This trip has been changed to include 2 nights in Kathmandu
With its natural landscape and beautiful scenery, awe-inspiring monasteries and stupas, spectacular mountain ranges and happy people, Bhutan awaits to charm you in more ways than one! Welcome to Bhutan where we will explore the magnificant treasures of Paro, Thimphu and Punakha.
This will be a 11 day marathon & adventure tour of Bhutan which includes 2 nights in Kathmandu. The marathon is June 2, 2018 and is optional for any wanderer. The days involves seeing many local sights of Bhutan including monasteries, temples and statues. We will also have many day hikes, mountain biking from 10,000ft and white water rafting along the Thimphu river. Our 2 nights in Kathmandu include visiting the famous monkey temple and other sights centered around the Thamel area.
5% of tour proceeds will go towards a local Charlotte charity dedicated to supporting the running community.
Our trips begins in magical Kathmandu mainly due to logistical challenges of getting to Bhutan in a single day. Spending the night in Kathmandu will be a great respite after a full day of traveling from the United States.
Our stay in Kathmandu will be in the Western oriented Thamel neighborhood. This charming area and it’s car free streets is great for local shopping and experiencing a little Nepali culture. Depending on the arrival of flights, we can go to the famous Monkey Temple, where hordes of monkeys roam free atop this hillside holy place. The temple also affords great views of Kathmandu valley.
Upon arriving at Paro International Airport and after customs formalities, our local guide Pelden, will pick us up and check us into the local hotel.
Our flight to Paro will be a mesmerizing one with the views of the Himalayas including Mt. Everest and Bhutan‟s highest and sacred mountain Mt. Jomolhari. [Hint: Try and sit on the left side of the plane to see Everest]
After settling in, we will visit the Paro Dzong built in 1644. Most dzongs were built in the mid- 1600s to protect the inhabited valleys from invasion by Tibet. The Paro dzong was started in 1644 on the order of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the unifier of modern day Bhutan. Dzongs tend to sit on hills and watch over the valley floors and are beautiful sights to behold.
After a short hike down from the dzong, we will visit Kyichu Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s two oldest monasteries built by the Buddhist Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century to subdue a demoness lying across the Himalayas.
Today is an easy day to prepare everyone for the marathon for the next day. After breakfast at the hotel, we can head into Paro Town for some light shopping. They have some great tourist shops filled with wonderful local items.
After walking around, we will get lunch in town and make our way to check-in for the run the next day. The time and place for this is currently TBD.
Today we will take part in the Coronation Marathon in the beautiful Paro valley. It is an annual mega event held to commemorate the coronation of the fourth king of Bhutan. There are several length options to choose and those who opt not to participate in the marathon have the entire day to explore Paro Town or hang out at an aid station and cheer on the runners.
The afternoon is reserved for runner massages and relaxing in town or at the hotel.
Today will be a fun one. We will hike to one of Bhutan’s most famous sights, Tiger’s Nest. This monastery sits at 10,000 feet and the trek there offers spectacular views of this sacred monastery perched precariously on a sheer rock face above the valley floor. Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, father of Bhutan‟s stream of Mahayana Buddhism arrived in the Paro valley more than a millennium ago on the back of a tigress. He meditated for 3 months in a cave which was converted into the monastery. The only sounds heard here are the murmurs of wind, water and the chanting of monks. We begin our hike from the base to the cafeteria which will take us at least 90 minutes. From here, it’s another 60 minute trek through some stunning landscape to reach the monastery. The hike will be moderate to hard.
After Tiger’s Nest and lunch, we will travel to Thimphu, the new capital of Bhutan. Bhutanese calls it as the big apple of Bhutan. The drive will take us along the Paro Chu (Chu means water or river) downstream to the confluence with the Wang Chu. Next we turn upstream and travel along the Wang Chu to Thimphu.
In the evening, take a walk up and down the high street lined with little shops and see a colorful gathering of monks, businessmen and nomadic farmers who come to trade supplies in the city.
After breakfast, drive to the base camp of Cheri Monastery and then take a 45 minute hike to the monastery. (This is a moderate uphill hike).
Cheri Monastery was founded by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the 17th century unifier of the Bhutanese nation state. He moved to Bhutan and from Tibet, and promoted a distinct Bhutanese cultural identity from the dominant Tibetan culture. He established Cheri Monastery at the end of Thimphu Valley in 1620 and used it as a residence as well as retreat centre. Cheri, also known as Chagry Dorjeden, has been a sacred place ever since Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Bhutan visited it in the 8th century. Today it is a prominent teaching centre for Drukpa Kagyu order.
After the monastery, we will have a picnic along the Thimphu river where you will get to breathe in the fresh Bhutan air and relax.
Next, it’s onward to the archery ground. Archery is national sport and is a big deal in Bhutan. We will get to watch locals practicing.
After breakfast, we are going to the lovely Punakha valley- the old capital of Bhutan. The drive ascends gradually to the Dochula pass over 10300 ft, with magnificent vistas of the Himalayan range. On clear days, you can see the entire mountain chain and it’s utterly inspiring.
The Dochula Monastery also known as the Druk Wangyal Khangzang Chortens is a tribute to the service and leadership of the fourth king. The design inspired by the Queen is a unique cluster of 108 Chortens seen from all directions.
