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Bhutan Travel Agents Winter FAM Tour


Average rating Score
100%

Bhutanese Dress
based on 3 review(s)

10 days 9 nights

Code FAM-BT19

Category Fam Tours

  • Group Size 1-16 persons
  • Difficulty Level 2
  • Highest Altitude 3425 m or 11234 ft
  • Trip Starts From Paro, Bhutan
  • Trip Ends At Paro, Bhutan
  • Type Tours
  • Destination Thimphu Phobjikha Jakar (Bumthang) Trongsa Punakha Paro
Dates & Prices

Overview

9-18 Dec 2019

This trip takes the travel agents to the land of fresh air, rich religious and cultural traditions, breathtaking mountains, and pristine nature. It is also a land of people who, by official proclamation that is unique in the world, measure their lives not by GNP (Gross National Product), but by GNH (Gross National Happiness)! Bhutan, a country of the size of Switzerland, tucked between Tibet and India, is truly a jewel of the Himalayas – perhaps, some would say, Shangri-La.

This trip is a motor vehicle-based tour with some optional day hikes. While the highest altitude attained on this trip is 3425 m (11234 ft), we sleep in lower elevations and so height is not a concern. This trip covers the main highlights of western and central Bhutan and overlaps with an annual Tsechu festival. You’ll join the festival that celebrates the significant accomplishments of the Buddhist Saint Guru Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche.

Each travel agent is allowed to bring one companion who could be your family, friend, or client. 

The trip cost does not include the airfare to Bhutan. If you need any help with the airfare booking, we will be happy to do that for you and bill you as it costs.

Trip Date

9-18 Dec 2019

Trip Price

US$ 1760 Travel agent
US$ 1860 Companion
US$ 350 Private room supplement

Attractions

~Explore the fortresses, monasteries, and temples of Bhutan.

~Visit a typical farmhouse to learn the lifestyle of the local farmers.

~Meet the textile weavers, time-honored thangka painters, and the traditional paper makers.

~Experience the traditional hot stone bath to heal common ailments.

~Hike Takstang Monastery, Tango Monastery, Khamsum Yuelley Temple, and the Chimi Lhakhang Temple (you can skip the hikes and stay behind with the driver if you wish)

~Join Nalakhar Tsechu festival and enjoy the mask dances!

Is This Trip For You?

  • December is a winter month in Bhutan with chances of nighttime temperature below freezing point but day time temperature will range anywhere between 51 to 66 degree F. Most hotels do provide electric or traditional Bukhari style space heaters. Some hotels do have heating features equipped.
  • There are at least two long day drive, about 6 or 7 hours (Thimphu to Phobjikha and Punakha to Paro). Currently, road rehabilitation and widening works are underway in some sections of the road, and so we may expect some travel delays.
  • Visiting the Dzongs, temples and monasteries involve climbing of stairs. Do not expect elevators.
  • There is at least one strenuous hiking-5 or 6 hours round trip, but you can skip it and stay back.
  • Please, do not expect western style fine dining experience in Bhutan. There are very few varieties of foods, and chefs are not trained on cooking western style cuisines.
  • Hotels are three-star by local standard and usually small properties with 15 to 30 rooms. All the rooms provide en suite bathroom with running hot and cold water, space heaters, tea coffee makers, necessary toiletry supplies. Wi-Fi is intermittent.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01~Arrive in Paro, Bhutan

Flight to Bhutan arrive from Bangkok, Kathmandu, Delhi or Kolkatta. You can book your international flight to one of these cities, and we will schedule your onward flight to Bhutan. Bangkok is the most preferred gateway city unless you are traveling to India or Nepal before this trip.

We pre-arrange Bhutan visa and will email you a copy of this about three to four weeks before the trip date. After completing immigration and customs formalities, meet your guide and driver and transfer to the hotel.

After lunch, visit the National Museum housed at Ta Dzong. The museum gives an excellent introduction to Bhutan's religion, culture, and history. It has a rich collection of Buddhist scriptures, murals, Bhutanese textiles, crafts, armors, and philatelic collection. Next, we descend to the impressive Rinpung Dzong Fortress; the district administrative headquarter that also houses the seat of District's religious body.

