Bhutan photo tour with Jim Zuckerman

October 15 to 24, 2013

  Jim Zuckerman Botswana Tour 2013
 

 Visit the photo gallery

Bhutan is a mountain kingdom that has been lost in time.  It is one of the most exotic destinations in the

world, and as soon as  you step off the plane you will feel transported into an ancient past.  The people

are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and exceptionally photogenic.  Bhutan is a very colorful country, and

this itinerary is timed so you can participate in one of their great festivals that rivals any celebration in

the world for brilliant color and award winning imagery.  Everyone who travels to this Himalayan

country loves it.

 

TOUR COST:  $6490 based on double occupancy

SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:  $740

AIR FARE BANGKOK to PARO and return:  $850 (subject to change until ticketed)

 

LAND COST INCLUDES: All meals as designated in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner); hotels as shown based on double occupancy; airport transfers as indicated; all transfers to and from hotels as indicated for planned activities and sightseeing tours–entrance fees, domestic permits; all applicable service charges and taxes (excluding some international or domestic airport departure taxes); predeparture materials; limited travel insurance coverage including emergency medical evacuation coverage up to $75,000 per person, and in-country emergency medical expenses up to $2,500 per person.

• Bhutan requires a visa and it is available on arrival only. My tour operator will obtain the visa on your behalf and the fee is included in your trip cost.

 

LAND COST EXCLUDES: Any item not specifically included in your program including all snacks, extra personal beverages & bottled water, etc. other than during designated meals, alcoholic beverages; passport and visa fees, video fees, excess baggage fees, laundry, phone calls, internet and any other items of a personal nature not specifically indicated; tips for your guide, ground staff, drivers, hotel porters and other service staff; ADDITIONAL INSURANCE OF ANY KIND, including trip cancellation/interruption/delay, air ticket cancelation, additional medical, and lost baggage insurance; any and all expenses resulting from delays arising beyond our direct control due to bad weather, trail, river, sea, and/or road conditions, sickness, civil unrest, government action; or any other transportation delays for any reason beyond our direct control; optional activities, free-day activities, including any additional stopover arrangements not specifically included in the itinerary. We can make additional arrangements for you. Extra charges will apply.

 

 

ITINERARY:

DAY 1  Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013
Meals Provided:  L D

You must arrive in Bangkok no later than October 14 and overnight at a hotel of your choice.  If you are spending no time in Bangkok, you should choose an airport hotel.  If you want to spend time in the city, then stay near the center of it.  Let Jim know your plans and he can help you arrange whatever you want.

Fly Bangkok to Paro on Druk Air KB 131, departing 06:50, arriving 10:00 in Paro.

Paro is astonishingly pastoral for the seat of an international airport: the airport road terminates in an archery field. Houses built in traditional style are painted with colorful designs. The sense of tranquil serenity that defines this land is apparent at once. Begin by exploring the National Museum (Ta Dzong), housed in an ancient watchtower, with its collection of historic artifacts. Next, visit the impressive Paro Dzong (a dzong is a fortress-monastery) that dominates the valley. It represents perhaps the finest example of distinctive Bhutanese architecture. This beautiful structure, like all dzongs in Bhutan, is both a religious institution and the seat of government affairs—a uniquely Bhutanese melding of church and state.

Then drive to Thimphu, capital of Bhutan. Small and secluded, the city is exceptionally tranquil, despite recent signs of development. It has a strong traditional character in its architecture and is, remarkably, without traffic lights. The single light that was installed in 1999 was greeted with dismay: “ugly and impersonal” was the general consensus. The light was removed and the human traffic director put back in place.

After settling into your room, proceed to the Memorial Chorten to witness the faithful making their prayerful afternoon circumambulations. Afterwards, walk to the nearby Zilukha nunnery for a rare nod at the role of women in the spiritual realm. Overnight at the Druk Hotel – Thimphu.

