC Travel
Bhutan, a Higher State of Being - New York Times
Bhutan's Dark Secret to Happiness - BBC Travel
Bhutan's Enlightened Experiment - National Geographic
Bhutan Rising - WWF
Bhutan: Travel Blueprint - Wanderlust UK
Luxury Trip Price
Traditional Trip Price
+ Hotel Single Supplement - $TBA
+ Flights to + from Bhutan NOT Included
- Le Meridien - Thimpu
- Zhiwaling or Uma - Paro
- Amakora or Uma - Punakha
- Heritage Lechuna Lodge - Haa
- Dewachen Hotel - Phobjikha
- English-speaking Bhutanese Guide
- Bhutan Visa
- Government Royalties & Taxes
- Private Transportation
- All Meals in Bhutan
- Rafting or Hiking in Punakha
- Sightseeing & Museum Entrance Fees
- Bottled Drinking Water
- Airport Transfers
- Travel Insurance | Travel Health Insurance
- International Flights
- Equipment Rental
- Alcohol | Bottled Drinks
Bhutan Health Information
Currency, Credit Cards + ATMS
Bhutanse Ngultrum = Indian Rupee ($1 = $66 Sept 2016). Although the national currency is the ngultum, the IC is accepted throughout Bhutan.
+ In 1974, the ngultrum was introduced, replacing the rupee at par. The ngultrum is equal in value to the Indian rupee. India was key in assisting the Bhutanese government as it developed its economy in the early 1960s. When the ngultrum was introduced, it retained the peg to the Indian rupee which the Bhutanese rupee had maintained. The ngultrum does not exchange independently with other nations' currencies but is interchangeable with the Indian rupee.
You’ll want local currency with you on the trip and trek for drinks, snacks, beer, soda and general shopping. There are many chances to shop during the trip, especially in eastern Bhutan, and usually local crafts to buy en route. There are ATMs in Paro, Thimpu and other cities, and you’ll want some cash to change as well.
Most larger craft shops in Thimpu, Paro and Punakha will accept credit cards, although there is generally a merchant fee surcharge. Credit cards aren't as widely accepted in the central or east of Bhutan.
Tipping in Bhutan
Tips are best in local currency, the Bhutanese ngultrum. Guides and drivers will expect tips when you last see them, so for sightseeing sections before the trip, the drivers will expect small tips, and the same for the drivers after the trip.
For the longer Snowman trek, expect to contribute a tip of $250 (16,500 ngultrum) to the general pool. The guide (Kim) will distribute when necessary, to make things easier.
Tempartures + Dress Etiquette
The Snowman Trek is a high altitude trek, generally very cold, often wet, often muddy. Be prepared with a warm down jacket and sleeping bag, down booties, wind/waterproof jacket & pants, good hiking boots, Crocs to change into in the evenings, trekking poles, gaiters, a 35-45 liter daypack, layers for day, a cap or wide-brimmed hat, gloves and wool hat, thermals for evening, enough snack food and rehydration (electrolytes). See GEAR LIST on website for full gear list.
Much of Bhutan in the Spring and Autumn is warm during the day (t-shirt, sandals, light pants or skirt weather), cools down in the afternoon. Nights are often below freezing although they can also be much wamer. Layers are the key. Summer is hotter and wetter. The winter months (November – March) are chilly in the mornings, cold enough that you might start the day in a down jacket, but warm up to jeans and t-shirt weather by late morning. Nights require a down jacket if you’re sitting outside. It never hurts to have an umbrella as it can rain at any time of the year.
Trekking on a long trek is always a mixed bag of temperatures. Daytime temperatures can be very hot and muggy in the lower altitudes (below 2000 meters), so a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap and light clothes are essential. LAYERS are the key as hot can change quickly to FREEZING crossing the passes and snowfalls are common. Have a wide range of layer-able trekking clothes for summer to winter temperatures. Be prepared! See GEAR LIST below.
Dress conservatively in the cities and on the trail as a rule. Shorts are OK if they aren't too short, NO shorts or tank tops in the monasteries. Use your good judgment!
See 'Bhutan' tab for the Bhutanese dress code.
Passport on Trek
You should carry your passport with you in your day pack at all times during the trek, not in your duffel bag.
