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Dragon Kingdom

Duration
9 Days
Prices From:
US$ 3,795

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$ 3,795

Itinerary View Trip Map

Day 1

Paro to Thimphu

Welcome to Bhutan, the last Shangri-La. Depending on the clarity of the weather and your flight path into Paro (2,280m), you may be met with an awe-inspiring view of the massive eastern Himalayan peaks on your way in, including Kanchenjunga (the world's third highest peak) and Chomolhari (Bhutan's holy mountain). On arrival, you will be met at Paro airport and transferred to Thimphu (2,736m), the capital of Bhutan (65 km, 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 and any last-minute arrangements will be coordinated. Thimphu is a compact town that occupies both sides of the Thimphu Valley, bisected in the middle by the Thimphu Chu River. Time permitting, you will visit the King Jigme Dorji Memorial Chorten (built in 1974 in memory of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk), 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

Ramada Valley Thimphu Bhutan

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    Ramada Valley Thimphu Bhutan



    With an idyllic location on the banks of the glistening Wang Chuu River in the capital city of the Kingdom of Bhutan, our 4-star hotel in Thimphu is perfect accommodation for individuals, couples and groups of friends or family looking for a base for exploring ...

    With an idyllic location on the banks of the glistening Wang Chuu River in the capital city of the Kingdom of Bhutan, our 4-star hotel in Thimphu is perfect accommodation for individuals, couples and groups of friends or family looking for a base for exploring this fascinating city, or for business travelers needing to work in Bhutan. Delivering a perfect combination of friendly local character and international hospitality standards, the Ramada Thimphu Bhutan Hotel is your best choice accommodation in Bhutan.

    Facilities

    • Bar
    • Gym
    • Meeting Facilities
    • Restaurant
    • Spa
    • WiFi

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Day 2

Thimphu

After breakfast you will venture out to explore Thimphu, first driving to Buddha point (where a 51-metre-high gilded statue watches over the city) to enjoy an excellent panoramic view of the city. On your way back you will take a short hike around the small enclosure in the pine trees to spot Takin, the national animal of Bhutan - a unique goat-antelope creature. The next stop is the Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba. It is home to between 40-65 nuns and also provides shelter for aging women and orphaned girls. You will then pass the vast white, red and gold Tashicho Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), located on the right bank of Thimphu Chhu. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (Bhutan's supreme leader in the first half of the 17th century) built the current structure in 1641, however the original building dates back to 1216. To this day the Dzong (which means fortress-monastery) serves as the seat of the government and home to about 300 monks during summer. You can then enjoy some free time in town for your own exploration. Please note we are not permitted to visit the Dzong before 5pm Monday - Friday; during holidays and weekends visits are permitted between 9am to 5pm. Sites to uncover in the capital include the National Textile Museum, Folk Heritage Museum, and the Voluntary Artists Studio Thimphu, an institution where children receive formal education in the art of traditional painting, sculpture, and woodcarving. Thimphu has an excellent range of handicrafts, most notably woven cloth, wooden masks, thangkas, silverware, jewellery, and bamboo crafts that come from all over Bhutan.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 3

Punakha

This morning, travel out the castle-monastery of Simtokha Dzong, the first built by Zhabdrung (in 1629AD) and said to guard against a demon that escaped into the nearby rock. Next, climb the winding Dochula pass (3,100m) through beautiful tropical 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 - and gardens of colourful prayer flags. On the clear day you'll enjoy magnificent views of the Eastern Himalaya, including Gangkhar Puensum, perhaps the world's highest unclimbed mountain. The scenic Punakha Valley is drained by the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu (meaning 'Father' and 'Mother' Rivers) which enjoys a temperate climate which is ideal for farming. Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1966. Here you'll visit the white-walled, red-roofed Punakha Dzong, the administrative and religious centre and winter retreat of His Holiness, Je Khenpo - the chief abbot of Bhutan. This six-storey high monastery is one of the largest dzongs in Bhutan. Construction began in 1637, although sections of it have been restored after floods in 1994. The Dzong boasts intricately carved woodwork, prayer halls and beautiful religious paintings on walls and doorways.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Accommodation

Punakha Zhingkham Resort

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    Punakha Zhingkham Resort



    Overlooking majestic Punakha Dzong, river and magnificent surrounding hills, Zhingkham Resort ('Zhingkham' means Heaven in Bhutanese national language, Dzongkha) is a charming establishment, perched on a zhingkham-punakha Bhutanhilltop. Owing to its idyllic and blissful location, there are amazingly beautiful views from its guestrooms & restaurant.

