Bhutan

November 4th – 18th, 2024

If the captivating mystique of Bhutan beckons to your soul, I extend a heartfelt invitation to join me on an unforgettable journey that promises to weave enchantment into every moment. This year, we have the extraordinary privilege of immersing ourselves in the Sacred Dance Festival of the Black Necked Cranes at Gangtey Monastery, a rare opportunity sure to illuminate our November sojourn. Drawing from my role as an advisor to the Nuns Foundation and dedication to sustainable practices such as bamboo construction, our travels will be imbued with both cultural insight and environmental consciousness. Together, we will traverse the spiritual tapestry of Bhutan, from the iconic Tiger’s Nest to the tranquil dzongs and vibrant local communities, indulging in the gastronomic delights that punctuate our path. More than a mere excursion, this journey is an odyssey into a realm of profound beauty and harmony. If you sense the resonance of this calling, let us embark together into the heart of the Himalayas.

I invite you to join me on an extraordinary expedition to Bhutan, where I will share the depth of my immersive exploration spanning over three years in this captivating kingdom. Guiding intimate groups through Bhutan’s spiritual and natural wonders has been a source of profound fulfillment for me. If you are drawn to the allure of the last great Himalayan jewel, eager to delve into Buddhist teachings, and seek the camaraderie of like-minded entrepreneurs, this adventure to Bhutan holds the key to unlocking new dimensions of inspiration in both your life and business endeavors. Prepare for a soul-stirring odyssey that promises to leave an indelible mark on your heart and spirit—an adventure that simply cannot be missed.

“Kutira brought her own history and all her unique contacts, so we met people we couldn’t possibly have met in a million years. We got to see the country from many points of view, and that was really exceptional. It made the country feel like our own.” – Karen Pensak

With Druk Air as our sole gateway to this secluded paradise, I urge you to book promptly; their gracious cancellation policy is a safety net for your plans.

IF BHUTAN IS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST … THIS IS YOUR CALLING!

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ITINERARY

This itinerary is subject to subtle changes, as embracing the flow of events is what truly shapes an adventure. Bhutan defies description – its beauty must be experienced firsthand, from the breathtaking landscapes to the incredible warmth of its people. This journey is thoughtfully designed to foster an inward voyage as you immerse yourself in new cultures and forge connections with new friends.

Day 1 | Monday, November 4 | Paro

Upon your arrival at Paro Airport, you will receive a warm welcome from Kutira’s friends and representatives. After a smooth check-in at our hotel, nestled amidst the serene beauty of nature, we will gather for a delightful lunch.

Our journey continues with a visit to the revered Kyichu Lhakhang Temple, an ancient sanctuary steeped in centuries of history. Renowned as one of Bhutan’s oldest temples, it holds special significance as one of the cherished places of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, known for its mystical mandarin tree bearing fruit throughout the year.

In the afternoon, we will meander through the quaint village of Paro, immersing ourselves in its charming ambiance and vibrant local culture. As the day draws to a close, we will retreat to our tranquil mountain sanctuary, where a sumptuous dinner awaits, followed by a restful night enveloped in the embrace of Bhutan’s majestic landscapes.

Overnight: Himalayan Key Forest


Day 2 | Tuesday, November 5 | Paro to Bumthang (Tang Valley)

Today, we embark on a journey from Paro to Bumthang, commencing with an early morning flight that promises a breathtaking experience, especially if we are greeted by clear blue skies. Upon arrival at the airport, we will proceed to the enchanting Tang Valley near Bumthang, where our accommodation awaits at the esteemed Ogyen Choling Palace and Museum. From the airport to the place we are staying, it is 20 miles/30 km  and about one hour drive.

Nestled amidst the serene landscapes, this unique establishment stands as the sole private museum in Bhutan, offering a captivating glimpse into the region’s rich history and cultural heritage. Led by Ashi Kunzang Choden, the 20th generation descendant of the palace’s esteemed lineage, guests are treated to an engaging narrative detailing the illustrious past of the palace and its inhabitants. The museum’s exhibits vividly depict the daily life and traditions of Bhutanese people through the ages, showcasing a remarkable array of attire, tools, and invaluable ancient manuscripts. It serves as an invaluable resource for gaining insight into the evolution of Bhutanese society over the centuries, providing an enriching introduction to its history and culture.

