Bhutan Cultural and Hiking Tour
Besides the stunning natural scenery and the carbon negative status, the enduring image of Bhutan for most visitors is the strong sense of culture and tradition that binds the kingdom and clearly distinguishes it from the rest of the world. On this trip we will be experiencing an enchanting cultural exploration blended with an exciting hiking program in the mystical kingdom that exists almost as an enigma due to its erstwhile policy of restricting visitor numbers and protecting its culture.
From picturesque landscapes, tranquil villages, scenic walking trails, pristine forests, friendly people, towering mountains, charming farmhouses, vibrant architecture, intact environment, soft hiking in the bosom of mother nature to relaxation, we will find you moments to connect with Bhutan and also with your inner self.
Day 1 / Flight to Paro & transfer to Thimphu / 1 hour drive
Please check in atleast two hours prior to flight departure to ensure the best seats on board, best suited to take in the panoramic view of the Himalayas.
The scenic Paro valley is situated at an altitude of 2280m above sea level and this valley serves as an ideal area for growing an assortment of organic food such as rice, apple, potatoes and a huge variety of vegetables.
Our representative will meet you at Paro airport with a traditionally welcome. Soon after completion of the arrival formalities we take we take an hour long drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. The scenic one hour drive takes us past rice fields, hamlets and wayside mountain villages. We briefly stop at the confluence where Thimphu river meets the Paro river with the three styles of stupas commonly found in the Himalayas. These kinds of monuments are also used as trail markers. Most of these monuments are built by high monks or by layman contains holy Buddhist relics.
After check in at your hotel in Thimphu and a brief rest ; we embark on a leisurely exploration of Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan to get a sense of the place and acclimatize to the altitude.
Thimphu is a fascinating combination of traditional and contemporary life. Thimphu has a population of about 100,000. The town is made up of just three lines of shops and is the only capital in the world without traffic lights.
In the afternoon, we will also visit the archery range to check out the national game of archery in progress. Competitions and tournaments are quite popular during the weekend and therefore it will be ideal to take advantage of this while in Thimphu.
Altitude : 2300m
Day 2 / Thimphu
All the sights mentioned below are located within a 2 KM radius to ensure that you are not tired and also to maximize the sightseeing at each of the highlights mentioned below.
Visit National Memorial Chorten is the most visible land mark of the capital : The building of this landmark was envisaged by the third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck - as a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it is both a memorial to the Late King (the father of modern Bhutan) and a monument to world peace. The paintings and statues inside the monument provide a deep insight into Buddhist philosophy.
We also visit the national archery stadium to witness a game of traditional archery, the national sport of Bhutan.
YDF Museum: The museum is managed by the youth of Bhutan and the exhibits here provide fascinating insights into bhutanese material culture and way of life.
Visit the Textile weaving center at Changzamtog on the periphery of Thimphu town, this allows our honored guests to derive a good understanding about the textile weaving process that is handed down from generation to generation.
We can also take a moment in the afternoon to visit the “Buddha Point” at 51m the site of one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. The vantage point here offers unobstructed view of the capital city. We enjoy a short walk on the trail here before the return to the city.
Explore Tashichhodzong: This impressive castle /monastery houses Secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot and central monk body.
Altitude : 2300m
Day 3 / Thimphu to Punakha / 2 hours drive
In the morning we start the scenic ride to Punakha over the Dochula pass (3050m). This pass offers a panoramic view of the eastern Himalayan ranges on the clear days. Stop briefly here to take in the view and admire the 108 stupas built to honor His Majesty the King, world peace and for the benefit of all living beings. At Dochula there will also be options to enjoy a 2 hour uphill and 1 hour downhill hike to the 18th century Lungchotse Lhakhang, along a route that is shaded with an abundance of rhododendron trees.
From the pass we enjoy an exciting downhill drive all the way till the alluvial Punakha valley. En-route we will be stopping by at the Royal Botanical Park and view the many rare species of flora and some fauna on display.
In case if there are any fresh fruits in season we will stop by the wayside farmers market at lobesa to sample some fresh organic fruits.
Later in the afternoon there will also be options to enjoy a short walk (rating : easy with no gradient /1 hour for round trip with sightseeing) to Chimmi lhakang, a temple dedicated to the divine madman/god of fertility. Walk past villages and rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang-temple of the Divine Madman who is popularly known as Drukpa Kinley. He inherited the Divine madman title since he revolted against the orthodox Buddhism in his time and also devised unusual methods for imparting Buddhism. The “divine madman” is revered as a symbol of fertility and most newly weds and childless couples visit the temple to seek its blessings.
Evening at leisure or enjoy a stroll close-by the hotel.
Altitude : 1200m
Day 4/ Punakha
In the morning we enjoy a walk across a traditional footbridge that spans across the river into the Punakha Dzong. This is reputedly the longest cantilever bridge in the world. We explore and experience the architectural grandeur of the “castle of great happiness”. The castle is a massive structure built on the junction of two river Pho chu (male river) and Mochu (female river).Punakha was the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and the dzong continues to serves as the winter residence of the central monk body. Bhutan’s first king was crowned in this dzong in 1907 and the castle continues to be the venue for all national events of historic significance such as the coronation, royal wedding and prayers for world peace.
