Insider access to Bhutan's spectacular festivals, including the Tsechu Festival
Appreciate the beauty of Bhutan without having to trek! This cultural odyssey whisks you back in time to a world guarded by gigantic mountains and covered with thick primeval forests. Our unique trip includes lively festivals and day hikes, along with insider explorations of the small town of Punakha. Attend the Tsechu religious festival, where elaborately costumed dancers perform masked dance-dramas. Mingling with the locals at this joyous celebration is a unique honor, bestowed only to a limited number of visitors each year.
Book Early for Bhutan Trips!
Flights between Bangkok and Paro on Druk Air, Bhutan’s national airline, sell out four to six months in advance. We recommend you reserve your Bhutan trip as early as possible, so we can secure these flights for you.
Easy to moderate touring, optional moderate day hikes, some long drives on narrow, winding roads (max. elev. 11,234'—on drive)
- Explores the vibrant towns of Paro, Thimpu, and Punakha
- Witness the lively Tsechu festival—a kaleidoscope of whirling dancers in colorful costumes
- Explore the serene Punakha Valley, winter seat of the highest lama in Bhutan until the 1950s
- Take a step back in time for a glimpse of traditions and customs that are quickly disappearing from the rest of the Himalaya
Duration: 9 days Start Location: Bangkok End Location: BangkokDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Bangkok
NOTE: Itinerary varies slightly for each departure, depending on the location of the Tsechu which is held in various districts throughout Bhutan at different times of year.
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, and runs every 10-15 minutes.
Day 2 : Thimphu (7,600')
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 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 visa formalities at the Paro airport, we drive into town for lunch. Afterward, we drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, set at 7,600 feet in the Wang Chu Valley. The remainder of the day is free to rest and relax. (2 hours driving)
Day 3 : Thimphu (7,600')
After breakfast we drive to the north end of the road and hike 1½ hours up a steep hill to visit Cheri Monastery (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 (shrine) holding the ashes of the Shabdrung’s father. On our return we’ll visit Tango Goemba, founded in the 12th century (the present building was constructed in the 15th century). It is now a Buddhist institute for higher learning. Return to Thimphu for dinner and overnight. (1½ hours driving; 5 hours hiking)
Day 4 : Punakha (4,100')
Our morning visit 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.
Afternoon drive across the Dochu La (“la” means “pass”) at 10,000 feet, where we might view the snow-covered peaks of the eastern Himalaya (weather permitting). The pass is marked by hundreds of colorful fluttering prayer flags and is an awesome sight. Continue to Punakha, winter seat of the highest lama in Bhutan until the 1950s.
Day 5 : Punakha (4,100')
Today, we will visit the ancient Punakha Dzong (a dzong is a fortress-monastery) dating back to the 17th century, which is spectacularly situated at the confluence of the Mo and Phu Rivers. We will also have an optional short hike across the rice paddies to visit nearby Chimi Lhakhang (temple), built by Lama Drukpa Kunley. Legend has it he subdued the demoness of the Dochu La with his “Magic Thunderbolt of Wisdom.” A wood effigy of the lama’s thunderbolt is preserved in the lhakhang, and childless women go to the temple to receive a wang (blessing) from the saint.
Day 6 : Paro (7,500')
Morning drive (4 hours) to Paro. 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, Bhutan’s beautiful stamps, and the Tshogshing Lhakhang (Temple of the Tree of Wisdom), with its carvings depicting the history of Buddhism. Time permitting, we will also visit the Paro Dzong itself, built in 1644 by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal.
Day 7 : Paro (7,500')
Today we'll take take a steep, 2-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 a break with 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).
Those not wishing to hike will have the option of driving above the town of Bondey to a trailhead where we can walk about 40 minutes to Dzongdrakha, a small monastery/retreat center overlooking the Paro Valley. Built in the 16th century by the first local king, Chogay Dragpa, this monastery is one of five in the area. There is also a large stupa (shrine) similar to that of Bodhnath in Kathmandu, Nepal. After lunch, we drive to Thimphu. The rest of the day is free to rest and relax.
Day 8 : Bangkok
Transfer to the airport for the flight to Bangkok. Take the shuttle to the Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel. The remainder of the day is free to explore this lively city. Lunch and dinner on your own.
Day 9 : 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. Or, join one of our extensions to Vietnam or Cambodia (call for details).
DATES: Best time to go: March - April, October Departures: Oct 3 - 11, 2014 This trip visits the Thimphu Festival Mar 29, 2015 - Apr 6, 2015 This trip visits the Paro Festival Oct 22 - 30, 2015 This trip visits the Thimphu Festival
$3,395 (4-15 members)
$940 internal airfare – Bangkok/Paro/Bangkok - subject to change
$3,495 (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
Damchen Resort HotelPunakha, Bhutan
This charming hotel on the banks of the Punakha River offers a pleasant stay in a serene atmosphere. Spacious rooms combine modern design with traditional Bhutanese architecture. Surrounded by pine forests but a mere 5-minute walk from town, the Damchen Resort is a convenient oasis.
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.
Sanjay Nepal has been working as a tour guide & trip leader since September 1999 in Nepal, India, Bhutan & Tibet & uses a lot of unusual anecdotes, humor & patience while working. He holds a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu & has EMBA (Executive MBA) in General Management from University of Ljubljana, Slovenia apart from Senior Diploma in French from French Cultural Center in Kathmandu. He has a sound knowledge on religion and culture of the sub-continent as he himself practiced it for 12 long years (1985-1997) during which he associated with several high profile lamas & religious personalities. He speaks Nepali, Hindi, Urdu, English and French fluently. He has traveled extensively in Europe (Slovenia, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Czech Republic) for seminars and lecture tours on Buddhism & Hinduism as well as Palmistry & Chinese Face Reading. He has been practicing it professionally since 1991 and has given consultations to several hundreds of people since then. He has also published several articles in English journals in Nepal. His other passion is poetry which can be sampled at www.poetry.com. Beside that his other interests include music, movies, driving, books & traveling.
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.