Situated in the high eastern Himalayas is the mountain kingdom of Bhutan. Long closed to the outside world, this land of the thunder dragon is an incredible place caught in the web of time. A Buddhist kingdom, its long centuries of isolation have preserved a unique culture that won't be found anywhere else in the world.
It is a land steeped in traditional Buddhism. It is a land where its ancient culture has mixed with Buddhism. There are temples everywhere as well as monasteries. There are also temples of fertility and symbols of it everywhere. There are remote valleys and incredibly high snowcapped peaks.
There is much to see and enjoy on this cultural trek across the country. From the city of Paro on the western border to Gangtey on the eastern border, you will find this place so different and fascinating than anything else you have ever seen before. From the spectacular Tiger's Nest Monastery that literally hangs off a cliff overlooking the valley to fascinating Dzongs and green farmlands, it is a magical place to visit.
We at Swiss Nepal Family Trekking & Expedition are pleased to be able to offer trips into this formerly forbidden land of the eastern Himalayas. You can visit this land year around where you will come across some wonderful hospitality as well as culture.
DAY 1 – Arrival at Paro International Airport.
DAY 2 – Thimphu Sightseeing
DAY 3 – Travel to Punakha
DAY 4 – Travel to Gangtey (elev. 2900 m)
DAY 5 – Travel to Paro via Wangdi
DAY 6 – Paro, visit Paro Rinpung Dzong
DAY 7 – Visit the Tiger's Nest.
DAY 8 – Departure
DAY 1 – Arrival in Paro International Airport (elev. 2280 m): We arrive today at the gateway to the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Situated in the western end of the country, it is the main city to enter the country. It is a one hour drive from the airport to your hotel in the capital city of Thimphu (elev. 2320 m). We follow along the Paro and Thimphu Rivers, stopping along the way to see the incredible Tamchhog Lhakhang, the hereditary place of worship for Bhutan's iron bridge builders. We will check into our hotel to enjoy this laid back capital city with opportunities to check out the shops and bazaars. We will overnight in the capital city.
DAY 2 – Sightseeing in Thimphu: There is so much to see and do today as you will be delighted by the unique and different sights. These include the Memorial Chhorten, the bustling weekly market, the National Library and the School of Traditional Arts. High above the city is Changangkha Temple which sits overlooking the city. There is even an optional trip to Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress in Bhutan. Constructed in 1629, this area became heavily fortified in order to stop invasions by Tibet. You can buy traditional handicrafts at the new market or visit some of the other wonderful museums in the city. We will spend the night at our hotel in Thimphu.
DAY 3 – Travel to Punakha: Punakha is the old capital of Bhutan and lies about three hours from Thimphu. We must climb to the top of Dochu La Pass (elev. 3050 m) where we will stop for a hot drink and a chance to enjoy some of the finest views of the eastern Himalayas. We cross the pass and head down into the valley, dropping significantly in elevation as we reach Punakha. This city sits at a low elevation of 1250 meters. After lunch and checking into our hotel, we will visit Punakha Dzong The Palace of Great Happiness". Constructed in 1637, it is located at the confluence of the Po Chu and Mo Chu Rivers. There are terraced fields to explore with a wonderful walk to Chimi Lhakhang, the famed Temple of Fertility. This temple was built by the revered Lama Drukpa Kuenley, who is also known as "the divine madman." He gets his reputation for being willing to challenge the traditional ecclesiastical leaders of Bhutan in his day, and his beliefs have become revered by the people even to today. We will overnight in Punakha.
DAY 4 – Drive to Gangtey (elev. 2900 m): We will enjoy some magnificent views as we make our way eastward to the city of Gangtey. Here we will see the remote Phobjikha Valley surrounded by the black mountain ranges. At Gangtey is one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Bhutan at Gangtey Gompa. The villagers here continue to live in traditional homes and lifestyles in a wonderful rural bliss. In November, this area comes alive with hundreds of black-necked swans who arrive escaping the harsh reality of the cold Tibetan winters. We will spend the night in Gangtey.
DAY 5 – Return to Paro via Wangdi: We begin our journey back to Paro on the western end of the country. We will pass through the city of Wangdi (also known as Wangdue Phodrang) for lunch. Our journey is mostly one of travel as we return to the city of Paro where we will spend the night.
DAY 6 – Paro: There is plenty of sightseeing today as we tour the National Museum along with Paro Rinpung Dzong to see some of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture. There are many fortresses and temples that will be on the tour today that will bring you greater appreciation of the history, culture and beauty of the land. It has sometimes been a difficult place to survive with the numerous invasions from Tibet. Today, it is peaceful between the two places, and everyone enjoys a blissful sense of peace.
DAY 7 – Tiger's Nest: At 900 meters above the Paro Valley floor is probably the most famous location in Bhutan: Taktshang Monastery. Also known as The Tiger's Nest it is said that the famed Guru Rinpoche flew here on the back of a female tiger in order to meditate here in the caves. This is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists everywhere. There are spectacular views of not only the monastery, but also the Paro Valley below. We will return to our hotel in Paro for lodging overnight.
DAY 8 – Final Departure: All good things must come to an end and your visit to Bhutan is no exception. In the early morning, your guide will accompany you to the airport to catch your flight as he wishes you Tashi Delek (Goodbye and good luck) This has been a wonderful time and we at Swiss Nepal Family Trekking & Expedition are pleased to be able to offer many different and wonderful adventures into the Himalayas. Be sure to talk with your representative at Swiss Nepal Family Trekking & Expedition about these other wonderful places to visit.
Your safety is of paramount importance while traveling with Swiss Nepal Family Trekking & Expedition. Please note that your leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Every effort will be made to keep to the above itinerary; however, since this adventure entails traveling to remote mountainous regions, we cannot guarantee that we will not be forced to make last minute changes due to Weather conditions, health conditions of a group member, unexpected natural disasters, etc. The team leader will do everything possible to ensure that the trip runs according to plan. Be prepared for any last minute changes. The Himalayas are a big and wild place.
All hotels in Bhutan are approved and categorized by the government as Grade A, Grade B and Grade C Hotels. If you compare these government approved hotels, they are equivalent to 3-4 star hotels elsewhere. A Grade Hotels will be provided in Paro and Thimphu based on availability at the time of booking your trip. We provide you the best hotel in Thimphu. Our accommodations during the trek will be camping (tents). All accommodations are on a twin-sharing basis. If you need single supplement, you will be charged an additional fee.
Different varieties of meals are available at most hotels such as popular Indian, Chinese, and Continental foods. In most parts of Bhutan, non-vegetarian dishes are available such as beef, pork chicken and fish. We recommend you to ask the hotel and restaurant to offer what is fresh and seasonal. Our company however will send you wide assortment of foods during the actual trekking days. According to our plan, we provide three meals a day: breakfast, hot picnic lunch on the way and dinner at the campsite with evening tea and snacks. Swiss Nepal Family Trekking Expedition has well-trained cooks and can whip up delicious meals at any attitude. We request you to let our company know prior to the trip if any special dietary needs are required.