Festivals of the Thunder Dragon
- See the majestic, natural beauty of Bhutan's mountains, lakes, and forests
- Witness a famous Bhutan "teschu", or religious festival, with mask dances
- Hike to temples, villages, and passes for stunning views and cultural insight
- Travel with exceptional Bhutanese guides
The breathtaking natural beauty of sacred mountains, holy lakes, isolated valleys, and lush forests is reason alone to visit Bhutan, but add to this mix Buddhist culture that has remained largely untouched by the outside world and it's easy to understand why Bhutan is considered one of the most exclusive destinations on earth.
The Bhutanese people constitute one of the most interesting and least disturbed cultures, making it a unique honor to travel in their homeland. Each departure is timed to take advantage of a "tshechu," or religious festival. These are colorful celebrations dominated by ancient "mask dances" with brilliant costumes, clashing cymbals, and lively social interchange. Rich Buddhist tradition is woven throughout.
On our west-to-east crossing of Bhutan's central valleys we enjoy day hikes with superb views of the distant Himalaya range, visits to remote villages known for their artistry, bustling bazaars, and ornate temples clinging to cliff sides. Each evening we relax in comfortable lodging and soak up the purity of this place. Join us in the Land of the Thunder Dragon!
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Important Notice: Day 1 is the day you should plan to arrive at the
meeting point for the trip. This may require departing your hometown one or more
days in advance and traveling on an overnight flight.
Festivals of the Thunder Dragon Itinerary:
Day 1 Arrive in Paro and travel to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital.
Day 2 Hike to nearby monasteries or explore the capital's sites.
Day 3 See sweeping views from Dochu La and visit the Temple of the Divine Madman.
Day 4 Travel over Pele Pass for views of Chomolhari, hike to Rukubji Village.
Day 5 Tour Trongsa's magnificent dzong and observe weavers making "yahtra."
Day 6 Hike through agricultural valleys to visit various temples and villages.
Day 7 Witness a famous Bhutan "teschu," with spiritual masked dances.
Day 8 From Kungarabten, hike to the Monastery of Nuns.
Day 9 Hike from Phobjikha Pass to the beautiful Gangtey Monastery .
Day 10 Returning to Thimphu and spend the afternoon exploring the capital.
Day 11 Hike to Phajoding Monastery (12,000'), with great views of the capital.
Day 12 Visit Drugyel Dzong, Bhutan's National Museum, and Paro's Rinpung Dzong.
Day 13 Hike to Taksang Monastery, perched 2000' above the valley floor.
Day 14 Say a final good-bye to this tiny Himalayan Kingdom.
Although we do our very best to adhere to the schedule above, the itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control, including weather and terrain conditions.
Please check with us before purchasing your airline tickets to ensure your trip has the necessary minimum number of participants required to operate.
If you are traveling alone and specifically request single accommodations, you will be asked to pay the full single supplement noted above. If you wish to share accommodations, we will assign a roommate if one is available. If a roommate cannot be found, you will be asked to pay a reduced single fee, which is one-half of the full single supplement. Please be advised that there are a limited number of single rooms available.
Accommodations in Bhutan; meals as noted in the daily itinerary, private transport within Bhutan as per the itinerary, monument entrance fees and government taxes, Bhutanese visa fee, services of a skilled bi-lingual guide throughout.
Airline transportation, Bangkok hotel and meal costs, cost of obtaining a passport, insurance, medical immunizations, optional gratuities to your guide and driver, monastery donations, items of a personal nature such as beverages, alcohol, laundry, international phone calls and internet use.
In addition to the $400 deposit required to reserve your space (fully refundable up to 91 days prior to departure) the cost of your flight on Druk Air from Bangkok to Paro (mandatory add-on cost and subject to change) is also due at the time of registration. This payment is due in full and is non-refundable unless REI Adventures cancels your departure for any reason. Upon your registration, we purchase your air tickets immediately as seats into Bhutan are very limited. If you needed to cancel your trip for a reason covered by travel insurance, this flight cost would be reimbursable by that plan.
This trip is rated Easy Active . Many days have short walks and trail hikes at altitudes between 4,000' and 10,000'. Day hikes generally take 2-3 hours. Except for the high altitude and the very remote location, this is not a particularly strenuous trip nor is it a trekking itinerary. However, this is a trip for active people in good health who are strong walkers and/or hikers.
Bhutan's weather varies with the altitude and can change greatly within a 24-hour period. Paro, Thimphu, Trongsa, Bumthang and Phobjikha are at altitudes of 8,000' - 9,000'. Daytime temperatures generally range from mid-50s to upper 60s. Evenings are 40s-upper 50s. When the sun is shining the temperatures can be much warmer (70s – low 80s). The central valleys of Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang enjoy a semi-tropical climate due to their lower altitude and as a result will be warmer in temperature. Rain and thunderstorms are a possibility at any time of year as is occasional snowfall at higher elevations. The majority of our departures take place during the periods offering the best weather (March-May and late September – late November).
