London • Kathmandu • Paro • Thimphu • Punakha • Trongsa • Bumthang • Wangdi • Paro • Kathmandu • London
Bhutan - A Himalayan Gem
Small Group tour Led by Zara Fleming
Saturday 18 November – Monday 04 December 2017
(Meals: B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner)
Departure from London Heathrow Terminal 4 by Jet Airways via Delhi for Kathmandu by Jet airways flight 9W121 at 20:50
Arrive in Delhi at 10:50 this morning and change planes for the onward Jet Airways flight 9W 260 to Kathmandu at 12:50. Arrive in Kathmandu at 14:40 in the afternoon where the party will be met and transferred to the centrally located Hotel Manaslu.
After breakfast visit Durbar Square, the historic centre of the capital, badly damaged in the 2015 earthquake but there are still various temples to see. It is an area of spectacular architecture, with its ancient temples and royal palaces, illustrating the skills of the Newari artists and craftsmen over the centuries. One of the most interesting temples to survive intact is that of the Living Goddess. In this tiny mediaeval temple a small girl is selected from a caste of Buddhist goldsmiths and after a complex ritual, is declared a goddess. Her role is to watch over the country and protect its people until puberty, after which a new goddess is found. Also visit Kathmandu’s oldest and most revered Buddhist site, the hilltop Swayambunath stupa, with its famous Buddha eyes gazing out to the four cardinal directions.
Later this morning drive to Patan, the second largest city in the Kathmandu Valley which was once an independent Malla kingdom, its origins dating back 2,000 years. Enjoy lunch in the Patan Museum courtyard, followed by a a visit to the small but fascinating museum. The day concludes with a visit to Bodnath, home to one of the largest stupas in the world and heart of the Tibetan community in Nepal. Overnight Kathmandu. B
Fly to Paro by Druk air (flight leaves Kathmandu at 10:10 and arrives Paro at 11:45 , flight times may change), on the flight we should hopefully get excellent views of the Himalayas. On arrival in Paro, we will be met by our local guide and then transported east towards Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan since 1961. Depending on the time of arrival, we can probably fit in the Institute of Traditional Medicine and Tashichoe Dzong. The original dzong was destroyed by fire in 1772. When the third King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorje Wangchuk made Thimphu his capital, he rebuilt the dzong using traditional methods. This became the seat of government and was completed in 1969. Overnight in Thimphu (Hotel Galingkha). B, L, D
In the morning we visit one of the oldest temples in the Thimphu Valley, the Changangkha Lhakhang, built in the 15th century, perched on a hilltop overlooking the town. This will be followed by the Textile Museum, which houses an outstanding display of Bhutanese textiles and costumes which reflect the diversity of the weaving and embroidery traditions found in Bhutan. Then we drive to the Choki Traditional Art School. This is a small but impressive privately run establishment, where they study woodcarving, thangka painting, clay sculpture and weaving. After lunch, we can explore more of Thimphu and include a lovely walk of 1.5 hours from Samtengang (near zoo) to Wangditse Dzong and on to Dechenphodrang Gompa. Overnight in Thimphu (Hotel Galingkha). B, L, D
In the morning we set off on our journey to Punakha, driving eastwards climbing up through oak, pine and rhododendron forests to the Dochu La Pass (3050m/over 10,000 ft). Here we have a break and hope to get a spectacular view of the Eastern Himalayan ranges. This is the site of the 108 chortens (commissioned by Queen Ashi Dorje Wangmo, one of the 4th King’s four wives) and a beautiful monastery. Drive down to Lamperi Botanical Park, then walk downhill through the forest to Lumbitsawa. Here your driver will collect you and take you to lunch in the Punakha area (1250m/4100ft). T. Late afternoon, a gentle walk across the paddy fields to the temple of Chime Lhakhang. This was built by Drukpa Kunley (known as “The Divine Madman”), who was renowned for his eccentric behaviour and is revered as a fertility god. Hence this is a fertility temple and many people come here to pray for a child. Overnight in Punakha (Hotel Meri Puensum). B, L, D
