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Bhutan Travel Agents Fam Tour 2017


Bhutan Travel Agents Fam Tour 2017

Overview

On this journey of a lifetime, Far & High takes the travel agents to the land of fresh air, rich religious and cultural traditions, stupendous 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 covers the main highlights of western and central Bhutan, and overlaps with an annual Tsechu festival. You’ll join the festival that celebrates the great accomplishments of the Buddhist Saint Guru Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche. The festival also reflects Bhutan’s energy and bright culture – masked, barefoot dancers leap, whirl, brandish knives, and beat tambourines to subdue evil spirits and to celebrate the teachings of Buddha.

This is basically a motor vehicle based tour with some optional day hikes. While the highest altitude attained on this trip is 3425m (11234 ft), we sleep in lower elevations and so altitude is not a concern. There are some long day drives, though but we will have occasional stop for bathroom photography. The hotels used on this trip are best properties in the mid-range. They are small properties with 30-40 rooms and some are even smaller but they ensure en-suite bathroom with running hot and cold water. The trip is led by a local certified Bhutanese Guide.

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

  • Explore the fortresses, monasteries and temples of Bhutan.
  • Hike Takstang Monastery, Tango Monastery, Khamsum Yuelley Temple, and the Chimi Lakhang Temple.
  • Take an excursion to the lesser visited villages of Rinchengang and Ura.
  • Visit a typical farmhouse to learn the lifestyle of the local farmers.
  • Week-end market in Thimphu
  • Meet the textile weavers, time-honored thangka painters, and the traditional paper makers.
  • Experience the traditional hot stone bath to heal common ailments.

Detailed Itinerary

  • 01 Dec, 2017 Arrive in Paro, Bhutan.

    • Flights to Paro (Altitude 2250m/7380 ft) arrive from Kathmandu (Nepal), Bangkok (Thailand), Delhi, or Kolkatta (India). Bangkok is the most used gateway as there are more flights than from where. Please, allow a minimum of one day in the gateway city before and after the trip to ensure a safe connection to your international flight. You will buy your international airfare to the gateway city (e.g.) on your own.

      The Bhutan visa is pre-arranged by us. You will be emailed the visa document three to four weeks prior the trip date. After completing immigration and custom formalities, meet your guide and driver and transfer to a restaurant nearby for lunch.

      After lunch, visit the National Museum housed at Ta Dzong. The museum gives a good introduction of 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 headquarters that is believed to have been built on the heap of jewels!

      Next, visit the ancient Kyichu Lakhang Temple – another of the 108 temples that King Songsten Gampo of Tibet built in a single night in 7th century!

      Later afternoon, take leisurely stroll in the Paro township.

      Overnight hotel at Paro.
      Meals: Lunch and dinner

  • 02 Dec, 2017 By vehicle to Punakha.

    • (82 miles, 5 hrs,)
      Following breakfast, check out of the hotel, and with your guide and driver, leave for Punakha -the former winter capital of Bhutan. In about one hour, we bypass Thimphu and now the road climbs towards 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) and hundreds of prayers flags fluttering in the wind. After you leave the pass, the road zigzags down to the lowland of the Punakha and Wangdue valleys at the elevation around (1400m/4, 592 ft).

      Upon arrival, we check in our hotel and after lunch we proceed for sightseeing. 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.

      Overnight in Drubchu Hotel or similar
      Meals : Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 03 Dec, 2017 By vehicle to Trongsa.

    • (142km/89 miles, 4-5 hrs)

      After breakfast, we will visit a few attractions of Punakha before heading to Trongsa. We visit Nalanda Buddhist College, locally known as Dalayna and Talo Village. You will have an opportunity here to interact with the monks who are very fond of trying their English speaking skills with the tourists. Then, we continue to drive to the central Bhutan. Not before too long the impressive fortress of Wangdue Phodrang Dzong comes in view which is still under construction after the recent fire broke out of a butter-lamp. Wangdue Phodrang Dzong was the second capital of Bhutan until the power center moved to Trongsa after the rise of the present Royal family. Opposite to the Dzong, you can take a 25 minutes gentle hike to the Rinchengang Village with traditional 2 story houses.

