Sorry you missed the 2010 Women-only Bhutan tour!
Why not plan for another Women-only tour to Bhutan?
Please see this and all tours at the new WanderTours site — featuring both women-only and co-ed tours!
Itinerary dates: March 20 – 31, 2010
Tour leader: Beth Whitman
This 12-day cultural adventure to Bhutan has been specially created for women and is an in-depth journey that goes beyond the surface experience of many tours to Bhutan. A female Bhutanese guide, knowledgeable in the culture, history and religion, will accompany the small group.
The tour combines the best of Bhutan’s cultural highlights along with light trekking in the pristine Himalayas. During this adventure you’ll have the opportunity to watch the brief unfurling of the great thongdrel (banner) which the Bhutanese believe will free one from the cycle of reincarnation simply by watching this. The group will also take part in a cooking class, hike to Tiger’s Nest and enjoy the Paro teschu (festival).
The group meets in Bangkok prior to departure to Bhutan.
March 20, 2010
Day 1 – Arrive in Paro, Bhutan — Thimphu
The flight into Paro on Bhutan’s national carrier, Druk Air, is a befitting introduction to the spectacular beauty of the country. In clear weather, magnificent views of the world’s highest peaks give way to the lush green Paro Valley as you land. Your first experience will be that of breathing in the cool, clean fresh air. After clearing customs and visa control, the group is met by the local guide and driven to Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital (population 86,000; 7,520’) about 90 minutes away. Thimphu is still the world’s only capital city without a traffic light!
After lunch, the group will visit sites around Thimphu that may include a nunnery, the National Memorial Chorten, the National Zoo (more like a preserve, the only animal present is the national animal, the unique Takin), the handicraft emporium, handmade paper factory and Tashichoo Dzong. Dinner and overnight at hotel in Thimphu.
March 21, 2010
Day 2 — Thimphu – Punakha
After breakfast, there may be additional time for sightseeing in Thimphu and you may visit sites missed on Day 1.
The group will then depart for Punakha. Leaving Thimphu, the road climbs steeply through a forest of pine and cedar, festooned with hanging lichen high up near Dochu La Pass (10,000’). On a clear day, this pass offers panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain ranges. After stopping for tea or lunch (depending on the time), you’ll enjoy an hour’s downhill walk through magnolia, hydrangea, vibernam and evergreen oaks before boarding the bus and driving on into the Punakha Valley.
In the afternoon, you’ll drive a short distance to Punakha Dzong, the winter seat of the Je Khenpo (head abbot) and the ancient capital of Bhutan. You will visit the spectacular temple in this complex which houses large Buddhas at the alter and thousands more around the walls. This is located between the rivers of the Mo (female) Chu (river) and Pho (male) Chu. You’ll have dinner and overnight at the hotel.
March 22, 2010
Day 3 — Punakha — Trongsa
The drive to Trongsa is about 5 hours. You’ll drive through the Black Mountains along the “Central Road”, which was completed only 30 years ago, and opened central Bhutan to the outside world.
The first stop is Wangdue, a small but important town and the district headquarters of Western Bhutan. The Wangdue Phodrang Dzong is dramatically located on a ridge above the confluence of two raging rivers. The road then climbs through semi-tropical vegetation to Pele La Pass (10,900′) with an alpine environment of towering rhododendron and dwarf bamboo. This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between west and east Bhutan. Yak can often be found grazing here and, if clear, Mt. Jhomulhari (24,140′) is visible to the west. Descending, you’ll pass Chendebji Chorten, built in the 18th century to suppress a demon. You’ll proceed through a spectacular gorge and on to Trongsa, where you’ll visit the impressive Trongsa Dzong (ancestral home of the current king) and the Ta Dzong, an ancient watchtower. Overnight at the hotel and enjoy the spectacular views of the area.
March 23, 2010
Day 4 — Trongsa — Bumthang Valley
After breakfast, you will continue driving east to Bumthang Valley. There will be ample opportunity to sightsee in the Bumthang Valley including visits to: the Tamshing Gompa (monastery), built in 1501 by Pema Lingpa, Bhutan’s most important tertons (treasure revealer) and one of the five great tertons of Tibetan Buddhism; Kurjey Lhakhang, where the Guru Rinpoche subdued a local demon, leaving his body imprint on a rock; Jambay (or Jampa, Buddha of the Future) Lhakhang, dating back to the 7th century and much restored in the 19th century; the Jakar Dzong; and the Swiss Farm (for cheese, honey, beer and local fruit spirits).
In the late afternoon, there will be a cooking class at the hotel to learn how to cook some of the more traditional dishes including chilli and cheese and sautÃ©ed fiddlehead ferns.
March 24, 2010
Day 5 — Bumthang — Ura – Bumthang
Following breakfast, you will take an excursion to the Ura Valley. About 25 miles from Bumthang, the road reaches the Ura Shelthangla, where, in clear weather, there is a magnificent view of Bhutan’s highest peak, Gangkar Puensum (24,600’). The road then descends into the Ura Valley by long loops across fields and pastures. Here you will have an opportunity to hike down through a lush forest and through the village of traditional homes before meeting up at the bus.
