11 DAYS AMANKORA JOURNEY – Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey, Bumthang & Paro

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Itinerary

Day 1Arrival. & Thimphu

Enjoy one of the world’s most spectacular descents as your flight arrives into Paro amid breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks. On arrival you will be greeted by your local Amankora guide, who will remain with you throughout your journey through Bhutan. Your itinerary will be tailored to remain as flexible as possible, and you will be able to discuss it in advance.

A 1.5 hour drive away, Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, lies in a steep valley at an altitude of 2,350m (7,709ft). Upon arrival at Amankora Thimphu, you will have time to settle in before exploring the area, including the National Library, the Textile Museum, the Weaving
Center, Buddha Point and the National Memorial Chorten. Depending on your arrival time, you may also be able to visit the Institute of Traditional Medicines, the School of Arts and Crafts, the Folk Heritage Museum and Simply Bhutan – museums depicting Bhutan’s ancient cultural heritage.

Alternatively, opt for a mild hike with a good view, such as the Wangditse Leisure Forest trail.

End the day with Grounding Massage Ritual, Amankora Thimphu’s signature spa treatment (Chargeable Activity).

Overnight – Amankora Thimphu

Day 2Journey to Punakha

An early departure takes guests on a dramatic drive over the mountain pass of Dochu La and on to the Punakha Valley. Sights on the way include one of Bhutan’s first fortress monasteries, the 17th-century Simtokha Dzong, and ancient wall paintings at the Hongtsho Goemba monastery. The journey continues over the 3,050m mountain pass, from where towering Himalayan peaks are visible on clear days. After a stop for a picnic lunch we continue on to Punakha, which lies at an altitude of 1,250m (4,100ft) in a warm, fertile valley at the junction of the Mo Chhu (Female River) and Pho Chhu (Male River). The subtropical environment allows the cultivation of rice and exotic fruits.

On the way you can visit Chimi Lhakhang, the auspicious fertility monastery built in 1499, to which many couples come to pray for pregnancy and receive a wang (blessing) from the saint with the ‘magic thunderbolt of wisdom’.

Enjoy the evening in our courtyard or may want to unwind the day with a massage or Grounding Face Ritual, Punakha’s signature spa treatment, using locally sourced ingredients (Chargeable Activity).

Overnight – Amankora Punakha

Day 3Punakha Valley

Start the morning with a hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyal Chorten, a stunning monument built by the Bhutanese Queen Mother and consecrated in 1999. Following the hike you can visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, home to the remains of Bhutan’s first ruler and the winter residence of the monastic order’s leader and his entourage of monks.

A popular option for lunch or dinner is the Private Riverside BBQ. Just below the lodge, guests sit in the shade of pine trees and enjoy the sounds of the river, views of rice fields and mountain peaks, and the aromas of food sizzling on the charcoal grill. Dinner is especially romantic, lit by candles and lanterns and warmed by a bonfire (Chargeable Activity).

In the afternoon, try your hand at archery, Bhutan’s national sport. We have a set of bow and arrow ready for you.

Alternatively, sign up for a cooking class to learn how to make momos, traditional dumplings, and the famous ema datse (Chargeable Activity).

Overnight – Amankora Punakha

Day 4Journey to Gangtey

The drive to Gangtey takes around 2.5 hours, beginning with a dramatic drive through the subtropical valley of Punakha, alongside the Mo Chhu river. The highway continues eastwards, following the scenic Dang Chhu River before climbing through forests of bamboo and oak. Just before reaching the Pele La pass, a small side road leads to the hidden Phobjikha (Gangtey) Valley. Gangtey lies at an altitude of 3,000m (9,842ft) and is a serene place of natural beauty, untouched scenery, and local traditions and culture.

On arrival you will have time for a stroll through Gangtey village before visiting the ancient altars and ramparts of the vast Gangtey Goemba, which overlooks the valley. Should the Gangtey Trulku be in residence, an audience for a revered blessing may be arranged.

Overnight – Amankora Gangtey

Day 5Gangtey Valley

The morning begins with a pleasant walk along the Nature Trail, through flower meadows, pine forests and into the open valley. If you would prefer a more challenging hike, consider the majestic Longtey Hike, which affords breathtaking views and winds through a rhododendron forest. You can also visit the Black Neck Crane Center and, depending on the season, spend time in the centre’s hide to spot these rare birds, which migrate from Tibet in winter to breed.

Back at Gangtey lodge, enjoy an open-air Hot Stone Bath. Set in a candlelit stone hut, the traditional wooden tub has wonderful views of the majestic Phobjikha Valley. Your body will benefit from the minerals in the heated stones and the soothing powers of local herbs (Chargeable Activity). Most guests combine the Hot Stone Bath with the romantic Potato-Shed Dinner to round off a truly authentic Bhutanese evening. After the relaxing bath you will enjoy a delicious Bhutanese meal surrounded by hundreds of flickering candles and warmed by a traditional bhukari wood-burning stove (Chargeable Activity).

