Adventure Travel in Bhutan,
Find a Hidden Treasure

Do you remember the time when big countries like Russia and China were closed to the public? Or have you read about the travels in far flung times when distances and borders were different from what they currently are?

Bhutan is one of the most isolated nations in the World. It is therefore a unique destination for adventure travel.

Adventure Travel in Bhutan means exploring a unique traditional culture in a stunning landscape. Experience what it is like in a country in which the “Gross National Happiness” is more important that the “Gross National Product”.

Find out how happy the people in the villages really are, while trekking through the Mountains.

To preserve the unique historical and natural beauty of Bhutan, the government has imposed strict rules for traveling in this country. Do not expect to be able to travel independently to or in Bhutan, you need to book a complete package. And don’t expect that it’s cheap either, the government has set fixed minimum prices.

What comes closest to traveling to Bhutan cheap, is to arrange your trip directly at a local operator. Luckily, Adventure Travel Tales and Tips has found Village Tours and Treks, a partner in Bhutan.

So if you are interested in Adventure Travel in Bhutan, please Contact Us.

There are a lot of sights and adventure travel activities possible in Bhutan. Below we have outlined some of these, which can be included in a tour package.

Dzongs

Each district has a dzong that is both the local government headquarters and a monastery. The dzongs are often dramatically located in scenic locations on cliffsides and river confluences. The monasteries have temples dedicated to different Buddhist deities.

The major Dzongs of interest are:

  • Punakha - The most spectacular dzong in the country with a very large assembly hall with paintings depicting Buddha's life
  • Trongsa - The ancestral home for the heredity kings with twenty six different temples.
  • Thimphu - This dzong houses the current government of Bhutan.
  • Jakar - This dzong is located in rural Bhumthang and is a picturesque structure with a view of the town of Chamkhar.
  • Paro - The movie "The Little Buddha" was filmed at the Paro Dzong.

Temples, Monasteries and Nunneries

Throughout Bhutan are public and private temples of worship. The temples are dedicated to a variety of deities and have different worship styles. Bhutan also has many monasteries and a few nunneries.

Other Places of Interest

Bhutan has many places of interest which could be described as tourist destinations, except that there are very few tourists around. These sights, however, are certainly worth a visit:
  • Takstang or Tiger's Nest - Tiger’s Nest is the most important religious and tourist site in Bhutan located high upon the side of a cliff 2,700 feet above the floor of Paro Valley. You can choose to hike or ride horses part way up to a tea house with a great view, or hike up the entire challenging four mile trail and visit the monastery.
  • Cheri Monastery - A retreat center located 1,000 feet above the Thimphu Valley floor requires a moderate hike to reach.
  • Changangkha - The oldest temple in Thimphu dedicated to the Avalokiteshvara, the female goddess of compassion. Locals visit the temple to find out the apropriate names for their children.
  • Pangri Zampa - Just outside of Thimphu is the first residence of the Shabdrung, who untied Bhutan during the 16th century.
  • Zilukha Nunnery - One of the few nunneries in Bhutan. Zilukha is dedicated to the iron bridge builder and is located in Thimphu.
  • Chimi Lhakhang - This temple is dedicated to the divine madman. He loved wine and women and assists the Bhutanese with fertility issues. Chimi Lhakhang is located east of Punakha.
  • Khamsun Yuelley - A new three story temple near Punakha was built for the fifth king with fresh murals primarly of tantric Buddhism.
  • Kurjey Lhakhang - Guru Rinpoche meditated here in Bhumtang and left his body imprint in the rock.
  • Tamshing Lhakhang - This temple in Bhumtang contains untouched old frescos dating back from the 16th century. You can be cleansed from your sins by wearing a coat of iron chain and circumambulating the temple.
  • Jampay Lhakhang - A small temple in Bhumtang dedicated to the future Buddha with four stupas dedicated to the guardian deities of the four directions.
  • Buli Lhakhang - A temple maintained by the American Himalayan Foundation with a classroom for the local community. Buli Lhakhang is located on the road between Trongsa and Bumthang.
  • Merbartsho, The Burning Lake - Perma Linga discovered hidden treasures left by Guru Rinpoche here in Bumthang. He swam underwater with a butter lamp in this dramatic river gorge.

Treks

Trekking is one of the attractions of the Himalya, and thus of Bhutan. But the Bhutan department of tourism restricts trekking to a set of fixed itineraries. You can choose to add one of the following treks to your tour of Bhutan. The treks are listed in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest and start in locations throughout Bhutan.

