11 days 10 nights cultural tours
|Trip Style||:||Cultural Tour|
|Trip Rating by Popularity||:||*****|
|Physical Demand Rating||:||1|
|Discounts||:||Applicable on this trip|
|Group Size||:||Maximum 12, Avg 5|
|Group Leader||:||Certified Tour Leader from The Bhutan Memorable Travels|
|Transport||:||New Model Toyota Hiace /Coaster bus/Land Cruiser not more than 3 years old|
Our Central Heartlands of Bhutan is a 11-day leisurely paced cultural trip that is designed to give you most of what Bhutan has to offer. It provides a fairly complete and an indulging experience with something for everyone – a glimpse of our living culture and traditions, rich history, stunning nature walks through virgin forests, interaction with friendly people whose natural sense of hospitality is renowned and a genuine reason to tick Bhutan as one of your favourite destinations. Every new place on this trip is a hotspot for tourism, laden with attractions to enliven your senses – be it an exquisite ancient fortress or the breathtaking scenery from the Tiger’s Nest, from Paro’s golden paddy fields to Bumthang’s local delicacies – this trip is one of the favourites of our guests in terms of sale numbers.
Day 1: Arrive Paro and Drive to Thimphu, (60 km, 1 hour)
If you are arriving on a bright sunny day, your holiday begins with the panoramic view of the Himalayan range from your Drukair seat, where you’ll be greeted by Mt. Everest and Mt. Kanchenjunga, and our very own Mt. Jomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drakey. An unparalleled feeling while you are descending over Bhutan is a feeling which is of total abandonment, a feeling which is inexplicably compassionate and full of suspense as visibly seen in the growing communion between the passengers. Upon arrival you’ll be received by our friendly professional guides who will help you settle into your comfortable car and will take you for a short spin around Paro valley which will include a visit to the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang temple. After lunch, you’ll be heading to the capital city, Thimphu. Call it an easy night to make sure you have ample rest to kick start your Bhutan holiday with much gusto. We have a policy to usually host you in a hotel further away from the main bustling streets of Thimphu as we understand the importance of a proper sleep for the first night, and stray dogs in the city square may just jeopardise that objective.
Day 2: Thimphu Sightseeing
Wake up to the sound of the birds and after a sumptuous meal, your travel escort will take you to some of the treasures of the capital – Visit the National Folk Heritage Museum, the Zorig Chusum school of 13 traditional arts/crafts, the Textile Museum, the Memorial Chorten (stupa) and the Simtokha Dzong. Visit the colourfulVegetable market where proud villagers behind pyramids of their agricultural produce greet you with stone weights in their hands and smiles on their faces. It is interesting to see what may seem to you as ‘weird vegetables and forest products’ that actually enriches the Bhutanese Palate. Take a stroll around the Takin Reserve Center in the evening to see the national animal of Bhutan – the Takin. Enjoy a fantastic meal in some of the best restaurants with choice of Bhutanese, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, or Thai culinary.
Day 3: Drive to Punakha (77 km, circa 4 hours drive)
Take further to the mountains and its winding characteristics to reach the Dochula Pass (3140 m) to experience one of the Bhutan’s most symbolic, recent glory and an awe-inspiring view of the eastern Himalayan range. Situated at the backdrop of a spectacular Himalayan range and the fluttering prayer flags, the Druk Wangyal Chortens, a collection of 108 chortens (stupas) was built to exemplify the greatness of the Fourth King. Wind down to the low-lying rice valley of Lobesa and pay your respects to one of Bhutan’s most charming and eccentric historic figures nicknamed ‘The Divine Madman’ at the Chhimi Lhakhang, the fertility monastery. Continue toPunakha Valley and visit the most beautiful fortress of Bhutan – the Punakha Dzong juxtaposed in between a confluence of two mighty rivers. You’ll be amazed by the fabulous woodwork that represents the myriad Bhutanese architecture. If the weather is good, you also have the option to camp next to the river (superb camping grounds) with a bonfire as many of our guests likes combining their cultural holiday with camping.
