Bhutan: Christmas in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

Bhutan: Christmas in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

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13 Days From

$6994

$6774

Bhutan: Christmas in the Land of the Thunder Dragon

13 Days Starting and ending in PARO

Visiting: Paro, Thimphu, Gangtey Monastery, Bumthang, Chokhor Chorten, Tang Valley, Punakha

Tour operator:

Wild Frontiers

Tour code:

DVB

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 12

Physical rating:

Moderate

Age range:

1-99

Special diets catered:

Vegetarians, Please contact Wild Frontiers with any specific dietary requirements

Tour operated in:

English

Private Available:

Request A Private Tour

From: $6994 $6774 Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$220

NB: Prices correct on 24-Jun-2024 but subject to change.

This tour is no longer available, please see similar tours below or send an enquiry

Tour Overview

Squashed into a high pocket of land between Sikkim, Assam, Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast of India, Bhutan is an extraordinary country, home to a fascinating and unique culture, stupendous scenery and a truly charming people. This trip explores a land that has been cut off from the rest of the world - both through geographical positioning and its own political desires - so much so that in many places things have barely changed at all over the last 500 years.On this trip we visit some of the many spectacular dzongs and monasteries of this stunning country. The dzongs are the imposing fortresses which are now the civil and religious centres of the districts, often strategically located on hillsides overlooking valleys or beside gushing rivers. We will also take to the trails of central Bhutan to view the rich agricultural landscapes of the countryside, walking through villages of traditional houses with rows of ethereal prayer flags blowing in the breeze, and experience the cultures and customs of these gentle people.This is a land of demons and spirits, steeped in mysticism and rituals, and will have you gasping in wonder at its unspoilt natural beauty.

Highlights

  • Walk through breathtaking scenery to sacred monasteries, traditional villages and temples

  • Enjoy a cup of tea with the monks at Dechen Phodrung Monastery in Thimphu

  • Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro, the most spectacular in Bhutan

  • Experience Bhutanese hospitality and locally brewed ara in a homestay

  • Explore Punakha Dzong, the riverside former capital of Bhutan

  • Witness festivals unique to Bhutan (certain departures only)

Itinerary

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Day 1 : Tour Starts In Paro

Location: Paro

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Phuntsho Pelri or similar

Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

On arrival at Paro airport (see GETTING THERE section below) we will be met and transferred to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital approximately one hour away. Although the Thimphu Valley has supported small settlements for many centuries and a dzong has existed there since 1216, the city didn't really develop until the King declared Thimphu the new capital in 1961. Thimphu has a youthful exuberance that constantly challenges the country’s conservatism and proud tradition. The ever-present juxtaposition of old and new is just one of its appealing qualities and today it is Bhutan’s most modern and developed city. On arrival in Thimphu, there will be some free time to settle in and relax after an introductory briefing.

Day 2 : In Thimphu (Christmas Eve)

Location: Thimphu

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Phuntsho Pelri or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We have a whole day to explore the capital, which sits at an impressive 2400m. Among the sites we will visit are the Cultural Heritage Museum, the Takin Park to see Bhutan’s national animal, and the Dechen Phodrung Monastery. The Post Office is an unusual and enjoyable visit too, as it displays and sells a wide range and style of philately. If time permits we will also visit the National Memorial Chorten dedicated to the third King, which is a pilgrimage site for the older generation of Bhutanese people. We may be able to witness an archery tournament down by river. Our final visit of the day will be the Trashi Chhoe Dzong, which is the spiritual and Governmental heart of the city.

Day 3 : Thimpu - Gangtey (Christmas Day)

Location: Thimphu, Gangtey Monastery

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Dewachen or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we leave the capital city behind us and head over the Dochu La Pass, which stands at 3140m. If the weather is kind to us, we will be greeted with a panoramic view of the Himalayas with a hill of 108 chortens in front of us. Here we will also visit the newest temple built in Bhutan with wall paintings of monks using laptops, airplanes, mobile phones and satellite dishes. The winding road will continue through mountain forests taking us on to Gangtey at 2700m in the Phobjika Valley, our destination for the next couple of nights.

Day 4 : In Gangtey (2700M)

Location: Gangtey Monastery

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Dewachen or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we will take a hike in the Phobjikha Valley starting near Gangtey Monastery. We will stroll gently uphill and visit the charming local villages of Gophu, Dogsena Pana and Jangchub Lhakhang, taking in some traditional old village life in a rural and agricultural part of the country, surrounded by beautiful landscapes. From here we will start to descend, completing the circuit towards the village of Khewa Lhakhang. During winter months we may have the opportunity to see black neck cranes in the valley.

Day 5 : Gangtey - Bumthang (2700M)

Location: Gangtey Monastery, Bumthang

Accommodation: Lodge

Accommodation Name: Mountain Lodge or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We’ll drive to Bumthang today via Trongsa for lunch, and then visit the dzong. In the afternoon we’ll continue to Bumthang, stopping en route at the Chumey Yatha textile industry’s outlet before checking into our hotel.

