EMBRACE THE CULTURE, TRADITIONS AND BEAUTY OF THE KINGSOM OF BHUTAN: TAKTSHANG MONASTERY AWAITS!
Tuesday, 8th October - Arrive Paro International Airport, Bhutan (departing from Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok). After arrival we will head to Paro town (6889 ft/ 2100 m) famous for souvenir shops showcasing the best arts and crafts from around the country. We will have our lunch in Paro town and then visit an ancient fortress/ Dzong built in the 17th century as the seat of power in the western province of Bhutan. We will also visit the national museum of Bhutan exhibited in a beautiful traditional building, which formerly served as a watchtower to Paro Dzong.
Wednesday, 9th October - After breakfast, we board a short 25-minute flight to Bumthang (7874 ft / 2400 m) in the central province of Bhutan. We explore the small traditional Chamkhar town and have traditional Bhutanese lunch. Then we will head to a local festival with varieties of mask dances and songs and several stalls put up by the local vendors selling all kinds of goods. These festivals bring locals from miles around wearing their best and sometimes happy to practice their English with tourists. A special treat on our way back from the festival will be a stop at a local brewery owned by a Swiss expatriate who brews one of the best Wiess beer in the country. Overnight Bumthang.
Thursday, 10th October – In the early am, we will drive towards Thangbi Monastery (8530 ft / 2600 m) located in the northern valley of Bumthang to witness the fire blessings and the local festival. Today will be the first day of the festival where the fire blessing ritual will take place. Thangbi Mani Festival is one of very sacred festivals in the country and the highlight of the festival is the fire blessings. Apart from the fire blessing, this festival will also have beautiful mask dances and folk songs performed by the monks and the local people. In the afternoon, we will visit a local house in the village to experience Bhutanese lifestyle. Overnight Bumthang.
Friday, 11th October – We plan on visiting a beautiful temple and meditation hermitage located on top of a mountain in the next valley. After visiting the temple, we will do a beautiful downhill hike that will roughly take about 3 hour on a paved path leading us to a mountain pass adorned with prayer flags and stupas. This hiking trail is also known as being a good opportunity to spot and photograph some of the rare species of birds and mammals seen in Bhutan. Overnight in Bumthang.
Saturday, 12th October – Today we will drive to the beautiful Phubjikha Valley (9845 ft/ 3000 m) with it’s traditional houses and farmlands. Phubjikha Valley is famous as the winter habitat for Black Necked Cranes, one of the endangered birds in the world, and the entire valley is their winter roosting ground. En route, we’ll stop at Trongsa Museum, which showcases galleries of Bhutan’s hereditary kings. Along the way, we will also cross through three major mountain passes which provide a great view of young Himalayan Mountains and opportunities for majestic landscape photos. We will be crossing yet another pass where we expect to see nomads who have migrated down from the high lands with their yaks and cows. Overnight Phubjikha.
Sunday, 13th October - After breakfast, we will head to Gangtey Monastery, located atop of a hill along the traditional Bhutanese village. Gangtey Monastery is the only Nyingma monastery in the western part of Bhutan, and has the most beautiful wood sculptures in the whole country. The monastery itself is also the starting point for a Nature trail hike. This nature trail hike (3 KMs) takes us through blue pine forest, farmlands and along the edge of the cranes roosting area. At a viewpoint we can enjoy watching the cranes roost and dance with their mate. We will have a Bhutanese lunch, at a traditional restaurant in Phubjikha Valley and then continue towards the crane center where we will watch a short documentary on cranes and learn more about these magnificent birds. Overnight Phubjikha.
Monday, 14th October – In the morning we head to Punakha (5249 ft / 1600 m). Compared to Bumthang and Phubjikha, Punakha would be much warmer with a landscape of sub-tropical regions. Here we will walk to Chimmi lhakhang popularly known as the temple of “Divine Mad Monk” founded in the 15th century. Along the hike, we will be passing through rice fields and a gorgeous traditional Bhutanese village also known as the village of phallus, where you will see phallus in the form of paintings on the house, sculpting and mask which were introduced by the divine mad man through his non-conventional and outrageous style of teaching Buddhism. In the afternoon we will head to the most beautiful Dzong in the country built in the 17th century and was used as the main seat of power in the medieval Bhutan. Overnight Punakha
Tuesday, 15th October – Today we drive up to the northern valley of Punakha Valley to the King’s Temple through beautiful villages and fields where we can see people working the fields. The temple was built in the honor of our present king by his mother for long lasting reign of peace and prosperity in the country. After the temple, those who would like may enjoy some river rafting. We will be rafting in the female river, which flows on the right side of the Punakha Dzong. After rafting, we then drive to New Punakha Town where we will have our lunch and then start heading towards Thimphu. En route to Thimphu we will be stopping at Dochula Pass (10170 ft/3100 m), which has 108 stupas and is also a good vantage point for a full panoramic view of Eastern Himalayan peaks. Upon reaching Thimphu, we will visit the largest dzong in the country, which is also used as the seat of his majesty the king. Overnight Thimphu.
