Walking the Dragon Kingdom 13 Days
This Bhutan walking tour will take you through the stunning, isolated wilderness to rarely visited monasteries, remote and peaceful villages and valleys, and to high passes offering breathtaking mountain scenery that is only accessible only by foot. This fantastic tour provides a wonderful opportunity to explore Bhutan’s natural wonders at their best, as well as gain a true experience of traditional life in the villages. This tour also explores the highlights of Bhutan’s culturally rich western and central valleys
Walk through landscapes of lush valleys, dense forests and rushing streams
Enjoy an afternoon experience life in a traditional Bhutanese village
Explore the stunning Phobjikha Valley, winter home to the Black-Necked Crane
Discover some of the most sacred Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Himalaya
Experience Bhutan’s unique culture up-close with farmhouse visits and village excursions
Visit many cultural attractions including medieval fortresses (Dzongs), markets and museums
Hike up to the famous Taktsang Monastery, perched on a cliff 900m above the valley floor.
The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular mountain flights in the world, with a constantly changing panorama of some of the highest mountains on earth. Our representative will meet you at Paro airport. The capital of Bhutan is an hour’s drive away with a quick stop at Tamchhu Lhakhang on the way. Built by Thangtong Gyalpo or the Iron Bridge Builder as he is known. This 14th-century saint introduced the art of building suspension bridges with iron chains and the only way to reach his temple is by one of his bridges. The view over Thimpu from the big Buddha statue helps to get our bearings before we plunge into this vibrant growing town struggling to blend the shock of the new with traditional aspects of life in the shadow of the Himalaya. Depending on opening hours, guests’ interests and time, your guide may include some of the following in your private schedule: The School of Arts & Crafts, National Memorial Chorten, Trashi Chhoe Dzong (Fortress of the Glorious Religion), the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Folk Heritage Museum & Traditional paper factory or you may wish to just go window shopping. Overnight: Thimphu (Alt; 2350m)
Embark on a day’s excursion to Tango & Chari. Tango Monastery is situated on a solitary hill covered by forest and is one of the best places to study Buddhism. The monks take pride in being a part of this beautiful Draktsang and at present, there are also seven reincarnations studying here. The 12th century Chari gomba is one of the most popular meditational retreat centers for the monks. The meditational sites are glued to the rocky cliff 300m above the river valley. Once the monks graduate from Tango Monastery most of them decides to sit for meditation around the holy temple of Chari from three years to nine years. Tango Chari is located 12km away from Thimphu city. The hike to Tango monastery takes about 1.5hrs round trip and the Chari gomba takes about 2.5hrs round trip. Picnic lunch will be arranged amidst the nature trail. After visiting the holy shrines, you can spend some time meditating in the temple and the surrounding campus. It is believed, meditation happens own at this serene site. Overnight Thimphu (Alt; 2320m)
Experience amazing changes in vegetation types during this 2 hours’ drive. Stop at Dochula pass to enjoy a panoramic view of the Himalayan range. From Dochula pass, you will start your hike enjoying a gradual uphill climb of about 2 hours to 18th-century Lungchutse Lhakhang. The picturesque route passes through forests of rhododendrons, magnolias, birches, firs, hemlocks and bamboos, and occasionally meadows that are being used as yak pastures. The view from Lungchotse Lhakhang over the entire Bhutan Himalaya and its snow-covered peaks are amazing. We will walk back downhill for about an hour until we get back to Dochula pass. Drive for about 15 minutes down into the Botanical Park and get an interpretative tour through rhododendron and old growth forests. Overnight Punakha (Alt; 1300m)
