THE BEST OF CULTURE & TREK

Experience the very best of Bhutan's culture and trekking. Includes a 7-day trek in snow leopard country along the Jhomolhari Soi-Yaktsa trail with stunning views of mountains, lakes & wildlife; as well as sightseeing Bhutan's major attractions. Travel in September to witness Thimphu & Phobjikha festivals.

13
nights

2 - 14 May 2020

25 Sep - 8 October 2020

*from USD $4,795

Additional tariffs

  • Single supplement USD$520

All inclusive

  • Group of 2 supplement USD$390 each
  • Individual room tariff USD$455

ITINERARY

Part 1 Cultural, Arrival Paro - Thimphu


Arrive at Paro International Airport in the morning. Complete Immigration and Customs formalities and say hello to your local guide. Drive to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital, which is perhaps one of the only capital cities in the world without traffic lights. Traffic is majestically regulated by a policeman whose hand motions are like that of a ballet dancer. Check into your hotel and let the sightseeing begin. Activities of interest in Thimphu are:

  • Folk Heritage Museum; a three-storey traditional house which was bought by the government from a family during a time when urbanisation in Thimphu was expanding. A tour of this farmhouse replica gives you a glimpse into the way most Bhutanese lived then and how many rural people still live today.
  • Traditional Paper Factory; Bhutanese paper is made from the plant Daphne and Edgeworthia bushes. There is a wide variety of patterned paper available in their small gift shop.
  • Royal Textile Museum.
  • Largest Buddha Statue; enjoy views of the Thimphu Valley from Bhutan's famous 201 foot golden statue.
  • Arts and crafts bazaar to shop or see traditional handicrafts.
  • Visit the Takin reserve to meet Bhutan's National animal. Takin's are humourously unattractive and continue to baffle taxonomists who struggle to relate them to any other animal. Then drive to Sangaygang which offers a birds-eye view of the capital city. If time permits, take an hours walk through pine forest to a monastery.
  • Half day hike to Tangu or Cheri monastery north of Thimphu. Walk through old growth forest with the potential to see some wildlife. Opportunity to meditate and interact with monks.
An invitation to dine with a local host family as a welcoming dinner will be given on one of our Thimphu night's stay. Such a welcome opportunity and insight to Thimphu urban lifestyle and enjoy conversations. Altitude: 2300m




Day hike ancient monastery | Cultural festival, Thimphu


MAY Day hike to an ancient monastery through old growth forest and flowering Rhododendrons. SEPTEMBER Witness the annual Thimphu tsechu. Tsechu's are cultural festivals performed in all parts of the country at different times of the year and include ancient dances to celebrate the advent and spread the Buddhist dharma. Performed by lay monks and local people, it gives you the perfect opportunity for cultural immersion and witnessing the Bhutanese way of life. The dancers take on the aspects of compassionate and wrathful deities, heroes, demons and animals.




Phobjhika Valley


Drive to Phobjikha stopping enroute for sightseeing at Dochula Pass to admire the 108 Buddhist stupas/chortens with spectacular views of the Himalayas and the Royal Botanic Park for a 50 minute guided walk through old forest with blooming rhododendron flowers (optional). The enchanted valley of Phobjikha lying at 2900m is a glacial valley and an important wetland conservation area. This is the migratory home of the Black-Necked Cranes (Grus nigricollis) that winters in the valley. The first cranes arrive from Tibet in late October and leave by March. Explore this quaint valley and visit village homes. Take a hike along a beautiful nature trail and visit the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature (RSPN) Crane Observation and Education Centre to gain insight to conservation and development initiatives in this beautiful valley. Altitude: 2900m




Day hike rural Phobjikha | Phobjikha local festival - Wangdue


MAY Day hike in rural Phobjikha and drive to Wangdue ecolodge. SEPTEMBER Witness the start of a local Phobjikha festival performed in the courtyard of Gantey monastery. This 15th Century monastery is perched on a hillock overlooking the valley. It's a masterpiece showcasing remarkable traditional architecture. Drive to Punakha. Visit the famous monastery Chimmi Lhakhang, also built in the 15th Century as a dedication to lama Drukpa Kuenley, known as the Divine Mad Man and considered one of Bhutan's favourite saints. He preached the Buddhist dharma through sex and wine and the flying phalluses that you see painted on houses and hanging from roof tops are his symbols for fertility and protection. It is one of Bhutan's most revered temples and is mainly popular for childless couples sho come here to be blessed for fertility. This miracle has worked on many locals and tourists who visit the temple to be cured of their infertility. You are welcome to seize this opportunity. Altitude: 1400m




