GENERAL INFORMATION ON TOURS IN BHUTAN – TARIFS AND PLACES TO VISIT
All Tours are subject to an Acceptance Payment/Deposit of £250 in addition to the tarif below.
Cost per person on twin share basis (single Supplement shown) as per itinerary
The Royal Government of Bhutan sets minimum selling prices for packages to Bhutan and this must be paid in US dollar prior to arrival in Bhutan as follows:
US$180 – per person/night in the high season
For single traveler surcharge of US$40 per person/night will be levied.
For 2 people travelling surcharge of US$30 per person/night will be levied.
US$20 per person as a visa processing fee
Places to Visit in Bhutan
1 – Where a festival is the central point. Here the timings and everything we do will be to provide guests with a good experience of the festival, typically a half day or two half days. Remaining time available is used visiting various Dzongs and Temples, Thimphu and the Taktshang Monastery.
2 – Where there is no festival during the trip period. Here we will aim to go slightly further a field, deeper into the east of Bhutan, which is more rural. We will also look to include the option of a short hike (1 night under canvas). Remaining time available is used visiting various Dzongs and Temples, Thimphu and the Taktshang Monastery.
3 – Where trekking is the main Here we will try to ensure between 60%-70% of the time is out walking, and under canvas. The remaining time will be getting to and from the stat point, visiting various Dzongs and Temples, Thimphu and the Taktshang Monastery.
Festivals(Tsechus) Festivals in the Land Of Thunder Dragon are rich and happy expressions of its ancient Buddhist culture. These festivals are held in all districts in honor of Guru Rinpoche, the saint who introduced Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century. There is simply no better way of experiencing the colour, passion and sheer vibrancy of Bhutan than by attending one of the numerous religious festivals that take place around the year.Tsechus are held on auspicious days and months in the Bhutanese calendar, and last up to four days in which a series of highly stylized masked dance rituals are performed. Festivals, held to celebrate various public holidays such as the King’s birthday and the winter solstice, are times for singing, playing and above all dancing. Attendees adorned in astounding colour gather from far and wide, sporting exotic masks and taking part in the myriad events that are on offer, from games of chance at the local fairs to elaborate mystic rituals. An experience that is not to be missed!
Thimphu Thimphu is a bustling town on the banks of the Thimphu Chhu and set gloriously in the hills of the Thimphu valley. It is home to the Bhutanese Royal Family, the Royal Government to several foreign missions and development projects. Bhutan’s only golf course, a nine-hole circuit, is situated next to the magnificent Tashichoo Dzong. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Thimphu.
Thimpu – Market Market days are absolutely central to the lives of the Bhutanese, but there are many reasons to visit other than the delicious fresh food on offer every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. At the Changlimithang ground, there are regular competitions centered on the national sport of Bhutan – archery – as well as the opportunities to buy beautifully handcrafted items such as yak tail dusters and butter tea cups. The people crowd the stalls every day, dressed in full colour and gathered to meet and to barter, much like the street markets in London!
Thimpu Memorial Chorten (Tashichhdzong) Chorten are memorial structures designed to evoke the same perfect symmetry and elegance of the Buddha himself, and it is traditionally good luck to pass them on the left. This particular chorten was constructed in 1974 as a memorial for the third King of the country, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is widely regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. The chorten is just another example of how seriously the Bhutanese consider, and how perfectly they realize, their unique architectural style.
Thimphu – Textile museum The foundation was laid in 2000 under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck. It was established with the aim of preserving and promoting Bhutanese textile arts. It’s a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in colors and designs.
Thimphu – Zorig Chusum Institute This is the “Thirteen Crafts” institute. It was established in 1971 by the Royal Government in order to preserve the invaluable heritage and promote the arts of Bhutan. The institute teachers train their students in the field of painting, calligraphy, embroidery, wood carving and sculpture.
Thimphu – Sangaygang View Point As well as being the location of the transmitter tower of the only national television tower in the country (BBS), the view point is also the perfect place to take in some truly breathtaking views of the entire city of Thimpu. On a clear day you can see the ubiquitous prayer flags fluttering on the hills in the distance as well as the whole of the Thimpu valley – needless to say, this is THE place to take your camera and capture the essence of a remarkable country. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is also known as the Lover’s Point!
Thimphu- Folk Heritage museum The museum is dedicated to showing people the Bhutanese rural past through exhibition of items and artifacts used in rural households. It displays the replica of a traditional farm house as it would have been equipped about a century ago and also items from existing traditional farm houses.
Thimphu – Mini zoo Here you can see just one animal – Bhutan’s national – the Takin. This is an extremely rare member of the goat family. Found in herds in the very high altitudes (13,125ft and over). They live on a diet of grass and bamboo. It can weigh as much as 550 pounds. The zoo was emptied in accordance with Buddhist principles, but the Takin came back so the keepers decided to look after them, also in accordance with Buddhist principles!
Thimphu – Paper factory Jungshi Paper Factory was established in November 1990 as an undertaking of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The paper is made from the bark of the Daphne plant. The workers in the factory make paper by hand, and you can see a wide range of designs, and paintings and gifts made out of it.
