Bhutan Introduction

Around The Sun’s Bhutan Introduction trip is the perfect introduction to Bhutan. It’s a quick, road-touring overview of all the most important sights. Most days involve at least one easy walk - to get you off the road and into the countryside and villages to meet the locals. 

The itinerary has room for flexibility, and depending on the groups’ interest and fitness, there is room for more cultural, religious and walking experiences along the way. There’ll always be time to stop at something interesting like a market or an archery contest.

Private groups can be run all year, and there are ‘comfortable’ and ‘luxury’ options. High season, with the best weather, is from March to May and from September to November.

Highlights of Around The Sun’s Bhutan Introduction include: 

Day 1 & 2   Arrive in Paro and transfer to Thimphu. Explore some of the sights of Thimphu, including the textile and folk museums. Visit Tashichho Dzong, the main dzong (fortress/palace/temple/monastery) in Thimphu, and the seat of Bhutan’s government.

Day 3 & 4   Drive to the beautiful Phobijikha Valley, encircled by pine forests, with prosperous, traditional farms - a bit like a valley hidden in the Swiss Alps. It is the winter home to the stunning, very rare, Black Necked Crane. 

Day 5 & 6   Drive to Punakha. Explore the countryside and some famous temples and monasteries with a number of short walks. Visit the magnificent Punakha Dzong, built in 1637 CE. Hike along the banks of the Mo Chhu (river).

Day 7 & 8   Drive to Paro and visit the impressive Paro Dzong. After an early breakfast on Day 8, hike to the magical Tiger’s Nest (Takstang Monastery). The complete trek takes around four hours, but there are spectacular viewpoints (one with a small tea shop) that can be easily reached.

Day 9   Depart

2018 Dates

Private Groups - Comfortable - Available all year - 8 nights, airfare not included - from $3999 twin share Code: BHBI-16-PGC

Private Groups - Luxury - Available all year - 8 nights, airfare not included - including the Shivaling Hotel in Paro, and the Druk Hotel in Thimphu - from $5999 twin share Code: BHBI-16-PGL

Around The Sun trips do not include airfares. The Bhutan trips include a local guide, all transport, accommodation, and meals - but not drinks, other than water. Tents and mattresses are supplied for treks, rafts and PFD's are supplied for rafting, and bikes and helmets are supplied for mountain biking. See our detailed packing list (supplied with a detailed itinerary when you confirm your booking) for personal luggage requirements.

2018 Dates

Private Groups - Comfortable - Available all year - 8 nights, airfare not included - from AUD $3999 per person, twin share Code: BHBI-15-PGC

Private Groups - Luxury - Available all year - 8 nights, airfare not included - including the Shivaling Hotel in Paro, and the Druk Hotel in Thimphu -from AUD $5999 per person, twin share Code: BHBI-15-PGL

2018 Dates

Private Groups - Comfortable - Available all year - 8 nights, airfare not included - from AUD $3999 per person, twin share Code: BHBI-16-PGC

Private Groups - Luxury - Available all year - 8 nights, airfare not included - including the Shivaling Hotel in Paro, and the Druk Hotel in Thimphu - from AUD $5999 per person, twin share Code: BHBI-16-PGL

 

Bhutan - The Last Shangri La

Bhutan is absolutely remarkable. 

The countryside is remarkable. It is remarkable from its highest point at 7553 metres, to its lowest point at 97 metres - from the world’s highest unclimbed peak bordering Tibet to tropical jungles on the border with India. In between,  there’s every imaginable ecological zone, including forests of rhododendrons and daphne.

The culture is remarkable. It is a Buddhist country, similar in some ways to Tibet, with a stunning architectural heritage. Most people still wear traditional dress - in fact in some circumstances it is compulsory.  New buildings have to be created in traditional style and advertising is limited to small plaques on buildings. Plastic bags are banned. Remarkably, the concrete canyons, advertising hoardings and non-biodegradable trash ubiquitous throughout Asia are nowhere to be seen.

