Overview

This is a wonderful holiday specifically designed to give you a delightful insight and appreciation of Bhutan and her people, their culture, the geography, geology and the stunning flower and fauna. It combines tours and treks to many of Bhutan's 'must see' destinations with plenty of time to relax and absorb this truly wonderful country. We use lovely hotels, spas and resorts throughout the trip as you travel, trek and tour with one of our expert guides. This holiday is perfectly suited to those looking to combine some adventure with half and full day treks whilst returning each evening to comfortable hotels and spas, alongside seeing classic Bhutan and experiencing this amazing country and her people.

Below is a short clip from independent traveller Rory Malcolm that perfectly captures the essence and beauty of Bhutan.

Bhutan from Rory Malcolm on Vimeo.

SUMMARY OF OUR BHUTAN CLASSIC TREK & TOUR ITINERARY

On the itinerary tab you'll find a full day by day itinerary

Day 1: Arrive into Paro Airport. Bhutanese archery demonstration & tour of the National Memorial Chorten in Thimphu. 
Day 2: Kuenselphodrang to Changangkha Trek and Thimphu tours including various museums, sights & local industries
Day 3: Treks to the Cheri  and Chimi Lhakhang Monasteries and visit the Dochula Pass.
Day 4: Trek to Khamsum Yuelley Monastery with visits to Punakha Dzong, Sangchen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery and Talo Monastery.
Day 5: Gangtey Nature Trail trek
Day 6: Longtay Trek
Day 7: Tour of Rinpung Dzong & the National Museum
Day 8: Trek and tour of the Tiger's Nest and Drugyel Dzong
Day 9: Day trip to Haa Valley and trek along the Chelela Ridge
Day 10: Transfer to Paro Airport and depart for home

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Kuenselphodrang

BHUTAN CLASSIC TREK & TOUR MAP

LENGTH AND TERRAIN OF THE BHUTAN TREKS

The treks throughout our trip are gentle and enjoyable. This holiday is very much about experiencing the beauty and majesty of Bhutan, which is often appreciated better on foot. The treks can easily be adapted if necessary, though most are gentle and only require a couple of hours. The trek to Tigers nest is steeper, but if required ponies can be used for a section of it. Our longest day trek is on day 9 when we'll have already done a number of treks to prepare for the day and it is the highest in terms of altitude, however we immediately drop back to lower regions.

The terrain is on well trodden paths and at times in stunning meadows. There are no precipitous drops or technical equipment or skills needed. This is purely trekking, however due to the mountainous terrain there can be steep sections to go up and down - poles are handy. You will need comfortable boots or trek shoes.

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Haa Valley

BHUTAN CLASSIC TREK & TOUR ALTITUDE PROFILE 

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Click the chart for a larger version

ACCOMMODATION ON THE BHUTAN CLASSIC TREK & TOUR

Accommodation throughout our holiday is based on twin occupancy and is in clean comfortable hotels and spas. Some of the accommodation we use is regarded as the best that Bhutan has to offer and all of them continually gain 4 to 5 stars on Tripadvisor. The locations range from central town locations to remote forest hideaways. You will be welcomed with warm arms and find your hosts friendly and courteous. Most of the hotels and spas we use have additional treatments or activities which you may choose to enjoy. These are charming, traditional Bhutanese hotels with a good level of service and comfort. We purposely stay a couple of nights in each hotel so that you feel at home and become familiar with your surroundings. 

Meals are a blend of famous Bhutanese dishes and tourist favourites and all freshly prepared. At times we also eat out in local homesteads and cafes and you can expect cleanliness and a high standard of food. 

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Dewachen Hotel

PACKING LIST FOR BHUTAN CLASSIC TREK & TOUR

Check out our gear recommendations and also our Trekking Kit List page for information about what gear and clothing we recommend.

In general you will need similar kit as that required for a trek in Nepal with the basic idea of the clothing is to keep you warm, dry, protected from the sun, able to move comfortably during a trek and able to be comfortable in the evenings and night. 

You don't need to worry about sleeping bags and you will be able to have clothes washed in the hotels. Trek clothes should be light and layered with a wind / waterproof outer layer and an insulating fleece or jacket for higher altitude and colder days. Footwear can be walking boots, synthetic or leather or good trek shoes. The nature of the treks and terrain is at times steep so trek poles are a good idea. In the hotels and villages normal travel clothes are fine and when in monasteries shoes must be removed and shoulders covered - a sarong is handy for ladies to carry in their day bag.

