Road Scholar : Home
The Essence of Bhutan

Program Number: 19634RJ
Start and End Dates:
12/2/2013 - 12/19/2013; 3/7/2016 - 3/24/2016; 6/6/2016 - 6/23/2016; 9/3/2016 - 9/20/2016; 9/9/2016 - 9/26/2016; 10/10/2016 - 10/27/2016; 11/4/2016 - 11/21/2016; 11/28/2016 - 12/15/2016;
Duration: 17 nights
Location: Bhutan
Price starting at: $4,696.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 43; 15 Breakfasts, 13 Lunches, 15 Dinners    

Shrouded in mystique, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan sits wedged amongst the mighty Himalayas in a mountainous landscape cut by deep river valleys and terraced rice fields. Known to its people as Druk Yul, or “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” it is the last bastion of authentic Himalayan Buddhism.


• Encounter the warmth and hospitality of Bhutanese people.
• Hike to a remote village, a tiny monastery tucked in the midst of rice paddies and the awesome Tiger’s Nest.
• Learn about Bhutan's Gross National Happiness philosophy.

Activity Particulars

Moderate to moderately strenuous walking at altitudes of 7,000-10,000 feet for up to 2 miles/3 hours per day over uneven ground and unavoidable stairs.

The elevation of areas traveled on this program range from 7,000-10,000 feet for the entire duration of the stay in Bhutan.

Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available. This program has a maximum of 18 participants.

Date Specific Information

3-7-2016, 6-6-2016, 9-3-2016, 9-9-2016, 10-10-2016, 11-4-2016, 11-28-2016

This program date corresponds to a Festival in Bhutan. Please note that the Festival may change without prior notice.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Kathmandu (Nepal), 1 night; flight to Thimpu (Bhutan), 3 nights; coach to Phobjikha Valley, 2 nights; coach to Bumthang, 3 nights; coach to Trongsa, 1 night; coach to Wangdi Phodrang, 2 nights; coach to Paro, 2 nights; flight to Kathmandu, 1 night.

Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
2 night
Arrival Kathmandu (Nepal)
1 night
Flight to Thimpu (Bhutan)
3 nights

Meet in Kathmandu before your early morning flight to Paro, Bhutan. The National Museum serves as an introduction to Bhutan’s history and culture, before you continue to the capital city of Thimpu. Take a walk to the National Memorial Stupa and explore the National Institute of Traditional Arts and Crafts. Participate in a discussion with officials from the office of Gross National Happiness Commission. Learn the distinctively different styles of weaving at the National Textile Museum. At the Tashicho Dzong fortress, learn how religion and government rule side-by-side.

Coach to Phobjikha Valley
2 nights

Delight in the breathtaking panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range during a drive to the Phobjikha Valley. Hike to the 17th-century Gangtey Goemba monastery to visit the monastery and school before learning about the migratory Black-Necked Cranes at the Crane Observation and Education Center.

Coach to Bumthang
3 nights

Begin your journey to the Bumthang Valley, traversing the traditional boundary over Pele La Pass. View the Chendebji Chorten, built in the 18th century by a Buddhist monk, and watch local Yathra women weave on their looms. A downhill hike to tiny Ura Village offers a look at one of the highest villages in Bhutan, while a visit to a school grants an opportunity to talk to the students and teachers about education. Explore Jakar Dzong and the sacred Mebartsho lake before arriving at two of the most sacred monasteries, Jambay Lhakhang and Kurjey Lhakhang.

Coach to Trongsa
1 night
Coach to Wangdi Phodrang
2 nights

View some of Bhutan’s rare and priceless artifacts at the Trongsa Watchtower Museum and stop at Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of the royal family. Walk through rice fields in the tiny village of Lobesa to Chimi Lhakhang, a temple where local women pray for fertility. Learn how government and religion share the walls of mighty Punakha Dzong fortress and hike to the Khamsum Yueley Namgyal stupa.

Coach to Paro
2 nights
Flight to Kathmandu
1 night

Journey to Paro via the Dochu la Pass and stop at Paro Dzong fortress. On a leisurely hike, view the spectacular and famous Taktsang monastery, or Tiger’s Nest, where legend says that Buddhism was brought to Bhutan on the wings of a flying tiger. Transfer to Paro for your flight to Kathmandu.


