12D 11N Women’s Adventure

  • Women’s Adventure

    Women’s Adventure
    Women’s Adventure

Bhutan Tour Itinerary

Hike and explore Central and Western Bhutan on this 12 day tour. This all-women tour is led by a woman guide, where travellers will be able to visit ancient temples, immerse yourself in Bhutanese traditional culture, and taste unique local cuisine along your way.


Day 1

Day 1: Paro – Thimphu

Elevation      Weather in Paro

Your adventure begins with the most spectacular of all mountain flights. You will fly over the southern hills, known as ‘dwars’, or gateways into the Himalayas as they rise out of the plains, culminating in the soaring snow-capped peaks of the inner Himalayas further north. Paro airport is the only airport in the world where the altitude exceeds the length of the airstrip.

On arrival at Paro airport and after completion of immigration formalities, you will be met by your female Bhutanese guide.

Board your vehicle for the drive from Paro to Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu. With elevations ranging between 2,248 metres (7,375 feet) and 2,648 metres (8,688 feet) above sea level, Thimphu is the fifth highest capital city in the world by altitude. It is also the only capital city  in the world without any traffic lights. The city offers a unique blend of the modern world with Bhutanese tradition.

On arrival, check in to your hotel and, time permitting, take a short drive to the National Memorial Chorten. The building of this chorten was originally the idea of Bhutan’s third king, H.M. Jigme Dorji Wangchuck (“the father of modern Bhutan”), who had dreamed of erecting a monument to world peace and prosperity. After His Majesty’s untimely death in 1972, the Royal Family and Cabinet resolved to fulfill his wishes and erect a memorial that would perpetuate his memory and also serve as a monument to peace. The National Memorial Chorten was consecrated on July 28, 1974. The finely executed wall paintings and delicately fashioned statues within the monument provide an interesting insight into Buddhist philosophy.

In the evening, head out to the Chunidhing restaurant, where you will have dinner with the owner. Lt. Colonel Kesang Choedon (Retd.) is the founder of Chunidhing enterprises. Formally trained in the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS) in Hyderabad, India, she served in the Royal Bhutan Police for 23 years and was one of the first two women Police officers to serve in Bhutan. Driven by a passion for Bhutanese food and food culture and her concern over the decline in traditional and local food practices, Kesang resolved that she wanted to make a difference. Having grown up in an environment where food and preparation of meals was an integral part of day-to-day life, she developed her culinary skills and became a self-taught chef. Now with decades of experience, she has become a renowned specialist in Bhutanese cuisine and food culture. She was voted Bhutanese Woman Entrepreneur of the year, 2015.

 

Accommodation: dusitD2 Yarkay Thimphu or similar (4*)
Meals: D

Day 2

Day 2: Thimphu

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, head out for your first walk on the Trans Bhutan Trail. This ancient route, which runs 403 kilometres from Haa in the West of Bhutan to Trashigang in the East, dates back at least as far as the 16th century, when it would have been the only means of communication between the strategically-located dzongs (fortresses) along the route. The Trail’s Garps (messengers) were quite legendary, travelling with vital messages between Dzongs at great speeds with little food or rest. Over time, the Trail came to play a major role in uniting the region’s many kingdoms, culminating in the birth of Bhutan as a nation in 1907. With the advent of Bhutan’s National Highway in the 1960s, the Trail fell into disrepair but was restored in 2019 thanks to a partnership between the Royal Bhutanese Government, the Tourism Council of Bhutan, and the Bhutan Canada Foundation. The Trail now receives visitors from across Bhutan and the world.

Today’s short walk starts at Thimphu’s most recognized landmark, the Buddha Dordenma. Guarding the entry to the Thimphu valley, this 51-metre (167 feet) gilded bronze statue is filled with 125,000 miniature statues and sits atop a three-storey base housing a chapel and thousands of donated statuettes. The statue was commissioned to mark His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s 60th birthday and was originally made in China before being transported to Thimphu in pieces. After visiting the Buddha, head down the Trail towards the community of Debsi, just outside the main city. You will enjoy panoramic views of the Thimphu valley as you go.