Closeby is the Pho Chu bridge where we also enjoy a leisurely walk along the longest suspension bridge of the kingdom and refreshing afternoon breeze blowing from the river.
Later in the afternoon we enjoy a short hike to Khamsum Yulay Namgyal Chorten, this beautiful temple situated on a hilltop was consecrated in December of 1999 by Her Majesty the queen mother. We take in the spectacular views of the valleys to the south and the mighty Himalayas in the north from the viewpoint at the temple before heading back on the trail.
Afternoon at leisure or we continue with some walks or drive along the villages.
Altitude : 1200m
Day 5 / Punakha to Gangtey valley / 3 hours drive
Today we embark on our exploration of central Bhutan by driving past the ruins of Wangduephodrang fortress which was tragically lost to a fire disaster in June 2012. Many legends are associated with its construction in 1638 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founding father of Bhutan. The massive structure sits atop a high ridge between the punatshangchu river and dangchu rivers.
The drive today will continue near the Pele-la pass (3300m) on the black mountain range, the traditional boundary between east and west, just ahead of the pass we take the diversion to beautiful Phobjika valley.
With stops along the way for photography and restroom breaks we should be able to arrive at the tranquil and enchanting valley of sha Phobjikha in time for lunch. This valley has the distinction of being the most beautiful valley in Bhutan.We visit the Gangtey Gompa, a 16thcentury monastery which exemplifies the exquisite traditional architecture.
Later in the early afternoon, we will hike the beautiful gangtey nature trail to the Phobjikha valley, the sanctuary area of the highly endangered black-necked crane that flock here in winter months. There will also be options available to extend the hike through the villages in the southern part of the valley.
We also visit the Crane Information Center in Gangtey valley which provides detailed information on the Phobjikha valley wetlands and ecosystem of the area.
Altitude : 3000m
Day 6 / Gangtey
Longtey Hike in Gangtey / 4 to 5 hours hike
We drive 45 minutes drive across the Pela la pass (3300m) from phobjikha valley to the starting point in longtey village on the east-west highway. The trail winds through dwarf bamboo forests towards a small cluster of village houses and through primeval rhododendron forests and yak pasturelands.
After the ascent to the kayche la pass (3700m) we will be rewarded with impressive views of the scenic Gangtey valley. After lunch on the trail, we continue on the trail as it slopes down the valley towards the idyllic kumbu village and then onto the roadhead at gangtey. There will be a choice of homestay at the farm house or a stay at a lodge for the overnight.
Altitude : 3000m
Day 7 / Gangtey to Paro / 5 hours drive
Retrace the scenic route through Dochula pass to Paro. We will be making plenty of stops along the way for refreshments, stretching out, sightseeing or simply to enjoy the pure mountain air.
En-route we will also visit the Royal Botanical Park and view the many rare species of flora and some fauna on display.
Enjoy a leisurely afternoon in the hotel or indulge in some cultural sightseeing of the fortress, national museum and the paro market area.
Altitude : 2280m
Day 8 / Paro / Bumdra Trek / Camping/Glamping
We then begin our adventure trek with a short and a scenic drive (30 minutes) to the sang choekhor buddhist university perched high above the valley of Paro.
The route follows an ancient pilgrims trail through virgin pine scented forests, yak pastures and alpine meadows dotted with alpine plants and flowers of multiple tones. Enroute we enjoy a picnic lunch at the picturesque choe chotse monastery, which offers a scenic birdseye view of the fertile paro valley.
At a leisurely pace it takes about 4 to 5 hours to arrive at the campsite.The campsite is located at an elevation of 3800m close by the bumdra monastery (the cave of a million prayers)
In the afternoon we explore the mountain trails to the north of the campsite and enjoy breath taking scenery of the Bhutan Himalayas.
Altitude : 3800m
Day 9 / Paro
We will be descending two hours down the pilgrimage trail through rhododendron and juniper forests until we arrive at the iconic “Tigers nest monastery “ This is the most prominent cultural landmark and synonymous with the himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.
The Tigers Nest Monastery, Taktsang (2950m) is among one of the most popular spiritual heritage sites in the buddhist world due to its spiritual significance. The monastery is precariously perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor and defies gravity and human imagination. The patron saint of the country arrived at this spot on a back of tigress and meditated here in a cave and hence it is called “Tigers Nest”. This site has been recognized as a spiritual power spot and many eminent saints have meditated in this area. Most bhutanese make it a point to visit this place at least once in their life time due to its spiritual sanctity.
We will enjoy lunch at the cafeteria which offers an imposing view of the cultural landmark before we head back to the car parking, a 45 minute downhill hike from the café.
Evening at leisure or enjoy a walkabout in Paro town or a quiet evening at the hotel.
Altitude : 2280m
Day 10 / Paro to Onward Destination
We check in two hours prior to flight departure to ensure the best seats on board, best suited to take in the panoramic view of the himalayas.
We bid you goodbye and happy travels.
Price Guide and Inclusions
High season touring for 10 days will typically cost USD$2350pp for a group of two or more people. The following are included in that price guide:
Transfers and ground arrangements
Tour/Hiking/Trek Guide throughout the stay
Entry into museums and parks
Visa for entry into Bhutan
What's not included:
International flights into and out of Paro
Drinks and Alcohol
Tipping for your guides