We’d like to let you in on a little secret – The Kingdom of Bhutan. Typically people we tell about Bhutan ask "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 special. The Kingdom of Bhutan is a hidden gem that is often compared to Tibet before the Chinese invasion, and Nepal without the budget backpackers.
Bhutan lies along the lofty ridges of the Himalayas – a remarkable land where the well-preserved countryside, architecture, and culture appear lost in time. The capital city, Thimphu, is said to be the only capital in the world without traffic lights. Our walks in Punakha reveal impressive dzongs, while Paro’s location along ancient trade routes has created a rich culture, encapsulated by its unique monasteries, such as the striking Tiger’s Nest. Let us introduce you to Bhutan, a truly peaceful kingdom!
Arrival in Bhutan; transfer to Thimphu
Welcome to Bhutan! We land in Paro at Bhutan's only international airport. We are met by our local guide and transferred to Thimphu, home of the royal family. Before becoming Bhutan's official national capital in 1961, Thimphu was a simple, rural farming valley. Small and secluded, it is unlike any other world capital. The city is quiet, and may be the only capital in the world without a traffic light.
Our exploration of Thimphu depends on flight arrival times and we may visit the National Textile Museum, the Heritage Museum, or the Giant Buddha above town, giving us some excellent views of the Thimphu Valley.
Hotel DrukThimpu, Bhutan
Hotel Druk is located in the center of the city’s landmarks, near the famous Thimphu clock tower and within walking distance of the main markets. Constructed in traditional Bhutanese style, this distinctive, four-star deluxe hotel is relaxed yet elegant, with all the necessary comforts and amenities. Hotel Druk offers newly refurbished, modern guestrooms with spacious accommodations; a soothing spa; and a stylish bar and restaurant.
Cheri Gompa and The Choki School of Arts
Our hike today begins at a small village near the boundary of Jigme Dorji Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest protected area in the country. The area is home to several endangered species, including: the takin, snow leopard, blue sheep, tiger, red panda, and the Himalayan black bear. The trail climbs steadily to Cheri Gompa, a small monastery perched on the hill with a view of the Thimphu Valley. After touring the monastery, we descend on the same route back to our tour vehicle where we drive home of the Choki School of Arts. The Choki School provides free, skills-related education in the traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan to Bhutanese children who are unable to complete their formal education.
Before dinner, we speak with a local expert to learn more about Bhutan's unique culture and its remarkable Gross National Happiness concept.
Transfer to Punakha (approximately 4 hours*); Temple of the Divine Madman
Today we transfer to the Punakha Valley, our home for the next two nights. The road to Punakha crosses the Dochula Pass (10,230'), offering a great view of the eastern Himalayan mountains.
On the 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 formality of the clergy and social conventions were keeping people from understanding true Buddhism.
Dhumra Farm ResortPunakha, Bhutan
Nestled amidst the green hills with an enviable view of the Punakha Dzong, Dhumra Farm Resort has been built with nature in mind, from the local building materials to the farm’s organic produce cooked in the traditional earthen oven. This small, boutique hotel is committed to providing guests with an extroadinary and authentic Bhutanese experience.
Khamsung Yuley Namgyel Temple to Punakha Dzong
We begin today's hike by first ascending a series of switchbacks to the Khamsung Yuley Namgyel Temple. From this modern temple, we are afforded grand views of the Mo Chu River Valley below. We then 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 along 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.
Following our hike, we have the special opportunity to visit the Nalanda Buddhist Institute, where we meet the resident monks and learn about their lives.
Transfer to Paro (approximately 5 hours*); visit Kyichu Lhakhang, the Paro Dzong, and Bhutan’s National Museum
Today we return to Paro, catching another glimpse of the mighty Himalayas over the Dochula Pass. Upon our arrival in Paro, we visit 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.
We then make our way by vehicle to the National Museum. The museum's collection includes ancient artifacts, weapons, antique thangkha (painted or embroidered religious pictures), textiles, and stamps.
Finally, we head to the valley's magnificent Rinpung Dzong. If we are fortunate, we may have the opportunity to explore within the dzong's mighty walls. However, if the Administrative Body is in session, we must admire from the outside.
