Expedition to the Kingdom of Happiness: to the Tiger's Nest and to the Buddhist Tsechu festival


September 12 - 18, 2024
Tour Bhutan

Tour to Bhutan, Kingdom of Happiness, Buddhist festival Tsechu, Thimphu, Himalaya

!Welcome to Bhutan, the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon, as the Bhutanese call their country!

During our short but eventful expedition, we will be participants in a vibrant festival in Thimphu, ascend to the majestic Tiger's Nest, and admire the green valleys and traditional architecture of this mountainous kingdom.
We will also share a traditional meal with monks in a monastery and learn about the unique teachings of the local Divine Madman.

All this, and much more, awaits us in the Kingdom of Happiness – Bhutan!

Welcome to Bhutan, the Kingdom of the Thunder Dragon, as the Bhutanese call their country. During our short but eventful expedition, we will be participants in a vibrant festival in Thimphu, ascend to the majestic Tiger's Nest, and admire the green valleys and traditional architecture of this mountainous kingdom. Additionally, we will share a traditional meal with monks in a monastery and learn about the unique teachings of the local Divine Madman. All of this, and much more, awaits us in the Kingdom of Happiness – Bhutan!
Dates: September 12 – 18, 2024

Duration: 7 days / 6 nights

Number of participants: 6 – 12

Cost per person:
- USD 2 850 subject to 12 participants or
- USD 2 950 subject to 10 – 11 participants or
- USD 3 090 subject to 8 – 9 participants or
- USD 3 290 subject to 6 – 7 participants

Early booking discount: 10% (valid until April 12, 2024)

Everything is included (including Bhutanese visa and three meals a day) except for:
  • International flights to Paro and back,
  • International medical insurance,
  • Transit visa for India (Indian visa is obtained upon arrival in Delhi by applying for a pre-visa through the website, for 60 USD, conditions may change)

Approximate cost of Moscow – Paro – Moscow flight: 1300 – 1600 USD (usually purchased independently, we will provide guidance). Approximate cost of Dubai – Paro – Dubai flight: 1000 – 1100 USD (usually purchased independently, we will provide guidance).

Single supplement: 330 USD


Day 1. September 12, 2024 (Thursday). Paro – Thimphu (50 km, 1.5 hours)

Arrival at Paro Airport and transfer to Thimphu. On the way, we will stop at Tachog Lhakhang to see a traditional bridge constructed using ancient iron chains. After checking into the hotel, we will visit the National Museum in Paro, which has recently added an excellent introductory audio-visual presentation, becoming an invaluable tool for visitors upon arrival in the Kingdom. Next, we will explore the National Memorial Chorten and, if time permits, the historical monastery of Dechen Phodrang with a view of the Thimphu Valley. From here, you can see the monumental Tashichho Dzong, where we will head for the festival tomorrow. To conclude our day, we will visit the Golden Buddha, offering a breathtaking view of the valley.

Meals Included: Dinner
Accommodation Included: Hotel Seven Suites Thimphu or similar

Recommended Flights:
Please note that flights to Bhutan are only operated by the local airline, and reaching Bhutan from major international aviation hubs is not possible. The most convenient flights depart from Delhi (India). Flights are also available from Kathmandu (Nepal), Kolkata (India), or Dhaka (Bangladesh). IMPORTANT: Transit through India requires obtaining an Indian visa.

Recommended Flight from Delhi (India) to Bhutan:
- Drukair - Royal Bhutan Airlines, Flight KB201, departure from Delhi (DEL) on September 12 at 12:30, arrival in Paro (PBH) at 15:20.

Recommended Flights to Delhi, India:
- Aeroflot, Flight SU0232, departure from Moscow on September 11 at 19:30, arrival in Delhi at 04:05 on September 12.
- Flydubai, Flight FZ‑441, departure from Dubai on September 11 at 22:00, arrival in Delhi at 03:10 on September 12.
- Emirates, Flight EK‑512, departure from Dubai on September 11 at 22:00, arrival in Delhi at 02:45 on September 12.
- Any other flight from any city arriving in Delhi no later than 7 am on September 12.

