Bhutan Tour – Highlights of the Himalayan Kingdom

Travel to the Edge of the World

Bhutan Tour – Highlights of the Himalayan Kingdom

from

$2,375.00

PARO. THIMPU. GANGTEY. PUNAKHA. BUMTHANG.

The Kingdom of Bhutan, land of the Thunder Dragon, nestled in the heart of some of the world highest peaks. This beautiful Himalayan Kingdom only opened its doors to foreigners in 1974 and remains a society where age old culture and traditional life continue as they have for centuries. Often deemed the “Last Shangri-La”, Bhutan is truly unique. It is a tiny Buddhist kingdom tucked in the heart of the Himalayas, sandwiched between the giants of India and China, but seemingly untouched by the outside world. This is a land whose beloved king voluntarily abdicated the throne in order to help the country transition from absolute monarchy to parliamentary democracy. It is also a land where wealth is measured not by traditional economic measures, but rather by happiness. With its stunning scenery, welcoming people and fascinating culture, a visit to Bhutan is guaranteed to increase your Gross Personal Happiness.

During this 10 day tour of Bhutan we explore the beautiful valleys of Paro and Thimphu, as well as the sub-tropical valleys of Punakha, Wangdue, Phobjey Kha Valley to the town of Bumthang in central Bhutan. A place where the mountains, rivers and valleys are abodes of the gods. The constant scenes of hills dotted with ancient temples, monasteries and prayer flags are testament to this, whilst in streams prayer wheels powered by the natural water flow turn day and night. Bhutan is truly magical.

DATES: Available on a custom basis for 2 or more people.
Please note that this itinerary can be customized and altered to best suit your needs.

Description

Highlights Include:

  • Exploring Bhutan’s central valleys, rich with ancient historical and sacred Buddhist sites
  • Challenging your taste-buds with fiery hemadatsi, Bhutan’s favourite dish
  • Visiting many cultural attractions including medieval fortresses (Dzongs), markets and museums
  • Trekking up to the stunningly located Tiger’s Nest Monastery
  • Learning about the unique history, customs, and traditions of Bhutan
  • Admiring the incredible scenery of the valleys below the Himalayan peaks
Day 1: Arrival in Thimphu
DAY 01 ARRIVAL AT PARO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Limited flights allow only restricted amounts of carriers into this beautiful Himalayan Kingdom, there by conserving valuable culture and environment that has remained intact for centuries.

The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. On clear days, during this fight, you will experience breathtaking views of the Himalayan Mountains including Mt. Everest, and Jichu Drak and Chomolhari in Bhutan.

Welcome to Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Before your plane even touches down in Paro, you will know you have arrived somewhere special. A land of high mountains and lush forested valleys, Bhutan is dotted with dzongs, imposing fortresses built to protect the valleys and also serve as administrative and religious centres for each region. Each dzong is unique and stands as testament to the nation’s enduring independence and devotion to Buddhism. Tourism in Bhutan is closely regulated to limit its impact on the local culture and environment, and national styles of architecture and dress have been carefully preserved. Even the airport is built in distinctive Bhutanese style.

On arrival we will be met by our Bhutanese guide and driver. A white Khaddar (scarf) with Buddhist blessing will be presented to you to be carried along your journey.

Paro (2300m) valley is a very fertile and fairly flat valley stretching along one side for more then 20 km. Farmers here are considered economically better then their counter part in most other regions in Bhutan producing products like apples, red rice, and chilis.

Drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. During this ride, you will pass through idyllic countryside giving some idea about what you might come across in your journey in next days.

On the way, stop to visit an iron chain bridge and 15th century monastery, Tamchogang.

Thimphu (2,280m), is a small, bustling city in the heart of the Himalayas. Thimphu’s charm comes not only from its wealth of museums or places of historic interest, but also from the strong national character of its architectural style. A stroll through this lively town and into its shops reveals an interesting combination of tradition and modernity.

Arrive Thimphu and then transfer to your hotel or visit some sights (time permitting) such as the Bhutanese weaving centre.

Tonight, enjoy a guided stroll around town – take notice of the traditional dress, architecture and the fresh, clean air.

Meals: -/-/D
Overnight: Thimpu Hotel

DAY 02 THIMPHU EXCURSION (WITHIN THE LOCALITY)
After breakfast we start our sightseeing tour around Thimpu. includes visits to the National Memorial Chorten – a landmark created by the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, as a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is a both a memorial to the late king (‘the father of modern Bhutan’), and a monument to world peace.

