Trip Dates: November 6-15, 2018
Activity Level: Easy to Moderate
Explore Bhutan on this 10-day cultural tour to experience Gasa and the Black-necked Crane Festival. 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, Punakha and Pobjika.
This journey takes us well beyond the typical tourist itinerary. 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. It is the ultimate itinerary since the cultural highlights are explored plus time near Gasa Hot Spring and the Black-necked Crane Festival
• Gasa Hot Spring
• Black-necked Crane Festival
• Stunning Himalayan Views
• Trek to the Tiger’s Nest
• Cultural Dzongs & Museum
$3780, double occupancy (all inclusive once in country)
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 Paro Airport transfer to Punakha (3 to 4 hour drive)
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 Punakha. We will drive to a 10,500 ft. pass, Dochula, where we will take time to photograph a set of 108 chortens, constructed in honor of the Fourth King, and the distant peaks of the Bhutanese Himalaya. On arrival at the Punakha valley, easy 3 mile hike, to the temple of the Divine mad man, through terraced rice fields and the villages of Sopsokha and Yowokha where we visit a farm house. Overnight hotel Zangto Pelri or Similar
Day 2-Punakha to Gasa hot springs (4 hour drive)
We drive north of the Punakha valley through terraced fields and farm houses perched on the hill sides. Enjoy the beauty of preserved forests of the Jigme Dorji National Park as we continue to Gasa (optional walk (about an hour or less) to our campsite near the Gasa Hot Spring). The famous Gasa Hot Spring complex was completely destroyed by a flood in 2008, and has since been reconstructed. With evening approaching we will have dinner by a bonfire at camp. Camp is located on the opposite side of the river where the national animal, the Takin, spend the winter. Overnight camp at Gasa Hot Spring
Day 3-Gasa hot springs to Gasa Dzong
We leave our forest campsite early for the 2-hr. hike up to the Gaza Dzong at 9,200 ft. (2000 feet elevation gain) This spectacular Dzong, the only one in Bhutan with a circular design and three watchtowers, was built by the Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal as a defense fortress in 1648. A tour of the Dzong will include a glimpse of some unusual ancient weapons used for its defense from Tibetan invaders. As a dramatic backdrop to the Dzong, we may see the 6,500m Khang Bum, one of Bhutan’s few climbable peaks. Weather permitting, we will hike along the Laya trail, heading north from Gasa. After retracing our steps to Gasa, we can proceed down to the Hot Springs for a soak or just relax in camp. The hike to Gasa is also a great spot for watching birds. We will enjoy a traditional Bhutanese dinner cooked on an open fire, and a well-deserved rest. Overnight camp at Gasa Hot Spring Difficulty- moderate (day of hiking)
Day 4-Gasa to Punakha (4 hour drive)
This morning we drive back to Punakha. On the way, enjoy a very scenic walk along the Mo Chu river in the Jigme Dorji National park. Following a picnic lunch by the river banks, continue the drive to the Punakha Dzong to be guided through the huge and lovely Punakha Dzong, built in the 17 C, at the confluence of the Mo Chu (female river) and the Pho Chu (male river). Following the Dzong visit, walk across the 2nd longest suspension bridge in the world, 235 meters, over the Pho chu river. Overnight Hotel Zangdopelri or similar
Day 5-Punakh to Phobjikha (3 to 4 hour drive)
We drive back down the Mo Chu canyon road to Wangdiphodrang, stopping along the way to photograph the farms and people of the Punakha valley. Then drive up the Black Mountain Range , climbing to a pass, Lowa la, at 11,300 feet. From the pass, a short 20 minutes’ drive, will bring us to the Gangtey Gompa valley. After lunch visit the Gangtey Gompa monastery and explore the little shops and bars.
Day 6-Gangtey Gompa festival and Phobjikha valley
After a morning stroll around Gangtey Village, we join hundreds of spectators to enjoy the Black-Necked Crane Festival, which has been in existence for only 14 years, now one of the most popular festivals in the country. This will be an opportunity to witness and photograph a wide variety of traditional (masked) and modern dances, all performed in the courtyard of the Monastery in honor of this beautiful and endangered crane. In the late afternoon, we will take a walk through the village of Gangtey, and meet some of the local folks. Difficulty: easy. Overnight at the Thegchen guest house or similar
Day 7-Phobjikha to Dochula (4 hour drive)
Begin our journey back to Dochula Pass, where we will be spending the night at the Dochula Resorts. On route, visit the Royal Botanical park, optional 1 hour hike uphill , climbing 800 feet to the Dochola resorts. Weather permitting we will be afforded great views of the sunset and sunrise from the hotel. Overnight Dochula Resorts
Day 8-Dochola to Thimphu (1 hour drive)
Awaking to the sunrise over the Bhutan Himalayan peaks we will drive to Thimphu to spend the day seeing sights such as the Takin Zoo, paper factory, school of arts and crafts and much more. We will also have time to explore 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
Day 9-Thimphu to Paro, Tiger’s Nest(1.5 hour drive)
After breakfast, we will drive to the Tiger’s Nest trailhead and start hiking to Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest, one of Bhutan’s most sacred sites and an architectural gem. We can take your time, visit the tea house, and explore this sacred pilgrimage site. Difficulty moderate to challenging- 4.0 miles round trip, 1700 feet elevation gain. Overnight Janka Resort
Early departure to Paro Airport for flight bound for connections home.