19634
Bhutan
The Essence of Bhutan
Explore Bhutan, one of the world’s most isolated countries, with experts and locals who with you share their enduring culture, history and natural wonders.
Program No. 19634RJ
Length
17 days
Starts at
4,199
Special Offer
Flights start at
1,100
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17 days
16 nights
41 meals
14 B 13 L 14 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
Departures
In Flight

Afternoon: Depart North America on overnight flights to Kathmandu, Nepal. Please refer to your personal air itinerary for specific flight information.

DAY
2
Arrival Kathmandu
Kathmandu
Hyatt Regency

Activity note: For all participants who bought air arrangments from Road Scholar, a representative will pick you up from the airport and provide a transfer to the program hotel and assist with check in. Please note that there is no official programming on this day. Your group leader will meet you in Bhutan tomorrow.

Dinner: On your own. Due to the late arrival of the group flight, dinner is not provided today.

Evening: Arrivals to Kathmandu throughout the day and evening. Transfer to the program hotel for your forced overnight before your early morning departure to Paro, Bhutan. For all participants who purchased their air arrangements through Road Scholar and arrive today, a representative will meet you at the airport and coordinate the transfer from the airport to the program hotel. During this transfer to the hotel, the Road Scholar representative will advise everyone the schedule for the following day and all the travel logistics for your flight to Bhutan. If you are arriving at an earlier time/date or are a POP participant, you cannot check into the hotel on this day until 2pm. Rooms might be available before then, but there is no guarantee. Our local vendor in Kathmandu will be given your flight arrival information to Nepal and will get in touch with you on this day. Additionally, at check-in at the hotel, a welcome letter should be given to you with helpful information on how to reach our local coordinator if you have questions.

DAY
3
Fly to Paro, Bhutan, National Museum, Drive to Thimpu
Thimphu
B,L,D
Namgay Heritage Hotel

Activity note: Board a 1 hour flight from Kathmandu to Paro, Bhutan. The drive from Paro to Thimpu is 31 miles, and the elevation over the next 3 days will be at 7,700ft.

Breakfast: In the hotel café, enjoy the breakfast buffet with water, coffee and tea. The café opens at 6am and is located on the first level overlooking the landscaped gardens and pool.

Morning: A Road Scholar representative will greet everyone in the morning and coordinate our early morning transfer to the Kathmandu airport for the flight to Paro, Bhutan. We will meet our group leader in Bhutan Once arrived in Bhutan, our Group Leader will greet us with a warm welcome and introduce everyone. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions. Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Join a staff-led visit to the National Museum, now housed in a new location next to the ancient watch tower, which visually introduces Bhutan’s history and culture. The museum provides a good introduction to the Kingdom’s rich culture and heritage. Then take a scenic drive to Thimphu (7,700ft.) 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 2018.

Dinner: Welcome dinner at the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea; other beverages available for purchase.

DAY
4
Traditional Arts & Crafts, Gross National Happiness
Thimphu
B,L,D
Namgay Heritage Hotel

Activity note: National Memorial Stupa is 600 meter walk (15 minutes) from the hotel. Private bus transfer, 1 mile to National Institute for Traditional Arts and Culture and further 1.5 miles to National Textile Museum. Walking and standing up to 3 hours indoors and out.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Begin the day as many locals do with a morning walk 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: At a local restaurant 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: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Explore Thimphu town at your leisure.

DAY
5
Thimphu, The Traditions of Bhutan
Thimphu
B,L,D
Namgay Heritage Hotel

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

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: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: If on a weekend, 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.

Dinner: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

DAY
6
Phobjika Valley, Beautiful Himalaya Mountain Views
Phobjikha Valley
B,L,D
Dewachen Hotel

Activity note: The drive to Phobjikha Valley is 80 miles (5-6 hours) with stops along the way. Drive over the Dochola pass at 10,100 ft arriving in the Phobjika Valley at 9,800 ft.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Depart for Phobjikha valley. 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 (3,055m/10,100ft). Stop to take in the breathtaking panoramic views (weather permitting) of the Himalayan mountain range that stretch for hundreds 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 Punakha Valley (1,350 meters/4,430 feet).

Lunch: At a local restaurant in Lobesa, en-route to Phobjikha Valley.

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: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea; additional beverages available to purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Phobjikha Hike, Crane Center
Phobjikha Valley
B,L,D
Dewachen Hotel

Activity note: Moderate 2.5 mile hike (3 hours) mainly on flat ground. Expect to hike on uneven trails with a gradual descent during the first 20 minutes.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

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: Picnic lunch with bottled water and coffee or tea

Afternoon: Discover the valley's most important landmark, the 17th century Gangtey Goemba monastery and the monastic school located near the lodge, overlooking the expansive Phobjikha valley below. At the monastery, a discussion with the monk provides insight into their daily lives.