 

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

 

In Thimphu, we’ll have time to settle in before a walking tour of the small 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
Meals : Lunch, Dinner
Day 02~Sightseeing and hiking in Thimphu

It will be a busy day in Thimphu. Depending on available time, we will visit some of the attractions listed below.

Thimphu's weekend market: We begin the day from Thimphu's weekend market where local farmers come to sell their fresh produces. We may also get the chance to watch an archery tournament if any are in progress at the Changlimithang stadium ground during the weekend; Archery is the national sport of Bhutan.

The giant statue of Buddha Dordenma (180 ft tall) is popularly known as Buddha point at Kuensel Phodrang.  The figure is made of Bronze and gilded in gold, and will now be one of the revered sacred landmarks of Thimphu. This location is also a popular viewpoint over Thimphu valley.

Takin Reserve in Motithang: The Takin-the national animal of Bhutan has a cow like head, but a goat-like body and are found only in the Himalaya, particularly in Bhutan.

Zilukha Nunnery: It's a residence of 40-65 nuns. The main shrine at the Nunnery belongs to the famous saint, Drubthob Thang Thong Gyalpo, popularly known as the Leonardo da Vinci of the Great Himalayas and the man who first introduced and built the chain of iron bridges in Bhutan.

Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre: This center produces colorful hand-woven Bhutanese textiles, which is a century old tradition. You can see the women at work as they weave the textiles. The center also creates textiles for the royalties.

Tango Goemba Monastery Hiking. The trail to the monastery is a climb of about (280 m/ 918 ft) and takes about 60-90 minutes. On the way, you will meet the commoners, monks, and possibly a caravan of donkeys carrying goods. Once you reach the top, you will be delighted to see this impressive Monastery. Founded in the 12th Century by Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the present structures here are from the 15th and 18th centuries. You will get time to meet with the resident monks here and learn about their monastic life. You can sip tea with monks, perhaps teach them some English and learn some Bhutanese phrases from them in return. The trek down will take less time.

On the way back, stop to visit the majestic Trasichhoe Dzong that houses the King's office, parliament, and the central monk body!

Overnight: Khang Residency
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 03~Dhochula Pass and Phobjikha

Buckle up for a long day drive today (84 miles, 7 or 8 hours including stops)! 

Following breakfast, we leave for the isolated Phobjikha Valley. The road soon starts climbing, and we will arrive at the famous Dhochula pass (Alt. 3010m/9,872 ft), where you will stop briefly for panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains. Another striking feature of this pass is a group of chortens (pagoda or stupas). Now, the road zigzags down through the changing vegetation from alpine to sub-tropical and arrive in Punakha in about two and a half hour. Punakha is in lower altitude (1400m/4, 592 ft) and we will experience warmer weather here. After lunch, stop we will proceed for another two and a half hour drive to Phobjikha.

As we arrive in Phobikha, we stop to visit the prominent Gangtey Gompa of the early 17th century. It is the only Nyingmapa monastery in the region. The broad valley with its best-known marshland in Bhutan is famous for its scenic splendor and cultural uniqueness and is the winter home of black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis) who migrate from the Tibetan Plateau and Central Asia in the winter season to roost. We will see flocks of the beautiful birds along the way!

Time permitting, also stop in Royal So­ciety for Protection of Nature’s (RSPN), which has informative displays about the black-necked cranes and the valley environment. You can use the center’s powerful spotting scopes and check what you see against its pamphlet Field Guide to Crane Behaviour.

Overnight: Dewachen Hotel
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 04~Bumthang Valley

A beautiful day today, covering 188 km or 117.5 miles over 7 hours! as we backtrack to the main road and head to the east. The road gradually climbs the Black Mountain Range and crosses Pele-la pass (10,824 feet, or 3,300 meters) where the panoramic views include Mount Jhomolhari on the border with Tibet. Below is Trongsa, the hometown of the present rulers of Bhutan. At the Chendebji chorten, note the large white monument, which is said to have concealed the remnants of an evil spirit that was defeated here.

We will have our lunch stop in Trongsa and enjoy meal gazing over the striking Trongsa Dzong. From Tronga, the road climbs to the Youtongla pass (11,234 feet, or 3,425 meters) and then descends to Chume, the first of the four Bumthang valleys. Zugney Village is home to the Yathra workshops, where they make deep-colored wool textiles in a pattern typical to these parts of the country.

