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A Cultural Trip to the Kingdom of Bhutan

The Kingdom of Bhutan is a peaceful country hidden away within the Eastern Himalayas between heavily industrialised neighbouring India and China. It is a tiny landlocked country, where you can explore ancient traditions and cultures, beautiful landscapes, and magnificent architecture. Bhutan is called “Druk Yul” by its people and is known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. It is one of the world’s most beautiful, yet mysterious and secretive places in the world. A large part of the area is forested, welcoming a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna. 72% of Bhutan is under forest cover, and all that forest is pristine.

The country has become a carbon sink and carbon neutral. Hidden away high amongst the mighty Himalayan range, the hidden kingdom of Bhutan is a destination that even the most seasoned traveler considers a privilege to visit. Sacred monasteries sit precariously on sheer cliffs, fluttering prayer flags line high mountain ridges, and red-robed monks chant in distant temples and Dzongs (fortress) grounds during Buddhist festivals. The people of Bhutan have drawn a rich culture from this heritage and made it the essence of their timeless identity. It only opened its doors to tourism in 1974, with the number of tourists visiting Bhutan kept to an environmentally manageable level through the government-regulated tourist tariff.

We invite you to join us this coming October for a week of adventure in Bhutan! This exclusive cultural tour provides a special insight into the heart of Bhutan, giving you a complete experience of Bhutanese culture, history, hospitality, isolated farms, quaint villages, exquisite temples and monasteries, magnificent architecture, stunning natural beauty, and the picturesque scenery along the way. October in Bhutan heralds the start of autumn, which is the nicest part of the year for a trip to Bhutan. It is a month characterised by pleasantly mild temperatures, comfortable sunny weather, and a sublime view of mountains. The lush green valleys turn into a beautiful shade of gold and harvesting begins.


Monday, 16 to Wednesday, 25 October 2023


Ms Kanitha Kasina-Ubol, Managing Director of The Siam Society


The tentative programme will be as follows:

Day 1: Monday, 16 October: Bangkok – Paro
03:00 Meet at Suvarnabhumi Airport, check in at the counter of Druk Air
05:00 Depart Bangkok to Paro by Druk Air flight KB127





Arrive at Paro Airport.

After visa formalities and collection of baggage, short drive to visit the impressive Ta Dzong, the ancient watchtower which now houses The National Museum. The National Museum was closed to visitors for almost nine years following damage caused by an earthquake in 2011. The museum underwent a major restoration in 2014 after the structure sustained considerable damage and reopened in 2019 as the nation’s premier museum. The seven-storey building, often called the only encyclopedic museum in Bhutan, houses the country’s history and treasures such as collections of ethnography, philately, numismatics, textiles, bronze and copperware. The museum houses over 3,000 permanent artworks that represent the cultural heritage of over 1,500 years.

Lunch at a local restaurant






Drive 1 hour to Thimphu, the seat of government, religion, and commerce in Bhutan. Thimphu was a wooded farming valley until 1961 when it became Bhutan’s official national capital. With an estimated population of 150,000 people, this unique city is filled with an unusual mixture of modern development alongside ancient traditions.

In the afternoon, visit the National Memorial Chorten (Tibetan style Stupa), a monument to world peace and a memorial to the Late King (3rd King of Bhutan). It is the focal point for the local worshippers in Thimphu who come to circumambulate the stupa throughout the day, chanting their mantras with their prayer wheels in hand. It is a great spot for “people watching” and is a gathering place for many of the older people who will often spend the whole day at the stupa, chatting with each other, turning the prayer wheels, and always smiling for a photograph.

Evening: Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Thimphu
Day 2: Tuesday, 17 October: Thimphu
Breakfast at the hotel





Proceed to visit Kuensel Phodrang (Buddha Point), the site of the 201-foot Golden Buddha statue. The statue is one of the biggest and tallest in the world.

