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The mountain kingdom of Bhutan remains one of the old world’s last few strongholds against an encroaching modern civilization. In the charmed isolation of the Himalayan heights, Bhutan’s ancient and alluring ways of Mahayana Buddhism continue richly intact to this day, and permeate every aspect of Bhutanese life and culture. Our Coda trip visits the highlights of this tiny kingdom and our accommodations are luxurious and often spectacular. Although the trip can be physically challenge (with heights up to 12,000 ft and climbs lasting up to 5.5 hours), our experience has been that everyone can enjoy this trip who is reasonable healthy. This is a unique opportunity to see an authentic part of the world.
Start & End in Bangkok (BKK)
Fri, Oct 27, 2017 • Depart The USA
Depart the USA on any regularly scheduled flight to Bangkok.
Sat, Oct 28 • Arrive Bangkok
Arrive Bangkok and transfer to the Hotel at the airport for overnight.
Hotel: Hotel Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
Sun, Oct 29 • Bangkok | Paro | Thimpu
After breakfast, check out of hotel and transfer to the airport for flight to Paro. The flight to Paro is one of the most spectacular in the entire Himalayas. The journey offers fascinating views and an exciting descent into the Kingdom. Bhutan’s first gift to you as you disembark from the aircraft will be cool, clean fresh mountain air. After immigration formalities and baggage collection, you will be met by our representative and welcomed to Bhutan. (A VISA IS REQUIRE FOR ENTRY INTO BHUTAN. IT IS ARRANGED BY OUR BHUTANESE PARTNERS AND STAMPED INTO YOUR PASSPORT UPON ARRIVAL IN BHUTAN.)
Afterwards drive to Thimphu, the capital town of Bhutan with an en-route stop at Chuzom, the confluence of Thimphu and Paro rivers. Three different style of stupas, Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese, adorn this confluence. Shortly before reaching Chuzom, you will see on your left Tschogang Lhakhang, “the temple of the excellent horse”. It is a private temple, built in 15th century, as the result of visitation from Balaha, the excellent horse, a manifestation of Chenrezig, the compassionate Buddha.
After lunch, visit Textile Museum which provides fascinating insights into Bhutanese material culture and way of life, followed by visit to Simply Bhutan – an exclusive project under the Bhutan Youth Development Fund – it is a living Museum and Studio encapsulating the cultural heritage of the Bhutanese people. The infrastructure portrays ancient Bhutanese architecture which is being lost to modernization.
The evening is free in Thimphu. * Overnight at the hotel in Thimphu (Altitude 7800 ft).
Hotel: Room: Meals:
Mon, Oct 30 • Thimpu
Our sightseeing program starts with a visit to King’s Memorial Chorten which is continuously circumambulated by people, murmuring mantras and spinning their prayer wheels. Construction of this landmark was the idea of Bhutan’s third king, His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (“the father of modern Bhutan”) who wished to erect a monument to world peace and prosperity. Completed in 1974 after his untimely death, it serves both as a memorial to the Late King and as a monument to peace.
Then proceed to visit Buddha Point (Kuensel Phodrang). You can pay here your obeisance and offer prayers to the Buddha, the largest statue in the country and then walk around and take a glimpse of the valley.
After lunch, visit to Trashichhodzong, an impressive fortress/monastery housing a Secretariat building, the throne room of His Majesty, the King and various government offices. It is also the summer residence of Chief Abbot and central monk body.
This is followed by interesting weekend market of Thimphu. Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
Hotel: The Taj Tashi
Tue, Oct 31 • Thimpu | Punakha (75km, 3hrs Drive)
Morning after breakfast visit to the National Library, which houses an extensive collection of priceless Buddhist manuscripts, some dating back several hundred years, as well as modern Academic books mainly on Himalayan culture and religion. Then we visit the nearby Zorig Chusum, commonly known as the Painting school, the Institute offers a six-year course on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.
