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Bhutan: Kingdom in the Clouds

Alternate Itinerary
November 05 - 16, 2013 (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

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 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 beautiful alpine valley of Phobjika (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 7 — Phobjika

Against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains, the Gangtey Gonpa temple complex rises dramatically from a cluster of hilltop cottages. One of the oldest Nyingma monasteries in Bhutan, the Gangtey Gonpa 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 Gonpa, 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 and meet students at a local school along the way.
Dewachen Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 8 — 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). Upon arrival in Thimphu, visit the National Textile Museum and browse its exhibitions. Bhutan’s weavings and brocades are considered spiritual expressions and are admired for their diversity and sophistication.
Terma Linca (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Thimphu/Paro

Spend the morning exploring the country’s more modern side in Thimphu and visit the Traditional School of Painting and the Arts to watch students practicing the ancient arts of Bhutanese thangka painting, mask making, and wood carving. After returning to Paro, get a behind-the-scenes perspective on contemporary Bhutan during a lively Bhutanese banquet with members of the government, local dignitaries, and respected professionals.
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)