    Overlooking majestic Punakha Dzong, river and magnificent surrounding hills, Zhingkham Resort ('Zhingkham' means Heaven in Bhutanese national language, Dzongkha) is a charming establishment, perched on a zhingkham-punakha Bhutanhilltop. Owing to its idyllic and blissful location, there are amazingly beautiful views from its guestrooms & restaurant.

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Day 4

Punakha

Begin the day with a short 30-minute drive from the Punkha Dzong to the base of a hill where a ridge-top monastery sits. In this almost sub-tropical valley, begin a hike at a suspension bridge that crosses the Mo Chu River and cross through paddy fields before starting to climb a moderately inclined trail to the Kahmsum Yulley temple. This temple was built by the Queen Mother, Ashi Tsherin Yangdon Wangchuck, and is dedicated to the well-being of Bhutan. It's a classic example of Bhutan's fine architectural and artistic traditions, and is the only one its kind in the world. It takes approximately 1 hour from the car park to hike up to the temple, and 30 minutes to descend. From the top you can take in sweeping views across the valley. Today there's also the option to take a short walk to the Chimi Lhakhang - The Temple of Fertility. People from all corners of the country visit the Lhakhang to seek a blessing from Drukpa Kuenley, also known as the 'Divine Madman'. A revered womaniser and drinker, this wandering preacher taught that sexual freedom was at the centre of Truth. On a 15-minute walk through the village of Sopsokha to the temple you will notice the phallic symbols painted on walls, a symbol of fertility and protection from evil. You can 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 Wangduephodrang.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
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 has one of the strongest auras of stepping into the past, in a country that already feels lost in time. The surrounding mountains push up against the northern Indian state of Sikkim and the south of Tibet, and they are as wild, uninhabited, and unexplored as anywhere in the world. You will take a 170km, 5-7 hour drive from Punakha to Haa, travelling down the spectacular Cheli La Pass (3,990m). This pass through dense spruce and larch forests has incredible mountain views as it zigzags down into the valley. Look out for the surrounding peaks and views of the Haa and Paro valleys. Continue down into the attractive little town of Haa, with traditional two storey wooden shops and a sprawling collection of buildings around a central dzong used by the Indian army. When you arrive, relax and take a walk around the town to meet the friendly local people. Tonight there's the option to taste local dishes with dinner at a nearby farmhouse.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Accommodation

Risum Resort

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    Risum Resort



    Risum Resort is located near village called Wangtsa at an elevattion of 2,700 metres (8856 feets) Above the sea Level. It has a magnificent view of Haa Wangchuk Lo Dzong and the scared site with its three ridges known as Meri Puensum Meaning "The Three ...

    Risum Resort is located near village called Wangtsa at an elevattion of 2,700 metres (8856 feets) Above the sea Level. It has a magnificent view of Haa Wangchuk Lo Dzong and the scared site with its three ridges known as Meri Puensum Meaning "The Three Brothers of the Hills" in local legend these hills represent the three great Bodhisattva (Manjusri, Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani) in the left side and towards the right it has the serene view of Haa valley. The mission of Risum Resort is to make Haa an unsurpassed holiday haven for lovers of nature, adventure and family time. Risum Resort is built in a simple Bhutanese Traditional Architect with 20 twin bedded and 5 king size bed rooms, which are all wooden paneled and have attached toilets, hot and cold water shower facilities for 24 hours and bath tubs in 14 rooms. We have a separate dining room which caters to the need of all our guests. We serve Bhutanese, Indian and continental food. Risum Resort is renowned for the luxury experience it provides guests and you can rest assured that we will do our utmost to ensure your well-being and safety.

