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Experience the beauty of Bhutan

With tourism opening up in Bhutan in recent years, this tiny Himalayan nation has become the new must-see destination in Asia, particularly for those seeking a holiday with a difference. It’s a country which holds many surprises – spectacular landscape, unique architecture, red rice and chillies galore! It is also continually ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world – what better reason to add this to your list of top places to visit!

Here, the Lightfoot Travel team reveals one of its favourite Bhutan itineraries and explains why this magical Buddhist Kingdom should be on everybody’s bucket list.

The Magical Kingdom of Bhutan: Trekking & Culture

Sample itinerary

Day 1: Punakha

Upon arrival in Bhutan, you’ll be met at the airport and escorted by private transfer to Punakha. The three-hour drive takes you to the Dochula Pass, with its 108 chortens and views of the Himalayan peaks.

Stay: Amankora Punakha

Bhutan lightfoot - Amankora Punakha

Day 2: Explore Punakha Valley

Today begins with a hike along terraces of rice, chillies and cabbage to a religious monument built by the four queens of Bhutan. Afterwards, you’ll drive towards Khuruthang, passing a palace before reaching Punakha Dzong, administrative headquarters for the Punakha region. You’ll visit the village and temple at Talo, and a monastic university.

Stay: Amankora Punakha

Day 3: Punakha to Phobjikha

Drive along the Himalayan mountain roads from Punakha to the glacial valley of Phobjikha, seeing grazing yaks, crop farms and the central marshland, the winter home of the rare black-necked cranes. Embark on a hike or bike ride along the river and through forests and villages.

Stay: Gangtey Lodge

Bhutan lightfoot Punakha

Day 4: Explore the Phobjikha Valley

Today, you’ll visit Gangtey Monastery, the only Nyingma monastery in western Bhutan. Afterwards, relax back at your lodge and enjoy the stunning views or opt for a hot stone bath.

Stay: Gangtey Lodge

Bhutan lightfoot gangtey lodge

Day 5: Phobjikha to Thimphu

Head out on a morning nature walk through the forest, before setting off on the drive back to the capital Thimphu. In the afternoon, visit the bustling Thimphu market.

Stay: Six Senses Thimphu

Bhutan lightfoot breakfast monastery

Day 6: Druk Path Day 1 (Thimphu to Phojodhing)

The morning marks the start of the Druk Path Trek. The three-hour uphill trek takes you through blue pine forests to Phajoding temple where you can enjoy views of Thimphu city below.

Stay: Overnight camp

Bhutan lightfoot Rinpung

Day 7: Druk Path Day 2 (Phojodhing to Jimlangtsho)

Today, you’ll continue through an exposed mountain trail and dwarf rhododendron trees before reaching a lake. A yak herders’ camp provides a snapshot of local life and, weather permitting, you’ll enjoy majestic views from the Dochula Pass.

Stay: Overnight camp

Bhutan lightfoot hiking paro valley

Day 8: Druk Path Day 3 (Jimilangtsho to Jele Dzong)

Today’s trail continues through thick alpine and rhododendron forests, and open pastures with views of Jhomolhari Mountain. From the Jele Dzong, there’s a clear panorama of Paro valley and the peaks.

Stay: Overnight camp

Day 9: Druk Path Day 4 (Jele Dzong – Ta Dzong)

Enjoy the hike downhill through mixed forests, stopping to catch your breath above Paro town and the Ta Dzong.

Stay: COMO Uma Paro

Day 10: Tiger’s Nest

This morning, you’ll hike towards one of Bhutan’s most sacred places, the site of a cliff-side monastery and an important pilgrimage destination. On returning to your accommodation, you can enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

Stay: COMO Uma Paro

Bhutan lightfoot tigers nest

Day 11: Departure

Cost: From US$8,500 per person based on two guests travelling, including all hotels, excursions and meals, not including international flights.

Bhutan lightfoo

Bhutan’s Best Bits
… according to Lightfoot Travel’s Nikki Pang.

# Outdoors

Whether it’s a nature walk, an overnight hike or the mighty 25-day Snowman Trek, there’s a trail for every level in Bhutan. The country is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas and is a paradise for those who love the outdoors. The three-night Druk Path Trek is great for a challenge if you’re short on time, with its fair share of stunning mountain views.

Bhutan lightfoot Tiger's nest
Nikki Pang

# Food

Visitors to Bhutan are constantly in awe of the quality of food, and no one should miss eating a traditional meal at a farmhouse in the Punakha valley. You’ll meet local farmers and learn about their way of life, and eat dishes using ingredients from the fields right outside the front door. Each household prepares ema datshi  – the national dish of chilli and cheese – differently, so do test your host’s family recipe!

# Spa

The hot stone baths in Bhutan are out of this world, especially in the colder months. The stones are heated directly on a fire and transferred to one end of a bathtub, which is usually made of wood; the bath is typically filled with artemisia leaves, adding a lovely aroma. As the stones heat the water, minerals are released from the rock and are believed to cure ailments such as arthritis and hypertension. The hot stone bath at Amankora Gangtey is housed in a wooden farmer’s shed in a field with views of the valley and the majestic Gangtey Gompa.

Bhutan lightfoot shop

Lightfoot Travel is a luxury tour operator with offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and London specialising in designer holidays around the world. 2815 0068 | lightfoottravel.com

 

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This article first appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.