An exclusive tour of Bhutan with the Himalaya experts since 1980
The enchanting Kingdom of Bhutan is rated among the happiest countries in the world. It’s no wonder! This earthly nirvana is filled with beauty at every turn, from lush river valleys, whitewashed homes, and terraced rice paddies, to fields covered in mustard and dwarf rhododendrons and majestic, snowcapped peaks. Designed with the short-on-time traveler in mind, this 11-day MTS-exclusive itinerary highlights the best of this beautiful country through 3 days of moderate-to-strenuous ridgeline trekking and camping, with the rest of the time set aside for easy touring and scenic day hikes. Bookended with time in Bangkok to explore the bustling city, you’ll quickly slow your pace to immerse yourself in Bhutan's rich Buddhist traditions. Visit its most famous monasteries—Taktsang Monastery (“the Tiger’s Nest”) and Lhakhang Kap Monastery (“the Temple of the White Dove”), and learn about Bhutanese folk art. Discover the Paro Valley as well as the remote and only recently opened Haa Valley. Best of all, spend time amid some of the world’s most exciting peaks— sacred Chomolhari (24,000’), and Kanchenjunga (28,208'), the third highest in the world! This is one short visit that will stay with you for a lifetime.
3 days moderate to strenuous hiking at medium elevation (max. 13,700'), easy touring, day hikes
- Explore the gems of Bhutan on this MTS-exclusive adventure designed for the short-on-time traveler
- Immerse yourself in Bhutan's rich Buddhist traditions, visiting its most famous monasteries—Taktsang Monastery and Lhakhang Kap Monastery
- Learn about the Bhutanese folk arts with visits to a traditional “painting school” and several museums
- Discover the Haa Valley, only recently opened to outsiders
- Spend three days trekking and camping along a ridge with great Himalayan mountain views
Duration: 11 days Start Location: Bangkok End Location: BangkokDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Bangkok
Arrive in Bangkok (most flights arrive in the evening). Take a complimentary shuttle to the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel, a 10-minute ride from the airport. The hotel operates 24-hour free shuttle bus service between the terminal and the hotel that runs every 10-15 minutes.
NOTE: Most airlines arrive late at night into Bangkok, and our flight from Bangkok to Paro departs very early the next morning. If your flight into Bangkok is delayed by even just a few hours, it would be easy to miss the group departure flight to Paro. We therefore encourage you to arrive a day or two early in Bangkok to explore this fascinating city or to help overcome jet lag before the tour actually starts. There are many sightseeing possibilities. We’d be happy to make additional hotel reservations if requested. Additional costs will be reflected on your invoice.
Day 2 : Paro (7,500') – Thimphu (7,600'), Bhutan
Fly to Paro, Bhutan, on Druk Air, the national airline of Bhutan. If you get a seat on the left side of the plane and if the weather cooperates, you might have spectacular views of the high peaks of the eastern Himalaya, including Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Kanchenjunga—five of the highest peaks in the world—and peaks in Bhutan such as Chomolhari, Jichu Drakye, and Tsering Kang. After passing through customs at the Paro airport, we drive into town for lunch. Afterward, we drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, set at 7,725 feet in the Wang Chu Valley. The remainder of the day is free to rest and relax.
