Monks, Dzong, Wild.

Architecture, Festivals and Nature in Bhutan

What makes Bhutan special is intangible and undefinable, yet will hit you fully on your regional journey across this incredibly diverse, scenic and joyful country.

Temples? It has many, each with architectural detail and spiritual history more intricate than the last. We’ll visit many of them, including of course the iconic Tigers Nest monastery in its lofty eyrie in the mountains outside of Paro. The journey to it is a hike like no other, and an essential pilgrimage for travellers to Bhutan.

Scenery? In droves. Or perhaps, flocks, as this trip affords a once-in-a-lifetime chance to encounter the rare and endangered Black-Necked Crane during its winter migration. You’ll be heralded by quirky wildlife and awe-inspiring vistas; your journey across the country will be wreathed by the snow-capped Himalayas as you travel through mountain passes, lush fields, alpine forests and sweeping valleys. And you won’t be limited to a tour bus either – you’ll hike your way through some of the best landscapes the country has to offer.

Culture? And then some! The last Himalayan kingdom offers a rich tapestry of vibrant art, folklore, steeped traditions and food, glorious food. You’ll marvel at the sheer breadth of Bhutanese culture as you undertake a cooking class; and spend a day at Genekha Festival and get caught up in the spirit of celebration.

What will strike you most, however, is the true essence of Bhutanese magic – the people. This trip has been designed to immerse you in local custom and maximise the time you’ll spend with these wonderfully welcoming people, who occupy a country where Eastern tradition and Buddhist heritage meet Western innovation, and where the country’s Gross National Happiness Index is its most important measurement of success. Stay in homestays, guesthouses and local hotels in historic cities and tiny villages. Break bread with Bhutan, a country that can teach us so much about the richness of shared experience.


12 Days

PARO – Paro

$8681 AUD*

Departure date: 4 November 2023

OR CONTACT US for more information

Trip code: MWPP*from

TOUR OF BHUTAN HIGHLIGHTS

  • Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery and Dochu La Pass, and take other scenic hikes which showcase the mighty Himalaya
  • Spend a day at the Genekha Festival and encounter the diverse peoples of regional Bhutan who travel from their villages to share in this special day
  • Visit the smaller villages of Bhutan and encounter indigenous groups and artisans practicing traditional crafts handed down through generations
  • Take the chance to encounter the Black-Necked Crane during its winter migration window
  • Give back with a visit to an art school for disadvantaged and orphaned children to which Inverted Atlas makes a donation.
  • Stay in guesthouses and homestays throughout the trip, and take a cooking class and archery lesson on this grand tour of Bhutan.

The Basics

Start: Paro

Finish: Paro

Trip style: Unique

Max group size: 15

What's this?

Reasons you’ll love this tour

  • You want to see beautiful Himalayan vistas with out serious trekking
  • You enjoy colourful local festivals and have an interest in wildlife
  • You prefer to travel deeper and not just to major cities
  • You want to connect with the people of Bhutan with local authentic experiences
  • You like trying new foods and enjoy a little spice
  • You enjoy the great outdoors, including long moderate walks

ITINERARY

Arrive in Bhutan at Paro international airport. High in the reaches of the mighty Himalayas, the runway at Paro airport is famous for being one of the most technically difficult in the world, so only the few pilots who are able to make the narrow landing and execute a tight turn at incredibly high altitude can fly this route. This is one flight where you might want to clap the landing!

After a walk around town, get to know your companions properly with a welcome dinner (and introduction to your tour of Bhutan) at a local restaurant which specialises in fine dining using fresh, organic local produce from the mountains and valleys surrounding the town.

In the morning we will drive to Kabesa to visit Choki Traditional Arts School, a charitable school just north of Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. This school trains disadvantaged and orphaned children in the traditional arts of painting (Inverted Atlas makes a donation to the school).

Next, we will visit Pangri Zampa, Bhutan’s most important college of traditional astrology, founded in the 16th century. The college institute releases the annual Bhutanese calendar and has the responsibility for deciding dates for important national events in Bhutan. Astrologers are available for private reedings.

On arrival in Thimphu we will visit the National Textiles Museum to browse a striking collection of intricate fabrics and clothing. We will then see some modern day masterpieces and have the opportunity to buy with a walk through the Craft Bazaar.

