(Thimphu, Gangtey, Bumthang, Punakha, Paro)
As you travel along Bhutan’s adrenaline inducing east-west highway that’s been carved out of the mountain face, breathtaking views of terraced farmlands, deep river valleys and precariously perched farmhouses are laid out before you.
This is the absolute grandeur of the remote mountain kingdom of Bhutan that has resisted modern influence for centuries to preserve its rich and unique culture and environment. The wide, flat valley of Gangtey hidden deep within the country’s mountain landscape is an idyllic paradise where you’ll witness villagers going about their daily lives unaffected by the stresses of modern life. You’ll also meet the novice monks learning the ancient traditions of their religion; visit the 12th-century temples of Thimphu; explore the monasteries of the four valleys of Bumthang; journey to the fertile villages on the banks of the Pho Chu ad Mo Chu rivers; and much more.
This extensive journey through Bhutan showcases the many natural wonders and diverse people of the land that time forgot. By day you’ll hike the fields and forests of the pristine countryside, but by night you’ll rest and recharge at a range of luxury hotels that span charming, locally-run boutique properties, authentic village lodges and luxurious modern resorts. And your knowledge guides will be there every step of the way to guarantee your comfort and enjoyment.
Enjoy a personalized vacation that best suits your needs, developed by one of our experienced destination experts. Relax during your trip with our 24/7 support and expert local guidance.
Upon arrival in Paro, you will be required to present two passport photos to the immigration official for your Bhutan visa (included), which will be stamped into your passport. Once you pass through customs your guide and driver will be waiting for you.
You will be met on arrival at Paro airport by our local guide. Once you have completed all airport formalities, you will begin your drive toward Thimphu. This is a scenic journey and takes roughly 1.5 hours. On arrival in Bhutan's modern capital, you will check in at your hotel.
Visit the Changangkha Lhakhang, built in the 12th century, this is the oldest temple in Thimphu. It is hovering over a ridge above Thimphu, near Motithang. Lama Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo who hailed from Tibet chose this site to build this Lhakhang. The Lhakhang houses Chenrizig, an 11-headed, thousand-armed manifestation of Avolokitesawara. The prayer books in this Lhakhang are larger than the usual Buddhist texts. You can purchase some of the world’s most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards at face value from the general post office, and you will also see the Bhutan National Bank. Next head to a local arts and crafts school, to visit with some local children, and then carry on to the Traditional Medicine Institute where ancient healing arts are still practiced. Finally, visit the Motithang Takin Preserve, which is a local wildlife reserve. Later, if time permits, take a stroll through the main streets to see the interesting Himalayan artifacts and textiles that make Bhutan famous.
After breakfast begin your day of sightseeing with a visit to the weekend market to see local people selling and purchasing their staples. The market also has a few souvenir shops for visitors. Then embark on a drive 12 km north of Thimphu where you will participate in an hour long hike to Cheri Monastery. There will be enough time for individual contemplation, journaling, meditating, etc while visiting the monastery. Later, drive back to the hotel or to a local restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub, and have a chance to purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory. Next, visit the Handicraft Bazaar, a new project initiated by the Government that promotes locally produced handicrafts. Buy stunning kiras which can be used as bed covers or wall decoration, jewelry and much more. Finally, visit Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honor the memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied Stupa will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism. Finish up back at your hotel.
After an early breakfast in Thimphu, you will drive up to Dochu-la pass (3,088m/10,130ft) stopping briefly to take in the view and admire the chortens, Mani walls, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the high Himalayan peaks towards the northeast will be revealed in all of their glory. On a clear day, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendegang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158m), Kangphugang (7,170m), Zongaphugang (7,060m) a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana, and finally, Gangkar Puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m. Continue your drive onwards toward Gangtey, reaching Wangduephodrang in time for lunch. From here, it is a long, winding descent into the Wangduephodrang valley, which is about 1,700m below the pass. Pay a visit to the remarkable Wangduephodrang Dzong, stretched along a spur at the confluence of two rivers. Take lunch at Wangduephodrang town and continue on the highway, following the scenic Dang Chu before climbing thru forests of bamboo and oak. Cross the Pele La pass, visit Radak Shang Temple and finally arrive at the hidden Phobjikha Valley. Take an evening stroll through the quaint village of Gangtey.
