Spiritual Adventure in Bhutan
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. This 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 tours are designed at a slower pace with ample time for casual birders too, who are also interested in cultural exposure. As well, along the way there will be plentiful time to stop at a moment’s notice for photo opportunities.
Highlights of the Tour
- Temples and monasteries perched on peaks and ridges and accessible only on foot, footpaths & mule tracks, high mountain passes
- Meet Bhutanese families in their beautiful homes
- Visit fortress-monasteries that are masterpieces of Bhutan’s unique architecture
- Daily encounters with farmers, horsemen, shopkeepers, bar owners, weavers, monks, teachers, school children and others, who without exception are friendly, responsive to our interest in them and interested to know more about us
- Archery practice/tournaments
- Spiritual culture, religion, customs & traditions
- Textiles and art and craft
- Ascend herders’ trails to find valley views and colorful prayer flags
- Hike to secluded temples and monasteries, including the famed Tiger’s Nest
- Colorful Buddhist celebrations
Paro, Thimphu, Phobjikha, Bumthang, Haa and Punakha Valley
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
IncludedSpiritual Adventure in BhutanDomestic FlightVisa 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 IncludedFlights To and From BhutanTips for Guides and Drivers5 Star AccommodationTravel Insurance
Day 1: Arrival and transfer to Thimphu
Fly into the Himalayan with Druk air that takes us along the Himalayas to Paro, a small town at 7000 ft that hosts Bhutan’s primary airship. Paro is located in a beautiful valley, lined with apple orchards and terraced fields. We will transfer to the capital city Thimphu to have our first opportunity to explore the popular farmer’s market of Thimphu. Vendors from throughout the region arrive on Thursday afternoon and remain until Sunday evening. Village people jostle with well-heeled Thimphu residents for the best – and cheapest – vegetables and foodstuffs. This is the only time that fresh produce is easily available and the shopping is enhanced by the opportunity to catch up on the week’s gossip.
You also have time in the evening to roam the streets of Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital and largest city. By western standards and compared to other Bhutanese centers of commerce, Thimphu is the only center that rates being called a city. There are no traffic lights here—one was installed and quickly removed after citizens complained--but there are two traffic huts in the center of the main road that provide shade for white-gloved policemen who wave their arms in slow motion. Small shops line the street, mostly catering to the locals.
Day 2: Tango Monastery Hike
Tango is one of Bhutan's most important Buddhist colleges. Its name, meaning horse's head, is derived from the horse-head shaped rock at the top. It is a beautiful dzong built in the 18h century by the 8th Desi, Druk Rabgye. Today Tango is home to the reincarnate Lama, Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye. A visit to Tango Monastery provides you a wonderful opportunity, to participate in local temple life
In the evening, Let’s hike to the giant Buddha that towers above the Wang Chhu. At 169‟ feet, it is one of the largest Buddha statues in the world and houses an astonishing 100,000 smaller Buddhas inside. Buddha’s place is a major pilgrimage center and a focal point for Buddhists from all over the world to get together, practice and meditate. The massive Buddha fulfills an ancient prophecy dating back to the 8th century A.D that was discovered by Terton Pema Lingpa (Religious Treasure Discoverer) and is said to emanate an aura of peace and happiness to the entire world.
If you wish, we also have time this evening to go around the National Memorial Chorten one of the most iconic monuments in the city. You will find elderly Bhutanese people circumambulating the Chorten throughout the day. Participate with locals to cycle prayers. The Chorten is an extraordinary example of Buddhist architecture and artwork with its gorgeous painting and intricate sculptures.
Day 3: Punakha Bhutan ancient capital
We have a scenic drive to Punakha. The drive takes about 3 hours. We will stop at Dochu La pass to enjoy the view of 108 Chortens (Buddhist shrines), forest of cluttering payer flags and on a clear day, sweeping view of the Himalayan range.
En-route, crossing paddy fields and walking through the handsome Sobsokha village, we will go out on a short leg stretching walk to Chimi Lhakhang, the inspiring Divine Madman’s temple. This little village is a vibrant phallus culture… Nearly every house is adorned with giant phallus paintings.