Afterwards drive to Punakha via Dochu-la pass (10,130 ft) stopping briefly take in the view and admire the chorten, mani wall, and prayer flags which decorate the highest point on the road. If skies are clear, the following peaks can be seen from this pass (left to right): Masagang (7,158m), Tsendagang (6,960m), Terigang (7,060m), Jejegangphugang (7,158 m ), Kangphugang (7,170 m ), Zongphugang (7,060 m ), a table mountain that dominates the isolated region of Lunana – finally Gangkar puensum, the highest peak in Bhutan at 7,497m.
Punakha (alt. 4265ft) served as the capital of Bhutan before Thimphu and is still the winter seat of Je Khenpo (the chief abbot). Blessed with temperate climate and owing to its natural drainage from Pho Chhu (male) and Mo Chhu (female) rivers, the Punakha valley produces abundant crops and fruits.
Evening at leisure in Punakha. *Dinner and overnight at the Hotel in Punakha (Altitude 4265 feet).
Hotel: Uma Punakha*
Wed, Nov 1 • Punakha | Paro (125km, 4-1/2 hrs Drive
After breakfast visit the Punakha Dzong, built strategically at the junction of Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers in 1637 by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal to serve as the religious and administrative center of the region. Punakha Dzong has played an important role in Bhutan’s history. Damaged by four catastrophic fires and an earthquake, the Dzong has been fully restored by Bhutan’s fourth King.
Later drive back to Paro descending back down from Dochu La, follow the way back up the dramatic Wang Chhu and Paro Chhu river valleys, before crossing through Paro Town towards the north end of the valley.
The beautiful valley of Paro encapsulates within itself a rich culture, scenic beauty and hundreds of myths and legends. It is home to many of Bhutan’s oldest temples and monasteries, National Museum and the country’s only airport. Paro is also one of the most fertile valley in the Kingdom producing a bulk of the locally famous red rice from its terraced fields. This afternoon you will explore Paro and its surrounding.
Start with a visit of Ta Dzong, originally built as a Watchtower, which now houses the National Museum. The extensive collection includes antique thangkha paintings, textiles, weapons & armor, household objects and a rich assortment of natural and historic artifacts. After the visit walk down the trail to visit Rinpung Dzong, meaning (“fortress of the heap of jewels”), which has a long and fascinating history. Along the wooden galleries lining the inner courtyard are fine wall paintings illustrating Buddhist lore such as four friends, the old man of long life, the wheel of life, scenes from the life of Milarepa, Mount Sumeru and other cosmic Mandala. *Dinner and Overnight at the hotel in Paro (Altitude 7200ft).
Hotel: Uma Paro*
Thu, Nov 2 • Paro
The morning is reserved to visit Taktsang Monastery (5hrs hike total), one of the fabulous locations in the world. The Taktsang Monastery is one of the most famous of Bhutan’s monasteries, perched on the side of a cliff 900m above the Paro valley floor.
It is said that Guru Rinpoche arrived here on the back of a tigress and meditated at this monastery and hence it is called ‘Tiger’s Nest’. This site has been recognized as a most sacred place and visited by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in 1646 and now visited by all Bhutanese at least once in their lifetime. On 19 April, 1998, a fire severely damaged the main structure of building, but now this Bhutanese jewel has been restored to its original splendor.
On the way back to the hotel, will visit the 7th century Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the 108 temples built in the Himalayas by Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo. The building of this temple marks the introduction of Buddhism in Bhutan.
We enjoy our Farewell Dinner at the hotel in Paro.
Hotel: Uma Paro
Fri, Nov 3 • Paro | Bangkok | USA
After breakfast transfer to the airport for onward flight to Bangkok. Upon arrival in Bangkok. Connect with your flight back to the USA.
Sat, Nov 4 • Arrive the USA
Arrive the USA.
Only Novotel is situated right next to the airport terminal. A leisurely 5 mins stroll via air-conditioned underground walkway. The hotel boasts five restaurants and bars, VOUS Spa, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center.
