Bhutan - Hero

Bhutan: a Walking Exploration with Colourful Festivals

Bhutan, ‘The Land of the Thunder Dragon’, is the last independent Himalayan kingdom, a stronghold of Tibetan Buddhism, with a unique culture which has been protected for centuries, by its remote mountainous terrain and a self-imposed policy of isolation from outside influences.

The opportunity to travel in Bhutan is a special privilege, restricted to a very small number of visitors annually. A magnificent panorama of Himalayan peaks forms the backdrop to vast undisturbed forests of hemlock, rhododendron and magnolia. Traditional wooden and stone-built villages are dominated by strategically-sited dzongs, the great mediaeval monastery/fortresses which safeguard Bhutan’s heritage.

In autumn, there is the best chance to see the stunning views of the Himalayas that form the border with Tibet. We journey to the remote Bumthang and Gantey provinces, where festivals are celebrated in November. We stay in comfortable, atmospheric, traditional hotels, enjoy local cuisine, with an emphasis on vegetables, rice and noodles with mildly spicy sauces, and experience Bhutanese life in close-up on a series of forest, paddy field and easy mountain walks.

HIGHLIGHTS of our Bhutan walking tour include:

  • Attending the annual Jambay Lhakhang Festival with dancing, music and a memorable cleansing fire ceremony, when people run through a ring of fire
  • Walking in the remote Bumthang valley in eastern Bhutan, considered a sacred area and little changed over centuries  
  • Visiting Buddhist monasteries active since the 7th century and witnessing the monks chanting, drumming and turning prayer wheels  
  • Observing wildlife - Himalayan red deer, grey langur monkeys, many butterflies, and birds including Himalayan griffons and ibisbill

Guests’ comments on this trip:

‘An amazing experience. It was a privilege to visit Bhutan with its gracious, charming people and the dramatic scenery of the Himalayas.’

‘It was a wonderful experience and we had great fun due to our guides and driver. Coming back to earth has been hard! The Bhutan people are wonderful.’

'I loved the trip - the places we visited, the people we travelled with and the guides who accompanied us. Having been on a trip with Kudu before, I had high expectations and hopes. Not surprisingly, Kudu delivered and then some.'

DAY 1  
D included

A spectacular flight over the Himalayas on Druk (Dragon) Air brings us into Paro airport and a step back in time. Many people still wear national dress, oxen work the fields and the national sport of archery is practiced on flat meadows around the town. After settling into our hotel, we set off to explore a mediaeval watchtower housing the national Museum of Bhutan and the imposing fortress Rinpung Dzong, dating from 1645. Monks can often be seen chanting and drumming at Kyichu, one of the oldest (7th century) and most atmospheric monasteries in the valley that we visit.

DAY 2 
B, L, D included 
A domestic flight takes us deep into central Bhutan, with breath-taking vistas of some of the highest peaks in the world. We stay in a traditional lodge for 4 nights and explore the valley where buckwheat is grown and honey, homemade dumplings, apples and cheese are celebrated! We may be able to spot the elusive ibisbill on the river banks. We visit Jakar Dzong,‘Fortress of the White Bird’, and Kurje Lhakhang, dating from the 13th century, and make a short hike to a village to visit a traditional farmhouse.           

B, L, D included

Exploring the remote Tang Valley, we visit a nunnery and an interesting Heritage House.  There is an optional (45 mins) walk up to Kunzangdrak monastery, to observe the monastic life. We have the chance to visit a secondary school before returning to our hotel. Dinner tonight may feature momos, the Himalayan dumplings filled with cheese and vegetables.

B, L, D included

The annual Jambay Lhakhang Festival is a religious festival for the local people with dancing, music and a memorable, cleansing fire ceremony, when people run through a ring of fire. There are stalls and archery competitions and a lively atmosphere. We will spend half a day at the festival before walking to Shugdrak, a sacred monastery cave associated with Guru Rinpoche, an 8th century Buddhist Master.

DAY 5 
B, L, D included

We have a short drive via a textile weaving colony, to the Chumey Valley to witness an annual community festival, Prakhar Doechoed. Festivals give a good opportunity to admire the colourful, traditional, local style of dress of the friendly people. In the afternoon we drive up to Tharpling monastery and walk, for approximately three hours, over a pass with magnificent views and continue down to the Jakar valley on an ancient monk’s trail, where transport awaits us.

B, L, D included

Leaving Bumthang, we drive (about 4 hours) via the Yotongla Pass (3,200 m), with its stands of bamboo and huge hemlocks, pausing to stretch our legs and visit Bule monastery. We overnight in Trongsa, visiting its huge dzong and Museum of the Royal Family. Our hotel restaurant is noted for its authentic Bhutanese dishes, although chilli cheese may be an acquired taste!  

B, L, D included

Our goal today is the glacial Phobjikha Valley (2,900 m), winter home of the Black Neck Crane that we should see feeding in the flat river valley. The beautiful drive is about 5 hours and we stop en route to walk up a scenic valley with a traditional village, rejoining our vehicle higher up. Our small hotel is very traditional with its bukhari, a wood burning stove. Delicious potatoes will feature at supper, because the valley is noted for their production.    

