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Bhutan: Kingdom in the Clouds
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11 days

from $10,283 AUD trip_detail hint icon

($6,995 USD)

Prices are per person, based on twin share occupancy. The AUD prices are based on USD and calculated at today’s rate of exchange. The expedition price will be finalised at time of booking.

trip_detail module icon Signature Land

trip_detail module Light icon Moderate trip_detail hint icon

Travelers should be physically fit and prepared for multiple hours of activity (e.g. hiking, kayaking, biking) each day.

Premium trip_detail hint icon

Premium expeditions are led by a National Geographic expert, an expedition team, or top guides, and tap into National Geographic's worldwide resources to allow for in-depth exploration and special access to sites and experts in the field. Itineraries are fully planned, with some free time. Accommodations are high-end or best available. Ground transportation and most meals and activities are included in the trip price.

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Expedition Overview

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EXPEDITION OVERVIEW
  • Hike to Bhutan's most famous pilgrimage site, the Taktsang Lhakhang (Tiger's Nest Temple), and participate in an intimate butter lamp ceremony with the monks of Gangtey Goemba.
  • Get a personal perspective on contemporary Bhutan while mingling with community leaders and government dignitaries at a special banquet.
  • Stay at the spectacular Zhiwa Ling Hotel, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World that exemplifies the artistry of Bhutanese architecture.
  • Experience a traditional festival, and visit a family farmhouse to learn about rural life.
EXPERTS ON THIS TRIP

A National Geographic expert will accompany each departure to share insights and a rare behind-the-scenes perspective. Listed here are some of the experts that will be joining departures on this trip.

Itinerary

Within the folds of Bhutan's mountains lie sacred temples, dazzling rice fields, and villages unchanged by time. On this magical journey, experience the wonders of the last Mahayana Buddhist kingdom of the Himalaya. Hike to ancient dzongs, meet local families, wander through serene monasteries, discover unique artistic traditions, and witness one of Bhutan’s spectacular local festivals.

Day 1: Bangkok, Thailand

Arrive in Bangkok this evening and check in to our hotel.

Day 2: Paro, Bhutan

Fly to Bhutan's Paro Valley (7,300 feet), and visit Ta Dzong, a 17th-century fortress overlooking the Paro Valley. Explore our stunning hotel—a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection—before a welcome dinner tonight.

Day 3: Punakha

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After a special Buddhist blessing ceremony, journey to Punakha, the ancient capital of Bhutan. This afternoon, visit Chimi Lhakhang, a small but famous temple in the center of the golden Punakha Valley. Settle into our hotel and enjoy dinner together.

Day 4: Punakha

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After an invigorating hike to Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, a spectacularly situated temple, be rewarded for your efforts with incredible views of the valley below. Then visit the Punakha Dzong, an impressive fortress guarding the southern end of the valley at the confluence of the Pho (male) and Mo (female) Rivers.

Day 5: Phobjikha

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Travel to the beautiful alpine valley of Phobjikha (10,000 feet), the largest wintering site for the endangered black-necked crane. Along the way, the environment changes from semi-tropical to pine forest, and then to an alpine zone that is home to several species of rhododendron, dwarf bamboo, and Grey Langur monkeys.

Day 6: Phobjikha

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Against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains, Gangtey Goemba temple complex rises dramatically from a cluster of hilltop cottages. One of the oldest Nyingma monasteries in Bhutan, Gangtey Goemba has recently been renovated, allowing us to examine the fine workmanship of Bhutan’s best woodcarvers, sculptors, and painters. Then set off on a half-day hike, stopping to visit with a village family along the way.

Day 7: Thimphu

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Travel to Thimphu (7,900 feet), the capital of Bhutan. Cross the Dochu La pass (10,000 feet) en route and gaze at a 200-mile panorama of Himalayan peaks (weather permitting). Tonight, get a behind-the-scenes perspective on contemporary Bhutan during a lively Bhutanese banquet with members of the government, local dignitaries, and respected professionals.

Day 8: Thimphu/Paro

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Spend the morning exploring the country’s more modern side in Thimphu. Visit the National Textile Museum, where Bhutan’s finest weavings and brocades are on display. Return to Paro in the afternoon and settle back in at the Zhiwa Ling.

Day 9: Paro

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Our journey in the kingdom culminates with a hike to the most famous pilgrimage site in Bhutan: Taktsang Lhakhang, or the Tiger’s Nest Temple (9,300 feet). Visible from afar, this stunning monastery clings to a vertical granite cliff 2,000 feet above the valley floor. This evening, celebrate your Bhutanese adventure at a festive farewell dinner.

