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Bhutan: Journey Through a Himalayan KingdomApril 9, 2014 - April 22, 2014
Priced from: $8,970
Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.
Apr 9 - Apr 10 USA / Bangkok, Thailand
Depart on your independent flight to Bangkok. Arrive late the next day and transfer to the Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel.
April 11 Bangkok
After breakfast and a short orientation, explore Bangkok at your leisure and enjoy lunch and dinner on your own.
April 12 Bangkok / Thimphu, Bhutan
Depart this morning on your flight to Paro, then drive to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital and largest city. After lunch get a good sense of Bhutanese politics and religion as you tour the Thimphu Dzong. If time permits, visit the handicraft emporium to shop for masks, jewelry, and hand-woven textiles and carpets. Dinner and overnight at Namgay Heritage Hotel.
April 13 Thimphu / Punakha Valley
After a scenic drive over Dochu-la Pass to the Punakha Valley, check in to the Punatsang Chu Resort and enjoy lunch. Hikers may opt to walk to Chimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to fertility and built by Lama Drupka Kunley—one of Bhutan’s favorite saints, he’s nicknamed “The Divine Madman,” for his eccentric behavior. Childless women make pilgrimages to the temple to be blessed by a symbolic phallus and to promote fertility.
April 14 Punakha Valley / Chussomza
After breakfast choose a visit to the Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness,” followed by a short hike to Khamsung Yuely Namgyal Temple, a perfect example of Bhutan’s fine architectural and artistic traditions. Or visit a local school and farmhouses for intimate one-on-one experiences with locals. Recharge over lunch which could consist of the delicious ema-datse (chili-cheese) and red rice—a famous Bhutanese specialty found throughout the country. After lunch, continue to the Chussomza Valley, stopping en route to visit the local market. Overnight at the Kyichu Resort.
April 15 Chussomza / Phobjika Valley
This morning depart for the glacial-carved Phobjika Valley, making a stop at Gangtey Goemba, an impressive Buddhist monastery overlooking the verdant valley below. Following check-in and lunch at the Dewachen Lodge, walk to the Crane Information Center to learn about the black-necked cranes that migrate to the valley from Tibet in the winter. You may also explore a nearby village.
April 16 Phobjika Valley / Chussomza
At nearly 11,000 feet, Pelila Pass is a breathtaking starting point from which to begin our descent into the Phobjika Valley. Opt for a downhill, six-mile hike, which gives you a chance to view the area’s vast array of wildlife. In addition to black-neck cranes, it is home to muntjaks (barking deer), wild boars, sambars, Himalayan black bears, leopards, and red foxes. Alternatively, pay a visit to resident families, to learn more about the customs and traditions of the Bhutanese. After lunch make your way back to Chussomza.
April 17 Chussomza / Thimphu
After breakfast depart for Thimphu. Make a stop en route for a stroll at the Royal Botanical Garden near Dochu-la. Keep an eye out for resident birds as you wander colorful trails lined with numerous species of rhododendron. After lunch continue over Dochu-la Pass to Thimphu and check-in to the Namgay Heritage Hotel. Tour Bhutan’s capital this afternoon.
April 18 Thimphu
You have a full day to explore Thimphu, the main residence of the king, and its environs. Among today’s highlights are the Changangkha Lhakhang temple and monastic school established in the 12th century, and the Zilukha nunnery, one of the few surviving nunneries in Bhutan. At the Takin Nature Preserve view the intriguing national animal which resembles a cross between a goat and an antelope. Other cultural attractions include the National Library, Folk Heritage Museum, and Institute of Traditional Medicine, where medicines and medical practices are administered according to ancient practices. At the Changzamto Weaving Center you have the opportunity to witness some of the best weavers in the country practice their craft.
April 19 Thimphu / Paro
Today set out for a full-day trek to Tiger’s Nest. Perched on a cliff above the Paro Valley, it is the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries. This is the site where Guru Padmasambhava, who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Bhutan, meditated in a cave for three months in the 8th century. A wonderful hike, coupled with dramatic scenery and the melodic murmur of chanting monks, is an expedition highlight. Less strenuous options for this day include strolling the town of Paro, exploring the art galleries, handicraft shops, tea houses, and temples, or simply relaxing at our hotel and spa. Dinner and overnight at Zhiwa Ling Hotel, a stunning guesthouse that combines authentic Bhutanese architecture with 21st-century amenities.
April 20 Paro
Your last full day in Bhutan includes a short walk to the ruins of the Drukyul Dzong, which once defended this valley from Tibetan invasions. Visit Ta Dzog, the watchtower of the Paro Dzong that houses the National Museum; Rinpung Dzong; and Kycihu Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred shrines of Bhutan built in the 7th century. Make your way over to the base of the dzong, to one of the innumerable archery grounds. With luck, you may catch a match in action. This evening enjoy a festive farewell dinner at the hotel.
April 21 Paro / Bangkok, Thailand
Depart this morning on your flight from Paro to Bangkok. Upon arrival transfer to your hotel. Enjoy lunch on your own and an afternoon at leisure, followed by dinner and overnight at the Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel.
April 22 Bangkok / USA
After breakfast at your hotel, transfer to the airport for your independent flights homeward.