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Bhutan Sampler


7 days 6 nights

Code BCT04

Category Bhutan Classic Tours

  • Group Size 1-16 persons
  • Difficulty Level 2
  • Highest Altitude 3100m (10,168ft) at Dhochula Pass
  • Trip Starts From Paro, Bhutan
  • Trip Ends At Paro, Bhutan
  • Type Tours
  • Destination Thimphu Punakha Paro
Dates & Prices

Overview

A cultural tour with hiking opportunities in Paro, Thimphu, Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang-the prominent towns in western Bhutan. We spend two nights in each town. The trip features tour of Dzongs (forts), temples and monasteries, short and brisk day hikes to ancient villages, ridge top monasteries, visiting traditional arts and craft workshops and joining the locals in the colorful market.

We will have opportunities to connect with the locals and learn their ancient culture and traditions. Meet the monks and learn about the monastic lifestyles. We will also have opportunity to visit the typical families.

 

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01~Arrive in Paro and Transfer to Thimphu

Your flight will likely include breathtaking views of Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, and other famous Himalayan peaks, including the sacred Mount Chomolhari and Jichu Drake of Bhutan.

On arrival at Paro, Bhutan, airport, meet your guide and driver after clearing immigration and customs. You’ll need to present your Visa Approval document, which we will email to you about three to four weeks prior to the trip date. In Paro, you are required to present the document again, and there you will get actual visa sticker on your passport. 

After introductions, your guide and driver will transfer you to a local restaurant for lunch. After lunch, visit the National Museum of Paro which gives a good introduction on Bhutan's history, culture and religion. The museum exhibits good collection of Bhutanese textiles, manuscripts, books, murals, armors, crafts, traditional utensils, philatelic collections, and more. Then we can either descend or  visit the impressive Rinpung Dzong Fortress that houses the office of the district administration and monastic bod.

Now, we take scenic one-hour drive to Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. 

In Thimphu, we’ll have time to settle in before a walking tour of the tiny city. Thimphu is probably the only capital in the world without any traffic lights! We will take a leisurely stroll and visit the memorial chorten (shrine) of the 3rd King of Bhutan Jigme Dorje Wangchuk, and whatever else time and our interest allow.

Overnight at hotel.

Meals : Lunch, Dinner
Day 02~Thimpu: Sightseeing and optional hiking

After breakfast, with our guide and driver, the adventures begin as we get a feel for the city. On the weekend, it's worth visiting the weekend market. Archery is the Bhutanese national sport, and we’ll hope for matches while we’re there. We’ll visit a small handmade paper factory across the river to see the traditional Bhutanese paper making method that uses “daphne” or mulberry plants.

We return to the town and visit the National Institute Zorig Chusum that offers a six year course on Bhutan's traditional arts and crafts that include painting, wood carving, embroidery, and statue making. Then we head to the Folk Heritage Museum, a three-story mud and timber building that replicates a century-old traditional farmhouse that gives us a glimpse of not only the lives of ancient Bhutanese people, but also many rural people even today.

Afternoon will bring us to a grand panoramic view of the valley, followed by a short 10-minute hike through the forest to visit the Takin Sanctuary. Takins – a kind of sheep by way of antelope, are the National animals of Bhutan and believe to exist only in Bhutan Himalaya. On the way back to our hotel, we’ll stop at the Zilukha Nunnery in Drubthob Goemba, home to 40-60 Buddhist nuns.

Next stop – the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, dispensary of traditional Bhutanese herbal and other medicines; then finally the Trasichoe Dzong that houses the Royal Throne, National Assembly, and the seat of Chief Abbot of the central monastic body.

An option: hiking enthusiasts keen to experience a monastic lifestyle away from the crowds of town can take a half-day hike to Tango Goemba monastery. You’ll miss some sights listed above; and if you are a part of group, the choice will be made by majority vote. Tango Goema Monastery is Bhutan's highest learning center for Buddhist studies. All Je Khenpo, the religious head of Bhutan, must complete a nine-year program here and a three-year, three-month, three-day in mediation at the nearby Cheri Goemba Monastery! With luck, the monks will be in recess, and we can join them for tea.

Overnight at hotel.

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 03~Drive across Dhochula pass to Punakha

(77 km/ 48 miles, 3 hrs.)

Following breakfast, we begin a scenic drive to Punakha, the former winter capital of Bhutan. As we leave Thimphu behind, the road gradually winds up through villages and pine forests to Dochula Pass (3100m/10168 ft.), marked by 108 Buddhist shrines, flickering with sacred prayers flags offered by the Buddhist devotees. We’ll hang our prayer flags. On a clear day, the pass offers superb panorama of the snow-capped mountains and the valleys.

