Bhutan Cultural Walking Tour


Bhutanese dresses

Overview

Bhutan, set amidst the backdrop of the sacred mountains of the Himalayas, is the world’s last surviving Buddhist Kingdom. Blissfully apart from the outside world, and notably untrampled by travelers, Bhutan remains true to itself – its rivers and mountains pure and magical; its people gracious and welcoming; its culture rich and enlivening; and its spirituality prevalent and inspiring. You will savor this nature, culture, and adventure for a lifetime, uncovering paths known only to the locals; taking tea with monks at their monasteries; and venturing away from the cities to meadows filled with wildflowers, ancient hamlets, forests of blue pine, spruce and rhododendron, and terraced paddy fields and orchards. The Bhutanese people you meet along the way might invite you to stop at their farmhouses to say hello.

This is an active tour with day hikes and returning to the comfort of hotels in the evening. Some hikes are short and easy but others are long and strenuous. Taktsang Monastery, a.k.a. Tiger's Nest monastery hiking is the longest (total duration 5 hours) and the most strenuous. All of our outings will be at your own pace, with many chances to meet local people, opportunity of photograph and appreciate the stunning scenery along the way. 

Detailed Itinerary

  • Day 01 ~Arrival in Paro, Bhutan.

    • On arrival at Paro International Airport, Bhutan, your guide and driver will greet you after clearing immigration and customs. Bangkok, Kathmandu, and Delhi are the most popular gateway cities to fly into Bhutan. Bhutan visa is prearranged by Far & High.
      Following introductions, your guide and driver will transfer you to Thimphu; a scenic one-hour drive. En route, we will have a stop for a short walk to the 13th century temple of Tamchog Lakhang, built by the famous Tibetan iron-bridge builder Thangthong Gyalpo – architect, physician, teacher, and a saint! His descendants still own and maintain the temple.

      Thimphu is perhaps the only capital in the world without any traffic lights. A leisurely stroll leads us to the memorial chorten (shrine) of the 3rd King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorje Wangchuk. We can also visit Trasichoe Dzong fortress that houses the Royal Throne, National Assembly, and the seat of Chief Abbot of the central monastic body.

      Overnight at Hotel Khang Residency or similar
      Meals: Lunch and dinner
  • Day 02 ~Sightseeing and hiking in Thimphu

    • After breakfast, our guide and driver will pick us up at our hotel and the adventures begin as we get a feel for the city. If we are in Thimphu on the weekend, we do not want to miss the weekend market. We also take chance to watch the archery matches in the neighboring ground. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and loved by almost every Bhutanese man. Now, we drive across the bridge and visit a small handmade paper factory where we learn about the traditional Bhutanese paper making method that uses “daphne” or mulberry plants.

      After breakfast, our guide and driver will pick us up at our hotel and the adventures begin as we get a feel for the city. If we are in Thimphu on the weekend, we will not want to miss the weekend market. We’ll also look for a chance to watch the archery matches in the neighboring park. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and loved by almost every Bhutanese man. Now, we drive across the bridge and visit a small handmade paper factory where we learn about the traditional Bhutanese paper making methods that use “daphne” or mulberry plants.

      We return to the town and visit the National Institute Zorig Chusum, which offers six-year courses on Bhutan's traditional arts and crafts that include painting, wood carving, embroidery, and statue making. Next stop: The Folk Heritage Museum, a three-story mud and timber house that imitates a century-old traditional farmhouse. Here, we get a glimpse of not only the lives of ancient Bhutanese people, but also many rural people of today.

      Next, we visit the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, which produces and dispenses traditional Bhutanese herbal medicines.

      Now, we drive up for a grand panoramic view of the valley, followed by a short 10-minute hike through the forest to visit the Takin Sanctuary. Takin, a kind of goat antelope, is the national animal of Bhutan and is believed to exist only in Bhutanese mountains. Before lunch, we will also have time to stop at the Zilukha Nunnery, a home to 40-60 Buddhist nuns who have dedicated their lives to the religion.