Begin the day with a drive up winding roads through pine forests to the village of Talo, situated high above the Mo Chu river and with stunning views across the valley. Then walk down from the charming village of Nobgang past farmhouses, small hamlets, people working in the fields and everyday life towards the Punakha Dzong. After a picnic lunch, head a little further down the valley and do a delightful walk up to the three storey Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, standing majestically on a ridge above the Valley. It is a splendid example of Bhutan’s current artistic skills and was commissioned by the Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck to promote peace and harmony throughout the kingdom. On the way back we will visit the spectacular Punakha Dzong known as the “Palace of Great Happiness", built in 1637, it is the former winter Capital and the administrative seat of the district. The fortress is strategically placed at the confluence of two rivers, the Pho Chu and Mo Chu. The coronations of all the Bhutanese monarchs have taken place within this dzong. Overnight in Punakha (Hotel Meri Puensum). B, L, D
Drive for approximately 5 hours to Trongsa, the gateway to Central Bhutan (3050m/10,000 ft). Set amidst spectacular scenery, Trongsa Dzong commands the eye from miles away. This was built in its strategic position by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal in 1644, and then became the seat of the Wangchuck dynasty before they became monarchs of Bhutan in 1907. The only road connecting eastern and western Bhutan used to pass through the courtyard of the dzong, so at any time, the Penlop (Governor of the Dzong) could command that the doors could be shut, dividing the country in two! Above the dzong is the watchtower (Ta Dzong), which today houses an impressive museum dedicated to the Wangchuck dynasty and is a good place to learn more about the history of Bhutan. Overnight Trongsa (Hotel Yangkhil). B, L, D
From Trongsa, drive across the Yotong La towards Bumthang. En route, stop at the village of Zugney to see the traditional yathra weaving of Central Bhutan, woven from sheep and yak’s wool. There may be time to visit the Tharpaling Monastery, a sacred site and place of meditation and then walk down towards Bumthang. Bumthang is made up of four small valleys, which constitute the spiritual heartland of Bhutan (Chokor, Tang, Ura and Chume) and all are steeped in religious legends. Overnight in Bumthang (Gongkhar Guesthouse). B, L, D
Today we will visit important monasteries in the surrounding area, including some walks for those who would like. We will definitely see Jampa Lhakang, built in the 8th century and Bhutan’s most revered site and Kurjey Monastery and possibly Petseling, with fine panoramic views of the central Bumthang valley. Finally Tamshing Lhakhang - founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, the temple was restored at the end of the 19th century.
Overnight in Bumthang (Gongkhar Guesthouse) B, L, D
Early in the morning drive about 2 hours to Tang where you will visit Tang Namkhar Rabdhey festival. This is a small and unique local festival where they perform various dances in order to seek blessings and for the protection of the surrounding community. In the afternoon walk about one hour to Ogyencholing Palace and museum. Originally a monastery in the 14th century, but then replaced by the Palace in the 19th century. There are two temples with some exceptional paintings and a small but interesting museum which gives a fascinating insight into the life of the Bhutanese aristocracy. The owner Kuenzang Chodon is usually around to provide interesting information about her family and Ogyencholing. Return to Bumthang. Overnight in Bumthang (Gongkhar Guesthouse) B, L, D
Drive approximately 8 hours to Wangdi, having lunch en route. Wangdi (also known as Wangdue Phodrang) was originally considered Bhutan’s secondary capital and it commands an important central position. Sadly Wangdi Dzong was gutted by fire in June 2012, renovation work is now underway using traditional construction methods. Overnight in Wangdi. B, L, D
Today we return to Paro, a drive of approximately 4 hours. You can stop on the way to take in the magnificent Tamchhog Lhakhang, the hereditary place of worship for Bhutan’s iron bridge builder. On arrival in Paro we can visit the imposing Rinpung Dzong ‘fortress on a heap of jewels’, built in 1646 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal. Walk down from the dzong over a charming cantilever bridge and return to Paro town. Overnight in Paro (Hotel Gangtey Palace or Olathang cottages). B, L, D
