Goal

A Culture Journey through the Heart of Bhutan has been established with the aim to offer a spiritual journey through theoretical and practical experiences. This is an exceptionally breathtaking journey with series of opportunities for you to see Bhutan’s lovely people and their ways of life, culture; and encounter the country’s historical past and present.

You will be taking part in festivals, spending time with the monks, meditating, teaching, staying in a village, experiencing the way of rural life etc. We can assure that your spiritual journey through Bhutan will be comfortable, memorable, and an enlightening experience.

  • First class lodging is not a priority in order to keep costs lower and options open
  • Minimize driving so more time is spent on the ground. This is not easy when the average driving speed is less than 20mph
  • Start out slow to get people energized again after long flights & travel

What makes this itinerary unique?

  • Dressing up in traditional attire
  • Visiting the ruin of Drukgyal Dzong
  • Mild walk through the rural settlement/village
  • Teaching at meditation center
  • Butter lamp lighting ceremony
  • Staying in a rural village
  • Farmhouse meals
  • Cooking traditional food
  • Phobjika Valley
  • Black-Necked Crane Festival
  • Optional hike above Taksang
  • Optional village puja
  • Optional gathering with dinner, music or dance

Itinerary – A Spiritual Journey through the Heart of Bhutan

Join Gomo for an experiential journey to the Kingdom of Bhutan that artfully mixes Buddhism, nature, authentic rituals, traditional Bhutanese culture and mountaintop monasteries.  This is an active trip that allows you to participate in the real and mythical culture of this kingdom.  You will get an in-depth look at Buddhist culture in Bhutan, seeing and experiencing things that most travelers never will.

Day 01. Arrive to Paro International Airport.

November 5

Elevation 2320 m

We begin our adventure in Bhutan with a drive through the valley. Considering how tiring flying can be, we will keep your first day in Bhutan light.

After a light lunch at our hotel, we visit the historic Paro Dzong and climb up to the National Museum of Bhutan. If you wish to clothed in a Bhutanese attire, our guides will accompany you to a shop in the town where you will have the choice of picking out your own outfit. And a good night rest to reenergize.

  • Lunch: Hotel
  • Dinner: Hotel
  • Activities: Temple visit, short walk, shop for traditional attire
  • Hotel: Paro
  • Drive Time: 0

Day 02 – Visit the ruin of Drukgyal Dzong and explore Thimphu

November 6

Elevation 2500 m

Wake up in the village of Paro beneath the ramparts of the Great Himalayan Range. After a leisurely breakfast, we will drive through the valley, past small farming villages to visit the ruins of Drukgyal Dzong (the fortress of Victorious Bhutanese). On a clear day, Mt. Jumolhari (24,000 ft), Bhutan’s most sacred mountain peaks that marks the border between Bhutan and Tibet, can be see.

We will take a short walk along the river through the villages before lunch. After a late lunch, we’ll drive to Thimphu (2 curvy hours), the small capital city of Bhutan.  You’ll have time to explore Thimphu on your own in the late afternoon.

  • Breakfast: Hotel
  • Lunch: Hotel or picnicDinner: Thimphu
  • Activities: Historical talk, sighting Himalayan peaks, village walk
  • Hotel: Thimphu
  • Drive Time: 3 hours

Day 03 – Introduction to Bhutanese Buddhism

November 7

There will be talks on various Buddhist themes to help our visitors understand the basic of Buddhism followed by visualization in the meditation center in Thimphu.  After lunch, we will take part in butter lamp lighting ceremony at a monastery outside the capital.  After the ceremony we’ll take a leisurely walk through the nearby village. We will then have the rest of the evening to relax and explore Thimphu.

  • Breakfast:  Hotel
  • Lunch:  Thimphu Restaurant – TBD by AST and Tour Company
  • Dinner:  Hotel
  • Activities: Buddhist teaching, butter lamp lighting ceremony, village walk
  • Hotel: Thimphu
  • Drive Time: 1 hour

Day 04 -Thimphu to Punakha

November 8

Elevation 4500 m

Today we will drive to Punakha over dochula pass (3150m) above sea level. The pass is adorned with 108 small stupas dedicated to the Kingdom’s Peace and Gross National Happiness. We will stop at the top of the pass to hang our own prayer flags, Bhutanese believe the prayer flags on mountain slopes, bridges and high passes, transmit prayers to the gods. In good weather, one can view the entire range of the Bhutan Himalaya from the Pass.

Then we will continue our journey to Punakha and visit the most impressive dzong in Bhutan, Punakha dzong, also a winter residency for the monk body.

Those interested can hike behind the dzong leading to the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan.  We’ll pick you up on the other side of the bridge and drive you into the countryside to the village where one of our guides grew up.

  • Breakfast: Hotel(Thimphu)
  • Lunch:  Restaurant(Punakha)
  • Dinner:  Village Farmhouse
  • Activities: Mountain driving, monastery, short hike, journey into village
  • Accommodation: Tents/simple accommodation in village
  • Drive Time: 4 hours

Day 04 – Experience Bhutanese Village Life

November 9

Most visitors to Bhutan never get to experience the Bhutanese way of life. We give you the firsthand experience by walking a circuit to visit several rural villages, accompanied by our local guides who grew up in this region.

