Come Travel Bhutan with Me!

Posted on September 5, 2017 by

Join me on my WildJunket Bhutan Tour this December

travel bhutan wildjunket

This December, I’ll be traveling Bhutan once again — but this time, I want you to come with me! Of all the 117 countries I’ve been, Bhutan is still one of my favorite countries, and I’m sure you’ll be love it as much as I do.

The Himalayan nation is one of the few places left in the world that’s still shrouded in mystery: perhaps because of its isolated location within mighty mountain chains, or the Buddhist myths and legends surrounding it. Having only opened its doors to international tourists in 1974, the country has come a long way in terms of development and modernization. But the Bhutanese continue to proudly protect their traditions and conserve the natural environment. Only in this part of the world is Gross National Happiness (GNH) more important than the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

On this 8-day Bhutan trip, we’ll be exploring the main highlights of the country: from the spectacular Tiger’s Nest Monastery to the impressive fortress of Punakha Dzong, and the glacial bowl-shaped Phobjikha Valley. The trip will take us into locals’ home, into rural villages and cities, into spectacular Buddhist monasteries, and onto the backroads of Bbhutan. As always, it’ll be a small-group adventure trip, focusing largely on discovering and learning, in a flexible manner.

This Bhutan tour runs from 11 -18 December 2017, as an extension of my Nagaland tour (3-10 December). Combine the two trips together and enjoy a 10% discount! 

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EMAIL ME TO SIGN UP NOW!


The Druk Wangyel Festival

We will be traveling Bhutan during the annual Druk Wangyel Festival, one of the many colorful tsechus (religious festivals) that the country is famous for. There’ll be a spectacular display of colorful traditional costumes and dramatic masks, making for great photography opportunities and cultural-immersion experiences.

The Druk Wangyel Tshechu is a unique festival performed by the Royal Bhutan Army rather than monks or actors. It is a tribute to the Fourth King of Bhutan. It also celebrates the continuous efforts of the Royal Bhutan Army in protecting the sovereignty and the stability of the country. This one of a kind tshechu is performed against the backdrop of the magnificent Jigme Singye Wangchuck mountain range.

The tshechu takes place every December 13th at the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang Festival Ground located at Dochula Pass (3100m or 10170 feet above sea level). Dochula Pass is one of the most scenic locations in the entire kingdom, offering a stunning panoramic view of the Himalayan mountain range. Set amidst this breathtaking backdrop, the festival is an experience unlike any other and true exemplifies Bhutanese cultural traditions. 

Read more about the festival here.


Why join this Bhutan Tour?

Firstly, independent travel is not allowed in Bhutan, except for Indian, Bangladeshi & Maldivian nationals. All other foreign visitors are required to travel on a tour in order to get a visa for Bhutan. Visitor numbers are controlled and mountaineering is forbidden – the high-value, low-impact strategy means that daily tariffs of between US$200-$250 are imposed on tourists. A third of this tariff goes to the government for health and educational projects.

Secondly, this Bhutan tour costs US$1,680 for 8 days and includes everything: Bhutan visa, 3-star accommodation, transport, all meals, hikes and guide. Once you get to Bhutan, you won’t need to spend on anything except personal items and souvenirs. Do a bit of research and you’ll know that this is the standard price for a 8-day tour in Bhutan.

The tour runs from 11 to 18 December 2017. It’s one of the best times to travel Bhutan, because it will be sunny and clear, and landscapes will be lush and green. It’s surprisingly cool during the day, with temperatures around 14°C (56F); it only gets chilly at night, temperatures dropping to 5°C (36F). On our itinerary is Bhutan’s main attraction in winter, the beautiful Phobjikha Valley, where we can spot nesting Black-Necked Cranes.

Lastly, we’ll be experiencing the absolute best of Bhutan in a relatively short span of time. Tiger’s Nest, Punakha fortress, Paro fortress, Docho La Pass — these are all some of the most historically rich and impressive buildings in the country. The trip will take us through some of the most dramatic mountain landscapes you’ll see in Bhutan. We’ll also be doing lots of short hikes in valleys and around rice paddies, visiting small villages and getting a glimpse of how locals live.

You can’t travel Bhutan without going on a tour. So why not join me and other like-minded independent travelers who are just as curious to learn about Bhutan?

travel bhutan


What this WildJunket Bhutan Tour is about

My goal is to organise a trip that doesn’t feel like a tour. Think of it as a bunch of independent travelers having an adventure together. 

