Spirit of the Himalayas

Bhutan

November 18 - December 9, 2017
Cost: $7,750
Leader: Hishey Tshering + 1
Group Size: 10
Days: 22

Safari Overview

Journey to this most scenic and nature-rich region situated on the edge of the vast Himalayan range. Experience Himalayan wildlife, mountain scenery, and Bhuddhist culture as you explore beautiful Bhutan. Join the quest for the rare Black-necked Crane, White-bellied Heron, vibrant pheasants, and langurs. Travelling through this mountainous gem, folded between India and China, you are engulfed in Bhutan’s strong Buddhist culture, not only in its unique architecture and abundant prayer flags, but also in its adoration and respect for nature. Visit dzongs and monasteries, including a hike to the famous, cliff-side Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Witness a Buddhist festival with colorful costumes, brightly painted masks, and traditional folk music. Guided throughout by our Bhutanese leader, Hishey Tshering, you will experience the wonder and beauty of Bhutan.

HIGHLIGHTS
• Experience the diversity of birds and primates led by a fantastic wildlife and cultural expert.
• Engulf yourself among friendly Bhutanese in the color and swirl of a traditional festival.
• Observe and photograph breathtaking views of the Himalayas.
• Mix culture and wildlife during your visit to this developing country, in a time of change and innovation.

Itinerary Updated: February 2017



FAQ Print Trip
Date Description Lodge Meals
Nov 18 - 20 Travel to Bangkok. Lose a day if crossing the International Date Line.
Nov 21 Fly from Bangkok to Paro. Sightseeing in Paro. Janka Resort, Paro L, D
Nov 22 Enjoy wildlife and scenic viewing in Paro Valley and Chele La Pass. Janka Resort, Paro B, L, D
Nov 23 - 24 Fly from Paro to Jakar for sightseeing in Bumthang Province and the Tang Valley. Kaila Guesthouse, Jakar B, L, D
Nov 25 Scenic drive to Yongkhola, exploring Thrumsingla National Park and other stops en route. Trogon Villa, Yongkhola B, L, D
Nov 26 - 28 Explore remote lowland forests for abundant and diverse birdlife. Attend a festival in nearby Mongar. Trogon Villa, Yongkhola B, L, D
Nov 29 Drive to Thrumsing La Pass for a hike through rhododendron forest. Continue to Chumey Valley. Chumey Nature Resort, Bumthang B, L, D
Nov 30 Visit Tharpaling Monastery for Himalayan Monal pheasants. Tour impressive Trongsa Dzong. Yangkhil Resort, Trongsa B, L, D
Dec 1 - 2 Search for Golden Langurs. Explore Black-necked Crane wintering grounds in Phobjikha Valley. Hotel Dewachen, Phobjikha B, L, D
Dec 3 - 4 Visit Jigme Dorji National Park and Punakha Dzong. Search for the rare White-bellied Heron. Hotel Meri Puensum, Punakha B, L, D
Dec 5 - 6 Drive to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Explore natural and cultural attractions around Thimphu. City Hotel, Thimphu B, L, D
Dec 7 Return to Paro and hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Enjoy a farewell celebration at Hishey’s home. Janka Resort, Paro B, L, D
Dec 8 Fly from Paro to Bangkok for overnight (or take late night flight home). B
Dec 9 Fly homeward. Gain back a day if crossing the International Date Line.

Our Trip Leaders

Hishey Tshering

Hishey spent his lifetime promoting and preserving nature in Bhutan through many guiding and conservation efforts. He worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Nature and the International Crane Foundation on bird issues. His belief in "Gross National Happiness" and extensive knowledge of culture, birds, and wildlife make him one of the most sought-after guides in Bhutan for over 15 years. Hishey will be helped by an assistant guide.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Travel to Bangkok, Thailand

Nov 18 - 20

Fly to Bangkok for an overnight on November 20 (not included). Lose a day if crossing the International Date Line.

Fly from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan

Nov 21

Your early morning group flight from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan will uncover the peaks of the Himalayan ranges towering through the clouds. Hishey will meet you at the airport in Paro for a day of sightseeing in his hometown.

