On Secret Trails Through Bhutan

Nestled among the eastern Himalaya, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan captures the imagination with serene landscapes, sacred temples, and a culture steeped in ancient Buddhist traditions. Set out to discover the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” on an exhilarating adventure that includes two days in Bumthang, Bhutan’s most sacred valley. Cross mountain passes strung with colourful prayer flags, traverse stunning glacial valleys, and visit hilltop monasteries populated by red-robed monks. In charming villages long isolated from the modern world, meet gracious Bhutanese people and witness their dedication to preserving their country’s natural beauty and daily rituals. Along the way, delve into Bhutan’s unique artistic heritage in the cultural centers of Thimphu and Paro.

Trip Highlights

  • Trek through pristine alpine forests and High Mountain passes.
  • Hike to magnificent Dzongs and Monasteries and meet with Buddhist monks, highlanders and farmers.
  • Experience Bhutan’s thriving Buddhist culture.
Day 1

Board the early morning flight from Bangkok/Kathmandu/Delhi/ to Paro, taking in views of the some of the highest peaks of the eastern Himalaya, including Mount Everest, if weather permits. Arrive in Paro and drive to Thimphu to check into your hotel. Set out for a relaxed afternoon sightseeing through Thimphu.

Day 2

Our first walk will take us to the two Monasteries, Tango & Cheri. After a short drive we start a hour and a half -long walk through a beautiful oak forest. If lucky we will meet a resident group of Gray Langurs on the way. We will enjoy lunch at the starting point to Cheri Monastery. The walk to Cheri Monastery will take another hour, where we will encounter a group of semi tame Goral Antelopes who decided to permanently live around the Monastery. In the afternoon we will have time for a stroll through Thimphu town and visit Tashichho Dzong.

Day 3

Todays walk to Phadjoding Monastery, situated on the slopes above Thimphu, will take about 4 to 5 hours. Overlooking Thimphu valley, the Monastery with 10 temples and a serious of meditation houses, is a center for meditation. After return from Phadjoding we will visit the 51.5 meter high Buddha Dordenma Statue at Kuensel Phrodang.

Day 4

We will start early today and drive up towards Dochula (Pass) and start our walk through a beautiful rhododendron forest from Trashigang Goenpa to Lungchuzekha Monastery, where we will enjoy lunch. The walk takes about 3 - 4 hours and ends at Dochula Pass. After a cup of tea or coffee at the pass, we drive down to Punakha valley. On the way we visit Chhimi Lhakhang. Perched on the hilltop overlooking the Punatsang Chhu, Chhimi Lhakhang was build in 1499 by the cousin of Lama Drukpa Kunley (The Divine Madman), in his honour, after he subdued the demoness of the nearby Dochula with his ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’.

Day 5

We drive along the Punakha River to reach a long suspension bridge that takes us across the river where we start a 45-minute climb to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten. The Chorten stands out on a beautiful ridge above Punakha Valley and offers views over rich paddy fields and small hamlets. After lunch we visit Punakha Dzong. It was named Pungthang Dechen Phodrang, which means the Palace of Great Bliss. Punakha Dzong remained the centre of the government until it was relocated to Thimphu Dzong. It continues to be the winter home of the central monk body. The Dzong contains the massive gold statues of Buddha, Guru Rinpoche and the Zhabdrung, dating back to the mid-18th century.

Day 6

We start early again and drive up towards Pele La Pass. Shortly before the pass we turn south, cross the 3360-meter high Lawala Pass and enter Phobjikha Valley, a conservation area and the largest wetland in Bhutan. It is the largest wintering habitat of the rare Black-Necked Cranes. After lunch in the Gangtey village we start the two hour walk along the designated Nature Trail. The trail leads us through villages, pine forest, along the wetland and ends near Khewang Temple where our bus will await us.

Day 7

After visiting the architecturally extraordinary Gangtey Goenpa, we proceed to Trongsa were we will visit Trongsa Dzong and will reach Jakar in Bumthang Valley at late afternoon.

Day 8

Discover Bumthang today, seeing important Buddhist sites that date back more than a thousand years. Take an easy walk through the valley and visit Jambay Lhakhang, Kurjey Lhakhang and Tamshing Goenpa, known for its unique murals, and learn about the rich legends associated with them. Later, explore Jakar Dzong and, if time permits, you may choose to visit a cheese factory.

Day 9

Todays walk will take us from Jakar to Tang Valley walk via Padselling Monastery.

The 4-5 hours walk will lead along a secluded trail that ascends steeply through pine forests and meadows to Padselling Monastery. We stop for a picnic lunch at the monastery and have time to explore the grounds. Then we descend the other side of the mountain into beautiful Tang Valley, winding through Tang villages. On our drive back to Bumthang, stop to see religious sites along the road to Jakar, including Tang Rimochen Lhakhang, a nunnery, and Member Tsho (Burning Lake).

Day 10

Today we will drive from Bumthang to Paro. On the way we will stop to visit Simtokha Dzong and Tachogang Lhakhang.

Day 11

A short walk, starting from an ancient traditional wooden bridge, will take us to Paro Dzong and Ta Dzong, the National Museum, housed in an old watchtower above the Paro Dzong. The museum’s collections include displays of spectacular thangkas (religious scroll paintings), bronze statues, and elaborate stamps. In the afternoon a short walk will take us to Dzongdrakha Goemba, a group of Lhakhangs perched along a cliff.

Day 12

We have an early start to avoid the heat on our walk to the famous Taktsang Monastery, also know as the Tigers Nest. It is perched on the side of a steep cliff about 900 metres above the floor of Paro valley. It is said that in 8th century Guru Padmasambhava flew on the back of a tigress from Singye Dzong in Lhuentse to meditate in the cave where Taktsang Monastery now stands. Taktsang Monastery was built in 1692 by Gylse Tenzin Rabgye, who is believed to be the reincarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. The walk takes about 4 to 5 hours. In the afternoon we will enjoy a stroll through Paro town and have time for some souvenir shopping.

Day 13

Departure from Paro International Airport to Bangkok/Kathmandu/Delhi and your homebound / onwards flight.

  • The following services are included:
    • 12 nights in double or single room occupancy in minimum 3 star hotels in Bhutan. If you would like to stay in 4 or 5 star hotel, please let us know.
    • All meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes lunch will be pack lunch or a picnic.
    • Full time English speaking licensed Bhutanese guide during your travel in Bhutan.
    • All internal road transport in comfortable vehicle.
    • Return flight from Bangkok to Paro/Bhutan in economy class. There are also flights to Bhutan from Delhi, Kolkata, Bagdogra, Dhaka, Kathmandu, Guwahati and Singapore. The trip cost will change accordingly.
    • All entry fees.
    • Visa fee and services for Bhutan.
    • All internal taxes.
    • A sustainable tourism Royalty of US$ 65 per person per night. This Royalty goes towards free education and free healthcare and poverty alleviation.
    The following services are not included:
    • Alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, tips, laundry
    • International flights from your home destination to Bangkok and back. We are happy to assist you in arranging this flight.
    • Insurances, Travel insurance, health insurance.