Join us for a fabulous weaving and arts tour to Bhutan for an authentic adventure in the Land of Happiness!
NEW DATES: The Buddhist festival calendar changed so we needed to move the trip dates ahead a few days to see our favorite festivals. The dates here on the website are correct: November 25 through December 12, flying home Dec. 13:
Total 18 nights.
Bhutan Tour Prices:
The Bhutanese government’s Tourism Council has just added a mandatory tax that is applied to all tourists visiting the country. This “tax” goes to the government for the country’s infrastructure: schools, hospitals, roads, and social services. Naturally we have incorporated the tax ($100 per day) into our price and as always we assure you of a delightful experience on your Behind the Scenes Adventure! Obviously we have no control over a government tax but it is excellent for the Bhutanese people – and will eventually help tourists with better roads and services.
Bhutan is a small landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas, with a progressive young king and a charismatic queen who promotes traditional textiles. The Bhutanese have safeguarded their Buddhist culture and ancient way of life, and it’s the traditional aspects that lend great charm and interest to the country. We’ll spend the most time in the less-visited and more rural eastern regions where the weaving and little villages are spectacular! During our travels in Bhutan, we’ll visit many fabulous Buddhist temples called dzongs, and attend festivals called tshechus which the local people attend in their best handwoven, traditional clothing. Everyone loves the ultra-decorated buildings, the crisp air, the festival dancers, the dark green forests, and the stunning handwoven clothing.
- See fabulous Buddhist festivals with masked and costumed dancers
- Meet talented weavers and observe their labor-intensive techniques
- Travel through stunning Himalayan foothill scenery
- Learn to make traditional Bhutanese foods in our cooking class
- Admire ancient Buddhist temples (dzongs) built centuries ago, without nails, and with brightly painted details.
- Tour the spectacular Royal Textile Museum to see innovation in clothing over time.
- Visit a family renowned for their natural silk dyeing; lunch at their home.
What’s Included in The Trip?
The Stunning Tiger Nest’s Monastery
We go from west to east, flying in to Paro on a flight from New Delhi. That night, we’ll relax at our cozy cabins in the woods, then next day we’ll visit the town and a weaving studio. There you’ll get our first look at women making the incredibly intricate warp-wrapped textiles. After we are rested and acclimated, we’ll jump right in to the favorite adventure at Paro: climbing up to the fabulous Tiger’s Nest Monastery, left.
It was constructed on the side of a cliff in 1692, near the cave where Guru Rinpoche first meditated. It’s said that he’s the person who introduced Buddhism into Bhutan. A legend relates that Rinpoche flew from Tibet to this steep cliff on the back of a tigress, thus giving it the name “Tiger’s Nest.”
The trek to Tiger’s Nest monastery is optional with the ascent either on foot or horseback. More about this hike later. If a mountain trek isn’t your cup of tea, you can relax at the hotel or explore the little shops of Paro instead!
Next we’ll drive nearby to the ancient city and capital of Bhutan: Thimpu. There we’ll see the spectacular Royal Textile Academy’s museum of traditional clothing and cloth, and also visit a weaving studio. After a couple of nights in the capital, we continue eastward in central Bhutan, by way of Wangdue and Trongsa. Then we arrive in the Bumthang Valley, considered the most sacred and beautiful in the country. We’ll visit the interesting village of Ura, known for its decorated wooden houses dotted among verdant agricultural valleys.
After several days in this area, we head for Lhuntse, a north-eastern village that is the center of the traditional weaving region.
The Buddhist Tshechu Festival
One thrilling highlight of the itinerary is attending two festival events called tshechus, with masked dancers in brilliant embroidered costumes. Spectators sit around the edges to watch the dances, and it is very orderly, with dancers whirling and cavorting in the central plaza. Costumed monks perform didactic Buddhist legends, wearing carved wooden masks and brilliantly appliquéd and embroidered outfits. Others play the long collapsible horns called dungchen.
These events typically provide fabulous photo-ops. We will have cushions and blankets to sit upon, but you can stand or walk around and get better photo angles. Some people like to stay all day and watch the dancing, and others want to wander in the dzong and admire the paintings and Buddha statues.