The politics are remarkable. The kings and queens of Bhutan are revered, especially the 4th king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who began a process of cautious modernisation. The first tourists arrived in 1974, TV was introduced in 1999 and much to the shock of his subjects, in the mid-2000s the king decreed the country would become a democracy and abdicated in favour of his son. Elections were held in 2008.

Remarkably, development is measured not in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) like the rest of the world, but by an official government statistic known as Gross National Happiness (GNH) which measures such things as psychological wellbeing, time use and community vitality as well as more tangible western concepts like living standards, health and education.

There are similarities with other Himalayan countries, but as is often said, this is Shangri La. And people fall in love with Shangri La!

Many travellers expect Bhutan will be similar to other Himalayan regions and countries. Remarkably, it is not! Obviously the existence of 7000-metre mountains means there are some similarities, but… everything seems to work, it’s clean, it’s relaxed, and it’s completely unspoilt.

Tourism has only existed in Bhutan since 1974, but has been tightly controlled. The Bhutanese decided on a ‘high value, low impact’ policy and, as a result, there are only small numbers of visitors. 

Perhaps because of an extensive network of (mostly) decent-quality roads, trekking has never developed on a Nepalese scale. There are some fantastic treks, but only small numbers of people tackle them. All treks must be arranged as full-service treks, which is essential because most pass through uninhabited forest areas and parties must be self-sufficient. Unlike in Nepal, porters are rarely used. Pack horses (and at high altitudes, yaks) carry expedition gear.

There are also some brilliant opportunities for mountain biking (utilising the road network) and river rafting. Bhutan is a must for anyone with an interest in the Himalayas, Buddhism, flora, birds, and textiles. Roads open up the possibility of visiting such an incredible range of sights that for most first-time visitors road touring is compelling, even when they are keen walkers. 

Food is the only aspect of Bhutan that is not remarkable. Only Thimphu is large enough to support decent stand-alone restaurants, so most people eat in their hotels, which usually provide decent food featuring a mix of western, Indian and Chinese dishes. Bhutanese home cooking features rice, noodles, and some of the hottest, chilli-fired food on the planet. 

If you have any questions please contact us. We have an enormous amount of experience – and we have expert operators on the ground in all our destinations.

If our small group guided tours don’t meet your needs we’re set up so that we can create private tours – using our published itineraries – or custom tours that are both private and customised to meet your wishes.

See Create Your Own Journey

Bhutan Visas

Tourism has only existed in Bhutan since 1974, but has been tightly controlled. The Bhutanese decided on a ‘high value, low impact’ policy and, as a result, there are only small numbers of visitors. 

All western tourists must pre-arrange their visas, and to get a visa, visitors must pre-book a trip that costs a minimum of USD$250 a day during high season, and USD$200 a day during low season. This minimum includes the government’s tourism royalty (USD$65 per day). At the budget end it is possible to travel in Bhutan for the minimum requirement of USD$250 per day, but Bhutan is home to some of the best, most beautiful and expensive hotels on the planet, so it is also possible to spend a lot more. 

In order to process visas, Around The Sun requires travellers to provide scanned passport copies and a passport size photograph. We will process the visa in Bhutan and then send the approval letter to you. The actual visa is stamped on the passport on arrival.

 

Bhutan Introduction

This is the perfect way to discover Bhutan. It’s a road-touring overview of all the most important sights. Most days involve at least one easy walk - to get you off the road, into the countryside and villages, meeting locals. There’s always time to stop at markets or something interesting like an archery contest. Private groups can be run all year, and there are ‘comfortable’ and ‘luxury’ options. 

Days:9 days
Luxury:comfortable / luxury
Type of Tour:Private Guided Tour
Experience: Car Touring / Walks / Culture / Nature
Challenge: Easy
Cost: from AUD$3999

Bhutan Journeys & Suggested Itineraries