Shopping in Bhutan
Bhutan is known for its crafts and textiles, and there are many local craft markets around Bhutan where you can pick up wonderful things to bring home. Your guide will help if you’re interested in shopping while in Bhutan!
Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography
General Bhutan Information
See 'Bhutan' Tab
You will be met at the Paro airport by a representative from Xplore Bhutan. Look for a sign with your name on it, they will be looking for you. You'll be driven to the hotel in Paro and briefed. Everything is included, so if you arrive early you'll have a driver, car and guide at your disposal, and all meals are also included.
Xplore Bhutan will issue your Bhutan visa and email it to you at least 10 days before your arrival in Paro. Xplore can also issue you a transit India visa once you arrive in Paro if you need one. Bring a copy of your passport and a photo.
Flights to + from Bhutan
Xplore Bhutan can issue your flight to Paro from various destinations, and can book your return flights, whether from Paro or from Guwahati in Assam, India. You can also book your own flights to Bhutan and from Bhutan or India. At the moment Druk Air is the only carrier flying into & out of Bhutan.
Notes on Itinerary
Although we try to follow the itinerary below, it is ONLY a guideline based on years of experience trekking in the Himalaya. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.
The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...
Arrival Hotel Thimpu
Shrouded for centuries in the misty serenity of the great Himalayas, the Land of the Thunder Dragon, or Bhutan, as now known to the rest of the world, developed its own distinct civilization. This deeply spiritual land is home to a unique identity, derived essentially from a fertile religious and cultural heritage. Bhutan brims with myth and legend. As a befitting testimony, a great Buddhist heritage of over 2000 monasteries and 10,000 monuments dot its peaceful open space and regal mountains. An ambience of near sacred tranquility permeates the land, fostering an environment of spiritual affluence that has shaped the foundation of that rarity that we know as Bhutanese life. All Bhutanese are required to wear their national dress, called gho for men, kira for women.
The Bhutanese have deliberately and zealously safeguarded and preserved their rich culture and traditions, its ancient way of life, in all its aspects. And it is perhaps one of the world’s last strongholds of unspoiled wilderness. It is a part of the earth that represents a fabled realm. Bhutan is a land where the past and the contemporary co-exist in harmony, a recipe that makes a journey undeniably amazing. A trip through Bhutan, in many ways, is still a journey into the past. In this small tract of land, one of the most rugged terrains in the world frames one of the world’s richest vegetation. It is a land of about 700,000 people who believe that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product. Bhutan is a country with a different face. And a different story to tell.
Apart from trekking along the northern frontier, you will be also visiting the main western towns of Thimphu, Paro and Punakha. Western Bhutan is comparatively more developed than the rest of the country. Thimphu, the capital, has all the important government offices, including the King’s Secretariat. Paro has the only airport and Punakha is the ancient capital of Bhutan.
The yeti, locally known as 'migoi', is still talked about in the high, Himalayan regions of Bhutan. From a BBC article "It's widely believed in Bhutan that the yeti walks backwards to fool trackers ... Another common belief is that the yeti cannot bend its body, a feature it is thought to share with evil spirits.
According to author Kunzang Choden, this explains why most traditional Bhutanese homes have small doorways. In her book, Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti, she describes how the raised threshold and lowered lintel force anyone who enters to lift their leg and bend their head."
+ All below information from Wikipedia +
Culture of Bhutan
Cradled in the folds of the Himalayas, Bhutan has relied on its geographic isolation to protect itself from outside cultural influences. A sparsely populated country bordered by India to the south, and China to the north, Bhutan has long maintained a policy of strict isolationism, both culturally and economically, with the goal of preserving its cultural heritage and independence. Only in the last decades of the 20th century were foreigners allowed to visit the country, and only then in limited numbers. In this way, Bhutan has successfully preserved many aspects of its culture, which dates directly back to the mid-17th century.
Modern Bhutanese culture derives from ancient culture. This culture affected the early growth of this country. Dzongkha and Sharchop, the principal Bhutanese languages, are closely related to Tibetan, and Bhutanese monks read and write the ancient variant of the Tibetan language, known as chhokey. The Bhutanese are physically similar to the Tibetans, but history does not record when they crossed over the Himalayas and settled in the south-draining valleys of Bhutan. Both Tibetans and Bhutanese revere the tantric guru, Padmasambhava, the founder of Himalayan Buddhism in the 8th century.