The valley of Gangtey is one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. The surprise of finding such a wide, flat valley without any trees after the hard climb through dense forests is augmented by an impression of vast space, and extremely rare experience in Bhutan where most of the valleys are tightly enclosed. Today explore the beautiful Phobjikha valley and visit Gangtey monastery. Perched on a small hill that rises from the valley floor, the Gangtey Monastery is the only Nyingmapa monastery on the western side of the Black Mountains, and is also the biggest Nyingmapa monastery in Bhutan. The Monastery is surrounded by a large village inhabited mainly by the families of the 140 Gomchens who take care of the Monastery. You will then visit the Black Neck Crane Center and depending on the season, you may be able to view the breeding cranes. Various walks can be arranged in this magnificent valley.
This morning you will journey onward to Jakar (Bumthang). It is perhaps long, but certainly also memorable with dramatic landscapes of terraced farmland, deep river valleys and precariously perched farmhouses viewed from the only east west highway that has been ingeniously carved out of the mountain faces. Upon reaching Trongsa you may take time to stroll this quaint village and official perhaps visit the Trongsa Dzong, ancestral home to Bhutan’s monarch where you will often find novice monks reciting mantras or practicing on sacred horns, flutes or drums. Also see Ta Dzong (closed on Sun) which is the watchtower built to defend the Dzong. The drive onward to Bumthang takes you over the picturesque Yotong La and down into the Chhume Valley, home of Bhutan’s famous Yatra weaving. Here you will have a chance to browse the traditional textiles and perhaps see the weavers create their intricate handiwork. Upon arrival, check in at your hotel.
Bumthang is the general name given to a group of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and Ura, with altitudes varying from 2,600 to 4,000M. This area is home to many ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries. Start your visit in Choekhor valley, approximately 1.5 hours from your hotel. You have choice to further explore Wangdichhoeling, home to the 2nd King, and the auspicious prayer wheels next door. Heading up the valley, you will take in the grand Kurje Lhakhang, one of the most sacred places in the kingdom as Bhutan’s “patron saint” Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) meditated here. From Kurje monastery, a tarmac road heads south along the right bank of the river to Jambey Lhakhang. This temple, erected by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, is one of the two oldest in Bhutan (the other being Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro). After lunch, we will visit Tamshing Lhakhang, founded in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. It contains interesting and ancient Buddhist wall paintings. Later on we will visit Jakar Dzong, “the castle of the white bird”, and then take a stroll through Bumthang’s market area before returning to your hotel.
Today’s journey back to Punakha will be a lengthy one at roughly 7 hours, and you will have lunch en route. Arrive into Punakha in the evening, and enjoy a night at leisure.
Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955 and still it is the winter the seat of the Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot). Blessed with a temperate climate and fed by the Pho Chu (male) and Mo Chu (female) rivers, Punakha is the most fertile valley in the country. Today, you will begin with a hike up through the fields of rice along the banks of the Mo Chu to the upper end of the valley to see the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999. Following the hike you will drive towards Khuruthang, passing Punthsho Pelri Palace and several other winter homes of the royal family before reaching the impressive Punakha Dzong. The Dzong was built in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. Damaged over the centuries by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored in recent years by the present monarch. It is open for visitors during the Punakha festival (early spring) and in the summer months, after the monks body has returned to Thimphu. The Dzong is placed strategically at the junction of the Pho Chu and Mo Chu rivers. This ancient fortress is the winter residence of the monastic order’s head and still serves as the administrative headquarters for the Punakha region. A picnic lunch will be served on the banks of the Punak Chu. In the evening, take a relaxing stroll around town.