    Facilities

    • Bar
    • Laundry Service
    • Restaurant
    • WiFi

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Day 6

Haa Valley

Enjoy a full day of exploration in this culturally rich valley, which is also known for being the ancestral home of the 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 a group of hills known as Meri Puensum. Legend has it that King Songtsen Gampo released a black and a white pigeon to select sites to build the temples, which act as guardian sentinels keeping watch over the southern entrance to the valley. Travel back towards the Cheli La Pass, which is decorated with thousands of prayer flags, and have a picnic lunch in the surrounding pine tress. As you climb the hill towards the north of the pass - out of blue pine and rhododendron forest into windswept highlands - the mountain tops will appear one by one, revealing Himalayan peaks such as the Jhomolhari (7,314m), Jichu Drake (6,794m) and world's third highest mountain Kangchenjunga (8,586m) located in Sikkim. A variety of birds can be also be seen and heard in the mountain landscape. You will then take a 45-minute hike through primeval forest from the road to Kila Goemba, one of the oldest Nunneries in Bhutan. The building almost to seems to suspend in mid air from the rock face, and it's home to around 60 hardy nuns. If there's time, perhaps practice some meditation in this place that's been a spiritual retreat since the 9th century. Return down into the valley and back to Haa for the night.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Day 7

Haa to Paro

Retrace the drive up the spectacular Cheli La Pass and return to Paro (approximately 2 hours). Upon arrival in Paro, visit the impressive Ta Dzong, a 17th century watchtower above the Paro Dzong that now houses the National Museum. It features an excellent collection of Bhutanese antiquities and treasures (including the King's famous 'dragon hat), an interesting assortment of costumes from the different regions of Bhutan, and a wonderful collection of painted and embroidered Thangkas (religious pictures). To discover more of the local history then the ruined Drukgyal Dzong, located 18 kilometres from the city, is a great place to explore. Built in the 17th century by the great Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, father and unifier of medieval Bhutan, the Dzong was burnt down by an accidental fire in 1950s. It was never rebuilt, left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. Explore the ramparts and relive the memories of a glorious past. This afternoon there's also the opportunity to take a stroll in downtown Paro and admire the local architecture of the quiet streets.

Meal Plan Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Duration2 Nights
Accommodation

Tashi Namgay Resort

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    Tashi Namgay Resort



    "Rediscover the uniqueness of Bhutanese tradition" As you prepare to land at the Paro International Airport, the eye catching Tashi Namgay Resort opposite to Bhutan's only international airport would greet you with the warmth and serenity that you hope to achieve on your visit. The ...

    "Rediscover the uniqueness of Bhutanese tradition"

    As you prepare to land at the Paro International Airport, the eye catching Tashi Namgay Resort opposite to Bhutan's only international airport would greet you with the warmth and serenity that you hope to achieve on your visit.

    The resort is set amidst five acres of lush foliage and green lawns. Located conveniently in the heart of Paro valley but away from the distractions of the main town, Tashi Namgay Resort offers you a calm and peaceful environment within a five-acre compound. Unique blends of traditional Bhutanese and modern architecture have been provided for, yet at the same time offering you all the amenities of a modern lifestyle. The concern for the environment has been foremost in the design as it is evident from the layout of the buildings, the use of solar lights, wooden 'shingle' roofing and mud-brick walls.

    Facilities

    • Bar
    • Child Friendly
    • Hot Tub
    • Laundry Service
    • Restaurant

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Day 8

Tiger's Nest Monastery

After an early breakfast, prepare to 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 747AD, says 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 in 1998 but the King commanded its immediate restoration. The royal command dictated that the original aura, authenticity and architectural splendour 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. You'll hike through lush pine forest beneath thousands of brightly coloured prayer flags up into the mountains for a closer view of the temple. After approximately an hour's walking, you'll reach a small teahouse that has a wonderful panoramic view of the temple. You'll take a refreshments and lunch break 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. Back in Paro, celebrate this Bhutan discovery with one final meal together. In total it will take approximately 5-6 hours to return to the car park, including all stops, if you choose to walk the full way. Todays hike is quite challenging and good quality, comfortable shoes/sneakers are required. Please remember to drink lots of water and wear layers as it gets quite cold. Don't forget a sunhat. Remember you are at 3120 metres above sea level so take your time.

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 (approximately 1.5 hours). Please note that your departure flight is not included as part of the trip and must be booked separately.

Meal Plan Breakfast

Other Information

DEPARTURES:

2019: Apr 19; May 1; Sep 18; Oct 2, 16, 23
2020: Apr 15, 22, 29; Sep 16, 30; Oct 21 

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

OTHER INFORMATION:

Occasionally these itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and research. Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so being flexible is key. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time

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 INTREPIPAR19SG: HNKB
18 Sep 2019
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