AUTUMN IN THE KINGDOM OF BHUTAN

Bhutan's location in the Himalayas, yet not far from the equator ensures the climate is pleasant year round, but autumn is without a doubt one of the nicest times to visit. The rice terraces, these monumental works of low tech engineering are now a tawny brown as the crop ripens. Wildflowers are still blooming in the meadows. Drama is always a constant in the scenery of Bhutan, with lofty snow clad Himalayan peaks, woodlands of great beauty and the towns and hamlets looking like something from time immemorial. Champaca Journeys finds this time of year in Bhutan is exceptionally beautiful. On this 12-night journey we visit 5 different areas in Bhutan, offering you an intimate look at the country and plenty of opportunity to connect with its people. You will meet our many local friends as you travel across this lovely country. Prepare for a journey that both stimulates and relaxes as we explore this remarkable land. This journey will be co-lead by Champaca Journeys' founder John Leupold and Bhutan's trailblazing fashion and culture blogger, Karma Wangchuk of Bhutan Street Fashion.

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DAY-BY-DAY ITINERARY

DAY 1: WEDNESDAY, Nov. 2

Arrival in Bhutan

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Arrive Paro and check into the Zhiwa Ling Hotel. The Zhiwa Ling is part of The National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection, and features stunning Bhutanese architecture, great service and beautiful grounds. After getting settled we go into Paro town to explore the sights, and then return to relax on the beautiful grounds of the Zhiwa Ling. Welcome dinner at hotel.

(Dinner)

DAY 2: THURSDAY, Nov. 3

Explore Paro, onward to Thimphu

Morning visit to Paro Dzong, a fortified monastery, constructed nearly 4 centuries ago and still in use today, followed by visit to nearby museum. Ninety-minute afternoon drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Our Bhutanese friends will join us for an evening on the town.

Overnight at Lemon Tree Hotel.

(B,L,D)

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DAY 3: FRIDAY, Nov. 4

Get acquainted with Thimphu, capital of Bhutan

Full day to explore Thimphu. We’ll visit the famed National Textile Museum, a paper making factory still using the same centuries old method to make beautiful paper, and the Folk Heritage Museum. All of these venues provide a good introduction to Bhutan and its history. Afternoon free to explore Thimphu on your own or with guides. Dinner with our Bhutanese friends. 

Overnight at Lemon Tree Hotel.

(B,L,D)

DAY 4: SATURDAY, Nov. 5

Hike to monastery and meet with monks

Morning 2-hour hike to Cheri Monastery. Built in 1750 and impressively perched above the Thimphu valley, surrounded by pine and rhododendron forest. Few foreigners visit this sacred site, with its impressive Buddha statues and religious school. Return to Thimphu for lunch, then we drive 3 hours to Punakha, the drive takes us over the scenic pass of Dochu-La, at 10,300 feet. 

Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

(B,L,D)

DAY 5: SUNDAY, Nov. 6

Explore sub-tropical Punakha

The morning will be spent exploring the lovely Punakha Dzong

(fortified monastery), architecturally and aesthetically one of the most beautiful of Bhutan's dzongs. Optional afternoon hike to Chimi Lhakhang, AKA the Temple of the Divine Madman, built in 1499 and one of the most interesting temples in Bhutan. 

Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

(B,L,D)

DAY 6: MONDAY, Nov. 7

Hike in the Beautiful Punakha Hills

We drive high into the hills above Punakha to visit Nalanda Monastery. Both remote and beautiful, and seldom visited by tourists, both the drive to the mountain top location and the monastery visit are fascinating. After exploring the monastery, we begin our downhill hike, though forest and field and tiny villages. Our vehicle awaits us to take us back into town for lunch and then back to hotel.

Overnight at Drubchhu Resort.