Afterward, visit the Institute of Traditional Medicine, where the medicinal herbs abundant in the kingdom are compounded and dispensed. Established in 1978, this institute collects medicinal plants from remote corners of the Bhutanese Himalaya, and then distributes pills, tablets, ointments, and medicinal teas to regional healthcare units around the country. The small museum details some of the 300 herbs, minerals and animal parts that Bhutanese doctors have to choose from. Of particular interest is yartsa goenbub (cordyceps), the high-altitude cure-all ‘Himalayan Viagra’ that is actually a caterpillar that has been mummified by a fungus.

Visit Institute for Zorig Chusum – which is also commonly known as the Painting School. The institute offers courses ranging from 4 to 6 years on the 13 traditional arts and crafts of Bhutan.

Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant







Visit Takin Preserve, for a chance to see the Takin, Bhutan’s national animal. Takin resembles a cross between a gnu and a musk deer. It has an immense face and a tremendously thick neck.

Then, proceed to Gagyel Lhundrup Weaving Centre offers a variety of traditionally hand-woven Bhutanese clothing and other textile products. The weavers weave intricate silk patterns using a backstrap loom, to make Kira’s, the psychedelic and elegant native Bhutanese dress for women. Apart from producing items for sale, the centre is also famous for producing ceremonial textiles for the Bhutanese royals.

Afterward, visit Kaja Farmer’s Market, where Thimphu residents mingle with villagers in an interesting urban and rural blend. People come from outlying rural villages to this market to sell vegetables and exotic fruits, and other items including dried fish, chili peppers, spices, butter and cheese.

Then, visit Tashichho Dzong, located on the banks of the Thimphu River, this is Bhutan’s administrative and religious centre. It houses the throne room of His Majesty the King of Bhutan, government ministries, the nation’s largest monastery and headquarters of His Holiness the Je Khenpo (the chief abbot) and the central monk body. A “dzong” is a Fortress. (The Dzongs are Bhutanese architectural masterpieces built in the past to serve a number of purposes. They served as administrative centres and as houses for the clergy. They were also used as garrisons by the army and people gathered in the dzong courtyards during festivities).

Evening: Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Thimphu
Day 3: Wednesday, 18 October: Thimphu – Punakha
Breakfast at the hotel
Morning: Drive to Punakha, considered to be the ancient capital, where the climate is much different from the rest of Bhutan. It is almost tropical year-round due to its low altitude.
Heading out of Thimphu, the road gradually climbs through apple orchards and then forests of blue pine and cedar, festooned with hanging Lichen high up near Dochu La Pass (3,100 m). This pass offers panoramic views of the Eastern Himalayan Mountain ranges (visibility permitting). The area around this pass is believed to be inhabited by numerous spirits, including a cannibal demoness. A temple in the Punakha Valley (which we will visit later) was built in honour of the Lama Drukpa Kunley who subdued these spirits and demons.

Here, we can spend some time for tea/coffee and photographing the 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens (Stupas), commissioned by a former Queen as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the low-intensity conflict in late 2001 when Bhutan evicted Indian rebels camped in the jungle on the Bhutan-Indian border. The remaining part of the drive to Punakha is mostly a descent along a series of hairpin bends, dropping down to the lowland of Punakha valley.

Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: After lunch, hike a short distance to visit Chimi Lhakhang, a lovely temple on a small hilltop. This temple is dedicated to the famous and unorthodox 15th-century Buddhist master, Drukpa Kunley or popularly known as the ‘Divine Madman’ in the west, who is associated with the phallic symbols you would have seen on your travels in Bhutan so far. It is believed that this temple blesses women who seek fertility. A popular pilgrimage spot for the Bhutanese, it is frequented by childless couples and parents who have difficulty raising children.
Later, visit Punakha Dzong, the “Palace of Great Happiness” and “a masterpiece of Bhutanese Architecture”, built in 1637 by Shabdrung Nawang Namgyel, the saint who unified Bhutan. The Dzong lies between the Fo Chu (male river) and the Mo Chu (female river), and is the winter home of the Central Monk Body. It is believed that the Mo Chu and the Fo Chu were once lovers, flowing in the same bed. One evening, after a quarrel, the Mo Chu left silently during the night, moving to the next valley. Ever since, the Fo Chu has been rushing down to the confluence, trying to catch his estranged lover. A devastating flash flood in 1994 washed away a major part of the Dzong. His Majesty the fourth King personally supervised the reconstruction of Dzong, a project that has occupied thousands of skilled craftsmen and builders during the past twelve years. The results of the restoration are amazing. You will be seeing the most magnificent architectural and artistic masterpiece in the Kingdom, just consecrated in an elaborate ceremony in May 2003.
Evening: Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Punakha
Day 4: Thursday, 19 October: Punakha – Trongsa
Breakfast at the hotel


