bhutan monks dzongs temples

Monks, Haa Valley, Bhutan

Wonderful encounters with Bhutan’s flourishing Buddhist culture fill our journey from the Haa Valley to the Phobjikha Valley.

Photo by Hashmat Singh

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Festivals of Bhutan

Cultural Adventures in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $4995  
Length: 10 days
Arrive: Paro, Bhutan
Depart: Paro, Bhutan
Lodging: 4 nights in deluxe hotels, 5 nights in rustic lodges
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking
Trip Level: 7 hiking days on easy to moderate trails, 1-5 hours a day, altitudes between 7,000-10,500 feet
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Highlights

  • Exhilarating day hikes to traditional villages and mountain temples
  • Hike to the famous cliff hermitage of Taktsang
  • Buddhist festivals (Apr and Sep trips), wintering black-necked cranes (Nov trip)
  • Deluxe Zhiwa Ling Hotel in Paro and Taj Tashi in Thimphu


Wow! A life-changing trip that I will never forget.Joe H.—Eastsound, WA

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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.

In the secluded Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, Buddhism permeates every aspect of daily life, hidden valleys shelter ancient fortress-monasteries, and the king decrees “Gross National Happiness” as the standard by which to measure the country’s wealth. We experience this mystical Shangri La as we hike to tiny villages and mountainside shrines, visit artisan markets, and meet red-robed monks in chanting halls. Our April and September trips witness a Tsechu festival, with its wildly colorful dances, beating drums, and clashing cymbals, and our November departure attends the Black-Necked Crane Festival in the high Phobjikha Valley.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

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

From Paro, we head to Thimphu for a lovely hike through pine and rhododendron forests to Wangdi-Tse Monastery, built in 1750 and perched above the Thimphu Valley. We also visit Thimphu’s Folk Heritage Museum, housed in a charming traditional building.

Days 3-4
Phobjikha Valley

We cross the Dochu La and continue to the alpine setting of the glacier-carved Phobjikha Valley (9,500'). Our explorations include the golden-roofed Gangtey Monastery. The November trip will be on the lookout for the flocks of migrating black-necked cranes that visit this high valley each fall.

Days 5-7
Punakha Valley

Our village hike immerses us in a tranquil region of farming hamlets and rice terraces, and we hike to Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple dedicated to a popular Tibetan Buddhist saint and folk hero. We also explore the ornately painted Punakha Dzong, built as a fortress in the 17th century. It is the winter residence of the Je Khempo, Bhutan’s head abbot, and his retinue of a thousand monks. We return to Paro on Day 7.

Days 8-10
Paro / Paro Festival

In the green Paro Valley, we hike up to Taktsang Monastery, known as the Tiger’s Nest, and enjoy the Paro Festival, a multi-day event that is both a community gathering and a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony in which locals witness elaborate masked dance-dramas, receive blessings, and socialize with friends. Depart on Day 10.

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 2+, according to our trip rating system. The hikes are moderate and suitable for people in good shape who enjoy mountain hiking. The longest hike is about 3-4 hours, and for the most part you can set your own pace. 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.
    
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.

Accommodation 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 Haa Valley, and the Phobjikha Valley rustic, but are 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. On some departures, we stay for two nights at a comfortable tented camp in the Haa Valley.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures & Leaders

2014
Sep 30-Oct 9, 2014  Haa & Thimphu Festival

Nov 6-15, 2014  Wintering Cranes Festival
2015
Mar 27-Apr 5, 2015  Paro Festival
Sep 20-29, 2015  Haa & Thimphu Festival
Nov 6-15, 2015  Wintering Cranes Festival

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014
$4995 (4-15 members)
Single supplement: $1300
Forced single supplement: $1050
Internal airfare: $995 (subject to change)
Bhutan Visa Fee (WT acquires visa for you): $40
more on pricing

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

Trip Cost Includes:

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

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, hotels in Bangkok, airport transfers for individual arrival or departure, airport departure taxes, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessary due to 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

Yulo Guest House

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

Days 5 to 6 (2 nights), Punakha Valley, Bhutan

In Punakha we stay at one of the following properties:

Hotels in Paro

Days 7 to 9 (3 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.