Perhaps the most isolated country in the world, foreign influences and visitors are regulated to preserve its traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture. Poised between China and India, the Land of the Thunder Dragon embraces Buddhist practice in its governance, cultural preservation, and ecological principles. The ruling monarchy’s commitment to Gross National Happiness informs its political decisions, as well as daily life for the Bhutanese.

Kathmandu: Four star hotel. Thimpu: Modern hotel reflecting Bhutan heritage. Phobjikha Valley: New hotel built in traditional Bhutanese style. Bumthang: Hotel with spa and meditation room. Trongsa: Modern Bhutanese hotel with city views. Wangdi Phodrang: Hotels with views of the Puna Tsang River. Paro: Modern hotel with stunning views of the Paro Valley.

Road Scholar Instructors
These instructors are participating on at least one date of this program. Please note that changes may occur.
Phuntsho Norbu

As a native, Phuntsho “Fin” Norbu is well versed in Bhutanese culture and history. He studied and worked in the U.S. for almost seven years, earning a degree in economics and environmental studies from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and working with several environmental organizations including EarthCorps, People for Puget Sound, and Lopez Community Land Trust. Fin is deeply committed to building a sustainable future for his native Bhutan.
Meals and Lodgings
   Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport
  Bangkok, Thailand 1 night
   Namgay Heritage Hotel
  Thimphu, Bhutan 3 nights
   Thegchen Lodge
  Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan 2 nights
   Kaila Guesthouse
  Bumthang, Bhutan 3 nights
   Yankhil Resort
  Trongsa, Bhutan 1 night
   Dragon's Nest Hotel
  Wangdi Phodrang, Bhutan 2 nights
   Khangkhu Resort
  Paro, Bhutan 2 nights
   Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport
  Bangkok, Thailand 1 night
 Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: 24 Hours Flexi" with no set check-in time, guests can arrive anytime and check-out 24 hours later. Located in Bang Phli, Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport is near the airport and close to The Paseo Mall. Other area points of interest include Mega Bangna and Suan Luang Rama IX Park.
  Contact info: 999 Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel Building Nongprue
Bang Phli
Samutprakarn,  10540 Thailand
phone: +x
  Room amenities: 612 air-conditioned guestrooms at Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport feature minibars and coffee/tea makers. Bathrooms feature shower/tub combinations, makeup/shaving mirrors, bathrobes, and hair dryers. Wireless Internet access is available for a surcharge. In addition to safes, guestrooms offer direct-dial phones with voice mail. Televisions have satellite channels. Also included are blackout drapes/curtains and clock radios. Guests may request in-room massages and wake-up calls.
  Facility amenities: Dining options at Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport include a restaurant and a coffee shop/café. A swim-up bar and a bar/lounge are open for drinks. Room service is available 24 hours a day. Recreational amenities include an outdoor pool, a health club, and a sauna. This 4-star property has a business center. Wireless and wired high-speed Internet access is available in public areas (surcharges apply). Complimentary shuttle services include a roundtrip airport shuttle (available 24 hours) and an area shuttle. Concierge services, tour/ticket assistance, and tour assistance are available. Guest parking is complimentary. Additional property amenities include gift shops/newsstands, laundry facilities, and currency exchange. The property has designated areas for smoking.
  Smoking allowed: Yes
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: TBD Please call Road Scholar Travel Services to arrange your pre/post nights.
  Additional nights after: TBD Please call Road Scholar Travel Services to arrange your pre/post nights.

 Namgay Heritage Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: Conveniently located, Namgay Heritage Hotel was built to capture the culture, history and the way of life of the people of Bhutan. The hotel reflects the culture and traditions of Bhutan and at the same time offers you all the amenities of a truly modern hotel.
  Contact info: There is no street address
Thimphu,   Bhutan
phone: +975-2-337113
  Room amenities: Standard rooms are compact and cozy and are ideal for single or business travelers. The room is either furnished with a large queen sized bed or two standard beds along with a two piece sofa set. Facilities: Cable TV, Mini Bar, Wi Fi internet Connection, Room Service, in room tea/coffee maker.
  Facility amenities: Business center with Internet access, bar, restaurant, hair salon, and health club.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Thegchen Lodge
Type: Lodge
  Description: This is a very basic lodge located right next to the 17th century monastery which is also a monastic school. It is overlooking the quaint Phobjikha Valley.
  Contact info: x
Phobjika Valley,   Bhutan
phone: +975 2 325714
  Room amenities: Heating.
  Facility amenities: Please note that internet access, laundry facility, and atm machines are not available at this hotel.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Kaila Guesthouse
Type: Lodge
  Description: Located in the heart of Bumthang - it is walking distance from main town. Built in traditional style architecture, the guesthouse is simple but charming & offers clean accommodation.
  Contact info: Jakar Town
Bumthang,   Bhutan
phone: +9753631219
  Room amenities: Hair Dryer upon request. Heating. Tea and coffee maker in rooms.
  Facility amenities: Laundry service Internet access Safe deposit Foreign currency exchange Hair dryer
  Smoking allowed: No