It’s a very small group (anything from 3 to 13) and the arrangement is informal and flexible. We have a rough itinerary but it’s not fixed; we can always make changes. Basically there’s a lot of freedom and flexibility.

This trip will be culturally immersive and experiential, allowing us to learn and experience the Bhutanese culture from ground level. We’ll go local, eating at local eateries and staying at locally owned guesthouses and hotels. We also have an experienced, Bhutanese guide so he’ll be there to answer any question you may have about their culture, traditions and history. That’s the style of my WildJunket tours

Read about how my first WildJunket tour went.

nagaland hornbill festival tourMy WildJunket tour to Tibet


Why Travel with Me

I have over 14 years of experience traveling to some of the wildest and craziest parts of the world. For those who don’t know me, I’m an adventure travel blogger and professional travel writer, with a special knack for off-the-beaten-path travel and unusual destinations.

I’ve been to 117 countries on all 7 continents, and have gone on some crazy adventures including expedition cruising to Antarctica, gorilla tracking in Uganda, bungee jumping in New Zealand, traveling undercover in North Korea, and traversing the Silk Road overland.

Another bonus for traveling with me is that I’ll be sharing all I know about building a career in travel. If you’re interested in learning about travel blogging or writing, feel free to fire away and ask me for advice in person! I can even teach you a thing or two about finding work in the new digital industry or publishing. I’m always happy to share my experience and personal tips with you along the way.

TRAVEL WITH ME ON MY WILDJUNKET TOURS 

travel bhutan with wildjunket


Overview of My Bhutan Trip

  • Dates: 11 – 18 December 2017

  • Duration: 8 Days

  • Start: Paro, Bhutan

  • Finish: Paro, Bhutan

  • Maximum Group Size: 13 people (no minimum)

  • Group Leader: Nellie (that’s me!)

  • Cost: US$1,680

BOOK MY NAGALAND TOUR WITH THIS TRIP TO ENJOY 10% DISCOUNT!  

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OUR BHUTAN TOUR ITINERARY

Day 1 — 11 December: Arrival in Paro

The flight into Paro (2200 m/ 7800 ft.) on the national carrier, Druk Air, is the perfect introduction to the spectacular beauty of Bhutan. From a window seat on clear days, you can enjoy a spectacular view of Mount Everest and Bhutan’s snow capped peaks as you approach Paro.

On arrival, we will meet you at the airport and drive to the capital city, Thimphu (2400 m/ 8000 ft.). The 45 minute drive follows the rivers of Paro and Thimphu. You will have plenty of time to look around the city, the only capital in the world with no traffic lights. We recommend spending time admiring the architecture and visiting the market, as well as the arts and craft market just across the street.

Stay overnight in Thimphu.

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Day 2 — 12 December: Explore Thimphu Valley

After an early breakfast, we’ll spend the day exploring Thimphu and its surroundings properly. Our first stop is the Memorial Chorten built in the memory of the third Bhutanese King and get a glimpse of how local pilgrims worship. We’ll then drive to Motithang for a bird’s eye view of the capital city and to see the biggest Buddha statue in Bhutan. Then, we’ll visit a wildlife nature park to meet the Takin, the national animal of Bhutan. There is an interesting story to their existence, which you will hear from your guide.

We’ll then return to town for lunch at a local restaurant — prepare to be surprised by Bhutanese food. It’s delicious and spicy and there’s plenty of variety. Don’t forget to try the Bhutanese favorite dish, ema datshi, green chilli with melted cheese. After lunch, we’ll continue to visit the Bhutanese Indigenous Hospital, Traditional Painting School, National Library. Time permitting, we will visit Simtokha Dzong (fortress), the first Dzong in Bhutan built in 1624; it currently houses the Institute of Learning for Culture and Buddhist Studies.

Stay overnight in Thimphu.

travel bhutan thimphu

Day 3 — 13 December: See the Druk Wangyel Festival!

Leaving Thimphu behind, we’ll take the road that gradually climbs through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochula pass (3,050 m/10,000 ft.). The open grounds in its front yard is the venue for the Dochula Druk Wangyel Festival. We’ll spend the day enjoying the festival and getting to know the Bhutanese myths and stories related to it.

