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

Explore the Kingdom from Paro to Bumthang, with a Traditional Festival

Hiker's Journey to Bhutan route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $5495  
Length: 12 days
Arrive: Paro, Bhutan
Depart: Paro, Bhutan
Lodging: 4 nights in deluxe hotels, 7 nights in 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

  • Explore remote Bumthang, with its traditional stone houses and tales of Padmasambhava
  • Colorful festival in a remote Bumthang monastery
  • Hike to hilltop temples, overnight in deluxe hotels and rustic lodges
  • Meet artisans, 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 continue 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 distant and mystical Bumthang, a little-visited region of tranquil hamlets, traditional artisans, and remote temples that are among the most venerated in the kingdom. Cozy lodges welcome us along the way, and we’ve timed each departure to attend a festival in Bumthang, Bhutan’s spiritual heartland, a great opportunity to witness a vibrant Tibetan Buddhist pageant and joyous gathering of Bhutanese people.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

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

From Paro, we head to Thimphu for hikes through riverside villages and up to Tango, a monastery and school. We can linger in Tango’s inner courtyard, beautifully painted in bright colors, for views stretching across the Thimphu Valley.

Days 3-5
Punakha and Phobjikha Valleys

Heading to the peaceful Punakha Valley, the country’s former capital, we climb to the roof of the Khamsum Yuley Namgay shrine for grand vistas of the valley and hike to the 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, we head to the alpine Phobjikha Valley, a designated conservation area and the winter home of rare black-necked cranes. We visit a local farmhouse and explore the hilltop Gangtey Monastery.

Days 6-9
Trongsa / Bumthang / Domkhar Festival

We cross a forested landscape to dramatic Trongsa Dzong, the largest fortress-dzong in Bhutan. After exploring its maze of courtyards, we head to Bumthang’s pastoral valleys to hike through deep forests, visit local weavers, and discover some of Bhutan’s most sacred pilgrimage sites, including the 17th century Kurjey Lhakhang. While we’re here, we watch the costumed dances of the Domkhar Festival, a colorful expression of Bhutan’s Buddhist culture, held in the courtyard of the Domkhar Dzong.

Days 10-12
Paro / Taktsang Monastery / Depart

Flying back to Paro, we visit the National Museum and imposing Paro Dzong. The next day, we set out for the classic hike up through pine forests festooned with Spanish moss to the striking monastic retreat of Taktsang, the “Tiger's Nest,” built into a cliff face 2,700 feet above the Paro Valley, with lunch at a teahouse en route. Depart Day 12 on homeward-bound flights.

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

2014
May 4-15, 2014  Domkhar Festival

Sep 26-Oct 7, 2014  Tamshing Festival
Oct 30-Nov 10, 2014  Jambay Festival*
2015
Apr 22-May 3, 2015  Domkhar Festival
Sep 16-27, 2015  Tamshing Festival
Oct 20-31, 2015  Jambay Festival

*Added departure!

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014
$5495 (4-15 members)
Single supplement: $1355
Forced single supplement: $1155
Internal airfare: $1185 (subject to change)
Bhutan Visa Fee (WT acquires visa for you): $40
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Laos: Luang Prabang Extension
   from: $720
Phuket Extension
   from: $795
Temples of Angkor Extension
   from: $775
Chiang Mai Extension
   from: $425
Burma Extension
   from: $2395
Bangkok Extension
   from: $595
Tharu Lodge Extension
   from: $615

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%
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

Minimum fee: None per person
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

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:

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:

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.

Our Trip Leaders

Here are the Trip Leaders scheduled for this journey (please note that leader assignments are subject to change).

Kipchu Dorji

Departure Dates: May 4-15, 2014

Kipchu Dorji, whose name translates to “Calm Water Thunderbolt,” was born in the village of Katsho in the Haa District of Bhutan. He studied at Dr. Graham’s School in Kalimpong, India. In his home country, he studied Buddhist iconography, culture, and history as well as botany to ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

Kinley Gyeltshen

Departure Dates: September 26-October 7, 2014, October 30-November 10, 2014

Kinley Gyeltshen, from Gaselo village in Bhutan’s Wangdi District, attended St. Joseph’s School in Darjeeling, India, and also studied at St. Anthony’s College in Shillong in northeast India. He joined the Bhutan Tourism Corporation in 1985 to become a professional guide, ...
Click here for a full bio and list of all upcoming trips

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