Two hours later we’ll be in Punakha, the end of a road that drops slowly through the changing vegetation to the sub-tropical lowlands of the Punakha and Wangdue Valleys. After lunch at our resort, we start with a pleasant hike to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten – about 45-60 minutes up, but only 30 minutes down. The temple is situated atop a beautiful hillock overlooking the valley. Built by the Queen Mother, and is an example of Bhutan's finest traditional architecture.

Back down, we ride to the stunning Punakha Dzong, probably the most impressive of all the Dzong (fortress) architectures of Bhutan. It has served as the winter capital of Bhutan, and even today the chief abbot moves there from the capital.

Overnight at hotel.

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 04~Sightseeing and hiking in Punakha

We spend one more day in Puanakha, exploring its attractions.

Take a gentle 25-minute hike to the Rinchengang Village with traditional two-story houses; or a similar hike through paddy fields and villages to Chimi Lakhang Temple (a.k.a., the Fertility Temple); or the Nalanda Buddhist College, locally known as Dalayn, where we’ll have a chance to meet with the monks, who will want to try their English with their visitors.

You can also visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery and spend the time with the nuns. The nunnery is perched on a ridge overlooking the valley and the views from here are superb. The resident nuns here are friendly, study Buddhism and also learn some skills such as embroidery, tailoring etc.

If you want something more active, ask your guide to take on a hike.

Overnight at hotel.

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 05~Retrace our drive to Paro

(142 km/89 miles, 4.5-5 hrs.)

After breakfast, we will take a short and pleasant hike through paddy fields and villages to the legendary temple of Chime Lakhang (a.ka. Fertility Temple) associated with the Lama Drukpa Kuenley who is famously known as the Divine Madman!

Now, we retrace our drive across Dhochula Pass to Paro. Shortly before the pass, we can stop at Lamperi Botanical Garden that preserves the rich fauna including Rhododendron flowers. After a lunch stop in the pass, we will continue to Paro.

Check into your accommodations and rest of the day is for rest.

Overnight at hotel in Paro.

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 06~ Paro: Hike Taktsang Monastery, a.k.a Tiger's Nest

A special day, with an early start. After breakfast, we’ll hike to the famous Takstang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, a highlight of any trip to Bhutan. The monastery is dramatically perched on the edge of a 4000-foot cliff above the valley floor; it is an unbelievable sight. The hike up is less than three hours. With a prior arrangement, ponies can take us two-thirds of the way up, but no further. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava, known as Guru Rinpoche by Tibetans and Bhutanese, flew on a tigress from Tibet and landed at the monastery’s site. Guru meditated in a cave here, it is said, and subdued the local demons and established the supremacy of Buddhism in Bhutan.

On the way back to the town, we will the ancient Kyichu Lakhang Temple, notable as one 108 temples that King Songsten Gampo of Tibet built miraculously over a single night in the 7th century in order to subdue a demon!

This afternoon, visit a typical Bhutanese farm family and their colorful farmhouse, made up of wood without use of a single nail! With prior arrangement, we can share a traditional meal with the family.

Experience Traditional Hot Stone Bath (Optional): 
After such an active day, we recommend a traditional Bhutanese Hot stone bath, an ancient Bhutanese method of curing skin ailments, joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders, arthritis, and many other diseases. Your guide needs one day advance notice to arrange the hot stone bath and it can be taken at some hotel or a private farm house. Estimated cost is approximately $25 per person.

 

 

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 07~ Depart Paro

After breakfast, your guide and driver will transfer you to the airport in time for your flight to the next destinations.

Meals : Breakfast

Trip Map

Trip Info

Trip Includes

  • 6 nights first class (3-4 star) hotel accommodation, based on double occupancy.
  • Meals: Full board (3 meals a day).
  • All transfers and sightseeing as on itinerary.
  • English-speaking local guides.
  • Bhutan visa fee and government royalty.
  • Sightseeing admission fees.
  • Service of in-tour airfare booking.

Trip Does Not Include

  • Drinks, tips and other personal expenses such as phone, laundry etc.
  • Extra expenses or loss due to nature and unforeseen events beyond the control of our management.
  • Travel Insurance.
  • International airfares and airport taxes.
  • Hotels in the gateway cities before and after the trip.

Note on Itinerary

We do our best to adhere to the itinerary but it should be taken as a generic guideline in terms of what you expect to do or see during the tour and may differ in the practical ground from exact sequence or order of the sights to the overnight places depending on the local conditions. As we continuously work to improve the tour, the final tour itinerary may be different which will be sent to you about 2 months before the trip date.

Trip Activity Level.

This trip is basically motor vehicle-based sightseeing with some short hikes and village visits; it is suitable for all travelers in general good health. Hiking to Takstang Monastery in Paro can be strenuous, but ponies can be provided with prior arrangement. Some sights are high on the hillock and require climbing stairs.

