This private tour of the Kingdom of Bhutan combines exploring important villages of western Bhutan on foot, meeting welcoming local people, with immersion into a fascinating culture.
Bhutan Trip Overview
Along the lofty ridges of the Himalayas lies the Kingdom of Bhutan - a remarkable land whose well-preserved countryside, architecture, and rich culture make it seem lost in time. Its capital city, Thimphu, is said to be the only world capital without traffic lights. Our walks in Punakha reveal impressive dzongs, and Paro's location along ancient trade routes is evidenced in its rich culture and unique monasteries, including the beautiful Tiger's Nest.
Itinerary at a Glance
Days 1-3: Our adventure begins as we fly from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan. Transfer to the capital city of Thimphu. Explore the many interesting sights in Thimphu, and perhaps watch an archery tournament, enjoying Bhutan's national sport.
Days 4-5: Make an early departure for our travel to Punakha, viewing 20,000-foot mountains along the way. Visit the Punakha Dzong, Bhutan's most impressive fortress. Our local guide spins tales of the unorthodox teachings of the legendary Divine Madman. Spend time hiking to remote villages and learn about the traditional shamanism that villagers still practice.
Days 6-8: Explore the Paro Valley and hike to the Tiger's Nest monastery. Visit the national museum, the Paro Dzong (fortress-monastery), and the craft shops of Paro.
Day 9: Depart from Paro
THE HIDDEN KINGDOM IN THE HIMALAYAS
We'd like to let you in on a little secret - Bhutan. Typically people we tell about Bhutan ask "Where? Where is Bhutan?" and that's just the way we like it. It is this anonymity that Bhutan has preserved so well, for so many years, that makes it so special. The Kingdom of Bhutan is a hidden Himalayan gem that is often compared to Tibet before the Chinese invasion, and Nepal without the budget backpackers. Let us introduce you to Bhutan, a true Shangri-la!
THE PRIVATE COLLECTION ADVANTAGE
- Independent travel at its best. With your own exclusive party of family or friends, you'll enjoy itineraries developed from our years of experience.
- Your dates, your friends. You chose your dates and traveling companions, and let us do the rest!
- Reconnect in remarkable places. What better way to celebrate important milestones than with family and friends in amazing places, with all of the details handled for you so you can simply relax and enjoy each other’s company?
- Do your own thing. Customize your journey to indulge your most amazing travel fantasies.
- Travel with Trusted Leaders in Adventure Travel. Recognized by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine as a Top 10 "World's Best Tour Operator and Safari Outfitter".
Trip Rating (1 Easiest - 5 Most Strenuous)
Adventure travel may involve exotic destinations, unusual levels of physical exertion, and activities that may be new to you. We want to make sure that you choose the adventure that's right for you from our many one-of-a-kind trips. Each trip is rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest, and 5 being the most strenuous. A few of our trips have had a “+” added to the number, indicating something that falls in between. Our Trip Ratings may be found on the trip schedule and on our website. Our detailed itineraries provide additional information on what to expect on the trip you are considering (detailed itineraries are available by mail, fax, or e-mail; or you can find them on our website, www.boundlessjourneys.com).We encourage you to call one of our travel experts with any questions or concerns that you may have. We are always happy to assist you in any way that we can.
Our easiest trips are generally hotel-based cultural and nature journeys that typically offer light activity. Optional walks and hikes (approximately 2 to 4 hours) through gentle terrain with little elevation gain or loss. Altitude is typically not a factor on these tours. Other activities, such as snorkeling or sea kayaking, are optional. Examples: Indochina, Vietnam, Egypt, Galapagos Islands, Botswana, Tanzania.
EASY TO MODERATE 2
Hotel nights and/or deluxe, safari-style camping. Walking, hiking (approximately 3 to 5 hours), kayaking, or other activities on most days. Trails and paths are through rolling countryside, with occasional steep trails with up to 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Many of our hotel-based walking trips are in this category. Examples: Tuscany & Umbria, Sicily, Morocco, Palau, Iceland, Turkey, Festivals of Bhutan, Costa Rica.
Full day hikes (approximately 4 to 6 hours) most days on unpaved trails and paths through hilly terrain with typical elevation gains and losses of 1,000 to 2,000 feet. There may be occasional short steep sections of trail. Examples: Chile, Scotland, Spain, Bhutan & Nepal.
