Bhutan – Trekking & Cultural Adventure

 

If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring a real life Shangri-La where nature and man exist in harmony within a living ancient culture set in a magical Himalayan kingdom, then this trekking and cultural adventure is for you!

 

  • This 13 day/12 night adventure in the land of “Gross National Happiness” combines a 6-day trek along an ancient Himalayan trade route with exploration of Bhutan’s timeless Buddhist culture.We hike through pristine forests and alpine meadows with awesome vistas of 20,000’ snow peaks, visit yak herders and hidden spiritual retreats, and get a chance to spot some of Bhutan’s elusive wildlife including tigers and snow leopards.

    Then we immerse ourselves in Bhutan’s ancient culture, alive today much as it was 500 years ago. We visit wonderfully adorned fortresses, temples and monasteries, remote farms, traditional villages and vibrant towns in a land where the ancient and modern mingle in exotic combination.

    We experience the color and excitement of an authentic Bhutanese festival, shop for artwork and crafts in bustling local markets, track endangered black necked cranes and all along the way meet Bhutan’s friendly and fascinating people.

  • Note: This 6 day trek is moderately challenging with altitudes up to 14,000’, hikes up to 6.5 miles in length and elevation gains and losses up to 3700’.

 


 

For more information about this tour or to book your next group adventure, contact us today and we will create a fun and exciting adventure you will cherish forever.


Friday: Exploring Paro

On arrival at the Paro airport we’re greeted by our Bhutanese guide who escorts us throughout our journey. Paro is a charming small town set in one of Bhutan’s most beautiful valleys, lined with apple orchards, white washed farmhouses and green terraced fields.

After lunch, we visit Dumtse Lhakhang, a temple built in the 1400’s that’s home to some of the finest murals in Bhutan. We then visit Bhutans’s National Museum, housed in a round 17th century watchtower whose vast collection of artifacts, painting, carving, clothes, weapons and musical instruments is a perfect introduction to Bhutan’s history and culture.

We then stop at the nearby medieval fortress of Paro Dzong, perhaps the finest example of Bhutanese architecture in the country, before taking a cobbled footpath down to a lovely cantilever bridge over the Paro River where we’re met and transferred to our hotel.

After dinner, we’re free to explore Paro’s colorful shops and restaurants on our own. (LD)

Overnight: Gangtey Palace Hotel


Saturday: Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery

After an early breakfast we drive up the Paro Valley to the start of the wonderful hike (and perfect warm up for our trek) to Tiger’s Nest monastery, the most famous in Bhutan. Perched on a cliff 3000’ above the Paro Valley, Guru Rimpoche, the Indian saint who brought tantric Buddhism to Bhutan, flew to this site on the back of a tigress and it is revered as one of the most sacred places in the country.

The hike takes about an hour and 45 minutes and gains 1800’ over 2.5 miles – one hour to the viewpoint cafeteria, 30 minutes to the spectacular lookout across a gorge from the monastery and another 15 minutes to the monastery itself.

After lunch we hike back down to the valley to visit the ruins of Drugyel Dzong with wonderful views of Mt. Jhomolhari’s 24,000’ snowy crest along the way. Making our way back to Paro, we stop at Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s oldest and loveliest temples. Back at our hotel we relax until dinner and then pack for tomorrow’s start of our Himalayan trekking adventure! (BLD)

Overnight: Gangtey Palace Hotel


Sunday: Druk Path Trek – Paro to Jili Dzong (5 miles / 3500’ ascent / camp 11,300’) to:

The Druk Path is a classic, moderately strenuous trek along an ancient trade route connecting Paro and Thimpu, Bhutan’s two most important towns.

It’s a wonderful introduction to hiking in the Himalayan with awesome mountain scenery, pristine forests, remote alpine lakes and hidden spiritual retreats. It also offers the chance to spot Bhutan’s elusive wildlife including blue sheep, takin, tigers and snow leopards.

All camping and personal gear is transported by horse, we just carry our day packs with whatever we want handy during the day. Camp chores and cooking are handled by our local staff and there’s plenty of time each day for photos and sightseeing.

