Places Visited: Kathmandu, Thimphu, Gangtey, Punakha, Paro
Discover the magic and mystery of Bhutan on this short tour of the country’s highlights, 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’ll have the opportunity to do some sightseeing and souvenir shopping between flights.
- Group Size 4-16 people
- Internal Travel Air-conditioned vehicles
- Accompanying Guide English-speaking accompanying guide throughout
- Accommodation 9 nights
- Meal Plan Breakfast daily in Kathmandu, full board in Bhutan
Itinerary for Essential Bhutan
On arrival in Kathmandu, the group will be met by the TransIndus tour team and accompanied to the Malla hotel or similar. We’ll spend the remainder of the day recovering from our journey, perhaps venturing out for a stroll to Durbar Square in the evening. Dinner will be at Bhojan Griha.
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.
After breakfast, we’ll transfer to the airport to catch the short flight with Druk Air (the national airline of Bhutan) to Paro, for a two-night stay at the simple 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 around 80,000 people – the perfect place to get to grips with life in modern Bhutan.
A full day’s sightseeing in and around Thimphu today starts with a visit to its famous dzongs.
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.
Drive to Gangtey today via the formidable Dochu La pass (3,088m). 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.
Visit the black-necked crane sanctuary in the Phobjikha today to learn more about these rare and beautiful migratory birds.
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 east to Punakha for a one night stay at the Damchen Resort or similar. Visit the local Dzong (fortified monastery) in the afternoon and 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 to Paro for a two-night stay at the Gangtey Palace hotel, in the town, visiting Simtokha Dzong, Bhutan’s oldest fortress, en route.
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.
Sightseeing in and around Paro town today includes visits to the National Museum, Rinpung Dzong and the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
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!
Return to the airport to catch your flight back to Kathmandu, where you’ll spend the night at the Malla Hotel.
Transfer to Kathmandu airport for your return journey back to the UK.
Group Tour 10 days from £2235 per person
✓ 9 nights accommodation
✓ All internal transportation and transfers
✓ English-speaking accompanying guide throughout
✓ Breakfast daily in Kathmandu, full board in Bhutan
✓ Entrance fees to sites and monuments listed in tour itinerary
Holiday Extensions for this tour
Essential Bhutan - Hills of Darjeeling
5 days, 4 nights from £765 per person
Single supplement £ 595 per person
Single supplement £ 595 per personview itinerary
Paro, Bagdogra, Darjeeling
Fly to Bagdogra in the morning. Transferred to Darjeeling (2-3 hours) where you stay the New Elgin hotel, for three nights.
On a half day sightseeing tour, visit the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, the Himalayan Zoological Gardens and the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre. Later enjoy a walk down the busy Mall Road to Chowrasta. The afternoon is at leisure.
Enjoy an early morning trip to Tiger Hill for a spectacular sunrise view of Kanchenjunga. Later take a ride on the ‘Darjeeling Toy Train’. Rest of the day at leisure.
Darjeeling, Bagdogra, Delhi
Travel to Bagdogra airport this morning for a lunch time flight to Delhi. On arrival, transfer to stay at an airport hotel for one night.
Transfer to the airport for your onward flight
Essential Bhutan - Enchanting Nepal
5 days, 4 nights from £895 per person
Single supplement £ 325 per person
Single supplement £ 325 per personview itinerary
Fly back to Kathmandu. On arrival, check-in to stay 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 also be booked locally since it is dependent on weather conditions.
Take a short flight to Pokhara. Check-in to stay 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.
2018/2019 tour prices for Essential Bhutan
|DEPARTURE DATE||PRICE PER PERSON||SINGLE ROOM supplement||AVAILABILITY|
|Fri 05 Oct 2018||£2345||£385||Please call us|
|Fri 02 Nov 2018||£2235||£385||Please call us|
|Fri 22 Mar 2019||£2345||£385||Good|
|Fri 12 Apr 2019||£2345||£385||Good|
Places and Experiences in this tour
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, where ...
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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