The longest drive in this trip will be four hours, from Punakha to Paro which can take from 4 to 5 hours. Otherwise, drive times are short. We will certainly have occasional stops for photography and for refreshments. Roads in the Himalaya are narrow, and some portions may be rough and damaged. While in Tibet, we stay in an elevation of 3,500m (11,480 ft.) . It is nonetheless advisable to keep physically fit and start mild exercises like jogging, swimming, cycling or practice some aerobics in the months before the trip. It’s your responsibility to determine that your fitness for this trip. If you have any health conditions, please consult your physician before you sign up for this trip.

Accommodations and facilities

The hotels are comfortable 3 to 4 star properties by local standard. Most hotels are locally managed small properties with traditional decor and friendly services and ensure adequate comfort. You will have en suite bathroom with 24 hour running hot and cold water. There may be disparity in the rooms and travelers of the same group may end up in two different types of rooms although you have paid the same amount. Listed below are your preferred hotels and if the listed hotels are not available, we will book you in a comparable properties.

Tour Guides

Our Tour Guides are local people with college degrees, government certifications, and experience with and knowledge of the destinations and their history, culture and religion. Our guides are, just as importantly, easy-going, detailed oriented, patient, and committed to a high level of customer service. They will uncover the wonders of the destinations that you would never find on your own, and make sure your tour is without a hitch. Your guide will also deal with the bureaucracy and passport or permit control, carry all necessary documents and vouchers, and stay alert to road and weather conditions. Note: Guides will change in each country, due to local licensing requirements.

Vehicle

We use clean, reliable, comfortable vehicles for all transfers and tours, often the Toyota Hiace microbus (capacity 8-9 persons) and Toyota Coaster Bus (capacity up to 20 persons); depending on group size, we might also use Japanese-made sedans, SUVs or minivans. We provide separate drivers and guides. Our drivers might speak little or no English, but they know the roads and are, in a pinch, mechanically skillful.

Altitude sickness and health Concerns

The chances of altitude sickness in this trip are very slim. There are two occasions when you are exposed to the high altitude; Dhochula Pass(10,171 ft.) and Taktshang Monastery (10,240 ft.) but you will be acclimated before that and we do not spend long time there. All the towns where we overnight are below 8,000 ft. where there is no risk altitude.

There are no mandatory vaccinations required for traveling to Bhutan. However, you may consider vaccination against rabies and Hep A. We recommend that travelers with cardiac-pulmonary issues or any other medical conditions consult their physician before departure.

You’ll be glad if you start some physical exercises in the weeks before leaving; jogging, swimming, cycling, hiking, and aerobics are all helpful. Fitness makes for a better trip and helps you accommodate the altitudes. You should have a good sleep the night before you fly in to Lhasa and take complete rest on the first day. It's also advisable to drink three or four liters of water daily, and consume liquid food. Hydrate!

International and Internal Flights

The trip starts and completes in Paro, Bhutan. Flights to Paro arrives from Bangkok, Kathmandu (Nepal) or Kolkata and New Delhi, India. Most travelers prefer to fly from Bangkok as there are more flights than from elsewhere. We will book the airfare from Bangkok to Paro and return for you and bill you separately. We are also able to help you with the international airfare booking and stop over hotels or sightseeing in the gateway cities.

Visa and Permits

Your passport must be valid for at least for six more months at the time of travel. Bhutan visa is a part of the tour package and is applied by us. We will obtain visa clearance document 3-4 weeks prior to the trip date and will email you a copy of this which is good for travel to Bhutan. You will get actual visa sticker on your passport upon arrival. Make sure you have one blank visa page and spaces for arrival and departure seals for other countries on the way.

Booking and payment schedule

When you are sure you are traveling, please don't delay in booking so that we can confirm you in preferred hotels and flights. A deposit of US$300 on land plus the cost of internal airfares is requested along with a completed trip application form plus copy of the photo page of your passport. Balance payment is due 90 days prior to your departure. Reservation booked within 90 days prior departure requires making full payment at the time of booking. Balance payment must be paid by personal check or wire transfer. Final payment on credit card attracts 3.5% additional fee.

Cancellation and refund

Cancellation request must be received by us in written form. Cancellation fee of the landcost will be as below.

  • 90 days prior departure: Administrative fee US$ 150 per person.
  • 60-89 day's prior departure: US$ 250 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%
  • Visa fee is non-refundable.

Cancellation and refund of air tickets will be as per airline policy and $25 will be levied by us to process refund. For details, please view booking and cancellation terms and conditions

Accomodation

  • Hotel Khang Residency, Thimphu

    Hotel Khang Residency, Thimphu
  • Drubchu Resort, Punakha

    Drubchu Resort Punakha
  • Khangkhu Resort, Paro

    Khangkhu Resort, Paro

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