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Dragon Kingdom

Duration
9 Days
Prices From:
US$ 4,550

Known as The Last Shangri-La, Bhutan remains an elusive, unique destination, beyond the reach of most Asia vacations. Bhutan tours are a privilege enjoyed by a relative few, and this program takes you through the best of this mysterious country.


This 9-day Bhutan trip takes you through one of Asia’s least known, yet most enchanting countries in detail. From Paro, embark on the ultimate holiday through the only nation that reports on the gross national happiness of its citizens.

Transfer to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital city, via a spectacular Himalayan drive, and connect with your tour leader. An orientation walk the following day helps you get settled in. With fewer than 100,000 people, the city enchants with a complete absence of traffic lights, and a devotion to traditional architectural styles – even for brand new buildings. Your day in the city is followed by a return to the scenic Punakha Valley, a rich farming area with a well-sheltered climate. In the afternoon, visit Punakha Dzong monastery, a major centre of spirituality, and former capital of Bhutan.

Enjoy the diverse beauty as you drive through semi-tropical banana plantations in the Phobjikha Valley. Pine forests surround it, and in its centre, you’ll find one of Bhutan’s oldest private monasteries, Gangtey Goemba. Visit during the winter, and you’ll also see endangered black-necked cranes on migration from neighbouring Tibet.

The drive to the Bumthang Valley is long, but spectacular, with a lunch stop at Trongsa, an ancient trading post for merchants from India and beyond. You’ll also visit Zugney, known as a home for ‘yathra’ weaving, one of Bhutan’s most beloved art forms. The Valley itself more than rewards the trip. See Jambay Temple, which dates back to 750AD and is visited only by a privileged few. You will also visit the more recent Kurje temple, and Tamshing, where many young monks reside in training.

Return to Paro to explore more of your entry point into Bhutan. Like Thimphu, many of the beautiful, traditional looking buildings here are in fact quite new. Paro however is a smaller town, allowing you to immerse yourself in its slower pace of life in between sights. Your last full day is devoted to the most well known of those sights, the Tiger’s Nest. This impressive monastery hugs the dramatic cliff face, allowing the mythical guardian Taktsang to watch over Bhutan. Of great importance to the Bhutanese, the monastery is exquisitely maintained, including the small tea house where you’ll break for refreshments with a view.

Return to Paro for your departing flight.


 

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Duration
9 Days
Prices From:
US$ 4,550

Itinerary

Day 1

Paro to Thimphu

Welcome to Bhutan!

Upon arrival you will be met at the Paro airport and transferred to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan (approximately 75 minutes). The snaking road follows the Pa Chu as it winds downstream to its confluence with the Wang Chu, then up the valley to Thimphu. After settling in, there will be a briefing given by the tour leader in the late afternoon. Thimphu is a compact town that occupies both sides of the Thimphu Valley, bisected in the middle by the Thimphu Chu River. Time permitting, visit the King Jigme Dorji Memorial Chorten and take an orientation walk along the main street (if there is not enough time today, you will do this on Day 2).

Meal Plan Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Accommodation

Hotel Dorji Elements

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    Hotel Dorji Elements



    The Hotel Dorji is a boutique property built in a contemporary Bhutanese style overlooking the rivers and valleys of Thimpu. The hotel has a full service restaurant 7AM to 10PM closing periodically between breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a café for quick snacks. ...

    The Hotel Dorji is a boutique property built in a contemporary Bhutanese style overlooking the rivers and valleys of Thimpu. The hotel has a full service restaurant 7AM to 10PM closing periodically between breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a café for quick snacks. When not out exploring, try the hotel's Mhen-Tara Spa for some well-deserved pampering.

    Facilities

    • Business Centre
    • Conference Facilities
    • Fitness Centre
    • Restaurant
    • Spa

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Day 2

Thimphu

After breakfast, venture out to explore Thimphu, first driving to Buddha point to enjoy an excellent panoramic view of the city.

On your way back, take a short hike around a small enclosure in the pine trees to spot the takin, a unique goat-antelope creature. Next stop is the Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba, home to between 40-65 nuns and also a shelter for aging women and orphaned girls. Afterwards, visit the massive white, red and gold Tashicho Dzong* (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), located on the right bank of Thimphu Chhu. The original building dates back to 1216. To this day the Dzong (which means "fortress-monastery") serves as the seat of the government and is home to about 300 monks during summer. Afterwards, enjoy some free time in town to explore on your own.

(*Please note that visitors are not permitted inside the Dzong before 5pm Monday-Friday; during holidays and weekends visits are permitted between 9am-5pm.)