Overnight – Amankora Gangtey

Day 6Journey to Bumthang

Today guests embark on the five-hour drive to Bumthang – a journey filled with memorable and dramatic landscapes of terraced farmland, deep river gorges and precariously perched farmhouses, viewed from the country’s only east-west highway. Following a brief stop at Chendebji Chorten, which according to legend was built to cover the remains of a demon spirit, you will carry on to Trongsa, the original home of the royal family. Here, you can stroll the village, and perhaps visit the large Trongsa Dzong. The driveonward to Bumthang takes you over the picturesque Yotong La pass and down into the Chhume Valley, home of Bhutan’s famous Yathra weaving. Here you will have a chance to browse the traditional textiles and perhaps see the weavers creating their intricate handiwork.

At 2,580m (8,464ft), Bumthang Valley is covered with fields of buckwheat, millet and potato, with apple orchards climbing up the slopes to mix with the deep pine forest. Across the valley lie many of the Kingdom’s most auspicious and revered houses of worship and ancient monasteries, many still decorated with vibrant wall paintings and richly adorned altars, all suffused with a mystical history. Upon arrival at the lodge, you will have time to explore our neighbouring palace, Wangdichhoeling, previously home to the second King, and the auspicious prayer wheels.

Overnight – Amankora Bumthang

Day 7Bumthang Valley

Heading up the valley, today you will visit Jambay Lhakhang, home to the early-winter festivals that draw thousands of Bhutanese for their annual blessings; and then the grand Kurjey Lhakhang, once the resting place of Guru Rinpoche and considered one of the country’s most auspicious monuments.

A short walk away, enjoy a Bumthap Farmhouse Lunch where you can experience traditional food in authentic surroundings, and sample Bumthang delicacies made from local products. Heading back into town and across the Bumthang Chhu, guests can enjoy a visit to the sin- alleviating Tamshing Monastery.

Don’t miss the chance to explore the valley’s unique cottage industries – the Red Panda Brewery, the Cheese/Dairy Facility and the Distillery, home to a number of distinctive spirits. Red Panda’s local beer and cheese tasting session is highly recommended (Chargeable Activity).

To unwind, relax with a Zen Massage, Bumthang’s signature spa treatment, using dynamic stretches and pressure-point stimulation followed by a soothing oil massage (Chargeable Activity).

Overnight – Amankora Bumthang

Day 8Bumthang, Tang Valley

Today you will further explore the Bumthang district with an excursion to the incredible Tang Valley, a seldom-visited area of temples and monasteries that are truly off the beaten path. En route, stop off at the Burning Lake (Membartsho), where the story goes that Pema Lingpa (a famous Buddhist saint from Tang) had a dream that he dove into the river pool carrying a burning butter lamp in his hand and returned with treasures and the lamp still burning. Guests can also visit the nunnery as well as Ta Rimochen Lhakhang, built by Pema Lingpa in the 14th century, its temple dominated by an enormous rock at which Guru Rinpoche meditated.

Continue to the wonderful museum at Ugen Chhoeling Palace. The exhibits offer a rare insight into Bhutanese culture, lifestyle, history and religion. The palace is reached by a short hike, stopping along the way for a traditional picnic with breathtaking views of the pristine surroundings.

Alternatively, for those who would like to explore the valley on foot, Tang Valley offers plenty of hiking trails.

Overnight – Amankora Bumthang

Day 9Domestic Flight to Paro

Today you will take the domestic flight from Bumthang to Paro. Amankora cannot take responsibility for the operation of this outsourced service and schedules and airfares are subject to change without prior notice. After the scenic 45-minute flight, guests will land in Paro and then visit National Museum. Here, an intriguing collection of artefacts provides a wonderful introduction to the rich culture and heritage of the Kingdom. Just a short walk downhill lies the imposing Paro Dzong, a fine example of historic Bhutanese architecture. From the Dzong, the tour crosses Nyamai Zampa, a traditional cantilever bridge, from where you will be driven to the town temple, built in 1525, to view ancient wall paintings. In the afternoon, there is time for a short stroll from the lodge, walking across open fields and past village houses. Before the sun sets, sit down by the big prayer wheel below the ruins of the Drukgyel Dzong, and relax whilst admiring the rural scenery and changing sky. Alternatively, enjoy an archery session using a set of traditional bows and arrows.

Evenings at Amankora Paro may include informative lectures on Gross National Happiness, traditional cultural performances, prayer flag printing or an intriguing movie on the Himalayas.

Overnight – Amankora Paro

Day 10Tiger’s Nest Hike

In the morning, hike up to view one of Bhutan’s most dramatic monuments, the Taktsang Goemba, more commonly referred to as the Tiger’s Nest, built on a sheer cliff face at an altitude of 2,950m (9,678ft). The four-hour trek offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched on the rocks, 900m above the valley floor. Accommodating mules and donkeys will be on hand to lessen the exertion for the climb up, if so desired. Your guide will check with you in advance if you would like to avail this service.

