Bhutan Unveiled

13 Days
from AUD$ 13,755

Single Supplement AUD$ 2,043.00

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Highlights

  • Blessing and spiritual cleansing with a High Lama
  • Witness a traditional Yak Dance
  • Trek to Sakteng Village on a restricted access trail
  • Stay in a traditional Bhutanese farmhouse
  • Participate in an audience with one of Bhutan’s most highly regarded spiritual masters
  • Cooking class with Aum Kesang Choden, Lt. Colonel one of the first two women Police Officers in Bhutan
  • Hike along the ancient illegal trade route between Bhutan and Tibet and overnight at Talela Pass
  • Bhutanese whiskey tasting
  • Tigers Nest

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.

Journey map

Fitness level

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Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Paro

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

Day 2 - Fly to Trashigang

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

Day 3 – Merak

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

Day 4 – Sakteng Village

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

Day 5 – Trashigang

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

Day 6 – Mongar

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

Day 7 - Bumthang

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

Day 8 – Bumthang

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)

Day 9 – Fly to Paro

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

Day 10 - Haa Valley

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

Day 11 – Paro

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

Day 12 - Tigers Nest

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)

Day 13 - Departure

Following breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to Paro airport for your flight to your onward destination. (B)

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What’s included

  • Return airport transfers
  • 12 nights accommodation
  • Meals as per the itinerary
  • Air conditioned 4WD transportation with English speaking local guide
  • Sightseeing as per the itinerary
  • Entrance fee to all attractions as per itinerary
  • Bhutan visa fee
  • Domestic flights as mentioned in the itinerary
Exclusions
  • International and domestic flights
  • Visas
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • All services, meals other than those indicated above
  • Any changes to the proposed and confirmed program.
  • All items of a personal nature e.g. drinks, laundry, telephone calls, tips et

**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.

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Availability

Start Date
End Date
Duration
Availability
Price
Start Date
17th Apr 2023
End Date
29th Apr 2023
Duration
13 Days
Availability
Available
Price
$13,755 AUD
Start Date
02nd Oct 2023
End Date
14th Oct 2023
Duration
13 Days
Availability
Available
Price
$13,755 AUD