 

DAY 2  Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013
Meals Provided:  B L D


Thimphu is the cultural heartland of Bhutan and this morning you will be immersed in the traditions and arts and crafts of the valley. Visit the Folk Heritage Museum, the excellent Textile Museum and the Handicrafts Emporium. Also visit the National Painting School where government scholarships provide talented students the opportunity to learn traditional arts.

This afternoon continue touring based on the recommendations of your guide or enjoy some free time to shop and walk through the streets of Thimphu independently.

To finish the day, visit the Tashichhodzong, seat of royal, administrative and religious power in Bhutan. This capital building is the office of the reigning king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
Overnight at the Druk Hotel – Thimphu

 

DAY 3  Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013
Meals Provided:  B L D


This morning visit the weekend market. Bhutanese come from far and wide to trade everything from vegetables and yak cheese to textiles, incense, bows and arrows, and religious artifacts such as incense, gongs and bells. It’s a wonderful glimpse into the lives of the local Bhutanese.

Then depart on the approximately 2.5 hour drive to the lower valley of Punakha. The journey crosses Dochhu La Pass where 108 stupas have been erected by the Queen Mother, including a magnificent temple overlooking the stupas. Also stop to stretch your legs with a 20-minute walk on flat ground to Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility shrine built in the 15th century by Lama Drukpa Kunley, the “Divine Madman.” Drukpa Kunley’s outrageous antics and sexual exploits are legendary, and he is a favorite among couples wanting children.

Arriving in Punakha, visit the Punakha Dzong, recently renovated due to damage caused by a fire in 1986. Traditional building techniques were used that don’t include the use of nails, plans or power tools. Overnight at the Zangtopelri Hotel – Punakha

Spectacularly located on a point high above the tranquil semi-tropical valley, the hotel features spacious, well-appointed rooms in small cabins. Guests enjoy 220 degree views of rice terraces, the river, and the interplay of the dramatic and constantly changing Himalayan weather of the valley.

 

DAY 4  Friday, Oct. 18, 2013
Meals Provided:  B L D


This morning depart Punakha on a full-day drive through the heartland of Bhutan to the four valleys of the Bumthang District. The journey takes you through the Black Mountains and traverses through dense conifer forests and hillsides covered with giant rhododendron and dwarf bamboo. Yak will be plentiful and monkeys may pop out from the trees.

Cross over Pele La Pass (11,217 feet) dividing western and eastern Bhutan, before reaching Trongsa, situated in the middle of the country.

Trongsa experienced a large influx of Tibetan immigrants in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Bhutanese of Tibetan descent have become well assimilated into Bhutanese society and run most of the shops in town. Once in Trongsa, visit the Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutan’s royal family. It is arguably the most impressive dzong in the kingdom. The landscape around Trongsa is spectacular and the dzong can be seen for miles.

Continue the drive east, stopping at the village of Zungney, well known for its distinctive yathra (wool) woven textiles. Late this afternoon, arrive in Jakar, the trading center for the district. Overnight at the Gongkhar Guest House – Bumthang

 

DAY 5  Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013
Meals Provided:  B L D


This morning begin exploring the Bumthang Valley and its many amazing monuments. Visit Jambhay Lhakhang and the imposing Jakar Dzong (fortress monastery) for a beautiful view of the valley. Continue to a nearby shedra (monastic college) where the monks will demonstrate an interesting tool of study, the theological debate. The monks grill each other on the meaning of sacred texts. If a monk answers incorrectly, the others clap and the sound reverberates throughout the chamber. It’s good natured, boisterous fun, as well as a skillful way to delve into profound Buddhist philosophy.

End the day with a walk into the countryside passing buckwheat fields, temples and farmhouses. You will also have the opportunity to visit Tamshing Gompa. It contains exquisite paintings and statuary said to date back to ancient times. Overnight at the Gongkhar Guest House – Bumthang

 

DAY 6  Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
Meals Provided:  B L D


Today, attend a tsechu (Bhutanese festival — either Jambay Lhakhang Drup or Prakhar Tshechu), a colorful and wonderful event. Photographically, this will be a highlight of the trip. People will come dressed in their finest hand-woven clothes, and performances of dynamic and sacred masked dances with streaming costumes will fill the courtyard of the lhakhang (temple). We’ll be welcomed as we unobtrusively join in the authentic local celebration.