We continue to the National Library which holds a vast collection of Buddhist texts and manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion.

Afterwards we visit the Institute for Zorig Chusum (Painting School) where students undertake a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan followed by the National Institute of Traditional Medicine where you will have exclusive privilege of talking to a renowned traditional healer.

Depending on your interest, we may visit the National Textile Museums, which provides a fascinating insight into Bhutanese textile and weaving as well as the Craft Market.

We end our day at the spectacular Kuenselphodrang, the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue standing 52m high and providing the visitor with amazing views of Thimpu.

Meals: B/L/D
Overnight: Thimpu Hotel

DAY 03 THIMPHU – PUNAKHA
This morning we begin the scenic drive to Punakha (1200m). The winding highway takes us over the Dochu La pass (3150m); if the weather is clear, we will enjoy excellent views of the eastern Himalayas. The drive will give you an insight into a medieval way of life that has changed little over the centuries. Modern development has brought better education, health care and electricity to these remote areas but the local small farm-based economy that has kept the local people self sufficient over the years is largely unchanged.
Dochula pass is also the site of the Druk Wanggyel Chortens and the botanical garden where time (and weather) permitting, participants can take a scenic hike through forests of rhododendrons.
From there we descend through leafy temperate forest to the Punakha valley, passing prayer wheels run by flowing water.
When we reach Metsina we begin our walk through rice paddies to hike up to a 16th century temple where you can seek blessing from lord of fertility. This temple was initiated by the ‘Divine Madman’, famed for the Bhutanese version of erotic stories or Kamasutra. Here we find replicas of phalluses to bless you with fertility. Listen to unceasing rotation of prayer wheels making repeated sounds of bells in the temple.

Until 1955 Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan and it is still the winter seat of the Je khenpo (chief Abbot).
In the late afternoon we visit Punakha Dzong, built in the 17th century at the junction of Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. Damaged by fires, floods and earthquake over the centuries, the Dzong has recently been fully restored to its original glory.

Meals: B/L/D
Overnight: Hotel Punakha

DAY 04 PUNAKHA EXCURSION
Today we hike through fields, villages and rice paddies to the spectacular Khamsum Yuelay Chorten. The round trip hike is approximately 3 to 4 hours and the views of the valley below are amazing.

If you would also like to go white water rafting for 2 hours (additional cost), please let us know in advance.

After working up an appetite, we’ll enjoy lunch at a farm house in the village of Talo.

Meals: B/L/D
Overnight: Hotel Punakha
– Bhutan –
DAY 05 PUNAKHA to BUMTHANG
Early morning we begin our drive to Bumthang, across the Pelela pass (3300 m), the traditional boundary between east and west. Passes are often marked by a large numbers of prayer flags and hillsides covered with high altitude dwarf bamboo and dwarf Rhododendron shrubs.

We stop en route at Chenbji Chotern which was built in 18th century by a Lama named Shida, a stupa has eyes similar to the Buddhanath stupa in Nepal. After another hour we come across a breathtaking view of Trongsa Dzong, the largest Dzong in Bhutan. If time permits, we can explore Trongsa Dzong, the most impressive Dzong in the kingdom and possibly one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture.

We continue to Bumthang, across Yotong-La Pass at an altitude of 3404m and then to Bumthang. En route visit the Chume valley, where local women weave the famous “Bumthang Yathra”, pure woolen cloth woven in the traditional method with beautiful coloured patterns. Bumthang is one of the most spectacular valleys in Bhutan and also the heartland of Buddhism. Here the great teachers meditated and left in their footprints on many sacred grounds.

Meals: B/L/D
Overnight: Hotel Bumthang

DAY 06 BUMTHANG EXCURSION
Today we explore Bumthang, a magical region of saints and treasure-seekers, great demon-subduing struggles and fabulous miracles. A region rich in hermitages and sacred sites which received visits from Guru Rinpoche and Pema Lingpa.

Beauty again overwhelms our senses. Our visit today may include the Wangdicholing, formerly the palace of Royal, Jambay lhakhang and Kurjey Monastery and later we continue to Jakar Dzong and Tamshing Monastery.

We stop for refreshments at the Swiss Farm House, a cheese and beer factory, and village handicraft shop.

