2022 November 29 to December 9
Prices listed are per person:
Shared Room: $7498
Private Room: $9098
Visit Buddhist monasteries in a remote mountain region
Hike on trails nestled beneath the Himalayas
Experience a society mostly uninfluenced by the West
Climb to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Enjoy an exclusive experience as one of the limited numbers of tourists allowed in Bhutan each year
Learn about a country that measures its wealth by Gross National Happiness
Join us to explore the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. We will see how the prominence of Buddhism in daily life underlies the concept of Gross National Happiness. GNH is a philosophy that inspires a balanced approach to work, family life, and community development. We will start our leisurely adventure by climbing up to the Tigers Nest Monastery, the most iconic symbol of Bhutan, hugging the side of a mountain cliff. We will then wend through the Himalayan mountains and valleys of this unique land.
Day 1: Arrival in Bangkok
Today you should arrive in Bangkok so as a group, we can take the flight to Paro on Day 2.
Day 2: Arrival in Bhutan
Our tour starts with a flight from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan today.
The scenic flight from Bangkok to Paro offers a spectacular view of the Himalayan ranges. If you’re lucky, you may even see Mount Everest and other famous peaks like Kanchenjunga, Makalu, and Chomolhari.
Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by our local hosts and enjoy sightseeing in the Paro valley. We begin with Ta Dzong, a monastery/fortress that was later converted into the National Museum in 1967. A Dzong is a fortress-like structure that functions as a monastery. Inside the museum, you will find many antique paintings, carvings, statues, textiles, and jewelry. We’ll drive to the Rimpung Dzong which was built in the 17th century. This dzong is now the administrative center and school for the monks. In the afternoon, we’ll check into our charming small hotel nestled in the trees.
Day 3: Paro, Drukgyel Dzong, and the hike to Taktsang (the Tiger’s Nest)
Today’s approximately five-hour hike will bring us to the Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery on the side of a cliff 900m (3000 feet) above the floor of Paro valley. As believed by the Bhutanese, Guru Padmasambhava (a famous Buddhist saint) flew here on a Tigress’s back in the 8th century and meditated for three months. Guru Padmasambhava was the one who later converted the whole Paro valley to Buddhism. After the hike, we’ll stroll in the Paro market before returning to our hotel.
*Optional horses are available for payment on the spot and will go up to the first viewpoint only (40-45 minute ride). Optional cost below. It cannot be used on the way down, only up.
*Optional Hot Stone Bath at a farmhouse or hotel. Optional cost below.
Day 4: Paro to Bumthang
Today we take a short but scenic 30-minute flight to Bumthang. In the Bumthang region, Jakar Dzong is one of the highlights. According to legend, when the lamas assembled in 1549 to select a site for a monastery, a big white bird rose suddenly and settled on a spur on a hill. This was interpreted as an important omen and the hill was chosen as the site for the monastery. Jakar Dzong roughly translates as “castle of the white bird.”
Today’s itinerary will feature a visit to Jakar Dzong, and 2 additional Buddhist temples, Kurje Lhakhang and Jambay Lhakhang. If time allows, we will do some hiking in the area and shopping in the village. We may also visit a cheese factory and a brewery. Tonight we stay in a traditional small lodge.
Day 5: Bumthang to Jakar
Today we will visit the Burning Lake of the Great Treasure Revealer “Pedma Lingpa,” who is a great figure in the History of Bhutan. Next, it’s on to the Nunnery and the village nearby where we’ll visit the local government school and interact with students and teachers. This evening we will take a short drive to the Chumey Valley and check into our quaint guest house.
Day 6: Chumey Valley to Trongsa
Today we will take a 2-hour drive to Trongsa, with a lovely hike to Gyetsa Valley en route. Trongsa is in the center of the country and is separated from both east and west by high mountain ranges. The Vanguard of the Warriors – Trongsa Dzongkhag is located near the center of Bhutan and was considered crucial in controlling the kingdom in earlier years. The dzong and surrounding town are perched above a gorge, with fine views of the Black Mountains to the south and west. It’s a sleepy and pleasant town, lined with whitewashed shops decorated with pot plants.
Day 7: Trongsa to Phobjikha
Today we will start with a visit to the Trongsa Dzong which is one of the most impressive in the country. It can be seen from great distances from the Mangde Chhu Valley. Trongsa Dzong has been described as perched so high on a mountain that the clouds float below it. It is one of the most aesthetic and magnificent works of traditional Bhutanese architecture. After our visit to the Dzong, we will head to Phobjikha valley where we’ll explore the Gangteng Monastery which is an important monastery of the Nyingmapa School of Buddhism. The monastery’s history dates back to the 17th century. We may be able to meet with the monks at the Gangtey Compa (depending on their schedule) or have time for mediation on our own. Afterward, we’ll stroll around the village nearby.
Day 8: Phobjikha to Punakha with a stop in Wangdi
We’ll start the morning with a visit to the Nature Conservation Center, then take a short walk to the Gangten Monastery. After lunch, we’ll drive to Punakha and will pass by the Wangduephodrang district. We’ll then visit Chhimi Lhakhang, the seat of Lama Drukpa Kuenley, popularly known as the “Mad Monk.” It’s a 20-minute brisk walk through the paddy fields and its village that leads to the Temple. This evening: relax.
Day 9: Vist to Punakha Dzong and Thimphu
Punakha Dzong is a magnificent fortress that was the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It was built in 1637 and was named Pungthang Dechen Phodrang (Palace of Great Happiness). In 2011 the royal wedding was held here. Then we’ll travel on to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. Perhaps the only world capital without traffic lights, Thimphu keeps many of its traditions rather than adopting modern ways. In this case, they prefer traffic circle cops to the electric lights.