Handwoven Textiles of Eastern Bhutan
Along the way, we’ll visit many weaving households and handicraft coop organizations to learn about the incredibly labor-intensive techniques used to make the women’s wrap dresses called kiras.
The Lhuntse area and the whole eastern region is relatively remote compared to the west, and it’s the area most famous for high quality handwoven textiles. We’ll drive to a small village, watch the weavers at work, and perhaps buy their exquisite pieces. We’ll also savor a delicious lunch prepared by them. Lhuntse is also known for having a beautiful dzong or temple complex which we will visit.
Traditional festivals or tshechus are highlights of this area; we plan to attend at least two local celebrations and any others that we come across. Leaving Lhuntse, we’ll head south to two small towns for their tshechus. These festive events are the best places to see exquisite kira and men’s handwoven gho robes because everyone is wearing his or her very best new clothing for the annual celebration.
Later we’ll drive south, and go across the border into India, saying Goodbye to lovely Bhutan, our guide and the driver. An Indian friend will meet us at the border with a van and we’ll go to the Guwahati airport to fly to Delhi to connect for our flights home! The flight from Guwahati to Delhi is included but don’t forget you need a multiple entry visa for India. This is done online and is easy; info will be sent. We’ll go home on our connecting flights from Delhi on December 13, 2024.
Where You Will Be Staying
Homey and spacious cabins with knotty pine walls sit among forests in the Paro hills. Cabin exteriors are decorated with painted trim, and the comfortable interiors are made cozy with yathra or hand-woven woolen cloth for cushions on the couch and chairs.
Mountain Lodge Resort
Mountain Lodge is a stunning new stone and wood building with a light-filled restaurant and a luxurious lobby with roaring fireplace. Rooms are spacious, with modern bathrooms. The restaurant here is excellent also.
Additional Details & Experiences
Photos From Previous Adventures in Bhutan
Confessions! I have been on NINE of Cynthia’s trips: Turkey several times, Peru, Bolivia, Thailand, Laos, Morocco, Mali and most recently Bhutan. You might ask why I keep returning! It’s because on each trip I arrive home having had the most incredible time. Always I’ve met interesting people, stayed in small, boutique hotels and visited the usual tourist sites, but because of Cynthia’s ability to strike up hard and fast friendships with her guides and drivers, hotel keepers, shop keepers, and crafts people, we experience an in-depth appreciation for the countries’ history, culture and especially of textile arts and crafts.Anne Duffey – Davis, CA
- Dates: Nov. 25- Dec. 12, 2024
- Fly Home Date: December 13, 2024
- Deposit: $500
- Tour Cost: 18 Nights From $6395
- Single Supplement: $880
Our visas for Bhutan will be processed quickly and efficiently by the trusted Bhutanese government travel agent, without having to send your passport anywhere.
As you enter Bhutan at the airport/border, you’ll be given your Bhutan visa, a single piece of official-looking paper that you will keep with your passport. Note that there is no other way to get a Bhutanese travel visa, and that travelers to Bhutan are well-tracked and accounted for by the Tourism Bureau.
NOTE: Arrival and departure flights should connect in New Delhi. We fly as a group in and out of New Delhi and there will be SPECIFIC flights that we must plan on, to keep the group together, and to avoid spending a night in Delhi. We will give you a choice of several airlines that arrive at similar times, so the whole group can stay together. Thanks!
- Visa for Bhutan; the travel agent will apply for our visas, which is much easier for us.
- All accommodations: 18 nights in comfortable hotels in double/twin rooms with private bath.
- All meals (often buffets in our hotels) and some picnic lunches in weaving villages, with families.
- All bottled water & soft drinks with meals
- Airport transfers for arrival and departure flights on official dates
- Two flights – from Delhi to Paro at beginning of tour and from Guwahati to Delhi at the end.
- English-speaking Bhutanese licensed guide
- All in-country ground travel by good Toyota mini-bus with professional driver
- Bottled water available in the van at all times; roadside tea breaks are included
- Horseback transport to Tiger’s Nest Monastery tea house; everyone must walk down the path to descend.
