Discover a rarely seen side of a very special kingdom

Bhutan's traffic-light free capital and precariously perched Buddhist monasteries are only one side of the kingdom's story. As a nation that puts environmental preservation at the forefront of governmental policy, Bhutan boasts some magnificent tracts of unspoilt wilderness. This expedition trip – the first like it to be operated by Intrepid – aims to showcase the natural beauty of the country with an itinerary that ventures into its valleys and peaks as well as tours its regular attractions. Start in Paro, climb to the mighty Tigers Nest Monastery then head east to the capital Thimphu. This unhurried city is the only capital in the world without traffic lights, fly to and spend a day checking out riverside Bumthang, site of some of the country's oldest temple complexes, then enjoy four days shooting the rapids of the Drangme Chhu (river) by raft. If you're one for remote adventuring in irregular destinations, this is a trip not to be missed.


Start
Paro, Bhutan
Finish
Guwahati, India
Countries
Bhutan, India
Style
Original
Theme
Expedition
Code
HJSR
Physical rating
Ages
Min 18
Group size
Min 8, Max 12

Why we love this trip

  • Happiness is serious business in Bhutan. Instead of measuring the nation's wealth by Gross National Produce, Bhutan pursues a Gross National Happiness index

  • Leave your road-rage at home, Bhutan is completely traffic-light free

  • In Bhutan's official language of Dzongkha, the country is known as 'Druk Yul'. Literally, 'Land of the Thunder Dragon'

  • In March 2016, the birth of a baby prince was celebrated with the planting of 108,000 trees

  • Strict quotas exist on how many visitors may visit Bhutan each year

  • Paro Taktsang. Known as Tiger's Nest Monastery in English, this is one scenically situated temple complex

Is this trip right for you?

  • Expedition trips may not suit everyone. While a lot of research and planning goes into putting together an Expedition itinerary, they are pioneering and innovative by nature. If smooth, ripple-free travel is what you’re after, perhaps wait until they (possibly) become established trips. But for those with a yearning to veer off the beaten track and explore free of crowds and preconceptions, this is an adventure above all others

  • Please be aware of altitude when you arrive in Bhutan; Paro sits at 2,250 metres. If you start to feel nauseous or light-headed, please let your leader know

  • In Bhutan short distances can take much longer due to small, narrow roads and mountain passes

  • Rafting is carried out by experienced guides and no previous experience is necessary. However we recommend you be a confident swimmer

  • We camp along the river each night and emergency access may be limited due to tour remote location

Itinerary

Welcome to Bhutan. After arriving at Paro Airport, meet your guide and driver before enjoying some free time. Paro is the perfect town to explore on foot, due to its small size, quiet streets and bevy of sacred and historical buildings. Paro Dzong, Bhutan’s most well-known dzong, is well worth a visit, due to its impressive architecture and sweeping views across the valley. In the evening, meet your group for a welcome meeting at the hotel. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the reception where it will take place. We’ll be collecting insurance and next of kin information at the meeting – please make sure you have all these details ready to provide to your leader.

Bhutan Visas & Additional Accommodation
Travel in Bhutan is strictly controlled and to do any independent travel outside of a group tour is extremely difficult and expensive to arrange. We provide a group visa for travellers on our tours in Bhutan, which stipulates that all travellers must arrive and depart on the same days that our tour program starts and finishes. For this reason we are generally not able to provide additional accommodation outside of our tour dates and advise all travellers to book flights in and out of Bhutan that correspond with the start and finish day of the tour. In the rare case that no flights are available and you need to arrive earlier or depart later we are only able to book additional accommodation for you in conjunction with a special individual visa which can add around AUD1000 to the cost of your tour, to be paid at the time of booking.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After an early breakfast, head out for what is sure to be a pretty incredible day: hiking to the legendary Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery. Legend has it that the Great Guru Rinpoche flew here from northeast Bhutan on the back of a tigress to subdue the demons of Paro Valley. Once there, he made himself comfortable in a cave, where he meditated for three years, three months, three days and three hours.

Hike uphill for an hour, then stop at a small teahouse for a snack and outstanding views of the cliff-hugging monastery. Then it’s onwards and upwards through the forested trail to the top. The last part of the trail is pretty strenuous, but well worth the effort.