After lunch, you can drive to the outskirts of Paro town where you will find the 7th-century twin temples of Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the first Buddhist temples built in the country. Spend time lighting 108 butter lamps (Chargeable Activity) and learn about the ancient Buddhist traditions that are still practised today.

As this is your last evening with us, soak in our Hot Stone Bath and relax your body with a Grounding Body Polish & Wrap Ritual massage (Chargeable Activity).

Overnight – Amankora Paro

Day 11Departure

This morning you bid farewell to Bhutan. Your driver will take you to Paro International Airport, a journey of around 30 minutes from the lodge. We recommend you arrive two hours before the flight is scheduled to depart.

Details

Our Discovery by Road and Air Amankora Journey of 10 nights allows you to experience all five valleys. You will drive eastbound, from Thimphu to Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang, from where you will take the domestic flight back to Paro. Please note that we cannot take responsibility for the operation of this outsourced service.

We have compiled the most popular activities and hikes in each valley. For some, we recommend that you pre-book to ensure you can enjoy the activity on your preferred date and time.

Inclusions

  • All meals, and house beverages including house wines & spirits
  • Complimentary one-way domestic flight to OR from Bumthan
  • Airport transfers to/ from Paro Airport to Amankora Paro/ Amankora Thimphu Or Bumthang Airport to Amankora Bumthang
  • A Hot Stone Bath in Paro
  • A Buddhist Blessing
  • A private vehicle, guide and driver for the entire journey
  • A 60 minutes Amankora holistic massage, taken once during the journey
  • All applicable Bhutanese government fees, long road and monument permits (Entry Visa Fee and Sustainable Development / Royalty fee) and visa processing

Exclusions

  • Tips to guide and driver
  • All optional/chargeable activities at the lodge
  • Flights to and from Bhutan (can be arranged by us on additional charges)
  • Anything not mentioned in the inclusions and other expenditures of personal nature
Map

FAQ

I'm a solo traveller, is it possible to arrange a private tour?

Yes, all of our tours are on private basis (unless specified otherwise) and you do not have to join another group.

Can I customize this itinerary?

Yes, we can customize the itineray for you to get the best of Bhutan during your trip. You can add a short trek, upgrade your hotel stays, coincide your travel to witness a festival, or even add a cooking class.

Do I need to use a tour operator to book my travel?

It is a government regulation that you must use a licensed Bhutanese tour operator to book your travel to Bhutan.

All International tourists wishing to enter Bhutan require a visa which must be pre-arranged through a license Bhutanese Tour Operator such as Drukair Holidays prior to travel. For Indian passport (or VIC) holders, Bangladeshi nationals and persons from the Maldives may obtain a visa on entry.

We will be applying for your Visa on your behalf if you are purchasing the tour package from us.

When is the best time to visit Bhutan?

Bhutan has four distinct seasons and each season has its own beauty and charm. Bhutan is an year-round destination. So, it is entirely up to you to decide your travel period.

Spring (March, April and May) is a botanist’s delight as various flowers start to bloom.and plants start budding after their long dormancy in winter.Flowers such as rhododendron, wild azaleas, and edelweiss cover the meadows like carpet and add a new sense of wonder.to the Bhutan’s landscape.

Summer (June, July and August) is an abundant time of the year as flowers are in full bloom and valleys are covered in green, weeping willows sweep the banks of many of the river and pine cone glisten in the sun, so full with risen they are ready to plummet to the ground.

Autumn (September, October and November) is the time when the entire landscape turns into golden color. The farmers harvesting their crops in the golden colored paddy fields under the crisp blue skies is just an amazing view of Bhutan’s landscape in the Autumn season.

Winter (December, January & February) has its moments. The days are full of sunshine while evenings can turn chilly. Soft turfs of clouds drape lazily over mountain tops as if waiting for new life to blow it across the landscape. The winter season in Bhutan gives one a clear view of the world’s highest Himalayan mountain ranges covered in snow.

What’s the food like in Bhutan?

The most distinctive characteristic of Bhutanese cuisine is its spiciness. Chillies are an essential part of nearly every dish and are considered so important that most Bhutanese people would not enjoy a meal that is not spicy.

Rice forms staple Bhutanese diet. It is accompanied by one or two side dishes consisting of meat or vegetables. Pork, beef and chicken are consumed most often. A wide selection of western and Indian food is also available in many of the restaurants around the country.

What currency is used in Bhutan? Can I pay with my credit card for my personal expenses when in Bhutan?

Bhutanese currency is known as the Ngultrum. Its value is tied to the Indian Rupee which is widely accepted in the country. Some of the banks that you can use to change currencies to local local currency while in Bhutan are the Bank of Bhutan Limited, the Bhutan National Bank, the Druk PNB and the Tashi Bank.

In addition, POS (Point of Sale) services are available nationwide, meaning visitors can pay by credit card at most handicrafts stores (for your souvenir shopping) and other shops frequented by tourists.