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Expedition Details


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.

Trip Highlights

  • Hike to Bhutan's most famous pilgrimage site, Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger's Nest Temple), and explore Gangtey Goemba, one of the oldest private monasteries in the country.
  • Mingle with community leaders and government dignitaries at a banquet dinner, and gain insight into modern Bhutan.
  • Witness colorful parades and processions at vibrant local festivals.
  • Stay at the spectacular Zhiwa Ling, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World that exemplifies the artistry of Bhutanese architecture.

Itinerary - 11 Days

Day 1 — Bangkok, Thailand

Arrive in Bangkok this evening and check in to our hotel.
Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel

Day 2 — Paro, Bhutan

Fly to Bhutan's Paro Valley (7,300 feet), and visit the seventh-century Kyichu Lhakhang temple. Explore our stunning hotel—a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection—before a welcome dinner tonight.
Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 3 — Punakha

After a special Buddhist blessing ceremony, journey to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. This afternoon, visit Chimi Lakhang, a small but famous temple in the center of the golden Punakha Valley. Settle into our hotel and enjoy dinner together.
Meri Puensum Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 4 — 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 5 — Phobjikha

Travel to the beautiful alpine valley of Phobjikha (10,000 feet), the largest wintering site for the endangered black-necked crane. Along the way, the environment changes from semi-tropical to pine forest, and then to an alpine zone that is home to several species of rhododendron, dwarf bamboo, and Grey Langur monkeys.
Dewachen Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Phobjikha

Against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains, Gangtey Goemba temple complex rises dramatically from a cluster of hilltop cottages. One of the oldest Nyingma monasteries in Bhutan, the Gangtey Goemba has recently been renovated, allowing us to examine the fine workmanship of Bhutan’s best woodcarvers, sculptors, and painters. Our visit coincides with the annual Crane Festival, a charming mix of traditional masked and folk dances. Held in the courtyard of the Goemba, this festival was created by the community to raise awareness for the rare cranes that winter in the valley. Today is also celebrated throughout the country as “Children’s Day” in honor of the fourth king’s birthday. After the festival, set off on a half-day hike, stopping to visit with a village family along the way.
Dewachen Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Thimphu

Travel to Thimphu (7,900 feet), the capital of Bhutan. Cross the Dochu La pass (10,000 feet) en route and gaze at a 200-mile panorama of Himalayan peaks (weather permitting). Tonight, get a behind-the-scenes perspective on contemporary Bhutan during a lively Bhutanese banquet with members of the government, local dignitaries, and respected professionals.
Taj Tashi Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Thimphu/Paro

Spend the morning exploring the country’s more modern side in Thimphu. Depending on the day of the week, either visit the capital's colorful outdoor market, where farmers and vendors from throughout the country come to sell an array of fresh produce; or the National Textile Museum, where Bhutan’s finest weavings and brocades are on display. Return to Paro in the afternoon and settle back in at the Zhiwa Ling.
Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 9 — 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 10 & 11 — Paro/Bangkok, Thailand

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)

Optional Extension

Related Trips

National Geographic Expert

Carroll Dunham

Carroll  DunhamCarroll Dunham, an anthropologist based in Asia for more than thirty years, has explored deeply the feminine divine in South Asian history and culture. Author of four books, she has written on the devadasi tradition and worked on the award-winning book Fallen Angels on the culture and history of sex workers in India. She has produced more than a dozen films for National Geographic, PBS, the BBC, and others on subjects ranging from Living Goddesses to polyandry, nomadism, and geology. She has recently been involved with working with female immolations at a hospital burn unit and has delved extensively into the history of women’s relationship to fire and sacrifice in the Hindu world. On the board of the Nekorpa Foundation, Carroll has a keen interest in environmental conservation issues regarding pilgrimage and sacred spaces of South Asia. Traversing the frozen Zanskar river in winter, she has conducted ethnographic studies of charismatic female healers and traditional doctors of Ladakh. A practitioner of yoga and ayurveda, committed to fostering income generation amongst marginalized women so they may support their families' health and education, Carroll has formulated ayurvedic products for The Body Shop and founded Wild Earth, a sustainable social enterprise producing handcrafted herbal products in the Himalayas. With a home in South India for more than twenty years, she has recently officiated at a huge Indian celebrity wedding at the Jodhpur Palace, and was historical consultant working on a script for the television miniseries The Harem, set in Akbar’s court with much drama in Rajasthan. Carroll has spoken at a gathering of more than 1 million dalits in South India. She is in her ninth year of study at the Shechen Buddhist monastery in Bodhgaya, India.

Carroll will join the following departures:

Nov 06 - 16, 2016
Sep 24 - Oct 04, 2017



  • Nov 06 - 16, 2016 (waitlist only)
  • Apr 02 - 12, 2017 ALT
  • Sep 24 - Oct 04, 2017 ALT
  • Nov 06 - 16, 2017

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 November 2016 and 2017 departures, which include the Crane Festival in Phobjikha. Festivals and celebrations on other departures include:

  • Private masked dance performance on the September 2016 departure
  • Paro festival on the April 2017 departure
  • Thimphu festival on the September 2017 departure
  • Expedition Cost



    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).

    Featured Traveler Photo

    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.