Later in the afternoon/evening we will begin to get to know Bhutanese cuisine in the best way, by cooking it ourselves!

We will leave Thimphu early this morning and drive to Tashigang Gompa. We will visit the Gompa – about 30 monks live here during the warmer months. From the Tashiigang we will take a walk towards the Lungchotse Gompa which will take about 2 hours.

Lungchotse Gompa is the perfect place to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty for which Bhutan is famous. On a clear sunny day you can see the entire Bhutanese side of the Himalayan rage.

When we reach the Lhakhang temple we will view it from the outside. From this point we will continue another 1.5 hours to Dochu La Pass where we will stop for a hot drink. From here we will meet our driver and head into the old capital of Punakha.

On the way we will stop for a pleasant stroll across the terraced fields of Sopsokha village to Chimi Lhakhang built in the 15th century by the ‘Divine Madman.’

Today we will take a short hike to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten via the village of Yebisa. The walk is fairly gentle with a few steeper parts and at the top you will see a beautiful view of the valley and surrounding villages. After visiting the temple we will descend and meet our driver at the suspension bridge.

At this point we will have the option for some gentle river rafting on the Mo Chu or “female river.” (Note this activity is optional and is not included in the price of the tour)

In the afternoon we will visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery and Talo Nobgang village. The nunnery has one of the largest bronze statues of Avalokiteshvara – a bodhisattva embodying infinite compassion and was created by local Bhutanese artisans.

This morning we will visit Punakha Dzong, “Palace of Great Happiness”. Built in 1637, it is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Po Chu and the Mo Chu.

In the afternoon we will dive to Gangtey and enjoy the beautiful views of the remote Phobijikha Valley and Black Moutain Ranges. Visit Gangtey Gompa, one of Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and explore the valley where villagers continue to live a traditional Bhutanese lifestyle.

This is also the site where black-necked cranes visit in their hundreds around this this time of year after spending the simmer in Tibet – we might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them.

In the morning we will take the short Gangtey Nature Trail walk through the Phobjikha Valley and then drive to Lawa La where you can hoist prayer flags in different colours to bring good spirits and good luck.

We will then return to Thimphu via Wangdi where we will visit the weekly market. You will se local farmers come together to sell their vegetables in capital.

Today we will head to the small village of Genekha to visit the Genekha Local Festival. You will see locals dressed in their finest clothes who have walked for miles to attend the festivities. You will see masked dances performed by demons and animals and be captivated by the sound of cymbals, drums and horns as well as the unforgettable chanting of Buddhist monks who perform the religious dance of purification. Arrays of colourful brocades whirl through the air as the dancers spin and dance the “thunderbolt step”.

In the late afternoon, after the festival has ended, we will dive back to Paro.

Time permitting we will taste of some of the local grain at Namgay Artisanal Brewery, one of the few producers of alcoholic drinks in the country, and run by monks to boot!

This morning we will visit the National Museum located in Ta Dzong. This watchtower structure was built on top of the hill above Rinpung Dzong to defend the Paro Valley in times of war. View a not to be missed collection of Bhutanese artefacts, costumes, religious paintings, arms and stamps.

After our visit to the museum some fresh air will be in order so we will take a short hike along the forested hillside to Zuri Dzong. Zuri Dzong dates from 1352 and is home to the valley’s local protector gods.  Continue your walk down to the Uma Resort junction where you turn right towards Paro Dzong and here again you should have a good view of Paro Dzong and town.  Our driver will be waiting at the Paro bridge to pick you up. After lunch we will also visit the impressive Paro Rinpung Dzong, one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture.  Nearby we will visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, a temple of historical significance and one of the most sacred shrines in Bhutan.  Afterwards, if there is time, we will visit Dumtse Lhakhang, a temple built by Thangtong Gyalpo, the iron bridge builder.

This evening we are in for a true local treat as we visit a farmhouse for dinner, allowing you to experience traditional Bhutanese village life.  We will also take the opportunity to try the restorative properties of a hot stone bath. 

Head out into Bhutan’s countryside today to the hidden, out-of-the-way town of Haa, the capital of the Haa province which is Bhutan’s second-least populated. Bordered by Tibet, Haa is a herding province and almost every family in the district owns livestock of some sort – you are all but guaranteed to be introduced to somebody’s pet yak today!