Furthermore, Ashi Kunzang Choden’s literary prowess adds another dimension to our experience, as she holds the distinction of being the first woman in Bhutan to publish a book in English. Her novel “Dawa the Dog” stands as a testament to Bhutanese values, captivating readers with its heartfelt narrative and endearing portrayal of life in Bhutan. Ashi Kunzang and her Swiss husband share a longstanding friendship with Kutira, further enriching our connection to this remarkable destination.

Overnight: Ogyen Choling Palace

Day 3 | Wednesday, November 6  |  Tang Valley to Bumthang

A visit to Tang Valley promises a day-long immersion into the unspoiled communities and timeless agricultural landscapes, offering an authentic glimpse into Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage. Our exploration of this exceptional terrain begins early in the day, allowing ample time to savor the tranquility and authenticity that define this region. As we journey through the valley, we’ll pause at points of interest, allowing for spontaneous moments of discovery and appreciation.

Before we bid farewell to Tang Valley in the late afternoon, a highlight of our itinerary includes a visit to the renowned Mebar Tsho, or Burning Lake, a sacred site steeped in myth and spirituality. Here, amidst the serene natural surroundings, we’ll have the opportunity to delve into Bhutan’s cultural and religious traditions, gaining insights into its profound spiritual legacy. Driving from the Tang Valley is about the same time when we arrived . one hour

For dinner, we have the pleasure of returning to Kaila’s Guesthouse, a cherished haven that embodies the essence of Bhutanese hospitality. Dining with Kaila’s family feels like a homecoming, where warmth and generosity abound. Indulge in a culinary journey showcasing the flavors of Bhutan, including the iconic national dish, Ema Datshi, a fiery stew crafted from chilies and local cheese known as Datshi. Each meal at Kaila’s Guesthouse is a feast for the senses, featuring homemade jams, honey, fresh apples, and other delights that elevate the dining experience to new heights of culinary bliss.

Overnight: Kaila Guesthouse, Bumthang

Day 4 | Thursday, November 7 | Bumthang 

Bumthang stands as a bastion of Bhutanese history and spirituality, boasting numerous sacred sites and monasteries that bear testament to its profound heritage. Notably, it was within these hallowed valleys that Guru Rinpoche, in the 8th century CE, dispelled a malevolent spirit afflicting a local king, catalyzing the widespread embrace of Buddhism across the kingdom. Comprising four expansive valleys, this lesser-explored region exudes a sense of timeless significance, captivating visitors with its rich tapestry of traditions and history, each visit offering new insights into its enduring power and resonance.

We only have short rides within the location, and people can also walk to some of the places.

Our journey through Bumthang unveils the treasures of its past, beginning with the historic Wangdichhoeling Palace, once the residence of Bhutan’s second king and now revered for its prayer wheels that stand as silent sentinels of devotion. Further into the valley, the majestic Kurjey Lhakhang commands attention, serving as a poignant reminder of Guru Rinpoche’s spiritual influence and legacy, as it enshrines the site where he meditated and left his imprint upon the land. Additionally, the vibrant Jambay Lhakhang beckons with its legendary winter festivals, drawing pilgrims from afar to partake in its blessings and to immerse themselves in Bhutan’s spiritual essence. The Jampa Temple, also known as the Temple of Maitreya, stands as a remarkable architectural feat, purportedly one of 108 temples erected in a single day by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in 659 CE, each with the aim of subjugating malevolent forces. Throughout our exploration, our knowledgeable Bhutanese guide will illuminate the intricate symbolism and profound significance of these sacred sites, weaving a rich tapestry of tales, legends, and miraculous events that breathe life into their revered icons.

Overnight: Kaila Guesthouse, Bumthang 

Day 5 | Friday, November 8 | Bumthang

In the morning, we engage in a reflective assessment of our energy levels, attuning ourselves to the vibrant pulse of life around us. As the day progresses, we embark on a leisurely journey across the tranquil waters of the Bumthang Chhu, where we will encounter the Tamshing Lhakang, a revered monastery steeped in historical, spiritual, and cultural significance. Within its sacred halls, ancient religious scrolls and intricate paintings depicting the 1,000 Buddhas and 21 Taras, embodiments of compassion, await our exploration. An intriguing feature of this sanctuary is the formidable iron net crafted and sanctified by the revered Pema Lingpa, believed to absolve sins with each clockwise circumambulation. You are invited to partake in this transformative ritual, experiencing a gradual lightening of spirit with each sacred circuit. 

