Restrictions on the numbers of tourists allowed to visit Bhutan have helped preserve the country's natural assets and unique way of life for millennia. Visitors will see monasteries perched at the tops of mountain peaks, ancient Buddhist art and sculpture, dense forests and spectacular valleys. Bhutan is a land filled with snow-capped peaks, glaciers, sparkling lakes, raging rivers, green terraced fields and flower-strewn valleys. An adventurer's paradise - much of Bhutan remains unexplored.
Our past trip participants have expressed an overwhelming pleasure from their journey to what is perhaps the world's most exclusive tourist destination – Bhutan. The Royal Government's policy of environmental preservation has left the country unspoiled and pristine. Its severe restrictions on inbound visitors coupled with the honour of never being colonized has kept ancient lifestyle and traditions intact. The Bhutanese emit an inward and exterior peace that make visitors feel warm and welcome.
Why book with Tours of Exploration?
- We specialize in customized, personalized tours offered by local guides.
- Our collaboration with local partners not only guarantees an immersive, culturally rich and authentic experience; but also to economically support the area's local population.
- Book with confidence as deposits are risk-free and refundable.
- Extensions to this tour can easily be added.
2022 Departure Dates and Costs
April 21 - May 4, 2022 - Culture and Nature Expedition (14 days)
Tour Cost: $3,750 USD per person
October 27 - November 12, 2022 - Nature, Birds and Culture (14 days)
This trip features Sengor/Yonkala and Limethang Road instead of Gangtey Valley. Please send us a request for this itinerary.
Tour Cost: $3,750 USD per person
Signature specialty departure with company owner Catherine Evans, local escort Duptho Rinzin, and Bhutanese sites guides.
Due to the nature of the destination, early bookings are essential. Please inquire about our low deposit to hold your space. Deposit is refundable until Dec. 31, 2021
Single Supplement $45 per night if single room is requested.
$40 additional Visa fee.
For 30 years, Catherine Evans has applied a mission of “enriching lives through nature & cultural travel”, achieving this by linking conscientious travellers to like-minded hosts in remote destinations on all seven continents. She has been involved with many innovative projects that earned recognition including an Ecoliteracy Field School; a multi-disciplined arts retreat in the wilderness; volunteerism projects with whale researchers in both the Atlantic and Pacific waters; and an ecotourism project with three communities in rural Costa Rica. In 1998 CBC’s Marketplace awarded her company, Tours of Exploration, “10/10” for their Ecotourism practices. Catherine Evans is an Associate Faculty member at Royal Roads University in the Tourism & Hospitality Department for both Graduate and Undergraduate studies. This will be her fourth journey to Bhutan.
Duptho Rinzin works for Tours & Trekking Guiding. Duptho served as an in-flight manager for 8 years with Royal Bhutan Airlines before starting Shangri-La Bhutan Tours in 1996. He has been guiding Cultural Tours and Trekking Groups ever since. In addition to his National tourism expertise, Duptho has travelled to more than 25 countries showcasing Bhutan to the outside world. Duptho has had the privilege of serving as Political Advisor to the previous ruling government and currently, serves as a member of the King's "Guardian of Peace" program. Duptho is also the founder and member of the original Lions Club in Bhutan as well as other social volunteerism. His sense of humour and exceptional customer service have made our past groups with him feel above and beyond.
Itinerary at a glance
Day 1: Arrive and transfer to Thimphu
Day 2: full day in Thimphu
Day 3: Thimphu to Punakha
Day 4: Punakha to Trongsa
Day 5: Trongsa halt - drive to Zhemgang area
Day 6: drive to bumthang via Ura
Day 7: Bumthang
Day 8: Bumthang
Day 9: Bumthang to Punakha
Day 10: Punakha to Valley of the Black-necked cranes
Day 11: To Paro
Day 12: Paro Valley
Day 13: Tiger’s nest
Day 14: Departure.
Day 1: Arrive Paro - Thimpu (D)
Upon arrival in Paro, you will be met by our Bhutan land team and transferred to Thimpu (2 hours). The drive to Thimpu is incredibly scenic and we will make stops enroute. 2 nights accommodation are in Gyelsa Boutique Inn or similar. Thimpu is the capital and the largest city of Bhutan. * At present time we are suggesting Singapore as a gateway airport. If the situation changes, options from Bangkok and Delhi are possible.