Visit Kila Nunnery en route and learn about the day-to-day lives of its inhabitants, before taking a stroll around Haa town and admiring its perch in one of the country’s most fertile valleys.

Haa is still off the usual tourist trail so tourist infrastructure maybe a little lacking – this is your chance to see the real Bhutan. It’s a great opportunity to see Bhutan’s rural scene and small local temples.

Today we will hike a newly designed hiking trail which gives a panoramic view of the Haa valley throughout the day.  Walk along the forested path through the valley, occasionally emerging from the forest canopy.  You will continue across a stream and over a small pass (with prayer flags) until you reach Katsho Gompa. Descend a little to visit the temple and then return to the path to continue a short distance to Juneydrak Hermitage, a cliff-side retreat which contains a footprint of Machen Labdrom, a female Tibetan tantric practitioner.  If there is no one meditating inside the temple then we can go in and take a look at the footprint.  Continue your walk along the trail to Wangtsha village where our driver will meet us.

This morning complete the essential traveller’s pilgrimage in Paro and hike to the awe-inspiring Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Seemingly floating on the side of the valley this incredible temple is a feat of architecture and art alike, and the meandering walk, while challenging, is a rewarding trek along cliffside paths with peeks at stunning countryside and sheer cliff faces around every corner.

This evening we will head out into Paro for our farewell dinner to say goodbye to your trip leader and travel companions.

Today we wish you Tashi Delek (goodbye and good luck) as we transfer you to Paro International Airport for your departing flight.

Tour of Bhutan
Trip Map – Monks, Dzong, Wild

Details – Tour of Bhutan

Duration: 12 Days

Trip style: Unique

Group size: Minimum 6 / Maximum 15

Trip code: NDPG

Cost: xxxxx

Single supplement: $xxxAUD

Inclusions

  • 11-nights accommodation in traditional hotels, guesthouses and homestays
  • All meals – Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
  • Return airport transfers
  • Daily compulsory sustainability fee for Bhutan ($1100 USD per person over 11 days). This fee is charged by the Bhutanese government and is not negotiable when visiting Bhutan.
  • Visa for Bhutan
  • Sightseeing as listed in the itinerary.
  • Services of your Inverted Atlas trip leader and local guides

Trip price does not include

  • International or domestic airfares
  • Meals not included as per trip itinerary including drinks and mini bar
  • Additional accommodation before or after the tour
  • Items of a personal nature including but not limited to laundry, souvenirs, porterage etc.
  • Travel insurance – please note comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas

Journey Rating – Quest

This is a tour of Bhutan, a country which has only recently started encouraging minimal tourism and which accepts very few travellers each year. People may be curious towards you at times, but are overall very welcoming. This trip visits remote locations and villages where tourists are rare. Bhutan is a Buddhist country, and some temples and sites may require full coverage sleeves. You may be required to remove your shoes to enter certain buildings. Cuisine found in Bhutan is more often than not vegetarian, and can also be spicy. Toilets you encounter in public restrooms or in remote unscheduled stops along the way may be of the eastern ‘squat’ variety. There are some long travel days, but rest assured on arrival we will always be checking in to accommodation that is of a good standard. Bhutan does not have many Western-style chain hotels, but most of the accommodation on this trip consists of traditional guesthouses, home stays and some local hotels. The weather in Bhutan can change rapidly depending on the area we are traveling through; many of the places visited on this trip are at a high altitude and can be cold and windy. This trip visits the Himalayan region in winter – so pack accordingly!  

Facilities such as pharmacies, banks and ATM’s can be found in large cities and towns but will be absent from smaller villages and remote places. Please note that Bhutan for the most part is a cash economy. While the Ngultrum is the main currency, this can be difficult to source outside of Bhutan and most places catering to tourists will also accept Indian Rupees. We suggest arranging cash on arrival at Bhutan airport and carrying a combination of Rupees and Ngultrum. Tipping is not compulsory in Bhutan but is welcomed.

Any dietary requirements should not be an issue while traveling on this Bhutan tour, provided they are disclosed to Inverted Atlas at the time of booking.