- Duration of drive: 3 hours + stops
- Difficulty: Easy
Day 4: Chorten Nebu Monastic School Hike & Punakha Dzong
After breakfast drive to Chorten Ningpo. This dates back to the 17th century. The chorten is a little-known spot with a magnificent statue of Maitreya (the future Buddha) and images of the great lamas of the Drukpa lineage. This magical spot was once a dense forest inhabited by evil spirits. The great oak tree outside the monastery is said to have grown out of the blazing log that the ‘Divine Madman’ threw (the tree’s bark is still black from where it was burnt). In 2005 the monastery began to house orphans from the nearby village, and founded a small Buddhist educational institution where the children can study traditional Buddhist scriptures and texts as well as Western subjects.
We also have time today to visit the beautiful 16th century Punakha Dzong en-route to the lodge. We will show you around the ancient temples, tall towers and huge courtyards. Over the years the Dzong suffered from several fires and floods but it is still one of the most impressive Dzong fortresses in Bhutan
Day 5: Phobjikha (glacial valleys, handsome villages, friendly family homes
Today we drive to the little visited Phobjikha Valley, nestled at 9500 ft on the western slopes of the Black Mountains. In the afternoon, we will explore Aum Sonam’s home. Guests will be able to interact with the family members and experience a home family dinner.
The hot stone baths are an ancient Bhutanese tradition and is a popular form of medicinal practice. The bath is made of local pine wood and the rocks that are sued to heat the water are large river boulders. Its is believed that the heat from the water, the minerals released from the rocks and the local herbs all combine to produce medicinal benefits for joint pains, stomach disorders, arthritis, hypertension and many other minor ailments.
Day 6: Phobjikha Valley Hike, Gangtey Goemba, Carpet Weaving, Crane Observation and Education Centre, Gangtey Community School
Walking is surely the most pleasant way to explore this magical valley, full of peace and beauty. Three to four hours of walk in the valley will take us past numerous villages, farm houses, chortens, Mani walls and prayer flags, all bearing witness to the importance of Buddhism.
This valley also boasts a carpet weaving concern and the 16th century Gangtey Goemba in a commanding position at the head of the valley. This monastery includes a school, meditation facilities and quarters for monks, and is home to the mind reincarnation of Pema Lingpa, one of the region’s historically important Buddhist treasure discoverers.
Day 7: Bumthang (Bhutan’s spiritual heartland)
Today we head to Bumthang province, known as the spiritual heart of Bhutan. A dramatic drive takes us through the town of Trongsa. We will stop at the view of Trongsa Dzong to take pictures of the the most impressive masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture. We will settle into new surrounding
Day 8: Bumthang Tang Valley
This morning we take a short drive to the Tang Valley of Bumthang. Our focus for the day is to visit to Pema Choling Nunnery, where over 100 nuns, mostly teenagers and young women, study and practice Buddhism. We will spend the morning with them, sitting as they practice their daily chants and talking with them in the stone courtyard in the center of their dormitories and classrooms.
5 minutes north of the Pema Chholing nunnery we’ll visit the Bezur Chukpo’s mansion. Three floors, 27 rooms, and one great storehouse of history, this mansion, a family home turned museum at Tang has much to offer about medieval Bhutanese culture and lifestyle. The glory of the house been fading over the generations, but it still is an archive of prized culture and rich history that the people of Tang Valley hold very dearly.
South of the Nunnery, we’ll visit Mebar Tsho burning lake on your way back to the Lodge.
Day 9: Bumthang Sightseeing
Whole day sightseeing in Bumthang, which is the most beautiful place in Bhutan and we normally say, “Switzerland of Bhutan”.
In the morning visit the Jakar Dzong. The fortress is now used as an administrative center of the valley and summer residence of monks.
Chakhar Lhakhang (Iron Castle). It is the site of the palace of the Indian King Sendha Gyab also known as Sindhu Raja. Also visit Kurjey Lhakhang (Kurjey means, “Body imprint”). The temple to the right was built by Minjur Tempa in 1652. It was built around the cave in which Guru Rinpoche meditated and left his body imprint. Jambay lhakhang, built in the 7th century by the King Songtsen Goempo of Tibet. In his effort to propagate Buddhism he had a plan to build a total of 108 temples in Tibet and neighbouring kingdoms. Then visit small Bumthang town and take leisure time by walking through villages nearby.
