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Eastern Bhutan is practically off the map. Here, the mountains are steeper, the valleys are deeper, the trails are wilder, and the villages are more secluded. We wander the most mysterious part of the kingdom seldom experienced by visitors but perfect for the adventuresome few who choose to journey here.
On our journey, appreciate Bhutan’s varied and dramatic scenery of beautiful river valleys, snow capped sacred mountains, and terraced rice fields. Meet welcoming locals while visiting Bhutan’s iconic dzongs, hike to remote gold-roofed temples and monasteries, and walk through peaceful villages in emerald valleys surrounded by a spectacular mountain backdrop.
Arrival in Paro
Our flight into Bhutan provides breathtaking views as we approach Bhutan's only international airport tucked between mountains in the Paro Valley. The valley is a green bowl surrounded by steep 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 believed to be one of the first valleys to have received the imprint of Buddhism.
We meet our guide and embark on a short warm-up hike beginning at the village of Shaba and crossing the Paro Chu River and ascending up an old path once frequently used by local villagers. We take our time to slowly become accustomed to the elevation. The hike affords you views of the village, its surrounding farm fields, and the clear river below, its source the glaciers high in the mountains. The path's gradual descent takes us to the neighboring village of Bondey, where our tour vehicle will be waiting for us to transport us to our hotel for the evening.
Please note: our itinerary today is dependent on flight arrival times. We may participate in all or a portion of the activities listed above.
Raven's NestParo, Bhutan
Raven’s Nest Resort is situated in the upper Paro Valley, set amidst farmhouses and rice fields, and very near to the trailhead for Tiger’s Nest Monastery and the ruins of Drukgyel Dzong. Featuring 21 spacious rooms with ensuite baths and balconies, the hotel also has a library, meditation room, spa with a sauna, steam bath and massage services, and a restaurant serving Bhutanese, Indian and western style dishes. Your stay here is the perfect place to unwind and will be a welcome respite in a tranquil, rural setting.
Fly to Trashigang
Today, we depart Paro for eastern Bhutan, our destination being the district capital Trashigang. We will fly into Yonphula airport, one of four airports in the country and the lone domestic airport serving Bhutan's isolated eastern region. The airstrip is located at about 9,000 ft and was originally constructed in the 1960s by the Indian army. It remained mostly unused until several renovations allowed for it to open in 2017, at long last providing an alternative to the nearly 15-hour overland journey from Paro to Trashigang. Please be aware that sometimes the flights to Yonphula are delayed or even cancelled due to unfavorable weather conditions. We are flying to eastern Bhutan during a time of year when the weather conditions provide us with the best odds of avoiding weather-related travel disruptions, but there is still the chance of delays occuring.
Our exploration of eastern Bhutan begins with a short, but steep hike from Chagzam Bridge up to the Trashigang Dzong, perched high above the river valley below. This dzong is one of the largest in Bhutan and is referred to as the "Fortress of the Auspicious Hill." A short walk will take us from the dzong to downtown Trashigang, where local farmers sell their crops along the street and local shops contain everyday essentials alongside interesting handmade, local crafts.
Hotel LingkharTrashigang, Bhutan
Located in picturesque suroundings, this is one of the nicest hotels in the area. Ensuite rooms are decorated in traditional Bhutanese style and have private balconies with panoramic vistas.
Mongling Temple Hike
We'll begin our day with a hike to the remote Mongling Lhakhang. This small temple sits atop a hill high above Nimshong village and contains a statue of the local deity Jampelyang Shenjey, which many locals still worship. Our hike up to the temple takes us through the countryside, past farmers' fields and traditional Bhutanese farmhouses.
After our hike and a picnic lunch, we will head back to Trashigang for the opportunity to visit the campus of Sherubtse College and chat with some students. Sherbutse College was the first accredited college in Bhutan, founded in 1966 by Jesuit priests. Today, it is Bhutan's most prestigious university with roughly two-thirds of its graduates working for the Royal Government of Bhutan. Gain some insight from the young Bhutanese students and learn what it was like to grow up in Bhutan during a time of great change.
Hike to Rangshikhar Lhakhang
This morning, we partake in another short, but steep hike up to the unique Rangshikhar Lhakhang, a newly constructed temple where the grounds contain a variety of statues depicting scenes from the life of Buddha. Rangshikhar Lhakhang is the residence of the revered Rangshikhar Rinpoche, making this temple a popular place for local people to receive Rangshikhar Rinpoche's blessings.