Days 10-11: Paro/Bangkok, Thailand

Fly to Bangkok and check in to our hotel. The following morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight, arriving home the same day.

EXTENSIONS

Day 1: Bangkok/Siem Reap, Cambodia

This morning, fly to Siem Reap and transfer to your hotel. After some time to relax, set out to explore the extraordinary temple complex of Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious structure. Built by King Suryavarman II during the golden age of the Khmer Empire, this 12th-century temple reflects the evolution of the Khmer's belief system from Hinduism to Mahayana Buddhism. Venture into galleries where stunning bas-reliefs depict scenes of battles and the epic Ramayana poem. See some of the 3,000 apsaras, or heavenly nymphs, that are carved into the temple walls. Cap off the day by watching the sun set over this ancient wonder.

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Day 2: Angkor

Spend the morning exploring Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Khmer Empire. In the center of this ancient city sits the majestic Bayon Temple, a 12th-century masterpiece known for its colossal carved faces. After lunch, visit Preach Khan, built by King Jayavarman VII in honor of his father. Explore the temple's myriad halls and pavilions, causeways and moats, and look for the delicate frieze of apsaras in the Hall of Dancers. Continue to the small island temple of Neak Pean, surrounded by a network of ponds that were believed to have curative powers. Later this evening, enjoy spectacular views as the sun sets over the storied towers of Angkor Thom.

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Day 3: Angkor

This morning, venture north to explore one of Angkor's jewels, Banteay Srei. Constructed of rose-colored sandstone, the 10th-century temple features intricate carvings that illustrate ancient Hindu tales. Enjoy a picnic lunch, then continue to Kbal Spean, or "River of a Thousand Lingas." Take a lovely walk through the jungle to an area where the riverbed has been elaborately carved with Hindu images, said to bless the water before it flows into the reservoirs of Angkor. This afternoon, visit the temples of Thommanon, Chao Say Tevoda, and Ta Keo. Explore Ta Prohm, known for the giant banyan, kapok, and fig tree roots that have coiled their way into the temple structure.

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Day 4: Siem Reap/Bangkok

After breakfast, visit the Angkor National Museum and browse an impressive collection of Khmer artifacts. Time permitting, stop by Les Artisans d'Angkor to watch local youth being trained in age-old Khmer arts. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bangkok (pre-trip) or home (post-trip).

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What to Expect

This trip has an activity rating of moderate; travelers should be physically fit and prepared for multiple hours of hiking on several days. Excursions may include navigating uneven terrain, climbing stairs without handrails, and walking on paths with steep ascents\/descents. Bhutan is 8,000 feet above sea level on average. The highest elevation we reach will be 11,000 feet; we spend two nights at 10,000 feet.

Accommodations
Throughout the trip, we stay in high-end hotels with many amenities, including a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World in Paro. We spend 2 nights at a Bhutanese-style hotel, and 2 nights in a rustic lodge.

Expedition Team
A National Geographic expert and an expedition leader will accompany this trip, and local guides join us along the way.

ACCOMMODATIONS
1 /4

Zhiwa Ling Heritage - Paro, Bhutan

Nestled in the hills outside Paro, Zhiwa Ling Heritage, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World is an architectural gem that unites Bhutanese culture and heritage with 21st-century comforts. In the spirit of Bhutan’s Buddhist tradition, guests can join monks at the Meditation House, experience the tranquility of the Tea House, and enjoy a yoga session looking out at the legendary Tiger’s Nest Temple.

2 /4

Zhiwa Ling Heritage - Paro, Bhutan

Nestled in the hills outside Paro, Zhiwa Ling Heritage, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World is an architectural gem that unites Bhutanese culture and heritage with 21st-century comforts. In the spirit of Bhutan’s Buddhist tradition, guests can join monks at the Meditation House, experience the tranquility of the Tea House, and enjoy a yoga session looking out at the legendary Tiger’s Nest Temple.

3 /4

Zhiwa Ling Heritage - Paro, Bhutan

Nestled in the hills outside Paro, Zhiwa Ling Heritage, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World is an architectural gem that unites Bhutanese culture and heritage with 21st-century comforts. In the spirit of Bhutan’s Buddhist tradition, guests can join monks at the Meditation House, experience the tranquility of the Tea House, and enjoy a yoga session looking out at the legendary Tiger’s Nest Temple.

4 /4

Dewachen Lodge - Phobjika, Bhutan

The rustic, but comfortable Dewachen Lodge has spacious rooms overlooking the remote and unspoiled Phobjika Valley. Each room is heated by a wood-burning stove, which staff light while you’re at dinner.