Meals: B/L/D
Overnight: Hotel Bumthang

DAY 07 BUMTHANG to GANGTEY
After breakfast we start our drive to Gangtey situated in Phobjikha Valley, through dense forests of oak trees and rhododendrons. Upon entering the Gangtey Valley, we will be greeted by wide mountain valley, resembling that of Tibetan plateau on the western slopes of Black Mountain National Park.
– Bhutan –
Gangtey is now home to potato farmers, who benefit from the growing trade with India. Gangtey Goenpa Monastery rises on a small spur located at the valley’s centre, one of the oldest Nyingma Bhuddist centres in Bhutan.

We visit the 17th century monastery before continuing further down to information centre for the Black-Necked Cranes. This centre is maintained by an NGO; Royal Society for the Protection Nature. The Black Neck Crane roosts in the swampy marshland during winter as they fly south from Tibet. There is an annual festival to celebrate and create awareness about importance of this protected bird species.

Meals: B/L/D
Overnight: Hotel Gangtey

DAY 08 GANGTEY to PARO
Today, we begin our drive to Paro early. Sightseeing around the Paro Valley includes a visit to Ta Dzong which houses the National Museum, the ruins of Drugyel Dzong and the Kichu Lhakhang one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan (7th century). Visit National Museum housed at Paro Ta Dzong, originally built as a tower, from where they watched the invaders planning attack on Paro Rinpung Dzong. Then we walk down to Rinpung Dzong meaning ‘fortress of the heap of jewels”, built in middle of 17th century.

Later in the evening, take a stroll around Paro town.
Time permitting, we may visit Kichu Lhakhang one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan – dated 7th century and the ruins of Drugyel Dzong.
Meals: B/L/D
Overnight: Hotel Paro

DAY 09 PARO – TAKTSANG GOEMBA (TIGER’S NEST MONASTERY) HIKE
The ‘Tiger’s Nest Monastery’ is one of the Himalaya’s most incredible sites, miraculously perched on the side of a sheer cliff 900m above the floor of Paro valley. It’s the goal of every visitor to Bhutan and while getting there involves a bit of uphill legwork, it’s well worth the effort. The trail is broad and the walk uphill takes you almost one kilometre above the Paro valley. The view of Taktsang monastery built on a cliff-face, is a spectacular sight. It is a great pilgrimage site for devout Buddhists and also it is one of the most sacred sites in the Himalayan world. For a close look at the cliff-hanging site, hike about 2 hrs uphill to a view point directly opposite the monastery a hilltop filled with prayer flags.

From here Taktsang is clearly seen, clinging to a sheer rock wall 3000m above the valley floor. Beyond the viewpoint, the path is narrow and steep as it climbs to a point above the temple from where walkers descend to the building itself.

The main deity of Taktsang is Dorje Drolo, the wrathful form of Guru Rinpoche, the precious Teacher, also known as Padmasambhava. The great tantric mystic is said to have flown here on the back of a tiger, a manifestation of his consort, Yeshi Tsogyal, when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th century. There are 13 sacred sites at Taktsang, and several meditation caves in the cliffs above. Many saints have meditated here. Meditate awhile before beginning the descent. Descend towards the teahouse for a bite to eat.

Important: The monastery is a sacred site, so act with respect and wear long-sleeved shirt and pants – bags, phones and cameras have to be deposited at the entrance, where your guide will register with the army.

Meals: B/L/D
Overnight: Hotel Paro

DAY 10 PARO DEPARTURE
All departure formalities will be made available in advance, and assisted by your guide. Early breakfast at the hotel and drive to the Paro airport for your flight.

Today is departure day; it’s time to say farewell to the Land of the Thunder Dragon.

Thank you for travelling with Finisterra!

BHUTAN VISA
In order to process the visa we require a clear readable colour copy of passport(page containing passport number and face picture in JPEG or PDF format) at least 30 days prior to date of entry into Bhutan. Remaining validity of passport should be at least 6 months from the date of exit from Bhutan. Bhutan’s tourism sector is regarded as one of the most exclusive travel destinations in the world. Bhutan enjoys a reputation for authenticity, remoteness and a well-protected cultural heritage and natural environment.

Your visa clearance letter will be issued to you along with your Drukair (or Bhutan Air) ticket prior to your departure. At your point of entry you will be required to show your visa clearance letter, the visa will then be stamped into your passport.