This morning, set off for Paro after an early breakfast and en route visit Semtokha Dzong, “the place of profound tantric teaching”, which stands on a hill a few kilometers out of town. On arrival in Paro, check in at your hotel.
After lunch today, you will visit Ta Dzong, originally built as a watchtower, which now houses Bhutan’s National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts. Walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore, such as the legend of the four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount Sumeru and other cosmic mandalas. Along the way you will also see the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of 108 temples built in the Himalayas by the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan. In the evening visit a traditional farmhouse for an opportunity to interact with a local family and gain insight into the local lifestyle and cultures.
Today you will embark on an excursion to view the spectacular and famous Taktsang monastery. The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest with many trees festooned with Spanish moss and the occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. The hike will take you past a small cafeteria if a break is needed. Built in 1600’s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. It is believed that, in the 8th century Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. Guru Rimpoche is believed to have meditated here for three months and this place is considered as a ‘Mecca’ for Buddhists. Lunch will be served at the cafeteria. After the hike, we will pay visit to the ancient ruins of Drukgyal Dzong. The Dzong was destroyed by fire and left in ruins as an evocative reminder of the great victories it was built to commemorate. There were several unsuccessful attempts to invade Paro by the Tibetans from the north. The fortress was featured on the cover of the US National Geographic magazine in year 1914. The fortress served as an administrative center until year 1951 when a fire brought it down. From here, on a clear day, you can get a magnificent view of the Mount Jumolhari. Drive south to Satsham Chorten, built in memory of the late Dilgo Khentse Rimpoche, and continue on to Kyichu Lhakhang, built in seventh century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gonpo. This evening, once back to your hotel, you can take a leisurely guided walk of the town of Paro.
Your guide will escort you to the airport for departure from Paro.
Experience the unique and legendary hospitality of the Bhutanese people at, "The Druk. The Druk Group of Hotels, part of the "Tashi Group of Companies" offers you the warm hospitality of Bhutan in all its finesse and warmth. In a land rich in its heritage, culture and its warm hospitable people. The Druk brings to you hotels that define quality in its true meaning. Located in the heart of the capital city of Thimphu, this truly wonderful hotel offers you the most impeccable amenities and quality service that are unique for a memorable stay. In the heart of rolling mountains and drifting mist, the Thimphu Druk, offers a choice of Executive floor and Regular Floor with 53 elegantly appointed rooms.
The Dewachen Hotel encircled is with pine forests in the hidden valley of Phobjikha – Gantey Gompa, home to the very rare Black Necked cranes, the Dewachen Hotel features sixteen double rooms, modern bathroom fittings, heavenly bedding comforts, and a restaurant with a magnificent view and the finest cuisine prepared by a professional chef. At Dewachen, guests will find each detail well thought of and the needs anticipated each time guests return. For enjoyment and recreation, Dewachen has a cocktail lounge, horse riding facilities, and cultural programs on request and for a fee. A traditional hot stone bath to unwind and end the day. With a capacity to accommodate 30 persons, the medium sized, convention hall equipped with support facilities can easily handle the most ambitious conventions.
Jakar village lodge is established in 1999, started by managing proprietor Gasey Lhendup. It is located just below the jakar dzong, commanding the most majestic view of the Chokor valley of Bumthang . The lodge is just a kilometer away from Chamkhar town,and five minutes walk from the Dzong. A decade of hard work has paid off some dividend to Gasey Lhendup, as his Hotel Jakar Village Lodge has been slotted at rank #21 amond the "Best Bed & Breakfast" establishment in Asia 2009, by trivago top hotel, largest European travel community. JVL has deluxe rooms, beautifully painted in traditional style, comfortably and tastefully furnished with the latest fittings and has high quality insulation, with heating in both rooms and toilets .
Damchen Resort is a charming place, situated conveniently close to Punakha town and river, it is of special reference for smaller groups. With its fascinating garden and overall ambience, the hotel exudes an atmosphere of quiet beauty and elegance.