Day 6 : Chokhor Valley

Location: Chokhor Chorten

Accommodation: Lodge

Accommodation Name: Mountain Lodge or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast we will have a short drive to Kharsumphe village before beginning our gradual ascent on foot to Tamshing Lakhang, with good views of Kurje Lhakhang on the other side of the Chamkhar River. Returning to our hotel via a suspension bridge across the river, we may also have time to wander along the main street in Jakar and have tea in one of the local cafes.

Day 7 : Chokhor Valley - Tang Valley

Location: Chokhor Chorten, Tang Valley

Accommodation: Homestay, Homestay with shared bathroom facilities

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we have a full day’s hike between two of the famous valleys in Bumthang. We will follow a path that climbs up towards the Padselling Monastery, starting above the Swiss Guesthouse. The highest point at Padselling is 3200m and the hike uphill is rewarded with the beautiful view of Jakar Valley from the monastery. After a visit to the monastery and enjoying a cup of tea with the monks there, we hike towards the village of Kunzang Drak. We cross the Batela Pass at 3000m and then descend through the meadow into a beautiful pine forest. Continuing on to the Tang Valley, which reaches heights of 2760m, our homestay is situated here. There will be plenty of time to rejuvenate ourselves in a hot stone bath, followed by a glass of locally brewed ara.

Day 8 : In The Tang Valley

Location: Tang Valley

Accommodation: Homestay, Homestay with shared bathroom facilities

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We have a good hike today, which is both challenging and rewarding, to the revered and sacred site of Thowadra Monastery. The name means ‘highest rock’ and stands at an altitude of 3400m. It was blessed by the presence of Guru Rinpoche who meditated here and left his footprints in the stone. The walk itself starts from the north end of the Tang Valley, at 2750m on a dirt road along the riverside until it crosses the river by a wooden bridge. The trail starts to climb up before a short descent and crossing another bridge. Upon reaching a chorten/ stupa, the trail again ascends through pine forest and past several monuments in the mountainside. For the last section the trail is very steep, but the monastery hangs above you on the cliff and motivates you to climb the last stone steps to the top. From here we will enjoy the fabulous view of the Tang Valley on the horizon and visit the mysterious and exceptionally holy temple, which is built directly into the cliff walls. We will then retrace our steps down to the first bridge, where our host will be waiting with a hot picnic and cup of chai before returning to the delights of our homestay.

Day 9 : Tang Valley - Punakha (New Year's Eve)

Location: Tang Valley, Punakha

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Meriphunsum or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After breakfast we’ll drive to Punakha, the old capital city, passing through the Trongsa Valley. We will also make a quick stop at the Chendebji Chorten situated at a river confluence. Following this, we'll cross Pele La Pass at 3400m, before descending to the valley floor at 1200m and into Punakha.

Day 10 : In Punakha (New Year's Day)

Location: Punakha

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Meriphunsum or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we take a beautiful walk up to the Khamsum Namgyal Chorten, a small temple built for the present king by his mother. Wandering back down through the villages and along the riverbank takes us through an idyllic rural setting. Later we’ll visit the dzong, former capital of Bhutan, spectacularly positioned at the confluence of two thundering rivers and noted for its huge prayer hall with three giant Buddhas and wonderful painted thangkas.

Day 11 : Punakha - Paro (2500M)

Location: Punakha, Paro

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Olathang or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Today we will retrace our steps and head for Paro – the starting point of our journey in Bhutan. But first we will have an early morning visit to the famous Divine Madman’s Temple, Chime Lhakhang, in the beautifully tranquil Lobesa Valley. Arriving in Paro late afternoon, we can visit the Paro Dzong built in 1644 under the order of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. Paro Dzong’s full name is Rinpung Dzong, which means ‘the fortress of the heap of jewels’. It is one of the finest examples of Bhutanese architecture and contains fourteen shrines. To end the day there will be time to further explore Paro at leisure.

Day 12 : In Paro

Location: Paro

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Olathang or similar

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning we will walk up to the Takstang Gompa, known as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery and standing at 3010m, stopping en route at the viewpoint and teahouse to which we will return for lunch. This is without doubt the most spectacular monastery in Bhutan, built on a rock ledge a thousand metres above the valley floor. The first and main temple was built where Guru Rinpoche is said to have flown on the back of a tiger to meditate in this cave on a rocky ledge. The walk to the viewing point takes about 1.5 hrs with another 2.5 hrs to get to the monastery and back. In the afternoon there is an opportunity to visit our last Bhutanese temple, Kyichu Lhakhang, an auspicious 8th century temple built over the left foot of a mythical demoness who had been preventing the spread of Buddhism over Tibet and the whole of the Himalayas. This evening we will celebrate our achievements and enjoy our final group dinner of the tour.