Day 2. September 13, 2024 (Friday). Tsechu Festival in Thimphu

After breakfast, we head to Tashichho Dzong for the festival. Tsechu, meaning "tenth day," is an annual religious festival celebrated in various temples, monasteries, and dzongs throughout the country (this year it will take place from September 13 to 15). Tsechu is a religious event observed on the tenth day of the lunar calendar month, corresponding to the birth anniversary of Guru Rinpoche (Guru Padmasambhava). However, the exact month of Tsechu varies from place to place and from temple to temple. Tsechu is a grand event where entire communities come together to witness religious mask dances, receive blessings, and socialize. In addition to masked dances, Tsechu also includes colorful Bhutanese dances and other forms of entertainment.
It is believed that everyone should visit Tsechu at least once to witness the masked dances, receive blessings, and cleanse themselves of sins. Each mask dance performed during Tsechu holds special significance or has its own story, many based on events from the 8th century during the life of Guru Padmasambhava. In monasteries, masked dances are performed by monks, while in remote villages, monks and village men perform them together.
In the evening, we will visit the famous new Textile Museum and the Takin reserve, where you can see the takin, Bhutan's national animal, and other inhabitants of Bhutanese forests.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation Included: Hotel Seven Suites Thimphu or similar

Day 3. September 14, 2024 (Saturday). Thimphu – Punakha (70 km, 2 hours)

After breakfast, we will head to the Punakha Valley. The road passes through the Dochula Pass, where we will stop to see the 108 stupas built on the orders of the former queen as a memorial to those who died during the conflict in late 2002 when Bhutan expelled Indian rebels who had camped in the jungles on the border between Bhutan and India. On a clear day, we will witness breathtaking views of the eastern Himalayas.
Upon arrival in Punakha, we will visit Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang, a Buddhist nunnery of Bhutan, located at a site known as Omalatsekha. A two-story structure showcasing the finest Bhutanese architectural skills, Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Lhakhang has become one of the must-visit places in the Punakha Valley. Next, we will visit the small village of Talo, where the four queens (all sisters) of the previous 4th king lived. Here, we will stroll through the beautiful serene gardens of the monastery.

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation Included: Zhingkham Resort or similar

Day 4. September 15, 2024 (Sunday). Punakha

After breakfast, an exciting walk awaits us through green fields and tiny villages to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Chorten. This chorten holds special significance as it was consecrated in 1999 and is dedicated to the protection of the former Crown Prince – today's current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
Next, we will visit the suspension bridge Pho Chhu. The 160-meter Pho Chhu Suspension Bridge is known as the longest suspension bridge in Bhutan, offering breathtaking views of Punakha Dzong and the Pho Chhu Valley. An easy trek through the valley will lead us to the Ninpo Chorten Monastery, where we can join young monk novices for a traditional monk's lunch. Afterward, we'll have time to interact with them and the head monk to learn more about their daily lives.
We will also visit the majestic Punakha Dzong, which formerly served as the seat of government and still serves as the winter residence of the Dratshang (Central Monastic Body). It is the most impressive dzong in Bhutan and a beautiful example of how a medieval fortress and the center of both monastic and administrative functions have adapted and evolved in modern times.
A short walk will take us to the Chhimi Lhakhang temple dedicated to the 15th-century saint Drukpa Kunley, known as the "Divine Madman," who taught Buddhism through singing, drinking, and scandalous sexual exploits. The road to the temple is surrounded by houses adorned with phallic symbols in memory of the saint's antics. The temple is also known as a means of increasing fertility, attracting childless couples from across Bhutan and foreign countries.

Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Accommodation included: Zhingkham Resort or similar

Day 5. September 16, 2024 (Monday). Punakha – Paro (110 km, 3 hours)

After breakfast, we will leave Punakha and head to the Paro Valley. Today, we will visit Zuri Dzong — one of the oldest dzongs in Bhutan, built in the 12th century. This five-story structure, protected by double walls and a bridge, is also an ideal place for hiking. In addition to its historical significance, Zuri Dzong offers breathtaking views of the Paro Valley.
Following that, we will have a guided tour of the main attractions in the town of Paro. In Paro, we will stroll along the main street, where you can purchase jewelry and handmade crafts. We will also get acquainted with Bhutan's national sport — archery.
In the evening, we will relax in traditional Bhutanese style at a village house in the Paro Valley. A traditional Bhutanese dinner with a local family awaits us.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation included: Hotel Paro Grand or similar