Day 10: Thimphu Sites and Paro
Today the tour includes visits to a variety of types of sites- religious, political, intellectual, and commercial. The Memorial Chorten is a Tibetan-style shrine and a place of devotion for Buddhists. The Handcrafts Emporium is the market where you’ll find locally made crafts and souvenirs. We’ll also visit the mini Zoo to see the national animal, the Takin, which appears to be half goat and half cow. After lunch, we’ll visit a traditional (indigenous) hospital to see how traditional medicines are made. In the late afternoon, we’ll drive down the valley to Paro and our hotel, which is close to the international airport.
Day 11: Departure
From Paro airport, we will return to Bangkok on our included flights. From there, you can connect to other parts of Asia or return home. Happy travels!
Price includes: 10 nights accommodation; Ground transportation throughout the tour; Sightseeing with local Bhutanese guide(s); Entrance fees to sites and museums; Government taxes and fees; All meals. Flight from Bangkok to Paro on Day 2 and flight from Paro to Bangkok on Day 11 (these flights are included and will be booked by HE Travel); The internal flight on Day 4 from Paro to Bumthang; Services of a knowledgeable HE Travel tour host (with a minimum number of participants); HE Travel provides complimentary Medical & Evacuation Insurance for every US Resident on our group tours who does not have other coverage.
Not included: Airfare to and from Bangkok, our starting and ending point; One dinner and one lunch in Bangkok; Any needed post-tour nights in Bangkok; Personal items including alcoholic beverages, snacks, laundry, and telephone calls; Gratuities for guides and HE Travel host.
Optional Tour Choices:
$25 Horse ride to the first Tigers Nest viewpoint on Day 2. Guests will need to pay on the spot. (40-45 minute ride)
$38 Optional Hot Stone Bath on Day 3.
We recommend purchasing trip cancellation insurance to protect your investment. Click Here for more information.
We strongly recommend the purchase of Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance to protect your vacation investment in case of unforeseen circumstances such as flight delay, illness, or injury. Click Here to learn more about our Insurance partner.
- What if I am traveling alone?
- Most of our trips draw more single travelers than couples. When couples do join us, it’s usually because they’re looking forward to interacting with a gay group; if they wanted a holiday by themselves, they wouldn’t have signed up to travel with us. Furthermore, the activities included with our trips serve as natural ice-breakers. Within a day, you’ll be traveling with friends. You don’t need to pay the single supplement if you’re traveling alone. We’ll be happy to match you with a roommate. Pay the single supplement only if you want a bedroom to yourself. For selected trips, including cruises, we will charge half the single supplement if you request a roommate but we can’t match you with someone.
- What is the physical activity level of this tour?
Physical Activity Level
This trip is rated moderate. The trip will have walking through villages and monasteries as well as some Optional 3-5 hour hikes.
- Where and when does the tour start and end?
- This tour starts and ends at Bangkok Airport (BKK) with included flights to and from Paro, Bhutan on Day 2 and Day 11 of the tour. The only airline that serves Paro is the Bhutanese national airline Druk Air. You should not schedule a flight out of Bangkok until after 7:00 pm local time on the last day shown above, since our Paro to Bangkok flight time is subject to change.
- Are there any special vaccinations needed?
- There are no special vaccination requirements for travel to Bhutan other than routine vaccinations recommended for all international travel. We will advise tour participants of current COVID-19 protocols shortly before departure. Visit the United States Centers for Disease Control Website, cdc.gov, for the latest information on healthy travel to Bhutan.
- Are Visas required?
- Yes, a visa is required and HE Travel will order the visas in advance and make them available to you in Bangkok before our flight to Paro. After booking your tour, please send a copy of your passport to HE Travel. We will work with a partner tour company in Bhutan who will get your approval in advance of your arrival. The confirmation of your approved visa is distributed to HE Travel, our Bhutanese travel partner, Druk Air, and the immigration officials at the airport.
This process is much easier than it seems as HE Travel takes care of the visa arrangements.
For a short visit to Thailand, visas are not required for most nationalities including Americans, Australians, and most Europeans.
- Who are the Guides?
- The tour will have a local experienced multi-lingual Bhutanese guide, licensed by the government. There may also be an HE Travel trip leader to function as a host and logistics manager.
- What is the Currency?
- Because most expenses are pre-paid and included in the package, you won’t need a lot of extra money. You may want the equivalent of US$300-$400 for items like trips for your guide and driver, personal beverages, laundry, and gifts. For larger purchases such as artwork, crafts, textiles, or rugs, you’ll want more cash. Most people will gladly accept US dollars in denominations up to $20 bills. Banks and most hotels can exchange major world currencies (US dollars, Pound Sterling, and Euros) for the local currency, the ngultrum (NU). Visa and American Express are the mostly widely accepted credit cards, with up to 7% foreign exchange surcharges, but Bhutan is primarily a cash society.
- What is the weather like this time of year?
- December is an ideal time to visit the Himalayas. The beginning of Winter generally has extremely clear skies and cooler temperatures. In Thimphu, the daytime temperature should be in the mid 50’s F. during the day with evening lows in the high 30’s. We will provide a packing list to prepare you for a variety of weather conditions. Snow does not typically start falling in Bhutan until the end of January and early February.
- What are the accommodations like?
- Most of the hotels are in the three to four-star category with private bathrooms. Most of our tour will be in remote areas and the hotels don’t have the same amenities that you find in the West. That said, most people are pleasantly surprised by how clean, well-kept, and comfortable Bhutan’s hotels are.
- Additional Questions
- For answers to your additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 305-294-8174