Day 3 : Thimphu (7,600')
After breakfast we’ll drive to the north end of the road to Dodina (8,600') and hike an hour up a steep hill to visit Cheri Monastery, or Goemba, built in 1620 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal and established with an original staff of 30 monks. Nowadays the monastery serves as the main meditation center of the country and has more than 70 monks undergoing their three-year, three month retreat. Inside is a silver chorten holding the ashes of the Shabdrung’s father. On our return we’ll visit Tango Goemba (another steep one-hour climb), founded in the 12th century (the present building was constructed in the 15th century). It is now a Buddhist institute for higher learning. Time permitting, we’ll visit Tashichho Dzong upon our return from the hike. Tashichho Dzong is the seat of the royal government and central monastic body in Bhutan. (1 hour driving; 4 hours hiking)
Day 4 : Thimphu – Paro
Our morning tour will include a visit to the School of Arts and Crafts (or “painting school”), where Bhutanese children can follow a six-year program in traditional arts, such as drawing, painting, woodcarving, and sculpture. We’ll also visit the Textile Museum, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, and Folk Heritage Museum. We drive back to Paro in the afternoon. In the afternoon we’ll visit the National Museum, housed in an old watchtower above the Paro Dzong. The museum’s collections include displays of spectacular thangkas (religious scroll paintings), bronze statues, and Bhutan’s beautiful stamps. Time permitting, we will also visit the Paro Dzong itself, built in 1644 by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Day 5 : Hike to Taktsang Monastery (10,300')
Today we’ll take a steep, two-hour hike to a teahouse, where we enjoy a great view of Taktsang Monastery (its name means “tiger’s nest”), perched on a cliff 2,700 feet above the floor of the Paro Valley. Taktsang is the most spiritual place for the Bhutanese and a major pilgrimage spot. Our hike follows a steep switchback trail through the forest. After breaking for tea and cookies, you have the option to sit outside the building and admire the monastery and its beautiful surroundings or, if you feel energetic, to continue another hour to a closer viewpoint. Much of Taktsang was destroyed by a fire in April 1998, but it is now completely rebuilt. We’ll have some time in the afternoon to explore Paro on our own. (5 hours hiking)
Day 6 : Haa Valley (9,400')
Today, we’ll drive for about three hours to our lodge in the Haa Valley, lying along the western border of Bhutan. Haa was closed to all visitors until 2001. Our lodge for the night is in a beautiful setting at the edge of a blue pine forest overlooking Haa La, and we may be able to visit a local family. Afternoon visit to Lhakhang Karpo (“temple of the white dove”), a monastery believed to have been built in the 8th century by a Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, after he sent two doves (one black and one white) to find a sacred place to build a monastery.
Day 7 : Begin trek – camp below Saga La (11,800')
We’ll begin our trek by walking gradually uphill through a blue pine forest and farmland. As we climb, the terrain gets a little steeper and we’ll walk along streams past rhododendron, juniper, spruce, and birch trees. We’ll lunch in a grassy meadow at about 11,200' then continue to our camp at 11,800', about 45 minutes below Saga La (pass). Weather permitting, we’ll take an afternoon hike up to Saga La for views of sacred Chomolhari (24,000') and several other peaks. We’ll also have panoramic views of the Haa Valley. (4½-5 hours hiking)
Day 8 : Ningula (12,300')
In the morning, we’ll hike up to Saga La once again and then follow the ridge up and down to 13,200' (where we may be able to catch a glimpse of Taktsang Monastery from here). We will continue steeply up through dwarf rhododendron to 13,700' and down through narrow grazing paths. Camp is set up for us at Ningula in a rhododendron forest from where you’ll have a beautiful view of the peaks of Chomolhari and Jichu Drakye. (5-6 hours hiking)
Day 9 : Kung Karpo (13,500')
We will climb steeply back up to the ridge and cross the Kale La at 12,900', with its views of Paro and the Haa Valley. Weather permitting, we’ll have a terrific view of the Paro Dzong and surrounding peaks including Kanchenjunga (28,208'), the third highest peak in the world. We ascend up to Kung Karpo at 13,500', with views of the mountains and both valleys again (weather permitting). We then descend and traverse toward the Chele La (13,080'). Along the way, we pass a place where Mahayana Buddhists offer their newborn child to God; the Bhutanese do not participate in cremation and believe that if they offer their child to God after their death, they will be born again very soon. All day today we will have clear views of the mountains and the Paro and Haa Valleys (weather permitting). Once at the Chele La, we meet our bus and drive two hours to Paro. (6-7 hours hiking, 2-hour drive)
Day 10 : Bangkok
Very early morning transfer to the Paro airport for departure on your Druk Air flight to Bangkok. Take the shuttle to the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel. The remainder of the day is free. Lunch and dinner are on your own.
