April 12-22, 2023
Visit Bhutan, an ancient kingdom situated high in the eastern Himalayas and isolated from the hustle and bustle of our modern world.
Join us as we spend 11 days exploring ancient monasteries, including Tiger’s Nest, one of the most famous monasteries in Bhutan, visiting nature preserves, and experiencing cultural festivals in a country nearly unknown to the Western world.
Visit Bhutan, an ancient kingdom situated high in the eastern Himalayas and isolated from the hustle and bustle of our modern world. Join us as we spend 11 days exploring ancient monasteries, including Tiger’s Nest, one of the most famous monasteries in Bhutan, visiting nature preserves, and experiencing cultural festivals in a country nearly unknown to the Western world.
Tour Type: Culture/People
Temp Range: 45° F / 70 ° F
Leader: Thomas Kokta
Group Size: Maximum 8 people
Flights to and from Bangkok to Bhutan
All transportation in Bhutan
11 nights accommodation
All meals as listed in itinerary
Entrance fees to sites
International flights to/from Bangkok
Airport departure taxes
Phone calls and personal items
Previous Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Bangkok
Arrive in Bangkok. We will meet for dinner at our hotel, then off to bed, as we have an early morning tomorrow! Overnight in Bangkok.
Day 2: Bangkok-Paro-Thimphu
We fly very early this morning from Bangkok to Paro. After arriving in Paro, we will be driven an hour and a half to the capital, Thimphu. We check into our hotel, have lunch and then spend some time in town. Thimphu has a population of approximately 45,000, composed mainly of monks, the Kingdom’s royal family, government and civil service, and a growing middle class. Today we learn about the traditional trades of Bhutan, making a visit to the School of Arts and Crafts to watch and photograph the young students being trained in traditional arts of the country, including sacred thangka painting techniques. Overnight in Thimphu.
Day 3: Thimphu-Punakha
Thimphu is the only city in the world without traffic lights. This bustling town is home to Bhutan’s royal family, civil servants, and foreign missions and it is the seat of government. It is also the headquarters for a number of internationally funded development projects. In the morning, we will visit the National Memorial Chorten. The third king, His Majesty JigmeDorjiWangchuck, wanted to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity and originally planned the building of this landmark. After his untimely death, the fourth king, His Majesty JigmeSingyeWangchuk completed the construction in 1974. It is both a memorial to the Late King (“the father of modern Bhutan”), and a monument to peace. We will drive to the view point to shoot prayer flags.
Late afternoon drive to Punakha, and one of the highlights of the journey is at Dochu La Pass (3050m), the highest point between Thimphu and Punakha. From here when the sky is clear, one can enjoy a spectacular and panoramic view of the snow-capped peaks to the north that are above 7000m. The pass has 108 chortens (Stupa), honoring those who laid down their lives while flushing out insurgents from southern Bhutan in December 2003. Chortens are Buddhist reliquaries and memorials to the teachings of the Buddha. Sometimes, stupas carry relics of the Buddha or revered monks. Whether or not there are relics inside, the stupas mark the landscape with reminders of the Buddha’s teachings. From here it will take another two hours to reach punakha through the broadleaf forest.
Overnight - hotel in Punakha.
Day 4: Punakha -Punakha
In the morning, we will visit the Punakha dzong. Punakha dzong is situated at the confluence of male and female rivers. Punakha dzong is considered historically important and winter residence of the chief abbot of the monk body. The recent completion of renovation work has added traditional beauty and artistic view to the dzong. It offers multiple opportunities for a visitor to takes pictures from any direction.Lunch in Punakha.
After lunch, we will drive to the nearest road head and hike about 45 minutes (one way)to Chhimi Lhakhang, the famous temple of the divine madman or popularly known as the temple of fertility. During the hike, we will pass through the rice fields and farm houses with prominent phallus paintings. It is traditionally believed that the phallus paintings can ward off evil spirits, evil eyes and ill luck and eventually bring god luck to the occupants and families. We will see cactus plants around as we approach the temple. Drive back to hotel in Punakha.
Day 5: Punakha-Trongsa
The drive to Trongsa takes approximately 6 hours. We start early for the fabulous drive to the central valleys of Bhutan through the breathtaking beauties and serenity of Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. As we cross the fertile valley of Punakha and enter into the valley of WangduePhodrang. We take an opportunity to photograph the majestic fortress of WangdueDzong, which stands on a spur of a hill at the confluence of the Tsang Chu and Dang Chu rivers. We then climb steadily passing through semi-tropical vegetation and then to Pele la Pass (3,300 m/ 10,989 ft.) With an alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the Pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. During the clear weather we can view the high snow capped peaks specially the Mount Chomolhari (7,314 m/ 24,355 ft.). As we descend from the pass through the dwarf bamboo and quite often Yaks grazing we reach at ChendebjiChorten. This Chorten or Stupa was built in 18th century by a Lama known as Shida, in order to nail into the ground a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of this valley and the Ada valley just over the ridge. We will have our lunch here. Continue your drive to Trongsa, as you enter Trongsa valley, the huge fortress of Trongsa makes you wonder if you will ever reach it. Backing on mountain and built on several levels, the Dzong fits narrowly on a spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde River and overlooks the routes south and west. The view from the Dzong extends for many miles and in former times nothing could escape the vigilance of its watchmen. Arrive Trongsa and overnight Htl in Trongsa.