Guest rooms adorned with swirls of hand-painted murals of clouds – a recurring motif in Bhutanese art – take in sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. Elegant, expansive and luxuriously appointed, the rooms, in the manner of all Taj Hotels, pamper guests with the finest amenities.
From its cosmic position over the Mo Chu River, the nine-room sanctuary has perhaps the most extraordinary views of any hotel in Bhutan: below, the lazy river snakes through emerald paddy fields; in the far distance, the snow-capped Himalayas soar above the clouds.
Perched on a pine-covered Himalayan mountainside, the elegant and imposing Uma by Como, Paro hotel is one of Bhutan’s best boutique properties. From its peaceful surroundings – the pool offers postcard-beating views. Delicious dining, local art and the blissful Como Shambhala spa complete the picture.
International and Intra-tour airfares and airport taxes. (These are sold separately; Insurance of any kind / medical expenses; Beverages with meals on land; Expenses of personal nature (laundry, telephone/fax calls, camera/video fees etc.); Gratuities to guides, drivers, hotels, porters & shipboard personnel; All the extras mentioned above as ‘Supplements’ if any
Elevation: 7544 feet Latitude: 27 32N Longitude: 089 43E
Elevation: 15128 feet Latitude: 27 38N Longitude: 089 50E
You will need a passport valid for at least six months following the date of your arrival to Bhutan and a visa to enter and exit Bhutan. All visas are approved from Thimphu and are only issued to tourists booked with a local licensed tour operator, directly or through a foreign travel agent.
In order to process Bhutan visa we require clear readable colour copy of passport (page containing passport no and face picture in JPEG or PDF format) at least 30 days prior to date of entry into Bhutan. Remaining validity of passport should be minimum 6 months from the date of entry into Bhutan.
The Bhutanese Ngultrum is the currency of Bhutan. The currency code for Ngultrum is BTN.
EXCHANGE AS OF October 29, 2013
Bhutan’s time zone is UTC+ 06:00
When it is 12:00 PM in New York it is 10:00 PM Thimphu
There will be plenty of things to spend your money on and you’ll have ample time for shopping. Common purchases of items made IN Bhutan include: tapestries, thangkas, traditional clothing, and some food items (such as tea and snacks). Bhutan is not a manufacturing-haven. Many of the items in the souvenir shops are imported from Thailand, India, and Nepal. And they are EXPENSIVE. Even items manufactured in Bhutan are expensive. For those of you used to shopping in the developing world, readjust your expectations here.
Dzongkha is Bhutan’s official language. It literally means ‘the language spoken in the dzongs and administrative centers in all the districts of Bhutan’. It has its roots in the old-Tibetan language, spoken by the people of Western Bhutan. In 1992 the first edition of a book was published, describing the grammar of Dzongkha. Besides Dzongkha there are two major languages spoken by the people of Bhutan: Sharchokpa (spoken in Eastern Bhutan) and Nepali (spoken in Southern Bhutan).
Because of the ethnic diversity of the Bhutanese people, there are also 19 dialects and languages spoken throughout the country. You will be able to communicate with many in English though; it’s the instruction language in schools and therefore widely spoken.
Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
Tipping is a purely personal matter. We leave it up to you as to whether you want to give a gratuity to your guides and drivers. However, if doing so, we recommend that you place the gratuity in an envelope. We will provide guidelines for tipping in final documents.
We expect visitors to dress modestly and respectfully especially if you are planning a visit to the monasteries, Dzongs and other religious institutions. Long pants and long sleeved tops should be worn when visiting such places. As a mark of respect, be kind enough to remove your hats, caps etc. as you enter religious and administrative premises, institutions and in any other place that you come across with the national flag being raised.
International and domestic airport taxes are charged. Most of the time, these taxes are already in your air ticket.
All major towns are well connected with electricity that runs on 220/240 volts with round hole two-pin and three-pin power outlets.
It is recommended that you bring flat-to-round pin converters for your electronics if necessary, however, most hotels offer multi plug sockets. Bhutan is a carbon neutral destination. Our energy is clean and green generated by hydro power.