On arrival in Debsi, visit the nearby Tsumalaphy Nunnery where you will meet some of the nuns that live here. The nunnery is one of Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s projects. 150 volunteers from the Royal Institute of Management and the Bhutan Scout Association participated in the voluntary work to construct the nunnery walls.

After lunch at the Simply Bhutan Museum Restaurant, visit the BAOWE (Bhutanese Association of Women Entrepreneur), an NGO It came into existence on 15th April 2010 under CSO Act of Bhutan with a mission to promote sustainable and equitable opportunities for women entrepreneurs across Bhutan. You will meet BAOWE’s CEO and some of the other women members of the organization.

You will also make a stop at the Bhutan Nuns’ Foundation, a charitable organization providing support and resources for girls and women living in nunneries and communities surrounding nunneries. The BNF focuses on empowering and educating Bhutanese girls and women, improving the living conditions and economic vitality of rural villages, and preserving Bhutan’s culture in the face of rapid economic development.

Optionally and time permitting, you may also choose to visit:

CDK, an established Bhutanese fashion brand founded by Ms. Chandrika Tamang, who quit a corporate job to become a pioneer in fashion design. After countless hours researching fashion design and tailoring clothes at home, she created a business to inject much-needed innovation and modernity into the Bhutanese fashion industry. You will be able to browse the unique designs and purchase clothing if you wish.

Tsé Organics, founded by Ms. Choitsho Eudel Dorji. Dorji was raised in Geneva, Switzerland, New York City, USA and New Delhi, India, before returning to Bhutan after completing her studies to work as a civil servant,  consultant and now also an entrepreneur. Tsé Organics is founded on the belief that creating a balance with the elements of nature is essential for wellness, and their unique luxury oils and skin products are sourced and hand-blended using traditional Bhutanese wisdom alongside contemporary technology.

 

Accommodation: dusitD2 Yarkay Thimphu or similar (4*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 4.8 kilometres (2.98 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 1.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 5 metres (16 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,650 metres (8,694 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,263 metres (7,425 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 2,650 metres (8,694 feet)

Day 3

Day 3: Thimphu – Thinleygang – Toeb Chandana – Gangtey

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast at your hotel, you will be transferred to east towards the Dochula Pass. At 3,100 metres (10,200 feet) above sea level, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Himalayan range to the north from Dochula at clearer times of the year. Mountain passes are some of the most sacred places in Bhutan and so it is customary to burn incense as an offering in places such as this. You may also wish to join locals in hanging colourful prayer flags as a sign of respect to the Gods.

Afterwards, continue east towards the village of Thinleygang, where you will enjoy a picnic lunch before rejoining the Trans Bhutan Trail for a pleasant afternoon walk towards Toeb Chandana. On arrival, visit the Toeb Chandana Lhakhang, also known as the Chandana Lhakhang, meaning ‘where the arrow landed’. Legend has it that when Drukpa Kuenley fired an arrow from Tibet to determine his course, it landed here in Toeb Chandana. The temple itself was built in the 15th century to ward off the evil energy of a demoness and then served as the religious seat of Ngawang Chogyal. The two hills at each end of the temple resemble knees and are said to be the knees of Ngawang Chogyal herself.

After the hike, rejoin your vehicle for a 3-hour drive towards Gangtey. On arrival, visit the Black Necked Crane to learn about this endangered species which migrates south to the Gangtey valley from Tibet over the winter.

Check in at the hotel and rest of the day at leisure.

 

Accommodation: RKPO Green Resort or similar (4*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 2.3 kilometres (1.43 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 1.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 65 metres (164 feet)
Starting Elevation: 1,808 metres (5,932 feet)
Ending Elevation: 1,589 metres (5,213 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 1,808 metres (5,932 feet)

Day 4

Day 4: Gangtey

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, we will head out to explore the Gangtey Nature Trail (1.5 hours hike), considered one the most beautiful nature trails in Bhutan. The trail hike starts from the mani stone wall to the north of the Gangtey Gompa (monastery) and ends at Khewa Lhakhang (temple).

