Days
9
Price from
$4,365USD

Experience the mysterious mountain kingdoms of Bhutan

Bhutan is perhaps the most mysterious and diverse of all the Himalayan kingdoms, where for centuries a traditional Buddhist culture has thrived in isolation from the rest of the world. It is a land of contrast – with lush forested valleys, fortified monasteries, sacred mountains, art and architecture unique to the region. Our journey begins in Paro and we head straight to Thimphu, where we have two days to explore this charming and serene capital. We then venture out into the countryside to visit the beautiful Punakha, Bumthang and Gangtey Valleys. Here we explore the rural lifestyle and architecture of Bhutan before returning to Paro where, on one of the highlights of our tour, we visit Taktsang (the Tiger’s Nest) - a small monastery clinging to a rocky cliff 900 metres above the valley floor.

TRIP CHANGES FOR 2017:
From 1st January 2017 this trip will no longer visit the Bumthang Valley due to the difficulty in purchasing internal flights. We will instead spend 2 nights in a traditional farmstay in the Haa Valley. There are no other planned changes to the itinerary.


Start
Thimphu, Bhutan
Finish
Paro, Bhutan
Country
Bhutan
Style
Peregrine
Theme
Adventure
Code
PHDK
Physical rating
Traveller’s rating
3 reviews
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Bhutan is perhaps the most mysterious and diverse of all the Himalayan kingdoms, where for centuries a traditional Buddhist culture has thrived in isolation from the rest of the world.

  • It is a land of contrast - with lush forested valleys, fortified monasteries, sacred mountains, art and architecture unique to the region.

  • The captial Thimphu is charming and serene, a delight to explore.

  • The opportunity to explore the rural lifestyle and architecture of Bhutan via the beautiful Punakha, Bumthang and Gangtey Valleys.

  • Visiting Taktsang (the Tiger's Nest) - a small monastery clinging to a rocky cliff 900 metres above the valley floor in Paro is truly a highlight.

Is this trip right for you?

  • Please be aware of altitude when you arrive in Bhutan. Paro is 2250 Metres.

  • The hike to Tigers nest is strenuous, altitude reaches 3120 metres and takes around 5 hours return.

  • In Bhutan short distances can take much longer due to small, narrow roads and mountain passes.

  • Motion sickness can be an issue on longer driving days on windy roads.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 May 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Welcome to Bhutan, the last shangri-la
Depending on the clarity of the weather and your flight path into Paro (2280m), 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 the airport and transferred from Paro airport to Thimphu (2736m) - the capital of Bhutan (65 km, approx 1 hour 15 min driving time). 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.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Dorji Elements or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Special Information
Bhutan Visas & Additional Accommodation
Travel in Bhutan is strictly controlled and to do any independent travel outside of a group tour is extremely difficult and expensive to arrange. We provide a group visa for travellers on our tours in Bhutan, which stipulates that all travellers must arrive and depart on the same days that our tour program starts and finishes. For this reason we are generally not able to provide additional accommodation outside of our tour dates and advise all travellers to book flights in and out of Bhutan that correspond with the start and finish day of the tour. In the rare case that no flights are available and you need to arrive earlier or depart later we are only able to book additional accommodation for you in conjunction with a special individual visa which can add around AUD1000 to the cost of your tour, to be paid at the time of booking.
After breakfast you will venture out to explore Thimphu, first driving to a view from Buddha point and enjoying 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.
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 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 serves as the seat of the government and home to about 300 monks during summer.

You can then enjoy some free time in town to do your own exploration.

Other sites 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 craft that come from all over Bhutan.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Dorji Elements or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Thimpu - National Library
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
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.
This morning head back to Simtokha Dzong (Bhutan's oldest) Built by Zhabdrung in 1629AD.  Climb the Dochula pass (3100M) through beautiful tropical forest and sparse villages. The pass is marked by 108 chortens or stupas and gardens of colorful prayer flags. On the clear day one enjoy the magnificent views of the Eastern Himalaya. 

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.

We visit Punakha Dzong, the administrative and religious centre and also the winter retreat of His Holiness, the 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. 
Accommodation
  • Drubchhu Resort or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Punakha - Punakha Dzong
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today, drive to Gangtey, the hidden valley of Phobjikha (2850m). En route we climb steadily, passing through semi-tropical vegetation with banana plantations, poinsettias, bottle brush and cactus and pine, before arriving in an alpine environment, home to rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo.

As we near the Pele La (Pass 3300M), we take the road leading to Phobjikha Valley over Lawala pass (3200M). Considered one of the most beautiful valleys and one of the valleys formed by glaciers in Bhutan, it is encircled by pine-covered forests. In the centre of the valley and rising on a small ridge stands one of the oldest private monasteries in Bhutan - Gangtey Goemba with 60 novice monks.
 After visiting the Monastery, hike back towards valley floor (approx. 1hour 30mins) and meet by your driver.

A walk in the area also gives us an insight into the rural lifestyle of Bhutan and we see farmhouses, which are a typical traditional wooden houses surrounded by fields growing potato, buckwheat and rye.

