Festivals and Hikes in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Overview

Emerald valleys, deep rhododendron forests, serene villages, exuberant festivals that honor the guardian deities—Bhutan is a rare Himalayan world and we experience it through a wonderful cultural and hiking adventure. We’ll hike to pilgrimage sites in the sacred Bumthang Valley, follow the ancient trail to cliff-perched Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and meet villagers at work in their fields as we hike to traditional hamlets. We’ve timed every departure to include a tsechu—these are Tibetan Buddhist festivals held at centuries-old monasteries where elaborate dance-dramas depict the world of demons and deities. Lovely hotels and mountain lodges welcome us each night, and our Bhutanese Trip Leaders share their passion for their extraordinary country.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Paro / Thimphu

After flying to the green Paro Valley, we head to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, where we stretch our legs on a hike through oak forests up to a 17th century Buddhist teaching university and retreat center where monks carry out their daily rituals.

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Days 3-5
Punakha and Phobjikha Valleys

In the lush Punakha Valley, we hike through riverside villages to Chimi Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to the Tibetan Buddhist saint known as “the divine madman” for his unconventional ways. Punakha, Bhutan’s former winter capital, holds the architectural masterpiece of the Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 at the confluence of the Mo Chu and Po Chu (“mother” and “father” rivers). This is the seat of Bhutan’s highest abbot, the Je Khempo. We’ll head to the bowl-shaped glacial valley of Phobjikha for a hike through pine-forested hills and visit gold-spired Gangtey, an important monastery of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism.

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Days 6-12
Bumthang / Paro

The tranquil Bumthang region of central Bhutan has an extraordinary concentration of venerated temples and monasteries. It was here that Buddhism was introduced to Bhutan in the 7th century. We hike to some of the region’s most sacred sites, including 17th century Kurjey Lhakhang, whose temples are the resting place of Bhutan’s first three kings. Flying back to Paro, our final hike is spectacular as we head up the pilgrim trail to reach Taktsang, the Tiger’s Nest, clinging to a cliff 3,000 feet above the Paro Valley. Depart on Day 12 via Paro, or join an extension.

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Highlights

Highlights

Hike and explore the ethereal Bumthang region, spiritual center of this Himalayan kingdom
Attend a wildly colorful Buddhist tsechu festival
Meet artisans, farmers, Buddhist pilgrims, and red-robed monks
Climb the ancient trail to the cliff-perched Tiger’s Nest monastery
Overnights in hotels and welcoming lodges

Details

Length: 12 days
Cost From: $6195  
Arrive: Paro, Bhutan
Depart: Paro, Bhutan
Lodging: 4 nights hotels, 7 nights lodges
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

7 hiking days on moderate trails, 2-6 hours a day, altitudes between 4,100-12,900 feet