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Bhutan Sojourn


5 days 4 nights

Code BCT02

Category Bhutan Classic Tours

  • Group Size 1-16
  • Difficulty Level 2
  • Highest Altitude 10,240 ft. (3,120 m)
  • Trip Starts From Paro
  • Trip Ends At Paro
  • Type Tours
  • Destination Thimpu Paro
Dates & Prices

Overview

This trip is suitable for those who are traveling to India or Nepal and have a few days to spare. You will visit Thimphu and Paro- the two major towns of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. You will spend two nights in each city, exploring Dzong fortresses, temples, monasteries, museums, art schools, weaving centers, etc. You will also have the opportunity to visit farm families and experience Bhutanese life.

You can visit the cultural attractions by car, or if you wish to try something more active, both Thimphu and Paro cater some short and long day hiking destinations. The itinerary given covers the major attractions, but you can customize it to your interests and available time, as you will have your guide and driver at your full disposal.

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 before the trip date. In Paro, you are required to produce the visa document again, and there you will get the 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 an excellent introduction to Bhutan's history, culture, and religion. The museum exhibits a good collection of Bhutanese textiles, manuscripts, books, murals, armors, crafts, traditional utensils, philatelic collections, and more. Then, we will descend to the impressive Rinpung Dzong Fortress that houses the office of the district administration and religious body.

Now, we take scenic one-hour drive to Thimphu, the capital, with a stop for a short walk at the temple of Tamchog Lhakhang-built by Tibetan iron-bridge builder Thangthong Gyalpo –a famous architect, physician, teacher, and a saint of the 13th-century! Until today, his descendants own and maintain the temple. 

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 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: Khang Residency or similar
Meals : Lunch, Dinner
Day 02~Sightseeing in Thimphu

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. We also expect to see the archery matches in the nearby stadium. Archery is the Bhutanese national sport, and we’ll hope for matches while we’re there. 

Next, visit the National Institute Zorig Chusum that offers a six years course on Bhutan's traditional arts and crafts that include painting, wood carving, embroidery, and statue making. Then, visit the Simply Bhutan Museum, a living museum of Bhutan, resembling to a typical village that promotes the cultural heritage and local lifestyle. Here, you will have chance to wear traditional Bhutanese costumes and pose for photography, if you wish.  

Next stop – the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, dispensary of traditional Bhutanese herbal and other medicines. Other attraction, if time permits and if you wish is Royal Textile Academy that preserves the centuries old living art of Bhutan. Thimphu's latest addition is Buddha Dordenma, a gigantic 177 ft tall Buddha statue on a ridge overlooking the valley.

Late afternoon, take 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 believed 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.

Finally, we visit 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 two hour long hike (roundtrip) 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 unanimous vote. Tango Goebma 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. Cheri Goemba Monastery is situated atop an adjacent hill and if you wish, you can attempt this hike as well.Allow another two hours for this trip.

Interested in Buddhist astrology consultation? On our way back, we can stop at Pangri Zampa Temple-an astrology school for the state clergy. More than hundred monks study astrology in this center and welcome public if anyone wish for consultation. A week-advance notice is requested for scheduling purpose, though.  

Overnight: Khang Residency or similar
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 03~Continue sightseeing of Thimphu. Afternoon, transfer to Paro

After breakfast, we will continue sightseeing in Thimphu.

We will visit the Great Buddha Dordenma- a gigantic Shakyamuni Buddha statue that you may have already seen almost from everywhere in Thimphu. But being there is just different! The high gold gilded statue is 169 ft tall and is a multi-million dollar project!! The figure is just magnificent, and the view from the ridge over to the valley is also super!

Today, also stop by Bhutan's General Post Office where you can make your stamps!

Next, visit the Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Center, a private enterprise where you can see women weavers at work (except on Sunday). You are also able to buy some garments here.

There are quite a few other attractions in Thimphu such as Institute for Traditional Arts and Crafts, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, National Library, etc. Based on available time and your interests, your guide will adjust the itinerary.

Now, after lunch, we transfer back to Paro. 

We also have an option to travel to Chele La Pass (50 miles, 2.5 hours). Chele La Pass at 12, 497 ft. is the highest motorable pass in Bhutan and offers a panoramic view of Paro valley in one side and Haa Valley on the other side. On a clear day,  we can also enjoy the views of the snow-crowned mountains of the Himalaya. From the pass, we'ill hike down the slopes to Kila Gompa that takes about one and half hour. There are around seven small temples and several retreat huts built into a dizzying sheer cliff side, where between 30 to 70 nuns live in self-imposed isolation. We learn about the lifestyle of nuns in the monastery. From the nunnery, car parking is about 10 minutes downhill.

On our way back, we take a short detour of Dzondrakha Monastery that resembles the famous Taktsang Monastery a.k. A Tiger's Nest and so it's also called mini-Taktsang. From the parking, the monastery is about 10 minutes of leveled walking. This beautiful cliff-side retreat is one of the several mythical sites where Guru Rinpoche suppressed demons to pave the path for Buddhism! The site also offers spectacular views over Paro valley. The road is not in the great condition but the trip is definitely rewarding.

