Bhutan - The Last Shangri-La
This comprehensive 18 day escorted tour of this relatively isolated country will take you through the prime botanical and wildlife sites in Bhutan. Discover the natural richness of this eastern Himalayan region.
The Land of the Dragon, as Bhutan is known to its inhabitants, has always been the most fiercely independent Himalayan kingdom. It’s a hidden kingdom, where it seems time has stood still. Bhutan carefully refrains from allowing mass tourism, in order to preserve its unique environment and heritage.
Taxes and royalties to maintain the country’s infrastructure and sustain its progress constitutes a large portion of the cost of visiting Bhutan, making it one of the most expensive destinations in the region. We can assure you that the cost is well worth it! A country that few have visited, Bhutan is one of the last strongholds of Tibetan Buddhism, and its peaceful and fun-loving people are proud and elegant, with a timeless culture and dress.
Vast Dzongs (beautiful medieval buildings that incorporate a monastery, village and fort in one) dot the countryside, along with Chortens (shrines) and Ihakhans (temples). A highlight of the tour will be a visit to the magnificent Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest) near Paro.
Bhutan has been rated as one of the top ten global hot spots of the world due to its pristine forests that provide habitats for a diverse range of flora and fauna. It is estimated that over 600 bird species inhabit the unspoiled forests. The trees are clothed in beautiful epiphytic orchids, lichens, ferns and mosses. The forests also harbour some of the most exotic plant species of the eastern Himalayas, with over 50 species of Rhododendron, Magnolias and an amazing variety of medicinal plants.
Home to snow leopards, blue sheep, red pandas, Asian elephants and tigers, Bhutan’s environment is strictly protected. The result will provide you with a rare encounter with a lost kingdom, a unique land and its wonderful people.
It is a remarkable country that offers the opportunity to see not only the exquisite Himalayan scenery but also its rich and ancient traditions in both remote villages and in the capital. Few people have been privileged enough to experience Bhutan, and in this age of superpowers this small but fragile nation of traditional culture is a slice of the old world that may be denied to us in future.
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Extended Trip Details
|Day 1||Bangkok to Paro||Our very early morning flight to Paro departs Bangkok at 5.00am (meet your Coates Escort for group check in at 3.00am). We arrive in Paro around 8.20am (Sunday is a great day to arrive as there are always archery matches in progress on the way from the airport – also the weekly Paro vegetable market). We drive out to our hotel resort for lunch, then travel 4 kms back to Paro to look at the imposing dzong and visit the excellent museum which has a brilliant natural history section. Accommodation: Kichu Resort, Paro LD|
|Day 2||Paro Region||We have the whole day in the Paro region. We can drive the bus to the summit of the Chele La pass (3900m), looking at plants, trees and birds on the way. There will be lots of golden autumn colours. Given fine weather, there will be good views of the Himalayas at the pass. If we have time, there is a chance of an optional short walk through the forest to a nunnery, before returning to Paro. Accommodation: Kichu resort, Paro BLD|
|Day 3||Paro Region to Thimphu||We drive from Paro to Thimphu, the small capital “city” of Bhutan. We will be there by mid-morning and can visit the giant seated Buddha which is on the edge of the forest above the town. After lunch, there are various unique sights to visit in this fascinating city, including the magnificent dzong. Accommodation: Riverview Hotel BLD|
|Day 4||Thimphu||We spend the whole day in Thimphu. Options include a visit to the reserve of Bhutan’s national animal, the takin, from where we can take a short walk (optional) through the forest above the town. We could also visit the traditional paper-making factory or the school of traditional arts (great for paintings & traditional souvenirs). There are many other options, including shopping (especially for bird and flower books for those who need them). Accommodation: Riverview Hotel BLD|
|Day 5||Thimphu – Wangdue Phrodrang – Chuzomza||Today we will drive from Thimphu to Wangdue Phrodrang. On the way, we will stop on top of the Dochu La (3400m) to look at the 108 chortens. On a fine day, you can see the entire Bhutan Himalayan range from here. Down the other side, we will spend some time in the Royal Botanical gardens which are a haven for bird and animal life, as well as having a great display of native plants and trees. We will enjoy lunch at the restaurant here, before dropping down to the Punakha valley for a visit to the famous and magnificent Punakha Dzong. We will then drive a short way up the Dang Chhu valley to our idyllic accommodation on the banks of the rushing river. This is a great area for birding and animal opportunities. Accommodation: Kichu Resort, Chuzomza BLD|
|Day 6||Chuzomza||Using this lovely resort as a base, we will drive a short way up the newly constructed (rough) road above the Mo Chhu river, towards Tashigang which is inside the Jingme Dorji National Park. We will have plenty of time to wander along the road and river looking at wildlife, trees and plants. This area is well known for its good birding. In the afternoon we will return to the Kichu Resort. Accommodation: Kichu Resort, Chuzomza BLD|
