Within the folds of Bhutan's mountains lie sacred temples, dazzling rice fields, and villages unchanged by time. On this magical journey, experience the wonders of the last Mahayana Buddhist kingdom of the Himalaya. Hike to ancient dzongs, meet local families, wander through serene monasteries, discover unique artistic traditions, and witness one of Bhutan’s spectacular local festivals.
Hike to Bhutan's most famous pilgrimage site, Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger's Nest Temple).
Mingle with community leaders and government dignitaries at a banquet dinner, and gain insight into modern Bhutan.
Witness colorful parades and processions at spectacular local festivals.
Explore Gangtey Gonpa, one of the oldest private monasteries in the country, which has been recently restored by Bhutan's finest artisans.
Itinerary - 12 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Bangkok, Thailand
Depart the U.S., cross the international date line, and arrive in Bangkok the next night. Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel
Day 3 — Paro, Bhutan
From Bangkok, fly to the Paro Valley (7,300 feet) in Bhutan. Transfer to our hotel and enjoy time to relax, or visit the seventh-century Kyichu Lhakhang. Tonight, gather for a welcome dinner. Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Punakha
This morning, witness a Buddhist blessing ceremony
for the safe passage of our group throughout the
kingdom. Then journey to Punakha, Bhutan’s ancient
capital. Meri Puensum Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Punakha
After an invigorating hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a spectacularly situated temple, be rewarded for your efforts with incredible views of the valley below. Then visit the Punakha Dzong, an impressive fortress guarding the southern end of the valley at the confluence of the Pho (male) and Mo (female) Rivers. Meri Puensum Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Phobjika
Travel to the alpine valley of Phobjika (10,000
feet), considered one of the most beautiful
valleys in Bhutan. It is also the largest wintering
site of endangered black-necked cranes, which
arrive in November and stay through March. Dewachen Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 7 — Phobjika
Against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains,
Gangtey Goemba, one of the oldest private
monasteries in Bhutan, rises dramatically from a
cluster of hilltop cottages. After examining the
workmanship of Bhutan’s finest artisans at this
recently restored temple complex, take part in
a butter-lamp-lighting ceremony. Then set off
on a half-day hike, stopping to meet a family at a
farmhouse and visit a local school. Dewachen Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Thimphu
Travel to Thimphu (7,900 feet), the present capital
of Bhutan and home to the royal family. En route,
stop at the Dochu La pass (10,000 feet) to admire
thousands of prayer flags fluttering in the wind
and (weather permitting) 200 miles of Himalayan
summits. Visit the National Textile Museum in
Thimphu, where Bhutan’s finest weavings and
brocades—considered spiritual expressions that
are admired for their sophistication and diversity—
are on display. Tonight, get a behind-the-scenes
perspective on contemporary Bhutan during a
lively banquet with members of the government,
local dignitaries, and respected professionals. Taj Tashi Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Paro/Paro Teschu Festival
Perched majestically above the town of Paro, the
Paro Dzong is one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan
and still serves as the administrative and religious
center of the valley. Visit the dzong and enjoy a
full day of celebrations at the Paro Tsechu festival.
Bhutan’s festivals are joyous expressions of its
Buddhist culture. People travel from distant valleys
and towns to socialize, celebrate their thriving
Buddhist heritage, and enjoy one of the most
important events on the Bhutanese calendar. Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Paro
Our journey in the kingdom culminates with a hike to the most famous pilgrimage site in Bhutan: Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger’s Nest Temple (9,300 feet). Visible from afar, this stunning monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor. This evening, celebrate your Bhutanese adventure at a festive farewell dinner. Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)
Days 11 & 12 — Paro/Bangkok, Thailand/U.S.
Fly to Bangkok and check into our hotel. The following morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight, arriving home the same day. Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel (B, L; B)
A popular National Geographic Expert, Bill Jones has led more than 100 groups across Asia and Europe to destinations as far-flung as Madagascar and Kazakhstan, but his greatest expertise is in Southeast Asia and the Himalayan region. He has traveled regularly to Bhutan for more than 25 years and has experienced first-hand the country’s progress and challenges. Widely respected in Bhutan, Bill has been consulted by the government on the training of local travel operators, and he even has an honorific Bhutanese name given to him by the Oracle of Minji. A great raconteur, he shares his profound insights into Bhutan’s Buddhist beliefs—which form the cornerstone of the country’s culture, art, and architecture—in an informal way.
ALT indicates a departure that has a slightly different itinerary than the one shown on this page. Click the ALT icon to see the day-to-day itinerary.
*The itinerary shown describes the March/April 2015 departure,
which includes the Paro Tsechu festival on Day 9. Festivals
or celebrations on other departures include the Thimphu Tsechu festival
in September; and the Crane Festival in November.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $2,175. There is an additional Bhutanese government tourism tariff of $400 per person.
International airfare to/from Bangkok and airfare between Bangkok and Paro is not included in the expedition cost. The group flights between Bangkok and Paro are $960 (subject to change).
What To Expect
The average elevation in Bhutan is 8,000 feet above
sea level. This is an active trip, not suitable for those
with cardiac, respiratory, or circulatory disorders, or
limited mobility. We stay at first-class hotels in Bangkok,
Paro, and Thimphu; a Bhutanese-style hotel in Punakha;
and a rustic lodge in Phobjika.