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Chelela Ridge Trek

Day  Activity
1

This is your arrival day into Paro Airport and the advertised date on our website. Depending on your location you may need to depart your home country the previous day. Paro Airport is unlike any other international airport as it's nestled in a lush green valley making you immediately aware of your arrival in Bhutan.

After clearing immigration and collecting your luggage you'll be met in arrivals by your guide and transferred to the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu, which is just over an hours drive away.

Thimphu is famous for it's Buddhist temples, lush green trees and warm welcome. We'll enjoy some traditional archery displays and visit the famous National Memorial Chorten, before relaxing in the evening at the charming Pedling Hotel and Spa, which is in the centre of town allowing easy access for evening strolls or a spot of shopping.

2

After breakfast we'll visit the Buddha Dordenma Statue, which is gigantic and located a short distance outside of town in the surrounding mountains. Inside the statue is over one hundred thousand smaller Buddha statues, each of which, like the Great Buddha Dordenma itself, are made of bronze and gilded in gold.
Close to the Statue is a lovely trekking trail that goes from the Kuenselphodrang Monastery to Changangkha. The 3 to 4 hours trek takes us through ancient pine forest and offers stunning views. You'll need to wear your hiking boots or trail shoes and carry an extra layer for warmth. People have in the past encountered Black Himalayan bears along the trail, however you'll be in good hands with your guide throughout.


When back in town we'll enjoy a number of local tours in the afternoon. We'll start with a visit to the Royal Takin Preserve, which is home to Bhutan's national animal the Takin. There are some walks and a viewpoint to watch the endangered species. We'll then go to the Folk Heritage Museum which portrays life of early Bhutanese people, the building itself showcases traditional Bhutanese architecture and gives an insight into life, culture and history of Bhutan and her people. They also serve amazing food and locally made Ara wine. 

Our next visit is to the traditional Paper Factory where we watch and learn about the ancient process of hand-making paper from wood bark through to pulp, then screening the pulp into "wet" paper, which is then hung and dried before being cut and coloured and then finally made into books, greeting cards, custom paper bags and lamp shades, that are sold all over the globe.

Our final visit of the day is to the Bhutan Postal Museum which captures the story of the evolution of communication, transportation and postal services in Bhutan. Over the years Bhutan has had some amazing stamps - scented stamps, talking stamps, musical stamps and at the museum you can buy your very own official and personalised stamps with your picture on them, which you can use to send a postcard home. 

In the evening we'll relax at the Pedling Hotel and Spa.

3

After breakfast we'll start the day with a 1 - 2hr relaxed trek to the Cheri Monastery, this scenic trail begins by crossing a picturesque covered bridge and winds through lush forests and up steep paths, passing deer and mountain goats as they cling to the hillsides. Built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1620, the Cheri Monastery holds a silver chorten, said to hold the ashes for Zhabdrung’s father. Today it is an important place for meditation retreats, with 30 monks studying here for three years, three months and three days. The scenery is stunning and you'll spend some time with the monks before we enjoy a picnic lunch.

After lunch we'll travel by road to the Dochula Pass at 3200m. The pass is east from Thimpu as we drive towards Punakha where 108 stupas were been built by the eldest queen mother. This is a stunning a peaceful place with fantastic views of many high, snow glad Himalayan peaks. 
Once over the pass we drop down to the Punakha region and enjoy a short 45 min trek to the Chimi Lhakhang Monastery. The trail takes us through rice paddy fields which are full of lovely birds, cactus pears and local farmers tending their crops. The Monastery is dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kunley (also known as the Divine Madman due to unexpected lifestyle) and is popular among childless Bhutanese couples as a temple to seek blessings for fertility.

We'll then check in and spend the evening at the Meri Puensum Resort in Punakha.

4

After breakfast we start the day with another short 45 min hike to the Khamsum Yuelley Monastery, which is situated high on a hill on the opposite bank of the Mochu in Punakha. It is three-stories tall, topped by a dome and a stack of twelve circular rings, and an umbrella, the sun, moon and finally a jewelled pinnacle. The setting is quaint, peaceful and rural. 

We'll now visit the Punakha Dzong, (meaning "the palace of great happiness or bliss"), which is the administrative centre of the Punakha District and formerly home of the Government of Bhutan until 1955 when the capital was moved to Thimphu. It is the second oldest and second-largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures. The dzong houses the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, including the Rangjung Kharsapani and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal and the tertön Pema Lingpa. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.