MODERATE TO STRENUOUS 4
Full day hikes (approximately 5 to 7 hours) through mountainous terrain with significant elevation gains and losses (2,000 to 3,000 feet). Terrain may be rugged with uneven footpaths. The average altitude is generally no more than 12,000 feet. Options are limited. These trips typically involve some camping or simple accommodations. Examples: Tour du Mont Blanc, Peru Trek, Bhutan Chomolhari Trek..
MOST STRENUOUS 5
Full-day trekking (approximately 6 to 8 hours) through rugged mountainous terrain with steep climbs and descents and one or more of the following present: elevation gains and losses of as much as 4,000 feet, altitude that exceeds 12,000 feet, and rugged uneven footpaths. These trips typically offer few options and include camping.
Traveling to and From
Most Convenient Airport:
Bangkok International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand (airport code BKK)
Meeting Place and Time:
Your Boundless Journeys guide will meet you at the Paro, Bhutan airport upon the arrival of your flight from Bangkok. Please be sure to be at the Druk Air (national airline of Bhutan) check-in counter at the Bankgok International Airport two hours before your scheduled flight on Day 1 of our trip. The airline tickets from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan will be purchased in advance for you by Boundless Journeys.
Departure Place and Time:
Paro, Bhutan; in time for the departure of your flight to Bangkok.
When to Reserve
It is important to reserve your trip early as the Bhutanese national airline has a ticketing policy and will only accept reservations with full payment for the ticket. Seats can only be confirmed upon receipt of your deposit, as well as the payment of $900 for these flights. Please contact our office with any questions regarding these important policies.
Optional deluxe hotel upgrade available. Please call for details.
Overview: Accommodations in Bhutan are somewhat rustic but charming, and we’ve chosen some of the country’s most comfortable and beautifully situated hotels for this journey. All with private bath.
Nights 1, 2 & 3: Hotel Druk
Nights 4 & 5: Hotel Punatsangchu
Nights 6, 7 & 8: Janka Resort
Bhutan Detailed Itinerary
SAMPLE ITINERARY: Other private customized options are available.
Arrival in Paro, Bhutan; transfer to Thimphu (approximately 1 hour*)
Walk – easy to moderate, 1-2 hours.
Our flight from Bangkok, Thailand into Bhutan provides spectacular views of Bhutan's landscape as we approach the airport in the Paro Valley. The valley is a green bowl surrounded by jagged Himalayan mountains and forested hillsides, crossed by beautiful rivers, and dotted with medieval fortresses. The first thing that we notice as we disembark in Bhutan is the absence of noise and a feeling of peacefulness that is rare in most other Asian cities. The Paro Valley has kept its bucolic nature and is one of the most scenic valleys in Bhutan. The houses are considered to be among the most beautiful in the country, and Paro is believed to be one of the first valleys to have received the imprint of Buddhism.
We are greeted with a warm Bhutanese reception and transferred to the capital city of Thimphu and home to Bhutan's royal family, the Wangchuks. Before becoming Bhutan's official national capital in 1961, Thimphu was simply a rural farming valley. Upon arrival at our first hotel we enjoy a light lunch and afternoon tea before setting out with our guides for a brief introduction to Bhutanese culture in downtown Thimphu. We return to our hotel and relax with an orientation meeting and welcome dinner of Bhutanese cuisine.
Hotel Druk, Thimphu, Bhutan
Cheri Goemba and the Choki School of Arts
Hiking – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours.
This morning a short drive through the countryside surrounding Thimphu brings us to the Jigme Dorji Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest protected area in the country. The park is home to several endangered species including the takin, snow leopard, blue sheep, tiger, red panda, and the Himalayan black bear. More than 300 species of birds have been cataloged within the park. Our walk begins from the small village of Dodena. Our trail starts by crossing a covered bridge over the Wang Chhu and we climb steadily to Cheri Goemba, a small monastery perched on the hill with a view over the Thimphu Valley. Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal built this monastery in 1620, and this is where the first community of monks in Bhutan was established. The monastery is considered very sacred as it contains the ashes of Tempi Nima, the father of the first Shabdrung of Bhutan, and beautiful frescoes of Buddhist saints.