Day 4: Drive to Trongsa (120 km, circa 4 hours)
Visit the Wangue Phodrang town and the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong. The small incongruous town square is a hullaballoo of activities; cab drivers yelling names of nearby towns for customers, a gas station queued up with vehicles and power-tillers, vegetable vendors, dairy products on sale, smiling old faces of out shop windows with dripping betel from their mouths and an unwavering smell of rubber emanating from the ubiquitous rubber boots hanging out of almost every shop. Enjoy the view over the high passes of Pelela where you can take a break to see the yaks up close.
Day 5: Drive to Bumthang (68 kms, circa 2 hours)
After breakfast, you’ll visit the Tower of Trongsa which served as a watchtower during the ancient times and developed into a museum that houses some of Bhutan’s most prized possessions including the ‘Raven Crown’ used by the first two Kings. Now that is a must-see! Then you’ll visit the Trongsa Dzong, of monumental political importance that was central to unification of the country under one central administration and that eventually led to the introduction of Monarchy in Bhutan. Continue to Bumthang after lunch. We’ll make sure you’ll be treated to some local delicacies combined with fresh trout fish from the local river. If you are of the adventurous type, your dinner will be complete with some ara (home brewed alcohol) that fits perfectly with the Bumthang culinary.
Day 6: Bumthang Sightseeing
This is a day that will make you almost feel like renouncing the world. The valley is dotted with some of Bhutan’s most important and sacred pilgrimage sites and you’ll be made witness to all the amazing stories that go with it. We recommend exploring the place on foot as the temples are ideally located on walk paths. Visit Kurje lhakhang (temple) that is house to one of Bhutan’s biggest statue of Guru Rinpoche and more importantly the stone imprints of Guru’s body in a cave. Followed by Jambay Lhakhang, most probably the oldest temple that is believed to be one of the two in Bhutan, out of 108 temples that King Songtsen Gembo of Tibet built across the entire Himalayan region in the 6th century. Finally to Tamzhing monastery was built by Terton Pema Lingpa. We can also arrange a visit to the local cheese factory, the beer factory and the bee keeping farmers if any of these may interests you.
Day 7: Drive to Phobjikha (105 km, circa 5 hours drive)
Phobjikha is host to the endangered ‘Black necked cranes’ (Grus Nicorocolis) in the winter who migrate from Tibet and parts of China. The government has given much importance towards the preservation of the bird, and its part time migratory habitat by designating its roosting areas as restricted areas. Development of industry and electrification in the valley has been stalled lest affecting the birds, and the locals are unperturbed as the valley is gifted with extensive land area which makes it ideal for potato farming. Before you reach your hotel, we recommend you to take a walk through the village to get a feel of the rural life. If the weather is good, you also have the option to camp next to the river with a bonfire as many of our guests likes combining their cultural holiday with camping.
Day 8: Phobjikha Sightseeing
You will visit the Observatory for some information on the endangered Black Necked Cranes and if you are here towards late Fall and winter, you can have a close-up on the birds aided by a telescope. Lunch will entail a pleasant 4 km hike around the periphery of the roosting area which eloquently ends into the entrance of the Gangtey Gompa monastery sitting atop a hill overlooking the whole valley. After visiting this special temple that has been renovated recently with fine examples of Bhutanese architecture, you will be picked up by your driver and driven back to your hotel or your camp. The hike is a recommended activity as we ourselves enjoy it every single time we are there as the weather is usually superb for a photographers and the object to be captured is an underlying valley that probably prompted the early visitors to Bhutan to compare the country with Switzerland. We can also augment this day with mountain biking and motorcycles as they valley offers some good collection of dirt roads.
