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|Itinerary at a Glance
|4||Paro & Thimphu, Bhutan|
|6||Thimphu & Punakha|
|7||Punakha & Trongsa|
|8||Trongsa & Bumthang|
|11||Bumthang & Paro|
|13||Paro, Bhutan & Bangkok|
|Departs||Los Angeles (LAX)|
|Highlights||Thimphu, Trongsa, Bumthang, Festival & Taktsang Monastery and an optional 2 night Bangkok extension!|
|Included in the Price||
|Travel Style||This fast-paced, escorted tour involves a significant amount of walking or hiking, often on uneven terrain, and reaches high altitudes requiring a high level of physical fitness to fully enjoy the trip. This tour also includes long scenic drives between destinations and may have limited rest stops.|
Come with us to experience a once-in-a-lifetime guided tour of Bhutan. This is one destination that even the most seasoned travelers consider a privilege to visit. Perched high atop the mighty Himalayan range, the Kingdom of Bhutan has defied globalization and chosen to remain a hidden paradise. Although it consistently ranks as one of the world's top destinations, its remote location and strong preservation efforts make it accessible to only a fortunate few. Now, Friendly Planet's Beautiful Bhutan vacation package makes it possible for you to not only visit this exotic land, but also immerse yourself in its rich cultural traditions.
Your Himalayan adventure will let you experience the enchantment of Bhutan's ancient fortresses, monasteries, and temples, the richness of its artisan traditions, and the beauty of its pristine natural landscape as you traverse the country's mountainous terrain. This unique program also provides ample time to interact with the friendly people of Bhutan, including a very special opportunity to join hundreds of Bhutanese in their celebrations of the spiritual festivals. You're sure to leave with an enlightened understanding of the country's national philosophy of "Gross National Happiness." But, be sure to reserve your space quickly, as this once-in-a-lifetime trip is sure to sell out quickly!
Friendly Planet did it again with an exceptional experience to Thailand! Best national guide ever to Natalie!
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SAMPLE ITINERARY. The itinerary below is a sample itinerary. Your actual itinerary may vary based on the specific Bhutanese festival or mock festival scheduled for your departure (see list of festivals below). If you would like more information about a specific departure please contact us.
Day 1: Depart USA. Your exotic journey to Bhutan begins this evening as you check in for your flight to Bangkok, via Taipei.
Day 2: En route. Cross the International Dateline and lose a day en route to Thailand. You will recover this day on the return portion of your trip.
Day 3: Bangkok. Late morning arrival in Bangkok, the bustling, captivating and fascinating capital of Thailand, situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Our representatives will meet you upon arrival, assist with passport and customs formalities, and transfer you to your hotel. Accommodations: Dusit Thani Hotel.
Day 4: Arrive in Paro, Bhutan & Thimphu. Transfer to the airport to continue your journey to Paro, Bhutan via Druk Air. On a clear day, experience breathtaking aerial views of the Himalayas. A representative will greet you upon arrival at Paro International Airport.
After customs formalities, board your motor coach for the scenic drive to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital city, passing through a bucolic landscape dotted with rice paddy fields, apple orchards, and quaint villages. Time permitting; enjoy a panoramic tour of Thimphu Valley upon arrival. Thimphu is situation at an elevation of 8,200 feet. Accommodations: Hotel Migmar or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 5: Thimphu. Your first full day in Bhutan begins with a visit to the National Memorial Chorten, built in honor of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, and the Dupthop Lhakhang Monastery. Continue to the National Library, a fascinating repository of numerous ancient Buddhist manuscripts, and the city painting school where students are trained in the traditional art of painting Thangkhas (sacred Buddhist religious scrolls). Then, proceed to the traditional Medicine Institute to learn about ancient Bhutanese healing practices.
After lunch, visit Lungtenzampa, where you'll have the opportunity to observe the traditional royal silversmiths and papermakers at work. Your tour of Thimphu concludes with a visit to the local handicraft emporium, where you can shop for unique Bhutanese gifts and souvenirs. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 6: Thimphu & Punakha. Today, travel by bus to the town of Punakha, making scenic stops along the way. Take in sweeping, panoramic views of the snowcapped Himalayan mountain ranges at the Dochula Pass. Continue driving to Lobesa, where you'll hike up a small hill to the Chimi Lhakjang, a temple dedicated to Drukpa Kunley, the great 14th century Yogi. Locals believe that this temple blesses women seeking fertility. Check-in at the hotel for lunch and then proceed to the majestic Punakha Dzong. Situated between the Phochu and Mochu Rivers ("Male" and "Female" Rivers, respectively), this fortress is the most magnificent in all of Bhutan. In the 17th and 18th centuries, it served as the country's capital. Today, it houses the district administrative and judiciary offices as well as the winter home for Bhutan's spiritual leader, Je Khenpo, and the 600 monks of Thimphu and Punakha. Accommodations: Meri Puensum Resort or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 7: Punakha & Trongsa. After a hearty breakfast early this morning, set out on the fabulous drive to Trongsa. Take in the breathtaking beauty and serenity of Bhutan's diverse, untouched flora and fauna along the way.
