Bhutan is known for its rich flora and fauna. 64% of the country’s land is under forest coverage.
At an elevation of 1200m-4800m, rhododendron species are found in abundance and the best time for seeing the magnificent display of the rhododendrons blooming are during the months of April, May, June and July. There are different species of rhododendrons ranging from creeping shrub-lets to moderate sized trees and that makes up about 1200 species of rhododendrons worldwide. About 700 species (mostly Sino-Himalayan species) grow in the temperate regions and they include the pink, red, and yellow rhododendrons. Four species among the 46 species that has been recorded in Bhutan so far are found to be endemic. Come and experience one of the world’s best and unique holiday destinations on this three week tour. You will be absolutely amazed and spell bounded by our country’s unique culture, beautiful landscapes, magnificent architecture, clear glacial rivers and the Bhutanese hospitality.
Day 1 Arrive at Paro. Drive to Thomphu. Altitude: 2320m/ 7656ft above sea level. The flight into Paro brings breathtaking views of the Himalayan Mountains. If the weather permits you will be able to see Mt Everest (8848m, 29,198ft) and other Himalayan mountains. The landing, flying through the Paro valley between the 4000 metre high mountains, starts your day in an unforgettable way! Your Bhutanese representative from Raven Tours and Treks will greet you on arrival. Drive to the capital city, Thimphu (2 hours). In the afternoon visit:
Memorial Chorten: It was built in 1974 in the memory of our third monarch late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, who is regarded as the father of modern Bhutan. Inside the temple, you will see many embracing statues in their wrathful form, these represent the union of wisdom and skill in the Vajrayana (tantric) Buddhism and its philosophy. It is the daily worshipping centre for the devoted and the aged residents of 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 to preserve and promote Bhutanese textile arts through documentation and research in order to revive the traditional methods. It’s a good place to see the art of traditional weaving being kept still alive and preserved through exhibition and has a good collection of old textiles which are rich in its colors and designs.
Folk Heritage museum: Is dedicated to connecting people to the Bhutanese rural past through exhibition of its 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 the existing traditional farm houses. In the evening if you wish, Raven Tours and Treks can make arrangements to take you to enjoy the recent trends of the younger Bhutanese, who spend their evenings in the discotheques, or in the entertaining hubs where 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. Overnight at Thimphu
Day 2: Thimphu to Wangdue (3 hrs). Altitude: 1350m/4455ft above sea level In the morning, visit the weekend market. You will see people from all walks of Bhutanese society who come to buy fresh produce. The crowded stalls offer many colorful local items such as yak tail dusters, butter tea cups, turquoise from Nepal and Tibet and also different Bhutanese handicrafts for sale. During weekends you can also see the archery match at the Changlimithang ground. Archery is the national game of Bhutan. Then onto Sangaygang view point: (BBS tower). This is the site of the transmission tower of the only national television channel (BBS). From this point we can see the whole city and take some beautiful pictures, especially of the prayer flags which stand on the hill fluttering in the wind.
Mini zoo: Here we can see Bhutan’s national animal known as 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!
Zorig Chusum Institute (Thirteen Crafts): 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. Afternoon drive to Wangdue . Driving towards Wangdue, we come across a pass known as Dochula (3140m, 10362ft) where you get to see the wide panoramic view of the Himalayan peaks, including Bhutan’s highest mountain, Gangkar Punsum (7561m, 24951ft ). On the way light refreshments will be served at Dochula Cafeteria. You will also see R. arboretum, R. kesangae, R.falconerii and Magnolia cambelii. Hike from Dochula pass to Lamperi. Along the way you can see many rhododendron species and different bird species. Overnight at Wangdue.
Day 3: Wangdue to Phobjikha (1 hr 30 minutes) Stop on the way to Nobding to see R. lindleyii and R.grande. Climbing further up towards Lawala, you will find the blooming pale yellow R. falconeri. On the other side of Lawala, you will see R. thomsonii colonizing most of the marshy areas along with the other rhododendron species viz R.cinnabarinum and r. keysii. Descending down towards the Phobjikha valley you come across R. virgatum and R.ciliatum. You can also find some white and red R.thomsonii at the Phobjikha valley. Overnight at Phobjika
Day 4: Phobjikha to Bumthang (5 hrs). Altitude: 2600m/ 8580ft. This glacial valley is considered by the Bhutanese to be the cultural, and holy, heartland of Bhutan. Tales of Guru Rimpoche/Padmasambhava (2nd Buddha) dominate its history and traditions. The journey requires you to travel through the passes of Pelela, Yutongla and Kikila. You can see R.glaucophyllum and other R species along the road. On the way to the hotel visit the Hand loom factory, we will arrive in Bhumtang in time for some sight seeing. Overnight at Bumthang
Day 5: Bumthang to Sengor (3 hrs) This drive takes you to the spectacular areas of rhododendron. You have to cross yet another pass known as the Thrumsengla. This is the highest pass in the country and it is here you can find more than 15 species of rhododendrons growing together. Under the rhododendrons you will find the Primula gracilipies blooming. Night halt in the tent.