The June departure occurs during the southwest monsoon season (June –September). During the monsoon, heavy rain falls almost every night. During the day there may be long periods without rain. The views of the higher peaks are not as prevalent as during the spring (pre-monsoon) and fall (post-monsoon) periods. Yet, the scenery is verdant, the markets bursting with fresh fruit and vegetables, and the festival just as spectacular as any other time of year.
This trip is subject to the booking information set forth in the current REI Adventures Reservation Information. Please read this information carefully and call us if you have any questions. A full gear list and pre-departure information is sent upon sign-up. We highly recommend the purchase of travel insurance through REI Adventures. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, the 'Pre-existing Conditions Exclusion' is waived (certain exclusions apply).
We look forward to having you join us for the trip of a lifetime! Why wait? Space is limited, reserve your adventure today.
Festivals of the Thunder Dragon
The key to staying comfortable on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. This gear list was created to help you choose your clothing and gear for this trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff.
Luggage Weight Restrictions
Druk Air imposes a 44 pound weight restriction for the combined weight of your checked luggage and carry-on bag. Carry-on luggage is limited to one bag only, with a maximum weight of 11 pounds, which is factored into your total weight allowance of 44 lbs. Druk Air limits carry-ons to 100 cm (39 inches, combined length, width, height).
- Valid passport
- Copy of first page of passport
- Airline tickets
- Visa form for Bhutan (bring with you)
- Duffel bag or soft-sided luggage
- Daypack to carry your camera, water bottles, rain gear
- Luggage tags and locks
- Bring a few lightweight, easily washable items for travel & city wear
- Waterproof rain jacket
- Waterproof rain pants
- Midweight fleece or wool sweater or jacket (evenings are cool)
- Hiking boots, sturdy, water resistant, broken in
- Comfortable walking shoes for travel and town wear
- Hiking pants, lightweight (Capri length is okay for women)
- Skirt (recommended for women)
- Hiking shorts (men only - longer to the knee)
- Long-sleeve synthetic shirts
- T-shirts, synthetic are best
- Light or mid-weight thermal underwear tops and bottom, synthetic or wool
- Hiking socks / liners
- Sun hat
- Warm hat
- Lightweight gloves or mittens
- Two 1-quart water bottles or hydration system of equal capacity
- Flashlight / headlamp and extra batteries
- Ear plugs
- Small quantity of favorite energy snacks
- Sunblock and lip balm with high SPF
- Toiletry kit (small travel-size items)
- Personal first aid kit
- Ditty bag: ½ compact roll of toilet tissue, Ziploc bags, hand sanitizer, feminine hygiene products as needed. Carried in your daypack each day.
- Trekking poles (highly recommended)
- Camera, memory cards and spare batteries
- Electronics/battery charger, if applicable
- Plug adaptors / converters as needed
- Spare contact lenses or glasses
- Reading and writing materials
- Passport pouch or money pouch
- Motion sickness remedies (winding roads)
- Favorite energy snacks, small quantity
Things to Consider
- Please remember to always pack essential items such as your passport, money, eyewear, a change of clothing, hiking boots and medications in your carry-on baggage in case your luggage is delayed.
- Bhutan enforces a dress code at festivals. Collared shirts (short or long sleeve), long pants and/or long skirts and shoes are required. The following items are prohibited: flip flops, slippers, tank tops, jeans, hats, umbrellas, shorts, and short skirts.
- Culturally sensitive dressing tips: For women, pants (or Capri length pants) and/or a skirt (mid-calf or longer; A-line style is best for hiking) is recommended. Tights, hiking shorts and sports tops are not advised unless worn under other clothing. For men, pants are best. Men may wear hiking shorts, but they should be longer, near the knees. Men should never go shirtless.
- Cotton is wonderful in warm weather. However, once it becomes wet it will drain your body heat. Bring at least a couple of synthetics such as Capilene, MTS and Thermax.
- Always test your layers before a trip. Your outer layer should fit easily over the inside ones without binding and bunching up.
- Make sure boots are broken-in. Bring moleskin for foot treatment. Thin liner socks worn under regular hiking socks may minimize the risk of blisters. The liner sock should be synthetic, not cotton. Test your sock combination before you go on the trip.
- Accommodation in Bhutan is not centrally heated. Portable electric heaters are generally provided in rooms. However, you may consider bringing an additional set of long underwear to sleep in for extra warmth. Plenty of blankets are provided.
- For day hikes and sightseeing, bring a "toilet kit," a small ditty bag that includes a Ziploc bag of clean toilet tissue, a spare Ziploc to dispose of soiled tissue, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Note that toilet tissue must be discarded in a waste basket and not along a trail or in the toilet, as Bhutan's plumbing cannot accommodate it.
- There are no reliable feminine health supplies available in Bhutan – women are advised to bring these from home.
- Gifts: Please don't bring extra gifts as these are a burden to you and the staff while touring and hiking. The best gift is a conversation or tips where appropriate with staff.
Feel free to give us a call at (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out www.rei.com/learn. The Expert Advice section on our "Learn" page has great information to help you prepare for your trip.