Religion in Bhutan
Bhutanese society is centered around the practice of Buddhism, which is the main religion. Religious beliefs are evidenced in all aspects of life. Prayer flags flutter on hillsides, offering up prayers to benefit all nearby sentient beings. Houses each fly a small white flag on the roof indicating the owner has made his offering payments to appease the local god. Each valley or district is dominated by a huge dzong, or high-walled fortress, which serves the religious and administrative center of the district. Approximately 23% of the population is Hindu. There is a small Muslim population in Bhutan, covering 0.2% of the whole country's population. Overall, 75% of the population is Buddhist, and 0.4% other religions.
Once every year, a dzong or important village may hold a religious festival, or Tsechu. Villagers from the surrounding district come for several days of religious observances and socializing while contributing auspicious offerings to the lama or monastery of the festival. The central activity is a fixed set of religious mask dances, or cham, held in a large courtyard. Each individual dance takes up to several hours to complete and the entire set may last two to four days. Observation of the dances directly blesses the audience and also serves to transmit principles of Tantric Buddhism to the villagers. A number of the dances can be traced directly back to Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal himself, the founder of Bhutan, and have been passed down essentially unchanged since the mid-17th century. Prior to dawn on the final day of the tsechu a huge tapestry, or thongdrel, is unfurled in the courtyard of the dzong for several hours. The mere sight of it is believed to bring spiritual liberation. The thongdrel is rolled up before the rays of the morning sun can strike it.
Monks join the monastery at six to nine years of age and are immediately placed under the discipleship of a headmaster. They learn to read chhokey, the language of the ancient sacred texts, as well as Dzongkha and English. Eventually they will choose between two possible paths: to study theology and Buddhist theory, or take the more common path of becoming proficient in the rituals and personal practices of the faith.
The daily life of the monk is austere, particularly if they are stationed at one of the monasteries located high in the mountains. At these monasteries food is often scarce and must be carried up by the monks or their visitors. The monks are poorly clothed for winter conditions and the monasteries are unheated. The hardship of such a posting is well-recognized; to have a son or brother serving in such a monastery is recognized as very good karma for the family. A monk's spiritual training continues throughout his life. In addition to serving the community in sacramental roles, he may undertake several extended silent retreats. A common length for such a retreat is three years, three months, three weeks and three days. During the retreat time he will periodically meet with his spiritual master who will test him on his development to ensure that the retreat time is not being wasted.
Each monastery is headed by an abbot who is typically a Lama, although the titles are distinct. The highest monk in the land is the chief abbot of Bhutan, whose title is Je Khenpo. He is theoretically equivalent in stature to the king. The Central Monk Body is an assembly of 600 or so monks who attend to the most critical religious duties of the country. In the summer they are housed in Thimphu, the nation's capital, and in the winter they descend to Punakha dzong, the most sacred dzong in Bhutan, where Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal's mortal body has been kept under vigil since the late 17th century.
Music of Bhutan
Bhutanese music has traditional genres such as Zhungdra, Boedra, and a modern genre called Rigsar. Bhutanese musicians include: Jigme Drukpa, who is also a leading Bhutanese musicologist.
Official Behavioral Code
The Driglam Namzha is the official behaviour and dress code of Bhutan. It governs how citizens should dress in public and how they should behave in formal settings. It also regulates a number of cultural assets such as art and Bhutanese architecture. In English, driglam means "order, discipline, custom, rules, regimen" and namzha means "system," though the term may be styled "The Rules for Disciplined Behaviour."
It is a manner and etiquette as what to wear, how to eat, talk and bow down before the government officials and the clergy. The Driglam Namzha was imposed on all citizens from 1990. The people of different ethnic heritage for example the Lhotsampas (Bhutanese citizens of ethnic Nepali origin – they were not Bhutanese citizens and they were not Lhotsampas) resented this and revolted against this imposition, thereby getting kicked out of Bhutan to the refugee camps. About 20% of Bhutan's population currently live in exile because of this Bhutanization policies of the Royal Government followed by land expropriation and persecution.
To preserve the indigenous Buddha's Teachings as their long-guarded culture and tradition, Menjong Chöthün Tshogpa, a charitable organization was established in 2002 by The Supreme Dharma King or Trulku Jigme Chöda Rinpoche 70th Je Khenpo of Bhutan. The chairman at present is Trizin Tsering Rimpoche who also happens to be the founder of Buddha Dordenma Image Foundation, another charitable organization in Bhutan.