Starting from the Prayer-wall on the northern side of Gangtey monastery, the trail leads down towards a sloping area of green grass, flanked by pine trees on either side. At this point the Semchubara village should be visible on the opposite side, at roughly the same height. The path continues to descend until it crosses a river, called the Bara Chhu. The loud babbling of the Bara Chhu River meets the silent meandering Nake Chhu River. After the Bara Chhu Bridge, the trail passes through the lower parts of the Bara village and alongside a lonely chorten (stupa). Here you will have a good view of Bara village on your left and Gangtey monastery to your right. A little further ahead, you will reach the edge of the wetland where the Black Necked Cranes roost in the winter. Eventually, you will reach Khewang Lhakhang (temple), which makes an interesting visit and provides additional insight into the religious and cultural history of Phobjikha/Gangtey Valley.

After the hike, visit the 16th century Gangtey Goempa Monastery perched on a small but striking hill that rises out of the valley floor. It is the central seat of the Pedling tradition of Buddhism in Western Bhutan, and was built as a center of spiritual teaching.

The remainder of the day will be at leisure to relax at your hotel. There are also ample opportunities to further explore this beautiful valley on foot for those that wish to.

 

Accommodation: RKPO Green Resort or similar (4*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 4 kilometres (2.49 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 2 hours
Elevation Gain: 5 metres (16 feet)
Starting Elevation: 3,000 metres (9,843 feet)
Ending Elevation: 3,000 metres (9,843 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,000 metres (9,843 feet)

Day 5

Day 5: Gangtey – Bumthang

Elevation      Weather in Paro

This morning, rejoin your vehicle and head east towards the royal city of Bumthang. The drive takes you across the Black Mountain Range that divides western Bhutan from central Bhutan. The road winds up and down mountainsides and through oak and rhododendron forest. Make a brief stop at the Pelela pass which, at 3,402 metres (11,162 feet) above sea level, is one of Bhutan’s highest and is traditionally considered the boundary between west and central Bhutan. Local craftspeople often sell fine yak-hair products at the roadside here.

As you approach the Chhume Valley, make a stop to see Bhutan’s famous Yatra weaving. Here you will have a chance to browse traditional textiles and see the weavers create their intricate handiwork.

On arrival in Bumthang, check into the hotel and then head out to visit the Bumthang Brewery, producers of Bhutan’s celebrated Red Panda Beer, which you will be able to sample. Nearby is Bhutan’s only commercial cheese factory. Both the brewery and the cheese factory are legacies of a Swiss-run development project called Swiss Farm, which introduced distinctive European farming and production techniques into the Bumthang area.

 

Accommodation: Jakar Village Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 6

Day 6: Bumthang

Elevation      Weather in Paro

Bumthang is the general name given to a group of four valleys – Chumey, Choekhor, Tang and URA, with altitudes varying from 2,600 to 4,000 metres (8,530 to 13,125 feet). The area is home to many ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries.

After breakfast, undertake the Three Temples Valley Walk. Start at Jambay Lhakhang (temple), built in the 7th century by the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. It is one of 108 monasteries which he built in order to subdue evil spirits in the Himalayan region. Then continue further into the valley across farmlands towards Kurjey Lhakhang (temple). Kurjey Lhakhang is made up of three temples: the one on the right was built in 1652 against the rock face where Guru Padmasambhava meditated in the 8th century; and the middle temple, considered the most holy, is built on the site of a cave containing a rock with the imprint of the Guru’s body. From Kurjey Lhakhang, you will cross a suspension bridge and traverse a number of small villages and farmland.

Enjoy a traditional lunch at a farmhouse where guests may engage in helping the host prepare lunch. You will be served a combination of the local Bumthap cuisine consisting of items made from buckwheat (which is widely grown in this region) and other Bhutanese dishes. A particular specialty of the region is bumthap putha, a special type of buckwheat noodle.

Continue walking towards Tamshing Lhakhang (temple) located across the river from Kurjey Lhakhang. This temple was founded in 1501 by Terton Pema Lingpa, a reincarnation of Guru Padmasambhava. There are very old religious paintings around the inner walls of the temple, which was restored at the end of the 19th century.

The remainder of the day will be at leisure to explore the area at your own pace or to relax at the hotel.