Day 2: Thimpu (B,L,D)
Day of cultural and nature sightseeing in and around Thimpu. Some of the activities you will enjoy include:
- Purchase world’s most beautiful postage stamps, collector’s items and postcards at face value from the general post office, right next to the Bhutan National Bank
- Visit the Arts and Crafts school where one can see young children at work
- Visit the Traditional Medicine Institute where the ancient healing arts are still practiced
- Visit the Textile Museum, and the emporium of Arts & Crafts
- Visit the Memorial Chorten built in 1974 to honour the memory of Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, popularly known as the Father of Modern Bhutan. A multi-storied stupa will introduce you to the vitality of Tantric Buddhism.
- Observe traditional paper making from Daphnia and Edgeworthia shrub to the finished product and purchase some beautiful writing sets from the factory
- Drive up to a viewpoint and take a hike beyond to see the clear picture of Thimphu Valley.
Day 3: Thimpu – Dochula Pass – Punakha
Punakha has been the winter capital for over 300 years until the time of second King. It is presently the administrative seat of the district and home of the monastic school. The town is located at the confluence of two rivers. It is one of the most impressive Dzongs and active monasteries in the country. Morning visit to the most significant of the rooms and courtyards of Punakha Dzong.
Day 4: Punakha – Pele La Pass -Trongsa (B,L,D)
A morning outing will be arranged to either the temple of the divine Madmen or a nunnery. Then departure to Trongsa in Central Bhutan. Cross the high Pele La pass (11,400 feet), Near Pel La are impressive pastures where we hope to see yak, and then in the nearby dense forests an array of exotic avifauna. Trongsa is the ancestral home of the royal family. We will visit Tongsa Dzong (fort), one of the largest in the country. It was first built is 1648 by Chogyel Minjur Tempa, the Third Desi, and later enlarged many times. Because of being situated on a highly commanding position on the only connecting route between the eastern and western sectors (the trail actually runs through the Dzong), the Tongsa Penlop was able to control the whole of eastern region very effectively for many centuries. It is presently the administrative seat of the district and home of another monastic school. Built at split-levels on a narrow spur, the Dzong spans a huge area. Views from here are extensive creating a truly strategic location of this Dzong. Overnight accomodation at Yanghil Resort or similar.
Day 5: Trongsa – Zhemgang Road
We deviate from the main east-west road to drive to Zhemgang. We will make stops to observe the farmlands and traditionally decorated houses. We will watch for birds and monkeys along the way including the Golden Langur, endemic to this area of Bhutan and the mighty hornbill. Our journey will cross many habitats from broad-leaf forests, mountain ridges and river valleys - a pair of binoculars will come in handy. Overnight accomodation will be at a campsite.
Day 6: Zhemgang – Ura – Bumthang (B,L,D)
Today we explore a wide variety of flora and fauna habitats along the Zhemgang road to Bumthang. We will drive via the Ura Valley, where traditional farms, weaving cooperatives and terraced fields can be seen. On arrival in Bumthang, 3 nights accomodation will be at Hotel River Lodge or similar.
Day 7: Bumthang (B,L,D)
Bumthang valley is one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the country. View the Jakar Dzong "The Castle of White Bird" and the Chumey Valley where one can see girls weaving Yatha the traditional woollen weavings.
Day 8: Ura, Bumthang – Jakar, Bumthang (B,L,D)
Full day sightseeing in and around Shingkhar Valleys visiting temples and farm houses with time to mingle with local farmers. Our cultural sightseeing includes the numerous and important Buddhist monasteries and pilgrimage sites. Included will be a short hike to explore the fascinating valley.
Day 9: Bumthang to Punakha (B,L,D)
We will begin our drive back to Western Bhutan and break our journey in Punakha. With time we will explore another of the cultural sites in and around Punakha.
Day 10: Punakha – Gantey Valley (B,L,D)
We will take a detour to visit one of the most stunning valleys in the country the Gangtey Valley also known as the valley of the Black-necked crane that visit the marshes here from November to March. While the birds might have flown away, there are a number of attractions including nature walks, a visit a local school and Dzong.
Day 11: Gangtey Valley – Paro (B,L,D)
Morning, sightseeing in and around Gantey and transfer to Paro via the Dochula Pass. Enjoy great views of the Bhutanese Himalayas and the likely blooming of the rhododenron.