Cultural tour of Punakha & walks through villages


Visit Punakha Dzong. Dzongs or fortresses are massive castle-like historical structures built in the 17th Century. There are several dzongs in the country and these structures were historically used both as a military fortress and administrative centres. All the dzongs are still vibrant with the presence of monks and government offices. Punakha dzong is one of Bhutan's most impressive displays of intricate architecture. Since Punakha has a much warmer climate than Thimphu, it is still considered the winter home of the Je Khenpo (Bhutan's Chief Abbot) and Bhutan's Central Monastic Body. Built at the confluence of two glacial rivers, mo-chu (female river) and pho-chu (male river) the dzong has frequently been damaged by floods but has always been restored. The most recent restoration was completed in 2004 and the results are spectacular.




Part 2 Trekking, Shana to Thathangkha


Drive from hotel towards north of Paro to trek starting point Shana. You will pass through the Army camp. This is a fairly long day with an undulating trail. You will be walking along parts of trail used as an ancient route to Tibet. The trail continues its gradual climb alongside the Paro chu (river) through forest of blue pine, oak, rhododendrons, ferns, maple and larch. Campt at Thathangkha. Altitude: 3610m Distance: 22kms Duration: 7-8 hrs




Thathangkha - Jongothang


This is not a long day but you make significant gain in the elevation. You will pass another army post and a few village houses, crossing the tree line and entering yak country. Camp in open meadows at Jongothang with spectacular views of sacred mountain Jhomolhari (meaning Goddess of the mountain pass) standing at 7314m. Altitude: 4080m Distance: 17km Duration: 5-6hrs




Jongothang to Tshophu Lakes


Today's trek to the twin lakes is not long so the opportunity to further engage in the festival is an option before resuming trekking. We pass through a few village houses and enjoy literally breathtaking views of Jhomolhari, Jitchu Draky (6989m) and Tshering Gang Mountains. Catch a glimpse of the elusive blue sheep along the route above the lakes. Altitude: 4100m Distance: 10km Duration: 3hrs




Tshophu Lakes to Soe Yaksa Village


Cross Bonte la pass at 4890m which is the highest pass of the trek. Enjoy the beautiful scenery from the pass. Walk another 80m above the pass towards the east to see Kanchenjanga, the third highest peak in the world at 8585m. Observe herds of blue sheep grazing in the meadows with towering rocky areas - the habitat of snow leopards. Good trail with stunning natural landscape. Campsite above river in the village or enjoy a home stay with yak herding families.




Soe Yaksa to Thongbu


5 hours. Distance approx 11km. Option to shorten the trek by going down to Shana/Paro butthis extra day is recommended. Walk through meadows and old growth juniper forest. As you reach the passes you again get great views of the mountains including Mt. Kanchenjanga and Mt Makalu (8463m) blocking the view to Mount Everest. Campsite at Thongbu where there are also several stone huts of yak-herders. Thongbu at 4120m is your second highest campsite of the trek.




Thongbu to Shana to hotel in Paro


4 hours. Distance approximately 15 km. Cross the valley to find the trail through rhododendron bushes climbing to Thombu pass 4270m. ONce again for the last time of the trek you will get great views of the mountains including peaks of the Indian state of Sikkim. The ridge walk from the pass is one of the best parts of the trek, high above the valley with a beautiful view. Edelweiss grows in profusion along the trail. The trail ends close to the army camp. Connect to road head where your transport will be waiting. Bid farewell to your trekking crew. Drive to your hotel in Paro.




Paro - Tiger's Nest Monastery


Day hike to 'Taktsang' - the tiger's lair fr you final sacred destination. After breakfast we will take a hike uphill for 2-3 hours through pine forests and oak trees. Taktsang is Bhutan's most famous monastery and one of the most venerated religious sites in the Himalayas. The complex is perched on the side of a cliff 2950 feet above the floor of the Paro Valley. Taktsang is so-called because Guru Rimpoche (also known as Padma Sambava) who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, is believed to have come to the site in a miraculous manner - flying on the back of a tigress. Experience a soak in a traditional stone bath. Farewell dinner at your local host farmhouse to get an insight to rural farming life and sharing of stories. Local dance troupes can be arranged depending on group size and interest.




Departure Paro - Bangkok


Depart for Bangkok from Paro onward to Australia.




Drive to Paro via Thimphu & prepare for trek






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