 

Accommodation: Jakar Village Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 2.5 kilometres (1.55 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 2 hours
Elevation Gain: 10 metres (33 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,650 metres (8,694 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,650 metres (8,694 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 2,650 metres (8,694 feet)

Day 7

Day 7: Bumthang – Tang Valley – Bumthang

Elevation      Weather in Paro

Today, head east into the stunningly beautiful Tang Valley. The initial drive along the national highway will take you past beautiful meadows and pastures where you can spot sheep grazing. Your first stop for the day will be at the Ogyen Choling Palace and Museum. The Ogyen Choling Foundation seeks to contribute to the preservation and promotion of Bhutan’s historical and cultural heritage and, in so doing, also support the social and economic well-being of the local community. The history of Ogyen Choling began with the visit of the great Tibetan master of Buddhism, Longchen Rabjam (1308-63). Longchen Rabjam is the most celebrated writer and philosopher of the Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism and is regarded as the synthesizer of the doctrine and methods of Dzogchen, ‘School of Great Perfection’.

From Ogyen Choling, head back down the valley towards the Pema Choling Nunnery. Women and girls who enrol here follow a nine-year course in the Nyingma Peling Buddhist tradition and are known for a particular drum ceremony known as “chod”.

After your visit to the nunnery, rejoin the Trans Bhutan Trail heading south towards the sacred Mebartsho (the Burning Lake), where, in the 15th century, the great treasure hunter Pema Lingpa is said to have discovered several of Guru Rinpoche’s hidden treasures. Lingpa had a dream in which he was summoned to this particular location on the Tang River and, when he arrived, he saw at the bottom of the river a temple with many doors, one of which was open. He then swam down into a large cave where he was handed a treasure chest by a one-eyed woman. He would later repeat the feat in the presence of the local people and whilst holding a lit butter lamp which did not go out underwater – and it is because of that that this pool was named “burning lake”.

Enjoy a typical Bhutanese lunch at a local farmhouse in the nearby village of Phomdrong before heading back to Bumthang, where the remainder of your day will be at leisure.

 

Accommodation: Jakar Village Lodge or similar (3*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 3 hours
Elevation Gain: 200 metres (656 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,800 metres (9,186 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,713 metres (8,901 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 2,800 metres (9,186 feet)

Day 8

Day 8: Bumthang – Punakha

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast, rejoin your vehicle for a transfer back west towards Punakha.

On arrival, there may be time for some sightseeing around this charming town. Start off at the Bazam (bridge) across the river from Punakha Dzong (fortress), where you will need to be wearing formal Bhutanese dress, including a gho for men and a kora for women, in order to cross on foot. Once on the other side, enjoy a tour of the Dzong (fortress), which was built by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in around 1637 at the confluence of the Phochhu (male river) and the Mochhu (female river). Arguably, it is the most beautiful Dzong in the country. The Dzong guards Bhutan’s most treasured relic, the Rangjung Kharsapani, an image of Chenresig kept away from the public in the utse (tower). It has survived Tibetan invasions, numerous fires, floods and a glacial lake burst. The Dzong served as the capital and seat of the Bhutanese Government until the early 1950s; and the coronation of His Majesty the First Druk, Gyalpo Ugyen Wangchuck, took place here. The building currently serves as the winter residence for the monastic body.

Dinner will be served at your hotel.

 

Accommodation: Kungzangzhing Hotel or similar (4*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 9

Day 9: Punakha

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast, the day in Punakha Valley begins with a drive to the north end of the beautiful Mochhu (female river) valley. Hike up to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a monument recently built by the Queen Mother of Bhutan. It is a 30-40 minute walk up through rice fields and forest. The temple is located on a hill with stunning views of the valley, paddy fields and Mochhu, the river that gently meanders through the valley floor.

Afterwards, enjoy a gentle rafting expedition down Mochhu. Head to the put-in spot, around 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) north of Punakha Dzong and enjoy a leisurely float down the wide river valley past Her Majesty the Queen’s winter residences and His Majesty the King’s weekend retreat.