 Yankhil Resort
Type: Hotel
  Description: The hotel, built in modern Bhutanese architectural style, is situated amid gardens on a hillside overlooking the city of Trongsa and the dzong.
  Contact info: Trongsa,   Bhutan
phone: +975 3 521417
  Room amenities: Twin-bedded rooms with electric heater, TV, private bathroom with hot water, bathtub and toilet. All rooms are non-smoking.
  Facility amenities: 24-hour electricity, business center, restaurant, bar.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Dragon's Nest Hotel
Type: Hotel
  Description: The hotel is situated on the hill opposite Wangdi Phodrang, overlooking the Puna Tsang River.
  Contact info: Wangdi Phodrang,   Bhutan
phone: +975 2 481367
  Room amenities: Twin-bedded rooms with TV, telephone, electric heater, private bathroom with hot water, bathtub and toilet. All rooms are non-smoking.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, bar, Internet service.
  Smoking allowed: No

 Khangkhu Resort
Type: Hotel
  Description: Great View
  Contact info: Khangkhu
Khangkhu,  Paro Bhutan
phone: +9758272393
  Room amenities: En-suite bathroom, hot and cold water,hair dryer, individual heating, cable TV, mini bar, room service in room tea/coffee maker, telephone
  Smoking allowed: No

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Check into airport hotel in Bangkok the afternoon of Day 3. This is a necessary overnight because of the early morning flight to Bhutan the next morning. You will be staying at Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport that night.
  End of Program:
The program officially ends on Day 17 once your flight from Paro arrives in Bangkok. However, you will be provided an airport hotel for Day 17. You will be staying at Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. All visitors to Bhutan must travel on a pre-planned, pre-paid, guided program. No independent travel is permitted. The program price includes: entry visa, round-trip airfare Bangkok-Paro-Bangkok, ground transport, group leader service, hotel accommodations based on double occupancy, all meals, bottled water, fees for museum & permit to enter sacred sites, tourism development fee, 35% Royalty to the government for developmental projects and sight-seeing. Visa for Bhutan is processed for the group as a whole and not done in an individual basis. Therefore, in addition to returning your Health and Safety form, you will need to provide a COLOR copy of the first page of your passport. These items can be scanned and emailed to Road Scholar or sent via the mail. All the forms and passport photo copies must be received in our Brattleboro office eight (8) weeks prior to your departure date in order to obtain your visa for Bhutan in time. Failure to get the requested forms and copies to Road Scholar in time may delay or threaten the group visa. gratuities. Since the group visa contains passport numbers of all participants, we will directly forward the group visa and your e-tickets for the flight from Bangkok to Paro to our coordinators in Bangkok. Our local coordinators in Bangkok will help you check-in with Druk-Air. The actual visa will be stamped on the passport upon arrival in Bhutan.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Bangkok
  Nearest airport:  Suvarnabhumi Airport (New Bangkok International Airport)
  Transportation to site: If independent flights do not coincide with the group flights, it will be the responsibility of the participant/s to make arrangement to get to the program site. Novotel is situated right next to the airport terminal. A leisurely 5 mins stroll via air-conditioned underground walkway or a short ride via our 24 hours complimentary shuttle van service from gate 4, level 2.
  From End of Program
  Location: Bangkok
  Transportation from site: To utilize the hotel shuttle from the from the hotel to the airport please consult the Hotel Concierge who is located within the hotel main lobby. (This information is taken from the hotel website and subject to change without prior notice).
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Elevation Note: The areas traveled on this program range from 7,000-10,000 feet for the entire duration in Bhutan.

Equipment Requirements: Comfortable, broken-in light hiking boots. Cooler, drier air at high altitude contains less oxygen than at sea level.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Departures
(Monday, December 2)
 Afternoon: Depart on overnight flights from the U.S.

Day 2: En route
(Tuesday, December 3)
 In Transit: En route to Bangkok.