Dinner: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Drive to central Bhutan, Pele La Pass, Bumthang Valley
Bumthang
B,L,D
Kaila Guesthouse

Activity note: Drive today is 100 miles (about 5 to 6 hours) with stops along the way. Cross over Pele La Pass arriving in the Bumthang Valley at 9,185 ft.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Today begins with an early morning start to Bumthang, the eastern most part of our trip. The drive takes us to the central valley of Bumthang, past Bhutan’s rich flora and fauna and one of the most beautiful and sacred valleys in Bhutan. 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: At a restaurant in Trongsa.

Afternoon: Along the way, see the 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: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Ura Village, School Visit
Bumthang
B,L,D
Kaila Guesthouse

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

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

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: At Ura Village.

Afternoon: After lunch, explore Ura village - wander through the cobblestone streets of this traditional village. Return to Jakar/Bumthang.

Dinner: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: An introduction to the educational system of Bhutan.

DAY
10
Jambay & Kurjey Temples, Bumthang Valley, Spiritual Hike
Bumthang
B,L,D
Kaila Guesthouse

Activity note: There is hiking opportunity both in the morning and afternoon. Morning we hike from temples Jambay to Kurjey. The hike is 1 mile (½ hour) on fairly flat ground. After lunch, for those who want to hike, can do so for up to 3 miles (2 hours). Apart from a 10 minute uphill at the start, the hike is generally on a flat ground (on dirt road cutting through several villages).

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Take a field trip to two of the most sacred monasteries in Bhutan, Jambay Lhakhang, built in the 7th century and Kurjey Lhakhang, built in the 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 who brought Buddhism to Bhutan from India in the 8th century.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Continue hiking around the valley with an option to explore the town of Bumthang.

Dinner: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Trongsa Dzong
Trongsa
B,L,D
Yankhil Resort

Activity note: The drive to Trongsa is 50 miles (about 3 hours) with stops along the way. Elevation in Trongsa is 7,215 ft.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

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: 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’s a tradition that the crown prince serves as the governor of Trongsa prior to ascending to the throne.

Dinner: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
Scenic Drive to Punakha Valley, Chimi Lhakhang Temple
Wangdue Phodrang
B,L,D
Dragon's Nest Hotel

Activity note: The drive to Wangdue Phodrang and the Punakha valley is 80 miles (about 6 hours) with rest stops along the way. Elevation in Punakha valley is 4,430 ft.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: This morning is a scenic drive to Wangdue Phodrang and the scenic Punakha valley which is located at 1,350 meters/ 4,430 feet.

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: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
13
Hike to Khamsum Yueley Namgyal stupa, Punakha Fortress
Wangdue Phodrang
B,L,D
Dragon's Nest Hotel

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

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. It was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in a changing world. 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-story 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 Thimphu became the capital.

Dinner: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
14
Paro Town, Paro Dzong
Paro
B,L,D
Khangkhu Resort

Activity note: Drive to Paro is 70 miles (3 to 4 hours) with stops along the way. Elevation in Paro is 7,382 ft.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Begin the beautiful drive to Paro.

Lunch: At a restaurant along the way.

Afternoon: Continue the journey to Paro via Dochola Pass. Explore Paro’s small town center with an optional excursion to the Paro Dzong/fortress. It was the setting for Bernardo Bertolucci film “Little Buddha” featuring Keanu Reeves.

Dinner: At the hotel with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
Paro, Excursion to Tiger's Nest Monastary
Paro
B,L,D
Khangkhu Resort

Activity note: This is an all day hike involving steep climbs and drops, with an elevation gain of 1,900 ft. under 3 hours. The hike is strenuous and one must be physically fit to complete it. There is an option to hike half way, to a view point that has a tea house, for those that choose to not climb the entire way.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After an early breakfast, drive to the trailhead. Start on a 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 lichens. 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.

Afternoon: Continue the hike further up until the imposing Taktsang monastery is seemingly within reach. Built in the 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 with bottled water, coffee, tea included; additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure

DAY
16
Fly to Kathmandu, Free Time, Program Concludes, Departures
In Flight
B,D
Hyatt Regency

Activity note: There is no programming today. Morning flight from Paro to Kathmandu (1 hour). In Kathmandu, you will be provided a hotel room for the full night, due to late night and possible next day departures (check out,12:00pm tomorrow). See the program's travel details regarding transfers to the airport tonight. If you are an independent traveler (POP Status), see "Ground Transportation from Last Location." Independent travelers (POP Status) may utilize the airport transfer as space allows.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Transfer to Paro airport for your return flight to Kathmandu.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: Afternoon at leisure to prepare for departure to the US.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: Late evening departure to the airport for your return flight home. For those of you who have flight the next day, the hotel is booked for the entire night. Check out is 12:00pm tomorrow. Program concludes. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Pleases join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

DAY
17
Arrive home
In Flight

Activity note: In transit from program.