Continue eastwards from Punakha to Trongsa, crossing Pele La Pass (3,300 m). This pass is traditionally considered the boundary between West and Central Bhutan. Beyond Pele La are Longtey, Rukubji and Chendebji valleys where people raise sheep and yaks. The houses here are clustered amid extensive fields of mustard, potatoes, barley, and wheat. En route past the 18th-century Chendebji Chorten, a whitewashed stone chorten (or stupa) built in order to nail into the ground a demon who had been terrorising the inhabitants of the valley. The last leg of our drive is crossing streams, and waterfalls, passing farmlands and villages as well as primordial forests that have never been inhabited because of the deities believed to reside there. The road finally emerges from the gorge and follows the Mangde Chu river valley, then it turns and heads straight north to Trongsa. The first sight of the Trongsa Dzong, one of the largest in Bhutan, is from across the valley but the road winds another 12.5 miles before we will actually get there.
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant





Arrive in Trongsa and after lunch visit the spectacular Trongsa Dzong. Built in 1647, it is also the ancestral home of the Royal Family, and both the first and second kings ruled the country from Trongsa. The Dzong sits on a narrow spur that sticks out into the gorge of the Mangde-Chu River and overlooks the routes east, west and south. It was built in such a way that in the olden days, it had complete control over all east-west traffic. This helped to augment the strategic importance of the Dzong which eventually placed its Penlop (regional ruler) at the helm of a united country when His Majesty Ugyen Wangchuck became the first king of Bhutan. To this day, the Crown Prince of Bhutan becomes the Penlop of Trongsa before ascending the throne, signifying its historical importance.

Visit the Ta Dzong Museum, dedicated to the Monarchs of Bhutan, which had its cradle in Trongsa, and the history of Trongsa Dzong.

Evening: Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Trongsa
Day 5: Friday, 20 October: Trongsa – Bumthang
Breakfast at the hotel
Morning: Continue to Bumthang Valley, the cultural and historic heart of the kingdom. Bumthang is the general name given to the complex of four valleys – Chume, Choekhor, Tang, and Ura. Bumthang is also the spiritual heartland of Bhutan, known for the visits of Guru Rinpoche (the Second Buddha) when he was bringing Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan in the 8th century. The open and wide valleys filled with fields and farmers, and the gentle slopes of beautiful mountains dotted with many sacred temples and monasteries, make for an unforgettable experience.

From Trongsa, the road rises rapidly through a series of hairpin bends until you arrive at Yotong La Pass (3,400 m). From here, the road descends towards Chume Valley (the first of the four valleys), where we will visit several centres of “Yathra” weaving.  Yathra is the name for the colorful, hand-woven woolen cloth (often with geometric designs) that is produced in this region. Distinctive patterns and bright, earthy colors enliven the fabric, which is used for a wide variety of purposes and sought after throughout Bhutan.

Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: Visit Jakar Dzong “the castle of the white bird”, and the Swiss Farm, where you can buy cheese and local fruit products. Here, you will have the option to stroll around Jakar town, or simply rest at the hotel before dinner.
Evening: Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Bumthang
Day 6: Saturday, 21 October:  Bumthang
Breakfast at the hotel



Visit Jamba Lhakhang: According to a legend, Jamba Lhakhang was one of the 108 temples built in AD 638, by a Tibetan Buddhist king in order to overcome a giant ogress who laid across regions of the Himalayas to prevent the spread of Buddhism. The central figure in the sanctuary is the statue of Jampa, the Buddha of the future.

Proceed to Kurjey Lhakhang, where the Guru Rinpoche subdued a local demon and left his body imprinted on a rock.

Afterward, visit Zandopelri Lhakhang, The Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang commissioned this beautiful temple which was inaugurated in 2008.

Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant


Visit Mebar Tsho “Flaming Lake”. It is considered one of the most sacred sites in the region as it is related to the renowned religious treasure reveler Terton Pema Lingpa.  Pema Lingpa is considered an incarnated disciple of Guru Rinpoche who discovered treasure within the lake in the 15th century. Today, this small freshwater lake is a sacred pilgrimage site for the Bhutanese with bright multicoloured prayer flags surrounding it and a small altar dedicated to Terton Pema Lingpa has also been set up. On auspicious days, people offer butter lamps at the lake.

Visit Pema Choling Nunnery, where over 150 nuns, mostly teenagers and young women, study, and practice. We will spend time interacting with them and learning about their lives in the stone courtyard in the centre of their dormitories and classrooms.

Evening: Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Bumthang
Day 7: Sunday, 22 October: Bumthang – Gangtey – Punakha
Breakfast at the hotel
Morning: Rise early and after breakfast, we will say goodbye to Jakar Valley and drive to Gangtey and Phobjikha via Trongsa. We will retrace the road which we had taken to Bumthang with a few stops for pictures that you might have missed during your earlier journey to Central Bhutan. Even though we are on the same road, we will be pleased to find the return drive just as interesting because new and different scenes will again unfold on every turn.

Phobjikha, a hidden glacial valley on the western slopes of the Black Mountains, is one of the most beautiful valleys in Bhutan, and the largest wintering site for the endangered Black-necked crane. As part of the conservation effort, the Phobjikha Valley has been declared a protected area. Until recently, the Phobjikha Valley’s only electricity came from solar. In 2011, underground cabled electricity is gradually connecting the valley to the national grid. Potatoes are this region’s primary cash crop once exported to India.

Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant



Enjoy a short walk through Gangtey Nature Trail (1½ hours), which leads downhill from Gangtey Monastery to the Khewang Lhakhang (temple).

Visit the Crane Information Centre of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), which has informative displays of the black-necked cranes and the valley environment.

We then return to the main road and to the next two-hour drive, where the road descends into Wangdue and Punakha valleys.

Evening: Dinner and overnight at the hotel in Punakha
Day 8: Monday, 23 October: Punakha – Thimphu – Paro
Breakfast at the hotel
Morning: Enroute: After a leisurely morning, depart to Paro crossing Dochu La Pass.

Walk down to the 15th-century Iron Chain Bridge, built by Drubthob Thangthong Gyalpo or Lama Chakzampa “Iron Chain Maker” a great Buddhist adept, yogi, physician, blacksmith, architect, and pioneering civil engineer.

Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: Spend the afternoon at leisure or a walk-through downtown Paro.
Overnight in Paro
Day 9: Tuesday, 24 October:  Paro (Tiger’s Nest)
Breakfast at hotel







Enjoy an optional hike to visit the famous Taktsang Monastery (also known as “Tiger’s Nest Monastery”), one of the 13 most venerated pilgrimage sites of the Himalayan world. Taktsang marks the spot where the 8th-century Indian mystic, Guru Padmasambhava, arrived on the back of a flying tigress, and meditated after bringing Buddhism to Bhutan. The sight of the Tiger’s Nest Monastery at an elevation of 10,000 feet and clinging to a cliff some 3,000 feet above the valley below is one of the highlights of your stay in Bhutan. A pilgrimage to Taktsang is the dream of a lifetime for the devout. The hike to the monastery takes about 6-7 hours round trip, and is challenging, but unforgettably thrilling and mystical. (Riding ponies provided to the cafeteria).

*Optional sites for visit for those who do not wish to hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Kyichu Lhakhang (temple), one of the oldest shrines of Bhutan dates back to the 7th century. According to the legend, Kyichu Lhakhang was one of the 108 temples built in AD 638, by a Tibetan Buddhist king in order to overcome a giant ogress who laid across regions of the Himalayas to prevent the spread of Buddhism.

Rinpung Dzong (the full name of the Paro Dzong), which means “the fortress of the heap of jewels”. Rinpung Dzong now houses the administrative and religious headquarters for the Paro district. A part of Bernardo Bertolucci’s movie, “Little Buddha,” was filmed inside this dzong.