Day 6: Sengor to Shingkhar top (3600m/11880ft; 3 hrs hike) Today, you hike to the top of the hill overlooking the Shingkhar village. It is about 3 hours walk from the base camp. Enjoy the view of the rhododendrons blooming while making your hike. The beautiful birds like rose finches, trogopan, monal pheasant and patridges are said to inhabit in this place. It is probable that you might spot them. Day 7: Shingkhar Top to Khanzo (2900m/9570ft; Full day hike). Today is a full day walk. This is the route that connected Bumthang to the eastern region before the introduction of the motor roads. As you descend, you will find that the trail gradually becomes narrower and finally leads to the top of a ridge. Both the sides of the ridge are breathtakingly steep without any tall trees except rhododendron shrubs, sorbus, gaultheria, lyonia, berberis and small bamboos. White limestone and exposed red soil can be seen forming scattered openings amongst the thick vegetation cover. At this time of the year, the trail is adorned with abundant blooms of pink rhododendron glaucophyllum. Further down, the ridge is covered with magnolia campbelli, r.lanatu, r.kesangiae etc. Khanjo is an open pastureland covered with Yushania microphylla and arundinella racemosa. But the edge of the pasture is all surrounded by rhododendron arboretum and tsuga dumosa.
Day 8: Khanzo to Gorzimit (above Gompa); 2030m/6699ft It’s another long day walk. The trail is along the contour and it descends gradually to Gorzimi. The route is an interesting one laden with thick forests. You can see the unspoiled natural forest of r.arboreum and r.falconeri which are uniquely covered with thick moss. As you leave the thick forest, the path becomes narrower and steeper. Then it finally opens into a pasture ground. From here, the path further descends to the cool broad leaved forest at an altitude of 2700m. Most of the forest consists of quercus spp., prunus sppp., michelia spp., r.arboreum, etc. Timminick trogopan can be seen towards the evening. Orchid Coelogyne is also in abundance. The camp site is just above the Shongme Gompa (monastery)
Day 9: Gorzimit to Ungar village (1440m/4752ft; 3 hrs walk) It takes about 3hrs to get to Ungar village from Gorzimit. The trail to Ungar has to pass through warm broad leaved forest that consists of juglans regia, persea spp., sloanea spp.,eets. The giant trees of slonea are very spectular. Ungar is a small village with many paddy fields and chilly gardens. The residents here still barter chilly and rice with butter and yaks’ meat. It is a hot place.
Day 10: Ungar to Mokpa (2700m/8910ft) It’s another long day where you have to walk for about 6-8 hours to reach the next camp site. You see that the forest above Ungar is covered with quercus griffithii up to Chakpashing. Beyond Chakpashing, the trail goes uphill ushering into thick, beautiful forest along the ridge. Tiger droppings are seen frequently along this trail. It was here that the first tiger picture at a high altitude was taken. The first pastureland is called Pimi and is followed by the second one which is known as Mokpa. This second pasture land is smaller than the first.
Day 11 Mokpa to Bawang (3480m/11484; Via Rudongla-3450m/11385) It’s a full day walk. The climb to rudongla is a remarkable one. Ascending the well paved stone steps along the inclined trail is an experience very reminiscent of ancient Bhutan. One can not imagine the time and energy spent by the people who were engaged in the construction of the route. Firm stone walls had been erected at places where the trail passes step cliffs. Connecting the trail over the steep gorges are strong wooden bridges displaying the marvels of the local engineering skills. Along the trail, rhododendrons and junipers are a common sight. One cannot miss the beautiful pink carpet of dipensia himalacia. On approaching towards Rudongla, the trail becomes narrower and you can se the mist rising steadily from the valley. As you turn right and enter a narrow passage between two huge hanging rocks, the trail leads into a ridge like opening. It is not a ridge but a wall that has been raised from the bottom of the narrow gorge bridging the trail. This stone bridge is called Rudongla. After rudongla, you will see plenty of water draining through the rhododendron shrubs. The entire forest is of rhododendron flowers. The camping site is called Bawang.
Day 12 Bawang to Phokpa (3400m/11220ft; via Khemala-3720m/12276ft) It’s half day walk. The trail from Bawang to Phokpa is full of rhododendron anthopogon, r.nivale and r.setosum.
Day 13 Phokpa to Tang (3000m/9900ft) It’s a long descending walk down to tang valley but you get to enjoy the journey through the conifer zones that have mixed rhododendron spp. Associates. The conifer species you pass through are Abies densa, tsuga umosa, picea spinolosa and pinus wallichiana. The Tang people are very keen at rearing cattle and farming. In the olden days this route was the main highway connecting eastern and western Bhutan. From Tang drive back to Bumthang. Over night at the hotel. Day 14: Bumthang to Punakha (6 hrs) Altitude: 1350m/4455ft above sea level Drive to Punakha from Bumthang. You will see many r.keysii, clematis, and primula strumosa in full bloom. Overnight at Punakha
Day 15: Punakha to Paro (3 hrs) In the morning visit:
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.
