AHF Luxury Bhutan Tour

Introduction by The Australian Himalayan Foundation

AHF Logo

The Australian Himalayan Foundation

Over the years, thousands of Australians have visited the Himalaya. For many it is an opportunity to trek beneath the world’s highest peaks and to appreciate some of the world’s most hospitable cultures. Yet the Himalaya is not just a vast adventure playground. For the local communities it is anything but easy – with access to basic health and education services often out of reach.

Following in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary, the AHF
is working to help the people of the Himalaya through improvements in health, education and conservation in Nepal, India and Bhutan. 

In Bhutan they support the work of RENEW, a grass roots, not for profit organization established by Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Queen Mother in 2004 and dedicated to the development of women and children in Bhutan. Through this partnership, AHF supports the education of girls in remote, disadvantaged communities in Bhutan who regularly walk more than 3 hours a day to reach the closest school, often without breakfast.

This tour will give guests the opportunity to meet with RENEW, understand the challenges some girls experience in receiving an education and to meet some of the scholarship recipients.

The tour involves a fundraising donation of AU$1000 per guest. This donation will go directly to the AHF’s Girls’ Education Program in Bhutan and availability permitting Her Majesty has agreed to give the group a private audience whilst in Bhutan. This will be a wonderful opportunity for guests to hear from Her Majesty directly about her work with the women and girls of Bhutan. The Australian Himalayan Foundation will support all guests in their fundraising efforts and have plenty of support material and ideas to share, in particular some very straightforward online fundraising techniques.

Students in grade 1 at Thinleygang Primary School complete their

 Your Bhutan Tour Inclusions:

*Professional English speaking guide, driver & minibus.
*Based on one minibus for each 4 persons on tour.
*A maximum of 12 persons will be accepted for this tour.
*All touring & transfers throughout your journey.
*All luxury 5+ star hotel accom with private bathrooms.
*All meals and bottled water daily.
*All entrance fees and sightseeing.
*Bhutan visa fees, Bhutan govt royalties & local taxes.
*Professionally operated by Bhutan Tourism Corporation Ltd.
*Charity contribution to the AHF.

Tour Exclusions:

*Airfares to/from Paro are additional.
*Items of a personal nature, phone calls, laundry, drinks etc
*Tipping for guide & driver.
*Travel Insurance –  mandatory to enter Bhutan.

Students talk and play with their friends during recess at Thinl

AHF Private Bhutan Luxury Tour Itinerary:

Make your way to Bangkok and arrange to be there by the evening of Thursday 07 January, 2016. Your tour will commence from Bangkok early next morning.

Friday , 08 January, 2016.

Bangkok – Paro

Join either a Drukair or Bhutan Airlines flight for your early morning journey from Bangkok to Paro, Bhutan. Choose either economy class or business class to suit your budget. The approx round-trip airfares are US$784 per person in economy and US$895.00 per person in business class.

Paro Airport to Thimphu City – 1 hr 30mins.

After clearing immigration and customs you will be greeted by your BTCL guides and drivers and transferred to Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, travelling through the spectacular countryside enroute. All the houses and buildings in the Kingdom are painted and constructed in traditional Bhutanese style.

This afternoon is an opportunity to meet some of the children supported
by the Australian Himalayan Foundation’s Girls’ Education Program. We will visit the RENEW Happy Home enroute from Paro to Thimphu where some of the most disadvantaged girls supported by the AHF school scholarships stay whilst attending school as many must travel long distances from their village to receive an education.

Check in at the wonderful Taj Tashi Hotel and take lunch. Enjoy the remainder of the day to explore Thimphu, both by vehicle and on foot. Suggestions for this afternoon include a visit to the excellent Royal Textile Academy; the Takin Preserve (Bhutan’s very quirky National mammal) and take a wander along Thimphu’s main street Norzin Lam.

Overnight Thimphu – Taj Tashi Hotel. T: +975-2-324 510. (Lunch & Dinner at hotel).

Bonfire Taj Tashi Hotel

Saturday 09 January, 2016:

Activities in the Thimphu Valley today.

This morning view the majestic Trashi Chhoe Dzong, the seat of Bhutan’s government and royal offices followed by a visit to the newly consecrated and awesome Tara Lhaden Zhingkham lhakang (temple) nearby at Pangri Zampa. Head to the majestic Golden Buddha, offering spectacular views over Thimphu city and valley and offering a 3km hiking option.

Take lunch in a local restaurant and options for visits this afternoon are the Folk Heritage Museum; the colourful weekend markets; the National Library, which holds a vast collection of ancient Buddhist manuscripts and the Craft Bazaar …. or why not consider a round of golf at one of the world’s highest courses.

Tonight is a very special occasion. Provided she is in the country at the time, Her Majesty, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, Queen Mother and the wife of the Fourth King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, famous for the introduction of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan, will host a private dinner for the group. Her Majesty, along with the Director of RENEW Her Majesty’s charitable organization, will talk about their work supporting the development of women and girls in rural Bhutan and Her Majesty’s partnership with Australian Himalayan Foundation to educate more girls in Bhutan’s remotest regions.

