Places Visited: Kathmandu, Thimphu, Gangtey, Punakha, Paro, Kathmandu
Discover the magic and mystery of Bhutan on this interesting tour covering the sights of Paro and Thimphu, and taking in the astonishing fortified monastic complexes at Punakha. Also included is the beautiful valley of Gangtey, famous for its population of migrant black-necked cranes, and an excellent base for walks. The tour is bookended with short stays in the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, where you will have the opportunity to do some sightseeing and souvenir shopping between flights.
- Group Size 4 -16 people
- Internal Travel Arrival & departure transfers. International flight between Nepal & Bhutan
- Accompanying Guide English-speaking guides. Accompanying tour escort when minimum group size achieved
- Accommodation 9 nights
- Meal Plan Bed and breakfast in Kathmandu. Full board in Bhutan
Itinerary for Essential Bhutan
Greeted on arrival in Kathmandu transfer to the Malla hotel or similar for an overnight stay. The afternoon is at leisure to explore the bustling Thamel quarter on your own.
A sprawling modern city of nearly a million inhabitants, the Nepali capital can feel overwhelmingly crowded and chaotic on first impressions. But head for its ancient core and things improve dramatically.
Durbar Square forms the epicentre of the old quarter. More than fifty temples, 106 monastery courtyards (bahals) and countless shrines line its narrow, cobbled backstreets and stone-paved piazzas. Settle on to one of the terraced platforms of the Manju Devul tower to watch exotic bustle of marigold sellers, saffron-clad sadhus, stray cows and pigeons. In the evening, the group will convene for a seven-course Nepali banquet at the famous Bhojan Griha restaurant in Dillibazaar.
Take a short flight on Druk Air, Bhutan’s national carrier, landing in Paro. Greeted on arrival and driven to Thimphu, the capital city, for your two nights’ stay at Kisa Hotel or similar.
Approached by spectacular flight path, the town’s airport at Paro is the principal arrival point for foreign travellers. A couple of hours’ drive away, Thimpu became the capital of Bhutan in 1961, since when it’s swollen to a town of 80,000 people – the perfect place to get to grips with life in modern Bhutan.
A full day is spent visiting the sights of Thimphu. This includes an impressive dzong, a fortified monastic building found in nearly all of Bhutan’s main settlements as well as the King’s Memorial, the Painting School where students undergo a 6-year training in Bhutan’s 13 traditional arts and crafts, Simply Bhutan Museum, Textile Museum, Buddha Point and a local craft bazaar.
During the third day of your trip you’ll tour the Bhutanese capital’s impressive dzongs (fortress-monasteries), the King’s Memorial chorten, Buddhist painting school and national folk museum, made of rammed earth to resemble a traditional farmstead. In the city’s market, your guide will point out local delicacies such as jellied cow skin and fried fern, and don’t miss the chance to touch a taking, Bhutan’s national animal, which looks like a cross between a cow and a goat and survives in the nearby Mothitang Reserve. We’ll also pause at the Textile Museum, the city’s craft bazaar and Buddha point.
Begin the journey eastward with a morning’s drive up to the Dochu-la pass (3,088 metres). Continue on to Gangtey and the valley of Phobjika. Two nights are spent at the simple Dewachen Resort or similar.
The 17th century dzong at Gangtey is this awesome valley’s prime religious monument. The major event in its festival calendar is tsechu, which usually falls in October, when monks perform traditional Cham dances in the monastery courtyard. Preserved in one of Gangtey’s inner shrines is one of the country’s more gruesome relics: the hands of a British army officer killed in a battle with Bhutanese forces in 1864.
The valley is considered sacred to the Bhutanese as it is the winter residence of a small but significant black necked crane population that migrate over the Himalaya from Tibet. Visit the black necked crane centre to learn more about these birds and the significant place they hold in local folk lore.
Surrounded by snow peaks and old-growth forest, the beautiful Phobjikha Valley is home to a unique conservation initiative, where migratory black-neck cranes, which pass through here in the winter months between October and March, are protected by local wardens and volunteers. The centre provides information about the birds and their migration, and if your tour coincides with their stay in the village you’ll be able to observe them grazing on the valley floor through telescopes.
Drive to Punakha in the morning for one night at the Damchen Resort or similar. Visit the beautiful Punakha Dzong this afternoon, considered to be one of the finest examples of dzong architecture in Bhutan. Later take a short excursion to Chimi Lhakhang also known as ‘Fertility Temple’.
Around 25km east of Thimphu, Punakha is the home of one of the country’s most beautiful monasteries, built around 1638 at the confluence of two rivers. The complex is a showcase of Bhutanese craftsmanship, with a particularly impressive assembly hall featuring fine clay statues and intricate murals. The dzong also hosts a well-known festival, during which an enormous thondrol ‒ an extraordinary appliquéd sacred banner ‒ is unfurled, conferring merit on all who see it.