Day 3: Arrival Bangkok
(Wednesday, December 4)

Note: A representative will guide you from the airport to the hotel on this day to check you in. Please note that there is no official programming on this day, but we will have a hospitality desk available at the hotel to answer any questions you have. There will be a briefing about your next day departure to Paro at dinner time, which will be around 6:00 pm.

 Arrive To: Arrival to Bangkok. Transfer to hotel for your forced overnight before your early morning departure to Paro, Bhutan.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 4: Fly to Bhutan
(Thursday, December 5)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Very early transfer to airport for flight to Paro, Bhutan.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Join an staff-led visit to the National Museum, housed in an ancient watch tower, that visually introduces Bhutan?s history and culture. The museum provides a wonderful introduction to Kingdom?s rich culture and heritage. Then take a scenic drive to Thimphu (8,000ft.) along the Paro and Thimphu River. Note: The Museum that used to be housed in the watch tower suffered partial damage from the earthquake in September, 2011 and remains closed while undergoing renovation; it is scheduled to be opened in 2015.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Namgay Heritage Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Traditional Arts and Crafts / Gross National Happiness
(Friday, December 6)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Begin the day as many locals do with a morning walk (15 minutes from the hotel) to the National Memorial Stupa, built in 1974 in memory of the late third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. This place is popular among the pious, young and old alike, who make it part of their daily ritual to visit. Continue to the National Institute of Traditional Arts and Crafts, also known as the painting school, where 13 different forms of Bhutanese traditional Arts and Crafts are being taught to young and enthusiastic students. It is the trained students who keep these age-old Bhutanese traditions alive. They are responsible for passing on the valuable ancient knowledge and skills to the next generation of Bhutanese.
 Lunch: Lunch in town.
 Afternoon: This afternoon's field trip to the National Textile Museum introduces different styles of Bhutanese weaving. The weaving styles of Bhutan are distinctly recognizable, and weaving is considered a national art form. Later in the afternoon, engage in a discussion/presentation on Gross National Happiness (GNH), the country’s guiding development philosophy by the Gross National Happiness Commission. The country’s planning agency is entrusted with a responsibility of mainstreaming GNH. The discussion will touch upon the work of the organization, quantifying GNH and other areas of study.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Namgay Heritage Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Thimphu / The Traditions of Bhutan
(Saturday, December 7)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Take a field trip to the Takin (the national animal of Bhutan) preserve and to the site of the world?s largest sitting Buddha that is nearing completion. Later witness a game of archery, Bhutan?s national game and learn about its significance in the Bhutanese society.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Explore the country’s biggest weekend farmer’s market where farmers from the neighboring valleys come to sell their produce. Take a field trip to the Tashicho Dzong / fortress, the administrative head quarters of the government of Bhutan. While the northern half of the fortress houses monks, the southern half houses the office of the King, the Prime Minister?s office, the Ministry of Finance, the Home Ministry, and the Office of Gross National Happiness Commission. In the face of increased globalization, there has been a growing need for Bhutan to preserve its culture, including its national language, Dzongkha. The center of these preservations attempts is here at the fortress.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Namgay Heritage Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Phobjika Valley / Beautiful Himalaya Mountain Views
(Sunday, December 8)

Note: The drive to Phobjikha Valley is over 6 hours with stops along the way.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Depart for Phobjikha valleys. The scenic drive to Phobjikha valley begins with a gradual climb through a forest of pine and cedar. As the drive continues the flora changes, and hanging lichen appears high up near Dochola pass (3,055 m/10,100ft). Stop to take in the breathtaking panoramic views (weather permitting) of the Himalayan mountain range that stretch for hundred of miles. On the drive notice many prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. The views continue to entertain as the bus descends along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Phobjika Valley (1,350 meters/ 4,430 feet).
 Lunch: Lunch en route.
 Afternoon: Drive past the majestic fortress of Wangdi Dzong, which was severely damaged by a tragic fire in July 2012. Works are underway to rebuild the Dzong back to its original grandeur. Arrive at Phobjikha, a broad and beautiful valley. This area is home to Black-Necked cranes, a highly endangered species of crane that migrates from the Tibetan plateau in late October then return to Tibet in February/March. The Black-necked Crane is revered as a heavenly bird (lhab-bja). The birds have harmoniously coexisted with the local residents largely due to locals’ strong Buddhist beliefs. The lhab-bja appears in the Bhutanese folk lore, songs, dances and historical references.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Thegchen Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Phobjikha Hike / Crane Center
(Monday, December 9)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast, take a 2 – 3 hour nature hike around the valley, through the village. Explore the Crane Observation and Education Center to learn about these amazing birds.
 Lunch: Enjoy lunch in the valley.
 Afternoon: Discover the valley's most important landmark, the 17th century Gangtey Goemba/monastery and the monastic school located next to the guesthouse, overlooking the expansive Phobjikha valley below. At the monastery, a discussion with the monks provides insight into thier daily lives.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Thegchen Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Central Bhutan / Bumthang Valley
(Tuesday, December 10)