|Day 7||Chuzomza to Phobjika||We will drive up towards the Pele La pass (3400m) looking for wildlife on the way. Just before the pass, we turn off south into the beautiful Phobjika valley and to the small village of Gangtey. We will have lunch here and check into the newly constructed Kichu Resort Hotel. Accommodation: Kichu Resort, Phobjika BLD|
|Day 8||Phobjika to Trongsa||Today we carry on driving east over the Pele La (3400m) and down to the small town of Trongsa, which has the most amazing dzong in Bhutan. We will have many opportunities to look for birds and plants on the way. If we have time we will also visit the dzong and museum (or we can do it on our return). Accommodation: Yangkhill resort, Trongsa BLD|
|Day 9||Trongsa to Tingtibi||We start our five-day adventure off the beaten track by driving down a minor road above the true left bank of the MangdeChhu river (which lies at the bottom of a deep gorge) and into a sub-tropical region of the country in the Royal Manas National Park. This area is rich in birdlife and is home to the endangered golden langur monkeys. Today will consist of roughly five hours driving in total. Accommodation: T.Wang Hotel, Tingtibi BLD|
|Day 10||Tingtibi||Stay a second night in Tingtibi village. Walking, birding and wildlife opportunities abound in this biodiversity hotspot at the crossroads of the Royal Manas, Black Mountain and Thrumshing La National Parks. Accommodation: T.Wang Hotel, Tingtibi BLD|
|Day 11||Tingtibi to Panbang||Today we travel through the Royal Manas National Park, stopping frequently to wander along ahead of the bus to look at the birds and vegetation. Accommodation: Eco Lodge or hotel, Panbang BLD|
|Day 12||Panbang to Yonkola||We carry on slowly eastwards until we reach the Mongar region, where we rejoin the very quiet but only road across the country in the gorge of the mighty PuriChhu river. We turn north here and make our way to the small hamlet of Yonkala, where there is a lovely campsite in the heart of the Thrumshing La National Park. Accommodation: Trogon Villa, Yonkola BLD|
|Day 13||Yonkola||We stay in the Yonkala region for the whole day, where we will have lots of time for walking through the forest to look for birds and flowers. Along with Tingtibi, the Yonkala Forest area is said to be the best birding region in Bhutan. Accommodation: Trogon Villa, Yonkola BLD|
|Day 14||Yonkola to Dakar / Chumey||Early departure this morning as we make our way northwards on what has been called the most scenic road in Bhutan, which is also a hotspot for red pandas and spectacular birds such as the satyr tragopan and blood pheasant. We cross two more high Passes (La’s) including the Thrumshing La, and travel down to the Ura valley. From here we cross the Shertang La on a new road from where we can hopefully get a good view of Gangkar Puensum, the world’s highest unclimbed mountain (7546m). Back in the Bumthang region we make our way to Jakar, the main town of the area. We stay the night in another lovely lodge. Accommodation: Kichu resort at Jakar or Guest house in Chumey BLD|
|Day 15||Dakar / Chumey to Chuzomsa||We now begin our journey back towards the west of Bhutan. On the way we will stop at Chhumney, where there is an excellent textile factory that produces wonderful hand woven material and souvenirs. We then climb up to the Yotang La, another pass with great views of the surrounding countryside. From here we drop down to the town of Trongsa, where we stayed 6 days ago. We then back over the Pele La and on to the lovely lodge by the river at Chuzomsa. Accommodation: Kichu Resort, Chuzomsa BLD|
|Day 16||Chuzomsa to Paro||In the morning we will drive back up towards and over the Dochu La and down to Thimphu for lunch. There will be plenty of time for some last-minute shopping for those who wish before we make the 90-minute drive back to our resort in Paro. Accommodation: Kichu resort, Paro BLD|
|Day 17||Paro||This morning we take a short drive to the car park below the famous Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest) monastery. We will walk up through the forest to the viewpoint below the monastery (up to 2 hours). Those feeling fit enough can carry on up to the monastery itself for a short visit. Lunch will be at the viewpoint restaurant. We then descend and travel back to the lovely Kichu resort for our special last night. Accommodation: Kichu Resort, Paro BLD|
|Day 18||Paro to Bangkok.||Free time in Paro this morning until we are transferred to the airport for our flight to home which departs Paro at 3.40pm and arrives in Bangkok at 9.05pm. B NOTE: The itinerary above is a guide. Hopefully we can keep to it, however, it is important to stress that although the Bhutanese are very well organised, we are travelling in a very little-visited country, and things don’t always go to plan. Travelling in Bhutan requires a certain amount of adaptability – but they are such friendly people it will always be fun. Our local guide is very adept at improvising if we strike bad road or weather conditions. The above itinerary may be varied according to conditions and advice.|
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- All transfers and transportation;
- 2 crew members – Coates Wildlife Tours escort and a local English speaking guide;
- Return Bhutan Airlines flights from Bangkok to Paro;
- Bhutan visa fees, taxes and permits;
- Bhutan accommodation with all meals;
- Sightseeing with entrance fees;
- Tips and Gratuities for our Bus Driver and Local Bhutanese Guide.
“There were many highlights, the Punakha and Trongsa Dzongs, the bus trips over the mountains, the Breathtaking scenery, Dochula Pass where we could view the Himalayan peaks, the trek up to Tiger’s Nest monastery, the visits to the Temples and so on.”