After our visit to the monastery, we descend back the way we came, keeping our eyes open for the goral (wild goat) that are often spotted on the cliffs nearby. Back at the village of Dodena we follow a riverside trail via Begana to Cabesa, home to the Choki School of Arts. The Choki School is private and provides free skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to Bhutanese children who are unable to attend or complete their formal education. After visiting the school we continue along the riverside trail and pass through small rural villages before returning to Thimphu. Dinner this evening will be Asian-Bhutanese cuisine at one of the finer restaurants in Thimphu.
Hotel Druk, Thimphu, Bhutan
Small and secluded, Thimphu is unlike any other world capital. The city is quiet and there are still only a few streets, no traffic lights, and none of the traffic problems common to other Asian capitols. Thimphu is a city ideally explored on foot, and our walk today takes us between its many interesting sights. Before the day is through, we may visit the newly built textile museum, the Thimphu Dzong (seat of the government and main monk body), the School of Traditional Arts and Crafts, the Heritage Museum, and the Handicrafts Emporium, displaying the rich traditional crafts of the kingdom. Along the way we stop at a local restaurant for lunch before continuing our walk through the city, and returning to our hotel late afternoon.
Early this evening we enjoy a talk about shamanism in Bhutan by Sangay Wangchuk, a published author and veteran Boundless Journeys guide from Punakha, who wrote “Seeing with the Third Eye: Growing up with Angay in rural Bhutan.” We conclude our day with a dinner at another favorite restaurant in Thimpu.
Hotel Druk, Thimphu, Bhutan
Transfer to Punakha (approximately 4 hours*); Temple of the Divine Madman
Walk – easy, 1-2 hours.
After breakfast, we say goodbye to Thimphu and transfer to Punakha, our home for the next two nights. The road to Punakha crosses the Dochula Pass (10,230 ft), offering a great view of the eastern Himalayan mountains. From the pass our road descends through magnificent pine and rhododendron forests and wanders through some of Bhutan’s most picturesque countryside. The climate here makes a dramatic change from alpine to semi-tropical, where cacti, banana trees, and orange groves thrive.
On our road to Punakha we stop in a small village where a short walk brings us to Chime Lhakang, a temple dedicated to the Lama Drukpa Kunley. Drukpa Kunley is one of Bhutan's favorite saints, and is more commonly known as the "Divine Madman." He traveled throughout Bhutan and Tibet using songs, humor and outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings, believing that the stiffness of the clergy and social conventions were keeping people from learning the true Buddhist teachings. This site is still believed to hold fertility powers for women wanting to conceive.
Hotel Punatsangchu, Wangduephodrang, Bhutan
Khamsung Yuely Namgyel temple to Punakha Dzong
Hiking – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours.
This morning a drive through the Punakha Valley brings us to where we begin our walk by first ascending a series of switchbacks to the Namgyel Khamsum Yuely Temple. From the viewpoint at this modern temple we are afforded grand views of the Mo Chu River Valley below. We descend from the temple and follow a well-worn path down the valley through rice fields and small villages. Along the way we are rewarded with stunning views, the terraced rice paddies providing an exotic backdrop to the river below. After enjoying a picnic lunch alongside the river, we continue our walk to the Punakha Dzong. Constructed in 1637, the Punakha Dzong was the second of Bhutan's dzongs and for many years it served as the seat of the government. Today it is the home to Bhutan’s spiritual leader, the chief abbot Je Khempo, who resides here with 1,000 monks during the winter months due to Punakha's relatively low altitude by Himalayan standards (4,000 feet). From this spectacular dzong we can look back to see the Namgyel Khamsum Yuely Temple perched on the hillside far in the distance.
A short walk from the dzong takes us to our vans, waiting to shuttle us back to our hotel for the evening.
Hotel Punatsangchu, Wangduephodrang, Bhutan
Transfer to Paro (approximately five hours*); Visit to Bhutan's National Museum, the Paro Dzong, and Drukgyel Dzong
This morning we drive to Paro, where we will visit the National Museum, housed in the round multi-storied Ta Dzong, built in 1775. The Ta Dzong was once the watch tower for the massive Paro Dzong, built in the 17th century by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. The museum's collection includes ancient artifacts, weapons, a collection of antique thangkha (painted or embroidered religious pictures), textiles, and stamps. We walk from the museum to the Paro Dzong, the religious and secular center of Paro, and certainly the most dominant feature in the valley. The dzong was first conceived in the 15th-century, and finally consecrated in 1646.