Day 13 : Tour Ends In Paro

Location: Paro

Meals Included: Breakfast

The tour ends this morning in Paro. Depending on your flight departure time, there may be an opportunity for some last-minute souvenir shopping and a wander before transferring to the airport.

What's Included

  • MEALS

    12 x Breakfasts, 12 x Lunches, 12 x Dinners

  • CARBON CONTRIBUTIONS

    Contributions to carbon offset & tree planting projects for all bookings

  • TRANSPORT

    On this tour we will use minibuses or coaster buses, depending on the group size.

  • GROUP SIZE

    Maximum: 12

  • EXPERT TEAM

    The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

  • ENTRANCE FEES

    All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

  • ACCOMMODATION

    All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

  • FITNESS RATING

    Moderate

What's Not Included

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour
ationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatoryTips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documentsInternational .Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UKAirport .Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights.Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com.

Please note that if you stopover in India either pre or post tour, or both, then you will need to apply for an Indian visa in advance. Please ensure you obtain a double entry visa if necessary. Importantly, even if you are just transiting the airport to connect with your flights to/from Bhutan, then you may also require a visa for the country in which you transit unless your chosen airlines have an official agreement that allows you to check your bags all the way through to/from Bhutan without you needing to leave the international transit area. Please contact us for advice if necessary.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements. 

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.
 

Key Aspects to Consider

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour. There are some walks included in the itinerary which take you above 3000m so some clients may find these more challenging than usual due to the altitude and terrain. The walks are optional, but in order to get the most out of this trip we recommend that you should have a reasonable level of fitness to be able to participate in the walks.

Please note that there are a couple of long driving days on this tour, but there will be frequent stops, and the scenery and experience will more than make up for this.

Vegetarians can be catered for, but the selection and variety may be limited.

Check out our Q&As

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    Yes

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights

  • Do you require a visa for this holiday?

    Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

  • What is the maximum group size?

    12

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    We have a complete Covid-19 hub here: https://www.wildfrontierstravel.com/en_GB/covid-hub

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Over 70% of passengers on our group tours are solo adventurers. Unlike many tour operators, we don’t believe in charging solo travellers a premium, so if you are happy to share a room with a fellow traveller of the same sex, you will pay exactly the same as a couple..Occasionally you may even end up with your own room. You can travel as a single traveller on any of our holidays, from our escorte

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?

    Yes

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    Since 2002

  • Do I need to be double-vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel with you?

    In most cases, yes. Not only are many destinations making double-vaccination a requirement of entry to the country and/or access to restaurants, museums etc., but additionally on all our group tours for the foreseeable future, for everyone’s peace of mind, we are asking that all clients be double vaccinated.

Reviews from travellers on this tour

Steven Waller  

Steven Waller

Expect the unexpected.

Expect the unexpected.

Jackie Brown  

Jackie Brown

An incredible country with amazing people and beau

An incredible country with amazing people and beautiful scenery

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    If your trip is not Covid Viable, by 30 days prior to departure at the latest, we will cancel your holiday and you can either transfer your funds to another departure or have a refund.**


    We will only consider a trip Covid Viable*** if pre-departure it meets all of the following criteria:

    There is no national lockdown or ban on foreign travel for the period when your trip is due to depart.
    Destinations on the tour must not be on the UK’s Red List. ****
    No destinations visited on the tour have in place any significant COVID-19 restrictions for travellers.
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    Following an assessment by both Wild Frontiers and our local partners we are confident that your trip is able to run in both a safe and enjoyable manner.*****




    ** If you were originally booked to travel before 30 April 2020 and transferred to a later date, or if you have a tailor-made booking, there may be some irrecoverable costs which we cannot refund. Please speak to us and we will be able to advise you if this is the case for your booking.
    ***Since our HQ is in London, Covid Viable status for our Group Tours will be assessed on UK-based travellers. However we are fully aware that many of our clients live in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and beyond. As such, when we deem a trip to now be Covid Viable, everyone booked will have a chance to review their own personal situation before deciding whether or not to remain booked on the trip. Anyone wishing to, will have the option to transfer without fees to another trip at this time. For tailor made bookings, we may also able to consider additional countries’ travel advice when deciding if a trip is Viable. Please discuss this with us at the time of booking.
    **** This relates to bookings from UK clients only. We may operate trips to destinations which the British FCDO advise against travel for Covid reasons. If this is the case, anyone wishing to will have the option to cancel with a refund or transfer to another trip. In some cases we may choose to offer a tour to a Red destination but these will be at both clients’ and Wild Frontiers’ discretion and will be subject to alternative conditions to be discussed on an ad hoc basis.
    *****If a destination, that we have deemed to be Covid Viable, subsequently fails any aspect of the criteria for two consecutive weeks, you will have the right under our Covid Promise to transfer without any fees.

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