In the afternoon/evening, we will descend along a series of hairpin bends to the fertile valley of Punakha (1,350 meters/ 4,430 feet). Before arriving at Punakha town, we will hike through rice fields to Chimi Lhakhang temple located on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the great Yogi in 14th century known as Drukpa Kuenley or popularly known as the “Divine madman” in the west. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. A popular pilgrimage spot for the Bhutanese, it is frequented by childless couples and parents who have difficulty raising children.

Stay overnight in Punakha.

travel bhutanPhoto credit: Yeshey Dorji

Day 4 — 14 December: Visit the Punakha Dzong

We’ll begin our day at Punakha Dzong (Fortress) situated between the two rivers Pho Chu and Mochu (Male and Female Rivers). Meaning “the palace of great happiness or bliss”, Punakha Dzong was the administrative centre and the seat of the Government of Bhutan until 1955, when the capital was moved to Thimphu. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan’s Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.

After the visit, we’ll start our hike by crossing the Mochu River and ascending a numerous switchbacks to the Namgyel Khamsum Yuely Chorten. Looking downstream, the viewpoint here affords grand views of the Mochu River Valley below. We descend from the temple and follow a well-worn path down the valley through rice fields and small villages. Along the way we are rewarded with stunning views, the terraced rice paddies providing an exotic backdrop to the river below.

Stay overnight in Punakha.

bhutan tour

Day 5 — 15 December: Hike the Phobjikha valley (3 hr drive)

Our journey continues today to Phobjikha Valley – one of the highlights of this trip. Phobjikha Valley is a bowl-shaped glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains. Because of the large flock of black-necked cranes that winters here, it is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country. In addition to the cranes there are also muntjacs (barking deer), wild boars, sambars, serows, Himalayan black bears, leopards and red foxes in the surrounding hills. We’ll be spending the day hiking in the valley, visiting temples and farms in the area.

Stay overnight in Phobjikha.

travel Bhutan

Day 6 — 16 December: Back to Paro

Today we will drive all the way back to Paro (5 hours). Upon arrival, we’ll visit a traditional farmhouse to learn more about how rural families live. Most traditional houses in rural Bhutan consist of three stories: the bottom level is for animals, the middle level is for the family to live, and the highest floor is usually a prayer hall dedicated to worshipping. We’ll watch the family prepare lunch (and even cook with them!) and get to know them on a different level.

After lunch, we’ll head to the Paro Rinchen Pung Dzong (meaning ‘fortress on a heap of jewels’), the religious and secular center of Paro, and certainly the most dominant feature in the valley. The dzong was first conceived in the 15th-century, and finally consecrated in 1646. From the Dzong, we will hike to the river and cross Nyamai Zampa, a traditional cantilever bridge.

Stay overnight in Paro.

travel bhutan paro

Day 7 — 17 December: Climb up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery

After breakfast, we’ll go to the starting point of the excursion to view the spectacular and famous Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest).The trail to the monastery climbs through beautiful pine forest, many of the trees festooned with Spanish moss, and an occasional grove of fluttering prayer flags. Built in 1600s, this incredible monastery clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. It is believed that, Guru Rimpoche, the tantric mystic who brought Buddhism to Bhutan, landed here on the back of a flying tigress to subdue a demon. Guru Rimpoche is supposed to have meditated here for three months and it is considered like a Mecca for Buddhists.

In the afternoon, we’ll drive further up the valley to Drukgyel Dzong (the fortress of the victorious Drukpas) built in 1646 to celebrate victory over Tibetan invading forces and also to curtail further invasions from the enemy. The route is picturesque, and the site of dzong magnificent.

Stay overnight in Paro.

travel bhutan

Day 8 — 18 December: Departure Day

We will drop you at Paro International Airport and say goodbye.


BHUTAN TOUR COST: US$1680

  • Deposit: US$300 due at booking (non-refundable)
  • Balance Due: 11th November 2017
  • Payment method: Paypal or bank transfer (email me for more details)

What’s included:

  • Bhutan visa.
  • All activities listed in the itinerary.
  • Knowledgeable English-speaking local tour guide and experienced drivers.
  • Transport: Comfortable mini-van.
  • Airport Transfers: From airport to hotel on day of arrival and departure.
  • All meals.
  • Accommodation: 7 nights’ lodging in comfortable 3-star hotels. You will be sharing a room with another person in the group; If you prefer to stay in one room by yourself, a single room supplement of US$300 applies.

What’s not included:

  • International flight to Paro, Bhutan.
  • Tips and gratitude to tour guide and drivers.
  • Personal expenses, like snacks, drinks, etc.