      Onward, the road passes through dense oak and rhododendron forests and advances to Trongsa in Central Bhutan.The road gradually climbs the Black Mountain Range and crosses the Pele-la pass (3300m/10, 824 ft) where you will stop briefly to appreciate the panoramic views of the snow capped mountains including Mount Jhomolhari. The road then drops to Trongsa- the hometown of the Bhutanese Royalties. We will have time to stop at the Chendebji chorten, which is a large white monument, said to conceal the remnants of an evil spirit that was vanquished here. You will also visit other sites on the way to admire the serene beauty of the area.

      We check into our accommodations and soon proceed to visit the Trongsa Dzong fortress. Built in 1644, the fortress used to be the seat of power of the Wangchuk Dynasty, before it became the ruler of all of Bhutan. Traditionally, the king of Bhutan first becomes the Trongsa Penlop (governor) before being named Crown Prince and eventually King. Spend the rest of day strolling the town.

      Overnight in Yangkhil Resort or similar
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 04 Dec, 2017 By vehicle to Jakar (Bumthang)

    • (68km/43 miles, 3- hrs)

      Leaving Trongsa behind, the road climbs to the Youtongla pass (3425m/11234 ft) and then descends to Chumey valley, the first of the four valleys in Bumthang District. We proceed to Ngalakhar Village in Chokhoer Valley to attend the Tsechu festival.

      From Jakar, It takes about an hour drive through feeder road to Nga Lhakang Temple-the venue for the Ngalakhar festival. Unlike other festivals of the western Bhutan, here the local community organizes the festival. Most of the masked dancers are local people who are well trained and professionals and have learned this age-old tradition from their father and grandfathers. The festival is celebrated for happiness, good harvest,and prosperity of the villagers and country as a whole. People from all over the villages come here to witness the festival dressing in their finest clothes.

      If time permits, we may stop for a visit Tangbi Lhakhang on our way back. Situated at an altitude of 9000 ft, Tangbi Lkhakhang is a historically a significant temple and is surrounded by beautiful Tangbi Village.

      Overnight in Jakar Village Lodge or Gongkhar Guest House
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 05 Dec, 2017 Sightseeing of Bumthang

    • After breakfast, we will go to do some sightseeing of Bumthang. Bumthang is regarded as the cultural heart of Bhutan and has a lot to offer to the visitors.

      We begin from Tamzhing Goemba, founded in the 15th century and the resident of the reincarnation of the Terton Pema lingpa. From here, we hike for 15 minutes to Kurjey Lakhang Temple. Kurjey means “Body Imprint” and the temple got this name because it was built around a cave where Guru Rimpoche meditated and left his body imprint. Continue hiking till your reach the Jambay Lhakhang Temple, which was built in the 7th century by the King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet and it’s believed to be one of the 108 temples he built miraculously in a single night in Tibet and neighboring countries. Our driver will pick us up from here and we will be transferred to visit the Wangicholing palace, which built after Jigme Namgyal, won a battle during the civil war. Your next stop will be the Jakar Dzong, "castle of the white bird". According to legend, when the Lamas assembled in about 1549 to select a site for a Monastery, a big white bird arose suddenly in the air and settled on the hill. This was interpreted as an important omen, and the hill was chosen as the site for a Monastery and for Jakar Dzong.

      Along the way, we may stop to visit a cheese factory and a brewery and perhaps a stop to watch expert textile weavers at their ancient toe and back strap looms.

      Overnight in Jakar Village Lodge or Gongkhar Guest House
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 06 Dec, 2017 Retrace your drive to Punakha.

    • (212km/132 miles, 7-8 hrs drive)

      It’s going to be a long day drive today. We will retrace drive to Punakha with a few stops on the way. We will stop at the roadside village of Zugney to see Yathra weavers at work. Yathra is a deep colored wool textile, a pattern typical to these parts of the country. We will have time to visit the sights in Trongsa if we missed any during our previous visit.
      Once you arrive in Punakha, check into your accommodations and take rest for the day. Those interested will be taken for hotel inspections.

