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Window to Bhutan


6 days 5 nights

Code BCT03

Category Bhutan Classic Tours

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

Overview

This trip takes you through the major towns of Western Bhutan: Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, and Wangdue Phodrang. We will visit the Dzongs (forts), temples and monasteries, take short and brisk day hikes to ancient villages, ridge top monasteries, stop by the traditional arts and craft workshops and join the locals in the colorful market. You can also time this trip with a local festival that gives you opportunities to connect with the locals and learn their century-old culture and traditions. We visit the monasteries and meet the monks and learn about the monastic lifestyles. We will also have the opportunity to visit the typical families and learn about the local lifestyle.

 

 

Detailed Itinerary

Day 01~Arrive in Paro.

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, airport, meet your guide and driver after clearing immigration and customs. You’ll need to present your eVisa copy, which we will email to you about three to four weeks before the trip date. At Paro immigration, you are required to submit the document again, and there you will get the actual visa seal on your passport. 

After introductions, your guide and driver will transfer you to a local restaurant for lunch and after that proceed for local sightseeing. First, 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 can visit 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 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! The temple is owned and maintained by his descendants.

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~Thimphu: 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 the 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 years 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.

The 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. The Takin – a kind of sheep by way of antelope, is 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.

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 two-hour long hike (roundtrip) to Tango Goemba monastery in a trade-off with some sights listed above, though. 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. If you wish, you can also attempt the Cheri Goemba Monastery back to back. You need to allow another two hours for this.

Are you Interested in Buddhist astrology? On our way back, we can stop at Pangri Zampa Temple-an astrology school for the state clergy. More than a hundred monks study astrology in this center. If anyone is interested, we can book a consultation with a monk. While there is no fixed rate, they expect a donation to the school.  

Overnight: Khang Residency or similar
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 a superb panorama of the snow-capped mountains and the valleys.

From Dhochula Pass, the road drops gradually with changing vegetation from alpine to sub-tropical type and in two hours later, we will be in Punakha-the former winter capital of Bhutan. You will have time to settle into your room, and after lunch, we are ready for the exploration of Punakha.

We take a short drive past Punakha Dzong, following the Mo Chu River upstream and park our car by the river in Yepaisa Village. We cross the river by a suspension bridge, and then we start hiking. First, we walk through paddy fields, and soon the trail twirls up a hill leading to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. Built by the Queen Mother, this temple is an example of Bhutan's most beautiful traditional architecture. The total hike should take anything between thirty to forty-five minutes, and the return trip should take much less than that. 

Do you want to experience a Himalayan White Water Rafting? Mo Chu River offers rafting opportunities, and the put-in point is just below the bridge. It's a grade III river with gentle rapids, and so no previous experience is necessary. It's a scenic float down, lasting in thirty or forty minutes, with views of Punakha Dzong and opportunities to see various birds on the riverside. Cost $ 150 for a group of up to 6 persons.

Next, we visit 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 here for the winter retreat.

Overnight: Drubchu Resort or similar
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 04~Retrace our drive to Paro

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

A short and easy hike that you don't want to miss is Chime Lhakhang. It's less than 25 minutes from the main road, and the trail goes through paddy fields and villages. The houses here depict phallic symbols on the walls and the doors! You might even see the door handles or knobs carved out in the shape of a phallus! The temple has a link with the Lama Drukpa Kuenley who was famously known as the Divine Madman for his funny way of teaching, referencing love, romance, and sex! Bhutanese childless women visit the temple for fertility blessing.

Now, we retrace our drive across Dhochula Pass to Paro. If it's in Spring, it's worth stopping at  Lamperi Botanical Garden that preserves the rich fauna including Rhododendron flowers. After a lunch stop in Dhochula Pass, we will continue to Paro.

Balance of the day is at leisure.

Overnight: Khangkhu Resort or similar
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 05~ 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 Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest, a highlight of any trip to Bhutan. 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.

The monastery dramatically perches on the edge of a 4000-foot cliff above the valley floor and makes an unbelievable sight. The hike up is less than three hours for a fit person. You can also rent a pony that can take you up to Taktsang Cafeteria, situated in about two-thirds of the trail. Onward, the path is narrow and the return trip down is steep for the pony ride.

This afternoon, visit a typical Bhutanese farm family, check out their dwelling and get an insight into their lifestyle. Bhutanese farm-houses are made up of wood without the use of a single nail! With prior request, we can also arrange a meal with the family-a right way of experiencing Bhutanese hospitality.

Experience Traditional Hot Stone Bath (Optional): 
After such an active day, we recommend a 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 it. The estimated cost is $ 30 per person.