Next, we are going to mountain bike down from Dochula pass to our hotel in Punakha. It’s about 40 km but don’t worry, it’s all down hill. The descent to Punakha is vibrant and colorful, with the fluttering prayer flags adding to a rich topography dotted by terrace farming and rivers flowing through. There will be many opportunities to stop and take in the view. The biking should take about 90 minutes and the roads are generally quiet. If you do not wish to bike, you can take our transportation to the hotel.
After lunch, we will visit the historic Punakha Dzong sprawled at the confluence of the Phochu (male) and Mochu (female) rivers. Built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang, in terms of architecture, it is believed to be a master piece. First king of Bhutan was crowned here in 1907 and the royal weddings of the fourth and fifth kings of Bhutan also were held at the fortress. This will be one of the highlights of the trip. This dzong is so perfectly beautiful and it’s location on the rivers is gorgeous.
We will have early breakfast today. Drive for 15 minutes to the road point to Khamsum Yuellay Namgyal Chorten (Stupa) for a 35-45 minutes hike. The hike is slightly uphill and will be moderate. The stupa was built by the Queen Mother of the Fifth King to bring peace and harmony for Bhutan and the world at large.
Next en route, enjoy river rafting on Mochu, the female river of Punakha for 1.5 hours. You will see alpine scenery, rare birds, and amazing rapids on the backdrop of striking 17th Century Punakha Dzong, which we saw on the previous day. After the rafting, will will enjoy a picnic with more amazing views of this dzong.
In the afternoon, we will take another moderate hike to the ‘Temple of Fertility’. The temple was built by a monk referred to as a Divine Madman who was generally known for his eccentric behavior. The town around the hike will also feature some unusual phallic shaped paintings on their buildings. This temple is also the place many come when they are seeking to get pregnant, so be careful ladies while you are here.
After breakfast, we will travel back to Paro ascending up to the Dochula Pass once again and descending down to Thimphu and another 45 minute drive along the Thimphu river back towards Paro.
After we check into the hotel, we can go back to Paro town for any last minute shopping and enjoy ourselves on the last night in Bhutan. Pelden, our guide is also arranging a cultural program for us which will include Bhutanese music and dancing.
After early breakfast, we say goodbye to our temporary Bhutanese home and depart to the airport for our flights back to Kathmandu for a final night of the trip.
In Kathmandu, once we check-in, there will be time to take a couple walks around the city and see the famous Durbur square, which was devastated by the earthquake in 2014. We can also escape the busteling city noise and go to the Garden of Dreams, a quiet oasis in the middle of Kathmandu, where the noise of the city fades away.
Day 11 – Final Departure
Today is the final day of the trip and depending on your departure, we will have time to further explore Kathmandu and see any remaining sights we have missed. Our goal is to give you a brief glimpse of Kathmandu o you can understand the Nepali culture.
Price of this trip is $3250 for each wanderer sharing a room. There are no private rooms available for this trip.
This Bhutan Trip is designed for active runners/wanderers. There will be lots of walking/hiking. If you have questions about physical specifics of this trip, please contact me. Trip prices are based on accommodation (3 star hotels/guest houses) and a personal American tour guide & Bhutanese guide for duration of the trip. All trips will have an orientation (in person if geography suffices) or Skype if it doesn’t, for all guests approximately 4 weeks before departure. Emails and phone numbers of other trip group members will be exchanged with consent.
Please see our FAQ’s.
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Subject to Change. Please note, that some parts of the trip may be altered to account for holidays, closed venues and weather related events.
Information about Flights & Bhutanese Visa: Please note all international flights must be booked into Kathmandu, Nepal. This is due to the way flights to Bhutan are reserved. Our local guide in Bhutan will be arranging all flights from Kathmandu and local visas.
Deposit Requirement: 10% deposit is required immediately with each booking request. A booking cannot be guaranteed without a deposit.
Deposits must be paid by credit card or venmo.
Trip Costs: This trip must be paid in full prior to 2 months start of trip. If trip fees are not paid within this time frame, trip deposits will be forfeited. Monthly payment plans are available if you would like to break up the cost of this trip.
Refund Policy: There is a 10% non-refundable fee per person on all received cancellation requests, regardless of the period when the cancellation is submitted. This trip is only 50% refundable if the request is made before February 1, 2018. If cancellation request is made after, no refund will be issued. This is due to the strict booking policies for desired hotels in Bhutan.
We apologize for any inconvenience of this policy. You can however, transfer your reservation to another willing participant in the event you need to cancel. Just notify us if this is the case.
Tour Cancellations: Big Fat World Tours reserves the right to cancel any trip for any reason and will notify each guest as soon as possible. All deposits and monies paid will be refunded 100% in such an event.
These policies are strictly enforced due to logistical partners in country and reservations made with local hotels and providers.
Megan has spent a lot of time in this part of the world and made her 1st trip to Bhutan in 2017. She enjoyed the hospitality so much, she decided to bring a group to run the annual Coronation marathon in 2018. She also has countless trips to Kathmandu under her belt as well and can’t wait to show you the city.
Pelden is the owner operator of Bhutan Dynasty Travel and has been leading curious wanderers around Bhutan for over 17 years. He loves American wanderers most of all so be sure to teach him all of our fabulous slang.
This is Pelden, our guide in Bhutan, singing a traditional sing.
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