Day 9: Drive to Thimphu (100 km, circa 4 hours)
Upon arrival we’ll take you to, what according to us is the best restaurant in Bhutan, the Season’s Pizzeria where the chef would boast of giving you an absolute Italian delight no lesser than in Italy itself. We’d like you to delve into a social evening and unwind yourself by paying a visit to some of the most interesting bars for some drink, music and conversation. After all these days of showing you our heritage and culture, you may most probably be surprised to experience the most outspoken, friendly and gregarious urban dwellers of Thimphu who are keen to give your their perspective of the current affairs and the general observations of the world. If you like dancing (no age restrictions) we’ll take you to a friendly discotheque to show you some of our local choreography.
Day 10: Hiking in Thimphu and Drive to Paro (50 km, 1 hour)
It is a day for relaxation and flexing your thigh muscles while at the same time enjoying the pristine nature around. We’ll take you for a short drive to Begana, a small village in north Thimphu. Then you’ll hike to Tango monastery, a temple which was build in 1659 continue hiking to Cheri Gompa, another half an hour hike to the first monastic school built by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal, the founder of Bhutan in 1620. Look out for wild gorals and deer along the way as they’ve unwittingly found shelter around the temple that offers visitors a safari experience! Stroll around the Takin Reserve Centre in the evening to meet the national animal of Bhutan- the Takin. Visit the Bhutan Post Office, to see the famous stamps of Bhutan and to post some cards to your loved ones. Continue to the Traditional Paper Factory to see how traditional paper is made from Himalayan shrubs- Daphne and Edgeworthia. Visit the Handicrafts Emporium for a rich collection of handicrafts and can buy some souvenirs to take home. After tea in the evening, you will be driven to Paro.
Day 11: Drive to Paro (50 km, 1 hour)
Even if you are suffering from a hangover, we’ll take you to Taktshang monastery (translated Tiger’s nest) as we believe that we’ve saved the best for the last. A two hours hike would prove worth it by just a look of the temple clinging on a 1000 feet craggy cliff. The view of the temple as our clients have been saying is “nothing short of spectacular”. The temple was built in 1692 by Gyaltse Tenzin Rabgye. Your guide will complement the experience with its history. In the afternoon, you’ll be taken to the National Museum to further augment your Bhutan experience and knowledge by witnessing some of the most treasured collections of arts, artefacts, textiles, stamps, statues etc. An exclusive feature of ‘The Bhutan Memorable Travels’, we have teamed up with a local theatre company to provide you a cultural evening at the hotel which will showcase some of our traditional music and dances, mask dances and folklore at the hotel. After dinner, a dip in the traditional hot-stone bath may help you unwind and reflect about your journey before departing.
Day 12: Farewell
a few thanksgivings and words promising to keep the new found friendship, your escort will fare you well at the airport for your onward journey.
Additional Activities that can be included: Specialised Language Guides, Mountain biking, Motorcycling, Swimming, Fly Fishing, Cultural Performances, Cooking Classes, Art Classes, Attending rituals in private homes, Meditation Sessions with reputed lamas, Yoga sessions, Buddhism talks, Volunteerism like being part of a house construction, fruit-picking; Sports like Tennis, Squash, Golf, Basketball and even a Football match; Music Jam-up sessions with local musicians. If you have a burning desire to share your story with the locals, we can also have some FM radio stations or local newspapers to talk to you – you name it and we will make it possible!!
Inclusions and Exclusion
- Bhutan Royalty ($65 per person per day).
- Visa Fees ($40 per person).
- All necessary permit fees.
- All transfers and sightseeing with entrance fees.
- All meals including evening tea.
- All accommodation in our partner hotels, which are some of the best in the country on twin sharing basis.
- All trekking equipments and logistics including cooks, camp personnel, horsemen and ponies.
- English-speaking tour leader, guide and driver.
- Trekking Insurance (Our value-added service).
- Cultural Performance (our value-added service).
What’s Not Included
- Airfare for flights into and out of Bhutan.
- All personal expenses like laundry, telephone, tips, shopping expenses.
- Meals and Beverages other than the ones mentioned above (see inclusions).
- Spa Charges.
- Travel and Medical insurance.