Overnight: Khangkhu Resort or similar
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 04~Paro: Hike the Takstang Monastery a.k.a Tiger's Nest

A big day and special one, with an early start. After breakfast, we’ll transfer to Paro and 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 detour to the ruins of the historic Drukgyel Dzong. It was built in the 16th century to mark the Bhutanese victory over the Tibetan invaders. We will also stop to visit 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 demoness!

Late afternoon, visit a 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-$30 per person.

Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 05~Depart Paro

After breakfast, your guide and driver will see you off at the airport. 

Meals : Breakfast

Trip Map

Trip Info

Trip Includes

  • Accommodation on double occupancy basis on the choice of your hotels.
  • All transfers and sightseeing by a private car.
  • Three meals a day.
  • English speaking local tour guide.
  • Sightseeing admission fee.
  • Bhutan visa fee.
  • Service of airfare reservation.

Trip Does Not Include

  • Airfare to and out of Bhutan.
  • Drinks, tipping, laundry, phone, internet usage, and other personal expenses. 
  • Extra expenses due to nature and unforeseen events.
  • Travel Insurance.

Trip Difficulty Level, Road and Transport

This motor vehicle-based trip will accommodate all travelers in general good health. The trip’s highest altitude is at Dhochu La Pass (10,000 feet or 3,048 meters); our stop there is brief, and our overnight stays are all in lower, far more comfortable elevations. The trip requires some easy walking and hikes, all of which are optional. Bhutan roads – cut into steep hillsides and mountains, alone winding rivers, and sometimes unpaved – can be a challenge. We use Japanese cars, micro buses, and minibuses, depending on group size. SUVs are available for an additional charge.

Accommodations

Thimphu and Paro are the major cities of Bhutan and offers some choices of accommodation. The standard tour includes  3* hotels by local standard. They are usually small properties with 20 or 25 rooms. They are boutique style properties with traditional decor, features en suite bathroom, running hot and cold water and are adequately comfortable. If you wish, you can upgrade to four star or five star properties. There are some high end properties such as Aman, Como, Six Senses, as well. 

Meals

Your trip features three meals a day (total 4 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 4 breakfasts).Most meals are arranged in tourist class restaurants or at your hotels. Meals are usually set menu, served in buffet style. Most in-house restaurants don't serve a la carte, unless you have a special dietary requirement.There are not whole lot of choices but meals are hearty and plentiful.Meals include rice, bread, curried vegetables, noodles or spaghetti and chicken or pork dishes. As Bhutan is a Buddhist country, they don't slaughter animals in Bhutan and the meats are imported and so you may find meat chewy or tough. Beware: Local style meat dishes are cooked with bones and traditional dishes always features hot pepper, and the most popular dish, ema datshi, is made with large, green hot chilies in a cheese sauce.

Tour Guide

Your trip will be led by a local English speaking certified guide whom you meet at Paro airport and will accompany you throughout the trip. 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.Guide and driver are not the same person.

International and internal airfares:

Currently there are two airlines- Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines and flight to Bhutan come from Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkata, Kathmandu, Singapore and Mumbai. Both Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines are partner to none of other major international carriers and so you are not able to buy a through ticket from Europe and Americas. So, you need to buy ticket to a gateway city such as Delhi or Kathmandu or Bangkok and separate ticket for onward journey. You are able to book flight on Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines site or we can help you book the reservation and bill you separately. 

Passport and Visa

Remaining validity of your passport must be minimum 6 months beyond your return date. Make sure, you are not running out of blank visa pages. Bhutan visa needs one blank visa page (Not the endorsement page) and some blank spaces for entry and departure seals.

We will obtain your Bhutan visa in advance and will email you a copy of this about a few weeks before your arrival in Bhutan. You need to present the document when you check in flight for Paro. You will get the actual visa seal on your passport at Paro airport on arrival.

If your travel starts in India, you should obtain an Indian visa beforehand.

Best time for this trip:

You can visit Bhutan throughout the year, but the fall (October and November) is the best season when temperatures are mild, skies are clear, and the fields are lush with crops. The second preferred season is the Spring (March through early May) when temperatures are still pleasant, and the plus points are the rhododendron and other wildflowers that come in bloom.

Booking Deposit and Payment Schedule

Tour Deposit: US$ 300 per person

We request an initial deposit of US$ 300 along with the completed booking form and a passport scan. The second payment will be for the airfare if you ask us to book it for you. Once we book the reservation, we will advise you the quote and ticketing deadline.

Balance payment

The balance and final payment is due 90 days prior departure. Balance payment by credit card payment attracts additional 3.5% fee. 

Cancellation and refund

  • 180 days prior departure: No penalty unless stated as non-refundable.
  • 90 days prior departure: Administrative fee US$ 150 per person.
  • 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.
  • Within 30 days before arrival: 100%.

Cancellation and refund of air tickets cost will be as per airlines policy plus a service charge of US$ 25 by the consolidator. Cancellation terms and conditions of certain services may vary which will be informed per case to case basis.

No refund or adjustment to other services will be made for any unused land or air services for any reason whatsoever, once the tour begins. We highly recommend that all travelers purchase trip cancellation insurance.

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