After breakfast drive to Yabesa village and hike to through rice fields and up to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Chorten, built by her majesty the Queen Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuk. Perched high on a hill on the bank of the river, the Chorten houses paintings belonging to Nyingmapa Traditions. The Chorten is built for the well-being of the King and the Nation. The walk takes us along the paddy fields climbing up gradually to the chorten. Afterwards, visit the majestic Punakha Dzong. Punakha is the former Capital of the kingdom and at present day hosts the administrative seat of the district. Also the winter residence of the central monastic body and its Chief Abbot. The Dzong lies between two rivers, the Pochu and Mochu, male and Female River. It was built in 1637 AD It was here on 17th December 1907, Bhutan’s first king was crowned. Afternoon, hike to Chimi Lhakhang. This temple is called the Temple of Fertility as it is believed that childless couples who come here to pray for a child are usually blessed with a child. This is the temple of one of Bhutan’s foremost saints, Lama Drukpa Kunley, also known as the “Divine Madman.” The trail takes you through the Himalayan paddy fields and a typical village called Lobesa. Overnight Punakha/ Wangdue (Alt; 1240m)
The journey will take you across Pele La pass (3,300m), which is marked by a chorten and an array of prayer flags. On a clear day, you can get spectacular views of the highest peaks of the kingdom and its quite common to spot some yaks and yak herders on this pass. This point marks the boundary between western and central Bhutan as well as the western border of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park. Beyond Pele La is Longte Valley where people raise sheep and yaks. You’ll come to the village of Rukubji Valley, with its big school and Gompa. The houses here are clustered amid extensive fields of mustard, potatoes, barley, and wheat. As you drive down through rhododendron trees and ferns, you’ll reach Chendebji village. This was a night halt for mule caravans traveling from Trongsa during the reign of the 2nd King of Bhutan. Just below Chendebji village is the Chendebji chorten, a large white structure beside a stream. This chorten is modeled after Swayambhunath in Kathmandu. The last village before you reach Trongsa is Tangsibji, which provides a full view of Trongsa Dzong and its distinctive red roof. Take a hike through an ancient trail to the Dzong which takes about 2 hours. In olden days before the construction of the east-west highway, the Trongsa Dzong was the “gateway” to western, eastern & southern Bhutan. The so-called “old route” was a trail leading down from the “viewpoint” of the Trongsa Dzong to the Mangde Chu &from there after crossing the river via Bazam (Traditional wooden bridge) up to the Trongsa Dzong. The trail provides a shortcut for the locals living in the area & a nice hike for the tourists. To enter the Dzong via the “old” historical route will add to the experience of tourists traveling to Trongsa. The steep & dense forest has a huge variety on flora &fauna. Trongsa Dzong, built in 1645, is a vast, white fortress that appears to grow directly up from the narrow green ridge on which it is constructed. It is one of the most powerful Dzongs and even today the crown prince of Bhutan must first become its Trongsa Penlop (governor) before he can become Bhutan’s King. On arrival visit Trongsa Dzong and walk around the sloppy town of Trongsa. Overnight Trongsa (Alt; 2180m)
After breakfast visits the ancient Watch Tower which has been now turned into a historical museum. The top part of the tower provides a great view of the fortress and its surrounding villages. Drive to Bumthang from Trongsa (68km/ 3hr), the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. This journey will take you over one of the most scenically beautiful routes in Bhutan via the Yotong La pass (3425m), which is also the habitat for the Satyr peasant. Good for photography. As you enter the Chhume Valley (the first of the four valleys that comprise the Bumthang Valley) you can visit a center of Yathra weaving. Yathra is the name for the locally produced hand-woven woolen cloth. Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colors enliven the fabric, which is used for a wide variety of purposes and sought after throughout the country. After check-in resort and some rest; visit the Kharchu Draktsang, a monastery on the northern slope of Bumthang valley. This monastery is one of the biggest Buddhist College of the kingdom and home to the reincarnation himself (Namkhaningpo Rimpoche). This point offers a beautiful view of the Bumthang valley and its silent town. (Bumthang has been referred to as “the little Switzerland of Asia” by many travelers. Wait here to catch the golden hour while the sun sets gently. Evening, stroll down from the monastery to the river bank and walk around Bumthang’s local town and experience their peaceful lifestyle. Overnight Bumthang (Alt; 2580m)