The schedule today will be flexible in order to attend and photograph as much of the festivities as you would like. Overnight at the Gongkhar Guest House – Bumthang

 

DAY 7   Monday, Oct. 21, 2013
Meals Provided:  B L D


This morning is our return journey to the western part of the country. We may detour to the Phobjikha Valley, a designated conservation area that borders Black Mountain National Park. It is here that the large flock of black-necked cranes overwinter. It is also home to barking deer, wild boar, sambar, black bear, leopard and fox. Enjoy a short walk around the area. Visit the spectacularly situated Gangtey Goemba, sitting at the crest of the pristine Phobjikha Valley. This 400-year-old monastery possesses a special spiritual gravity. The entire area is quite tranquil, with its rolling hills and green meadows surrounded by snowcapped peaks. The monastery just completed a major renovation project and is beautiful.

Continue the drive to Wangdue and settle into your quaint hotel for a good night’s sleep. Overnight at the Kyichu Resort – Wangdue.

 

DAY 8  Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013
Meals Provided:  B L D


This morning, embark on the approximate four-hour drive back to Paro. Just before arriving in town, visit a local farm house to gain insight into the traditional way of life and enjoy Bhutanese snacks and tea in the company of a local family. The Paro Valley is extremely fertile and was once completely covered with farms and crops. Today the farms are slowly being replaced by buildings.

This afternoon, visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the most sacred temples in Bhutan. Bhutanese history says that this temple was one of 108 temples built in a single day in 659, commissioned by Songtsen Gampo of Tibet. The specific purpose was to pin down an ogress who, covering all of Bhutan and Tibet, was impeding the spread of Buddhism in the area. Pilgrims come from all over the region to worship at this sacred site. Overnight at the Khankhu Resort – Paro.

 

DAY 9  Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013
Meals Provided:  B L D


Your journey to Bhutan culminates with a visit to one of the most venerated pilgrim sites in the Himalayan Buddhist world. Taktsang Monastery (Tiger’s Nest), icon of Bhutan, clings to a cliff 3,000 feet above the Paro Valley floor. This dramatically situated and most sacred monastery is accessible by a round-trip walk (or pony ride) of about five to six hours.

Unfortunately a fire destroyed the main structure of Taktsang in 1998, but it has now been completely reconstructed and is as beautiful as ever. If you feel like only hiking halfway, there is a tea house midpoint on the hike with wonderful views. It is a great place to relax and have lunch.

This afternoon, drive to the end of the Paro Valley to see the picturesque ruins of the once massive Drukgyel Dzong. This fortress sits along a strategic route to Tibet and once provided protection from invasion from the north. From a vantage point on top of the ruins one can see the picturesque Paro Valley below and sacred Chomolhari Mountain above.

Return to your hotel to enjoy a farewell-to-Bhutan dinner.  Overnight at the Khankhu Resort – Paro.

 

DAY 10  Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013
Meals Provided:  B


This morning transfer back to the airport for your flight to Bangkok. Fly Paro to Bangkok on Druk Air KB 126, departing 11:45, arriving 16:50.  If you will be connecting to an international flight, allow yourself at least three hours.  Otherwise, you will need to overnight in Bangkok.

 

LAND COST INCLUDES: All meals as designated in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner); hotels as shown based on double occupancy; airport transfers as indicated; all transfers to and from hotels as indicated for planned activities and sightseeing tours–entrance fees, domestic permits; all applicable service charges and taxes (excluding some international or domestic airport departure taxes); predeparture materials; limited travel insurance coverage including emergency medical evacuation coverage up to $75,000 per person, and in-country emergency medical expenses up to $2,500 per person.

• Bhutan requires a visa and it is available on arrival only. My tour operator will obtain the visa on your behalf and the fee is included in your trip cost.