Punakha Dzong (fortress): Built in 1637 by Zhabdrung which is remarkably located between the rivers of Mo (Female) Chu (river) and Pho (Male) Chu. Until the time of second king it served as a seat of the king. Now it is the winter capital of the central monk body. After lunch drive back to Paro(3 hrs). Overnight at Paro.
Day 16: In Paro In the morning hike to famous Taktshang Monastery (Tiger’s nest). It’s Bhutan’s most recognizable cultural icon. It was tragically and mysteriously consumed by fire in April 1998. It has now been restored and is perched 800m/2640ft up on a seemingly sheer cliff overlooking the valley. It is believed that in the 8th century, the great tantric master Guru Rimopche/ Padmasambhava(2nd Buddha) flew from Kurtoe (eastern Bhutan) on the back of a tigress to the present site where the magnificent monastery now stands. The path to the edifice cannot be seen from the road but one reaches the inner chambers of Taktshang Monastery after two hours of heart pounding hiking through a dense forest of oak and rhododendron.
Late in the afternoon, visit
Ta Dzong: (Watch Tower). Perched in the hills above Paro, it is no surprise that this building served as a watch tower to guard the region from the threat of Tibetan invasion. Built in the 17th Century, it was converted to the National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of Bhutanese art, relics, and religious thankas; also paintings, stuffed Bhutanese animals, antique weapons and many examples of the country’s exquisite stamp collections.
Rimpung Dzong: Your first visit to a Bhutanese fortress, Rimpung Dzong means heap of jewels, an inelegant name perhaps – but an elegant building. It was built in 1644 by Zhabdrung (deeply revered even now as a dynamic political and spiritual leader). The building is still in daily use and houses both administrative and monastic bodies.
In the evening a chance to explore Paro and meet with the local people.
Day 17: Departure from Paro Airport Early breakfast at the hotel and then drive to the airport to board the flight. Your escort from Raven Tours and Treks will assist you with exit formalities and bid you farewell.
ACCOMMODATION: The hotels used in this holiday are the best government appointed hotels in the country and equate roughly to 3 star standards. All have private bathrooms and are comfortable and well-appointed. There are a few independent luxury hotels, which can be used on request. Tents for the trek are imported from Nepal and are of a high standard.
WHAT TO TAKE DURING THE TREK:
Sturdy walking boots and walking socks, trekking pants, gloves, sleeping bags, jackets, walking sticks, sun glasses, sun hat, sun block/cream and a first-aid kit.
- Valid passport ( valid for six months after your date of entry into Asia)
- One other picture ID, such as driver’s license(in case of emergency and for use as a substitute of passport or incase of loss of your passport) Photocopy of passport page to carry in wallet
- Air tickets(Make a copy of flight tickets which may be helpful, in case of loss)
- Money (some cash, rest in Traveler’s checks), Credit cards are accepted in few places like handicraft shops and hotels.
- Inform your credit card company the place you are visiting.
- Mobile(if you have international roaming facilities)
All Tours are subject to an Acceptance Payment/Deposit of £200. Cost per person on twin share basis as per itinerary On application for the current Tour Cost Bhutan Standard Tour cost is US$ 240 per person per day – subject to confirmation at the time of booking. (This cost is specified by the Bhutanese Government.)
Payment. 1.On acceptance – £200 per person, Acceptance Payment/Deposit (non refundable) by cheque payable to “S W & M Miller”. Your Contract for all tour arrangements is directly with Raven tours & Travel, Bhutan to whom payment for the tour is made. 2. Eight weeks prior to arrival in Bhutan or on Acceptance – Full Payment in US $, by Credit Card or International Bank Transfer, direct to 3. On arrival in Bhutan – 50% payable, in US $, by Credit Card or Cash.
35 days prior to arrival a cancellation fee of US$200 per person will be applicable. 30 days notice of cancellation a fee of 25% of the total amount will be applicable. 25 days notice of cancellation a fee of 50% of the total amount will be applicable Less than 25 days notice incurs the full amount. Acceptance Payment non refundable
Included in the Cost
- Accommodation on a twin sharing, room and breakfast basis at the hotels specified,
- Full board at Wildlife Park if applicable.
- Any single room subject to supplement shown.
- All transfers, sightseeing and excursions by air-conditioned vehicle.
- Services of an English speaking local guide (or a naturalist in National Parks)
- Entrance fees at monuments and parks where applicable
- Train journeys where applicable
- Domestic Flight (economy), where applicable, are subject to change.
- Porterage at airports, rail stations and hotels (not tips).
- All currently applicable taxes.
- The UK pounds price shown is based on current exchange rates.
Excluded from the Cost
- Expenses of a personal nature such as table drinks, laundry, telephone calls, Internet charges, mineral water, tips, shopping etc.
- Any other meals or services not mentioned in the programme.
- Any international airfare or any airport taxes.
- Any Government or State taxes subsequently introduced.
- Travel Insurance