This 'ultimate' journey through Bhutan has been especially crafted for Kamzang Journeys.
Join us for a 'best-of' Bhutan trip, a diverse trip which combines trekking, cultural touring, day-hikes and even a bit of rafting!
We cover much of Bhutan, from Paro, Thimpu and Punakha in western Bhutan to Phobjikha in central Bhutan, its cultural hub and a sublimely beautiful region.
Our trip begins with some sightseeing in Paro and a hike to Bhutan's most sacred site, Taktsang or the 'Tiger's Nest' monastery, perched in a craggy rock amongst the pine-covered mountains. Next we set off on the Jhomolhari Lingshi Trek starting in the Paro valley, a 9-day trek during which we will be treated to breathtaking views of their sacred peaks Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake & Tsherimgang on the border of Tibet. We will be trekking through Jigme Singye National Park, where we meander through beautiful alpine meadows where nomads camp in yak-hair tents, over a mountain passes, through dense sub-tropical jungles and past traditional Bhutanese villages, having the chance to experience rural life in Bhutan.One of the highlights of the trek is the very traditional Lingshi village in the north of Bhutan.
After the trek we drive to Thimphu, Punakha & Phobjikha perhaps having a chance to see the migrating black-necked cranes in Phobjikha. We will visit all of Bhutan's most famous dzongs and monasteries as we tour Bhutan in a private vehicle. To top off the trip, we've schedled have a morning of scenic rafting on Pho Chu in beautiful Punakha before visiting Bhutan's most resplendent buildings, Punakha Dzong.
Throughout, we'll stay in wonderful boutique-style Bhutanese hotels and be pampered by Bhutanese hospitality and charm. Of course we will have to try the national dish, ema datsi!
Enjoy this journey through Bhutan with us!
Day 1 - Arrive Paro
Day 2 - Paro. Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Hike
Day 3 - Trek Gunitsawa to Sharna Zampa
Day 4 - Trek Thangthangkha
Day 5 - Trek Jangothang
Day 6 - Jangothang
Day 7 - Trek Lingshi
Day 8 - Trek Shodu
Day 9 - Trek Barshong
Day 10 - Trek Dolam Kencho
Day 11- Trek Dodena. Drive Thimphu
Day 12 - Drive Punakha
Day 13 - Rafting Pho Chhu & Sightseeing in Punakha
Day 14 - Drive Phobjikha
Day 15 - Drive Wangdue
Day 16 - Drive Thimphu
Day 17 - Thimphu (sightseeing: option to spend night in Paro)
Day 18 - Depart
+ We can also run this tour using luxury 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.
Once again I carefully chose Kamzang for my exotic, indulgent trip to Bhutan. All praise to Kim and Lhakpa for making sure this was the best possible trip for our money, a trek in a very expensive/ exclusive part of the Himalayas. It was tough, it was amazing and it was the best thing I have ever done. Kim and Lhakpa spun their special magic to make this trek amazing. The Bhutanese guide Tse Tse made sure we had a good run down of what to expect each day.
Our tough trek, mud, rain, snow was everything we expected, however our time in camp, our food and our morale was always boosted by Kim and Lhakpa on even the toughest of days - and this is what we all signed up for - you cannot do the Snowman Trek and think it will be easy.
I am so glad I did this trek with Kamzang Journeys. I would do the toughest trek with Kamzang anywhere in the world. You will always get safety, dedication and genuine concern from these guys, they will ultimately help you reach your potential, and you will become friends for life. They will help you go forward with your trekking goals. Thanks guys. I will book again can't wait.
- Shannon F (Australia), Bhutan Lunana Snowman Trek 2016
Read More Testimonials
- Jhomolhari Lingshi Trek
- Jhomolhari Peak + the Bhutan Himalaya
- Yaks + yak-hair tents
- Diverse Bhutanese Ethnic Groups
- Drukpa Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries
- Eastern Bhutan (Paro, Thimpu & Punakha)
- Punakha, Paro + Thimpu Dzongs
- Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest) Hike
- Central Bhutan + Phobjikha Valley
- Black Necked Cranes in Phobjikha (Winter Season)
- Rafting the Pho Chhu
- Bhutan's Incredible Cuisine!