Thanks to its isolation, small population, mountainous terrain, and the national religion of Buddhism, which stresses the sanctity of all life, Bhutan has protected virtually all of its forests and wildlife. As a result, this tiny kingdom, in contrast to all of its neighbors, possesses the last truly intact, large-scale ecosystem in the Himalayas.
Climb through the semi-tropical vegetation to Pele Pass (elevation 10,989 feet), traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. From here, proceed through an alpine forest of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo to the Chendebji Chorten, a large 18th century Buddhist monument constructed by a Lama to cover the remains of an evil spirit that was believed to terrorize inhabitants of the valley. As you approach Trongsa, gaze in wonder at its huge fortress, or Dzong, that sits on a narrow promontory that juts out over the gorge of the Mangde River. The view from this Dzong extends for many miles, and in former times nothing could escape the vigilance of its watchmen. Check in at your resort hotel, offering superb views of the soaring mountains and majestic Dzong. Accommodations: Yangkhil Resort or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 8: Trongsa & Bumthang. After breakfast, drive to Taa Dzong, an ancient watchtower that is now a museum dedicated to the Kings of Bhutan. Continue the drive to Bumthang, crossing the Yotongla Pass into the first or four valleys of Bumthang known as Chumey. Stop at Tsungney village to witness Yathra weavings and continue to your hotel in Jakar for check-in and lunch. After lunch visit Jambay lhakhang Temple. Then in Bhutanese tradition, continue clockwise to Kurjey Lhakhang and cross the suspension bridge to Padmasambhava Lhakhang, a 15th century meditation site that was restored by the Grand Queen Mother of the present King. Continue your hike to Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in the 16th century by Saint Pema Lingpa, followed by a visit to the Konchogsum Lhakhang built in the 8th century and famous for its inscribed bell. Accommodations: Yu-gharling Resort or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 9: Bumthang and Festival. The festivities begin today as you head to the ongoing Bhutanese Festival. Celebrated annually, these ancient religious festivals serve as a spiritual revival and reminder of the connection between past, present, and future. Accompanied by blowing horns, booming drums, and clashing cymbals, monks and laypersons alike dress in brilliant costumes to perform spiritual dances and re-enact legendary events and moral vignettes in the courtyard of the Dzong. Crowds of people gather in their finest hand-woven dress, made of the brightly patterned cloth for which Bhutan is renowned, creating an intensely colorful and exciting atmosphere that has remained unchanged for centuries. Locals believe that dressing in their finest clothing is another form of offering to the deities that will bring them merit, luck and prosperity. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 10: Bumthang. After breakfast set off for a scenic drive to Ura village, situated at 10,000 feet high above sea level. About 40-50 closely packed houses alongside cobblestone streets give the village a medieval atmosphere. En route, stop at Serthangla Pass for a view of the Ura Valley below. From here, hike downhill to visit the Ura Temple and then continue to the village of Ura making frequent stops to converse with the villagers and children. Enjoy lunch at a village house followed by a visit to a local school. Afterwards, say goodbye to this beautiful village as you return to Bumthang. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 11: Bumthang & Paro. This morning, transfer to the Bumthang airport for your short flight back to Paro. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel, and if time permits, enjoy some afternoon sightseeing or shopping. Accommodations: Tenzinling Resort or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 12: Paro. After an early breakfast, depart for the spectacular Taktsang Monastery, a site believed to be the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan. The Monastery's moniker, which translates as "Tiger's Lair", refers to the tale of Guru Padmasambhava, the Tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan and supposedly landed at this site on the back of a flying tiger. Completed in 1692, the monastery is perched on a cliff 2,300 feet above the Paro Valley. To view the monastery, you'll hike along a trail that climbs through a dense pine forest, where you'll see trees festooned with Spanish moss and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. After light refreshments at a rest stop along the way, continue hiking until you clearly see the remains of this magnificent 17th century monastery that sits high atop a sheer rock cliff. Descend the trail for lunch at the cafeteria. After lunch, continue your hike back to the Paro Valley to enjoy the balance of the day at leisure to explore the town. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 13: Paro & Bangkok. This morning your amazing Bhutanese journey comes to a close as you transfer to Paro International Airport for your flight to Bangkok, Thailand. Upon arrival, meet our representatives and transfer to your centrally located hotel for overnight. Accommodations: Dusit Thani Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 14: Bangkok/USA. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast and transfer to the airport to board your return flight to the USA via Taipei, arriving later this evening. Or take advantage of your already included airfare and extend your stay in Bangkok. Breakfast provided.
Why not take advantage of your already-included international airfare to extend your stay in Bangkok, Thailand's exotic bustling capital city. You'll return to the U.S. 2 days after the return dates shown above.
Day 14: Bangkok. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, before a day at leisure to take in your new surroundings and explore the city independently. Your hotel boasts a prime location within walking distance to many attractions, and with a metro stop located right outside the hotel's front door, you can travel easily and quickly to many other areas of the city. Accommodations: Dusit Thani Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 16: Bangkok/USA. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before transferring to the airport to board your return flight to the USA via Taipei, arriving later this evening. Breakfast provided.
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