After your rafting excursion, head to Gatshothang Farmhouse where you will meet Aum Karma Yangchen – the owner of this standalone farmhouse built in 1970. A suspension bridge connecting the farm to the main road was only built in 2008 to make it more accessible to visitors. The entire property covers more than 21 acres of land and includes cowsheds, corn fields, various vegetable gardens, a stone bath shed, and a lot of open space which can be used for picnics. You will get the opportunity to experience farm life and help with chores such as milking cows and making fresh butter and cheese. Aum Karma is also an award winning designer and traditional Bhutanese textile dye expert: in fact she is the only Bhutanese person to win a Seal of Excellence in 2010 for her handcrafted products. Since that time, she has run a number of natural dyeing training workshops across Bhutan. But her biggest honor to date was being asked to design the Royal Gho for His Majesty the King of Bhutan’s Coronation in 2008. Aum Karama will teach you about traditional dyeing in a hands-on workshop using organic plants and minerals.

Weather permitting, a picnic lunch prepared with organic vegetable grown at the farmhouse will be served in the garden.

Dinner this evening will be at your hotel.

 

Accommodation: Kungzangzhing Hotel or similar (4*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 1.5 kilometres (0.93 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: 30 minutes
Elevation Gain: 250 metres (820 feet)
Starting Elevation: 1,250 metres (4,101 feet)
Ending Elevation: 1,250 metres (4,101 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 1,450 meters (4,757 feet)

Day 10

Day 10: Punakha – Paro

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, rejoin your vehicle for a transfer back to Paro. On arrival, check in you your hotel.

After lunch, visit a nearby farmhouse where you will be given archery and cooking lessons.  Your guide will give you a brief lesson and demonstration on archery and you will then be invited to try your hand at Bhutan’s national sport. Afterwards, join the family for a cooking demonstration, during which you will be shown how to make a popular local dish called ema datshi (cheese and chili). Enjoy the fruits of your labor with the family.

 

Accommodation: Naksel Boutique Hotel & Spa or similar (4*)
Meals: B,L,D

Day 11

Day 11: Paro – Tiger's Nest – Paro

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, head northwest out of Paro by private vehicle for a visit to the iconic Taktshang Goemba, more commonly known as the ‘Tiger’s Nest Monastery’. Precariously perched on a sheer cliff face 900 metres (2,950 feet) above the Paro Valley floor, the Tiger’s Nest is undoubtedly Bhutan’s most famous religious building. It is built on the site where Guru Rinpoche is said to have arrived on the back of a tigress when he came to subdue the local demon, Singye Samdrup. After subduing the demon, Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated in a cave here for three whole months.

The Monastery is only accessible by foot via a 1½ to 2 hour hike up the valley side. The trek offers spectacular views from the ridge and passes a small chorten, a basic monastery, and a waterfall on its way.

Once you have reached the Tiger’s Nest, you will have a chance to visit the cave where Guru Rinpoche meditated, as well as the extensive network of Lhakhangs (chapels) which house images, murals, chortens, and a holy spring. You may also wish to make a diversion to the attractive Machig-phu Lhakhang (temple) on the way back down to the access road.

After the visit, you will head back to your hotel in Paro where you can enjoy a hot stone bath to relax the muscles from a hard day’s hike. River rocks are heated and then immersed in a wooden tub to heat the water and release the healing minerals from the rocks at the same time. An aromatic native herb, with soothing and healing properties, are added to the water. Traditionally hot stone baths were taken a few times a year as the heating process is quite lengthy. However, women after childbirth were pampered and soaked frequently in the therapeutic waters as it is believed to help in the recovery process.

This evening, celebrate the end of this memorable journey with a farewell dinner accompanied by a cultural performance and a bonfire. The cultural show, performed by a private traditional dance troupe, portrays both modern and traditional forms of folk dance, mask dance and songs. You are most welcome to join in with the dancing if you wish!

 

Accommodation: Naksel Boutique Hotel & Spa or similar (4*)
Meals: B,L,D
Trek Distance: 6.5 kilometres (4.04 miles)
Estimated Trek Duration: between 4 and 6 hours
Elevation Gain: 860 metres (2,822 feet)
Starting Elevation: 2,600 metres (8,530 feet)
Ending Elevation: 2,600 metres (8,530 feet)
Maximum Elevation: 3,150 metres (10,335 feet)

Day 12

Day 12: Paro : Depart

Elevation      Weather in Paro

After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight.

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