B, L, D included

A gentle walk takes us contouring around the side of the Phobjika valley for some birdwatching, continuing up to Gantey Goempa, founded in 1613. There is time to explore the valley further and visit the centre for the preservation of the Black Necked Cranes, where we can see a film and watch the birds from a viewing room.

B, L, D included

A beautiful half-day’s optional walk follows the oldest route out of the valley and down to warmer regions, used by the inhabitants for centuries on their winter migration. We hope to see orchids in the trees at lower elevations.  We meet our vehicle and continue after lunch towards Punakha, pausing to walk to visit the 15th century monastery of ‘The Divine Madman’. Our hotel for 1 night is set in gardens above the river.

DAY 10
B, L, D included

We visit the impressive Punakha Dzong, built in 1637, situated on a confluence of 2 rivers and approached by a cantilevered bridge. We then walk (3.5 hours) along an ancient mule trail contouring a river valley and rejoin our vehicle, before ascending the famous Dochu La (3,140 m). On the pass are 108 stupas and, if the weather is clear, there are magnificent views. We drive on to the capital Thimpu, a town of about 40,000 and the only capital with no traffic lights.

DAY 11
B, L, D included

The textile museum in Thimpu is certainly worth visiting, as is the craft market and huge gold Buddha statue on the hillside. We also wander through the atmospheric weekend market, where locals sell their vegetables, fruit and cheese. A visit to the peaceful Changankha monastery precedes our drive (1.5 hr) to Paro, where we spend two nights.

DAY 12
B, L, D included

A memorable walk (or horse ride) up to Taktsang, the Tiger’s Nest, follows the ancient pilgrimage path with lovely views. The monastery was founded by the legendary Guru Padma Sambhava, who flew from eastern Bhutan on the back of a flaming tigress to subdue demons opposed to the spread of Buddhism.

DAY 13
B included

We depart, reluctantly, on the morning flight, seeing Bhutan’s sacred mountain, Jomolhari, and the snow-covered Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu and Mt. Everest on what must be the world’s most spectacular plane journey.

£4,390 per person sharing
£600 deposit per person
single room supplement

Please note that the single room supplement is imposed by the hotels and not by Kudu Travel. If you are willing to share but no other suitable guest books on the trip, we regret that the supplement will be payable.

N.B. The trip price relates to the Bhutanese Government policy of restricting the annual number of visitors and charging a high daily minimum (which goes to a government development fund). One has to pay for the privilege of visiting Bhutan, but it is a price infinitely worth paying.  

Price includes
  • All accommodation for Days 1 through 13, on a twin shared basis
  • All meals (with beer/soft drinks at lunches and dinners) as listed in the daily notation
  • All transportation in a private minibus with driver, as described
  • Internal flight Paro – Bumthang (£ 150)

  • All entrance and sightseeing fees, as described
  • Special permits to enter restricted areas of monasteries                        
  • Bhutan Visa                                                                           
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers, hotel and restaurant staff (appreciation for your Kudu tour leader is discretionary)
  • Services of a local specialist guide, plus Kudu tour leader
Price does not include
  • International transportation to and from Paro
  • Trip cancellation, medical or other insurance
  • Immunisations, prescriptions or other medical requirements
  • Passport and health documentation
  • Personal expenses (laundry, alcohol other than beer with group lunches and dinners, etc.)
  • Transport and transfer of excess baggage
  • Bhutan departure tax (if any)


On Kudu trips you will only need money for postcards, presents to take home, the odd G & T or an irresistible ice cream. Festival and opera tickets, museum and gallery entrances, National Park fees, all meals (with a very few exceptions specified in individual itineraries), wine with lunch and dinner, access to specialist books carried by the guides, gratuities for porters and hotel and restaurant staff, boat rides, train trips, internal flights, wine tastings, 4WDs with drivers, the services of skilled local guides and trackers etc are ALL INCLUDED in the cost of your holiday. 

We are confident that, like previous very satisfied guests, you will discover that our tours give you excellent value for money.

Off the Beaten Track

Please be aware that electricity and water supplies may occasionally be erratic and travel arrangements can be disrupted. Kudu Travel will endeavour to do everything possible to ensure a smooth-running tour, but please be ready with your sense of humour and tolerance when travelling in the remote Himalayas.

All visitors require a valid passport and a visa for entry to Bhutan. A visa support service is organised by Kudu Travel and the cost is included in the price above.
Health Requirements

At present there are no specific and compulsory health requirements for entry to Bhutan, but we encourage you to consult your doctor in good time (at least 6 weeks before departure) about updating your immunisation against Hepatitis A, polio, tetanus and typhoid or anything else they consider advisable. A dental check-up is also a good idea.

In view of the altitude of some of the passes we will cross (above 3,000 metres), you may wish to speak with your doctor about the advisability, or suitability, of prophylaxis against potential altitude sickness.

You may also wish to check the advice given to travellers by the Department of Health and the FCO.


It is essential, and a condition of booking, that you protect yourself with a suitable travel insurance policy as soon as you book a trip. Please ensure that you are specifically covered for walking at high altitude and evacuation by helicopter in case of medical emergency. Follow this link for a quote for a policy available to UK residents. 

If you are already insured or a non-UK resident, please inform us of your policy at the time of booking

Size of party
This trip will run with a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 14 guests.