Check into your accommodation and balance of the day is at leisure.

Overnight: Rinchenling Lodge
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 05~Explore Bumthang Valley and join Tsechu festival in Nalakhar Temple

After breakfast, we join the Nalakhar Tsechu in Ngaa Lakhang Temple. It's an annual religious event held on the 10th day of a Tibetan lunar month. The celebration features mask dances associated with the biography of Guru Rinpoche who introduced Buddhism into Bhutan. Local devout Bhutanese, dressed in their most elegant attire join the festival with great enthusiasm.

If you wish, you can spend the entire day enjoying the festival, or you can explore the attraction of Bumthang in the second half of the day. We visit the Jambay Lhakhang Temple, which was built in the 7th century by the King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. Legend has it that this was one of 108 temples he built miraculously in a single night in Tibet and neighboring countries. The next stop – Kurjey Lakhang Temple – also has a story: Kurjey means “body imprint,” and it's built around a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated and, yes, left his body imprint. 

From here, we take a short walk (30 minutes), crossing a suspension bridge to visit the Tamshing or Tamzhing Monastery, an essential Nyingma monastery of the region, founded by the great Nyingma guru Pemalingpa. Another brief walk will bring us to Kenchosum Lhakhang, probably the region’s most beautiful monastery. The original temple dates back to the 9th Century, but the current structure is a newer one.


Overnight: Rinchenling Lodge
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 06~Trongsa

After breakfast, we will have time to cover more of the sights or spend more time on the festival. 

After lunch, we retrace our drive to Trongsa (68 km or 42.5 mi, 3 hours). We visit the majestic Trongsa Dzong from where the royal family of Bhutan rose into power. The Dzong is commanding, high above the roaring Mangde Chhu River and is probably the most striking architecture of Bhutan. 

Overnight: Yangkhil Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 07~Punakha-the former winter capital

After breakfast, we retrace our drive to Punakha (156 km or 97.5 miles, 5 or 6 hours)-the former winter capital of Bhutan!

You will have time to settle into your room before we go for a short walking tour of Chime Lakhang Temple! It's an easy hike (25 minutes one way), through the villages and the paddy fields! The temple is also known as fertility temple as childless people pay a visit to the temple in the hopes of a child.

Overnight: Drubchu Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 08~Khamsum Yuelley Temple, Punakha Dzong and Paro

We will have an early start today. First, we go for a 45 minutes long gentle hike to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten. The chorten sits atop a beautiful hillock overlooking the valley. Built by the Queen Mother, the temple is dedicated to the well being of the kingdom and for the benefit of all sentient beings.  We will begin from the Punakha Dzong Fortress, which is among the most impressive fort architectures in Bhutan. In the past, Punakha Dzong fortress served as the winter capital of Bhutan. Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Bhutan, moved his headquarters to the Trasichoe Dzong in Thimphu. 

After lunch, we retrace our drive to Paro (160 km or 100 mi, 4.5 hours). Upon arrival, check in to your accommodation and balance of the day is at leisure.

Overnight: Khangkhu Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 09~Hike the Taktsang Monastery aka Tiger's Nest

Today, we will go on a hike to the legendary Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest. The Monastery stands at an altitude of (10,080ft/3150m) up on a vertical rock face overlooking the valley. The location is a legendary site where Guru Padmasambhava, flew from Tibet on a tiger’s back and fought the five demons that were creating an obstacle to the path of Buddhism. After a 1-2 hour arduous climb, you will arrive at the cafeteria, which serves as a beautiful viewpoint for the Takstang Monastery. A pony ride may be taken up to this point but for the rest of the trek up to the Monastery and the return trek down; you will be on your own. You will spend some time in the cafeteria, gazing at the Monastery, and will have great photo opportunities. There will be refreshment drinks, and then you will continue on the hike a further 45 minutes to get a closer look of the Monastery and the surrounding temples. The return trip is all downhill and takes about half the time it took the way up.

Rest of the day is open for your interests. If anybody is interested in visiting the town for last minute shopping or take a stroll through, your driver will be happy to take you to the city.