National Dress Code
Previously all Bhutanese citizens were required to observe the national dress code, known as Driglam Namzha, while in public during daylight hours. The rule was enforced more rigorously in some districts (dzongkhag) than others. Men wear a heavy knee-length robe tied with a belt, called a gho, folded in such a way to form a pocket in front of the stomach.
Women wear colourful blouses over which they fold and clasp a large rectangular cloth called a kira, thereby creating an ankle-length dress. A short silk jacket, or toego may be worn over the kira. Everyday gho and kira are cotton or wool, according to the season, patterned in simple checks and stripes in earth tones. For special occasions and festivals, colourfully patterned silk kira and, more rarely, gho may be worn.
Additional rules of protocol apply when visiting a dzong or a temple, or when appearing before a high-level official. Male commoners wear a white sash (kabney) from left shoulder to opposite hip. Local and regional elected officials, government ministers, cabinet members, and the King himself each wear their own colored kabney. Women wear a narrow embroidered cloth draped over the left shoulder, a rachu.
The dress code has met with some resistance from Lhotshampa, people of Nepali ancestry, living along the Indian border who resent having to wear a cultural dress which is not their own.
Bhutanization | The Darker Side
Despite living in Bhutan for up to five generations, the Lhotsampas retained their highly distinctive Nepali language, culture, and religion. They participated in public life and politics, even attaining positions of significant leadership. The Lhotsampas coexisted peacefully with other ethnic groups in Bhutan until the mid 1980s, when Bhutan’s king and the ruling Druk majority became worried that the growing Lhotsampa population could threaten the majority position and the traditional Buddhist culture of the Druk Bhutanese.
The government therefore initiated a campaign, known as “One country, one people,” or “Bhutanization” to cement Bhutanese national identity. The policies imposed the Druk dress code, religious practices, and language use on all Bhutanese regardless of prior practices. These changes negatively impacted the Lhotsampa people, because they did not wear the same traditional dress, practice the same religion, or speak the same language as the northern Bhutanese. The use of the Nepali language was prohibited in schools, many Lhotsampa teachers were dismissed, and textbooks were burned.
Men + Women in Society
Men and women work together in the fields, and both may own small shops or businesses. Men take a full part in household management, often cook, and are traditionally the makers and repairers of clothing (but do not weave the fabric). In the towns, a more "western" pattern of family structure is beginning to emerge, with the husband as breadwinner and the wife as home-maker. Both genders may be monks, although in practice the number of female monks is relatively small.
Marriages are at the will of either party and divorce is not uncommon. The marriage ceremony consists of an exchange of white scarves and the sharing of a cup. Marriages can be officially registered when the couple has lived together for more than six months. Traditionally the groom moves to the bride's family home (matrilocality), but newlyweds may decide to live with either family depending on which household is most in need of labour.
Except for royal lineages, Bhutanese names do not include a family name. Instead two traditional auspicious names are chosen at birth by the local lama or by the parents or grandparents of the child. First names generally give no indication if the person is male or female; in some cases the second name may be helpful in that regard.
As there is a limited constellation of acceptable names to choose from, inevitably many people share the same combination of first and second names. To resolve the ambiguity an informal nicknaming system comes into play which recognizes where a person is from. If a certain "Chong Kinley" is from Chozom village in the Paro valley, she is called "Paro Kinley" when she is travelling outside the valley. In Paro valley itself she is identified by the name of her village, thus "Chong Kinley Chozom". Surprisingly, multiple children in a small hamlet of a few houses may have exactly the same name, reflecting the inspiration of the local lama. In this case, she is identified by the name of the house she was born in, thus "Chemsarpo" Kinley.
Food of Bhutan
The staple foods of Bhutan are red rice (like brown rice in texture, but with a nutty taste, the only variety of rice that grows in high altitudes), buckwheat, and increasingly maize. The diet in the hills also includes chicken, yak meat, dried beef, pork, pork fat, and lamb. Soups and stews of meat, rice, ferns, lentils, and dried vegetables, spiced with chili peppers and cheese, are a favourite meal during the cold seasons.
