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, the Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger's Nest Temple), and participate in an intimate butter lamp ceremony with the monks of Gangtey Goemba.
Get a personal perspective on contemporary Bhutan while mingling with community leaders and government dignitaries at a special banquet.
After a special Buddhist blessing ceremony, journey to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. This afternoon, visit Chimi Lhakhang, a small but famous temple in the center of the golden Punakha Valley. Settle into our hotel and enjoy dinner together.
RKPO Green Resort or Zhingkham Resort (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.
RKPO Green Resort or Zhingkham Resort (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, 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. Visit 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 in to our hotel. The following morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight, arriving home the same day. Novotel Suvarnabhumi Hotel (B,L; B)
Medical anthropologist Carroll Dunham has resided in the Himalaya for more than 25 years. Her primary area of study is the role of the feminine divine in South Asian history and culture. She has authored four books and produced more than a dozen films for National Geographic, PBS, the BBC, and others. Carroll serves on the board of the Nekorpa Foundation, which strives to preserve sacred pilgrimage sites and traditions. She travels regularly to Bhutan, and enjoys introducing National Geographic travelers to this mountain nation, with its constitutionally mandated commitment to Gross National Happiness.
Travelers should be physically fit and prepared for multiple hours of activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
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.