Venturing further into the valley, we delve into the realm of microenterprises unique to this region, encountering the Red Panda Brewery, Bumthang Cheese and Dairy Facility, and the Bumthang Distillery.  I remember from my childhood when my father crafted these medicinal spirits for our family use.  It is an honor to witness the continuation of a Swiss tradition in Bhutan.

In the evening, we will have dinner at the esteemed place of my friend Fritz Maurer. He was one of the first pioneers in the kingdom, epitomizing the cross-cultural exchange between Switzerland and Bhutan. The King has knighted him, and he owns a beautiful Swiss restaurant that offers one of my favorite dishes worldwide. You guessed it: Fondue and Raclette. The Bhutanese Fondue is even more unique, made from yak cheese. I am sure the local spirit will aid digestion, as is traditional, and we will have a wonderful time together.

 

 

Overnight: Kaila Guesthouse Bumthang

Day 6 | Saturday, November 9 | Gangtey/Phobjikha

Commence your day with an early morning departure for Gangtey Valley, with a brief interlude in Trongsa en route.

This is about a four-hour drive, with a lunch stop in Trongsa and a possible visit to the tower.

Positioned near the heart of Bhutan, the expansive glacial terrain of Gangtey, also referred to as Phobjikha Valley, emerges as one of the nation’s most enthralling destinations.

Trongsa serves as a transient pause in our itinerary, affording our group the flexibility to choose between continuing by vehicle or embarking on a picturesque bicycle excursion into the captivating landscapes of Gangtey Valley.

Encompassed by towering peaks, the valley itself forms a natural amphitheater, providing an idyllic backdrop for both festive celebrations and for those inclined towards adventurous pursuits, such as cycling through its scenic environs. This immersive experience offers an unparalleled opportunity to delve into the vibrant tapestry of local culture and festive traditions that define Bhutan’s essence.

Once we arrive in the valley, those who would like to hike from the Monastery to where we are straying can do so. About one hour  or take the bus

Overnight: Gangtey Valley

Day 7 | Sunday, November 10 | Gangtey/Pobjikha

The expansive Gangtey Valley, also known as Phobjikha Valley, with its glacial origins, is a captivating blend of natural splendor and cultural significance. This valley serves as a convergence point for environmental diversity and spiritual sanctity, boasting a rich tapestry of unique flora and fauna. Among its inhabitants are the revered black-necked cranes, regarded as symbols of good fortune and ecological resilience. Their annual migration from the Tibetan Plateau signifies a time of abundance and optimism, adding to the valley’s allure.

The region is characterized by lush pastures dotted with traditional Bhutanese farmhouses, illustrating the harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature. This makes Gangtey Valley an emblematic sanctuary of Bhutanese ethos. Today, we embark on an exploration of its scenic trails, immersing ourselves in the valley’s breathtaking beauty through invigorating hikes.

Our gracious hosts, Ashi Sonam and Dasho Wangdi, are devoted patrons of a local school. They graciously welcome any contributions towards the education of the schoolchildren. If you feel inclined to offer support, a thoughtful gesture would be greatly appreciated. If our itinerary permits, we may organize a visit to the school, providing an opportunity to engage directly with the local educational community.

Overnight: Gangtey Valley

Day 8 | Monday, November 11 | Black Necked Crane Festival

Experience the enchantment of Bhutan’s Black Necked Crane Festival, a captivating celebration held amidst the serene landscapes of the Phobjikha Valley. Immerse yourself in the vibrant tapestry of Bhutanese culture as villagers clad in traditional attire gather at the Gangtey Gonpa monastery. Delight in colorful cultural performances, where dancers adorned in intricate costumes weave tales of tradition and heritage, accompanied by the rhythmic beats of traditional music. Amidst the fluttering prayer flags and the aroma of incense, engage in rituals led by Buddhist monks, offering prayers and blessings for the revered Black Neck Cranes.

Discover the ecological significance of these majestic birds through educational workshops and seminars led by conservationists. Learn about their migratory patterns and the conservation efforts aimed at preserving their habitat in the pristine Phobjikha Valley. As the day unfolds, partake in community activities, including traditional games, crafts, and culinary delights, fostering cultural exchange and camaraderie among locals and visitors alike. With each moment, the Black Neck Crane Festival offers a glimpse into the rich heritage and deep reverence for nature that define the soul of Bhutan.

We will be leaving after the festival and the ride is about 2 hours to our next place we are staying.