What’s Not Included
- International airfare
- India double-entry visa (get this online)
- Alcoholic beverages
- Tips for guide and driver (suggested amounts later)
- Personal items such as laundry, postcards, between-meal snacks or drinks; we will have included tea stops on the road occasionally.
Frequently Asked Questions
What information will I receive after registering?
Once you sign up for a trip, we will e-mail a general itinerary, lists of Suggested Reading, what to take, cultural considerations, weather charts, etc.
How can I get a detailed itinerary for a tour?
A day-to-day itinerary will be sent once you sign up for a trip. If you need specific information about the flow of the trip and the pace of the specific activities, before committing to the trip, get in touch with your questions and we will be happy to fill you in.
What sort of clothing should I bring?
When you sign up for a tour, you’ll receive detailed lists of what to bring to your destination, as well as weather info, to more easily coordinate your wardrobe with the heat or cold.
Bhutan can be very cold in the mountains during some months. For quick basic guidelines: Bhutan is a conservative Buddhist country, not as conservative as some destinations, but nevertheless, it is better to cover your shoulders with short or long sleeves. Pants and skirts should be at least your ankles. Tops/blouses/shirts should be long enough to cover your bottom to mid-thigh.
Bring simple, comfortable clothing, but you don’t need to wear outdoor, trekking clothes – except for the day when we hike up to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery. And even then, thick-soled shoes with tread soles are the most important item. You will probably want sturdy pants if you plan to ride a horse up the trail.
What is the COVID situation?
The situation changes daily, but the country now admits foreigners with the new elevated Tourism Tax.
As of February 23, 2022, the Kingdom of Bhutan has had only SIX deaths from Covid during the pandemic period. On March 12, 2020, the King closed the country’s borders which led to impressively low numbers of cases and deaths. Bhutan has had excellent success with their COVID vaccination program also; the great majority of the people have had at least one shot.
What are the COVID requirements for returning to the US?
There are no longer any COVID 19 health restrictions related to returning to the USA as a US citizen.
Do I need any vaccinations or immunizations?
This varies with each country. Make an appointment with your travel doctor and take your tour itinerary with you. Some areas of certain countries require malaria pills and others do not; same with Yellow Fever and others such as Cholera and Typhoid. He or she will have all the latest requirements at hand.
A rural visit to a farm may require extra precautions, for example. We will send you the links to the CDC.gov information pages for your specific destination so that you can ask questions.
You should be current on all your typical childhood and international travel shots such as Polio and Tetanus. Some countries now demand proof of vaccination against COVID. Behind the Scenes Adventures requires you to have had two COVID vaccinations. We recommend you have a booster as well.
How much physical activity is involved during the trip?
Each trip has different activity levels that will be fully explained in the specific tour material. But no activities or events are mandatory, and you are always welcome to sit at the bottom of the stairs to a temple or wait in the van while others ascend or visit a particular place. Walking sticks are fine to bring if they help you. We cannot accept wheelchairs or walkers.
For most tours, you’ll need to be able to walk the distance of 4-5 city blocks on your own, with sturdy shoes. Please note that sidewalks in many countries are full of big holes and broken cement chunks, with bits of re-bar sticking out, and you must constantly be alert to these dangers. In urban areas where distances are greater, the group will take taxis and/or get help from local assistants. If you need a personal taxi or additional special aid, that will be at your expense.
In more rural areas when we visit a remote village or temple, you should be able to navigate rocky routes, such as the dirt paths of Khoma village. You can always sit on a chair or bench if available in one place, and wait for the rest of the group also. It won’t be possible to use walkers, wheelchairs or crutches while traveling with a group to foreign destinations that don’t have facilities for handicapped persons.
What will the weather be like?
Our trips are planned for great festivals and reasonably good weather. The weavers work all year round so we can visit them any time. But some of the best festivals take place during the winter months when snowy scenery and landscapes are also spectacular. When you sign up, we’ll send you weather and temperature charts as well as suggestions for warm clothes that will keep you comfortable if you travel during winter months.