Optional Hot Stone Bath:
Tonight you may experience a traditional Hot Stone Bath inside a farmhouse. Hot stone baths are an ancient Bhutanese method of curing skin ailments, joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders, arthritis, and many other minor diseases. Even you don’t have any of these issues; this will help you feel very relaxed after a busy day’s schedule. It costs around US$ 30-35 per person, and advance notice is required. 

Overnight: Khangkhu Resort
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 10~Depart Paro

After breafast, you are transferred to the airport in time for flight to your next destination. You can fly out to Bangkok, Delhi or Kolkatta. Flight arrangement will be made by us on additional cost.

Meals : Breakfast

Trip Map

Trip Info

Trip includes

  • Nine nights of hotel accommodation on a double occupancy basis.
  • Three meals a day. 
  • English speaking local expert tour leader
  • All transfers and sightseeing by a private vehicle
  • Bhutan visa and government royalty
  • Sightseeing admission tickets.
  • Daily bottled water (2 each)
  • Service of airfare booking

The trip does not include

  • Services in the gateway cities.
  • Airfare
  • Drinks, tipping, laundry, phone and other expenses of personal nature.
  • Travel insurance
  • Extra expenses caused due to nature and unforeseen events
  • Optional items as indicated in the itinerary

The trip difficulty, road, and transport

Anyone with a reasonable health condition can sign up for this trip, as this is mostly a motor vehicle-based tour with some optional hikes. You attain the highest altitude of Youtongla pass (3425m/11234 ft) where you have a brief stop only and as our accommodations are in lower elevation.

There are a few hiking excursions on this trip. If you are not into hiking, you can stay back with the driver. Traveling from one city to another requires 3-7 hours driving, and some parts of the road may be under paved or damaged due to monsoon erosion. Roads are often carved into hills and follow rivers. If you are traveling during monsoon, there can be temporary blockade due to monsoon rain. Currently, the repair works are underway and so; we can expect some travel delays.

The transport will be a mini-van or a Japanese coaster bus, depending on the final group size. Our driver will be a skillful person with years of experience in driving in Bhutan roadways. The driver may speak little or no English. The guide and driver are not the same people.

Accommodations

In Bhutan, the majority of the hotels are small properties, rated as three-stars by local standard and are adequately comfortable. They are built and decorated traditionally. You will have an en suite bathroom with running hot and cold water. Most of the hotels provide free Wi-Fi, and some may charge a nominal fee. The lobbies and receptions are cozy. During the winter, they provide space heaters to keep the rooms warm. Some hotels use traditional style Bukhari firewood stove. We do not expect our hotel to have a gift shop for "sundry" items.

Meals

Our tour features three meals a day, and we expect to eat most meals at our hotel. They serve meals in a buffet or set menu and include rice dishes, curried or stir-fried vegetables, noodles, bread, one or two meat dishes, etc. All meats are imported, and so they tend to be chewy. Local style meat sauces can contain bones. While in Paro or Thimphu, we will arrange some meals outside the hotel. During a long road trip or a hiking excursion, your guide will bring prepared meals. Note: There are limited choices for food, and the chefs lack skill in cooking western style dishes. Bhutan is not a destination for fine dining.

Guide

Our guides are college educated locals, proficient in English and trained and licensed by local tourism authorities. Most importantly they are friendly and committed to delivering the best services.

International and internal airfares

The trip cost does not include the airfares. You need to buy your return airfare from your home country to a gateway city, such as Bangkok (or Kathmandu or Delhi or Kolkatta). Unless you are traveling to India or Nepal first, the most popular gateway to Bhutan is Bangkok as there are at least two flights a day from here. The flights from Kathmandu or Delhi operate only a few days of the week. We will book your return airfare from Bangkok to Bhutan and bill you separately. Please, allow a minimum of one night stay in the gateway city before and after your trip for a safe connection with your international flight.

Passport and Visa

Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the last day of your trip, and there must be a minimum of two blank visa pages for the visa sticker, entry and exit seals. We apply for the Bhutan visa in advance for you, and we will email you the approval 3 to 4 weeks before the trip. Your passport gets actual visa seal upon arrival at the Paro airport. If you are traveling via Indian cities, you need to obtain an Indian visa before your travel begins. If you are going via Kathmandu, Nepal, you can get a Nepal visa upon arrival. 