Accommodations and facilities:
There are limited choices of accommodations in Bhutan. With a few exceptions of highly over priced international chain properties, hotels in Bhutan are small with 15 to 20 rooms. The hotels have been categorized by local authorities as Star 1, 2 and 3, with 3 Star being on the top level 1Star at the bottom and naturally we have pick the 3 Star category hotels and resorts which are local architecture with Bhutanese décor, well maintained and staffed with the friendly locals. There is disparity in the rooms in most of the hotels and travelers of the same group may end up in two different types of rooms although you have paid the same amount. You will have private bathroom with 24 hour running cold and hot water. They provide some fundamental toiletry supplies but hair dryers, iron and ironing board etc may not be available.
Hotels in Paro and Thimphu do have internet access in office or reception areas. There are some new deluxe properties and international chain resorts which are above the traditional classification criteria and in the higher side in terms of price and can be booked with supplemental cost. Hotel listed on the itinerary are suggestions only and during peak season and tours timed with festival, we may not get the same hotels and in that case, we will book you in the similar property or upgrade you to the higher level.
Guide and Escorts
Our Tour Guides are local individuals with college degree, government certification, experienced and with knowledge on the destination, history, culture and religion and most importantly they are easy going, detailed oriented, patient and high level of customer service skills. They will uncover the wonders of the destinations for you which you would never find on your own. They ensure that everything goes well with your tour without a hitch.
We use good condition Toyota SUV and Toyota Coaches for all transfers and tours. Driver and guide is not the same person. Driver may speak little or no English but they know the road and are skillful to fix the problem in case of mechanical breakdowns. Depending on group size, we will use Japanese made Sedan cars, SUVs or minivan for entire transfers and tours.
International and Internal Flights:
All internal flights are part of travel plan and are locally booked by us. You will be emailed e-ticket receipts once the reservation is booked and tickets issued. But you have liberty to book your international airfare on your own. We can certainly help you book international flight if that originates from the city that you live in. Once you receive itinerary, it’s your responsibility to verify the itinerary and reconfirm the schedules.
Visa and Permits:
Passport should be valid for 6 months or more at the time of travel. We will take care of Bhutan Visa and permits. Bhutan Visa Fees of USD 20 which will be collected with the Tour Payment in advance. You will need to provide a copy of your passport which should be sent to us by email for Bhutan Visa Processing. Bhutan visa is preprocessed by us and we will provide you a copy the Visa Approval Letter before your trip which you will need to present at Druk Air counter at the time you check in for flight to Bhutan. You will get actual visa seal on your passport upon arrival at Paro airport.
Trip Activity Level:
This trip is basically motor vehicle based sightseeing with some short hikes and village visits and suitable for all travelers with regular health conditions. When we are driving from one city to another, we will be driving from 3-6 hours with occasional stops for photography and for refreshments. Roads are narrow and some portions may be rough and damaged. The itinerary allows enough acclimatization for you and it’s advisable that you should keep physically fit and start mild exercises like jogging, swimming, cycling or practice some aerobics about 2-3 months ahead of the trip. It’s your responsibility to determine that you are fit for this trip and if you have any health conditions, please consult with your physician before you sign up for this trip.
Note on Itinerary:
We do our best to adhere to the itinerary but it should be taken as a generic guideline in terms of what you expect to do or see during the tour and may differ in the practical ground from exact sequence or order of the sights to the overnight places depending on the local conditions.
When you are sure you are traveling, please don’t delay in booking so that we can confirm you in preferred hotels and flights. A 100% of both the Tour and Airfare is requested along with a completed trip application form plus copy of the photo page of your passport.
100% Refund if tour canceled within 60 Days from the start of the tour.
50% Refund if tour canceled within 45 Days from the start of the tour.
25% Refund if tour canceled within 30 Days from the start of the tour.
No Refund if tour canceled less than 30 Days from the start of the tour.
Final Trip Dossier:
A final trip dossier with local contacts, hotel lists, check lists, travel notes and relevant information will be sent about a month ahead of the trip.