Trip Length: 10 days 4 spots left
Trip Dates: April 18-27, 2018
Activity Level: Easy to Moderate
Explore Bhutan on this 10-day nature and cultural tour. This journey coincides with spring and the blooming rhododendrons! Immerse yourself in rich traditions, explore nature, hike at a moderate level in the Himalayas, and visit the country’s cultural highlights including Paro, Thimphu, Dochula, and Punakha.
This journey takes us well beyond the typical tourist itinerary with great day hikes, nature focus and cultural exploration! Join biologist and trek leader Cathy Shill who loves to share Bhutan, her strong Buddhist foundations and her passion for nature. She partners with expert Bhutanese guide and business owner Kinlay Gyeltshen to co-lead this amazing trip.
• Stunning Himalayan Views
• Moderate Day Hikes
• Trek to the Tiger’s Nest
• Cultural Dzongs & Museums
Trip Cost: $3780, double occupancy (all inclusive once in country)
Guides: Cathy Shill and Kinlay Gyeltshen (minimum of 4 participants for both guides to join group)
Temperatures will vary greatly based on our altitude and current weather. Ranges from high 70’s, low 30’s.
We will sleep between 7,000 to 9,800 feet. Hikes will vary in elevation.
Day 1 – Arrival to Paro Airport
During the flight into Paro Airport, enjoy the view of Mt. Everest, Mt. Kanchenjunga and other Himalayan Mountains including the sacred Mt. Jomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake. Upon arrival at Paro Airport, you will be greeted by the trip leaders and transported to your comfortable hotel in Thimphu. We will visit the Tamchong Temple which was built in the 15th century by Thangthong Gyalpo, an iron bridge builder. Time in the afternoon can be spent enjoying sites of Thimphu. Overnight Hotel Sernya.
Day will begin with a walk north of Thimphu up a well-worn trail to the 17th century meditation site of the Shadbrung, the unifier of Bhutan. Following the temple visit, we will retrace our steps to the river bank where we will be served a picnic lunch. Difficulty: easy to moderate, 800 foot elevation gain. After lunch, drive to Thimphu, visit textile museum and school of arts and crafts, Takin zoo, and world’s largest Buddha statue, Tashichho Dzong. Overnight Hotel Sernya.
We will drive to a 10,500 ft. pass called Dochula, where we will take time to photograph a set of 108 stupas, called chortens, constructed in honor of the Fourth King, and the distant peaks of the Bhutanese Himalaya. We continue to Punakha and enjoy a very scenic walk to Chimi Lakhang, the temple dedicated to Bhutan’s most infamous saint, named Drukpa Kinlay. Difficulty: easy. We will spend about an hour here, then return to our van on narrow trails wedged between a series of terraced rice paddies. After lunch, we drive a half hour to the north to be guided through the huge and lovely Punakha Dzong at the confluence of the Mo Chuu (Female River) and the Pho Chuu (Male River). Overnight Zangto Pelri Hotel or Damchen Resorts.
We will start this day with an early morning drive up the “mochu” female river valley past the Punakha dzong , we cross over a suspension bridge and start 1 hour easy climb to the Khamsum Temple. (3 miles roundtrip/about 2-3 hours). After lunch, we cross the Punatsang Chuu River to look for the endangered White-Bellied Herons along the Pu Chuu, the “male” river. Overnight Zangto Pelri Hotel or Damchen Resorts
Chorten Nebu temple: upper Punakha valley hike. 6 miles moderate, elevation gain 1200 feet. (option to shorten hikes available as there is a farm road) Driving up North of the valley passing the dzong and Khamsum temple, we start the hike to Chorten Nebu temple. We climb steeply up well walked trails through terraced rice fields to 300 year old Chorten nebu temple. Perched high on a hill top with spectacular views of the valley.The old temple houses a large image of Maiterya, the future Buddha besides other smaller Buddha images.
Long before the temple was built, the temple grounds is believed to have been the meeting place of demons and no man or animal lived to see the day light in the are. Locals believe that the Divine mad man, Drukpa Kinlay, had camped for the night on the opposite ridge of Chandaney, and, as he sat by his camp fire he saw a meeting of the demons and evil spirits . He picked up a burning piece of firewood and threw it in their midst, scattering the demons and evil spirits , never to be seen or heard of again.
There now stands an old oak tree, that is said to have grown from the piece of burning firewood, ashes can be seen to this day and sacred talismans are made from the branches of the oak tree to adorn the necks and belts of children and livestock to keep them healthy and safe.
Following a picnic lunch at the monastic grounds or at a farm house, descend through small villages to the bus/ van for shuttle to hotel in Punakha. Overnight Zangto Pelri Hotel or Damchen Resorts.
Following breakfast , we leave the Punakha valley and retrace our journey back to the Dochula Pass, where we will be spending the night at the Dochula resorts. On route visit the Royal Botanical park, following lunch or a tea break, option to hike uphill for 1 hour, 820 feet gain along the ancient trade route to the Dochula resorts. Weather permitting we will be afforded great views of the sunset and sunrise from the hotel. Overnight Dochula Resorts
Awaking to the sunrise over the Bhutan Himalayan peaks, we have the option to hike up to the Lungchzer (Windy Ridge) temple at an elevation of 11,748 feet. Spring is the ideal time to see the blooming giant rhododendron trees. On clear days, from the temple we are afforded a 360 degrees vista of the high mountains. The hike will be 2 hours uphill with a climb of 1400 feet. Following a picnic lunch at the temple grounds, we retrace our steps to the van for an hour’s drive to Hotel in Thimphu. OR drive to Thimphu and spend the afternoon exploring the many shops in downtown Thimphu on your own, looking for gifts and souvenirs to take home. Late afternoon learn to cook the “ema datsi” cheese and chilly dish at the hotel. Overnight Hotel Seryna
After breakfast, we will drive to the Tiger’s nest trailhead 1 and a half hour drive and start hiking to Taktsang, or Tiger’s Nest, one of Bhutan’s most sacred sites and an architectural gem. We can take our time, visit the tea house, and explore this sacred pilgrimage site. Difficulty: moderate to challenging- 4 miles, 3000 feet elevation gain to 10,200 feet. Overnight Janka Resort.
Today we will enjoy a scenic drive to the highest drivable pass in Bhutan, 12800 feet. From here we begin the Chelela Ridge hike which will end up at a nunnery after 3 to 4 hours hiking. On a clear day you will be able to see Chomolhari Mountain, Gangkar Phuensum Mountain and the 3rd highest mountain in the world Mt. Kanchenjunga which is in India. Difficulty: moderate to Challenging- 4 miles, 1794 feet elevation gain and 2100 feet elevation loss. Overnight Janka Resort.
Day 10 Early departure to Paro Airport, and morning departure bound for connections home.