Friday, 16th October – We plan on a full day of sightseeing around Thimphu starting with the Memorial Stupa built in 1972 in memory of the 3rd king also known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. It is located in the heart of Thimphu city and many senior citizens spend their days there chanting mantras, circumambulating the stupa and turning the huge prayer wheels. Our vantage point at one of the largest Buddha statues in the world offers a great view of the Thimphu Valley. A very unique temple located on a small hill top known as Changangkha Monastery is the oldest monastery in Thimphu and it is famous far having local couples to bring their new born child to be named. Included in the day is an opportunity to see the Bhutanese National Animal, the Takin, an animal believed to be found only in Bhutan. In the afternoon we can visit the traditional Art and craft school, the Folk Heritage Museum, and the famous Bhutanese Paper Factory, as well as the weekend food market before leaving for Paro. Overnight Paro.
Day 10, 17th October - Our last day of the tour will culminate with our climb to the world famous Taktsang Monastery (Tigers Nest Monastery) (10,240 ft/ 3100 m) founded in the 8th century by the Buddhist saint known as Guru Padmasambhava. The climb should take around 3 hours with stops. After visiting the monastery, we will have lunch at the Taktsang cafeteria (a halfway point) and then descend back down to the valley. At a local farmhouse in the Paro Valley we are rewarded after long day and hike with a hot stone bath is a traditional Bhutanese spa. Overnight Paro.
Day 11, 18th October -Breakfast at hotel and then drive to Paro International airport for departures back to Bangkok and home…… Bon Voyage.
The Cost of this Tour: US $6,700 per person (Single Supplement is an additional $300)
Price is for the land base tour, internal Bhutan flight and RT flights from Bangkok and includes:
- Meet and assist upon arrival and departure.
- Professional English speaking guide during the excursions.
- Entrance Fees to all visited sites.
- 10 Nights Hotel accommodation
- Water and Meals – see itinerary
- Bhutan Entry Visa
- Tips for Hotels, Representatives, Driver, Guide.
- Hot Stone Bath
- River Rafting
Price does not include:
- International airfare to and from Bangkok, Thailand
- Travel Insurance
- Extras, bar beverages, laundry or any other items not mentioned above.
Your Trip Leaders (in addition to local guide)
Karen Kasmauski is a filmmaker, photographer, project manager and educator. During her two decades as a National Geographic photographer she produced 25 major stories for the magazine on topics including Human Migration, Viruses, Aging and Genetics. Karen’s travels have taken her from the rainforests of Malaysia to the megacities of India to the North Slope of Alaska. As an educator, Karen leads photography tours for National Geographic and other clients in locations ranging from Antarctica to New Guinea to the Galapagos. See more on her website: www.Kasmauski.com
Rhonda Chapin: I embrace exploring the world and would be best described as an amateur photography enthusiast. My philosophy has always been “Why not now?” and believe that life is too fleeting to explore all this beautiful planet has and all the hidden, and sometimes disappearing, treasures it conceals. I have always loved to visit other places and peoples and just the last 4 years I have traveled to Myanmar, Iceland & Greenland, Antarctica, India, Tanzania, Rwanda, Easter Island, Bolivia, the Outer Hebrides, and parts of Europe. Experiencing various travel tour groups has cemented in me a firm appreciation of what “good” looks like. I am excited that, through my agency, I have the ability and access to to curate trips with highly vetted in-country specialists. By working with a recognized expert photographer and by keeping the group sizes small, skill and flexibility is in perfect concert for a remarkable photography and travel experience. My goal for you? Capturing moments for lasting memories.
I look forward to exploring the world with you!