Chele La Pass and Paro Valley

Nov 22

Paro Valley by Debbie Thompson

Chele La is the highest road in Bhutan (close to 13,000 feet or 3,900 meters). The 90-minute drive from Paro gives you the opportunity to explore different habitats as you climb to higher elevations. A pre-dawn departure could lead to views of nocturnal species such as Gray Nightjar or possibly Leopard Cat. If skies are clear, you’ll have a fantastic view of sacred Mt. Jhomolhari and Mt. Jichu Drake. Search for Himalayan Monal and Blood pheasants, Himalayan Griffon, Himalayan White-browed Rosefinch, and White-throated Redstarts. The lower elevations include species of tits, Red Crossbills, and Yellow-billed Blue-Magpies. Paro Valley is mainly Blue Pine forest which is home to Black-faced Laughingthrush, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush, Brown Parrotbill, Chestnut-tailed Minla, and Gray-backed Shrike.

Fly to Jakar; Bumthang Province and Tang Valley

Nov 23 - 24

The 20-minute flight from to Paro to Jakar, in the province of Bumthang, should offer spectacular views of the Bhutanese Himalayas, including Gangkar Puensum (24,735 feet, 7,540 meters), the highest unclimbed peak in the world. The district of Bumthang consists of four major valley, Chumey, Ura, Choeskor and Tang, all of which we’ll pass through on this safari. The one-hour drive to Tang Valley passes through some spectacular landscapes. The highlight of our exploration of Tang will be visiting the Orgyencholing Palace which has been converted into a fabulous museum, providing an insight into the times prior to the establishment of hereditary monarchy in 1907.

Thrumsingla National Park and Yongkhola

Nov 25

Rufous-necked Hornbill

On the scenic drive to Yongkhola, a small, remote town in the Mongar district, look for Blood Pheasants and flocks of Snow Pigeons flying across the valley or foraging in the farmlands. Travel through Thrumsingla National Park and a variety of ecological zones. As we descend into Yongkhola, we wind our way through one of the best places for birding in Asia. Search for Satyr Tragopan and Rufous-necked Hornbill and other birds that flourish in the lowlands of Bhutan.

Lowland forests near Yongkhola and Mongar Festival

Nov 26 - 28

Buddhist festival

Explore the rich, subtropical, broadleaf forests that contains a wide diversity of birds. Hishey loves birding in this area so much, he built Trogon Villa so his tour groups would have a comfortable base from which to explore this wildlife-rich region of Bhutan. In addition to abundant bird life, search for Capped Langurs swinging playfully in the trees and take a day trip to the city of Mongar for the Mongar Festival. At the festival, dancers wear beautifully carved masks and richly adorned costumes as they perform dances and rituals. Returning to Yongkhola after dark offers us the opportunity to see nocturnal species.

Thurmsing La Pass and Chumey Valley

Nov 29

We will head back north and upward out of the lowlands, stopping at Thrumsing La Pass for a hike through rhododendron forest. We’ll make your way toward Blue Pine forest habitat in the Chumey Valley. The scenic drive will include stops along the way for wildlife watching and lunch in the field.

Tharpaling Monastery and Trongsa Dzong

Nov 30

As we depart the Chumey Valley, we may have the special opportunity to visit to the Tharpaling Monastery to look for stunning, iridescent Himalayan Monal pheasants. We’ll then drive to Trongsa for a visit the Trongsa Dzong, the largest in Bhutan. Take in the beautiful surroundings and impressive architecture, learn about the dzong’s historical importance, and perhaps see Assam Macaques climbing the walls.
If open, we’ll also visit the Tower of Trongsa Museum in the watch tower up the hill for great views and interesting cultural and historical artifacts. We’ll stay at Yangkhil Resort overlooking the town of Trongsa and the Trongsa Dzong. Nestled in the beautiful resort grounds are prayer wheels powered by water or by hand.

