The Kingdom of Bhutan is a tiny sovereign independent country located in the heart of the eastern Himalayas. It is tucked away between the two giants of Asia, the Tibetan Region of China to its north and the vast plains of India to its east, west and south. Westerners call it the last Shangri-La. Bhutanese call it Druk-yul, which means the Land of the Thunder Dragon. Bhutan is one of the few countries that escaped colonization. It remained independent throughout its history. Bhutan remained in self-imposed isolation for centuries and therefore has a unique culture deeply influenced by Buddhism with a rich and varied heritage and traditions. It embarked on a planned modernization only in the early 1960s. Through its enlightened policy, Bhutan maintains a pristine environment with a rich biodiversity. Bhutan’s development policy is firmly based on the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). The kingdom opened its door to controlled tourists only in the early 1970s. Now is the time to experience the last Shangri-La.
Highlights of the Trip
- Tour led by former Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk, Bhutan’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York, under whose stewardship the Happiness Resolution was authored and tabled at the UN
- Thangbi Mani Tshechu, Choekhor, Bumthang (annual festival)
- Traditional dinner hosted at Ambassador Wangchuk’s family home where you will meet interesting people
- Traditional lunch at Ambassador Lhatu’s sister’s home in a remote hamlet normally inhabited by lay monks/lay nuns and their families
- Visit Gross National Happiness Centre Bhutan (GNHCB) and experience a meditation session followed by discussion on Gross National Happiness (GNH)
- Informal discussions on various topics of interest with Ambassador Wangchuk throughout the entire tour
- Farewell dinner with cultural program
Lhatu Wangchuk was born on 25th December 1951, in Rongthung, Trashigang, in Bhutan, and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, Economics and Sociology. He was appointed Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Bhutan to the United Nations on the 8th of January 2009 in New York. He was concurrently accredited to Canada and Brazil. Before his appointment, Lhatu Wangchuk held the post of Director General of the Department of Tourism in Bhutan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs since 2002 to 2009. From 1998 to 2002, he was his country’s Ambassador to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea. From 1992 to 1998, Lhatu Wangchuk served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, until 1994 as Chief of Protocol, and from then on as Acting Foreign Secretary. Previously, beginning in 1989, he was Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Consul General of Bhutan to the United States of America in New York.
He served as Secretary of the National Urban Development Corporation, responsible to planning all towns of the 20 Dzongkhags/Districts, from 1983 to 1988 and as Deputy Secretary from 1981until1983. From 1979 until 1981, he was Second Secretary at the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in New Delhi, India, and from 1976 until 1979 he served as Third Secretary at his country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Earlier positions in the Foreign Affairs Department included accountant (1971-1974), Attaché (1974-1975) and Under-Secretary (1975-1976).
Susan Geringer, owner of Geringer Global Travel, is an experiential and luxury India, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka travel specialist creating custom itineraries to India and the Subcontinent. Frequently traveling to the area, Susan is able to keep a constant pulse on new properties, hidden gems, and discovering unique experiences that make her clients’ itineraries even more exciting. To understand a foreign culture, Geringer Global Travel feels there is nothing more important than one-on-one interaction with the local people for a chance to join them in their everyday lives. Susan is a member of ASTA, New York City Chapter as well as the New York City Chapter of PATA (Pacific Asian Travel Association).
Day 1: Saturday, October 5, 2019
Bangkok – Paro – Thimphu
The flight from Bangkok to Paro takes about 3 hours including a stop in India. Before approaching Paro, you will have a beautiful view of some of the highest Himalayan mountain peaks on a clear day.
The group will be welcomed at Paro International Airport and then transferred to Thimphu. The drive to Thimphu, the Capital City of Bhutan, (60 km) will take approximately 1 hour.
On arrival at the hotel, the group will be met by Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk who will join everyone for a traditional welcome tea/coffee.
Depending on time of arrival, a few sights on day 2 will be covered.
Enjoy a Welcome Dinner hosted by Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk and his family in their home. At dinner, the group will meet some friends of the family including some important government officials. During the dinner you will have an opportunity to discuss and ask as many questions as you want about Bhutan.
Hotel: Ramada or similar (D)
Day 2: Sunday, October 6, 2019
After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy sightseeing of the valley. We will visit as many of the below places as possible.
Visit Dupthop Lhakhang, better known as the Zilukha Nunnery located on the face of a hill. From here you have a panoramic view of the Royal Secretariat, Royal Thimphu Golf Course, Parliamentary building and the northern part of Thimphu valley. This is a good place to take photographs.
Drive to the statue of the seating Buddha at Kuenselphodrang. This statue, perhaps the largest seating Buddha in the world, sits on a face of a gentle hill overlooking the valley of Thimphu.