Overnight Thimphu – Taj Tashi Hotel. T: +975-2-324 510.
Breakfast & Dinner at hotel – lunch at local restaurant.

Golden Buddha

Sunday 10 January, 2016:

Thimphu to Phobjikha Valley (5hrs 15 mins)

This morning you will be transferred by road eastwards to the Phobjikha Valley. En route pass the Semtokha Dzong built in 1629, the oldest fortress of its kind that guarded the Thimphu valley, and which today is a monastery. Continue ascending to Dochu La (pass) to view the 108 Stupas, commissioned by a former Queen as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the low intensity conflict in late 2002 when Bhutan evicted Indian rebels camped in the jungle on the Bhutan – Indian border. On a clear day you will witness a breathtaking view of the eastern Himalaya.  When the ruins of the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong (tragically destroyed by fire in 2012) come into view, notice the large cacti that cover the hillside below. These were planted long ago to discourage invaders from climbing the steep slope to the Dzong.

Phobjikha valley has only recently been connected to the power grid and not all homes yet have electricity.  Potatoes are this regions primary cash crop and are exported to India. Phobjikha is a glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains and is one of the most beautiful open valleys in Bhutan. It is also one of the most important wildlife preserves in the country and the winter home (late October to early February) of the rare black necked crane, which annually flies in from Tibet. There are also muntjaks (barking deer), wild boars, sambars, Himalayan black bears, leopards and red foxes.

While you are in Phobjikha you can visit the Black Crane nature information centre and view the cranes; the sacred Gangtey Monastery plus enjoy time to wander through Gangtey village and hike the Gangtey Nature Trail. You will adore the delightful Gangtey Goenpa Lodge, your home for the next 2 nights.

Overnight Phobjikha Valley – Gangtey Goenpa Lodge.
T: +975-1716 1875.
Breakfast at Taj; Lunch at local restaurant & dinner at GGL.

GANTE GOENPA LODGE GANTE BHUTAN RL3B8033.CR2

Monday 11 January, 2016:

Activities & hiking in the Phobjikha Valley today.

Explore the Phobjikha valley today as per the suggestions for yesterday or perhaps enjoy one of the many additional longer hikes available in this beautiful valley. Alternatively relax & enjoy the facilities at the lodge.

Longtey Hike

If you are looking for a picturesque hike through some of the most beautiful parts of Gangtey, this is the one. A 30-minute drive will take you to the starting point in Longtey village, and the hike takes about 3 -5 hours. The trail initially takes you through a small village where the yak herders put up their camps in the winter. From here you continue upwards through mystifying old-growth rhododendron forest. For the next two hours or so, you might feel like you are in the settings of Lord of The Rings surrounded by tall old trees which appear to be living creatures around you. The last part through the forest is slightly steeper uphill until you reach the pass with impressive views of the Gangtey Goemba, the Shedra, and the rest of the valley.

Tongphushing Trail

This is a beautiful leisurely walk through the pine forest, farmland and the villages. The hike starts from Gangtey and continues through Tokha village all the way to the Phobjikha valley. The walk provides insight into village life, farming and also offers great views of the Phobjikha valley. The hike ends near the RSPN campsite. Alternatively, you could also start this hike from RSPN Cafeteria. The hike takes about 1 ½ – 2 hours.

Overnight Phobjikha Valley – Gangtey Goenpa Lodge.
T: +975-1716 1875.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner at GGL (or picnic if hiking).

The beautiful Phobjikha Valley SML

Tuesday 12 January, 2016:

Phobjikha Valley to Punakha Valley (3 hrs)

Depart back westwards this morning to the Punakha Valley which holds the title as the winter capital because of its more temperate climate. Arriving into the valley stop and visit Chimi Lhakhang, a monastery built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (also known as the Divine Madman), which is an easy 20 minute walk across paddy fields. It is believed that childless women who visit the temple will conceive after receiving a “wang” (blessing) from the resident monk.

Continue with a visit to the nunnery and, time permitting, an excursion to either the small village of Talo, where you can wander the beautiful & serene gardens of the monastery, or to the village of Nobgang, birthplace of the 4 Queens to the 4th King. The beautiful Uma by Como resort is situated in one of Bhutan’s best locations with wonderful valley views.

Overnight Punakha Valley – Uma by Como Resort.
T: +975- 2-584 688.
Breakfast at GGL; lunch at local restaurant and dinner at Uma.

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Wednesday 13 January, 2016:

Sightseeing and hiking in the Punakha Valley today.

This morning visit the dramatic Punakha Dzong, which formally served as the seat of the government and is still the winter residence of the Dratsheng (Central Monk Body). This is Bhutan’s most spectacular Dzong and an excellent example of how a medieval fortress and a centre of both monastic and administrative functions, has adapted and evolved for modern day use.

This afternoon we recommend a fascinating hike through rice paddies, tiny hamlets and fields of vegetables to the Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten. This Chorten holds very special significance being consecrated in 1999 and dedicated to the protection of the former Crown Prince – today’s current King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Overnight Punakha Valley – Uma by Como Resort.
T: +975- 2-584 688.
Breakfast & dinner at Uma. Lunch at local restaurant.

