Bhutanese dancer wearing painted mask and holding drum

Tsechu mask

Mask dances, called tsechus, are part of the heritage of Tibetan Buddhism in Bhutan. Masked and costumed dancers perform in the courtyards of ancient monasteries, reenacting tales of the triumph of good over evil.

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Hiker's Journey to Bhutan route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $5695  
Length: 12 days
Arrive: Paro, Bhutan
Depart: Paro, Bhutan
Lodging: 4 nights deluxe hotels, 7 nights rustic lodges
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: 7 hiking days on moderate trails, 2-6 hours a day, altitudes between 4,100-11,150 feet
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Highlights

  • Hike local paths to hilltop temples and explore remote Bumthang, the spiritual heartland of Bhutan
  • Attend an exuberant festival with masked dances and drummers
  • Overnights in a combination of deluxe hotels and welcoming lodges
  • Meet artisans, farmers, Buddhist pilgrims, red-robed monks


Loved the trip—it was such a rich cultural experience.Jan S.—Boise, ID

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

Bhutan is a hiker’s paradise, with lush rhododendron and evergreen forests, pure mountain air, and serene valleys where the rhythms of rural life remain unchanged. Our exquisite hiking journey explores this rare Himalayan world from its most renowned sites, including the famed Tiger’s Nest in the Paro Valley, to remote and mystical Bumthang, a little-visited region of tranquil hamlets, traditional artisans, and ethereal temples that are among the most venerated in the kingdom. Highly experienced Trip Leaders share their homeland with you, and we’ve timed each departure with an enchanting festival—a great opportunity to witness a vibrant Tibetan Buddhist pageant and mingle with the locals in a joyous gathering of Bhutanese people. Our overnights are in wonderful hotels and welcoming lodges (no camping!).

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-2
Paro / Thimphu (Domkhar Festival Departure)

From Paro, head to Thimphu for hikes through riverside villages and up to Tango, a Buddhist monastery and school, where you’ll see monks performing their daily rituals and prayers.

Days 3-5
Punakha and Phobjikha Valleys

In the peaceful Punakha Valley, the country’s former capital, you’ll climb to the roof of the Khamsum Yuley Namgay shrine for grand vistas of the valley and hike to Chimi Lhakhang temple to hear stories of Bhutan’s “Divine Madman.” After exploring the majestic Punakha Dzong, with its stunning setting at the confluence of two rivers, head to the scenic Phobjikha Valley for hikes along its U-shaped glacial valley, a designated conservation area and the winter home of rare black-necked cranes.

Days 6-9
Trongsa / Bumthang / Domkhar Festival

A spectacular drive brings you across a forested landscape laced with waterfalls to dramatic Trongsa Dzong, the largest fortress-dzong in Bhutan. After exploring its maze of courtyards, head to Bumthang’s pastoral valleys to hike through deep forests sheltering centuries-old monastic complexes and religious retreats, visit local weavers, and discover some of Bhutan’s most sacred pilgrimage sites, including the 17th century Kurjey Lhakhang. While here, you’ll join the locals to watch the whirling masked dancers and drummers of the age-old Domkhar Festival, a colorful expression of Bhutan’s Buddhist culture, held in the courtyard of the Domkhar Dzong in the nearby Chumey Valley.

Days 10-12
Paro

A special charter flight brings you back to Paro for visits to the National Museum and Paro Dzong, and the pilgrimage hike up to Taktsang, a breathtaking monastic retreat clinging to a cliffside. Depart on Day 12.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 3+, according to our trip rating system. There are hikes on 7 days, ranging in length from 2 to 6 hours.  The hikes are moderate and suitable for people in good shape who enjoy mountain hiking. Although you carry only a daypack, there are some steep ascents and descents, and the hikes are at moderate altitude, which can make them feel strenuous.
    
Please note that travel times vary depending upon local conditions, and the itinerary may change while you are in Bhutan due to government regulations and local climate conditions.

Getting in Shape
For your own enjoyment, we recommend you make a special effort to be in good physical condition for the journey by hiking, running, swimming, bicycling, or engaging in other forms of aerobic exercise well beyond your normal routine. Walking up and down flights of stairs is also an effective way to train for the steep ascents and descents in the Himalaya. Weekend hikes that involve long sections of uphill and downhill walking are great for conditioning your legs.