Visit Memorial Chorten (stupa). This monument (stupa) was built by Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother in 1972 in memory of His Majesty the Third King who passed away in 1972.
Visit the Royal Textile Academy. Bhutan is well known for its finest hand-woven textiles with intricate designs. This academy was established under the Royal patronage of Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck.
Visit the School of Fine Arts. This is the school where artisans are trained in different skills.
Visit the Folk Heritage Museum. Typical farmhouse setting exhibiting how Bhutanese people live in the remote villages. This museum is established with a view to connecting people with Bhutanese folk heritage and rural history through exhibits, demonstrations, educational programs and documentation of Bhutanese rural life.
Traditional and contemporary art. Spend an hour with Artist, Azha Karma, to discuss traditional and contemporary arts of Bhutan.
Visit the Institute of Traditional Medicine. Bhutan is known as the land of medicines and medicinal herbs. Traditional medicine is being practiced in close collaboration with allopathic medicine.
Attend a short meditation session conducted by a monk or a lay practitioner before a traditional dinner held at a local restaurant. You will have the opportunity to discuss Gross National Happiness during dinner.
Hotel: Ramada or similar (B, L, D)
Day 3: Monday, October 7, 2019
Thimphu – Punakha
After breakfast, drive to Punakha. 70 km – roughly around a 3 hour drive.
After an hour’s drive, stop at Dochu-La (3150 meters above the sea level). You will have a most beautiful and panoramic view of the snow – covered mountain ranges of Bhutan and Tibet. There you will see 108 choetens. The choetens were built under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty, the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, to honor and to express gratitude to His Majesty the Fourth King and the people for the victory in the war fought in 2003 in the southeastern region of the country that was occupied by the militants from the neighboring country.
In the late afternoon, visit Punakha Dzong, which is situated at the confluence of the two rivers known as Pho-Chu (male river) and Mo-Chu (female river). Punakha was the old capital of Bhutan until it was moved to Thimphu. It is still the winter residence of Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of the Kingdom and the Central Monk Body.
Hotel: Hotel Lobesa or Wangdue Eco Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 4: Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Punakha – Gangtey (Phobjikha)
After breakfast and on the way to Gangtey walk to Chime Lhakhang that sits on a round hillock. This Lhakhang (Temple) was blessed particularly for fertility by the famous divine madman, Drukpa Kunlay, an enlightened being. It is a very popular pilgrimage site particularly for couples, who are unable to bear children. There are many testimonials that couples, who could not conceive earlier did conceive after visiting and praying at this temple. Afterwards, depart for Gangtey (78 km, roughly around a 3 hour drive). After arrival, check into the hotel. If time permits, visit the famous Gangtey monastery (dating back to the 16th century). It is the one and the only Nyingmapa monastery in the western part of Bhutan.
Hotel: Hotel Dewachen or Gakiling Resort (B, L, D)
Day 5: Wednesday, October 9, 2019
Phobjikha is a home to the rare and endangered black-necked cranes. They migrate from their summer residence in Tibet and elsewhere in China to Phobjikha during the winter months. After breakfast at the hotel, visit the Black Neck Crane Center.
Afterwards, take a nature walk to explore the valley. Phobjikha valley is one of the most beautiful glaciated valleys in central Bhutan. On the way back, visit the Khewang Lhakhang (Temple) and see the incense manufactured by the monks.
Hotel: Hotel Dewachen or Gakiling Resort (B. L, D)
Day 6: Thursday, October 10, 2019
Gangtey – Bumthang
After breakfast, drive to Bumthang. Bumthang is about 180 km and the driving time is approximately five and half hours. The drive from here to Bumthang will take you through the alpine forests. The highest altitude you will cross is Pelela (3,390 meters above the sea level). On the way, visit the beautiful Trongsa museum housed in the old watch tower and the famous Trongsa Dzong.
Hotel: Mountain Lodge/Samyae Hotel/Yugarling Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 7 & Day 8: Friday, October 11 and Saturday, October, 12, 2019
The Tshechu is a religious festival in honor of Guru Padmasambhava, “one who was born from a lotus flower” popularly known as Guru Rinpoche. It is held around the Dzongs (fortress) and monasteries on the tenth day of a month of the lunar calendar corresponding to the birthday of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). It is believed that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once in order to receive blessings and wash away their sins. Every mask dance performed during a Tshechu has a special meaning or a story behind it and many are based on stories and incidents from as long ago as the 8th century during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. In monasteries, the mask dances are performed by monks and in remote villages they are performed jointly by monks and village men (laymen).