Important Note: Pls request your guide reconfirms your onward flight today.

K Y Namgyel Chhorten Punakha

Thursday 14 January, 2016:

Punakha to Paro Valley (4hrs 45 mins)

Depart Punakha early morning for your transfer westwards to the Paro Valley, once again traversing Dochu La. Take lunch at the Dochu La restaurant or at a Paro town restaurant on arrival.

This afternoon enjoy an orientation tour of the major features in Paro town including Paro Dzong; Kichyu Lhakang – a most revered temple boasting an orange tree that perpetually bears fruit & the ruins of the Drugyel Dzong. This Dzong successfully repelled constant incursions by the Tibetans and was tragically burned down in the 1950’s when a butter lamp overturned. On a clear day witness a view of sacred Mt Chomolhari at 7314 metres.

The delightful Uma by Paro resort is located in a blue pine forest overlooking the valley and features a swimming pool and spa.

Overnight Paro Valley – Uma by Como Resort.
T: +975-8-271597.
Breakfast at Uma, lunch at local restaurant & dinner at Uma Paro.

Uma Bukhari

Uma Bukhari

Friday 15 January, 2016:

Hiking & Sightseeing in the Paro Valley.

This morning hike to the Taktsang Monastery, aka Tiger’s Nest. This hike is actually a pilgrimage and all Bhutanese Buddhists aspire to make this journey at least once in their lives. Each step along the trail earns merit points for their future lives. Choose between a 1.5 hour round trip hike to the Monastery viewpoint or a 5 hour and more strenuous hike into the Monastery itself. Tigers Nest clings impossibly to a cliff of rock at 1000m above the valley floor & where Guru Rinpoche flew on the back of a tigress to subdue the local demons followed by 3 months meditation in a cave in the monastery. In 1998 the monastery was seriously damaged by fire and has been painstakingly reconstructed to its original condition and consecrated by the 4th King in 2005.

This afternoon we recommend a wander along the main street of Paro which offers excellent shopping for jewellery and handicrafts and/or pay a visit to the National Museum with a wide range of historical artefacts.

Overnight Paro Valley – Uma by Como Resort.
T: +975-8-271597.
Breakfast & dinner at Uma and lunch at a local restaurant.

Important Note: Please remember to tip your guide and driver today as per the guide in your pre-departure kit.

Bhutan- HarriganIMG_0242 (Custom)

Saturday 16 January, 2016:

Fly Paro-Bangkok (or on to India or Nepal if you prefer).

Early morning departure from you hotel to Paro Airport for your onward flight to Bangkok. Alternatively you could take other flight options to India, Nepal or Singapore.

We wish you a safe and rewarding journey.

 

IMPORTANT TOUR ADVICE

AIRLINE CHECK-IN:
Please ensure you check-in for all international flights no later than 2 hours prior to flight departure.

BAGGAGE:
Baggage can only be checked to Bhutan prior to your flight to Paro. On your return journey you can tag your baggage all the way through to Australia ONLY when connecting same day from Bhutan Airlines/Drukair to a full service airline such as Thai Airways, Qantas or Singapore Airlines. Bhutan Airlines will only tag baggage when connecting to Thai Airways. Please request this at check-in at Paro Airport. Checked baggage allowances are 20kgs per person in economy & 30 kgs per person in business class.

VISAS:
You must carry your Bhutan visa authority letter with you which we will provide to you in advance. Your airline to Paro will require it at check-in and then again it must be presented to Immigration on arrival at Paro Airport.

TRAVEL INSURANCE & HEALTH:
Travel insurance is mandatory to enter Bhutan. We do urge you for your protection that your travel insurance is in place at the time of paying your Bhutan tour deposit. For professional travel health advice please contact Travel Medical Alliance on 1300 421142.  Please note there is a rabies risk in India, Nepal and Bhutan.

ITINERARY CHANGES IN BHUTAN:
Bhutan has a limited tourism infra-structure and there are occasionally challenges in providing accommodation to all visitors offered visas at any one time. Occasionally itineraries can be amended at short notice.

BHUTANESE ACCOMMODATION:
Your hotel will be a 5 star luxury property often with an intimate boutique lodge style ambience. Rooms have twin / double beds and have private bathroom facilities.

DRUKAIR & BHUTAN AIRLINES:
Both airlines require reconfirmation of your return or onwards flight 3 days in advance.  Your guide will attend to this. Occasionally an airline is forced to totally cancel a service for operational reasons & in such an instance any additional costs must be borne by the traveller and claimed via their travel insurance.

CANCELLATION CHARGES:
The Drukair/Bhutan Airlines air flight component of your tour package will be totally non-refundable once tickets are issued.  Your Bhutan land arrangements are subject to the cancellation fees below.

Deposit date until 60 days prior arrival in Bhutan – Loss of deposit.
45-60 days prior to arrival in Bhutan – 75% of land package costs.
Less than 45 days prior arrival in Bhutan – Sorry, no refund permitted.

TASHI DELEK – May All Good Things Come To You.

Book Your Place!

Name of Tour: AHF Luxury Bhutan Tour

Tour Dates: 8th Jan, 2016   |   End: 16th Jan, 2016

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