Day 6. September 17, 2024 (Tuesday). Tiger's Nest Hike

After an early breakfast, we will embark on a pilgrimage hike to the Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest. This is one of the most revered monasteries in the Kingdom, and every Bhutanese Buddhist aspires to undertake this pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. Buddhists believe that every step taken on the path to the monastery accumulates merit for the future. The Tiger's Nest miraculously clings to a cliff at an altitude of over 1000 meters above the valley, where Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress to subdue local demons. Following this, he engaged in three months of meditation in a cave within the monastery. In 1998, the monastery suffered a severe fire but has since been meticulously reconstructed to its original state and consecrated by the Fourth King in 2005.
Taktsang Gomba (Tiger's Nest) is the absolute highlight of our expedition! Though the ascent may seem challenging, it is incredibly rewarding. If you choose not to ascend, you can spend time in the cafeteria enjoying a breathtaking view of the temple.
We will also visit the National Museum in Ta Dzong, the watchtower defending the Paro fortress from enemies. Next, we will descend to Rinpung Dzong or the "Fortress on a Heap of Jewels," which houses local government offices and a monastery. Scenes from the famous movie "Little Buddha" were filmed here.
We will descend to the old traditional bridge beneath Paro Dzong. Here, you will have the opportunity to try on Bhutanese attire and take a beautiful photo with the fortress in the background!
Additionally, from here, you can observe planes landing and taking off. The runway at Paro is known as one of the most demanding international airports in the world.
If time permits, we will visit the village of Bondey Zangto Pelri Lhakhang and a splendid new temple with magnificent decorations.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation included: Hotel Paro Grand or similar

Day 7. September 18, 2024 (Wednesday). Return Flight

After breakfast, transfer to the airport.
If time allows before departure, you can visit Drukgyel Dzong to enjoy a clear view of the recently reconstructed fortress and the summit of the sacred mountain Jomolhari in good weather.

Meals included: Breakfast
Accommodation included: None

Recommended flight from Paro to Delhi, India:
- Drukair - Royal Bhutan Airlines, Flight KB200 Departure from Paro (PBH) at 09:40 AM, Arrival in Delhi (DEL) at 11:30 AM.

Recommended flights from Delhi:
- Any flight to any city departing from Delhi at any time on September 18.

Cost includes:

  • Bhutan visa
  • Tourist tax of $100 per person per day
  • Good quality accommodation in hotels throughout the itinerary, double TWIN or DBL for couples
  • Three meals a day throughout the itinerary
  • Drinking water throughout the itinerary
  • All ground transportation as per the program: Toyota Hiace or Coaster microbus along the route, with working air conditioners and experienced drivers
  • All airport transfers
  • Entrance fee to festival events
  • All necessary permits and documents
  • All activities and excursions as per the program
  • Professional English-speaking guide (regional specialist) throughout the journey
  • Russian- and English-speaking team leader throughout the trip

Costs excludes (additionally paid):

  • International airfare to and from Paro
  • International medical insurance
  • India transit visa (Indian visa obtained on arrival in Delhi with pre-visa application through the website, $60 USD, conditions may change)
  • Single accommodation
  • Refreshing and alcoholic beverages, and personal expenses
  • Tips/gifts for the local population

To take with:

  • 3 sets of clothing (trousers, long-sleeved shirt, T-shirt, underwear, socks)
  • Sun hat
  • Light trekking jacket
  • Warm jacket with a windstopper for mountainous areas
  • Lightweight gloves and a light hat (it may be cool in the mountains)
  • Comfortable trekking shoes, lightweight shoes (sneakers)
  • Raincoat
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and cream
  • Various repellents for skin and clothing
  • Personal first aid kit (analgesics, antiseptics, antibiotics, antivirals, multivitamins, rehydration solution, intestinal medications, medications personally required for you)
  • Personal hygiene items (including towels, wet wipes, soap)
  • Headlamp
  • Trekking poles (optional)
  • Backpack for luggage (either a duffel bag or a small suitcase)
  • Small backpack for personal items
  • Photo and video equipment
  • Additional set of batteries and a power bank for photo and video equipment
  • Waterproof case for photographic equipment (optional)
  • No specific COVID requirements (requirements may change)
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