Our next visit is a short 20 min walk to the Punakha Suspension Bridge, which is the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan and a must see destination. We walk the span of the 180m bridge and as it vibrates underfoot and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Sangchen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery is a private nunnery located in a beautiful environment atop a hill, providing wonderful views of the valley and the distant mountains peaks. It's an important nunnery providing education to the nuns, and also a picturesque high point for visitors. There is a large statue of a Goddess with 1000 hands and various idols of Buddha and depictions of the history of the stupa and Buddhism.

A short mountain drive of 30 minutes takes us to our last visit of the day to the serene Talo Monastery. Perched on a hilltop with beautiful views of the valley below and distant peaks, the beauty of Talo serves as a fitting backdrop to its rich religious and cultural heritage. Most visitors speak of being overcome by a strong sense of spiritual serenity when visiting its ancient Dzong. 

In the evening we'll return and relax at the Meri Puensum Resort in Punakha.

5

We start today with a visit to the Gangtey Goemba whose lofty location offers magnificent views of the entire Phobjikha valley. It is a very significant site related to the reincarnation of Guru Rinpoche who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. It also houses one of the largest halls in Bhutan. It is said that the Black Cranes circle the monastery three times when they arrive and three times when they leave. 

We then enjoy the Gangtey Nature Trail Hike through the Phobjika valley, which is a very special place. The valley is like a bowl in the centre of the surrounding mighty Himalayan peaks. The trail itself is a pleasurable walk (around 2 hours) that gives a great feeling for the Phobjikha valley. It is one of the most beautiful nature trails in Bhutan. From the small hilltop overlooking Gangtey Goemba, we head downhill through flower meadows to Semchubara village and from here through beautiful forests and into the open valley/

We'll then have dinner and enjoy our hosts company at a local homestay before going to the Dewachen Hotel and Spa in Phobjikha valley for the night. This is a lovely small hotel with great facilities and nestled in a Pine forest. 

6

Having undertaken several shorter hikes today we'll embark on a longer day hike starting at Longtay that follows a stunning glacial valley. We start with a scenic drive from the Phobjikha Valley to the charming village of Longtey. From here we set off on a four-hour moderate walk back towards Gangtey Goenpa. Initially we head along a sloping pathway that takes us through towering bushes of jade-hued bamboo. At the end of the bamboo section lies a small group of village houses, built in the distinct Bhutanese style featuring elevated platforms, carved timber windows and wood-lined arched roofs.

During the spring months the woodlands on either side of the Valley look particularly stunning, cloaked in crimson, violet and pink rhododendrons. In the winter months, the Valley is carpeted in snow, on which mighty onyx and caramel-horned yaks graze. As we ascend, we'll through ancient rhododendron forests and soaring trees whispering the ancient secrets of this mystical region. We'll enjoy a Bhutanese inspired picnic lunch with magnificent views of the Valley and the sacred monasteries below. As we reach the tranquil village of Kumbu, you can choose to end your walk, or carry on to the valley floor and the Shedra, a renowned and mystical place of teaching.

We'll then return to the comfort of the Dewachen Hotel and Spa.

7

This morning we'll visit the Rinpung Dzong in Paro. The Rinpung Dzong (Paro Dzong) is considered by many to be the finest example of Bhutan's architecture. This Dzong is built on the edge of a hillside overlooking one of the most scenic sections of the Paro Valley and the Paro-Chu River, the scenery here is simply stunning. The Dzong is very big, and is still being used by the Paro City government administrative offices in certain closed sections of the complex.

After lunch we'll visit the National Museum in Paro which is housed in an ancient watch tower. Inside are 3,000 works of Bhutanese art, covering more than 1,500 years of Bhutan's cultural heritage. It covers various creative traditions and disciplines, that represent a remarkable blend of the past with the present and is also a great source of information on Bhutan's flower and fauna.

Mid afternoon we'll go to the Tashi Namgay Resort in Paro to relax before our evening meal and overnight stay. The resort is a firm favourite for travellers and is also home to a Spa, where you can have a hot stone treatment or try your hand at archery or khuru. 

8

Taktsang Temple or more popularly known as "Tiger's Nest" is considered to be one of the most important temples in the Himalayan Buddhist world. This Temple is perched on a shear-cliff top and is actually one of thirteen Tiger's Nest caves in historical Tibet in which Padmasambhava practiced and taught Vajrayana. Taktsang and images of it are known around the globe and is considered by many as our planets most beautiful and unique temples. 