      After lunch, our guide takes us on a hike to the Chokortse Monastery; a walk of about an hour. The trail leads us through blue pine, spruce, and rhododendrons. Atop the saddle, the view of the Thimphu Valley is breathtaking.

      In the evening, a Bhutanese parliamentarian or government official joins us over dinner for an informal talk on Gross National Happiness, a doctrine introduced by the 4th King of Bhutan that emphasizes the prosperity of the country based on the happiness of the people, rather than the mere commerce of gross domestic product!

      Overnight at Hotel Khang Residency or similar
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Day 03 ~Hike Tangoe Goemba and Cheri Goemba

    • A great day for hiking enthusiasts keen to experience a monastic lifestyle away from the crowds of town: We’ll take a half-day hike to Tango Goemba monastery. This is Bhutan's highest learning center for Buddhist studies. All religious leaders of Bhutan – called Je Khenpo – complete a nine-year course here, meditating for three years, three months, and three days at the nearby Cheri Goemba Monastery! If we are lucky, monks will be in recess and we will have opportunity to visit their dining hall and join them for tea.
      After Tango Goemba, we descend and take the trail to the Cheri Goemba Monastery, a pleasant and gentle rural walk in a valley through paddy fields, woodlands, and a Tibetan village. Goemba was built in 1620 by Shabdrung Namgyal, the father of the nation. We’ll be able to enter the courtyard of the Goempa, but the main sanctum is reserved for Buddhist practitioners only. There is still much to explore before we retrace the hike down to the trail head and drive back to the hotel. We’ll have the option to visit sights we missed on the previous day.

      Overnight at Hotel Khang Residency or similar
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Day 04 ~Travel to Phobjika Valley

    • This morning we depart for a five- or six-hour drive to Phobjika. The Phobjika Valley is an isolated glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountain Range that divides western and central Bhutan. As we leave Thimphu behind, the road gradually climbs to a beautiful stop at the Dochula pass (9,872 feet, or 3,010 meters). This pass also includes a group of chortens (pagodas or stupas) and hundreds of prayer flags fluttering in the wind. The dramatically descending road zigzags to the lowland of the Punakha and Wangdue valleys at around 4,600 feet or 1,400 meters.

      We stop in Punakha for lunch, before hiking to the legendarily unusual Chimi Lakhang Temple – the “temple of fertility,” which is mostly visited by childless women. The temple is associated with the Saint Drukpa Kuenley (1455-1529), also called “divine madman” noted for his unique teachings that used songs and sexual humor. There are very few monks at this temple, which is surrounded by a row of prayer wheels and some very beautiful slate carvings.
      We’ll finish the drive through dense oak and rhododendron forests before arriving in the Phobjika, perhaps visiting the prominent Gangtey Gompa, which is the only Nyingmapa Monastery in this region.

      The Phobjika Valley is also known for its endangered Black-necked cranes, which circle the monastery as they migrate from the high Tibetan plateau during winter. An annual festival here in November welcomes them.

      Overnight at Dewachen Hotel or Gakiling Guest House in Phobjika
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Day 05 ~Hike Gangtey Nature Trail and Kingathang Village

    • Phobjikha valley is an excellent place for day hiking. After a good breakfast, we leave our hotel with a picnic lunch. We first walk to the Black-Necked Crane Information Centre, a trove of information on the valley and its famous migrating birds. From here we walk to Beta Village and its small school. Then our walk takes us to Gangtey Goemba, one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries, which was recently renovated. From here, we follow the Gangtey Nature Trail, past Semchubara village, through forests of blue pine covered with lichen (known as “old man’s beard”) and usually alive with birds. At Kingathang village we can visit a temple built by the Queen Mother before walking via Yusa village back to our hotel. Today, we’ll cover about seven or eight miles in six to seven hours.

