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Bhutan - The Rhododendron Festival (Road Trip)

15 April - 23 April 2020 

INR 26000 per person 

Trip Details

Overview

Kuzuzangpo La! Welcome to the Land of Thunder Dragon, a country where the wealth is measured not by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but by Gross National Happiness (GNP) – This is Bhutan. This tiny strikingly beautiful Himalayan country, sandwiched between India and China still remains one of the Last Shangri-La with a charm and magic, like nowhere else in the world. Bhutan`s landscape consists of a lofty and rugged mountain ranges separated by deep fertile valleys, while 72 percent is under forest coverage.  Through centuries of self-imposed isolation Bhutan has been able to preserve its spectacular environment and nurture its unique culture.  


We take you on a lifetime journey to this tiny little country with ‘no traffic lights’ which has put happiness of its people before economic growth and set a world standard for environmental preservation. 


This journey is timed to coincide with spring and the blooming rhododendrons! 


9-days to immerse in rich traditions, explore nature, easy-to-moderate level day-hikes in the Himalayas, and visit the cultural highlights of the country including Thimphu, Paro, Gangtey & Punakha.


Itinerary

Day 01 | Siliguri – Phuentsholing (160 Kms, 4 Hours)


Arrival in Siliguri (The nearest railway station is at New Jalpaiguri Railway Station, about 10 kms from Siliguri / and the nearest airport is Bagdogra Airport (IXB) about 13 kms). We start our trip to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan by road at 11AM. Transfer to the Bhutan’s border town – Phuentsholing. After reaching Phuentsholing, we carry on with the immigration formalities & check-in to the Hotel. Stroll in the streets of the town. Chat with the locals. Overnight at Phuentsholing.


MEAL INCLUDED: Dinner only


Day 02 | Phuentsholing – Thimphu (150 Kms, 4½ Hours)


This morning we take the road to Thimphu, the only capital in the world with no traffic lights. The drive to Thimphu is very scenic with many tiny villages on the way. Our drive will pass through Gedu, Chukha, and Chuzom before emerging ourselves into the only multi culture city in Bhutan. 


We visit the Buddha Dordenma Statue where a giant golden Buddha statue said to be one of the largest Buddhas in the world, standing at 169 feet overlooks the city of Thimphu. We check-in to our hotel / home-stay, and relax rest of the day. 


MEAL INCLUDED: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 03 | Thimphu


Today, we visit the Memorial Chorten, which houses a number of religious paintings and tantric statues. This is where many old local people gather and offer their prayers, chat with each other and pose for the photographs. 


We then visit Zorig Chusum, the School for Arts and Crafts where the students are taught 13 types of Bhutanese art such as carving, textile weaving, thangka painting and more. We can visit the classrooms and chat with the students. We also visit the National Library housing the collection of Bhutanese scriptures dating back to the 8th century. Also visit the Living Museum which provides visitors with fascinating insights into the Bhutanese material culture and way of life. We have the option to have a traditional lunch while witnessing the traditional dance performances.


Post lunch we visit the Royal Textile Museum and Tashichho Dzong. Also, walk in to the Thimphu Post Office and get a stamp with your face printed on it. End the day with a visit to the Motithang Zoo where we can see Takin, the National Animal of Bhutan.


Walk around in the Thimphu town to see the local life. Try out local alcohol brewed from rice and wheat known as “ARA”. Overnight stay at Thimphu.


MEAL INCLUDED: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 04 | Thimphu – Phobjikha via Dochu-La Pass (130 Kms / 4½ Hours)


Start early this morning to head to Phobjikha Valley (9,845 feet), via Dochu-La Pass. The road climbs steeply through a scenic forest of pine and cedar trees, to Dochu-La pass (10,200 feet). The pass where 108 stupas known as "Druk Wangyal Chortens" have been built offers 360 degree panoramic views of the snow strewn Himalayan mountain ranges. It is also marked by hundreds of Buddhist prayer flags fluttering in the wind. The drive through the countryside affords a glimpse of everyday life in this most remote of Himalayan kingdom’s. 