Thimphu – Handicraft Emporium The Bhutanese still vividly recall and celebrate this victory which was tremendously important to them The shop is one of the best places to buy souvenirs from Bhutan, including finely made traditional clothes, jewelry, linen work, books, and paintings. There is also a money changing facility and the shop will exchange travelers cheques.
Thimphu- Tashichho Dzong The names means – Means Fortress of Glorious Religion. It was built in 1641 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and was reconstructed into present structure by the late King, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the year 1962-1969. It houses the secretariat building, the throne room and the office of the king, and the central monk body.
Thimphu – Archery During weekends we can also see the archery match at the Changlimithang ground. Archery is the national game of Bhutan.
Paro This beautiful valley is home to many Bhutan’s oldest monasteries and temples. The country’s only airport is in Paro. The valley is also home to Mount Chomolhari(7,300 meters) situated at the northern end of the valley whose glacier water forms the Pachu flowing through the valley. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Paro
Paro – Drugyel dzong This ruined dzong is of historical importance. It was built in 1649 by Zhabdrung to commemorate the victory of the Drukpas over the Tibetan invasion in 1644. The Bhutanese still vividly recall and celebrate this victory which was tremendously important to the history of the area. On a clear day (7326m/ 24176ft), you have a fascinating view of the white domed peak of sacred Jhomolhari (Mountain of Goddess).
Paro – Tiger’s Nest Generally regarded as Bhutan’s most recognizable cultural icon, the Taktshang Monastery, or Tiger’s Nest, is strikingly iconic of the country’s culture and traditions. Legend has it that the Guru Rinpoche flew to the monastery on the back of a tiger, hence the nickname. It towers majestically over 800 metres above sea level, and forms the spectacular culmination of a number of forest hikes, offering wonderful views of the Paro valley and the surrounding landscape. Despite a number of devastating fires, the Tiger’s Nest is beautifully restored, and remains a must-see attraction during your stay in Bhutan.
Paro – Rimpung Dzong The Bhutanese Dzongs are huge architectural structures constructed for a variety of functions throughout the country, from administrative buildings to monasteries and temples, yet they are carefully and thoughtfully designed and are strikingly beautiful. The Rimpung Dzong, known as the “fortress of the heap of jewels” in the picturesque setting of the Paro valley, is of course no exception, built in the time of the dynamic spiritual and political leader Zhabdrung in 1644. Once a year, as part of the Tsechu festival, one of the oldest Thongdol (gigantic scroll paintings) is ceremonially unfurled here.
Paro – Ta Dzong This means – watch tower, which it served as during the 17th century to guard the region from the Tibetan invasion. It was converted to the National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of Bhutanese art, relics, religious thankas (used to bolster the visualization generated during meditation and were made from Himalayan animal fibers), paintings, animals found in Bhutan, arms and ammunitions and the country’s exquisite stamp collections.
Paro – Kichu Lhakhang (Monastery): It is one of the two most sacred and the oldest temples in Bhutan. It was built in 7th century by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo. It is believed that he took the responsibility to built 108 temples in the different regions of Tibet, Bhutan and in other Himalayan regions to control evil spirits, disease and droughts out of which two of them are in Bhutan.(Kichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang).
Druk Wangyal Chortens at Dochula: On the way to Punakha from Thimphu is the Dochula pass from where a beautiful panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range can be seen, especially in clear winter days. The beauty of this place is further enhanced by the Druk Wangyal Chortens- a 108 stupas built by the eldest Queen, Her Majesty Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.
Punakha(altitude 4420 ft): Punakha served as the capital of Bhutan until 1955. It is the winter seat of the Je Khenpo(Chief Abbot) and the monk body. It has a temperate climate and its rich fertile valley is fed by Pho(male) Chu and Mo(female) Chu rivers. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Punaklha.
Punakha – Chimi Lhakhang This is a monastery dedicated to the so-called ‘Divine Madman’ Drupka Kuenley, who was widely condemned for his shockingly outrageous, even obscene teachings that were designed to persuade people to discard their preconceptions about the universe. It is located in the Punakha valley, which sits astride the Mo (Mother) and Pho (Father) rivers, and lies a half-hour hike away from the road across open fields. There are many reasons to visit – to view the worship house, to learn about its unconventional dedicatee, or maybe just to see the ritual phalluses!
Punakha Dzong Remarkable for its ability to withstand natural disasters – fires and earthquakes have done nothing to diminish its grandeur – the Punakha Dzong is rightly famous throughout Bhutan, as well as being one of the most well protected buildings in the country. During the winter it is the home of the Central Monastic Body, and was once the base for the National Assembly until 1961. It also holds a sacred treasure that only the Chief Abbott and the King himself can access – the remains of the Dzong’s builder, the Zhabdrung. Naturally it is emblematic of Bhutan’s culture, and is essential visiting for anyone wishing to fully appreciate the country’s traditions.