Day 12: Paro Valley (B,L,D)
Paro’s sightseeing is full of gems such as the 200-year-old Watch Tower, which has been renovated and converted into National Museum in 1968. It houses a fine collection of national costumes and fabrics, gallery of thangkas, an impressive stamp gallery with three-dimensional stamps issued as early as 1960. Visit Drugyel Dzong, although mostly now in ruins. Visit Drugyel High School and Kychu Lhakhang, the oldest monastery in the valley built in 7th Century. Take a look at the shops in Paro town.
Day 13: Paro (Tiger’s Nest) (B,L,D)
Morning hike to Tiger's Nest Monastery and sightseeing in and around Paro. “Tiger's nest,” built around a cave in which Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhawa) meditated, clings seemingly impossible to a cliff of rock at 3,000 feet above the valley floor. For the local people it is a place of pilgrimage, but for a tourist, a hike up to the viewpoint opposite the monastery is exhausting, thrilling and mystical. A teahouse walk brings visitors to a midpoint overlooking the monastery. Hikers who wish to walk further should be in excellent physical condition.
Day 14: Departure
Morning departure flight from Paro.
Extension in Bhutan and other areas of Asia are possible. Please ask us for details. A deposit of $400 is required to secure this trip. The deposit is refundable until December 31, 2021.
Your tour cost includes:
Road transportation in comfortable vans or micro-buses
Travel with a licensed professional guide
Sightseeing tours with entrance fees
Royalty paid to support educational and social programs
Airfare to Paro at an additional cost.
Ask about International airfare from your home city!
Optional trip extensions are available.
What our clients say...
“ You were right. It does all seem like a dream, a good one! We can’t thank you enough for the great job you did making the tour so enjoyable. It was everything we anticipated and more. The breathtaking beauty of the country and the welcome shown to us by the people, particularly the children, was what impressed us the most. ... A time away, just the four of us, will probably never happen again and I think we all four will remember is as a very special time.” - The Kirwan family, Ontario Canada
“ I felt well looked after… the food was better than i expected, I particularly liked the wonderful vegetable variety. This is unique country for anyone interested in visiting the Himalayas and learning how this small country enters the modern world and still retains it’s identity and the process.” - P. Charles, Vancouver, BC
“ All guides and drivers went above and beyond in making our stay a memorable one.....Tours of Exploration has done a wonderful job during our trip. After seeing the National History Museum in Paro I realized that we had first hand seeing with our own eyes most of the billboards on display. We did amazing things saw culture, nature, music, religion and most of the country from one end to the next. Everything was taken care of.” - M and B. Chesnik, Windsor, ON
“ The experience of this tour was due to the guides and drivers. The six of them all contributed to an amazing trip. The entire trip was an experience of a lifetime, thank you.” - P. Macdonald, San Francisco, CA
“ After our 1st day of looking down, I knew we were in good hands.” K. Basher, Lancaster, NY
“ This trip was far above my expectations, I highly recommend Tours of Exploration to my friends.” - T. MacIntosh, Peterborough, ON
“ There was a good mix of cultural and sight seeing activities... Perhaps the food was a little too good, great that there were so many veggie options... You really look after us and all of your behind the scenes work is greatly appreciated. “ - K. Dawkins, Toronto, ON
“ I greatly appreciated having two buses so everyone could have a window seat. Felt it was a treasure to come here, and especially to visit eastern Bhutan.” - C. Longfield, Toronto, ON
” I appreciated the driving skills that were apparent of those challenging roads, the bus was always clean and well taken care of mechanically.” - M. Leuschen
“ We first heard of Bhutan about ten years ago and it has been on our list of places to visit ever since...The people are all so friendly and curious... We did not experience the begging and peddlers so common in many of the other areas of Asia we have visited... The mountains are ablaze with colour, the red and whites are incredibly intense...At higher elevations we saw yaks and on occasion a pair of barking deer in the road.” – C. and E. Jensen
“ Our guide was very good with respect to his language skills, knowledge and organizational ability... our schedule was packed from dawn till dusk with sightseeing!.. it was most stimulating and very interesting.” - J. Arnold, Christchurch, NZ
“ Thank you again for providing wonderful photo experiences in Bhutan it is a beautiful, friendly destination.” - D and B. Wolf, Louisville, KY
“ Carmen, It was a delight to get to know you and to have you as a guiding light on our Bhutan trip, I loved it! Even though I was not a real photo buff I did get hundreds of good shots, I have put them into an eleven minute show with music zooming and panning... My post trips to Cambodia and northern Thailand went well too.” - J. Johnson, Redondo Beach, CA