- Hike to Bhutan's most famous pilgrimage site, the Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger's Nest Temple), and participate in an intimate butter lamp ceremony with the monks of Gangtey Goemba.
- Get a personal perspective on contemporary Bhutan while mingling with community leaders and government dignitaries at a special banquet.
- Stay at the spectacular hotel that exemplifies the artistry of Bhutanese architecture.
- Experience a private traditional Masked Dance performance, and visit a family farmhouse to learn about rural life.
Within the folds of Bhutan's mountains lie sacred temples, dazzling rice fields, and villages unchanged by time. On this magical journey, experience the wonders of the last Mahayana Buddhist kingdom of the Himalaya. Hike to ancient dzongs, meet local families, wander through serene monasteries, and discover unique artistic traditions.
Arrive in Bangkok this evening and check in to our hotel.
Fly to Bhutan's Paro Valley (7,300 feet), and visit Ta Dzong, a 17th-century fortress overlooking the Paro Valley. Explore our stunning hotel before a welcome dinner tonight.
After a special Buddhist blessing ceremony, journey to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. This afternoon, visit Chimi Lhakhang, a small but famous temple in the center of the golden Punakha Valley. Settle into our hotel and enjoy dinner together.
After an invigorating hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a spectacularly situated temple, be rewarded for your efforts with incredible views of the valley below. Then visit the Punakha Dzong, an impressive fortress guarding the southern end of the valley at the confluence of the Pho (male) and Mo (female) Rivers.
Travel to the beautiful alpine valley of Phobjikha (10,000 feet), the largest wintering site for the endangered black-necked crane. Along the way, the environment changes from semi-tropical to pine forest, and then to an alpine zone that is home to several species of rhododendron, dwarf bamboo, and Grey Langur monkeys.
Against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains, Gangtey Goemba temple complex rises dramatically from a cluster of hilltop cottages. One of the oldest Nyingma monasteries in Bhutan, Gangtey Goemba has recently been renovated, allowing us to examine the fine workmanship of Bhutan’s best woodcarvers, sculptors, and painters. Then set off on a half-day hike, stopping to visit with a village family along the way.
Travel to Thimphu (7,900 feet), the capital of Bhutan. Cross the Dochu La pass (10,000 feet) en route and gaze at a 200-mile panorama of Himalayan peaks (weather permitting). Tonight, get a behind-the-scenes perspective on contemporary Bhutan during a lively Bhutanese banquet with members of the government, local dignitaries, and respected professionals.
Spend the morning exploring the country’s more modern side in Thimphu. Visit the National Textile Museum, where Bhutan’s finest weavings and brocades are on display. Return to Paro in the afternoon and settle back in at the Zhiwa Ling.
Our journey in the kingdom culminates with a hike to the most famous pilgrimage site in Bhutan: Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger’s Nest Temple (9,300 feet). Visible from afar, this stunning monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor. This evening, celebrate your Bhutanese adventure at a festive farewell dinner.
Fly to Bangkok and check in to our hotel. The following morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight, arriving home the same day.
- Bhutan: Angkor Wat Extension
Post-Trip, 4 Days
One of the world's great architectural achievements, Angkor has intrigued Western travelers ever since French naturalist Henri Mouhot stumbled upon its ruins in the jungles of Cambodia in 1860. Delve into this incredible site and discover the ancient world of the Khmer Empire at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. Examine elaborate irrigation systems, behold the enigmatic faces of the Bayon Temple, and explore temples engulfed by thick jungle roots at Ta Prohm.
This morning, fly to Siem Reap and transfer to your hotel. After some time to relax, set out to explore the extraordinary temple complex of Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious structure. Built by King Suryavarman II during the golden age of the Khmer Empire, this 12th-century temple reflects the evolution of the Khmer's belief system from Hinduism to Mahayana Buddhism. Venture into galleries where stunning bas-reliefs depict scenes of battles and the epic Ramayana poem. See some of the 3,000 apsaras, or heavenly nymphs, that are carved into the temple walls. Cap off the day by watching the sun set over this ancient wonder.
Spend the morning exploring Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire. In the center of this ancient city sits the majestic Bayon Temple, a 12th-century masterpiece known for its colossal carved faces. After lunch, visit Preach Khan, built by King Jayavarman VII in honor of his father. Explore the temple's myriad halls and pavilions, causeways and moats, and look for the delicate frieze of apsaras in the Hall of Dancers. Continue to the small island temple of Neak Pean, surrounded by a network of ponds that were believed to have curative powers. Later this evening, enjoy spectacular views as the sun sets over the storied towers of Angkor Thom.
This morning, venture north to explore one of Angkor's jewels, Banteay Srei. Constructed of rose-colored sandstone, the 10th-century temple features intricate carvings that illustrate ancient Hindu tales. Enjoy a picnic lunch, then continue to Kbal Spean, or "River of a Thousand Lingas." Take a lovely walk through the jungle to an area where the riverbed has been elaborately carved with Hindu images, said to bless the water before it flows into the reservoirs of Angkor. This afternoon, visit the temples of Thommanon, Chao Say Tevoda, and Ta Keo. Explore Ta Prohm, known for the giant banyan, kapok, and fig tree roots that have coiled their way into the temple structure.
After breakfast, visit the Angkor National Museum and browse an impressive collection of Khmer artifacts. Time permitting, stop by Les Artisans d'Angkor to watch local youth being trained in age-old Khmer arts. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bangkok.