On this 11-day journey from Paro, immerse yourself in Bhutanese culture by visiting the massive dzongs, spectacular monasteries, as well as the small villages in the Phobjikha valley. The architecture of Bhutan is one of the Kingdom's most visible distinctive features. The massive dzongs (fortresses) with their upward sloping walls, the ancient monasteries and the humble farm houses all stand out as important parts of the country's landscape. Each valley in Bhutan retains its own architectural character in terms of the type of building materials used, ranging from mud to stone, and the special ambience of its most famous monasteries and dzongs.
You are met upon arrival at the airport in Paro and driven to your hotel for check-in. After lunch, visit the National Museum of Bhutan to learn about the vibrant culture of this landlocked country. Move on to Paro Dzong, also known as Rinpung Dzong, a massive fortress/monastery which is also the administrative center of the dzonkhag.
This evening, relax and enjoy the experience of watching the locals play the traditional game of archery. Dinner is served at the hotel.
This morning after breakfast, drive to the end of the road and begin your two-hour hike to Taktshang monastery, also known as the “Tiger’s Nest,” which received its name from the legend that Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) flew there on the back of a tiger. Taktshang is the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, hanging on a cliff at an elevation of 3,120 meters (10,200 feet), some 700 meters (2,300 feet) above the bottom of Paro valley. The monastery includes seven temples which may also be visited.
After your exhilarating hike, enjoy lunch at the cafeteria which faces the magnificent Tiger’s Nest itself. Descend the hill until you reach the road, where you are met by your driver and transferred to your next hotel in Thimphu, approximately a one-hour drive away.
Start your day with a visit to the School of Arts and Crafts where students learn all 13 different kinds of traditional arts and craft work. Continue onwards to the National Memorial Chorten which dominates the skyline of Thimphu and the Textile Museum with its various Bhutanese textiles that are extensive and rich in traditional culture. The museum also exhibits colorful and rare kiras and ghos (traditional Bhutanese dress, kira for women and gho for men).
Move on to explore the Folk Heritage Museum which displays Bhutanese ways of life in a traditional Bhutanese house, an interesting way to gain cultural insight. Your next stop is the Handicrafts Emporium and National Library (1967), which was built in the style of a traditional temple. The library contains a large collection of religious books and manuscripts in Dzongkha and Classical Tibetan, as well as unique collection of English-language books. It also contains a copy of the largest published book in the world.
Later this afternoon, drive to the north end of the valley and hike up to the temple of Tango. Enjoy an evening visit to the Thimphu Dzong before returning to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Embark on a 3-hour drive to Punakha, crossing the scenic Dochula pass en route. If we are lucky with the weather, we can witness the entire Bhutanese Himalayas east of Chomolhari to Gangkhar Puensum.
After checking into your hotel, visit the magnificent Punakha Dzong which without a doubt showcases the finest example of Bhutanese arts and crafts. In the afternoon, enjoy an easy hike to a tantric hilltop temple.
Spend your day at leisure in the warm valley of Punakha or enjoy a stroll in the forest or villages meeting the locals.
Today another adventure awaits you at the valley of Phobjikha, the winter home of the endangered black necked crane which visits Bhutan from late October until February. Enjoy the scenic views of the surrounding area in the afternoon as you walk along the valley. To spice up this experience even more, you also have an opportunity to visit the locals’ farm houses and converse with the people.
Enjoy the beautiful wide valley of Phobjikha, with dwarf bamboo covering the entire valley floor. It’s definitely worth spending one more day here to fully relax.
Depart Phobjikha this morning and drive through the town of Wangdue, stopping for lunch en route. This return drive to Thimphu will take approximately 6 hours, but the serene atmosphere fills you with a calming sensation along the way.
Spend your day at leisure before proceeding to Paro. You can choose to enjoy a walk around the town, shop in the tourist market or even pay a second visit to any sight in the town.
Spend your day at leisure, or you may choose to stroll around the city and hunt for souvenirs. This evening, enjoy your dinner out.
Early this morning, prepare for your departure flight out of Paro. Transfer to the airport, where your tour guide bids you a fond farewell.
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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