A Classic Culture Tour of Bhutan

12 DAYS
Category:
Grade: Star
Duration: 12 days
Highlights: Thimphu, Gangtey, Punakha, Paro, Delhi
Departure: Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Sep, Oct, Nov

Thimphu, home to the youthful king of Bhutan, is the starting point of this sojourn and one can see the contemporary intermingle with traditional culture in this small capital city. Heading eastwards the modern world quickly dissipates to noticeably more rural and traditional sights where village life has remained largely unchanged. Crossing into the marshy Phobjikha Valley, where electricity is still a rare commodity, we get the opportunity to spot the seasonal (Oct-Mar) population of Black Neck Cranes that over-winter migrate from neighboring Tibet. The township of Punakha, cradled in a lowland steamy valley, is one of the nation’s rice bowls and home to the amazing Punakha Dzong, picturesquely located at the merging of two rivers.

Wind off in the Paro and Haa valleys, taking in local culture and breathtaking scenery including the fabled Tiger’s Nest (Taktsang) monastery. If you have a palate for hot food don’t miss Bhutan’s national dish of “ema dates”, which basically consists of fiery red hot chilies with cheese sauce; a guaranteed ‘warmer-upper’! This holiday is purely a recommended itinerary. It can be booked as is or optionally used as a starting point for creating your own perfect custom made trip to Bhutan

Location: Between China and India

Capital: Thimpu

Area : 46,620 sq km

Population: 700,000 (approx. 1 million)

Languages: Dzongkha, English

Currency: Ngultrum (NU)

Religion: 70% Buddhist, 25% Hindu, 5% others

National Sport: Dha(archery)

Political-System: Monarchy

National Animal: Takin (Burdorcas taxicolor),

National Bird: Raven (Corvus corax)

National Flower: Blue poppy (Meconopsis grandis)

Immigration requirements: Tourist visas are mandatory to visit the country. The processing of visa applications will be arranged by Nepal tours and requires approximately 14 days for handling. A visa fee of US$ 40 will be charged at time of booking.

LANGUAGE & PEOPLE
Predominantly Buddhist people whose dialect is Dzongkha ( similarities to Tibetan ), the Bhutanese still clothe themselves in their traditional “Kira” and “Gho” ( for men ) – a one-piece garment in the likeness of a Scottish kilt. The government encourages national attire for the preservation of their culture. Despite such a conservative atmosphere, Bhutanese people are now highly dynamic, vibrant and modern and are fluent in various languages with English being one of them.

THE CLIMATE / IDEAL SEASON(S) TO VISIT
Because of the diversity of its landscape ranging from the lowlands to the highlands, Bhutan has a varying climate; you may have perpetual snow in the high mountain regions and at the same time experience tropical climate in the low-lying southern border areas.
The temperatures in the southern areas may be 15 degrees Celsius in winter and 30 degrees Celsius in summer whereas in the high Himalayan regions, you may experience snow with 0 degrees Celsius in winter and 10 degrees Celsius in summer with 350 m of rainfall. Paro – where you may find yourself if you fly in by Druk Air, the national carrier – temperatures can be minus 5 degrees Celsius in winter and 30 degrees Celsius in summer with an annual rainfall of 800 mm.

The ideal time to visit would be in Spring and Autumn, but Summer and Winter also have their own draws and appeal especially under such varying climates and regions. The time of visit also depends on the type of activity/activities you may choose to embark upon; treks, rafting, sightseeing, etc. for which a particular season may be preferable to another.

WHAT CAN YOU DO & SEE?
As a visitor, you have various options and these may include any of the following depending on your tastes, preferences, time schedule and so forth:

CULTURAL & HERITAGE SITES
Visiting sites of historical, religious or archaeological prominence. These may include paying visits to Dzongs ( former fortress-like palaces ), monasteries and museums that dot the country. The magnificence of these places not only give an insight into Bhutanese architecture and history but also offer an opportunity to visit some of the most spectacular and scenic countrysides that you will see in your lifetime. Many of these dzongs have been restored to their former glory and some have been converted to national museums that hold rich heritage relics. These restorations have been done on similar lines to those done at Patan and Bhaktapur in Nepal.

TREKS / ADVENTURE TOURISM
Almost all travel agents and their partners offer a range of treks through rugged and yet picturesque virgin trails of Bhutan with stunning landscape and typical Bhutanese settlements. There is no mad rush of trekkers and travelers and hitting the trails of Bhutan is a solitary experience and almost like having the Himalayan paradise to yourself. Mountain Biking and River rafting also provide similar experiences but from a different perspective. You could combine some of these adventures and tailor your own itinerary with advice and suggestions from experts. More than a dozen varying trekking packages are tailored for different levels and tastes. Vertical rock climbing has also recently gained much popularity.

WILDLIFE
Like most regions in the Himalayan belt, Bhutan is home to some of the most exotic, diverse and on most occasions endangered species of birds, animals, and plants. Depending on the topography, species vary from mammals like the red panda and snow leopards to the Bengal tiger and wild elephants; fowls like the Trapogan Pheasant also skirt in the undergrowth of Bhutan’s eco-friendly rich forests – from the alpine in the higher Himalayas to the more tropical belts in the southern borders with India.
As a consequence, the Bhutanese government has also established various wildlife reserves to protect these rare jewels of the Himalayan foothills and for the avid wildlife enthusiast to experience these wonders first hand.

Day 1 – 2

Fly to Kathmandu, at leisure in Kathmandu

Day 3-4

Fly to Bhutan, sightseeing in the Paro Valley. Attend Paro Tsechu – Day 4

Day 5-6

Drive to Punakha. Valley Walk and visit Punakha Dzong. Visit Chimi Lhakhang and drive to Trongsa. Visit Ta Dzong and Royal Museum

Day 7

Drive to Chumey Valley, visit Nimalung and Prakhar monasteries and walk from Tharpaling to Lamey Gompa

Day 8-9

Explore the Bumthang valley including a walk to Swan Lakhang and round monasteries of Jakar. Drive to Trongsa. Good Friday – Day 9

Day 10-11

Drive to Kipche to Gangtey valley. Walk to Gangtey Valley day walk. Easter Sunday – Day 11

Day 12

Drive to Dochu La; walk to Trashigang-Hongtsho then drive to Thimphu. Easter Monday

Day 13-14

Walk to Cheri Gompa; sightseeing in Thimphu. Drive to Paro and visit Taktsang monastery

Day 15-17

Fly to Kathmandu; at leisure in Kathmandu. Fly to London. This is an example itinerary only, each departure varies, download pdf for details.

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