A remote kingdom in the midst of the Himalayas, Bhutan offers ethereal landscapes and a rich culture where Gross National Happiness measures the wealth of the nation.
Journey to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital and largest city, to view an immense collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts at the National Library and visit the Traditional Art School, where students keep alive the traditional art of painting sacred religious scrolls. Traveling to Punakha, stop at the Duchula Pass, a pristine landscape where the mountains seem to pierce the sky, to follow the ancient tradition of raising prayer flags for wisdom and compassion. Explore Chime Lhakhang, a Buddhist monastery built in about 1499, and in Paro, view the art collections of Ta-Dzong, the National Museum. You’ll also attend a traditional music performance in a musician’s home and enjoy dinner in the home of a Bhutanese family. A special highlight of any trip to Bhutan is a hike to Taktsang, the sacred Tiger’s Nest Monastery and Temple complex. Conclude your tour with a new sense of harmony as you reflect on your adventure at a farewell dinner.Special Value!This tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.Check out our slide show for a photo journey of this tour!
View photos by clicking "Next Photo" at the top of the page!Itinerary
Days 1-2 — U.S., Delhi, India
Depart the U.S. for Delhi. Reach the Indian capital mid-afternoon and transfer to your airport hotel, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. Dinner tonight is on your own.Day 3 — Paro and Thimphu, Bhutan
An early morning flight reveals breathtaking views of the Himalayas rising from the lush green valleys of Bhutan as you reach the “dragon kingdom.” Land in Paro at Bhutan’s only international airport, then travel by coach approximately 1½ hours to Thimphu, the Himalayan country’s capital and largest city. After checking in at your hotel, enjoy lunch together then embark on a walking tour to Memorial Chorten
, one of Bhutan’s best-known religious landmarks, and to the colorful weekend market. Late afternoon return to your hotel, where you’ll enjoy a welcome dinner. (B,L,D)Day 4 — Thimphu
Today’s touring features the National Library, housing an immense collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts and the world’s largest book; the Traditional Arts School, where students keep alive the traditional art of painting sacred religious scrolls; and the Folk Heritage Museum, which celebrates the country’s rural life. After lunch visit the Textile Museum and see a demonstration of traditional weaving, then continue to Tashicho Dzong
, the historic fortress and monastery that today houses government offices. Tonight enjoy a small group highlight as you dine with a Bhutanese family
then attend a cultural performance. (B,L,D)Day 5 — Thimphu and Punakha
This morning visit a local factory where paper is made by hand. Then embark on the three-hour drive to the former capital of Punakha via the Duchula Pass
(alt. 10,000 feet), which affords stunning views of the Himalayas
. Here you follow the sacred tradition of raising prayer flags
for wisdom and compassion. Continue to a rice farming village and also stop for tea. Mid-day reach Punakha, which sits at the confluence of the Mo Chhu “Mother” river and the Po Chhu “Father” river in a subtropical valley. (B,L,D)Day 6 — Punakha
This morning’s tour of Punakha features Punakha Dzong
, winter home of Bhutan’s central monastic community and one of the country’s most historic and beautiful monasteries, set on a spit of land where the rivers meet. Embark on a rafting trip then enjoy lunch together by the river. Return to your hotel mid-afternoon and enjoy the remainder of the day for independent exploration. (B,L,D)Day 7 — Punakha and Gangtey
Start the day with an easy amble through rice fields to visit Chime Lhakhang, a local temple perched on a hill above a traditional village. Built by the “Divine Madman” in about 1499, the temple is a pilgrimage site for couples struggling with problems of fertility. Travel by motorcoach to Gangtey in the quiet, remote, bowl-shaped glacial valley of Phobjikha. (Please note that at this time the valley uses only solar power to provide electricity, which has limited availability, as does hot water.) (B,L,D)Day 8 — Gangtey
Today visit the only monastery in western Bhutan of Buddhism’s Nyingmapa sect, the oldest school of Himalayan Buddhism. Leaving the monastery en route to our hotel, walk along a nature trail and visit a local farmhouse amid the stunning valley landscape. (B,L,D)Day 9 - Thimphu and Paro
Leave Gangtey today for the five-hour drive to historic Paro, stopping en route in Thimphu for lunch and some free time to explore the local markets. (B,L,D)Day 10 — Paro
This morning visit Ta-Dzong, the national museum showcasing Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage dating from at least 2000 B.C. to the present day. Built in about 1648 as a watchtower, the cylindrical museum houses a fine collection of Bhutanese art and artifacts. Continue your tour at Rinpung Dzong, a historic Buddhist monastery and fortress housing local government and monastic offices; and Kyichu Lhakhang, an important place of pilgrimage and ceremony for Bhutan’s royal family and one of the kingdom’s oldest and most sacred temples. After lunch, traverse the valley to see the ruins of Drukyel Dzong, a victory fortress dating to the 17th century. This afternoon ends with a special traditional musical performance by several of Bhutan's most treasured musicians, in the house of one of the artists. (B,L,D)Day 11 — Paro and Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Embark on a highlight of any trip to Bhutan: a visit to Taktsang, the sacred Tiger’s Nest monastery
and temple complex hanging from a cliff some 2,000 feet above the upper Paro Valley. Set out on a scenic two-hour uphill hike early this morning (a horse is available for transport part of the way). Those not wishing to go all the way up to the complex can get a very good view of Tiger’s Nest at a way-station. First built in about 1692, the Himalayan Buddhist monastery honors Guru Padmasambhava who established Buddhism in Bhutan. The complex of four main temples, eight caves, and residential quarters surrounds the cave where the guru is said to have meditated alone for three months. Tonight, celebrate your Bhutan adventure at a farewell dinner. (B,L,D)Day 12 — Paro and Delhi
This morning fly to Delhi and transfer to your hotel day room until you depart for the airport and your overnight flight to the U.S. (B)Day 13 — Arrive in the U.S.
Arrive in the U.S. and connect with your flights home.