Zow shungo is a rice dish mixed with leftover vegetables. Ema datshi, made very spicy with cheese and chili peppers (similar to chili con queso), might be called the national dish for its ubiquity and the pride that Bhutanese have for it. Other foods include: jasha maru (a chicken dish), phaksha paa, thukpa, bathup, and fried rice.
Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned into butter and cheese. Popular beverages include: butter tea, black tea, locally brewed ara (rice wine), and beer. Popular spices include: curry, cardamom, ginger, thingay (Sichuan pepper), garlic, turmeric, and caraway.
When offered food, one says meshu meshu, covering one's mouth with the hands in refusal according to Bhutanese manners, and then gives in on the second or third offer.
Sports of Bhutan
Archery is the national sport in Bhutan, and competitions are held regularly in most villages. It differs from Olympic standards in technical details, such as the placement of the targets and atmosphere. There are two targets placed over 100 m apart and teams shoot from one end of the field to the other. Each member of the team shoots two arrows per round.
Traditional Bhutanese Archery is a social event, and competitions are organized between villages, towns, and amateur teams. There is usually plenty of food and drink complete with singing and dancing. Attempts to distract an opponent include standing around the target and making fun of the shooter's ability. Darts (kuru) is an equally popular outdoor team sport, in which heavy wooden darts pointed with a 10 cm nail are thrown at a paperback-sized target 10 to 20 m away.
Another traditional sport is digor, which resembles shot put and horseshoe throwing.
Football is the most popular sport in Bhutan. In 2002, Bhutan's national football team played Montserrat in what was billed as The Other Final; the match took place on the same day Brazil played Germany in the World Cup Final, and at the time Bhutan and Montserrat were the world's two lowest ranked teams. It was held in Thimphu's Changlimithang Stadium, and Bhutan won 4–0. Cricket has also gained popularity in Bhutan, particularly since the introduction of television channels from India. The Bhutan national cricket team is one of the most successful affiliate nations in the region.
+ Below information from WWF +
Tucked between the Tibetan Plateau to the north and India to the south, west and east, Bhutan lies entirely within the Eastern Himalayas. It's just half the size of Indiana. But 51% of its land is protected—the highest percentage of any nation in Asia. Equally striking, the Bhutanese constitution requires at least 60% of the country’s forest cover to be permanently maintained (the country is currently at more than 70%).
Those percentages reflect the value of protected areas—and more broadly, nature—to multiple facets of Bhutanese society. One is spiritual: Bhutan's culture is rooted in Buddhism, which emphasizes the interdependence between humans and nature ... Wildlife delivers revenue as well. The country's mountains, alpine meadows and thick forests shelter more than 5,600 vascular plant species and 200 mammal species. There are tigers, snow leopards and Asian elephants—as well as bird species like the beautiful nuthatch. Tourism showcasing Bhutan's biodiversity and nature-inspired culture is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the country's economy ...
Renewable hydropower sold to India currently generates more than 45% of national revenue, and the country must diversify its economy to address its evolving needs. At the same time, Bhutan's leaders are keeping a close eye on Gross National Happiness—the country's holistic approach to prosperity that includes social, environmental and political priorities alongside economic ones."
+ Below information taken from The New York Times +
"The majority of Bhutanese still live off the land, practicing subsistence agriculture and animal husbandry. Bhutan is the only country in the world whose state religion is Mahayana Buddhism. Its official language, Dzongkha, is spoken in few other places on earth — but all Bhutanese schoolchildren, even in the deepest countryside, are taught English. Bhutan only got television in 1999. There are no plastic bags allowed in Bhutan, and 72 percent of the country is under forest cover. In 2013, the government announced its intention to become the world’s first 100-percent organic-farming nation ... Gender equality is a work in progress; fewer than 9 percent of the country’s nationally elected officials are women."
Day 1 - Arrival in Paro. Drive Thimphu 2300m (Le Meridien)
Fly to Paro from the departure city of your choice (see Druk Air schedule: Xplore Bhutan can book your flights for you). The flight into Paro from Kathmandu (and elsewhere) must be one of the most spectacular on the planet. The panorama includes Everest, Kanchenjunga, Shishapangma, Gauri Shankar, Cho Oyu, Nuptse, Lhotse, Chamlang, Jannu, Chomoyummo, Pauhunri, Shudu Tsenpa, Jhomolhari and Jichu Drake. You'll have an exciting descent into the Paro valley as the captain maneuvers the jet down through the narrow, steep-sided valleys, seeming to barely miss the forested walls on either side. The landings by experienced pilots are always smooth, and clear, blue skies with temperatures in the mid-60s are worth the anxiety of the landing.