A paradise for nature lovers and hikers, one can enjoy the hike around the remote valley of Phobjikha. This valley is one of the winter roosting grounds of the rare Black-necked Cranes, where they come in hundreds after spending their summer in Tibet and then migrates to the Himalayas of Bhutan to spend their winter – they arrive in the months of September and October and remain here for 5-6 months before flying back to Tibet. While the cranes reside in the valley, the village folks are not allowed to make loud noises or fish in the river that runs through the valley. 


We check in to our simple guesthouse and after some relaxation, head to Gangtey Gompa, the largest and the only monastery of the Nyingmapa sect in Western Bhutan. We then visit the Black Necked Crane Information Centre which provides all the information about birds. Then stroll in the streets of Gangtey to get the rural life of the people. 


From Gangtey, one can closely view the picturesque Black Mountain ranges as well as the beautiful Phobjikha valley. Also, witness the blooming rhododendrons here in this valley during this time of the year. Overnight at Gangtey. 


MEAL INCLUDED: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 05 | Phobjikha Valley – Punakha (80 Kms, 3 Hours)


Today we traverse to the fertile valley of Punakha situated at 4,430 feet ASL. On arrival, enjoy a scenic walk through the small village of Sopsokha and the surrounding rice paddies to Chimi Lhakhang, a fertility temple situated on a hill-top. (Difficulty: easy). The temple is dedicated to Drukpa Kuenley, known as the “Divine Madman” who lived in the 14th century. Women often come here for the famous fertility blessing which involves being tapped on the head by a five hundred year old ten inch phallus. From here you will have wonderful views of the entire Punakha Valley and the confluence of the two rivers – Mo Chhu (Female River) and Po Chhu (Male River).


We then visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery, perched on a pine-covered ridge overlooking Toebesa, Punakha and Wangduephodrang valleys. This nunnery houses more than a hundred nuns (female monks). They are very friendly and always willing to converse with the visitors. We head to our 100-year old Bhutanese traditional home-stay and retire for the day.


MEAL INCLUDED: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 06 | Punakha 


This is a full day of discovery through the verdant Punakha Valley. We start the day with a hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten, a spectacular shrine built by one of the Queen’s of the 4th King with spectacular views down the valley. We hike up through the fields along the banks of the Mo Chhu River to the top which takes approx. 40 minutes. The deities represented here belong to a teaching cycle of Dudjom Rinpoche, a great master of the Nyingmapa sect (1904-87), the functions of which are to subjugate enemies and harmful influences and also to spread peace and harmony.


After lunch, we visit Punakha Dzong, the ‘Palace of Great Happiness’ built in 1637 situated at the confluence of the Mo Chhu (Female River) and the Po Chhu (Male River). The dzong (fortress) has to be reached by foot and requires crossing an arched wooden bridge. The air is so clear here & the views are breathtaking. You will end up clicking hundreds of pictures here. 


We then take a walk to reach the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan spanning 160m-180m and perched high above the river of Po Chhu. 


We also have the option of river-rafting in Po Chhu River. Overnight stay at Punakha.


MEAL INCLUDED: Breakfast & Dinner

 

Day 07 | Punakha – Rhododendron Festival – Paro (125 Kms, 3½ Hours)


Depart Punakha after early breakfast and drive westwards to Paro once again traversing through Dochu-La. We make a stop at the Royal Botanical Garden to witness the spectacular Rhododendron Festival. The festival celebrates the Rhododendron flower showcasing diverse species of the flower that are in full bloom. Of the 46 species in the country, 29 are found here in the gardens. We can also observe the traditional dance and music, local arts, crafts and cuisine and partake in the traditional games and numerous other activities.


On arrival, we visit the 17th century Paro Dzong and continue walking through the oldest wooden bridge still in use. Also visit the holy Kichu Lhakhang, built by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gompo in the 7th century. Evening stroll old Paro town and peep into some local handicrafts stores. Do some souvenir shopping! Overnight at Paro. 


MEAL INCLUDED: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 08 | Into the Tiger’s Nest


After breakfast, we head to Ramthangka from where we hike to Taktsang Monastery commonly known as Tiger’s Nest, which is built around a cave in which Guru Rimpoche (also known as Guru Padmasambhava) meditated. This magnificent monastery literally hangs from the edge of the rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Have lunch at the cafeteria, enjoying the amazing views of peaks and valleys while relishing your meal. The hike is quite a challenge and takes about 5 hours (both ways). Pony ride is available till the view point but not till the monastery. One can hike up to Cafeteria (exactly midway) for the sheer experience if not able to make it to the monastery.