Naksel, a community-based project that is eco friendly and Energy Saver efficient, blends the heritage of traditional Bhutanese architecture and the comfort of modern amenities. Elaborate hand-carved pillars and beautiful stonework exemplify the essence of Bhutan while tapered mud-brick walls provide insulation and restful silence.
Maynard Fossum ,
December 12, 2014
"My trip to China proved to be an outstanding experience. Each location provided excellent learning and entertainment opportunities. The country was very impressive both in its deep history and in the huge modernization that has taken place in recent decades. The tour guides at each location were well informed and able to answer questions while also offering detailed information at all sites. It was a pleasure to be so well taken care of. The guides and drivers were always helpful. The meals on the tour were delicious and varied. I was pleased with the choice of restaurants. The hotels were comfortable and well located. I will recommend Kensington Tours. "
December 12, 2014
"I was a bit nervous about visiting Myanmar. Thanks to the outstanding help and planning via Kensington Tours, everything went off without a hitch!! It was a fantastic experience, that I would recommend to anyone with a spirit of adventure. "
Craig Gelman ,
December 12, 2014
"Fabulous trip. Every aspect from the planning to execution was excellent. "
Ruth Reinhard ,
December 12, 2014
"The trip was fantastic!!!Each guide and driver gave us so much information and were so helpful. They made sure that they took good care of our well being and requests. My husband, who we all call "the reluctant traveler" said, halfway through the trip, where are we going next? He said if he can go with Kensington then he will go anyplace. Thanks for making our trip to China a memorable experience."
SixtoCastenada Jr. ,
December 12, 2014
"100% satisfied! We had a wonderful trip. Our travel adviser, Tony Newman put together a tour that included everywhere we wanted to visit and within our very limited time frame. Conrad, who booked our transportation was very professional. The tour guides, hotel accommodations and transportation arrangements were all excellent. We will be using Kensington Tours again!"
December 12, 2014
"We were so impressed with all aspects of the trip that Kensington arranged for us - even at short notice. The itinerary was perfectly planned, full of extra activities like riding an elephant and a water buffalo cart ride. The guides were wonderful in all the places we went and the travel was easy between locations. Vietnam is a wonderful destination and Angkor Wat is amazing too. We loved the overnight on the boat in Halong Bay and the train ride to Sapa. The day we spent trekking between indigenous villages in the mountains of Sapa was one of the most interesting days of my life! We have travelled a lot and this was one of the best trips we have ever taken."
Olive Ramchand ,
June 03, 2014
"I have to admit, this was the BEST vacation I ever had. The tour was nothing less than Fantastic! The hotels were great, the guides were great, the transportation was great, the places were great, the people were great, the food was great and last but not least China, itself was out of this world. I'm so glad I booked this tour and would recommend this to anyone. Thanks so much for all your help, your interest and your recommendations. Steve in China was so attentive, he called constantly to make sure everything was fine. We really had a fabulous time and even my jaded husband who normally only seems to care about where the nearest golf course is, was impressed and had a wonderful time.
Thanks again, and unto the next vacation (although I don't know how we would top this one!!)
Jeanne Tarvin ,
April 21, 2014
"The tour was absolutely fabulous. It all started with the planning. Kathryn graciously accommodated our tight schedule and multiple needs, including a mid-trip change in plans. The tour guides and drivers were all great and extremely knowledgeable. The accommodations and meals were fantastic. I was apprehensive about going to China not knowing the language but it worked out great!"
January 15, 2014
"We just returned on Monday from our wonderful trip to South Korea, Bangkok and Phuket. I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work in planning our tours and adventures. Everything was spot on, from our arrivals at the airports, to the guides and the tours. I would not hesitate to recommend you and your company. It was truly a wonderful vacation. Thank you again.
Bob Feldman ,
November 19, 2013
"I wanted to let you know that our trip to China was great! Everybody enjoyed themselves. When planning a trip I am always concerned about the itinerary, the vehicles and the guides. All 3 of these were great. The guides were particularly good and in this case really made the trip a pleasure. Overall a great trip. Thanks for all you did."
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