      Overnight at Dewachen Hotel or Gakiling Guest House in Phobjika
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Day 06 ~Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang

    • After breakfast, we retrace our three-hour drive to Punakha, stopping to visit the prominent Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, which was the second capital of Bhutan until the current royal family rose to the power and the capital was moved to Trongsa. Opposite to the Dzong, we’ll have the option to take a gentle, 25-minute hike to Rinchengang Village, known for its traditional two-story houses.

      Once in the hotel, and after lunch, we drive up to a nunnery perched on a ridge amid pine trees and overlooking valleys of Punakha and Wangdue Phodgrang. The nunnery is called Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang Nunnery, and it houses a 14-foot main bronze statue of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrigzig chagtong chentong), Buddhas and Taras.
      The temple complex also houses a permanent center of higher learning and meditation for nuns. They also learn skills such as tailoring, embroidery, statue making, and thangka painting.
      Now, we hike or drive up the Talo Village, with houses scattered along the hill slopes, known for their cleanliness. We also visit the Talo Sangnacholing temple, built on a plateau with majestic views of surrounding villages. The farm houses here maintain their own terraced flower gardens of corn and sweet peas.
      Next, we visit the Dalayna-a Buddhist College, where monks are friendly and always eager to practice their English with visitors. We will share tea with the monks and learn about their monastic life.

      Overnight Drubchu Resort or Punatsangchu Cottages
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Day 07 ~Hike Khamsum Yuelley Temple and visit Punakha Dzong

    • After our usual good breakfast, we leave our hotel with a packed lunch for a long day hike to the beautiful Khamsum Yuelley Chorten, the old ridge top Giligang Temple, and the Punakha Dzong fortress, with the opportunities for spectacular views of the valleys on both the Mo Chhu and Po Chhu rivers. This hike makes for an enjoyable, demanding day. We start in the first hour through rice paddies and up the spiraling trail to Khamsum Yuelley Chorten. Our well-deserved rest will include this impressive structure and beautiful views of the valley below. We then climb slowly for two to three hours on the hillside up to Giligang, finding many inspiring views over the temples, rice paddies, hilltops and green forests. This temple is a 300-year-old, privately owned monastery, taken care of by descendants of a family for generations. The caretaker family is friendly and welcoming and eager to show the temple. This is also a perfect spot to enjoy our picnic lunch. Sometimes, the caretaker couple prepares milk-tea, called ngaja, and joins us for lunch – another wonderful chance to meet the Bhutanese people.

      From Giligang, the trail descends for an hour along the mountainside until we reach Changyul Bridge, just before Punakha Dzong. We cross the bridge and visit Punakha Dzong Fortress, at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Pho Chu rivers. Many people believe that it is the most beautiful of the Dzongs in Bhutan. One can spend hours inside the Dzong just studying its murals. Punakha Dzong served as the former winter palace. From here, we are transported to our hotel.

      Overnight Drubchu Resort or Kichu Resort
      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • Day 08 ~Travel back to Paro

    • After breakfast, we retrace our drive to Paro. We drive across Dhochula pass and stop in Thimphu for lunch. After wash up and change at our hotel, we proceed to visit the local sights.
      We visit Dungtse Lakhang, a 15th century temple that is said to have been built to suppress a demon that troubled the Paro Valley.Interesting here is the unique painting that illustrates the progressive stage of Tantric Buddhist philosophy and important deities of Drukpa Kagyu School. From here, continue on to the national museum housed at Ta Dzong, with its rich collection of Buddhist scriptures, murals, Bhutanese textiles, crafts, armors, and philatelic collection. Finally, descend to the impressive Rinpung Dzong Fortress, the district administrative headquarters that is believed to have been built on the heap of jewels!

      Overnight Raven's Nest Resort or similar
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Day 09 ~Excursion to the Chelila pass, hike the mountain ridge and Kila Nunnery.

