(Thimphu, Punakha, Paro)
Dust off your hiking boots for an active adventure through the untouched alpine vistas of the last great kingdom of the Himalayas.
Closed to tourists until 1974, remote Bhutan has resisted western influence to retain its centuries-old character, rituals and environment in one of the last truly untouched bastions in the world. Here your private guides will unveil the spiritual wonders of the ancient cliff-side temples of Thimphu; reveal panoramic views of the Himalayan peaks from Dochu-la pass; lead a hike through rice paddies to the 14th-century Chimi Lhakhang dedicated to the eccentric ‘divine madman’; introduce you to the fertile river villages of Pho Chu and Mo Chu; take you to the center of tantric teaching at Semtokha Dong; and help you make the climb to the spectacular Taktsang monastery in Paro.
The authenticity of your Bhutan experience is reflected in your carefully selected accommodation collection that will see you staying at community-based eco villas, friendly locally-run boutique hotels, and charming riverside resorts. As always, your experienced guides will add to your experience with their colorful tales of historic feats, inside knowledge of ancient spiritual rituals, and warm relationships with the local people.
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 Dochula 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.
On arrival in Punakha, check-in at your hotel. After lunch, hike up to the Chimi Lhakhang (temple) which is on a small hilltop. It is a pleasant 30 minute hike through rice paddies and a small village. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi from the 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the ‘Divine madman’ in the west. He preached in an unusual way for the time and dramatized the teachings using songs and outrageous sexual humor. Bold Phallus symbols and paintings on the houses or temples are as a result of his influence. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. A popular pilgrimage spot for the Bhutanese, it is frequented by childless couples and parents who have difficulty raising children from all over the world.
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.
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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