You'll be pickup from Paro Airport by a representative from Xplore Bhutan and will drive directly to Thimphu by car, or bus if it's a larger group. Get the camera out and enjoy the afternoon strolling through Thimphu's interesting streets, or visit the Thimpu market. You'll enjoy your first Bhutanese dishes today, delicious and unique fare. The national dish is ema dates, whole red or green chilis cooked with butter and cheese and served over rice. As a tourist you're fed far too many dishes, and you will hardly make a dent in the ema datsi, chicken, potatoes and cheese, cauliflower and cheese, Chinese vegetables and Bhutanese vegetables. Overnight: Le Meridien
Day 2 - Thimphu
An extra day in Thimphu for sightseeing and touring Bhutan's capital city. We've scheduled a morning visit the weekend market (Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday), the handmade paper mill, School of Arts & Crafts where students learn thirteen different arts used predominantly in Bhutan. A traditional lunch in town at one of Thimpu's best restaurants.
After lunch, drive past the Memorial Chorten, built in memory of the late third King. Visit Changangkha Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the valley, the enclosure where the national animal, Takin, are kept and Zilukha Nunnery. Tashichho Dzong, the main secretariat building build in a traditionally Bhutanese style is notable for being built without nails or metal. Also worth a look are the large stupa built as a memorial to the late King HM Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, the founder of modern Bhutan. With a bit of extra time the Handicraft Emporium is worth a visit. Overnight: Le Meridien
Day 3 - Drive Punakha 1350m (Aman or Uma Resort) | Visit Punakha Dzong
An incredibly scenic drive over the Dochula pass (3150m), heading to Punakha. If the weather permits, you'll have a spectacular view of the highest mountains of Bhutan, an 180 degree panorama. After a short tea break, continue to sub-tropical Punakha, which sits at the intersection of the Mo Chu and the Phu Chu (the mother and father rivers). After checking into Amankora or Uma Resort and a delicious lunch, you will drive to Punakha Dzong. Enjoy the rest of the balmy, tropical day. Punakha Dzong is perhaps the most impressive of Bhutan's dzongs, the second one built and the seat of the government until the 1950s. The afternoon light is perfect, illuminating the guilded rooftops. You can also visit the souvenir making center in Punakha if time permits. Overnight: Amankora Resort or Uma
Day 4 - Punakha | Raft, Hike or Bike
A free day in Punakha and the idyllic Punakha valley, with several options. Overnight: Amankora Resort or Uma
Option 1 - A morning hike to the unique temple of Khamsum Yuley Lakhang, built by one of the queens, and a walk around the traditional village, watching locals make chang (barley or rice beer) and other traditional past times. Lunch at Amankora or Uma Resort, and in the afternoon you have the option to take a pleasant hike through rice fields to Chimi Lakhang, a Tantric Buddhist temple, or to spend the afternoon at the deluxe Amankora or Uma spas. Dinner at Amankora or Uma.
Option 2 - Take advantage of the unique chance to raft down the Mo Chu back to Punakha Dzong, arranged Xplore Bhutan. We'll also have a chance to visit the Punakha Dzong if we spend the rest of the morning rafting.
Day 5 - Drive Phobjikha 2900m
A possible visit to a local school which produces Bhutanese crafts before our morning drive to the idyllic valley of Phobjikha, winter home of the endangered black necked crane which visit Bhutan from the end of October until February each year. Check into the lovely, traditional Dewachen Hotel, with its large rooms with their own stoves and big windows, traditionally decorated in a rustic style. The dining room is lively, with an enormous bukhari stove to sit around.
Enjoy lunch with traditional dishes at a local restaurant before visiting Gangtey Gompa, the first Nyimgmapa temple in Bhutan started in 1613 by the grandson and reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, and finished by his reincarnation. The gompa is spectacularly set, overlooking the glacial Pobjikha Valley with its endangered black necked cranes who spend the winter in this valley feasting on the dwarf rhododendron which grows in the swampy glacial soil. The cranes are said to circle the gompa three times before setting off on their hazardous journey to Tibet for the summer, and in fact they actually do, probably catching the thermals up to start them off on their long migration.