We enjoy a picnic lunch or perhaps lunch at Rangshikhar Ngagtshang, the neighboring homestay. In the afternoon, we will drive to the sacred Gom Kora Temple, a popular pilgrimage site for the Bhutanese due to its religious signficance. Here, the famous Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated and left his impression in a massive rock. The word "kora" translates to"circumambulation," and devotees can be found walking around the temple praying and gaining merit for their next life.
Transfer to Mongar
This morning, we depart Trashigang and head to the neighboring town of Mongar, the fastest growing district in eastern Bhutan, in part to its newly constructed regional hospital and a hydroelectric power plant. Mongar is well known for its lemongrass, which is harvested and used to produce essential oil. Upon arrival in Mongar, we will check into our hotel and have time to explore the town or visit the nearby Mongar Dzong before lunch at our hotel. Built in 1930, the Mongar Dzong is a relatively new construction due to the original dzong being destroyed by a fire and earthquake. However, when the dzong was rebuilt it was constructed in the traditional style architecture and traditional style construction methods.
In the afternoon, we enjoy a scenic hike passing small gompas with views of the Kuri Chu river valley from Yakgau Village to Phungchula.
Hotel WangchukMongar, Bhutan
Situated on a hill overlooking the small town of Mongar and terraced farmland, Hotel Wangchuk offers comfortable ensuite rooms, each with views of the mountains and valleys below.
Transfer to Khoma Village
Today, we drive to the remote village of Khoma, a small village but well-known throughout Bhutan for producing the most elaborate and high quality hand-woven textiles. On the drive to this rural area, we have the opportunity to stop and stretch our legs, enjoying the mountain scenery. One particularly beautiful spot is at the Tibetan-style Autsho chorten situated on the east bank of the Kuri Chu River alongside several rows of vertical prayer flag poles, the many flags fluttering in the breeze. The small town of Autsho is a short walk from the picturesque chorten, and we enjoy lunch at a local homestay in town.
Upon arrival to the quaint Khoma village, your gracious homestay host family welcomes you into their home, offering a cup of ara, a traditional Bhutanese rice wine that is a customary offering to guests. Although the homestay is a very basic accommodation, the opportunity to stay with a local family allows for a very special connection to the Bhutanese culture, one that adventurous travelers will surely never forget.
Chimi Yuden HomestayKhoma Village, Bhutan
This remote village is known for its homestay program, and Chimi Yuden was not only the first to be established, but is also one of the best in area. Owner Tshering Yangki ensures a comfortable stay with basic amenities and warm hospitality.
Sangwa Lo Dru Cave; Gangzur
This morning, we hike from the homestay to the Sangwa Lo Dru meditation cave, high above Khoma Village. This is a popular meditation spot, and the hospitable caretaker shares with us the history behind the meditation cave, as well as details about the holy relics of this sacred site.
In the afternoon, we have the opportunity to explore Khoma Village, perhaps observing the local women weave the vibrant and intricate textiles for which they are famous. Later in the day, we drive to the nearby village of Gangzur to learn about this region's vanishing art of handmade clay pottery.
We bid our homestay family farewell and leave the quaint village of Khoma behind to make our way back to Mongar. En route, we drive up the steep mountainside past traditional Bhutanese farmhouses, our spectacular mountain views expanding as we conintue our climb upwards, our destination being the magnificant Takela Temple. Reaching 173 ft tall, Takila Temple is home to the largest statue of Guru Rinpoche in the world.
Upon arrival in Mongar, we have lunch at our hotel before a visit to a local ara maker, where we learn more about this traditional Bhutanese beverage. This evening, you may relax at your hotel or take a stroll through the small town of Mongar.
Transfer to Jakar
Today, we leave eastern Bhutan and make our way to central Bhutan's Bumthang Valley (approximately a 6-hour drive). We stop for lunch at a local teahouse located in a small village where yak herders pasture their herds during certain months of the year.
After our lunch and further along on our drive, we have the option to enjoy a short hike in the lovely Ura Valley. Depending upon timing, we may stop at Tang Mebartsho (Burning Lake) before arriving at the hotel. Here, a famous reincarnated lama, Terton Pema Lingpa, is said to have discovered a religious treasure in the 12th century. This lake is very sacred and visited by many Bhutanese during auspicious days to offer butter lamps.