Day 10: Mountain flight back to Paro
We have time in the evening to get enough of the architecture – buildings are uniformly square and painted white with relatively flat roofs. Swiss-style trim and paintings accentuate each home, office building and retail shop.
Purposeless loitering through the main road of Paro will give you a good opportunity to see the local lifestyle and livelihood an added advantage of having extra time to look around the shops and markets.
South of the small town ship of Paro, lies the magnificent Paro Dzong by the river. This has been a very common occurrence signifying the importance of the rivers. All the dzongs across Bhutan are constructed by the river and is connected by a wooden cantilever bridge over the water body. This aspect makes the Dzongs even more visually and aesthetically appealing.
Day 11: The Least Visited Haa Valley
Located in the smallest district of Bhutan with a population of just twenty thousand at an altitude of 2960m Lechu is a beautiful farmhouse, immersed in history, and located in the picturesque village of Lechu.
The farmhouse has been passed down over four generations to the maternal descendents of Penlop Agay Haap, a figure in Bhutanese history who makes short but significant appearances at least in the oral retellings. The political context in which Penlop Agay Haap lived has many accounts of struggles for authority, of secret plots and plans, and of allegiances and betrayals.
Explore the high alpine valleys of Haa, a region blessed with glittering peaks and pristine lakes. Learn about nomadic life and tap into the ancient cultural rhythms of the valley. We are among the few travelers to discover the mythic valley of the Guardian Spirit, a region that is a journey in itself .
Day 12: Bhutan’s highest roads pass at 12500ft
We will leave the Lodge for an early start drive to Chele La Pass which, at 12500ft is the highest road pass in Bhutan, snaking upwards through blue pine and rhododendron forests. Chele la makes interesting road excursions and is an excellent jump off point for road walks. Chele la separates the Haa and Paro Valleys. On a clear day the view sweeps away to the snow-dome of Bhutan’s second highest peak, Mt Jhomolhari, Jichu Drake and adjoining peaks to the North West as well as the view of Haa and Paro Valleys.
We will hike up along the meadow to Kung Karpo La (14700ft), to a small stone hut which is sometimes used by monks to meditate; this is actually a place for sky burial too. Weather permitting; we will enjoy the breathtaking views of the snowcapped mountains while walking above the tree line along the ridge that divides Paro and Ha valley. To the west there is Kanchenjunga (8,586m), the third highest mountain in the world, to the Northeast, Gangkar Puensum (7,570m), Bhutan’s highest mountain and the highest virgin mountain in the world, Jumolhari (7,314m), Jichu Drakey (6,794m) and a host of other peaks
Day 13: Tiger’s nest hike
The historical Paro Valley is the focus of today’s activities, culminating in a visit to the Taktsang ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Monastery, which is one of Bhutan’s most important pieces of architecture. According to legend, this cliffside is where Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) landed on the back of a flying tigress, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan from Tibet. The trip starts early in order to avoid the hot sun during the two-hour climb to the Tiger’s Nest viewpoint. We have a steep hike passing a waterfall and end among beautiful murals at the monastery’s main entrance. If time allows, there is the possibility of heading further up to visit remote temples.
After lunch – either a prepared picnic or from the charming Taktsang cafeteria – you head off to explore Drukgyal Dzong, the Dzong of victorious Drukpas, built to commemorate the victory over the Tibetan armies and to guard the Paro Valley against further aggressions. It is located 6 km away from Satsam Chorten. In 1951, it caught fire and was never repaired except for the shingled roof erected in 1985 to prevent further damage. It is now an empty shell, a place to meditate on the past. The black top road ends here and continues as a small path to the northern border area of Lingshi, home to yak herders. On clear days, the white peak of Mt. Jomolhari (7,314 m) stands out behind its ramparts.
Day 14: 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 newfound understanding.Tashi Delek !