Enjoy an afternoon walk around the beautiful, green valley of Phobjikha, where you will get an opportunity to visit the traditional farm houses and meet the local inhabitants. You have an option to hike along a sign posted 'Nature Trail', circling the cranes on the other side of the valley, and getting good photos of them taking off and landing nearby. Overnight: Hotel Dewachen
Day 6 - Drive Paro 2200m
You'll drive back to Paro in the morning, checking into the ultra luxurious Uma Resort or Amankora Resort. Afternoon visit the National Museum in Paro, the first of its kind which has a collection from natural history to religious paintings, followed by a visit to the 17th century Paro Dzong. Walk across the oldest wooden bridge still in use in Bhutan, a photographic spot. Enjoy an evening stroll through old Paro town with time to peep into some local handicrafts stores with the option to dine in Paro town. Overnight: Uma Resort or Aman Resort
Day 7 - Drive Haa (Lechuna Heritage Lodge)
An early morning drive to the Haa valley, only recently opened to international tourists, crossing over one of the highest motorable roads in Bhutan to reach this remote and lovely valley valley. On a clear day you'll have views of Jhomolhari, the highest peak in Bhutan. En route, you'll have wonderful photo opportunities of older Bhutanese dressed in their traditional 'ghos' and 'kiras', the women with short hair and bangs, and the men with Western hats. The lively villages, all of them painted with fantastic murals of Bhuddist animals, phalluses (representing the Divine Madman Drukpa Kinley) and ornately-decorated windows an sidings, are bordered with fences along the narrow roads, and stray cats and dogs wander throughout. You will check into the traditionally styled Lechuna Heritage Lodge, a unique chance to experience the 'real' Bhutanese style! Overnight: Lechuna Heritage Lodge
Day 8 - Haa | Sightseeing Haa Valley. Drive Paro (Uma Resort or Zhiwa Ling)
The Haa valley is pristine, beautiful, steep-sided valley of traditional Bhutanese houses, away from the main tourist route. You'll want to take a short hike out of town, into the valley, stop and meet some of the locals and enjoy the serenity. The people of the Haa valley grow wheat, barley, apples, chilis and potatoes, providing wonderful opportunity for photography. If you're lucky, you'll happen upon an archery match in Haa. Overnight: Uma Resort or Zhiwaling
Day 8 - Paro | Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) Hike 3100m (Uma or Zhiwa Ling)
A highlight of your trip to Bhutan will be the hike up through beautiful pine forests to Bhutan's most iconic landmark, Takstang Gompa, clinging to a huge granite cliff above Paro valley. It is believed that Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) came to Bhutan in the 7th century on a flying tigress and meditated in a cave for three months. The demons were subdued who were trying to stop the spread of Buddhism and converted the Paro valley into Buddhism. During the end of the 17th century a monastery was built on the spot where the saint meditated and it is a pilgrimage site for every Bhutanese to visit at least once in their life time.
The hike to Takstang Monastery, including time at the monastery and lunch, takes a good five hours. As you're at altitude, hike slowly, watch the sometimes precipitous trail and stay well hydrated. Once back at the car, we drive back into Paro or spend the afternoon back at the wonderful resort. On the way back, will visit Kichu Lhakhang, one from the two oldest Buddhist temples in the country, as well as historic Drukgyal Dzong. Overnight: Uma Resort or Zhiwa Ling
Day 9 - Paro | Sightseeing
Head into Paro for some sightseeing, with time to visit some of the shops that sell everything from beetle nut to exquisite, hand-woven textiles. Time permitting, explore the traditional Bhutanese architecture and visit Rinpung Dzong, or Paro Dzong, translated as 'Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’. Paro Dzong was built in 1644 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal on the foundation of one of Guru Rimpoche’s monasteries and was used to defend the Paro valley from invasions by Tibet. Although the dzong survived the 1897 earthquake, it was severely damaged by a fire in 1907. Like most dzongs in Bhutan, it is now the assembly hall as well as housing the monastic body, district government offices, and courts. We might also have time to visit the Paro National Museum. In the evening you may have the chance to watch the locals playing archery Bhutan's national game and a bit of an obsession in the country! Overnight: Uma Resort or Zhiwa Ling
Day 10 - Trip Ends
We will transfer you to the airport for your departure flight, where your Bhutanese guide will bid you farewell ...