Marieke recently returned from Bhutan after a hiatus of four years, to reacquaint with old friends, to assess the changes and to assure you this will be the best ever version of her many previous tours and not just because Bhutan has been voted one of the most desirable destinations in 2020 for those passionate about sustainability, zero carbon, the world’s first totally organic destination and Gross National Happiness. Road infrastructure has immeasurably improved, shortening some of the once arduous, winding mountain journeys. Flights to Bumthang, the heartland of the country are now more reliable, meaning you only travel in one direction but get to touch the ‘soul’ of the country. Sumptuous properties have established, not least, the exceptional and luxurious Six Senses lodges with their emphasis on holistic well-being and local immersion – we stay at two in glorious environments. Eating used to be the least highlight, unless she sourced greens from the markets and cajoled young boys to fish – no longer the case as an intelligent sophistication emerges. The erstwhile sleepy capital Thimpu has lost much of its charm so we only pass through to pay homage to their wondrous textile traditions.
Bhutan is a country like nowhere else and a still relatively unexplored destination. For centuries, Bhutan has remained shrouded in a veil of mist and very little about it was known to the outside world until the 1970’s. This isolation has given the proud people of this country the opportunity to view the world in a unique and still spiritual way. Many consider it the last Shangri-La: an exciting, soulful, soothing and wondrously beautiful destination. This is a country that mixes tradition, myths and legends with new learning with comfortable ease. The people are inquisitive, well-educated, vibrant, fun-loving and the overall mood within the country is very relaxed, happy and welcoming. Moreover, arts and crafts are exuberantly and widely practised. Ancient skills in bronze, wood, clay, iron and silver have been preserved. Festivals, religious ceremonies, and folk traditions are represented in dance. Painting, sculpture, weaving and embroidery continue in high order. Bhutan also boasts one of the most vibrant remaining textile traditions of any country in the world.
• astounding natural beauty from high mountain passes to verdant fertile valleys
• exquisite dzongs that embody the sacred and the secular under one roof
• the last unspoiled remnants of a quickly disappearing Himalayan culture.
• gentle treks to holy sites in glorious countryside +
sumptuous, elegant lodges in beautiful environs
AT A GLANCE
LENGTH: 10 Days
ACTIVITY LEVEL: Moderate to Active
TYPE: Bespoke | Small Groups | AoL Escorted Tours are sometimes offered
Local support: fully escorted by local English speaking guides
STYLE: Culture | Arts | Spirituality | Adventure
START | FINISH: DELHI | PARO | DELHI or
BANGKOK | PARO | BANGKOK
All meals, guides, activities, domestic flights
5* | to 6*luxury | deluxe lodges | fully equipped treks in any combination
Luxury A/C SUV | Minivan
TRAVELLING TO BHUTAN:
Druk Air flies via Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangkok and Singapore
March to May and September to November are the ideal times to visit Bhutan. October to December the air is clear and fresh with sunny skies. April for the famed rhododendrons. Late October and mid-February to spot the migratory, rare black-necked cranes, in the Phobjikha Valley.
Peak times are around the many Tsechu festivals when hotels are in high demand, requiring advance planning of at least 6 months
from USD4000 per person based on twin | double share
AoL Escorted tours based on a minimum of 6 guests From USD 12000 per person twin | double share
- DAY 1
Today take the flight to Paro. A fertile valley, this is the market garden of Bhutan where Buddhism first took hold. Tonight stay in the first five-star Bhutanese-owned hotel, in the hills outside Paro – an architectural gem that unites Bhutanese culture and heritage with 21st-century comforts.
This morning take the short scenic flight to Bumthang – the cultural and spiritual heart of the country. The beautiful valley with abundant apple orchards, crops and cottage industries boasts numerous villages, monasteries, villages, weaving traditions and gentle treks. Your cosseted stay for two nights is in an intimate lodge.
Stretch your legs with a wonderful walk across prayer flag decorated bridges to reach the spectacular Wangdichholing Palace built in 1857 and Lamey Goemba. It’s not unusual to find one of the lamas in residence who may give you a special blessing. Jambay & Kurjey Lhakhangs are the oldest two monasteries in the kingdom. The Tamshing Monastery is home to about 90 young monks.
The first stop today is at Trongsa Dzong, the ancestral home of Bhutanese royal family and one of the most exquisitely decorated, with wonderful paintings throughout. Continue to the breathtaking glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains, a designated conservation area bordering the Black Mountain National Park where large flocks of black-necked cranes come to winter. It is one of the most important wildlife preserves in the Country, and described as “the most beautiful spot in the most beautiful country in the Himalayas”. Your lodge is possibly the most glamorous and luxurious “farmhouse” you’ve ever stayed in.