In the afternoon, travel to Thimpu and spend some time exploring Bhutan’s most modern city.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After breakfast, drive to Paro and make the short flight out of the valley to Bumthang. Named after a ‘bumpa’, the vessel of holy water commonly found on monastery altars, Bumthang is considered the spiritual heart of Bhutan. The serene valley is home to some of the oldest temples and monasteries in the country. Keep your eyes peeled for black-necked cranes and wild yaks roaming in the lush valley.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Start the day with a walking tour in the beautiful Bumthang Valley (2,580 metres); the verdant pastures here are filled with apple orchards, rice paddies and potato crops. Visit the Jambay Lhakkang, one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. Built in 750 AD by King Songsten Gampo of Tibet, it is said that the temple was constructed in one night – pretty impressive, if you ask us. Continue on to Kurje, a 17th-century temple next to a spectacular new monastery that has been built using traditional techniques. From here, walk through the countryside, cross the rushing Chamkhar River, and cross through farmland to the Tamshing temple complex. After lunch, enjoy free time exploring Bumthang town.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Continue on to Mongar, a dzongkhag (district) in the country's east. The road here, which winds through fir forests and over the Thrumshingla Pass (3,780 metres), is considered one of the most spectacular in the country (6-7 hours of travel). As the region's principal town, Mongar is something of an economic hub in Bhutan. A hydro power plant generates green power from the Kuri Chhu River, lemongrass is a local industry, and the area is renowned for its varieties of Rhododendron. On especially clear days you may also be able to sneak a peak at Gangkhar Puensum: at 7,541 metres, it’s the world's highest unclimbed mountain. Spend the evening in a local lodge.
Accommodation
  • Lodge (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Drive out of Mongar towards the river. We’ll be on the road for around two hours before a three-hour hike to our rafting put-in spot at Drangme Chhu. Perhaps explore the nearby woodlands, or just chill out at our riverside campsite.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Are you ready to raft? Of course you are! First up, our leaders will give you a briefing to get you acquainted with paddling commands and safety precautions on the river, then… the river awaits. Pop on your helmet, clip on your life jacket, hit the water in our inflatable rafts and prepare to get drenched (don’t worry – splash jackets and dry bags will be provided). Over the next few days, we’ll be on the water for an average of 5-6 hours each day, rafting on a combination of class 3 and 3+ rapids.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Pack up the tents and prepare for our second day on the river. On the calmer stretches of water, remember to look up and take in the gorgeous green valley surrounds. In the afternoon, set up camp on the sandy riverside beach and enjoy dinner, a cool drink, and a night under the stars.
Accommodation
  • camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Get ready for another day of beautiful river rafting down the rushing Drangme Chhu. Launch the rafts for our last full day on the river before an evening of camping on the riverbank.
Accommodation
  • Camping (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
After breakfast, continue on down the river to our take-out spot. Cross the border into India and spend night at a lodge in the Manas National Park. Initially established as a sanctuary in 1928, in 1992 the park was declared a danger by UNESCO, due to heavy poaching. After years of being closed, the national park is now open (and safe), although is still relatively unknown to visitors. The park is home to a variety of animals, such as elephants, tigers, leopards and rhinos. Keep your eyes – and ears – open.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
We’ve got an early start this morning as we make the long drive out of Manas to Guwahati (4-5 hours). Here board an onward flight to Delhi or Kolkata, where our rafting expedition comes to an end.

(Please note that flights must be booked at own expense out of Guwahati and are not included in the cost of the trip)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

10 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners

Transport

Plane, private vehicle, river raft

Accommodation

Hotel (5 nights), Lodge (1 night) camping (4 nights)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. An airport arrival and departure transfer is included
2. Please provide Intrepid or your booking agent with a scanned colour copy of the personal details page from your passport at time of booking. Failure to do this delays group visa.
3. Please advise all international flight details at least 60 days prior to departure.
4. Please be aware that Bhutan's airlines are renowned for last minute changes to flight timetables into and out of Bhutan. Please allow a min of 24 hours transit time between your international flight and flight into Bhutan. Timetables are available on the Druk Airlines and Air Bhutan websites.
5. All travellers must arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 11 to be eligible for a group visa. See Trip Notes for more details.
6. This trip ends in India. You will need to obtain an Indian visa prior to travel.
7. Please note the flight from Guwahati is NOT included on the last day of the trip.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.