Buddhism and Luxury camping
This tour is a journey into the heart of Bhutan, steeped in Buddhism, where the forces of nature are severe, yet equally balanced with the lives and faith of the people. The tour begins easy and is moderately active as it progresses with plenty to look around and take-in the raw natural and spiritual beauty of the country.
Our exciting and adventure packed holiday package offers a unique opportunity to stay in eco-friendly accommodation and experience daily life on a farm in Bhutan’s countryside. This extraordinary trip will appeal to travelers of all ages who enjoy culture, nature, and meeting new people and take pleasure in hiking and great outdoors!
Fitness Level: You need to be in decent physical condition for this trip, but not a major athlete. The altitudes at which the activities takes place (2300m-4000m-) make them more strenuous. If you can comfortably do a 2-mile hike with some uphill portions, you’ll be fine.
SOME OF THE THINGS YOU WILL SEE THAT IS UNIQUE TO BHUTAN
- The valleys, farms & villages and farm homes, temples and monasteries perched on peaks and ridges, footpaths & mule tracks, high mountain passes and rural families , unique architecture
- Daily encounters with farmers, horsemen, shopkeepers, bar owners, weavers, monks, teachers, children and others, who without exception are friendly, responsive to our interest in them and interested to know more about us
- Archery practice/tournaments
- Culture and History
- Textiles, art and craft and Local Markets
- Ascend herders’ trails to find valley views and colorful prayer flags
- Family Stay in Phobjikha
- One-night wilderness camp high in the Himalaya and a fabulous day trek to Tiger’s Nest
Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Phobjikha and Bumdra luxury camping
Paro International Airport. Paro, Bhutan
Please arrive at least 2 hours before the flight.
- English speaking Bhutanese guide
- All lodging in 3 stars traditional lodges
- Airport transfers
- Land transfers in a private vehicle
- Processing and purchase of Bhutanese visitor pass.
- Meals, tea, coffee, snacks and non alcoholic beverages
- Bottle water on the private vehicle, and in the hotels.
- All entrance fees for listed activities.
- Visa and permit processing
IncludedBuddhism and Luxury campingVisa and permit processingProcessing and purchase of Bhutanese visitor passLand transfers in private vehicleAirport transfersDedicated tour vehicle and driver3 Meals a Day (B/L/D)3 Star Accomodation (twin sharing)Government Royalty and TaxesEntry Fees for Parks and MonumentsDedicated English Speaking Guide
Not IncludedDomestic FlightFlights To and From BhutanTips for Guides and Drivers5 Star AccommodationTravel Insurance
Day 1: Arrival, check in, show around and acclimatization
Transfer for the flight by Druk Air, Bhutan's national airline, to Paro, the country's only airstrip. Flying in on Druk Air, the National Airline of Bhutan, you have a spectacular raven’s-eye view of the great Himalayan peaks to catch your first glimpse of Bhutan. Descending into the beautiful Paro valley at 2250m, you will land in the beautifully crafted traditional airport. Your journey, rare in time, place and spirit has begun. NAT staff will welcome you at the airport to transfer to Gangtey Palace, your hotel for the evening.
This morning we will visit the National Museum, and meet with Director Khenpo Phuntsho Tashi (if in residence), who will introduce us to the natural history and Buddhist art of Bhutan. This will give us understanding of the incredible artwork that we will be seeing throughout our journey.
We will also find time to pay our respects at the twin temples of Kyichu. Kyichu is one of the oldest temples in the country, dating as far back as the 7th century. History has it that the temple was a part of an ambitious plan of the Tibetan King, Songsten Gampo, who wanted to build 108 temples in the region, supposedly to subdue an ogress that traumatized the people in the region. After paying our respects at the Lhakhang we will begin our hike to the town of Paro, stopping along the way to view prayer flags, chortens and old farm houses.
Traditional Archery south of Paro town: Archery is more than just a national sport. It’s an activity most Bhutanese men engage in and offers the opportunity for a get-together among friends and socializing with other players. Played almost every weekend and during festivals, you will hear archer’s loud roars and enchanting singing in all areas of Bhutan. Numerous tournaments are held throughout the year with great prizes given to the successful archers.
Paro Town: Paro town comprises of two main streets lined by many shops selling all manner of goods from handicraft items to yak cheese and prayer flags.
Day 2: Punakha Bhutan’s Ancient Capital
- Elevation Punakha : 1310m
- Dochula Pass : 3050m
- Driving Distance : 4 hours
After breakfast we will shuttle to Dochula Pass. The views from the pass are magnificent, offering a panorama of the eastern Himalayas. Enjoy tea/coffee/refreshments at the pass before starting the 26 mile descent from the pass to Punakha through the leafy temperate forests and semi-tropical zone with abundant orange trees, bananas and bamboos.
Day 3: Punakha Valley and Rural Bhutanese Life
Switching modes of travel today, you will set out for a hike through the countryside, visiting interesting villages along the banks of the Mo Chhu to the upper end of the valley to Khamsum Yuelly Namgayel a delightful 3-story chorten that looks down on the upper Punakhan Valley. From this higher vintage point you can enjoy great vistas of the area through which you drove yesterday. Descending back to the valley floor, enjoy a great Bhutanese lunch before setting out to visit the Punakha Dzong built in 1637 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, a Buddhist saint who unified Bhutan in the 17th century. Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and it still is the winter residence of the Je-Khenpo (Chief Abbot) and the central monk body.