Today we can visit the National Museum, which was originally housed in the Ta Dzong (or watchtower) but this was badly damaged in the earthquakes of 2011 and is now being restored. So the museum is in a temporary building nearby. This has an outstanding display on the flora and fauna of Bhutan, traditional dance, Buddhist art and many handcrafted objects of daily life. From the Museum, walk for about an hour along the forested hillside to Zuri Dzong and then down to the Uma resort, where your driver will pick you up. The walk provides wonderful views down over the valley and Dzong. On the way you can also visit the Dungtse Lhakhang, built in 1421 by the famous Tibetan lama, Thangthong Gyelpo. There will also be the opportunity to visit a local farmhouse.Overnight in Paro (Hotel Gangtey Palace or Olathang cottages) B, L, D
An early start to begin the walk up to the Takstang Monastery, the Tiger’s Nest, perched on the side of a cliff 900 metres above the Paro Valley. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress during the 8th century, in order to subdue the local demons. Tragically damaged by fire in 1998, it has now been restored to its former glory. It takes about 1- 2 hours to reach the viewing point and cafeteria, then those who wish can climb on up to the temple itself. Then a walk down, followed by lunch and a visit to Kyichu Lhakhang. This temple was originally constructed in the 7th century as a geomantic temple and is today one of the most sacred shrines in the kingdom. There may also be an opportunity to see an archery competition. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and aside from the skilled marksmanship, it involves a number of rituals, dancing and singing. Overnight in Paro (Hotel Gangtey Palace or Olathang cottages) B, L, D
Fly from Paro back to Kathmandu by Druk air at 11:40 and arrive Kathmandu at 12:25 Transfer to Hotel Manslu for overnight stay. Remainder of the day in Kathmandu for resting or sightseeing. B
Fly from Kathmandu to London by Jet Airways via Delhi. Flight 9W263 leaves Kathmandu at 08:25, arrives Delhi at 10:05, connect 9W122 at 13:30 and arrives Heathrow Terminal 4 at 17:40.
- Tour Leader
- How to Book this Tour
- Travel Insurance
You will be accompanied on this journey by Zara Fleming, a lecturer, independent art consultant and experienced tour leader. Zara specialises in the art and culture of the Buddhist Himalayas and has been visiting Bhutan for over 40 years. She will be able to show you the real Bhutan.
International flights in economy class on scheduled Jet Airways flight via Delhi.
International flights between Kathmandu-Paro-Kathmandu on Druk Air.
Accommodation with private facilities as mentioned in the itinerary.
Meal Plan: Full board arrangements in Bhutan. Breakfast only in Kathmandu
All transfers and sightseeing arrangements by a private small coach.
Entry fee for monuments and places of interest.
Bhutan visa fee and Tourism Development fee
Services of a local English speaking guide.
- Services of Zara Fleming as Tour Leader
Full ATOL Bonding.
Cost does not include:
Visa fee for Nepal. Nepal visa is available on arrival at Kathmandu airport.
Travel Insurance. You can obtain a competitive price for travel insurance from Travel & General see link to Travel Insurance
Any expenses of a personal nature.
- Tips and gratuities
- To book this tour , please compete the booking form, sign and e-mail it to us. A non-refundable deposit of £500.00 per person is needed at the time of booking. Balance payments will be due 8 weeks before departure. You can make the deposit payment by debit card or electronic transfers to our bank. Credit card payment will be charge at 2% extra. Our Bank details are on the booking form. Bookings are confirmed on first come first served basis. When the tour is full we will take about 5 additional names on the waiting list to replace their booking with any cancellations etc.
- If you wish to join the tour and fly from any country other than United Kingdom please contact us for land only arrangements.
It is essential to have adequate insurance in place before your departure. This should be appropriate for your age, health and destination you are visiting.
- It includes comprehensive medical and repatriation cover.
- It provides cover for your whole trip (whether one day or over a year).
- It covers you for all activities.
- Disclose pre-existing medical conditions.
- Take your policy number and the 24-hour emergency contact numbers with you.
- If you are making multiple trips we recommend that you take a yearly travel insurance policy.