  • Bumthang Cultural Trek 3 days / 2 nights - This trek is in central Bhutan and is mostly flat but does reach 11,000 feet in elevation. You will pass many villages and encounter the local people.
  • Gangtey Trek - 4 days / 3 nights - This trek is ist in Phobjikha, the valley of the black necked cranes. A moderate trek that starts at 9,000 feet and reaches 11,200 feet and passes through several villages.
  • Panorama Trek - 4 days / 3 nights - This moderate trek starts in the Haa Valley and ends in Paro. The highest point is 14,000 feet with views the snowcapped Himalayas and the Haa and Paro Valleys.
  • Druk Path - 5 days / 4 nights - This trek is moderately strenuous walking thirty seven miles up to 13,000 feet in elevation. The trek passes three beautiful lakes, starts in Paro and ends in Thimphu.
  • Chomolhari - 10 days / 9 nights - This classic strenuous trek climbs two passes up to 16,000 feet with great views of the snow capped Himalayas. You will visit Lingshi Dzong and a yak herder's permanent settlement along the way. Part of the trek includes a long downhill section on a scree path. This trek starts in Paro and ends in Thimpu.
  • Snowman Trek - 25 days / 24 nights - This trek is one of the most difficult in the world as it crosses eleven passes up to 16,500 feet. Snowman offers the best view of the Himalayas, yak herder camps and many lakes. The snowman trek starts near Paro and ends in Chendebji, which is west of Trongsa.

Adventure Travel Activities

Along with sightseeing, Bhutan offers quite a few sporting and outdoor activities other than trekking. You can go on many day hikes and return to sleep in a comfortable lodge. Biking, archery, golfing and fishing are also available. If you like water, you can raft, kayak or soak in a hotspring. Bhutan is also good for birdwatching or staying overnight in a village home.

  • Hiking - Throughout Bhutan are many opportunities for day hikes. To visit some temples and monasteries, your only option is to hike. Many hikes have some relatively steep climbs.
  • Birdwatching - Throughout Bhutan are 670 different bird speices. Good spots for birdwarching are near Punakha, the central south town of Tingtibi, the National Park Thrimshingla along the highway between Bumthang and Mongar, and along the highway between Thimphu and Phuentsholing.
  • Black Necked Cranes - The black necked cranes winter in the Phobjikha Valley adjoining the Black Mountain National Park. You can see the cranes from an observatory overlooking the fields.
  • Takin Preserve - The Motithang Zoo in Thimphu is a preserve for the Bhutanese national animal, the unusual Takin.
  • Biking - You can choose to tour part of the country on bicycle whether you rent bicycles in Bhutan or bring your own. The best places for biking is in either Thimphu to Bumthang, or between Bumthang and Mongar.
  • Archery - Archery is the national sport of Bhutan. The range is 148 meters or 161 yards. Local game are often being organized, and you can even take part in those!!
  • Golfing - A nine hole public course in Thimphu rents clubs.
  • Fishing - Conventional or flyfishing is available in Bhutan along the Paro, Thimphu or Punakha rivers. You must bring your own fishing gear.
  • Hotsprings - In the winter months, the Bhutanese use the hotsprings for medicinal purposes. Hotel facilities are not located near the hotsprings requiring you to camp.
  • Home Stay - You can choose to spend one or more nights in a Bhutanese village home. Attend a local dance performance, get a stone bath or help with farm chores.
  • Rafting - From October to March, rafting is available on the Punakha river with class I to III rapids.
  • Kayaking - You can kayak in either the Thimphu or Punakha rivers.

Cultural Activities

You can experience the local Bhutanese culture and history in a variety of ways. You can attend a festival, visit several museums or shop for the local arts and crafts.

  • Festivals - Throughout many months of the year festivals are held at the local dzong. The significant events in Buddhist history are re-enacted through music and dance. The locals believe one gains merit by attending their yearly festival. The event is also a main social gathering where the locals are dressed in their best textiles. When you visit Bhutan, you should at least attend one festival.
  • National Museum - The national museum in Paro has rotating exhibits and a regular collection that includes a large collection of old thangka paintings, bronze statues and Bhutanese stamps, which are collected worldwide.
  • Textile Museum - Thimphu Textile Museum has a nice display of the different kinds of Bhutanese textiles and a good video describing the different weaving techniques.
  • Thimphu Folk Heritage Museum - Thimphu Folk Heritage Museum has displays illustrating local village life.
  • Bhumtang Folk Heritage Museum - Bhumthang Folk Heritage Museum is similar to the Thimphu Folk Heritage Museum but requires a short walk up a hillside trail.
  • School of Arts and Painting - At the school of arts and painting in Thimphu,you can watch the Bhutanese students learn the traditional crafts of painting thangkas, carving statues, embroidery, weaving and blacksmithing.
  • Shopping - In Bhutan, you can buy many of the crafts the locals make for themselves. Many of the items are Buddhist objects including thangka paintings, masks used in the festival dnaces, vases, prayer wheels, bells, cymbals, telescoping horns and the lute. Local handmade textiles, jewelery and bamboo containers are also available.
  • Paper Making Factory - In Thimphu, you can visit a factory that makes paper.
  • National Library - The Thimphu National Library contains the largest book in the world: a photography book created by MIT in Boston, Massachusetts.

You see, there is a lot to see and do in Bhutan. On top of this, you get only one chance to explore Bhutan while it is still unspoiled. Grab that chance, before the people get used to tourists, and the travel industry goes wild on Adventure Travel to Bhutan.

For more information about Adventure Travel in Bhutan, just contact us.

Not convinced yet? Why don’t you read this Travelogue on Bhutan


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