In addition to the mask dances, Tshechu also includes colorful folk dances and other forms of entertainment. It is also a grand event where the entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings and socialize. It is a bright, colorful affair with hundreds of people from the city and surrounding countryside filling the courtyards and temple grounds to watch and participate in the event.
Morning: Witness the festival.
Afternoon: Sightseeing of the valley/nature walk around the valley.
Places of interest are listed below:
Visit Jambay Lhakhang (monastery). It is one of the oldest monasteries in Bhutan.
Visit Kurje Lhakhang: 3 temples, two of them were built by Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother, Mother of the Fourth King. Guru Rinpoche, the Indian Saint who brought Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan, meditated here.
Visit Lhoddrakharchu Gompa. This Buddhist School was established by a reincarnate monk, His Holiness Namkhenyingpo.
Hotel: Mountain Lodge/Samyae Hotel/Yugarling Hotel (B. L, D)
Day 9: Sunday, October 13, 2019
Bumthang – Monggar
After an early breakfast, we leave for Monggar, which is about 193 kilometers. The driving time will take approximately 7 hours. Road conditions are fair.
After checking into the hotel, we will do local sightseeing around a small town.
Hotel: Wangchuk Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 10: Monday, October 14, 2019
Monggar – Trashigang
After breakfast, we leave for Trashigang. Trashigang is about 90 kilometers and the driving time is about 3 hours.
Hotel: Lingkhar Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 11: Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Enjoy the ambience of the Lingkhar Lodge. Lingkhar Lodge is located at the foothill of Rongthung village surrounded by beautiful gardens and rice fields with plenty of flora and fauna. After breakfast, drive to Shingchen Gompa, Yonphula and visit Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk’s sister’s home for a traditional lunch.
On the way, visit Kanglung Degree College and other interesting sites – perhaps visit a typical Bhutanese home (Ngawang Pelzang’s home)
Day 12: Wednesday, October 16, 2019
After breakfast, visit Rangshikhar village. Lunch will be at a noble house which is now converted to a home stay. After lunch, visit Trashigang Dzong. Trashigang Dzong or ‘The Fortress of the Auspicious Hill’ was built in 1659 to defend against Tibetan invasions. This imposing fortress is strategically situated high atop a spur overlooking the Dangmechu River. It is accessible only from the north via a narrow roa, paved by blasting through the cliff-side. Due to its location of Trashigang Dzong, it is one of the most strategically placed Dzongs in Bhutan. The present Dzong (Fortress) was enlarged by Dzongpon Dopola in 1936.
After the visit, time permitting, visit Ambassador Wangchuk’s old school where he did his primary to high school education.
Day 13: Thursday, October 17, 2019
Trashigang – Paro by air
After breakfast leave for Yonphula airport to catch a flight to Paro. The flight will take about an hour. After checking into the hotel, we will do sightseeing in Paro.
Hotel: Naksel Hotel & Spa (B, L, D)
Day 14: Friday, October 18, 2019
After an early breakfast, leave the hotel at 7 am for your hike to the famous Taktshang (Tiger’s Lair or Nest). It is approximately 3 hours up and 2 hours down. Taktshang Temple clings to a sheer cliff of 3,000 feet above the valley. The great Indian Saint, brought Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan. He came on a flying tigress and meditated here in a cave that is now concealed behind a carved wooden grill in the inner sanctum of the temple. The inner sanctum is opened only once a year.
Lunch will be served at a local restaurant after we get back to the valley. After lunch, we will do some sightseeing of the valley:
Visit Rinpung Dzong, popularly known as Paro Dzong, which is the seat of the local government and the monk body of Paro.
Visit Kyichu Lhakhang (temple) built by the Tibetan Buddhist King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. Under the Royal patronage of Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother, Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, this Lhakhang has been restored to its former glory like many other similar monasteries in the country.
Evening: Enjoy a special farewell dinner given by Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk, accompanied by music and folk dance.
Hotel: Naksel Hotel & Spa (B, L, D)
Day 15: Saturday, October 19, 2019
Paro – Airport
Flight: Druk Air or Tashi Air
Depart from Paro International Airport to Bangkok
Our tour representative will see you off at the airport. He or she will also assist you with the departure formalities in case any help is needed. Our Representative will bid you farewell “Lok Jeygay – See You Again”
This trip is limited to 12 people.
- 14 night accommodations, Standard hotels except for Naksel and Ramada which are star rated hotels
- Flight from Bangkok – Paro – Bangkok and Yongphula – Paro
(Subject to change until ticketed)
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner all days
- All transfers and transportation
- Entrance fees
- English – speaking guide
- Bhutan visa
Quote Does Not Include:
- Hotel in Bangkok, transfer to the hotel to the airport
- Cancellation and evacuation Insurance – Mandatory
- Alcohol beverages