Kipchu Dorji

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 complete his professional guide training. Kipchu traveled to Salisbury, England, in 1990 for a leadership study program and has led countless groups throughout Bhutan since 1998.

Upcoming Trips:

Hiker's Journey to Bhutan, May 4-15, 2014
Festivals of Bhutan, September 30-October 9, 2014
Festivals of Bhutan, November 6-15, 2014

Client Testimonials:


Kipchu is the best trip leader I have ever traveled with. He brought the local culture to life, making things easy to understand, and he has a wonderful calm spirit and great sense of humor. Kim M., Phoenix AZ
Hiker’s Bhutan
Kipchu must be the dean of Bhutan trip leaders. He was exceptional in every aspect you could think. Susasn M., Pittsburgh PA
Hiker’s Bhutan
Kipchu Dorji has a great sense of humor, patience, and modesty—the best guide I’ve ever had. Ann D., Santa Fe NM
Hiker’s Bhutan
Kipchu Dorji is a gracious and mindful host and guide, with great attention to detail. He has an easy interaction with staff and guests alike. Alix B., New York NY, Bhutan: The Chomolhari Trek Kipchu was gentle, but firm, tactful, and so caring. A very wise man with a lovely sense of humor. Lorian J., Mamaroneck, NY
Hiker’s Bhutan
Kipchu made this trip. Wise, caring, thoughtful, and sensitive. One of the best trip leaders I’ve had in the seven walking trips I’ve taken. Joel J., Mamaroneck, NY
Hiker’s Bhutan
Kipchu made this trip an experience I will never forget. He is charming, knowledgeable, and warm. Joanne L, Long Beach CA
Hiker's Bhutan
We’re such fans—what can I say! Susan C., Florence, MA Kipchu is one of the best guides I have had throughout my travels—extremely professional with attention to detail and true warmth and care. I will never forget how special he made this trip for our group. Karen M., Danbury, CT
Hidden Bhutan
Kipchu's attention to details, vast knowledge, and patience really made the trip. Bee Y., Brussels, Belgium
Hidden Bhutan
Kipchu was fabulous and a terrific representative for his country. Scot R., Dalhart, TX
Festivals of Bhutan
Kipchu was a marvelous guide. He was extremely well organized, very knowledgeable, attentive to all our needs and requests, and a charming person. Julia K., Bend, OR
Festivals of Bhutan
Kipchu was first-rate and I felt privileged to have him as our trip leader. He also knew so much that I felt at ease in asking him any question. Melodie M., Seattle, WA
Festivals of 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

Wow! A life-changing trip that I will never forget. Joe H., Eastsound, WA This trip was magical. It was so rich in spirituality, beauty, and friendliness. And amazing to visit a place still so untouched and pure in the native customs, costumes, and beliefs. Eliza S., Los Altos, CA It was an extraordinary experience and the most exotic place I’d ever been. I was actually hiking in the Himalayas in a beautiful Buddhist country! Sharon L., Bellevue, WA This was the most amazing trip I’ve ever done. The culture, the landscape, and the people were all amazing. Elizabeth K., Portland, ME The trip of a lifetime...of many. It will be hard to top. Jennifer S., Lafayette, CO It was a memorable trip and one we will remember forever. Alan L., Bellevue, WA
Bhutan was everything I hoped for and more, and this trip showcased its natural beauty and culture very well. Pamela G., Omaha, NE We’re such fans—what can I say! Susan C., Florence, MA Wonderful trip—I enjoyed it immensely! I completely lost track of the days (a sign of a good trip!) and found I was completely engaged in the experience and moment. I had wanted to go to Bhutan for a long time and the trip surpassed my expectations. Cathy H., Delaware, OH A dramatic journey to another world with a magical, spiritual, and most authentic vibe. Lynn L., Reddington Beach, FL We had many wonderful experiences...visiting a local school, observing a ceremony in monastery, coming upon an archery group practicing their skills, and, of course, the hike to Tiger's Nest. Marilyn G., Wyckoff, NJ