A note about fitness

This tour of Bhutan requires a good level of physical fitness. You should be able to walk up to 4km at times and manage uneven surfaces during sightseeing, which will sometimes be at an incline. Altitude is a factor in some places, with this trip visiting sites up to 4000m above sea level. In addition, you should be able to climb up to 200 stairs unassisted and use an eastern style squat toilet (beware if you have knee issues). This trip involves some light to moderate hiking easily accomplished by a person of a regular fitness level, please consider this when making a booking.

You will need to be able to carry your own luggage to and from the coach and into the accommodation. (Due to OH&S regulations our trip leaders are not able to assist with luggage.)

In addition, you should be in good health, with no major chronic conditions requiring frequent medical attention. This trip often travels through remote locations where the availability of a hospital or even phone reception to call an ambulance is limited. While all our trip leaders are required to have a valid first aid certificate, they are far from doctors and any assistance they are able to provide will be limited to basic first aid. For more information please see our booking conditions.

Single supplement

Traveling by yourself? No problem, we love single travellers and don’t believe in penalising them by charging half the trip price again for our single supplement. With us you are only paying the actual cost to have a room all to yourself. If you’re up for making a new friend, you can elect to share with another single traveller of the same sex and only pay the twin-share price. The choice is yours!

Trip leader description

Accompanying you on your tour of Bhutan will be your Inverted Atlas trip leader. Your trip leader is a logistics extraordinaire, keeps the trip running smoothly and ensures you have the best time possible on your trip. It is important to know that while your trip leader has the best job in the world, they aren’t actually on holidays, but rather they are there to make sure you have the best time while you are on your holiday! Your trip leader may at times need some time out so that they can complete back of house tasks that ensure everyone continues to enjoy the trip. It is also your trip leaders’ job to handle any issues (heaven forbid!) that come up while you’re on your trip like:

  • If you lose your passport or other travel documents
  • If there is a problem with your room at the booked accommodation – seriously please tell your trip leader don’t wait until you leave
  • If you become unwell and need to find a pharmacy
  • Assisting with restaurant recommendations or additional sightseeing during free time
  • Questions regarding the itinerary

Your trip leader will have some good local knowledge about the destination in which you are traveling, however they are not a ‘local guide’. You’re welcome to ask your trip leader anything about the trip and if they don’t know they will find out and get back to you. Other people you will meet along the way are ‘local guides’ who are generally available to the group in specific towns or at specific sites like national parks, temples or archaeological sites. These people are the local experts and will be able to answer any questions you may have about the history and culture of a specific site.

Itinerary disclaimer

The itinerary for this tour of Bhutan is correct at the time of upload to our website and we have composed it in good faith. Please note that this trip does involve a border crossing on the second last day. Border crossings are subject to local Government laws, which we will adhere to strictly. From time to time we may elect to make changes before departure, if we are making a big change we will of course notify you, however if it is a small change this will be reflected in the final trip notes. So, make sure you download these prior to departure. Small changes prior to departure are usually made with the groups best interests in mind and come about due to liaising with our best resources – our past travellers and of course our trip leaders! The ability to change and evolve depending on what our travellers enjoy is what makes us such a great trip operator.

While we strive to operate our trips exactly to the letter of the itinerary, sometimes we may need to make changes on the ground while the group is on the road. This is all part of the adventure of traveling and we would ask that you come on your trip with an open mind and a good sense of humour because as much as we want it to, everything doesn’t always go to plan. In fact, these impromptu situations often make the best stories that you can have a laugh with your friends about later.

Age requirements

Minimum Age: 16 years

There is no shared accommodation on this tour of Bhutan, and in this instance we would welcome everyone above the age of 16 years. Should you wish to bring younger children, please give us a call.

There is no upper age limit for this trip, but you should consider the above fitness requirements prior to booking. If you are 65 years or over, you will be asked to complete our Health Check Form and have your medical practitioner sign it to confirm you are in good health and able to participate safely on this trip.

Travel insurance

Please note that comprehensive travel insurance is a condition of travel with Inverted Atlas. Insurance must include provision for medical situations, emergency medical repatriation to your home country and personal liability at a minimum. Proof of valid travel insurance will be requested by your trip leader on arrival at the pre-departure meeting. Please have this paperwork available for them. If you are unable to provide proof of comprehensive travel insurance, you may not be allowed to join the trip and no refund will be payable.

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