Travel agent eligibility

You must be an active and full-time travel agent with IATA/CLIA/TRUE Code certified. You are allowed to bring one companion with you who could be your friend or family or a client.

Group Size

We guarantee a departure with a minimum of four participants. The maximum group size will not exceed sixteen people.

Booking/Deposit

We request an initial deposit of US$ 300 along with a completed booking form and a passport scan. The second payment will be for the internal airfare when it's due. The balance payment is due 90 days before departure. Credit card payment attracts an additional fee which ranges from 3 to 4%. We accept the payment from the traveler's account only. We reserve the right to refuse credit card payment in some cases.

Cancellation and Refund

If you need to withdraw from a trip, you need to notify us in writing by email or fax. The cancellation fee structure will be as follows.
One hundred eighty days before departure: No penalty.
Ninety days before departure: US$ 150 (Administrative Fee)
60-89 day's prior departure: US$ 300 or 25% of the land cost whichever is higher.
Forty-five days to 59 days prior departure: US$ 450 or 50% of the land cost whichever is higher.
Thirty days to 44 days before departure: US$ 600 or 75% of the land cost whichever is higher.
Less than 30 days: 100%

An airfare cancellation fee will be as per respective airlines policy. Some hotels may ask a nonrefundable deposit which will be communicated to you accordingly.

Travel Protection Plan

We do our best to ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as planned. However, there may be a chance of unforeseen events and conditions such as illness, accident, inclement weather, flight cancellation, missed-connection, or loss of baggage, etc that 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. Far & High's trip 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.

Accomodation

Khang Residency Thimphu
Khang Residency Thimphu
Khangkhu Resort Paro
Khangkhu Resort Paro
Drubchu Resort Punakha
Drubchu Resort Punakha
dewachen250
Dewachen Hotel Phobjikha
Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa
Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa
rinchenling thumb
Rinchenling Resort, Bumthang

 

Note: The hotels listed are our preferred properites but they are subject to change.

Review

Average Rating Score 5star based on 3 review(s)


  • "I had a wonderful time"
    5star

    I had a wonderful time on this trip. It was an adventure of a life time. So happy we flew Qatar Airlines. They were amazing. The accommodations were very comfortable. It was like staying in a ski lodge at home with lots of character. Our hosts in both countries were so knowledgeable and kind. The driver in Bhutan was off the charts. It was unanimous, we all felt safe on the unpaved roads with him driving


  • "The Magicalm Mystical Trip of a Lifetime"
    5star

    I've been all over the world, but if you are looking to be wowed by a country that is walking the thin line between far back in yesteryear and a modern tomorrow, this is the trip for you. Far & High was terrific! Every detail ran smoothly. The guides were professional, totally knowledgeable, anxious to please us, and fun to be with. The hotels are clean and good, but not up to USA standards. Heating is non-existent except for wood burning pot-bellied stoves and radiators, but beds are comfortable and comforters are heavy enough to keep you warm. The warmth of the staff will make up for anything lacking. There are many stairs, ie. temples, monasteries, hotels, and restaurants. I don't think there is a level inch of land in the entire country. However, you can choose to skip a place here or there if necessary and still be overwhelmed with what you experience. The food is delicious, mild, not hot and spicy as expected, and it is prepared fresh for you as you enter the restaurant. The sights are spectacular! About the people: They are beautiful inside and out. They smile, are helpful, and they are the most peaceful and serene population I have ever had the great joy to meet. And most speak at least some English. Upcoming is my third trip to Bhutan, bringing a group with me this time. In these turbulent times it is so refreshing to visit a place where you are safe, where you are welcomed as an honored guest, and where the traditions (still practiced daily) are stunningly beautiful. I hope it never changes!


  • "Bhutan an exciting and adventurous. "
    5star

    Certainly Bhutan was a place to visit that was on my bucket list. I was not disappointed. And to get to see such a great variety of Bhutan made the trip so much more meaningful. The hotels were better then I had planned on and the tour guide and his assistants were fabulous. I learned so much about Buddhism and the history of not just Bhutan but Tibet, Indian and Nepal. A place not to miss.


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