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Popular Cultural Holiday
This is a small group guided holiday. The group is usually between 4 and 16 in size, with an average of 12 like-minded clients booking individually, in a couple or as friends together.
Download the detailed trip notes for everything you could possibly want to know about this trip, including detailed itinerary and full kit list.
An inspiring trip to a beautiful and remarkable country, with a mix of trekking (fairly easy but some to quite high altitude) and culture - which, as this is Bhutan, means a lot of Buddhism and a lot of Dzongs!
Be prepared to be very busy; there was very little time for chilling. Also I had expected mountains of a more bare and snowy variety, while Bhutan is forested to a large extent and a fair amount of walking is through trees. But it is really beautiful and culturally fascinating, and our leader and team did their best to look after us and give us an in-depth introduction to their country in a very short time, with considerable success.
Very hard to say as there were so many! The final day's ascent to the Tiger's Nest has to be up there, a lovely (and steep at times, but not at all scary) walk with an iconic destination. The festival, which being on a smallish scale felt relaxed and friendly as well as colourful and interesting- and the market there is a great place for souvenir shopping (and you can haggle). The Dzongs: I know some of the group got a bit 'dzonged-out' but I loved them, particularly at Punakha and Paro. The trek - I just wanted more of it!
Norbu was great. He had the job of moving us all, and our gear, all over the place, making sure that everything worked and answering endless questions about absolutely every aspect of life in Bhutan, as well as looking after anyone who felt ill or particularly tired, while being constantly patient and cheerful. He obviously has a wealth of knowledge and understanding if his country and religion and was keen to share these without ever (for me) being oppressive. He also arranged for treats for us - a picnic in the woods at the end of the final walk, hot stone baths during the trek, hot water bottles while camping- which really made a difference.
Also I have to mention our wonderful driver, Pasang, who coped with hours of horrible conditions with great skill and cheerfulness, even though his wife was having a baby at the time! And the whole trekking team, who did a great job and came up with some of the best meals of the holiday.
Don't go to Bhutan if you really have no interest in Buddhism! It is such a huge part of the culture that it just permeates everything. Also, if you really mostly want to trek, then this is maybe not the trip for you - we had one long day of walking, on pretty reasonable paths but to quite high altitude, while on trek, and the Tiger's Nest is a decent walk, but the other two trek days were short and easy. I found that trainers designed for walking were fine - though having poles was really useful.
The Trip Notes suggest a few things that we didn't find necessary: we could get bottled water at all times (there was always some for us on the bus) and loo roll was provided. My long skirt and shoes were not needed either; the Dzongs seem happy to allow trainers, sandals and trousers, so normal gear is fine, though a tshirt with too-short sleeves is not OK. Lightweight shirts as cover-ups could be useful.
Finally, don't expect to be too comfortable! This is not a developed country tourism-wise and the hotels and food, as the Trip Notes say, are not of the kind of standard people in the West are used to. Meat in particular was often pretty horrible! And any extra requirements are probably best dealt with by taking stuff with you. On the plus side here, no one had real tummy problems, so the food was at least safe.
Oh, and don't go if you don't like dogs! They are everywhere. They seem to be pretty benign but it's worth having a head torch if you are out at night as they are easy to tread on or fall over.
I am very glad I went, and I would love to go back, it's a country that the Western world could learn a huge amount from.
If I had a complaint it would be that at times things felt rushed: I would have loved an extra day or so and the same activities, to allow some down time. I don't know about anyone else but I got quite tired, and it might have been good to just be able to potter about a bit and look around.
Also I don't think having two brief visits to Kathmandu added much, while taking up a fair amount of valuable time. Maybe it is just much cheaper to do the flying that way, but I didn't have enough time to do much in Kathmandu and would rather have had more in Bhutan.
So, first of all, the bad bits; the hotels aren't top notch, lots of "quaint" idiosyncrasies, especially with the electrics. Wifi was variable, and there is rather a lot of time spent travelling- much of it on very poor roads. You won't see lots of snowy Himalayan peaks, and the food is really average!
So why go? Because it is the most remarkable place on the planet (ok, there's lots of the planet I haven't been to yet, but, you get the idea). This trip is really about Buddhism, and how one tiny country has decided that there is another way to live other than secular consumerism. If you are reading this, you will probably have heard all about gross national happiness, but what you get is an exposure to what that means in practice. You may also have an idea about vajrayana Buddhism, and seen prayer wheels, Chortens and the like in other places. In Bhutan, the spiritual element seems to run through the country like letters through a stick of Blackpool rock.
At the same time, it is clear that the nation is getting to grips with the issues of development, and how to maintain it's identity in the 21st century. They have eschewed mass tourism and the "trickle down" approach; it is amongst the poorest countries in the world, and yet I didn't see a single beggar. A fair distribution of wealth and giving just seems to be what you do, mostly to the monks and temples who use it and also redistribute it. They seem to genuinely revere their line of kings, who seem to have masterminded a steady process of change over the last hundred years or so. If this sounds like I have swallowed "the party line", that's fine, but I had no sense of "propaganda" from our guide or those we met. More a celebration of a way of living that cares more than we do in the west.
Stepping off the plane from Kathmandu (so many similarities, so many differences) into the amazing world apart that is Bhutan.