Day 6: Trongsa- Bumthang
After breakfast we will visit the majestic Trongsa Dzong, situated on a hill spur looking over cascading Mangde River. In the ancient times, this Fortress has served as the capital for the Governors (Trongsa Penlop) of the eastern Bhutan and later served as the capital of first and second king of Bhutan .After the visit we will have lunch in Trongsa and start our drive to Bumthang, this takes less than two hours to cover the 44 miles for a direct drive, however, we will be stopping en route for sightseeing.
From Trongsa the road rises rapidly through a series of hairpin bends until you arrive at Yotong La Pass (3400 meters / 11200 foot). From here the drive is down the hill until you arrive at Chumey Valley (average alt. 2700m / 8800 foot). Our first stop at Chumey will be to visit the small village of Tsugney where you will see the traditional weaving of woolen fabrics. Continue your drive to Choekhor crossing the Kiki La Pass (2900 meters / 9500foot). Arrive at Choekhor Valley (Valley of Dharma Wheel).
Check into your hotel in Bumthang.
Day 7-9: Bumthang-Bumthang
(14-20 are festival dates).
Bhutanese love to socialize, which is an integral part of Bhutanese tradition and culture. Festivals are social gatherings where Bhutanese are always in the spirit of celebration. People of all walks of life make fun, play, flirt and drink alcohol during such festivities. Festivals are strongly linked to spirituality and festivals are conducted annually in all corners of Bhutan at different times of the year. Tsechu (Tse- Date Chu – Ten) is the most recognized and respected amongst festivals and it is conducted during the auspicious tenth day of the Bhutanese calendar. This festival invites big gatherings where Bhutanese present themselves in their best attires.
Tsechu (festival) is celebrated to remember and respect the great deeds of Guru Padmasambhava, the tantric master who spread Mahayana Buddhism in entire Himalayan region in the 8th century and victories by Buddhism. It is during the 8th century that mask dances originated. We will find Tsechus being dominated by multicolored Mask Dances of ancient times. Monks and lay persons in brilliant costumes perform Cham (mask dance) depicting the legendary events of religious significance. The music of cymbals, drums, large and small horns, conches and bells accompany the dancers as they bend, whirl and leap on the courtyard of a Dzong (Fortress). The mask dances are said to bring blessings to onlookers. In some cases dancers wrap their heads with cloth strips to protect them from the weight of the masks. The dancers with colorful costumes represent the wrathful and compassionate deities, heroes, demons, the dead and animals and their movements tell the stories about history and fantasy. To entertain the crowds, there are Atsaras (masked clowns) who mimic the religious dancers and make fun of onlookers.
Festivals are rare opportunities for the outsiders to witness crowds of people gather in their finest hand woven dresses with bright patterns exhibiting the rich Bhutanese art and tradition. Local Bhutanese believe that presenting themselves in best attire during such occasions is another form of offering to please the deities, which is further believed to bring them merit, luck and prosperity. Bhutanese people view dance as representation of their religious and social lives because the movements reflect their deep devotion, compassion, tolerance, and harmonious living. The mask dancers represent the deities that are encountered when one passes through the intermediate phase of death and rebirth.
Festivals are conducted in Dzongs and monasteries. Some monasteries are far flung while some are about half an hour walk from the motor able road. During these festival trips, we travel to various parts of Bhutan depending upon the tour programs we select.
Overnight in Bumthang.
Day 10: Bumthang- Punakha
Today after breakfast we drive approximately 7-8 hours back to Punakha. On the way back we will stop to photograph flowers, views and animals like monkeys and yaks, which we may have missed on the way to Bumthang. Overnight in Punakha.
Day 11: Paro-Paro
After breakfast we will head to the starting point of the hike to view the spectacular Taktsang monastery (Tiger’s Nest). The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. We will stop at the cafeteria for a rest and refreshments, then continue the hike (if not tired) until we reach Taktsang monastery. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 2,952 ft./ 900 m into the valley below. The history states that Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tiger. Looking at the monastery flying tigers don’t seem so impossible after all. Overnight in Paro.
Day 12: Paro-Home
After breakfast, we drive to the airport for our departing flights. , and soon we will see the remote and legendary Dragon Kingdom disappear behind its guardian mountains.