The only way to reach the Tiger's Nest is to hike up a trail from the foot of the cliff. The hike up is steep in parts and almost a 5 mile round-trip. However you can take a pony to the mid way point that offers good views of the temple. Do bring with you trek poles, especially if you have any knee issues as the trail is quite steep in many areas, loose dirt and no hand-rails for most of the trail. For those who "forgot" to bring a walking stick, there are vendors who have some available for a small rental "fee" at the start of the trailhead. The trek isn't dangerous and there's nothing technical about it. But it can be challenging, however our recent treks will have been good preparation for our ascent. The trek takes around 2hrs and goes up 1000m to just over 3000m above sea level.

At about half-way up the trail to the Temple, there is the Taktsang Cafe which offers drinks, meals and light snacks. After the cafe the trail levels off, however as we approach the cliff wall the trail drops down steps to a small valley with a bridge with a waterfall and then ascends a similar distance up to the Temple. We can spend time in this magnificent and famous temple and absorb the stunning location and scenery before our descent.

After our visit to the Tigers Nest we'll cross the valley for a contrasting visit to the ruins of the Drugyel Dzong. The Dzong was built in 1647 and later damaged by a huge earthquake in 1897 and more recently ravaged by fire. Nowadays it's a very humbling and serene place to visit with outstanding views up the trail towards Jomolhari, which translates as Mountain of the Goddess and is also known as "the bride of Kangchenjunga”. Jomolhari straddles the border between the Yadong County of Tibet, China and the Paro district of Bhutan. The north face dramatically rises over 2,700 metres above the barren plains to a summit height of 7326m. The mountain is the source of the Paro river which flows from the south side. At the Dzong we have plenty of time to meet the locals, enjoy the colour, ambience and take in the views.

After a busy day we'll return in the early evening to the Tashi Namgay Resort - Paro.

9

With our final day suddenly upon us, we'll enjoy a wonderful day trip to the Haa Valley. Haa is a high (2600m), peaceful and serene valley that has a backdrop of beautiful snow capped Himalayan peaks. Haa valley is off the main tourist trail and has a small population and a pristine environment. It's a very traditional place and feels like a step back in time.

We'll meet the people of the Haa who are resilient mountain people, devout Buddhists and hard working farmers who cultivate high altitude crops such as wheat, potatoes, barley and millet besides rearing yaks. People in some parts of the valley still perform ancient 'Bon rituals', which worship the spirits of nature, being the sun, moon, stars, mountains, rivers and lakes alongside sacrificing animals to appease the deities. If we're lucky we may arrive at a time when they hold rituals for rain and successful harvests. 

Dividing the Paro and Haa Valley is the Chelela Ridge and we'll enjoy a final trek along this fantastic route that offers jaw dropping views into and along both valleys. Our start point is the Chelela Pass (3810m) which is the highest road in the country. The walk begins amongst a vast amount of fluttering prayer flags and proceeds along the ridge - but don't worry it's not precipitous and an non technical walk, though we are gaining in altitude. It then opens up to stunning views of the Paro valley on the right and the Haa valley on left. Our trail takes us through thick rhododendron forests and wild flowers adorn the slopes including Bhutan's national flower the Himalayan Blue Poppy. The highest ridge, Kungkarpo (4600m), is where sky burials traditionally happen and after this point our trail descends natural meadows before entering a thick forest of silver firs and scented rhododendrons. We then reach our destination of Kila Goenpa Nunnery from where we'll return to the Tashi Namgay Resort.

If you prefer a trek that doesn't go as high we can adapt the itinerary and trail to suit.

10 Transfer to Paro Airport and depart for home

Trip fee is based on 2 people and is £2895 per person. 

Dates are flexible but ideally during September-November and March-April

The trip fee includes:

  • Airport Transfers
  • 3 meals a day
  • Good hotels and Spas as per the itinerary (twin sharing basis)
  • Qualified and experienced guide
  • All vehicles and land transfers as per itinerary
  • Group safety equipment / first aid kit
  • All trekking and permit fees
  • All entrance fees as per the itinerary
  • Visa support

The trip fee excludes:

  • Personal trek clothing 
  • Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, laundry or medical expenses
  • Hard / soft drinks
  • Visa
  • International flights
  • Airport and departure taxes or excess baggage charges
  • Travel Insurance, or vaccinations
  • Any costs for additional trips / visits outside of the main itinerary
  • Tips