After breakfast, take a leisurely hike through several ancient and important monasteries such as Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang, Kencho Sum Lhakhang & Tamshing (These temples have many mythical stories linked to its origin and some of them date back as early as the 7th century. Your guide will unfold its mystery as you visit these holy sites. Afternoon, drive to Menbar Tsho (the burning lake). This holy lake is located about 20km from the town. When the locals visit this lake they tie a coin inside a white scarf, make a wish and offer it to the lake. It is believed someday your wish will be fulfilled. Overnight Bumthang (Alt; 2580m)
After an early breakfast drive to Phobjikha through different vegetation of alpine, subtropical and glacial from Bumthang (148km/ 5.5hr). Phobjikha is a glacial valley on the periphery of the northwestern tip of the Black Mountain National Park. The valley is a conservation area and lies on the northern boundary of the Jowo Durshing range. People sometimes refer to the entire region as Gangtey after the name of the Gangtey Goenpa that is situated on a ridge overlooking the Phobjikha valley. According to the legend that the Gangtey Goenpa was founded by the grandson (the mind incarnation) of Pema Lingpa in 1613. The Phobjikha valley is also one of the roosting grounds of the Black-necked cranes that migrate each year in winter from its northern habitats in Tibet and Siberia to these grounds. Visit Information Centre for the cranes. Evening, take a hike through the Blue Pine forest to the village farmhouse. Overnight Phobjikha (Alt; 2900m)
After an early breakfast drive to back to Paro, On arrival visit Rinpung Dzong(fortress on the heap of the jewel) which houses the seat of government and monastic body of Paro valley. Take a short walk down to the traditional cantilevered bridge Nyami Zam which is built over the Pa Chhu River. From here you can get a good picture of the Ta Dzong, Dzong & the bridge. Later visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan with its magic orange tree that bears fruit all year round. Evening at leisure. Overnight Paro (Alt; 2280m)
Begin your hike from Sang Choekor Buddhist College (2,800m) to Yak Pasture below Bumdra Monastery (3,800m.) The gravity-defying remote Temple of a Thousand Fairies (Bumdra Lhakhang) is a mini Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest seemingly floating on its own cliff face high in the mountains between the Do Chhu and Paro valleys. The half-day trek to our wilderness camp is aided by vehicle uplift to the Buddhist college of Sang Choekor where our pack ponies await. The first two hours are ever upwards through the deep ancient forest all the way to the little temple Chhoe Chhoe Tse Lhakhang, where our efforts are rewarded with spectacular views towards the main Himalayan range and back southwards where the runway at the airport is a tiny strip in the valley far below. Fortified with water, a snack and blessings from spinning prayer wheels there is a final steep pull before the trail traverses then pops out onto high, wide meadows dotted with sacred chortens and prayer flags. Later we can visit the monastery up a ladder and through a trapdoor (if it is occupied) and also climb a sky burial peak (about 4000m) for even better views, returning in time for a slap up dinner as the sun sets over the mountains. Riding ponies are available at an additional charge. Duration: 4 – 5 hours to camp (elevation gain 1,000m) 2 to 2 hrs 30 mins return trek to the peak Difficulty: MODERATE to HARD Overnight: Campsite (Alt; 3800m)
