Bhutan, a mysterious kingdom nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, is no ordinary place. Here, chilies make up whole dishes, the rice is red and you get fined for not wearing your national dress.
A fascinating land heavy with deep mythology, where giant protective penises are painted on the walls of houses and ancient traditions and modern complexes intertwine seamlessly. It is a country of surprises terraced by lush rice paddies, pine forests and dotted with sparkling mountain lakes.
Bhutan is one of the most untouched kingdoms on our planet, with the doors open to only a small number of travellers each year. Now is your chance to mingle amongst the elders chewing on red beetle nut, the creak and whirr of spinning prayer wheels and the flap of fluttering prayer flags, your senses are overloaded. Bhutan will truly encapsulate you.
Welcome to Bhutan! Upon arrival at Paro International Airport, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Venture out for our welcome blessing and spiritual cleansing with a High Lama at their heritage home or inside the monastery. Be welcomed into Bhutan’s warm hospitality as you witness a sacred song and dance ceremony at a heritage home. Visit the National Museum of Bhutan which focusses on the growing importance of cultural and heritage preservation in Bhutan both for the Bhutanese people and for sharing it with others. Continue to Rinpung Dzong, a Buddhist monastery and fortress which is perched on a hill above Paro valley. (D)
Overnight at Tashi Namgay Resort or similar
After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Trashigang, approx. 1 hour (included). In the far east of Bhutan, on the bank of Gamri Chhu River lies Trashigang, the country’s largest district. This town is also the main marketplace for the semi nomadic people of Merak and Sakteng, whose costumes are unique in Bhutan.
On arrival, you will visit Karma Thegsum Dhechenling Monastery. Unlike other monasteries which are usually built with concrete, Karma Thegsum Dhechenling is built in the traditional Bhutanese style, with a structure mainly of carved wood. All the timber used in the construction was painstakingly chosen by Rinpoche and then seasoned for a year before use. Exquisitely designed in the traditional Bhutanese style, the monastery has beautifully carved beams and pillars with the mantras “Om Mani Padme Hung” and “Karmapa Chenno” inscribed on them. All the doors and window frames are also carved with auspicious patterns. The monks’ quarters can accommodate up to several hundred monks.
Participate in a traditional Butter Lamp offering before enjoying lunch at the monastery. Buddhist consider ignorance, lack of wisdom and lack of knowledge as the main source of all our problems. The offering of butter lamp is the offering of wisdom and light of knowledge to eradicate darkness or ignorance.
Following lunch, visit the Muenselling Institute for the Visually Impaired before reaching your hotel. (B,L,D)
Overnight Lingkhar Lodge or similar
This morning you will journey to Merak Village, approx. 6hrs. Merak is home to the nomadic Brokpas who can be easily spotted as they wear different costumes unlike other Bhutanese. Most distinct is their black felt hat with five fringes protruding from it known as tsipee cham woven from yak hair. The fringes help them as gutters for the rainwater and the hat serves as a cushion on their head, while carrying heavy loads. They also wear a vest made of deerskin or yak calf hide with the furs intact to provide warmth.
Here you will experience a traditional Yak dance by the villagers. The Yak dance is said to have two meanings. One version exhibits the legendary tale of Thoepa Gali, the God of Livestock, while the other version says the dance is performed as a display in respect of the yak, the principal means of livelihood for the community.
Explore Merak village as you soak in this almost time frozen and traditional way of life. Enjoy sitting around a bonfire this evening as you listen to stories of Yeti sightings shared by the local Brokpas. Dinner this evening is shared in a family farm home where you will spend the night. (B,L,D)
Overnight Family Farm House or similar
Today is all about exploring this incredible wilderness on foot. Set off as you trek towards Sakteng Village (approx. 8hrs). This hike is a truly incredible natural and cultural journey. A region that only opened 30 years ago, and even today, only a limited numbers of researchers and travellers have access to walk this trail. Your path lies within the protected area of the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to a diversity of Himalayan terrestrial ecosystems, combining alpine meadows, temperate forests and warm broad leaf forests. It is one of the most scenic pastoral valleys in Bhutan providing further glimpses into the semi nomadic lifestyle and culture of the region.
This trek is of moderate difficulty with a distance of around 29km. The first half of the trek, until you reach Nachungla Pass (4153m) is an incline. This pass is where the most yeti sightings have been recorded in the country. It splits the only two villages in the protected land preserve created by His Majesty to protect the potential livelihood of the yeti.
Enjoy lunch at Nangchungla Pass, 4200m, taking in the incredible views of the rolling valleys below and snow capped peaks around you before reaching Sakteng village where you will explore the town before reaching your next farm house. (B,L,D)
Overnight Family Farm House or similar
Today you will transfer by road back to Trashigang (approx. 5hrs) where you will check into your hotel on arrival. The remainder of the day is yours at leisure. (B,L,D)
Overnight Druk Deothjung Hotel or similar
This morning following breakfast, visit the Trashigang Dzong before you transfer to Mongar (approx. 4hrs). On arrival, enjoy a picnic lunch before visiting the Mongar Dzong. Although more recently built (1930), it was constructed the same way as all earlier dzongs, without plans or nails.
However, unlike the earlier dzongs, that are located in strategic positions, Mongar Dzong is located on a small gently sloping area just above the town. A visit to Mongar Dzong demonstrates how traditional Bhutanese architecture has continued to thrive through the centuries. (B,L,D)
Overnight Wangchuk Hotel or similar
Today is a travel day as you make your way towards Bumthang (approx. 7hrs). Your journey continues winding through rugged terrain with spectacular views on both sides of the road. The seven-hour journey passes through Ura village in Bumthang and across the highest motorable pass in the Kingdom, the Thrumshingla pass, at 4000m. Enjoy a picnic lunch enroute before arriving in the afternoon. (B,L,D)
2 nights Village Lodge or similar
This morning you will visit the Jakar Dzong or the “Castle of the White Bird” which dominates the Chamkhar valley and overlooks the town. Constructed in 1549, by the Tibetan Lam Nagi Wangchuk, the Dzong played an important role as the fortress of defence of the whole eastern Dzongkhags. It also became the seat of the first king of Bhutan.