    • After a scenic drive of an hour or two from Paro, we’ll reach the beautiful Chele La pass, at an altitude of approximately 13,000 feet. At the pass, you can enjoy the views of the Paro Valley on one side and the Haa Valley on the other. If the trails are free of snow, we can take a 90-minute hike up the mountain ridge to spectacular mountain views towards Jhomolhari. We ultimately backtrack to the pass and head further down to the Killa nunnery, a 9th century compound that is perhaps the oldest in Bhutan. The nunnery is a residence to more than 70 nuns who study Buddhism and live in self-imposed isolation.

      From the nunnery, we return to the main road where our vehicle will pick us up for transport back to the comfort of our hotel. Note: If you are looking for a challenging day hike, we can do this trip in the reverse direction, with steep uphill hiking.

      Today, we visit a typical Bhutanese Farm House, a rare opportunity to learn about the lives Bhutanese farmers. A traditional farm house is built without a use of any iron nails! With prior arrangement, we can also arrange meal with the local family.

      Overnight Drukchen Resort or Tenzinling Hotel or similar
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Day 10 ~Hike the ultimate Takstang Monastery (Tiger's Nest)

    • The Taktsang Monastery – the legendary Tiger's Nest – is perched some 2,000 feet up a sheer cliff overlooking the valley. It is an unforgettable hiking destination. This is a holy site where it is said that legendary Guru Padmasambhava arrived from Tibet on the back of a tigress to defeat five anti-Buddhist demons. The hike takes about two hours to the Takstang Cafeteria, a stop for tea, snacks, and beautiful views of the monastery. With pre-arrangements, that portion of the trip also can be done aboard a pony. But for the return hike down, and further ahead to the monastery itself, you will need to be able to hike on your own. The hike from Takstang to get a closer look at the monastery takes 45 minutes to an hour; retracing the hike down takes about half the time coming up.

      On the way back, we’ll have the option to visit a typical Bhutanese village home, the ruins of historic Drugyal Dzong, and religious shrines such as the Kyichu Temple.

      *Note: If you are interested in photography, we recommended the monastery hike in the afternoon; sunlight is blocked by the hill in the morning.

      Optional: Hot Stone Bath
      With advance notice, you can experience a traditional Hot Stone Bath in a farmhouse. Hot stone bathes are a Bhutanese traditional method of curing skin ailments, joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders, arthritis, and many other minor diseases. Even if you don’t have any of these issues, it’s a wonderfully relaxing hot stone bath, especially after a laborious hike. It costs around US$ 20-25 per person.

      Overnight Drukchen Resort or Tenzinling Hotel or similar
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Day 11 ~Depart Paro

    • After breakfast, our team will get you to the airport for your flight to your next destination.
      Meals: Breakfast

Trip Info

Trip Includes

  • Accommodation on double occupancy basis
  • All transfers and sightseeing by a private vehicle
  • 10 breakfasts, 10 lunches and 10 dinners
  • English speaking local certified tour guide
  • Sightseeing admission fees
  • Bhutan visa fee
  • Service of internal airfare reservation

Trip Does Not Include

  • Internal and international airfare. Internal airfare separately quoted.
  • Expenses of personal nature such as drinks, tip, laundry, phone etc.
  • Extra expenses or loss due to nature and unforeseen events.
  • Travel Insurance

Trip Difficulty Level, Road and Transport

This trip has been designed for hiking enthusiasts who want to travel to the areas away from the motor vehicle tracks and explore the areas less traveled. While we use motor vehicles for city visits and transfers from one town to other, we generally plan to head off on foot for some of the finest walking and hiking once we’ve arrived. All the walks and hikes can be done at our own pace, interacting with the locals, and capturing the beautiful scenery and unique Bhutanese architecture. Hikes can be two to four hours long, sometimes a bit longer, but no hiking or trekking experience is necessary to join us. Hiking trails are often the traditional path of Bhutanese locals and pilgrims; at times it can be steep.