Overnight: Khangkhu Resort or similar
Meals : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 06~ 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

  • Five nights three star ( by local standard) hotel accommodation, based on double occupancy.
  • Meals: Full board (3 meals a day).
  • All transfers and sightseeing as indicated on the itinerary.
  • An English-speaking local guide.
  • 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 which are beyond our control
  • 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 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 for some, but you can rent a pony and ride up to Taktsang Cafeteria at two-thirds of the trail. Onward, the path is narrow and return trip down is also too steep for the ponies. 

The longest drive in this trip will be four hours, from Punakha to Paro and other days, we have shorter trips. We will undoubtedly have occasional stops for photography and refreshments. Roads in the Himalaya are narrow, and some portions may be rough and damaged. The trip doesn't need you to be athletic; nonetheless you are expected to participate in sightseeing and hiking and so it's advisable that you keep yourself fit. If you are not leading an active life, please, start some 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 three-star properties by local standard. They are small properties, locally owned and managed and are adequate. The buildings and decorations are traditional styles. You will have a private bathroom with running hot and cold water. There may be the disparity in the rooms and travelers of the same group may get different types, and if that happens, it's not intentional, and we request for your understanding. Toiletry supplies include shampoo or soaps, but we do not guarantee body wash and conditioners. They usually have a hairdryer, iron and ironing board in the room but if they are missing, do not hesitate to contact the house-keeping or the front desk.

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 Guides

Our Tour Guides are local people with college degrees, government certifications, and experience with 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 on this trip are very slim. There are two occasions when you are at significantly high altitude; Dhochula Pass (10,171 ft.) and Taktshang Monastery (10,240 ft.), but attain these heights gradually and you should acclimate before that. All the towns where we overnight are at the elevation of 8,000 ft and below that.

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. 

International and Internal Flights

The trip starts and completes in Paro, Bhutan. Flights to Paro arrive from Bangkok, Kathmandu (Nepal) or Kolkata and New Delhi (India). Currently, there are two Bhutanese airlines-Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines serving these destinations, and they are the partners to none of the major international carriers. Therefore, you can not book a through fare from Europe and the Americas to Bhutan. You need to book two separate tickets-first, from the US to the gateway city (e.g., Bangkok or Kathmandu) and then separately with Druk Air or Bhutan Airlines to Paro, Bhutan. You can book the internal air on the airline website, or we can help you with. 

Visa and Permits

Remaining validity of your passport must be a minimum of 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 empty 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. Visa fee is part of the trip and photos are no longer required.

If your travel starts from India, you should obtain an Indian visa beforehand as India does not grant visa on arrival.

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. 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 if you ask us to book it for you.

The final payment is due 90 days before the trip date. The balance payment on credit card attracts an additional 3.5% fee. 

Cancellation and refund

If you need to withdraw from the trip, we request a cancellation request in writing, by email or fax. The cancellation fee structure is as follows. 

  • Ninety days before departure: Administrative fee US$ 150 per person.
  • 60-89 day's before departure: US$ 250 or 25% of the land cost whichever is higher.
  • 45 days to 59 days before 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%.
  • 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 the refund. For details, please view booking and cancellation terms and conditions

Accomodation

Khang Residency Thimphu
Khang Residency Thimphu
Khangkhu Resort Paro
Khangkhu Resort Paro
Drubchu Resort Punakha
Drubchu Resort Punakha

 

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

Add Ons

Traditional Hot stone Bath

US$ 30

hotstone bathOn your trip to Bhutan, you can experience a traditional hot stone bath in a farmhouse or at your hotel.

The hot stone bath is a traditional method to cure skin ailments, joint pain, arthritis, muscle ache etc. and provides relaxation to your body and mind after a busy day's activities. The tub is usually carved out of a tree trunk. 

They first heat the natural spring rocks to red hot and immerse in the tub. The water is usually fresh water from the spring. They continue adding stone until the water reaches to the right temperature. They also add some herbal leaves.

After the water reaches to right temperature, you enter the tub and relax for about an hour. Your host also will serve you homemade liquor.

 

Rafting in Mo Chu River Punakha

US$ 150

Mo Chu rives originates in the mountainous hills of Northern Bhutan and offers excellent rafting opportunity to the beginners and those who just want to experience white water adventures. No skills or previous experience is required.The trip can be done any time of the year.

rafting mo chu river

The put-in point is just below the suspension bridge at the trail head leading to the Khamsum Yuelley temple.There are 10 rapids of class 2 - 2+ in the stretch of 6 miles.As you raft down the river, you will experience the incredibly blue water, breath-taking alpine scenery, sighting world’s rarest birds and amazing rapids on the backdrop of striking 17th century Punakha Dzong (Fortress). The trip will be led by one or two experience rafting guides and also accompanied by a kayak. Total rafting duration: 30 minutes.

Rafting gears, including safety jacket and helmet are included.

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