Phobjikha Valley for Black-necked Cranes

Dec 1 - 2

Golden Langur

Before continuing west, we’ll take a side trip southwards in search of the rare Golden Langurs, a primate found only in Bhutan and parts of India. Take in spectacular views over breathtaking Pele La Pass at 11,128 feet (3,391 meters) plus stops for birds and mammals en route to the glacial valley of Phobjikha, known as the “Valley of the Cranes.” Phobjikha Valley has the largest wetland in Bhutan and is one of the winter homes of about 350 rare and endangered Black-necked Cranes in the world. These cranes typically start to arrive here in the end of October and migrate back to Tibet in early March. The presence of the cranes makes Phobjikha one of the most important wildlife preserves in Bhutan. Listen to the cranes calling through the pine forest and flying overhead to return to their roost.

Punakha Dzong and Jigme Dorji National Park

Dec 3 - 4

Jigme Dorji National Park by Debbie Thompson

Travel alongside the mighty Puna Tsang Chu River to the town of Punakha, home to the majestic Punakha Dzong, the winter residence of the central monastic body. Continue on to Samdingkha to search for the White-bellied Heron, the world’s rarest heron. Explore Jigme Dorji National Park for birds and mammals such as Common Gorals, a kind of Himalayan mountain goat. Many people live in Jigme Dorji National Park, demonstrating Bhutan’s concept of “national park” where people live in harmony with the wildlife.

Dochu La Pass and Thimphu Valley

Dec 5 - 6

Blue-throated Barbet

The drive to Thimphu crosses over Dochu La, one of the most scenic passes in Bhutan. On a clear day Dochu La, at 10,000 feet (3,050 meters), affords superb views of the Himalayan range to the north and is a great place to look for Fire-tailed Myzornis and Spotted Laughingthrushes. Gaze upon the impressive108 Buddhist stupas (a place for meditation) built together on a hill decorated by colorful prayer flags. In Bhutan’s capital city of Thimphu, we have an opportunity to explore more natural and cultural attractions. Visit workshops for weaving and traditional paper making to witness students learning these respected crafts. See the national mammal, the Takin, protected in an extensive nature reserve on the edge of town or take an optional hike up to the Cheri Monastery.

Paro and Tiger’s Nest Monastery

Dec 7

Tiger's Nest Monastery by Debbie Thompson

Return to Paro for a hike to Bhutan’s most famous site, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, impressively built on the side of a cliff just west of Paro. About halfway up there is a cafe and viewpoint to relax and view the monastery located on the cliff across a gorge from the cafe. Those who continue will walk down and up many stairs to reach the monastery, located near a picturesque waterfall. You may tour the inside, however photography is not permitted inside this or any monasteries in Bhutan. Gather tonight for dinner and a farewell celebration at Hishey’s home and reminisce on the wonderful memories made.

Fly from Paro to Bangkok

Dec 8

Hishey will transfer you to the airport for your group flight from Paro back to Bangkok. Depending on flight schedules, you may overnight in Bangkok (not included) or you may be able to connect with a late-night flight homeward.

Fly home from Bangkok

Dec 9

Arrive home, depending on your flight schedule. Gain a day if crossing back over the International Date Line.

Bhutan

Journey to this most scenic and nature-rich country situated on the edge of the vast Himalayan range.

27.403794, 89.423971

Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Trip cost, double occupancy $7,750
Single supplement $850

We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement fee. Single rooms are subject to availability.


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Second October 1, 2016 $1,000
Final June 15, 2017 Remaining balance

Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.


Cancellations

Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.

Dates Forfeited Amount per Person

Included

  • All leaders, transport, park entry fees, and permits for all activities.
  • Internal flight from Bumthang to Paro.
  • Airport transfers in Paro on November 21 and December 8.
  • Accommodations for the nights of November 21 through December 7.
  • Meals from lunch on November 21 through breakfast on December 8.
  • Bhutan visa – we need a copy of your passport photo page to obtain the visa.
  • Drinking water in the bus and at all included meals.
  • Gratuities to airport and hotel porters in Bhutan.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.

Not Included

  • Airfare (except flight listed as included), airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Airfare is $995 between Bangkok and Paro (subject to change), plus your international flights to/from Bangkok (approximately $800–$1,500 between the US and Bangkok, depending on origin).
  • Accommodations, transportation, and meals in Bangkok.
  • Gratuities: tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $15 to $20 per participant per day for November 21 to December 7 with Hishey’s staff (about $255 to $340 total per participant).
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance and Trip cancellation insurance. Read more about travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, beverages other than water, and items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.