Punakha – Kham Sum Yule Lhakhang (Monastey): It was built by HRH Azhi (Queen) Tshering Pem Wangchuck for a successful rule during the reign of the present Crown Prince Daso Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck. It took 8 years to build and was consecrated in December 1999. It’s around 45 minutes hike from the road point.
Gangtey Goenpa/Phobjikha The valley of Phobjikha is well known as the winter home of the black necked cranes. Bhutan is home to around six hundred black necked cranes with Phobjikha being one of the popular places that the birds migrate to in the winter months from Tibetan plateau. These elegant and shy birds can be observed from early November to end of March. Overlooking the Phobjikha valley is the Gangtey Goenpa. This is an old monastery that dates back to the 17th century.
Trongsa (Altitude 7,600 ft): Trongsa forms the central hub of the kingdom and is historically the place from where attempts at unifying the country where launched. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Trongsa.
Trongsa Dzong Trongsa used to be the winter capital of the Bhutan before Thimpu and its Dzong is one of the most impressive in the country – indeed, it provided the seat of power for both the first and the second Kings of Bhutan. It is nowadays just as central to government, providing a base for 300 monks in 26 temples, as well as local civic and judiciary offices. A visit is essential to witness just how this impregnable fortress dwarfs everything surrounding it, and remains a glorious example of Dzong architecture.
Trongsa – Kunga Rabten: It used to be the winter palace of the 2nd King. The building has a superb wood work and decorations and presently part of the palace is used as a library. From the palace one can take a hike up to the road and further along the village to a nunnery. Just beside the palace we can see five great water prayer wheels.
Trongsa – Ta Dzong: Perched above the Trongsa Dzong this is a watch tower which once stood guard over the Trongsa Dzong from internal rebellion. It is now being turned into a heritage museum.
Bumthang (Altitude 8,530 – 13, 125 ft): This fascinating valley is the religious heartland of the nation and home to some of the oldest Buddhist temples and monasteries. Its gentle sloping hills offer plenty of walking opportunities to the many temples that dot this valley. The valley is also famous for its production of honey, cheese, apples and the yathra- a woolen material that has multiple uses. The following are some of the prominent places to visit in Bumthang.
Kurjey Lhakhang: Means body print. It dates back to 8th century when Guru Rimpoche first visited Bhutan. It is after his visit to the Mon yul (country in the darkness); Buddhism was introduced in the country. He is said to have meditated in a cave after which it is believed that he had left his body print where the old temple stands today.
Tamzhing Lhakhang: “Temple of good message”. It was built by Terton Pema Lingpa (Treasure Discoverer) in 1501AD. We can see the paintings done by him on the wall and an iron jacket which was also made by him. It’s believed that if we wear that jacket and circumambulate the temple three times we will be able to cleanse some of the sins that we had committed. Kenchosum Lhakhang: Its establishment dates back to 7th century. It has three main statues that are believed to have flown from the eastern part of the country to the present location.
Wine Factory and Cheese factory: They produce cheese and butter made from Yak’s milk and it has the only beer making factory in Bhutan.
Mebar Tsho(Lake of Burning Fire) This is a sacred lake for Bhutanese who believe that Pema Lingpa discovered religious treasures from this lake in the 12th century. On auspicious days many Bhutanese go and offer butter lamps on this fresh water lake.
Jakar Dzong : The Dzong was initially built as a monastery in 1549 by the great grand father of the Zhabdrung. It is now used as the administrative center for the Bumthang district. The Bumthang Tshechu(festival) is one of the most popular. It is held mostly at night and is said to bring fertility to any woman wanting a child.
Ura Village: Ura lies in the Tang valley, a one and a half hour drive from Bumthang town. The drive is mainly through sheep pastures and along the way one can glimpse a magnificent view of Mount Gangkhar Phuensum from Ura La(Pass). The main characteristics of this village are the closely clustered houses. It is the last settlement before the climb to the highest road pass as Trumsingla
Entertainment During your trip to Bhutan the Raven Tours and Treks Team will try to include the following – actual selection depends on the itinerary.
Night in “down town Thimphu” In the evening we can make arrangements to take you to enjoy life the way the young Bhutanese do, in the discotheques, or in the entertainment areas. There are live performances of Bhutanese songs and dances (traditional and modern) by the best Bhutanese bands. If you wish you can even test your singing talents in the bars that offer Karaoke. (Guests pay for own drinks and entrance fees).
Evening Meal with music and dancing We try to visit a local restaurant for an evening meal, where we are also entertained with performances of local dancing and signing, and much wine! (No extra charge).
Visit to a local farmhouse for dinner Bhutan is justly NOT famous for it’s cuisine, which is somewhat predictable. Eating at a local farmhouse at least gives a slightly different variation, and a chance to see the inside of such a home, rather than just the brightly decorated exteriors.
Local bars The local bars in the towns (and Thimphu) do not live up to Western standards, but the people are polite, friendly but not obtrusive. Your Raven Tours and Treks guide will be happy to escort you into town to visit such a bar. It is very unlikely that any of the bar staff will speak English, hence the need for the guide!