Drive in the morning to Paro (4-5 hours). En route visit Simtokha Dzong, the oldest fortress of the country, which now houses the School for Buddhist studies. Stay at Gangtey Palace hotel or similar for two nights. Afternoon is at leisure. Optional activity: Experience a local hot stone bath.
Shops, restaurants and offices in richly carved traditional buildings line the main street of Paro, where two of eastern Bhutan’s main rivers meet. The town is best known locally for the splendid Rinpung Dzong, overlooking the river, whose most valuable possession is a giant embroidered tapestry, or thondrol (thangka), depicting the dzong’s founding father, Guru Rincpoche. The treasure is unrolled only once a year on the morning of the annual tsechu (festival). On the hill behind rests the National Museum in a beautifully restored watchtower, the Ta Dzong, built in the 1650s to guard Paro’s dzong.
The afternoon will be at leisure. Group members will be invited to experience a traditional Bhutanese ‘stone bath’ (optional – additional costs may apply), in which river water mixed with local Artemisia leaves is heated by river stones roasted in a wood fire – a delightful pick-me-up.
A full day’s sightseeing including visits to the Ta Dzong, which houses the National Museum, the Rinpung Dzong and an arduous walk up to the famous Taktsang (‘Tiger’s Nest’) monastery, which rests precariously on a rocky hillside overlooking a wide forested valley.
Bhutan’s most photographed monument, the Taktsang Monastery, commonly known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest’, is wedged into a lofty cliff nearly a vertical kilometre above a forested valley. Rock-cut steps and rickety bridges connect its four wings, whose golden pagoda roofs, fluttering prayer flags and distempered walls are dwarfed by the vista of forested hills and snow-capped mountains unfolding on all sides – a spectacle worth the journey to Bhutan alone!
Fly back to Kathmandu for an overnight stay at the Malla hotel or similar.
Transfer to the airport.
Group Tour 10 days from £2145 per person
✓ 9 nights accommodation
✓ Arrival & departure transfers. International flight between Nepal & Bhutan
✓ English-speaking guides. Accompanying tour escort when minimum group size achieved
✓ Bed and breakfast in Kathmandu. Full board in Bhutan
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
✓ Visa fees for Bhutan
Holiday Extensions for this tour
Essential Bhutan - Enchanting Nepal
5 days, 4 nights from £895 per person
Single supplement £ 325 per personview itinerary
Fly back to Kathmandu. On arrival, check in at the Malla hotel for two nights. Later visit the vibrant Durbar Square.
A full day’s sightseeing includes the Buddhist Stupa of Swayambhunath and the city of Bhaktapur. Optional excursion: Everest flight: For those keen on viewing Mount Everest you have the option of taking a 45 minute round trip flight in a 14-seater Beechcraft. It can be booked locally since it is dependent on weather conditions.
Take a short flight to Pokhara. Check in at the Temple Tree Resort for two nights. Afternoon at leisure to take a stroll around the lake for brilliant views of the Annapurna mountain range.
The day is at leisure. For those keen to do a bit of walking and trekking, there are several short trekking routes in this area which offer stunning views of the Himalaya.
Take an early afternoon flight to Kathmandu for an overnight stay at the Malla hotel.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight.
Places and Experiences in this tour
Kathmandu A sprawling modern city of nearly a million inhabitants, the Nepali capital can feel overwhelmingly crowded and chaotic on first impressions. But head for its ancient c...
Thimphu became the capital of Bhutan in 1961, since when it has swollen to a town of around 80,000 people. TransIndus tours typically pause a couple of nights here – long enough t...
Dochu La Pass
On the road to Punakha from Thimpu lies the Dochu La Pass, at 3,100m (10,170ft). 108 memorial stupas adorn the pass, arranged in three concentric circles. The vast expanse of the ...
Around 15.5 miles (25 km) east of Thimphu, Punakha and its gorgeous valley typically offers visitors their first real taste of rural Bhutan. Built in around 1638 and beautifully s...
Shops, restaurants and offices in richly carved traditional buildings line the main street of Paro, a couple of hours’ drive from Thimpu, where two of eastern Bhutan’s main rivers...
Several other sights lie in and around town but further up the valley (towards Tibet) lies what is arguably Bhutan’s iconic picture-postcard monument – the Taktsang Monastery. Com...
The valley of Gangtey is a beautiful area in Bhutan, offering great views and photography opportunities. Fresh air, thick forests, lush fields, and traditional ornate buildings aw...
A 20-minute uphill walk through the rice and mustard fields surrounding Sopsokha village leads to the famous Chimi Lhakhang monastery. Along the way, you can’t fail to notice the ...
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