Note: Drive time on this day will be about 4 to 5 hours. Pariticipants must be in good health as they pass through high elevation.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Today beings with an early morning start to Bumtung, the eastern most part of your trip. The drive takes you to the central valley of Bumthang past Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna. Cross Pele la Pass (3,300 m/ 10,989 ft.), with its alpine environment of rhododendrons and dwarf bamboo, the pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and East Bhutan. During clear weather you can view the high snow capped peaks, among them Mount Jomolhari (7,314 m/ 24,355 ft). Descend from the pass through the dwarf bamboo where you reach Chendebji Chorten. This Chorten, or Stupa, was built in the 18th century by a Buddhist monk known as Lama Shida, in order to subdue a demon that had been terrorizing the inhabitants of this valley and the Ada valley just over the ridge.
 Lunch: Lunch in Trongsa village.
 Afternoon: Continue the scenic drive to Bumthang. Along the way, see traditional woolen weaving of Yathra - a style/design specific to this region. Watch local women work on their looms. See the methods used to produce the special designs of the region.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Kaila Guesthouse
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Ura Village
(Wednesday, December 11)

Note: The hike involves a fairly steep descent on uneven trail.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Field trip to school; meet the students and teachers and experience schooling in Bhutan. Drive to the scenic valley of Ura via Sherthang Pass (11,778 feet) and hike downhill to Ura Village (10,171 feet), one of the highest villages in Bhutan.
 Lunch: Lunch at Ura Village.
 Afternoon: After lunch, explore Ura village- visit the small monastery and wander through the cobblestone streets of this traditional village. Return to Jakar.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: An introduction to the educational system of Bhutan.
Accommodations: Kaila Guesthouse
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Bumthang Valley/Spiritual Hike
(Thursday, December 12)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Take a field trip to two of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan, Jambay Lhakhang, built in 7th century and Kurjey Lhakhang, built in 8th century. It is believed that in the 8th century Guru Padmasambhava (Lotus born) had meditated here and subdued the local deity known as Shelging Karpo. Guru Padmasambhava, popularly known as “Guru Rimpoche,” is the famous Buddhist saint that brought Buddhism to Bhutan from India in the 8th century.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant .
 Afternoon: Option to continue hiking around the valley or to take a field trip to Jakar Dzong. Jakar Dzong is used as the administrative center for Bumthang valley, and also houses the regional monk body.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Kaila Guesthouse
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Trongsa Dzong
(Friday, December 13)

Note: Drive to Trongsa will be about 3 hours.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Return to the Trongsa area, and begin a day of educational field trips. The first field trip will be to the Trongsa Watchtower Museum. The newly consecrated museum is located in the 300 year old renovated watch tower overlooking the Trongsa Dzong below. The museum provides a glimpse of Bhutan in the last 100 years with two galleries showcasing the history of monarchy in Bhutan with many royal possessions. The ancient monument showcases some of the rare and priceless artifacts of the Kingdom.
 Lunch: Lunch at a restaurant in Trongsa.
 Afternoon: Walk through the alley of what used to be a medieval village, now Trongsa Dzong, sitting high above the Mangde River. The Dzong is the ancestral home of the royal family, and it is tradition that the crown prince serves as the governor of Trongsa prior to ascending to the throne.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Yankhil Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Punakha, The Winter Capitol
(Saturday, December 14)

