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|Itinerary at a Glance
|4||Paro & Thimphu, Bhutan|
|6||Thimphu & Punakha|
|7||Punakha & Trongsa|
|8||Trongsa & Bumthang|
|10||Bumthang & Punakha|
|11||Punakha & Thimphu|
|12||Thimphu & 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 of Thangbi (October departure), Jambay (November departure) and Bumthang (December departure). The September departure will enjoy of Mock Mask Festival in a local home. 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!
Our tour guide in Borneo (Solly) from Asia Experience was really exceptional. He was extremely interesting and demonstrated excellent knowledge of all areas we visited and toured. He made sure our trip was interesting and really demonstrated a great deal of care throughout the tour of Kuching and Bako. He also gave very good suggestions for places to dine locally. Very nice hotel in Batang Ai that exceeded my expectations. The tour to the Longhouse was very good. We loved the Lake and the Longboat ride. They were very nice experiences. Our visit to Bangkok was really excellent. Our guide (Chai) was really excellent and made the Thailand experience truly unforgettable. He was extremely knowledgeable on all of the sites we visited and went out of his way to make sure we were always comfortable and hydrated. It would be hard to believe we could have had any better time in Thailand and this was all due to the care Chai took in leading the tours and various experiences. The drivers were also very good in some very difficult traffic situations. I have no negative comments on the Borneo or Thailand experiences we had.
Sorry, there are no currently available tour dates.
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, 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 to your hotel. Accommodations: Dusit Thani Hotel.
Day 4: Arrive Paro, Bhutan & Thimphu. Transfer to the airport to continue your flight 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 8200ft. 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 stops for scenic treks 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.
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, hike downhill through an alpine forest of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo to Rukubji Village for a picnic lunch.
Proceed 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 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. The majestic Trongsa Dzong, built in 1647, served as the site of many important historical events in making of modern Bhutan. After a short walk, learn more about Bhutan's history on this morning's visit to the Dzong. Also, visit Taa Dzong, the ancient watchtower, now a museum dedicated to the Kings of Bhutan. After lunch, continue to Tsungney village to watch local artisans weaving the famous Bumthang fabric known as Yathra. Arrive to the Chokor Valley. Time permitting, search for treasures and bargains at Chamkhar Bazaar, an easy walk from your hotel. Accommodations: Yu-gharling Resort or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 9: Buthmang and Festival. The festivities begin today as you head to the ongoing Thangbi Festival. Celebrated annually by the people of Jakar valley, this ancient religious festival serves 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 lay persons 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 had 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. After lunch, visit Kurjey Lhakhang, cross the suspension bridge to visit Padmasambhava Lhakhang, a 15th century meditation site and 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. Continue to the Konchogsum Lhakhang built in the 8th century, famous for its inscribed bell. (Dec 3 departure will participate in the festival all day.)
Mar 12 & May 5, 2013 departures will follow this itinerary: Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in Bhutanese style—counter clockwise. Begin with a walk through the scattered villages at Kurjey Lhakhang, cross the suspension bridge to visit Padmasambhava Lhakhang, an 15th century meditation site and 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. Continue to the Konchogsum Lhakhang built in the 8th century, famous for its inscribed bell. Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 10: Bumthang & Punakha. After breakfast, drive through the scenic countryside to the Punakha, stopping along the way for tea and photos. Accommodations: Meri Puensum Resort or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Day 11: Punakha & Thimphu. This morning, travel back to Thimphu, stopping at the Dochula Pass for lunch. Upon arrival in Thimphu, check-in at your hotel and enjoy some free time to explore the town or shop. Accommodations: Hotel Migmar or similar. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Mar 12, 2013 departures: After breakfast, drive to Punakha festival site to witness the ongoing Talo festival. During the festival various spiritual mask dances are performed and crowds of people gather in their finest hand-woven dress. This evening, resume the journey to Thimphu.
May 5, 2013 departures: This evening, enjoy a Mock festival in a local home. See the festival mask dance performed to typical Bhutanese folk songs and rare Bhutanese musical instruments.
Day 12: Thimphu & 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, it perches on a cliff at 2,300 feet above the bottom of 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 a 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. Rest of the day free to explore the town. Accommodations: Janka Resort or similar. 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 then transfer to your centrally located hotel for overnight. Accommodations: Dusit Thani Hotel. Breakfast provided.
Day 14: Bangkok/USA. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast then 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. The rest of the day is yours 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 then transfer to the airport to board your return flight to the USA via Taipei, arriving later this evening. Breakfast provided.
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