This morning begins with a casual stroll through the quaint village of Gangtey, taking in the simplicity of life in this remote mountain hideaway, before visiting the ancient altars and ramparts of the dominating Goemba. You may even wish to arrange a pre breakfast meditation with the monks.
From the Goemba, a gentle trek downhill through flower meadows and miniature forests of dwarf bamboo across a trout filled brook. Return in time to enjoy the lodge’s famed hot-stone bath filled with healing Artemisia that grows wild.
Before reaching the Punakha Valley, take a short trek to Chimi Lhakhang, the auspicious fertility monastery built by the “Divine Madman” in 1499 showing the history of the worship house and its ritual phalluses. En route to your lodge you will also catch a glimpse of the glorious 17thC Dzong, one of Bhutan’s most historically important. Straddling the confluence of the Mother (Mo) and Father (Pho) Chhu, it is truly a masterpiece of Bhutanese architecture and the wedding location of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
Nestle into your Six Senses Lodge that stands out for its glorious perch overlooking rice paddies, the sumptuous balconied suites with their own bukhari fire, truly delicious innovative cuisine derived from local organic produce and exceptionally solicitous staff.
Before breakfast there is an option of a rural guided trek to reach a remote monastery
housing young monks where by donation you can join them for breakfast.
Your day in Punakha Valley begins with a hike up through autumn hues fields along the banks of the Mo Chhu to the upper end of the valley to the regal Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten which was built to remove negative forces and promote peace, stability and harmony in the changing world, a stunning monument recently built by the Queens and consecrated in 1999. Returning down through the valley you will have plenty of time to take in the impressive Punakha Dzong, home to the remains of Bhutan’s first ruler, Shabdrung Nawang Namgyal, and the winter residence of the monastic order’s leader and his entourage of monks.
En route back to Paro, stop in the once charming sleepy little capital, Thimpu. There is a fabulous Museum of Textiles and the possibility of visiting the studio of young artists. TWINZ Artists, Tashi Dendup & Ugyen Samdrup are beginning to gain a reputation as contemporary painters who mix Bhutanese iconography with European influences. If she is in town, we might also invite long time habitué, an American writer who is marred to a famous thanka painter to join us for lunch. Thimpu is also the best place for those wanting to acquire Bhutanese crafts and the Painting School is an educational institute that teaches and preserves all thirteen of Bhutan’s artistic practices and can be visited.
For the energetic it is planned to take the hike to Takshang Monastery (Tiger’s nest), one of 13 of the most revered Buddhist pilgrim sites in the Himalayan world. “Tiger’s Lair” is considered an intensely spiritual place and the quite challenging 5-hour walk is most interesting. It is also possible to only walk half way up to the viewing point of the monastery where there is a café serving light refreshments. For the more culturally inclined there is much to occupy the curious traveller with holy sites and shopping.
Your lodge here is the first luxury property in Bhutan set in sprawling, beautifully landscaped grounds, with meadows, an archery field and indoor pool.
Your will be transferred to the airport in time for your international departure. Most flights leave in the morning. Druk Air flies via Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangkok and Singapore.
SUGGESTED TOUR EXTENSIONS:
Kashmir via Delhi
Your Tour Leader, Marieke Brugman. Marieke first travelled to and fell in love with Bhutan in 2003 and has led many small groups there and will again in the future.
We tailor bespoke tours for individuals and small private groups that can be as luxurious as your heart desires, might incorporate ambient lodges, or take you off on a wondrous trek for a few days. Allow at least six days to gain a taste, and up to twelve/fourteen days for a real immersion in this rewarding Buddhist destination.
With outstanding connections, Art of Living can introduce you to expert lecturers, high lamas to bestow their blessings, musicians to perform for you and excellent guides who unravel this Kingdom’s many mysteries.
We work with very professional operators who have the best vehicles, excellent drivers, and most professional guides.
GUIDES in Bhutan are professionally trained and licensed by the Royal Government of Bhutan. We work with experienced guides who speak excellent English, who are proud of their culture and able to share that in the most knowledgeable ways. They are alert to clients’ needs and will go out of their way to share their personal connections. Guides who speak other languages can also be engaged with prior notice at additional expense.
A once remote and wondrous Buddhist kingdom, Bhutan is steeped in heritage, rich ancient cultural and spiritual traditions, stunning landscapes from high snow clad mountain passes to verdant meadows and dramatic glacial valleys, warm and welcoming people and a marvellous array of arts, crafts and textiles. It also has never-ending festivals.
BOOKINGS & ENQUIRIES
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