Note: The drive to Punakha will take about 5 hours with rest stops.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: This morning is a scenic drive to Punakha valley which is located at 1,350 meters/ 4,430 feet.
 Lunch: Lunch at a village with views of rice paddies.
 Afternoon: This afternoon, take a walk through rice fields in the tiny village of Lobesa to Chimi Lhakhang (temple of the divine madman) located on a small hilltop. This temple is famous for its fertility blessings. It is dedicated to the great 15th century Yogi, Lam Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the “Divine madman” in the west. He preached in the way that is unlike the stiffness of clergy and society of the time; he dramatized the teachings using songs and outrageous sexual humor. A popular pilgrimage spot for the Bhutanese, the temple is frequently visited by childless couples and parents who have difficulty raising children.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Dragon's Nest Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14: Phunakai Fortress / Hike to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal stupa
(Sunday, December 15)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Take a pleasant 2-3 hour hike through rice fields to the Khamsum Yueley Namgyal stupa. This magnificent stupa was built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother for the well being of the kingdom and for the benefit of all sentient beings. Built over a period of several years, Bhutanese craftsmen including carpenters, painters and sculptors consulted holy scriptures, rather than engineering manuals, to construct this 4-storey temple. From here enjoy the picturesque view of the beautiful Mochu River valley below.
 Lunch: Enjoy a picnic lunch.
 Afternoon: Participate in a field trip to the Punakha Dzong/fortress, the winter residence of the Je Khenpo, the Chief Abbot of Bhutan. This Dzong is one of the most beautiful Dzongs in the country and a splendid example of Bhutan’s fine architectural and artistic traditions. It is situated between the two rivers Pho Chu and Mochu (Male and Female Rivers respectively). This Dzong/fortress had served as the capital seat of the Kingdom for more than three hundred years until 1955 when Thimpu became the capital.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Dragon's Nest Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15: Pao Dzong / Paro Town
(Monday, December 16)

Note: Drive to Paro will take about 3 to 4 hours.

 Breakfast: Breatkfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Begin the beautiful drive to Paro.
 Lunch: Lunch at restaurant along the way.
 Afternoon: Continue the journey to Paro via Dochola Pass. En-route there will be an excursion at the Paro Dzong/fortress. It was the setting for Bernardo Bertolucci film “Little Buddha” featuring Keanu Reeves. Take a leisurely walk to the Dzong past the traditional wooden cantilevered bridge. Time permitting, explore Paro’s small town center.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Khangkhu Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 16: Paro / Excursion to Tiger's Nest Monastary
(Tuesday, December 17)

Note: This is an all day hike involving steep climbs and drops, with an elevation gain of 1, 900 ft. under 3 hours. It is strenuous and one must be physically fit to complete it.

 Breakfast: In the hotel.
 Morning: After breakfast start on strenuous but a rewarding hike to view the spectacular and famous Taktsang monastery (Tiger?s Nest). The trail to the monastery climbs through a beautiful pine forest, many of the trees are festooned with Spanish moss. Walk past an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. Continue at a leisurely pace and those who choose can stop mid-way at the cafeteria for rest and refreshment.
 Lunch: Picnic lunch along the way.
 Afternoon: Continue the hike further up until the imposing Taktsang monastery is seemingly within reach. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. It is believed that, in the 8th century, Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. Guru Rimpoche is believed to have meditated here for three months. Over the centuries, numerous Buddhist Masters have meditated here as well. It is considered one of the most sacred places for Buddhists.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure
Accommodations: Khangkhu Resort
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 17: Fly to Bangkok
(Wednesday, December 18)

Note: Please note that this day is a forced overnight. After you fly from Paro to Bangkok a representative will pick you up at the airport and escort you to the hotel Novotel and check you in. You will be on your own for lunch and the day, but dinner is provided. If you incur an emergengy, please call the phone numbers in the EMERGENCY CONTACTS AT ROAD SCHOLAR section few pages back in this information packet.

