Bustling Bangkok & the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan; Paro, the sleepy capital Thimpu, Punakha, Trongsa, Bumthang, Unique Festivals & Taktsang Monastery; optional extension to Phuket
|Style||Small Group TourTravel with a small, intimate group of no more than 16 likeminded travelers (and often much fewer), escorted by an English speaking guide and/or tour manager for some or all of your journey. More of these packages
Dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
|Departures||Group Size||12 travelers max|
|Themes||Active, History & Culture, Festivals|
|What to Expect||This fast-paced, partially 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. Travel safely and confidently with our new health & safety protocols.|
|Already booked?||Find everything you need to know before you go, including information about passport & visa requirements, flights, luggage, and more.|
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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 remains 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. Our Beautiful Bhutan tour package makes it possible for you to not only visit this enchanting land, but also immerse yourself in its rich cultural traditions.
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."
- Round-trip airfare from Los Angeles including fuel surcharges and taxes and fees
- Flight from Bangkok to Paro and back
- Flight from Bumthang to Paro
- All transfers and intra-Bhutan ground transportation
- 12 nights in Tourist, First Class and Deluxe hotels with private bath
- 30 meals: 12 buffet breakfasts, 9 lunches & 9 dinners
- Comprehensive guided touring program including all entrance fees to places visited, as described in our itinerary
- Special opportunity to attend a traditional Bhutanese spiritual festival
- Professional, English-speaking tour director
- Group visa fees
- Optional Phuket post-tour extension
Why you'll love it
- Explore Bangkok's iconic Grand Palace, opulent Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the city's oldest temple and home to the reclining Buddha, Wat Po.
- Gaze upon the white structure topped with a golden spire of the National Memorial Chorten, one of Thimpu city's most iconic monuments built in honor of King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
- Visit the most magnificent fortress in all of Bhutan, the Punakha Dzong. This structure, once serving as the country's capital, now houses government district offices and doubles as a winter home for the more than 500 monks of Thimphu & Punakha.
- Pay a visit to the Tsungney village where you will get the chance to learn about the intricate and colorful process of Yathra weaving.
- Experience a traditional Bhutanese Festival and celebrate with blowing horns, booming drums, clashing symbols, spiritual dances, and brightly colored, hand-woven outfits.
- Situated on a cliff 2,300 feet above the Paro Valley, hike along the trails through the lush pine forests and discover the Taktsang Monastery, believed by many to be the birthplace of Buddhism in Bhutan.
- Seeking more travel time? Extend your trip with three nights of relaxing beach-side on the stunning Thai island of Phuket!
The itinerary below is a sample. Your actual itinerary may vary based on the specific Bhutanese festival or mock Bhutanese festival celebration scheduled for your departure, listed below. For more information about a specific departure, please contact us.
- Feb 10, 2019: Tangsibi Mani Festival (Feb 19, 2019)
- Mar 9, 2019: Talo Festival (Mar 15, 2019)
- Apr 4, 2019: Domkhar Festival (Apr 14, 2019)
- Apr 28, 2019: Private Cultural Performance
- Aug 16, 2019: Private Cultural Performance
- Sep 30, 2019: Tamshing Festival (Oct 8, 2019)
- Dec 5, 2019: Choejam Festival (Dec 14, 2019)
*Note the April 28th departure will operate with a slightly different sequence.
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
2 nights COMO Metropolitan or similar, Bangkok. Dinner.
- Late morning arrival in Bangkok, the bustling, captivating and fascinating capital of Thailand, situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River
- After customs formalities, transfer to your centrally located hotel for check-in
- Enjoy dinner at an authentic local restaurant
Full Day Itinerary: This morning arrive in Bangkok, the bustling capital of Thailand, situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. After customs formalities, transfer to your centrally located hotel for check-in. This evening take a short walk from the hotel to an authentic local restaurant.