Rema ResortParo, Bhutan
Rema Hotel is situated along the banks of the Paro River with rooms enjoying scenic views of the rice paddies and farm fields of the tranquil Paro Valley. The hotel features stunning traditional Bhutanese architecture, yet provides modern amenities for a comfortable stay.
Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery
This morning, we 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 that switchbacks through pine forests, with 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 supposedly born — all reminders that for many, this is not just a hike, but a spiritual pilgrimage. 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.
We return to the valley floor, where we enjoy a trail side picnic lunch before heading back to our hotel. We have some time this afternoon to unwind and relax after our hike, or perhaps stroll the Paro market before dinner.
Cheli La Pass to Kila Gompa
The day's adventure starts early as we set out on a road that climbs almost 5,000' above the valley floor to Chele La Pass (12,500'). If the weather is clear, we enjoy glimpses of some of Bhutan's highest peaks. Upon reaching the pass, western Bhutan appears before us, with its unspoiled Haa valley, the mountains of Sikkim, Mt. Chomolhari, Tibet, and the patchwork fields of the Paro Valley.
We hike along a ridge through meadows before re-entering forests of larch, spruce, hemlock, fir and rhododendron. After about two hours, we see the Kila Gompa, home to approximately 30 nuns. Kila means "spiritual dagger," and a visit to the temple is often thought to tame the negative emotions of anger, ignorance, and greed.
Following our visit and picnic lunch, we descend on a dirt road that winds through conifers and rhododendrons. We arrive at our vehicle to return to Paro.
This evening, we celebrate our journey through this amazing kingdom, and the kind welcome we have received from the generous people of Bhutan.
Departure from Paro
We are transferred to the airport for an early morning departure from Paro. From here we say farewell before our journey home, or continue on to other exciting destinations.
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.
Mar 29-Apr 5, 2023
Sep 24-Oct 1, 2023
Oct 23-30, 2023
Festival Dates: September 24, October 23
From $5,795 Per Person
$995 Per Person
Bangkok-Paro-Bangkok; subject to change
First two reserved:$0
See single supplement policy below.
MAKE IT PRIVATE
9+ Guests: $5,295 per person
5 to 8 Guests: $5,795 per person
Make it Private price is based on Land Cost only, and a guarantee of the specified number of guests in double occupancy. For groups smaller than the numbers shown, or those requiring single occupancy, we reserve the right to adjust the per person price. Additionally, some trips have minimum group sizes. Please call 1-800-941-8010 for details.
Our festival departure dates are based on the festival calendar when trips were scheduled. Festival dates may be subject to change, as the local authorities have the right to change the festival dates at any time. If this is the case we will do our best to adjust the itinerary so that we can attend the festival. Call 1-800-941-8010 for details and sample itineraries.
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. Hidden Kingdom in the Himalayas is rated 2, easy to moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The walks and hikes on this trip are easy to moderate, generally from 2-5 hours in length, with minimal vehicle support. Some of the hikes will involve some steep ascents and descents, however the terrain is not technical. A few days involve drives on narrow, winding roads.
The guide will meet you at the Paro, Bhutan International Airport upon arrival of your flight on Day 1.
Paro, Bhutan International Airport in time for your departing flight on Day 8.
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 panting 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.
Bhutan is generally delightful for hiking in the spring and fall. The driest weather and clearest skies are typically in late September, October and November. In the months of March, April and May, beautiful flowers are in bloom, and you will encounter fewer travelers.
Our trip begins and ends in Paro, which is situated at 7,300' in the foothills of the Himalayas. Our hotel in Thimphu is at approximately 7,500'. We then move to the Punakha Valley, which offers a relatively low elevation of approximately 4,300'. Our walks and hikes will take place at elevations from 4,300' to 12,500'. There is time to move at a comfortable pace, allowing the group to adjust to the altitude and mountain air. Staying 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, 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 airlines flying into Bhutan 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 of $850 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.
As a cultural and trekking guide for almost a decade, Arun is both an experienced and knowledgeable leader for your adventure in Bhutan. A resident of the town of Sinchula, in the country’s southwest, Arun has completed five national guide trainings through the Bhutanese government, as well as an internship in Gross National Happiness—his country’s official well-being policy. When he’s not on the trail in Bhutan, Arun is an avid adventure traveler himself and enjoys playing soccer.
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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