Day 4: Phobjikha Valley
- Drive Time: 3 hours + stops
- Phobjikha elevation: 3000m
En – route to Phobjikha we have time to stretch the legs with a short walk across rice paddies to Chhimi Lhakhang a half an hour walk across a local village and rice fields from the road head. The temple was built in 1499 and is located on a hillock in the centre of the valley. It is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley, who in the late 15th century used humor, songs and outrageous behavior to dramatize his teachings and hence is also known as the “Devine Mad Man
From Chhimi Lhakhang, traveling easterly, the road passes through the village of Wangdi Phodrang and climbs past deep ravines with dizzying drops to the little visited Phobjikha Valley that is home to the quaint rural settlement of Gangtey. At an elevation of 3,000 meters on the western slopes of the Black Mountains, the glacial valley is a designated conservation area and winter home of the endangered black-necked cranes.
This evening we will stay at Sonam’s Farm home. The experience allows you to immerse into the local community and better understand their daily lives in the context of local traditions like farming, milking, butter churning and cheese making etc. It is also possible that a member of the household provide a lesson on basic local cuisine. We then have an opportunity to participate and assist the household in local cooking and finally enjoy the cooked dinner together with the family.
Day 5: Phobjikha Valley hike through Tabading and Kilkhorthang
We set off to explore the exquisite, pristine glacial Phobjikha Valley with a local guide. Our trail today takes us deeper into the wild land (muddy at times) and high up a side valley overlooking sparkling streams and through hamlets, meadows and forest finally opening to the large and beautiful Lawog Valley.
After lunch check into Gangtey Goenpa Lodge. The multi award winning Lodge offers every possible comfort and luxury that one would expect in a fine country home. Discretely nestled near a cluster of farmhouses, its remote location and stunning design in the heart of Bhutan allows one to take a step back in time, away from the stresses and materialism of modern day life. All guest rooms command sweeping views of the valley below and of the Gangtey Goenpa, or monastery, just 5 minutes walk away. Heated hand cut stone floors and deep bathtubs next to wood burning stoves complete the sense of luxury and coziness. The stunning main lodge subtly captures the vibrancy of Bhutanese artwork and monastic design. Local artists and masons worked on the murals and carvings reflecting images and landscapes from the valley.<>
Day 6: Transfer to Thimphu
- Drive Time: 6 hours + stops
The capital city of Thimphu sprawls up the wooded western hillside of the Wang Chhu and is the centre of government, religion and commerce, Thimphu is a bustling town where traditional ways mingle with modern introductions. Thimphu has been the capital of Bhutan since 1955.
Day 7: Hike to Bumdra
- Hike grade: Hard
- 2200m – 3800m
- Walking distance: 5-6 hours (depending on your energy levels)
Most travelers walk up and down in a day to Tiger’s Nest, but we're taking a more interesting and scenic route by camping overnight at Bumdra monastery, at an altitude of 3,800 m before descending to Tiger's Nest.
Depart Bhutan Suites in the morning for Paro and Sang Choeker, the starting ground for your hike. Whilst your ponies are being loaded, feel free to pay your respects at the Buddhist College.
The two hour initial steep ridge ascent (steep at times), brings you to a clearing with prayer flags and view down into both Paro and Do Chhu Valleys and in time for a relishing hot lunch. Just above your lunch spot, lies the Chhoe Chhoe Tse Lhakhang nestling to the side of the mountain, a one and a half hour walk away. The final leg of your hike consists of a 30 minute climb before traversing an ancient forest for about an hour. Once you’ve hiked across the forest, you will come out onto a high wide meadow luxury camp with stunning views of the Himalayan range and your home for the night.To greet us are colorful sun umbrellas and deck chairs and warm face towels to refresh us.
Spacious tents are furnished with beds, blankets and thick warm sleeping bags. At night, it gets intensely cold outside the tents but inside with all our thermal sleeping bags and fleece and even a hot bottle warmer for our feet, we were very comfortable.
Day 8: Bumdra Ridge Hike & Tiger’s Nest
- Hike Grade: Hard
- Gangtey Palace Hotel x 1 Night
- Deluxe Room confirmed. Suite 301- the best room on the property on high priority Wait List
Also known as‘the Rock of a Thousand Footprints," Bumdra Monastery sits on an outcropping of rock where it’s said that a hundred thousand dakinis (sky dancers) descended from the heavens, leaving their footprints on the rock. In the eleventh century an emanation of the Buddhist Goddess Tara visited here and blessed these dakinis. The main temple inside is dedicated to goddess Tara. Monks spend years living up here, many in isolation, meditating and hoping to reach enlightenment.Ridge Traverse (4200m+)
Today, after Breakfast at sunrise we take ridge hike above our campsite. The tall surrounded peaks raise the sky making the valley more beautiful and majestic. Endless summits keep appearing one behind the other.Special Event - Raising Prayer Flags
You are invited today to join us for an auspicious occasion in which we will be raising numerous wish fulfilling prayer flags. To raise prayer flags is a way to benefit all sentient beings. The prayers, mantras, and symbols displayed on the flags produce a spiritual vibration that is activated, and carried by the wind across the countryside. All beings that are touched by the wind are uplifted and become happier. The silent prayers are blessings spoken on the breath of nature.Tiger’s Nest
The way down to Tiger’s Nest is much easier than the hike up, except a final challenging staircase climbing to the monastery’s entrance. The track is pretty steep losing1000m of altitude in 1.5 hours. From the Zangtopelri vintage point, see Tiger’s Nest clinging to the granite rock face below you. Once in Tiger’s nest, the cool interior smells of incense. Caves are filled with golden statues of Buddhist masters. The views from windows and balconies are epic.
Day 9: Departure
Alas, all good things must come to an end and our time in Bhutan is over. After breakfast we transfer to the airport for our departure flight. We hope you have enjoyed your visit, have found it rewarding, and leave with new found understanding.Tashi Delek !