PRICES & DATES

  • date Oct 1-11, 2019
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $10,283 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $12,921 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

EXTENSIONS

Post-trip Extension: 2019/10/11 - 2019/10/14

Double Occupancy from $10,283 AUD per person

Single Occupancy from $12,921 AUD per person

  • date Nov 6-16, 2019
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $10,283 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $12,921 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

EXTENSIONS

Post-trip Extension: 2019/11/16 - 2019/11/19

Double Occupancy from $10,283 AUD per person

Single Occupancy from $12,921 AUD per person

  • date Apr 18-28, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,018 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $13,656 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

EXTENSIONS

Post-trip Extension: 2020/04/28 - 2020/05/01

Double Occupancy from $11,018 AUD per person

Single Occupancy from $13,656 AUD per person

  • date Sep 21-Oct 1, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,018 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $13,656 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

EXTENSIONS

Post-trip Extension: 2020/10/01 - 2020/10/04

Double Occupancy from $11,018 AUD per person

Single Occupancy from $13,656 AUD per person

  • date Nov 7-17, 2020
  • double occupancy
    (from)
    $11,018 AUD Per Person
  • single occupancy
    (from)
    $13,656 AUD Per Person
  • extensions yes

EXTENSIONS

Post-trip Extension: 2020/11/17 - 2020/11/20

Double Occupancy from $11,018 AUD per person

Single Occupancy from $13,656 AUD per person

Prices are per person based on double or single occupancy (unless otherwise noted) and do not include international airfare to/from your destination or internal flights during the expedition. Internal flights are $900 per person in 2019 and $1000 per person in 2020. Internal flights for the optional extension are $500 per person. The AUD prices are based on USD and calculated at today’s rate of exchange and subject to change. See the terms and conditions for this trip for more information.

  • Transfers upon arrival and departure
  • Accommodation as indicated in the itinerary
  • Meals as indicated in the itinerary
  • Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary
  • All gratuities
  • Bhutanese government tourism tariff and visa
Carroll Dunham
Anthropologist
"

Medical anthropologist Carroll Dunham has resided in the Himalaya for more than 25 years and currently resides in Nepal. Author of four books, she has explored deeply the feminine divine in South Asian history and culture. She has produced more than a dozen films for National Geographic, PBS, the BBC, and others on subjects ranging from Living Goddesses to polyandry, nomadism, and geology. She has recently been involved with working with female immolations at a hospital burn unit and has delved extensively into the history of women’s relationship to fire and sacrifice in the Hindu world. On the board of the Nekorpa Foundation, which preserves sacred pilgrimage sites and traditions, Carroll has a keen interest in environmental conservation issues regarding sacred spaces of South Asia. A practitioner of yoga and ayurveda, committed to fostering income generation among marginalized women so they may support their families' health and education, Carroll has formulated ayurvedic products for The Body Shop and founded Wild Earth, a sustainable social enterprise producing handcrafted herbal products in the Himalaya. Carroll and her family have spent the last ten summers living with nomads in central Mongolia.

"
  • Sep 21-Oct 1, 2020
  • Nov 7-17, 2020
Bill Jones
Historian
"

A popular National Geographic Expert, Bill Jones has been traveling throughout Southeast Asia and the Himalayas since the 1980’s, pioneering train and air expeditions in the years when some of the countries were just beginning to develop their infrastructures. His knowledge of local history and firsthand experience of the contrasts between the tribulations of some countries and the prosperity of others gives him a unique understanding of the region. His studies of Buddhism give him a profound insight into the heartbeat of several of the cultures of Southeast Asia. Through his links with the World Monuments Fund, he has followed the restoration of a number of ancient sites in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. He has lead special interest groups from the California Academy of Sciences, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Royal Academy of London, and the World Presidents Organization. Bill’s commentaries during visits to monuments and his pre-dinner talks are entertaining and informative and have been greatly appreciated by National Geographic travelers.

"
  • Oct 1-11, 2019
  • Apr 18-28, 2020
David Silverberg
Geographer Geologist Conservationist
"

David Scott Silverberg is a geographer working on conservation projects spanning six continents. His mix of exploration, research, and digital photo-video storytelling has been popular with National Geographic travelers for many years. A fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Asia Society, David was the executive science director at Earthwatch Institute, set up and managed Boston University environmental field research programs in British Columbia and eastern Africa, and was a founding White House staff member for AmeriCorps. David has worked in more than 100 countries, manages the Environmental Learning Institute, and teaches at several international universities.

"
  • Nov 6-16, 2019