Please note: All passengers must enter on the same day from DELHI. The price is approximately $620-750 USD per person.

SAMPLE ACCOMMODATION

THIMPHU Peaceful resorts or similar http://peacefulresorts.com/
PUNAKHA Eco Lodge Wangdue or similar http://www.bhutanecolodge.com/
GANGTEY Dewacheen (3* deluxe) if available or similar http://www.dewachenhotel.com
PARO Olathang hotel or similar http://www.hotel.bt/hotels-in-paro/hotel-olathang/
BUMTHANG Yugarling Resorts (4*) http://www.yugharling.com
Notes Accommodation:
With regard to accommodation it should be noted that whilst the best possible accommodation will be provided for the duration of your stay in Bhutan – the facilities and general standards of accommodation are not by any means of the same level that one would find in the country for a three stars grade hotel. Accommodation generally is much more basic – in some cases – more like a guesthouse than a hotel. Accommodation standards do not detract from the beauty of the country and, if taken in the right spirit, will not detract from what is essentially a privileged stay in a fascinating kingdom.

UPGRADES: 5 Stars hotel upgrade supplement (Paro and Thimphu) More upgrades available.
In Thimphu Taj Tashi: per Deluxe room $430 Plus 20% taxes = $516.00 per night
In Paro Zhiwaling Hotel: per Junior suite room $350 plus 15% taxes =$403.00 per night
Other 5 stars meal supplements
Taj cost Lunch 78$ per head with all taxes
Taj cost Dinner in Taj cost 84$ per head
Zhiwaling Paro cost Lunch 30$ per head per lunch set menu
Zhiwaling Paro cost Dinner 35$ per head per dinner set menu

ENVIRONMENT

The natural environment is mostly in an undisturbed and pristine form. Bhutan’s high, rugged mountains and deep valleys are rich with spectacular biodiversity, making it one of the world’s ten most important biodiversity ‘hotspots’.

The Royal Government of Bhutan has committed to maintaining a 60 percent forest cover for the future. Currently the total land under forest cover is 65 percent and more than 26 percent of the land is under the protected areas, comprising of four national parks and about 9 percent of the land fall under biological corridors so that the wild life sanctuaries and nature reserves connect protected areas.

PEOPLE

The people of Bhutan can be divided into three main ethnic groups: The “Sharchops”, who live in the east of the country and are believed to be the original inhabitants. The “Ngalongs”, who live mostly in western Bhutan and are the descendants of Tibetan immigrants who arrived in Bhutan from the 9th century, The “Lhotshampas”, settled in the south of Bhutan in the late 19th century. The Lhotshampa (meaning Southern Bhutanese) represent Nepali-speaking groups.

Bhutan is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with 79 percent of the people living in rural areas.

RELIGION – BUDDHISM

Buddhism is practiced throughout the country. Most of the Bhutanese are Buddhist. In the south, most Bhutanese people of Nepali and Indian origin practiced Hinduism.

The official state religion of Bhutan belongs to the Drukpa sect of Kagyudpa, school of tantric Mahayana Buddhism, the Great Vehicle. It is similar to the Tibetan Buddhism, yet it has its own set of unique beliefs and practices.

The religion in Bhutan is strongly supported by all walks of life. Monks, nuns and gomchens (lay priest) play a very important role in the people’s daily lives. Bhutanese people are very pious and the importance of Buddhism is evident in every aspect of life in the Bhutanese people.

ART

Bhutanese art reflects major Tibetan influences, though it has developed many of its own derivations. It has three main characteristics: it is anonymous, religious, and performs no independent aesthetic function. Intricate wall paintings and thankas (wall hangings), most historical writing and fine sculpted images all have a religious theme.

There is an overall style of tradition which permeates most aspects of the Bhutanese lifestyle. This is most overtly reflected in the style of dress and architecture. All Bhutanese continue to wear the traditional dress: the gho for men and the kira for women. Generally colourful apparel, the fabrics used range from simple cotton checks and stripes to the most intricate designs in woven silk.

ARCHITECTURE

The Bhutanese architectural landscape is made up of chortens, stonewalls, temples, monasteries, fortresses, mansions and houses. Associated with a number of clear-cut architectural concepts and building types rooted in Tibetan Buddhism, there is a strong association between state, religious and secular forms. What makes it quite unique is the degree of uniformity, with all structures corresponding to traditional designs. Thus ancient monasteries and fortresses appear to merge with more modern popular dwellings to create a setting that is consistent.