We do not attain any significant altitude in this trip, so altitude related sickness is not a concern. Keep in mind that roads can be an adventure in themselves – they are not always paved; they are times steep, dusty and bumpy as they skirt steep hills; and they can at times be blocked temporarily due to erosion or landslide. We don’t drive far, but sometimes we drive slowly for four or five hours. Some days can be shorter.
Anyone in general good health can enjoy up this trip, although we suggest some advance walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming ahead of the time to keep yourself fit.

Accommodations

For the most part, we will stay in moderate to best-available accommodations, which are usually small hotels with 20 to 40 rooms, locally classified as three stars.They are adequately comfortable, provides with en-suite bathroom with running hot and cold water. Most hotels do provide cabled internet or WiFi, tea-coffee maker, basic toiletries etc. They may not have hairdresser and iron and ironing board.The hotels are built in local architectural style and rooms are decorated traditionally. During festival period, there will be high demand for accommodations sometimes means we have to use alternative hotels; your cooperation and understanding in this matter will be very much appreciated.

Recently, there are one or two new up market properties in town, for example, Le Meridien, Taj Tashi, Como Hotels etc which are exclusive properties and booked on additional surcharge.

  • Hotel Khang Residency, Thimphu

    Hotel Khang Residency, Thimphu
  • Drubchu Resort, Punakha

    Drubchu Resort Punakha
  • Khangkhu Resort, Paro

    Khangkhu Resort, Paro
  • Dewachen Hotel, Phobjikha

    Dewachen Hotel, Phobjikha

Meals

Bhutan trips feature three meals each day, mostly at our hotel, usually served in a buffet that includes rice, vegetables, and noodles. Our guide can arrange some dinners at local restaurants, but remember that traditional Bhutanese food always features chilies, and the most popular dish, ema dates, is made with large, hot, green chilies in a cheese sauce.

Guides

Our guides are college-educated Bhutanese, proficient in English, and trained and licensed by local tourism authorities. Just as important, they are friendly and committed to deliver the best services.

International and internal airfares:

The tour starts and finishes in Paro, Bhutan. There are no direct flight connections from USA or Europe to Bhutan. You need to first fly to Bangkok or Delhi or  Kolkatta or Kathmandu, spend a night there and next day, you can fly to Bhutan as the flight is usually in the morning. Bangkok is the most popular gateway for travel to Bhutan as there are more fligths from than other citizens. Secondly, US citizens and most European passport holders don't need visa for Thailand.

From Kathmandu and Delhi also, there are 5-6 flights a week depending on the season. You need to book your international airfare to Bangkok (or Delhi or Kathmandu) on your own and we will take care of the flight owards. Please, do not buy your international airfare until Bhutan flight schedule is available. 

Passport and Visa

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the last day of your trip and there must be 2 blank visa pages on your passport for the visa sticker, entry and exit seals. Bhutan visa is pre-processed by Far & High Adventure Travel and we will get clearance for you 3-4 weeks prior your trip date. Your passport gets actual visa seal upon arrival at the Paro airport. If you are traveling via Indian cities, you need to obtain Indian visa beforehand as India does not grant visa on arrival.  If you are traveling via Kathmandu, Nepal, you can obtain Nepal visa upon arrival.

Note on Itinerary

Although we will do our very best to adhere to the itinerary schedule as listed; it is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control.

Booking/Deposit and Payment Schedule

A deposit of US$ 300 is requested along with completed trip registration form to hold your place on the trip. We also need a color scan of the passport. You can charge the deposit on any major credit cards. When its time to purchase the Bhutan flight tickets, we will request you the second payment for the flights.  Final and balance payment is due 90 days prior departure.

Final payment by credit card also attracts additional 3.5% fee. You will save this fee by paying personal check or cashier's check. We reserve the right to refuse certain form of payment.

Cancellation and refund

Notice of cancellation and refund request must be received in written form. Cancellation fee structure has been listed below.