+ Hotel Single Supplement - $TBA
+ Flights to + from Bhutan NOT Included
- Bhutan's Heritage Hotels
- Jhomolhari Lingshi Trek
- Rafting Trip + Gear
- All Meals in Bhutan
- English-speaking Bhutanese Guide
- Bhutan Visa
- Government Royalties & Taxes
- Private Transportation
- 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 - Arrive Paro 2400m – Sightseeing
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 other places is spectacular, passing by Nuptse, Lhotse & Everest, Makalu and other Himalayan peaks. The descent into the Paro valley is exciting 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 transferred to the hotel in Paro, the lovely Tenzinling Resort just outside of Paro town (or another hotel of a similar standard). The rooms here are beautiful, large with high roofs and large windows overlooking the houses of the Paro suburbs and the massive Paro Dzong in the distance. Once in your room, the guide will take you out for your first traditional Bhutanese lunch. Bhutanese dishes are delicious if you like meat and chilis. Their 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!
After lunch you will head into Paro town to explore the traditional architecture and visit Rinpung Dzong, otherwise known as Paro Dzong , meaning 'Fortress on a Heap of Jewels’. The 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.
Day 2 - Paro - Taktsang Excursion
Today is an acclimatization day, and a chance to hike up to Bhutan's most iconic landmark, Taksang Gompa, which clings to a huge granite cliff above Paro valley. It's a five-hour return hike through beautiful pine forests including time at the monastery and lunch. At this altitude the hike can be a tiring, so hike slowly and stay well hydrated. 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. (Overnight Paro hotel)
Day 3 - Trek Gunitsawa to Shingkharap 2850m
(9-10 km, 3 hrs)
The trek begins at Gunitsawa village where you pass the army outpost and the trails continues with lots of ups and downs following the Paro Chhu until you reach a small meadow and settlement at Shingkharap. (Camp)
Day 4 - Trek to Thangthangkha 3610m
(11 km, 4 hrs)
The trail for the days keeps following the Paro Chhu with severl ups and down through alpine forests until you reach an opening with a small chorten where on a clear day you get your first glimpse of Mount Jomolhari. Camp for the night is a little further up the valley. (Camp)
Day 5 - Trek to Jangothang (Jomolhari Base Camp) 4080m
(19 km, 5 hrs)
If you did not see Mt. Jomolhari the previous evening, you will still have a chance to get a great view early this morning. This morning the trek continues up the Paro Chhu valley which widens into patches of alpine meadow and scanty growths of forest. You will cross an army checkpoint along the way and enjoy a spectacular view of high mountain ridges and snow-capped peaks. In this area yaks and their herder’s homes become a regular feature of the landscape. Passing the villages Soe, Takethang and Dangochang is another asset on this day. After reaching Jangothang, one of the most beautiful campsites of the Himalayas, you will again have a spectacular view of Mount Jomolhari. (Camp)
Day 6 - Jangothang
The rest day in Jangothang provides plenty of possibilities for day hikes with great views of lakes and snow capped mountains such as Jomolhari and Jichu Drake. There are good chances to spot some blue sheep on the upper slopes of the valley. Jangothang is a perfect environment for your acclimatization. You can also trek up to Tosoh or hike around the area. There are good short hiking trails in three directions. Jomolhari and its subsidiary mountain chains lie directly west, Jichu Drake to the north and there are a number of unclimbed peaks to the east. (Camp)
Day 7 - Trek to Lingshi 3800m
(16km, 6-7 hrs)