Overnight: Punkakha, Khuru Resort 

Day 9 | Tuesday, November 12 , Punakha

We will commence our exploration with a visit to the Punakha Dzong, an architectural marvel dating back to 1637. Serving as the winter residence for the clergy, led by the esteemed Chief Abbot, the Je Khenpo, this dzong stands as a testament to Bhutanese craftsmanship. Despite facing destruction from fires and glacial floods over the years, meticulous restoration efforts have preserved its grandeur, presenting a captivating blend of history and artistry at the confluence of two rivers.

Next on our itinerary is the Khamsum Yueley Namgyal Pagoda, a splendid testament to Bhutanese architecture and artistry commissioned by the third Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck. Unparalleled in its design, this pagoda represents a unique fusion of religious symbolism and aesthetic elegance, drawing inspiration from sacred scriptures and cultural heritage.

Following an invigorating hike to the Khamsum Yuelley Namgyel Chorten, nestled amidst breathtaking vistas, we’ll indulge in a delightful picnic amidst the temple’s serene surroundings, offering panoramic views of the valley below. For the adventurous souls among us, an optional river rafting excursion along the Chu River presents an opportunity to embrace the thrill of adventure and witness the natural beauty of Bhutan from a unique perspective. As part of our journey, we’ll also partake in a Hot Stone bath by the river, a tradition associated with the revered divine madman, Drukpa Kinley, patron saint of Bhutan, before concluding our day with a visit to the nearby cave where he once meditated. 

Overnight: Punakha, Khuru Resort

Day 10 | Monday, November 13 | Leaving Punakha for Thimphu

We have the privilege of visiting two remarkable sites, each steeped in rich history and profound significance. Our first stop brings us to Chimi Lhakhang, nestled atop the picturesque hill of Lobesa Valley in Punakha, Bhutan. This revered temple, founded in 1499 by the 14th Drukpa, Ngawang Chogyal, is dedicated to the beloved saint, Drukpa Kunley, affectionately known as the Divine Madman. Renowned for his unconventional approach to spreading Buddhist teachings, Drukpa Kunley has left an indelible mark on Bhutanese culture. Chimi Lhakhang has since become a sacred pilgrimage site, particularly sought after by couples seeking blessings for fertility and the birth of children.

Our journey continues to Dochula Pass, a breathtaking mountain pass nestled amidst the snow-clad Himalayas, bridging the distance between Thimphu and Punakha. Beyond its scenic splendor, Dochula Pass holds profound historical significance, adorned with 108 memorial chortens, or “Druk Wangyal Chortens,” commissioned by Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck. These beautifully crafted stupas serve as poignant memorials to Bhutanese soldiers and stand as enduring symbols of peace and stability. From this vantage point, visitors are treated to sweeping vistas of the majestic Himalayan range, offering not only a visual feast but also a profound spiritual experience amidst nature’s grandeur.

The bus ride to Thimphu is about 2 hours, but we will stop several times for fantastic sightseeing. We will take our time!

Overnight: Himalayan Key Forest Resort, Thimphu 

 

Day 11 | Monday, November 14, Thimphu

Buddha Point, also renowned as the Great Buddha Dordenma, stands as an iconic monument nestled amidst the mountains of Bhutan, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the reign of Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Rising majestically to a height of 51.5 meters, it ranks among the largest Buddha stupas worldwide, adorned with 125,000 smaller gilded bronze Buddhas within its grandeur. This awe-inspiring statue not only graces the skyline with its presence but also serves as a profound symbol of the nation’s spiritual reverence, offering breathtaking vistas of the Thimphu Valley and serving as a focal point for Buddhist practitioners from across the globe.

The Nun Training Center in Thimphu stands as a pivotal institution dedicated to the education and empowerment of Bhutan’s nuns, a group historically marginalized with fewer opportunities for formal education compared to monks. With a steadfast commitment to providing comprehensive training in both spiritual and secular subjects, the center aims to equip nuns with the necessary skills to play active roles within religious communities and society at large. By elevating awareness of the invaluable contributions made by nuns and fostering their holistic development, the center plays a pivotal role in addressing gender disparities and fostering equality within Bhutan’s spiritual landscape.

Overnight: Hotel Peddling, Thimphu

Day 12 | Monday, November 15 | Thimphu

Embrace the spontaneous spirit of our journey as we begin today at the enchanting Tara Temple. Marvel at the craftsmanship of each Tara, resplendent with jewelry, and the walls that narrate tales of ancient wisdom. Nearby, a monastery beckons, brimming with the knowledge of local astrologers where we can get a glimpse into our personal chart.