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 3

Punakha

This morning, travel to the castle-monastery of Simtokha Dzong, built in 1629 and said to guard against a demon that escaped into the nearby rock. Drive higher through the winding Dochula pass, traversing beautiful forest and sparse villages. The pass is marked by 108 chortens or stupas built in memory of Bhutanese soldiers killed fighting Indian insurgents in 2003. Continue through the scenic Punakha Valley which enjoys a temperate climate ideal for farming. Arrive Punakha and check in to your hotel.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Duration1 Night
Accommodation

Drubchhu Resort

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    Drubchhu Resort



    Drubchhu is a family owned and managed resort. This hotel is overlooking paddy fields and farm houses. Drubchhu is developed on the ruins of an old granary which was built by Zhabdung Jigme Choegyal more than a hundred years ago. The property has a natural ...

    Drubchhu is a family owned and managed resort. This hotel is overlooking paddy fields and farm houses. Drubchhu is developed on the ruins of an old granary which was built by Zhabdung Jigme Choegyal more than a hundred years ago. The property has a natural spring believed to be a Drubchhu (healing/miraculous water).

    Facilities

    • Bar
    • Business Centre
    • Currency Exchange
    • Event Space
    • Laundry Service
    • Luggage Service

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Day 4

Punakha

Start today with a short drive from the Punkha Dzong to the base of a hill where a ridge-top monastery sits. Start hiking from here, crossing a suspension bridge over the Mo Chu river, through paddy fields, then up to the Kahmsum Yulley temple. From the top you can take in sweeping views across the valley. There's also an option to take a short walk to the Chimi Lhakhang (Temple of Fertility). End the day at the Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Temple and nunnery, where you'll arrive in time for evening prayers at 6pm. The magnificent gleaming structure sits perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooks the valleys of Toebesa, Punakha and Wangdue.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Duration1 Night
Accommodation

Dewachen Hotel

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    Dewachen Hotel



    Encircled by pine forests in the hidden valley of Phobjikha - Gantey Gompa, home to the very rare Black Necked cranes, the Dewachen Hotel features sixteen double rooms, modern bathroom fittings, heavenly bedding comforts, and a restaurant with a magnificent view and the finest cuisine ...

    Encircled by pine forests in the hidden valley of Phobjikha - Gantey Gompa, home to the very rare Black Necked cranes, the Dewachen Hotel features sixteen double rooms, modern bathroom fittings, heavenly bedding comforts, and a restaurant with a magnificent view and the finest cuisine prepared by a professional chef.

    At Dewachen, you'll find each detail well thought of and your needs anticipated each time you return. For your enjoyment and recreation, we have a cocktail lounge, horse riding facilities, and cultural programs on request and for a fee. A traditional hot stone bath to unwind and end your day. With a capacity to accommodate 30 persons, our medium sized, convention hall equipped with support facilities can easily handle your most ambitious conventions.

    Facilities

    • Airport Shuttle Service
    • Balcony
    • Cable TV
    • DVD Player Available
    • Hairdryers
    • In-Room Safe
    • Internet Access - High Speed
    • Internet Access - Wireless

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Day 5

Punakha to Haa

Today you will travel to one of the most remote and sacred valleys in Bhutan, the Haa Valley. This area only opened to tourism in 2002 and gives one the sense of stepping into the past. The surrounding mountains push up against the northern Indian state of Sikkim and southern Tibet, and they are as wild, uninhabited, and unexplored as anywhere in the world. The drive from Punakha to Haa takes about 5 to 7 hours, and you will travel through the spectacular Cheli La Pass. Arrive in the attractive small town of Haa, with traditional two-storey wooden shops and a central dzong used by the Indian army. Relax and take a walk around the town to meet the friendly local people. Tonight enjoy local specialties for dinner at a nearby farmhouse.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Accommodation

Soednam Zingkha Heritage Lodge

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    Soednam Zingkha Heritage Lodge


    Converted from a traditional three-storied house, Soednam Zingkha is set against a backdrop of evergreen pine trees on two acres land, surrounded by Hatey village. The lodge blends effortlessly into the setting of the rural village, ensuring cultural unity with the past and present. Guest ...

    Converted from a traditional three-storied house, Soednam Zingkha is set against a backdrop of evergreen pine trees on two acres land, surrounded by Hatey village. The lodge blends effortlessly into the setting of the rural village, ensuring cultural unity with the past and present. Guest rooms are outfitted with modern amenities while the décor is exquisitely Bhutanese with traditional wall paintings. Please note that bathroom facilities are shared.