Ura’s main occupation is raising sheep and yaks, and the introduction of potato farming has brought a certain degree of prosperity to the people. You’ll visit Ura Lhakhang and then return to Bumthang. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
March 25, 2010
Day 6 — Bumthang — Hike to Tang Valley
In the morning you’ll depart for Tang Valley along the 15 miles of dirt road which gives access to this region. You’ll stop for an hour-long hike up to Ogyen Choling Museum which provides a fascinating look into traditional life in Bhutan. After the hike back down to the road, you’ll stop for a picnic lunch.
Afterward, you will visit the Pema Choling Nunnery and learn about the lives of the women who live there. This is a special opportunity to see how the nuns live in and operate the nunnery, which is so very different from the monasteries where the monks live. On the return trip, you may also have time to visit Mebartsho (Flaming Lake), where Pema Lingpa discovered a religious treasure from this lake.
Tall Prayer Flags
March 26, 2010
Day 7— Bumthang — Gangtey
You’ll begin by driving in the morning west back towards Paro. The group will stop at Yotong La Pass and then continue on through Trongsa, to Pele La Pass, and then turn south to the Phoblika Valley (10’000 feet), considered the most beautiful valley in the Himalayas. Lunch will be provided along the way.
You’ll then enter the Black Mountains, which are home to much endangered wildlife including golden langurs, barking deer, tigers, panthers, bear and wolves. This valley is the winter home to the endangered black-necked cranes that migrate from the high Tibetan Plateau. Dinner and overnight at hotel.
March 27, 2010
Day 8 — Gangtey — Wangdue
In the morning, you’ll walk up through a steep forest path to visit the Gangtey Gompa, which dates back to the 17th century. The path then continues through a level area in a beautiful forest and along the valley floor back to the hotel, where you will lunch.
You’ll then drive about 2 hours to a beautiful riverside hotel near Wangdue (4,000 feet). Dinner and overnight at the hotel.
March 28, 2010
Day 9 — Wangdue — Thimphu — Paro
From Wangdue, you will drive to Thimphu for lunch and a last chance for shopping and sightseeing. You’ll then proceed to Paro where you’ll have dinner and overnight at hotel.
March 29, 2010
Day 10 – Paro
You’ll get an early start on this last full day in Bhutan to hike 2 hours up to Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest), Bhutan’s most photographed and iconic monastery rebuilt in 2005 after a fire. You’ll spend some time enjoying the views and visiting the temples here. You’ll then hike down, stopping in at the tea shop, located at the halfway point, and where there are lovely views of Tiger’s Nest. You’ll continue down and then enjoy a picnic lunch. You’ll return to Paro and there will be time for resting or visiting the town for last-minute shopping. Final overnight and dinner at hotel.
March 30, 2010
Day 11 — Paro
Today will be spent at the Paro Festival. In the early morning hours, the group will rise to watch the unfurling of the thongdrel (banner) which takes place over just a few hours. The festival continues through the morning. In the afternoon, there will be time left for perusing the streets of Paro or just relaxing.
March 31, 2010
Day 12 — Paro — Bangkok
After an early breakfast, you’ll depart for the airport for a bittersweet goodbye to the Kingdom of Bhutan and fly back to Bangkok. Though it’s possible to connect with your flight home on the same day, consider overnighting in Bangkok in case flights out of Paro are delayed.
Tour cost: $4995
Single supplement: $475
(Why a single supplement charge? See this about page for an explanation.)
Price includes: roundtrip flights from Bangkok to Paro, transportation in Bhutan, all meals, hotels, bottled water, visa, airport tax and tourist development fund charge. Also includes cost of cooking class and festivals.
Price does not include flights to and hotel in Bangkok, evacuation insurance (highly recommended), souvenirs, personal purchases (such as books and snacks), beverages other than water, and tips.
This trip is limited to 15 people and requires an $800 deposit (to cover airfare from Bangkok to Paro) on a first come, first served basis.
Please make payable and send check to:
PO Box 16102
Seattle, WA 98116
Deposits and full payment may also be made with a credit/debit card through PayPal – note that there is an additional 3% charge for this. If paying through PayPal, simply send payment to: beth (at) wanderlustandlipstick (dot) com.
Beth with tour guides, Chuki and Tshering
Your tour leader, Beth Whitman, has been traveling the world for more than twenty years and has a deep respect for cultures and the environment. She has traveled to Bhutan numerous times and has come to love the people and sheer beauty of the landscape. She is the author and publisher of the Wanderlust and Lipstick series of guides and the editor of www.WanderlustAndLipstick.com.
Few tourists visit Bhutan due to the country’s lack of infrastructure and the government’s wish that the country preserve its wonderful culture. While hotel accommodations are generally quite comfortable, they are basic. Meals are usually served buffet-style at the hotel and consist of lots of cooked vegetables, rice and some meat. Vegetarians will have no problem finding plenty to eat.
Bhutan is located in the Himalayas. The altitude should not be an issue for most but occasionally some people react to it with slight headaches or stomach upsets. Participants should be reasonably fit and should expect to do light trekking and hiking throughout the journey.
For those who are prone to motion sickness, carry medication or natural remedies in case the twisty roads get to you.