Discover the beautiful vistas and rich heritage on this 7-day tour of the tiny landlocked Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which remained sovereign and self-sufficient but unknown to the outside world for most of its existence until the mid 20th century, remarkably, leaving it almost completely untainted. Daily life in Bhutan is influenced strongly by Buddhism, based strongly on The Middle Path and the concept of Gross National Happiness.
Upon your arrival in Paro you are met and assisted by our friendly representative who takes you on an hour long drive directly to Thimphu. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel. Later this afternoon, if time permits, proceed on a sightseeing tour of Thimphu where you may visit the Handicrafts Emporium, Zilikha nunnery and the Dechen Phodrang Monastic School. Stay overnight at your hotel in Thimphu.
This morning, visit the School of Arts and Crafts, Folk Heritage Museum and the 12th century Changagkha Temple. Later, drive to Punakha over the scenic Dochula Pass, which reaches an elevation of 3,200 meters. If the weather is clear, enjoy marvelous panoramic views of the entire Himalayan mountain range toward the northern border. Lunch is served at Dochula Cafeteria. This afternoon, hike to Chimi Lhakhang, the beautiful temple of fertility, and later this evening visit the serene Punakha Dzong fortress, the second-oldest dzong in Bhutan.
Take a morning drive towards the north end of the valley and proceed on a hike to Khamsung Yulley Namgyal Choling Monastery on the ridge of the hill. Pause to enjoy the view of this long narrow valley, then drive to the valley of Phobjikha, the winter home of the endangered black necked crane from the end of October until February. The remainder of the afternoon is yours at leisure.
Spend your day in the gorgeous wide valley of Phobjikha which is entirely covered in dwarf bamboo. Today is yours to simply relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. You also have the opportunity to visit nearby farm houses and meet the local people.
After breakfast, start your long drive back to Paro through Wangdue, Dochula and Thimphu. Check in to your hotel in Paro and make sure you get plenty of rest to energize yourself for tomorrow’s exciting adventure.
Early this morning, begin your 2-hour hike to the famous Taktshang “Tiger’s Nest” monastery which hangs on a cliff 700 meters from the valley floor. Take some time to visit the temples within the monastery, then head back to town to visit the National Museum and the Paro Dzong fortress. You also have the opportunity to visit Kichu Temple and the ruins of Drugyel Dzong. Dinner is served at the Red Rice Restaurant or somewhere similar.
Check out of your hotel this morning after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your departure flight back home or to your next exciting destination.
What are the visa requirements for visiting Bhutan?
Visas are required for entry into Bhutan. After booking your tour, you will be sent our Visa Application Form, and two weeks prior to your arrival into Bhutan, you will be sent a visa clearance letter which will let you board your flight to Bhutan. The actual visa is approved upon your arrival at the airport.
I am flying to Bhutan from India. Do I need a re-entry permit for India?
If you are planning to enter India multiple times within a 2-month period, recent updates to Indian visa regulations may impact your travel. Further clarification was issued stating that if the visa holder is traveling to multiple countries on the same itinerary, no permit is needed, as long as the trip follows the itinerary exactly. The visa holder must carry a copy of their itinerary to show the Immigration Officer upon their first entry to India.
What is the best time of year to visit Bhutan?
Peak seasons are from mid-February to mid-June and August to mid-November. The weather is a bit cooler from November to February, but the views of the snow-capped peaks during this time are stunning. Mid-June to mid-August is monsoon season, where the landscape changes dramatically with greener trees and paddy fields everywhere. Our tours run year-round.
Are there any particular monuments or sights that are closed on specific days?
Yes, the National Museum in Paro is closed on Sundays and Mondays. The Painting School and National Library in Thimphu are both closed on Sundays.
What is your policy on children taking the tour?
Children ages 5 and under may travel free of charge with their parents. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 enjoy a 50% fare.
Is there a timed itinerary available?
There is no timed itinerary currently available, which means that you can vary the time spent at a particular monument/sight.
How strenuous are the hiking excursions?
The hiking excursions, specifically to the "Tiger's Nest" are quite strenuous, and are not recommended for guests in poor health. For an average hiker, this steep uphill hike will take approximately 2 hours.
What type of vehicle transport is utilized?
For 1-2 passengers, we use a new Toyota Prado, Hyundai Tuscon or Santa Fe SUV. For 3-7 passengers, we use a Toyota Hiace minibus. For groups larger than 7 passengers, a Toyota Coaster bus is utilized. As Bhutan is a mountainous country with cooler temperatures, air-conditioning is not necessary; however, all of our vehicles are equipped with heaters.
What type of cuisine is served on the tour?
During the peak touring season, the hotels we will stop at have buffet meals consisting of at least five dishes with dessert. During dinner, soup is also served. If you have special dietary requirements, please inform Palace Tours at the time of booking so that we may ensure that your requests (ie: vegetarian) can be accommodated. The food served throughout the tours is mostly continental mixed with Chinese, Indian or Bhutanese.
Is the water safe for drinking?
We recommend that you do not drink the tap water. Bottled water will be provided in all of the hotel rooms and in the sightseeing/touring vehicles.
Is there internet or telephone access?
Internet facilities are available at most of the hotels, and you may make international calls at the hotels as well (on your own account). Cell phone service may be limited in Bhutan.
What is the recommended gratuity?
Gratuities are at your discretion and should be extended based on your enjoyment of the journey and quality of service provided. As a general guideline, you might expect to tip approximately $50-$100 per week, per couple.
What is the recommended currency? Are there currency exchange facilities available?
International currency can be exchanged at Bhutan Bank to the local currency, however, the US dollar bill ($) is accepted everywhere, including the small shops. The exchange rate for smaller USD bills ($1-$20) has less value than larger bills. Unfortunately, there are no ATM's. The only credit card that is accepted is Visa, and this is at only very few of the larger stores.
Is there a dress code or recommended clothing for the tour?
There is no dress code; however, you must wear clothes that fully cover your body when visiting the temples. Please dress according to the weather conditions for your time of travel.
Are there any customs to be aware of?
Yes. Shoes are not permitted inside temples and photography is not permitted inside the temples. It is considered highly disrespectful to point fingers at others. Your guide will inform you of other customs as you are taking the tour.
What types of electrical outlets are there?
The electric outlets are mainly 220v and use round pin. You will be required to bring your own converter, as they are not provided at the hotels.
Is travel insurance required?
It is not required for the cultural tours, but is absolutely ESSENTIAL if undertaking a tour that involves trekking.
What is the level of safety that passengers can expect?
We have a very clean history with no robberies, etc. Your baggage is safe in the hotels and in the vehicles, however we do advise that you carry your passports and wallets with you at all times.
Unfortunately, we don't offer Visa assistance but we can provide you with all the information that you need for getting a visa to India
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