Bhutan Mountain ResortJakar, Bhutan
With views of the pine wood forest and historic Wangduechoeling palace, Bhutan Mountain Resort is one of the oldest hotels in Bumthang. The family-owned property offers simple, comfortable accommodations and warm service. All 27 rooms are appointed with wood paneling, heated by firewood stoves (or Bukhari), with ensuite baths. Featuring an attentive professional staff and in-house restaurant, the lodge is within walking distance of the Wangduechoeling palace, Jakar Dzong and Chamkhar Town.
Pasaling Gompa Hike
After breakfast we will partake in a hike that takes us from Chamkhar Kharchu Dratshang Monastery to Bebjur village. This hike is known as the "Bush Man Trek," where we gradually make our way uphill through blue pine forests, the scenery not nearly as mountainous as eastern Bhutan, but equally beautiful. We'll keep an eye out for wild boars, deer, monal pheasants, and other animal inhabitants of the forest as we make our way along the trail. Our hike concludes with lunch at Bebjur village.
Ugyen Choling Estate Visit
We explore the Bumthang district further and delve deeper into Bhutanese history and culture by visiting the Ugyen Choling Estate. A fairly short hike takes us up to this well-maintained manor, revealing its cultural treasures inside. The family decided to convert sections of their ancestral home into a museum in an effort to preserve and share their heritage so both visitors to Bhutan and generations of Bhutanese can learn what life was like for Bhutanese nobility in the past, prior to the dissolution of the Bhutanese feudal system in the 1950s.
Transfer to Paro
This morning, we fly from central Bhutan back to western Bhutan. We have the option to relax at the hotel, or head out on a hike to the famous cliff-side hermitage called Taktsang — "Tiger's Nest" — a monastic retreat built into a sheer cliff face high above the Paro Valley.
Our hike begins on the valley floor and is a steady uphill climb on a wide hiking trail with switchbacks through pine forests and glimpses of Tiger's Nest along the way. We pass water-powered prayer wheels and mani stones, as well as a shrine where a high lama was born — all reminders that this is not just a hike, but a spiritual pilgrimage for many.
As we near the monastery, we stop by a small teahouse for refreshments and take in our first up-close view of Taktsang. From here, our hiking trail levels out for a short while, before we begin climbing down steps to a bridge that eventually leads us to this most impressive sacred site. Legend has it that the Tibetan Buddhist saint, Padmasambhava, flew across the Himalayas on the back of a tigress and landed here, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. Entry into the monastery feels like stepping back in time, and we have the chance to visit several shrines that comprise the temple complex. During our exploration, our guide brings Tiger's Nest to life with the tales of Buddhism that make this one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in all of Bhutan.
We return to the valley floor, where we enjoy a trailside picnic lunch before heading back to our hotel. We have some time this afternoon to stroll the Paro market, or you can simply rest at the hotel before dinner.
Departure from Paro
We are transferred to the airport in time for your departure from Paro.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to 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 or the order visited should the need arise.
Oct 12-24, 2020
$4,995 Per Person
$995 Per Person
Bangkok-Paro-Bangkok; Domestic flights total: $465, Paro-Yongpulla and Jakar-Paro. Airfare prices subject to change
First two reserved:$95
See single supplement policy below.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
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 120 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 may not apply to certain trips with unique accommodation arrangements. Please see specific trip information for more details.
Boundless Journeys' trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. This custom journey is rated 3, moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The walks and hikes on this trip are moderate day hikes ranging from 2-5 hours in length with minimal vehicle support. A few days involve some long drives on narrow, winding roads.
Paro, Bhutan International Airport upon arrival of your flight on Day 1.
Paro, Bhutan International Airport in time for your departing flight on Day 13.
Most Convenient Airport: Bangkok International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand (airport code BKK)
Meeting Time and Place:Your Boundless Journeys guide will meet you at the Paro, Bhutan airport upon the arrival of your flight from Bangkok (other regional airports upon request).
Departure Time and Place:Paro, Bhutan in time for the departure of your flight to Bangkok (other regional airports upon request).