Don't worry too much about iodine pills or similar. Water is provided. Mobile reception is better than we have at home (not saying too much), but the hotel wifi kept coming and going.
The trek involved one reasonably long day, but not more than a decent day of hill walking in the UK. Basically however, the trip is a cultural one with some lovely walking involved.
This is a busy trip with some very early morning get ups. It has a great variation between culture, camping and trekking and some inside history into the life of the people. Getting to see and participate in the fire festival was great but we were all too tired to stay up to see the dance of the naked man !!
The general opinion of the group at the end of the trip was that they felt it warented a level 3 and not a lesurely 2. The walk on the 2nd day was long and tiring and some of the older members of the group struggled a little. It was however a great walk. The camping has disappeared and it is now glamping with hot water bottles. ( lovely as it was cold at night )
It has to be walking to tigers nest. It was a beautiful autumn day and the views were spectacular. The walk is hard in places but just take your time. To finish it off we got back down to a fab lunch all set up in the woods even with a celebratory beer.
I also enjoyed the very long drive to bumthang on the road that is being widened with interesting results. All I can say is Pasan you are a star ( our driver ) and top gear eat your heart out
Norbu was our leader and he was great. I made it a challenge to ask him a question about Bhutan that he couldn't answere but it never happened. He was tireless and kept a sense of humour. He was very well organised and knew a lot about the buddist faith. I would have him again. It was lovely to have local staff. We actually went through the village he used to live in.
Pack a warm sleeping bag and good head torch. Be prepared for a busy tiring trip but great. Be reasonably fit the walks are not easy.
The group were Dzonged out by the end of the trip. We felt a little less pushing of the Buddist faith would have been appreciated. Everyone enjoyed the private and state museums, it was good to see what more modern day life was like. We would have liked to see more of that and less Dzongs.
The food in Bhuton is monotonous and repetitive but it is mentioned in the trip notes
Hot water at the end of a day is very important and this was not always available.
Bhutan has a varied climate. Southern Bhutan has mild dry winters and hot wet summers; the monsoon starts a little earlier and continues a little longer than further west in the Himalayas. Paro, Thimpu, and the other
temperate areas of Bhutan have cold winters with sunny skies. Please note although these departures do not fall inside the normal monsoon season there is always a chance of rain in Bhutan and you should be prepared for this.
You will experience a range of temperatures during the trip depending on the altitude. During the day temperatures will be approx 10°C-20°C. At night it may reach single figures but the temperature will normally stay above 10°C.
Joanna Zubr - Bhutan Operations
Yes. There are dozens of trekking shops in the Thamel area of Kathmandu. Depending on how good your bartering skills are, you can usually pick up items for about one third of the price that you'll pay in the UK...and its more fun to bargain! However, please note we cannot guarantee the quaility of anything you may purchase so buyer beware.
David Richardson - Sales
The hotels are usually good tourist class hotels, have twin rooms with en suite facilities, reliable electricity and water supply, good service and some added amenities. Sometimes, depending on the location, the standard of hotels may be slightly lower, but we will always do our best to source the most suitable option.
Emma Garrick - Product Manager
Plums Café on the second floor of a building near the Clock Tower in downtown Thimpu offers Continental/ Chinese and Bhutanese food doing mostly buffet at lunch time. Cheese momos (dumplings) and Keewa datsi (a cheese and chilli dish) with red rice is a Bhutanese dish really worth trying. Should you fancy some pastries or muffin Swiss Bakery is the place to check out which is across the street from the restaurant!
Joanna Zubr - Bhutan Operations
You will need a visa for Bhutan, which we will organise for you. The cost is payable on entry to Bhutan and is currently US$20 in cash. You will need to send us a clear copy of your passport on booking so that we can organise the Bhutan visa. Please make sure that we have a copy no later than 4 weeks before departure. Please also take 2 passport photos with you as these will be used locally for your visa.
Joanna Zubr - Bhutan Operations
Should you be in Thimpu during the weekend, it is worth checking out the local weekend market at the end of the town (beside the National Stadium). This is where most of the town residents come to buy their week’s supply of fresh food and vegetables (everything from cheese to the chillies that the Bhutanese love!) from the farmers. This is a great place for people watching and also some souvenir shopping as there are stalls selling all kinds Bhutanese/ Tibetan products. Do try your bargaining skills as there is no fixed price of the products on sale!
Niraj Chand Shrestha - Customer Operations
Head down to the Everest Steak House in southern Thamel for a mouth watering steak and chips, well earned if you’re just back from trek. Finish it off with a cocktail in the legendary Tom & Jerry bar up the road!
You can also head to Fire and Ice Pizzeria in Thamel, a great place with casual indoor and outdoor eating which is popular amongst travellers, and locals alike. This restaurant is a great place to meet for a morning cup of Italian espresso, or a hearty meal of delicious pizzas, pastas, ice cream and even a Grappa!
Brendan Phelan - Customer Operations
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|Date||Trip Status||Price excl. flights (pp) from|
|Wed 01 Nov 17 - Sun 12 Nov 17|
Jambay Lhakhang Festival
|Unavailable||Price excl. flights (pp) from EUR €4,125||Contact Us|