Participate in an audience with one of Bhutan’s most highly regarded spiritual masters where he will introduce you to Buddhism and basic meditation practices. You will the continue on a pilgrimage into some of Bhutan’s most sacred monasteries. During this pilgrimage, we will learn about the spiritual history of the locations and view some of Bhutan’s most precious, sacred treasures.
Enjoy a traditional lunch at Dorjibi Farm Home before visiting the nearby weaving centre followed by a visit to the Bumthang Honey and Beer centre. At the Beer and Honey Centre, learn the history of how locals took up these practices. Tour and witness the demonstration of honey harvest and beer tasting. The most popular beer in Bumthang is a wheat beer named Red Panda. Previously, Bhutanese did not practice honey farming because it was believed that it killed the bees, but modern practices have allowed for the Bhutanese to take on this practice (B,L,D)
Transfer to the airport this morning for your included flight to Paro (approx. 30 mins) where you will then transfer to the country’s capital, Thimphu. On arrival, visit the Buddha Dordenma Statue which is perched on a hill overlooking the city. This massive, golden Buddha holds an invisible secret: Unbeknownst to many people viewing the statue, they aren’t actually looking at one Buddha, they’re looking at 125,000 of them.
Inside of Thimphu’s 169 foot Buddha Dordenma statue, there are 125,000 miniature Buddhas encapsulated inside of its enlightened bronze chest, ranging from 8 to 12 inches tall. This means that in Thimphu, which has a population of around 100,000, there are more Buddhas than human beings. The statue fulfils two prophecies. The first, foreseen by yogi Sonam Sangpo, is that a Buddhist statue would be built in the region to “bestow blessings, peace, and happiness to the whole world.” In addition, the statue is said to have been mentioned by Guru Padmasambhava, widely referred to as the “second Buddha,” in the eighth century.
Depart on foot along a local hiking trail to Debsi. This is a fairly easy trail with some of the best views of south Thimphu. It is a local trail with few to no tourists. Embrace sweeping views of the capital combined deep forest walks.
Participate in a cooking lesson with Aum Kesang at her forested home. Meet Aum Kesang Choden, Lt. Colonel (Retd), one of the first two women Police Officers in Bhutan. A self-taught Bhutanese chef who is the pioneer in Bhutan for preserving and promoting traditional Bhutanese Food Culture. Join her at her forested cabin home to learn how to cook some popular Bhutanese dishes and taste them on her peaceful patio. Here, she will use traditional instruments to cook. (B,L,D)
Overnight Peaceful Resort or similar
Depart after breakfast for the Haa Valley. From Bondey village, the road to Haa climbs up towards the chele-la pass. After driving through beautiful blue pine and rhododendron forest for 45km, you will reach Chele-la pass. It is a great place to stretch your legs and at 4200 metres, soak in the superb views of Mount Chomolhari and Jichu Drakey.
Continuing on, you will descend into Haa. On arrival at Haa Valley, meet Jigme Khesar Strict Nature Reserve’s Head National Park Ranger over lunch at Ugyen Doley Farm Housee. Receive army permits and hike beyond the military checkpoint into one of the most untouched regions of the Himalayas with the ranger. Hike along the ancient illegal trade route between Bhutan and Tibet and overnight at Talela Pass (3780m). Search for wildlife like snow leopard and blue deer. Look for rhododendrons. The 3 hours hike is moderate with a gentle climb.
This evening, relax around a bonfire for a Bhutanese whiskey tasting before being joined by Tsip, an astrologer who will read the magnificent night sky for you. (B,L,D)
Overnight Comfort Camp or similar
This morning you will be transferred back to Paro (approx. 2hrs). Stop at the Chelela Pass Ridge where you will hike to Kila Nunnery. The walk begins among the thick fluttering prayer flags. To get blessed and gain merit, you can also attached your own prayer flags. Absorb the views of Paro valley on your right and Haa valley on your left. The thick rhododendron bush and wild flowers adorn the mountain slope making your walk more rewarding. The highest ridge, Kungkarpo, stands at about 4600 metres, the spot for sky burial. From here the trail descends steeply through opened natural meadow and then enters a thick wood of silver fir forest and broadleaved rhododendrons trees before coming out above the Kila Goenpa Nunnery. Visit the temple, pray and interact with nuns before you drive back to hotel. Spend time exploring Paro town on arrival. (B,L,D)
2 nights Tashi Namgay Resort or similar
Today it is time to trek to Taktsang Monastery, also known as the ‘Tigers Nest.’ The Taktsang Monastery is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor. It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. Visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 this site has been recognised as a most sacred place. It is said all Bhutanese should visit at least once in their lifetime. On 19th April 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of the building but this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendour.
The hike to the monastery can be broken down into stages. The first stage is the trek to the cafeteria (where lunch will be served) which is situated on a rocky outcrop across a ravine from the monastery. This leg of the trek takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes to reach.
The 2nd stage of the walk is from the cafeteria to the lookout opposite the monastery. This leg takes close to one hour. The 3rd stage is the trek/climb down the 475 steps in the cliff face to the bottom of the ravine which crosses over a stream and waterfall before the path again ascends another 300 odd steps to the entrance of the monastery. The visit and climb to the entrance and back to the lookout will take approximately one hour. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the mountainside. (B,L,D)
Following breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to Paro airport for your flight to your onward destination. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 4 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.