The mountainous areas of Bhutan have pronounced rainy and dry seasons. The driest weather and clearest skies are typically in October and November and it is the harvest season. During March through May, beautiful flowers are in bloom and it is the planting and ploughing time of year. The months of December through February are clear and cool (can be below freezing at night) and it is the shoulder season, so you will encounter fewer visitors. June through August is the monsoon season and it is generally not recommended to travel to Bhutan at this time of year. You may obtain more detailed weather information at www.weatherbase.com.
Our trip begins in Paro, which is situated at 7,300 feet, in the foothills of the Himalayas. We make our way over passes and down into valleys reaching a maximum elevation of 13,125' and a minimum elevation of about 3,610' in Trashingang. There is time to move at a comfortable pace, allowing for the adjustment to the mountain air. Keeping well hydrated, avoiding excessive alcohol, eating frequent, light meals, and getting plenty of rest will help with any effects of altitude that you may feel.
This itinerary includes a combination of the standard and deluxe hotel options available in Bhutan. Although the hotels in Bhutan cannot be compared to international standards, they are comfortable and offer all necessary facilities. We believe that any inconveniences due to these modest accommodations are far outweighed by the unforgettable experience of visiting Bhutan (If you prefer to stay in luxury hotels in Bhutan, please contact us to discuss a private journey).
Due to the unique tourism policy in Bhutan, we are unable to confirm which hotels we will be using until four weeks prior to departure. The accommodations listed will most likely be what we can expect, but may alter due to availability.
It is important to reserve your trip early, as the Bhutanese national airline will only accept reservations with the full payment of the ticket. Therefore we are unable to hold group seats in advance of reservations. Seats can only be confirmed upon receipt of your deposit, as well as the payment for these flights (subject to change). Please contact our office with any questions regarding these important policies.
Although visiting Bhutan in many ways is like stepping back in time and has been a longtime favorite of Boundless Journeys' travelers for this reason, it is important to understand that this evolving society is also eager to keep pace in the modern world. While the government is approaching the development of their country with sensitivity towards preserving the environment and culture, you can still expect to encounter some of the less positive signs of modernization. Some examples include: road construction projects that may hinder driving or cause noise and dust; litter in developed areas; and begging. We ask you to visit Bhutan with an open mind and leave any rigid expectations about the pristine nature of the country behind. It is important to embrace what you see and experience without judgment and recognize that Bhutan, just as any country, is struggling to be a part of this complex and rapidly changing world. We are confident that with this attitude, the Bhutan you experience will be a fascinating and memorable place.
Bhutanese dishes borrow elements of Indian and Chinese cuisine, however it is also unique in its style and tastes. One of the most distinguishing features of Bhutanese cuisine is the ubiquitous chili. The Bhutanese are passionate about chili; you will see them spread all over to dry - on the roadsides, on rooftops and in courtyards. Ema datse, a dish made with chilis and cheese, is a spicy favorite. Some excellent non-spicy options include kewa datse (potatoes and cheese sauce), and shamu datse (mushrooms with cheese sauce). Bhutanese also love momos. Though a Tibetan specialty, these dumplings now occupy a permanent place in Bhutanese cuisine. Chicken or pork momos are favored, but cheese momos are most common. Another important feature of this exotic cuisine is the use of rice, found in various forms in dishes ranging from breakfast to dinner.We do our best to offer a la carte meals at unique local establishments, however, options are quite limited in the smaller towns, so many of the meals will be served buffet-style at our hotels. There are usually continental, Bhutanese, Chinese, and Indian dishes served.
While we do our best to offer our guests the best possible meals and food available in Bhutan, it is important to know that the food there is basic and does not offer the variety and quality that we may be accustomed to at home. Please travel to Bhutan with an open mind and do not have high expectations in this regard and you will not be disappointed. Vegetarians can easily be accommodated with advance notice.
Kinley (or Kelley, as he is known among his Bhutanese coworkers) joined our local staff of guides after completing extensive training in 2006. Kinley is extremely knowledgeable about the local area and culture and is always determined to make each trip special by taking guests' personal interests into consideration to make the trip a richer experience.
Kinley has led many tours for Boundless Journeys and is a favorite among our guests for his friendly, down to earth manner. Guests have enjoyed his joyous, enthusiastic nature and commented on his deep love and respect for his country and its people.
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.
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