TRADITIONAL DRESS

Bhutanese traditional dress is called the gho (men’s robes) and kira (women’s dress). The women’s dress is a length of woven material (kira) that is draped across the body over a blouse, and held in place over the shoulders with silver clasps. A toego (or jacket) is usually worn over the dress.

The man’s gho is a stitched robe, which reaches the ground when first worn. This is then pulled up to knee length and tied in place at the waist with a hand-woven belt. Long socks and shoes, or traditional hand made boots complete the attire. Traditional dress is worn for all formal occasions including working in the office. The Bhutanese wear their best hand-woven ghos and kiras on formal occasions while machine milled traditional clothing is also popular for daily wear.

FOOD and DRINK

Traditional Bhutanese food always features spicy red and green chillies, either dried or fresh. Most Bhutanese love eating spicy food. The national dish, ema datsi, a dish of ema (chilli) cooked in datsi (cheese), is a favourite among Bhutanese. For vegetarians, there are restaurants who serve vegetarian meals and almost all the restaurants have a vegetarian option in their menu. Red Rice is another speciality grown in Bhutan with a sweet nutty flavour. For a culinary change Indian meals are easily available in most eating places.

POLITICAL SYSTEM

The establishment of monarchy in 1907 was the watershed event in the history of modern Bhutan. The country enjoyed peace and progress under successive reformist monarchs. The third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck reformed the old pseudo-feudal systems by abolishing serfdom, redistributing land, and reforming taxation. He also introduced many executive, legislative, and judiciary reforms. The fourth king, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, took decentralization to the people, and devolved all executive powers to a council of ministers elected by the people in 1998, besides introducing a system of voting no confidence in the king, which empowered the parliament to remove the monarch.

The national Constitution Committee started drafting the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan in 2001. The Draft Constitution was distributed to the people in 2005, which was followed by public consultation initiated by the 4th and 5th Kings. Its implementation will establish parliamentary democracy in the country.

The people in different villages of the gewog in turn elect the chimis (people’s representatives). The king is now the head of the state. The government is elected by the parliament for a five-year term, with the head of the government or post of prime minister rotating amongst the ministers. At the district level, Dzongda functions as the chief executive officer and the gup (gewog head man) elected by the people is the chief executive officer at gewog level.

Under the policy of greater decentralization and empowerment of the people, the Dzongkhag Yargay Tshogdu and the Geog Yargye Tshogchung have been given full administrative, policy making and financial powers in their respective Dzongkhags. Therefore, the success of development programmes will now be determined by the decisions taken by the people and the quality of their participation in implementing them.

CLIMATE

It is difficult to accurately generalize the climate of Bhutan because of the variations in elevations and seasons. Southern Bhutan has a tropical climate with hot humid monsoons. Spring in the higher valleys (mid-March to May) has warm days (20 °C) and cool nights. June marks the beginning of summer when day temperatures warm up to 27 – 29 °C. By July, the rainy season starts and continues until mid-September. The autumn months of September to November are ideal for trekking with clear skies and mild weather. In December temperatures fall, but the days are warm and the clear, azure winter skies serve a striking background to the snow-capped peaks. On a sunny day, temperatures reach about 16-18 ° C. The nights, however, are cold with temperatures falling below freezing.
Please note: All passengers must enter on the same flight from Bangkok (BKK). The price is approximately $650-750 USD per person and MUST be booked by us.

Tour Inclusions:

  • 9 nights hotel
  • Visas will be arranged approximately 30 days prior to arrival
  • Private transportation
  • Local guides for sightseeing
  • All entrances and sightseeing mentioned above are included
  • All meals mentioned above: 9 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 9 Dinners
  • All applicable taxes

Tour Exclusions:

  • International Flights Flights to Bhutan MUST be booked through us)
  • Services not specified
  • Mandatory Travel Insurance
  • Optional trip cancellation insurance
  • Gratuities for guides, porters, and drivers
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Personal items

Dates: UPON REQUEST

Low season months: (January, Feb, June, July, August, December)

Prices from : $2795 per participant Double /Twin – PEAK SEASON
Peak season months: (March, April, May, Sept, October, November)

Please note that exact pricing depends on number of travellers and season of travel. Please contact us for details.

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