Hike from Yak Pasture below Fairies Monastery (3,800m) via Zangtopelri to Taktsang Monastery (2,900m) With “bed tea” delivered to your comfortably appointed tent you can lie in bed and peak out at the morning mountain vista, before joining your guide for a hearty and leisurely open air breakfast. After a farewell to any monks in residence, we take their path downwards through pine and rhododendron forest and soon catch glimpses of golden roofs below. Emerging from the wilds we pay our respects at the monasteries and temples dotting the mountainside before reaching Zangtopelri (Heaven on Earth), peering over the edge of the temple gardens and straight down onto the ornate roofs Taktsang Goemba (the Tiger’s Nest monastery) in the cliff far below. A further hour’s descent then a short climb from a waterfall brings us to the gates of Taktsang which we have to ourselves and the monks at this early hour. Otherworldly forces seem to be at work to keep the monastery clinging to its perch in the rock face so it comes as no surprise to discover that this Cliffside was where Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) landed on the back of a ﬂying tigress, bringing Buddhism to Bhutan from Tibet. Retracing our steps we begin the final descent of about 1 -2 hours to reach our vehicle for a quick drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong, built in 16449 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to control northern route to Tibet. Time to return to our hotel via Paro town for some last minute shopping and sightseeing. Duration: 5 – 7 hours depending on the time taken in monasteries (elevation loss 1,500m) Difficulty: MODERATE Overnight – Paro (Alt; 2280m)
Chele La Pass, Alpine skyline walk to Kila Nunnery (optional bike descents) Seemingly suspended in rock crags almost on the brink of the highest road pass in Bhutan (Chele La 3,988m), Kila Goemba has been a retreat for meditation since the 9th century. As with so many temples in the Himalaya, it was destroyed by fire before being rebuilt by the 25th Je Khenpo (Chief Abbot of Bhutan), Sherab Gyaltsen. These days it is an Anim Dratshang or nunnery; lofty retreat, place of worship and home to about 30 hardy nuns. The day’s adventure starts early but we soon get towards the summit of Chele La we pop out of the blue pine and rhododendron forest into windswept highlands much favored by yaks and dotted with azaleas, edelweiss and perhaps even the famous blue poppy at certain times of the year. With tantalizing glimpses of Mt Jhomalhari (7,314m) at every other hairpin bend, we finally reach the summit and western Bhutan is laid before us with the unspoiled Haa valley and the mountains of Sikkim to the west, Mt Jhomalhari and Tibet to the north and the patchwork fields of the Paro valley down to the east. Leaving the prayer flag swathed col and our vehicle behind we strike off along the ridge to the summit ( almost 4200 m ) before plunging back into the primeval forest, reaching the nunnery after around three hours. Having paid our respects at the temple and maybe even received a blessing it is time to say farewell to the nuns and drop further into the valley and back to our waiting vehicle. Difﬁculty: MODERATE Overnight: Paro
After breakfast, your transfer to the airport will be arranged depending on the ﬂight schedule
- Sustainable Development Fees
- Bhutan Visa fee
- Accommodations in 3/4/5 star hotel/Resorts on Double Occupancy basics.
- Lunch, Dinner, Evening Tea and Snacks(Dinner & Lunch will be served at Tourism board certified restaurent only)
- All transfers and sightseeing with entrance fees to the sights visited.
- Local English Speaking Tour Leader/Guide.
- Full time luxury SUV or luxury Coaster Bus.
- All necessary permits and their fees.
- Plenty of drinking mineral water.
- All necessary trekking arrangements (1 tent for 2 guest for trekkers).
- Individual’s special gifts hamper.
- Free Bhutan tourist maps and other information pamphlets.
- Wearing of Bhutanese dress during your stay in Bhutan only if you are interested.
- Visit traditional Bhutanese house and dinner with Bhutanese locals.
- International & Domestic Airfare
- Travel / Medical Insurance (recommended)
- Personal expenses and any alcoholic, non-alcoholic beverages
- Tips to guide, driver, trekking staff, hotel service, etc.
- Single room supplement charge for two Pax and above
- Specialized /language guides available on supplement cost
- Travel / Medical Insurance
One of the most unique features of our tours is that all the itineraries are fully customizable. At Pinda Bhutan Travels we don’t do standard tours, you have the power to customize your trips from A to Z, for example, accommodation, transportations, trip length, activities, places of interest, the pace of travel and more.