Exploring Bhutan’s central valleys, rich with ancient historical and sacred Buddhist sites
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 Paro
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. 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. After lunch we will visit Paro’s Rinpung Dzong. It was built in 1646 and now houses government offices and religious institutions, as do currently all the dzongs (forts). We will also visit Kyichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country.
Day 2: Paro Tiger’s Nest Monastery
This morning we depart early for Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang) Monastery: A hike of approximately 1.5 to 2 hours uphill takes you almost a kilometre above the Paro Valley floor through alpine forests. It is perched on the edge of a steep cliff, about 900 meters above Paro Valley (3,000 meters). We will have a tea stop half way up the mountain for spectacular views of Taktsang. This is also a time when hikers can decide if they want to continue on or remain at the tea house and await our return when we will all share lunch on the mountain side.
The astonishing view of Taktsang Monastery built on a sheer cliff face is a spectacular sight. The Monastery is also an important pilgrim site for the Buddhists. The great Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche) is said to have flown here on the back of a tigress when he brought the teachings of the Buddhist Dharma to Bhutan in the 8th Century.
The monastery was partially destroyed in a forest though restoration works are almost complete. The local people have provided the labour for restoration as the Bhutanese believe that participating in the restoration of holy places helps in the accumulation of good merit.
Day 3: Thimpu
In the morning we will drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The drive is along a winding road following the Paro and Thimphu rivers. Thimphu is a unique blend of modern and traditional and one of very few capitals in the world with no traffic lights.
When we arrive we will visit the hand made paper factory and the King’s Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan). After lunch we will visiting the Chang Gangkha Monastery -purchase of Prayer Flags, the Takin Reserve (which contains the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan) and then free time in town for shopping and taking in the essence of the city. Overnight stay in Thimphu.
Day 4: Thimpu
After breakfast we will drive 12km north of Thimphu. We will then hike up to the Cheri Monastery and have a picnic lunch. At the monastery we will have the opportunity to meditate in one of the temples.
In the early evening we will visit Tashichho Dzong.
Day 5: Thimpu
Picturesque and quaint villages dot the Bhutanese hillsides. Today we will spend the day hiking to Phajoding Monastery. This is a 12th century monastery which is still active and a school for the monks. Here we will have the opportunity to spend time with the monks and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Day 6: Punakka
After breakfast we will drive to Punakka. The drive takes us across the Dochula Pass (3,118 meters) which is marked by a large Bhutanese Chorten (Buddhist monument) and prayer flags. We will stop on the pass for tea, and take in the beautiful views of the high peaks 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. We will then continue our drive to Punakka, the former capital of Bhutan and visit Punakka Dzong which is noteworthy both for being one of the most beautiful dzongs in Bhutan and also for having been built by the first Shabdrung (king) in 1637.
After lunch we will walk through the rice fields to a small teaching monastery.
Day 7: Punakka
After breakfast we will hike up to a new monastery built on a hill that gives a beautiful view of the Punakka valley and rice fields below. The afternoon will be free time to take a sightseeing tour around Punakka.Meals: B/L/D
Day 8: Punakka
Today we will return to Thimphu where we will have time for lunch and some last minute shopping. We will then continue on to Paro for our farewell dinner at a traditional farmhouse where we will also be served butter tea. There will be an optional Bhutanes hot stone bath before dinner.
Day 9: Departure
Today is departure day; it’s time to say farewell to the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Thank you for travelling with Finisterra & Yoga Travels!
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.
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.
Your visa clearance letter will be issued to you along with your Drukair 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 $600-720 USD per person.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2 daily yoga/meditation classes (some tours include a yoga workshop) with Janice of Yoga Travels
Hotel accommodation on a twin share basis (single supplement, where available $360.00 USD tour)
All meals as per itinerary (breakfast, lunch and dinner)
Yoga teacher/guide, English-speaking Bhutanese guide and a Bhutanese driver
Visits to tourist sites mentioned in the itinerary
Bhutan Visa fee
International Flights (Flights to Bhutan MUST be booked through us as a group $600-720USD)
Services not specified
Mandatory Travel Insurance
Optional trip cancellation insurance
Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
Date: Sept 30th-Oct 8th, 2016
+ FLIGHT FROM DELHI ($620-750USD to be booked as a group)
A 20% non-refundable (unless cancelled by us) deposit is required at time of booking to reserve your place. Please contact email@example.com for more booking information, Terms & Conditions and an invoice.
Address: Finisterra Travel, 106-550 E 6th Ave, Vancouver, BC, V5T 4H2, Canada
Full payment is due 60 prior to departure
Janice Varuna’s journey into yoga began in the 1990’s with classes in a community centre. And then in 2000 she slowly found her way back to yoga by taking Ayurvedic cooking classes. She experienced a debilitating back injury and was drawn to yoga based on the holistic nature of yoga healing. She started with weekly yoga classes, and slowly healing happened. Inspired by her own healing, yoga became a part of her life. Varuna has studied with teachers around the world, India, Europe, the Americas and all over Asia. Much of her training has been in India where she travels to annually to continue her studies. Having travelled to over 120 countries, Janice Varuna has a wealth of life and travel experiences, and today her focus is on sharing this knowledge and her passion for yoga. In her classes, she leads students through graceful postural sequences and teaches breathing, chanting, meditation and self-awareness.
Janice Varuna’s philosophy is that there are no age or physical limitations that should stop anyone from benefiting from yoga’s incredible power to improve physical wellness and bring emotional peace and clarity. Janice Varuna’s purpose is to guide students as they explore their physical and mental abilities through yoga. Janice Varuna makes her home in Ottawa, Canada and runs Yoga Travels.