      Overnight in Drubchu Resort.
      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • 07 Dec, 2017 Continue retracing your drive to Thimphu.

    • (54 miles, 3 hrs drive).
      After breakfast, we will check out hotel. Before we head out to Thimphu, we will take a short hike to Chimi Lakhang Temple, also known as the Fertility Temple. Childless women visit the temple to be blessed by the Lama Drukpa Kuenley, whom the temple is dedicated to. It’s an easy hike through the paddy fields and the traditional houses.

      We will retrace our drive via the Dhochula pass where we stop briefly to enjoy the views of the valley and Himalayan mountains.

      Overnight at Khang Residency
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 08 Dec, 2017 Sightseeing and hiking in Thimphu.

    • There are a lot of attractions to see in Thimphu. Depending on availability, we will visit some of the attractions as 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), popularly known as Buddha point at Kuensel Phodrang. The statue is made of Bronze and gilded in gold, and will now be one of the venerated sacred landmarks of Thimphu. This is also a popular viewpoint over Thimphu valley.

      Takin Reserve in Motithang: A Takin has a cow like head but a goat like body and it is believed that the Tibetan Saint Drukpa Kuenley created this peculiar animal. Takins are the national animals of Bhutan.

      Zilukha Nunnery: It's a residence of 40-65 nuns. The main shrine at the Nunnery is dedicated 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.

      Dechen Phodrang: Dechen Phodrang is the site of Thimphu's original 12th-century fortress. Currently, this complex houses the state monastic school that provides an eight year course to more than 450 students.

      Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory: Here, you will see the traditional paper making method. Bhutanese traditional papers are made of mulberry barks (daphne).

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

      Tango Goemba Monastery. 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. After the day of sightseeing, you are transferred back to your hotel and the rest of the evening is at your leisure.

      Today, we will be organizing some hotel inspection in the capital such as Le Meridien(5 star), Taj Hotel(5 star), So anyone interested can join the team.

      Overnight in Khang Residency or similar
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 09 Dec 2017 Paro: Hike Takstang Monastery.

    • After an early morning breakfast, we are transfer to Paro. Today, we go on a hike to the legendary Takstang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest. The Monastery is situated at an altitude of (10,080ft/3150m) up on a vertical rock face overlooking the valley. This is the 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 laborious 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.

      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$ 20-25 per person and an advance notice is required.

      Overnight at Khangkhu Resort
      Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 10 Dec, 2017 Depart Paro.

    • After breakfast, you are transferred to the airport in time for flight to your next destination.

      Meals: Breakfast

Trip Info

Trip difficulty, road and transport

Anyone with regular health condition can sign up for this trip, as this is largely 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 altitude. Altitude sickness is not a concern. There are some steep hiking excursions as well but they can be skipped if you don’t want to. Traveling from one city to another requires 3-6 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.

We travel in a Mini Van and Japanese coaster buses, depending on the group size. Drivers are skilled and know the Bhutan roadways. Driver may speak little or no English. The guide and driver are not the same person. Chances of tires going flat or mechanical breakdowns cannot be declined due to weather and road conditions but our drivers are capable of taking the situation under control. We just need your cooperation and flexibility, when something unexpected happens during the tour.

Accommodations

In Bhutan, majority of the hotels are 3 stars (by local standard), which are small properties with 20-30 rooms. They are built in traditional Bhutanese architecture. You will have en suite bathroom with running hot and cold water. The hotels exhibit Bhutanese decor and are generally comfortable. Most of the hotels provide free Wi-Fi and some may charge nominal fee. The lobbies and receptions are cozy. They are staffed with friendly locals. We do not expect our hotel to have a gift shop for "sundry" items. Major Cities like Paro, Thimphu and Punakha have some up market properties, which can be booked on additional cost.