Starting at the gate of Paro’s National Museum, our trail winds upward to the temple of Kuenga Lhakhang then enters forests of blue pine and hemlock on the way to the stone houses and apple orchards of Damchen village.

Climbing higher, we cross Jili La pass at 11,600’ then drop down to our camp site in a meadow surrounded by a rhododendron forest just below the monastery of Jili Dzong. (BLD)

Overnight: Camping


Monday: Druk Path Trek – Jili Dzong to Jangchu Lakha (6 miles / 1250’ ascent / 300’ descent / camp 12,400’)

This morning we climb to Jili Dzong for a short visit with its monks and tour of its impressive temple before starting today’s trek along a high alpine ridge with spectacular views of the Paro and Bemang Rong Valleys and the snowy peaks of the Himalayas.

After numerous small ascents and descents we end the day at our camp at the yak pasture of Jangchu Lakha. (BLD)

Overnight: Camping


Tuesday: Druk Path Trek – Jangchu Lakha to Jimilang Tsho (6.5 miles / 1100’ ascent / 1050’ descent / camp 12,800’)

This morning we climb to Lanye Ja La pass (13,400’) for awesome views of the remote valleys below and the high Himalaya to the north. The trail then starts its rocky descent to Jimilang Tsho lake, famous for its giant trout, and our lake side camp. (BLD)

Overnight: Camping


Wednesday: Druk Path Trek – Jimilang Tsho to Simkotra Tsho (6.5 miles, 2700’ ascent / 1300’ descent / camp 13,500’)

Our trail starts at the lower end of the lake through yellow rhododendron and climbs to a ridge at 13,200’ where we traverse to an overlook above Janey Tsho Lake. We then descend to a yak herder’s camp near the lake before another climb brings us to a crest above Simkotra Tsho Lake where we descend to our camp near some stone ruins. (BLD)

Overnight: Camping


Thursday: Druk Path Trek – Simkotra Tsho to Phajoding (6 miles / 430’ ascent / 2300’ descent / camp 12,400’)

We begin with a gradual climb past three false summits before descending to Labatam pasture near an almost dry lake. From here a long push brings us to Labana La pass at 14,000’, our highest point on the trek.

The trail then descends to a pass marked by a stupa (small religious shrine) with great views of the sprawling Thimpu Valley, and on a clear day, several Himalayan peaks including Gangkhar Puensum, the highest unclimbed mountain in the world at 24,900’. From here we descend and after about 10 minutes take a side trail to Thuji Drak, a small meditation center that clings dramatically to a cliff face at 13,000’.

Heading back to the main trail, we continue down past religious retreats and temples to Phajodhing, our camp for the night. (BLD)

Overnight: Camping


Friday: Druk Path Trek – Phajodhing to Thimphu (3 miles / 3700’ descent) 

Today we’re up early for a visit to Phajoding monastery. Monks who have completed theoretical studies come here to meditate for as long as three years, three months and three days. We then begin our long descent through thick forests to Chokhortse Goemba monastery, then start the sharp descent to Sangaygang Hill overlooking Thimpu and shrouded by thousands of multi colored prayer flags.

Here we meet our transport and transfer to our hotel for a richly deserved rest and hot shower! On the way we stop at the Mothitang Takin Preserve to see the curious takin, Bhutan’s national animal.

If we still have energy, we can get a jump on tomorrow’s tour of Thimpu and explore some its sights this afternoon. Evening at our leisure. (BLD)

Overnight: Hotel Jumolhari


Saturday: Exploring Thimpu

Bhutan’s capitol of Thimpu, with a population of about 100,000, is the largest city and urban center of the country. But its exuberant combination of crimson robed monks, Indian laborers, government officials in ghos and kiras (traditional dress), young hipsters in jeans and hoodies and camera toting tourists gives it the feel of a friendly, overgrown village.

Today we visit some of its main attractions including the weekend market famous for its food, handicrafts, religious artifacts and textiles, Changlimithang Archery Ground, where someone is always practicing Bhutan’s national sport, Changangkha Lhakhang, the liveliest temple in the city where people come for blessing for the children, the National Memorial Chorten, built in 1974 in memory of the late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, known as the father of modern Bhutan, the Textile Museum, dedicated to the rich skill of Bhutanese weavers, Trashi Choe Dzong, the massive fortress which houses the scared Golden Throne of Bhutan’s Dragon King and the National Institute of Traditional Arts & Crafts (Zorig Chusum) that offers students an eight-year course in the techniques of traditional paintings, woodcarving, sculpture and mask making.

Tonight, dinner is on our own, and Thimpu has an amazing variety to choose from. (BL)

Overnight: Hotel Jumolhari


Sunday: Sacred Cranes & the Phobjikha Valley

Today we start your journey deep into Bhutan’s western region to the enchanting valley of Phobjikha. Leaving Thimpu, the road climbs to Dochu La Pass (10,000’) with its 108 stupas, wonderful array of prayer flags and awesomely impressive view of Bhutan’s high Himalaya including Gangkha Puensum (24,900’), Teri Gang (24,000’), Masang Gang (23,650’), Tsenda Gang (23,440’), Zonphgu Gang Jejekangphu (23,430’), and Gangchenta (Tiger Mountain, 22,570’).

Time permitting, we visit the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang temple on a hill above the pass, dedicated to King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Its contemporary murals include monks using laptop computers! Here we can get prayer flags blessed and strung near the stupas.

A long winding descent from Dochu La brings us to the Punakha/Wangdue Valley. The vegetation changes dramatically as we descend, becoming almost tropical in the valley with oranges and bamboo. After a stop for lunch, we continue west through the lovely Sha Valley, past picturesque villages and through the forests of Black Mountain Range. Macaques and white capped langurs are often seen along the way.

A few miles before Pele La Pass, the traditional boundary between east and west Bhutan, we turn off to Phobjikha Valley, proclaimed by a colorful sign as the “Valley of the Black Necked Cranes”. These endangered birds migrate here in winter and are considered sacred by the locals.

As we drive over Lowa La Pass (11,000’) we enter a wide, bowl shaped valley, peppered with villages and potato fields, where the forest is replaced by low lying dwarf bamboo and rhododendron.

Our first stop is the Black Necked Crane Information Center with its interesting displays on the lives of these elegant birds. After checking in at our hotel, we’ll take a walk through this enchanting valley, crisscrossed with inviting trails, with a chance to visit local families and learn about their lives. (BLD)

Overnight: Hotel Dewachen


Monday: Sacred Crane Festival

This morning we visit Gangtey Goemba monastery, majestically set on a hill top with commanding views of the entire valley. This extensive complex was begun in 1613 and it prayer hall is one of the largest in Bhutan with elaborate interior and exterior woodwork. Later today we attend the monastery’s annual Sacred Crane Festival.

Led by school children dancing in crane costumes, it includes folk songs and mask dances expressing the people’s joy at the arrival of these heavenly birds. After the festival, we take a walk in the valley to spot real cranes in the wild, and after lunch, drive on to historic Punakha where we spend the night. (BLD)

Overnight: Meri Puensum


Tuesday: Historic Punakha

After breakfast we tour spectacular Punakha Dzong, Bhutan’s seat of government for 300 hundred years and arguably the most beautiful dzong in the country. Built in 1637 at the strategic junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu Rivers, its towering whitewashed walls and elaborately painted red, gold and black carved woodwork, richly adorned interiors with giant statues, frescoes, carvings and metal work are an unforgettable showcase of traditional Bhutanese artistry.

Leaving the fortress we continue to Dho Jaga Lam Goemba monastery whose pretty gardens surround a boulder miraculously split by lightning summoned by a guru magician to liberate the imprisoned soul of his mother. Next we stop for the short hike to Chimi Lhakhang temple perched on a hill surrounded by fertile rice paddies.

