10-Nights Bhutan: Land of Mysticism and Mythology - Signature Land
National Geographic Expeditions
OFFER ID 1505568
Embark on a journey that envelopes you in destinations where beauty and spirituality intertwine within the landscapes and the people that live here. Make a pilgrimage to the cliffside Tiger’s Nest Monastery high above the Paro Valley and hike through rural villages and farms, stopping to interact with locals to learn about daily life in Bhutan. You’ll also visit sacred Buddhist temples to participate in centuries-old ceremonies, as well as see some awe-inspiring statues of the Buddha built throughout the country.
10 nights from $10,995 per person
Bangkok is chief port capital of Thailand and one of the most important cities in Southeast Asia. It is the epitome of the country's kaleidoscopic blend of old and new. It is an expression of Thai respect for tradition coupled with their vibrant involvement with modern progress. Rama I built the walled Grand Palace, which contains Temple of the Emerald Buddha. During the 19th century, Bangkok was known as the Venice of the East because of its many canals, which served as streets and commercial thoroughfares. Houses perched along the banks of the remaining canals are still common sight. Some of Bangkok’s most distinctive features are the approximately 400 Buddhist temples, known as wats. Bangkok is Thailand's economic center. Other sights to see include Temples, monuments, museums, Vimarnmekh Mansion, and Jim Thompson’s House.
The scenic, terraced town of Paro sits in the shadow of 24,000-ft/7,320-m Mount Chomolhari (divine mountain). Paro has Bhutan's only airport, so most travelers arrive there. Though it's really only a large village, three nights are recommended to get used to the altitude, as well as to see the many sights related to Paro's days as capital of the western region.
Among those sights are the 350-year-old Ta Dzong (now the National Museum), the Rinchen Pung or Paro Dzong (sacred scrolls, icons, and the like), where scenes from Bertolucci's Little Buddha were shot, the restored seventh-century Kyichu Lhakhang (holy temple) and the Dungtse Lhakhang (temple). Also worth seeing is the Drugyel Dzong, named after a famous victory of the Bhutanese over Tibetan invaders (about 9 mi/14 km northwest of town).
If you're in Paro on a Sunday morning, be sure to visit the colorful market, where grains, chilies, oranges, bananas and a host of other items are sold. The Paro Tsechu festival is held late March-April.
On a full-day trip, it's possible to visit the Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest), built on a rock ledge overlooking a sheer 2,600 ft/800 m drop to the Paro Valley. It is accessible only on foot or by pony as far as the viewpoint. According to legend, the monastery was founded by Guru Rimpoche, who landed there on the back of a flying tiger.
Bhutan's former capital, Punakha is often seen on a long day trip from Thimphu. It offers superlative views of the Himalayas and can be used as a base to visit the nearby Wangdiphodrang Dzong and Punakha Dzong. Punakha Dzong is the winter home of the largest group of monks in the country (some 500) and the Je Khempo (Buddhist religious leader). It is considered to be the most elaborate temple in the country and is still used today as government offices for the district.
The drive over the Dochula Pass to Punakha is breathtaking. The Punakha Suspension Bridge, said to be one of the longest in the region, is a fun place to stop since it is close to the Punakha Dzong.
The Punakha Domche festival is in late February-March.
Don't be surprised by the numerous phallic symbols that are painted on many buildings in the region because of the Chimi Lhakhang Temple (known as the fertility temple); these represent new life and fertility. Phallic statues are also widely sold in markets and stores, and it may come as a surprise to many Western visitors. They are visible across the country, but there are noticeably more near the fertility temple. Many people come to this temple in hopes of getting pregnant. Many of these symbols are painted on building doors as a matter of protection.
Thimphu, Bhutan's capital city, is located in the west of the country and testifies to the nation's struggle to modernize while maintaining its venerated traditions. New buildings are still based on traditional designs, with elaborately painted, trefoil-shaped windows and wooden frames built without nails. Regulations restrict new buildings to fewer than six stories, and there are no traffic lights in town; still, satellite dishes are everywhere, and internet cafes are easily found.
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* This departure has been designated a guaranteed departure by the operator, meaning that the minimum number of guests has been met, although still subject to weather and other conditions.
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All prices are per person, based on double occupancy, unless otherwise stated and are subject to availability and change without notice and do not include international or internal airfare. All prices are quoted in U.S. Dollars. Prices listed for each offer may pertain to specific departure dates. Single supplement applies. Other restrictions, blackout dates and holiday surcharges may apply. Itinerary and inclusions subject to change.
Not included: Airfare to and from destination. Trip cancellation insurance or any other travel insurance; Visas when applicable; Alcoholic beverages; Expedition Leader gratuities.
All fares are quoted in US Dollars.
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