Meals & Accommodations
What sort of hotels will we be staying in?
We start this trip in the east of the country, where we find the most rustic lodgings – and the most weavers! The quaintest hotel in the eastern region has small cozy rooms with knotty pine walls. Yet the restaurant here turns out amazing savory food; the best eggplant dish I had in Bhutan was made by the cook here! In the capital of Thimpu, we stay in a modern hotel with comfortable beds, good linens and modern bathrooms. In nearby Paro, we stay in individual pine cottages in an evergreen forest; the cottages are painted and decorated in the typical Bhutanese style. This place also has a good restaurant. Later in the Bumthang Valley we spend our nights in a new, deluxe stone and wood hotel with cushy beds and sleek modern bathrooms.
What sort of food will we be eating?
Bhutanese food is delicious but not as varied as the cuisine of nearby countries such as India. Red or white rice is a staple, and handmade, chewy buckwheat noodles and pancakes are popular. Ema Datshi is the national dish, a hot mix made from chilis and cheese and it can be very spicy. It’s yummy but a little goes a long way. Datshis are also made with potatoes and mushrooms, among other vegetables.
Momos, similar to Chinese potstickers, are very popular. They are handmade with different stuffings – meats or vegetables like cabbage, or cheese. Momos are either steamed or deep-fried and crispy. All of them can be enhanced with a chili sauce and they are delicious for lunch or a snack. Momos are eaten with hot chili sauces.
Will I be able to accommodate my dietary needs?
If you have any special dietary, health, or nutrition issues, restrictions, etc, there is no guarantee that Behind the Scenes Adventures will be able to accommodate your special diets in foreign countries. Please contact us before departure, and bring sufficient alternative foods. Travelers with severe peanut allergies cannot be accepted. Vegan diets are possible but with much less variety than at home. Vegetarian diets are often fairly easy to accommodate, but also with less variety than what is available at home.
Flights & Travel
Will I need a visa for connecting countries?
Yes, you will need a visa to enter Bhutan. We’ll send you information on what we need for your visas: We’ll send copies of our passports to the travel agent who will procure our visas and hand them to us when we enter the country at the border near Guwahati, India. The fee for the Ghutan Visa is included with the trip cost, but the visa for India is not included.
Where we will enter Bhutan is still TBA. If we need to connect in India, you will need a multiple-entry visa for India, cost not included. Wait on this one as the visa requirements change often but are easily fulfilled.
Once you sign up for the tour, you will be sent the website link to get your one-year India e-visa online. Or if you want a 10-year visa, you can fill out the forms and send your passport to the nearest visa office. You can do this anytime soon as long as you won’t need your passport for about 2 weeks.
What are the requirements for my passport to be valid?
Your passport needs to have one blank page for your visa, although, with an E-Visa, you will have just a piece of paper to show, and don’t need room for anything except Immigration stamps in your passport.
Will I be met at the airport?
Yes! Cynthia, an assistant or a driver will meet you with a sign with your name and/or Behind the Scenes Adventures. They will have your flight schedule and know you will need time to pick up your luggage. Wait for them in the terminal, right outside the Arrivals area, and don’t go with any other drivers that don’t have your name on a placard.
What is the best airline to fly to the country?
Turkish Airlines is great; they are Once you sign up, and we arrange where we will enter Bhutan, we’ll send information about suggested flights, etc. For trips that begin in Eastern Bhutan, we typically fly to New Delhi first, then take a short flight to Guwahati, India, and drive in a van over the border into Bhutan.
For trips that begin in the West, we usually fly into New Delhi, then fly directly into Paro, on Bhutan Airlines or Druk Air, perfectly reliable companies, a partner of United. There are non-stop flights to IST (new fabulous airport) from SFO and LAX. We recommend you try to get a non-stop flight, much easier not to have to change planes. British Airways also goes, and a couple of others.
What will we use for transportation?
In Bhutan, we use a roomy and late model Toyota van of a sort not seen in the USA. It has 12-15 seats and there are photos of it on the website. The van is driven by our professional and courteous driver and is as comfortable as possible on bumpy mountain roads.