After hiking in the morning, there will be time to relax before helping your host cook a traditional meal in a farmhouse for dinner.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner: Farmhouse
  • Activities: Exploring villages, observing rural life, cooking traditional meal
  • Accommodation: Tents or simple accommodation in village
  • Drive Time: 0

Day 05 – Drive to Phobjika to View Black-Necked Cranes

November 10

Elevation 2800 m

Leaving the village early, we’ll drive back to the Punakha Valley, then farther into the heart of Bhutan to the Phobjika Valley. The Phobjika Valley is winter home to the Black-Necked Cranes, one of the rarest crane species in the world. The people of the valley protect and celebrate them during their visit.  We will do a mild hike around the fields the cranes bed in the evening.

  • Breakfast: Farmhouse
  • Lunch: On road – TBD
  • Dinner: Phobjika Hotel
  • Activities: Mountain driving over high passes, sacred crane walk
  • Accommodation: Phobjika Hotel
  • Drive Time: 5 Hours

Day 06 – Black-Necked Crane Festival

November 11

Enjoy one of the most incredible Buddhist spectacles in the world, the tsechu. Walk with the local people as they travel through the valley and climb the hill to the monastery.  In front of a recently rebuilt temple, dancers dip and swirl through age-old dances brought with them from across the Himalaya. Be sure to wear your best Bhutanese clothes!  Part of this festival celebrates the life and beauty of the Black-Necked Crane.  Interestingly, the lama who presides over this temple also has a temple in Crestone, Colorado that is fascinating to visit when you return home.

  • Breakfast: Hotel
  • Lunch: TBD
  • Dinner: Hotel
  • Activities: Buddhist festival
  • Accommodation: Phobjika Hotel
  • Drive Time: 0

Day 7 – Drive to Punakha

November 12

Option A:  After our busy schedule, we’ll eat a leisurely breakfast before traveling the winding road back to Punakha. Enjoy an evening off to rest up, meditate, catch up on your journal or prepare for the final days ahead.

Option B:  Drive to Punakha in morning.  Every house in Bhutan celebrates a puja or cleansing ceremony every few months.  This afternoon we’ll participate in the yearly puja of a village house near Punakha.  A puja consists of monks chanting scriptures, banging drums, blowing horns and generally praying for good luck and health for the household and participants.

  • Breakfast – Hotel
  • Lunch – TBD
  • Dinner – Hotel
  • Activities: Mountain driving, leisure time or attend a village puja
  • Accommodation: Punakha Hotel
  • Drive Time: 3.5 Hours

Day 8 – Punakha – Thimphu – Paro

Souvenir Shopping

November 13

Today we’ll drive back over Dochula to the capital city of Thimphu and take a stroll around the town visiting handicraft shops for authentic souvenirs for your loved ones. After lunch we’ll continue our drive to Paro.

  • Breakfast: Hotel
  • Lunch: TBD – Thimphu Restaurant
  • Dinner: Hotel
  • Activities: Mountain drive, shopping
  • Accommodation: Paro Hotel
  • Drive Time: 5 Hours

 

Day 9 – Hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, watch Masked Dancing

November 14

Taktshang Monastery is the most important pilgrimage site in the Buddhism world and it is the one of the main highlight of Bhutan tour. The monastery is perched on a granite cliff that drops 2,000 feet to the valley floor. The name is derived from a legend that Guru Rinpoche flew across the mountains to this spot on the back of a tigress, reaching a cave in which he meditated for three months, converting the people of Paro Valley to Buddhism during his stay.

We’ll hike up the mountain to visit Taksang, light butter lamps for our wishes for the days ahead.

If the group has energy and desire, we can tackle the extended loop hike above Taksang, up ladders carved from trees to small, simple and rarely visited temples above.

Option A:  Celebrate our last night together with a traditional Bhutanese dinner and drinks. A Bhutanese singer/musician will serenade us on our last night in Bhutan.

Option B: Tonight we’ll celebrate our last night together with dinner and famed mask dancers of Bhutan with our own private program.

Option C:  Just have dinner.

  • Breakfast – Hotel
  • Lunch – TBD – Picnic on trail
  • Dinner – Hotel
  • Activities: Strenuous mountain hike, monastery visit, celebration with singing and dancing
  • Accommodation: Paro Hotel
  • Drive Time: 1 Hour

Day 10 – Depart from Bhutan

November 15

Drive to Paro International Airport for your onward flight. We wish a very safe and pleasant journey back to your country. We hope to see you again in Bhutan in the future.

Dates/Time to Travel

November is a fine month in Bhutan and not the busiest month.  The dates in this itinerary are dictated entirely by the date of the Black-Necked Crane Festival on November 11, 2013. This date should be double-checked with your Bhutanese ground operator.  They may suggest another, lesser-known festival and the itinerary must then revolve around that specific date.  The festival in Phobjika will have quite a few other tourists in attendance.

Weather: November is clear, sunny and brisk.  Participants will need to bring warm clothing, including coats, hats and gloves.  You may encounter snowfall on the high passes, but not likely in the valleys.

Bhutanese Tour Company

I highly recommend Gomo Adventures, founded by a friend of mine Ugyen Wangchuk who was originally a monk, but fell in love. He left the monkhood to marry Gyem and they now have 3 beautiful children. I spent a lot of time with them while living in Bhutan.

Other than friendship though, I found Ugyen to be enterprising and unique.  He became a professional photographer in Bhutan, served as the official photographer during the last coronation of the king.  He is also farsighted, he saw the value of village tourism early on and started modifying his childhood home little by little to bring it up to tourist standards so visitors could experience the village life and not just the same spots that all the other guests visit.

He is friendly, honest, hard working and fun.  Plus, his connections as a former monk allow him to set up unique experiences within the monasteries.