The trail leads to a last settlement in the valley and drops to the Paro Chhu. Passing the lake of Tshophu (4,380m) you will climb up steeply to Bhonte La pass at 4,890 m, the highest point of this trek route. Reaching the Dhumzo Chhu river, you trek downstream passing the few houses of Soi Yaktsa (Dhumzo) to arrive at your camp soon afterwards. (Camp)
Day 8 - Trek to Shodu 4080m
(22km, 8-9 hrs)
The trail climbs up to the Yelila pass at an altitude of 4,930m. From the pass, on a clear day you will get an excellent view of Jumolhari, Tserimgang and Masanggang. The trek from the pass to the campsite at Shodu is a steep downhill. (Camp)
Day 9 - Trek to Barshong 3710m
(16km, 5-6 hrs)
The trail follows the Thimphu Chhu through rhododendron forests, past beautiful waterfalls along the way. The valley narrows till the path takes to the slopes and gradually ascends to the ruins of Barshong Dzong. (Camp)
Day 10 - Trek to Dolam Kencho 3320m
(15km, 4-6 hrs)
The trail descends down to the Thimphu Chhu river valley, through dense forests of rhododendron, birch, conifer, maples and bamboos and then ascends to pasture lands. The camp is in a meadow nearby. (Camp)
Day 11- Trek to Dodena. Drive to Thimphu 2340m
(8km, 3-4 hrs)
The trail continues through forested areas winding up and down and through a small pass. Langurs (monkeys) can be seen along the way. In Dodena, you will exit the Jigme Dorji National Park and reach the road head next to a impressive cantilever bridge. Your vehicle will pick you up from this point and drive you to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. (Overnight Thimphu hotel)
Day 12 - Drive Thimphu to Punakha 1240m
Morning sightseeing of Thimphu and then depart for Punakha via the Dochula pass ( 10,000 feet). Stop at the top of the pass to visit the Druk Wangyal Lhakang and the 108 stupas. Lunch at Dochula Cafeteria and then drive on down towards the Punakha/Wangdue valley. If time permits visit the Chhimi Lhakang (Temple of Lam Drukpa Kuenley also known as the Divine Madman). (Overnight Punakha or Wangdue hotel)
Day 13 - Rafting Pho Chhu & Sightseeing in Punakha
Morning hike from the suspension bridge past the Punakha dzong to the put in of the class III section of the Pho Chhu at Samdenkha. The hike goes through pine forest and paddy fields with small local villages forming part of the landscape. Raft the lower Pho Chhu down past the Punakha dzong located at the confluence of the Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu. After the raft trip we will visit the spectacular Punakha Dzong. (Overnight Punakha or Wangdue hotel)
Day 14 - Drive to Phobjikha 2920m
Morning drive to Phobjikha. Upon arrival at Phobjikha visit the Gangtey Gonpa Monastery, afterwards heading out on the lovely nature hike down to the valley before driving on to your hotel. (Overnight Phobjikha hotel)
Day 15 - Drive to Wangdue
A few of the rare and endangered black necked cranes normally arrive Phobikha (their roosting ground for the winter months) by now. If they are there then spend the morning crane spotting before heading back towards Wangdue Phodrang. (Overnight Wangdue hotel)
Day 16 - Drive to Thimphu 2340m
Drive on back over the Dochula Pass to Thimphu. Evening at leisure to wander the streets of Thimphu. Dinner at a nice local restaurant. (Overnight in Thimphu hotel)
Day 17 - Thimphu Sightseeing (Option to spend night in Paro)
Sightseeing of Thimphu. Visit the world’s largest sitting Buddha, visit the Folk Heritage Museum, School of Local Art and Crafts or option to do a day hike to Phajoding Monastery overlooking the Thimphu valley. The total hike time to the monastery and back will be about 5 to 6 hours. (Option to stay in Paro hotel)
Day 18 - Depart
We'll take you to the airport for your international flights. We hope you've enjoyed your stay in Bhutan, the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon!