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Cultural Tour and Day Hikes in Bhutan is a magical trip which is a mix of cultural tours and day hikes. On the trip you experience the country’s unique culture along with its rich biodiversity. The tiny kingdom is home to UNESCO’s 10 centers for bio-diversity, all within a distance of 150 kilometers resulting in sub-tropical to Arctic-like climate.
Our 12-day Cultural Tour and Day Hikes in Bhutan begins from the scenic Paro valley and moves along to Thimphu, Punakha, Bumthang, and Wangdue, finally ending with a hike to the very famous Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery. Throughout the journey, you embark on a number of amazing hikes; tour the kingdom’s imposing dzongs (fortresses) and countless monasteries while also enjoying the diverse Bhutanese landscape.
|Day 1 Arrival and sightseeing in Paro||2,250m/7,382ft|
|Day 2 Excursion to Chele La Pass then drive to Thimphu||3,988m/13,085ft|
|Day 3 Sightseeing in Thimphu||2,320m/7,612ft|
|Day 4 Thimphu to Punakha||1,250m/4,101ft|
|Day 5 Punakha Village Tour||1,250m/4,101ft|
|Day 6 Punakha to Bumthang||2,850m/9,351ft|
|Day 7 Sightseeing in Bumthang||2,850m/9,351ft|
|Day 8 Excursion to Tang Valley then back to Bumthang||2,850m/9,351ft||3 hrs|
|Day 9 Bumthang to Wangdue||1,240m/4,068ft|
|Day 10 Wangdue to Paro||2,250m/7,382ft|
|Day 11 Hike to Tigers Nest Monastery||3,180m/10,434ft||4-5 hrs|
|Day 12 Final departure||-|
As our flight nears Bhutan, we can enjoy amazing views of the Himalayas including the sacred Jumolhari and Jichu Drake peaks. At the airport, we will be greeted by a representative from Himalayan Glacier who will take us to our hotel. Today, we will visit Rinpung Dzong which was built in 1646 and now houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag. We will also visit Kichu Lhakhang, the oldest temple in the country and Drugyal Dzong, built in 1646 to commemorate Bhutan’s victory over Tibetan invaders during the 1600s. Overnight in Paro.
After breakfast, we begin a scenic drive of 22 miles to Chele La pass (3810m). Walking along the high ridges dotted with colorful Buddhist prayer flags offers us stunning views of Mt. Jumolhari and other mountains, plus incredible vistas into the valleys below the pass. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the pass. After lunch, hike further down the ridges to the Kila Goempa Nunnery, which is nestled in a craggy patch below the pass and perched precariously along a rock face. We walk for a few miles through the coniferous forests to the road head, where a car will be waiting for us to take us to Thimphu. Overnight in Thimphu.
In the morning, we visit Memorial Chorten (built in memory of the third King of Bhutan who reigned from 1952-1972), nunnery temple, mini zoo to see Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. Today, we also visit other landmarks of Thimphu including the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Bhutanese traditional painting school, folk heritage museum, the majestic Tashichho Dzong and the traditional paper factory. However, some of the landmarks are closed in the weekends (Saturdays and Sundays). Therefore, if we are in Thimphu during the weekends, we explore the Weekend Market instead. Overnight in Thimphu.
After breakfast, we enjoy the scenic drive to Punakha with a stop for tea at Dochu La pass (3,100 m), where on a clear day we get spectacular views of the Himalayas. From the pass, we drive downhill through rhododendron, fir and hemlock forests. We then pass through rice fields along river banks and reach Punakha. After lunch, we visit Punakha Dzong. Built between 1637-1638, it is the second oldest and the second largest dzong in Bhutan. Overnight in Punakha.
Drive to the Punakha Dzong and walk across the suspension bridge. Follow the farmhouses and gradually climb towards Dompola Hills. Enjoy excellent view of the Dzong, the Phochu and Mochu Rivers and the surrounding village set amidst chir pine forest. Next, we walk uphill for another two hours to Limbhukha, a village known for its peaceful nature. Legend has it that during the medieval wars the “limpus” or the people of Limbhukha always volunteered as peace negotiators. We can tour the village and learn about their local lifestyle. We can perhaps enjoy a cup or two of butter tea or an ‘ara’ local wine with the villagers. After the tour, a vehicle will be waiting for us to take us back to our hotel in Punakha. Overnight in Punakha.