Next we complete a short walk to Drukgyel Dzong, a ruined fortress where Bhutanese warriors fought Tibetan invaders centuries ago. This dzong was built in 1649 to commemorate Bhutan's victory over Tibetan invaders, and sits at the point where the trail from Tibet enters the Paro valley. Bhutan's dzongs are perhaps the most visibly striking aspect of the kingdom and these huge citadels dominate the landscape of the major towns and act as the administrative headquarters for their respective regions. If we are lucky and the weather is clear, we may have the opportunity to view the sacred Mt. Jhomolhari (23,977 ft), which lies along the border of Tibet and Bhutan. Our home for the next three nights is a friendly family owned hotel located in the quiet Paro countryside.
Janka Resort, Paro, Bhutan
Kyichu Lhakhang to the Paro Dzong; Dzongdraka Goemba
Walking – easy to moderate, 2-4 hours.
A short drive through town then takes us to Kyichu Lhakhang. Kyichu Lhakhang, meaning "twin temples," is believed to have been built in 659 AD by King Songtsen of Tibet, and reflects the introduction of Buddhism to Bhutan. The temple is one of 108 that were built throughout the Himalayas in one day in an effort to subdue a mighty ogress; it is still believed to hold her left foot in place today. From here an easy walk leads us through Paro countryside and to farm fields of rice, mustard, buckwheat, eggplant, and, of course, chilies. We cross the Paro River on our way to the valley's magnificent Rinpung Dzong. If we are fortunate we may get the opportunity to explore within the dzong's mighty walls; however, if the Administrative Body is in session, we must admire from the outside.
Following a hearty lunch in downtown Paro a short drive leads us out of town for an afternoon walk. We enjoy a short walk to Dzongdraka (8,100 feet), an area in which the great Buddhist teacher Padmasambhava meditated in the 7th century. Situated on the cliffs just above the Bondey Valley not far from the terraced fields, Dzongdraka is a tranquil village of about eight farmhouses built around four temples. From the last temple you can see the houses of the village of Tashigang, situated about a 20 minute walk from Dzongdraka. The trail descends through stunted oaks until it reaches a chorten at the base of Dzongdraka. Looking up from here provides a wonderful panoramic view of this amazing village set high along the cliffs. We return to our hotel for dinner.
Janka Resort, Paro, Bhutan
Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) Monastery
Hike – moderate, 4-5 hours on hiking trails; approximate elevation gain of 1,650 feet.
This morning we enjoy a hike to the famous cliff-hermitage called Taktsang, the "Tiger’s Nest." This monastic retreat is built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro valley. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint Padmasambhava flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tiger and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. Entry into the monastery is now permitted, and we may be allowed to visit this sacred site. We enjoy a trailside picnic lunch and views of the valley below before descending to the valley floor. For those who wish, a traditional hot stone bath can be arranged this afternoon.
Janka Resort, Paro, Bhutan
Departure from Paro
An early morning departure from Paro returns us to Bangkok where we say farewell and journey home or to other exciting destinations.
*A note about driving times: these are estimated times based on actual driving. The total transfer time is longer when taking into account rest stops.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary to take advantage of weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these should the need arise.
2013 Private Collection Land Cost
From $4,495 per person
2013 Land Cost Details
1-2 Guests: $4,795 per person
3+ Guests: $4,495 per person
Other customized private options are available.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement may be charged to participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. We have made every effort to eliminate or greatly reduce this cost for most of our scheduled small-group departures; however, these savings are limited to two single supplements per departure. Therefore, the first two single participants to reserve will receive the savings. This is not applicable to our Private Collection journeys.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 90 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary).* Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This does not apply to cruises in the Galapagos Islands or Antarctica. Please see these trip pages for more details.
Bangkok, Thailand to Paro, Bhutan (RT)
- All meals included
- Private guide throughout
- All accommodations
- All transportation during the tour
- All activities as noted in the itinerary
- Bhutanese visa fees and departure taxes
Please complete the following information to request a reservation. A trip deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your reservation (payable by check or major credit card). Once we receive your request we will contact you within one business day to confirm availability and answer any questions you may have.