After lunch, we let the day unfold naturally, inviting you to select from a tapestry of experiences I will share.

Consider the majestic Dzong, a fortress-monastery steeped in Bhutan’s heritage, where you can meander through historical courtyards and gaze upon the vast valleys and mountains. Alternatively, immerse yourself in the vibrant pulse of Bhutanese culture with a visit to a local school to see students practicing spiritual arts, and more. As dusk approaches on our final night in Thimphu, let’s allow ourselves letting the day’s final chapter write itself.

Overnight: Hotel Peddling, Thimphu

Day 13 | Monday, November 16, leaving Thimphu to |Paro

Today marks the return to Paro. Our first stop is the celebrated Sonam Trophel restaurant, a gem within Paro renowned for its exquisite Bhutanese cuisine, especially the legendary ginger potatoes. It has become a cherished ritual to visit this place for food and to catch up with my dear friend who owns the restaurant and share her exceptional culinary art with my travel companions. Tip: Sonam will share her recipe if you ask her.

After our gastronomic adventure, we’ll retreat to the serene comfort of our host’s abode, where the afternoon stretches before us, offering time to relax and prepare for the ascent to the revered Tiger’s Nest. Those seeking a tranquil escape can indulge in the resort’s massage offerings, or for the culturally inclined, personalized arrangements to explore the Museum can be made, ensuring a fulfilling and bespoke experience for every member of our group. In the evening we will prepare for the hike and find out who wants to book a pony etc.

We are saying goodbye to Bhutan’s capital and embarking on a one-hour bus ride to Paro. In the past, this route took me three hours. Changes are everywhere, so fast. 

Overnight: Himalayan Key Forest Paro

Day 14 | Monday, November 17, Paro 

Nestled amidst the rugged cliffs of the Paro Valley in Bhutan, Tiger’s Nest, or Paro Taktsang, beckons travelers to embark on a transformative pilgrimage. This sacred sanctuary isn’t just a physical journey; it’s a spiritual odyssey delving into Bhutanese culture, history, and spirituality. The trail begins amidst fluttering prayer flags and the distant silhouette of the monastery, evoking anticipation and reverence. As travelers ascend through ancient forests and rocky terrain, breathtaking vistas unfold, drawing them closer to the iconic sanctuary that has captivated generations. Upon reaching Tiger’s Nest, visitors are greeted by its defiance of gravity, its white-washed walls and golden spires seeming to suspend in time, enveloping them in serenity and spirituality.

Inside, labyrinthine corridors and sacred chambers await exploration, adorned with intricately carved woodwork and flickering butter lamps. Pilgrims can partake in rituals led by monks or simply sit in quiet contemplation, absorbing the spiritual energy. As the day draws to a close, reflections on newfound appreciation and deeper connections abound. Bid farewell to Tiger’s Nest, carrying its memories and blessings forward, knowing the spiritual journey continues, guiding with renewed purpose and reverence. Our last dinner we will celebrate our journey and share our insights. Massages can be scheduled ahead of time.

Overnight: Himalayan Key Forest Paro

Day 15 | Monday, November 18, Paro leaving for Airport

HOME BOUND

As our journey through Bhutan draws to a close, it’s impossible not to feel deeply moved by the profound beauty and spirituality of this enchanting kingdom. From the majestic peaks of the Himalayas to the tranquil monasteries nestled amidst pristine forests, every moment has been a revelation, offering glimpses into the timeless wisdom and rich cultural heritage of Bhutan. 

As we prepare to bid farewell to this land of dragons and thunder, we carry with us not only memories of breathtaking landscapes and warm hospitality but also a newfound sense of peace and inner harmony. Whether you  return home or venture forth on another chapter of exploration, one thing is certain – the journey through Bhutan has left an indelible mark on the soul, inspiring a lifelong love for the magic and mystery of the Himalayas

OR…

NEPAL IS CALLING

While the option to return home beckons with its familiar comforts and routines, there’s also the tantalizing prospect of continuing the journey with Kutira to Nepal. As fellow travelers forge bonds of friendship and shared experiences, the allure of exploring new horizons together is irresistible. Nepal, with its ancient temples, bustling markets, and majestic Himalayan peaks, promises to be a captivating destination, offering further opportunities for adventure, discovery, and spiritual renewal.   

Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Please continue reading to learn more, or contact us directly to reserve your spot!