Day 4: Bangkok
- Tour The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha
- Balance of the day at leisure or enjoy one (or both!) of our optional excursions
Full Day Itinerary: Temples, along with the monarchy, are the fabric that binds together the national identity that is Thailand, and some of the most interesting of Thai temples are found in Bangkok. This morning, depart for The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. For 150 years, the Grand Palace, served as the residence of the King and his court as well as the entire administrative seat of government. Within its grounds, you'll also visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), a structure built to house a large Buddha image carved from a solid piece of green jadite (jasper). Continue to Wat Po, founded in the 17th century and the oldest temple in Bangkok. This temple is also home to the amazing Reclining Buddha, one of the largest in the world, whose face depicts the attainment of Nirvana and whose feet are inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Balance of the day is at leisure.
Optional Excursion: Chinatown Walk, $35 pp (purchased locally) This afternoon, drive to Chinatown square where you will start an exciting walk through one of the oldest parts of Bangkok. Walk along Yaowarat Road where you'll visit interesting shops selling unique objects. Continue to an old tea shop to enjoy a cup of Chinese tea with the locals before heading to Talad Kao for a busy local market with a variety of fresh food, fruits, and Chinese herbs. End the walk at Wat Leng Nei Yi to visit the Taoist temple, and continue to Wat Trimitr on the edge of Chinatown, which houses the world’s largest solid gold Buddha.
Optional Excursion: Calypso Cabaret Show, $45 pp (purchased locally) This evening, transfer to the Thai dance show at Calypso Cabaret, one of Bangkok’s renowned shows. Calypso Cabaret is located at Asiatique the Riverfront, which is a famous night venue for dining, shopping and entertainment, and features a unique setting with a panoramic view of the Chao Phraya River. Afterwards, transfer back to your hotel.
Day 5: Bangkok, Paro & Thimphu
2 nights Osel Hotel, Thimphu, Bhutan. Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Transfer to the airport to continue your journey to Paro, Bhutan via Druk Air
- After customs formalities, board your vehicle for the scenic drive to Thimphu
Full Day Itinerary: Transfer to the airport to continue your journey to Paro, Bhutan via Druk Air. On a clear day, you may experience breathtaking aerial views of the Himalayas. A representative will greet you upon arrival at Paro International Airport.
After customs formalities, board your vehicle 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 situated at an elevation of 8,200 feet.
On your way to Thimphu and if time permits, make a stop at the Tachogang Temple, built in the 15th century by Thangtong Gyalpo, builder of many iron bridges in Bhutan. After this visit, continue your drive to Thimphu.
Day 6: Thimphu
Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Visit to the National Memorial Chorten and Dupthop Lhakhang Monastery
- Learn about ancient Bhutanese healing practices at the traditional Medicine Institute
- Observe the traditional royal silversmiths and papermakers at work with a visit to Lungtenzampa
Full Day Itinerary: 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.
Return to town to visit the handicraft stores and stroll around the tiny capital city. Overnight at Hotel.
*Itinerary may differ depending on the day of the week. Kindly refer to your final documents for the confirmed itinerary.
Day 7: Thimphu & Punakha
- Scenic journey to the town of Punakha
- Hike up a small hill to the Chimi Lhakhang
- Visit to the Punakha Dzong fortress
Full Day Itinerary: Today, drive 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 Lhakhang, a temple dedicated to Drukpa Kunley, the great 14th century Yogi, commonly referred to as the "Divine Madman." Locals believe that this temple blesses women seeking fertility. Depending on time, lunch will be before or after the walk. Afterwards, 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.
Day 8: Punakha & Trongsa
1 night Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa. Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Scenic drive to Trongsa
- Drive through semi-tropical vegetation to Pele Pass
- View the Chendebji Chorten monument
Full Day Itinerary: 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.
Drive through the semi-tropical vegetation to Pele Pass (elevation of 10,989 feet), traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. From here, continue 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.