SIGN UP HERE!

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FAQ’s

How do I sign up?

Please email me or fill up the form at the bottom of this page, and I’ll respond with payment details.

What if I cancel? What is your refund policy?

Because of the limited spaces on the trip and pre-paid accommodation, the US$300 deposit is non-refundable. Your trip is confirmed once the deposit is received. The full balance is due on 11th November 2017. 

If you cancel before the tour starts, here are the cancellation charges:

  • Before 11th November 2017 — 20% of total trip cost
  • Between 12th and 26th November 2017 — 30% of total trip cost
  • Between 27th November and 10th December 2017 — 50% of total trip cost
  • No show — 100% of total trip cost

If I cancel the tour for any personal or political reason, you will get a full refund.

Where shall I fly into and out of?

The tour will start and end in Paro, the only city with an international airport. DrukAir offers direct flights from nearby cities: it is the cheapest to fly to Paro from Kathmandu (US$425 return), followed by Kolkata (US$465). Other options are Delhi (US$685) and Bangkok (US$765). Because of the flight times, you will have to spend a night pre and post Bhutan trip at the gateway city.

Will I be picked up and dropped off at the airport?

Yes we will provide transfers from the airport. Just let me know your arrival/departure time and we will make sure you get picked up from the airport.

Where will we be staying?

Our accommodation will be in comfortable, high quality 4-star hotels. They range from modern business hotels to beautiful country lodge. Rooms will be equipped with air-conditioning/heating, hot water supply, and private bathroom. If you are traveling solo, you will be sharing a room with another person in the group.

travel bhutan

What if I want my own room?

I can arrange this for you at an additional cost of US$300 (subject to availability). Let me know in your email.

Do I need travel insurance?

Our tour doesn’t include any travel insurance. I always recommend having travel insurance regardless of where you go — even if you just travel twice a year on vacation. I’ve been using Travel Guard annual travel insurance since I started traveling in 2003 and recommend it to anyone who travels often.

How much spending money do I need?

As all accommodation, meals, transport and activities are included, you’ll only need money for personal expenses. I estimate just $200 for tips and souvenirs. This amount of course varies depending on what you spend on.

How many people will be on the tour?

There is no minimum on the number of people, but there will be a maximum of 13 people on the trip. We want to keep the group small, so you get a better experience and it feels more like a group of friends traveling together. 

Feel free to email me with any questions you have or write them in the comments below!

Our guide and driver


TESTIMONIALS

I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with Nellie three times and it has always been a blast! When we met traveling in Africa, her passion and love for travel were infectious. Our group had so much fun that we decided to travel with her again, this time to hike the Camino de Santiago in Spain! If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have known about this challenging and rewarding adventure! She organized this second trip so that it ran without a hitch. I joined her first WildJunket tour, to Tibet, and it was a great experience again. I wholeheartedly recommend traveling with Nellie.

— Brian Fung, Canada 

I have been traveling with Nellie for 10 years. She was my first tour guide. I was pretty nervous as a solo traveler. I was worried about booking flights online, customs documents and local customs. She reassured me. She has showed me the best tapa bars in Spain, train travel in Morocco, elephant sanctuary in Bali, Singapore high rises.

She is currently planning our Ethiopia tour next month. I’m not sure what to expect in Ethiopia, but I know that is will be exciting and with lots of food. She handles everything promptly and answers all my questions.

— Melinda Countway, Canada

Nellie is a great travel partner! Her resourcefulness, spontaneous spirit, love for food and especially for travel and exploring made the whole trip super fun. We either always have something fun to do, or we’ll simply sit and marvel at the beauty of our new surroundings. We would also have fun throwing instant pop-quizzes at each other, because it’s more meaningful to learn about the place instead of just going there. I look forward to our next trip together!!!

—- Tay Yan Bing, Singapore

What an amazing trip with Nellie on her first WildJunket tour! Tibet is a gorgeous land, filled with rich history and vibrant culture. It was wonderful to visit Tibet’s ornate temples and sacred monasteries with like-minded travellers on this once in a lifetime adventure. We also spent a beautiful night at Everest Base Camp, gazing at the brilliant stars and then waking up to the stunning sight of Mount Everest in the morning! It was unbelievable!

— Hannah Enightoola, Trinidad


ENQUIRE ABOUT THE TRIP HERE

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

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