The area is also the winter home (late October to early March) of the rare and endangered black-necked cranes that come here from the highlands of Tibet. Experts estimate that fewer than 800 of these cranes still exist in the wild. So to know more about these birds you can make a visit to the Crane Information Centre in the evening.
Accommodation
  • Dewachen Hotel or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Gangtey - Gangtey Goemba Monastery
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
2580m
Depart early this morning for the longest drive of the trip, crossing three Himalayan passes before reaching the sacred Bumthang Valley (2650m). (approx 7 hrs)

We begin our journey by climbing to Lawala pass (3200M) and then Pele La (Pass) at 3300 metres, where we stop to stretch our legs and if lucky you will see yaks grazing. Next stop at Chendebji Chorten, a shrine of ancient lineage built on the old walking path across the country, for a cup of tea.
After travelling for around five hours we stop for lunch at Trongsa (2120m) - an ancient trading centre for merchants Tongsa Dzong dominates the centre like a 'giant dragon' resting on the ridge.
After lunch we will make a brief stop to visit the Tadzong (watch tower) Museum, dedicated to the monarchs of Bhutan in 2008.
The scenic drive takes us through the fertile Chumney Valley (the first of the four valleys which comprise the Bumthang Valley), which is famous for its yak wool fabric known as 'yathra', and we also stop to see some of the intricate handicrafts that are available in places where vendors lay out their colourful fabrics for sale. Produced by the local women, no two pieces of 'yathra' are the same. Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colours enliven the fabric, which is used for a wide variety of purposes and widely sought after throughout Bhutan.
Accommodation
  • Rinchenling Lodge or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
This morning we start with a walking tour in the Bumthang Valley (2580mtrs), noted as one of the most beautiful and sacred in Bhutan. This valley has a special history due to frequent visits by Padmasambhawa as he was bringing Buddha's message to Bhutan. The valley is wide and resplendent with fields of crops. Villagers can often be seen busy with at their day's work.
Jambay Lhakhang (Jambay Temple), along with Kyichu Lhakhang in the Paro Valley, is one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built around 750 AD by King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet as a part of his pledge to build 108 temples dedicated to the Buddha during his lifetime. This is one of the most holy of Bhutan's religious sites and we will apply for the special permission necessary to visit this sacred place.
We then continue to Kurje, a 17th century temple next to a spectacular new monastery that is being built in traditional style. From Kurje we begin our walk through the countryside, crossing a bridge over the rushing Chamkhar Chu (Chamkhar River) and through farm land to the Tamshing temple complex.
This afternoon enjoy free time in Bumthang town and an optional walk 
Accommodation
  • Rinchenling Lodge or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After breakfast we take the short flight to Paro (35mins).
Upon arrival in Paro visit the impressive Ta Dzong, a 17th century watchtower above the Paro Dzong that now houses the National Museum - an excellent collection of Bhutanese antiquities. The museum has an interesting assortment of costumes from the different regions of Bhutan along with a wonderful collection of painted and embroidered Thangkas (religious pictures).

We also have the opportunity to take stroll in downtown Paro this afternoon before returning to our hotel.
Accommodation
  • Tenzinling Resort or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Bumthang Valley - Kyichu Lhakhang
  • Paro - Tadzong Museum & Trongsa Dzong
  • Paro - Tiger's Nest Monastery
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
As there are only two Druk Air planes that service domestic travel within Bhutan, there have been instances where the Bumthang to paro flight has been cancelled. Whilst this is a rare occurance, in this instance the group will need to make the long drive back to Paro. Your itinearry will be broken up to allow this to happen and all activities will be included.
After an early breakfast we 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 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 in 1998. Bhutan's 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.

We drive to the end of the road and begin our hike up into the mountains 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. Refreshments and lunch 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.
Accommodation
  • Tenzinling Resort or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
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.
After breakfast your driver and tour leader will transfer you to the airport for your onward flight. (Please note that your departure flight is not included as part of the trip and must be booked separately.)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
2280m

Meals

8 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 8 dinners

Transport

Plane, Private vehicle

Accommodation

Comfortable hotel

Included Activities

  • Thimpu - National Library
  • Punakha - Punakha Dzong
  • Gangtey - Gangtey Goemba Monastery
  • Bumthang Valley - Kyichu Lhakhang
  • Paro - Tadzong Museum & Trongsa Dzong
  • Paro - Tiger's Nest Monastery

Reviews

Our Dragon Kingdom trips score an average of 4.33 out of 5 based on 3 reviews in the last year.

Dragon Kingdom, April 2016

Lynnr Arnott

Dragon Kingdom, September 2015

Helen Robinson

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. An airport arrival and departure transfer is included in Bhutan
2. Please provide Peregrine or your booking agent with a scanned colour copy of the personal details page from your passport at time of booking. Failure to do this delays group visa.
3. Please advise all international flight details at least 60 days prior to departure.
4. Please be aware that Bhutan's airlines are renowned for last minute changes to flight timetables into and out of Bhutan. Please allow a min of 24 hours transit time between your international flight and flight into Bhutan. Timetables are available on the Druk Airlines and Air Bhutan websites.
5. All travellers must arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 9 to be eligible for a group visa. See Trip Notes for more details.
6. A single supplement is available on this trip and is valid for all nights on tour. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information..

Essential Trip Information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.