Climate

The weather in November-December is generally dry with clear skies but there is a slight chance of rain or snow. Temperatures vary greatly from near freezing conditions in the morning to very warm under the direct high-altitude sunlight. Layered clothing is essential. Daytime temperatures are typically around 50-65°F and nighttime and early-morning temperatures may drop to 30–35°F at higher altitudes.

Fitness Level

You will visit high elevations; our overnights are at elevations ranging from about 4,500 feet at Punakha and Yongkhola to about 9,500 feet at Phobjikha (1,400 to 2,900 meters). Most walks are short or medium distance (usually under a mile with some 1-2 miles) and at a slow pace. The most strenuous activity is the optional hike up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (at 10,240 feet, 3,240 meters). Most of the trail is steep, but you can stop halfway at a viewpoint and decide if you want to continue or just enjoy the view from there. The hike up and back can take about 3-4 hours depending on your pace and how much time you spend at the monastery.

Flights

Airfare is not included in trip costs (except flight listed as included). Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) in time for an overnight on November 20 to connect with our early-morning group flight to Bhutan on November 21. Depart Bangkok (BKK) anytime on December 9 or after 10:00pm on December 8.

Flights we book for you: We will book the domestic flight from Paro (PBH) to Jakar, Bumthang (BUM) (included in the trip cost) and the round-trip flights between Bangkok (BKK) and Paro (PBH). The cost of this round-trip booking ($995, subject to change) will be added to your invoice.

FAQ

Where is Bhutan?

The Kingdom of Bhutan is the size of Switzerland, nestled between Tibet and India, and is truly one of Earth’s most remote countries. Over 60% of the country is still forested with farms dotting the countryside. Bhutan has 20 peaks over 23,000 feet (7,000 meters), a wonderful place to photograph stunning mountain scenery, while also seeing spectacular birds and charming mammals. The Buddhist philosophy of respect for all living things alongside a progressive governmental approach to environmental preservation and promotion of Bhutan’s unique culture and traditions have maintained an environment where wildlife flourishes.

What wildlife can you expect to see?

Bhutan lies in an area designated as one of the world’s top ten biodiversity hotspots. Over 600 species of birds live in Bhutan, including some of the most exotic and rare species in the eastern Himalayas. Bhutan is also home to at least 165 species of mammals, including langurs, macaques, Red Panda, Himalayan Black Bear, Alpine Musk Deer, and in the alpine meadows, Takin (endangered) and Yaks, grazing on grasses along mountainsides. Tiger tracks might be found along the bases of the foothills to above the tree line, although this predator is seldom seen.

What is a dzong?

A dzong is a fortress, which continues to serve as Bhutan’s administrative and religious center. You’ll also see monasteries, including the famous Tiger’s Nest, and smaller chortens (stupas), all of which are important features of Bhutan’s religion and culture. You will have opportunities to examine traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts, which represent a vital aspect of Bhutan’s living heritage as well as its spiritual and intellectual life.

Why is visiting Bhutan so special?

Until recently, Bhutan’s remoteness, steep terrain, and tightly controlled tourism ensured that its incredible beauty and fascinating people remained known only to a few. Bhutan was closed to outsiders until 1960; its first roads were built in 1961 and no tourists were officially permitted until 1974. Bhutan is a developing country, yet its unique agrarian Buddhist culture is still intact. You will encounter red-robed monks and herders with their cows or yaks on the road along with vehicles.

Accommodations

Seasickness

Transportation

You will drive across Bhutan in Hishey’s “Crane Mobile,” a roomy, 20-seat bus with windows that open. Expect winding mountain roads and sometimes slow, bumpy drives, depending on road conditions. Road work is wide-spread in developing Bhutan.

Conditions

  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather, wildlife sightings, or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but understanding and accepting the risks, both medical and logistical, are important. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but due to the fact that we often travel to locations far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this trip. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your tour deposit and signed reservation form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.