Meals

Our tour features 3 meals a day and we expect to eat most meals at our hotel. In Bhutan, meals are usually served in a buffet that includes rice, vegetables, noodles, breads etc. We will arrange some meals out in local restaurants. Caution: traditional Bhutanese food always features chilies and the most popular dish is "ema datse" which is made with large, green hot chilies in a cheese sauce.

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 deliver the best services.

International and in-tour airfares

Airfares are not included. You need to buy your return international airfare from your home country to Bangkok (or Kathmandu or Delhi or Kolkatta). Unless you are traveling to India or Nepal first, most popular gateway to Bhutan is Bangkok as there are daily 2 flights from here. We will book your return airfare from Bangkok to Bhutan and invoice you separately. Please, allow a night stay in the gateway city before and after your trip to Bhutan. We are also here to help you book your international airfare on your request.

Passport and Visa

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the last day of your trip and there must be minimum 2 blank visa pages for the visa sticker, entry and exit seals. We apply the Bhutan visa in advance for you and we will email you the approval 3 to 4 weeks prior 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 Indian visa before your travel begins. If you are traveling via Kathmandu, Nepal, you can obtain 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

The trip is guaranteed with minimum 4 participants. There will be maximum 16 participants on the trip.

Booking Deadline

Booking deadline is 30 June 2017 but there is chance that the trip will be full before that. Please, book in time to secure your place.

However, there is chance that the trip will be full before the official deadline or we lose seats on the airplane. There is only one airline flying into Bhutan and they operate with ATR with 48 passengers and A319 with 100 passengers capacity and so get filled up very early in the year.  So, please, do not wait until the last moment.

Booking deposit and payment schedule.

When you are sure you are going on this trip, it will be wise to put your reservation in line as early as possible as Bhutan Air reservation is quite a tricky matter. Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines are the only airlines flying into and out of Bhutan and operates with A 319 craft with capacity about 100 passengers and gets filled up quickly. Paro-the only airport of Bhutan is connected with Bangkok, Delhi, Kolkatta and Kathmandu and have limited operations. For flight schedules and more information, please visit Druk Air Website. A deposit of US$ 300 on land plus the cost of internal airfares is requested along with booking application and passport photocopies. Balance payment is due 90 days prior departure. Balance payment by credit card attracts additional 3.5% fee.

Cancellation and refund

Notice of cancellation and refund request must be received in written form. Cancellation fee structure has been listed below:
180 days prior departure: No penalty.
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%
Airfare cancellation fee will be as per respective airlines policy. Some hotels may ask a non refundable deposit which will be communicated to you accordingly.

Travel Protection

While Far & High Adventure Travel does the best to ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as planned, there is always a chance of 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. 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.

Dates & Prices

Land Cost

US$ 1760 Travel Agent,
US$ 1860 Companion ( One companion per travel agent only)
US$ 350 Single Room Supplement
Plus Estimated return airfare from Bangkok US$ 700-800 OR US$ 450 from Kathmandu

Group Size:
The trip is guaranteed with minimum 4 participants (Maximum group size 16).

International and internal airfares

International airfare to the gateway city such as Bangkok or Kathmandu is not included. Please, book it on your own. We will book the airfare from the gateway city (Bangkok or Kathmandu) to Bhutan for you. The roundtrip airfare from Bangkok costs about $700 to 800 and from Kathmandu about $480 to $500 and it's not included in the trip.

Booking Deadline

Book by 30 Jun, 2017.

However, there is chance that the trip  will be full before the official deadline or we lose seats on the flight to Bhutan. There are only two flights a day into Bhutan and they operate with ATR with 48 passengers and A319 with 100 passengers capacity and so get filled up very early in the year. So, please, do not wait until the last moment.

Small Group Departures

Start Dates End Dates Size Price (per person) Remarks Availability Booking
Dec 01, 2017 Dec 10, 2017 2-16 people USD 1760

Trip timed with Nalakhar Tsechu

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Trip price may vary depending upon the group size.

Open

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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Book this trip as a private departure - for any group, big or small.

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