Built in 1499 in honor of Saint Drukpa Kuenley, known as the Divine Madman, stories abound on his unusual ways of imparting dharma teachings and it’s a popular destination for fertility blessings. After lunch we drive back over Dochu La Pass to Paro, arriving in time for some last minute shopping and this evening’s farewell dinner. (BLD)

Overnight: Gangtey Palace Hotel


Wednesday: Depart for Home

After breakfast, our journey through magical Bhutan draws to a close as our guide sees us off at Paro airport for our flights home. (B)

 

For more information about this tour or to book your next group adventure, contact us today and we will create a fun and exciting adventure you will cherish forever.

 

Dates

(Custom dates available upon request)

Price
(Call for current pricing, based on group size)

Price Includes
Professional guide and driver, transfers and transportation in Bhutan, lodging, meals as indicated (B=Breakfast/L=lunch/D=dinner), 1 liter bottled water/ person/ day, coffee and tea on trek, entrance fees, Visas, travel permits and all camping gear except sleeping bags.

Price Excludes
Airfares, travel insurance, personal items such as phone, internet, souvenirs, gifts, laundry, drinks (except 1 liter bottled water/ person/ day and coffee and tea on trek), alcohol, tips, sleeping bags.

 

For more information about this tour or to book your next group adventure, contact us today and we will create a fun and exciting adventure you will cherish forever.


Activities: Hiking, sightseeing, cultural activities

Rating:  Moderate with moderately strenuous hiking days

Group Size:  4-12 guests

Length:  13 days/12 nights

Meeting Time & Place: Paro Airport Bhutan (airport code PBH) November 1, 2013. After clearing customs, you will be met by our guide and transferred to Paro.

Departure Time & Place: We will be dropped off at Paro Airport Bhutan (airport code PBH) November 13, 2013 in time for your departing flights.

Weather and Climate: November is prime time in Bhutan with generally clear, dry, sunny weather. In the mountains, expect highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s with temperatures 10-20 degrees warmer at lower elevations. However, rain is possible at any time and sturdy raingear is a must.

Physical Preparation: This tour is designed for people with a spirit of adventure who like to be active outdoors and experience remote places and exotic cultures. You must be fit and in overall good health.

The 6-day trek is moderately challenging with climbs to altitudes up to 14,000’, hikes up to 6.5 miles in length and elevation gains and losses up to 3700’. See the itinerary for details and don’t hesitate to call with any questions on the activities, logistics, physical demands or any other aspects of the trip – 720-515-7502.

 

For more information about this tour or to book your next group adventure, contact us today and we will create a fun and exciting adventure you will cherish forever.


Paro*: Gangtey Palace Hotel Nov 2,3,12

Camping: Nov, 4,5,6,7

Thimpu: Hotel Jumolhari Nov 8, 9

Phobjikha: Hotel Dewachen Nov 10

Punakha: Meri Puensum Nov 11

*All lodging is subject to availability at time of booking.

 

For more information about this tour or to book your next group adventure, contact us today and we will create a fun and exciting adventure you will cherish forever.

 

For more information about this tour or to book your next group adventure, contact us today and we will create a fun and exciting adventure you will cherish forever.

Testimonials

In 2010, Dean created a three week Alaskan tour for my two sons and me. For all the trips I`ve ever taken in my life, and I`ve traveled quite a bit, this was by far the most customized trip I`ve ever taken. He did a great job of challenging us and catering it to our desires. The whole thing was exquisitely coordinated. — David K. New York, NY

Your next trip needs to be this one! The highest place in Africa is absolutely spectacular!! Excellent service and attention to detail. Incredible guide and support. Great food. Quality gear. I would highly recommend Return On Adventure. There was excellent service and attention to detail throughout. — Andrea D. San Francisco, CA

I have traveled with Dean on more than one occasion and I cannot speak highly enough about his professionalism, friendliness and dedication to his guests. Dean is an excellent guide and he makes every trip an adventure. His excellent attitude ensures that every guest will have a great time. I am looking forward to traveling with Return On Adventure because I know any trip that Dean facilitates will exceed my expectations. — Janet H., San Diego, CA

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