Day 9: Trongsa & Bumthang
3 nights Yugharling Resort & Spa, Bumthang. Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Visit the Trongsa Dzong
- Drive to Taa Dzong
- Learn about Yathra weavings in the Tsungney village
Full Day Itinerary: After breakfast, visit the majestic Trongsa Dzong, built in 1647 by Shubdrung Nawang Namgyal. This Dzong was the source of many important historical events in the making of Modern Bhutan. You will be dropped off at the junction in the road to the Bazaar and the Dzong, and walk from here to the Dzong. After the visit, drive to Taa Dzong, an ancient watchtower that is now a museum dedicated to the Kings of Bhutan. After lunch at the hotel, drive to Bumthang, crossing the Yotongla Pass into the first of four valleys of Bumthang known as Chumey. Stop at the Tsungney village to learn about Yathra weavings and continue to your hotel in the Chokhor Valley. Time permitting, stop at the Chamkhar Bazaar. From here, you can walk back to the hotel after browsing the market.
Day 10: Bumthang & Festival
Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Bhutanese Festival
- Visit the Kurjey Lhakhang
- Cross the suspension bridge to Padmasambhava Lhakhang
- Hike to Tamshing Lhakhang and to the Konchogsum Lhakhang
Full Day Itinerary: The festivities begin today as you attend 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.
After lunch, your vehicle will drop you at the Kurjey Lhakhang. It is believed that in the eighth century Guru Padmasambhava had meditated here and subdued the local deity known as Shelging Karpo. Begin your hike from here crossing the suspension bridge and visit Padmasambhava Lhakhang. This is another Meditation site of Guru Padmasambhava. It was founded by Pema Lingpa in the 15th century and was restored by the Grand Queen Mother of the present King. Continue your hike to Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in the early 16th century by Saint Pema Lingpa. Next, visit Konchogsum Lhakhang built in the 8th century. The Temple is famous for its bell, which bears an inscription from the eighth century. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 11: Bumthang
Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Scenic drive to Ura village
- Visit the Ura Temple and then continue to the village of Ura
- Lunch at a local village house with free time to explore
Full Day Itinerary: After breakfast set off on a scenic drive to Ura village, situated 10,000 feet 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, then take time to explore the area. Afterwards, say goodbye to this beautiful village as you return to Bumthang.
Day 12: Bumthang & Paro
2 nights Zhiwa Ling Hotel, Paro. Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- 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
Day 13: Paro
Breakfast, lunch & dinner.
- Taktsang Monastery
- Remainder of the day at leisure
Full Day Itinerary: 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, enjoy a couple-hour hike up 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. Here you'll get a chance to view the interior of this great monastery. 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.
Day 14: Paro & Bangkok
1 night COMO Metropolitan or similar, Bangkok. Breakfast.
- 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, transfer to your centrally located hotel for overnight
Day 15: 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 Thailand to enjoy a visit to Phuket!
- The high altitudes reached on this trip (Pele Pass reaches 10,989 feet above sea level) and the amount of walking involved, often on uneven terrain, require that you be in good physical condition to fully enjoy the trip. As there are several included hikes, we strongly suggest that you consult your physician if you have any concerns regarding your ability to handle these conditions.
- We recommend to bring more than one pair of hiking boots/shoes and extra socks for your comfort during your trip.
- During the festivals, it is customary for the Bhutanese people to wear their finest brightly colored clothing. We suggest to bring a colorful article of clothing to match the festival’s fervor. Itineraries will vary slightly depending on the festival.
- Travelers will be staying in well-rated and good quality 3, 4, and 5* hotels during their stay in Bhutan.
- Some of the roads of the rugged Himalayan terrain are winding, bumpy, and can be muddy at times. The National Highway is currently under construction to be widened, and is scheduled to be completed by December 2018. It is suggested to carry motion sickness medication if needed.
Take advantage of your already-included international airfare and enjoy a luxurious and relaxing stay on Phuket Island, Thailand's most famous resort.
Day 15: Bangkok & Phuket
3 nights Amari Phuket or similar. Breakfast.
- Fly to Phuket and transfer to your hotel upon arrival
- Enjoy the balance of the day at leisure
Day 16-17: Phuket
- Two full days at leisure or enjoy an optional excursion!