Accommodations and Food
Our accommodations in Bhutan range from rustic to very comfortable. The Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro and the Taj Tashi in Thimphu offer a great deal of comfort, while the lodges in Punakha, the Phobjikha Valley, and Bumthang are rustic, but well situated and cozy. Most rooms are twin-bedded. At most guesthouses, simple buffets are provided at lunch and dinner. Bhutan’s cuisine is generally based on basic rice with stir-fry and stew options.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures & Leaders

2015
Apr 22-May 3, 2015  Domkhar Festival

Sep 16-27, 2015  Tamshing Festival
Oct 21-Nov 1, 2015  Jambay Festival

*Added departure!

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015
$5695 (6-15 members)
Single supplement: $1470
Forced single supplement: $1170
Internal airfare: $1315-1590 (subject to change)
Bhutan Visa Fee (WT acquires visa for you): $40
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Laos: Luang Prabang Extension
   from: $860
Phuket Extension
   from: $795
Temples of Angkor Extension
   from: $850
Chiang Mai Extension
   from: $490
Burma Extension
   from: $2595
Bangkok Extension
   from: $645
Tharu Lodge Extension
   from: $660

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations; please note that rooms with double beds are usually not available in Bhutan. Most lodge rooms are twin-bedded.
  • All meals included
  • Government taxes and fees
  • Land transportation, airport transfers for passengers as noted in the Full Trip Brochure

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare and airfare within Bhutan, hotels in Bangkok, airport transfers for individual arrival or departure, any meals not specified after each itinerary day, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

More than 90 days prior to departure: None
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Internal Airfare Payment, Change, and Cancellation Fee Schedule:* Payment for Internal Air will be collected from each trip member approximately three to six months (or even more) prior to departure, depending on flight availability and seasonal ticketing deadlines. Once issued, internal air tickets are subject to a $100 per person fee for any changes or cancellation until 60 days prior to the trip. Within 60 days of the trip, all tickets are non-refundable. The name on your tickets must match your passport exactly, and any name changes are subject to these same fees. We therefore request that you send us a scanned copy of your passport photo page immediately upon reserving your trip. Internal Air payments and cancellation fees are in addition to Trip Cost payments and cancellation fees as noted above.

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Taj Tashi Hotel

Taj Tashi Hotel

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Thimphu, Bhutan

Part of the venerable Taj group of hotels in India, this 66-room hotel has all the conveniences of a luxury hotel, while at the same time reflects ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Hotels in the Punakha Valley

Days 3 to 4 (2 nights), Punakha Valley, Bhutan

In Punakha we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Yulo Guest House

Day 5 (1 night), Phobjikha, Bhutan

This small, rustic country lodge with its classic Bhutanese architecture is set in a wonderfully remote location in one of Bhutan’s most pristine valleys. The rooms are simple, clean, and comfortable, with private bathrooms and showers. Please note that the electricity is generator-powered, available in the mornings and evenings. The staff can prepare a hot-water bottle to warm up your bed at night, a pleasant treat during Bhutan’s chilly evenings.

Hotels in Trongsa

Day 6 (1 night), Trongsa, Bhutan

In Trongsa, we stay at one of the following properties:

Gongkhar Lodge

Days 7 to 9 (3 nights), Bumthang, Bhutan

This small family-run hotel is located just outside Jakar and enjoys a superb location with 360-degree views of the valley. The large cottage-style rooms are warmed by a wood stove and offer a comfortable ambiance. Locally made jam, honey, and cheese are some of the breakfast buffet highlights. The staff is attentive and helpful.

Hotels in Paro

Days 10 to 11 (2 nights), Paro, Bhutan

In Paro we stay at one of the following properties based on availability and choice of accommodation:

Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Kinley Gyeltshen

Kinley Gyeltshen hails from Gaselo village in Bhutan’s green and rugged southwest, where traditional farming is still the center of daily life. When Bhutan first opened its doors to the outside world, Kinley was among the early guides selected and formally trained by the government of Bhutan to welcome foreigners in. After university studies in India, he became a professional guide in 1985, completing extensive training in Buddhist iconography, culture, and history as well as botany. With close to three decades of trip leading now under his belt, he’s the ideal person to share the wonders of this treasured kingdom. Kinley is equally comfortable explaining the intricacies of zorig chusum, the traditional arts of Bhutan, or navigating high altitude passes en route to sacred Mt. Chomolhari. Having hiked nearly every official trekking route in Bhutan, Kinley gets his travel fix by exploring newly opened regions of Eastern and Central Bhutan, and developing unique and immersive WT adventures in Bhutan. When he's not on the trail, Kinley channels his energy into biking, and also likes to relax in the company of his large close-knit family. He is appreciated by WT trip members for his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Bhutanese as well as his jovial nature. Kinley loves a good laugh, and feels that making people feel welcomed is the key to a great trip.

Upcoming Trips:

Festivals of Bhutan, March 27-April 5, 2015
Hiker's Journey to Bhutan, April 22-May 3, 2015
Hiker's Journey to Bhutan, September 16-27, 2015
Hiker's Journey to Bhutan, October 21-November 1, 2015

Client Testimonials:


Kinley is a superb leader, extremely knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and personable. I can’t think of a better leader in all my years of travel. He is a treasure. Alan L., Bellevue WA We’ve traveled a lot and Kinley is the best—such a gentleman, so gracious, knowledgeabe. We were very well cared for! Sonja B., Long Beach CA
Hiker’s Bhutan
After 10 trips with WT, we agree that Kinley is the best trip leader we’ve had! Eileen D., South Pasasdena, CA
Hiker’s Bhutan
Kinley afforded us a real ‘insider’s’ look at Bhutanese life. His knowledge and sense of humor made this a very memorable trip. Pam B., Princeton Junction, NJ
Hiker’s Bhutan
What a knowledgeable, intelligent, professional trip leader Kinley is. He’s a fantastic guy who made the trip well worth it. Liza E., Denver CO
Bhutan: the Chomolhari Trek
Kinley is an outstanding tour leader in every way AND a wonderful advocate for Bhutan. Arch B., Tucson, AZ
Hidden Bhutan
Kinley is an exceptional human being, a superb leader with encyclopedic knowledge of his country and region. Jack G., New York, NY
Hiker's Journey to Bhutan
Kinley was one reason we loved the trip so much. He introduced us to his culture, country, and religion, and we appreciated every climb, every monastery, every van ride, and every experience. He was extremely knowledgable and interesting. Peggy and Michael W., Hingham, MA
Hiker's Journey to Bhutan

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

Burma

Burma Extension

Yangon and Bagan

Cultural Adventures
6 days  -  Level 2

Cambodia

angkor wat cambodia temples

Temples of Angkor Extension

Exploring the Glories of a Bygone Khmer Civilization

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 2

Laos

Laos: Luang Prabang Extension

Gilded Temples and Traditional Buddhist Culture of Laos

Cultural Adventures
3 days  -  Level 2

Myanmar

Burma Extension

Yangon and Bagan

Cultural Adventures
6 days  -  Level 2

Nepal

Tharu Lodge Extension

Cultural Encounters, Jungle Walks, Elephant Rides

Cultural Adventures, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History, Photography
3 days  -  Level 1

Thailand

wat arun bangkok thailand

Bangkok Extension

Discover the Beautiful Cultural Monuments of Bangkok

Cultural Adventures
3 days  -  Level 1

Chiang Mai Extension

Explore the Wonders of Northern Thailand

Cultural Adventures, Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
3 days  -  Level 2

Phuket Extension

Explore a Jewel Set in the Andaman Sea

Cultural Adventures, Sea Kayaking
4 days  -  Level 2

Client Comments

Loved the trip—it was such a rich cultural experience. Jan S., Boise, ID WOW! I want to go back. Superb planning and execution at every step of the process. Jack G., New York, NY Our trip leader was one reason we loved the trip so much. He introduced us to his culture, country, and religion and we appreciated every climb, every monastery, every van ride, and every experience. He was extremely knowledgable and interesting. Peggy and Michael W., Hingham, MA
A spectacular trip! Susan H., Boulder, CO Absolutely one of the best trips I've ever taken—an amazing experience. How can one improve upon perfection? Kathryn H., Seattle, WA Best trip I've ever taken! Our Trip Leader was absolutely a treasure and so knowledgeableabout everything. Ellen K., Boulder, CO