Day 11 : Fly home
Take the hotel shuttle to the international terminal. Depart on homeward-bound flights, arriving in the U.S. the same morning or afternoon depending on your flight schedules.
DATES: Best time to go: March - April, October - November Departures: Oct 4 - 14, 2014 Nov 9 - 19, 2014 Apr 7 - 17, 2015 Apr 21, 2015 - May 1, 2015 Oct 6 - 16, 2015 Oct 20 - 30, 2015
$4,495 (4-15 members)
$940 internal airfare – Bangkok/Paro/Bangkok - subject to change
$4,595 (4-15 members)
$940 internal airfare – Bangkok/Paro/Bangkok - subject to change
Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport HotelBangkok
The Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport is a 4 star hotel located 10 min walk from Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. Boasting 612 comfortable and contemporary rooms, the hotel also offers 2 bars and 4 restaurants. With a 24 hr airport shuttle every 10 min from Gate 4 Level 2 and parking available, there is no better place to stay.
Druk HotelThimphu, Bhutan
Experience the unique and legendary hospitality of the Bhutanese people at this fine accommodation in the midst of the Himalayas. Located in the heart of the capital city, the hotel is close to shopping, culture, and the bubbling Thimphu River.Thim
Zhiwa Ling HotelParo, Bhutan
The Zhiwa Ling combines the sensibilities of a fine Bhutanese guesthouse with the best of modern comforts. Guests can enjoy a traditional outdoor hot-stone bath, a Tea House, a Meditation House, and two restaurants specializing in both contemporary international and classic Bhutanese cuisine.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Tandin is a graduate of Bangkok University, Thailand, majoring in Tourism and Hospitality Management. He has been leading treks and cultural tours in Bhutan since 2000. Tandin also worked for a few months as the Human Resource Manager at The Zhiwaling Hotel in Paro. Last year, he had the opportunity to work as an Interpreter for the EU Election Observers for a period of one month in Eastern Bhutan and got a very positive evaluation from them. He is very knowledgeable of the cultures, religions, and traditions of his country and enjoys sharing his experiences with you. Tandin speaks English, Nepali, Hindi and passable Thai in addition to his native Bhutanese.
Gyamcho Wangdi has led treks for Mountain Travel Sobek since 1988. A Bhutanese, he grew up in the small hill town of Kalimpong in the Darjeeling District of India and received his schooling from a Scottish missionary school. He studied botany and zoology and was a naturalist at Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in Nepal for eight years. While working at the park, he greeted VIPs and other celebrities such as Princess Anne, the late Rajiv Gandhi (former Prime Minister of India), King Gyanendra (present King of Nepal), Bjorn Borg (former #1 tennis player), Reinhold Messner (Everest summiteer), and actors James Coburn, Robert Redford, Goldie Hawn, and Carrie Fisher. Gyamcho’s passions are seeing new places, off-road driving, interior design, and drawing cartoons (he has published a cartoon book on the Yeti called "Mysterious Mystical Yeti," which became a hit among Nepal trekkers). His gentle, courteous manner, amusing anecdotes, and overall knowledge of Bhutan and Nepal are the key to the success of your trip. He is fluent in English, Hindi, Nepali, and Bhutanese.
Namgay Dorji, the senior manager of our Bhutan office, has been leading treks and tours for the past nine years. He is very knowledge about the history, culture, and religion of Bhutan, has many relatives in the monk body, and looks forward to sharing his experience with you. Namgay speaks seven languages: English, Japanese, German, Spanish, Hindi, Nepalese, and Urdu; is a graduate of Bissau College, Meghalaya, India; and received his diploma in Tourism and Travel Management from the Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management in Salzburg, Austria. His many personal interests include bird watching, rock climbing, trekking, and archery.