Pena (or Pana) Lhakhang is ignored by most visitors but is said to have been founded by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, making it one of the oldest temples in Bhutan. The main inner sanctum certainly has an ancient feel, dominated by a statue of Jowo Nampar Nangse (Vairochana in Sanskrit) that is said to have the power to fulfil wishes. The name Vairochana means “He Who Is Like the Sun” or “the Radiating One”. Vairochana represents either the integration of or the origin of the Dhyani Buddhas.

Noon: Vegetarian lunch is served in a little cafeteria on the way back down.
Afternoon: Continue back down from the Tiger’s Nest.
Evening: Spend the evening at leisure or a walk-through downtown Paro. Celebrate the conclusion of our adventure at a farewell dinner.
Overnight in Paro
Day 10: Wednesday, 25 October: Paro – Bangkok
Breakfast at hotel
Morning: Visit Dungtse Lhakhang, the only temple in the form of a Chorten ‘stupa’ built by the famous Drubthob Thangthong Gyalpo or Lama Chakzampa “Iron Chain Maker” a great Buddhist adept, yogi, physician, blacksmith, architect, and pioneering civil engineer. The three floors of the temple represent hell, earth, and heaven.
Noon: After an early lunch, drive to the airport for the return flight to Bangkok.
14:20 Arrived at Paro airport
16:20 Departure Paro to Bangkok by Druk Air Flight KB126
21:50 Arrival in Bangkok

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary.


Contribution of THB 192,000 (THB 196,000 for non-member). Single room surcharge of THB 19,000. A deposit of THB 50,000 and a photocopy of the identification page on your passport must accompany the booking. Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the deposit has been made. Payment in full will be required 30 days before the start of the trip (i.e. by Friday, 1 September). There is a 3% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges. Please pay by cash or cheque payable to “The Siam Society”. Transfer can also be made to The Siam Society travel account at TMBThanachart Bank (ttb), saving account no. 053-2-18000-7 or by scanning the QR code on your right. Once payment has been made, please fax or e-mail the deposit or transfer docket to us.

We kindly ask that you confirm your reservation by Tuesday, 1 August 2023


  • The contribution includes accommodation (double sharing basis), air tickets, meals as mentioned in the program, transfer and sightseeing cars, entrance fees, gratuities and other costs incurred to make this trip possible.
  • Visa fees.


  • Personal expenses, personal food and beverage consumptions, etc.
  • Extra surcharge in aviation fuel and those related to air travel.

To comply with payment and cancellation policies set forth by tour agencies and to facilitate smooth working conditions between The Siam Society and the tour agencies, please read carefully the revised cancellation policies stated below:

Cancellation charges:

45 days before the start of the trip: Deposit forfeited
45–30 days before the start of the trip: 50% of the tour cost
Less than 30 days or cancellation without notice: No refund


Covid-19 policy

Due to a lower number of worldwide infections, many countries have relaxed their travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in regard to Covid-19.

Nevertheless, when traveling as a group, The Siam Society would like to remind you of the following measures that we have put in place:

– We kindly ask that our trip participants perform a self-administered ATK test prior to the commencement of the trip. Participants are also asked to carry along with them multiple sets of ATK test kits, along with their preferred set of medicines (for consumption if infected with Covid-19).

– In the event that trip participants are tested positive during the trip, the group will continue to follow the planned itinerary. To ensure the health and safety of all trip participants, those who tested positive shall adhere to appropriate self-isolation measures as directed by the trip leader.

– Those tested positive with severe symptoms shall be treated in accordance with the health measures stipulated by the local government. Medical costs in excess of the insurance coverage shall be at the expense of trip participant(s).

– The Siam Society will provide health insurance for all trip participants. Medical costs in excess of the insurance coverage shall be at the expense of the trip participant(s).

– Our staff and local tour operators will constantly provide you with the latest update on local health and safety regulations.

For further information and bookings, please contact Khun Thun at 02-661-6470-3 ext. 205 or The Society office is open from 09:00 to 17:00, Tuesday to Saturday.

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