  • 90 days prior departure: US$ 150 (Administrative Fee)
  • 60-89 day's prior departure: US$ 300 or 25% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • 45 days to 59 days prior departure: US$ 450 or 50% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • 30 days to 44 days prior departure: US$ 600 or 75% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • Less than 30 days: 100%

Far & High Adventure Travel

We are an active adventure travel company, based in Minneapolis, USA with strong network of ground partners in the destinations we go. We are a BBB accredited business with A+ rating in Minnesota and an active supplier member of American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), National Tour Assocation (NTA), Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN), Society of International Travel Professional (SKAL) and Midwest Travel Suppliers Association (MTSA) and National Tour Association.  Our ground operation offices are licensed by the local authorities. We have set the standard for adventure travel and have a strong reputation for excellence that we do everything we can to maintain. Our managers and guides have more than 15 years of experience in organizing and leading adventure trips in the highlands of Asia. For us travel is not just a business, but a way of life.

Travel Protection Plan

While we leave no efforts to make your tour smooth and enjoyable, there may be unforeseen events and conditions such as illness, accident, inclement weather, flight cancellation, missed connection, or loss of baggage etc. which may cause interruption, delay or total cancellation of your trip putting your hard earned travel investment in jeopardy. It’s also possible that you may need medical assistance, emergency evacuation or medical transportation when you get ill or involve in an accident when you are traveling in remote areas. Highland Asia’s Tour cost does not cover any of these expenses or losses and so we strongly recommend you that you should protect yourself and your travel investment against those unfavorable conditions.

Dates & Prices

Land Cost Per Person on double occupancy basis

  • US$ 2550 per person (Valid for group size 3 persons or more only)
  • US$ 350 private room supplement (Subject to availability and mandatory if no-one to share room with)

Estimated Internal Airfare: US$ 800 (Bangkok-Paro-Bangkok)

Note: If group size falls below 3 persons, tour will still go but fullowing mandatory small group surcharges will be applicable.

2 persons: US$ 330 per person.
Solo Private Travel Supplement: US$ 500

*Tour cost is subject to change without prior notice. 

Small Group Departures

Start Dates End Dates Size Price (per person) Remarks Availability Booking
Nov 07, 2017 Nov 17, 2017 1-16 people USD 2550

Trip times with Black-necked Crane Festival in Phobjikha

Closed BOOK
Feb 20, 2018 Mar 02, 2018 1-16 people USD 2550

Trip timed with Punakha Tsechu

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Mar 20, 2018 Mar 30, 2018 1-16 people USD 2550

Trip timed with Paro Tsechu festival

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Apr 08, 2018 Apr 18, 2018 1-16 people USD 2550

Trip timed with Rhododendron Festival in Dhochu La

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May 07, 2018 May 17, 2018 1-16 people USD 2550 - Open Book Now
Sep 19, 2018 Sep 29, 2018 1-16 people USD 2550

Trip timed with Thimphu Tsechu festival

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Oct 03, 2018 Oct 13, 2018 1-16 people USD 2550

Trip timed with Jhomolhari Mountain Festival

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Nov 07, 2018 Nov 17, 2018 1-16 people USD 2550

Trip times with Black-necked Crane Festival in Phobjikha

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Trip price may vary depending upon the group size.

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This trip is OPEN for booking

Request On Request: You can book this trip on REQUEST
Closed SOLD OUT and no further booking is possible for this date

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United States

8030 Old Cedar Ave S, Suite 123
Minneapolis, MN 55425
Tel: 1 612 605 4428
Fax: 612 807 1137

Nepal

Kapoordhara, Samakhusi, Kathmandu
Tel (977 1) 4351780, 4381823
Fax +977-1-4381369

Bhutan

KMT Building, Nordzin Lam, Thimphu
Tel (975-2) -329098 / +975-77204087
Fax (+975) 2 337004

Tibet

B5-1-2, B3 dong, Renchen garden,
No 13 Jiangsu road Lhasa Tibet China.
Tel: +86-(891)-6836609,
Fax: +86-(891)-6836619


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