After an early breakfast, we drive to Bumthang, the cultural heartland of Bhutan. The route is along a spectacular winding road, crossing 3,300-meter-high Pele La Pass. There is even a chance of spotting yaks on the trail at certain times of a year. We stop in Trongsa for lunch. After which we visit Trongsa Dzong, a masterpiece in Bhutanese architecture. Then, proceed to Bumthang through lush valleys and forests. Along the way we stop at a yathra (textile weaving) factory, where the yathras are designed with patterns unique to Bumthang, and we can even watch some of the weavers at their looms. Overnight in Bumthang.
Today’s sightseeing in Bumthang includes Jakar Dzong, the administrative center of the valley; Jambey Lhakhang, one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan, dating back to the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan; and Kurje Lhakhang, a sacred place where Guru Rinpoche is believed to have left his body imprint on the cave when he was meditating. After the tour, we have lunch then visit Tamshing Lhakhang, a treasure house of interesting religious Buddhist paintings. In the evening, we can visit local shops. Overnight in Bumthang.
Today we explore Tang valley, the most remote valley in Bumthang along with its neighboring villages. From the road head, hike to the 16th century Ugyen Chholing Palace or the country manor, which is now turned into a museum. The well-captioned exhibits offer insights into lifestyle of a Bhutanese noble family. On the way back to town, we visit Mebar Tsho (Burning Lake), where some of Guru Rinpoche’s treasures were found by the famous discoverer, Pema Lingpa in the 15th century.Overnight in Bumthang.
We begin the day by touring Bumthang market then drive to Wangdue. On the way, we stop at Chendebji Chhorten for lunch. The chhorten was built in the 18th century by lama Shida. It is built in the Nepalese style with eyes painted at the four cardinal points. Next, we cross two spectacular high passes before reaching Wangdue. The village is well known for its magnificent bamboo work and slate carvings. Overnight in Wangdue.
On the way to Paro, we stop at Metshina Village and take a 20-minute walk through the rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple dedicated to the Devine Madman or Lama Drukpa Kuenley. After reaching Dochu La pass we also visit the new Druk Wangyal Monastery. With elaborate paintings depicting the lineage of the present monarchy and their visionary works, the Druk Wangyal Monastery is the one of its kind in the country. Overnight in Paro.
After breakfast, we hike for 4 -5 hours to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is Bhutan’s most famous monastery situated at 3,180 meters. Guru Rinpoche (spiritual master) is said to have flown on the back of a tigress to meditate in a cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. Lunch will be served in the Cafeteria Restaurant, located about halfway up the mountain. After having explored the monastery, we hike down to the valley floor and return to Paro. Overnight in Paro.
Today we bid farewell to the tiny Himalayan Kingdom and her friendly people. Druk Air generally departs in the early morning to avoid adverse weather conditions. Therefore, after breakfast, we will be taken to the airport in the morning for final departure.
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All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are included during your stay in Bhutan. A variety of meals are available in most hotels the most popular being Indian, Chinese, and the more common continental food. Non-vegetarian dishes are generally available in most parts of Bhutan - pork, beef, chicken, and fish. The best advice is to ask the hotel and restaurant to recommend what is fresh and in season.
Hotels in Bhutan are approved and classified by the government as grade A, B and C. These government approved hotels are equivalent to 3-4 star hotels elsewhere. Based on availability at the time of booking, we will be accommodated in A grade hotels in Paro and Thimpu and B grade hotel in Punakha, Wangdue and Bumthang. We use Tashi Namgay Resort or similar in Paro, Hotel Namgay Heritage in Thimpu, Meri Puensum Resort in Punakha, Dragon’s Nest Resort in Wangdue, and Hotel Peling in Bumthang. All accommodations are on a twin-shared basis. Single supplement will be served on request and will cost USD 630.
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