For those of you, who are not for hiking, there are quite a lot of places to visit in Paro to spend the day. After return, we head to a traditional home for hot stone bath and dinner. Overnight stay at Paro


MEAL INCLUDED: Breakfast & Dinner


Day 09 | Paro – Siliguri (300 km / 8 hrs)


Today after early breakfast, we bid fond farewell to the amazing kingdom and take the road to Siliguri / Bagdogra with the memories of a lifetime trip. We bid good-bye to all the participants. Tour ends.


MEAL INCLUDED: Breakfast 



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The itinerary is loosely drafted, and allows you to do as little or as much as you like.


This itinerary is just to give you an idea on the tour structure but in no means final and is subject to change.

Trip Dates

Start Date: Wednesday, 15th April 2020 

End Date: Thursday, 23rd April 2020 


Pick-up / Drop-off at Siliguri town or Bagdogra Airport. Pls ensure that you arrive by 10AM (Airport Pick-up @ 11AM) on the Start Date and book your return ticket for your flight after 8PM (Airport Drop @ 6PM) on the End Date.


If you are not in favor of road journey from Siliguri – Thimphu and back, you can take a flight to Paro directly on 16th April & return on 23rd April.


NOTE: Only two airlines operate to Paro (Druk Air & Bhutan Airlines) and they are not available to book on the online portals like MMT, Goibibo, etc.

Trip Cost

INR 26500 per person (Including the Booking Fee)


  • These rates are for Indian Nationals only.
  • The trip will have a maximum of 16 participants only. Please invite your family & friends to join.
  • Minimum of 6 participants required to conduct the trip.  Please do check with us before booking your air / train tickets. Opt for Zero Cancellation Fee Protection cover while booking your flight tickets so that you get full refund in case of cancellation.
  • A facilitator / group lead will accompany if 8 or more participants sign-up.
  • Suitable for singles / solo travelers / small group of friends / couples
  • Suitable for members between the age group of 16-55 years. We do take members above 55 years too based on their physical fitness.


Inclusions & Exclusions

INCLUSIONS

  

  • Comfy stay for 8 nights / 9 days on double / triple sharing basis depending on the room size in Home-stays / Hotels / Guesthouses. Separate room for married couples.
  • Half Board - Breakfast & Dinner (Set Menu) at our accommodation.  
  • Meal starts with Dinner on Day 01 and ends with the Breakfast on the Day 09, as mentioned in the Itinerary. 
  • Group airport transfer for arrival and departure in Bagdogra airport. If your flight arrival is at a different time from the others, extra charges will be applicable.
  • All transfers / sightseeing trips by Toyota Hi-Ace or Toyota Coaster or similar vehicles. 
  • An Exclusive English Speaking Local Guide from start to end of the trip.
  • Entry Permits, Special Area Permit, Toll Taxes, Parking Charges.
  • All applicable taxes & service charges


EXCLUSIONS

  

  • Air fare / Railfare
  • Food / Snacks / Beverages other than mentioned above
  • Packaged drinking water
  • All entry fees to places of interest & Camera charges
  • Tourism development fee or any other fee that may be imposed by the Govt of Bhutan. 
  • Additional cost arising due to mishaps, political unrest, natural calamities like – landslides, road blockage, etc. In such case extra will have to be paid on the spot by the guests directly.
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, room heater charges, bottled water, soft drinks, incidentals, porter charges, tips, medicines, etc.
  • Any item not specified in the ‘Inclusions’. 

Booking Procedure

Please confirm your participation by paying INR 5000 (Non-refundable Booking Fee**) to book your seat. Rest to be paid 30 days before the tour start date.


Pls write to us at unusualescapes@gmail.com for our Bank Account Details to transfer the Booking Fee (or) pay via Google Pay at 9052220466. Your spot will be confirmed as soon as we receive your Booking Fee.


**If you can find anyone else to replace you, there’ll be NO cancellation charges. We will then refund your money in full including the non-refundable booking fee. 


Pls write to us for cancellation conditions & other queries.

~ TRAVEL QUOTE ~

“Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can. Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.”