About our guides
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work – the mark of a truly great leader – our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own.
Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Sangay Wangchuk: Sangay has spent almost two decades in the tourism business and has trekked and climbed most of Bhutan’s corners and mountains. He did his practical mountain management courses in Chamonix, France. His pride is his passion for Bhutan’s culture and ecology. His book, Seeing with the Third Eye, Growing up with Grandma in Rural Bhutan, depicts his interest in local beliefs.
Dawa Tashi (on right): Dawa has been a travel companion and leader for many Boundless Journeys’ guests on a number of our tours, from treks in the mountains to festival celebrations in the valleys. His combination of local knowledge and amicable personality make him a real treasure to have on the trail. He doesn’t care if you are hiking at high altitude or exploring local towns in the lowlands, his main focus is to make sure guests come away with a fantastic experience and thorough understanding of the culture they have come to love as much as he does.
Kinley Tshering (on left): Kinley has led many tours for Boundless Journeys, and is a favorite among our Guests. Kinley (or Kelly as he is known among his Bhutanese coworkers) joined our local staff of Guides after completing extensive training in 2006. Very friendly and down to earth, Kinley is an extremely knowledgeable local Guide always determined to make your trip special.
Leki Phuntsho: Leki is a well-educated local guide who has lived his whole life in Bhutan and who currently resides just outside of Thimphu. He completed his extensive Guide Training from the Tourism Council of Bhutan in 2006, and enjoys trekking when not leading guests on cultural tours of his homeland. With his infectious love and passion for the country, Leki carries the adventurous spirit of a true Bhutanese guide. Very friendly and down to earth, Leki is always determined to make your trip special.
What other guests have said about our guides in Bhutan:
“It is truly impossible for me to express in words my gratitude and appreciation for the professionalism, dedication, and hard work of your team in Bhutan. Dawa was so accommodating and flexible throughout the entire tour. He certainly went out of his way to make sure the experience in Bhutan was both memorable and enjoyable for everyone in the group.” – S.G., East Rochester, NY
“Dawa was excellent, especially on the walks and hikes; very helpful. He was also extremely knowledgeable about Buddhism. We were very fortunate to have Dawa!” – S. M., Cambridge, MA
“It was an honor to be guided by someone I would consider to be Bhutan’s first-class ambassador, Sangay Wangchuk. Sangay was always imparting great knowledge, wit and wisdom with all members of our group. He became our Buddha.” – V. A., Playa del Rey, CA
“Sangay was such a pleasure to have on the trek – friendly, knowledgeable, open, and upbeat! He was amazing, sharing stories of his culture and the promise of things to come.” – K. L., Englewood, NJ
“Kinley Tshering was the most amazing guide. I have traveled to many places around the globe and been around a lot of guides. Kinley is truly outstanding. His patience, knowledge and good humor made every day special for us. He never tired to explain details to us or find a cup of tea. He is full of life and his love for his country showed greatly.” – G.M., Baltimore, MA
“Kinley was amazing in his knowledge and command of English in order to pass along information. If someone mentioned one thing or asked a question about something, he incorporated that into the next day’s activity or found it for us. For example, we had read about how incense is made and about momos in the DrukAir magazine on the flight over. We mentioned those things to Kinley and sure enough he found a small incense manufacturer for us to visit and made sure we had plenty of momos!” – G. M., Greenwich, CT
Picture Yourself Here:
Marveling in Bhutan's dramatic scenery with spectacular river valleys, snowcapped sacred mountains, terraced rice fields, and striking architecture
Engaging with warm and welcoming Bhutanese people and a devout Buddhist culture
Hiking to temples and monasteries accessible only on foot
Exploring remote villages in picturesque
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What others have said...
Bhutan can't be described. It must be experienced.
- Lynn Duncan, Bhutan
Latest Blog Posts About Bhutan
"I cannot say enough good things about our guide, Kinley, and our driver, Tsering. Kinley was not only incredibly knowledgeable about Bhutan, Buddhism, the culture and life in general, he also took our personal interests into consideration to make the trip a richer experience."
- Erika Jaeggli, Bhutan: Hidden Kingdom in the Himalayas Private Collection