Full Day Itinerary: Two full days at leisure to relax, shop or tour this scenic island, Thailand's largest. Phuket and the 39 smaller islands to the southeast are studded with tropical forests, mountains, gravity-defying limestone formations, and pristine beaches, surrounded by coral reefs and the aquamarine water of the balmy Andaman Sea. Phuket is a melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims, and even sea gypsies, whom you'll find warm and welcoming.
With warm, humid weather year-round, you'll enjoy plenty of sun-drenched days lounging on the beach and all manner of water sports, including jet-skiing, parasailing, surfing, scuba and snorkeling. Most of the dive locations are suitable for all skill levels, and the waters abound with colorful coral forests, tropical fish and other marine life, including leopard sharks, moray eels, octopus and turtles.
Phuket is also the sailing and yachting center of Thailand and adjacent countries, with several races and regattas happening throughout the year. And in the unlikely event that you can pull yourself away from the beach, you'll find opportunities to ride horses, hike, mountain bike, and even golf. Afterwards, unwind at one of the many spas or one of the excellent acrobatic, theatrical or cultural shows.
Join an optional tour to the breathtaking Phi Phi islands. Take a trip by boat and bus to Phang Nha Bay and to the limestone spire known as "James Bond Island" for its role in The Man with the Golden Gun.
Optional Excursion: Day Cruise by June Bahtra (purchased locally) Departing early this morning, experience the spectacular limestone scenery of Phang Nga Bay onboard the June Bahtra, a traditional Chinese junk bearing designs from Thai, Malay and Dutch influences. Recline on comfortable deck cushions below the schooner’s striking red sails as the scores of beautiful islands and towering limestone spectacles unfold before you. Stopping at a deserted white sandy beach, a refreshing dip in the turquoise waters beckons. Later, a ride on a long tail boat will take you to the caves and grottoes scattered throughout the mangrove delta, with birdsong and monkey chatter keeping you entertained along the way. At James Bond Island, revel in the views of the iconic rock formation jutting out of the azure bay. Back onboard, enjoy a delicious buffet lunch followed by a leisurely afternoon of swimming, sunbathing and relaxation. Sailing the open sea on this idyllic cruise will definitely make an unforgettable memory. (Lunch included)
Optional Excursion: Day Tour of Phi Phi Island by Speedboat (purchased locally) Departing this morning, escape to a quieter and more natural side of southern Thailand with this day trip from Phuket. Travel by speedboat across the Andaman Sea to the six scenic Phi Phi Islands. The journey to Phi Phi takes around 45 minutes, passing by spectacular limestone karsts that jut out from the blue seas. Sit back and relax, enjoying the views as the boat cruises closer to paradise.
See stretches of islands that boast swaying palm trees and white sands. There are also calm, clear waters brimming with fish for those who wish to discover Thailand’s underwater beauty.
During the day, enjoy lunch while taking in sweeping views of the surrounding sea. The afternoon is spent cruising around the islands, for more chances to snorkel and swim in the Andaman Sea. (Lunch included)
Day 18: Depart Phuket/Arrive USA
- Transfer to the airport for the short flight to Bangkok, then continue to the USA via Taipei
- Passengers returning to JFK must leave Phuket early in the morning before the buffet breakfast is served at the hotel and a boxed lunch will be provided.
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- What should I know before I go? We've compiled a comprehensive checklist, including information on how to pay your balance due, flights & transfers, packing & luggage, and more.
- Do I need a visa or other documents? Are there any entry requirements? Travel visas are required for this package. Please review the visa & entry requirements.
- Can I make changes to my trip? Want to upgrade your seats? Stay a few extra days? Something else? Just ask!
- Can I bring my kids? Are there any age restrictions? To book this package, you must be 18 or older. Your traveling companions must be 12 or older at time of travel.
- Should I purchase travel insurance? Yes! We recommend you purchase travel insurance to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. For your convenience, we offer a plan provided by Travelex Insurance Services.
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