 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to Paro airport for your return flight to Bangkok.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own.
 Afternoon: Afternoon at leisure to prepare for departure to the US.
 Dinner: Dinner in the hotel.
 Evening: At leisure.
Accommodations: Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 18: Return to North America
(Thursday, December 19)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer to the airport for return flights to the US.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Bangkok Wat Phra Kaeo
Home of the Emerald Buddha and located within the grounds of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew is the most sacred and the most beautiful of Thailand's temples. Open daily 8 a.m. -4 p.m. Admission is 200 baht. The dress code is very strict: No shorts, no bare shoulders, no slippers or sandals. For additional information, visit
  Wat Po
The temple was originally built in the 16th century and covers 20 acres. One of its pavilions houses a 150-foot long reclining Buddha. Wat Po is also home to Thailand's most famous school of massage (see listing). Respectful dress required: Shorts, flip-flops and bare shoulders are not permitted inside the temple complex, and you should be prepared to take off shoes to enter temples. Open daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission fee of 20 baht. For additional information, visit
  Wat Po Thai Traditional Massage School
In the Eastern end of the Wat Po complex is the country's most famous school of massage. Appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis so it is a good idea to start your exploration of Wat Po here before the line becomes too long. A 60-minute, full-body massage costs approximately 300 baht / $8 and is done fully dressed. A set of cotton clothing is provided for the 60-minute herbal massage which costs 400 baht / $10. For additional information, visit
  Thimphu Walk the Main Street
Compared to the quiet villages and small towns visited during the program, Thimphu is a bustling city. At the city center, traffic at the main crossroad is directed by a policeman in a small gazebo positioned in the center of the street. The street is lined with small shops and "malls" - selling everything from books, groceries, western and Bhutanese clothing, and traditional handicrafts.
  Wangdi Phodrang Walk to the Main Street
Cross the Puna Tsang River Bridge and walk up the hillside via the steps to the main street of Wangdi Phodrang, leading to the main square and the gate of the temple. The street is lined with typical small shops and businesses. In the near future, these will be torn down and moved to the new town that is currently under construction further up the river.
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Beyond the Sky and the Earth

Author: Jamie Zeppa

Description: Zeppa's memoir of her time as teacher in a remote village shows her growing love and commitment to the people and culture.

Bhutan Map

Author: ITMB

Description: A double-sided traveler's map at an excellent scale of 1:345,000 with a larger scale map of Northern India on the reverse.

Bhutan, A Trekker's Guide

Author: Bart Jordans

Description: A compact, practical guide to 27 treks and walks throughout the mountain kingdom with color photographs and detailed sketch maps throughout.

Bhutan, The Land of Serenity

Author: Matthieu Ricard

Description: A Buddhist monk, photographer, and French interpreter for the Dalai Lama, Ricard, draws on his time in Bhutan over the last 25 years for this intimate portrait. With illuminating chapters on the remarkable Khyentse Rinpoche, sacred art, architecture, dancing monks and ceremonies.

Essential Tibetan Buddhism

Author: Robert Thurman

Description: The foremost Western scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, Thurman has chosen well from that tradition's sacred literature and helpfully includes suggested further reading, explanatory notes and a directory of sacred sites.

Married to Bhutan

Author: Linda Leaming

Description: Enraptured by the customs, land and people of Bhutan, where she has lived and worked for ten years, Leaming writes with humor and candor about her often-bumpy cultural immersion, her romance with a Buddhist artist and her unexpected path to happiness.

Photographic Guide to Birds of the Himalayas

Author: Bikram Grewal

Description: A pocket guide to 250 birds found from the foothills up to high elevations ranging from the Hindu Kush and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh in the Eastern Himalayas. With brief descriptive information, maps and 260 full-color illustrations.

Radio Shangri-La

Author: Lisa Napoli

Description: Napoli's memoir of her time working on a fledgling Bhutanese radion station. She writes with frankness and clarity about the contradictions, poverty and reality of much mythologized Bhutan.

So Close to Heaven, The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas

Author: Barbara Crossette

Description: Asia correspondent for the New York Times, Crossette portrays Bhutan and neighboring Ladakh and Sikkim as strongholds of Tantric Buddhism in an increasingly homogenized world.

The Blessings of Bhutan

Author: Russ and Blyth Carpenter

Description: Head-over-heels in love with Bhutan, the Carpenters introduce their adopted home, its people, customs, religion and history.

The Circle of Karma, A Novel

Author: Kunzang Choden

Description: The first novel by a Bhutanese woman, this lyrical coming-of-age story explores the rituals of daily life in Bhutan. When Tsomo's mother suddenly dies, the young girl must travel alone across Bhutan and into India.

The Raven Crown

Author: Michael Aris

Description: Aris chronicles the rise of the Wangchuk dynasty in this beautifully illustrated history of the kingdom and its 20th-century monarchy, featuring 106 rare photographs.

Travellers and Magicians

Author: Khyentse Norbu (Director)

Description: The first feature shot on location in Bhutan, this film, directed by a respected lama, follows a young official on his odyssey across the country. Along the way he is joined by a mischievous monk, an elderly peddler and an old man with his daughter.

Turning the Mind Into an Ally

Author: Sakyong Mipham

Description: A guide to meditation and practical introduction to teachings of the Shambhala Buddhist community, which has strong ties to Bhutan.

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