    Facilities

    • Reception
    • Reception

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Day 6

Haa Valley

Enjoy a full day of exploration in this culturally-rich valley, the ancestral home of the Bhutan's royal grandmother. The two most important temples here are the 7th century Lhakhang Karpo (White Temple) and Lhakhang Nagpo (Black Temple), which sit at the foothills of Meri Puensum. Legend has it that King Songtsen Gampo released a black and a white pigeon to select sites to build the temples. Travel back towards Cheli La Pass, decorated with thousands of prayer flags, and have a picnic lunch in the surrounding pine trees. A variety of birds can be seen and heard in this mountain landscape. Then take a 45-minute hike through primeval forest to Kila Goemba, one of the oldest nunneries in Bhutan.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 7

Haa to Paro

Retrace the drive up spectacular Cheli La Pass and return to Paro (approximately 2 hours). Upon arrival in Paro, visit the National Museum which houses an impressive collection of Bhutanese antiquities and treasures. Continue to the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong, located 18 kilometres from the city, built in the 17th century but which was burnt down by an accidental fire in 1950s. This afternoon there's the opportunity to take a stroll in downtown Paro and admire the local architecture and quiet streets.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Accommodation

Tenzinling Resort

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    Tenzinling Resort


    Tenzinling is an intimate, family run resort. Located in a strategic location it gives a bird-eye full view of the Paro valley with a spectacular Paro Dzong in the background. All the 21 rooms have been oriented to give the view of the Dzong. Built ...

    Tenzinling is an intimate, family run resort. Located in a strategic location it gives a bird-eye full view of the Paro valley with a spectacular Paro Dzong in the background. All the 21 rooms have been oriented to give the view of the Dzong. Built in the ancestral land, the resort is surrounded by a small village amidst apple orchards, and rice fields. We would like to welcome you to come and experience the taste of Bhutanese hospitality at Tenzinling. Over at Tenzinling, we live by the philosophy: Giving personal care to our guests.

    Facilities

    • Bar
    • Conference Facilities
    • Gift Shop
    • Laundry
    • Room Service

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Day 8

Tiger's Nest Monastery

After an early breakfast we drive up to the starting point and prepare for our hike to the legendary Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) - a magnificent monastery, clinging on a rock cliff 900 meters above the valley floor.

The legend dating back to 747 AD has it that the Great Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhawa) flew here from northeast Bhutan on the back of a tigress to subdue the demons of Paro Valley. The guru then meditated in the holy cave that is the site of the Pelphug Lhakhang today.

According to Tantric Buddhist mythology, the vanquished local deities became the protectors of the dharma and one of them, Singey Samdrup, is recognised today as the guardian deity of Taktsang. Guru Rinpoche is also believed to have concealed among the rocks of Taktsang various forms of Dharma treasures known as Ters, which were destined to be discovered later by Tertons (treasure discoverers) for the propagation of Dharma.

Taktsang was severely damaged by fire on Sunday 19th April 1998. The king commanded its immediate restoration soon after the fire. The royal command dictated that the original aura, authenticity and architectural splendor must be preserved at all costs. This project has been widely seen as an act of devotion involving all sections of Bhutanese society and as homage to the nation's cultural heritage.

It also proved to be an opportunity for Bhutan's traditional artists and craftsmen to hone the skills inherited from their forefathers down the ages. In order to facilitate the restoration work, a road was built to the base of the mountain facing the temple.

We drive to the end of this road and begin our hike up the mountain for a closer view of the temple. After approximately an hour walking, we reach a small teahouse that has a wonderful panoramic view of the temple with refreshments available and our lunch stop will be taken here.

For those interested, it is possible to get a closer view by hiking another 45 minutes to an hour (each direction) to reach the small chorten directly across from the temple. Anyone not interested in hiking any further can relax at the teahouse and enjoy the view. It total it will about 5 to 6 hours to get back to the carpark including all stops if you choose to walk the full way.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 9

Paro

After breakfast, your driver and tour leader will transfer you to the airport for your onward flight.

Meal Plan Breakfast

Other Information

DEPARTURES:

2017: 28 Apr; 12 May;  8, 22 Sep; 13 Oct.

2018: 13, 27 Apr; 11 May;  7, 21 Sep.

PRICE INCLUDES:

  • 8 nights' accommodation
  • Meals as specified
  • Guided touring and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Overland transport by private group vehicle
  • Bhutan group visa

PRICE EXLUDES:

  • Travel insurance
  • International and domestic airfare & airfare taxes unless specified.
  • Visa fees if applicable unless specified
  • Meals and beverages not mentioned
  • Gratuities
  • Items of a personal nature

TERMS AND CONDITIONS:

Prices are "from" per person based on twin/double share accommodation and for travel in low season. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates may apply. Limited seat/spaces and all pricing is subject to change and availability. Rates for single or triple travellers are available on request - please inquire.

TB INTREPIPAR0216: HNKB
21 Sep 2018
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