(B,L,D)

DAY 7: TUESDAY, Nov. 8

Punakha to Trongsa

We depart after breakfast for the 6-hour drive across the dramatic Black Mountains, to reach Trongsa late in the day. The drive is spectacular and the destination equally so, Trongsa with its immense dzong and isolated mountain location never fails to impress visitors. Our guide is from Trongsa and will provide introductions to family and friends that will make your visit all the more memorable.

Overnight at Yangkhil Resort.

DAY 8: WEDNESDAY, Nov. 9

Explore Trongsa

We will begin our day with a visit to the Trongsa Dzong, one of the most massive and impressive of all of Bhutan's fortified monasteries. Later in the day we will drive 20 kilometers to the south where we encounter the Winter Palace of the Third King. Little visited, you will find yourselves transported to the days of yore in Bhutan. Our guide will arrange picnic with family and friends in a beautiful location.

Overnight at Yangkhil Resort.

(B,L,D)

DAY 9: THURSDAY, Nov. 10

Trongsa to Phobjikha

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This morning we say farewell to Trongsa and drive to the Phobjikha Valley, a broad glacial valley, unique in Bhutan, and renown for its beauty. Endangered black necked cranes make the valley their wintering grounds, and we'll certainly see these impressive 5.5 foot tall birds. The late is afternoon free to wander near the hotel, the lovely Dewachen Lodge.

(B,L,D)

DAY 10: FRIDAY, Nov. 11

Phobjikha to Thimphu

This morning we drive to the main village in the valley to visit the Gangtey

Monastery. Under renovation for the past several years, we may see craftsmen at work as we explore this ancient temple. We then continue our journey back to Thimphu to arrive late afternoon. Overnight at Lemon Tree Hotel.

(B,L,D)

DAY 11: SATURDAY, Nov. 12

Thimphu

Free morning in Thimphu, on your own or with guides. Early afternoon departure for Paro, where we stop in downtown Paro for more exploration before we drive to the Zhiwa Ling Hotel for our final 2 nights.

(B,L,D)

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DAY 12: SUNDAY, Nov. 13

Hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery

After breakfast we drive 10 minutes to base of mountain where Taksang is located. Also known as Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and probably the most iconic building in all Bhutan, it is perched on a cliff 2,700’ above the valley floor. Bhutanese say that the Guru Rimpoche arrived here in the back of a flying tiger in 746 CE, and meditated in a mountain cave for 3 months. The site has since been sacred and a monastery has been constructed to commemorate his visit. Taksang is a pilgrimage site for all Bhutanese who gain merit by making the ascent. You too can gain merit while by making the 3-hour ascent and visiting the monastery seemingly glued to the barest concavity of the cliff face. After descending we’ll have lunch in Paro, then return to the Zhiwa Ling Hotel for optional hot stone bath or spa treatments. Farewell dinner this evening.

(B,L,D)

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DAY 13: MONDAY, Nov. 14

Farewell

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We have an early morning flight from Paro to Bangkok, to arrive in Bangkok at 2:30 p.m.

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PRICES & REGISTRATION INFORMATION

(Inclusive of food, non-alcoholic beverages, accommodations, ground transportation, entrance fees, services of licensed Bhutanese guide and driver, services of USA based trip leader, Bhutanese visa and airport taxes.)

$6600. (Based on double occupancy)

$7600. (Based on single occupancy)

NOTE: International airfare, gratuities, alcoholic beverages with meals, laundry, souvenirs, items of a personal nature and travel insurance are NOT included.

GENERAL INFORMATION

INTERNATIONAL AIRFARE

Bhutan is accessed most easily from Bangkok, Thailand from where there are daily flights. Flights always depart in the early morning and participants should give themselves at least 24-hour layover in Bangkok in the event flight to Bangkok is delayed. Fares are subject to change without notice.

 

BANGKOK-PARO, BHUTAN-BANGKOK, $875. ROUND TRIP, economy class
BANGKOK-PARO, BHUTAN-BANGKOK, $1245. ROUND TRIP, business class

Flights are with DRUKAIR, ROYAL BHUTAN AIRLINES, operating Airbus 319 jets.